Compared to a high-end source based on similar componentry, transients aren’t quite as defined, and its imaging isn’t so immersive. But the S9 Pro Plus is one of the best hyper-portable sources/dongles I’ve tested when taken as a whole. Surely, the power output is coming into play as well as the S9 Pro Plus does have quite a robust low-end and can keep up with even my least efficient IEMs and many headphones.
I still found the single-ended output to provide a highly impressive sound. However, balance does improve the listening experience further. Staging was the biggest difference to me, you get a noticeably wider and airier stage with greater separation. The background was more resolved and stretched further, creating a more multi-dimensional sound. I would recommend using the balanced output on this dongle if possible, if not, you are still receiving a very accomplished source.
In turn, it discerns textures well, and instruments are portrayed with a realistic timbre. This is a nicely layered source too, with great contrast between its background and foreground crafting an impressively wide image.
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