DH80s is third in a line of Hidizs’ products that I’ve tried in the last few months. Initially, I wasn’t that much into trying it out because I somehow imagined it would be an S9 Pro with a battery. Curiosity took better of me and I’m glad it did because this DAC more than deserves its own review. Now let me try and explain why.
Build and Features
Hidizs DH80s offers a digital input in form of USB-C, while another one next to it and marked “power” is reserved for charging the internal battery. While on the topic of battery, the manufacturer claims it can last up to 8 hours on a single-ended output, and up to 6 hours when it comes to the balanced connection. I didn’t conduct any sort of true test but from my use so far, this claim feels realistic.
Next to these USB ports, we find two analog outputs, a single-ended 3.5 mm and balanced 4.4 mm Pentaconn. On the right side of the unit, we find the ON/OFF switch and volume control buttons. The left side contains a switch that lets you choose between three different gain levels. One minor niggle that I found is that volume control doesn’t appear truly separate from the OS’s software volume control. I guess some might be annoyed by this, but seen as many portable DACs don’t offer volume buttons at all, I’ll just take it as it is.
Internally, DH80s is based around the ESS9281C PRO chip for D/A conversion. The Analog section uses dual RT6863C op-amps which provide up to 4 V for balanced and up to 2 V for single-ended output. Talking about the output power available for headphones, that’s up to 125 mW on the single-ended side and 210 mW on balanced out. It’s not much, but also not to be frowned upon when we talk about such portable devices. Finally, a suitable headphone impedance is said to be anything up to 150 Ohms.
With all of this out of the way, let’s talk about real stuff, and I mean sound.
I’ve started my tests connecting Hidizs DH80s to my Android phone and using both Tidal and Qobuz apps. Later on, I did move to a PC and repeated everything using local files and bit-perfect reproduction. On the output side of things, I started with in-ears such as lively NF Audio NM2+ and absolutely great Moondrop Kato. Both of these were driven absolutely great and without any problem, as expected. But moving to bigger planars in form of Verum 1 and SendyAudio Aiva showed that DH80s is no slouch, driving both of these to satisfying levels.
No matter if you use it as a DAC only, or to power your headphones directly, Hidizs DH80s will treat you with a well-balanced sound signature. The bassline has more authority than I came to expect from a portable device. It’s deep but well-controlled and quite nimble. Midbass is also very well judged, present but tidy, and doesn’t color the midrange. Because of this, all vocals and instruments sound very clean and neutral. But worry not, when I say neutral, I don’t think lean or thinned out. Such is the talent of DH80s that it manages to join that clarity with the natural smoothness and liquid-like character of the midrange. To finish this tonality part, I’ll say that the highest spectrum is not very pronounced and if anything it’s on a slightly sweeter side of things. Since there is no sharpness, glare, or edginess I could detect, my testing quickly turned into listening to music and simply enjoying it. This really doesn’t happen every day, and it’s something reserved only for the most rounded performers.
Moving on to the soundstage, it’s exceptionally well-developed for a product of this price. All tones have plenty of room to breathe and are arranged in front of a very black background. Pinpointing a source where the sound originated is easy, but in doing that DH80s skillfully avoids ever becoming analytical or tiring in any way imaginable.
Finally, if we’re talking about dynamics, there’s not much to criticize here. DH80s is a lively-sounding performer, but it won’t win any awards when it comes to big dynamic swings or pulsating electronic music. Then again, it’s really hard to find any DAC that is doing better in this regard but doesn’t come at double the price.
Hidizs S9 pro is a logical competitor coming from the same company, but at a slightly lower price and without a battery. I quite expected them to sound very similar, but I was wrong. As good as the S9 pro is on its own, DH80s offers an easily noticeable increase in overall clarity, bass depth and control. Soundstage feels deeper too, with tones in it having more free space around them. All this comes at a thirty bucks price premium, but more so at a cost of increased size and slightly lower portability. Because of it, I’m still not willing to let my S9 pro go, as I simply find it more carefree to use due to its USB flash size, but also the lack of battery that I need to worry about.
Topping E30 and L30 stack wield more power and it is able to move high impedance cans with ease, so let’s say you have to feed something such as Sennheiser HD6xx, this would be a much better choice. But once a sufficiently sensitive headphone with appropriate impedance is chosen – I actually find Hidizs DH80s to deliver higher sonic fidelity. Less powerful it certainly is, but also cleaner sounding with a tidier bassline and darker background. Connected to one of my favorites Verum 1, DH80s sounds splendid and to my ears better than this stack.
Rarely do I stumble upon such an accomplished device, that not only sounds great but also comes at a price that makes it easily attainable for the largest portion of audiophiles. Furthermore, it’s even rarer that I truly struggle to find any fault that’s really worth mentioning. Now join all those together and we get a truly exceptional product, class-leading if you will. For such a well-rounded performer, nothing but the highest possible score would suffice. If my memory serves me well, this is the first spotless ten here on iiWi reviews, and I believe that says it all.
|HIDIZS DH80s – CHARACTERISTICS|
DAC Chip: ESS ES9281C PRO