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Hidizs MS-1 Galaxy review and Zero Red comparison - best budget IEM? I think so

deathwish11

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I have no affiliation with Hidizs and I find it odd that I recommended the MS-1 recently in r/headphoneadvice and r/headphones and both posts were immediately removed due to "affiliate or guerilla marketing." I was sent these from Hidizs for free and I'll be buying another two pairs. Kinda pissed at that honestly. What do you need, proof? Wack. I have extensively reviewed all of my headphones and IEMs. You can see the plethora of stuff I've posted in r/Grado under username DJGammaRabbit.

TL;DR

Your decision between the MS-1 and Zero Red will come down to whether you want to amplify them. If you only have $16 (price verified) it's a no-brainer, they're not similarly priced. If you're listening unamplified from a phone then buy the MS1 and maybe EQ it, it will respond very well and perform as the Zero Red does just louder by almost 6dB (117.5db vs 123db). If you are going to use an amp or a PC then get the Zero Red, I think the driver separation is worth it at that point. The only similarly priced IEM I have to compare to is a Smile Jamaica and this sounds a lot better. If you require a mic then it's an easy choice: for an extra dollar they include a mic. I haven't used my Zero Red since getting these and I don't see myself using them until I get a Qudelix. For $16 I am so surprised at the value.


Things I have to compare to: Grado SR80X, Grado MS-1, Zero Red, Marley Smile Jamaica.


The MS-1 is Harman 2019 target tuned, budget friendly and awesome with or without EQ. These well-tuned IEMs set a reference standard for expected sound quality per dollar and should appeal to average consumers. While they say "Hi-Res certified" they aren't quite audiophile grade even though they are very clear, I would need more detail from them to be classed as mid-fi but they do come close. At times they do show more detail than you'd expect but not as much as a $150 USD headphone offers, they're not like my Grados where I can hear hands moving up and down frets. They're still every bit as clear as you need them to be. Everything from their website description is very accurate. They slam with EQ and can take +15db@31hz with -5db gain without audible distortion - that's a lot! With EQ they so nearly match the Zero Red but are louder and have more impact.


You'd think the zero red would be as loud being 117.5db sensitive and 17.5 ohms, nearly 10db more sensitive and twice as easy to drive as the MS-1 is 32 ohms but they are not and it was the first thing I noticed - the MS-1 is quite a bit louder making them seem amplified comparably. How the zero red is more sensitive and easier to drive but not as loud I don't know, something isn't adding up. The zero red requires 1V RMS to achieve 100dB while the MS-1 requires 2.2V. I found out this is due to the Zero Red being measured at 1khz, making the comparison 117.5db and 123db on the MS-1.

Album listened to:

Mac Miller - Swimming.

Source:

Android with AIMP player.

EQ:

Flat and my own U or V-shape.

Initial impressions:

Translucent and beautiful, solid Harman-y (later saw that it is Harman 2019) and fun tuning, loud, nice braided cable but the longer portion is sheathed in a plastic that still allows it to tangle and that portion isn't braided.

Fit:

Three silicone tips. The housing is smaller and fits more flush in my ear than the zero reds. I had some trouble getting a full seal in my left ear even though I'm using the largest tips. I think I prefer the foam tips on the zero red. Comfortable, the driver housing of the zero red actually sticks out at times and feels bulkier while the MS-1 is more flush and has a better sitting position because it isn't nearly-flatly-constructed like the zero red, the MS-1 having a rounded backing which is much appreciated. Although they're similar I prefer the fit of the MS-1. When ear space is limited anyone would. The zero red in my girlfriends ear looks hilarious because it literally does not fit at all. The overall size of the zero reds driver housing is slightly bigger, probably to account for the dual driver but I don't know. Flange the rear of them and they'll fit better, just not on my girlfriend.


Music:

The MS-1 surprised me. I had been staring at their box for three days with low expectations, mostly because none of Hidizs products are in popular circles and I can't imagine why. I'm upgrading my budget IEMs pick to these instead of my 10 year old $20 Marley Smile Jamaicas I bought at Shoppers. I'm not sure on the cost but I heard $20, don't quote me, their previous "Galaxy", dubbed the MS-1-Rainbow, being $42.99. They surprised me because I like them more than my Zero Reds as most of the time I use IEMs for walking or biking with my phone and I don't have a portal amp. Although the sub bass (30hz and less) seems more dynamic, detailed and thicker with the Zero Red it has dual drivers, one dedicated below 200hz. I'm nit picking. The 10.2mm single driver on the MS-1 delivers everything I want bass to be (after EQ) minus high-grade audiophile separation, being loud, impactful, balanced and distortion free. You'd have to listen to something in the 20hz range to tell the difference and not much music dips that low, occasionally you'll barely hear around 25hz in a song. The MS-1 has so little distortion, I can't hear any so they come across as smooth and capable. The MS-1 is a few dB louder everywhere and it's very noticeable. It's not missing any information in its sub region either, it hits lows with ease and essentially without distortion - even with +15dB@31hz and +8db@62hz with -5dB gain. They didn't even sound muddy. For reference my mid-fi Grado SR80X headphones with better sound quality distorts at +10db@31hz -5db gain, they're not known for sub bass but I've expected more. Since I don't have a portable amp I prefer the MS-1 for the volume. Overall sound quality/complaint wise I couldn't tell a difference between the Zero Red and MS-1 and I'm hoping there will be with amplification but I doubt it, I couldn't ask for a louder IEM than the MS-1. Without EQ I prefer the MS-1. It is less neutral and more fun than the Zero Red and only noticeably. The Zero Red has forward vocals that layer it above the rest and I don't like that. With EQ they're pretty much the same but the MS-1 is still louder and has a thicker kick around 60hz, it does have a bloaty impact but it's impactful none the less. They both have different sounding drum kicks - the Zero Red seems to be scooped out a touch around 60hz so that it doesn't bloat (I think I remember reading that somewhere). The MS-1 is more punchy with and without EQ when unamped. I didn't find them too bright but they do lean a little bright but enjoyably so.

Gaming:

A little bright but not overly, I don't play at full volume, I use -5 clicks on my PS4. I wasn't wincing at gun shots while with the Zero Red I was if the 10-ohm adapter wasn't plugged in. They're both very clear. At one point I was playing COD and thought I heard a knock at my front door so I signalled to my girlfriend to answer it. She said nobody knocked on the door. I realized what I heard was just in-game sounds coming from an industrial plant. The MS-1 fooled me. The same happens with my Grados (with music, you definitely don't want to use them for gaming). I love when that happens because it's a good reference to whether something sounds natural. Imagining is as good as I need it to be - I'll often warn teammates that someone is running behind them when they don't seem to notice. I can tell whether someone is above or below me. I can directionalise where shots at coming from.
I went into DMZ this afternoon to test the mic, imagining and soundstage. I found the mic to be very clear and without scratchy vocals or sibilance. A video of DMZ where people tell me to adjust my mic and then say it sounds good (I am DeathWishkers):


I didn't hear sibilance from music even once (even with my crazily boosted EQ) or gaming. The Harman 2019 target is great for that. All it takes is one lick of sibilance to ruin a pair of sound-things forever.

I love these IEMs and I'm questioning why I spent $75+ CAD on the Zero Red when I didn't really need to (but I do want a portable amp). I can understand that a dual driver has an easier time reproducing low frequency sounds but the 10.2mm single dynamic in the MS-1 is no slouch and in my opinion the increased sub performance in the dual driver is not worth a price increase of 3x if they're not amplified. I didn't even like the Zero Red for gaming without its ohm adapter.

Amplified testing both from my old PC, keep in mind that windows media player isn't great, my AIMP player on my phone has much better everything: the zero red easily wins here, with or without EQ.

Zero Red without EQ:

It's mostly boring, non-sparkly but there is a good amount of sub bass but not much (and not too little), it's all very neutral with clear vocals on top.

Zero Red With EQ:

Cranking it with my EQ of +12db@31hz with SRS WOW effect turned on (which is stupid, don't use it) sounds like being in a car with blaring subwoofers that drown out the highs: nice. There wasn't a huge increase in volume, though. It's negligible, meanwhile my Grados see massive volume gains when plugged into this PC. The bass can be ridiculous on the Zero Red but at the expense of drowning everything else out. I prefer just using my EQ without the SRS WOW effect, even though my EQ also drowns out the highs a little.

I realize I'm biased and a basshead who wants to have his cake and eat it too; but the Zero Red is immaculately tuned even though I say "boring". I'm so accustomed to using my U or V-shaped EQ that if I just gave myself ten minutes to listen to it with the EQ off I think I would appreciate that it is neutral with sub boost. It's not BORING, just more boring than how I applied settings to it. If I had the money I would drive around with 8 18" subwoofers in a T-line behind my front seat. Meanwhile if you're not listening to rap or EDM you'll most likely even prefer the neutral tuning as it is almost mid-focal pointed if it weren't for the sub boost. My EQ does scoop out the mids at the cost of super clear, rich and detailed mids. My problem with a neutral tuning is that everything sounds overly flat, overly close and there is no space. By removing some of the mids you can gain a sense of size and space. It's an illusion but a welcomed one for me. On one song, a 22-35hz rebass of "circles bob - frozen", I can FEEL the bass at 22hz, a pure air fluttering in my ear canals and it is awesome. I think that's why I bought these: they had a "subwoofer". With 8khz at +9db it lets me hear a sense of realism amid the +12db@31hz and +8db@62hz. Enough of the Zero Reds.

