Acho Reviews (in English & Spanish)

Sony Linkbuds S (more of a ramble than a review)…

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Sony Linkbuds S

Today I am going to share my opinions on my experience with the Sony Linkbuds S. These are not exactly a new model, they have been around for a while, but they may still be relevant to those who are looking for a TWS solution from a known brand in the space.

As you may (or may not) know, I don’t exactly review a lot of TWS IEMs (although I do have another set that I will be reviewing soon) as I am not, or rather I wasn’t, someone who used a lot of TWS. I always prefer wired when possible and for wireless, I had been quite happy with the Shanling MW200 (which allows me to use any IEMs of my choice), yet it was actually the Moondrop Space Travel, a set of 20€ TWS IEMs, that changed that.

I ended up keeping the Space Travel in my sling bag (ok, man purse) and would grab them just for quick media consumption on my phones. I was surprised to find that I ended up using them far more than I have ever used TWS in the past (and I have quite a few sets sitting in drawers). This brought me to wanting to try out something a little bit better, although the Space Travel are really not bad for the price at all.

I heard good things about the recent Samsung Galaxy Buds FE (check out FC Construct’s review for a good rundown) and was surprised to receive them as a Christmas present from my wife (she usually stays far away from my headphone world). Unfortunately, my main phone is a Google Pixel and this means that the connection with the Buds FE was limited to AAC, something that is not great on the Google devices (losing quite a bit of treble).

Anyway, I digress, this was basically to say that I returned the Buds FE and wanted something to replace them with. I did want to get a decent sound quality, yet one of the more important things for me was actually the reliability of connection and them connecting first time etc. I wanted LDAC (which is far superior to the AAC on Pixel) and I wanted a decent ANC if possible. For once I found myself putting functionality before sound, although I admittedly always have a set of wired IEMs and a dongle with me, which I use when wanting to listen to music specifically. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune as I was (am) not certain that I would get a huge amount of use out of them. So far, the Space Travel had been an exception to the rule.

So, all that to say that, here I am with the Sony Linkbuds S, a set of TWS with LDAC and ANC that retails for around 140€, although they can be found at lower prices during sales etc.

Presentation…

The packaging and contents of the Linkbuds S is pretty basic. A small box contains the charging case inside which the Linkbuds reside. Apart from this, we get 3 sizes of silicone tips, a short USB to USB-C cable for charging and a basic user manual (plus the warranty info etc.)

So there isn’t really a lot to say about it all. Basic and functional sums it up.

Build and Aesthetics…

This isn’t the first time I have used Sony IEMs or Headphones and they are usually pretty well built for the price but not exactly excellent. They are consumer grade items and they aren’t built to the highest of expectations like some of the other more premium brands may be but, at the same time, they are of decent quality in their respective price points, being sort of an average to reference other products against.

Some of you may have heard of (or even used) the normal Linkbuds. Those are the ones that are basically a small ring with an open center, made for listening while being 100% aware of your surroundings (maybe some cell phone manufacturers should release a phone with this principle :wink: ). Well, the Linkbuds S are nothing like them. I actually have no idea why they share a name as I really don’t see any similarities between them.

The Linkbuds S are more of a normal TWS set up, yet they are on the smaller side of many. They aren’t the smallest out there but they are small enough to disappear in the ear pretty well.

Personally find them very comfortable and have worn them for many hours while travelling over the past few days, which is what has led me to put this review together while sitting on a train from Venice to Rome.

Comfort is going to be a very personal thing as always but I think that they should work well for a lot of people.

Functionality…

One thing that I have been impressed by is the app that Sony provides to control their range of bluetooth headphones and IEMs. Obviously Sony is a big brand that has much more capability to put together a decent app than a lot of the smaller brands, but that doesn’t always work that way. There are apps from large manufacturers that are pretty terrible.

In this case, I have found the app to work well, be reliable and, although it does have stuff that I am not interested in using, it is not overly bloated with a ton of useless stuff.

But before talking about the app, let me quickly mention the functionality onboard the IEMs.

On each side there is a touch area that is basically the whole outside surface area of the Linkbuds. Although it is a touch and not a press system, I am happy to say that it is not overly sensitive. I have found with many other brands that just brushing slightly will cause all kinds of commands to set off and can be very irritating. In the case of the Sony’s, that hasn’t been an issue. It is nice to be able to remove and insert the IEMs, or reseat them in the ear, without changing track 3 times, calling the assistant and activating Ambient mode all at the same time!

While you can change the functionality of the commands in the app, I have found that I have preferred using the set up that comes stock. That is a single touch on the left cycles through the different modes (ANC, Ambient, Off), a long hold quickly lowers the music and starts ambient mode temporarily and tapping repeatedly lowers the volume.

On the right side a single tap is play/pause, a double tap is next track, a triple tap is previous track, a long hold summons the assistant and continuously tapping increases volume.

That is all the control I want on a set of TWS IEMs, enough to do all the functions I need without having to pull out my phone, yet no additional things that I don’t use enough for them to not just complicate things (like changing EQ etc.).

Now, if we move into the app, here we have a bunch more possibilities. We can do all the above things that we can also do locally on the actual Linkbuds, which is nice, but we can adjust quite a few extra things in here also.

I am not going to list all other settings and parameters that can be adjusted as it is a lot of info for a review yet we can basically change the layout of the controls, we can choose which modes (ANC, Ambience, OFF) we want the IEMs to cycle through when tapping them, we can adjust EQ (I will mention more of this under sound), we can turn on adaptive noise suppression, we can choose assistants, set up spacial audio and many more things that I am forgetting.

As I said a moment ago, I find the app to be quite complete and stable, something that is impressive.

My use case…

Now, before getting into the sound section, which is going to be what the majority are interested in, or maybe not, as it seems that the younger generation are more worried about the looks and who wears them :grin: But anyway, what I was going to say is that, before getting to the sound, I wanted to mention what my use case has been leading to these impressions, as this is not my usual “listen for a week and then sit down and do some detailed listening”, which is how I usually do reviews.

As I said above, I am writing this on a train, while heading back to the airport to fly back to Spain, after spending quite some time on planes, on trains, in stations and airports over the past week, together with watching some entertainment in the hotel room at night.

I did bring along a set of wired IEMs but I haven’t really used them because I wanted to put these through their paces to see how much they irritated me.

To be honest, I feel they have done a good job. No, they are not the most impressive IEMs for sound quality (I am getting there) but with all the travelling, meetings and business dinners, I haven’t really had any specific music listening sessions anyway, more background listening while travelling than anything else, together with a few movies etc.

As far as ANC on the plane and train, they do a very good job in comparison to many other ANC IEMs. Now, I must point out that I am not using the stock silicone tips, I have opted for the Symbio W tips. For those of you that don’t know the Symbio tips, they are silicone tips filled with foam. This gives you the additional isolation of comply/foam tips, while keeping the commodity of silicone tips (i.e: not having to burn them after building up wax and dirt over time). This means that there is additional passive isolation (which is noticeable).

Now, on top of that, the Active Noise Cancelling of the Linkbuds S is fairly decent. It doesn’t place you in a soundproof bubble but it does cut noise down to a level that can only really be appreciated when in silence (so either nothing playing or in a silent part of a track/movie). Even then, it is a rather distant noise and is mostly limited to the upper ranges of voices etc, the droning and rumbling of plane and train engines is dealt with very well.

I haven’t used the XM5 from Sony, but I have used the XM4 (and XM3) and I would venture to say that the ANC on the Linkbuds S has absolutely nothing to envy from the more expensive models of the brand, at least with the foam or Symbio tips.

Usually, in the past, when travelling I would either use a set of over ear XM3 or a cheap set of over ears with decent ANC, and place a set of wired IEMs underneath them. The Linkbuds S are not up to that level of isolation (which is eerily silent) but they are still more than enough for the flights of 2 to 3 hours I have been taking over the past week. They might not impress me as much on my next transatlantic, although the batteries wouldn’t last that long anyway, but for my usual travels around Europe, they have done fine.

As you may know, I have a database of isolation measurements of IEMs (achoreviews.squig.link/isolation), however, my usual way of testing doesn’t work with ANC IEMs, at least not most of them, due to the way the microphones work, and I haven’t had time to sit down and do measurements with the pinna, so I’m afraid I can’t show you the result of the ANC on paper.

One last thing to mention under functionality is that they can connect to two devices simultaneously and the app can be used on one of the devices even if you are are using the other device as a source. This means you don’t need to worry about having the app on both devices. This is handy for me as I use two phones, for different purposes, and can make changes if needed without having to take the other device out of my pocket.

Sound…

So, finally, on to the sound section and I am sorry to say that this might be a bit of a let down as far as a review is concerned. I have not actually had a specific detailed listening session with these, in other words, I haven’t sat down with them and my test tracks and noted the good and the bad with the specific tracks that I usually use for final impressions in reviews. These are the musings I am putting together on a train and the listening sessions, as I said before, have all been “in movement”.

Another thing to point out is that there is an EQ available in the app which I would recommend people to use. In fact, for specific musing listening, I would suggest using a parametric EQ outside of the app, which I have been doing, but if you can’t do that or just don’t want to, then at least make a few tweaks inside the app.

There are multiple different EQ presets available in the app which do generic things to the sound, here is a quick graph to show them:

Now, personally, I wouldn’t use any of those!

Luckily there are two custom slots that you can save your preferred EQ in.

I am glad there are 2 as there is a difference in frequency response between ANC on and off, which means that I would suggest two different profiles (I turn ANC off when not needed to save on battery).

Here are the differences between ANC on and OFF (and also ambient mode which is identical to ANC mode anyway, just with amplified surroundings):

So, what I have done for my personal use case is create 2 custom EQ profiles, one for ANC on and the other for off.

The problem is that the EQ is very limited in its functionality, so you can make these IEMs sound much better with the use of external Parametric EQ, but that is not always something we can use, like when watching a movie or YouTube etc. I will usually set the EQ profile that I intend using the most (ANC on or off) and if I do decide to listen to music for a longer period, I will switch off the EQ in the app and have another preset I have saved in UAPP for these IEMs. Well, two actually, one for ANC on and one for ANC off.

But this is not telling you anything about what they sound like!

I know and I apologise, but how would you like me to explain them? with no EQ? with one of the included 8 presets? with my custom EQ in the app? with my custom EQ in UAPP? with ANC on or off?

There are so many variables that anything I say will only be relevant to one specific use case.

I guess the correct way would be to do it with them flat, like I do with all other wired IEMs, however, the difference here is that the EQ is part of the IEMs, so use it!

Without EQ and with ANC off, they do sound a little strange.

As you have seen in the graph above (if you take any notice of graphs), there is a bit of roll off in the subbass regions, yet it is the upper mids and lower treble that is missing quite a bit of presence to clear things up. As they are out of the box (again, no EQ and no ANC), they can be a little dark and murky, a lot like many other Sony ANC sets I have tried.

The app EQ can help to bring these alive, not in a spectacular fashion but at least to a level that is more than adequate for general media consumption and even music listening if you are not searching for that perfect SQ.

As the EQ in the app is pretty restricted, you can’t expect too much but as a basic EQ reference, my personal preferences has been to use the following with ANC:

Clear Bass= 0

400 = -2

1k = -2

2.5k = 0

6.3k = 0

16k= -2

As I am cutting the lows and 16k, this serves to actually boost the upper mids lower treble. One thing to note is that, as there is no gain option, this does actually cut the overall output volume, which may or may not be an issue depending on your source and listening levels.

An alternative is to set the ones I have at 0 to +2 and leave the rest at 0. I don’t find that it causes any noticeable distortion and it will give you a bit more overall volume.

Obviously this is just a slight adjustment and is very limited by the 6 bands that are available. It doesn’t make them sound great but it is an improvement over stock.

If using a source, such as UAPP, that has the possibility of parametric EQ, then these can actually start to sound pretty decent. They are not going to be on the level of some of the wired alternatives, even at a lower price point, but that is one of the things we give up when looking for the commodities that the TWS bring.

In this case I turn off the app EQ and use UAPP to adjust the sound.

While it is possible to make even more tweaks using the full 10 bands available in UAPP, I have found that the difference between using the basic 6 band PEQ and the 10 band PEQ is not really huge. Yes, it can sound better but if we are getting this deep into fixing sound, then I don’t think they will ever meet your demands in general and would suggest sticking with wired alternatives for music listening. Even something like the 7Hz Zero (1 or 2) or the Cadenza, both under 30€, will offer better sound quality.

As I like to keep different devices on level playing fields where possible, I usually don’t share EQ settings and this case is no different. You can use the PEQ of UAPP (or any other source with PEQ) to adjust them to your personal preferences, they don’t need to be mine. If you don’t know where to start, then you can head over to achoreviews.squig.link and use auto EQ to give you an EQ to match these to some other IEMs of your preference. Of course they are not going to sound the same but it will give you a good starting point and you can start adjusting from there. As I said a moment ago, I find that they can start to sound fairly decent with some decent PEQ.

I also find that with EQ, the Linkbuds S can take quite a decent boost in gain without noticeable distortion or suffering. This does come in handy when listening to music that may not be recorded at the level that some of the modern music is recorded.

Conclusion…

I could probably ramble on for a lot longer, I still have 3 hours of train ride and a 3 hour flight ahead, but to be honest it is all just going to boil down to what your expectations are and what you do with EQ.

No matter how much you EQ, the Linkbuds S are not going to suddenly become amazingly detailed and high performing IEMs, they will still be beaten by the vast majority of wired IEMs available at half the price.

What you are getting is a reasonably priced set of TWS IEMs that has (almost) all of the features of the more expensive alternatives from the brand, with an adequate performance (for what they are), a tiny format that will fit in a fifth pocket and an app that works well.

I was looking for some specific features and the Linkbuds S have delivered them. I have no complaints about them as they do what I wanted them to do. Yes, I would love better sound quality but that doesn’t mean they are bad, they will be great for many many people out there (including the bass heads, as they can do a lot of it when needed).

And with this I am going to end this ramble disguised as a review :grin:


As always, this review (or ramble) is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

*edited because spell check decided they were “Symbian” tips and not “Symbio”!

6 Likes

NiceHCK F1 Pro

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - NiceHCK F1 Pro

The F1 Pro have been sent to me directly from NiceHCK for me to try them out and share my opinions in this review. NiceHCK have not made any requests regarding the review and I will do my best, as usual, to be as unbiased as possible.

You can find the F1 Pro on the official NiceHCK store on AliExpress, to which I will leave a non-affiliate link on my blog.

You can also find them on Amazon and other online retailers.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

NiceHCK are by no means a new brand in the IEM world and although I have never actually reviewed any of their items on Acho Reviews, I have been using their cables for a long time. In fact, my first aftermarket cable purchase was from NiceHCK.

In the realm of their IEMs, I seem to remember trying out at least one of their models but I really can’t remember what model it was and I can find no reference to it in my notes or on Acho Reviews, so I guess I never spoke about it.

