BGVP DM6 Review

BGVP is one of the rising brands of the Chi-Fi game, especially this year. DMS, DM7, DS1 Pro, DH3 and ArtMagic are the new proposals of their line-up. After reviewing the DMG last year, here’s my review of the DM6, after the passage of the train of hype. I want to kindly thank Lillian from Linsoul for providing this review sample. You can buy them here: https://www.linsoul.com/product-page/BGVP-DM6-Earphone

 

Specifications

  • Headphone Drivers: 5 balanced armature
  • Sensitivity: 122dB/mW
  • Frequency Response Range: 10-40000Hz
  • Impedance: 20Ω
  • Distortion:<0.5%
  • Plug type: 3.5mm
  • Cable type: Detachable MMCX Cable
  • Cable length: 1.2m
  • Plug Type: straight plug
  • Waterproof Grade: IPX3

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Unboxing

The DM6 come in a simple cardboard box, very similar to the one of DMG. Inside we find the buds, the cable, a set of 3 black silicon ear tips and another set of 3 blue silicon ones, a cleaning tool, and a pair of medium sized foam tips. It would have been nice finding a carrying case, like many competitors do. My model came in a translucent red, which lets you see the balanced armatures through the shell. The shell itself is made of resin, and it gives a premium feeling. The MMCX connectors are well embedded, too. The nozzle hasn’t got any filter, so you have to pay attention to your wax. That’s why I suggest using some Comply foam ear tips with waxguard, which I find extremely comfortable, really nice for isolation and secure because of that filter (I used the ones that come with the ADVANCED M4). The other tips I’ve enjoyed the most here are the NiceHCK N3 white silicone eartips. The cable is a nice unit, an 8 core silver plated which is worth 30/40$. The fit is great, but a little bit unusual because of the shape of the shell in the antitragus zone. For me, they are extremely comfortable and they perfectly isolate from the external noise. For my tests I’ve also used a HiFiHear 16 core single crystal copper cable and a NiceHCK 8 core copper cable.

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Sound

I’ve tried the DM6 with various setups. My classic production configuration: MacBook Pro > Focusrite 2i2 > DM6; my listening configuration for the month: FiiO M7 > iFi xDSD > DM6 (Bluetooth and wired); other stacks, like Mi MIX 2 > XDUOO XP-2 > DM6 (Bluetooth and wired).

Music for this test: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, Billie Eilish, Tash Sultana, …

Files in DSD, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, M4A and MQA via TIDAL Master Quality.

 

So, knowing BGVP from the DM3 to the DMG gave me an idea of the direction(s) and the sound signature(s) of this brand. In reality, after trying the DM6 I can say they are not very similar one another. I would describe the sound of the DM6 like this: the tuning is on a dark side, with a warm background, a slight U shape, and a solid treble. That means the bass is prominent on the mid side and really deep on the sub side, giving a punch that’s surprisingly good for an all-balanced-armature set. That bass is amazingly quick and its body is thick: I could totally think they had a dynamic driver on a blind test (just for the bass: they don’t sound like a hybrid, in the end). What I can tell is the difference between the hybrid configuration of the DMG in comparison to the DM6: there’s more air and musicality on the DMG (not only in their bass, but in their overall listening experience); the DM6 are more precise and let you perceive a lot of micro details. The midrange of the DM6 is more forward than the one of the DMG, which is good. There’s still some recession, but vocals have more space and the layering is very impressive: every instrument is well discernable in the mix. I like neutral sounding earphones because of their mid-oriented tuning; this midrange is really pleasant for an U-shaped IEM, even for a person like me who’d rather a non-colored sound. Treble is nice: I was scared about the sibilance, because I found it annoying on the DMG, but here I hear no strange picks or harshness, at all. If you look at some graphs, you can notice a pick in the 8kHz range, but I honestly don’t hear anything wrong in the highs (and I’m pretty sensitive). Notice that there could be some differences between the models (the DM6 are half hand-made) and obviously between my hearing and yours too. I would have liked to hear more air in the vocals in the treble area. What I’m not stunned by is the soundstage: this is not a crazy wide sounding IEM. I think DMG were even better than these on that side. Unique Melody Mason V3 have a crazy wide stage; ADVANCED M4 too. As you can see, it’s not a matter of price (2700$ vs 50$): this earphone is very precise in the imaging, but the stage is average. And I can assure this is not a problem, you just have to expect something crazy good for some features and not that much for some others. I absolutely love the bass here, as much as the tuning which is suitable for music listening but also for music production or stage exhibition, by being pretty balanced, between neutrality and fun. And there’s something I appreciate a little bit less, like the impression of an unexpressed potential. Maybe in the future I’ll go balanced with these IEMs and I’ll find the best synergy. Don’t get me wrong: they are one of the best IEMs I’ve tried, but they are obviously far from being perfect. I believe the DM7 will have the musicality that I miss here, and correct some unnatural feels that I get with these. That being said, DM6 absolutely deserve the success they’ve got: a high-quality cable, a top notch build quality, some great Knowles drivers which are maturely tuned. This is, no doubts, the right way. I have to admit I was really hyped by this particular product. And I’ve luckily got it after a long period, so I knew what to expect from other reviews. Well, sometimes I understand the hype, sometimes not. After trying the DM6, I can understand it, but I don’t share it. Their amazing build and look and their stunning sound make them easy to fall in love with; however, I love them with reserve, because they sound like they need to be refined (and they are now, because at the time of this review, the DM7 will be already out). With a wider stage and more air, with the same timbre and body in the bass, the same controlled treble and the nice mids, I’d totally go with them. 200$ is an honest price, and I’d totally give them a chance. But I haven’t tried the competitors (Fearless, TFZ, …) so this is the only 200$ IEM that I have. Does it sound overall better than my sub-200$ earphones? It absolutely does. But if you have particular needs, then you have to be careful.

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Comparisons

BGVP DMG: the interchangeable filters were kind of a gimmick, but the IEMs themselves were solid in their sound. Well, they still are. The sibilance was the only real disadvantage of the DMG. I think I appreciate them more than the DM6, for certain features, like the comfort or the wider stage. They are more musical, more affordable and easier to find. But if you need a better tuning, DM6 are superior and more precise, yet bassier and more congested.

 

FiiO FA1: strange comparison? The FA1 cost half the price of the DM6 and their driver configuration is different (single balanced armature vs 5), but the performances are similar. The signature of the FA1 is more neutral, with a lighter bass and more flatness. The shells are similarly shaped; personally, the DM6 fit better inside my ears. The cable of the DM6 is superior (remember I’m talking about their stock cables).

 

YinYoo D2B4: when they came out, they were priced at the same price as the DMG: 140$. I don’t think they are worth that price, and in fact now they are way cheaper. But they are interesting and somewhere they sound similar to the DM6 in the tuning (somehow congested, bassy). I don’t know how to properly judge the D2B4: sometimes I’m impressed by some aspects of them, but I’m always not convinced about them: they are boomy in the low range, and they sound unnatural. Overall, I’d go for the DM6 even though they are pricier. The D2B4 in my opinion lose even against the DMG (and I’m saying that because the DM6 surely are an upgrade from the DMG, even though they can be considered radically different products).

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Conclusions

If you check the pros and cons of the DM6, you effectively struggle to find real cons. For 200$, this offer is amazing and it’s crazy to think about the progress of Chi-Fi. I like the way they sound, in the end, even if they are a bit colored: they have the punch, they have the detail. And their mid dip is absolutely controlled, so I can rely on them even for music production. I’m now curious to try the DMS and the DM7, to better understand the way BGVP took.

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Pros

  • Build quality
  • Fit
  • Cable
  • Tuning
  • Bass response
  • Micro details
  • Improved midrange from the DMG
  • No sibilance

 

Cons

  • Lack of air
  • A bit congested
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XDUOO XP-2: game changer

Price: 110$

Where to buy: https://www.xtenik.com/product/xduoo-xp-2/

Specifications:

DAC AKM AK4452
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0, support AAC, SBC, aptX
Output power 245mW @ 32 Ohm
Recommended output impedance 16 – 300 Ohm
Supported sampling rate 24bit 192kHz
THD+N 0.008% @ 1kHz
Adjustable gain +3dB / +9dB
Frequency response 10Hz – 100kHz (+/-0.5dB)
Battery capacity 3.7V 1800mAh
Battery life AUX IN: ≥15H Bluetooth input: ≥12H USB IN: ≥8H
USB receiver Support Android mobile phone with OTG function and 192kHz/24bit lossless transmission at most, computer USB input, support with XP, Win7, Win8, Win10 (it is necessary to install driver), MAC system.
Weight 115g

 

Many thanks to Xtenik for providing this review sample. Xtenik is an official reseller for XDUOO products. This review reflects my opinions and my experience, I’m not affiliated with Xtenik or XDUOO.

Unboxing

The XDUOO XP-2 comes in a white cardboard external box, which contains another black rigid one. There are a charging/data cable (USB type A to micro-USB), a micro-USB to micro-USB, a micro-USB to USB type C and a jack to jack. And then a manual and a warranty card, and you can also find a soft separator to stack the XP-2 with other devices. I believe you can connect it to an iPhone with a camera adapter which you can buy directly from Apple. I don’t own any Apple mobile devices, so my impressions will concern Android and Mac OS. With Windows, you’d need some drivers.

The product

The XP-2 is a DAC/Amp which works bot wired and wireless, with Bluetooth 5.0. The wired interface is a micro-USB, and there are two of them, one for charging the device and the other for your PC/Smartphone/DAP connection. There are a headphone output and an aux in/out jack, both 3.5mm, both gold-plated. The volume knob is analogic, and it also works as an on/off wheel on the first step. It is a great feature of this DAC, because it’s very well-built and reacts from any small movement you do on it. The build quality is great, with an all-metal body and just a plastic insert for the Bluetooth receiver. Spoiler: the antenna is not bad! On a side, there’s a Bluetooth link button (which however is not so essential because when you power up the XP-2, it automatically searches for the last device connected). There’s also a gain switch, with low and high. For my IEMs, even the low gain mode provides a lot of power. The last button is a “Select” one, to switch between modes. I find this device to be very intuitive, much more than the iFi xDSD. There’s a LED which helps you to understand which mode you are using:

  • Green: Bluetooth (but while pairing it’s blue, I believe; I’m colorblind);
  • Red: USB;
  • Both: Aux.

If I had to change something, I’d say that they could put a USB type C interface instead of the micro-USB. In fact, the BT 5.0 is pretty future-proof, but the micro-USB is not. I accept it because I know that it helps keeping the price low.

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Pairings

I’ve used the XDUOO XP-2 in every possible way. I’ll list the sources and the various earphones paired.

MacBook Pro 2012 via USB; Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 via USB and Bluetooth; Dodocool DA106 via Aux; FiiO M7 via AUX and Bluetooth (the M7 is not compatible with the XP-2 via USB, exactly like it wasn’t with the Audirect Beam; instead, with the iFi xDSD it perfectly works).

IEMs: BGVP DM6 and DMG, FiiO FA1, Tin HiFi T2 and T3, ADVANCED M4.

Headphones: Sennheiser Momentum On Ear, 1MORE MK801.

