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Xiaomi Hybrid In Ear Pro Piston 4

Xiaomi Hybrid Earphones (Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro / Xiaomi Piston 4) Review

Xiaomi Hybrid In Ear Pro Piston 4
Brief: Xiaomi’s 4th-generation in-ear, now featuring a hybrid dual-driver setup

[amazon asin=B018AMDCLI&template=add to cart]

MSRP: $25.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $18 from GearBest.com$25 from Amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic+BA Hybrid | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: 101 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.1′ I-plug w/3-button Android remote + mic
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges­­
Wear Style: Straight down

Accessories (1.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The Xiaomi Hybrid is similar in design to the preceding Piston 3 model and features a familiar plastic-and-metal construction. Cables are also similar – rubbery above the y-split and sheathed in nylon below it to provide some resistance to tangling. The 3-button Android remote carries over from the Piston 3 but the buttons have been redesigned and are now easier to use without looking
Isolation (2.5/5) – Isolation is average thanks to the shallow fit of the earphones
Microphonics (3/5) – Noticeable, but not too bothersome when music is playing; slightly worse than with the Piston 3
Comfort (4/5) – The angled-nozzle fit of the Hybrid will again be familiar to Piston 3 owners, but the newer model uses larger housings that are not as flush in the ear when worn – likely a necessity to accommodate the additional driver. The off-center strain reliefs are a nice touch and the fit is very good overall, but not as compact and unobtrusive as that of the Piston 3

Sound (8.0/10) – The Xiaomi Hybrid utilizes a dual-driver system with a dynamic driver for the bass and a balanced armature for the mids and highs – pretty much the norm for this type of hybrid setup. What’s much more unusual is the fact that you can buy a hybrid IEM for $25 in the first place – in a way, this puts the Xiaomi Hybrid in a class of its own since comparisons with other hybrid IEMs seem unfair due to the price disparity.

As we know, however, a particular driver type or setup in no way guarantees a specific sound tuning or performance level. We know this because there are top-tier earphones with single dynamic drivers and pricy multi-driver IEMs that offer much poorer audio quality. In the case of the Xiaomi Hybrid, performance is mid-tier and the sound tuning follows a fairly capable “V-shaped” sound signature with both the bass and treble having more emphasis than the midrange.

The 4th-gen Xiaomi IEM boasts very impressive bass slam and impact, especially considering the amount of clarity it retains. The bass is neither the most powerful nor the tightest, even among reasonably-priced in-ears, but is very difficult to fault for the price – strong enough to satisfy all but the most bass-obsessed listeners and provide the earphones with a nice and full-bodied overall sound.

The mids are mildly recessed and somewhat thin-sounding, though better in this regard than the preceding Piston 3 model thanks to the Hybrid’s richer bass and warmer tone. Midrange clarity, however, is not great when compared to the Piston 3 and many other mid- and high-tier earphones. It is not even up to par with the tremendously wallet-friendly Philips SHE3590, which is more balanced but not as impactful or full-bodied as the Xiaomi. In contrast, the Hybrid is more balanced than the severely V-shaped Popclik String, but still only about equal to the String when it comes to clarity.

Next to the relatively lean midrange delivered by its BA driver, the mildly boomy bass of the Hybrid is a bit out of place, creating a slightly disjointed feeling. This lack of coherency was common with early hybrid earphones and was even noticeable with the iconic ($1300) AKG K3003, the first mainstream triple-driver hybrid earphone released back in 2012. As such, it is hardly a complaint when we’re getting a hybrid IEM for under $30, but noteworthy nonetheless.

The treble of the Xiaomi Hybrid is middle of the road for a v-shaped earphone. It is not dark or recessed, nor is it harsh or sibilant, but it’s also not as energetic and crisp-sounding as I would expect from a balanced armature tweeter. As a result, while its highs are smooth for a v-shaped set – significantly more so compared to, say, the Popclik String – it can also sound a little dull and muddy overall compared to higher-end models. The soundstage of the Hybrid is good, however, and noticeably more spacious compared to the aforementioned Philips and Popclik units, as well as most other entry-level IEMs. The presentation is a little laid-back, but capable all around with no major shortcomings – an excellent showing for an entry-level earphone.

Select Comparisons

Below are several head-to-head comparisons between the Xiaomi Hybrid Earphones and other sets that either compete in a similar price bracket or offer somewhat analogous sound tuning, provided as additional context for the earphones’ performance.

