Pros: Every freq range is done beautifully, bass, mids, and highs all there
Cons: The balance and mix of the freq ranges however are a bit tricky
Heir Audio is a division of Micro DSP Technology. They created waves on Head-Fi in 2012 with their custom in ear monitoring line. Today, they are one of the premier CIEM brands for enthusiasts heralded as neutral masters. In late 2012, the Wizard sought out to make a new Universal line of in ear monitors. So that anybody can have the sound of his custom lines. The more basic and not very customizable nature of the UIEM’s allows for a much cheaper cost. There are currently four released UIEM’s out and a fifth one coming out soon. Some general portions of my review will also be the same in the other Heir Audio reviews I will be pushing out. Many pictures will also be reused as the units more or less look the same on the outside. The shield and bore's are what really differentiate them. This is because they are the same in that regard, small changes will be noted however if there are any. I wish to thank the Wizard and Sinocelt for arranging this review sample tour and for including me.
(The Tzar's came in a smaller Pelican case than pictured)
These UIEM’s are all hand made by the Wizard and possibly others. They do not pop out of a machine all the same. This leaves some rough ridges on the units. Some spots are a little rough and other places have a weird ridge sometimes. The overall design and shape of the units are highly similar however. They have been tested of course. The plastics of the units are exactly as you would expect from any other unit of its likes. High quality and hard and not made of some cheap material. They look great and feel great as well and the tips fit onto the universal nozzle well. The connectors up top are also like any good IEM’s. They are tigth fitting and exact to their properties. Besides the rough spots on the unit which aren’t a problem, this is just what one would expect from an unit that emulates the customs.
With the Magnus 1 cable, microphonics is present in some amounts. The braided nature of the cable is nice, but when it meets the interlocking zip’s of a jacket or sweatshirt it creates a lot of noise. The magnus cable will sometimes ‘transfer’ noise up the cable, but with music playing, it isn’t a big deal.
With the stock cable it is very similar. However unlike the Magnus which may catch onto the zips of the jacket, the stock cable will just slide past it. This creates a faster sounding ‘zip’ sound on a jacket than the Magnus. for normal cloth/smooth material clothing, it is not an issue. This is because the cables are well made and most importantly, the unit is an over ear cable design like most IEM’s.
Isolation and Leak:
This highly depends on your own fit with the unit, tips used, and if you are playing music or not. The units themselves are large in a sense but should fit most people that aren’t kids or have a small ear space. The units also come with a good amount of tips for you to try, from different single tips to double flanges. I get the best fit with the double flanges and so I use that for all the units reviews. Isolation of outside materials is quite good, but not perfect of course. At a medium -90-94dB volume and even higher, sound doesn’t really leak out. Obviously, pulling out the units with music playing will let most people hear what is playing as the seal is broken. We don’t want everyone to know that Justin Bieber is a favorite artist now do we?
Besides the fact that these are expensive and most will baby them, they hold up well in terms of using them and on the go usability. The largest problem really is their price. You become aware of everything around you, and the earphones feel a bit fragile as you use them portably. It is all a mind thing of course as they didn’t really get looser or feel like they were going to just drop off the face of the earth. The braided cable can get caught in some things though so that was another worry. But besides that, as long as you have a good fit, they work very well. The L shaped jack of the stock and Magnus 1 cable(especially the Magnus) may block some input output ports on the portable device or amp though.
Magnus 1 Cable option:
The Magnus 1 Cable is an option provided by Heir Audio. The cable was an option as the Wizard wanted a better fitting cable for his units. They had to more or less be perfect. Not too light, not too heavy, not too flexible but not too hard either. Heir Audio makes no claims about its sonic performance. The cable is strictly a high quality cable for usability and perfection purposes. It is terminated by the Neutrik NTP3RC-B in case anyone is wondering. The below pic shows stock cable to the left and Magnus 1 to the right. The stock cable is an unused extra Heir threw in. Otherwise the connectors would also be curved like the Magnus 1 to the right.
So here we have the Tzar 90's specifically now. The Tzars are a line that do not have a direct CIEM variant. They are basically just another project in the price range that the Wizard wanted to work on it seems. The Tzar90's sport two balanced armature drivers. One for high frequency and one for low frequency. It has a single output nozzle. For my review, the Magnus 1 Cable was used with it.
The Tzar 90 is rated at 90 Ohms (nominal at 1KHz). It is much less sensitive than the ai ranges. It can be easily driven by an iPod with no noise.
The Heir Audio Tzar 90 run for $369. Then we have shipping and the possible customs. Not to mention possible accessories if you want. For my review, the Tzar 90 was used with the Magnus 1 cable which is an accessory costing between $110 to $150 depending on when you get it. This is because that is the cable that came stock with the 90's. I do have the original stock cable, but constant plugging in and out isn't very good. Heir Audio also makes no claim of sonic difference with the Magnus 1. The review will thus be the 350 and Magnus 1. For reference, I will use my custom Project-H. It uses a Burr Brown equipped Objective 2 amplifier and a Cirrus Logic flagship DAC, the CS4398 DAC. The 350 was also used with an Audio gd NFB 12.1 (Discrete Amp and Dual Flagship Wolfson WM8741), FiiO E07K ANDES, and FiiO E12.
