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

 

 

 

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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.

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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.
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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

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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).

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

perfettax

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.

 

perfettax1

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.

PERFETTAX6

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.

perfettax2

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

REVIEW NFAUDIO NF6I: REFERENCE SOUND

3

Intro

NF Audio (Ning Fan) is a young Chinese CIEM manufacturer, with great aspirations for the global market. In fact, they provide some amazing features which make them compete with the best brands in the global scene.

I have to specify, these NF6i aren’t actually easy to buy internationally, you still have to import them in the most countries, and I have to say that’s difficult to understand for western people how to move and how to buy on that site. But it may be worth for someone, because they are great in many ways. Being custom monitors adds a little more hitch, because of all the info you have to send, but it may not be a big deal for you. It would be fantastic to find an international version, even a universal fit, because there’s so much convincing stuff in them.

This sample was provided by NF Audio in exchange for an honest review, we are not affiliated, and I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

Official site: http://www.nfaudio.cn

Specifications

The NF6i are a 6 balanced armature Custom In-Ear Monitor with a stunning frequency response of 8-30 kHz. The impedance is pretty low (18 Ohm), which is great to assure enough simplicity of driving. Other quick specifications:

  • Sensitivity of 106dB @ 1kHz
  • Distortion below 0.5%
  • Isolation: 26 dB

2

Packaging

The classy black box which carries the CIEMs themselves is pretty cured for this kind of product (it reminds me the one used by Unique Melody): inside it, you can find a hard case, a cleaning tool, a warranty card and the buds with the cable already attached. It’s a 2-pin one, actually pretty good, even though I didn’t like very much the silicon/rubber right after the pins. A standard unboxing experience, but surely pleasant. You can already feel the cure provided in the overall experience with these earphones.

6

Sound

It’s not difficult to recognize that we’re listening to a reference Monitor: bass isn’t emphasized even though the sub-bass is well covered, it goes enough deep and shows good speed. Usually, for balanced armature iems, the mid-bass is always the key point where most of the companies try to work, to give a more natural and rich performance, trying to avoid most of the common issues of this technology. This is not the case here, the nf6i doesn’t try to give a full-bodied and rich experience, on the other side try to focus on the refined sub-bass experience. The overall sound signature is flat and balanced, and you can easily drive them with DAPs, given the low impedance. Well, “easily” speaking in a compatibility way, because they need a good synergy to please you in a musical way – which however I did find, but I’ll tell later. I found these CIEMs to be tight and airy, very clear on the higher side.

Vocals are quite good( but if not paired with the right player, can sound a bit dry). Female ones are well portrayed, one of the strong point for this iem. Male vocals have enough body to be enough pleasent.

Now, the treble, where this iem really shine. Maybe one of the best treble i have ever heard with Stereopravda sb7. It is very linear and extendend, not that is emphasized in quantity, but just feels natural, refined, never resulting harsh or fatiguing. I am just testing vision ears ve8, another great example of treble execution, but these two products have totally different approach: ve8 tries to create a certain balance with the overall analog sound signature, avoiding too much details on the upper treble, where the nf6i really shine, providing more sparkles and airy sound, but always avoiding any type of harshness( this is not not a common thing and not easy to reach).

Soundstage is quite good for a 6ba iem, showing good depth and width. You may like a V/W-shaped sound, then these aren’t made for you. These are flat, balanced, reference sounding IEMs, but enough pleasent to satisfy audiophile needs too.

The nf6i is quite easy to drive, but here, more than current, this iem needs a good sinergy with the player. For example, with Opus 2 i found the sound too much reference-type showing dry vocals.

Better sinergy with ak se100 and opus 1s. With ak se100 vocals feels more liquid and less dry, with quite good bass impact. With Opus 1s vocals are more rich and organic, gaining a bit of more mid-bass presence too.

nfaudio

COMPARISONS:

NF6i vs INEARZ EUPHORIA(6ba): euphoria has more mid-bass presence and is a more all-rounder iem, working good with all the types of players, even with my iphone too, but lacks the treble extension and details of the nf6i. Soundstage is quite similar, maybe Euphoria a touch wider., but nf6i shows a more airy sound.

NF6i vs Ambient Acoustics AM6: both shares a reference sound, but nf6i is better in almost every aspect: more refined sound, with better clarity and details on upper treble, bass is faster and more refined. NF6i shows better female vocals. AM6 has wider soundstage.

Meze 12 Classics Review

Intro

While trying high-end products all the time, you might forget more affordable ones. We don’t: here is the Meze 12 Classics review, an 80€ earphone – that replaces the “11” series – which may be perfect for a lot of people.

First, I want to thank Doina from Meze Audio for giving me this sample in exchange for an honest review. We’re not affiliated, and my thoughts will be as objective as possible.

These are earphones developed in Europe – Baia Mare, Romania – and produced in China.

