Pros: Good organic tuning, pleasant mid-bass, good treble extension, stylish, comfortable, good case
Cons: Mediocre bass extension, cable and in-line controls need to be buffed
Audbos DB01 Review: Another Great Cheap Hybrid IEM With Some Growing Pains To Get Through
Audbos recently approached me regarding the review of their new IEMs. I agreed, though I don’t generally accept review offers from small “Amazon” brands. I’m glad that I decided to make an exception though, as I feel that Audbos has created something that is definitely worth your attention if you want to pick up some new cheap IEMs.
You can buy the Audbos DB01 here, on Amazon, for $48.
Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Audbos beyond this review. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The DB01 was powered like so:
Nexus 6P -> earphones
Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones
HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones
PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
The Audbos DB01 sounds great on first listen, but has thinner mids that I am used to. After my first hour with it though, I found I didn’t mind much. The difference in timbre is small enough that it can be called a stylistic tuning choice. The DB01’s general tuning is a pleasant and light V-shaped tuning. In this price range, I find that there aren’t too many IEMs that chase a natural and organic tuning, so another addition to that league is refreshing. Detail retrieval is good, but not mind-blowing at this price-point. In fact, there are so many high-performance IEMs around this price that it is actually rather average in comparison in terms of retrieval.
Treble is pretty good. The hybrid driver configuration that Audbos chose to go with for the DB01 really seems to have notable improvements over a single dynamic driver configurations. While treble isn’t quite at treble-head levels, it is certainly a bit boosted. This allows high-hats and cymbals to maintain their clarity in busy and complex parts of many songs. In One Ear’s treble-bound instruments performed well. I liked how well-separated they were despite being in the background.
Electric synths such as those in Midnight City are also treated well by the balanced armature inside the DB01. They remained clear throughout the entirety of the song and had a good hardness to them, indicating that the DB01 has a healthy attack and decay in the treble.
Given the fact that the treble isn’t too hot or boosted it should come as no surprise that the DB01 is not sibilant. That’s a good sign in my books, as it means that Audbos avoided one of the biggest pitfalls of tuning an IEM. Nero’s Satisfy was a fun and engaging listen thanks to this. Even the poorest of recordings are tamed by the treble of the DB01, so don’t worry about your favorite under-ground punk band’s awful recording style.
Guitars and drums both have a great timbre. They all seem a little lighter than usual due to the slight lift in the upper mids, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Given the fact that guitars can still go into their deep chugs well enough I don’t consider it a real flaw.
Pianos sound nice and clear without a hint of coloring. As such, songs like Weezer’s Jacked Up are nice and full without sacrificing their dynamics and depth. No matter what I tried to throw at it, the DB01 never became too bloated-sounding. That’s not to say it has infinite detail retrieval, but it is to say that it can still perform well on very busy songs.
Vocals sound great on the DB01, though male vocals could use a bit more body. Minor a flaw as it is, I noticed it while listening to I Am The Highway. Female vocals, however, do sound nice and sweet.
Bass is pretty skillfully tuned on the DB01. It seems the DB01 can do a little of everything in this category. Moth’s bass guitar was well-defined a well-extended. In fact, I noticed the bass-guitars presence in a multitude of songs in the rest of my library that I hadn’t really payed too much attention to before. This is probably due to the fact that I listen to my library mostly on shuffle, and as such, haven’t listened to every song through well-tuned earphones, but it is a pleasant surprise nonetheless.
Bassheads should be reasonably pleased by the strength and wetness of the bass on the DB01. While it lacks some rumble, I found that I could absolutely make do with these earphones if they were all I had.
Speaking of rumble, the DB01 performed decently on In For The Kill, but ultimately lacked much of what I seek from an IEM in terms of sub-bass performance. Not enough rumble for my personal tastes.
Packaging / Unboxing
Audbos did a reasonably good job packing the DB01. It comes in a compact set of packaging that has a nice weight to it. There’s almost no way it could get damaged by being dropped while being shipped, so that’s a plus.
The driver housings of the DB01 are made from from a wood acoustic chamber and a solid aluminum nozzle. The wood is decent feeling, and has a finish that reminds me a bit of Thinksound’s IEMs. The aluminum is mostly brushed, but has a band where it is shiny and polished. It sits well against the wood, though it isn’t entirely flush.
The stress relief protruding from the bottom is also made from aluminum, though I wish there was also some plastic there to prevent the cable from pulling too hard against the lid of the aluminum. There is a clear “L” and “R” etched onto the side of each housing.
The DB01’s cable is not original, and is from the same OEM that makes the cable that comes standard with the KZ ZST. It is made from a four-strand twine of cable (one green, red, yellow, and blue cable) covered in a thin grey translucent plastic sheathe. While I think that this IEM would have looked (and felt) much more substantial with a grey or brown nylon cable, this one is decent enough. It isn’t particularly microphonic, though one can notice it while moving hastily. It has a medium amount of body to it, meaning that the DB01 is prone to tangling, but isn’t hard to get straight again. The cable is likely going to be the primary point of failure on this IEM, and I can’t vouch for its longevity.
The DB01 comes with inline controls that works with iOS and most Android devices. It works on my Nexus 6P just fine. However I am concerned with the buttons. While they aren’t too frail, they do rattle around inside the shell of the controls a bit, making the DB01 seem more cheap than it actually is. Coming in at $50, I’d expect that the DB01 can match or exceed the quality offered by IEMs like the Macaw GT100s which costs about the same.
The DB01 has a wide nozzle, but is quite comfortable. Myself and three others listened to this, two of whom independently mentioned how comfortable it was. Naturally, your experiences will likely vary according to your individual anatomical features.
The DB01 is decently well-stocked with accessories. Inside the box you will find:
- 3x sets of extra silicone eartips
- 1x set of foam eartips
- 1x semi-hard carrying case
The eartips are of reasonable quality, and I had good results with the included foams. More interesting, however, is the case. It has a nice texture to it which is a mixture of the surface of a golf-ball and carbon fiber. The logo seems well-emblazoned onto it, and there’s enough internal volume to comfortably store the DB01 along with all its extra eartips. It is hard enough to protect the IEMs, but not so hard that it would be uncomfortable to keep in the pocket.
The DB01 is a decent choice for someone looking for a naturally-tuned hybrid IEM with reasonable bass performance. This price-bracket is fiercely competitive. Had the DB01 come with a more competent cable and a more extended sub-bass, then I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Until then, you’d best look elsewhere.