Yesterday, I received the brand-new Hidizs Mermaid MS1 and MS4 In-Ear Monitors Absolute Kits.
The Hidizs Mermaid MS1 is an IEM with 1 Dynamic Driver, while the Hidizs Mermaid MS4 is an IEM with 1 Dynamic Driver and 3 Knowles Balanced Armatures.
My initial impressions are excellent. These IEMs do a lot to reproduce the music. I found that the MS1, with just the Dynamic Driver, produces a warm sound with great mids and smooth bass and treble. The MS4, on the other hand, improves the bass and treble while having great mids. Since the MS4 uses 3 balanced armatures for the mids and treble, they do a great job, and since the Dynamic Driver is focused on the bass, it also does a great job. The MS1, on the other hand, produces a warmer sound since the Dynamic Driver needs to reproduce the entire frequency spectrum.
The Hidizs Absolute Kits come with a choice of a 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced cable, USB-C 2-pin cable and an aptX Bluetooth Cable using a CSR8645 chipset. They are also compatible with other 2-pin 0.78mm IEMs and you can also use other aftermarket cables due to their 2-pin connectors.
The IEMs can be driven easily since the MS1 only has an impedance of just 15Ω while the MS4 has an impedance of just 12Ω. However, you can use your favorite DAC like the Hidizs DH1000/Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus and use the balanced output to enjoy an even better sound. You can also use them with the 3.5mm cable with the Hidizs AP80.
Now, here’s my unboxing video I recorded yesterday where I unbox both kits, their cables and accessories:
I personally like the MS4 due to their more punchier bass and their extended treble. The MS1 have more forward vocals, so if you’re looking for that, the MS1 is for you, but if you want the treble and a bit more bass, go for the MS4.
Here’s the review video I also recorded with my thoughts on the IEMs and the cables:
Overall, Hidizs did a great job with these new In-Ear Monitors.
You can purchase these 2 Hidizs IEMs at Amazon using the following links:
Today, I’ll be reviewing the TRN BT20 Bluetooth adapter for 2-pin In-Ear Monitors (IEM):
The TRN BT20 is a Bluetooth 5.0 adapter that is available in 3 different versions:
The version I purchased is the 2-pin 0.78mm for my KZ ZS7 IEM’s.
The adapter syncs together to bring you stereo sound. It uses a Realtek Bluetooth 5.0 SoC that while it is not specified which specific chipset it’s being used, I suspect it may be using the Realtek RTL8763B.
Because of it using a Realtek chipset, it doesn’t support the aptX audio codec, but it does support AAC along with SBC. This means that when paired with an iPhone or Android device, it should use AAC instead of SBC, and for backward compatibility, the SBC codec will be chosen if a device lacks the AAC codec.
The packaging is very simple, as can be seen in the following images:
Here, you can see the sides:
And here you can see the back:
To open it, you have to slide the box outside:
Opening the box, both pieces of the TRN BT20 are revealed:
As you can see, they are very well protected and can be easily taken out:
Continuing unboxing the box, we need to take out the cable and manuals which are after taking out the following:
There’s a Micro USB Y-Cable that allows us to charge both Bluetooth pieces at the same time:
Finally, we have the manual, warranty card, and the card that says it passed quality checks:
Using the TRN BT20 with the KZ ZS7
I was using my KZ ZS7 IEMs with a Revonext 3.5mm 3-button cable before using this TRN BT20 Bluetooth adapter.
I removed the IEM from the cable so that I can plug them in the adapters:
Plugging them was straightforward and they are tightly attached:
This is a part where these don’t work well with my ears and the KZ ZS7.
This adapter is supposed to be hanged behind the ears:
Unfortunately, My KZ ZS7 doesn’t get sealed in my ear and the TRN BT20 pushes them out, so I’m using them without hanging them behind my ears:
They are not heavy and now my KZ ZS7 seals fine in my ears. I think if TRN releases a version of the BT20 with a larger ear hook, then they may fit better. Otherwise, I don’t have a problem using them this way.