Earbuds: 1MORE Piston, YinYoo BK2.

 

Sound, features, comparisons

Let’s start saying the sound is great. Not only this device can provide a lot of power, but its signal is also really clean and noiseless. Comparing it to the iFi xDSD (which costs more than 3 times more), I find the XDUOO to provide a much more neutral sound. You can easily understand the xDSD is a bass-oriented multi-functional DAC, but I was surprised to hear how much the XP-2 was cleaner and brighter in its reproduction. That being said, the bass provided by the XP-2 is still great and more forward than average. The soundstage is average, but it depends a lot on the earphones in use; the xDSD offers more 360° impressions, width and especially depth. But I don’t feel the need to have something better here: a wide sounding IEM (like the ADVANCED M4) is perfect paired with it. It’s difficult to talk about a DAC speaking about its sound characteristics, because the final result is filtered by the earphones’ signatures; however, I can say that vocals on the XP-2 are always airy and bodied, I love the midrange and I’m not bothered by the slight sharpness on the treble. The instrument separation is very good: it can improve my YinYoo Topaz (very natural sounding earphones with great dynamic, a nice match with it) in difficult tracks with dense mixes (like some Bloody Beetroots’ stuff). The isolation from noises is exceptional: I honestly didn’t think a mobile DAP could outperform that way my dedicated audio interface or the xDSD itself, without any signal purifier. I believe this DAC is very well-engineered. This falls in the same price range as the Audirect Beam, which however has not the same features (no Bluetooth, no Aux, no analogical volume controls…) but I think it could be a fair comparison. I did like the Beam, even though it lacked power sometimes and it got hot very easily; the sound was neutral but with a touch of darkness. The XP-2, for me, is a product of another category. Its performance for price ratio is fenomenal: all my IEMs can be very easily driven in low gain, with the knob at a maximum level set at half. Generally, my earbuds require a little bit more power, and my headphones (they are meant to be easily driven anyway) even more; with the headphones (Sennheiser Momentum and 1MORE MK801) I can effectively benefit from switching to high gain.

 

Wired

USB: So far, speaking of sound quality, the best way to use the XP-2 is via USB. The isolation it provides is amazing (it is not disturbed by electrical noises when attached to my Mac, while the xDSD was pretty unusable, especially when the pc was powered with the charger plugged in). The easiness of switching modes makes it a perfect hybrid between a mobile and a desktop tool. My MacBook Pro doesn’t require any drivers, so it’s a completely plug-and-play DAC both on Android and Mac OS. It unfortunately doesn’t work that way with my FiiO M7, but I can still use the Bluetooth and its line-out to connect them together. The provided cables do their job perfectly well: I’ve tried with my Mac, with my Mi MIX 2 and with my first Moto G, as (not only) TIDAL sources, and every one of them was good. So, via USB I’d define the XP-2 as fairly versatile.

Aux: this obviously depends a lot on the power of your source. I generally found the volume being lower via Aux, especially with the Dodocool DA106: it’s better to use the high gain feature on this mode. The provided Aux cable has the right length, so you are not disturbed when you stack items. This is the mode I’ve used the least, but it’s functional and very good if you are a stack person.

 

Wireless

The most versatile mode of the XP-2 is Bluetooth. Thanks to an amazing battery life (with IEMs, on low gain, I easily can use it for 10 hours straight!) and a stable signal even on a long range, it connects via Qualcomm aptX to my FiiO M7 and Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 and it becomes a great tool to carry around without the need to have poor-battery Bluetooth earphones: every earphone can be turned into a wireless one, with the advantage of a long-lasting battery and a fantastic sound quality. I was skeptical about the wireless quality, but aptX is good enough and if you have good files in your source (FLACs, Master TIDAL quality, but even good MP3s) you may not feel the need to have a better instrument. I personally don’t: this is a fantastic multi-functional DAC/Amp. The wireless mode maintains the quality of the tuning of the wired modes, and it adds various comforts.

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Best pairings and conclusions

I came to this conclusion: the best earphones to use with the XDUOO XP-2 are the bassier ones. Headphones like the Momentum, or in ear monitors like the DM6, which provide a lot of bass but need a brighter source, match perfectly with the XP-2. I’d rather it than the xDSD paired with those earphones. The xDSD is preferable when it comes to drive reference tuned earphones while wanting a touch of fun. (I’m comparing these two, even though they are from different categories, because at this moment I have the possibility of A-B test them)

What I can say about this device in the end: it’s one of the best products I have ever tried. Its versatility and nearly universal compatibility make it a game changer for its price range. It can be the DAP of your only-digital source, it can be your endless-lasting Bluetooth receiver, it can be your PC audio card! In every iteration, it is an amazing performer. This is a solid product (not only for its great build quality) and I can’t but recommend it, especially for its price range.

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Pros

  • Build quality
  • Battery life
  • Noise isolation
  • It provides a lot of power
  • Clean sound
  • Intuitive
  • Solid wireless connection
  • Price

 

Cons

  • No USB C

Review: iFi xDSD

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Priced at 450€, the xDSD is one of many DAC/Amps of the iFi line-up. Here in its USB C version, it’s an interesting product under various points of view.

I want to thank Karina for providing this unit in the purpose of this review.

 

Unboxing and specifications

The xDSD comes in a white box with just some manuals and some Velcro straps to stack it with other products, and an OTG cable. The build quality of the product itself is good, and the materials used are metal and plastic. The metal body is chromed and it keeps a lot of fingerprints; it’s honestly a bad choice in my opinion, because you have to wipe it very often (an opaque metal body would have been better, that way, while maintaining the same dissipation). The first thing I didn’t like is the instruction manual: it’s confused, too summarized and if you are a newbie you will find difficult to change modes. The second puzzling thing is the fact that USB C can only be used for charging: in my opinion, this is the most senseless feature of this item. In fact, for a wired connection, you have to use a male USB type A port (or S/PDIF). I don’t even understand why to use a male port instead of a classic female one. And you have to already own a USB C cable because it doesn’t come in the box (at least, in mine). I’m also asking myself: all these colors on the main knob to know the volume range, but also the active connection, are really that useful? I’m sure it’s not a colorblind-friendly object, anyway. The switch between Bluetooth and wired could have been a toggle, exactly like the “measure/listen” on the back of the device, which is less useful, at least for my use. And the volume ranges could have been indicated by a led ring, in a more intuitive way.

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The back of the device has the charging port, the USB port, the S/PDIF port and a “filter” toggle to switch between “measure” or “listen”. I’ve only used the “listen” mode. On the front, the single ended 3.5mm output, the volume knob/power on and off button and another button to activate a surround virtualization, a bass boost, both of them (by just pressing it), switch between settings and put the device in pairing mode while in wireless mode. For 450€, it could have been equipped with a balanced output, at least. In my opinion, the buttons and the way you switch between modes are improvable.

 

Specifications (from the website):

USB Input: up to PCM768kHz & DSD512 (24.6/22.6MHz)
SPDIF Coaxial and Optical Input: up to 192kHz/24Bit
Dynamic Range: > 113dB (A)
Volume Control: -101dB…0dB in 1dB steps
Output power: > 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm
> 3.7V/270mW @ 50 Ohm
> 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm
> 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
Line out Level: > 2.1V @ 0dBFS (& 0dB Volume)
THD &N (1V/16R): < 0.005%
Output Impedance: < 1 Ohm
Battery: 3.8V/2200mAh
Dimensions: 95 (l) x67 (w) x19 (h) mm
Weight: 127g (0.28 Ibs)

 

 

Sound and modes

Songs/artists/albums I’ve listened to: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, Billie Eilish, …

Earphones paired: BGVP DM6, FiiO FA1, Tin HiFi T3, BGVP DMG, SIMGOT EM1, Sennheiser Momentum On Ear, others

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Wired mode

I’ve used the xDSD with my MacBook Pro mid-2012 and my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 as sources, via USB with the provided cable (and an OTG adapter for the USB C on my phone). I used Tidal with Master quality activated, in both devices, while I think the MQA can only be used by the desktop version (so, even with the Master quality on, on my phone, I think there was a conversion). They are proud of this MQA support, because this format could be “the new MP3”; I like this will of reducing the storage (or the data if we talk of streaming) while maintaining a high quality. I can’t hear any noticeable difference between a Tidal MQA and a FLAC (on VLC) of the same song (great, because the MQA is compressed!). I’ve also listened to some casual tracks on SoundCloud (like some Chineseman amazing works) and some movies and YouTube videos to try the surround mode.

When connected to my Mac, the xDSD captured a lot of noise and interferences of both my working hard disk and the charge of the pc itself. That is very disturbing with IEMs or generally high-sensitivity earphones (and low impedance ones, too, I believe); with my Momentum On Ear, the situation is better. My 100€ Focusrite 2i2 audio interface has none of these problems. I don’t want to think that they want to sell you their signal purifier, but… However, when the device is reproducing music, the noise is not hearable. And the music is pretty good, when listened from the xDSD. I’m impressed by the micro details you can catch by listening to this device, in comparison to an entry-level DAP like the FiiO M7 or a similar (because of the chip) mobile DAP like the Audirect Beam or the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S. Regarding the FiiO M7, it is compatible with the xDSD, while it’s not with the Beam. And it is actually the best pairing I’ve obtained (to my ears, even better than the desktop experience, because there aren’t any noises but also because of the soundstage and body of the sound, which I don’t know why but I find more pleasant).

I’m stunned by the bass, very precise and quick, yet punchy; it provides a perfect layering, which is not always easy to achieve in the lower range. When activated, the bass boost adds some body to both the sub and the mid-bass. I don’t find it exaggerated effective, but I can hear a difference: I prefer listening to my music without activating it.

Mids and highs are perfect. I don’t think I need to talk about a DAC the same way as I do for earphones, because they are different instruments. I just need to say that this is a bass machine, and you can understand this will by the booster. I’m not a basshead, but this experience has been really enjoyable and fun to my ears. I think the surround virtualizer is not a game changer. I usually dislike this kind of things, because the effect is bad most of the times. I don’t find it bad here, just something very soft which may improve the experience of listening to live recordings or while watching certain kinds of movies. What I can say, in the end, is that I really like the sound signature provided by the xDSD, while I thought the soundstage would (and could) have been wider (not deeper).

 

Wireless mode

The xDSD supports AptX and AAC (not the better protocols). I paired it with my Mi MIX 2 and my FiiO M7 via Bluetooth. Ironically, this is the way I’ve enjoyed it the most. I’m not a fan of wireless audio, but I think this is a great device to make you change your mind. I have Bluetooth earphones, I tried the M7 itself as a Bluetooth receiver, and I’ve never been satisfied because of the latency, the loss of signal, the poor battery life. The xDSD has a decent battery, and it has absolutely no latency when you are watching to multimedial content. The analogic volume wheel is always nice, it works exactly like it does while wired. The quality is absolutely great, even if you can here that it lacks of body with the same tracks, especially when they are high quality DSD (I talk about a Pink Floyd DSF in particular). If this machine had LDAC, it may have had that body because of the larger bandwidth. But I don’t see it as a con; LDAC, in my experience, has more latency. I’m good with this “basic” Qualcomm AptX, because the final result is a nice compromise.

