Audio, IEM, Review

Hidizs MS1-Galaxy & S9 Pro DAC/AMP Review: Great Pairing for Beginners

Good IEMs are getting cheap, and (some) cheap IEMs are good in the ChiFi audio scene. It would now take considerable effort to find something truly terrible to listen to, especially when most options barely leave a dent in your wallet. The sub-$20 category, for one, is probably where competition is the most intense. You’ve got hard hitters like the Moondrop Chu II, the 7Hz Salnotes Zero, and now, even Hidizs is joining the fray.

Hidizs is a brand that is well-known for its digital audio players (DAP), and it is no stranger to the ChiFi game. The brand has several IEMs under its belt, but the Hidizs MS1-Galaxy is its first entry-level offering. Retailing from just $15.99 (about RM75) on Hidizs’ official website, the budget IEM is also available for purchase with selected bundles, such as the Hidizs S9 Pro DAC/AMP.

With that in mind, Hidizs was gracious enough to send over the MS1-Galaxy and the S9 Pro combo for us to review – a pairing that could potentially be perfect for a newcomer to the ChiFi market or the audio hobby in general.

What It Is

Let’s start with the Hidizs MS1-Galaxy. It comes in a modestly-sized package that reveals the two IEM shells. A layer beneath is where you’ll find a silver-plated oxygen-free copper cable, three pairs of ear tips in different sizes, and a card with Hidizs’ very own anime “waifu” mascot.

In hand, the resin shells of the MS1-Galaxy feel thin and light, which I suppose is to be expected given the price. But the lighter weight does help keep them comfortable in my ears for longer listening sessions. The 1.2m high-purity silver-plated cable, while thin, is actually quite resistant to microphonics. The cable will look slightly different if you opt for the option with a microphone (like I did), and will have in-line controls to play and pause music.

However, it’s important to note that these controls don’t work if I’m playing music through a DAC/AMP like the S9 Pro.

Speaking of the S9 Pro, we have a similarly-sized box with the following within: the S9 Pro itself, a Type-C to Type C cable, a Type-C to Type-A adapter, and a detachable clip case to clip on a shirt pocket, for instance.

How Does It Sound?

The MS1-Galaxy has a warm presentation with an emphasis on bass. It isn’t the booming bass cannon that the 7Hz Legato is, which is understandable as the Legato has dual dynamic drivers compared to the single DD on the MS1-Galaxy. That being said, its bass response is still very much foot tap-inducing.

The soundstage takes a more intimate approach and sounds just barely out of your head; there’s definitely more horizontal width than there is vertical depth. Fortunately, there is space between individual instruments and it doesn’t sound too congested overall.

Bass

The low-end of the MS1-Galaxy has a smooth texture to it and a dark overall tone. The sub-bass has good extension, but it doesn’t go all that deep and there’s no big, lasting rumble here. The mid-bass has rather impressive impact, and it is controlled well enough to not be bloated or muddy.

Mids

The warmth from the MS1-Galaxy’s bass lends to a smooth, velvety tone to male vocals. Female vocals don’t quite enjoy the same benefit, sounding thinner with a sharper presentation, but voices come through crystal clear with pleasant air and energy. There is a bit of vocal recession, but it’s not that is immediately noticeable, in my opinion.

Highs

While obviously lacking in air and sparkle, the treble of the MS1-Galaxy is still presented on the brighter end of the scale. This, in turn, makes detail retrieval a little above average, yet not exactly remarkable. Overall, the treble of the MS1-Galaxy is smooth and not at all fatiguing.

What About the S9 Pro DAC/AMP?

First off, the MS1-Galaxy isn’t a hard pair of IEMs to drive by any means, so you don’t need to get a DAC/AMP like the S9 Pro. However, pairing the earphones with a powerful, dedicated source like the S9 Pro will improve your overall listening experience.

Plugging the MS1-Galaxy to the S9 Pro, having the volume set at around 30-40% is already loud enough for me, which is a testament to just how powerful the AMP of the S9 Pro is. This is just through the single-ended 3.5mm jack too. There’s also a 2.5mm balanced connection that pushes even more juice for more demanding earphones (or even headphones) that support the connection. However, there’s no support for a 4.4mm connection.

But it is the DAC portion of this DAC/AMP where it really shines; literally. The ESS9038Q2M DAC inside the S9 Pro sounds brighter, a tad clearer, and has a darker background. There’s also a touch more detail in the transients and instruments.

The S9 Pro supports a plethora of audio formats: PCM of up to 32bit 768kHz, and DSD files up to DSD512. An LED indicator of the brand’s logo shows the format of audio being played:

  • Green for PCM files up to 96kHz
  • Blue for PCM files up to 192kHz
  • Red for PCM files up to 384kHz
  • White for PCM files up to 768kHz
  • Yellow for DSD files up to DSD128
  • Purple for DSD files up to DSD512

However, this little guy isn’t exactly perfect. After all, there’s only so much that can be fitted into the S9 Pro’s small form factor. There’s no physical gain or volume controls on the unit itself, it can get quite hot to the touch with noticeable battery drain on mobile, and it doesn’t expand the soundstage much either.

Then again, it’s a DAC/AMP that costs $59.99 (about RM280), which is not a bad sticker price at all.

Is It Worth It?

The Hidizs MS1-Galaxy is an all-rounder, inoffensive-sounding IEM that is an easy recommendation, especially given its affordable $15.99 starting price. It leans towards a warmer and more intimate presentation, providing a comfortable listen for most genres of music.

As for the S9 Pro, the DAC/AMP noticeably improves the sound quality of the MS1-Galaxy, and while it’s not quite as budget-friendly as the IEM, it’s still easy on the wallet while also fitting right in your pocket. All in all, I can say with confidence that the MS1-Galaxy and S9 Pro bundle is perfect for those looking to get their feet wet in the ChiFi hobby.

Li Jin Soh contributed to this review.

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