Pros: Sound, Nice Case & Accessories, Very Comfortable For Me, Exceptional Customer Service, Easy To Use Cable
Cons: No Cable Slider, No Cable Clip, May Come Off As Dark
First of all, I'd like to thank Jack Fu of HiSound Audio for sending me a E212 for review. I am in no way affiliated nor against HiSound Audio in any way and I will try my best to give my unbiased opinions. These were given 100 hours of burn in, in which I feel like the E212 has improved dramatically. However, this can be just my ears getting used to the sound. Tested with my HDP-R10, Sansa Clip+, Fiio E6 and my SGS3.
Design, Accessories & Unboxing
Sure, this is a budget minded $50 pair of IEMs, but HiSound does everything that it can to make this look like a $100 IEM. Most IEMs in this price range just come with a a few pairs of tips but this has a very nice and useful case, tips and a cable manager which I will probably never use. However, I'd rather more than less. The case is a square clamshell case like the one on the box which is easy to just pop in your pocket when you aren't using it. It might not protect the IEMs if you hit them with a hammer, but it is enough for day to day wear and tear. This is a vented dynamic driver earphone and doesn't really have a lot of isolation, but it is enough to stop ambient noise from being annoying on cars, public transport and in noisy places. A few things that I find really annoying is the lack of a shirt clip and a cable slider. Although the cable is one of the most non-microphonic cables that I have tried, it is still a bit noisy when worn down and you can't wear it over the ear or else the cable will slide off the top of your ear. I do find that a bit of tape fixed that, but I would still have rather HiSound have included one. The build quality is very good, much better than the PAA-1 Pro that I reviewed recently. It is made out of metal and a rough red material that also feels like metal and the strain reliefs make me feel confident that the cable isn't going to break soon.
Sorry for it being upside down, but like I mentioned in the PAA-1 Pro review, have people started faking HiSound Products?
This is how the E212 comes in the box.
For those people who have never read one of my reviews before, I break them into 3 main section - bass, midrange and treble. Here we go.
HiSound says that these have extreme bass and detailed sound and I completely agree with them. The bass is arguably the best part of this IEM; I think so anyway. The bass is very strong and fun, reaching deep down and it really rumbles. Turn up the volume and you will probably find them vibrating so much that they come out of your ear. The bass quality is exceptional for the price and as I mentioned above, really does reach far down. However, you could also say that it is bloated and muddy and I would certainly understand why, but this IEM was designed for a fun, bass oriented sound, and is aimed at bassheads and not one who is looking for a neutral sound signature. IMO, the bass is great if you are a basshead; I'm more of a neutral person, but the bass is just so damn fun! There is a bit of bass bleed though.
The bass does bleed slightly into the midrange, but not until it becomes annoying. There is just a kind of midrange magic that is in the PAA-1 Pro as well. Vocals still sound extremely realistic and euphonic even though thy are on the slightly darker side, making female vocals sound a tiny bit "manly". However, this does not become annoying and is actually quite pleasant for most of the music that teenage boys are interested in. It's not only vocals that sound nice, but pianos sound extremely pleasant as well, since they sound quite tinny with many more neutral IEMs. I find that the extra weight makes them sound a bit more realistic. Guitars are very nice, but are a tiny bit dark, and this is the same with other string instruments. The midrange is very nice for vocals, but I would have loved for it to be a tad bit less dark.
This IEM is an ideal choice for people who are a bit sensitive to a hot treble. Straight out of the box, the treble is significantly rolled off and when I first listened to them, I was like WTF?!!! What have HiSound made here? However, after 100 hours, I do feel like the treble has come out quite a bit, but is still quite rolled off. Detail levels are quite good, but other earphones such as the PAA-1 Pro performs significantly better here. Cymbals sound a bit dull and the decay is shorter than neutral, but it is not as dull as some other IEMs that I have listened to. There is just enough sparkle to keep these from being boring. Overall, the treble is good in quality, but lacking in quantity. I will not mark it down though, because some people may prefer this sort of sound signature. I would have personally liked a little extra sparkle.
Tips that it comes with. I personally prefer and use the Sony Hybrids.
Separation & Details
To be honest, I'm surprised how well the E212 did in my separation tests. In the song "Some Nights" by Fun., the vocal separation was even better than the PAA-1 Pro and I could distinctly make out where each singer was. Instrument separation was exceptional as well, once again besting the PAA-1 Pro and it was less congested on the tracks that I tested it on.
Details are not as good as the separation. In almost all IEMs, big bass always results in reduced detail and the E212 is no exception. It's not to say that the detail levels are bad, just 0ot as good as other offerings of the same price.
Imaging & Soundstage
I was once again extremely impressed by the imaging ans separation of these. The sound stage was huge for an IEM of it's price and of the IEMs that I have heard only loses out to the UM Miracles, RDB v1 and IE8.
Imaging is also very good, but not as impressive as the soundstage. It was easy to tell where each singer or instrument was but sometimes on more congested tracks, it got a bit muddy.
Just about no changes were detected with amping. I actually liked them unamped, right out of my Sansa Clip+ more than out of the Sansa into the E6. I would not bother amping these; just plug them into a source and go.
HiSound E212 vs HiSound PAA-1 Pro
I was certainly very intrigued by the HiSound E212 since it was said as "the best IEM under $100". When I first heard it, I was shocked, and not in a good way either. They were a veiled, muddy mess. The bass was overpowering and the treble really veiled. I let it burn in for a while and after 50 hours, I listened to them again and to my surprise, they had opened up quite a lot. The bass became more controlled and the treble came out a bit. For the bass, the E212 still has much more quantity and more sub bass. The quality is about the same so which is better really does come down to personal preference. As for the mids, HiSound has done extremely well with both of the earphones. They all have this sort of clear but interesting and fun midrange. The E212 has a lusher, more creamy midrange while the PAA-1 Pro has a thinner midrange presentation. The treble is not a competition IMO. The treble on the PAA-1 Pro is quite obviouslybetter in quality and has more quantity. The roll off on the E212 isn't that bad though, and those who are a bit sensitive to treble will like it. The soundstage is a bit bigger on the PAA-1 Pro and the imaging is a bit better as well. I personally prefer the PAA-1 Pro, but I can see why people would like the E212 more.
HiSound E212 vs Sony MH1C
When I first heard of the E212 and it's pricetag of $50, I immediately wondered how it would fare against the Sony MH1C. Before now, it has been my go to recommendation for the sub $50 price range. However, I do think that the E212 defeats it. The E212 has better bass quality and more quantity. The midrange is also more natural and less metallic and also more aggressive. The treble is more prominent on the MH1C but for some reason, there seems to be more of a veil and I find myself choosing the E212 more. Details are more obvious on the Sony MH1C, but the E212 makes up for that by offering better separation, much larger soundstage and better imaging. IMO, the E212 is clearly the better IEM overall.
These are an exceptional of in ear monitors, especially at their $50 price. The bass is hard hitting ans has a very nice rumble to it, the midrange is natural and the treble is non fatiguing but has just enough sparkle for it not to sound dull. IMO, HiSound has created another winner here and thanks again, to Jack Fu for bringing us such a nice IEM for an extremely reasonable price.