The F1 Pro is a set of planar IEMs that, I believe, was released either at the beginning of this year or the end of last, so it is quite a new model. They did have a model called the F1 (without the pro) previously, that was also a planar IEM but that one seems to be discontinued.

Anyhow, the F1 Pro uses a 14.2mm planar driver, stated as a new generation, with a 16 Ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 104dB. With a price of around 110€ on the official NiceHCK Aliexpress store, I have also seen it available on other sites for slightly less, just under 100€. This, in my opinion, places it just inside the sub 100€ category.

One thing I want to mention is that NiceHCK sent me two sets of IEMs, the F1 Pro and the DB2, along with an additional aftermarket cable, the Cyan Cable, which is also available to be purchased as a set together with the F1 Pro, adding around 50€ to the total price (in the case of 4.4 balanced, which is what I have received).

I will mention more on the cable in a second but just to note that I have focused this review on using the stock included cable, not the Cyan. I am someone who believes that the major factor for purchasing an aftermarket cable is aesthetics and comfort, as sound differences are only really a factor in certain extreme cases. As both aesthetics and comfort are personal preferences, that is something that is obviously going to be more dependent on what you prefer than what I prefer.

Presentation…

The F1 Pro arrive in a rather large blue box with orange text that states the brand, the model and not much more. On one side it does show that it is the 4.4 balanced version but that is the extent of the outer packaging. It is very simple and, in my opinion, the simplicity makes it fairly elegant, as far as a cardboard sleeve goes.

Removing the outer purple sleeve, it reveals a white box with the NiceHCK logo in blue and nothing else, keeping up with the simplicity here also.

Inside the main box, we find the IEMs sitting in white cutouts at the top, with a smaller white box below containing the accessories.

The included accessories are a branded semi rigid storage/transport case, of a decent size, the stock cable, a velcro cable tie and 12 sets of silicone tips, in 3 different styles and sizes. I have to say that I find the accessories to be more than adequate for a set of planar IEMs at his price and it is nice to see such a selection of tips included. I found that I opted for the transparent tips with the white core.

Build and aesthetics…

The IEMs have a teardrop shape to them, very similar in size and shape to the Tanchjim Ola, which makes them one of the smallest alternatives as far as planar IEMs go. The shells are completely made of metal, in a light blue aluminium to be exact, with just a small gold accent to them where the faceplate rises slightly to accommodate the connector.

There are no markings or logos on the faceplate, although the make and model are marked on the side with the same gold coloured letters, and I find them to be very pleasing aesthetically.

The shape is comfortable and, although they are not the lightest of IEMs due to the full metal construction, they are by no means heavy. I have worn them for many hours and not had any discomfort other than the usual sensation of having IEMs in my ears for long periods of time.

The included cable a white rubber coated double twist with metal hardware that works fine and is comfortable enough. The rubber coating is not my favourite texture but I really don’t have any complaints with the included cable.

The additional Cyan Cable that was included is a quadruple twist in a light blue colour, almost turquoise, which is much nicer to the touch than the included cable, due to it being fabric covered rather than rubber. It is thicker than the stock cable but not to the point of being overly bulky like some other cables that are more towards being a rope rather than an IEM cable. Personally I do like the Cyan Cable more than the stock cable but as far as functionality, there is nothing wrong with the included cable. Therefore, personal preferences will of course be the deciding factor here.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

I usually don’t include comparisons in my reviews, or very rarely at least, as I structure my reviews in a way that makes them easy to cross reference with other IEMs that I have reviewed, or at least that is my aim.

In this case, it is impossible for me to not mention what has been one of my favourite planar IEMs and most certainly the most used of my planar IEMs, the Letshuoer S12. I really enjoy the sound signature of the S12 and, while it isn’t perfect, it is something that I used daily for a very long time and I still grab it now.

Why am I mentioning the S12?

Well, it’s priced very similarly and is also on the smaller side of planar IEMs (although the F1 Pro is a little more compact). It is also made of metal but, most importantly, the sound signature of the F1 Pro is very similar to the S12, almost identical in fact, except for just a few minor tweaks.

Here is the graph of the NiceHCK F1 Pro in comparison to my usual preference target for reference:

And here is the F1 Pro in comparison to the Letshuoer S12:

Even to those who do not read measurements, or don’t care about them, can easily see that there is a lot of similarity between the two. I am not going to go into depth comparing them, I will just review the F1 Pro on its own merits but… Spoiler alert… I prefer the F1 Pro to my beloved S12.

So, on with the review and my usual starting point which is the subbass and “Chameleon”. Here we are greeted with what I find to be a very clean and well performing subbass. There is plenty of rumble to appreciate what this track is all about but it does not feel bloated or out of control. Many times the excessive subbass will mix with excessive midbass and start to feel overly loose, yet here the F1 Pro do a very respectable job of keeping things in their place.

Moving over to “Royals” by Lorde, the clarity of the subbass is even more noticeable, where the rumble is there but it allows that “grit” of the subbass in this track to show. The same can be said with “No Sanctuary Here”, where the subbass is impressive yet not overpowering, even when paired with a good amount of midbass.

Moving to the midbass and my “Crazy” fatigue test, things are nicely presented, giving me no sensation of fatigue nor bloat in the midbass or lower mids. Things are again very well controlled in the midbass and lower mids, avoiding any muddyness while still having plenty of body for the low end of guitars and male vocals etc.

The whole midrange is nicely balanced, without the low end masking any of the details an performance throughout this range, allowing vocals to have very natural presentation, along my my usual preferences in acoustic instruments.

As we climb into the upper mids, here is where my preference for the F1 Pro over the S12 is most apparent, with these ranges being slightly less forward than on the S12. There is still enough presence for vocals and upper ranged chords to have plenty of clarity and not get lost, yet they are just slightly less sharp then on the S12.

Beth’s voice in my usual harshness test, “Don’t You Worry Child”, still has it’s natural harshness to it but is never uncomfortable like it can be on so many other sets. On the S12 it wasn’t overly uncomfortable but it is much more pleasant (or less unpleasant) on the F1 Pro.

The brass instruments on “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” are not overpowering in the upper mids either, although there is a little bit of harshness as we enter the upper ranges. We can find some sibilance in Paul Simon’s voice on ocasions (although nowhere near as bad as on some other sets) and things like cymbals and high hats can have a bit too much brilliance to them.

This is due to the fact that there is a peak in the upper ranges that can can interact with certain sounds, such as the hi-hats in “Still D.R.E” and make them just a little too harsh.

For my usual sibilance tests, “Code Cool” does place the S’s and T’s of Patricia Barber a little over what I would consider neutral (maybe a +2 or +3 on my unscientific scale of -12 to +12). The same can be said about Lana Del Rey in the opening lines of “Hope is a Dangerous thing”.

Details on the F1 Pro are impressive throughout the whole range, with just that peak in the upper ranges sometimes coinciding with certain details and making them a little more “artificial” sounding. This is a shame because there are plenty of details already there, so this peak is not really adding anything, just detracting a little when it coincides.

As far as sound stage, they are fairly decent. I would place them slightly above average for IEMs, although I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are very wide. There is a nice sensation of rear left depth on that guitar in “La Luna” but there is not really a huge space from left to right in general.

Conclusion…

I have no doubt that these are my preferred planar IEMs under the 100€ mark. In fact, they are good planar IEMs regardless of price. They have managed to unseat the S12, stealing their place in the “quick grab” case, where they have been for almost 2 years. That says something about what I think of these IEMs.

In general, there is only really one thing that I can fault to not give them a perfect score for their price bracket and that is the peak in the upper ranges. It’s not always noticeable, depending on the track and music, but when it does appear, it is very noticeable.

This adds some sibilance and also give that slight harshness to the upper ranges of a sound presentation that is otherwise very very good.

In other words, are they perfect? No. But I can’t think of any planar IEMs (or IEMs in general) that are and certainly not in the 100€ range. These are a very good set of IEMs and are certainly worthy of the price they sit at.

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As with all my reviews, this is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

5 Likes

Rose Technics Ceramics

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Rose Technics Ceramics

The Rose Technics Ceramics have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of my thoughts in this review. Linsoul have not made any requests and I will do my usual best to be as unbiased as possible.

I will leave a link (non-affiliate link, as always) to the Ceramics via Linsoul on my blog.

Intro…

While I have always maintained that I don’t review or spend a lot of time with TWS, lately that seems to not be quite true. You may have seen my recent ramblings (I can’t really call it a review) about the Sony Linkbuds S, where I said that I picked commodity over sound quality, something that is not usual for me personally.

It is true that the sound quality of TWS IEMs is getting better but I am still of the opinion that they have a long way to go before matching the sound quality of many of the cheaper wired alternatives. This is something that I find true at all TWS price points that I have tried, even sets costing around 600€ that sound decent but are no match for other wired alternatives that come in at a third of the cost.

While there are some sets that are using very high quality drivers and some in depth processing to make things a lot better, the truth is that they are still fighting against a very difficult thing to overcome. Size. You need to fit the drivers, the DAC, the amplification, the DSP, the battery, the charging system for the battery, all into a very small space while still managing to leave enough of a cavity for the air that the drivers need to work well.

But really, at least for now, TWS is not about sound quality, it is about the commodities of having something so small and easy to use, without being tied to a device by means of a cable. I am sure that these will continue to advance and at some point we may start to get options that do rival cabled alternatives, but for now, I feel that we are still looking at the best functionality we can get while also getting a “decent enough” sound.

Why am I saying all of this? Well, I want to make it clear that I don’t think it is fair to compare TWS IEMs with wired IEMs, at least not in similar price brackets, therefore it would not be fair if I do a direct comparison of the Ceramics to a set of wired IEMs in the sub 40€ price bracket, which is what the Ceramics sell for at the time of putting together this review (EDIT: They are actually less than 30€ at the time of publishing this review).

My current bench mark for TWS are the Linkbuds S, not because of sound quality but because of functionality and I think that, even though the Ceramics are less than a third of the price of the Sony, the comparison is fairer than putting them up against something like the 7Hz Zero (1 or 2), paired with an Apple dongle, which come in at around the same price (including the Dongle) is not really fair.

So, basically what I am saying is that my reviews of TWS IEMs should be treated as an independent thing. Much like the difference between me reviewing a set of IEMs and a set of over ear headphones.

Anyway, enough with the rambling and on with the review…

Presentation…

The Rose Technics Ceramics arrive in a fairly basic white package that features an image of them on the cover, along with the model, brand and “Hi-Fi True Wireless Stereo Earbuds” underneath. On the back of the box we get some basic specs, line the operation range (15m), Bluetooth version (5.3), charging time (approx. 40 mins) and the impedance (32 Ohms).

It is a little strange to see the impedance mentioned on a set of TWS as it isn’t really relevant due to the fact that they already have all the amplification built in etc, yet there is no mention of the codecs that the Ceramics offer.

Inside the main package we find two smaller white boxes with the Rose Technics logo on them, one labelled as “Earphone Box” and the other as “Accessories”.

Opening the Earphone box reveals a largish black plastic case with the Rose logo on it, which I thought was the actual case of the IEMs and my first thoughts were “this is rather large”. However, opening the black flip top case reveals a much smaller case on the inside which is actually the IEMs storage/charging case. The larger black case is quite nice with a padded interior although I couldn’t help wondering why they decided to pack a case inside a case, inside a box inside a box.

Inside the accessories box we find a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and three sets of silicone tips. In addition to this we get a user manual explaining the functionality (and contents) of the package.

You may be thinking that this is not exactly a lot of content but it is exactly the same content as received with the Linkbuds S at more than three times the price. Well, it’s actually more as we get the extra case to store the case :wink:

Build and Aesthetics…

The Ceramics are available in 3 different colours, all black, grey with black internals and white with pink internals. I received the grey set and I think they look pretty good, although they do have sort of a beige tint to the grey, depending on the light.

The storage/charging case is very compact, around the same size as the Linkbuds S case and even a little thinner overall, meaning that they fit easily even in a fifth pocket and will not be something irritating to carry around with you (which is very important to me, as I think one of the positives of TWS is having them always available). This does mean, however, that the internal space of the case is not really very big. I can fit them in the case with Symbio medium sized tips installed but anything larger will mean that they don’t fit in the case properly (they wont fit with Symbio large).

The charging port is located on the bottom of the case, which is something I would usually complain about as you cant charge them standing up, yet in this case (pun intended), it won’t stand up anyway due to the rounded shape of the bottom.

The IEMs (or should I call them buds like everyone else?) are also very compact. They are almost round in shape and sit fairly well inside the ears, although they do stick out a little more than something like the Linkbuds S.

In general I like the size, they seem to be well built and the aesthetics don’t really displease me either.

Functionality…

Pairing for the first time is pretty straight forwards as it is with most TWS. Open the case and take them out, then look for them in your device and pair them. They can also connect to two devices simultaneously, which is a little more complicated (although the manual explains it well) but does work correctly. I could listen to music from one phone and then take calls from the other phone with seamless switching over between devices and back again once ending the call. I know that not everyone uses two phones but it is handy to be able to connect to a tablet or computer while still having a connection to a phone.

As far as I am aware, there is no App for the Ceramics (EDIT: I found out after putting together this review that there is actually an App. However, after trying for more than 30 minutes to connect it to the Ceramics and failing, it’s like not having an App). Personally I prefer no App over a buggy and bad performing App but, in this case, I wouldn’t have minded an App to remove some of the functions from the IEMs themselves as there is a lot going on and it can get confusing when you are using different sets of TWS (i.e: different control set ups).

Each side is a touch surface which is not really over sensitive but still suffers from touches when adjusting the IEMs in your ear etc. As you will see now, depending on how many accidental touches you make, you can make quite a few changes.

Volume up - Single tap on right

Volume down - Single tap on left

Previous track - Hold left for two seconds

Next track - Hold right for two seconds

Play / Pause - Double tap on right or left

Answer / End call - Double tap on right or left

Reject call - Hold for 2 seconds either left or right

Voice assistant - Triple tap on right

EQ mode - Triple tap on left

Game mode - Quadruple tap on left or right

As you can see, there is a lot going on and even after reading the manual (which we all know is not my first step :wink: ), I still found myself confused by the control layout.

I appreciate the fact that you can adjust volume from the IEMs, something that I have complained about with other models, but in this case the volume of the Ceramics is independent to the actual phone volume.

The fact that it is a single tap and there are many other functions with multiple taps can make it a little more complicated, yet the steps are pretty large. As I listen to all kinds of music, a lot of the time on random playback, there are many volume differences between tracks and turning up for a quieter track may lead to overly powerful levels on the next track, in the end, I found I grabbed my phone to change the volume rather than using the onboard controls and volume, which sort of defeats the object.

Also, both the EQ mode and the Game mode are things that I really don’t need to change on the fly, in fact, I don’t really need to change them at all, so these are things that I end up changing by accident and finding myself unsure of what I have done.

There is a voice that informs you of changes made but for some reason, there are two different voices depending on what you have done. It leads me to believe (just making assumptions here) that the control system was taken from a different model and extra things were added to the Ceramics.

