Hidizs MS1-Rainbow - Reviews
Pros: Light and comfortable – Bassy, easygoing signature is easy on the ears – Nice cable
Cons: Very sensitive and hisses with most sources – Fit and finish and general material quality feels a step down for the tier - Price
Greetings!

Today we are checking out the MS1 – Rainbow from Hidizs.

Hidizs has been around since 2009 and successfully released their first digital audio player (DAP), the AP100, in 2014. While best known for their DAPs, in 2019 they expanded their product portfolio to include earphones under the 'Mermaid' moniker; MS1 and MS4. While I never had the chance to try them out, they seemed to be generally well-received in reviews and forums.

The MS1 - Rainbow under investigation today is a more budget friendly take on the original MS1, eschewing the high quality metal housings for high density resin. Inside each earpiece is a single 10.2mm, dual-magnet, bio-diaphragm equipped dynamic driver. This seems to be a pretty common tech nowadays, and the bio-diaphragm earphones I've heard in the past always had some nice qualities to them (ex. organic timbre and smooth mids).

How has the newest addition to Hidizs' earphone lineup held up over the last month of testing? Let's find out.

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What I Hear The Hidizs MS1 – Rainbow has a pretty standard v-shaped signature. Treble is less prominent in the brilliance region leaving the presentation somewhat lacking in sparkle on cymbals and the like. This is countered by a neat spike in the presence region that ensures the MS1 retains plenty of detail down through into the midrange, though this comes at the expense of occasional harshness. Attack and decay are quick but not unnaturally so, allowing the MS1 to handle congested tracks well at low volumes. At higher volumes distortion sets in and resolution takes a hit.

The midrange is recessed in the lower region, subject to some bleed from the mid and upper bass regions. This leaves the MS1 with the tendency to slightly smear deeper voices hurting the otherwise good clarity and coherence of the mids. As a result I found female and higher pitched male vocals to be better suited to the MS1. Timbre is decent, if not a bit dry thanks to the upper mid bump that helps vocals and instruments retain a strong presence and push through the warmth and strength of the low end and lower treble kick.

Bass is the MS1's spotlight grabber thanks to how prominent it is. Extension is excellent with lots of emphasis in the subbass region leading to a very visceral presentation. Those deep notes result in a lot of ear tingling rumble. Midbass is also quite prominent adding a fair bit of warmth to the overall presentation. Bass punch is fine, though control is a little on the loose side. Texturing is also quite good with grungy notes appearing acceptably noisy and detailed.

The MS1 has a pretty good sound stage offering plenty of depth and width. Vocals default to just inside the outer ear with instruments and effects spreading out into the background. Channel-to-channel imaging is neat and tidy with clean sweeps across the stage. I found it entirely usable when gaming, able to track movement and sounds accurately enough to remain competitive. Not an ideal earphone for gaming, but good enough. This though is helped along by its layering and separation capabilities which are also perfectly competent. The low end smearing of the mids does eat into instrument separation capabilities somewhat, but this is a budget earphone. I have realistic expectations.

Overall I quite enjoy the MS1 – Rainbow. The low end is beefy and engaging, clarity is quite good minus some midbass bleed, it has a wide open sound stage, and the limited upper treble presence keeps it from being overly fatiguing. Some harshness is present and the low end could be tighter, but in general the performance on hand is in line with others in the price range.

Hidizs MS1 Rainbow.jpgMS1 Rainbow and Friends.jpg

Compared To A Peer

Dunu DM-480 (69.00 USD): The DM-480 has slightly better extension with more emphasis and a tighter, more controlled feel. That said, I perceive the MS1 as the bassier model since the looser, less controlled presentation results in notes hanging around longer. Their midrange presentations are fairly similar with the MS1s being more forward with more prominent spikes. As a result I find the DM-480s transition from bass to mids more even and natural. Timbre quality is similar, as is clarity and detail with the DM-480 getting a slight edge since the low end doesn't interfere. Treble on both peaks in the presence region, with the DM-480 rolling off more heavily. The MS1 has a stronger lower treble peak resulting in occasional harshness that is mostly absent in the Dunu. Neither offers much sparkle, though the MS1 retains airness leaving the DM-480 feeling smaller and more confined. That said, I prefer the DM-480s cleaner sounding notes. Imaging, layering, and instrument separation are all on par for the most part, despite the DM-480's more intimate presentation.

