“Budget price” often means “leave something inessential behind”, I know that. Meizu Hifi DAC Pro is no doubt a budget champ to me. Its tradeoff is – basically – only output power, and only sometimes. I can live with that.
So after some time with my Meizu Hifi DAC Pro dongle I ended up plugging it “everywhere”, and I must say it fares wonderfully most of the times. In a sense this little item (and, conceptually, its equivalently well-designed direct competitors if any) might even ignite a mini-revolution on portable hires audio. It’s so small, hergonomic and inexpensive, that anyone can really use it to
- “upgrade to hires audio output” most of the existing smartphones
- “upgrade” even a DAP, maybe an outdated model bearing scarcer output performances
- “audio upgrade” any desktop/laptop pc, even on the go, even in the office … just plug it !
So where’s the catch ?
A die-hard audiophile would probably start sharply articulating here about CS43131 dac chip arguably being not as good as TOTL ESS model yady-dah. Probably all true. Does it matter? Well a bit, yes, but not so much. I mean: Meizu HDP’s sound output is very good, period. Yes it’s somewhat (read slightly) different from the one produced by the BTR5 (ES9218P inside), which some rare times does offer a hint more of warmth there, or brilliance here – depending on which IEM I pair it with, and (e.g.) in that case only listening to Rock as for Jazz it’s the other way around… Simply put: preferences, details. No deal-breakers.
Is there a bigger catch? Some brick wall I’m gonna slam into? That would define the applicability boundaries of this item.
My suspects are about output power – which are obviously out of the picture on the desktop setup, which includes a downstream amp – so I put up a quick test scenario, involving my 2 hardest-drive IEMs being final E4000 and E5000.
Involved test equipment :
- HiBy R3 – used as a DAP (56+56mW@16Ohm SE or 112+112mW@16Ohm BE)
- HiBy R3 – used as a USB transport
- Meizu HDP (30+30mW@32Ohm SE)
- BTR5 / USB (offering 90mW@16Ohm SE or 240mW@16Ohm BE)
- final E5000 – 14Ohm, 94dB
- final C106 single ended SPC (E5000 stock) cable
- final E4000 – 15Ohm 96dB
- final C112 single ended OFC (E4000 stock) cable
- NiceHCK balanced ended 16c SPC cable
Initially, I tried not to bother swapping cables, willing to just use the BE cable on the IEMs and a 3.5-2.5 adapter when plugged on SE ports, but the adapter does have its own impedance so I decided to go the picky engineer way and just swap the cables.
- Test track: Deep Purple “Lazy” from Live in Japan (16/44.1 FLAC).
I pursposedly chose this one for its silence sections vs its “messy” sections with all sorts of deep bass + high trebles overlap in multiple moments. The mastering is at best “decent” which helps delivering a demanding test case.
Single-ended outputs comparison
|Meizu HDP||The worst of all.|
In short, it just can’t cope with the job.
At 100% volume scale sound pressure is “medium”, not even loud.
Sound is bass-veiled all over, not “muddy” but … in short: yuck!
|Meizu is barely OK.|
Gotta push volume to 97-98% but once there dynamics do open up and it all plays out pleasantly.
Especially listened to right after R3, the difference between R3’s warm ES9028Q2M and Meizu’s “dry” CS43131 is striking. Bass is fine, some composite notes are “haloed” as mentioned here below, but still good. Those few male vocals in the song are dry and clean. Treble is controlled as it usually is on the E4000.
A decent pair.
|R3||Just a swiff better than Meizu, read: an equivalent shit.|
Just very minorly louder, the sound is still veiled, congested, not worth at all.
|This is the worst of the 3 options.|
Gotta push it to 85% to even start getting some pressure. There, and even better around 95% volume, veiling is removed and music starts to flow “decently”.
The main problem is warmth though: R3’s ES9028Q2M adds further “heat” to E4000’s bass section, turning the “halo” around “just some” deep bass notes a general “brown colour” on the entire bass part of the song.
I’m definitely not a bass head so I might dislike this more than others but I suspect this is not nice for anyone.
|BTR5||I can call this “decent”.|
Sound pressure gets “loud” at 55/60, “very loud” at 60/60.
Sound quality changes totally compared with R3 or Meizu sourcing.
Bass is much more detailed and especially trebles comes out with a ton of parts (I would not even call them details) that were simply hidden before.
Revealed trebles, especially hi-hats and other plates, are quite “splashy” though.
|BTR5 SE is marginally better than Meizu to my ears.|
Proper source amping is reached around 50/60 volume setting.
General result is similar to the Meizu case, with the sole important difference in the mid section. Vocals are significantly better, fuller here.
In general, I find E9218P more “orchestral” than the dryer CS43131, but this specific track does not offer appropriate ground to show such difference.
Balanced-ended outputs comparison
|R3||R3 BE is overall better than BTR5 SE. |
Sound pressure is similar, just a bit louder.
Overall tonality is warmer, which is R3’s characteristic and it is not a good addition to E5000 which is already very warm on itself.
On the other hand all “splashyness” coming up from BTR5/SE is removed from the treble end. Trebles are loud, relatively detailed (it’s still an E5000 not an Etymotic…), defined.
In a word: nice.
|Power is ok, but due to ES9028Q2M badly pairing up with E4000 (see Single-Ended notes above), this turns out not better than BTR5/SE nor Meizu.|
|BTR5||This is by far the best option.|
Sound pressure becomes significant at 45/60, very loud at 55/60.
Most of all, even at 40/60 a world of detail comes out both from the trebles and the sub bass, bringing out the absolute magnificance final people built into E5000: an incredible bass-oriented IEM with nigh-zero bass congestion in spite of its bass quantity.
|Here, too, this is again the best option, although by a smaller margin when compared to the E5000 case. |
Sound pressure becomes significant already at 40/60 and very loud at 48-50/60.
Again, more dynamics and details come up thanks to the higher & balanced power supply, enough to bring E4000 – not a monster at sheer detail retreival – to its max potential on that.
So yes, there is a main catch, and it’s about output power.
Meizu HDP is just barely enough to drive final E4000, which is already a quite demanding IEM, and fails miserably the E5000 test.
Just for completeness, the gut feeling while listening to “Lazy” via E4000 is that Meizu, BTR5-SE and (even more nimbly) BTR5-BE all have the power to drive it at the best of its capacity, and pushing it further would not make it better, it actually will risk to distort. The same test track through E5000 leaves me with the distinct sensation that E5000 has further room to go if furtherly fed.
Is this a deal-breaker to adopting Meizu HDP as a jack-of-all-mobile-DAC-upgrade ? Well it depends. To me it is: I have no intention to sell my E5000 😀 and I more recently also discovered that Meizu HDP is barely/hardly enough to drive my Shuoer Tape’s once a proper EQ scheme (and its corresponding preamp attenuation) is applied to reconduct its trebles top end to “hearable status”. Others with a less demanding IEM models bunch might of course overlook the entire issue!