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
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. As we know, 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 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 affordable Philips SHE3590, which is more balanced but not as impactful or full-bodied as the Xiaomi. In contrast, the Hybrid is more balanced, 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 Euro, 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.
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
Noticeable, but not too bothersome when music is playing; slightly worse than with the Piston 3
Isolation is average thanks to the shallow fit of the earphones
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 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 handy – it’s just not head and shoulders above the competition as the previous Xiaomi IEMs often were.