I'm not sure which I prefer since they're quite similar overall. I might have to give it to the DM-480 for it's tighter bass and slightly cleaner treble.

FiiO FH1S (69.99 USD): The MS1 is warmer and notably bassier with more midbass and subbass emphasis. The FH1S has a snappier attack and more rapid decay. It generally feels quicker and more accurate in the low end, but the lack of emphasis leaves it feeling a bit anemic at times, at least compared to the MS1's bolder presentation. The FH1S sees spikes in both mid and upper-mid regions. This gives the earphone a less natural and more fatiguing presentation than the MS1. That said, the presentation is a bit more even than what we hear out of the MS1 which is recessed in the lower mids, then spikes in the upper mids. While I found the big bass to balance it out somewhat, keeping it from feeling harsh and irritating like the FH1S can be, mild bleed does hinder what is otherwise decent clarity. Treble out of the FH1S is well extended where the MS1 loses emphasis leaving it's presentation more dry and less energetic than the FH1S with it's upper treble spike. The FH1S' boosted treble and hybrid setup does result in better clarity, a faster presentation, and more air between notes, but the MS1 sounds tighter and better controlled and is much less fatiguing. Both have a very good soundstage. I sound the imaging of the MS1 to be a bit more accurate while the FH1S has a slight edge in terms of layering and separation.

Overall I appreciate the technical ability of the FH1S, but I'd much rather use the MS1 – Rainbow. It sounds more natural and is much less fatiguing.

Shozy Form 1.1 (74.99 USD): The 1.1 in my experience is pretty much superior sounding across the board. Bass is more balanced with a more even balance of sub to mid, and no less extension. It is more textured and better controlled too. The transition into the midrange is handled more evenly on the 1.1 with the lack of any significant spikes resulting in improved timbre. I find the MS1 a hint more detailed, but that comes at the expense of the 1.1s general smoothness. Treble is once again in the 1.1's camp. It offers better extension with a more even upper and lower balance. It lacks the occasional roughness of the MS1s presence region, while bringing in some welcome upper end sparkle to counter any dryness. I do find the MS1s staging to be better though with a wider and deeper feel that is somewhat countered by the 1.1's leaner, cleaner treble presentation. Imaging feels even more accurate through the 1.1, with tracks also coming across slightly more layer and with better instrument separation.

Don't get me wrong, I like the MS1 – Rainbow and think the sound quality is solid in the price range, but against a top tier offering like the 1.1 I see no reason to save a mere five dollars. And that's not even taking into account the rest of the package (build, accessories, etc.) which in my opinion are of a higher class with the Shozy.

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In The Ear The MS1 - Rainbow's housing are entirely plastic save for the aluminum nozzles. The plastics themselves feel fairly standard. Not super dense, but not cheap and fragile either. The glitter flakes smattered throughout break up what would otherwise be a very plain design, and I kinda like it. It's got a nostalgic flavour to it that reminds me of Silly Putty from when I was a child. Probably just aged the heck out of myself with that reference... oh well. The Hidizs brand name and logo, as well as left and right indicators and website are all printed on and are pretty much guaranteed to wear off in time due to interaction with the oils of your skin. Obviously that won't affect performance, but some are annoyed by cosmetic flaws. Fit and finish of the component parts is fine, but a slight step below what I expect for this price range. The two halves of the shell fit together well, but the flat pad on which the plug rests when the cable is installed doesn't quite sit flush. There is also some excess glue that could serve to be scraped off around the base of the left nozzle. These aren't really details most people would notice, but I've had literally hundreds of earphones cross my path, most under 100 USD, so these mild qualms stick out.