Some specifications (from mezeaudio.com):

  • Frequency response: 16Hz – 24KHz
  • Impedance: 16Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 101dB (+/- 3db)
  • Total harmonic distortion: < 0.5%
  • Noise attenuation: up to 26dB
  • Titanium coated 8mm mylar driver
  • Copper-clad aluminum voice coil
  • 3.5mm gold-plated jack plug
  • 7N OFC cable, length: 1.2m

meze in ear frequency response

Unboxing, fit and first thoughts

If the goodness of a product shines through its presentation, this – judging from the cover – is a wonderful one. It may be obvious for someone, giving the long experience in product design of Antonio Meze, but nothing must be taken for granted.

meze box 1

This box is elegant, while clearly ready for being exposed in the stores. The picture of the earphones on the front face is the real position of them inside the box itself; and the shape of it reprises the Meze logo. This sign of cure is a constant in every way concerning these In-Ears. Every face of the box is smartly used to give us all the information about the earphones themselves as well as the accessories and other useful advertisements. The most interesting thing here, for audiophile people, is the frequency response graphic, which reveals the characteristic tuning of the company.

meze box

Inside the box you’ll find a carrying pouch with the Meze logo, a pair of Comply foam ear tips (great to find them!), three silicon tips (S, M, L) and a double-flange pair. Great selection. And there’s a clip to attach the cable on a T-shirt or something: guess… with the Meze logo! The “instruction manual”, which may sound useless, has instead some really useful tips like dangerous volumes ecc.. There’s also a Meze sticker which is good to add to your MacBook with all the others I’m sure you all have out there!

1010409

The “Classic” name that Meze gives to some of its products could mean two things: that you’re looking at a classy product (usually with wooden inserts); that it’s perfect for classical music (that is a difficult genre to reproduce, because of the transients and the soundstage it needs). Why did I think that? Because if you try some Neo versions of the same ear/headphones of Meze, you will find punchier basses and a slightly different tuning, more popular and modern. You can read our reviews of the 99s (Classics and Neo) to better understand this. We will see later if that’s the case even with these “12”.

Anyway, when you look at these earphones you immediately realize to hold a product developed with passion (if you saw the interviews with Antonio Meze you can understand what I mean). The wood gives a premium feel to the product and the overall build quality is top notch. The cable is not my favorite, I’d rather a braided style, but it’s well done and the metal inserts with the Meze logo are very high quality. It’s also oxygen-free, which means that the interferences are very low.

There is an issue regarding the fit of the 12 Classics with my ears: I’ve tried every silicon ear tip and everyone can’t help falling off. I now go with the Comply ones (which are much, much better), but I must be very careful when I walk or move because the fit is not the greatest for me anyway. That didn’t happen with my girlfriend, which found them perfect, for example. You can always wrap the cable around your ear like in IEMs and obtain a better fit for you.

meze fiio

Sound

My main source was a FiiO M7 DAP. I’ve also used my 2012 MacBook Pro (also with a Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface), my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 with default dongle and with Audirect Whistle DAC/Amp.

I generally liked the sound of these 12 Classics. The signature is not so conventional, and you have to like a warm and pretty dark sound to appreciate them. If you are fan of clarity and brilliant treble, these aren’t probably your first choice. The instrument separation is decent, even though I heard everything pretty unbalanced on the lower side; this is a pro for certain kinds of music, because the bass is quick and punchy, and very dense, but it’s a con for other ones. I have to say that initially the soundstage was very limited, so I recommend following the tips of Meze and let them burn in several hours. Now it’s so much better than before, even though it’s not the widest stage you’ll ever find. The most enjoyable experience you can have with these is with certain kinds of modern music that are minimal and dynamic (sounds strange with the name Classics!) like Lorde, Oh Wonder and so on.

With classical music the things are a bit different. The enhanced lower frequencies remain, but the instrument separation is generally better. Still I didn’t find a perfect imaging, you haven’t the feeling to be inside the scene. The treble voices have sometimes too much reverb; the strange thing is that’s something affecting the male voices more than the female ones. Unusual fact, in my opinion. The particular tuning probably affects the sound in that way. I did find however a really enjoyable sound, fast and precise, more on a fun side than a reference one. From the provided frequency response graph, you can effectively see that the higher frequencies (from 10 kHz) are not the best; it’s the same signature as the 11 series, but I believe that they are tuned with some differences. And the wood may give some “naturalness” to the sound, for the ones who believe it in such small earphones.

The sound leak is almost inexistent, which is great.

meze mic

The mic, unfortunately, isn’t great. It sounds a bit muffled, but I understand the majority of people prefer having it, even for emergency purpose. With this kind of earphones, I’d rather have a better cable with no mic, because they are made for music listening.

So, summing up, the bass is very good, the mid is okay, the treble is not the clearest one. I liked them a lot, because of the punchiness and the quick bass. The sound is embracing, and it surprises: I tried a lot of honest headphones which haven’t some impressive features; these are instead very “warm” in terms of sound, and really convincing. You must know that it’s not the most usual sound signature, however.

meze 1

Quick Comparison

RevoNext QT2 (60€): these are more on a reference side, with a wider soundstage (they have open vents). The bass, instead, is slower and the punchiness, while present, is not managed as well as Meze did. Being IEMs surely gives a better fit, but the sharp angles didn’t really help for me: it’s always hard to find a good fit for me. The cable is similar, but the one of the 12 Classics can’t be removed. Overall sound is good for both, but if you need a reference earphone I recommend the QT2 over the Meze, which are instead less fatiguing and surely more fun.