There is no real mention of what the gaming mode does, although the Rose Technics web (and Linsoul) does mention that the Ceramics can offer latency as low as 60ms which ensures a “quick response in FPS games”. I honestly don’t know what it changes as far as the internal set up when activated but it doesn’t change frequency response and I don’t game, other that the odd retro session etc., so I can’t say I have improved much in the FPS gaming world :grinning:

One thing it does mention about it in the manual is under troubleshooting:

"Q: Noise in game mode?

A: Game mode is for gaming only. For other scenarios, please witch back to music mode"

So it obviously does something.

EQ I will mention in a moment under sound, so that just leaves the charging case. This is stated as having fast charge, with 10 minutes offering six hours of uninterrupted playback, but it doesn’t really say anything about the charging of the actual case. As I haven’t actually run it down to zero, I can’t say how long charging of the case takes.

There is a status LED on the front of the case which tells you the level of the battery, the charging state etc. All of this is explained in the included manual.

Finally, as far as Codecs, the options are SBC or AAC yet I found that setting it to SBC in Gaming mode would break the connection and stop them from working. In music mode, both AAC and SBC work fine. There is also something to note and it is the fact that the Ceramics only have 44.1kHz sample rate, meaning that everything will be resampled by them to 44.1kHz.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

Let’s start off by addressing the EQ modes on the Ceramics. There is no “flat” or “off” setting, so you have to choose between either “Hifi Music Mode”, “Pop Music Mode” or “Rock Music Mode”. Just to repeat that there is no difference between Gaming and Music modes as far as frequency response. The same three EQ settings are available in both modes and the response is the same.

Ok, so here is a graph of the 3 EQ modes (just in Music mode to not show an extra 3 irrelevant lines), with my usual preference curve for reference:

Ok, so where do I start?

Usually I would just tell you which of the EQs I prefer and then go on to explain my opinions with that setting, maybe with a few notes about the other settings along the way. However, I really can’t say that I “prefer” any of them.

So, rather than follow my usual frequency categories, I am going to mention a few of the tracks from my test list, those that I usually refer to the most, and then say how I find that track with each of the 3 EQ settings.

Of course we have to start with “Chameleon” by Trentemoller…

Hifi Mode: There is a noticeable lack of rumble on the Ceramics compared to many other sets. Let’s face it, this track is pretty crazy in the low end, so I can’t really say there is a lack of bass but it doesn’t rumble like it should. There is also a lack of lower mids and mid range in general, with things clearing up a little due to the excessive presence between 2.5 and 5kHz. This makes certain sounds stand out while others seem to be darker and merge together.

Pop Mode: Ok, here we cant say there is a lack of rumble, what we can say is that there is a lack of clarity in the lower ranges of the track. While the drivers don’t seem to be struggling, they also don’t seem to be defining the subbass either. There is, again, a lack of mids in general, with the (even more excessive) upper mids/lower treble giving clarity to some sounds but struggling to do so due to that immense rumble happening at the other extreme.

Rock Mode: Now we are just getting silly :slight_smile: I know that there are people who will find this quantity of bass great but I am not one of them. The low end rumble just takes over the whole track and even that excessive 2.5 to 5k can’t really break through that wall of rumble. Personally I find this to be nauseous and is literally just rumble with not much else to be appreciated. I am literally grateful to get to the end of my detailed listening with this track and this EQ.

Another track I mention almost as much as “Chameleon” is “Crazy” by Daniella Andrade…

Hifi Mode: In this mode the overpowering reverb in the lower ranges is avoided yet it does give the overall track a focus in those upper mids, making her vocals sound a little thin and harsh. To this we add a treble that is not really smooth and details stand out but do sound a little artificial at times. There is also a slight hint of sibilance on occasions, with the sounds of her mouth (lips etc.) seeming over emphasized at times.

Pop Mode: Here there is even more emphasis placed on those upper mids with sibilance being more noticeable than with HiFi mode. Although there is more present in the lowest ranges, it is mostly below where the guitar reverb resides, so it doesn’t really affect the low end of this track much in comparison.

Rock Mode: This is my preffered option out of the three for this track. There is still a hint of sibilance but the upper mids/lower treble doesn’t come across quite as exaggerated with this EQ. Again the low boost is mostly below the reverb, so there is a slight touch more but not enough for it to become overly present in the midbass, although it doesn’t seem quite as clean.

Something with a bit of electronic subbass but without the excess of “Chameleon” is “No Sanctuary Here”…

Hifi Mode: Here I find that the low ranges of the track are rather dull in comparison to what I would usually expect from this track. There is also a lack of body to the vocals of Chris Jones, leaving the upper mids exposed. This is not as bad as with female vocals, not as harsh, but does lose a lot of the excitement that this song brings.

Pop Mode: Now the excitement of the subbass is back, although I think it is a little overly present for the rest of the track, or at least overly present for the mids, which again lack the body to the vocals, making them take a back seat behind the subbass. The thing I found here is that the vocals are ok while there is a break in the bass but when the bass comes back, it does overshadow them, even with that 3k presence.

Rock Mode: Again I find that the subbass is overpowering when in this mode with this track. It eliminates all sense of clarity and while I still maintain that the driver doesn’t do a bad job, all you are really experiencing is subbass with some other sounds in the background. Not something I would pick personally.

Seeing that we have a “Pop” mode, lets try something I would consider modern pop, “Don’t Start Now”…

Hifi Mode: Here the bass is actually pretty impressive, with nice clean hits, keeping the rythm entertaining yet not overpowering. The issue here is that once more, we are missing some body to the lyrics of Dua Lipa, with the upper mids sounding a little fragile. There is the slightest hint of sibilance at times but nothing that I would complain about. I would actually complain more about certain sounds that suddenly sound harsh when they coincide with one of the upper peaks, such as the pluck of a bass string etc.

Pop Mode: This is what should be selected for this track, no? Well, I have to say that the bass is possibly even more impressive than in HiFi mode, especially if you like a nice amount of it. The bass isn’t bloated and its clean and decisive in it’s rithym. The issue here is that things sound even more fragile in the upper ranges. Sibilance is slightly more present but not terrible, just peaky overall in the upper ranges.

Rock Mode: Ok, if I wanted to impress someone with bass on a set of TWS, then this track with this mode is pretty amazing. It stays clean and defined, with plenty of bass and I find it sounds better than Pop mode to my ears. Here the upper mids are still a little fragile but not as bad as with the other modes, mainly because they hide behind a a lot of bass. I still wouldn’t say it sounds good, the upper ranges are by no means something I would choose but I still admit that the bass on this track is impressive in this mode.

Seeing that we did Pop, I guess we should do something for Rock also, so let’s use a classic, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin …

Hifi Mode: The thing that stands out to me the most here is the upper ranges of the electric guitar as it hits those higher chords. In general the track is sort of dark and distant but then suddenly those chords cut through like a knife in the left ear. The track is listenable although lacking presence in the mids, until those chords appear and are, let’s say, uncomfortable.

Pop Mode: When the track starts, the bass guitar sounds rather impressive but I wouldn’t say it sounds like it should. As soon as it mixes in with the other instruments and vocals, it then becomes a sort of wall that makes it difficult to actually separate what is going on.

Rock Mode: We saw that Pop mode didn’t really work for Pop, at least the track I selected, so does Rock mode work for this Rock track? Well, not really. Again the bass could be considered impressive at the beginning but it again turns into a confused mix when multiple things are happening. To be honest, this is not exactly a complex track but things just don’t sound right on it, with certain parts seemingly like a wall, while other suddenly cut through and sound like they are from a different recording.

Conclusion…

These are a budget set of IEMs, coming in at 40€ (EDIT: Now less than 30), and I have to say that they try to pack in a lot of things for the price, maybe too many things, and unfortunately sound quality is not one of them, at least in my opinion.

There are 3 EQ modes and the only real difference between them is how much subbass we get and how harsh it is around the 3k to 5kHz mark. I appreciate that not everyone has the same tastes and the fact that they have aimed to cater for 3 different profiles, yet none of them match my personal tastes (which is ok, I understand I am difficult) but they also don’t sound great.

The details are pretty decent, yet the peaky treble makes them sound artificial at times. The upper mids and lower treble are just too present and give things a harsh and fragile sound. The mids are the opposite, lacking in presence and leaving many vocals without any real body to them.

That just leaves the bass. I have to say that the bass is pretty impressive. That doesn’t mean I like it, there is too much of it for my tastes, but I still have to admit that it can be impressively clean and present on certain well mixed tracks. Of course, it didn’t work well with “Chameleon”, due to the track being overpowering and adding the additional overpowering bass of the Ceramics. But still, I can’t deny that these TWS have enough bass for most of the bass lovers out there.

I really can’t say I am a fan of these TWS IEMs and, although I do think that some people will enjoy them just for that excessive bass, I feel that there are other options in this price range that make much more sense.


As with all my reviews, this is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

3 Likes

NiceHCK DB2

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - NiceHCK DB2

I recently reviewed the NiceHCK F1 Pro, a set of planar IEMs that I found very impressive. Along with the F1 Pro, NiceHCK also sent me the IEMs I will be reviewing today, the DB2.

As with the other model, there have been no requests from NiceHCK and I will do my best to be as unbiased as possible.

You can find a link to the DB2 via the official NiceHCK Store in the version of this review published on my blog.

As usual, this is a non-affiliate link.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

While the F1 Pro is a set of planar IEMs that sits around the 100€ mark, the DB2 are a very budget oriented set that opts for a single DD paired with a single BA driver. Coming in at just over 20€, there is no doubt that they are well inside what I consider ultra-budget (sub 50€). But being cheap does not necessarily make them a good option, as we know, there are many alternatives at a similar price point and some of them are very impressive.

So, can the DB2 make a space for itself in the bang for buck range? That is what I set about finding out.

Presentation…

It’s been a while since I received a box with an anime girl on it, something that is the main focus of the outer packaging of the DB2. Personally I don’t have any interest in anime nor does it offend me, so I am not really bothered one way or the other. I do prefer more traditional aesthetics on the box but for 20€, that is definitely the last thing I am going to worry about.

The back of the box lists the specs of the IEMs, both in Chinese and English, even to the point of the diaphragm materials used.

Sliding the internal box out of the outer sleeve, we are greeted with exactly the same image as on the outer cover, so, if you like anime, you will be twice as happy. Opening the box reveals a decorative card that also shows the same image, both on the front and the back, so now you can be four times as happy :slightly_smiling_face:

As far as contents, we get the IEMs, the cable, a velcro cable tie, a small storage pouch and 8 sets of silicone tips, which is nice in such a budget offering.

Build and aesthetics…

The IEMs feature plastic shells which are transparent on the inside. On the faceplate we find a kind of marble design which is surrounded by a gold coloured aluminium strip. Although I am not a huge fan of the aesthetics, they are at least not simple dull plastic shells, which is again appreciated at this price point.

The IEMs are lightweight and the shape is fairly generic. I found them to be very comfortable even for long sessions, with not fatigue building up due to design or weight.

The included cable is also fairly generic, with plastic hardware and a simple twist. It is pink however, so it’s not just a generic black or white cable. I can’t say the cable is amazing but it does its job and it is lightweight, so no complaints at the price.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

This is always the important part but when we have a set of IEMs costing 20€, that is pretty well presented with a decent amount of accessories, it is even more interesting to see how much was left over for the sound quality. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and take the usual steps.

First, let’s take a look at the graph in comparison to my usual preference target for reference:

Starting off with subbass and the usual “Chameleon”, I honestly expected it to perform worse. There is a nice rumble that is not too overpowering and, although it is not the best subbass I have heard, it stays under control and does not seem to lose focus.

With “No Sanctuary Here” we get a similar experience, enough in the sub ranges for it to be considered fun but not fatiguing. I didn’t get the feeling that the subbass was taking over the sound yet it certainly makes itself noticed.

Moving into the midbass and using my midbass fatigue test track which is “Crazy”, here I did feel that the midbass could be a little overpowering for my personal tastes. It isn’t overpowering to the point of being fatiguing but I did find myself wishing it had a little less reverb on the low end of the guitar. The vocals did balance out well though and I can say I enjoyed the track, I just preferred the vocal parts to the instrumental sections.

With “Elephants on Ice Skates” I did get the feeling that the bass wasn’t quite as controlled as it could be, although it was far from being terrible. When the track got busier, I found that the midbass lost some of the clarity but, again, far from terrible.

Into the mids we do find a bit of a recess throughout the middle section that can have an effect that is more or less noticeable depending on the music selected. With “Elephants on Ice Skates” it was far more noticeable throughout the busy sections whereas with something like “Don’t Start Now” it didn’t really stand out as much.

As we get to the upper mids, this is where things can come across as unnatural. There is a lot of presence in the form of peaks at 2kHz and 3.5kHz which make vocals cut through easily, balancing out that bass that I spoke about a moment, yet they can be a little thin and harsh on occasions. For example, “Don’t Start Now” sounds a little harsh and fragile in these regions.

With “Still D.R.E”, the snare and melodic notes sound harsh and strained, even more than they usually do, with things seemingly a little distorted in this region and even making the the vocals take a step back behind the upper mids of the instruments.

Sibilance is tamed fairly well, at least with my usual “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing” and “Code Cool” tests. I would say that Patricia Barber is around a -2 on my non-scientific -12 to +12 sibilance scale.

This is due to a rather large drop in presence once we get over that 3.5kHz mark which really doesn’t come back, at least not properly, all the way up into the treble ranges. In fact, the treble does have a few peaks that give it a bit of presence in those upper ranges but in general it is pretty rolled off in the treble. This can give a sensation of lacking air on many tracks and leaves the focus on those upper mid peaks.

As far as soundstage, they do a pretty decent job. They are not huge but I do think that they are a little above average for a set of IEMs. Using “La Luna”, there is a decent sense of space between instruments and a few Dr.Chesky tests were pretty positive in giving a sensation of space.

Conclusion…

Picking faults with the DB2 would be the overly present 2kHz and 3.5kHz peaks, followed by the rolled off upper treble. But to be fair, for a set of 20€ IEMs, these are by no means bad. I have enjoyed listening to them.

I wouldn’t say they are the best set available in their price range but I don’t think people would regret buying them either, unless they are sensitive to those peaks (like I would be if they were at 5kHz).

The bass is surprisingly fun and well controlled. There are times, in busy tracks, where the midbass can feel a little congested and the dip in the mids makes itself present but that does depend a lot on the music being played. Not all busy tracks show this.

In general, I think the DB2 are a fun set of IEMs that are easily worth their asking price.

__
As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

4 Likes

QKZ x HBB Hades

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - QKZ x HBB Hades

The QKZ x HBB Hades have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. Linsoul have not made any requests and I will, as always, try to be as unbiased as possible in my review.

I will leave a link to the Hades via Linsoul in the version of this review published on my blog.

As usual, this is a non-affiliate link.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

I need to start off by being totally transparent as to the why of this review. I am not going into this review without knowing anything about the Hades, I had seen measurements of these IEMs before they were released and I have also read multiple comments, some good and some bad, about these IEMs. As usual, I ignore comments by others until I get to listen to something myself as, although there are people I know and trust that have similar tastes to my own, my opinions on something may be nothing like those of others.

