In this article, I review the Hidizs S3 Pro DAC dongle. The S3 Pro is powered by an ESS9281C PRO DAC chip and comes with MQA support. It retails for $69.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by HiFiGo for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Hidizs S3 Pro
Packaging and Accessories
The S3 Pro comes in a small plastic box surrounded by a cardboard sleeve. On the front of the sleeve is a colour image of the device. Here’s the list of box contents:
USB A adapter
2x Hi-Res Audio stickers
Warranty card User manual
Design & Functionality
Physically, the Hidizs S3 Pro is one of the smallest dongle DACs around: It’s about the size of a US penny. The main body is disc-shaped and has a pattern of fine concentric rings. In the centre of the disk is a single LED indicator that lights up in various colours depending on the sample rate of the files being played back. Here’s what the different colours mean:
Attached via a small cable is a USB Type-C connector. Speaking of the cable, it’s a 4-core variant with 2 strands of silver and 2 strands of OFC copper. The headphone jack is 3.5mm single-ended and pushes up to [email protected]Ω which is enough for most earphones and efficient headphones.
Internally, the S3 Pro sports an ESS9281C PRO DAC chip with 8x MQA support and PCM up to 32Bit/384kHz, DSD128. Setup is a simple plug and play affair without the need to install any additional drivers. On my Windows 10 laptop, the S3 Pro was detected immediately and I can select all the way up to 32Bit, 384kHz in the Windows sound settings.
Added with the S3 Pro is the option to change the sound via 3 firmware tuning options. The various firmwares can be installed quickly and easily using the provided app from Hidizs. Here’s a description of the 3 tuning styles:
Transparent treble, bright, clean, crisp, and detailed.
Tonal balance with a pure pleasing sound.
More prominent bass with incredible elasticity and a phenomenal depth.
With the balanced firmware installed, what I’m hearing from the S3 Pro is a fairly honest and neutral presentation. There is a hint of additional mid-bass elevation and resulting warmth that gives the sound a clean fullness.
It’s a similar story with the midrange; it sounds clean and transparent with good transient speeds. Paired with quality IEMs or headphones, the resolution is good and better than what you get straight from a phone or laptop.
Treble notes are slightly softened, resulting in a polite top end. It isn’t the most detailed treble but it’s certainly not dull either. There’s ample width in the soundstage and while not the deepest stage, the level of layering and positioning is more than satisfactory for something in this price range.
When it comes to power delivery, the S3 Pro can easily handle most things that people are likely to use with it. It has no issues pushing the Meze 99 Classics or any of the IEMs that I listed above. Sub-bass notes could be a little more authoritative but that can be said for many of these entry-level dongle DACs.
The Hidizs S3 Pro is yet another suitable option for anyone looking for a sub $100 DAC dongle. It’s powerful enough to drive the majority of IEMs and efficient headphones out there. A couple of S3 Pro’s advantages are its tiny footprint and MQA support.
Although you can find more powerful DACs with balanced output in this price bracket, there aren’t many that bundle MQA in. And let’s not forget that the S3 Pro comes with 3 different tuning options in the form of firmware installs. If you listen primarily to MQA on single-ended IEMs, this DAC is tailored just for you.