Conclusion

Do I recommend the 12 Classics? For sure, because you get a good, non-fatiguing listening experience and a quick and detailed sound, even if a little bit dark, and they are easy to drive even with your smartphone. Consider that you might have some small fit issues, like me, and if you need to make a lot of calls with them you may find the mic not so good. I would take them as my daily drivers, if my ears were matching them better, because the sound is pleasant. And they look amazing.

meze

Pros

  • Great build quality, choice of materials and design
  • Punchy and quick bass
  • Fun sound signature

Cons

  • Fit (Subjective)
  • Mic sounds a bit muffled

Unique Melody UM Mason V3 Review

Intro

Once I said that you don’t generally love In-Ear Headphones until you heard a really good one. I meant that you can generally dislike this kind of products, but a really good sound could make you forget the eventual issues regarding, for example, the ear fit. Well, these IEMs by Unique Melody are that good, under some points of view. And, luckily for me, they also don’t have any enormous fit issue.

I want to start with some useful information. First, these are 2700$ monitors; that means two things: they aren’t, obviously, a popular product, and they are meant for professional users. It’s a role – the pro – that I don’t exactly embody, because even though I’ve been a musician and I’m constantly “around” music, I don’t actually perform live nor professionally record. But I do something concerning records on my own, and I’ve tried the V3s – as far as possible – with some more stressful works than merely reproducing music.

Mason unboxing

Unboxing

Usually, when you climb the price range hill, there’s a point where the quality stops going up with the price. That is a difficult step to predict nowadays, but I push a button: I’m not sure that over 1000/1500$ what you get is what you really pay for. But here comes the real deal: what makes the Mason premium isn’t just the product, but the overall experience you get. Starting from the elegant black box, in which they put a lot of useful accessories.

First, I got impressed by the carrying metal box (actually made of titanium) that’s inside: it’s way heavier than expected. That prevents any possible damage to the earphones, but it’s not very handy.

There are a lot of ear tips, which comes from one of the best manufacturers out there (COMPLY); a pair of them is a foam one, really comfortable and sealing by my ears.

They actually include three cables to adapt the M3s to a SE (3.5mm) or balanced (2.5mm/4.4mm) output on your source. I believe these are very expensive cables, and they make a great piece of the price. Besides the price, they are amazing hand-made braided cables (actually, they braid other cables together, cable-ception!editor’s note). They use a 4-pin proprietary standard, secured by a screw, sort of, to help it not to detach. Replacing it is pretty easy.

Inside the box there’s also minor UM branded stuff: the cure is impressive, and as we’ll see this is something concerning every area of these IEMs. You also find a funny USB stick with some pictures and info about the V3 inside.

Mason box 1

Design and Fit

As I said before, I didn’t have fit issues with the Mason. But there’s a matter regarding my ears that’s worth a mention: I can’t wear them for a long time. Like most of the monitors out there, they are just too big for me not to hurt, and this might be an issue if I were a live performer. I’m not, and I have to say they really stay in place like they’re meant to. Obviously, a custom version would fit better and avoid the pain – which I have, but you may not.

The design is classic for an IEM, but gets some interesting and unique features. First, their translucent blue finish let you see through the shell, revealing the insane number of balanced armatures crammed inside (13 or 16 depending on the version). The shell itself is made of acrylic and gives a solid and good-looking impression.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is how easily you can change the ear tips: it may sound stupid, but some IEMs that I’ve tried in the past were so hardly attached to the monitor’s body to make it difficult to exchange one another.

Mason x Beam x Mix2

Sound

I don’t want to result too critical in this review, but this is the most important part of it and I want to be honest: I didn’t love these IEMs, even though I liked them very much in many ways.

Here are my reasons.

There are a lot of positive things about them. Their precision is insane, and the sound resolution really amazed me. But here’s the problem for me: the sound changes too much depending on the source. I listened to the same track in FLAC on my DAP (FiiO M7) and in MP3 on my iPhone and again in FLAC with my Scarlett 2i2 attached to my 2012 MacBook Pro and with the Audirect Beam attached to my Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. I’ll list the experience I’ve had with all of them:

  • FiiO M7: at first approach, I got caught by the incredible imaging created by the Mason. The very first impression was of a great monitor for the voices and the drums, while not for the bass, that I felt undertone. Also, the treble was clear and pleasant. By listening carefully, I noticed that while the voices tend to emerge, some harmonics get cut. At first, I believed this was a sort of tuning to make the voice standing out, but then I tried to listen to that track on my iPhone;
  • iPhone SE: believe me or not, the MP3 of that track sounded better here than the FLAC there. You may think it’s a question of DAC – obviously – but don’t you think that a dedicated instrument like a Hi-Res certified DAP should sound better than an average phone with lossy files? Well, here I started to search for the problem. The iPhone sourced (can I say that?) MP3 had many more harmonics in the treble area of the voice than the FLAC on my DAP, and this is strange because it’s not hard to know that the situation should be the opposite. I obviously didn’t use MP3s to test the Mason, I just knew that song very well so I did sort of a blind trial.
  • Scarlett 2i2: this entry level audio interface is well-known and, given his nature, you can imagine that the sound is pretty accurate. It is: I understood the frequency response of the V3 better by listening to them through this source. They appear to have a little V-shaped graph, with a little cut-out in the lower mids. They actually provide a sound that I’d describe as funny, certainly not a reference one but they are not meant to. There is a great detail, impressive every time I listen to them. The soundstage is wide: mainly expanded on the lower side, also very good on the treble area. I hear a little bit of a hiss with higher female voices, but it may be a source’s fault.
  • Audirect Beam x Mi MIX 2: good combo, because of the pretty neutral sound provided by the Beam. You hear well the V-shaped signature with albums like “My iron lung” by Radiohead: good bass, good highs, decent male voice on the higher mids but some harmonic cuts. It appears to me to be the sound signature of the Mason V3, and thinking of how they are meant to be used I understand it. You sacrifice a little bit of resonance to hear better the main frequencies you need to hear.

