Hidizs S3 Pro came in for a review while I was still admiring its older cousin S9 Pro. S3 is even more compact and comes with a very attractive price tag of 69 USD. What can you expect from such an affordable option and can it leave as strong of an impression as the pricier sibling did? Without wasting any more time, let’s jump right into answering those questions.
Build and Featrueres
Hidizs S3 Pro is shaped like a small puck with a tail, the tail being permanently attached USB-C cable of a nice quality. The puck part itself seems quality made and very nice looking. On the opposite side of the cable sits a 3.5 millimeters single-ended out. So it’s a very straightforward design, one digital input, and one analog output.
Inside, at the heart of the device, we find a Sabre DAC chip ESS ES90281C Pro that supports hi-res PCM, DSD, and even hardware encoding of the MQA, which seems to be all the hoot these days. The funny thing about MQA is that I remember how happy most audiophiles were when internet bandwidth grew high enough so we could ditch MP3 and similar highly compressed and lossy audio formats. Never have I imagined that somebody would be excited about the introduction of another lossy format… Yes, it’s used to compress Hi-Res files this time around, but it’s still comprising, and it’s still lossy. Anyways, my enthusiasm about the whole MQA story aside, these are all fine specs, and you’ll hardly find yourself missing anything on that front.
Talking about the power, Hidiz S3 Pro offers modest 55 Watts into 32 Ohm load, which only decreases with higher impedance. This means you’ll have plenty of volume-level headroom for moderately sensitive headphones. I’d stick with models up to 150 Ohms for the best results. However, that is not a handicap because this is a highly portable DAC, and most portable headphones and earphones are in line with this recommendation anyway.
I started the test with my trustworthy NF Audio NM2+, a detailed and transparent, albeit somewhat V-shaped set of in-ears. As I was walking down the street and into my favorite mall, Hidizs S3 Pro provided a very detailed and resolving sound. String instruments sounded crisp and sharp, and the same could be said for the vocals. The husky voice of Beady Belle sounded recognizably textured and sandy. The upper midrange feels a bit forward which adds to that sense of presence. Sibilance is kept well under control but can occasionally present itself with edgy recordings. The highest frequency range is reasonably extended and airy, but not overly sharp or harsh in any way. This leaves us with the bassline which is fast and well-controlled but not particularly deep or punchy.
Dynamics is OK, but S3 Pro never made me tap my foot with rhythm. Soundstaging is again OK, with good layering for the class and decent separation of tones and instruments in the mix. If you can sense the lack of excitement here, it’s simply becouse S3 Pro doesn’t set any new standards in these departments. However, this doesn’t mean it’s doing anything wrong here cause it doesn’t really. It’s a very decent performer for a very modest price.
Hidizs S9 pro is a slightly older and more expensive cousin at 119 USD. It’s also based on a Sabre DAC chip, arguably an even more capable one, but doesn’t support MQA and its elusive benefits. That said, S9 Pro simply sounds more rounded, with the deeper and punchier bassline. The midrange is also fuller, both instruments and vocals have more body and juice to them. Yes, it does come with a higher price tag but I feel that it’s deserved this time.
Zorloo Ztella is yet another highly portable DAC dongle costing 99 USD. Its bassline is once again deeper and offers more grunt compared to S3 pro. Midrange feels similarly present and balanced, but when it comes to the highest frequency, Ztella digs more tiny details and air from the recording. So to put it shortly, this DAC offers better extension on both ends.
Hidizs S3 Pro is a small and fully portable DAC that offers great format support, it’s well built, and sounds fine for the asking price. If you find its form factor and sonic traits appalling it might be a good solution on the budget. But if you’re able to stretch the budget just a bit, there is serious competition to consider, and some of it is also coming from within the Hidizs lines.
|HIDIZS S3 PRO – CHARACTERISTICS|
Weight: 6 g