HIDIZS XO Dongle DAC Amp Review With RGB and MQA Support

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The newest dongle DAC on the market - Hidizs XO - has a quirky design reminiscent of a small harmonica with PlayStation-style button controls!

Like most portable dongle DACs, the Hidizs XO has an aluminum alloy metal enclosure (non-user accessible), housing all the electronics, including a dual DAC chip (ESS SABRE ES9219C) and RGB lights, which are side facing and with a finish similar to the reed plates of a harmonica.
On the top faceplate of the Hidizs XO dongle, there is Hidizs branding (laser-etched) and two physical buttons with the acronym letters X and O which make the name of the XO dongle. The X and O button layout reminds also of the X button and O button of Sony's PlayStation controller. The XO dongle DAC buttons are  made of metal too. They are raised and with a clicky actuation.

On one end of the Hidizs dongle DAC, there is the USB-C port and at the other end, there are two connectivity ports: a 3.5mm single ended and 2.5mm balanced. The bottom side is flat and features white informational lettering laser-etched.
The Hidizs XO dongle DAC is compatible with pretty much any audio devices, including android phones, iPhones and PC computers. XO supports up to 32bit 384kHz (DSD256) playback music, although most smartphones are limited to 24-bit 192kHz (DSD64) audio. There are some smartphones that handle DSD256 playback natively, namely the LG V30 phone.

The Hidizs XO dongle DAC supports 32 bit/384kHz PCM and 16X MQA unfolding but requires the use of an MQA app decoder (e.g. Tidal) to complete full unfold. The XO dongle can technically unpack MQA files to 768kHz, although the majority of high res music generally maxes out at 176.4kHz or 192kHz.. 
The maximum MQA hi-res audio supported via the Tidal app is 24 bit/96kHz. Hiby Music player doesn't currently support MQA files, other than FLAC and DSD, which XO supports natively (DSD64/DSD128/DSD256).  The X button has an status led built-in to indicate sample rates:
  • PCM (red): 352.8kHz/384kHz
  • MQA (pink)
  • PCM (yellow): 176.4kHz/192kHz
  • PCM (green): 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz
  • DSD (cya blue):  64/128/256
As far as amp performance, the XO singled ended 3.5mm port can put out 78mW of power at 32 ohms, while the balanced 2.5mm port can put out 195mW at 32 Ohms. This means, the XO dongle DAC can drive a  32 ohm headphone to just 70dB volume fidelity (via the 3.5mm port) and over 140dB via the 2.5mm port. The XO dongle DAC supports high impedance headphones too up to 300 ohms but sensitivity must be low (around 60dB).

The XO dongle DAC has three RGB leds: red, green and blue with 5 dynamic color changing modes and OFF mode. There is no solid single color option. XO is bus powered so, it does not need mains power to work. It uses power from the connected device to work.

In the sound department, the XO dongle DAC has a dual PCM filter (digital filtering) built-in to reduce the treble if you find it too sharp/bright. The PCM filter is activated from the XO dongle itself and, you can switch between two modes: 1) Blue light: reduces treble by 25% and 2) Red light: reduces treble by 35%.

Potential deal breakers
  • No rechargeable battery built-in. 
  • Runs on bus power, which is convenient when connected to a smartphone. The drawback though, is that it shortens the battery lifespan of the phone.
  • Short OTG cable included 
  • Not self powered like the DH80S DAC with rechargeable battery built-in 
  • Not as powerful as the S9 Pro DAC which supports up to DSD512 playback
  • Not enough power for high sensitivity headphones
  • No gain switch 
  • Not compatible with iOS unless you use a lightning OTG cable (not included)
  • No MQA decoder built-in - only a MQA renderer. This means, you will need to use an external MQA decoder software (e.g. Tidal app) for full unfold

Selling points for XO DAC
  • Studio-quality sound on the go
  • Detachable power cable 
  • RGB lights 
  • Small and lightweight: 5.5cm long x 2.5cm wide x 1cm thick and weighs 16 grams
  • Works with iOS, iPad OS, Android, Windows and Mac OS
  • Suited for headphones between 8 ohms and 300 ohms impedance
  • Built-in PCM filter mode switch
  • Very low noise floor
  • Wide and clear stereo separation
  • Sampling rate indicator light
  • Bus-powered portable DAC - works without mains power
  • Storage case for transportation 
  • Single-ended port and balanced port built-in
  • Supports native DSD256 audio playback
  • Compatible with Tidal and Qobuz streaming (16 bit/44.1kH) 
  • A lot more powerful and practical than the S3 Pro portable DAC

XO comes with a few accessories, which look and feel premium. These include a dongle adapter (USB-A male to USB-C female) and 7.5cm long OTG cable (male to male USB-C). The plug connectors on the dongle and cable are made of alloy metal. A storage box is also included - similar to the storage box that comes with the DH80S DAC Amp. The storage box is made of hard plastic so, it is sturdy, although not as premium looking as the leather storage box you get with the Hidizs MD4 IEM. You can buy the XO DAC from Hidizs.

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