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There’s sort of a valve on each monitor I believe to tune the bass level. I found the sound to be airier by spinning clockwise the right one – and, mirrored, the left one. Not so much a matter of bass, but the difference is audible mainly with male voices.

I must underline that the bass, while punchy, hasn’t a great pressure; the sub-bass is certainly more effective – these are surely features of the tuning which can be changed a bit by switching the cable.

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If you want to know what they sound with higher level DAPs, the general experience with OPUS 2 and AK SE100 was similar: enjoyable sound, pretty bass and treble, I’d say a classic multi-balance high-end experience. You may buy these IEMs with those kinds of players, but who knows; I reported my 360° experience, made of lower level hardware too.

Recording test (monitoring)

As I previously mentioned, I tried to “stress” the Mason with some recording: nothing heavy and with absolutely less stress than they can really carry, but something more suitable for their purpose than music listening.

I summarize the entire experience with one word: detail. It’s stunning how these work in a recording way: while with music they could leave perplexed the ones with reference expectations, the recording experience is amazing. Whether if you search for bass speed, voice response, or even clean separation of instruments, there you find the real quality of the V3. You hear the real power of these IEMs by exploiting them in all the possible ways.

Conclusions

I extend my positive thoughts about the detail in the overall experience with the Mason V3: if that’s the most important thing in your list (and if you’re a live performer I believe it’s a concrete possibility), then these could be for you.

The second amazing feature for me was the imaging: (fun fact) I got scared when, listening to a live concert with them, applause began; I wasn’t expecting that, and I really heard the people behind me.

The soundstage too appeared true: it’s not that simple with IEMs to obtain such an exact reproduction, because of the driver dimensions. These are convincing. It’s like sitting a few rows in front of the stage.

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If you are instead a music enthusiast, there are two possibilities: you want a fun IEM or you want a reference one. These are more fun than reference: with a little V-shaped signature and all the features that I previously described, I recommend them to those who like this tuning. Not a basshead monitor, nor the higher-fidelity one, but a really capable and fun IEM. They are transparent and airy, not difficult to listen to nor to drive, given their low impedance.

The listening experience could be for everyone… the price obviously not. But if you are a professional, then it’s not the priciest alternative, but may be the best for you.

Review: FiiO BTR3

Let’s be honest, high quality audio and Bluetooth never have been well together. No one wants to have a high-end headphone and feed her up with crappy, compressed files, right?
That’s where the new, powerful Bluetooth codecs come into play. Thanks to the raising of Bluetooth’s bandwidth, it’s finally becoming possible to enjoy pretty good audio quality over Bluetooth… but unfortunately, we don’t have a universal codec, but a large number of different codecs. For example, Sony’s telephones and headphones only uses they proprietary LDAC codec, while other android devices are using aptX, delivered by Qualcomm. FiiO, while making this High-quality Bluetooth receiver, wanted to be as universal as possible: so, they created the first Bluetooth amplifier that supports ALL the existing wireless audio codecs, such as AAC, SBC, aptX/aptX HD/aptx LL, LDAC and LHDC. In this way, you can get the cleaner bitrate transfer that your device can offer, without bothering with compatibility anymore.

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Aesthetically pleasing, with nice smooth edges, small rectangular shape, large use of glass and matte-black metal, the only LED indicator is the RGB “FiiO” written in the front. The different colors show which codec you are using at that moment: blue (SBC), cyan (AAC), purple (aptX and aptX-LL), red (charging), yellow (aptX-HD), white (LDAC) or green (LHDC). Battery life, thanks to the large 300mAh battery, is pretty good: i could use it for more than 8 straight hours, and the charging time sits around 90 minutes. One little downside that I noticed is that it tends to become pretty hot (and it of course drains faster) while using the LDAC codec, that is the heaviest codec available. That’s not an issue, since it can still be used for at least six hours even on the heaviest load and, looking at the enormous bitrate of that codec (990 kbps, nearly twice the bitrate of the main rival, the aptxHD), it’s totally worth it. But, of course, you need a compatible device.

While charging, you can still use it as a standalone, driver-less DAC, and it actually worked pretty well. It was a nice upgrade from the on-board DAC-amp of my xps13, but I’m pretty sure that you are not going to use a Bluetooth receiver just as a portable DAC, right?

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The power output has been increased over the previous versions, but it’s still in the weak side. It delivers 25 mW@32ohm and 33mW@16ohm. Enough for almost every IEM, but simply not enough for more demanding, full size headphones. I’ve tried it with my outside cans, the Takstar pro82, and it did a pretty good job, that also did with the ATH m40x, but of course it wasn’t enough for my HifiMan he400i, nor for my Beyerdynamic dt990 pro. But that’s not strange at all, since it is so small: just 58mm long, 25mm wide and 10.4mm thick (without the back clip) and weighs barely 26 grams. I found it perfect while running, since i just couldn’t feel it at all while hanging from my t-shirt. The output impedance of 0.3Ohms is impressive, with THD+N at .003% and signal-to-noise at 120 dB. Overall, the sound signature is pretty flat and natural, delivering good detail and balance. I especially enjoyed it with my Fibae 3, that are not power hungry but at the same time they need a good DAC, otherwise they sound muddled. Oh, and it also has a pretty good microphone too! The clip is solid, and the buttons are a pleasure to press, feeling sturdy. Something that really astonished me was the range: I could move freely around my house, even on different floors, and it always worked flawlessly. Impressive.