 

Conclusions

The xDSD has a lot of good features. For 450€, I could expect more cure under certain ways: a balanced output (you have to choose a brother device to have it), a larger battery, and more isolation when you pair it via USB. Like I’ve said before, the functions and the manual could be rationalized and become more intuitive. But if you learn how to switch modes, it becomes easy and you can enjoy a good machine, well crafted, with a next-level sound if you come from a lower end.

 

Pros

  • Build quality
  • Sound signature
  • Bass reproduction
  • No latency in wireless mode
  • High compatibility with third party devices
  • It’s small!

 

Cons

  • Not much intuitive
  • Electric isolation in wired mode
  • Price

REVIEW: WAVAYA PENTA( PORCELAIN C-IEM)

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Wavaya is a young audiophile company based in Nicosia(Cyprus), they produce custom iems made of fine glazed porcelain. In this moment they have five models in catalogue: Tria, Quadra, Exa and two electrostatic models Penta and Octa.

“The WAVAYA™ brand has been developed with private capital with the only purpose to obtain a valuable product of wide acceptance. Our company was born from passion, not from greed: our purpose was, since the beginning, creating the “Ferrari” of in-ears.”

WHY PORCELAIN? (what they claim)

Porcelain is definitely worth a try: you will be amazed by the extreme comfort of its smoothness conferred by the glaze, its total naturalness, it’s thermal adaptability and the absence of any allergene.
If you would never wear a plastic tooth, then you deserve porcelain in-ears!

As reported in an article about the middle ear infections by the Mayo Clinic (Arizona, USA): “Persistent infection or persistent fluids in the middle ear may result in more significant hearing loss”. Therefore excessive sweating with consequent increase in the secretion of wax will help the proliferation of bacteria or viruses in the middle ear canal. As we can read in the same article: “If there is some permanent damage to the eardrum or other middle ear structures, permanent hearing loss may occur”. This is why it is extremely advised to use in-ears made of a material that adapts to your body temperature thus reducing sweating.
Referring to a publication issued by WebMDMedical Reference and reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 24, 2017: “The skin inside your ears can itch because of an allergic reaction. […] Plastic, rubber, or metal you put inside your ears, like earbuds or a hearing aid, can also cause a rash called contact dermatitis.”. Allergies may cause swelling of the Eustachian tubes blocking proper drainage from the middle ear and cause dermatitis.
For the reasons above avoiding plastic and rubber materials while choosing in-ear monitors or in-ear earphones will also help preventing allergies.

MY EXPRERIENCE WITH PORCELAIN:

after one month of use, i can certainly claim that porcelain custom iems have some advantages over standard resin ones: first and most important thing is that this material adapts better to body temperature and gives on long period, a more natural and comfortable fit. The glazing process gives to the shell a smoother feel in contact with your ear skin. Plus, i noticed less sweating compared to standard resin iems. About allergies / dermathitis, i have never had any type of issues with standard acrylic iems assumed that they were using medical grade ones (like my Inearz Euphoria or LarkStudio LSX) except in a couple of cases with some “made in China” brands where I got itching and excess wax in my ears for a while.

Are they more fragile? During this time of use, i have not noticed any type of scratches or damages, they feel sturdy and premium in the hands. I would not say that they are fragile, maybe more delicate compared to plastic resin just in case of hard impact on a very hard surface like marble. I don’t feel they can just chip or break with normal use. On the other hand porcelain will never become yellowish and look permanently “dirty” after heavy use like transparent plastic models.

My Penta (5ba) is a bit heavier than other custom 6ba iems i have, but nothing that can compromise the overall use and experience.

Today i am going to review their electrostatic model Penta, this iem comes with Linum Bax cable as standard, with possible upgrade to Linum SuperBax( with 2pin or T2 connectors).

This unit was sent me as a sample, i am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be my own. Would like to thank Wavaya team for sending me this unit.

Price: 1190 USD/EU

Official Site: https://wavaya.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/wavaya.audio/

SPECS: 3 ba drivers engineered with custom crossovering, band passing and dampening and 2 electrostatic tweeters separately powered. They use a proprietary tubeless outlet system too, most probably to reduce resonance.

Frequency response: 5Hz to 22kHz

input sensitivity: 99 dB @1kHz, 1mW

impedance: 7.8 ohm at 1Khz

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PACKAGING:

All Wavaya iems comes in a quite premium box. In the box you can find a warranty card, a case made of genuine calf leather that is naturally hygroscopic and will reduce the moisture that normally accumulates in ciems without the use of chemicals. My Penta has a premium and sturdy build quality, it uses a standard 2pin connectors, givng me the opportunity to switch to other aftermarket cables like Pwaudio or Rhapsodio ones.

SOUND: all my sound consideration has been made with different DAPS such as Opus 2/3/1s, ak Kann, fiio x3,x5, iFi XDSD and my iPhone 6s/ Tidal HIFI.

Penta shows a reference tuning, it sounds very neutral and controlled without adding any type of coloration or artifice. If you are looking for euphonic or fun sound, most probably this is not the iem for you. Penta was aimed to sound almost linear from bass to mids and treble, as Pasquale(CEO of Wavaya) told me, they worked hard and focused most on having a linear freq curve and a good dynamic.

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BASS: even if not being the strongest point of this iem bass has good impact and decay with the usual weak points of balanced armatures. It has enough quantity to create a good balance with vocals and treble and without sacrificing musicality. Mid-bass has enough presence to give good body and presence to male vocals, without bleeding in mid area. This helps to have a natural reproduction of instruments in this frequency range.

MIDS: the quite neutral mid-bass presence and absence of strange and annoying peaks on upper vocal area, helps to have a linear vocal reproduction. It just feels neutral in both tonality and size notes ( not too much thin or weighty). Vocals have a perfect placement in the scene, never resulting too much recessed or upfront , this gives a great advantage for a correct instrument positioning in the scene. Penta never sounds fatiguing neither falls in the boring side (thanks to the right mid-bass presence).

TREBLE: treble reproduction is the strongest point for Penta, thanks to electrosatic drivers, it shows very good treble extension and detail retrieval. I don’t have much experience with ET drivers, but for sure Wavaya implemented this new type of drivers very well, giving better treble extension and resolution compared to standard balanced armature and avoiding a splashy or fatiguing reproduction like my Noble KHAN. Penta works very well with string instruments, acoustic guitars, trumpets, this makes this iem ideal for blues,jazz or classical music, not the best choice for pop genre.

SOUNDSTAGE: the neutral bass presence and lack of strong peaks on treble area will not give an artificial or too much holographic stage. Penta has a good soundstage and instrument separation, but not necessarily an out-of-the-head experience. Everything is placed in the scene in a correct way, with the right space and air between vocals and instruments.

Penta is quite easy to drive, works good with my iPhone 6s too, but i would suggest to pair it with a good player( better if neutral or warm source) and with decent amping capabilities, to avoid harshness on treble area and gain better control and wider soundstage,

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COMPARISONS:

PENTA VS NFAUDIO 6I: 6i has a reference tuning, but compared to Penta has a bit more fun approach with a bigger bass presence( like InearSD5), on the other side Penta shows a more neutral and controlled approach, with a more neutral sub-bass impact and a bit more mid-bass presence giving a better vocal tonality and presence. Both share similar vocal positioning and size note, but on 6i vocals feels a bit dry, where on Penta shows a bit more warmth and organicity. 6I has slightly more treble presence, giving more sparkles to the sound, on the other side Penta has better treble extension, with a better and more refined reproduction of string instruments. Soundstage is more holographic on 6i, providing a better out-of-the-head experience, on the other side Penta has a more intimate stage, but with better and more precise instrument positioning.

PENTA VS INEARZ EUPHORIA: Euphoria has slightly more mid-bass presence, more recessed vocals and treble roll-off. Euphoria will give you a less fatiguing experience, but at the cost of sacrificing treble details and resolution. On the other side Penta is much more neutral and controlled, with a more linear reproduction from bass to treble. Penta shows better treble extension and detail retrieval on top end, overall has a more professional and less fun approach to music. Soundstage on Euphoria is wider, but Penta has more depth.

PENTA VS LARK STUDIO LSX: LSX has a totally different approach, sounding engaging, fun and euphonic, sacrificing some details to have a fuller reproduction. LSX has much more mid-bass presence, resulting in a weighter reproduction, but a bit muffled and congested. Bass on LSX has bigger impact( more like a dynamic driver). On the other side, Penta has a more neutral and refined sound signature, with thinner size notes compared to LSX, but with better treble extension and detail retrieval. Vocals on LSX are weighter with more euphonic presence, but are placed too much upfront in the scene, on the other side Penta uses a more neutral and correct approach.

PENTA VS AMBIENT ACOUSTICS AM6: similar bass presence, but Penta has better impact. Here, Penta is a clear winner with better resolution, treble extension, and more natural and refined vocal presence. The only advantage of AM6 over Penta is a wider soundstage.

REVIEW: CUSTOM ART FIBAE BLACK

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Custom Art, a polish company founded in 2012 by Piotr Granicki, always focussed in making excellent custom IEMs ranging from the FIBAE1 (their entry-level single driver CIEM) to the flagship Harmony 8.2, delivering excellent performance at a wide range of price,starting from 300 euros for the former and reaching around 1100 euros for the latter. FIBAE (Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone) is their new family of CIEMs, with top of the notch technologies aiming at an ambitious target: to maintain their sound signature in any scenario, regardless of the source they are paired with. So far there are five members of this family, with an increasing number of drivers: FIBAE 1, 2, 3, 4, and BLACK, the ones I will review today. Like the FIBAE 1, the FIBAE BLACK features a single Flat Impedance Balanced Armature, but they developed a new design, called Pressure Optimizing Design, that should improve the sound even further.

I would like to thank Piotr for this example unit. I received the custom model, which sports a 3D printed acrylic shell based on my ear impressions.

Price and data sheet:

At the moment the price for the FIBAE Black starts at 450 euros, but the final price can vary if a more sophisticated design is chosen.

Datasheet:

  • Single proprietary Balanced Armature

  • 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V

  • 5.2 Ohm@1kHz (+- 0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)

  • Frequency range: 10Hz-16000Hz

  • Pressure Optimizing Design and 3D Printed acrylic shell

  • Custom or Universal fits are available

PACKAGING: as usual, sparce. The CIEMs arrived in the same, simple cardboard box of any other FIBAE IEM, logoless but with a clean look. Inside we find the essentials of CIEM ownership:

  • Peli 1010 case that stored the CIEM during the shipment. Sturdy but hard to carry around

  • One black zipper case, smaller than the Peli one and more portable

  • Cleaning tools ( wax remove scraper)

  • Warranty card/manual with useful tips and a greeting from the company

If the universal shape is chosen, 4 pairs of silicone ear tips are included.

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DESIGN: As the name suggests, those CIEM are a little piece of art. The build is flawless, the shell (made entirely with 3D printing technology) feels sturdy and firm, and while the body itself isn’t customizable (it has to remain black, unlike the other FIBAE’s bodies), the faceplate can host almost any pattern. The website already presents a lot of possible plates, but if you feel unsatisfied, you can actually contact Piotr and ask for a more unique style, like my shattered glass reflective one. They will help you design the perfect IEM. You can even upload a photo and use it as a faceplate.