The reason I mention this is because I knew long before hearing these IEMs that they are absolutely nothing like my personal preferences in tuning. In fact, I totally expected to hate the Hades and although I do try to avoid expectation biases, consciously or not, they are always there unless I know nothing about the IEM in question.

Let’s actually take a look at the graph of these IEMs now rather than waiting for the sound section to see what I am talking about:

As you can see above, these IEMs are far away from my personal preferences. However, these are a set of IEMs that have been aimed at exactly that, being something that is completely different, and I knew that before even saying I would review them.

Therefore, I can’t base this review on personal preferences (which you could already guess what I would say) and I need to put my tastes to one side and try to review these for what they are, a set of bass monster IEMs aimed at the bass heads out there, so please bear with me as I try and put the experience into words :blush:

Presentation…

The box is is comic inspired, with black and white artwork and images of the IEMs in large. The text, such as the logo, the model, etc. is purple to match the colour of the IEMs on the cover, although the IEMs themselves are actually lighter and more of a blue than the purple shown on the box. I have to say that the box is refreshing as it is a break from the usual packaging we find on IEMs.

The outer sleeve also shows the measurement and some specs on the back, although the measurement doesn’t really give you a grasp on the actual FR you will hear once you plug these in. I am not saying the graph is wrong but as it doesn’t have a reference, it doesn’t give you a real idea of what to expect. One thing I found strange was that the text on the back of the box seems to be upside down, but I guess that depends on how you flip the box.

The contents are almost identical to those that were included with the QKZ x HBB Khan. I say almost because it’s only really the 2 pin connectors on the cable that are metal rather than the recessed versions on the Khan.

That is to say that it includes the IEMs, 3 sets of silicone tips, a generic cable and a gold coin with the HBB logo on one side and the QKZ logo on the other. They also include the same rigid storage/transport case that was included with the Khan.

Honestly I am not sure of the reason behind the coin, I’m sure there is a reason but I would have personally preferred a slightly nicer cable and no coin.

Build and aesthetics…

The IEMs are very lightweight and feature a plastic shell that is a tinted translucent plastic on the inner shell and a blueish purple tinted faceplate with a sort of ribbed window effect under the flat faceplate. I honestly don’t know how to explain the faceplate in words, or at least I can’t find the words to describe it, so the photo above is the best option to understand what I mean.

The cable, which is fairly thin and generic, features an inline microphone in my case. This can come in handy for the odd call here and there but I don’t think that the tuning of these IEMs really lends itself to voice intelligibility for calls.

I haven’t mentioned the price of these IEMs yet, which is just under 50€, placing them inside what I consider the ultra budget range. However, although I do consider them a budget option, I don’t feel that the actual content is really anything special for the price. Yes, you get everything you need along with a storage case (and a coin) but the contents do seem to be bare minimum as far as build quality is concerned. In other words, they all work and do their job, they just don’t give any sensation of being quality items (even at 50€), but I guess that leaves more budget for the actual IEMs themselves.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

So, moving into the sound section and here is where things get… let’s say, special.

I already posted the graph earlier in the review and said that the sound of these IEMs is not something that I can look at from my typical personal tastes point of view. These IEMs are aimed at giving bass and there is no doubt that bass is what they give!

This also renders my usual test track list almost useless, except for a few tracks, as these IEMs certainly do not work well for the majority of the list, which is to be expected. In fact, I find that these IEMs work for very specific kinds of music and even then, not all music that would fall under that genre.

For example, I find that they work well if you are someone who wants a lot of bass presence in EDM, however, EDM (at least how I think of it) can cover a lot of different subgenres and lots of different styles inside those subgenres. I find that for things like 90’s techno and rave, at least most of it, they work rather well, giving a lot of authority to those bass beats while maintaining a cleanliness in the lower frequencies that is pretty remarkable considering the quantity they are delivering. However, things like Dubstep, or more modern electronic dance that has a lot of bass drops can really suffer with the Hades, due to the sheer quantity of bass presence.

The same can happen with Hip Hop. I am a fan of Hip Hop and have been since being a kid in the late 80’s. During the late 90’s and early 00’s I was heavily involved in the scene (doing lots of live shows and even some brief touring) and, although it is by no means the music that I most listen to nowadays, it still gets a lot of play time. I still dig out underground stuff on occasions from groups who would have probably had a completely different outcome if YouTube was a thing back then.

The reason I am saying this, apart from the fact that I am rambling as usual, is because there are many subgenres of Hip Hop also. There is the electro inspired stuff from the 80’s, the simple early 808 based stuff, the 90’s gangsta stuff, the millenial commercial stuff, the jazz fusion stuff, there really are a lot of genres out there (that a non Hip Hop lover would never even believe).

As with EDM, I find that the Hades works better for certain genres of Hip Hop than for others. With styles that feature large quantities of bass in the recordings, then I find the Hades to overdo it, making the bass the center of attention and overshadowing the rest of the track and even the vocals. Some will obviously like the huge emphasis on bass and who am I to disagree but, while I do like bassy Hip Hop, I still like the vocals to be the center of attention as, to me, lyrics are 90% of Hip Hop.

With other Hip Hop that is not so prominent in the bass department, in the recording I mean, then the Hades can make it a lot of fun.

Now, there is of course one thing that I cannot not include in a sound review of mine when talking about bass… “Chameleon”. I am sure you will have heard this track by now if you are someone who reads my reviews but if you haven’t, then I must point out that this track is brutal in the bass range. When a set is too bassy, it makes this track become even nauseous, which is the case with the Hades. I knew this before I even listened to “Chameleon” but I had to give it a try anyway and I was not disappointed, the Hades + “Chameleon” will check for any loose fillings you may have :grin:

Conclusion…

Would I buy the Hades? No.

But I am not you.

Should you buy the Hades? It depends.

The Hades are a different animal and I think the term “animal” is quite fitting. If you are looking for a good all rounder IEM, then I think that you would be way off track with the Hades.

If you are someone who enjoys copious amounts of bass that actual performs fairly well given the quantity on offer, then the Hades is a budget offering that will meet those requirements.

I really don’t think the Hades is designed to be a “one and only” IEM (although I may be wrong as I didn’t design it), it is more of a “gimme more bass” set that will work for specific genres and tracks far better than others. If your library only consists of these kinds of tracks, then maybe it could be your “one and only” but I see it more as a complimentary set to other sets that you just grab when you want that experience.

Let’s face it, the majority of people who are reading this review are probably not “one and done” kind of people anyway :wink:

__
As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

5 Likes

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Letshuoer Cadenza 4

The Cadenza 4 have been sent to me directly by Letshuoer for me to try them out and share my opinions in this review. Letshuoer have not made any specific comments or requests and I will do my best, as always, to be as unbiased in this review as possible.

You can find the official page for the Cadenza 4 here: LETSHUOER Cadenza4 wired IEM Hifi earphones Beryllium coated DD BA hyb – letshuoer

As with all links I share, this is a non-affiliate link.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

The Cadenza 12 was released as both the flagship IEM of the brand and the first in what was said to be a series of IEMs, the Cadenza. This was early in 2023, with a prototype making its rounds at Canjam quite a few month before that. While I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the Cadenza 12, I did get to try it out and I have to say that it was my favourite IEM from the brand, although a little bright.

A year later, Letshuoer presents us with the second IEM in the Cadenza line up, this time at a much more affordable level (for most of us), priced at under $250, or $229 for those who pre-ordered, which is around 230€, that is a rather large difference from the 2000€ price tag of the flagship model. While the Cadenza 12 featured 12 drivers, the Cadenza 4 coincidentally (or not) features 4 drivers, that are a dynamic driver plus 3x balanced armature drivers.

So, let’s take a look at what we are getting from the brand for the much more pocket friendly price point of their new model.

Presentation…

The packaging and contents of the Cadenza 4 are certainly nothing to complain about in the price range, in fact, they are very similar to the presentation of the S15 that I reviewed not long ago and comes in at almost $100 more expensive.

The same grey outer sleeve, featuring just the make and model, with some basic specs on the back, slides away to reveal an even simpler flip top box in the same colour with “Letshuoer - Sound Alive” on the top in small white letter. This outer packaging is simple and elegant.

The flip top box is held closed with magnets and opens in the same “jewelry box” type way as that of the S15. There is a top layer, covered by a grey card envelop containing the user manual and other documentation, which is removed to reveal the IEMs sitting underneath.

The bottom half of the box is a slide out drawer accessed from the front that contains the rest of the accessories, which are a black screw top storage/transport case, the cable with interchangeable connectors, 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 4.4mm connectors for the cable and the disc style tip holder containing “balanced” and “vocal” tips, 3 sets of each.

The only real difference between the presentation of the Cadenza 4 and the S15 is the colour of the cable and the colour of the “vocal” ear tips, which are grey rather than blue.

I have nothing but praise for the presentation and accessories included with the Cadenza 4, making it a nice box opening experience and giving a feeling of a set that has been cared for.

Build and aesthetics…

While the Cadenza 4 do share a similar shape to the Cadenza 12, this is as far as the similarities go in build. Where the flagship is a completely metal shell, the Cadenza 4 opts for a 3D printed shell with a CNC machined faceplate in aluminium with a matte finish. The shells are white which leads to a very elegant looking set of IEMs that are not overly shouty but look, and feel, to be of good quality.

The 3D printed shell also helps to reduce weight, with the Cadenza 4 being a very lightweight and comfortable IEM, at least in my ears.

The included cable, stated as being a 392 strand silver plated copper, matches the aesthetics of the IEMs, with white and matte aluminium hardware that also matches the aesthetics. While I am someone who prefers fabric covered cable personally, there is no doubt that the included cable is of good quality and, as it includes all the termination options you may need, it is a perfect match for the IEMs.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

I am not going to make any comparisons in sound between the two Cadenza models as, on one hand, they are in totally different leagues, and on the other, I only briefly listened to the 12 in show conditions last year, so I cannot faithfully make any comparisons.

I will say that this is the 5th set of Letshuoer IEMs that I have reviewed, having tried a fair few more, and that each of their models has a different flavour to it, none of which I have hated. In fact, I have quite liked them and the Cadenza 4 is no exception. In fact, it may actually be my favourite tuning from the brand yet. It is certainly not perfect, to me at least, but the issues that I do find are fairly small and are lost in the overall performance of the IEM.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself, so lets go through my usual steps and start off looking at the graph in comparison to my personal preference target:

Before getting into the specifics, let me say that I found that I preferred the “Vocal” tips (the grey ones) for the Cadenza 4 and those are what I have been using for my detailed listening in this review. There is a sensation of more bass with the “Balanced” option but I found that the bass with the “Vocal” tips was plenty for my tastes.

In the subbass range and focusing first on “Chameleon”, there is enough rumble in the lower frequencies to appreciate the madness of this track, with a nice deep extension. However, the subbass is clean and not really boosted too much (enough for my tastes but maybe not enough for others that prefer more rumble), keeping this articulate a giving a very nice presentation of these lower ranges.

With “No Sanctuary Here”, which is not as overpowering in the subbass department, I find a very nice balance between subbass and midbass, with no real emphasis on either of them, with the low end of this song sounding very clear and decisive.

Moving into the midbass zone and using my midbass fatigue track “Crazy”, there is no sensation of the low end reverb becoming overpowering. It is noticeably there but does not hijack any of the surrounding frequencies, allowing the guitar to present those low end notes without becoming overly boomy.

While the midbass may be a little lower in quantity than many will expect, I find that it is really well balanced and does not give the sensation of missing any warmth in bass guitars, such as in “Elephants on Ice Skates” or in older rock tracks that usually benefit from a bit of extra warmth, such as “Whole Lotta Love”, where the bass guitar has a tonality to it that I find both pleasing and correct, at least to my ears.

Throughout the whole of the bass zone, details are good and I find they get even better as we move into the midrange of the Cadenza 4. In very simple tracks, such as “Happens To The Heart”, the details of the track, such as the breathing and slight vibration of instruments, are easily appreciated while the vocals remain full. In busier tracks, such as “The Room” by Ostura, the Cadenza seemingly keep up without any issues, again letting the details of each instrument shine through but without them being overly upfront.

As we climb into the upper mids, there is plenty or presence for both vocals and instruments, although some tracks can come across a little harsh in this recording. For example, “Crazy” that I mentioned earlier, can have a little too much emphasis on the vocals of Daniella Andrade and even a slight hint of sibilance. This is reduced by switching to the balanced tips, which moves the emphasis away slightly and places it a bit more on the lower ranges. However, it is not terribly harsh, unless you are someone sensitive to the 2.5 to 3.5k region, and I personally prefer the response of the “Vocal” tips.

As we move into the higher regions, there is a nice sensation of air and extension which maintains sibilance in tracks like “Code Cool” at a point I would consider neutral. In other words, it does not add or subtract sibilance to/from Patricia Barber.

The treble extension may not be the most extended treble out there but Letshuoer have done a good job of balancing the treble, allowing it to sound open and airy without sounding overly emphasized, harsh or too bright.

I already said that details are good throughout the whole range and this is added to a nice sensation of space between layers of vocals and instruments, as in the recording of “Strange Fruit”, where background details are noticeable and spacing between the vocal layers are well defined.

I wouldn’t say that the soundstage of the Cadenza 4 is huge but there is definitely enough room for instruments to spread out, although I find that in “La Luna”, the rear left guitar is pushed slightly more left and less back than on other sets. This doesn’t make for a worse presentation of the track, just different.

Conclusion…

The Letshuoer Cadenza 4 are a very impressive set of IEMs. As I mentioned earlier in the review, they may even be my favourite set from the brand so far. There are certain tracks that can become a little hot in the upper mids with the “Vocal” tips but this can be remedied quite well with the “Balanced” tips. I found that I could enjoy them even more with a couple of other aftermarket tips but I usually don’t go into aftermarket accessories in my reviews and try to focus on the included.

For the 230€ price point, you are getting a nicely built set of IEMs, that sounds good, performs well and is also presented in a way that I would say is above the majority of the competition in packaging and accessories.

These probably won’t be the correct choice for those looking for a bassy set of IEMs but for those who are looking for a good, balanced and well performing set of all-rounders, the Cadenza 4 are a very good candidate.


As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

9 Likes

Great review!!
I agree with your take.
I like my set a lot, balanced sound that’s versatile with a clean bass and food treble extension.

1 Like

What is the nozzle size?

I’ll see if I remember am measure it tonight.

Nozzle diameter is 6.3mm

1 Like

Although this is not an IEM, I would say that it is really designed for IEMs and, as it doesn’t have its own thread, I am going to cheat and leave it here (sorry Ohmboy!)

Kiwi Ears Allegro

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Kiwi Ears Allegro

The Kiwi Ears Allegro has been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. Linsoul have not made any requests and I will do my best, as always, to be as unbiased as possible.

You can find a link to the Allegro via Linsoul by visiting the version of this review published on my blog (www.achoreviews.com).

