So we’ve established that Meizu has packed some impressive abilities inside this little dongle, but what you’re probably interested in is whether it’s not simply a replacement for your device’s headphone jack, but also an upgrade to your device’s audio. And is it? For the most part – yes. The HiFi Audio Pro offers a neutral and insightful listen, with an overall more refined and layered experience than what my Galaxy S9+ offers. No question. There are two key areas where the Meizu device adds a welcome improvement to audio. Firstly, bass-notes become tightened – the Meizu has better control in the low-end which helps to deal with any unwanted ‘flab’. Next, the Meizu adds a far more impressive sense of air and separation in the highest octave, creating a much more believable sense of space and realism thanks to a much more believable decay in the trailing edge of notes. Overall, it’s a more refined experience than my smartphone’s flat, at times one-dimensional sound.
Final Audio’s flagship A8000 IEMs are absolute treble maestros, and their open, airy sound benefit from the HiFi Audio Pro’s deft top-end. The Meizu gets the A8000’s 16 ohm, 102dB sensitivity beryllium driver to comfortable listening levels at around 80% on the volume-slider. Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer‘ record has some superbly-recorded acoustic bass, and is a great test for control and texture in the low-end. The A8000 + HiFi Audio Pro pairing manages the bouncing bass, brushed snares, and delicate violin parts with absolute dexterity and finesse.
Grado’s GR10 is much more of a brash, energetic listen, and well-suited to guitar-driven rock. Playing a bit of Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Hummer‘ does sound a little harsh and splashy in the cymbals, in particular, but it’s a more refined listen than my S9+, which renders the multi-tracked guitars as one wall of noise, as opposed to a more layered experience on the Meizu.
As mentioned previously, the little Meizu dongle is capable of powering the Sennheiser HD650 to adequate listening levels without running out of puff. It does a respectable job with the HD650, but doesn’t quite manage to give them the appropriate amount of oomph required to unleash their legendary mid-range tone, and the more-than-capable mid-bass capabilities. The ‘drop’ at the 10-second mark in Tame Impala’s ‘The Less I Know The Better‘ simply doesn’t have the same grin-inducing slam as it does on a better-specced DAP or desktop amp.
Focal’s 55 ohm / 102dB Clears were a surprisingly enjoyable match with the HiFi Audio Pro. While they have a fairly lean and neutral presentation, the Meizu still managed to extract their deft bass capabilities with enough impact to make Run The Jewel’s ‘Call Ticketron‘ a toe-tapping time. Changing gears to ‘Red Barchetta‘ by Rush, the Meizu handles the Clears with terrific attack and treble speed, in particular, and also manages to bring-out the Clear’s excellent imaging.
Versus Apple USB-C dongle
Apple’s $15 AUD is both an affordable and capable alternative to the headphone jack, and makes for a compelling proposition for the wired listener. It actually sounds louder than the Meizu at any given volume level when switched between devices, and it also offers a more impactful sound that makes it jump out as a bit more exciting-sounding. The Meizu is a little more gentle and refined, by comparison, but pulls ahead of the Apple dongle thanks to a slightly more layered, textured sound. The Meizu, while a few times more expensive than the Apple dongle, is built much better and feels more confidence-inspiring in terms of its ability to survive pockets, bags, and general wear and tear compared to the more ‘disposable’-feeling Apple adapter.
Versus Earstudio ES100
The ~$105 USD ES100 goes about getting sound out of your phone in an altogether different way – via Bluetooth, including the excellent LDAC codec which is pretty close to wired in terms of out-and-out fidelity. It does offer the ability to actually separate yourself from your phone, as well as offering a 2.5mm connection (in addition to 3.5mm) plus actual physical volume and playback buttons. The ES100 simply has more power, grunt, and dynamic ability than the tiny Meizu device, and at a little over half the price makes for a much more flexible alternative – depending on your particular use-cases.
If you have a smartphone without a headphone jack and you don’t yet feel like consigning your IEM/headphone collection to your bottom drawer, then the Meizu HiFi Audio Pro is an inexpensive way to get a surprisingly classy sound out of your mobile device. It genuinely surprised me with its ability to play nicely with a wide range of headphones, including those of the hard-to-drive variety. The ‘dongle’ form-factor might make a lot of sense for a lot of listeners and this is the most capable version I’ve come across yet in this most simple and minimal of form-factors. At just over $50, the decent build and sound quality of the HiFi Audio Pro makes for a compelling value equation. The 3.5mm jack might be heading the way of the dodo at some point in the future, but while products like this exist, you’d better hang onto your wired headphones for a while yet.