The detachable cable is an improvement over their old, grey one: now it’s a SPC cable wrapped in a transparent PVC insulation, and feels more premium and sturdier, but the flexibility is sacrificed in favour of robustness. The plug is the same 2-pin 0.78mm connector, so it is easy to change and upgrade. The seal, of course, is excellent: they fit my ears like a pair of gloves. The noise isolation is so awesome that the first time I used them during my daily commute, I felt like I was wearing my sony wh1000xm3 with the ANC set to maximum. Even with a perfect pair of ear tips, my FIBAE 3 were never able to isolate that much. Comfort is also great, but in order to reach that perfect seal, they put a little more pressure on my auditory canal than the universal model.

SOUND: The FIBAE Black are a neutral-warmish, pretty fun IEM with an excellent bass, musical and extremely controlled midrange, and a smooth treble with no sibilance at all. They deliver a sound that will never feel fatiguing or sibilant.

I’m quite treble-sensitive, so I really appreciated the controlled highs, while I enjoyed the fun, deep bass. I listen to a lot of different music, and they excelled with every genre. A small, simple and yet exhaustive graph is available on their website, that sum up pretty accurately the overall sound of the IEM.

Lows are deep, with a good extension and a warm feel, always under control. Subbass is fairly present but never boomy. The midbass is again warm and soft, without bumps of any kind. It adds a touch of fun to this pair of quite neutral IEMs without interfering too much with the upper frequencies. Percussion instruments are amazingly musical and emphasised, and so are other instruments like bass guitar. This makes them good with genres such EDM and hip-hop but also rock and especially orchestral music, which I love. Bass is never dry or too present, and pretty fast too.

Midrange is transparent and warm, with a good texture. Vocals are detailed and thick, with a pleasantly warm and fun presentation. I especially enjoyed deep male vocals, which never felt heavy or mudded. Choirs were also amazing. The upper range is extremely soft and smooth, never sibilant or sharp.

The upper midrange and the treble are a bit laid-back, and while I totally enjoyed the absence of any kind of hissing or harshness, treble-heads might want to look for something with a bit of more spark on the higher end. Upper midrange is again smooth and fast, with a great transparency and precision, and a roll-off in the treble area that delivers a relaxed sound. The extension is quite short, and the upper treble lacks a bit of airiness, but in general it is still detailed and relaxed.

The soundstage is huge in depth but could be slightly better in the width, while separation and positioning are excellent for this price range. They were capable of reproducing any genre of music, ranging from EDM to Orchestral songs, without any problem. Again, like the FIBAE 3, the sound signature remained consistent with any source I paired them with, scaling nicely with better sources but delivering a pleasant experience even when hooked to a phone.

fibae_pietro_0032CA FIBAE BLACK vs CA FIBAE 3:

Both have a deep, controlled bass, but the BLACK one is slightly more emphasized. Midbass and mids are warmer and more present on the BLACK, while the 3 have a brighter sound and especially a much more forward presence of the treble, with a deeper extension that adds a touch of airiness. Soundstage is pretty similar and good in both IEMs, with a bit more of depth on the BLACK, while I found the 3 to be more precise, detailed and less forgiving with low-quality files.

CONCLUSIONS: This is my first pair of CIEMs, and I’m still amazed by the isolation they can offer. Add the pleasing single FIBAE driver that don’t necessarily aims to extreme precision and critical listening, but offers a musical, entertaining, warm and fun experience even when paired with a phone and fed with files from Spotify. This is the perfect pair of IEM to travel with, capable of adapting to any taste or genre, never fatiguing or boring, with excellent isolation and great comfort. But while I found the forgiving treble a strong pro, it may not suit treble-heads or someone looking for a sparky sound, to whom I suggest the FIBAE 3, that are more treble-oriented. In the end, the BLACK are NOT a reference IEM in any means. Instead, when I tried them for the first time, I felt like they asked me something: is “extreme precision” really what we are seeking for? Do we have to give our complete attention to the listening, not to enjoy it but to search for any little flaw? Or I want to have a pleasing experience, with a fun sound, coherent and natural, with smooth highs, rumbling but precise bass, forward and warm mids? If you are seeking for extreme precision and critical listening, or sparky treble, then try something else. But if what you want is a fun experience, to accompany you through voyages or moments of relax, you just found your perfect companion.

REVIEW: ORIOLUS FINSCHI

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Oriolus is a Chinese audiophile company producing different portable amplifiers, players and iems ranging from 180USD(Finschi) to their flagship model 10ba Mellianus. They are quite famous in Asia and just recently they started to approach the overseas market.

On 16th. May 2015 Cyras Co., Ltd. Japan (CEO YOSHIAKI HIRAI) announced the Hi-End audio brand Oriolus.Oriolus is supervised under renowned professional audio management company – Hibino Intersound Co., Ltd.
Products under Oriolus are co-engineered by Hibino Intersound Co., Ltd.’s engineering team and the hardware engineer – RAO YOU LIANG, the mastermind behind many well received solutions and products including HDP-R10. 
Achieving utmost purity in sound is Oriolus’s only mission.

For those who wonder, yes, the Oriolus is a bird.

Today i am going to review their new released model Finschi( this is the entry level model in their catalogue). This is a hybrid iem with a 10mm dynamic driver and one Knowles balanced armature driver. As for their MK2 and Forsteni they opted for the hybrid configuration to have the both advantages of two technologies: bass impact and quality of typical dynamic drivers and resolution and detail retrieval of balanced armatures.  This unit was sent me as a sample, i am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. Would like to thank Xtenik and Oriolus for sending me this unit.

You can buy here: https://www.xtenik.com/product/oriolus-finschi-hybrid-headphone/

Specs:

Driver: Knowles balanced armature + 10mm dynamic driver

  • Sensitivity: 112db
  • Impedance: 18Ω
  • Frequency response: 10Hz-40KHz
  • Pin: 2pin 0.78mm
  • Line length: 120cm

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PACKAGING: packaging is quite essential, but good enough for the price range. In the box, you can find a carry case, some eartips and a cable clip. I suggest to use Spinfit cp145 with the Finschi to have a better sub-bass response and vocal presence. The iem comes with a copper and silver-plated wire mixed woven cable that is quite good special for its sonic performance( for sure, is better than standard Plastics ones cables, having better resolution and dynamic compared to these ones). Pairing with other aftermarket cables like Pwaudio Saladin or Rhapsodio Dark Knight, i found some improvements in resolution and detail retrieval, but not much to justify their use against the standard one included in the box.

The Finschi is a well built product, with excellent resin quality. Due to its hybrid nature, you will hear a clip when inserting the iem in the ear canal, but overall you will not have driver flex issues thanks to the well built open vent on the faceplate. Overall, i suggest to not use a too much deep insertion to not compromise bass response.

What is driver flex: Driver flex is when the driver bends due to the pressure of air against it. Usually it occurs when you’re inserting the iem in your ear. When, upon insertion, the air that is inside has nowhere to go (no vents) or can’t escape quickly enough, it builds pressure and the diaphragm bends, producing a click sound. It can also occur when removing the piece from the ear. Basically when there’s a sudden flow of air.”

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SOUND: the Finschi has a particular focus on sub-bass area and treble with a slightly recessed vocals. It shows a good resolution and articulation on treble area with excellent transparency level for the price range. Size note is quite good, not sounding too much thin. Overall, the Finschi is an engaging and fun all-rounder, with enough mature sonic performance.

BASS: bass quality is good thanks to the dynamic driver, showing good impact, body and decay. Even if, is a bit emphasized in quantity, the sub-bass extension could be better, but in line with the asking price. For the mid-bass i would prefer a bit more quantity, to help male vocals to have a fuller presence and overall a more mature reproduction, but i think the MK2 model was aimed for this purpose.

MIDS: vocals are a bit recessed in the scene compared to bass and treble and most probably are the weakest point of this iem, but they show exellent tonality and good details. Female vocals sound sweet and with a great sense of realism. Vocals sound a bit disjointed with the bass and treble, i would like a more cohesion and balance here.

TREBLE: treble reproduction is the star of the show, showing great details retrieval and articultion. More than quantity, treble has great extension, this helps to have a good transparency level and resolution, never sounding too much fatiguing. If you like string instruments, the Finschi could be a great choice for you.

SOUNDSTAGE: this is another strong point for this iem: both width and depth are above average, showing a good layering. Both width and depth have the same size creating a balanced and mature scene where instruments are placed in the correct way. Usually, specially at low price range, is hard to find this balance, just an example the Ibasso IT01, sounds very wide, giving a nice fun factor, but loosing the correct placement of instruments in the scene. Compared to some multi-balanced iem, the Finschi soundstage is not much holographic, but has a great separation between each instruments and vocals.

PAIRINGS: the Finschi doesn’t need high amplification or expensive players to really shine, it just sounds great with my iPhone 6s and Tidal Hi-Fi. Paired with my Opus 2 and 3 or AK Kann it gains more separation and a more controlled reproduction, but is not night and day like other multi balanced armature iems.

COMPARISONS:

FINSCHI VS BGVP DM6: bass on Finschi has better impact and decay, here the dynamic driver makes a better job compared to balanced armatures. Finschi bass focuses on the sub-bass area, BGVP ,as most of BA iems, has a lift in mid-bass area to compensate poor bass reproduction on BA drivers. Vocals on BGVP have more presence and sound thicker, but feels a bit plastic, Finschi on the other side has better realism, but vocals are more recessed. Treble on BGVP has more quantity, but sounds a bit harsh with stock cable, on Finschi. treble response shows better refinement and articulation. BGVP soundstage is wider with better layering and detail retrieval.

FINSCHI VS CUSTOM ART FIBAE 2: FIBAE 2 has a strong focus on mid-bass area giving a fuller sound and better male vocal reproduction. Bass impact is stronger on Fibae 2, but Finschi has better decay. Finschi has more recessed vocals, but more articulation and details on treble area with a better transparency level. Soundstage is wider on Fibae 2, but Finschi shows better instrument separation and better separation between vocals and instruments.

FINSCHI VS PERIODIC AUDIO TI: Finschi has a more v-shaped sound sig, with a more fun factor, on the other side TI sounds more balanced and mature. Bass impact on Finschi has more impact and stronger response. Vocals on TI are more balanced with treble and bass area. Both have great treble response and refinement. Finschi has a wider soundstage with a better instrument separation.

FINSCHI VS IBASSO IT01: ITO1 has better sub-bass extension, but quantity is too much for my taste, sounding over control sometimes, here the Finschi has overall a more mature reproduction. Vocals are both recessed, but Finschi shows better realism and emotion, sounding less thin compared to ITO1. Soundstage is a bit wider on IT01, but feels a bit artificial, instruments have better placement on Finschi with a more mature soundstage and better realism.

FINSCHI VS DUNU C-FALCON: falcon has slightly better sub-bass extension, but Finschi has more quantity bass and fun response. Vocals on Falcon are slightly less recessed, but Finschi shows more transparency on mids reproduction. Treble on Finschi has more quantity and better extension, with better layering and more holographic soundstage.