The cable is a mite bit more impressive in my opinion. I quite like it as visually it reminds me of the cables VSonic fixed to their popular VSDx models back in the day. The big difference being this cable isn't flimsy and fragile thanks to it's twisted design and beefy hardware. The clear two-pin plugs are angled at a 45 degree angle and lead into some pre-formed ear guides. The guides are a bit more plasticy and stiff than I like, but they work well and cause no discomfort so they get a seal of approval. The y-split is a chunky piece of space-grey knurled aluminum with a meaty rubber relief sticking out the bottom. The straight jack follows much the same aesthetic with a smooth section on which the Hidizs name is laser-etched into the metal. Two issues with this jack. The first is that it is quite thick, similar to TFZ's products from the last couple years. The second is that there is no extension for the plus leaving the diameter of the jack to sit flush with the device. It is very likely this will interfere with protective cases for phones and daps.

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In The Box The MS1 – Rainbow comes in an elongated white cardboard box. On the front is the Hidizs logo in silver foil along with a very clean image of the right earpiece and the usual branding and model information. A Hi-Res Audio logo is position beneath highlighting the MS1's excellent treble extension up to 40kHz. On the left is more model and bran info, while the right contains an image of the MS1 Rainbow in every available colour, with a space to mark which one is inside. On the back are some basic specs and features, along with Hidizs' location and website.

Lifting off the lid reveals the earpieces set within a cardboard covered foam insert that lifts out via a clear pull tab. Underneath is an empty box acting as a stool to raise the earpieces level with the remaining box containing all the accessories. In all you get:
  • MS1 Rainbow earphones
  • 0.78mm 4-core silver-coated OFC cable
  • Carrying pouch
  • Wide bore single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • Medium bore single flange tips (s/m/l)
  • User guide
  • Gift card
  • Social media card
Overall a fairly standard unboxing experience with the bonus of a second set of tips, presented in handy cardboard holders. It's a very TFZ-like unboxing if I'm being entirely honest, but falls just short of providing the same quantity of extras. Still, not bad for the price. I'm satisfied.

Final Thoughts While I like the MS1 – Rainbow and think it's a perfectly fine earphone, it doesn't do anything to stand out from the crowd. The build quality and materials are fine, but a far cry from the outstanding quality you get in class leading example like the Shozy Form 1.1. The sound quality is good, but balance and refinement is only even with other mid-pack offerings like the FiiO FH1S. Even the packaging and accessories sit mid-pack, falling short of the TFZ products the experience is very similar to. Still better than brands like CCA and KZ though, who offer up a middling suite of extras even at much higher prices. The hiss that was common to most sources was also a big turn off, even if I'd get used to it after a short period and drown it out.

If the MS1- Rainbow came in under 50 USD, it would be a stronger offering and easier to recommend, or at least more difficult to dismiss. As is I don't really see any reason to pick one up when something like the Form 1.1 can be had for only a few bucks more, or the KBEAR KB04 for quite a bit less.

If you want a bassy, comfortable earphone with a removable cable and you find the MS1 – Rainbow is available at a good price, go for it. Otherwise, consider your options as there are others that offer better performance and build in this price range.

Thanks for reading!

- B9

Disclaimer Big thanks to Nappoler with HiFiGo for asking if I would be interested in covering the MS1 Rainbow, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on three weeks of time spent with the MS1. They do not represent Hidizs, HiFiGo, or any other entity. At the time of writing it was retailing for 69.99 USD: https://hifigo.com/products/hidizs-ms1-rainbow

Edit: Reduced to 3 stars. KB EAR KS2 offers basically the same experience as the Rainbow at a 1/3rd of the price.

