For this review, I chose to pair the Hidizs XO with the Sennheiser IE600, the FiiO FF5 and the lovely Beyerdynamic’s DT 900 Pro X. I found myself falling back again for the Sennheiser and the latter have been my top choice, in this price range, since their launch now. As for the FiiO, it’s a one of the funniest in-ear/earphone I listened too in a while.
As for the source, I kept my MacBook and iPhone, combined with the ddHiFi TC28i and the iBasso CB18 (lovely cable), to use the USB-C cable solely. For the files, I mainly used Apple Music and Spotify, as I ended up using the XO almost exclusively in the train, or at the office.
So, how does Hidizs new USB dongle fare, compared to its bigger brother, the S9 Pro? Is there more to it than funny colors ?
First of all, and contrary to what I imagined, the Hidizs XO is completely independent from its gamer design. The sound signature lean more towards pure transparency, than V-shaped, boomy domain – something that I didn’t expect – and paired with the Sennheiser IE600, the end result was usually impressive, even magnificent sometimes.
Power-wise, it’s on the lower-end of the scale but, honestly, I didn’t expect the XO to confidently drive my headphones, even though the S9 Pro was quite a beast in that aspect. Thankfully, the 2.5mm TRRS output does wonder and, thanks to that, I was able to drive my Hifiman Svanar more than correctly, or infinitely more than going 3.5mm.
Fortunately, if not deafening, the small DAC was still able to deliver enough punch in 3.5mm to push my lovely BeyerDynamic DT900 Pro X, my all-around headphone. And, paired with this headphone, the experience was particularly pleasant, in line with the S9 Pro, in with powerful lows, crisp highs and impactful mids. The only drawback being the narrow soundstage, especially when I pushed the volume. In this regard, the difference between the balanced and single-ended output was really massive.
On the long run, the Hidizs XO sounds fast and precise, at any level of volume, and the layering, if worse than its bigger brother, remains a good level above any other entry-level DAC like the TC35i, or even the FiiO KA1. It also feels more natural, with deeper lows and sharper mids, the XO pushing more micro-details, when combined with a good headphone.
Micro-details, balanced signature, precise timbre, you get it all and, the end result outline years of hard work. It’s a lovely device but, truth be told, that might also be thanks to the DT900 Pro-X. Okay, the combo doesn’t match the efficiency I heard when I combined the headphone and the iBasso DC03 Pro, but on the other hand, the XO appeared a little more versatile than the DC03 Pro.
Switching to the FiiO FF5, an earphone that I really like (even if it’s an earbud), the soundstage widened as expected. Compared to the Cirrus-Logic sound signature, the ESS put voices in front for a more forward presentation. Head-to-head with the FiiO KA3, the XO appeared more impactful, whereas the FiiO seemed to put too much emphasis on the voice. Some might dislike the linearity, but personally, I found it to be a strength even more while listening to my usual electro playlist.
Paired with the right headphones/earphones – the IE600 in my case – you can spot each instrument and each singer with ease and there is no channel imbalance to ruin the experience. It’s usually impressive, and sometimes magnificent. This was especially true with well-mixed tracks like Nara from Alt-J, where the voice completely took me off, as I slowly dove into the music.
Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, for smartphone listeners, this dongle is a significant improvement compared to Apple’s own dongle, as well as small dongles like HiFi’s TC35i or the FiiO KA1. The improvements include better dynamic range, deeper bass, cleaner high-mids, and a leaner sound signature.
A very nice DAC/Amp, with a colorful design, but straight-line sound!
Highs: clean and crisp. The XO has lively treble and with IEMs like the Sennheiser, it gives tons of details. Going balanced makes a big difference and this time I did notice a major difference switching between 16bit files and 24bit files. At least, more than I used to hear with other similarly priced DAC, so you better feed it well.
Good test track: Can’t wait for the perfect – Bob Reynolds
Mids: open and linear. Vocals and acoustic tracks were an easy job for the XO, even more once paired with a good IEM. The sound stage is wide and voices glided easily into my ears, especially paired with the FiiO FF5 – big surprise. However, I preferred the DT900 Pro X with this DAC, as some good pairing occurred, giving me the right amount of details and a wide soundstage.
Good test track: Places – Brace! Brace!
Bass: tight and powerful. Hidizs did a great job here, and the S9 Pro was really impressive, even in single-ended mode. Sure, going balanced makes a big difference, even more, if you pair it with a solid can like the Audeze, or the Meze 99 Classics. A nice surprise!
If the Hidizs XO is advertised as the first RGB-Lighted DAC/Amp, there is (much) more than that to this little DAC. It’s well-built, tiny and lightweight, compatible with each and every device, and – more importantly – sounds surprisingly good, wondrous even – paired with a good IEM, like Sennheiser’s or FiiO’s latest models, it’s utterly impressive, without breaking the bank.
MQA is a bonus, as are the digital filters. Most listeners will stick with the default settings and PCM files, but for those who want to tweak their sound, the XO delivers. My main recommendation is to favor the 2.5mm TRRS output whenever possible. Not only will you get twice the power, but you’ll also enjoy tighter bass, cleaner mids, and an extended soundstage.
Would I take it over the FiiO KA3? That’s a tough question, as the latter falls more in-line with my favorite genre (electro, classical, ambient) but if you’re a pop/rap/jazz/vocal lover, you may prefer the XO which usually sounds closer to the original signal. That said, for the LED only, I think I’d stick with the XO: it’s not everyday that your DAC can match your gaming PC!
- robust design with fancy LED all around
- low power consumption and good power reserve in TRS
- clean, analytic sound, perfect with a Beyerdynamic or an Etymotic IEM
- Clever filter switch and great compatibility
- maybe a bit too linear
- LED is a gimmick that not everyone will like
- not as powerful as its direct competitor, especially through the TRS output
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 !