Xiaomi Hybrid vs Xiaomi Piston 3 ($15)

The most noticeable difference in sound between the Piston 3 and the newer Xiaomi Hybrid is that the Hybrid delivers slightly deeper but noticeably boomier bass, and generally sounds more heavy and powerful at the low end. The Piston 3 presents tighter, more resolving bass at the cost of some sub-bass presence and slam – not surprising, as bass depth never was one of its strong suits. As a result of its tighter bass, the Piston 3 sounds significantly cleaner than the Hybrid on bass-heavy tracks. When there’s not much bass present, however, the Hybrid appears less mid-recessed and delivers impressive clarity and detailing. Overall, the Piston 3 is slightly more v-shaped and a little less full-bodied, and tends towards a brighter tone thanks to its lower bass quantity.

On a functional note, the Hybrid model tends to be a little more microphonic than the previous Pistons, but is also a little more efficient, reaching higher volumes quite easily with any device.

As Xiaomi’s venerable IEM line continues to evolve, I once again find myself wishing that the older variants weren’t phased out with every update. I realize that Xiaomi is trying to keep their accessory lineup straightforward, but the Hybrid and Piston 3 are certainly different enough to coexist in the budget audiophile IEM space – the Hybrid as a more bass-heavy and consumer-friendly option and the Piston 3 as the more hi-res and refined choice for critical listeners.

Xiaomi Hybrid  vs VSonic VSD1S ($35)

The most budget-friendly of the current-gen VSonic models, the VSD1S nonetheless faithfully follows the VSonic house sound with a crisp, clear, and punchy, slightly v-shaped sound. Compared to the Piston Hybrid, the VSD1S sounds more balanced, with mids that are more prominent and less veiled. The VSonic unit is significantly clearer and more detailed in the midrange while the Hybrid is somewhat veiled in comparison. It is warmer and smoother than the VSonic, but the clarity tradeoff is difficult to swallow nonetheless.

The bass of the VSD1S is tighter and has more immediate punch, whereas the bass of the Hybrid is more powerful and can be intrusive at times. The treble of the VSD1S is also a little crisper. Both earphones have above-average soundstage width but the VSD1S is a little more convincing thanks to its brighter, airier sound. With my affinity for flatter sound signatures, I found the VSD1S preferable, largely for its mids, but I wouldn’t recommend it over the Xiaomi Hybrid for those who value enhanced bass or are sensitive to treble harshness/sibilance.

Xiaomi Hybrid  vs Philips TX2 ($40)

Philips’ TX2 model is in the same ballpark as the Xiaomi Hybrid not only in price, but also in form factor – it is a shallow-fit, earbud-style IEM, albeit one with a much more plasticky construction. The sound is an even greater contrast despite these earphones both offering a v-shaped tuning.

The TX2 and Xiaomi Hybrid offer two very different takes on a v-shaped sound signature. The TX2 is bright, clear, and thin-sounding. It is much more aggressive when it comes to detailing and suffers from more “splashy” treble, resulting in occasional harshness. It has tighter bass, albeit a lot less of it, and a larger, more spacious soundstage

The Xiaomi Hybrid is warmer, bassier, and more full-bodied by a sizeable margin. It is smoother and less fatiguing, too. However, its bass can be pretty messy in comparison to the more linear and controlled low end of the TX2, and its midrange gets quite muffled in comparison. Overall, the TX2 is a clear winner when it comes to clarity and soundstaging, while the Hybrid is significantly smoother, warmer, and bassier.

Xiaomi Hybrid  vs 1MORE Triple Driver ($100)

These earphones, released last year by two previously-related Chinese companies, have both broken pricing conventions in their respective markets – the Xiaomi Hybrid with the first (mainstream) sub-$30 dual-driver hybrid and the 1MORE with the first triple-driver hybrid under $100. The two earphones have further similarities in fit, functionality, and even color scheme. However, the pricier 1MORE unit boasts a more elegant design and significantly more refined sound.

In terms of sound tuning and tonality, the 1MORE Triple falls right in the sweet spot between the warmer, bassier Xiaomi Hybrid and the brighter, thinner Philips TX2, but with better performance than both. Compared to the Xiaomi Hybrid, its tuning is more balanced, accurate, and neutral, with a “shallower” v-shape to its frequency response. It is much more refined and natural as a result, and boasts better clarity and resolution for a significantly more Hi-Fi audio experience.