Specifications
  • Impedance: 20 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 112dB
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~40kHz
  • Driver: 10.2mm dynamic with bio-diaphragm
  • Cable: 0.78mm 2-pin 4-core silver coated OFC
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, FiiO BTR3K, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark's Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends
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Pros: Great build, looks, quality packaging, good, neutral sound with detailed mids and highs, incredible value
Cons: Uncomfortable ear tips, earphones are highly sensitive

This following is the verbatim text from my ohm-image.net review, linked below. Ohm is my website and I own all content on it. If you want to see more detailed photos of it, please head over there. Or hit up the video above.

ohmage to the Hidizs MS1-Rainbow

Disclaimer: Hidizs sent MS1-Rainbow to me for the purposes this review. It goes for 55$ USD. Inside is a 10,2mm dynamic driver. To find out more, hit up Hidizs’s MS-1 Rainbow page.

You already know what I think of the MS-1 Mermaid. Heck, you may remember my opinion of Hidizs’s AP100 DAP- and subsequently may understand why I don’t recommend pitting them together. If you can’t put two and two together, it is because the AP100 hisses way more than the MS-1 likes. Seriously, it basically blows it up. Incidentally, hiss is the main reason I don’t plug recent Hidizs earphones into my favourite Minidisc players and recorders, not to mention a number of DAPs out there.

Honestly, it is almost as sensitive as Shure’s SE846. You’ll just about hear trace shhhh shhhh sounds from every source, no matter its price. I say just about because a few choice modern devices are basically free of hiss. Hidizs say the MS-1’s sensitivity is just 112dB, but if the spec sheet read 130dB I’d not be surprised. Anyway, if you own or want to own an MS-1 Rainbow, you’ll have to get used to hiss.

If you hate hiss, allow me to suggest the following sources: NextDrive Spectra X, iPhone SE, Astell & Kern AK380, Onkyo DP-S1, Cowon Plenue D2, Sharp MD-DR7.

Haptics and build: ohmage and porridge

Against the Mermaid version, Rainbow is practically weightless. It’s got solid heat shrink sleeve around its cable, which, totally tosses Rainbow around. Heck, it tosses around heavier earphones. Want to set it on a table for photos? You’ll need tape. Want to hold it between two fingers? Get some glue. If Rainbow were physically smaller and the same weight, it wouldn’t be so unwieldy. But, gosh, even if all you have are post-puberty metrosexual man fingers, you will have a hard time gripping Rainbow without it flying out of your grip. If you’re a woman, or a kid, you’re probably good.

Rainbow’s resin shell doesn’t really scratch. Or, if it does, it doesn’t show. Sombre and sexy as it is, the MS-1 Mermaid is a little too serious. That said, now that its shell is clear and lets me see inside, I wish Rainbow were much smaller. I also wish it sported anything but the tired custom-cum-universal shape. What have I mind you ask? Something like a biggened-up Audio Technica CK10, or a Tin Hifi T4. Either one would be perfect.

Rainbow’s large body makes it easy to attach and detach cables and ear pieces. On the flip side, it is hard to stuff it into small ears. My wife managed, but not comfortably. And me? Well, it goes in, but, for me, comfort is down to tips.

The 2-pin jack wears a protective sleeve about 1mm thick. It is matte and not easily scratched. It also diverts contact-borne wear effects away from the body as well as makes it easier to locate the port in the dark.

Like Mermaid, Rainbow is impeccably fastened and finished. You’ll find neither glue nor gum anywhere on its body. It is finely tooled and finished, and its grill is sexy. The one fly in the ointment is that its logo sits bare atop the resin, and in time, is bound to rub away.

The cable is solid, and protected from tip to tip in substantial sleeving. The maw in the up end of its y-split allows the cables a bit of play. As to the mic in its slim-ish remote, it sounds okay, and houses controls for volume up/down if you have the right phone.

