Pros: Fast Bass, Nice Mids, A Lot Of Accessories, Build Quality, Detachable Cable
Cons: Isolation, Bright Treble
First of all, I’d like to thank Mach3 (Peter) for generously lending me his Sony EX1000s. I am not affiliated nor against Sony in any way.
Sony needs no introduction to the audio world and I’m sure that a lot of you would have heard Sony EX1000 as Sony’s previous flagship IEM. The Sony EX IEM line has been replaced with the newer XBA line, which many, including me believe is inferior to the EX line. The new Sony flagship, the XBA-4 has a dark sound signature while the EX1000 has a bright sound. This is now discontinued I believe, but they can still be bought.
Sorry for the bad photo quality
Testing Gear & Accessories
All testing was made via my HDP-R10 and Sansa Clip+ with a Fiio E6. First of all, these are not very source dependant. They sounded great right out of a Sansa Clip+, but when hooked up to a Fiio E6 amp, the soundstage grew and separation improved a bit. However, when I used it on my HDP-R10, I was truly impressed for the first time. The soundstage became much bigger and the separation and detail increased quite a lot. Also worth mentioning is that the sound became a lot cleaner and less grainy, hugely improving my listening experience.
I was given the box it came in and there was a very nice looking leather case which looked great but I am less sure of the actual usefulness of it. It also came with a full set of Sony hybrid tips which should fit everyone. There were some manuals and that was it. Rather good, but I just wished the case offered more protection like a Pelican or a UE metal case. There was no IEM cleaner, but there is some material stopping stuff from getting in, so I don’t mind it so much.
Isolation, Design & Cable
Since this is a vented dynamic driver IEM, it isolates extremely poorly, being the least isolating IEM that I have ever heard. Just to give you an idea, the isolation level is even less that the Sennheiser IE8 or IE80s. Also, as you may have read elsewhere, these are quite susceptible to wind noise.
The design is not bad, but they do stick out quite a bit and if you go outside with them, they might attract quite some unwanted attention. While I think that they look quite cool, it stops being cool when people start thinking that they might be hearing aids. The build quality is superb and although I won’t spend a long time with them, I know that they will last a long time.
I am actually quite undecided as to whether I like this cable. While it is very supple and easy to use, the strain relief on the jack is quite loose and the cable is thin and I keep on thinking that it may break after a while of normal use. The ear guides are very comfortable, but the memory function is terrible and it is very hard to mould them to the shape of your ear.
This is the reason why most people buy IEMs, for their sound. After writing all that, we are finally at the sound section. I will be breaking this part into a few sections like in my previous reviews and as you will soon see, I am still unsure as to whether I like it or not but if you are a basshead or looking for a neutral IEM, this is not it.
Being a dynamic driver, I was expecting quite a lot of bass despite the reviews that I had read. While the bass is very nice, these do not nearly have as much bass as a typical dynamic driver IEM; it actually reminded me of a greatly improved TWFK driver. While this does not have much impact, the quality is exceptional and it does reach far down and has some rumble. It really does have great control, better than most BA IEMs that I have heard, but I find myself longing for a harder impact. Now that the quantity part is over, let’s get to the quality. All I can say is that it is great! The details are easily made out and is very fast, not having any bloat whatsoever on any songs that I threw at it. The bass was exceptional, being punchy, fast and full of detail but lacked impact IMO. However, some people will prefer the less bassy sound of the EX1000 compared to other IEMs.
The mids are absolutely wonderful IMO of course. They are a bit on the thin side and female vocals sound realistic and very lifelike. They are very textured and I feel like I can hear the singer more clearly compared to the similarly priced Westone 4 for example. When I first heard them, the mids were shrill and overly thin, but after ten minutes of listening, my ears adapted and they sounded absolutely awesome. OK, now to male vocals, where things start to get a bit dodgy. They sound a bit thin and much less realistic than female vocals. They are, however, still extremely enjoyable and there are still tons of detail. There was a bit of sibilance, but it isn’t annoying to me. Vocal separation was simply astonishing. I didn’t expect them to be so good, being the best that I’ve heard other than the UM Miracle, Rhapsodio RDB v1 and the AKG K3003, all of which are more expensive. They certainly pass with flying colours in the mids even though male vocals did not sound as convincing as they could be. The other aspects more than made up for it.
This is the section that I am still almost completely undecided on. The treble has a boost and has extra sparkle, a tiny bit similar to TWFK based drivers, but much less sibilant but I do feel like for me personally it is too much and it makes everything sound overly sharp. I do find that sometimes cymbals linger a bit too long and dominate in parts of music where it isn’t supposed to. Sure, I do like a slightly brighter that neutral treble, but this is just too much for me, but not by much. It is still enjoyable. The detail in the treble however, is great and you can hear the cymbals crashing very clearly and it is packed with detail. It extends very high and you don’t feel like you are missing anything at all. The treble problem is mainly with just the cymbals and other instruments such as the trumpet are rendered realistically, without an excessive treble boost. Once again, I feel like the treble is a bit too exaggerated but I’m sure that there are others who feel differently.
The presentation of the EX1000 is something that I really enjoyed. The soundstage is extremely large and I really can picture a stage in front of me, with the performers not too close and in your face nor too far.
I personally perceive accuracy as how similar it sounds to a live presentation and I’m glad to say that the Sony EX1000 has done well. It has a treble boost as mentioned above and I do find that as a result of that, it colours the sounds, but for the better or worse is for you to decide depending on what your preferences are. It does still sound realistic but it is not for someone looking for a neutral IEM.
Imaging and Soundstage
As mentioned above, the soundstage is very good for an IEM, one of the largest soundstages that I have heard in an IEM, up to the level of the Sennheiser IE8 if I remember correctly. This is the first IEM that I have ever heard that I think might beat the IE8.
The imaging is certainly one of its strong points and you can easily point out where everything is, but I have heard better imaging from some IEMs, but not by much.
This is the part that I was shocked the most – in a good way thankfully. It performed well out of it’s price range and did well on whatever track I threw at it. I don’t own the Westone 4, but from when I heard it a while ago, the separation on this is significantly better if I remember correctly. On congested tracks, it never gets too hard to tell each instrument from the other.
This does have a lot of tiny details, but if you listen to a TOTL IEM, you will realise that these are still missing the minute microdetails. I am not surprised however, with these costing less than half of most TOTL IEMs. This does make it more forgiving of badly mastered tracks which can be both interpreted as good and bad. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Audio is really about your sound signature, what type of sound you like. For example, while I found the highs of these a bit shrill, you might find them just right. I would recommend that you try them before you buy them. After a few hours of listening to music, my ears have grown accustomed to the bright sound. I do believe that Sony has produced a world class IEM and priced it correctly, making it good value for money. I would recommend these to people who like a brighter sound signature and don’t mind the low level of isolation.