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FiiO is also working on an app, ” FiiO music App”, that will let you control remotely this tiny device: at the moment you can get it as a beta-tester from the FiiO website, or if you have an Apple device, you should be able to find it directly from the app store. The FiiO Music app has a wide range of audio formats compatibility including DSD, WAV, FLAC, APE, AIF, ALAC, MP3, OGG, WMA and all three transmission rates of LDAC including 330kbps, 660kbps and 990kbps, plus a lot of small yet useful add-ons, like gapless playing or an efficient sorting system, similar to other famous music apps online.

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So, to sum up, this could be the best Bluetooth receiver available at the moment. The upgrade in the materials and in the AMP raised the price a bit at a higher yet still reasonable 70€ price tag. Although, there is still room for improvement. The logo is a bit too flashy and it can easily be noticed, ruining a bit the sleek body of this little glass and metal artwork, and having both the jack and the USB-C ports on the same side can be a problem in some space-tight scenarios, but that’s nothing too important, since it also packs a good DAC, a better amp, an extremely broad Bluetooth codec support, USB DAC functionality, good battery life, even a microphone! Looking at all those features, those 70€ feel like a good deal, providing a large flexibility of uses. Good job FiiO for having listened to all the feedbacks of the community!

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PROs

  • Every wireless codec available
  • USB C to charge
  • Works as portable DAC
  • Good battery life
  • Good Companion App

CONs

  • While carrying heavy codecs it heats
  • Power output is only decent (yet still great for the most people)

REVIEW: ASTELL & KERN SE100

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Intro
Last June, Astell & Kern released the A&Futura SE100, their new mid/high-end DAP with great capabilities, which is also the first of this premium line. What makes it really interesting is the new powerful Octa-core CPU – we don’t know much about it, but it’s fast, reliable, and thanks to the good 5’’ HD screen with a responsive touch, the user experience is smooth and enjoyable.
Its body is completely made of aluminum and glass, with a “Titan Silver” color and an original back texture that gives a premium feel to the product. Its shape is mostly squared but offers a particular design that reflects other A&K DAPs, in a positive way: it’s kind of a signature of the brand, in a few words “futuristic design”.

The unit was sent me for the purpose of this review in loan unit, I am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. Would like to thanks AK team for sending me this unit giving me the opportunity to test this device for almost two months.

PRICE: 1699 USD
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL SHOP: https://www.astellnkern.com/eng/content/main/
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/astellnkern/

PACKAGING: packaging is quite simple and elegant, as all the other AK products, the package hasn’t a lot of accessories. For this price range a leather case in the box wouldn’t have been a bad thing. In the box you can find the player, warranty card and a type-c cable charging. Usually don’t like to talk much about packaging and other staff cause my main focus is on the sound quality, but overall the unboxing experience of this DAP surely will not disappoint you, but really don’t understand why AK didn’t include a leather case( strange marketing choices).

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General use and specifications
The dimensions of 75.8mm x 15.3mm x 132.7mm provide a relatively compact device: the squared lines combined with the quite big size, makes this player a bit uncomfortable for the use on the go(price to be paid for a good portable amplifier).
The SE100 offers ES9038PRO DAC by ESS SABRE, which is capable of decoding up to 32 bit/384 kHz and covers up to DSD256 sample rate files (and obviously every other less sophisticated lossy and lossless format). I think this DAC could also read DSD512, as seen in other different products that adopt it, which isn’t however something I feel lacking here. And having the WiFi module (mono-band, b/g/n) with OTA support can cover this and other needs with a software update – for example, by releasing new drivers etc..
I really liked the USB C, which is here a 3.0 one: something really appreciated given the faster data transferring capability; it supports MTP for Windows and Mac OS without any particular issue. The SE100 can also be used as a USB DAC, by installing the drivers and putting it in DAC mode; the drivers can be found in the internal memory of the DAP or on the A&K website.
Another good aspect is the memory area: we find 128 GB of built-in storage expandable with one MicroSD Card; thanks to the large amount of internal storage we don’t feel the need of a second external slot( just to know, most of my tracks are in flac 16,24 bit, I usually don’t use DSD).

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Speaking of outputs, it has both 3.5mm unbalanced and 2.55 balanced (4-pole only) ports. One of the strong points of this player is the balanced ouptut(i used it most of the time in this configuration), that not only offers more power and better instrument separation compared to the SE output, but with absolutely no distortions or background noises, Astell and Kern engineers really know how to make a good amplifier. Nothing unusual concerning the 3.5mm one, it works as expected for a product in this price range.
While not being a fan of wireless audio, this DAP carries a Bluetooth 4.1 connection aptX HD enabled which is a great feature for the enthusiasts.
I’m satisfied about the battery area( another strong pint of this player), considering the powerful System on Chip and the 3700 mAh LiPo: this combo provides at mid volume a good 10 hours or more of music reproduction – screen off connections off help in increasing the result.

Software
The UI is familiar and easy to use. Even though is some Android fork, we can’t install third parts’ apps, but it’s not a big deal. The UX for me was smooth and pleasant, thanks to the powerful chip providing snappy performances.
 