Pairing the TRN BT20 with my phone was extremely easy. You just turn it on and it will enter in pairing mode automatically. From there, you can choose it in your phone and it will pair:
I haven’t yet discharged the TRN BT20 battery entirely, as I don’t listen to music at loud volumes. My Android phone reports 50% of battery left after about 3 hours of continuous usage. The volume is set around 1/4 of the slider and that produces a comfortable audio level to my liking. Past it, and it’s too loud. As mentioned above, the TRN BT20 supports the AAC audio codec which my phone is using. Because of this, charging normally takes around 45 minutes (Remember I have not discharged this completely). I’m not using the supplied cable to charge them. Rather, I’m using the UGREEN Micro USB Y cable:
There’s one side that will always charge faster because one side acts as a receiver while the other is receiving and transmitting the audio to the other BT20 side. I have paired the left adapter to my phone so that one takes a couple of more minutes to finish charging.
I’m actually surprised by the quality of these. I think, personally, that the TRN BT20 has an advantage given that it uses a Realtek SoC on both sides. This means each side is decoding its own audio channel. This is similar to how balanced DACs work, in that each DAC decodes a specific channel. This has the advantage of improving the sound stage and channel separation. That’s exactly what I’m experiencing with the TRN BT20. The tonality is just awesome.
Because each side is decoding their own corresponding audio channel, I feel this improves the sound separation much like how balanced DACs work, except that there are no cables around.
It’s true that the TRN BT20 doesn’t support aptX nor LDAC, but given its ability to decode AAC, the audio quality is of very good quality. Even using the SBC codec, I find the quality to be amazing.
There’s a bit of a hiss when used with sensitive IEM’s, but it’s way less than other Bluetooth adapters, especially those that are not using dedicated audio DAC’s in their implementations. The sound quality is not degraded because of this, but I’m sure some may not like the hissing.
Overall, I’m pleased with the sound quality, and I’m using this Bluetooth adapter rather than my USB DACs with their cables.
I’ve been using the TRN BT20 with my Samsung Galaxy S9+, where it uses the AAC audio codec. The sound quality is excellent.
I also tested this with my HiBy R3 and Hidizs AP80 which I use as a DAC and Bluetooth transmitter to transmit my PC audio to the BT20. In this case, the SBC codec is used, as Hiby OS does not support transmitting AAC audio yet, although HiBy replied to a comment saying they may add this in a future firmware.
I normally set the volume between 7 to 13. Going up, it is too loud.
The only problem I found is that when using some Qualcomm transmitters with Windows, the volume will be extremely loud.
At around $33-34 on Amazon, you can’t go wrong with the TRN BT20. They do not have aptX, but their ability to decode AAC means the audio quality is not compromised.
The use of Realtek on both sides means each side decodes their own channel audio, which can improve the sound separation and sound stage.
There’s a bit of hissing which could be distracting for some, but it’s not very noticeable compared to other adapters.
The battery life is great and will last some hours. Charging should take at maximum 2 hours, but it charges in way less than that, having a 70mAh battery on each side, and charging at about 50mAh, it should take about an hour and a few minutes.
Unfortunately, it’s the fitting that didn’t work for me, but this part is one that depends on the IEM’s being used and your ears.
I’d rate this 4 out of 5, that last star being because of it not playing nice with my ears.
You can get the TRN BT20 on Amazon. Select the version that is compatible with your IEMs:
Yesterday, I finally received the Jack by Podo Labs, after 2 years of waiting for this Kickstarter project:
The project was funded on February 25, 2017, and yesterday was April 8, 2019, the day I received it.
The Jack is a bluetooth receiver that turns standard 3.5mm headphones into bluetooth. The receiver supports Qualcomm’s aptX and uses a CSR8670 chip. It also uses a Maxim MAX97220 amplifier, and it’s stated to handle 2 Vrm up to 600Ohms, according to the project FAQ. The battery size is 300mAh, stated to last up to 12 hours per charge.
The Jack is also one of the few bluetooth adapters that supports headphone inline controls, so you’ll be able to control the volume and play/pause the music using the headphone cable inline remote and also use the Jack’s buttons, whichever method you prefer to use.