Accessories: ohmage and porridge

Rainbow’s box is thick and deep, and white inside and out. Inside it is a smaller box, within which you’ll find the cable, and ear pieces. Above that, in tailor-made niches, is MS-1 Rainbow, in a colour of your choice. Under all of that are a manual, discount card, and Hidizs business card. The ear pieces are divided into two nose styles: tapered and flattened. Both are pretty resistive, and isolate well. For my ears, neither is comfortable. Whilst reviewing I used the flattened ones, but when I’m out to enjoy music, I use anyone else’s foamies.

The draw bag is simpler, cheaper, and probably better equipped for the daily grind than the awkward boxes that came with Mermaid editions. Overall, I like what Hidizs have done with Rainbow, but I really wish it had some softer ear pieces.

Kitsch: ohmage

Rainbow looks great. And, despite its sparkles, it is less kitschy than the MS-1 and MS-4 that preceded it. It sports colour where it should, dekes out strange gilded designs, and even manages to keep a playful feel with its solid, silver-coated cable. It is also the cutest design Hidizs have yet put forth.

Sound: ohmage and porridge

Sound-wise, the essential MS-1 remains unchanged. It retains crisp, sparkly highs, lean bass, and forward mids. The lot renders close to completely neutral at the ear, with no discernible rise in the lows, and only a small rise in the upper midrange.

I find that the included ear tips accentuate the upper mids and highs, which after-market sponge flanges soften. Either way, there is a small amount of environmental reverb going on, which I loved in the original MS-1 and love still in Rainbow.

That said, Rainbow has just a bit too much high-end sparkle for live dance hall recordings, at least for me. The reverb helps add context and describe the environment, but it may also accentuate how piercing the highs become. If you really love energetic presentations, by all means, consider the MS-1 Rainbow. Heck, much of the signature that makes the Audio Technica CK10 great (and also a pain) also describes Rainbow.

In the last three years or so, I have come to prefer earphones with a high-range warming/softening gradual low pass filter. Here I much prefer the MS-4 to both MS-1 models. The thing is, the sense of speed, and mid/high-range instrument delineation you get from the MS-1 is incredible. Spatial cues are right on from the midrange on up, and even in its mild bass, the MS-1 pushes a good sense of stereo detail, if not texture.

That said, in a volumetric sense, Rainbow delivers a mild rather than wild soundstage. Stereo cues fall just a bit wider than the shoulders and don’t rise much above the crown of the head. The Z-axis is more impressive, detailing a decent 3D space out to the elbows. Tin HiFi’s T4 goes wider and farther forward than Rainbow. It also does so with the perfect amount of high-end roll off. There is some similarity between Rainbow and Sony’s EX1000, but the Sony’s softer high range edges are easier to listen to over a long period of time. It also casts a much larger stereo stage along any axis.

While Rainbow: large, cool-looking, and sparkly, is basically the physical opposite of the Darth Vader EX1000, it sounds like an adolescent (read squeakier voiced) version of it. Coming from a man that loves the EX1000 to bits, that is high praise.

Another cool thing about MS1-Rainbow is that its four-pole cable somehow transfers audio signal to the earphones despite being wired for mic and volume controls. What does this mean? Well, for smartphones and DAPs, nothing. But for Sharp Auvi MD players? It means finally, stereo sound from a stock third-party earphone. Usually, Auvi units top out at around 20dB when driving aftermarket earphones. Well, the MS1’s cable doubles that, whilst retaining a good degree of crossfeed. Of course, plug MS1 into an Aiwa or Sony? No stereo at all. Totally monaural. Cool bit of trivia though.

End words

Rainbow looks better than Mermaid, and is funner to use. Its packaging, carrying bag, and more, are up to date, and stylish. But unless you have tiny fingers, it isn’t as easy to handle. I really like the direction Hidisz are heading, and can’t wait to see a Rainbow version of the MS-4. But more than that, I hope they will consider ditching the custom-cum-universal design.

ohmage: 4
porridge: 3

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