Hidizs MS4, Mermaid. $300-420usd, approximately (kit dependent).
Known for very competent DAP’s, Hidizs enters the IEM market with three models: the MS1, MS2 & this model, the M-4 Mermaid. An interesting name and one that has a certain lore to it. Since Hidizs is also known for their Kickstarter releases, the MS4 is no different. Set for an opening over the Chinese New Year, one can assume that this is meant as a celebration of the company and an ode to the IEM.
- Hidizs patented 10.4mm macromolecule diaphragm offers more consistent internal loss across all frequencies to deliver subtle highs and smoother bass
- Durable aluminum alloy cavity enhances the sound cohesion. The housing made of smooth resin with brushed metal.
- Stock OFC, 4 strands cable with 2pin, 0.78mm IEM connectors and 3.5mm audio jack (always included)
- 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced audio jack, OFC, 4 strands cable with 2pin, 0.78mm IEM connectors (optional accessory, available during KS campaign and afterwards) We are also checking with Hidizs on how to select 4.4mm instead 2.5mm during KS campaign.
- DH 10-RC microUSB Type-C Cable with integrated DAC, built-in microphone for voice calls and 2pin, 0.78mm IEM connectors (optional accessory)
- Bluetooth 5.0 cable with 2pin, 0.78mm IEM connectors (optional accessory)
As seen from the KS page, Hidizs decided to allow three ordering bundles for MS4 and MS1:
- BASIC KIT: 3.5mm unbalanced audio cable
- PRIME KIT: 3.5mm unbalanced audio cable + ANY other option (2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced / DAC cable / Bluetooth cable)
- ABSOLUTE KIT: 3.5mm unbalanced audio cable + ALL options (2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced + DAC cable + Bluetooth cable)
Prices for different sets are already listed on Hidizs MS4 & MS1 KS page.
DH 10-RC DAC cable specifications:
- Connector: microUSB Type-C (+ USB A adaptor)
- DAC chip: CS42L42
- Sample rate: 24bit/192kHz
- Output power: 75mW + 75mW @32Ω
- SNR: 117dB
- Dynamic range: 115dB
- THD: <0.0006%
- Built-in microphone for voice calls
- Built-in one button remote for answering calls
- Connecction to IEMs: 2pin, 0.78mm
- cable 1.2m, TPE, OFC, 4 core
Coming in a matte black paperboard box, synonymous with other releases, you are met with the impression of the IEM, highlighted by gold embossing above. An additional small flapped box was sent as well, holding a pleather pouch and the USB/USB-C 2-pin cable, complete with their own DAC built in to the jack. Lately there seems to be a push for simplifying additional tools needed for an upgrade, such as Bluetooth cable for “ordinary IEM’s,” or the aforementioned DAC. A nice touch, which will be discussed a bit later.
The box back lists the specs in Mandarin & English. A small sticker denotes the color of choice. Sent in black (there are some REALLY cool colors), the IEM looks quite good. Plus, I like more sedate colors so not to draw attention. Since my copy was a pre-production, I will give only highlights of the inside. The retail copy may come better stocked.
Opening the box reveals the IEM and cable tucked in a heart shaped groove of dense foam. Nicely protected and presented. Pulling the foam inset out reveals the wonderful tan rectangular case. Hard of shape, and easy to use, this is a welcomed addition. I will state that the fishnet pouch inside is too small and too tight to fit much beyond an extra set of tips inside.
The top half is another dense foam inset replete with an assortment of tips. Ranging from “balanced” to “vocal” to “bass” and foam tips, you can fine-tune the sound. I used all four sets but settled on the bass ear tips for the majority, even eschewing my favored foam tips. The case and tip insert are tucked nicely inside a soft foam cut out, and well protected as a result. A nice feature. Overall the box is a bit big, but very well protected. Presentation is something some people want, and the Hidizs does a nice job.
Running three BA’s and one DD (hence the “4” in MS4), the Mermaid comes well equipped. Running the Knowles 33518 and Knowles hybrid 30017 balanced armatures along with a 10.2mm Polymer diaphragm dynamic driver, the Mermaid comes well stocked. In an ever-increasing race of more drivers, it is quite refreshing to see something on par with “older” IEM’s, which functioned just fine. Coming with two cables (the mentioned USB/DAC cable and a simple two-wind dark bronze cable, you have a choice for many listening situations.
The bronze cable is made well, with good solid fit of the 2-pin at the IEM, and a solid Y-splitter complete with slider. With only one wire separating each way above the splitter, this is a fairly unique look, and a nice change from cables of late for me. A stout jack on the other end finishes a sturdy cable, along with quite long memory sleeves at the business end. So far, the finish is on par with production.
