In-a-Snapshot: Hidizs S9 mini USB DAC/amp

Sound Analysis & Comparison.

I tested and analyzed Hidizs S9 connected to my Galaxy S9 smartphone using Neutron MP app, and EE Odin for monitoring.  While I have a selection of different test tracks I use during reviews, this time I was analyzing the sound while jamming to remastered Bob Marley 24bit/192kHz “Jamming” hi-res flac.  Connection to my phone was flawless, S9 was recognized right away without any problems.  Just have to keep in mind that side of the cable with Hidizs logo needs to be connected to a phone.

Compared to 3.5mm headphone output of my Galaxy phone, there is definitely a big improvement in sound quality:

  • from Hidizs S9 3.5mm: soundstage is wider; dynamics is more expanded, making the sound less flat; I hear more transparency with improvement in resolution.  Also, improvement in imaging and positioning of sounds in space.
  • from Hidizs S9 2.5mm: soundstage expands even wider, especially with some percussion instruments moving further left/right; vertical dynamics is similar to Hidizs S9 3.5mm, but I do hear some improvement in layering and separation of the sounds; also, a little more sparkle in treble and even more transparency.

hidizs-s9-15

Hidizs S9 vs Hidizs AP80 Pro – S9 3.5mm SE output sounds nearly identical to AP80 Pro 2.5mm BAL output.  While S9 2.5mm BAL output has a similar improvement over AP80 Pro 2.5mm BAL output as I found in S9 going from 3.5mm to 2.5mm in comparison above.

Hidizs S9 (3.5mm) vs Hidizs S8 (3.5mm) – S8 sounds a little warmer in tonality and denser in dynamics.  In comparison, S9 sounds more revealing, more transparent, not brighter-transparent but just less colored and with more air between layers of sounds.  Also, S9 soundstage is wider and imaging is improved with more precise placement of sounds in space.  But I do miss S8 volume up/down buttons.

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Hidizs S9 (2.5mm) vs Lotoo S1 (4.4mm) – a very interesting comparison with a few distinct differences.  First of all, both have a wide soundstage but S9 spreads a little wider.  Some percussion instruments are reaching a little further out and around, like they are behind my head.  It’s a subtle difference and with a properly recorded track it’s a fun comparison.  Also, with tonality, S1 has a little fuller body with a touch of additional warmth, while S9 is a touch brighter and with a bit less coloring, making it a little more neutral relative to S1.  In terms of the sound alone, one is not better than the other, they are just different.

Hidizs S9 (2.5mm) vs iBasso DC01 (2.5mm) – here the difference was similar to S1 above, where soundstage and tonality stood out.  S9 is wider in soundstage with a better imaging.  Also, DC01 has a warmer and fuller body tonality where in comparison S9 is more transparent, less colored, more neutral and slightly more revealing.  Another noticeable difference, with Odin being a sensitive IEM, DC01 has a lot more hissing while S9 is quieter.

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Conclusion.

With a number of recent quality budget DAP releases, including Hidizs own AP80 Pro (reviewed here), and popularity of TWS earphones and wireless DAC/amp, wired mini usb DAC/amp like S9 faces a stiff competition.  But as I mentioned in the Intro of this review, there are still audiophiles on a budget who are perfectly happy using their smartphone as a portable audio player, and they just want to improve its sound quality and add balanced output.  Not everybody wants a wireless dongle and instead prefers a simple slim wired connection which is exactly what S9 delivers.  And considering a quality DAC (AK4493EQ), 3.5mm and 2.5mm outputs, and support of DSD512 and 32bit/768kHz, under $100 this is a very attractive package as long as you don’t need full MQA unfolding.

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