DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9281C PRO (Single)
PCM 32bit – 384khz 8X MQA DSD128, SNR: -117dB, Power: 55 mW 32Ω , USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: YES), 6g, Aluminum Chassis, SPC Cable
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Sparkly clean and clear neutral timbre
- Crisp natural tonality with pristine coherence
- Balanced energetic dynamics, realistic vibe
- Great Treble textures and extensions with crisp decays
- Fast Mid-Bass vibe with rich textured body, equally fast decays
- Natural Mids that’s not too forward nor recessed, richly textured and smooth.
- Mild Sub-Bass with equally mild seismic feedback
- Crisp nuanced and smooth details retrieval, very transparent
- Realistic toned guitars, cello, percussions, and piano
- Reference class speed and transients handling, amazing dexterity
- Decently sized soundstage with natural feel to the spatial imaging
- Great separation of layers with precise holographic projection
- Good driving power, 75/100 volume to drive Tin HiFi P1 to proper listening levels
- Great synergy with anything (no lower than 95db of sensitivity & over 100Ω)
- Great clean black background with high sensitivity IEM (122db Moondrop Aria)
- Very conservative on battery drain
- Power limited to below 100Ω 96db Sensitivity
- Bass performance is milder than the bigger siblings Hidizs S9 and S9 Pro
- Less forgiving to poor quality recordings or sources
- Soundstage not as wide as the top performers
- Able to drive magnetic planars, but the dynamics are audibly milder
- No hardware volume adjuster
- Slightly warm to the touch when playing maximum resolution on MQA (Purple level)
Hidizs S3 Pro. Alright, when I read about the announcement of S3 Pro not too long ago, I asked Hidizs for a review unit for my #donglemadness project (during the 40 dongles test phase). So this unit here with me is not purchased with my own money – Hidizs agreed that I am free to express my findings freely and so here I am sharing my impressions on it.
This tiny, cute dongle is quite an eye candy. However, what’s more important is what’s inside. Consistent with Hidizs adept tuning competencies, the S3 Pro does share the same refinement as exhibited from the bigger siblings of Hidizs S9 and S9 Pro – both of which rates very high in my book. The overall tuning is very polished and crisp, faithfully neutral, and sparkly. I daresay that among the eight ES9281C based dongles I have tested so far, this S3 Pro sits a step above the likes of ddHiFi TC35 Pro, hiliDAC Audirect 2SE, ATOM2 and HiBy FC3. And playing on the same level with Questyle M12 and THX Onyx – with the M12 having slight upper hand with more power and the THX Onyx being wider sounding. The only ES9281C that remain on top of the chain would be hiliDAC Audirect BEAM 2S and that’s understandable because BEAM 2S playing field is on the TOTL side with Hidizs S9 Pro, Ovidius B1, iBasso DC04 and A&K PEE51.
I have opted to use this S3 Pro exclusively on Tidal Masters, the biggest appeal of this S3 Pro being able to unfold 8X MQA tracks. I believe that’s the maximum available now. Admittedly there’s mixed feelings when it comes to the subject of MQA. There’s equally enough number of people opting to avoid MQA at all costs as it is with those who choose to embrace it. I was one of those who opted to bail out of MQA a few months back, preferring to stick to the good old 44.1/16 FLAC. But I am not opposed to advancement and from what I have observed so far, Tidal especially has been burning the midnight oil to improve MQA experience and I have heard enough feedbacks that MQA is an indulgence worth trying. So here I am back with Tidal, and I am glad I made that decisions. What I am hearing, audibly better spatial imaging and crisper details on the extended regions for records that contains them. The S3 Pro being the latest Dongle in the market to cater for this segment performed greatly and with assured confidence. The only negatives that I am hearing would be the existing artifacts contained within the original recordings or remasters. S3 Pro exhibited great balance between technicalities and organic musical presentation. I absolutely love listening to Diana Krall, Suzanne Vega, Morrissey, and Madonna Masters albums – especially S3 Pro pairing with HZSOUND Heart Mirror, the immersion was nothing short of amazing, the MQA opens up sonic spectrum that was not as audible on my traditional FLACs. Lastly the S3 also impressed with very clean background free of any floor noise even with the super sensitive 122db Moondrop Aria. Due to S3 Pro ability to handle Tidal MQA without any crackling issues as encountered with the likes of Questyle M12, hiliDAC Audirect 2SE & Audirect ATOM2, this S3 PRO rates very highly from my POV.
However not all is dandy. S3 Pro falls short on outright driving power and I believe this is quite forgivable because Hidizs already have S9 and S9 Pro to cater for much more demanding use that include Magnetic Planars and High Impedance heavyweights. For my own personal use, the S3 Pro performs greatly with HZSOUND Heart Mirror, VE Monk GO, Moondrop Aria and Etymotic ER4SR. This is something that is still quite applicable as probably 70% of users base are running on 8 to 32Ω IEMs and with sensitivity no lower than 98db.
Perhaps somewhere in the near future Hidizs would combine the feature of S3 Pro and S9 Pro to make the ultimate TOTL? that would be really something to wait for.
Find out more about Hidizs S3 Pro from Hidizs Official Store
Best Pairing: Low impedance IEMs/Headphones not exceeding 100Ω
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