As with all links I publish, it is a non-affiliate link.

Intro…

The Kiwi Ears Allegro is the first dongle from the brand, in fact, I believe it is the first product from the brand outside of IEMs, unless there has been a product I have missed. Priced at just over 50€ (at the time of writing this review), it is quite a cheap and cheerful device that is aimed at those looking for something to power their IEMs. I say this because the specified power output of the Allegro (70mW @ 32Ohms unbalanced and 155mW @ 32 Ohms balanced) is not something that is really aimed at driving more demanding over ear headphones or even some of the hungrier IEMs out there. However, as a source for IEMs, especially those that are similar to Kiwi’s own sets, it is more than enough. In fact, it actually performs better than some other alternatives due to the amplification being totally controlled by the device itself and not the source feeding it.

I used the dongle for some time in the office and then took it with me on a business trip to the US this week, where my only devices were the Kiwi Ears Quintet and a set of Sony Linkbuds S (for when needing ANC) and I can’t say that I have found myself regretting it.

But anyway, let’s take a look at this retro-gaming inspired device and talk about how it does in the budget dongle field.

Presentation…

The packaging and presentation of the Allegro is minimalistic. A simple black box with a lift off lid, showing an outline of the device, the brand logo and the slogan “Live the music”, reveals the dongle sitting inside along with the included cable and a very simple booklet with some specs.

It’s funny that the booklet says “Please read the user manual carefully before use the product. Thanks”, yet there are no instructions in the booklet, just an overview of the specs in multiple languages. It is quite possible that there is a manual to be downloaded somewhere but, if that is the case, there is no mention of it in or on the box (and I haven’t looked online).

Not really anything else to say about the packaging, its very simple, it works and it’s all we need.

Build and aesthetics…

I have been on a bit of a retro-gaming journey lately, picking up a couple of retro handheld devices and emulating some of the “golden oldies”. When I received the Allegro, I was amused to find that it looks like a retro console controller.

Made from metal, the front features a D-Pad and a couple of buttons labelled A and B, with the Kiwi Logo in the top right. The top of the device (controller?) is rounded and has a small recess where two round buttons are located. It is a shame that the front panel buttons are not functional as it would have been a nice touch, but I still find the aesthetics to be cheerful and something different. As always, I praise companies for doing something away from what every other company is doing.

As far as the build quality, it seems to be of very good quality. It certainly got thrown around quite a bit on my transatlantic flights and in the hotel & office, showing no signs of being mistreated.

The included cable is also a nicely built USB-C to USB-C which is made to look like it has two separate cores (which I guess it does). Not sure there is any benefit to this but it does look good.

Functionality…

I already said that the front buttons are not functional, so that just leaves the top buttons, which are used to increase and decrease volume. The volume control is done completely onboard, so there is no change to the source, nor can it be changed by the source when using exclusive modes in things like UAPP. I much prefer this set up.

On one end of the device we get a USB-C connector for data and power, which has proved to not have any issue with Android or Windows, although I can’t comment on iOS.

At the other end we get a 4.4mm balanced output and a 3.5mm unbalanced output, which are pretty self explanatory.

The only other remaining thing is a very small status LED that is located on the back. It is a very strange place to place this LED as I didn’t even realize it was there until I was pulling it out of the IEM case and dropped it (still no sign of abuse :wink: ), seeing what looked like a tiny reset hole on the back, the type that you would stick a pin in to reset. As I couldn’t think why a reset hole would be needed, I looked a little closer and finally realized it was an LED (plugging it in to confirm). Again, a strange place to put it but it is there.

That is it as far as functionality, there are no presets, gain levels or filters, so it really is a simple device.

Sound…

The Alegro uses a ES9028Q2M DAC chip which is something that I haven’t come across in a device before, at least as far as I am aware. I know that Audiophonics uses this in one of their DACs for the Raspberry Pi but I haven’t tried it and, as I just said, I don’t know of any other devices that use it. Maybe some telephones?

Anyway, that is what Kiwi have chosen and, as always, I feel that the implementation is always more important than the actual chip itself. In this case, Kiwi seem to have done a decent job of making a good sounding device for a very reasonable price.

If I were to label the overall sound signature, I would say it is aiming more toward the analytical side of things. More towards cool than warm. Although it is not too analytical, not enough to not be enjoyable, at least to my ears.

I can’t say it is my favourite dongle ever but I also can’t bring myself to complain about it. As I mentioned above, this, paired with the Quintet, was the only device I took with me for my trip and I used it exclusively (except when opting to use ANC to try and disconnect for a while on the flight back). During this time I did not find myself irritated or feeling like I was missing anything at all. It does a great job of bringing out the details in the Quintet without making them seem tiring, which I have found with some other “analytical” sources in the past, due to the already almost “analytical” nature of the IEMs.

I also found it to pair very nicely with the Kiwi Ears Cadenza. The Cadenza, as I have said many times in the past, are a set of ultra budget IEMs that I really enjoy and the pairing with the Allegro gives you a very enjoyable portable system for less than 80€.

If I had to choose, I would say that it pairs slightly better with sets that have a little warmth to them, such as the Cadenza or the Zero 2, but without the being overly warm This seems to give a little more focus to the details of said sets but without ever losing the focus of their signature. Although, as said with the Quintet, even more analytical sets don’t sound bad on the Allegro, I would just refrain from sets that are bright in their tuning as things may get a little thin at times.

Conclusion…

I really like the Kiwi Ears Allegro for just over 50€. It is not my favourite dongle, nor is it a ground breaking experience, but it is cheap and cheerful and will power most IEMs no problem, while doing a decent job.

I would probably recommend this to those who want a no frills budget dongle to power their IEMs and are not sure which way to turn. Yes, there are dongles that bring out more details, others that bring a warmer presentation, others that have more features, but in general, at the 50€ price point, I don’t think the Allegro is inferior to any of the competition around it.

I think I will end up using it paired with a retro handheld, not because I need it but because it looks so cool doing so :slightly_smiling_face:

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As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

6 Likes

Simgot EA1000 “Fermat”

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Simgot EA1000 “Fermat”

The EA1000 “Fermat” have been sent to me by Simgot in exchange for the publication of my opinions in this review. Simgot have not made any specific requests and I will attempt to be as unbiased as humanly possible in my review.

You can find the official page for the Simgot EA1000 here: SIMGOT official | professional audio brand

As always, this is a non-affiliate link.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

The Simgot EA1000 are by no means a recent release, at least in the terms of IEM releases, which move faster than operating system updates! There are a lot of reviews out there, stretching back to October 2023 and I had already heard some very good things about the EA1000.

As I have said many times in the past, I try to not take much notice of reviews and comments by others when I plan on reviewing something, trying to avoid any expectation biases, but it has been impossible to avoid all mention of these IEMs in the past 6 months or so.

So, while my review may not be as completely free of preconceived expectations, I was still more than interested in trying out the EA1000 when Simgot reached out to offer the chance.

Now this is not the first set of Simgot IEMs that have been across my desk and my opinions of the previous models I have reviewed have been similar across the board, great performers but not my personal taste.

In the case of the EA1000, we again have a similar tuning to some of the previous models I tried from the brand, although with some minor tweaks. Here the choice has been a a single 10mm dynamic driver paired with a 6mm passive radiator, which is located on the inside of the shell facing the ear.

I really don’t need to go into much more as far as specs and background, as there are already many reviews out there that have covered them, so let’s get on with my usual format.

Presentation…

The packaging of the EA1000 consists of a purple outer cover that refers to Fermat’s Last Theorem on the cover. On the back, in the usual Simgot style, we get three frequency graphs that show the tuning of the IEMs with each of the included nozzles. As the side of the graphs it shows what these tunings are targeted as, along with mentioning which nozzles to pick for each of them.

From the side of the cover, an internal black box pulls out that is presented in a way that is nicely different from so many othe presentations. Instead of a lift off lid, there is a top card (that also references Fermat) that lifts forwards in a sort of origami folded fashion and reveals a copper coloured business card showing Fermat’s Last Theorem and a QR code on the back that can be scanned to extend the warranty period of the IEMs. There is a lot of other text on this top card layer, such as an explanation of the Theorem, which makes it look elegant and much more to the eye than a simple cover.

Folding this top cover to one side, we are greeted by the IEMs sitting in their respective cutouts at the top. Towards the bottom of the box there are two smaller boxes, one for the storage case and another for accessories. Then, finally, underneath the IEM layer, we find another accessory box inside which there are 6 sets of silicone tips (in 3 sizes, 2 of each) and the user manual.

In total, as far as contents, we get the IEMs, the cable, 6 sets of tips, a storage/transport case, 3 sets of nozzles and plenty of replacement o-rings for the nozzles.

I find the packaging and presentation of the EA1000 to be nice and elegant, making the unboxing experience something a little different to so many other sets. As always, I applaud companies that come up with their own twists on something as simple as packaging, without going overboard and using tons of plastics. In this case, except for the plastic bag containing the o-rings, all the packaging is cardboard and has a nice premium feel to it (as far as cardboard goes of course).

Build and aesthetics…

The shells of the IEMs are completely metal, except for the white faceplate that features a subtle design to the background and the Simgot logo in a coppery rose gold colour. I have to say that I think the IEMs look very elegant and discrete, with just enough going on to stand out.

On the inside of the shell, there is a passive radiator which is covered with a grille that is also a coppery gold colour. There is a metal and and center over the grille where Simgot have opted to put the L and R to identify the size and, once again, I think it is very tastefully done.

The cable is in a matching silver colour, with silver hardware, and just a gold coloured chin slider that is less coppery in colour than the other rose gold accents but still looks good. The cable seems to be of decent quality and I have had no complaints about using it paired with the IEMs. There is no balanced option included but that is not unusual.

The included storage/transport case is also of good quality, in a grey colour with a flip up lid and magnetic closure. Inside the case there is also some elastic on the lid and a pocket on the bottom to serve as organization. The case is plenty big enough to store the IEMs along with any accessories you may need.

As far as comfort, I do find them to be comfortable although I did have issues getting a good seal, even when opting for the largest size of included tips. I did get a seal, just that it took a little more work to get them seated correctly.

As a whole, I find everything to be of good build quality and have elegant aesthetics, so absolutely no complaints from me here.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

As said a moment ago, there are three sets of nozzles included with the IEMs, each providing a slightly different tuning. The differences between the tunings are not huge but they are very noticeable, enough to prefer one over the other depending on preferences.

While the 2 sets of silver nozzles do have different coloured o-rings, red and black, the set with black o-rings has a foam filter located inside the nozzle, which is why I have referred to “Silver” (the ones with the red o-rings) and “Silver with filter” (the ones with red o-rings). For brevity, I am going to refer to them as G (Gold), SwF (Silver with filter) and S (Silver), throughout the review.

Here is the frequency graph of the 3 tunings in relation to my usual preference target:

As you can see, the differences are not a lot but they are certainly enough to differentiate between them when listening.

While the bass ranges (and mids) are almost identical between the three nozzles, the change in the upper minds and treble is enough to reduce focus on the lower ranges depending on which nozzles are chosen.

So, starting off with the subbass range, and with a focus on “Chameleon”, the G nozzles do rumble but not excessively. There is more of a focus on the midbass here than on the subbass. Moving to the SwF nozzles, there is a more noticeable rumble, even if the graph may not indicate a very noticeable difference in these ranges. This is due to the reduced upper peaks that allow the focus to be placed more on the lower end. With the S nozzles, the rumble is slightly less than the SwF but it is not a huge difference.

Moving over to “No Sanctuary Here”, the midbass with the G nozzles is clean and controlled, with clean hits that are fairly impressive. Swapping over to the SwF nozzles, the midbass is maybe not quite as clean sounding as the G but it is much more enjoyable in general. With the S nozzles, the midbass is slightly tamer sounding than with the SwF but still sounds a little less clean than with the G nozzles. The presentation with the S nozzles is nice but I do find the SwF presentation preferable to my ears.

Testing out the midbass for fatigue, using “Crazy” as always to judge any excessive reverb in the guitars lower notes, I found that with the G nozzles the midbass in not overly boosted and takes a bit of a back seat to the upper mids. It is not fatiguing in the midbass but the upper mids are too present and a little harsh, although not terrible, it is mostly noticeable in the moving of fingers on strings. Here the SwF nozzles give us a midbass that is still not fatiguing, although there is noticeably more presence of the reverb than with the G. Vocals are less harsh but there are still touches of sibilance. With the S nozzles, we are sort of mid way between G and SwF as far as midbass is concerned, although the upper ranges are slightly harsher and with touches of sibilance similar to the G.

Smooth Operator” is a fairly well produced track and has a decent balance in general but with the G nozzles, I do find it to be lacking a bit of bass presence and warmth to the vocals. With the SwF nozzles there is more presence in the bass and a warmer tonality in general, although vocals do take a slight step backwards. With the S nozzles, we have a similar story as with the G, the track loses some bass presence and warmth in general.

Looking at something a little busier, such as “The Room” by Ostura, the G nozzles do a good job of providing detail and separation of instruments, even with the busier parts of the track. With the SwF, the separation of instruments is not as impressive but the overall sound is much more pleasurable, less thin and more authoritative. With the S nozzles, the detail is more upfront but the track is thinner overall and harsher in its presentation.

Staying with something in a similar genre, “Killing in the Name” does sound a little thin with the G nozzles. Moving to the SwF nozzles, Rage Against The Machine starts to sound like I expect Rage to sound, with more authority to bass and guitars, less harshness and fuller sounding overall. The S nozzles bring a similar experience to the G nozzles, seeming a little thin and, in this case, a bit harsher in the higher guitar notes.

Something a little more acoustical, in this case “Free Fallin’”, I find the G nozzles to be a little thin sounding due to the upper mid forwardness. With the SwF nozzles, the guitar sounds more realistic, with vocals that are not quite as present but smoother and more enjoyable. The S nozzles sound a little more detailed than the SwF, with vocals a little more upfront but not quite as smooth.

Focusing on vocals, male in this case, “These Bones” has nice balance of vocals with the G nozzles although those upper mids remove some warmth from the bass focused vocals. With the SwF nozzles, there is more body to those low vocals, with a more smoothed out presentation. With the S nozzles, things are a little more detail focused but again lose a bit of warmth in those lower vocals.

With female vocals, in this case “Strange Fruit”, the G nozzles provide a good separation of layers but are missing some body to the vocals. The SwF nozzles are not quite as detailed in the nuances but provide more body to the voices and are a preferable, to me, presentation. The layers are not quite as separated but, again to me, it is worth it. The S nozzles bring back more focus to the details but again present us with a harsher experience.

Finally, as a last track I am going to mention as this review seems to be much longer than I anticipated, “La Luna”, a binaural recording. With the G nozzles, the space is decent but there is not a huge amount of depth to the rear. The SwF nozzles presenta a similar story, maybe even slightly more compact, whereas the S nozzles do present themselves as the most spacious of the three, with more depth and better separation of instruments and positioning.

