iFi Hip DAC 3 Review: Big Sound, Small Package

iFi hip-dac3 – Portable Hi-Res DAC/Headphone Amp

iFi hip-dac3 - Portable Hi-Res DAC/Headphone Amp







What We Dig

  • Great Build Quality
  • Rich, Open Sound
  • Powerful Output

What To Think About

  • Slight Lack of Top-End Detail

Rediscover your music! Our iFi Hip DAC 3 review uncovers its rich sound, portable design, and how it transforms your listening experience.

The iFi Hip DAC 3 ($199) is the newest update to iFi’s beloved portable DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and headphone amplifier. This pocket-sized device builds upon its predecessors, offering a refined feature set, updated design, and the same focus on delivering exceptional audio quality that iFi is known for.

Background and Context

The iFi Hip DAC 3 follows the success of the Hip DAC and Hip DAC 2 (we enjoyed both, BTW), making it an eagerly anticipated release. Similar portable DAC/amps like the AudioQuest DragonFly series, FiiO BTR7, and Topping G5 are its primary competitors. This device primarily targets audiophiles who want to significantly upgrade their listening experience when using a smartphone, laptop, or another portable audio source. It’s also fantastic for those with harder-to-drive headphones.

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review

Upgrades / Improvements

Additionally, Hip DAC 3 boasts several notable improvements. Separate USB-C ports have been introduced for data and charging, improving compatibility and streamlining setup. It offers increased power output for better compatibility with more demanding headphones. Finally, design updates include a refreshed Titanium Shadow finish, which is probably the best color yet.

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review: Design and Features

This latest incarnation of the iFi Hip DAC retains the handy flask-like shape of its predecessors, constructed from sturdy aluminum. That is a good thing. Controls are simple, with a precise volume knob that includes a multi-color LED to indicate file format and power status. There’s no dedicated app – it’s pure plug-and-play simplicity.

Connectivity includes both balanced and unbalanced headphone outputs, plus iFi’s signature sound-shaping features like XBass+ and PowerMatch, which increase the gain for less sensitive headphones. You also get IE Match, which lowers the gain for more sensitive headphones like many IEMs. Its stand-out feature remains its warm and musical sound, along with MQA support for compatible files.

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review: Performance and Sound Quality

The iFi Hip DAC 3 delivers a smooth, detailed, and slightly warm sonic presentation. Bass is well-defined, especially when engaging the XBass+ feature, and the overall soundstage is spacious. It excels across various music genres, making it a great companion for podcasts and even some movie or gaming scenarios. Under the hood, a Burr-Brown DAC chipset ensures natural sound, MQA support unlocks high-resolution audio with the appropriate files, and PowerMatch provides adjustable gain for optimal headphone pairing.

I have to say, when listening to Hip DAC 3, I couldn’t believe I was listening to a $200 DAC Amp! When they came out, I thought the Hip DAC 2 and ZEN DAC 2 set the bar for refinement at their price points, but they can’t touch the depth and focus provided by the Hip DAC 3. I plugged in my trusty HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version ($899) headphones using a balanced cable, and their neutral nature was an excellent match with this DAC Amp. The Hip DAC’s warm, open sound made the Hifiman headphones sing. It was one of the best synergies I’ve ever heard with the Arya, a model I’ve used with some thousand-dollar DAC/Amp combos. It also drove them with ease, which is amazing for a battery-powered unit.

Listening to the Hip DAC 3, I fell in love with the natural timbre of the instruments and the overall musicality. The tuning is masterful, and it might be the most balanced, best-sounding device iFi has ever made at any price point.

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review

Additional Thoughts

The iFi Hip DAC 3’s key strengths lie in its engaging sound signature, compact portability, robust build quality, and extensive format support. Some users might yearn for a dedicated app with customizable EQ options. Regardless, it offers fantastic value for the audio improvement it brings. Regarding the pros and cons, I’ve gone over the pros several times at this point, and the cons are hard to find. The one con I would name is the slight lack of top-end detail, but even this smoothness at the top ends up being an asset when combined with the Hip DAC 3’s remarkable midrange sweetness.

iFi Hip DAC 3 Review: Conclusion

The iFi Hip DAC 3 is a remarkable upgrade, showcasing improved connectivity and delivering a satisfying musical experience from almost any source device. It’s strongly recommended for those who want to elevate their on-the-go listening sessions, especially with a great pair of headphones or in-ear monitors. If you’re wondering whether the move up from the Hip DAC 2 to the Hip DAC 3 is worth it, I say absolutely yes! With each version of the Hip DAC iFi has managed to refine the sound, but the level of refinement from 2 to 3 is the biggest jump yet!


  • Input: USB-C
  • Formats Supported: DSD 256 / 11.3MHz | PCM 384kHz | MQA Full Decoder
  • DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
  • Outputs: BAL 4.4mm | S-BAL 3.5mm
  • Power Output
    • BAL: 400mW @ 32Ω | 6.3V @ 600Ω
    • S-BAL: 280mW @ 32Ω | 3.2V @ 600Ω
  • Output Impedance: ≤ 1Ω (BAL/S-BAL) | w/ iEMatch on: ≤ 4.5Ω
  • SNR + DNR: BAL < 109dBA @ 0dBFS | S-BAL <103dBA @ 0dBFS
  • THD+N
    • BAL: < 0.006% (360mW/2V @ 600Ω)
    • S-BAL: < 0.01% (100mW/1.27V @ 32Ω)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Battery: Lithium-polymer 2200mAh approx. 8 hours
  • Power System: charge via USB-C | BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current
  • Power Consumption: < 2W idle, 4W max
  • Dimensions: 4.0″ x 2.8″ x 0.6″
  • Net weight: 0.3 lbs (137g)

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