Going back to the pictures, the box was a bit crushed when I took it out of the package:
Kickstarter Edition! It includes the Jack (Obviously) and a USB charging cable, which where both protected by this bubble wrap:
Taking them out of the bubble wrap, here’s the Jack and the cable:
I turned it on and connected my headphones, then I paired it with my phone, which was very simple to do:
As soon as I started playing back music, the LED turned from blue to green:
I’m using my KZ ZS7 IEM’s with the Jack:
Unfortunately, the gold clip isn’t in good conditions, but this is purely cosmetic, and of course, does not affect the sound quality:
The Jack also came with a simple rubber case:
And that’s it with the pictures. Now, let’s talk about the sound quality.
The Jack can provide a loud volume, so the amplifier is doing its job. The sound quality is good, thanks to the aptX audio codec. Unfortunately, there’s a noticeable noise that can be heard and can be annoying on quiet tracks. This is pretty common with bluetooth adapters that doesn’t use a dedicated DAC, and is noticeable on sensitive headphones and IEM’s, like the KZ ZS7 that I’m using. Other than that, the sound quality is very good but that noise is annoying. Here’s a place where Podo Labs can improve if they every decide to do another iteration of the Jack.
Music playback showed a flaw, where sometimes the blue LED will not change to green and there will be no audio at all. Sometimes, pausing a music track and resuming it will activate the Jack again and the led will change to Green. Unfortunately, this didn’t worked when I played back music files using my Hidizs AP80 portable audio player, which also supports aptX adapters and headphones.
The best way I’ve found to prevent above’s problem is to use an aptX bluetooth transmitter like the Tunai Wand or the GENKI, where it is continually transmitting the source audio. This way, the Jack is always active and receiving audio and will not have this problem.
In conclusion, I think what stands out the Jack is its ability to handle headphone’s inline control and its battery life. Most other adapters have some 3 to 5 or 6 hours, but I haven’t seen any other reaching 12 hours like the Jack.
The Jack does not have a dedicated audio DAC so the audio quality is comparable to other standard adapters that use a CSR chip, which is acceptable and will satisfy most of the croud, unless you’re using sensitive IEM’s like the KZ ZS7.
Yesterday, I received the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus:
This is a DAC and AMP all in one device. It has Dual ES9018K2M, Dual ES9601K amplifiers, as well as a Balanced 2.5mm headphone jack as well as the regular 3.5mm jack.
The device is very similar to the Hidizs DH1000. In fact, it is a rebranded Tempotec product. Today, I’ll take a look at a newer Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus revision.
The Tempotec unit I received should have some problems that the Hidizs DH1000 had. In particular, this unit should have the Blue LED problem fixed, where it would be permanently turned on at some point of the Hidizs DH1000 lifetime. I’ll also be comparing this version to the Hidizs DAC.
As seen in the picture above, the box look very similar. Let’s take the wrapping off:
Now, it’s time to open the box:
We find the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus inside the box. It is the first thing we see. Below the box, we find some more items:
We find a USB-A to Micro USB, a Micro USB to Micro USB OTG cable, and a USB-C to Micro USB cable. We also have the manual and other stuff.
Let’s take a look at the Sonata iDSD Plus:
It came well protected. The bag keeps the iDSD free from scratches, since it uses glass on both sides.
Not a single scratch in the bag. That’s great. Now, let’s take out our Sonata iDSD Plus:
This is the front. While we can’t see the charging LED, it is in the bottom left corner. It is blue, just like the Hidizs DH1000, and will turn on while charging. Also, on the upper left, we can see the volume buttons. We’ll see them later in details.
The back has the Tempotec branding, just like the Hidizs DH1000 also had the Hidizs branding.
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus has 3 USB ports. The USB-A is the so called “Private” port. This allows you to connect your compatible DAPs like the Hidizs AP80 and HiBy R3 when the USB mode is set to “Dock”. It also should work on Android and iOS devices when using the HibyMusic app.
The other ports are Micro USB. The middle port is for data transmission while the right port is for charging. The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus charges at 5V/1A, usually drawing 800 mA but it can draw 940 mA if it is also turned on while listening to music and it is charging.
On the other side, we can see the standard 3.5mm audio jack on the left, the 2.5mm balanced jack in the middle, and the power button on the right. Between the power button and 2.5mm audio jack, we see the power LED, which will be green if it’s turned on, and will turn red when the battery is low.
