I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with the R6 comparing and contrasting it to my existing equipment as well as to the iBasso DX300, so I thought I’d write up a quick review of my thoughts on the R6 itself, as well as a few comparisons to other pieces of equipment I have around.
The first thing you’ll notice when holding the R6 2020 is the solid, sturdy build. It feels like it’s made of solid metal and feels great in-hand. The volume knob and each button are solid metal and feel like they’re indestructible (I did not test this theory).
The dedicated dual phone and line out outputs are a huge bonus. It’s really nice not to have to flip between phone out and line out in software when using it as a stand-alone DAC for an external Amp.
However, there is one area where I feel the R6’s build could be improved: the screen. Firstly, the nearly 3:4 aspect ratio of the R6 was very off-putting for me. While this could just be because I’m so accustomed to larger cellphones like the Pixel 4 XL, I felt that the screen space was not typically well-used, especially when watching videos. However, I suspect that if your sole use of this device is listening to music, this is likely not going to be an issue. What will likely be an issue on the other hand is the default scaling of the screen. Despite the screen being plenty bright, I found that the screen could be hard to see in bright sunlight due to the tiny scaling that is applied by default. The default scaling makes text hard to read even under the most ideal conditions, but as soon as there is any glare on the screen it becomes nearly impossible. This is easily remedied through the system settings but be warned that if you enjoy the default setting there is no way to get it back once you’ve changed it to one of Android’s defaults of “Small”, “Medium”, or “Large”.
If you’ve ever used an Android phone or really any other Android DAP, you’ll likely feel right at home with the R6, but the fact that it’s Android 9.0 - a more recent version of Android than many other DAPs - is a real added bonus for those of us who are more accustomed to modern Android versions.
One of the nicest features of this device is that it comes with Google Play Store pre-installed - no need to install via APKPure or any other 3rd-party app installer. This helps to allow you to easily install your favorite streaming apps without any worries that they might have been tampered with. Unfortunately, I could not get all apps to work. Specifically, I found that Pandora and Hulu both had issues either opening (Pandora) or playing content (Hulu). I was able to successfully install, launch, and use Tidal, Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV, and Roon.
The pre-installed HiBy music app seems to work fairly well, but is a bit laggy when it comes to loading album artwork, especially compared to the Mango player that comes pre-installed on the iBasso DX300. I’m not sure if this is just because the R6 has less RAM or if it is something which could be fixed by a software update.
This is where I feel the R6 really falls flat - especially when compared to the similarly-spec’d (but also more expensive) iBasso DX300.
Let’s start with the best of the R6 2020’s sound quality: the bass out of the R6 is great. It’s detailed, present, and adds just the right amount of dynamics to your music. It never felt muddy or unclear as I find bass sometimes can.
The mids of the R6 are very detailed, but I never felt overwhelmed by the details. It strikes a very good balance between detail and enjoyment by presenting the details to you and allowing you to find them, rather than shoving them in your face.
This is where the R6 2020 struggles the most. I’m not a treble-sensitive individual, but the treble on the R6 is harsh and grating even to my ears. It has detail, but it also has a sharpness that I couldn’t get rid of no matter how I tweaked the EQ. At no point in the entirety of my testing of the R6 alone was I able to listen for more than 20-30 minutes without the treble becoming fatiguing.
Furthermore, these issues plagued every mode of the device I tested, be it stand-alone as a fully-fledged DAP, as a USB DAC (using line-out to a Topping A90), as a USB DAC/Amp, as a Bluetooth DAC (using line-out to a Topping A90), or as a Bluetooth DAC/Amp. It’s really unfortunate that these issues exist, given how nice the bass and mids sound on this thing.
I won’t be keeping the R6 2020, due entirely to the treble issues. If it weren’t for the harsh treble, the R6 2020 would be a welcome addition to my collection, especially at its price point. If you have more skill with EQ than I do (which admittedly isn’t a very high bar) I suspect you may be able to get rid of the treble imbalance with the R6 2020, but for this reviewer it was not doable. It’s otherwise a great, truly portable device once you dial in the rest of the system settings to your liking.