The Xiaomi, on the other hand, is bassier, warmer, and darker. While its low end offers a little more impact, bass control (quality) lags way behind the 1MORE unit. The Xiaomi Hybrid’s bass lacks detail and can be intrusive, its sound signature is more v-shaped, and its midrange is less prominent and clear. Vocals are less intelligible, and while it can be a hair smoother overall, I wouldn’t say it has any real advantages over the 1MORE except for its price and its appeal to those who prefer a warmer, bassier sound to more neutral tuning.

Value (9/10) – In-ears have been improving steadily in performance at every price level, with Xiaomi’s own venerable Piston line leading the charge in recent years. Being the first budget IEM to offer a hybrid dual-driver setup automatically nets the 4th-gen Xiaomi several nods when it comes to value. However, while each of Xiaomi’s previous Piston revisions brought a sizable leap forward in either sound quality or ergonomics, this 4th-gen model does neither. Don’t get me wrong – for the price, the sound quality of the Xiaomi Hybrid is excellent, the design is solid, and the 3-button Android remote is very welcome – it’s just not head and shoulders above the competition as the previous Xiaomi IEMs often were.

Pros: Fantastic sound quality for the price; 3-button Android remote
Cons: Mediocre noise isolation

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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93 Responses

  1. I don’t really have any new earphones in that price range and the ones I do have aren’t very impressive in terms of soundstage. Most manufacturers probably try to make their sub-$30 earphones appeal to the widest possible audience, which means (at best) decent bandwidth and strong bass.

  2. Hi can you refer to me an Earphone which has widest soundstage and best clarity in the 10-15 dollars price range? Bass is not important, only soundstage and clarity (10-15)

  3. You should definitely try 🙂 I look forward to reading your Xiaomi Hybrid Pro HD review. Thanks for the all reviews, you are awesome!

  4. Have You try kz zst? Which one i should buy between the two? Or are there any recommendation in this budget range?

  5. HaveYou try kz zst? Which one i should buy between the two? Or are there any recommendation in this budget range?

  6. Grace You try kz zst? Which one i should buy between the two? Or are there any recommendation in this budget range?

  7. Hi ljokerl,
    Xiaomi released Hybrid PRO HD. Have you tried them? Are they any better then regular model Hybrid PRO?

    Thank you!

  8. I’ve tried the 1MORE and if you’re okay with boosted bass I’d choose the Xiaomi Hybrid. The 1MORE sounds more like a budget earphone. They are both inexpensive, of course, but I think you’re getting more for your money with the Piston.

  9. Hi.. i really need your help..
    I am stucked between xiaomi piston 4 and 1More Single Driver 1M301(that black and red colours) , which one is better?… I know dual driver is offcourse different with single driver, but only in words as im not an expert, which one will you choose, the price is not too far different…
    The seller says 1more SINGLE DRIVER is a newer release products, and quality is quite the same with piston 4… Is is true?..
    Please help me… I can’t decide..

  10. Ok understandable 🙂 so in case i wanted under 30 usd bass iem’s are hybrid the choice or should I look for something else please?

  11. Sorry, I don’t do earbuds (non in-ear earphones) like the Xiaomi Pod. My ears just don’t get along with them.

  12. For me, VSD1S, but I prefer a slightly v-shaped sound to a slightly mid-centric one (which is what this comparison comes down to).

    Objectively, they both fall a little short of neutral/natural – the VSD1S tends to be a touch sibilant while the M1 is the opposite – it tends to be a little “dull” and rolled-off. There will be some listeners who find the M1 more natural and others who favor the VSD1S, but for me in this price range the VSD1S is really hard to beat when it comes to the basics of good sound.

  13. Hi, Having read your opinion on Pistons compared to VSD1S, I am wondering what would be your choice, VSD1S or Brainwavz M1?

    I am Just looking for the best SQ under 30€, as neutral and natural sound as posible, if that is achievable at this price range. I am open to other suggestions. 😉

    Thanks

  14. Lots of IEMs will give you less bass, better mids, and better clarity – Ostry KC06, VSonic VSD3, Havi B3 PRO I, etc, but all of them will also sound more bright and thin than the Piston 4 so you’ll have to compromise to a degree. Under $50 only the Sony MH1C is better than the Hybrids in terms of vocals and clarity without being any brighter or thinner, but those are compromised in other ways.

  15. If you have no set preferences and listen to EDM, I always recommend the EPH-100. Fantastic sound signature for all types of EDM, and a good all-rounder in general.

  16. Good review! However if we close vent hole on the earphone metal body we will get exactly what was missing, less boomy bass, but clearer and defined mids and highs.

  17. Hi Ljokerl, what would you recommend that’s similar to the Hybrids full-bodied and vocal forward sounding signature, however with less bass, better mids and clarity. An overall improved iem around 50$.
    I stay clear of airy, bright and thin sounding signatures. Thanks.