REVIEW: FiiO FA1

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Price: 99$

Where to buy them: https://amzn.to/2WbBJbG

Specifications:

  • Single BA Knowles ED-33357
  • Impedance: 15 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 111 dB @ 1mW
  • Frequency response: 20-20k Hz
  • Maximum input power: 100 mW

Thanks to FiiO for this free sample. Everything I write reflects my own thoughts and impressions about the FA1.

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Unboxing and first impressions

For a sub-100$ In Ear Monitor, I’d say I’m impressed with the accessories. Inside the white box, we find the IEMs, a 4-core black braided cable (the connector type is MMCX), a hard case, a cleaning brush, some tips (3 pairs of white narrow-bore ones and 3 of red and gray medium-bore ones). And a warranty card too. For the price, the case is a good surprise, even if it’s not the best in terms of build quality. The IEMs themselves, instead, are built amazingly well and they have a unique design which reminds me of the other FiiO products of their balanced line-up. They are made of acrylic, with a smoke effect which gives an interesting overall look. The faceplate is kind of wavy, and it perfectly merges with the shell. I believe these IEMs are 3D-printed. The nozzle is made of the same resin as the shell, so there’s no metal reinforcement. For being a universal IEM, the fit is also more than good; and they are very lightweight. They aren’t the smallest earphones out there, but they are not fatiguing to wear, even after a long time. The cable has solid gold-plated connectors, and it feels well-made overall. It’s a 4-core twisted cable (silver, copper-plated) with strain reliefs on the L-shaped connector and on the Y split (which are both made of metal). This cable comes in 3.5mm single ended, while other FiiO IEMs come with another cable which is a 2.5mm balanced. But I’m good with this, considering it’s an entry-level earphone. The only issue I have concerns the ear hooks: they are a little bit too hard, so they keep their shape more than adapt to my ears (it’s because they are just a bit too long, too).

 

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Sound

This single balanced armature sounds like you would expect a single balanced armature to sound: balanced. The FA1 provide a neutral signature, on a reference side, with a touch of color on the upper midrange.

Because they are pretty easy to drive, the bass is quick and punchy, while remaining very well controlled. It’s not an enhanced bass, so my impressions are far from a fun sound. It’s not one of the best things of these earphones either, actually: even though the sub-bass extension is pretty deep, the body of it is just average, but it feels smooth overall. This is actually pretty good for a single armature, considering that work is usually assigned to specific armatures or dynamic drivers. If you are a basshead, though, it would be difficult for me to suggest the FA1, which are more on a flat – yet sparkly – side.

Mids are the best part of the package: they sound full, well-layered, giving the right space and harmonics to vocals. The clarity is stunning, thanks to the body given to the upper midrange. The only less convincing thing is the artificial/metallic feel which sometimes comes in the lower midrange, and sometimes even in the higher frequencies, which may thin the body of it but isn’t really all that noticeable.

The treble is also really convincing: luckily, it’s not picky or bright, nor sibilant, which are the aspects I’m more sensitive about. Like the rest of the frequency range, the highs are well-tuned and controlled, but airy and energic.

I wouldn’t say the soundstage is very wide, but the emphasis on the upper midrange helps to widen it, for sure. You don’t feel a congested sound, neither like it’s in your head. It fairly expands in width and depth and it gives a holographic feel, which you may appreciate or not – I’m not sure on its precision. Imaging is average, even more than average if you think of the price of these IEMs. The isolation is top notch, which is a great thing, allowing you to listen to your music even while you are in a very noisy area without any problem.

 

Comparisons

Brainwavz KOEL: even though I think Brainwavz did a good job with their KOEL, providing a flat sounding In Ear Monitor, I think they need more refinement on the 3D printing area, as well as on a comfort side. The FiiO FA1 are more convincing (better cable, better fit, unique design) exteriorly, and for me even interiorly (the sound feels more solid, due a better bass extension on the FA1 and a wider soundstage).

BGVP DMG: I like them and I think they are one of the most intriguing earphones for about 100$ right now. But they are sibilant. Comfort-wise, they are comparable to the FA1 (even considering the different materials and shapes). DMG are more fun sounding, for sure. They sound like they are meant to: their hybrid configuration provides a solid and punchy bass, thanks to the dynamic drivers, while their Balanced Armatures grant a good level of detail. Yet, I’m asking myself how FiiO make a single Balanced Armature sound that good, in comparison. I may consider buying the FA1 for a more reference sound and better accessories, and the DMG for 360° fun (on switching filters, too).

Simgot EM1: this single dynamic is an honest competitor to the FiiO FA1. It’s one of the best sub-100$ earphones, because of the overall balance (price, build, accessories, sound). Being a dynamic gives more bass, a wider and deeper soundstage, but a less balanced sound signature. I’d say, if you need precision and you want entry level monitors, go for FA1; if you want a comfortable listening experience, go for the EM1.

Tin HiFi T3: really difficult choice. The price is a great advantage of the T3, and the cable, the build quality, the versatility of the fit, make them a really interesting choice. They are less flat than the FA1, for sure, and this could be the reason not to choose them. FA1 are good monitors, Tin T3 are amazing for listening (detail, bass, treble extension, soundstage), but less comfortable to wear.

 

Conclusions

It seems that single balanced armatures are getting more mainstream (Campfire Comet, Brainwavz KOEL, these ones…) As far as my experience goes, this kind of design is able to combine and merge many aspects of different technologies, not excelling in any of those in particular, but providing a great overall experience for a very reasonable price, not even sacrificing build quality, aesthetics or sound.

There obviously are some things I like more on single dynamic driver earphones, while others excel on single armatures, like precision, speed, detail, but this seems to be a good “middle ground” that doesn’t leave disappointed at all.

I would recommend the FA1 to any customer looking for an elegant monitor to potentially use as an everyday solution, as it provides the right balance to catch the details of the sound without empowering or hiding too much any frequency, making it perfectly suitable for somebody who wants to experience a good sound in any situation with any setup, without having to combine the earbuds with a DAC or a sound card to give them a boost or eliminate static noises.

 

Pros

  • Accessories
  • Signature
  • Comfort and design
  • Cable
  • Midrange and treble

 

Cons

  • bass could have more impact and extension
  • vocals could be more mature and organic

LB Acoustics MySphere 3

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Price: €3300

Where to buy them: https://mysphere.at/product/buy-mysphere3/

Specs:

  • Style: hovering next to the ears, fully open
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB / 1 mW RMS = 115 dB SPL/V eff. (at Ear-Drum Reference Point)
  • Maximum input power: 60 mW
  • Rated Impedance: 15 Ohms or 110 Ohms
  • Transducer type: dynamic
  • Transducer size: 40 x 40 mm
  • Diaphragm: squared, glass-foam enforced
  • Membrane excursion: 4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Magnetic structure: radial, fully vented
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N52
  • Magnet density: 1.5 T
  • Weight: 345 g (without cables)

I want to thank MySphere for this loan unit. Everything in this review reflects my own thoughts and experience with these headphones.

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Design and comfort

These headphones are very unusual. Even if you are familiar with the Stax family, this unit looks very particular (this is not an electrostatic, though, but a dynamic). Starting from the shape, to the materials, to the build quality itself, everything looks and feels high-end. The designers behind these headphones are the same as the AKG K1000 (Mr Heinz Renner and Mr Ryback)! I don’t know if the head-band (with the MYSPHERE logo on it) is made of aluminum, but it feels really solid and it could even be steel. You can stretch it without any fear of breaking it. The padding is detachable and it’s not bad, even though it’s a little bit slim: you may find it uncomfortable for long periods of listening. The frames are detachable too, and they attach magnetically to the body: this modularity may help with any kind of problems or breakings. The materials used are also waterproof and very solid, so it’s probably difficult to have build quality issues anyway. Speaking of comfort, they feel a little bit heavy and the clamp is pretty hard, so you get a great stability, but you must have a particular shape not to feel too fatigued after some time. I don’t find them uncomfortable, though: for this kind of product, I think they actually feel solid more than fatiguing.

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Sound

I’ve personally tested the 3.1 version (15 Ohm) and  the 3.2, which has an impedance of 110 Ohm. The 3.1 version is meant to be driven by DAPs and tube Amps, while the 3.2 by solid state Amps (more or less).

I’ve personally used as sources: SMSL 32bit/384KHz DSD512 Tube headphone amplifier( that work quite good with the 3.1 pads that are very easy to drive even with my Opus2. Obviously a better amplification will give you more control and fuller soundstage.

The great thing about the modularity of these headphones is the possibility of opening the frames and get an open-back headphone. Even with the frames closed, you have a very airy sound, but the soundstage is not that wide. By opening them, it widens and deepens, and you get an incredible sense of space and a precise yet holographic imaging. I have to admit it’s more like listening to speakers than listening to headphones. Nothing I’ve tried before feels that wide and all-around-you. The isolation, even when the frames are closed, is poor, but these headphones are obviously meant to be used at home, so I don’t feel this as a problem. On the other hand, as always, when you open the air passage (more or less like using wide-bore tips on in ear monitors), you lose some bass. That being said, the bass presence is still enough powerful to make the sound signature pretty warm. It extends very well into the sub-bass area. The overall sound signature feels, in reality, quite neutral, but analyzing the frequency ranges keeps out some interesting characteristics. For example, the neutrality is an aspect of the midrange too, even though I hear some picks on the upper side. In the midrange area, everything is smoothly reproduced and the instrument separation is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Layering and vocals are incredible, with air and space, body and harmonics. Treble is smooth, not harsh at all, but somewhere sparkly: this gives energy to the sound but may be fatiguing for some after some listening. I personally didn’t get fatigued, though; instead, I felt like I could turn the volume up even too much without hearing distortions or any kind of issues. The mysphere follows the typical reference european tuning, focusing on technicalities and a micro-detailed reproduction, if you are looking for an engaging and bass-oriented headphones, most probably this one will not be for you, the mysphere were meant to sound more on the analytical side, still retaining some warmth to result natural, focusing on upper midrange, treble and airy reproduction.

Conclusions

I wanted to review this pair of headphones because I feel it’s something the community will remember for a long time. Like the K1000, they want to be a benchmark and, in my opinion, they actually got it right. The neutrality is stunning, but the warmness adds that listening comfort that’s typical of dynamic drivers. It’s hard to find something wrong in these headphones: excellent dynamics, wide soundstage, holographic imaging, perfect layering, extreme frequency coverage. I would say it’s hard to recommend something like this for the price, but I’m actually more than convinced about what you get for the money. It’s not your usual headphone, and this just adds value to this product.

PROS:

transient response

speaker-like experience

vocal accuracy and timbre

 

CONS:

resolution could be better at this price range

 

 

 

REVIEW: PEARS SH3

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The SH3 is the latest flagship model from the swiss company PEARS, it mounts 3drivers each side and was designed to have a flat and reference signature.

