At around $65 USD (but also priced just over $40 USD in Taiwan), the entry-level Malleus is an economic tour-de-force. It does come with a much sparser set of accessories than the A03, with no felt carry case, no extreme bass-sealing tips or silicone elastomer rings (according to RedGiant, both may be included in future revisions), but it doesn’t mean RedGiant skimped on the Malleus.
The A00 Malleus, pictured with the dual flange tip that I find a better sonic fit with both the A00 and A03.
Roughly the shape of a kidney bean, the A00 is very comfortable in the ear. In fact, in many ways, it surpasses the flagship A03 Ossicle in terms of build quality. Made with an absolutely beautiful two-piece mirror-polished Zinc alloy shell, the build of the Malleus screams high quality. The cable is made of the same, thick, 5N OFC wire of the A03 and retains the same pliability and low microphonic characteristics. There’s no in-line microphone, but in some ways, that’s an improvement.
The one gripe that I have with the design of the A00 Malleus is that I much prefer its fit when worn over the ear, but it requires that I reverse the stereo channels. I always prefer a deeper fit over a shallow fit, and when I wear the A00 with the cables hanging down, the cables scrape against the sides of the intertragal notches of my ears, indicating that the entry angle of the cables are a bit too steep. Thus, I have to use a shallower fit with the A00, doing it no favors when it comes to isolation. When Sinocelt tried them out, he expressed the same exact sentiments. Otherwise, the Malleus is simply marvelous to wear in the ear and would be one of the most comfortable in-ears that I've ever worn. Though the housings feel weighty in the hand, they nevertheless completely disappear in the ears when the correct fit is achieved. Unlike the A03, I experienced zero long-duration wear fatigue with the A00 Malleus. The other negative is shared with the A03, however. Its fully-closed design causes significant driver flex and the need to equalize the air pressure between the ear drum and the driver diaphragm, resulting in a fiddly ordeal to get the fit just right.
When it comes to sound, the A00 has a much more typical, consumer-oriented, U-shaped frequency response. Nevertheless, the midrange is surprisingly clear and detailed. The bass is strong, but astoundingly tight and very well-textured. With Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance playing, the sound of the A00 reminded me of being in the middle of a crowded nightclub dance floor, strobe lights and all --- the powerful bass rumbles my head with distinct authority while the highs leap out easily. The problem is that the bass will sometimes distort for no reason at all, and the treble was at times prone to sibilance and spikes, leading me to believe that the frequency response was a little sloppily tuned. Other than the mysterious distortion, there was little to complain about the sound. There wasn’t much muddiness anywhere. Many other sonic elements, such as driver speed and resolution, also suggested that there was a lot of head room and potential in those 12mm dynamic drivers, so I decided to apply some EQ.
With some simple tweaking, I was able to find a frequency response that I believed to be a good fit with me and the music I usually listened to (Jazz, Classical, and R&B). It was only with the mid-bass EQ’ed down (I still like my sub-bass rumble, so I kept that) and certain sibilance spikes taken away that the Malleus was really able to shine like a true bass monster. With this filter in place, and distortion & sibilance eliminated, I would say that the A00 could easily be mistaken for a pair of earphones priced at $100+, as the quick speed of the drivers delivers excellent PRaT. Even then, though, the A00 showed obvious signs it wasn’t exactly a high-end product by displaying distinctively inaccurate timbre. Casual listeners, however, won’t have a problem with strong, wonky bass, and will simply believe that the Malleus sounds very clear (which in fact, it is) and has excellent sound quality.
At $65, though, I have minor misgivings about its sound quality, as there are many products out there that offer great bang-for-buck in the same price range without the need for external EQ (e.g. Brainwavz, etc.). However, most products, even at over $100, aren’t even nearly as well-manufactured so the overall package makes it a very good buy, and at the $40-ish dollars that it’s available at here in Taiwan, it’s basically a no-brainer.