Hidizs XO Review
Pros: + Musical and engaging sound signature
+ Smooth and not fatiguing treble
+ Natural timbre with minimum digital glare
+ Great technicalities for the price
+ Very powerful given the size
+ Two reconstruction filters available with a press of a button.
+ Low power consumption
+ Balanced and unbalanced headphone outputs
+ Unique LED lighting system
+ Compact sized and lightweight
+ Good build quality
Cons: – Not the most refined or resolving
– Bass could be more impactful
– Flat soundstage
– No onboard volume control and lack of hardware buttons
– No gain setting
– A touch of background noise with sensitive earphones
– Competition is more powerful
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
Hidizs was kind enough to engrave my name at the back of the chassis.
The price of the XO $99 is and you can buy it from Hidizs official store or from here if you are located in the EU.
At the Hidizs shop there is a special pre-sale price of $89 valid from 12.15 to 12.21 2022.
Hidizs was founded early in 2009, when pocket HiFi had just become a thing.
At that time, they were pricey and badly made.
Digital music sucked in those days, but people didn’t really care.
Tamson, the founder and the CEO of Hidizs, did care.
He was an audiophile and fronted an underground rock band in college. After graduating, Tamson dedicated his life to making HiFi music players for lossless music.
As an audiophile, it was a no-brainer; music should be heard as it was intended to be.
In order to produce better quality portable HiFi audio devices at an affordable price, Tamson brought together a group of audiophiles with extensive backgrounds in HiFi audio R&D.
With a core staff of over 40 audio-obsessed professionals and decades of combined experience, Hidizs has been able to consistently produce the highest quality portable audio gear.
Hidizs are making some really good sounding stuff like the compact DAP AP80 PRO-X and the earphones MD4 and MS2 that I have recently reviewed.
The Hidizs XO is a brand new, compact sized, single-ended & balanced MQA USB DAC dongle with 3.5mm and 2.5mm headphone outputs.
The XO is using dual ESS ES9219C DAC chips and an independent crystal oscillator for the purest audio experience.
It can decode up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 and fully ‘unfold’ MQA files (16X) while all operating systems are supported without the need to install drivers.
The XO is compatible with the HiBy music application which is recommended to use in order to do the full 16X MQA unfold.
Build quality and appearance
The XO is a rectangular, compact sized, stylish and modern looking dongle.
The XO chassis is made from a high-density aluminum alloy which is formed with a 5-axis CNC process.
For the first time, the etched technology is used on both sides of the XO with the Hidizs initials – “H” as the main design element.
Build quality and finish are excellent, there are no sharp corners or rough edges and the XO is available in three colors, black, silver and rose gold.
At the front face of the chassis you are going to find two buttons, one “X” shaped that is for controlling the built-in light system and one “O” shaped that doubles as the sampling rate indicator light and the low pass filter selection button.
Pressing the “O” button will cycle between the two available low pass filters that are distinguished by momentarily flashing the respective color.
Blue is for linear phase fast roll-off filter and red for hybrid fast roll-off.
The Hidizs dongle family
The XO has a unique built-in RGB LED light system at both sides of the chassis with 15 different lighting effects that can be controlled by the “X” shaped button at the front face of the dongle.
Subjectively speaking I am not that fan of the light system and I prefer not to use it in order to keep battery consumption as low as possible.
Despite that I can see its appeal to the younger crowd and as long as there is the option to enable it or not then everyone should be happy.
Power output and associated gear
The Hidizs XO is quite powerful given the size as it can do 196mW/32Ω from the balanced output, enough power to drive sensitive headphones like the Meze 109 Pro and the Sennheiser HD660S.
For the latter I never exceeded ¾ of the available volume range to get loud enough and with good control in classical music.
Driving earphones was an easy task for the XO, I have mostly used the FiiO FH7S, Meze ADVAR and TRN ST5.
Noise floor is pretty low but the XO is not the blacker sounding dongle and it can sometimes peak a little interference from the cellular antenna.
The XO gets mildly warm but not hot while power consumption is pretty low so it will not deplete the host device battery too fast.
The overall sound signature resembles that of its bigger brother, the Hididz AP80 PRO-X, not surprisingly though because they share the same audio architecture.
So regular readers you may find out a lot of similarities in the sound description of the XO with that of the AP80 PRO-X review but you are also going to read about a couple of critical differences.
The XO is neutrally tuned with a balanced sound signature but not as transparent, luminous and treble forward as the AP80 PRO-X.
Transparency and overall fidelity are on a high level but the AP80 PRO-X is still better in this department.
The XO is not that crystal clear and sharp toned nor that refined and resolving but it manages to sound slightly more musical and organic than its bigger brother.
This is an engaging and enjoyable little DAC with just a touch of warmness and a mostly natural timbre without much of a digital glare.
Technicalities might be on a little lower level when compared to the AP80 PRO-X or third party competition, like the iBasso DC06, but they are still good enough.
The bass is tight and controlled with good layering and definition, not too lean sounding and quite dynamic although it is not that impactful and visceral.
This is an agile dongle with speedy transients but time decay isn’t too rushed so percussion instruments fade away without sounding overly thin.
Frequency integration is stellar, there is plenty of space for the mids to shine and a surplus of air for the sparkling and not subdued treble which might be lacking in extra bite but in exchange it manages to stay smooth and fatigue free.
The soundstage is surprisingly open, spacious and well defined with sharp imaging but the truth is that it is mostly flat, almost one – dimensional sounding without too much of a depth layering and holography.
But it would be somewhat unfair to seek such properties from a budget friendly dongle which at the end of the day proved to be an excellent companion for everyday casual listening.
It is not a critical listening tool and it does not need to pretend to be one.
The XO feels at home with all kinds of music, even classical, while it can do full justice to budget and mid range earphones, an excellent combination that gave me plenty of listening joy with some of my favorite classical albums.
Compared to the iBasso DC06 ($119)
The iBasso DC06 is another USB DAC dongle with similar audio architecture as it also uses dual ES9219C DAC chips.
It has a 4.4mm balanced headphone output instead of the XO’s 2.5mm but for a thicker body.
It is also considerably more powerful with 320mW/32Ω but it is also more power hungry so is going to deplete your phone’s battery faster than the XO.
The DC06 has a different design pattern and is somewhat heavier and bulkier because of the thicker aluminum chassis which nonetheless offers better EMI shielding.
The DC06 doesn’t have user selectable filters but it is compatible with the iBasso UAC application which bypasses Android SRC to achieve a 64-step hardware volume control.
Sound-wise, the iBasso DC06 has the same kind of musical and organic sound character, like that of the XO, but it also has the upper hand in overall technicalities, dynamics, bass impact and driver control with more difficult loads.
But it is not as relaxed and smooth sounding in the treble as the XO, something that should be carefully considered as an advantage for people who prefer less nervous and sharp sounding DACs or for someone who is seeking to tame an already aggressive earphone.
In the end
The Hididz XO is yet another USB DAC dongle in an already saturated market which nonetheless manages to pull out of the crowd thanks to the youthful design with the unique light effect system, the power output despite the compact chassis, the ability to select filters and the audio quality.
So if you are looking for a compact sized USB DAC dongle with a modern appearance and a relaxed sound signature then the Hidizs XO is highly recommended.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2022.