PEARS is not much famous in the audiphile community, so here you can find some info about their philosophy and history:

PEARS is born from the meeting of Samuel Harsch, acoustic engineer and founder of harschacoustic, and Stéphane Rochat, electronic engineer and musicians.In 2012, Samuel Harsch manufactured his first custom in-ear monitors made out of acrylic resin, for himself and for some of his friends and colleagues.In 2014, given the success encountered with his first prototypes, he devoted his partial working time to make in-ear monitors and launches the model SH-2, dual driver. In 2015, Samuel Harsch decided to create a more powerful and flat in-ear monitors; the SH-3, triple driver, is launched in spring 2015. In parallel of this year, Stéphane Rochat joined harschacoustic as freelancer by doing at beginning a study market for understanding more the Swiss market and the wishes of musicians about in-ear monitors. In October 2016 the brand PEARS is officially launched as 1st Swiss made custom in-ear monitors.

Samuel Harsch

Co-Founder / Acoustic Engineer

Samuel has always been passionate about sound. In primary school already, he designed and built various speakers. From 2005 he was hired as an acoustics engineer at Phonak. He was in charge of the acoustic part of many research projects and various products such as custom made hearing protection devices called Serenity (passive and active) or the in-ear earphones Audéo PFE series that have won numerous awards and mentions on various specialized blogs and forums, both in audio quality and comfort. He filed 7 patents for Phonak as inventor or co-inventor, including the patent of the interchangeable acoustic filters that was one of the key points of the success of the Audéo PFE series. In 2013, Samuel takes the decision to reduce his working time at Phonak in order to focus on in-ear monitors and other personal projects. He develops speakers and various acoustic elements for a Swiss company, Audio-Performance in Echallens: a waveguide and an adjustable directivity horn for line arrays as well as various filters, small speakers and subwoofers.

Stéphane Rochat

Co-Founder / Electronic Design Engineer

Stéphane wears different hats here at P·EAR·S. He handles all the business stuff like sales, marketing, artist relations and different technical aspects such as electronic & acoustic too. Stéphane’s been messing with music since his childhood. He started by studying classical guitar followed by jazz guitar in different music schools for many years. In 2006 he graduated from University of Applied Sciences of Fribourg with a degree in Electronic Engineering. In parallel of his former job, he worked as sound technician during 4 years at Fri-Son Fribourg in order to understand more technical aspects of live music. Since 2011, he is working at Phonak, using his skills in acoustic and electronic engineering. In 2014, he did postgraduate studies in project management for improving his knowledge in business. Stéphane brings to P·EAR·S a wealth of experience in the music and an experience of more than 10 years in different R&D departments. In addition to the business stuff, Stéphane is also involved in new developments for the next generation of P·EAR·S.

This unit was sent me for the purpose of this review, i am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. This company usually produces custom fit iem, they can sell universal fit too under request.
For more info about PEARS , you can easily contact them on their facebook channel: https://www.facebook.com/pearsaudio/

PRICE: 1083 USD

DRIVER CONFIG: Triple Driver dual mid-low/single high 1 passive crossover

SIGNATURE: NEUTRAL-NEUTRAL/BRIGHT
SUGGESTED EARTIPS: SPINFIT CP145
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PACKAGING: my units arrived in a simple aluminium carrying case, from what i see on their site, they use a carrying case made of wood too. Inside the case, you can find a cleaning set, pouch and cloth in microfiber. Both SH2 and SH3 comes with a standard copper cable( standard plasticsone cable).

SOUND: the SH3 has a reference signature, but with enough body and sweet vocals to avoid a boring reproduction. It sounds accurate, with good tonality and resolution to satisfy audiophile needs too.

BASS: maybe the weakest point of the SH3( and usually the weakest point for BA drivers). It is quite flat, a boost in the mid-bass area helps to have a fuller sound and sweeter vocals. If you are looking for a big bass, or a fun signature, this is not the iem for you. The SH3 was aimed to combine good technicalities and a natural sound and for this purpose, is a great iem. Bass has enough impact and body to make the SH3 a good all-rounder with most musical genres, and i think the custom fit, can give you a better bass response. Overall, with Spinfit cp145 i can get a satisfying bass response.

MIDS: the strongest point for this iem: both male and female vocals sound enough rich and bodied, creating a great balance with the clear treble. Vocals never sound thin, but quite rich with exellent timbre and realism. There is no sibilance in female vocals like my inear SD5 and can compete in many ways with my Aroma YAO, that is one of the best vocal iem i have ever tried.

TREBLE: treble is clear, showing good resolution and details and giving great presence to instruments like violins, cymbals and strings. This helps to have a mature sound with good technical abilities. Sometimes, it can sound a bit harsh, due to its revealing nature, special if used with a clear sounding player and with bad recorded tracks. From my experience with custom iems, i think the SH3, could have better bass response and less hot treble with a custom fit iem.

SOUNDSTAGE: soundstage is very wide, with great layering, showing a good out-of-the-head experience. Depth is average, here i would have preferred a better balance of width and depth. If i can find one area to criticize is the soundstage, that like vision ear VE8 has great width and layering, but sometimes you can loose the focus of instruments around you. Maybe too much holographic, but don’t know if this problem will be still there with a custom fit iem.

pears1pears4

COMPARISONS:

PEARS SH-2: the SH2 shares almost the 80% of the SH3, with the same timbre, but it lacks the technicalities and sweet vocals of SH3. Soundstage is less wide, but more rounded, with better depth, thanks to the vocals placed more behind the scene. SH2 is slightly more organic, darker, fuller, a bit more fun with more mid-bass presence. SH2 is a good all-rounder iem, sounding good with most tracks, SH3 has a more flat,detailed and a more mature reproduction.

SH3 VS INEAR SD5: SD5 has a w shaped sound singature, compared to sh3, it sounds more fun and engaging, with more boosted sub-bass and upper treble and overall a better bass quality. Where the SH3 clearly wins is on vocal reproduction, giving much more body and realism to both male and female ones. On SD5 female vocals can sound a bit sibilant.  Upper treble on SD5 is more forward, giving more sparckles, on the other side SH3 has less boosted upper treble, but gives more finesse on violin or string instruments. SD5 sounds engaging and fun, working better with more modern tracks, on the other side SH3 has a more mature reproduction, combying in a better way technicalities and natural sound. Soundstage on SD5 has more depth and more or less same width of sh3.

SH3 VS INEARZ EUPHORIA: EUPHORIA has a more u shaped sound signature, with more mid-bass presence and slightly fuller reproduction. Vocals on euphoria are rendered in a more “liquid” way, on the opposite, the SH3 has a more organic and realistic vocal reproduction. Treble on Euphoria was tuned to result innofensive, but is less detailed compared to SH3. Both are exellent iems, Euphoria has a more modern approach, sounding good with many players and tracks, on the other side SH3 sounds a bit more sterile, but with better technical abilities.

SH3 VS nfaudio NF6I: the nf6i is another great iem, if you are looking for a good reference sound. 6i has a bass response similar to SD5 with a more sub-bass boost compared to sh3, vocals on 6i sound drier, on the other side on sh3 they sound more organic and fuller with a better sense of realism. They both have similar treble extension and detail retrieval. Soundstage on 6i has more depth with a more precise instrument positioning.
pears2

PAIRINGS:

OPUS 2: great sinergy: reference and natural sound with wide soundstage, female sweet vocals. Can easily drive the SH3 on mid gain, with high gain bass gains more impact, but soundstage is too much holographic.

Opus 1s: more organic reproduction, more rumble on sub-bass area, vocals are more organic and gains more emotions compared to the leaner vocals on the Opus2. Great left/right channel separation, but less width compared to Opus2.

Opus3: more fun reproduction, with more boosted bass and less forward midrange, a bit clearer on top end, sounds more harsh and less natural compared to Opus 2, but portrays more details on top end. Better to use on high gain and push the volume to 85-95 to have a satisfying volume level.

 

SPECS:

FREQUENCY RESPONSE

  • 10Hz – 18kHz

INPUT SENSITIVITY

  • 117dB @ 1kHz, 1mW

IMPEDANCE

  • 25 Ohms

 

REVIEW: RHAPSODIO EDEN

eden3

Rhapsodio Eden is the latest flagship model from this company, mounting a single aluminium dynamic driver and silver shell( same shape of their Galaxy V1). The Eden has a premium build quality and feels much more sturdy than most common acrylic BA iems.

This unit was sent me for the purpose of this review, i am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. Would like to thank Sammy and Rhapsodio team for sending me this unit giving me the opportunity to test such a great product.
For more info about Eden and other products, you can easily contact them on their facebook channel. Sammy is always online!

PRICE: 2000 USD

DRIVER CONFIG: single dynamic driver

SIGNATURE: NEUTRAL
SUGGESTED EARTIPS: EPRO HORN SHAPED TIPS/ SPINFIT CP145

OFFICIAL SITE: https://www.rhapsodiostore.com/products?page=1

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/rhapsodiohk/

PACKAGING: the overall packaging experience is great: the Eden comes in a premium wood package( not the typical black box from Rhapsodio), with EPro horn shaped tips and standard rhapsodio sylicon eartips. The Eden comes with the standard copper Pandora Dwarf cable.

All my sound consideration has been made after 150 hours of burn in as suggested from the Rhapsodio company.

FIRST IMPRESSION: listening to Eden for the first time required me some time to get used to its sound signature, special if you are used to balanced armature sound, you will need a bit of time to really understand the philosophy at the base of this product.

Out of the box, the Eden sounded to me a bit boring, with thin size notes, but with great treble accent, so i decided to follow Sammy suggestion and make a 150 hours of burn-in.

The great improvement i heard, i think, was not due to the driver burn-in, but to my brain, getting used to that sound( special if you usually use balanced armature iems, company tend to raise a bit the mid-bass to have a fuller bass response).

eden1

eden4

SOUND: the Eden was tuned to be a reference sounding iem: from bass to treble, everything tend to sound linear, like water, so at first listening, you can think to a boring sound, but with the time, you will start to focus on the micro-details, the quality bass response and the great treble extension.

BASS: the Eden is just at the opposite of the Galaxy V2: showing a neutral bass response, not huge in quantity, but with great quality and extension. Here, the dynamic driver makes a great job, providing good impact,decay and moving enough air to be defined a good dynamic iem, focusing always on the sub-bass area and remaining always linear. There is not lift in the mid-bass region, so the overall sound signature doesn’t gain any warmth. Even if, the Eden doesn’t sound full bodied, warm or rich, the mid-bass has enough presence to create a good balance between male vocals and female ones.

MIDS: male vocals sound good, but sometimes, can lack a bit of emotion( here a bit more mid-bass presence could help to give a fuller experience). The star of the show are female vocals, that sound very clear, defined with great timbre and control. Compared to the Galaxy v2( that is more v-shaped), vocals on Eden have more space and details.

TREBLE: treble response is just amazing, and is the strongest point of this IEM. Eden shows great extension, that helps to have an airy reproduction and exellent resolution, never sounding harsh or annoying. All this, helps to have a better instrument separation and a better sense of space.

SOUNDSTAGE: soundstage is above average, but cannot compete with most of multi balanced armature iems, is very precise and all instruments are placed in a coherent way in the scene. If you are looking for holographic stage or out-of-the-head experience, this is not the iem for you. Eden main focus is in tonality, balance and to keep your attention on micro-details and instrument accuracy.