Next, we’ll take a look at the cables:
Above, we have the USB-A to Micro USB cable. This is the cable that you’ll be using to use the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus in your computer, unless yours have a USB-C port, in which case you can use the included USB-C to Micro USB cable:
The USB-C to Micro USB cable also works with compatible Android devices. It works really well in my Samsung Galaxy S9+.
If your device has a Micro USB port, you’ll probably need this OTG cable, which is also included:
However, not all Micro USB phones support the OTG connection, so please be sure to check if your phone is compatible with USB Audio Class 2 audio devices.
The Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus manual comes in 2 languages:
And in English.
It also came with the Hi-Res Audio stickers:
Here’s how it looks when it has both USB ports plugged in:
Comparison with the Hidizs DH1000
Let’s compare the device with the Hidizs DH1000. Please note that due to hardware problems, I tried to repair the Hidizs DH1000, and while it works, I have it covered differently than how it used to look.
We can see they look similar.
The back also look similar. However, here is where we’ll see the main difference:
The Hidizs DH1000 has the volume buttons marked with paint, while the Tempotec iDSD Plus has the actual marks deep in the buttons.
Finally, both the USB ports and audio jacks look the same:
The device is detected on Windows a USB HD AUDIO as soon as it is plugged in.
The sound quality of the Tempotec Sonata iDSD Plus is the same as the Hidizs DH1000. I seem to find it more pleasant, but I tried switching between the Hidizs and Tempotec to see if I could find any difference. I may prefer the Tempotec sound, but the Hidizs one sounds quite similar, if not, identical. They both use the same ES9018K2M chips and ES9601K amplifiers. Theoretically, even the printed circuit board should be the same, or almost identical, except for the charging circuit, where it should be different to prevent possible charging issues.
I’m using the KZ ZS7 IEMs with a 2.5mm balanced cable. The bass feels powerful. This is especially true when listening to Twenty One Pilots “Trench” album. The mids are balanced, vocals are very well presented, and the treble, that’s the part where this DAC shines. The frequency response, I would say, is neutral. Other DACs would prefer to focus on providing forward vocals, and other instruments would sound recessed, but this is not the case with this DAC. Instrument separation is also pretty good. The sound feels open and wide, and the overal sound presentation is just as good and even relaxing. I can confortably listen to music in Tidal and enjoy every note in the song.
For around $130, this DAC does not dissapoint. The Hidizs DH1000 was my favorite, but now I have this Tempotec which will be with me at all times, and I’ll be attaching it to my HiBy R3 and Hidizs AP80 DAPs. Really, I haven’t found a DAC that outperforms this one.
This is a cable (or dongle) that allows you to connect your 3.5mm headphones to your devices that have a USB-C connector, or to a USB-A connector by using a USB-C to USB-A adapter. It features a sample rate of up to 24-bit and 192khz, but you’ll need to update the firmware to be able to use it. We’ll see more about the firmware update process later. First, let’s proceed with the unboxing.
Opening the box reveals a carrying case:
Taking it out we can clearly see the Hidizs logo in it:
The back is just plain:
Inside, we can see the Sonata HD Cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter:
A closer look at the cable and adapter inside the carrying case:
A closer look at the DAC We can see the Hidizs Logo at the USB-C connector side:
We can also see the Hi-Res Audio logo on the other side at the USB-C connector:
Side by Side comparon with the Google and Apple DACs:
Now, let’s see the USB-C to USB-A adapter closer:
I connected the cable to the adapter and to my USB Hub which is connected to my desktop PC:
Sonata HD A: Prioritizes the Call. When I tested this firmware, it allows simultaneous voice and music. This is the firmware you’ll want to use if you’re going to stream on YouTube, Twitch, etc.
Sonata HD C: Prioritizes the Audio. When I tested this firmware, it was similar to the Sonata HD A firmware but I could no longer use the microphone as soon as the system produced audio. This firmware has a sample rate of 24-bit/192khz
Sonata HD D: Pure Music. This firmware will also provide 24-bit/192khz but it will disable the adapter input function. You’ll still be able to use earphone inline remote control.
