In this article, we review the Hidizs XO, the new dual-chip DAC/AMP dongle from the brand, available for just $99 USD.
Disclaimer: the Hidizs XO was sent to us, free of charge, by the brand in exchange for our honest opinion.
Founded in 2009 by Tamson Tan, Hidizs offers a full range of DAP, DAC/Amp and IEMs which all share the same DNA: good sound, affordable prices. And if their first model, the AP100, was one of the quirkiest devices I’ve ever held in my life, it remained a solid alternative to FiiO’s or Shanling’s players, for a lesser price.
Then, for their second generation player, the AP200, the brand decided to launch a Kickstarter, which appeared to be quite successful as Hidizs managed to raise no less than $280,000, with 943 backers. A great success that pushed the brand in a whole new direction, with best-sellers like the AP80 series – we even reviewed the AP80 Pro-X recently and praised its quality/price ratio.
We’ve also reviewed classic IEMs, like the MD4 and even some collaboration as the NF-Audio x Hidizs back in the days – lovely one by the way – up to the S9 Pro, another USB DAC/Amp dongle that sit at the top of Hidizs catalog.
And this week, we are reviewing the Hidizs XO, a quirky DAC/Amp packing a dual set of Sabre ESS chips, MQA support, a dual headphone output and, most importantly, LED lights! Time to check all those quirks, and features.
Design & Build Quality
If I expected the new Hidizs XO to follow the lines of the S9 Pro, out of the box, this new DAC gives a completely different vibe. While the S9 Pro was a slim, premium-finished dongle, made of smooth aluminum topped by glass on each side, the new XO favors a rougher design. Thick, granular, metal panels, large grill on each sides, and two headphone output – now next to each others, instead of being on top of each others.
End to end, the XO is just 55mm long, 24,5 mm wide, and 9,35 mm thick, for just 11 g on the scale. Dimensions that fall in line with the rest of the market, the DAC being just a tad larger than usual. To those measurements, you can add the USB-C cable, or USB-C to 8-Pin if you’re using an iPhone like me, but overall you can easily carry it with you, paired with your phone.
Entirely made of CNC-milled aluminum, the case is covered on each side with pierced grills, giving the Hidizs some strong visual appeal already. But, once powered on, the Hidizs XO unveils its coolest/strangest quirk : a full LED array, with no less than 15 variations, directly inspired by the pc gaming world.
Usually, my DAC/Amp are mistaken for USB Keys by my colleagues. However, this time, a colleague thought that it was a new light remote for the office, especially with the big cross button on top.
If quirky, this new unit is thankfully flawless in terms of build quality. Yes it screams “GAMER” wherever you look. Yes it’s a bit bulky, with its large and long body. But, this is good as this DAC/Amp will have to withstand months, sometimes years, of travels in and out of your pocket/bag.
Available in three colors – black, silver or pink – the Hidizs XO gets the same screw-less design shown on every products of the brand, up to the AP80 Pro-X. On the front-side, you have with a dual socket with a 3.5mm TRS port, doubled by a 2.5mm TRRS its right. USB-C sits on the other end, and on top you have two buttons (one dot + one cross) that control the RGB lights, and the filters.
It’s not as classy as the ddHifi TC44C, nor bulky as the iBasso DC06, but the Hidizs XO aims at a different public, craving for a colorful-illuminated DAC. All in all, an interesting piece of work, which shall easily find its audience.
Quick work on the bundle: it’s dire, but not more than other models. It comes with an USB-C to USB-C cable and an USB-C to A adapter, in case your computer doesn’t support the new standard.
But, you can also order premium USB-C to USB-C alternative – like the ddHiFi TC05 – and an USB-C to 8-Pin connector for your iPhone – Hidizs sells a pretty nice one in this regard.
Alternatively, you could get a Lightning to USB-C adaptor like the ddHiFi TC28i, and plug it between the Hidizs XO and your iPhone. It’s up to you!
Comfort and Specifications
The Hidizs XO is extremely simple to use.
You plug it into your phone, insert your headphone jack, and you’re good to go. There were no issues with my iPhone 13 Pro Max + TC28i + XO, or with my MacBook and the default cable: each time, the Hidizs was immediately recognized by the source, and music came out almost instantly. The color led is a good indicator too, if correctly recognized, they’ll automatically light up.On Windows, I had to wait a minute, until the OS got the right driver but after that, it worked flawlessly. In parallel, a third-party software seems available for Windows and Android users, the usual HiBy Music App.