COMPARISONS:

eden2

GALAXY V2 VS EDEN: they have totally different approach and philosophy: Galaxy V2 was aimed to sound fun, with great bass quantity and treble presence, on the other side, the Eden offers a much more refined and mature sound, providing more balance, resolution and treble extension. The Eden is more a monitoring product, but still enough good for audiophile needs, thanks to its timbre accuracy and extension on both bass and treble area. Soundstage on both is above average, but Galaxy v2 has a bit better depth thanks to its more v-shaped sound signature.

EDEN VS PEARS SH-3: both were tuned to have a reference approach, but the SH3 is a balanced driver iem, so is not easy to compare dynamic drivers iems and balanced armature ones. Bass is similar in quantity, but Eden bass response is much better in quality, thanks to the dynamic driver. Eden bass has better impact and decay. Male vocals on the SH3 have more body and presence, female vocals on both have great realism and timbre, but Eden has a bit thinner note size. They both show great treble reproduction, but the SH3 can sound a bit harsh and splashy with old tracks or bad recorded ones.

Soundstage on SH3 is a bit more holographic, but instruments are placed in a more artificial way in the space, on the other side, Eden has a more intimate reproduction, with a more precise instruments placement.

EDEN VS AROMA AUDIO YAO: Eden has better bass quality and treble extension, with better technicality abilities. Aroma Yao has better vocals, with a fuller reproduction, but with more treble roll-off, providing less listening fatigue , but lacking the treble resolution and airness of Eden. Soundstage is more holographic on Aroma Yao.

PAIRINGS:

eden5

OPUS 2: great sinergy: in my opinion, this is one of the best pairing with the Eden. Natural sound with wide soundstage, female vocals and treble extension. The Opus 2 can easily drive the Eden on mid-gain pushing the volume knob on 80-90.

Opus 1s:   Opus 1s will add more body to the music , with a great sub-bass impact. Bass is fuller with Opus 1s compared to Opus2, but lacks the wide soundstage and treble extensionsion of his big brother. Vocals gain more body and emotional feeling.

Opus3: similar to Opus2, but i need to set the gain to high and push the volume knob around 100-110. This pairing sound less natural compared to Opus 2, with treble a bit less refined and sounding more harsh. Soudstage size is between Opus 2 and 1s.

Astell and kern Kann: less detail retraival and less treble extension compared to Opus2, but the overall reproduction is less fatiguing and a bit more full-bodied, gaining more vocal presence.

Zorloo ZuperDAC-S Review: recommended

Price: 79$ (89$ with iOS cable)

Where to buy: https://www.zorloo.com/shop-zorloo and https://www.massdrop.com/buy/zorloo-zuperdac-s when dropped

Specifications:

  • ESS Sabre 9018Q2C as DAC
  • USB Audio 2.0 Asynchronous Mode at 192kHz 24-bit
  • 50x16x10mm
  • Impedance < 2 Ohm

Thanks to Zorloo for providing this sample to review.

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed the Audirect Beam, a DAC-Amp with incredible performance and features for such a small form factor. While that model was based on ESS Sabre 9118, this model by Zorloo uses the older 9018, the same base DAC of the M7 by FiiO.

P1030126

Unboxing and first impressions

This white box is very rational: small, with specifications written on the back and everything needed on the inside. This is the “special” edition, with a cable for iOS too. The standard edition doesn’t have one, and you’d need a camera adaptor to work on iOS. Inside the box there are three more cables, all with micro USB at one end; one is micro USB on the other end too, one is USB type C and the last one is USB A. We also find the ZuperDAC-S itself in a matte magenta finish, and a manual. The DAC uses a micro USB and it’s able to work on every OS, both mobile and desktop. It’s actually pretty lightweight and solid and the build quality is average, with metal for the shell and plastic for the two buttons (for volume up and down). The jack plug is a 3.5mm, unfortunately not gold-plated.

I’ve tested this DAC with a lot of earphones: Tin HiFi T2 Pro and T3, Simgot EM1, BGVP DMG and others. I have an Audirect Whistle too, and I’ve reviewed the Beam. So, I’m able to compare the threes under a few ways. Zorloo says this is a DAC and doesn’t mention the Amp side. But you can consider it an Amp by comparing it with the efficiency of your stock DACs, because the perceived volume, in the end, is way higher by using the ZuperDAC-S.

P1030127

Features

Audirect Whistle and Beam support DSD, while Zorloo ZuperDAC-S don’t. Is it a problem? I personally don’t mind, but a lot of people actually care about that format. Both the Whistle and the Beam have a led that switches between PCM and DSD, but you obviously have to use a source which supports DSD natively. Most of the times, by using them with your phone or your PC, if you don’t have a specific program to run DSDs, you will listen to them converted to PCM. So, this doesn’t make a lot of a difference.

P1030124

Whistle doesn’t have any button. ZuperDAC-S has two buttons for volume. Beam has a lever which works for volume and play/pause. Look at this progression: everything concerning these three products follows it. Let’s explain better.

Whistle doesn’t have any particular function: it’s a DAC/Amp, it works with every OS too, but you have to use your source for the volume and other controls. I personally use Android and Mac OS, so I won’t give you any particular information with iOs and Windows, at least for now. Beam has a really interesting feature: its lever works directly on your system volume (on Android for sure), so you always know your percentage of listening. At the other hand, you are stuck with your device maximum volume. ZuperDAC-S is different: its buttons change the volume independently from your source. This is a bad thing if you need to precisely know the volume of your listening, but it’s good if your stock volume steps finish at a level that’s not enough high for you. Be careful: this is true on Android, but not on Mac OS. On Android, you can change both your system volume and your DAC volume, while on Mac OS your system volume, even though it’s graphically changing, always remains the same. So, you must change it by using the buttons on your DAC. Here I encountered two problems. The initial volume on Mac OS is at maximum level: pay attention and take it down before starting listening to anything. The other issue concerns this: when you press the buttons on the DAC, you move it a little bit; sometimes it’s enough to disconnect it.

My overall ranking on features is: Whistle as last (but it’s not sold anymore), ZuperDAC-S second and Beam first.

P1030121

Sound

Remember: every consideration comes by avoiding the earphones characteristics, which I know and I’ve already considered by writing about this DAC.

I don’t want to talk a lot about the sound of the other characters: if you want, you can read their reviews. But I summarize my experience quickly here, so it’s easy for you to understand. Whistle: it’s sibilant. I think they did a giant step up with the Beam. Which was a little bit warmer than neutral for me, as a source. But warm is better than harsh. Zorloo stays in the middle: the ZuperDAC-S is the most neutral of the threes. ESS Sabre 9018 is a really capable DAC, and I already believed it by trying a variant of it inside my FiiO M7. I think that the FiiO sounds a little bit brighter than this Zorloo, actually. But there are a lot of variables which have to be considered, like the OS, other hardware components, ecc.. I think it’s not so useful talking about soundstage and other aspects which concern more the earphones themselves, rather than the DAC. This is an instrument which honestly did everything well by carrying and improving the sound coming from my source (my phone, mainly). I liked the smoothly reached sub-bass, the controlled mid-bass (which may sound slightly colored, giving this pleasant perception of warmness); I like mids, which benefit of a precise layering between instruments, while giving space and airyness to vocals; I like treble, too, which doesn’t sound sibilant nor harsh but it’s robust and sparkly when needed. If I had to compare the stock USB C to 3.5mm adapter of my phone (Xiaomi Mi MIX 2) to this Zorloo, I would say that I hear improvements on the volume area, on the scene reproduction and on dynamics. Being a sort of an Amp obviously gives more body to your sound, which benefits not only from a higher volume, but also from a better detail and precision. I wouldn’t say, then, that this sound is holographic (which is not something I’m a fan of, though): this is a good stereophonic representation, with believable imaging and spatial distribution of instruments; not crazy surrounding simulation, luckily. Every aspect of your “stock” sound (coming directly from your phone) here is improved: punchiness and speed in bass, clarity, space for every instrument, control in highs. I really enjoyed this sound.

P1030122

Conclusion

I can’t compare the ZuperDAC-S to the Whistle: for my taste, everything did by Zorloo is better between these two particular models. However, I find the challenge open between the ZuperDAC-S and the Audirect Beam: while I still prefer the Beam (for using USB C, that really useful multi-functional lever and the updated DAC inside), I have to admit that Zorloo offers its DAC for 20$ less! And honestly, while in an absolute sense I may consider the Beam superior, I think the ZuperDAC-S is really worth its price and really is a solid competitor to its counterpart. Absolutely recommended.

P1030123

Simgot Meeture MT3 Review

Simgot is one of the most professional-looking brand coming from China. While I think they need better visuals for their social pages, I also believe their products – and their brand in general – are really high-quality. If you think about LZ, you may notice an awful logo, that doesn’t represent the good sound of their products. Simgot has, instead, a good logo and a good sub-brand (Meeture). Here I have the MT3, a 75$ pair of In Ear Monitors which looks amazing and feels high-quality from the first contact. I want to thank Simgot for providing this sample to review. Here is the link to buy the MT3 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/SIMGOT-Monitors-Headphones-Detachable-Earphones/dp/B07JP66SLJ

 

MT3 8

Specifications:

  • Impedance: 18Ω
  • Headphone Sensitivity: 101dB
  • Frequency Response Range: 15Hz-40kHz
  • Power Rating: 10mW
  • Distortion Degree: <1% 101 dB
  • Channel Balance: <1.5 dB (at 1000Hz)
  • Vocalism Principle: 10mm High Magnetic Circuit Coil Dynamic Driver
  • Plug Type: 3.5mm Straight Plug

 

MT3 7

Unboxing and first impressions

Inside a classy white box with the Meeture branding, we find the earbuds, the cable, a carrying pouch, some papers and a good selection of tips. I love the way they put the tips on two different small cardboards, that explain in both English and Chinese the way the sound is changed by that particular one. The wide-bore ones must carry a balanced and brighter sound, while the small-bore ones are for bass enhancement. I’m not a guy that really believes in tips-tuning, but I must say the difference is pretty hearable. I’ll tell later why and how.

 

MT3 9

The IEMs themselves are made out of plastic, with – I believe – a metal-coated plate on the front, with the Meeture branding on. It feels like plastic, but it’s cold like metal when you touch it. Anyway, the materials are good and the build quality too. I love the design and the transparent shell. If you know the quality of KZ – that’s really bad, especially for ES4 – you will be amazed with this pair of MT3 and the plastic that’s been used; it’s another price range, but you feel like you have what you pay for. The cable is a 2-pin .78 mm: I liked the pre-formed hooks, the plastic reinforcements, the braided black wires, the jack. Everything concerning the build and the feel of these IEMs is great. And the comfort, too.

 

P1020542

 

MT3 10

Sound

My sources: FiiO M7 and Dodocool DA106 as DAPs, Focusrite 2i2 as USB interface with a 2012 MacBook Pro, Audirect Whistle as DAC/Amp with a Xiaomi Mi MIX 2. My files: from DSD (Pink Floyd) to 24/16 bit FLACs (Queen, Sinatra, Jacob Collier, John Coltrane, …) to 320 kbps MP3 (Jamie Cullum, Coldplay, …) to 16 bit >10k kbps M4A (Sia).

