When it debuted, the hip-dac utilized an 8-core XMOS chip, which processes the data received over USB. The process has been replaced by a new-generation 16-core XMOS chip that claims double the clock speed and four times the memory. This processor was initially introduced to iFi’s higher-priced DACs, such as the flagship iDSD Diablo, but is now moving down into the entry-level devices.
The new chip supports full MQA decoding which is important, for example, for Tidal’s Masters tier, which uses the MQA codec to facilitate its hi-res catalogue. The iFi hip-dac 2 also utilizes an updated version of iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry, which features a new crystal clock that promises to further eradicate jitter in the digitial-to-analog conversion process. The hip-dac 2 retains all the features found in the original, including the Burr-Brown DAC chip, which supports PCM and DXD files at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). A pair of LEDs on either side of the analog volume knob change color to indicate the format and sampling rate of the audio file being played.
The amp stage promises to deliver 400mW into a 32-ohm headphone load, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of headphone and earphone types. iFi claims that even high-impedance headphones are handled with ease, thanks to output voltage of 6.3V into 600 ohms (from the balanced output).
To further tailor the output to suit connected headphones, the hip-dac 2’s amp stage has a switchable gain – a feature called PowerMatch. This is designed to match the level of drive to the headphone load. For example, with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors, iFi says to leave PowerMatch at its lower setting to promote a silent, hiss-free background. But if your headphones benefit from a higher level of drive – such as many on- and over-ear types – you should try pressing the PowerMatch button to increase gain. XBass is another user-selectable feature – described as a “sophisticated form of ‘bass boost’ that enhances low frequencies without muddying the midrange”.
The iFi hip-dac 2 features two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. The Type A input features a ‘male’ connector, which offers an advantage to users of iPhones and iPads with Lightning ports because it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter directly without requiring an additional female-to-male USB adaptor. Two outputs are provided: a 3.5mm socket, and a 4.4mm Pentaconn output that caters for headphones equipped with balanced connectivity (to take full advantage of the hip-dac 2’s differential amp design).
The hip-dac 2’s 2200mAh battery is pegged at eight to 12 hours of playing time, depending on volume level and the connected headphone model. It comes bundled with three USB cables: a USB-C OTG (On-The-Go) cable, ideal for connecting Android devices and PCs/Macs with USB-C ports; a USB-A cable; and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. (The Apple Lightning to USB adapter required to connect iOS devices is purchased separately.)