To update the firmware, you’ll want to launch the respective executable. You’ll be presented with the firmware flashing utility:
We should write in the Vendor ID: 22e1, and on the Product ID: e202. You can check these values by going to the Device Manager and selecting the Sonata HD Cable under the Sound, video and Game Controllers section:
We can press the Write EEPROM button on the firmware flashing utility and we’ll be shown with this message:
We’ll simply disconnect the DAC, connect it again, and press OK. The firmware flashing will begin:
If it finishes successful, you’ll see a successful message:
That’s it! We now need to unplug it and connect it again and then we can go to the sound settings and check that we can choose a sample rate of 24-bit/192khz:
We click on Sound Control Panel and double click on the Sonata HD:
Now, we can go to the Advanced tab and select 24-bit/192khz:
We can also use Tidal’s WASAPI mode with this adapter. Just be sure to turn the volume very low. This DAC is very loud!!!
Just select the Exclusive Mode button and that should be it. Now, you can enjoy your music!
Listening to this DAC the sound is detailed, but the vocals seems to be more forward. It has a good sound separation, and it is very loud, which is why I have my DAC at just 2%. My headphones (KZ ZS7) are high sensitivity, low impedance IEM’s, so they will sound loud at low volume levels. The Bass is great, and so is the treble. No complains here. I also own the Hidizs DH1000 and their AP80 player and they all sound excellent. The Hidizs DH1000 provides a more neutral sound and the AP80 just shines at all of the frequencies, altough the DH1000 is still a more neutral and extended treble option.
I hope you liked this post. Do you own the Sonata HD Cable? Let me know in the comments.
If you don’t yet have this dongle, you can get it on Amazon using the following link:
I just received these today and I’m enjoying the balanced sound it provides. It’s not too warm, but it’s also not too bright. The mids shine, the treble is there, and the bass feels real.
Previously, I’ve been using the Samsung AKG-Tuned earbuds which I also enjoy the sound, but these feels an improvement because they retrieve more detail of the song.
These are also my first KZ IEMs, and I’ve been wanting to try them since the past generation, but decided against because of some troubles I’ve heard of. Now that I got to listen to these, they really sound wonderful.
Powered by 1 Dynamic Driver + 4 Balanced Armatures, you can hear everything without any distortions, a problem I’ve faced with other buds, where they would emphasize the bass, or have a v-shaped profile. These aren’t v-shaped nor emphasize the bass over other frequencies. Yes, they have plenty of bass, but you can hear everything without any frequency being overpowered.
I’m currently using these with my Hidizs DH1000 DAC/AMP:
I’m still experimenting and listening to different albums. So far, everything sounds nice. I do have a complaint here, and is that sometimes the presence of some instruments may seem to be reduced, but you still enjoy everything in the track. They have a great sound separation and clarity. Awesome!
Today, I’ll show you the Hidizs EX-01 in-ear headphone:
We can see it has a frequency response of 20-20K. Also we can see that the driver size is 8mm.
I haven’t taken the wrapping of it, so here’s the pictures with the wrap taken off:
When I opened it, we can see some promotion material:
And then we can see the headphones itself:
When we take them out, this is how it looks:
How does it sounds? For me, it, focuses on bass and mid bass, therefore, the sound will be bassy, but not boomy enough to distort the audio. Treble is also there, but is not extended. The voices sounds a bit bassy too, but they are clear, which means Hidizs did a great job with the tuning to not distort it. Since the focus seems to be on bass, the mids and treble seems to be a bit recessed. Sound stage seems wide, but you’ll be hearing more bass than any other instruments. Even when these may have a bassy sound, it’s still clear and you can still enjoy your music.
If you’d like an In-Ear headphone focused on bass, these may be for you.
Hidizs also offers the EP-03 and the Seeds earphones which I do no have yet to compare.
Hidizs also makes DAPs (Digital Audio Players) and DACs (Digital-Analog Converters). I have the Hidizs DH1000 DAC which provides a very natural sound and an enjoyable sound, and the Hidizs AP80, which also sounds awesome.
Hidizs is known for making high quality audio devices.
Today, I’d like to show you the Cave UC3 3D Surround Earbuds, which I got as part of their Kickstarter campaign.
These are a USB-C or Apple Lightning Earbuds, depending on the version you get, and is compatible with USB-C devices that support USB Audio and of course, Apple devices if you chose the Lightning version. It has an in-line control and microphone. The in-line control allows you to change the audio sound profile, enabling their virtual surround function.