The app unlocks the full potential of the DAC with direct access to the digital files, various optimizations like digital filters access or L/R balance – for those who need it. To my dismay though, the iOS app hasn’t been updated for the last two years and, most of the time, led to buggy situations where music stutters or the app completely stops… Thankfully, the filter switch can also be triggered directly from the top button, making the app almost meaningless for my use.
Sadly, the Hidizs XO lacks a volume control and, compared to the iBasso DC03 Pro I reviewed last time, or the HiBy FC4, that’s a feature I really miss.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the LED lights. If you can spot a tiny LED light on the top-side, indicating the current sampling rates:
- red for standby, when no music is playing
- rose for MQA
- green for PCM files up to 96kHz
- Yellow for PCM files up to 192kHz
- Blue for DSD files up to DSD256
There’s also a full led array illuminating the whole body from side to side. And yes, those led looks surprisingly good in real life, much more than I expect and no, they aren’t giving you any insight about the quality of the stream playing. It’s just there for the “lol”… which is why I like it so much!
Let’s take a quick look at the specs now.
Siting in a lower range, the Hidizs XO doesn’t get the ES9038Q2M chip of its older brother, the S9 Pro. Instead, the XO uses a more savvy sets of ES9219C chips – still sourced from ESS tech.
A DAC advertised as a high-performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter with Quad DAC+ technology. And, as a SOC (system on chip) this chip also comes with its own headphone amplifier, analog volume control, and output switch, so brands like Hidizs can focus on tuning.
It’s a very good chip, found in many low-to-mid end devices, like the Shanling UA1s, packing lot of powers and many great features like:
- up to 32bits / 768kHz PCM decoding + DSD512 support (256 here)
- 130dB SNR and 121dB DNR
- Ultra-low power consumption (10uW in standby mode and up to 45mW in use)
- Patented time domain jitter eliminator, for bitperfect playback
- 64-bit accumulator and 32-bit processor, for distortion free signal
To that, Hidizs added its own “sauce”, to enable the full potential of the DAC, and furthermore, output more power with a lower floor noise.
So, upstream of the dual ES9219C chips, the brand added its own USB-receiver chip, combined with an independent crystal oscillator and a DCDC + LDO Power controller, directly connected to the electronic switch – the one enabling the signal to go through the physical headphone ports. On top of that, Hidizs added a special set of chips, both intertwined between the two DAC. An independent power chip, with low PSRRLDO (Power Supply Rejection Ratio (PSRR) of a Low-Dropout (LDO) regulator) , feeding which minimizes the power consumption; and an independent crystal oscillator dialoguing between the main Oscillator, and the chips themselves.
Powered by my iPhone, the Hidizs XO is capable of outputting 78mW @ 32 ohm in TRS mode, and 195mW in TRRS mode, while maintaining the same low THD of just 0.0005% and 118dB of channel separation (in balanced mode). Good numbers! But, the cherry on top remains the fascinating LED light system. As I said before, this setup gets its own, dedicated, controller, paired with a LED light driver IC for maximum control. And when I thought the Hidizs XO only embedded four or five led – including the one on top – I discovered that the brand integrated no less than 10 of them!
Finally, for the nerds out there – like me- here are the full specs.
- Type: USB DAC
- Model: Hidizs XO
- Chipset: 2x ESS Sabre 9218C
- Frequency range: 20 – 20 000Hz
- Compatibility: PCM up to 32bit/384kHz – DSD up to DSD256 – MQA 8X
- SNR: 118dB (3.5mm) / 119dB (2.5mm)
- THD: 0.0005% (3.5mm and 2.5mm)
- Output power: 78mW per channel @ 32ohms (3.5mm) / 195mW per channel @ 32 ohms (2.5mm)
- Crosstalk: 76dB (3.5mm) / 128dB (2.5mm)
- Size: 55 x 24.9 x 9.35mm
- Weight: 11 g
- Socket: USB-C
- Price: $99
The article continues on Page Two, after the click here
I’m looking for a good dongle dac able to drive properly, with power and clarity, the Beyer DT900 PRO X
Which would be your advice for this ? My budget can go to 200-250 if needed
Thanks a lot !
I pre-ordered when Hidizs announced it in December because I was looking for a dac I could store in the case of my AKG N5005 and saw I review and I liked the sound signature. Got it on January. Have paired with my N5005 in balanced always and really happy with the combo.