I happened to stumble upon another audiophile product which was slowly creeping in HeadFi. Little is to be known about Hill Audio except that they are based in Malaysia and supports multiple audiophile products. What we have now however is their very own product, the Hill Audio S8. It is being offered in only 1 color, glossy black. There is however 2 package offerings, a Super Saver pack ($55) and an Audio Pro pack ($65) which is a promotional price until the end of 2018. Let me just brief you that the accessory set offered with the S8 are overwhelming. The Hill Audio S8 is 3-driver hybrid configured with a 10mm custom tuned grapheme dynamic driver and custom tuned dual BA drivers by AMT. It has a Frequency Response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 16 Ohm Impedance, 100 +/- 1 dB Sensitivity and utilizes the MMCX interface. Thanks to Hill Audio for providing the sample unit in exchange for an honest review. Those who aren’t based in Malaysia can easily reach out to Hill Audio via their Facebook page, Hill Audio, WhatsApp (+601136329018) and via Hill Audio’s email (firstname.lastname@example.org). They respond fast and communication was easy. International purchases would be done via Paypal with free shipping and a 1-year limited warranty. The Hill Audio S8 lacks the marketing hype most $55 to $65 Hybrid + Filter IEMs have so will this carve a niche by itself against more popular options? I’m here to find it out.
Packaging and Build Quality
Just like their marketing presence, the Hill Audio S8 packaging throws away anything associated with anything fancy. It came to me encased in bubble wrap and immediately the black zipper case. The Super Saver pack includes the handy black zipper case, 3 pairs of acoustic tuning filter for 3 different signature profiles, blue for reference sound, silver for bass boost and black for treble boost sound along with a standard SPC cable with gold-plated 3.5mm straight plug and a multitude of ear tips; 1 pair of blue-nozzle translucent silicon ear tips (sized M), 2 pairs of black-nozzle transparent silicon ear tips (size L and M), 2 pairs of translucent silicon ear tips (sized M and L), 3 pairs of black silicon ear tips (S, M, L), 2 pairs of black foam ear tips (sized L and M). The same goes for the Audio Pro pack except that this time around the included cable would be an 8-core braided SPC cable with more robust carbon-fiber gold-plated 3.5mm straight plugs.
The Hill Audio S8 has a bean-like silhouette and a CNC-machined aluminum body which conforms to the ear canal shape well. There are 3 small round vents near the MMCX interface along with the L-R markings. The nozzle supports the 3 acoustic filters openly which when filters are removed directly shows a single BA and no tubes whatsoever to suggest where the other BA driver is as well as the dynamic driver. The S8 sits comfortably well and takes around 4-5 hours where I start to feel some discomfort in my ear. The Super Saver pack cable has minor microphonics and compliments the small form factor of the S8 rather well since it is fairly thin and the round braid is encased in a transparent plastic sleeve. I have tried multiple ear tips for the S8 and have chosen to use the stock M-sized black-nozzle transparent silicon ear tips and have used the Opus 1, Xduoo X3ii, Sony CAS-1 and MSI GF62 8RE laptop for the duration of the realview.
The Hill Audio S8 has a varied tonality which depends on the acoustic filter used and after doing a full rotation of the 3 different acoustic filters, I have decided to use the blue filter (reference sound) for the duration of the realview while also stating the key differences when using the silver filter (bass boost) and the black filter (treble boost). The blue filter S8 sounds mellow and soft across all the frequencies rendering a good tonal balance, the lows doesn’t overpower and cloud the midrange while the midrange blends well with the lower and the upper frequencies, the highs had no noticeable peaks as well. I have had this S8 fully burned-in at more than 100hours as well.
Pulling out Sheryl Crow’s Halfway There in 16/44 Flac shows that the sub bass hit and depth doesn’t give that much power resulting in being unable to create a great drop in the sub bass that some would definitely enjoy, the sub bass is enough yet we would need to get lower frequency oriented track almost consecutively to feel the S8 being able to deliver. The bass performance however creates a good thumpy feel is able to give a good harmonic warm effect.
The midrange aspect of the S8 is for me personally its best attribute; the vocal timber is easily recognizable between various artists as well as occasional changes in a sole individuals track. Shania Twain’s That Don’t Impress Me much in 16/44 Flac sounded lush and articulate with a sense of subtle air resulting to a very engaging feel. Male vocals was tested with a 16/44 Flac Out of the Blue by Michael Learns to Rock showcased a clear and authoritative that plateaus on a smooth upper midrange execution, the subtle air is still present giving out an engaging feel as well. I would advise against listening to the S8 on a dark silent room, the vocal presence is so lifelike it is scary. No exaggerations.
Hill Audio S8’s upper frequency scores are average at best. I decided to roll with Limp Bizkit’s Show Me What you got in 16/44 Flac and right off the bat the ride cymbal hits were crisp and clear although lacks a much-needed bite, it is however relatively easy to the ears which is audible enough and doesn’t need for one to turn up the volume to notice such presence. The rather soft sound of the S8 on the upper frequencies meshes well with the lower and midrange sound giving it a smooth and delicate sound.
Soundstage and Imaging
Soundstage and Imaging on the Hill Audio S8 is well-defined. Left to right sound localization pans out well and instrumental hits are distinct. It doesn’t sound too intimate nor is it too wide. There is great retrieval as well.
Silver Acoustic Filter SQ changes
The silver bass boost acoustic filter of the S8 has a thin layer of white cloth on the mesh itself which was the major physical difference against the black (fully bare metal mesh) and the blue (thin layer of almost metal-like mesh). The decay of the sub bass is the filters most notable signature change, it enables the S8 to have a clouded effect on the lower frequencies although the impact and thump is still average. The mids are more laid back as well on the silver filters and the higher frequencies took a hit, note that it already lacks the needed treble presence on the blue filter.
Black Acoustic Filter SQ changes
Hill Audio S8’s lack of treble bite on its blue reference acoustic filter is addressed by the black treble boost acoustic filter, the change is subtle and still doesn’t render the S8 sibilant yet it is great that the filters do actually work. It is also to be noted that the black acoustic filter has a bare metal mesh which might have attributed to the higher frequencies being able to have more presence. The midrange still sounds great and the upper midrange has better extension.
The Hill Audio S8 hype is lower than the saying “under the radar”. Most of you who have reached this part of the realview only found out about this IEM right here on my blog. Priced at $65 with the Audio Pro pack, the S8 offers a variety of signature that suits different needs. The filters do actually function as they should and it is good that there is even a small rubber bearing to allow a really secure fit of the nozzle and not have it dropping somewhere. It checks out all the needed aspects of great budget friendly IEM in terms of sound quality, build and accessory set, not to mention that reaching out to the seller itself is easy. Do note as well that they are about to update the Super Saver cable with one that has an over the ear guide which the current one didn’t have. All in all, you may not have heard of the Hill Audio S8 IEM being talked about but if you ever get to try one, you’d love hearing it again.