Let’s get started with the photos!
Here’s the box:
You can see the details of it in the back.
Now, unwraping it:
Let’s open it!
You can see the Cave UC3 earbuds. They look well built. The cable continues on the back:
Finally, here’s the earbuds taken out of the box:
Now, some notes:
When I connected these earbuds to my Windows laptop via it’s USB-C port, it worked, but the volume doesn’t work. If it’s between 1 to 99%, the volume will be very low. When it’s at 100%, it will be very loud. There’s no way to control this except from the music app itself. This is unconvenient.
When I used this with my Hiby R3, it worked. However, it only worked with 16-bit/48Khz audio. This is because the earbuds doesn’t have a 16-bit/44Khz mode. My best guess is that the Hiby R3 changes the USB mode to match the audio bit depth and sample rate. When I played back 44Khz FLAC files, It was showing a playback error. When I played back Opus files, it worked, but Opus files are 48Khz, which is why I think it worked.
They worked great with my smartphone. However, they note that the microphone may not work with all smartphones. Keep this in mind.
In conclusion, I’ll keep these safely stored. They will not be my daily use earbuds, but rather I’ll use it for emergency purposes shall my in-ear earbud give me problems.
The new and improved Avantree Clipper Pro (Batch 17F1)
Today, I’ll talk about the new batch of the Avantree Clipper Pro:
The Avantree Clipper Pro is an aptX Low Latency-enabled Bluetooth adapter that turns wired headphones into wireless bluetooth.
As a tester of Avantree, I get products from the company to evaluate and give feedback, and this time, they kindly sent me this revision, 17F1.
New to this batch is new voice notifications, replacing the power on, pairing, and power off beeps and the volume buttons no longer have any delay (the previous revisions had a 1-second delay when pressing the buttons). Yay!
Today, I will be showing you the Avantree Leaf, which is a USB Bluetooth transmitter featuring the aptX Low Latency codec. This means that when this device is paired with a Low Latency-enabled bluetooth headphone, speaker or adapter, you’ll get the best experience when watching your favorite movie or series or when playing videogames because there is no audio delay. Of course, this adapter will also work with headphones, speakers and adapters featuring just the aptX codec as well as standard devices using the SBC codec.
The difference between this device and using a standard USB Bluetooth Dongle is that this device is detected by the operating system as a USB Audio Device, while when using a standard USB Bluetooth Dongle, you have to pair your headphones using the operating system and also, you’re limited by the codecs the operating system supports.
The Avantree Leaf handles the Bluetooth connection between itself and the headphones. The operating system just sends the audio signal to this device and then it is transmitted to the headphones using the best codec supported by it. Also, since the Avantree Leaf handles the Bluetooth connection, this means that you can just plug this USB Transmitter in another PC and you don’t have to do the pairing again, as your headphone is stored in the Avantree Leaf rather than on your PC. This is very convenient because otherwise, we would need to pair our headphones in every single PC we use.
Let’s start with the unboxing pictures:
Here is the box:
Here is what comes inside the box:
A closer look at the Avantree Leaf:
It also came with a USB Extension Cable:
Here, I have the Avantree Leaf connected to my PC and paired with the Avantree Clipper Pro, which is an aptX Low Latency receiver that converts wired headphones into Bluetooth:
Pairing a headphone, speaker or a receiver is as simple as holding the Avantree Leaf button for a few seconds to put it in Pairing Mode, and also putting your audio device in pairing mode, which varies by device (see your device manual to see how to enter pairing mode).
When in pairing mode, the LED will blink Blue and Yellow (Manual says it’s white but it’s like a yellow/orange color).
When your headphone is connected, it will blink blue 2 times to indicate it is using the SBC Audio Codec.
If the LED blinks yellow/orange one (1) time, you’re using the standard aptX codec, and if it blinks yellow/orange two (2) times, you’re using the aptX Low Latency codec, which provides the best experience.
The sound quality is excellent, and so is the range too! This is an adapter I highly recommend if you want the best audio quality and no audio delay.
To finish this article, I’ll share with you the unboxing video I made. Hope you like it!