Conclusion…

The Simgot EA1000 “Fermat” is a set of IEMs that aims to give you a lot for a price that, while not the cheapest, is still very fair. We get a nice presentation, an excellent build, decent accessories and good looks.

We also get three different tunings to choose from. While the tunings may not look that different on paper, they are certainly different enough to the ear to clearly pick one as a preference above the others. In my case, my preference lies with the “Silver with filter” nozzles, which, while not focusing on presenting detail as much as the other two, have a slightly rounder and more relaxed sound to them. Now, this is actually surprising to me as, looking at the graph, I would have expected the SwF nozzles to have the harsher presentation of the 3, due to the more elevated peaks around 2.5k and 5k, knowing that I am extremely sensitive to 5k. However, that is what my ears, or my brain, tell me, so who am I to argue?

However, I have to say once more that, although I cannot say that the EA1000 are not a great set of IEMs, they certainly are, I just don’t find myself in love with any of the three tunings.

I don’t think that the EA1000 are a set of IEMs that will please those who want a bassier, more laid back, signature. Nor will they be a good option for those who are sensitive to boosts in the upper ranges but, for those who do like a little spice up top, they are certainly worth checking out.


As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

10 Likes

That was my thought too. I sort of knew it when I saw the graphs, but my ears confirmed it. I rarely enjoy stuff with pinna that steep, or early. The EA1000 eases up by 3K, but the damage is already done at that point.

3 Likes

FiR Audio Electron 10 & Electron 12

Last week I published the following on my blog (and YouTube) but due to being completely absorbed by a project (work) until today, I haven’t had time to upload this anywhere else. Better late than never I guess…

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - FiR Audio E10 & E12

Today I am looking at not one but two sets of FiR Audio IEMs. The Electron 10 and the Electron 12 have been sent to me as part of a tour organized by FiR Audio.

The conditions of the tour were that each participant would get to spend 5 business days with the IEMs and then pass them on to the next participant. There have been no specific requests, I don’t think that even a review was requested from participants, and as the time frame is rather short, I decided I would share my opinions on both sets at once and be a little briefer than my usual review format.

My usual set up is that I spend at least a week with each set of IEMs (or headphones etc.) in normal day to day use and then sit down and do specific detailed listening tests before putting my review together. While I can usually get a good feeling for a set of IEMs with a lot less time, I do find that my feelings towards something may change with day to day use, sometimes liking things more and other times liking them less.

In this case, I have basically been switching back and forth between the two sets for a few days and then done a more detailed listening test. Therefore, my opinions are based on this brief period and it is possible that my feelings would change if using them for a longer period.

As usual, here are a couple of non-affiliate links…

FiR Audio Electron 10 official page: e10 - Fir Audio

FiR Audio Electron 12 official page: e12 - Fir Audio

Thread where the tour was organized on Head-Fi: FiR Audio E10 & E12 Tour | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org

FiR Audio and the Electron IEMs…

For those who don’t know FiR Audio, I don’t blame you as I am not exactly versed on them either. I have seen the name around the forums and read a few positive impressions on some of their sets but that is about the limit of my knowledge.

The brand was actually founded in 2018 by 3 guys who had plenty of experience in the IEM world, having worked for 64 Audio. They have made no effort to hide that they aim at designing high end IEMs, along with some interesting products to help with the maintenance of IEMs.

The Electron series, comprising of the Electron 10 (E10) and Electron 12 (E12) are their cheaper options, coming in at just under $1300 and $1800 respectively. That is for the universal models, as they are also available, as are all their models, as custom fit models.

The E10 features a single 10mm dynamic driver with tactile bass technology and an impedance of 16 Ohms. The E12 follows the same specifications except for the use of a 12mm driver, as the name would imply.

Both models also use the ATOM venting technology along with Flex fit canals. Another interesting thing about them is that they use what FiR calls SwapX assembly and face plates. In the case of the faceplate, it is easily removable (held on with a magnet) and can be replaced by the user. For the SwapX assembly, it is related to the faceplate removal as, under the faceplate, there are 3 screws that allow the IEM to be opened and easily serviced (although I haven’t removed any screws for obvious reasons). This is a way of being able to repair the IEMs if the need should arise.

One thing about these IEMs is that they use simple 2 pin connectors rather than the proprietary RCX connector that FiR uses on other models. This is something that I am sure a lot of people will appreciate.

In general, the IEMs are well built and I find them very comfortable, although, with the shorter than usual nozzles, I do find myself needing to opt for a larger size of tips than usual. During my tests I used the large size of the included silicone tips (foams are also included). I did find that, with the E10, there was a bit of driver flex when inserting them upon getting a good seal but that is only upon insertion, I didn’t notice it with the E12.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

As I haven’t really done the extensive listening with the E10 and E12 that I usually do, I am going to abbreviate this section and just give my opinion on each with 5 specific songs, similar to what I have done with other models in the past when focusing on EQ options etc. I have picked these 5 songs from my test track list as I feel that they cover different styles and can show the strengths and weaknesses of an IEM pretty well.

I have also not had much chance to go through multiple sources with these IEMs, at least not in depth. I will say that they are very easy to drive, not needing much in the way of power from any of the sources I did use. Mainly I have used the iFi Gryphon (although I did spend some time with the Aune Yuki) and a setting of around 50 (depending on the track) was enough for my usual listening levels, with anything over 60 starting to be too loud for my personal preferences.

So, on to the music and starting off with something that focuses on the rumbling subbass and can make IEMs suffer, you can probably all guess that I am going to use “Chameleon” by Trentemoller.

Here the E10 is very clean, without any loss of control in the lowest notes. There is enough rumble for me to appreciate the track but I would say that it is more on the “polite” side than the “bassy” side. The rhythm is clean and the other sounds are all easily appreciated, without anything becoming muddy or lost.

With the E12 there is much more of a noticeable presence in the lower subbass, with a more pronounced rumble than on the E10. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is a bass head rumble but you certainly get a feeling for what the track is about. The upper ranges are still present although it does seem to make the minds seem far more recessed on the larger set.

Moving on to something that I use to judge the midbass, “Crazy” by Daniella Andrade is a track that is quick to make me nauseaus when midbass is excessive and not well controlled. The low end of the guitar has a reverb that can become very boomy and make me want to stop listening almost immediately. Some sets of IEMs can also add sibilance and harshness to her vocals in the higher ranges, although this is not as common as the excessive boomyness.

The E10 does seem to put a bit of emphasis on that low end reverb yet it is kept clean and under control, saving me from the fatigue that I can quickly experience if things are kept tight when slightly elevated. There is a slight hint of sibilance to the vocals of Daniella, not terrible but noticeable. Harshness is not really an issue, although her voice can seem a little thin on occasions. I will say that the details are pretty impressive and are not drowned out by that midbass, even though it is boosted.

The E12 seems to have a very similar presentation in the midbass, maybe even a little more subdued to my ears, mainly because of the upper mids and higher ranges being much more pronounced. Here I really do notice a harshness and sharpness to the vocals, with the 2.5kHz and especially the 5kHz peaks making the track rather uncomfortable for me.

Now using something to focus more on vocals, layering and detail, I like “Strange Fruit”, due to the multiple layers of vocals with small nuances that can easily blend together.

I again find, as with “Crazy”, that with the E10 vocals can be slightly thin and with a hint of sibilance. There is decent separation between the vocal layers but I don’t find them to have as much body as I would like. The dip in the midrange takes away some of the lower warmth of Dominique’s voice, leaving it to be a little more focused on the the higher ranges and a specific boost in the 5kHz that I can’t say I am a huge fan of.

With “Strange Fruit” on the E12, details are easier to appreciate but once again, those upper peaks make the focus of the vocals rather harsh and uncomfortable. Separation between the layers is better but the overall presentation of the track isn’t.

Still focusing on spaciousness but more about the separation of instruments and their placement in the whole soundstage, rather than the spacing between layers on the previous track, I find “La Luna” to be a nice binaural recording that gives me a sensation of how the soundstage is actually laid out.

In the case of the E10, I find that instruments are nicely placed, mostly where I would expect them to be after listening to this track on so many different systems. I wouldn’t say that the soundstage is huge but it is larger than what I find to be average on IEMs, with a decent separation, easily portraying the location of the individual instruments.

Moving over to the E12, there is an even larger sensation of space than with the E10. Instruments have the same positioning as on the smaller set but spread out a little more, not a huge amount but certainly noticeable.

Finally, something a little more upbeat and pop, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. This track is a typical modern recording of a pop track that doesn’t really suffer from being overly compressed, like many other modern recordings do.

With the E10, the first thing I noticed was how the midbass is punchy and much more pronounced that I found it to be on the other tracks I have mentioned so far. Again I find that the dip in the midrange takes away a little body from the vocals, while being pushed forwards by the peaks in the upper minds and treble regions. As I have said many times in the past, I am sensitive to 5kHz peaks and with this track, I found that the E10’s peak in that range was much more pronounced than with other simpler acoustic tracks. In fact, I found the upper ranges to be quite peaky and uneven in general with this track (and other similar recordings).

Playing the same song with the E12, there is more impact to the lower registers, still being punchy but with more emphasis. The problem here is that the issues noticed on the E10 are exaggerated on the E12. There is a definite dip in the centre but the upper peaks are very noticeable to my ears, most of all the 5kHz. Of course, being sensitive to 5k, it is normal that it would stand out to me but I just find that it even makes the track seem a little distorted in the higher regions. It is not actually distorted, it is just my ears (and brain) not being able to process it correctly and giving me that harsh sensation that could even be painful with tracks that are boosted in these regions.

And I just realized that I haven’t shared the graph, so before moving on to the conclusion, here it is:

This will give you an idea of the peaks I was referring to.

Conclusion…

I can’t really say that I am in love with either of the two models. Personally I would choose the Electron 10 over the Electron 12, as I find that the E12 can become a lat harsher than the E10 in those upper ranges. To be honest, the peaks are very similar on both of them but the more pronounced dip in the midrange makes the peaks far more apparent to my ear on the E12.

The E12 does have better subbass, well, maybe better is not the correct term as both have decent subbass, it is just a little more present on the E12, but the upper peaks make the focus move towards the higher end and it actually comes across as having less midbass.

Detail wise they are both good, not groundbreaking but good nonetheless, and the spaciousness of the presentations is also very good, I just can’t get on with the overall tuning of these two sets of IEMs.

I would love to get my ears on one of their other sets at some point to see if the tuning choices are a brand thing or just this particular line of IEMs.

__
For those who speak español, this can be found in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

4 Likes

Kefine Delci

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Kefine Delci

The Kefine Delci have been sent to me by Kefine for me to try them out and to share my opinions in this review. Kefine have not made any requests and, as usual, I will attempt to be as unbiased as humanly possible.

I was going to post the official page of the Delci, as usual, but looking around it seems that it is available from many retailers. I mention the price of 55€ in my review but it is available are various prices from various places, so I suggest you look around and pick the deal that interests you the most.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

This is not the first set of IEMs that I have reviewed from Kefine, although they are still a new brand, with the Delci being only their second set of IEMs (as far as I am aware). Their first set, the Klanar, is a planar set that I reviewed in November last year. I said that, while the Klanar wasn’t my favourite tuning, there was no doubt that they had done a good job with their first entry into the market.

The Delci moves away from the planar driver and opts for a 10mm dynamic driver that combines DLC and PU. Priced at just over 50€, 55€ to be exact, it falls only just outside my ultra budget limit buy only by 5€, so I would still consider it to be a very well priced IEM.

So, how have Kefine done with their second set? Let’s find out.

Presentation…

As far as packaging, there is very little difference between this model and the Klanar, which comes in at almost twice the price. The outer sleeve is black instead of white but still features an image of the IEM, with some basic specs on the back.

Opening the simple black box that slides out from the sleeve reveals content that us also very similar to the previous model. The IEMs sitting in a simple piece of foam and a storage case underneath that contains the cable and 6 extra sets of tips (so 7 in total) in 2 core sizes.

As with the Klanar, the presentation of the Delci is nothing special but it is half the price of the previous model so I have no complaints.

Build and aesthetics…

As far as build and aesthetics, we again find they are very similar to the planar model. In this case we get gunmetal grey shells rather than black, and there is a slightly more pronounced elevation to where the simple Kefine lettering sits in the center.

The cable also opts for gunmetal grey hardware and connectors, this time in metal rather than plastic in the case of the Klanar.

In general, I find the IEMs to be simple but very well built and extremely comfortable. I literally put them in my ears with the tips that were already on them and they instantly felt great.

I actually feel that these are a step up from the Klanar, which is great news at the price!

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

I first placed the Delci in my ears one afternoon in the office while listening to some blues, acoustic jazz and other simple relaxed music. I was immediately surprised by how much I liked what I was hearing. Things were relaxed yet detailed, smooth and warm but not dark, just a very nice listen.

I could honestly stop there and say that I really like these IEMs but I did my usual stint of using them for 5 days or so before moving on to my test track list and looking for specific points of good or bad, so I guess I will be a little more in depth than that :wink:

Before moving on, here is the frequency response in comparison to my usual preference graph:

I really am glad that I listen to things before measuring them as, looking at the graph above, I would have immediately thought that they were dark and bassy, yet that is not the case.

Don’t get me wrong, they are certainly not bright and bass thin, but the warm smoothness that they offer doesn’t make me feel like it is missing detail and treble.

In the subbass region, I of course put them through my “Chameleon” test, which brought back quite a bit of rumble, making the track sound pretty impressive, but what was more impressive was that it managed to do so without becoming out of control or overshadowing the remaining frequencies too much. It is not the most subbass I have heard, nor is it the most balanced outcome that can be achieved with this track, but it is certainly not a bad rendition of the craziness that “Chameleon” can be.

With “Sun Is Shining”, there is a little too much in the lower ranges in comparison to the upper ranges, yet it is not something that I immediately dislike. In fact, I found it quite a pleasant and relaxed listen, with maybe a bit too much in the bass department but doing a good job of controlling it.

No Sanctuary Here” gives me a similar impression to “Sun Is Shining”, where I would not say that the Delci presents the track in the way I would consider my favourite, but even with that emphasis on the bass, it makes for a bassy electronic listen that I don’t find as tiring as I usually do with this kind of reproduction.

In my midbass fatigue test, I do find “Crazy” to have a little too much boom in that low end of the guitar but not enough to make me feel fatigued, meaning that it does a good job of both controlling the midbass, with good detail, and not bleeding into the lower mids too much.

In fact, I find that the midbass throughout the mids is the highlight of these IEMs. I spent a lot of time enjoying the Delci with a lot of blues and other electric guitar focused music and found the overall tonality to be very nicely presented. It is maybe missing some of the crunch that you would get on sets with a more present upper minds/lower treble range, but it does not lack detail and gives a great smoothness to the guitars that I find very enjoyable.

Vocals may be a little further back that usual but they are by no means absent and they have a great body and smoothness to them. For example, “Dreamin’” puts quite a bit of emphasis on the low end with the vocals not being the centre of attention but it does work well and presents a very relaxed sound that does not come across as anything being lost, just presented in a smoother way.