  18. Also, can you please compare Macaw RT-10 by overall sound quality? can it be compared to RE-00 at all? Thanks a lot in advance!

  19. Dear ljokerl,

    As you already know I value your opinion a lot, so I’m thankful in advance for your reply!

    I need an advice on HiFiMan RE-00 (Massdrop version), because some people are saying it has no bass at all or terrible build quality, other people are saying its balanced and durable.

    Currently it’s sold on massdrop for 35$ and I think these headphones have much bigger value for this money.

    The thing is that I actually like it when the sound goes really low in earphones and I enjoyed the bass in Piston 2, so if it has “no bass at all” then I would rather not buy it even if it has extremely good soundstage.

    So, would you agree and say that Re-00 has “No bass at all” or rather “it has balanced sound” considering that I’m not gonna use any amplifiers with it.

    Also, what do you think on its durability? 35$ is not much but still not “cheap” too, if it breaks in a month..

    Thank you in advance!

    Regards,

    Giorgi

  20. I’m really in a weird area, no clue what I want. I listen to EDM comprised of deep house, electronic and nightcore. Madeon is a good artist that represents my taste. Also Hip-Hop, Logic would be a great example.

    I’m stuck between these choices:

    1More Triple Driver
    RHA MA750
    Yamaha EPH100
    Final F3100
    Beats Tours 2.0

    Any insight would be sweet.

  21. 1MORE Triple definitely, especially if you can get one for $70-80 like the prices I’ve been seeing lately.

    DN-1000 is a little tougher as it has a more pronounced “balanced armature” sound in the midrange and treble. I don’t think it’s a direct Piston 4 upgrade unless you find the Piston overly warm/dull and wish for a brighter, more energetic sound on top of the usual stuff like better bass quality, better clarity, etc. Then the DN-1000 would be a great choice.

  22. Thanks for this review!

    I have these Xiaomis, they are my daily driverearphones and I’m pretty happy with them. But I’m tempted to upgrade…

    Would it be worth the upgrade to get the 1More Triple Drivers? How about the DN-1000s?

  23. S2 is very different from TX1, it’s more balanced and neutral. Doesn’t have the same crispness or “wow” factor of the more v-shaped TX-series earphones, but it’s the more accurate earphone by a margin. Ultimately, it depends on your criteria whether it’s better or not. I’d rather listen to the S2.

    Likewise, EPH-100 and P1 don’t have too much in common. EPH-100 is warm, has fantastic bass depth and very good impact. Treble is smooth. P1 is more balanced, the overall signature is a mild v-shape. Has a lot less bass boost and much less deep bass than EPH-100. The upper mids and treble have some unusual tuning that seems like it should be harsh but isn’t. Reminds me of the Sennheiser IE800 with its D2CA system, but a little less tizzy. Still, compared to EPH-100 it’s not as smooth.

  24. For what it’s worth Amazon is not the best place to pick up Xiaomi IEMs since there are so many sellers that things like whether the item is genuine can be very difficult to determine. I think products like this are better purchased from single-seller sites where others have received the genuine item, like GearBest.com.

    You’re less likely to run across fakes with other brands because the incentive to knockoff inexpensive products is very low for brands that don’t move tens of thousands of units like Xiaomi does.

  25. 1MORE hybrid is quite a bit more neutral than the DN-1000 – if you like the significant bass enhancement and overall “v-shaped” signature of the DN-1000, the 1MORE won’t be a great replacement as it’s a much milder version of that sound tuning.

  26. Many hybrids exhibit a v-shape – the way most manufacturers “take advantage” of the hybrid driver system is by allowing the armature(s) to have a neutral to slightly bright sound, and then crank up the bass using the dynamic driver. Most higher-end hybrid sets do this better than the $25 Xiaomis though. The ~$160 DUNU DN-1000, for example, does the v-shape signature very well using its hybrid setup.

  27. I say Philips X2/X1 is amazing value , better than my piston 3 and the bass hits hard while emain clear sound.
    slightly V shaped , the dynamic is pretty good . IMHO Philips is one of the best value HP and IEM .

  28. I don’t own the Pistons 2 or 3, but I understand they have a V-shape; expect more mids if you get the DF-10. DZAT DF-10 are “accurate” or “straight”, across the frequencies. Their midrange is boosted and the highs are on the borderline of being sibilant. It makes the soundstage good, too. Maybe that will tone down after some brain-in.

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