MS-1 amplified:

MS-1 without EQ:


The differences now appear. Without EQ these are not nearly as bassy as the Zero Red and now less so than just using my phone. They're brighter than using them with my phone. They're very clear, more detailed even but not welcomed. Where'd the bass go - my phone delivers more bass with EQ off - maybe that's an electrical difference in tuning? They're still louder than the Zero Red but that might be a difference in tuning, in having brighter highs alone. Some may find this just a touch too bright, I do. I'm not a fan of it when amplified, maybe it's my dusty PC. However, from my phone these things slam and sound great, from my PC not so much.

MS-1 with EQ:

Not as bassy as the Zero Red. The difference is greater with and without EQ when amplified. Where the MS-1 loses to dynamics and texture as well as raw oomph the Zero Red delivers with ease. I think these were design principals, that the Zero Red were designed to be amplified.

Better fit:

MS-1, however, the nozzle is shorter and I actually had to pull out the left side a little to get a full seal. The Zero Red nozzle can feel too long.

Tuning king:

Zero Red.

Better when unamplified:

MS-1. Because loud.

Better without EQ and unamplified:

MS-1. This is just a tuning preference. They're less neutral than the Zero Red. This is the kind of thing you give your mother as a stocking stuffer and she'd love it; because you know she isn't going to mess with an EQ.

Better with EQ when unamplified:

Slight nod to the MS-1 for being able to perform nearly the same as the Zero Red everywhere including sub bass when unamplified - which isn't a great thing - the zero red has a better tuning period - but it's not as appreciable without amplification. I didn't hear much of a difference between these, only that the MS-1 can get a lot louder. You can EQ sub bass into the MS-1 and not really be missing anything; you'd have to be really looking for the lessened sub bass. The added impact on kick drums I preferred more than the extra sub bass from the Zero Red. The MS-1 also seems like it has less distortion when adding +15db@31hz, not that the Zero Red distorts much but I don't go past 10-12db or I'll think I'm hearing the over-1% distortion driver "limit". The MS-1 I'll keep at +15db full time.

The tonality of the MS-1 isn't perfect, no target is. For short exercise like riding my bike I would take the MS-1. For long road trips I would take the zero red, even with its less volume from my phone without an external amp it would be better because the brightness of the MS-1 amplified would get tiring if listening over an hour and hopefully I'm wrong and that it's amplifier dependent. I just love how loud the MS-1 is everywhere from only my phone. On my phone it doesn't seem overly bright. On my PC if I EQ 4khz down to -3db instead of +6db it removes the annoyance of the brightness - but that's what I'm using on my phone, +6db@4khz, the same as the Zero Red. I'm also assuming that I'll even buy an external amplifier. The brightness isn't a problem, nothing EQ can't solve but it's worthy to note.

Artists listened to:
Pouya
Nas
Deadmau5
Young Buck
Rick Astley
Mac Miller
Empire Of The Sun
Hugh Masekela
A huge album of Youtube music, mostly EDM and classic rock

Youtube with Edge browser Youtube EQ extention set to "party": 2 songs tested between my grados and the two IEMs:

I originally had it set to "headphones" and it were far too bright; I couldn't handle 10 seconds of this between any of my IEMs or headphones except for the Zero Red; they're tuned so well you can use any EQ preset.


Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream (Sam La More Remix Edit) - an exceptional remix with great mixing:




Grado 80x: Slightly weird on the highs on both party and soft rock settings, lacking impact but very revealing.


Zero Red: Everything is perfect on any EQ settings, EQ is just preference at this point where with the other IEM/headphone it's a matter of being able to stand it.


MS-1: These slam on party and soft rock EQ. The kicks are so punchy. The highs aren't over-done but do lean bright, the mids have just enough body. The soundstage gives a good go at making everything sound spacious. Leans on being a little bright on "party" and is more forgiving on "soft rock". I can listen indefinitely on soft rock. These sound more natural than my Grados on certain songs which isn't something I'm happy about.


Second song: Hugh Masekela - Stimela, something different for myself but very welcomed



My Grados make this song shine. Sounds beautiful and perfect on soft rock or party, mostly party.

Zero Red: The detail I wanted from them isn't there and less so than the MS-1. The Zero Red flattens everything to a neutrality that isn't enjoyable for me.

MS-1: Here's where you'll notice that these have natural timbre. Instruments sound natural. Voices sound exciting. Separation is good. You can't listen to something digital like EDM and judge whether there's good separation or timbre.

Final notes:

The cable on the Zero Red is slightly longer by 3 inches - I went biking with them, putting my phone in my pocket and it was fine, it didn't pull on the phone, for reference I'm 5'7" on a 26" bike - I needed them to be long enough to not yank my phone out of my pocket. I've been gaming and listening to music on the MS-1 for the past two weeks and not once have I used the Zero Red, there's no point. I'd like to know how to pronounce Hidizs, I keep switching between high-dies, hidies, hidi-zies, etc. I don't like the name. I can't tell how accurate the tuning is to "Harman" but on the graph it looks pretty close.




The first 200 pairs are $9.99.

Send me more free shit, Hidizs.
 

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