Pros: Amazing Highs, Super Clear Mids, Very Balanced Sounding
Cons: Bass lacks quantity
A Little About Myself
I am very honored to have been one of the many chosen that were able to review this unit and I want to thank HeadDirect and HIFIMAN for putting this together. I don’t have a lot of experience with IEMs and so this has been very fun and interesting. I would say I have decent experience with over the ear headphones I have heard many headphones and on a lot of different amps which I hope will allow my review to be a little more informative and useful. I am not down with all the audio terms, so I can only hope that someone will find this review useful. Thank you again and happy listening!
When I received this unit I was surprised by how nicely the case looked, the pictures don’t do it justice and everything is packed nicely in the box. However it looked like it was already opened I don’t know if you guys test them before sending them out or not? But everything appears in great condition and the headphones themselves are very appealing to the eyes.
Sound (With Burson 160 - MS II+)
ProsThe highs are well done, not too bright, musical and a little forgiving, this works great for jazz music and classical as well as older rock. I’ve found that it has a good center image with a lower mid field type soundstage it seems to be very dynamic in its soundstage though. One moment it can be very close and intimate if the music calls for it and on other tracks can have a pretty decently large soundstage, for the most part however it seems to sit in the lower midfield to me. Very smooth,detailed, and well balanced mids very good for vocals like Norah Jones,Patricia Barber, even male vocals sound astonishing, such as Tom Waits Etc. One other area that this does well in is classic rock, despite that it could use for a little more bass the handling of the highs is done so well that I still think its great for classic rock. Generally I think that the highs are to bright or sibilant on most headphones but despite not being petite or shy in any means these manage to sound good on tracks that would normally sound too bright to my ears. Trumpets are rendered near perfect and saxophones sound amazing, cymbals are very defined and not grainy at all.
ConsI thought the bass had a great balance as well as good detail however some may find it a little petite and in some older rock I found my self wanting a little more bass. Another thing is that despite its great overall balance I felt that it lacked a little warmth, if you like warmth or tube like sound then these might not be for you but if you can pair them with a tube amp as I did you will be rewarded.
WIth Little Dot MK III - MS II+
When I triad it with my Little Dot MK III I thought it brought some of the warmth and bass that lacked in the Burson however at the cost of detail. I really think that these headphones prefer tubes which is odd for IEMs or at least I think thats odd. Despite the lack of detail the already wonderful mids now have a very nice and silky presence. With this amp the soundstage was pushed back a tad making it sound a little wider as well. These IEMs really do change quite a bit with different amps. Rock with these headphones and this amp sounds godly, very soft highs and more low mids and bass make this a absolute winner for classic rock! One song “Gypsy Wine” from Paper Garden is really bad on most headphones due to the annoyingly bright sound but on these its listenable which is saying a great deal!
Directly out of iPod Nano 5th Gen
Direct out it lacked the soundstage that it is capable of, it lacked detail and the highs lost its magic. I don’t blame the headphones for this one bit obviously the feed direct out of an iPod is not very hifi unfortunately I don’t have a portable amp or dac to test this with. Non the less it was still very good for on the go listening and would be fine for commutes or other things but if you want the best out of these headphones you need to have it hooked up to good equipment.
Comfort / Isolation
Very comfortable with tons of options for the right tip size depending on your preference and ear canal size. Lots of good and useful adapters are included which is nice. One other thing I really liked is that the connector, instead of being L shaped or straight it has a curve in it that is not only stylish but also practical. These headphones seem to block out a good amount of noise and would be good for an airplane or bus ride I can’t say how many DB it blocks but if I had to guess I would say somewhere around 20 DB. My brother actually blew a blow horn next to my door and I was unable to hear it listening at normal volume with these! The cord appears to be the perfect length to connect an iPod or other personal source without being long or cumbersome.
Having not heard many IEMs I would say these are hands down the best I’ve heard, comparing them to full size of course is unfair but let me just say that I prefer these over all my other headphones other then my K702s which I still like a little more overall. Would I buy these? If I was looking for IEMs then yes I would definitely look at these, they do not overdue the bass like the other IEMs I’ve triad do, which is a big plus for me. The tonality is also quite special almost a mix between the AKG and Ultrasone sound signature.
Specific Songs(test conducted on Little Dot MK III for the below)
Rock - Pink Fold - The Wall Side A - Mother
Has a very musical sound right off the bat, non fatiguing and very natural sounding. It sounds great with this like it was meant for this song, I think this song demonstrates how well it does with classic rock. The highs are not over powering or under whelming they are simply dead perfect for this type of music. The mids are clear as ever and it renders the vocals very realistically. You can hear the guitars with great detail, every instrument is very distinct and the voice is dead center, as I mentioned before the center image is very very good on these headphones. These headphones let the song portray the emotions that were put into this recording very clearly.
Jazz - Patricia Barber - Modern Cool - Post Modern Blues
Wow the bass! This track was mastered with too much bass IMO but other then that is a top notch recording. Most headphones will render the excessive bass muddy, however these do not! Very clear you can hear as the strings are plucked on the bass guitar and there is detail! Wonderful detail, not muddy in the least it carries the multiple note bass easily across its small drivers with deep impact. Patricia's voice is rendered properly and very realistically as well, very smooth and relaxed and a pleasure to listen to. Very distinct instrumentation found here as well.
Alternative - Tom Waits - Alice - Alice
Very good separation of the instruments, the saxophone on the further left is easily distinguishable from the center saxophone its like night and day separates them perhaps a little too much. It almost sounds like the left saxophone is slightly behind me which is a little odd. Tom's voice holds a very good tone not too heavy or syrupy like some headphones can be on this song. It carries the somewhat dark texture of this song very well. The trouble sounds a little grainy but that could be the song I'm not sure.
Metal - Marilyn Manson - Antichrist Super Star - Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World
Perhaps as I've mentioned before a little bass light, but it scales well going load. I don't play stuff as load as most but as load as I was willing to listen (also don't want to risk damaging these haha) there were no signs of distortion. Marilyns voice is down as good as well I think that's the key to these headphones, very good vocals and mids with highs that are forgiving. These did not get my blood going though, I think the slight lack of dynamics on these does not suit heavy metal. Its not bad don't me wrong but I think I'd rather use some Grados or Sony XBs for metal.
Folk - Noble Beast - Andrew Bird - Tenuousness
The highs felt a little too forgiving on this track and the lack of a little bass made it feel a flat. I can't say that I really like these headphones with this specific song. The guitar had good detail but felt compressed. It felt like everything just lacked dynamics.
Electronic - Trifonic - Emergence - Emergence
Gobs of detail, fast pace and rhythm and not overly done bass! Great for electronic music that's what I say. The drivers have a very fast response and keep up well with the fast pace. Really gets your heart going here. I keeps the smooth graduated sounds smooth, and keeps the sharp crackling sound sharp. From what I've heard with a lot of headphones that I have that's very hard to do right and these do it!
Burn InLast but not least burn in. I have about 30 hours on these and have noticed very little burn in effect. Burn in for the most part seemed complete after 10 hours. After that 10 hours very little if not nothing seemed to change.