Pros: Build quality, looks, cable (good), clarity, carry case, accessories, well extended, flat and quick bass, responds well to EQ
Cons: Size, no chin slider, L/R markings are hard to see, can be sibilant, large ear pieces (hard to fit), fatiguing (too bright over long periods)
I was provided the HSA Living for just the cost of shipping. I am in no way affiliated with HiSound Audio - and this review is my honest opinion of the Living. I would like to thank Jack and the HiSound Audio team for making this opportunity available.
Preamble - 'about me'. (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 46 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile - just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up. I vary my listening from portable (i-devices) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). My main headphones at the time of writing are the Shure SRH1840, Senn HD600, AKG K702, Shure SRH840 and Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs. I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear/own any flagships other than the SRH1840 (at current time of writing this review).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range. I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV. I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.
For the purposes of this review - I used the HSA Living straight from the headphone out socket of both my iPhone 4 and iPod Touch G4. Most of the time I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not require an amp. By now I have probably notched up around 30-40 hours listening on the Living. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in).
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
(From HiSound Audio)
Type : Dynamic, Earbud (open)
Driver size: ~16mm
impedance : 32 Ω
sensitivity : 107db
Maximum SPL : 125db（1khz，1 Vrms）
Frequency response : 16-23 khz
Jack / cable : 3.5mm straight, 119 cm
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation / 'Style'
The Living is a very stylish looking ear-bud. The housings appear quite solid, and appear to be made of a metal alloy. The colour scheme of silver and black is classy. They have a long straight “arm” extension which is relatively easy to get used to.
The shells themselves are very solid (metallic) and look built to last. There is no real strain relief at the shells though (apart from the long arms) – which would normally make me wonder about the longevity of the cable. The 3.5mm plug is straight, looks relatively sturdy, and includes strain relief. The cable split has strain relief at the apex of the V. The cable is the same type as the E212 and Crystal. The cable is wound in a circular motion, and covered by a smooth sheath which is shiny, very malleable, and has low micro-phonics. It’s mostly tangle free, and is really well executed. Bravo HSA. Please include this on all of your models (get rid of any rubbery ones).
These are a largish ear-bud. For me (and I’m a reasonably sized bloke – 6ft tall, average head size, proportionate ear size), the buds fit OK but did initially cause some discomfort – especially around the back of the concha – after prolonged use. Over time this has diminished. My wish would be that someone could come up with a more ergonomically designed (smooth and oval) fit for increased comfort. The new Apple Earpods are a perfect example of what can be achieved – food for thought HSA? As with most buds – the positioning can sometimes be quite difficult to get consistent – and this greatly affects the sound. If it’s possible to take a leaf out of Apple’s book. Their new Earpods fit me perfectly – and pretty much every time.
There is no real isolation – they’re ear-buds – there is not supposed to be! But inclusion of the foam covers helps fit, comfort, and does give a measure of ‘seal’ which does help the bass impact.
The Living’s cues are very good (especially for an earbud). It may be because of the bright nature of the Living – but sense of space is very good, and imaging within that space is quite excellent. There is never any overlapping, or smearing. Separation and positioning/imaging is very good. On LMcK’s D-P the stage is closer than for my open headphones – but the presentation overall is quite pleasant with good separation and clarity. The applause following LMcK’s D-P is a good test of the earphone’s ability to convey sense of space and atmosphere. The Living did convey some of the space of the auditorium.
Rather than referencing tracks – I’m going to give general impressions – as I’ve tried to listen to as many varied genres as I can.
The Living surprised me. I knew these were the earbud that HSA targets more toward their ‘audiophile’ customers – so I was expecting something that was going to be very bass light (especially when you’re talking earbuds). There is no doubt that the bass is light compared to HSA’s normal house sound (which tends to be a touch warm and bassy). But the bass is definitely there – it is just very flat (no mid-bass hump), and as a result is very quick.
The Living is easily powered out of an iPod Touch G4 or iPhone4, and on most tracks I am well under 50% on the volume slider. However – they did include a 3.5-6.3 mm adaptor – so I tried them with my NFB-12. Whilst I don’t personally didn’t think the additional amping did much if anything – the NFB-12 is slightly on the warm side, and the added warmth and bass emphasis did help the overall signature (for my preferences anayway)
What About Response To EQ?
The Living responded really well to EQ. I EQ’d the upper mids and highs down a little – especially around 5kHz, whilst giving a very slight boost to the mid-bass and the resultant change was really quite good to my ears. No drop in clarity – but definitely balanced out the spectrum a little more, and took the glare off the Living’s naturally bright signature
The Living is a really capable earbud – nicely built, but unfortunately a little on the large side, and consequently hard to get a consistent fit. They are unnaturally bright – so I don’t really think they are quite “the most accurate sound reproduction” they claim on the packaging. But if you tend toward a brighter headphone, and crave clarity and imaging – these are a pretty good earbud – especially if you don’t mind applying a little EQ to calm some of the glare.
Here is a short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Jack.
Lose the fish
- If possible make them very slightly smaller – and maybe more ergonomic
- Add a chin slider – please.
- Add easy to see L & R markers.
Once again Jack – thanks for the opportunity with these. Loved the experience.