The MS5 Dark Angel are tunable hybrid IEMs with a solid build, premium accessories, and decent technical chops.
The MS5 are a pair of mid-range hybrid IEMs containing Sonion balanced armature drivers. Competition in this segment is downright tough, with brands such as Moondrop and Tanchjim capturing the hearts, ears, and wallets of audiophiles.
- Solid build
- Decent technicalities (except soundstage)
- Tuning nozzles provide subtle changes in flavor
- Quite coherent for a multi-driver hybrid
- Easy to drive
- Above average isolation
- Comfort is hit or miss due to larger shells and heavy cables
- May hiss with sources with poor noise floor control; fastidious with source pairing due to low 5.3Ω impedance
- Average soundstage
- Can be sibilant and bright
- BA timbre
Let’s find out if the MS5 can muscle in on a piece of this coveted Mid-FI pie. Are the Dark Angel a dark horse in this race?
Hidizs was conceived in 2012, and they have churned out a gamut of audio products, ranging from IEMs to sources to wireless devices.
Some notable IEMs include the MD4, Seeds, Mermaid MS4, MS2, MS1 Rainbow, and MM2. The stable of sources includes DAPs such as the AP80 Pro-X and AP80 Pro and dongles such as the S9 Pro, S3 Pro, and S8. The wireless line-up consists of the H2 LDAC, BT01 APT-X 4.1, and H1.
- Form: IEMs
- Drivers: 10mm liquid silicone dynamic driver + 4 Sonion balanced armature drivers
- Impedance (Ohm): 5.3Ω
- Sensitivity (dB): 104dB
- Frequency Response (Hz): 20Hz – 40kHz
- Removable Cable: Y
- Cable: Mixed 8-strand 6N single crystal copper silver-plated and 6N single crystal copper wire
- Source Plug: 3.5mm
- Cup/Shell Plug: 0.78mm 2-pin
In the box
- Hidizs MS5 IEMs
- 3 pairs of bass silicone ear tips
- 3 pairs of vocal silicone ear tips
- 3 pairs of balanced silicone ear tips
- 3 tuning nozzles
Besides a lack of foam tips, a cleaning brush, and perhaps a modular cable, the accessory spread is pretty substantial for the MS5’s sub-USD $400 retail price.
The vocal tips increase the higher frequencies and expand the soundstage, though they can introduce sibilance. The bass tips boost bass as per their namesake, though at the expense of a compressed soundstage. The balanced tips are a midpoint between the above two tips in sonics.
A mixed 8-strand 6N single-crystal copper silver-plated and 6N single-crystal copper wire is included. It is sheathed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) insulation, and the cable is thick, well-braided, and tangle-free, with minimal microphonics. There’s an added chin cinch to impart stability.
Unlike other Mid-FI releases, this cable is not modular and is only suitable for 3.5mm (single-ended) sources. There’s “R” and “L” lettering on the respective sides for terminal orientation. In keeping with the Dark Angel moniker, Hidizs has added a plastic fixture at both cable terminals in the form of an angel wing motif.
A waterproof white leatherette semi-rigid zipper case is included.
Hidizs advertises that the case is reinforced with iron sheeting on all sides, which should withstand compressive forces. The innards are lined by soft flannel, in addition to webbing, to protect the contents.
The shells are fashioned from computer numerical control (CNC) machining anodized aluminum alloy. Each earpiece is coated with aluminum oxide to increase stiffness; this material also smoothens the housings, adds an anti-smudge component, and lowers distorting resonances.
The inner aspect of the shells are lined with dermatologically-friendly resin, with a rose gold border completing the design.
I’m pleased the shells have 2-pin connectors, as MMCX ones may loosen with frequent cable changes.
Comfort is a mixed bag.
Even though there are no awkward edges on the housings and the faceplate cavities reduce weight – indeed, weighing in at 13.6g apiece, the earpieces are light – they are on the larger side.
Unfortunately, the cable is not ergonomic or comfortable.
This is due to a double whammy of hefty weight plus the angel wing plastic attachment forcing the cable to bend the ear hooks at a weird angle.
Indeed, this cable is the heaviest I’ve come across in my audio journey, and the cumbersome weight and unwieldy ear hook curvature contribute to discomfort and a tendency for the IEMs to drop out of the ears.
When putting the MS5 through their paces, I found the need to readjust them frequently.
A 10mm liquid silicone DD powers the bass frequencies. Interestingly, this driver has a 0.03mm Kevlar body encapsulated by 0.45mm of liquid silicone. According to Hidizs, the Kevlar material provides superb elasticity and transients and has anti-vibration and anti-distortion properties.
Attention to the inner soldering is also given due respect, with Hidizs utilizing gold tin wire. Gold is stable with anti-oxidative properties, which the company says will increase longevity and signal propagation.
A selling point of the MS5 is the three tuning nozzles on offer, which Hidizs markets as the Hidizs Pneumatic Sound Tuning Filter design. These nozzles have differing damping cotton and acoustic tube structures to give variations in the sound profile – we will discuss this in further detail below.
