My #1000 post
It is not often that you will find an IEM so radically designed, yet it feels so familiar in your heart. This is how I felt when I first saw SA6, the little jewel from Sleek Audio.
We head-fi’er are no stranger to customization and modification. If there is a way to improve or just merely change the sound quality of a headphone, there will be ships’ load of us holding our Dremel and screw driver waiting to get a piece of the action. I guess it is why we are head-fi’er, or why we become head-fi’er in the first place – we are searching for that little something we feel missing in our music, and we are willing to spend the time, effort or money just to get that sonic blessing into our ear. In fact, we might just as well make ourselves a world record if by figuring out how many pair of KSC75 being destroyed or rebirth in the hands of head-fi’ers!
What interested me about the SA6 isn’t the fact that you can mod it. After all, we have been mod’ing our ‘phones for quite sometime now. Even the sound of IEM can be tweaked just by changing the tips, filter, cable, or impedance. However, the most novel thing about the SA6 is how the folks over at Sleek Audio are able to take the idea of customization one step further than what we have now – by creating a standard platform for customization. For that, they should be credited.
I hope that other IEM manufacturers can also learn from SA6 example and allow an easy way for people to fine tune the IEM’s sound to their liking (instead of relying of customers’ own innovative idea to come along or just let them be disappointed and move on).
Enough being said, here is my SA6 impression:Package
Nothing spectacular here, just a paper box with a clear window showing the speaker units with both the = ports inserted. SA6 definitely lacks the ‘wow’ factor on the packaging at first glance. However, I have been fooled by many shiny packages before and therefore it doesn’t really concern me anymore.Content
Inside, you will also find all the – and + ports underneath the speaker units ‘hold’ on another foam, along with both the small and large bi-flanges. The Treble++ is on a small plastic bag. You will also find the cable on the smaller compartment on the left and the hard case on the right. There is also a cleaning too for you to take clear the wax and dust that get into the ports. You can tell the whole package is screaming out the idea of sleekness as many parts are chromed.
One of the first things I notice is my cable has no left/right indicator (both sides have some kind of ‘L’ sign). Eventually I figure out the correct channel (which later I painted the cable myself). No sure what went wrong here, but I think this is just a bit annoying.
The included case is worthy as an art piece for its beauty, but as an art piece it doesn’t work very well as a carrying case. The socket is too shallow to actually hold the speaker units in place and they will move around when I am trying to warp the cable around the base. Also, the headphone jack is larger than most normal jack (due to the chromed plastic cover) and doesn’t fit into the base too well (needs a slight bit of force). I love to see my SA6 in the included hard case on my desktop as a show piece, but I will definitely consider another case for portability. On the other hand, the small compartment that holds an extra set of ports is a good idea, just that the treble ports are too loose in the socket. Extra caution is needed to avoid losing ports accidentallyIsolation
Believe it or not, SA6 is more isolating (2~3dB) than ER6i on tri-flanges!Comfort
For a person that don't find tri-flanges to be annoying, I guess there is no flanges/tips/foam in the world that i will find uncomfortable with. However, I do find the included bi-flanges to be very soft and comfortable to use.
The angled cable plug also works out really well as I am able to wear it with different style and don't find any of them to be uncomfortable. Microphonic is about average but wearing the cable over the ear will solve the problem.Sonic Impression
I am going to use ER6i as my reference of comparison. My rig is iriver clix with XM3.
If you think ER6i is bass shy, than I can assure you Bass- has even less bass than that. It feels like you are missing the entire lower spectrum in your music, yet the mid is still present (quite a strange way of listening music if you ask me).
Bass= port give slightly stronger bass than 6i. Coupled with the fuller mid, it certainly has a much fuller body than Ety. The fuller body does mud up the bass clarity/accuracy a bit, but shouldn’t be too much of a concern unless you want to get clinical bass like Ety has.
