Pros: Bass, Midrange, Detail, Separation, Comfort
Cons: Treble, Fish (WTF), 4 Pole Plug
First of all, I’d like to thank Jack Fu of Hisound Audio for sending me the new BA-100 for me to review. Hisound has been a company that IMO raised the bar in terms of price/performance. I was very impressed by their PAA-1 Pro, E212 and E350 and believed that they all performed very well in their price bracket. The BA-100, as its name suggests uses balanced armature, or BA drivers. There is one driver in each ear, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that other multi driver IEMs are superior. Quite simply put, I was blown away by the BA-100 when I first heard it since I was expecting it to perform at a much lower level than it did. This tiny IEM retails at $99 and it is the best sub-$100 IEM that I have heard. It even comes with a universal mic and remote for smartphones!
**Disclaimer** I am in no way affiliated with or against Hisound Audio in any way and I was given these and was told to give an honest, unbiased review.
Most of my listening was done through a Sansa Clip+ and my DX50 but I did run them through my HDP-R10 and when I was writing this review, I was using the DX50. The BA-100 scales up well with higher end DAPs, but the Sansa Clip+ was perfectly fine. They sounded great through my Clip+, but moving to a better source had better soundstage and overall refinement. I wouldn’t suggest buying a better source specifically for them, but if you already have a better source like the DX50, it will be better than the Clip+. I found that adding an E6 didn’t really do much to improve the sound.
Unboxing & Accessories
Like the other Hisound products that I have reviewed in the past, these come in a rather minimalistic packaging and has a few accessories. I suppose this is to keep costs down. Anyway, the box slides out and you get the BA-100 with a square Hisound case and inside that, there are 2 pairs of tips, a cable clip and a Chinese manual. On the right side, there is a fish that comes with the E212 and PAA-1 Pro. Seriously Hisound, I’m not the first one to say so, but I probably won’t be the last – lose the fish! Just makes the whole thing look like a small kid’s toy. I am perfectly happy with the accessories since it’s all I really need.
Design, Isolation & Cable
First of all, I’d like to say that I really do not like 4 pole connectors because they can be very troublesome. For example, they fit into my DX50, but the fit is much tighter than usual and I don’t really use the mic and remote option because the sound quality from phones is generally pretty bad. Perhaps a 4 pole to 3 pole connector should be included. Onto the design of the housing, I actually like the simplicity of it. The all white design allows them to blend in into the sea of apple earbuds. They are very comfortable as well, no complaints there.
Isolation is about average and could be better if there were no vents allowing sound to get in. Should have no problems for normal use, but may become a problem on trains.
The cable is very nice and quite thick, but very flexible as well. The mic and the absence of a cable slider makes it quite hard to wear it over the ear and straight down has quite a bit of microphonic. Luckily, a cable clip is included.
Here is the best part of the BA-100 – the sound. I completely exceeded my expectations for a sub $100 IEM. As per all my reviews, the sound section will be split into 3 main sections – bass, midrange and treble.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I was to expect here. Hisound products normally have a boosted bass but single BAs that I have tried weren’t that bassy. When I first listened to them, I was quite surprised really – the bass is very well balanced and rather neutral and has a go impact. No boost and not lacking at all. It is very clear and detailed with no bloat at all. Also, the bass was the depth was impressive and the BA-100 handles sub bass very well, especially for its price range, but don’t expect a lot of rumble. Another thing that was very impressive to me was the layering of the bass which exceeded many more expensive IEMs that I have tried. I have to say, this is the best bass that I have heard from a Hisound product so far and is the highlight of the BA-100 (IMO of course).
The midrange was also very nice, and according to a graph that a Head-Fier got from Jack, is slightly forward. What I hear is a very flat midrange that is fun and neutral at the same time (if that is possible?). Vocals are very clear, not too upfront and I did not at any time feel like they were recessed in any way. Instruments sounded impressive as well and there was not a lot of colouration. Even at higher volumes, I could not detect any sibilance, which is a big plus for me. Overall, the midrange is very musical and easy to listen to without any peaks. I don’t see how one can really be let down by the midrange performance at this price range.
Every product has a weak spot in sound quality and I believe that this is the BA-100’s. The treble is undoubtedly rolled off, but not too much and gives a feeling of smoothness. There is still enough sparkle for it to have an interesting and fun sound, without having an overly aggressive treble. The graph shows quite a step roll off at around 5K, but honestly, I don’t think that it is as bad as the graph suggests. Personally, I like a brighter than neutral treble so I do wish that these had some extra sparkle, but I do still enjoy listening to these very much and I don’t find there boring or dull at any time.
Soundstage & Imaging
I was quite impressed by the BA-100’s soundstage, but if you are just judging the soundstage, there are probably IEMs with larger ones in the same price bracket. However, it doesn’t do too badly.
Imaging is very good indeed. Everything is spaced out very well and it seems to be very easy to tell where each instrument and singer(s) is/are.
Separation & Detail
Let’s talk about the instrument separation. IMO, it does incredibly well and bests every IEM in its price range I’ve heard. Vocal separation was also great and once again, I feel like it is the best in its price range. Overall, separation was one of the best things about the BA-100.
Another point that I feel like I have to bring up is the amount of detail that these have. These only lose out slightly to my AX7 which I feel is a very good IEM. Hard to believe the amount of detail these tiny little things pack.
The BA-100 is the first IEM from Hisound that has really wowed me. While the E212 and PAA-1 Pro are great, they just don’t reach the level of these. While it may not be the most technically impressive IEM in its price range, it is, to me, the most musical and best overall IEM in the ever growing sub $100 market. This is the best bang for the buck IEM under $100 and I can easily recommend it.
Pictures coming soon.