Sound and Clock Jitter
Astell & Kern claims an 800fs clock jitter, an impressive value that provides an optimal synchronization of the instruments. The jitter is a matter of conversion between the analogic-digital signals; that means the DAC used is a very effective one. I actually found that interesting in a matter of sound: it’s impressive the instrument separation and the dynamic provided by both the outputs. It’s clearly a deserved claim.
 
More info: ”An enhanced voltage-controlled crystal oscillator (VCXO) high-precision clock has been utilized in the A&futura SE100.
The reference jitter of Astell&Kern’s implementation has improved performance to 800fs (femto seconds), meaning that the SE100 faithfully reproduces your music by precisely measuring and accurately timing the synchronization of all instruments, vocal and even ambience sound recorded in your digital music file together”.

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Speaking of sound, I found it tending to neutral, but clear enough. My experience was positive because the versatility of this player and its ability to drive also high-impedance headphones without issues.
For sure, this player doesn’t show a reference sound type, offering the typical AK smooth and liquid vocals.

Bass goes very deep, focusing more on the sub-bass region, so helping with the dynamic. Compared to AK KANN, this SE100 goes deeper in bass, showing a more audiophile bass response, with less mid-bass presence. Overall, the bass will give you all the attack, decay and layering you would expect from such expensive device.
Vocals are pushed a bit forward in the scene, creating a more intimate sound compared to my Opus2.
I would say, vocals are the strongest point of this player: very clean, detailed and emotional(makes a great job with female ones).
Treble, compared to AK KANN shows more sparkles and definition, helping to give airier sound and details on top end.

AK SE100 offers great instrument separation, portraying every single micro-detail, but soundstage is not the widest, it extends more in depth and combined with the more forward vocals creates a more intimate scene.
In balanced connection, it gains better instrument separation and layering.

COMPARISONS:

AK SE100 VS AK KANN:
SE100 has better screen and faster UI.
On sound quality se100 is slightly more resolving with better clarity, deeper sound and better dynamic and transient response. What you will notice soon going from Kann to se100, is the overall deeper and more dynamic sound. 
Kann sounds warmer with less sparkles. 
Se100 is still musical, but better transparency and trebles, maybe a bit more fatiguing paired with some IEMs. 
Soundstage is more or less on par extention, but se100 has more precise soundstage, you can easily pinpoint instruments in the scene and feel more air between each instrument. 
Balanced output on se100 is very powerful with very layered and airy sound. 
I have the impression that Kann can sound a bit dull with some dynamic headphones, on the other side se100, thanks to its more dynamic sound can have better sinergy with a lot of headphones. 
Bass on se100 focuses more on sub-bass frequencies, on the other side, on Kann, the bass warms a bit the sound. 
This is not night and day, but really i found many improvements over Kann.

AK SE100 VS OPUS2: Opus2 is still a great player under sound quality terms. SE100 has a more engaging sound, with deeper bass impact, more forward and emotional vocals. Opus2 is a bit more on reference side, with wider soundstage and better left/right channel separation( maybe it’s due to the dual DAC).
Bass on the Opus 2 has less impact, but focuses more on mid-bass, giving slightly a fuller sound.
SE100 will give you more more upper-mid presence, so more clarity and better female vocals reproduction, but can sound a bit harsh with some cold IEMs.
I would not say, there is a clear winner here, both players performs great with slightly different approach, so the final result will only depend by your musical tastes and pairings. If you love vocals, deep bass and a more intimate scene with great instrument separation, SE100 could be a great choice for you. If you are looking for a more reference sound, less engaging, but with wider soundstage at a cheaper price Opus2 could be the player for you.
AK SE100 offers better screen/UI and batttery life, Opus offers offline Tidal and Spotify with sideloaded apk.

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SINERGY:

SE100 WITH UNIQUE MELODY MASON V3: great clarity and definition. Bass gains more impact and decay, with really sweet vocals. Mason V3 sounds very dynamic and engaging with this player.
Great instrument separation, but not the widest soundstage. I found a wider stage paired with Opus2.

SE100 WITH AROMA AUDIO YAO: Yao gains more clarity and better female vocal reproduction.
Bass improves a lot, with deeper bass and better layering. Vocals are just great: liquid, emotional and intimate.

SE100 WITH HEIR 10.0: great sinergy: SE100 helps to have a more forward vocals(heir 10.0 is a bit v-shaped sound signature), more clarity and dynamic.

SE100 WITH AMBIENT ACOUSTICS AM6: AM6 sounds a bit harsh on top end, paired with this SE100, but gains a more engaging sound, with better bass response. Soundstage is very wide, with great instrument separation.

SE100 WITH LARK STUDIO LSX: in balanced output, SE100 can drive easily this 10BA iem. Providing a really engaging sound, with great bass response and sweeter vocals.
Dynamic improves a lot. Soundstage is very deep, with better and more precise instruments positioning.