 

MT3 11

First, I tried the “balanced” tips (the ones with the open bores). With them, I found the sound amazing, and that’s a good summary of my experience. Joking, I explain better: I used the smallest tips available, and I liked the sound in all its frequencies. I think that these, as monitors, are made for singers. Vocals are the main part of all the experience you get. Male and female ones are so well reproduced, with a warm signature and an emotional vibe. However, instruments are somehow recessed, I believe to let the voice emerge. This was the same experience I got with the Unique Melody Mason V3 at my first try (those had more detail, but less bass than these ones). Even though the sound is not so balanced as they promise, I appreciated the overall signature of the MT3 in this configuration. Then I switched to the “bass enhancing” tips and my experience was really different. Those have a smaller bore; I don’t know how they are supposed to enhance the bass, but I suppose it’s a matter of pressure. Anyway, the sound signature with the bass tips become really V-shaped – I mean, maybe too much – and even though the listening comfort is superior, I don’t like that tuning as much as the first one. The balanced tips provided a more analytical sound, but also more fatiguing. The bass ones are fun to listen to, easier for a long period of listening, but don’t really provide my favourite tuning. The company has been so honest with the description of the sound changing that I’m really impressed. Okay, but I’ve just said I didn’t like the second tuning option. Why? Because mids are so recessed that some voices, when there’s a lot of instruments playing, are barely hearable. The bass is not that quick, but really present in the mid-bass area, giving an overall warm sound that’s always present. However, I didn’t feel the emotion I would have expected with these earphones. The voice reproduction is moving, but what you feel in the end is a sound that’s not so close to you. The stage, in fact, is just mediocre and the imaging doesn’t feel so real. That’s because of some recessed highs (7-8 kHz), I believe.

 

MT3 5

To summarise:

  • Wide bore tips:
    • Bass is good and smooth, well-extended in the sub area, but most present in the mids;
    • Mids are somehow enhanced, in fact you feel voices over the instruments, which have a good separation;
    • Treble is absolutely not bright, nor detailed. It’s relaxed – to say it in a good way. But its tuning could be way better. However, I prefer this one to the TinAudio T2 Pro’s one, that’s harsh and hurting.
  • Small bore tips:
    • Bass is pretty the same as before, but relating to the mids they now feel fuller;
    • Mids are recessed, or maybe they feel recessed because of the more present bass;
    • Highs are the same as before, but I consider the same change in how you hear them as the bass: because the mids are recessed, they seem better than before.

If I had to summarise this part, I would say: Wide bore tips are ∧, while small bore tips are ∨. At least, they feel like that.

 

MT3 4

Other important things to say about the sound: the MT3 need some juice, so I recommend using some kind of Amp. With the DA106 as a DAP, with low volumes you hear a lot of hiss and background noise. It’s enough to use a DAP with a better amplification, if you ask. M7 is just fine.

The overall sound signature, as my final word for the sound, is unusual. I don’t find it bad, because I enjoyed listening to the MT3. It’s just strange. I found myself enjoying these earphones a lot, but it’s difficult to listen to these for a long time without relaxing and doing some pauses, if you choose the balanced eartips. The analytical sound requires some pauses, so this is not the most comfortable listening experience ever – while it could be for the fit you get. You can always enjoy the other fun, V-shaped tuning, for a long time, choosing the other tips.

 

MT3 1

Comparisons

Meze 12 Classics (80$): different products, same price. I’d choose the Simgot because they are more comfortable in my ears, the sound is less dark, and they have a removable cable. But Meze gives a pair of Comply foam tips, has a classier looking product with metal and wood, and the carrying case is hard and not soft. Both are really good products, while both aren’t reference-sounding: you need to enjoy a V-shaped signature, when darker, when brighter.

BGVP DMG (140$): this is a higher level pair of earphones (with tuning customizations, a lot of eartips, a metal build…). I prefer the DMG over the MT3, because of the detail and the overall sound signature that’s more “traditional”, warm but on a reference side. But they don’t come with a case, for double the price. And I would say that the fit is comparable on the comfort side. Vocals are better on the MT3, but everything else – for my taste – is superior on the DMG. If you are a vocal performer, you may really choose the MT3 over the BGVP IEM – I also am a vocal performer, so I can speak for this need of mine. But the instrument separation is not on the highest side, so I don’t recommend the MT3 for every kind of musician like I do for the DMGs.

 

MT3 2

Conclusions

Being the entry-level model of a brand is not easy. Simgot produces good higher level (and price) IEMs, so you may have high expectations for the cheaper ones. The MT3 are an interesting choice for the sub-80$ price range, but you have to appreciate a non-ordinary sound signature – that’s not reference at all, but sometimes neither V-shaped. But you get used to it. The tips and the source affect a lot the final sound that you hear, which is a good thing if you search for your particular preference of tuning, but it’s less good if you want – for example – a solid sound in every situation. I recommend these for vocal monitoring. If you search for a reference sound, you may skip this model. I own a lot of different earphones, and I will keep using these for comparisons and monitoring. Overall, it’s a good set, that just needs to “mature”. And it will, I believe, because it’s a dynamic.

 

MT3 3

Pro

  • Design and build quality
  • Cable
  • Bass
  • Vocals
  • Clarity
  • Different tips for tuning

Cons

  • Non-ordinary sound signature
  • Instrument separation could be better

REVIEW: XDUOO X20

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I put my hands on the Xduoo X20 and i got amazed.

200€ are not a lot for an hifi player, you can definitely agree on that, but this Xduoo player really gives out the maximum out from its cost.

This sample was provided by shenzhenaudio, you can buy here: https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/

Construction:

The solid machined aluminuim body and the fake leather case included in the package really give a good impression out of the box, a product overall not light but sturdy enough to leave a good feeling in your hands.

The case fits perfectly the player giving full acces to the side buttons, but struggles to get off.

Before you turn on the player you have to insert your micro sd memory card because there is no internal memory available, i suggest a premium speed micro sd (minimum a class 10) to avoid lag during songs loading.

 

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Usability:

Let’s press the power on button and let’s try to learn the menu system, there is no touchscreen available so you have to navigate through directional buttons (the only real negative point i can notice over this product).

You can search your music in the auto updated catalog made by the device itself or by browsing directories, last way is better if your music lacks of tags and you dont like confusion.

After some time you will learn the navigation system and get used to it without too much effort, I promise.

This player has some extra functions besides the player itself, it is a usb DAC and has bluetooth audio out, however without atleast a pair of headphones with APT X protocol it’s useless. My apple airpods supports this HQ Bluetooth audio protocol and i will tell about them later in the review.

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Audio Quality:

Test with Custom Art Fibae 2:

I plugged my beloved Custom Art Fibae 2 through unbalanced output and played some songs from the album Graceland by Paul Simon.

The first impression was really good, vocals and folk-rock instrumentals perfectly in line with what I expected from those headphones, clean and defined. The only thing i noticed different from other players was a bit of unwanted sibilance in the highs range, later i discovered in the player settings that you can chose the type of sound decay that by default was set up to “instant”, when i switched to “soft” it solved all of my problems. From now on i will use this setting.

Switched album and played some Post Malone from the album “Stoney”, good sound stage and well defined bass range for some fast peced songs, good impression left by “Congratulations” played with really good trasparency.

Good voice representation in Test Drive by Joji, good piano detail and powerful bass extension.

I also played some Vivaldi from the album “Quattro Stagioni” and enjoyed the maximum that the Fibae 2 could deliver in strings and highs listening, considering they give the best in mid-bass range.

Test with Heir 10:

Comparing with previous tracks:

There is a good emphasis on the voice of Paul Simon , great clarity and transparency for the instrumental sections. Increased definition of armonics in these folk songs.

You can feel a slight warmth added in the mid-bass for Post Malone tracks and a really good rappresentation of the soundstage even in the most dynamic parts of it’s songs.

Even more bass pumped out from Test Drive, over emphasized by the artist but not really appreciated by all, still reproduced with enough clarity.

An extra smile comes from the sound extension you can appreciate with “Quattro stagioni”, really good rappresentation of strings and bass in terms of clarity and definition.

The Heir 10 can do better with a more powerful player, but the x20 plays his cards nicely.

I tested other well known songs to my ears and none of them showed negative surprises and after more than an hour of listening i had absolutely no stress on my ears, a good sign of a consistent output.

I also tried my airpods enabling Apt X protocol and i clearly noticed an increase of general detail and transparency on the highs and more spatial separation on the mid-bass compared to my everyday player (Oneplus 5).

As last test i tried the balanced output and got a little wider sound stage and trasparency without losing any of the previous goals.

After some weeks of listening i can assume an overall a pretty balanced sound, no evident colorization given by the player itself and no audible problems like clipping or distortion present at all with my current setup. Transparent on all range with no emphasis, something you can listen for a long time.

The fact that the battery can not be removed is a relatively easy problem to overcome, it is not soldered on the board so with a similar part you can complete the replace by yourself without much hassle, just be gentle.

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SINERGY:

DUNU FALCON C: wide soundstage, with good clarity and transparent sound. Upper midrange can result a bit harsh. Sub-bass is very refined with good speed and dynamic.

NOBLE AUDIO EDC VELVET: good sinergy, but not great like my Opus1s. Overall, this Xduoo gives a good clarity and good instrument separation. Sound is not the fullest one and most controlled, but is quite natural and detailed for the price range( better than my Fiio m7).

IBASSO IT01: fun sound, with strong bass presence and sparkles on the top end. Soundstage is quite wide and holographic. This Xduoo can drive IT01 both in se and balanced output easily.

I found some noise with multi-balanced iems like aroma audio yao and nfaudio 6i, obviously, will never suggest to use a 200usd player with a 1000/2000 usd iem. If you are looking for a neutral/clean sounding player, with quite wide soundstage and enough power to drive most of the iems out there, this Xduoo x20 could be a great choice for you, special at this price range.

Here are some extra specifications:

For the headphone output (3.5mm):

Output power: 210mW (32Ω/THD +N<0.0015%)

Frequency response: 20Hz~20kHz (±0.15dB)

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): ≥114dB

Resolution: >75dB

Distortion + noise: 0.0015%@1kHz (32Ω@1kHz)

For the balanced headphone output (2.5mm):

Line output: 300mW (32Ω/THD +N<0.0015%)

Frequency response: 20Hz~20kHz (±0.15dB)

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): ≥116dB

Resolution: >112dB

Distortion + noise: 0.0015%@1kHz (32Ω@1kHz)

For the line out:

Line output level: 1.7Vrms (10KΩ@1kHz)

Frequency response: 20Hz~20kHz(±0.15dB)

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): ≥114dB

Resolution: >108dB (10KΩ@1kHz)

Distortion + noise: 0.0012@1kHz (10KΩ)

Other parameters

Built-in 2400mAh rechargeable lithium polymer battery

Battery life: 8 hours (3.5mm headphone output)

About 7 hours (balanced headphone output)

Charging time: < 3 hours (DC5V 2A)

< 6 hours (DC5V 500MA)

Size: 110*56*16.6mm

Weight: 138g