2023 has seen the release of a number of portable headphone-amp/DACs, including the FiiO KA13, the small but mighty iFi Go Link and the USB-B stick-sized Earfun UA100. Now iFi has unveiled another portable DAC in the shape of the hip-dac 3, the third generation of the brand's popular DAC/headphone amp hybrid which is kitted out not only with new connectivity options but also, says its maker, more attuned sonic capabilities.
Building on the legacy of the first iFi hip-dac and 2021's second-generation model, this new iteration comes with a variety of circuit enhancements, including all-new film capacitors for a better frequency response. The actual DAC section is equipped with an updated version of iFi’s Global Master Timing circuitry, designed to reduce phase noise and offer a snappier, crisper sound.
The hip-dac 3 uses a differential circuit design within its amplification stage to reduce signal distortion and preserve your audio's overall purity. That amp stage is capable of offering up to 400mW into a 32-ohm load for compatibility with a broader array of headphones, while the balanced output's 6.3V into 600ohms should mean that even high-impedance models can be used without issue.
Rather cannily, the product's amp stage offers something called PowerMatch, a switchable gain feature which matches the level of drive to the headphone load to ensure you are getting the right performance for the device used without any hissing or distortion.
It's pretty versatile, too. The hip-dac 3 offers support for hi-res PCM and DXD audio files up to 384kHz, as well as DSD64, 128 and 256, and support for MQA. As is becoming the trend with portable DACs, a pair of LEDs change colour to indicate the format and sample rate of the audio being played so you know exactly what you're listening to.
There are also external upgrades to enhance the third-gen hip-dac's connectivity capabilities. The dual USB-A ports have been replaced by two USB-C ports – one for audio, one for charging – as well as two outputs courtesy of a 3.5mm headphone jack and a 4.4mm balanced output.
The new model's battery lasts between 7-12 hours of playtime depending on the volume level you play your music and the power of the headphones being used. As well as the main unit itself, you will receive a USB-C On The Go charging cable, a USB-A to USB-C cable and a USB-C to Lightning cable for those iOS devices which haven't yet switched over to USB-C (thanks, iPhone 15).
Available in a sleek grey colourway known as "Titanium Shadow" – the new iFi hip-dac 3 is available to buy now for £199 / $199 / AU$449.