Alrighty then, after spending about $400 or so, I now have 4 pairs of IEMs that have I’ve been testing for the past few days.
Olina SE - $100
Tri Starsea - $130
Tri Kai - $80
FiiO FH3 - $130
I’ve talked plenty already about the Olina SE, but just to quickly go over my thoughts. Wonderful sound, absolutely a benchmark when it comes to clarity, clean sound for the mids and highs. Only weakness I can think of is the bass, which is just alright. The absolute best comfort, nothing can really compare. The other 3 I’ve gotten are either meant to try and beat the Olina SEs, or be a side grade, I’m still not sure. Let’s start with the ones I was most excited for.
The second I saw these I instantly wanted them. Absolutely gorgeous looking, and even more so when in person. But looks are not enough to make something sound good, and sadly I was very disappointed in these.
The best built IEMs for sure out of all of these. Made of a resin that is stunning. They feel really nice to hold and drool over. Something I’ve never seen before, is that the Starseas have 4 switches on them, with 4 different configurations that change how they sound. They aren’t able to be changed with your fingers, so they give you basically a metal toothpick to move the switches. The cable is the best out of the 4, although it is on the chunkier side. Doesn’t tangle up at all which is amazing, and feels great. Comes with a ton of accessories and a really nice mini jewelry looking box to hold them in. The case isn’t exactly super portable, but it’s built well and tough.
This is where the Starseas completely fall flat for me. They are the biggest IEMs of the bunch, but are the lightest due to not being made of metal. A lot more noticeable in your ears though, especially compared to the Olina SE. The main issue is that when in your ears, there is some sort of annoying air pressure you get that makes them a pain to wear. Tried the various eartips they came with (which are a struggle to put on) and nothing helped. Heard that the foam tips that come with the FH3 helped solve the problem coincidentally, but the tips are way too big for my ears and aren’t comfy. They also are difficult to put in right. Every other IEM you just put in the ears and are good to go. With these I have to play with them, as half the time they aren’t in right and sound muffled/weird. They go deeper as well, which is also a pain considering how big they are compared to the rest. Overall hated their fit and especially that air pressure that a lot of people deal with.
This is a mixed bag, since half the time I’m too busy fiddling with them or being annoyed with the air pressure it’s hard to actually listen to music and see how they perform. But from what I’ve been able to get is they sound pretty good, when they’re in properly. Good technicalities, clean sounding and decently balanced. You can change the switches to whatever signature you prefer, whether it’s more bass, more vocals/mids, more balanced or more treble. I mostly used the bass and vocal modes, as the treble can be a bit too much. But overall I’m not a fan of the switches, having to get out your surgery kit to make them sound how you want is annoying. Compared to the others where you just stuff them in your ears and they are good to go. Not a good combo with the bad fitting/comfort.
Overall I would not recommend these unless you have bigger ears and are okay with the air pressure. You’d most likely need to search for different ear tips though, cause it seriously was a pain. Sound can be good but they’re just not for me.
Tri x Kai:
The little bro of the Olina SEs. A much warmer set for sure, but still enjoyable and definitely better than the mud covered KB Ears 2.
These look very flashy and pretty. Out of the 4 they stand out the most, which can be good or bad depending on you. The gold and blue looks nice. The IEMs themselves are built pretty well, all metal and are the heaviest tied with the FH3, but that’s not a problem at all when being used. One issue is they are a fingerprint magnet because of the shiny material being used. The cable is pretty mediocre. The second you take them out they are all folded and zig zagged, and unfortunately seem to be staying that shape. Also the ones that get tangled the most of the 4. It does come with my favorite case though, basically like a tough small wallet, much more portable and just better than the Olina and Starsea case.
Despite being heavier than the Olina and Starsea, they fit just fine. I don’t really have a problem with them comfort wise. Surprisingly the stock ear tips they come with fit fine. The cable doesn’t really annoy me around the ears, but the fact that it fights to stay a shape sucks.
These are warm cannons. The most bass I’d say of the group. And that unfortunately makes them have the weakest detail and overall technicalities. But despite that, they are pretty enjoyable to use and you won’t be fatigued at all using them. Things like mids and vocals aren’t drowned in mud like on the KB Ears 2. The Olina SE thrash them in terms of detail and clean sound, but then the Kai slam them back with that thumpy bass.
Overall a pretty good pair. I like them for the most part. Main issues is the weak detail, technicality and bad cable. But still very enjoyable to use. I recommend them for anyone who loves bass and wants something they can use without any fatigue.
The FH3 feels like a mix between the Olina SE and Kai. Once you put them in there isn’t really anything bad about them. I only got these today, so these are just my first impressions.
The IEMs themselves are pretty generic looking, but they feel nice and are built well. Nothing to really complain about besides the boring look. The cable isn’t as bad as the Kai’s, but that’s mainly because at least the FH3 cable doesn’t stay an annoying zig zag shape. It still likes to stay a bit of a shape, due to it being a lot tougher compared to the rest of the more flexible feeling cables. It is the most durable feeling though. I like the end connector the most out of the four. It feels great, durable and is L shaped, which I’d say is better for when connected to a phone, which is what these mostly are used from.
About as heavy as the Kai, but again, feels very nice in the ears. None of these beat the Olina SE in comfort though, those are the smallest and nicest feeling in the ears. My only complaint is because the cable is harder and less flexible, it will move around on the ears while looking around which can be annoying.
Shoot, honestly I’m quite impressed with these. I’d say I prefer them over the Kai. The Kai are more relaxed, but they just lose a a good chunk of detail, and don’t have as good mids as the FH3, or the other IEMs. FH3 provides some nice bass while not sacrificing the mids which I quite like.
Sadly the Starseas are the worst of the bunch for me. Their comfort and ease of use is not there despite the pretty good sound. The Kai were enjoyable, but when compared to the FH3 and Olina SE, they fall short due to the weak detail and technicalities. As much as I love Bass, if everything else is worse in every way it’s not really a fair trade off. And then we have the FH3, honestly was surprised at how much I liked these. Saw quite a few reviews where people said they weren’t all that, but the FH3 flipped that on me. They provide that bass while still giving me the mids and treble I like.
Makes me bummed out that the FH5 has been discontinued, cause if it is true that they were basically a better FH3, I’d probably love them. Currently my two favorites are the Olina SE and FH3. But I’m not sure which of the two I prefer. Going to need a lot more testing and comparison. I really like the Olina SE. The more I use them the more I appreciate their build and comfort. I’m curious of trying some witchcraft which some of you call Modding. Is there some sort of filter mod that would improve the bass? I know there was something like this for the og Olina, not sure what you exactly do though.