This presentation also works well for tracks that were a little too bright in their original recording and maybe missing a little warmth to the bass. “Walking On The Moon” by The Police makes the bass, and track in general, a lot more pleasurable than usual, although Sting is pushed back slightly more than I would prefer. This may not be the best for balancing the vocals against the music but it certainly helps get rid of the harshness that is present in this recording.

While the signature is not something that focuses on details, it also doesn’t give the impression of details missing, the driver does a great job of presenting them in a more subdued way.

In fact, my only complaint would be a peak that appears in the treble ranges that can sometimes coincide with cymbals and other metallic high pitched sounds, making them a little harsh on occasions. This is not a regular occurrence, at least I haven’t found it to be, but sometimes the percussion on a track will just find this peak and suddenly stand out against a very smooth track otherwise.

Don’t think that this is something that puts me off the Delci, it is not like they are sibilant or harsh at all, just that peak that sometimes pops up and says high, sort of bringing me out of the trance into which these IEMs seem to place me.

Conclusion…

The Delci are a set of IEMs that have a musicality that I never thought I wanted, until placing them in my ears and just finding great pleasure from listening to them. They are not a set that makes details stand out, yet they are detailed. They are not shy on bass, yet they are not overpowering. They don’t make vocals the center of attention, yet vocals don’t get lost. They are just a very musical set of IEMs.

As I mentioned in the sound section, I found these to be an absolute pleasure for a lot of blues recording, especially those that are a little older and can be harsh and lacking a bit of warmth in the bass. The add body and warmth yet sound very natural doing it. They don’t sound like they are boosting the bass, they sound like they are smoothing it but without losing definition.

These are not a sound signature that I see people specifically asking for, yet I do see them as a sound signature that people will enjoy if they just sit back and listen to them. Yes, there is that peak that can make an appearance at times, but I really can’t find myself complaining about anything else.

While I found the Klanar to be a good first try by Kefine, I think that the Delci are a win, especially at the price point they come in at. They will obviously not be everybody’s taste as far as sound signature, they aren’t even my taste as sound signature, but I think they are a great set to have on hand when you just want to relax.

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As always, this review can be found in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

7 Likes

Jialai Carat

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Jialai Carat

The Jialai Carat have been sent to me by the brand, which is part of NiceHCK, in exchange for my impressions. I have received no requests or comments and, as always, I will do my very best to be as unbiased as possible.

You can find a non-affiliate link to the Jialai Carat here by visiting the version of this review published on my blog.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

Jialai is a new brand in the world of IEMs and is a sister brand of NiceHCK, a brand that has been around for quite some time. The Carat is the first model and opts for a single 10mmm titanium coated DLC driver, coming in at around 65€, depending on where you purchase from.

They are stated as being tuned to the IE2019 frequency curve, something that they say will ensure enhanced clarity for vocals and a smooth overall presentation.

So, how does the Carat perform amongst the masses of budget focused IEMs that are available on the market?

Presentation…

I have to say that the presentation is pretty impressive for a set that is slightly over what I would consider ultra-budget.

Arriving in a silver coloured flip top box, the front simply shows the brand and model, while the back shares some basic specs about the model.

Flipping open the top reveals the very shiny IEMs sitting in their foam cutouts, underneath which we find a storage/transport case along with the cable, a basic user manual and 9 sets of silicone tips in 3 different styles.

It is not that we are receiving out of the ordinary but it is nice to see the inclusion of a selection of tips along with a case that is of decent quality.

There really is nothing to complain about in regards to packaging or amount of accessories.

Build and aesthetics…

The shells are made from CNC machined aluminium and have a mirror like finish to them. While this makes them look shiny and impressive when opening the box, the finish will collect more fingerprints than CSI Miami. The positive side is that they clean very easily with a microfiber cloth but, unless you are going to wear gloves, it is almost impossible to keep them looking as shiny as they do out of the box.

The build is good and they are nice and light for a full metal build, however, due to the short nozzles, the fit is not very deep, meaning I needed to opt for a larger size of tips that I would usually. I ended up opting for the yellow core tips from the included sets, which is a large size, and once I placed them in my ears with these tips, the result is very comfortable.

While the IEMs are well built and have nice aesthetics, I can’t say the same for the included cable. The cable has a very plastic feel to it and is rather rigid, keeping the folds and kinks that it came with (from being wrapped in the box) even after using it for almost a week. The cable does function and does it’s job but, knowing that NiceHCK make some decent cables, it would have been nice to include something a little better than what we get with the Carat.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

Before starting with my subjective impressions, here is the graph of the Carat in relation to my usual preference curve:

As always, the preference curve is just as a guide, it is not a rule that means I will like or dislike a product.

Starting off with the subbass and my obligatory “Chameleon” test, there is presence but the quality is not the best nor is it the cleanest. This is mainly due to a large presence of midbass that seems to fusion with the subbass and create a low end that is not very defined.

While there is too much midbass for my personal preference, using “Crazy” as my usual fatigue test, the quality of the midbass is actually not too bad. I don’t find the midbass overly fatiguing but I think that the driver seems to struggle a little with subbass, which, when added to the midbass boost, creates a rather unfocused low end.

This is again noticeable with “No Sanctuary Here”, where the low end just seems to struggle for clarity, something that seems to clean up as soon as we remove subbass from the equation.

As we move into the midrange, there is quite a noticeable dip in the mids which makes certain vocals and instruments get a little lost in their midrange when the track has a decent amount of low end (especially subbass). With simpler tracks, this doesn’t become an issue but with bassy and busy tracks, this does not help.

Moving into the upper ranges, the tuning is decent but can come across a little hot on occasions. I wouldn’t have thought this based on the graph but to my ears, certain songs do suddenly become a little spicy.

This is less apparent when the low end is busy but then that accentuates the V shaped tuning, making the dip in the midrange more apparent. So it solves one but creates another.

Conclusion…

It is great to see new contenders in the budget focused IEM world, yet the Jialai Carat doesn’t quite do it for me. While the build is great, except for the cable, and the tuning is something that I can see a lot of people liking, I just find that the performance doesn’t really stand out as being brilliant.

That low end can suffer quite a bit when there is a presence of both subbass and midbass, making things come across as poorly defined, but even when there isn’t a lot of low end in the mix, they still don’t come across as overly detailed.

I am not really saying these are a bad set of IEMs, it wasn’t long ago that they would have been pretty impressive, I just don’t think that they are great at anything in particular and really don’t have much going on that would make me pick them over quite a few other options in this price bracket.

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As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

7 Likes

Effect Audio X Elysian Acoustic Labs Pilgrim Noir

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Effect Audio x Elysian Pilgrim Noir

The Effect Audio x Elysian Acoustic Labs Pilgrim Noir have been sent to me to try out and to share my impressions. I have not received any requests and I will do my very best to be as unbiased as humanly possible.

You can find the official Elysian Acoustic Labs website here: https://elysianacousticlabs.com/

However, the Pilgrim Noir can be found on the Effect Audio website here: Earphones

As always, the above links are non-affiliate.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

I have never had the chance to get to hear anything from Elysian in the past, although I have heard plenty about Elysian. Most of what I have heard is that the audio quality is great but the time frame for production not so much. However, it does seem, at least from what I have read, that this has improved dramatically recently.

In this case, Elysian has partnered with Effect Audio to present the Pilgrim Noir, an “upgraded” version of the Pilgrim which has also been released by Elysian, at the same time, as its own model.

Well, from not having heard any Elysian product, I have gone to being lucky enough to receive both the Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Noir, two of their more budget focused sets, and I was eager to finally get to hear what they are capable of, even at a reduced price point.

As I had to choose one to start with, I decided on the Noir, so you will not find me comparing it to the regular version in this review. Just to put things into perspective, the Noir is priced at just over 700€, while the regular version comes in at around half that price.

Build and aesthetics…

You will have noticed that I have skipped the packaging and contents, that is because I didn’t receive any. In fact, the Noir arrived in a simple plastic bag, with a very thin layer of foam around it, inside a plastic FedEx bag.

So, if you want unboxing experiences, you will need to wait for my regular Pilgrim review, as all I got in this case was the IEMs and the cable, not even any sets of tips or even a brown cardboard box :blush:

Anyhow, the IEMs… I know I said that I wasn’t going to compare the two models, and I am not, but as far as build and aesthetics, the only difference is in the colour. I haven’t really paid much attention to the regular version yet but at a glance, the regular version is silver, while the Noir version is… well… noir.

The external shell is made of aluminium, with 3D printed internal cavities that contain 4 drivers in a hybrid configuration. A 9.2mm LSR dynamic driver takes care of the low end, 2x Sonion balanced armatures take care of the mid range and a Knowles balanced armature takes care of the highs.

The IEMs are on the larger side and that, coupled with slightly shorter nozzles, does mean that I had to opt for a large size in tips. Speaking of tips, I used the Spinfit tips that are included with the regular version for this review.

The included cable is the Eros S:NOIR cable by Effect Audio, which is a very nice cable. I am not the biggest fan of the heat shrink used for the ear hooks but they are more comfortable than they look and the cable in general gives off a premium feel.

In fact, the combination of IEMs and cable give off a premium feel, feeling well built and with aesthetics that are simple but not at all offensive.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

Ok, so the important part, how does the Noir sound?

Well, to cut a long story short, the overall signature is quite relaxed yet it does not come across as missing detail or clarity.

As usual, before getting into my thoughts with my specific test track list, here is the graph of the Noir in comparison to my usual preference target for reference:

As can be seen in the graph, the frequency response deviates quite a bit from what I would consider my preference, however, as I have said many times in the past, my preference target is not a rule as to what I will or I won’t like, it is just a general reference guide.

Getting to my usual test track list and detailed listening, let’s start off with the track I always start off with for subbass, “Chameleon” by Trentemoller. There is plenty of low end rumble in the track, yet it is kept clean and defined, not seeming to lose any control of those low notes. It is a bit elevated for my personal preferences and I feel that this could even satisfy the bass heads out there (maybe not the most extreme ones) but it doesn’t seem to be loose or flabby at any point during the track. The upper ranges of this track do take a backseat to the lower ranges, which is to be expected based on the FR and the track in general.

Moving to “No Sanctuary Here”, the overall presentation is of a bassy track with a slight emphasis on that lower end that does cast some shadow on the upper ranges, with the vocals taking a step back. In my personal opinion, I would like just a touch more clarity in this track, just a bit more light on the vocals and the bending of the guitar chords, yet the backing vocals and the low end sound great.

Now, moving into something with less subbass presence and more of a focus on midbass, “Crazy” by Daniela Andrade is my usual pick for judging excessive presence of these frequencies. I have to say that, when I first hit play on this track, the opening bars made me think that it was going to be fatiguing to me in the midbass range, yet, when the vocals kicked in, there was an overall balance to the track that I find very pleasurable. With many sets I find that this track is either overly bloated in the reverb of the lower guitar ranges, or overly hot in the upper ranges on Daniela’s vocals, with the Noir, these seem to balance out nicely.

With “Elephants On Ice Skates”, I once again found that the intro seemed to be a little “off”, coming across as a little dull and lacking some bite to the bass plucks, yet, as with “Crazy”, when the whole track started to play, it became much more balanced and offered a very relaxed yet detailed presentation. All instruments were easily separated but none seemed “too much”.

Moving through a pretty balanced midrange, as we get to the higher mids, this is where we find a little bit of a step back in presence. It is a little bit strange as, when things are isolated, for example the solo part of the vocals in “Human (acoustic)”, they seem to be a little distant and lacking a bit of clarity, yet, when they come back into the mix with the instruments, they don’t get lost. These are certainly not vocal forward in their presentation, in fact, they are lacking presence in vocals if anything, yet they still manage to be clear when the vocals are mixed with the music.

There is no sense of sibilance at all, with Patricia Barber even sitting around a -2 or -3 on my non-scientific scale of -12 to +12 in “Code Cool”, the same with other tracks that are prone to sibilance, they are subdued and do not become harsh at any point.

As far as details, these IEMs are not something that I would say are focused on details, yet they manage to present everything in a coherent manner. There is a nice separation between layers, such as in the vocals of “Strange Fruit”, there is a nice sensation of space in the binaural recording of “La Luna”, and they don’t become blurry with busier tracks like “The Room”.

Conclusion…

The Pilgrim Noir leave me with a strange sensation. When listening to isolated parts of tracks, I would say that they are a little dull and missing some sparkle. Yet, when listening to tracks in their whole, at least the majority of them, they do not come across this way.

Yes, they are a laid back presentation, without really being exciting in any way, yet they are so easy and relaxing to listen to that I really enjoy using them. They manage to keep things clean and clear but also rounded and pushed back at the same time.

If you are looking for something that pushes details and clarity at you, then I don’t think that the Noir are something that will fit, yet, if you are looking for something that allows you to relax and just enjoy the music without feeling that anything is missing, then they are most certainly worth a listen.

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As always, this review is available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

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Tangzu x HBB Xuan NV

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Tangzu x HBB Xuan NV

The Tangzu X HBB Xuan NV have been sent to me by Linsoul for me to try them out and to publish my opinions in this review. Linsoul have not made any requests, they never do, and I will do my usual best to be as unbiased as possible in my review.

You can find a direct link to the Tangzu X HBB Xuan NV via Linsoul by visiting the version of this review published on my blog (www.achoreviews.com)

As always, it is a non-affiliate link.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

Can anyone say for sure how many collaborations HBB has? Can HBB even name them all without looking them up? I know that I lost track many moons ago :grin:

Seriously though, I don’t think HBB or his collaborations need any introduction at this point in time and the Xuan NV is his latest (or maybe not?) with the brand Tangzu, who he already collaborated with in the past. While I didn’t get to listen to the Heyday, his previous Tangzu collab, I do know that there were plenty of people who enjoyed it. This time, we have moved from the planar in the Heyday to a dual dynamic driver in the Xuan NV and the price has also dropped from 190€ to around 70€ for this model.

We are used to collaborations from HBB being very different from previous models, so, what do we get with the Xuan NV?

Presentation…

Tangzu have a habit of using classic looking artwork on their packaging and the Xuan NV is no different, with a box cover that is still anime inspired but more traditional in its intent. The reference to HBB is also quite subtle, with just his logo appearing on the bottom right corner, without further reference to him on the packaging. The back of the packaging shares some basic specs of the IEMs and plenty of QR codes to scan.

Opening the box we get the IEMs, a pouch style storage case, 6 sets if Tang Sancai tips (3x balanced and 3x wide), plus a set of simple white silicone tips installed and the cable. Nothing extraordinary but plenty to allow us to enjoy the IEMs.

Build and aesthetics…

The shells are 3D printed in medical grade resin, with a transparent red colour to them and gold design on the faceplate to represent a butterfly wing on each IEM. If you look very closely, you will see HBB in lettering on one wing and Tangzu on the other, although you will have to look very very closely, as it is very hard to make out.