Hidizs MS5 Sound
The MS5 are extremely easy to drive. They scale slightly with amplification, with added dynamics and soundstage.
The MS5 may hiss with sources with a poor noise floor. Also, due to their low 5.3Ω impedance, the MS5 may be skewed in frequency response if they are paired with a source with a higher output impedance.
The MS5 are best paired with sources with lower output impedance.
Across all tuning configurations, the MS5 have a U-shaped profile. As per the graphs, the nozzles are not outright gimmicks – unlike some other “tunable” IEMs – but the differences are rather subtle and primarily affect frequencies above 5kHz.
The self-explanatory treble (silver) nozzles sprinkle angel dust by boosting the treble, adding resolution and a larger soundstage. Bass is the tightest and cleanest on this configuration, but cymbals and high hats are, unfortunately, splashy with sibilance in spades.
The treble nozzles give the best technical performance, though at the expense of fatigue. Treble-sensitive angels may fear to tread here.
The bass (red) nozzles bestow more bass by reducing treble; as the ears take in the entire frequency spectrum – decreases in the treble region will make the bass more prominent. However, the bass is just north of neutral even with this set-up, and these nozzles do not convert the MS5 to a basshead pair.
The bass nozzles make the signature darker with deeper extension, though the bass becomes slower and is noticeably less textured. Stage and resolution are also compromised, with the bass nozzles giving the least sonic fidelity.
The balanced (gold) nozzles lie between the above two in sonics, though they are closer to the bass nozzles in signature and are just a tinge cleaner and less emphasized in the bass. These are my favorite of the three.
Bass quantity is just north of neutral and focuses mainly on the mid-bass, with sub-bass roll-off.
Bass speed is moderately fast with above-average texturing; there’s just a pinch of mid-bass bleed.
For a hybrid, the MS5 have decent coherency, with the DD bass managing to keep up with the faster Sonion drivers.
The MS5 are neutral at the lower mids, with little mid-bass bleed creeping into this area. The upper mids are subdued, with a mere 5dB pinna gain, so vocals are smooth and far from shouty.
However, some might find the vocals pushed too far back in the mix, so this may be a love-it or hate-it tuning choice. The midrange is generally transparent, with instrument layering showcased well.
The 5 – 8kHz region is augmented on the MS5, especially with the treble nozzles. Even with the other two nozzles in place, this region is still a bit tizzy, and high hats and cymbals sound splashy, with sibilance noted. The upper treble has moderate air and sparkle.
Sadly, BA timbre can be heard, and acoustic instruments do not sound as organic as pure DD transducers with nasal vocals.
The MS5 have competent imaging and layering. Although the soundstage is bang average in all three dimensions, the tight imaging makes up for this, allowing instruments to be defined in the headspace. Instrument separation and micro-detailing are also reasonably well done.
We will compare the MS5 against other MidFI tribrids and hybrids. Planars, single DDs, and pure BA IEMs are omitted, as the different transducer types have their own pros and cons.
Vs. Moondrop Variations
The Variations are a mid-FI benchmark tuned to the Harman curve. The Variations have a more prominent sub-bass, with a more pronounced upper midrange, though with darker treble.
The Variations are shoutier due to this upper midrange peak; however, they are less fatiguing if one is sensitive to sibilance and treble. The Variations are thinner in the lower midrange, with a more anemic note weight.
The Variations are a league ahead in technicalities, conferring superior imaging, soundstage, micro-detailing, and instrument separation, though this should be expected due to their higher price. The Variations come with a modular cable, though they are harder to drive.
Vs. Sony XBA-N3
The N3 are a bullet-shaped bassy pair of IEMs with huge mid-bass and a darker but smoother treble.
The N3 are better in soundstage, but the rest of the technical chops – imaging, micro-details, instrument separation, edge definition, and clarity – go to the MS5. The N3 have a thicker note weight and a more natural timbre.
Vs. LZ A7
The LZ A7 are versatile animals, sporting ten unique sonic profiles via tuning nozzles AND switches on each earpiece.
The A7 have a slightly bigger soundstage but lose to the MS5 in other technical aspects – micro-detailing, edge definition, imaging, and instrument separation.
Where to Buy
The MS5 are respectable entrants to the highly competitive Mid-FI hybrid table. They have a robust build, suitable accessories spread, acceptable technicalities (especially in imaging), and three tuning nozzles to slightly zest the signature.
Coherency is also surprisingly competent, though I would prefer the tuning nozzles to give more contrast to their sound.
Some areas for improvement include comfort – the large shells and weighty cables aren’t exactly the most functional – and treble-sensitive folk might find the 5 – 8kHz bands harsh, especially with the treble nozzles.
BA timbre, an average soundstage, and finicky synergy with sources are also relevant critiques. Regardless, the MS5 do more things right than wrong, and the Dark Angel are an empyrean way point in Hidizs’ development story to reach celestial heights.