PROS:
DYNAMIC
BASS IMPACT
SWEET VOCALS
NO HISS PROBLEMS OR BACKGROUND NOISE
GREAT BATTERY LIFE/UI/ SCREEN QUALITY

CONS:
NO OFFLINE TIDAL
NO LEATHER CASE
SOUND COULD BE MORE ON REFERENCE SIDE( IT’S A MATTER OF PREFERENCE)

Some more technic specifications (from the official site):
–          Frequency Response – ±0.038dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalance / ±0.028dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) 
–          Balance – ±0.074dB (Condition: 10Hz~70kHz) Unbalance / ±0.030dB (Condition: 10Hz~70kHz) Balance
–          Signal to Noise Ratio – 122dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 123dB @ 1kHz, Balance
–          Crosstalk – 138dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 144dB @ 1kHz, Balance
–          THD+N – 0.0007% @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 0.0006% @ 1kHz, Balance
–          IMD SMPTE – 0.0006% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Unbalance / 0.0005% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Balance
–          Output Impedance – Balanced out 2.5mm (1ohm) / PHONES 3.5mm (1.5ohm)

REVIEW: PWAUDIO 1950S/1980S/SALADIN(+)

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PWaudio is a boutique/company well known for its premium copper cables. Just recently, Peter Wang( chief of PWaudio), showed his new products at Canjam Singapore. In the catalogue you can find new Vanquish models: Saladin, Loki and Xerxes and new “century series” 1950s and 1980s.
Today we are going to have a better look about Saladin(+), 1950s and 1980s.

OFFICIAL SITE:OFFICIAL SITE:https://www.pwaudio.com.hk/

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/pg/pwaudio2014/about/?ref=page_internal

SPECS:

1950S:
Jacket Material: Soft PE
Conductor Material: Supreme Level OCC Copper
Conductor Gauge: 26awg as conductors and close to 24awg as shielding
Number of Conductors: 4 conductors and 4 shielding

1980S:
Jacket Material : PVC black with Pattern
Conductor Material : extruded copper with special LITZ
Conductor Gauge: 28AWG as core conductor and 24awg as shielding
Number of Conductors : 4 wires 8 conductors

SALADIN:
Jacket Material : Crystal Clear PVC
Conductor Material : 4 Groups of Extreded and deoxygenated Copper, 3 Groups of Silver plated extruded and deoxygenated Copper
Conductor Gauge: 34AWG X 7 Groups
Number of Conductors : 4 (8)

Just to know, i am a cable believer and i am always looking for the best sinergy between cables and IEMs. Even if, the sound nature of these three models was almost clear after the first try, i preferred to test with different IEMs and wait a bit longer for a deeper sound analysis.
In this article, i will not focus on technical aspects, but will just share my sound impressions.

Talking abut build quality and premium feeling, all these three models show great attention to details, and during this month of use, i never found any build issue.
Saladin 4wires is one of the most softer and most comfortable cable i have ever had the opportunity to use. The (8 wires) model, even if a bit heavier than the little brother, is soft and easy to use for both custom and universal IEMs. The 1980s, is the heaviest of the three, showing harder structer( a bit hard to use with universal earphones on the go).
The 1950s is quite light for a flagship model, even if not soft like Saladin, is very comfortable and easy to use on the go.

SOUND:

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SALADIN(+): to my surprise, Saladin(+) represents a great upgrade over his little 4wires brother.
The (+) model is really interesting with rock music thanks to its great treble and fast/deep sub-bass. The 4 wires model, tries to improve tonality, adding more body with a mid-bass raise and adding more clarity to the upper midrange. The overall tonality of 4 wires is natural/warm, showing a more intimate sound. On the other side, the (+) versions has a better treble and sparkles on the upper treble region( this works great with natural/warm sounding IEMs like Aroma Audio Yao and Custom art Fibae2). Vocals and instruments acquires more body, with more air between every single instruments and vocals. Where the 4 wires models tries to give a more intimate experience, on the other side, 8 wires opens up the scene, showing a wider soundstage and better left/right channel separation. I noticed a better and faster transient response, with a touch better dynamic.
Usually, i found a great sinergy with natural/warm sounding IEM.

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1980s: to my ears, the 1980s, is the most transparent of the three. Talking about tonality, this model, is quite neutral( a bit clear with female vocal songs), less warm than both Saladin 4 and 8 wires. The main focus of this cable is the midrange, helping to have a more forward and detailed vocals. Bass is quite good( adding more impact on the sub-bass region), but can’t compete with the bass quality of 1950s.
The 1980s, has the most holographic stage of the three, showing a great out of the head experience. If you are a lover of vocals or wide soundstage, the 1980s, could be a great choice for you.

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1950s: the most natural of the three: its strong points are bass, natural tone and dynamic.
The 1950s is a very particular cable: it is not so engaging or fun like Saladin or 1980s, it never adds color to the music, trying to stay always controlled, natural and full-bodied. The bass on this model is great, it has great and strong impact, but always feel uncolored and natural. This model fits great with classic music, showing great instrument separation and layering. 1980S has a more holographic stage, but instruments positioning is more confused. With 1950s, you can easily pinpoint instruments in the scene. The natural bass impact helps with a very dynamic presentation.

PAIRINGS:

INEARZ EUPHORIA: great sinergy with 1950s and Saladin: 1950s natural sound, improves sub-bass impact, with great depth layering. Saladin helps to have a better treble( Euphoria lacks a bit on this spectrum).

Aroma Audio YAO: great sinergy with 1980s and 1950s: with 1980s vocals are really sweet and more forward, soundstage improves a lot, portaying a more holographic stage around you. 1950S helps to have a more bass impact(YAO lacks a bit of sub-bass), adding a more neutral tonality( YAO is a bit warm/organic due to the mid-bass elevation).

Aroma Audio Twins: great sinergy with 1950s helping to have a less fun signature and better depth soundstage. Saladin can sound a bit harsh paired with Twins model, but gives a very wide stage.

