Disclaimer: 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.
Clean, transparent audio
Large, airy soundstage
Highly detailed but still musical
IOS lightning cable must be bought separately
No onboard controls
Unit gets a bit warm
Hidizs S9 Pro
– Hi-Res Audio Certified – ESS9038Q2M DAC – PCM: Up to 32bit768kHz – Native DSD Supports Up to 512 – Single-ended 3.5mm + Balanced 2.5mm – One-Piece High-Density CNC Aluminum Body – Sampling Rate Indicator Light – Powerful Drive Ability. 200mW BAL / 100mW SE – Compatible with Windows/Android/Mac OS/iOS/iPad OS System
Packaging & Accessories
The Hidizs S9 Pro comes in a stylish black box with silver text. On the front is a glossy image of the DAC and on the back of the box is a list of specifications and features. Here’s what’s inside the box:
Hidizs S9 Pro DAC/amp
Type-C to type-C USB cable
2x Hi-Res Audio stickers
User manual, warranty and VIP discount coupon
With its single-piece CNC-crafted aluminium chassis, the S9 Pro is pretty handsome as far as dongle-DACs go. It’s available in black or silver and both have the Hidizs logo that also acts as the sampling rate indicator light on the front. The LED indicator changes colour depending on the current playback bitrate.
The front and back sides of the DAC have glass covers which give the device a more premium look at the cost of being fingerprint magnets. There’s a small raised area at the top where the 3.5mm and 2.5mm headphone jacks are. At the opposite end is the USB Type-C data port.
Internally, S9 Pro hosts an ESS9038Q2M DAC chip supporting bitrates up to 32-bit/768kHz and native DSD up to DSD512. Output power is a bit higher than some comparable products: 200mW from the 2.5mm balanced output and 100mW single-ended. This might explain why the S9 Pro’s body runs warm during use.
When it comes to functionality, the S9 Pro works pretty much like any other dongle-DAC, meaning it’s plug and play without the need for any additional setup or drivers.
What strikes me most about the S9 Pro is its transparency and clean tonality. This is a DAC that excels at instrument separation and resolution. It has a distinct high-fidelity vibe to it but what’s remarkable about that is the way it still comes across as being musical.
Often when you think of neutrality and faithful reproduction, you lump it together with sterility and dryness. But despite having such a strong technical performance, the S9 Pro is at heart organic and natural sounding. On top of that, it performs with a vigorous spirit that can be attributed to some degree to its output power.
S9 Pro isn’t a halfhearted or tentative DAC, but one that steps up to the plate with gloves on. Yet it’s not all about brute force. Rather, it’s a mixture of confidence and restraint. It’s the speed of musical notes and their tidy decay in the absence of any sharp edges or shortness – a desirable combination.
Listen to a track like Gogo Penguin’s “Strid” and the S9 Pro will eagerly display its sense of rhythm without showing any signs of smearing. The soundstage is very organized with nothing but a pure black background between instruments. Following up with Gojira’s “The Chant“, the electric guitars are loaded with bite and texture, while the decay and timbre of treble notes are precise and devoid of any infamous “Sabre glare”.
ThieAudio Phantom: The Phantom is reasonably easy to drive although it does have a rather low sensitivity (93±3 dB). Using the 2.5mm balanced output, the S9 Pro powers this headphone with ease. Bass is tight and controlled, mids are warm and full-bodied and the treble is laid back but crisp. The instrument separation is excellent and the soundstage is wide and uncluttered.
Meze 99 Classics: Great imaging, good soundstage dimensions. This is a musical pairing but there’s still plenty of detail, good bass control and a forward, inviting midrange. Treble notes are crisp but smooth and electric guitars are loaded with texture.
DUNU Studio SA6: This is a devilishly good combo. It’s extremely musical, non-fatiguing yet detailed and highly accurate in terms of timbre. The bass decay sounds so natural, full-bodied and clean. The midrange is rich, smooth and highly resolving. Treble is precise, crisp and airy. Imaging is insanely good and the soundstage is rounded and holographic.
The Hidizs S9 Pro is a delightfully musical DAC that is also a strong technical performer. It mixes an analogue audio character with detail, speed and a wide, airy soundstage. Considering it has great audio quality, both single-ended and balanced outputs along with a muscular and powerful output, this has to be one of the best dongle DACs you can get around the $100 price point. Recommended.