DEAT HiFi is another newcomer to the burgeoning Chinese earphone market. Today we’re looking at their first product, the DEAT HiFi Small. This earphone may be small in size but I am really liking its big sound. Let’s get into it!
- Tiny footprint and light weight makes it easy to forget they’re in your ears
- Coherent and organic sound
- Nice cable
- Storage box and drawstring pouch included
- Microphonics (cable noise)
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Driver: 5.8mm custom micro-dynamic driver
Cable length: 1.2 M
Frequency response range: 15~28000Hzz
Earphone weight: 13g
Material: Aviation aluminum
Process: CNC carving processing + anodizing process
Package and Accessories
The DEAT HiFi Small is presented a little differently than the way we’re used to seeing. It comes in a cloth drawstring pouch which is, in turn, inside a small, translucent plastic box. So you’re effectively getting two storage options right there. The box is good for storing at home or in a bag and the pouch is more suited for stuffing in a pocket. Either way, I like having choices!
So apart from the earphone itself you also get a shirt clip, three pairs (S, M, L) of silicone eartips and a warranty card. Again we’re seeing more simple, cost-saving packaging that skips the flashy, coloured sleeves and quality but throwaway box which we hope means that in the end, you’re getting a better IEM for your money. Spoiler alert: In this case you are!
Build Quality and Design
Well, in terms of physical design, things don’t get much simpler than the DEAT Hifi Small. The minimalist design is meant to be pragmatic rather than flashy but that doesn’t mean the Aurora red shells of the small don’t look good.
There’s a small bass port at the upper rear part of the housings and that is really the only distinguishing feature on the cylindrically shaped shells. The nozzle is very short but it has a good lip on it to secure your eartips and I haven’t had any come off in my ears so far. As is the norm these days, there’s a metal mesh covering the end of the nozzles to keep out any ear wax and debris.
The black TPU-wrapped cable is flexible and supple. This is one of my favourite types of cable and is similar to the one found on the Tin Audio T1, Hypersense HEX02 and of course, the DUNU DK-3001. There are tiny little strain reliefs where the cable attaches to the shells and they’re cleverly colour coded to denote Left and Right (Left is black and Right is clear).
There’s a smooth, rounded metal Y-split accompanied by a hardened rubber chin slider/cable cinch. The cable terminates with a straight 3.5mm metal plug which is identical to the Y-split except that it has DEAT Hifi printed on it.
This cable has great ergonomics and comfort but like almost every IEM with very small housings, the cable produces significant cable noise (microphonics). Using the included shirt clip greatly reduces the cable noise, or you can also wear the Small over the ears, which works just as well.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
This is an extremely comfortable IEM because the only part that touches your ears is the eartips. The Small’s earpieces are very lightweight so most of the time you’ll hardly even notice they’re there at all. I tried several of my standard pairs of eartips and found I can practically wear these all day long.
Noise isolation is surprisingly good so long as you are getting a good seal (find the right eartips!) With music playing at low to moderate volume you won’t hear much of anything going on around you. Noise leakage is also minimal so the DEAT Hifi Small is pretty much suitable for any environment.
Gear used for testing:
- Android phone+Radonse Earstudio ES100
- Sony NW-ZX300
- Acoustic Research AR-M20
At 16 ohms and 112dB sensitivity, the Small can be easily driven from any source and doesn’t require extra amplification. The DEAT Hifi Small has a mild V-shaped signature that oozes with warmth and organic earthiness. Coherence is the Small’s defining factor; the single dynamic micro driver sounds analogue and natural compared to many of the current budget hybrids that tend to sound more clinical and sterile.
Mid-bass has some very nice texture and punchiness but it’s moderate in terms of quantity. It has a nice, clean leading edge and a reasonably fast decay that sounds natural and earthy. There’s just the right amount of impact and weight to give you that bass hit without impacting negatively on the overall sound.
Sub-bass has a satisfying rumble and feels authoritative but very well controlled. Just like the mid-bass, the sub-bass has a moderately paced and natural decay. The tiny housings resonate just enough for the bass to feel powerful but at the same time controlled without becoming loose.
Smooth, liquid mids abound with the Small. They sit just behind the bass and treble but don’t come across as being recessed. There’s plenty of body with a sprinkling of warmth making the Small’s midrange sounds rich and organic.
It does an admirable job with separation too. The Small doesn’t sound confined or congested; even with busier tracks, it manages to create some space between elements. It doesn’t have the clarity of the recent hybrids or brighter IEMs like the Lypertek MEVI but it has an inviting and natural tonality.
Vocals are rich and with good density, making them sound more forward and lifelike as if you’re in the same room as the performer. It works equally well with male vocals, like in Michael Jackson’s “The Girl Is Mine” and female vocals, in tracks such as Melody Gardot’s “Baby I’m A Fool“.
The Small’s treble presentation is a great mixture of energy and restraint. It’s quite forward in the mix, adding clarity and detail without any stridency or harshness. The extension is impressive too, giving cymbals a nice sheen and natural timbre. There’s ample airiness present too, which is important to counterbalance the warmth of the upper bass and lower midrange.
The soundstage is neither vast nor confined. It’s only average in size but its depth and height in proportion to the width paint a distinct 3D space. Vocals are centred, as though the listener is sitting a few rows back and just below the front of the stage. Sounds can easily reach the edge and even venture out of the headspace, all the while maintaining good solidity and imaging.
Hypersense HEX02 ($25 USD)
The HEX02 has more mid-bass and a slightly slower decay. It has significantly more sub-bass presence than the Small. In the midrange, the HEX02 has a bit more clarity but it has to compete more with the elevated bass. Vocals are a little more forward on the Small. The HEX02 has more lift in the upper midrange, while the Small has a more forward and energetic treble.
Both IEMs have a great build quality and a very similar cable. The Small has the addition of the plastic storage box which IMO is more useful than the silicone earhooks supplied with the HEX02.
Auglamour F200 ($19.90 USD)
The F200 has a lighter mid-bass and with a faster decay. Sub-bass extension is slightly better on the F200. Vocals are more forward on the F200, due to it’s more balanced bass and relaxed treble but the Small has more perceived clarity. The Small has a livelier and airier treble compared to the F200’s laid-back high frequencies.
Build quality is very good on both IEMs but the Auglamour takes things a step further with its overengineered and stylish housings. Included accessories are similar but the Small includes the plastic storage box while the F200 bundles silicone earhooks, just like the HEX02.
DEAT Hifi Small Conclusion
At first, I was rather dubious about how the Small would perform. Its tiny and practically featureless earpieces did not elicit much anticipation. However, as I began to listen, my appreciation of this little wonder just kept growing, until I came to the realization that I really dig this minuscule unit.
In the recent flood of budget hybrids and increasing driver counts, the DEAT Hifi Small reminds us that there can be something wonderful about a finely tuned single dynamic driver.
The natural, organic cohesiveness of its sound encourages you to forget your analytical critique of the earphone’s technical ability and puts you back in touch with the actual music.
You can buy the DEAT Hifi Small on Penon Audio HERE.