Hidizs just released the best-looking $99 portable DAC I’ve ever seen

The Hidizs S8 PRO Robin
(Image credit: Hidizs)

Hidizs is making quite the name for itself in affordable hi-res audio. Late last year, it unveiled a cheap hi-res player and earbuds that punched way above their price tag, which we really rated. And now there's a new USB DAC that delivers an impressive specification for an impressively low price.

The new S8 PRO Robin features dual CS43131 DACs and supports up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 hi-res audio files. There are both single 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm headphone outputs with a frequency response of 20Hz to an airy 45kHz, and power is 80mW+80mW @32Ω through the 3.5mm output and 160mW+160Mw @32Ω via the balanced output. 

Hidizs' previous portable DAC, the S8, received excellent reviews when it launched in 2020. So it's probably safe to assume that this newer double DAC will be similarly impressive as a way to upgrade your mobile audio. It's certainly affordable: the S8 PRO Robin is just $99 in the US and £79 in the UK.

DAC stars: the rivals

The Hidizs S8 PRO Robin

(Image credit: Hidizs)

The world of best portable DACs is an increasingly crowded one, and of course that's brilliant for music fans because that means there's tons of choice at every price point and it's pretty much impossible to buy a howlingly bad one. Portable DACs make a noticeable upgrade to the audio of smartphones, but it's even more dramatic with many laptops where headphone sound quality clearly hasn't been a high priority.

Our current favorite budget DAC is the iFi Uno, which has an unusual design but a similar price tag to the Hidizs' S8 PRO Robin: it's currently priced at £79 on Amazon UK. But in the US, it's even better value: checking just now on Price.com, it's currently $79, so it's a little cheaper than its newer rival. The iFi has the same hi-res support – PCM files of up to 32bit/384kHz resolution and DSD256 – and it does MQA too.

One of the things that's clearly very different between the iFi and its new rival is the design. Where the iFi is reminiscent of a 1950s movie UFO in its green ovoid, the S8 PRO Robin sticks to a more conventional rectangle – albeit a rectangle with some buttons on it that look like they too came from a sci-fi set. The iFi is visibly larger, which isn't likely to be an issue if you're planning some laptop listening but could be a factor if you want to stick it in a purse or pocket.

I'm looking forward to seeing what our resident audiophiles make of the new Hidizs S8 PRO Robin, because on paper it least it looks like a winning spec with a decent price. And it's part of a wider product launch that also includes the new and even cheaper SD2 USB-C DAC dongle ($39 / £39) and the ST2 PRO Digital IEMs, which will be $169 / £149 when they launch alongside the S8 PRO Robin in March.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.