Moving to the IEM itself, this quality carries over in the CNC aluminum shell. Gold-plated 0.78mm plugs with a tight fit allow for a solid connection. Burnished in an almost dark gray (listed as black), the shell is a bit slippery, but of good heft so holding on to it is not really a problem. With a gold highlight ring around the back a pearl-like inset highlights the underlying Hidizs logo. Good tight tolerances abound with all of those interfaces, but as stated this is a pre-production, so expect even better on the finished copy.
Thankfully the shape itself gits well in my average-sized ear and the “hump” does not bother my concha. Finished with a gold nozzle replete with lip to help keep the ear tips on, there is a certain upscale look to the MS4, which is appreciated. I will add that the nozzle is of a large enough diameter that it did bother me until my ear became used to the fit. That said, fit and the shape of the Mermaid is good, and I had no problem with movement changing the sound as I have with some of late.
Having a built-in DAC in the USB-C cable takes the stress out of a Smartphone, which may have a less-than-stellar DAC inside. That said, many Smartphones come with good DAC’s now, so you try both cables. With up to 112mW, the DAC can even provide a bit more juice to your Smartphone. You may also opt for a Bluetooth cable or balanced in both 2.5mm & 4.4mm sizes. My unit shipped with the standard 3.5mm and the mentioned USB-C DAC cable. I’m not bothered by that either. All are comprised of 4-strand oxygen-free copper cables, which provides a bit of warmth to the sound.
With a sensitivity of 112dB, the Mermaid is quite sensitive, but easy to drive with 12 ohms impedance. I found this easier to drive than many I have had lately.
Initial sound offerings:
Normally I run an item for 150-175hrs since I would like to give the listener a taste of the future. This is no different other than I had close to 100hrs on it before dedicated listening. I did take an initial listen upon arrival to ensure to Kevin that all was well and good (it was).
*A quickie about tip rolling. Since the nozzle is of larger diameter, the tips are genuinely hard to mount. I dropped two while doing so, luckily to be found. Once on, the tips do not come on and a bit of adjustment of angle can be had. Just beware of the effort needed.
Going through the tip choice, I found the foam to provide good bass, but not the clarity I liked (even from foam). Switching to the balanced tip, I found the sound quite good. Even of note, with more laid-back treble than even the bass tips; it was a good mellow sound through the Questyle CMS twelve Master and my MacBook Pro. The mids tended to stand out a bit with this choice of tip. That is neither good or bad, simply what I heard. I did not use this set up much other than to audition as the large tip was too big to be comfortable for long.
Using the red “vocal” tips does indeed promote the vocal/mid presentation. On Jackson Browne’s live version of Running On Empty, the snare strike is clear and concise. His voice succinct and detailed. A bit bright for my taste, the sound is quite good for those who value the higher note. Thankfully, not nearly as hot as some from the area have been. As a result, I do appreciate the different sound provided by the options.
Moving to the foam tips on the same song yields more “girth” or weight of note to the song. With a better seal, the sound has nowhere to go but inside. Snare is not quite as succinct as the silicons, but this is to be expected. The foams are for complete isolation and added weight to the song of choice. I do appreciate the foam, but my usual medium size does not work with the diameter of the nozzle. The small as a result is represented larger, but not enough. Seal is not good for my average sized-ear.
Moving back to the white bass tip (in medium) I found the sound best to my liking. Solid bass and sub bass, clear vocals, conciseness of snare, the sound came closest to representing my sound signature of choice.
As usual, YMMV.
Other good stuff:
With a decently wide sound stage the MS4 represents good air between note. Clarity of note and air are not close to my DaVinci X, but they are not meant to be. The sound signature represented here is one of a slightly warm presentation with good separation and clarity. Detail is present in good numbers, and on par with offerings at this level. I would say at or near the top of this price range.
Using the DAC cable, you immediately notice an almost holographic sound, almost. Very mid-centered from my MacBook Pro, the sound is concise and centered. Utilizing Tidal Premium, the sound is good, but with a narrower sound stage than the bronze cable. A large part of this could be the Questyle amp as opposed to the DAC inside the cable. Not a fair comparison, I know. I like the sound, but not as much as the bronze cable in this set up.
Running the bronze cable through the headphone jack on the MBP gets much the same result, with a bit less of that mid-centric sound. Both are good representations.
To finish this initial listen:
The MS4 is a solid unit. Providing good bass from that 10.2mm driver, to articulate mids and treble, the Mermaid has moved up my chain of listening as a result of the synergy provided by the four drivers.
So far, the MS4 ticks the right boxes at a very, very good price in the Kickstarter.
*More detail will be provided later, such as comparisons, etc. More time is needed for this to be proper.