Bass+ is on another lead of its own (compare to the other two ports). The muddy bottom is out, fully replaced by a bass that is deep, tight and punchy at the same time. Without the muddy bass, the mid is totally opened up. I can still hear the relatively full body, but now with speed and accuracy. The most magical thing about the bass+ port is its ability to give a slight touch of soundstage and airiness into the music. For a moment or two, I actually have a sense of soundstage which I can only find on earbuds and headphones.
Treble- isn’t too bad on its own. It wasn’t as dull as what I thought it would be (when compare to 6i). I will like to describe the sound as EP-630 like: roll off but still smooth.
Treble= compare well to 6i, but lack a bit of spark that you will generally find on Ety. Imagine ER6i ever takes on a smoother personality – this will be how Treble= will sound like.
Treble+ has more spark and treble extension than 6i and iM716 (or maybe it is a more pronouns treble), yet it isn’t harsh at all. The fuller mid/bass sometime does cover up a bit of detail, but I believe there are still enough left to be enjoyed by an Ety lover.
Treble++ holds nothing back on the treble aspect. I find it slightly harsher than what I like (or can bear). This won’t be too much of a problem if you have a warm source, but if you have a bright source than it might become a bit overwhelming (as in the case of my clix2, which is why I am using clix and not clix2 for this review).
My top choice of ports are Bass+ / Treble+. Overall sonic presentation composes of a punchy bass, full/warm yet well defined mid and detail treble. I will switch to Treble++ when I am looking for extra spark.[Note]
Wonder why those ports change the sound so much? Here are my explanation:
Bass ports serve like bass chamber of a full size speaker. Bass- provides no space for bass reverberation (sealed at the front). Bass= is sealed at the back, where the whole tube becomes a bass chamber. The Bass+ is sealed at the front but there is a small hole that allows the balanced armature to ‘breathe’, thus creating a more powerful yet clearer bass.
Treble ports are mainly different in the type of filter used inside. Treble- has what seems to multi layer fabric like filter. Treble= has single layer densely crisscrossed filter. Treble+ has a mesh like filter. Treble++ has no filter at all. Basically, the material of the filter determines how much treble will be absorbed.*
It is important to know that using the Treble++ ports means no filter between your earwax and the balance armature unit. Therefore one must clean his/her ear regularly to avoid clotting when using such port.
] If any of you ever found that the bass seems more dull in one channel when using the Bass+ port, most likely the tiny hole is blocked. Remove the Bass+ port and use a small pin to clear out any clot. The massive bass will come right back.Conclusion
I like both the SQ and the idea behind SA6 a lot. It certainly is one of the best single balanced armature IEM I have ever heard. I am not sure whether it will compare well to multi ways IEM since I don’t have one to A/B to. Other SA6 owners have said that SA6 is at least on par with some of the best two/three way universal IEM they own. I value their opinion and believe there is some true to their claim based on my experience with SA6. In any case, I am planning on getting the Westone UM2 in about one month, so be sure to check back for more comparison. In the mean time, my recommendation goes to SA6 and kudos to Sleek Audio’s folks for the wonderful IEM they bring us.
P/S. I had had a bit of trouble with my SA6 from the beginning and Jason was very helpful in trying to solve my problem. For that, here is another kudos to Sleek Audio.Suggestion
If I am allowed to voice my suggestion/opinion about future development of SA6, here they will be:
- I will like to see some real metal/alloy instead of chromed plastic (especially on the IEM unit and the jack). It will be a lot more elegant and most likely more durable.
- Color marking of L/R channel, even if they are just a small dot.
- Sell filters (or treble ports) of the same tune in one package, instead of three different tune in one package. I am sticking to the T+ port therefore I don’t want to buy a package with only one set of port that I am going to use while the other two set go to waste. A bag of three T+ ports seems more reasonable to me.
- I like to see better cable, like those find on custom IEM. Maybe a bit of memory cable too?
I came across this in-depth SA6 review on techpowerup.com (by FrederikS|TPU
), which is quite detail and full of pictures. Those of you who are interested can read on
BTW, sorry about the longish post