The internals contain 2x dynamic drivers, one 10mm ceramic and the other an 8mm PU+LCP. The overall impedance of these drivers is quite low, 8.5 Ohms, but so is the sensitivity at 98dB. I have found that these IEMs do need quite a bit of power to get them to my usual listening levels, so those of you who listen loud (the majority listen louder than me), will need to make sure you have a decent dongle or amplifier, I don’t suggest trying to run these from a phone.

Overall, the IEMs look decent enough, they are very lightweight and I find them to be comfortable even for long listening sessions.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

As I said a moment ago, HBB has a lot of collaborations and also has the habit of each one being different. I am not sure if he is trying to collect tunings like Pokemon but here is a quick recap of the tunings he has had so far (and I am probably missing quite a few):

Well, the Xuan NV manages to find yet another variation in tuning, so call HBB whatever you want but he certainly isn’t boring when it comes to choosing a tuning:

So, to put this into perspective against my usual preference curve that I use as a reference, this is what it looks like:

So let’s start off with “Chameleon” as usual and talk about subbass. There is plenty of rumble for my tastes although it is not the cleanest of low notes that I have heard. By that I don’t mean it does a bad job, far from it, it is controlled but it does seem to blend the subbass notes together slightly when this track is at its fullest. To be honest, it is a brutal test for IEMs anyway, as there is a lot of low end there and the Xuan NV don’t fall apart. I have heard better but I have heard many sets that are much worse.

With something a little less overloaded, like “No Sanctuary Here”, there is more clarity, things don’t suffer quite as much. I still wouldn’t say it is amazing in the lowest notes but it is certainly decent enough. There can be just a little too much going on in “Royals” but if we move to something more midbass focused, such as “Sun Is Shining”, then things get a lot better.

Mids are pretty decent and if we don’t overload the lowest registers, the tonality and performance of the mids is more than acceptable. There is a rather large boost around the 3kHz mark which serves well to counteract the subbass but can leave things a little harsh when we take tracks that are not really bass focused, such as acoustic songs like “Tears in Heaven”.

I find that it works much better for some of the older hip hop tracks that are not overly heavy in the subbass but still have enough in the bass department for the vocals to not be overly harsh due to that 3k boost.

One thing I will say is that there is absolutely no harshness to my ears from that 5kHz region, something that I really appreciate. To me a boosted 3kHz is much more tolerable than a 5kHz peak, although each person is sensitive to different frequencies, so your mileage may vary.

Sibilance is also kept in check, or reduced rather, with no sign of sibilance in the usual suspects like Patricia Barber in “Code Cool”.

The treble extension is not great, with a noticeable roll off that does give a sensation of lacking air. This interacts with the overall signature to present a rather laid back presentation that is not the most detailed.

Conclusion…

I seem to have tried out quite a few IEMs lately that have a “relaxed and laid back” presentation, some more than others. In the case of the Xuan NV, it is an enjoyable set of IEMs for the most part, although I do find it to be lacking detail retrieval in general and it can also become a little overwhelming if we pump overly (sub)bassy music into it.

While I don’t have any specific issues with the Xuan NV, I really don’t find it to stand out above other similar alternatives at similar price points. This is not to say that you won’t enjoy it, if you are looking for a presentation that is of this style, then I think that you will enjoy it, I just feel that there are other alternatives with a similar laid back style that can compete.

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As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

6 Likes

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Elysian Acoustic Labs Pilgrim

The Elysian Acoustic Labs Pilgrim have been sent to me by HifiGo for me to try them out and to share my opinions in this review. HifiGo have not made any requests and, as always, I will do my very best to be as unbiased as humanly possible in y review.

You can find the Pilgrim via HifiGo here: https://hifigo.com/products/elysian-acoustic-labs-pilgrim

As always, this link is non-affiliate.

To avoid being repetitive in my reviews, you can find all the info about how I create the reviews, equipment used, how I receive the products and how to interpret my reviews by visiting: About my reviews

Intro…

I recently reviewed the Pilgrim Noir, which is a joint venture between Elysian Acoustic Labs and Effect Audio. I actually received both of the models on the same day, from different places, and the only reason that I chose to review the Noir first was because I had to pick one and there seemed to be less info on the Noir out there.

Today I am reviewing what could be considered the “regular” version of the Pilgrim, the one that is simply the Elysian Acoustic Labs Pilgrim, without any additional collaborations. While I did not do any comparisons between the two models in my review of the Noir, because I hadn’t spent time with the Pilgrim yet, I will make some comparisons in this review. To make things easier, I am just going to refer to this model as the Pilgrim and refer to the model I previously reviewed as the Noir, which makes sense and saves me having to type more than necessary!

Straight of the bat, the first comparison is going to be in the price. I did mention in my review of the Noir that the Pilgrim is around half the price. Well, as of today, you can get the Pilgrim from HifiGo for 366€, while the Noir is available on the Effect Audio site for $799, which is approximately 738€. So yes, the Pilgrim is actually less than half the price of the Noir.

However, there are more differences than just the colour, as the drivers used are also different. Where the Noir used 1x LSR DD for the lows, 2x Sonion BA’s for the mids and 1x Knowles BA for the highs, the Pilgrim opts for 3x Sonion BA’s along with the LSR DD, also opting for a 3-way crossover instead of the 4-way on the Noir. Of course, these are just parts and do not make up the whole, which is something we will talk about in the sound section, yet it is worth noting.

As far as other specs that are different, we find that the Noir has a stated impedance of 8.3 Ohms, with a sensitivity of 103dB, whereas the Pilgrim states a 9 Ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 101dB. Honestly, these differences are so minimal that they are not even worth considering. However, we do notice that both have a low impedance, something that is worth considering when choosing a source for these IEMs.

But anyway, enough with the letters and the numbers, let’s take a proper look at the Pilgrim and find out what we are sacrificing by paying less than half of the cost of the Noir.

Presentation…

As the Noir arrived in a plastic bag, the Pilgrim obviously wins in the packaging department :wink: Seriously though, I can’t compare as I have nothing to compare to.

The Pilgrim arrives in a large and simple matte white box with the Elysian logo on the top in silver, a simple silver design also on the top and Pilgrim in silver letters on one side. That is it, simple and elegant.

Removing the lid reveals the IEMs sitting in two cutouts on a raised platform on a recessed tray. Lifting this tray out, a black box is revealed that simply states “Make no compromises”. Inside this box we find the warranty card, a small booklet about the IEMs, a microfiber cloth with the Elysian logo and, I believe, the cable. I say “I believe” because I honestly can’t remember if the cable came in the box or in the storage case which we find below it.

The storage case, which is found at the very bottom of the box is possibly one of the best looking I have received to date. It is in a faux white leather, oval in shape with the Elysian logo in silver on the top, with a hinged lid that reveals a grey lined interior. The case looks great, however, I think the only way it will stay looking great is if we leave it in the box, as the white case will soon not be white anymore if we use it for transporting the IEMs. Inside the storage case we get 3x sized of Spinfit tips and maybe (if it wasn’t in the box) the cable.

I think that the packaging and presentation of the Pilgrim is great. Simple, elegant and well done, my only complaint is about the lack of tip options included. I have to say that the included tips are not my favourite tips with the Pilgrim but, as always, I try to use what is included in the box unless there is a specific reason not to. Therefore, I have used the included Spinfit tips for this review and I also used the same tips for my review of the Noir. I must say that it is very important to make sure a correct seal is obtained.

Build and aesthetics…

I mentioned in the Noir review, one of the only things that I compared, that the only difference between the two models as far as build is the colour. The Noir is black (obviously) and the Pilgrim is a combination of shiny silver and matte silver (aluminium) which works very well to set off the design of the face plate. The centre of the faceplate features the Elysian logo in a raised format, following the 3D effect of the general design, and there are 4 vents on the faceplate, strategically placed in the darker (matte) areas.

Something that I did forget to mention in my review of the Noir is that they both use Pentaconn connectors for the IEMs in place of the more common 2pin or MMCX connectors found on the majority of IEMs. While this will make it more difficult to find replacement cables if you are wanting to, I have to say that I much prefer these connectors. They are much easier to connect and disconnect than MMCX, while still maintaining the swivel possibility, adding to the comfort.

Now, as I have said, both IEMs are identical. This means that I have had the same issues getting a good seal with the Pilgrim as I did with the Noir. This is something that I found easier to solve by using different tips to the ones included, yet, as I said a moment ago, I have used the included Spinfit tips for both reviews. It is possible for me to get a seal with the Spinfits, it just takes a bit of work. When they are seated correctly and I get the seal correct, then I find them comfortable, even if they are not the lightest or smallest of IEMs, but I still prefer to opt for other tips in this case.

The included cable is obviously different from the Effect Audio cable included with the Noir. No, this cable isn’t as nice as the Eros cable, but it is far from terrible. It is quite basic cable, silver in colour with matching matte silver hardware. I am not the biggest fan of the rubberised transparent outer coating but there is no way I could bring myself to say this is a bad or ugly cable. It matches the IEMs very well, it does its job and there is absolutely no sound difference (to my ears or to my measurement rig) if I swap the cable from the Noir to the Pilgrim. Have I seen better cables? Yes of course, but I have also seen much much worse at higher price points.

In general I am a fan of the aesthetics and feel that the build is very good. Personally I prefer the looks of the Pilgrim to the Noir, even though I usually prefer black to silver. But that is obviously a very personal thing and is irrelevant to my review, or the review of anyone else for that matter.

The one issue with the aesthetics is that the shiny silver finish scratched ver easily. I haven’t “babied” these IEMs but I haven’t mistreated them either, I have just used them as I would any other IEM. While the Noir, which has actually had more use (due to me reviewing it first and using it for comparisons during this review), still looks like new, whereas the the Pilgrim does show quite a bit of use in the form of scratches on the shiny part of the faceplate. It’s a shame because I am a fan of the looks of the Pilgrim.

Sound…

All tracks mentioned are clickable links that allow you to open the reference track in the streaming service of your choice (YouTube, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc.)

Ok, the million dollar question, or rather the 372€ question… which sounds best???

Neither.

Both.

Which ice-cream tastes best?

Seriously though, these two IEMs, while they do share a lot of similarities, they are also completely different flavours. There is no best between them. It is a case of which flavour do you prefer.

The Noir is more of a laid back tuning, without becoming overly dark, that doesn’t seem to focus on anything in particular but nothing is really missing.

The Pilgrim is more of a forward tuning, without becoming overly bright, that makes details and separation more apparent than on the Noir, yet doesn’t become overpowering with it.

I could probably just stop there but let’s take a look at the Pilgrim with my test tracks, that is, after the usual look at the graph in comparison to my usual preference curve and the Noir:

We can see from the graph that the Pilgrim is a little closer to my usual preference than the Noir but, as I said in the Noir review and in many other reviews, this preference is by no means a rule as to me liking something more or less, it is just a general reference guide to my usual preferences.

So, starting off with… yes, “Chameleon”, as always! The quality of the Pilgrim matches that of the Noir, that is to say, clean, clear and very well defined. What does change is the quantity and, for my personal tastes, I much prefer the Pilgrim. Both the slightly reduced subbass presence and the slightly more present upper ranges, take the focus away from the lowest ranges and leave me with a flavour that is much more to my personal liking.

Sticking with tracks that I mentioned in my review of the Noir, “No Sanctuary Here” is also a lot less bass focused yet it is not lacking bass at all for my tastes. The bass is full and not anemic in any way, yet it does not stand out above the rest of the spectrum, allowing for a reproduction that I find more balanced. With this track, the vocals took a bit of a step back on the Noir, while that is not the case here. The vocals are more forward but this does not detract from the great performance of the backing vocals and bass in general.

Crazy” is just about perfect on the Pilgrim. There is no sign of excessive reverb in the lower notes of the guitar, with what I would consider a very natural tone to it. There is also no sign of sibilance or harshness in the upper ranges, letting the voice of Daniela Andrade be very clear and present but without any real drawbacks. I can’t say it is the best I have ever heard this track sound but it is definitely up there with some of the best.

With the Noir I mentioned that certain parts of tracks in isolation could come across a little dull and lacking bite, that is not the case here. With “Elephants On Ice Skates”, there is plenty of bite to those bass guitar plucks throughout the intro, with the lower notes of the bass coming in with authority yet not overly done. The same can be said about vocals, such as Dominique Fils’Aime in “Strange Fruit”, where her solo voice is not missing spice yet it is not spicy either, if that makes any sense. While on the subject of “Strange Fruit”, I will also say that the space between the vocal layers is just enough for them to be easily separated yet not too much for them to sound disconnected from one another. They harmonize very nicely.

The same can be said about “Billie Jean” by The Civil Wars, where both the male and female vocals sound clear when solo’d but also sound natural when working together, without either of them really stealing the light from the other.

As far as sibilance, where I noted that the Noir reduced sibilance, I would say that the Pilgrim is pretty neutral in this regard, with “Code Cool” being just on the verge of what I would expect from the track, the same being said for the intro to “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing”. If anything, I would say it is maybe even tamed a little but not to the extent that it is on the Noir.

Conclusion…

While I haven’t done an exact comparison section between the Pilgrim and the Noir, I think I have referred to the Noir enough during this review to be able to grasp the differences between the two. As I said at the beginning of the sound section, I don’t feel that there is a better or a worse between them, they are just different flavours and it comes down to personal preference.

If there is one thing I think is possibly better in performance on the Noir, it is detail retrieval. Now that might sound strange, as the Pilgrim is actually more upfront about showing the detail, yet I think that is exactly what leads me to believe that the detail performance of the Noir is slightly better. The Noir does not push detail, in fact, it is just a smooth laid back sound signature that sort of hides detail. Yet, it doesn’t hide detail. When listening to them side by side, there isn’t anything missing from the Noir at all, it is just that the Pilgrim focuses on in more. If I were to EQ the Pilgrim to the tuning of the Noir (something that I haven’t played around with yet), then I think that the detail may suffer a little and not be a good as on the Noir. But, to be honest, this is just speculation and is irrelevant at this moment.

While I enjoy the laid back nature of the Noir, my personal preference is towards the Pilgrim, where I feel it matches my tastes more, especially for an all round set. There are times when my mood would lead me to pick up the Noir over the Pilgrim, yet, if I could only have one, then that would be the Pilgrim. Which I guess is a good thing, as the Pilgrim is half the price of the Noir, as I said at the beginning.

So why is the Noir double the price of the Pilgrim? Well, apart from the possible difference in detail performance (which may not even exist), there is the tuning, the aesthetics and, of course, the Effect Audio cable. The cable is almost 300€, which, if we take that out of the equation, only leaves a 70€ (approx) difference between the 2. Which, I honestly feel is a reasonable price difference. If the cable is worth the 300€ to you, well only you can decide that.

I guess that my conclusion is that both the Pilgrim and the Noir are very good IEMs that cater to different people with different tastes. There really isn’t a better or worse (in my opinion), just a different flavour that depends on the final user and if they are willing to pay that extra or not.

What is for sure is that, in my opinion, for 366€, the Pilgrim is a very impressive IEM.

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As always, this review can be found in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

4 Likes