04. October 2021 · Comments Off on Ifi Hip-Dac 2 DAC/ Headphone Amp · Categories: Hifi News · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


The hip-dac is one of iFi’s most popular USB DAC/headphone amps, now, some 21 months after the original hip-dac launched, iFi has updated its design launching the iFi hip-dac 2 DAC/Headphone Amp.

The new iFi hip-dac 2 has with internal enhancements and a brand-new colour. The new model’s obvious distinguishing feature is the Sunset Orange anodised finish applied to its aluminium enclosure, replacing the original’s Petrol Blue.

ifi hip-Dac 2

The iFi hip-dac 2 in its vegan-friendly case


Under the hood, the 8-core XMOS chip, which processes the data received over USB, has been replaced by a new generation 16-core XMOS processor, delivering double the clock speed and four times the memory. This chip was initially introduced to iFi’s latest DACs at higher price points, such as the NEO and Diablo models, and is now trickling down to iFi’s entry-level devices, including the hip-dac 2.

The iFi hip-dac 2

The iFi hip-dac 2 is a pocket friendly size


This new chip’s enhanced processing power improves overall performance, as well enabling the hip-dac 2 to deliver full MQA decoding. This means that the complete ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to just the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’.

The iFi hip-dac 2

The iFi hip-dac 2 front and back views

There are other circuit improvements too, including a new version of iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry, featuring a new crystal clock. This results in even lower jitter performance. Other than these changes, the hip-dac 2 retains all the features that made the original so popular.


The DAC section is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi uses extensively in its products, combines with custom iFi circuitry. Hi-res PCM and DXD audio data is supported at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables both PCM and DSD to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in their native form right through to analogue conversion. Either side of the rotary volume control reside a pair of LEDs that change colour to indicate the format and sampling rate of the digital audio being played.

The iFi hip-dac 2

The first difference to the hip-dac is the colour


Extensive clock-locking eradicates jitter (digital distortion), using iFi’s GMT femto-precision clocking system – upgraded in the hip-dac 2 – to maintain the integrity of the digital signal until conversion to analogue. Bespoke customisation of the 16-core XMOS chip via iFi’s in-house programming team further enhances sound quality. Firmware updates to elements like digital filtering help to keep iFi devices, including the hip-dac 2, fully up to date as technology progresses, as well as allowing for a degree of user-customisation.


The hip-dac 2’s analogue amplification stage benefits from a balanced (differential) circuit design. This topology helps to reduce signal distortion. The circuitry incorporates a range of high-quality components selected for their performance in an audio context, including a custom iFi OV op-amp, TDK C0G class 1 ceramic capacitors, a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments and a high-quality analogue volume pot. The amp stage can deliver 400mW into a 32-ohm headphone load, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of headphone and earphone types with power to spare. Even high-impedance headphones are handled with ease thanks to output voltage of 6.3V into 600 ohms (from the balanced output).

The iFi hip-dac 2

To further tailor the output to suit the connected headphones, the amp stage features switchable gain – a feature called PowerMatch. This matches the level of drive to the headphone load, adjusting input sensitivity and thereby signal strength. With high-sensitivity in-ear monitors, for example, leave PowerMatch at its lower setting to ensure a silent, hiss-free background. But if your headphones benefit from a higher level of drive – such as many on- and over-ear types – press the PowerMatch button to increase gain. XBass is another user-selectable feature – a form of ‘bass boost’ that enhances low frequencies without muddying the midrange, particularly useful with earphones and open-back  headphones that may lack deep bass. It operates entirely in the analogue domain rather than messing with the digital signal via DSP and may be switched in or out of the signal path.


The iFi hip-dac 2’s USB input handles audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz and supports the ‘SuperSpeed’ USB 3.0 standard, as well as USB 2.0. It is asynchronous, meaning that the data rate is regulated solely by the hip-dac 2’s specialised audio clock circuitry for accurate, jitter-free data transfer from the source device.

There are two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. Unusually, the Type A input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port. This arrangement provides greater mechanical integrity. It also 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 for headphones with a single-ended cable/connector, and a 4.4mm Pentaconn output enabling headphones equipped with balanced connectivity to take full advantage of the hip-dac 2’s differential amp design. In addition, the 3.5mm output benefits from iFi’s proprietary S-Balanced circuitry, cutting crosstalk and related distortion in half when used with regular, single-ended headphone connections – this is especially beneficial with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors.

The iFi hip-dac 2’s 2200mAh battery lasts for around 8-12 hours of playing time, depending on volume level and how power-hungry the connected headphones are. 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.)


Both the original iFi hip-dac and the new iFi hip-dac 2 sport a 102x70x14mm extruded aluminium enclosure, sufficiently robust to be ported around without fear of breakage. However, some may wish to add further protection for the anodised metallic finish, whilst giving their DAC/headphone amp a softer, suede-like feel – for them, the new hip-case is ideal. Made from vegan-friendly ‘faux suede’ in cool Dove Grey, with stitch detail and an embroidered iFi badge, the hip-case fits both the hip-dac and hip-dac 2 like a glove.

The iFi hip-dac 2


The hip-dac 2 is available In Sunset Orange at an RRP of £189, from October.

The hip-case is available in Dove Grey at an RRP of £29, from October.

The original hip-dac remains available in Petrol Blue at an RRP of £169, while stocks last.

The iFi hip-dac 2

The iFi hip-dac 2 has plenty of tech packed inside

HiFi Pig Says: Pocket friendly portable audio has to be just that, pocket friendly, which iFi seem to have nailed with the hip-dac design, now packing in even more tech to the hip flask styled DAC/amp.

Get all the latest Hifi News with Hifi Pig here! 

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