Most of this review is taken from my original longer comparison review here : http://www.head-fi.org/t/679360/review-hisound-audio-paa1-pro-earbuds-e212-iems-opposites-in-almost-every-way
For this review - ignore the green bars on the side - it's not where I set mine (something wrong with Head-Fi rating system). I listed price at $50 as that is the normal price for these buds. In reality I paid $10 (the cost of the shipping).
Introducing HiSound Audio's PAA1-Pro
I'm always a sucker for trying new things - you never know when you'll find a hidden gem. So when I saw HiSound Audio's offer, giving Head-fiers an opportunity to try their PAA-1Pro earbuds (just for the price of shipping), I jumped at the chance. I'm really glad now that I did.
I was provided the PAA-1Pro for just the cost of shipping. I am in no way affiliated with HiSound Audio - and this review is my honest opinion of these earphones. 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, Beyer DT880 (600 ohm), Mad Dog V3.2, Shure SRH840 and Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs. My recent headphones have also included the Sennheiser HD600, AKG K701 & Q701, and Grado SR325i (full woody). I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear any flagships (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 PAA1-Pro and E212 straight from the headphone out socket of both my iPhone 4 and iPod Touch G4. I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not require an amp – and the likelihood is that HiSound have targeted them toward an audience who would not use additional amping anyway. By now I have probably notched up around 40-50 hours listening on both units. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in).
For a brief comparison (toward the end) - I mainly used a set of Apple Earpods and the buds that came with my wife's Sony DAP.
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.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. The specific sales blurbs / descriptions on the box is interesting. The PAA-1Pro is " the most bassy ear-buds ". We shall see (keep reading).
For accessories, the PAA-1Pro includes an excellent semi-rigid soft-shell case (dimensions approx 75x75x30mm). This is an ideal size for the earphones - and has inner pouches for spare foamies etc.
It also comes with a rubbery 'fish' cable management tool. I'm not really too sure what to make of this. I tried it - but it's terribly cumbersome. I can't really see anyone actually using this.
The PAA-1Pro comes with 2 spare sets of foam covers (a well thought out addition actually), and an alligator type shirt clip for cable management. Again there is a warranty written entirely in Chinese.
(From HiSound Audio)
Maximum SPL ：120db（1khz，1 Vrms）
Jack / cable : 3.5mm straight, 119 cm
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation / 'Style'
The PAA-1Pro looks to me like a very generic looking ear-bud. Nothing really stands out. The silver accent on the housing looks good – but otherwise not much to write home about.
R & L are marked + the buds are not completely circular – so I can relatively quickly tell which earpiece is which – but I do have to look closer before fitting.
The shells themselves are very solid and look built to last. There is no real strain relief at the shells though – which makes 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 rubbery, tangle-prone, and slightly micro-phonic (not as bad as I initially feared though). It’s the sort of cable you’d expect on cheaper generic buds (HSA – why didn’t you use the same cable as the E212?). There is no chin slider. The PAA-1Pro are designed to be worn straight down.
These are a largish ear-bud, and whilst rounded, the shape is not completely smooth. For me (and I’m a reasonably sized bloke – 6ft tall, average head size, proportionate ear size), the buds fit OK but did 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.
All-in-all, pretty much ‘meh’ – generic type fit and ergonomics which are helped by the addition of the foam covers.
The following is what I hear from the PAA1-Pro. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).
For this I’m using Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” as there is a lot of micro detail in the track, and it is pretty well recorded
Actual detail retrieval on the PAA-1Pro is not bad. Despite having a bass impact, nothing is smeared - and the detail is there because the separation in frequency is quite good.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I’m using a binaural recording – Amber Rubarth “Sessions Form The 17th Ward” - “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage. I also used some other live performances (Loreena McKennit’s “Dante’s Prayer” and others).
The PAA-1Pro is good for an earbud at this price point with some clear separation. Sound stage size is small and intimate – but sense of space is not overly congested. Enjoyable.
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 PAA-1Pro has me hooked. Bright recordings remain bright – there is definitely a touch of added bass, but it’s not overpowering. Highs remain sparkly (maybe slightly subdued), and the upped mids (particularly) are far more apparent. Lower mids are not over powered by the mid-bass. Overall cohesion is very good for the value point. Vocal tracks retain the warmth – but when the instrumentation kicks in, vocals still remain the focus, and the bass line adds to the presentation rather than overpowering it.
The PAA-1Pro lives up to it’s moniker. I’m not sure if they are “the most bassy ear-buds” – but for cheaper ear-buds where the bass is usually too light, these are actually an improvement. Bass is more mid-bass than sub-bass to my ears – but the added thump is not excessively boomy. Also, the fact that it adds to the sonic presentation rather than overpowering it, makes these ear-buds (for my tastes) very enjoyable.
The PAA-1Pro is easily powered out of an iPod Touch G4 or iPhone4, and on most tracks I was well under 50% on the volume slider.
For sub $50 the PAA-1Pro is a reasonable buy – and could be made an excellent buy if HSA could make it slightly more ergonomic (fit) and change the cabling (use the E212 cables hint, hint). Ergonomically it needs to lose some size, and a little more rounding would help overall fit. But the PAA-1Pro sonically is very good value for money. The overall sound is cohesive, and the added bass helps fill out a normal weakness found in a lot of cheaper buds (ie too much in the upper mids and highs, and nothing down low). The PAA-1Pro defintiely fixes this issue.
Quick Comparison PAA-1Pro to Apple Earpods/Sony Buds
My Earpods have Earskinz and foams fitted - giving slightly better seal and bass.
All 3 are voiced similarly - but both the Sonys and Earpods are slightly brighter voiced (less bass line). The PAA-1Pro have a definite edge in actual clarity though, and are definitely sonically superior. Bass on the PAA-1Pro has more impact and definition - yet does not feel unbalanced. The ideal combo would be Earpod ergonomics and PAA-1Pro sonics.
Recommendations to HiSound Audio
Here is a short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Jack.
- Lose the fish
- Add a chin slider
- Change ergonomics slightly – rounder and slightly smaller? More oval?
- Use the E212 cable
Once again Jack – thanks for the opportunity with these. Loved the experience.