Audiophile word use:
I try to use this word and neutral 2-3 times every review. Not more, but because I have used it more than that as a necessity, it needs its own section. The term audiophile/neutral has been dirtied in the last few years as many elitists and what not have used it for their own purpose. My use of audiophile sound and what not is going back to the pure usage of the word where the sound is something that an audio lover looking for neutral perfection, and near life like presentation would want. And not an elitist comment on me sipping Champagne with a monocle in my eye while listening to these. It is mealy used to differentiate what an audiophile sound lover would like as opposed to a mainstream one.
The highs of the Tzar 90 follow a trend I've been hearing from Heir Audio where they are there and good but are slightly toned down in quantity and tenacity. They do not pierce or are very bright. This could have been done on purpose to prevent hearing problems like Vmoda has done or am just a Heir Audio quality. The highs are of good quality and are smooth but they are tucked down in quantity a bit. For those of you that like bright smooth highs, this will be a slight downer. The highs are also very close to the upper mids as opposed to have its own seperate space. This is not a con. It's all a matter of personal opinion and choice. Some like the seperation while others like to keep everything tucked together.
The mid instruments of the Tzar 90 are heavy with a dark background. They have weight more or less. The upper mids are clear for the instruments and are quite smooth. It is clear, but the weight and background tone down the 'brightness' of it by a bit. The bottom mids are a bit muffled. This could be due to the crossover and the drivers jobs. Of course, these symptoms are mainly only shown when the song is more congested with more instruments. Playing a simple symphony piece of course won't show these symptoms. It is when you tax it, that this happens. The mids have good soundstage and above average seperation. Unlike the other Heirs, the Tzar 90's vocals are the ones surrounding the mids rather than the other way around. The vocals are dulled but forward with the instruments being near it but not as present. The vocals are center stage in this one. However, the clarity of the vocals are one of the biggest problems with the Tzar 90. Everything becomes congested sounding by a bit more with them. The bottom and top of the vocals have the most 'weight' to them while the middle falls a bit short. They do not have an upper sparkle like the others and they don't intrude into the highs or lows. The lows do dull the vocals sometimes if there is more bass. And no sibilance,or much.
I have had some problems with liking the Tzar90 due to the vocals. They just do not sound very natural to me, and make things sound more congested.
The lows of the Tzar 90 are probably the most mainstream out of all the lows I have heard from the Heir universal line. They do not work well with mainstream music or EDM like the others, but their pronounced mid bass and impact is much more pronounced than the other Heir lines. This does not mean they work well with mainstream genres however. The Tzar 90 is still an IEM that fits the same genre role as the other Heirs. Higher quality last decade and before music or modern good recorded ones without bass overload. For those songs, the Tzar 90 gives a bit more bass than some may like. I found the bass to be a slight distraction as it pulls into the mids a bit and the impact taking away from some pieces. This is with mildly bassy oldies songs and musical pieces. The bass responce is kinda like a bell curve with the mid bass being the most pronounced. Sub bass and extension like the other heirs, are hard to hear or notice.
Tzar 90 with Tzar 350:
The Tzar 90 has much more bass than the Tzar 350. It has a much more pronounced mid bass than the 350. The 350's have a much more neutral sound. Their vocals are more clear while the 90's are more congested. The highs of the 90 are louder and more present than the 350's. The 90's are overall more fun than the 350's. They work for about the same genres as well.
Tzar 90 with 4.ai
The Tzar 90 I think holds no candle to the 4.ai. Everything it does, the 4.Ai's do better. This is of course purely opinion as the 90 has qualities some will like. The 4.ai's have a very leveled out bass. Very smooth bass, without the hump the 90's have. Both don't have much sub bass or extension however. The mids of the 4.Ai are also superior. The vocals are much more neutral and smooth. Very clear. The 4.Ai's vocals are surrounded by the mid instruments while the 90's instruments are surrounded by the vocals. However, the 90's vocals are more dull as compared to the 4.Ai's. The highs on the 4.Ai are also not as loud or present as 90. However they are very close. The 4.Ai's highs have its own section however is more pulled away from the mids.
Tzar 90 with 3.ai
These are similar but also different. The bass on the 3.ai is more leveled out without as much of a mid bass hump compared to the 90. The mids on the 3.ai take a slight curve upwards for some sparkling upper mids while the 90's take a deep curve throwing the vocals off. The seperation and soundstage on 90 is more but the 350's have clearer instruments. The upper mid sparkle however does lead to some fatigue. The highs of the 90 are much louder and present than the 3.ai. They work with about the same genres, but I believe that 3.ai performs with more and sounds better.
I personally did not like the 90's due to the vocals. It's very forward(but dull) sound makes music sound congested when they are there. Without them, the 90's sound similar to the 3.Ai and 4.Ai mixed together in that it is fun, but doesn't have the sharp upper mid spike of the 3.Ai's. This is just my opinion of course. I would say that the 4.Ai would be the better unit but that is of course up to you.
All the Heir Audio Reviews:
Heir Audio 3.Ai
Heir Audio 4.Ai
Heir Audio Tzar 350
Heir Audio Tzar 90