LARK STUDIO LSX: great sinergy with Saladin: helping with a more dynamic sound and better transient response. Saladin helps to have a less warm sound and better clarity on top end.

REVIEW: AMBIENT ACOUSTICS AM6

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Some months ago, i had the opportunity to review the Ambient Acoustic LAM7( flagship model), a really interesting product, with eight sound signatures in one iem thanks to manual switching on the shell and their LAM technology.

For more info about my LAM7 review, you can check here: https://simplyaudiophile.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/review-ambient-acoustics-am7lam-u/

Today we are going to have a look to their AM6 custom model.
Just to know, Ambient Acoustics is working on new models with 16 and 24 drivers, quite interesting stuff!.
On their official site, is possible to find many and detailed info, even a frequency graph for each of
their models in catalogue.

AM6 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 thanks Ambient Acoustics team for sending me this unit giving me the opportunity to test it.

DRIVER CONFIGURATION: Six BA drivers per ear
PRICE: 644 EURO
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL SHOP: https://ambient-acoustics.ua/16/eng/index.html
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/AmbientAcoustics/

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About LAM6: “ These custom in-ear monitors are implemented all our many years experience of individual stage monitoring tools designing! AM6-HiRez individual monitors have six balanced armature drivers that reproduce the entire audible range of human hearing, from infralow to ultra high frequency components. This model will be appreciated by audiophiles and experienced sound engineers, because the AM6-HiRez audio feed can be described as a musical, with the most marked “personal” sense of presence, but with clarity and “sound transparency” which is necessary for stage work!”.

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PACKAGING: AM6 comes in a standard hard case, that is quite useful on the go. The order process is quite simple: their site offers a real-time visualiser, that is not nice looking like Visionear tool,for example, but makes its job.
The iem is very comfortable( obviously will depend by the quality of the earimpression) and smaller than other 6ba ciem i already reviewed.
The cable is very solid and just to be honest really nice. As for LAM7 The Silver detachable Ambient Cord uses not a two normal pin plugs, but screw ones, so will not be compatible with aftermarket cables( talking with Ambient Acoustics Lab, they told me customers can ask them for hybrid connectors in order to use both their cable, both two-pin MMCX aftermarket cables.

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SOUND: All my sound consideration has been made after 100 hours of burn in, with different DAPs such as Opus1s, Opus2, Astell and kern se100, iFi Nano Idsd black label and my iphone 6 too.
This AM6 is on the bright side, making a great job with female voices. I would say that this model fits both audiophile and monitoring needs. Can result good for monitoring, cause it is able to bring out lots of detail without coloring too much the scene, but its revealing nature can create some problems with bad recorded tracks. Even if the sound is quite neutral, there are slightly emphasis on sub-bass region and upper mids that helps to satisfy music lovers and audiophiles too.

Bass, even if a bit emphasized in tuning, has the typical BA impact, i would say is not the strong point of this IEM. Overall, the bass is correct, never covering vocals, but i would prefer here a more mid-bass presence, helping to give more body to instruments in this frequency range.
The AM6 can sound a bit thin, due to the emphasis on the upper-mid region, but never result too harsh or annoying with good recorded tracks.
Soundstage is great on this IEM, offering a good out of the head experience. Soundstage is a bit wider than deeper, always showing a good instrument separation.
The AM6, is quite easy to drive, but more than power needs, i found the player sinergy can help this iem to sound less forgiving and more natural. Just an example, my Opus2, helped to have a more mid-bass presence and a more controlled upper midrange. Overall, i would use a neutral/warm sounding DAP with this IEM.

SINERGY:

AM6 with ak se100: se100 can drive easily the AM6, it helps to have a better and more layered bass impact. Vocals are more forward, but with some tracks the upper mids can result a bit too pronounced. Instrument separation is great with this player, but SE100 portrays a more intimate sound compared to my Opus2. The overall result is a clean sounding combo, with better bass impact and better vocal presence.

AM6 with Opus2: great sinergy: very wide and holographic stage. Opus 2 helps to add more mid-bass presence, but lacks the sub-bass impact of the Akse100. Vocals are a bit less forward and clean, but here i found a more controlled upper midrange. The overall result is a more controlled and natural sound, with very wide stage and a more organic feeling.

AM6 with Fiio M7: m7 can’t compete with Opus 2 and akse100, in both layering, tonality and instrument separation, but can drive very good this IEM, adding a more bass presence and clean vocals. Soundstage is very wide here, but instrument separation are a bit more confused.

COMPARISONS:

AM6 VS INEARZ EUPHORIA: Inearz has more full-bodied sound, with more mid-bass bass quantity. Euphoria is less forgiving with bad recorded tracks, with more forward vocals. On the other side, AM6 has a cleaner sound with a touch wider stage, but less depth.

AM6 vs LARKSTUDIO LSX(10BA): this is not a fair comparison, since LSX has 10 drivers per side and costs 2x. LSX sounds warmer and with a more natural tonality. Bass on LSX has more impact and a better layering. Vocals on both these IEMs, are a bit recessed, but AM6 shows a more picky sound on the upper midrage, adding more clarity to the scene, but sounding less forgiving with bad recorded tracks. Soundstage is a touch wider on AM6, but results more mature and natural on LSX, showing equal stage in width and depth.

PROS: good price for a 6BA iem, clarity and instrument separation, wide soundstage, easy to drive

CONS: i think this IEM fits better musician and sound engineers needs than audiophile ones.