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[Pictorial Review] Head-Direct's RE2

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
I just received the Head-direct's RE2 which Fang sent to me for review. Although the RE2 is still in the process of burning, I thought I shared some photo shots with y'all first. A full review will be posted once I got at least 50 hours on RE2. Stay tuned.


A present from China on April Fool's day



Fang sent me a sample package with the IEM (with mid size tips) plus an extension cable. The full retail package should have more content in it (obviously).



The extension cable is really classic, with real nickel plated metal on both end.



Gonna love shiny metal



Yes, it does say Head-direct



Really look good in person


The jack on the 'phone is iPhone friendly



Even the Y junction is made up with Nickel plated metal part. Really a plus on over all quality.



Pretty high quality build on the 'bud



Another shot. Yes, those are vent hole on the back. More on these will be in the review.
post #2 of 103
Thread Starter 
Here is Fang's RE2 announcement with a bit of impression.

Early Impression
My initial impression of RE2 is (as I told my brother who just happened to be on my side when I listen to it for the first time): "Wow, this IEM sounds like US$100 kind of 'phones". Mind you, I didn't even know the retail price (or Fang's thread) before I received the package.

Fang told me the retail price after the group buy will be around $119 - Not a bad price considered its performance so far, definitely fits into my early impression that this shouldn't be a sub$100 IEM. However, those of you who are currently looking for a sub$100 IEM should really get into the group buy. For $80, this is a steal.

Full Review
A common mistake by many is to automatically associate bad quality with every headphone that labeled ‘made in China’, despite the fact that most ‘phones and parts these days are OEM’ed in China. The fact is, China has one of the largest (if not the largest) and most active headphone industry in the world. A company that is once nameless, like Yuin, can appear suddenly in this land and shock the world with high quality headphones that we have never seen before. This is a true testament showing that even with out any fancy design or material, we can still find the best in sound quality in those ‘made-in-China’ headphones. However, we are not here to talk about any Yuin, rather a new canalphone from the company which brought Yuin out of China. I present to y’all: Head-Direct’s RE2.

As the story went, I was PM’ed a few weeks ago by Fang @ Head-Direct asking if I would like to do some review on what will become his company own IEM (and of course I agreed immediately). It is the same IEM that those of you who visited NYC meet last month saw and demo’ed (plus those who were lucky enough to buy it for $50) on Head-Direct’s table: The RE2.

Package & Build Quality
The sample package arrived on April Fools’ day. Although it was just a sample package with out any fancy box or extra accessory, I was impressed by the really nice finish on the IEM and the material after I took it out.

The IEM earpieces resemble the generic design found on many old Sony’s IEMs. However, RE2 spots a very classy, glossy piano finish, instead of the dull matte Sony like finish. A chromed plastic vent holes’ cover are located on the back of the earpiece to allow air movement (which increase soundstage and bass response, more on this later).


As you can see on my pictures, the Y-junction, split-stopper, and as well as both end of the extension cable are made out of nickel plated metal pieces, giving the IEM an even better look. However, I find the extension cable to be a bit over weight (due to the metal) and a bit difficult to use. It tend to weight the whole IEM down (when used together of course) thus making the earpiece fall out from the canal much easily, especially of the single flange. I think either wearing the IEM with shirt clip or in over-the-ear style should fix this.

The cable used on RE2 is above your average iBud cable’s quality. It resembles (though not as high quality as) that has been used on Sennheiser high end MX series – a kind of bendable cable that can afford more wear and tear (see my MX90vc review for more info). The length is on the short side: 100cm (or 40inches) on the main cable and 78cm (or 31 inches) on extension. Personally, I’ll like a 120cm (or 48 inches) main cable.

On a minor note, all the marking on the metal pieces can be easily rubbed off (not that it will affect SQ or what not).

Isolation
Not the strongest point of this RE2. With my own UE bi-flanges, I’ll say RE2 is about 3dB less isolation than EP-630 or CX300. The fact that they are semi-open (vent holes, remember?) probably allow more sound to leak-in. Fang has told me the larger bi-flanges in full retail package will provide more isolation, but since I didn’t have one to test it out I’ll have to wait for Fang to sent me a pair before I draw my conclusion. The good thing is, the isolation is good enough on normal use. Those who do not like to have too much isolation will find RE2 to be just right. Those who do concern about isolation, I’ll recommend the Comply T400 foam tips.

[UPDATE]Finally got the bi-flanges Fang send me along with the new RE1. I swap out my UE bi-flange and test it out on the RE2 and the isolation is indeed better. Now it provides roughly 20~23dB of noise reduction (the original tips has about 16~18dB on it). The magic in these bi-flanges lies in the different thickness b/w the first and second flanges: The first flange is soft and comfortable in the canal but not as isolating, while the second flange is thicker thus provides the necessary isolation and shielding the canal opening from the outside. Also worth noting is that the bi-flanges also kick out slightly more bass.


Sound Quality
The first thing that jumps into my mind on my first audition (before any burn in or knowing its retail price) is, RE2 spots an expensive SQ that separates it from most sub$100 IEM. If I dare to say, this little pair of IEM can provide SQ close to that typically found in the mid-class IEM.

My review rig consists of Sony D-EJ1000 PCDP to Firestone Audio Little Country amp (tweaked for maximize detail/soundstage) via line-out. IEMs of choice for A/Bing are iM716 (original) and SA6 (B+ and T++ ports). RE2 has been burn-in for 50hrs via different genre of music.

Robbie Williams’s Have You Met Miss Jones? from album ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary: Music From The Motion Picture’

As always, iM716 gives the best detail and treble extension. What are lacking are the fullness of Robbie’s vocal and a warmer mid-bass transition, even in the Bass mode. Also quite noticeable is the very narrow soundstage.

The fullness of Robbie’s vocal has found his way back to the RE2. Bass impact equals (or a bit better than) that of iM716 in HD mode but with a fuller/warmer tone. A highlight on the lower region high emphasizing the saxophone’s detail but doesn’t extend as far as iM716. A smooth and detail sound that is more fun to listen than iM716 yet preserves enough analytical quality overall.

SA6 is the most sensitive among the three. The treble extension is compatible to that of iM716, but slightly harsher (due to the fact that I am using T++ port. Shouldn’t be a problem if T+ port is used). The mid and bass is just spot on. Definitely the best sounding overall among the three.

Sara Bareilles’s Bottle It Up from album ‘Little Voice’

iM716 performs better on the female’s vocal than male’s. A sturdy performance resembles that of the first song, but better.

For RE2, the lower high region is noticeably over emphasized, causing a slight harshness to the female vocal. However, the SQ isn’t too fatiguing since RE2’s treble doesn’t go as far.

Harshness on the treble region is worst on SA6 (reason listed on first song).

Diana Krall’s Isn’t This a Lovely Day from album ‘From This Moment On’

iM716 is quite airy, presenting the instrument perfectly on the background. RE2 are warmer thus Diana Krall’s is sexier in comparison. Again, SA6 wins this round by giving a sound that is both detail and warm, which is just great on Diana Krall.

Sara Bareilles’s Bottle It Up from album ‘Little Voice’ [Ampless, headphone out from iriver clix (warm), wma vbr on second highest setting]

With out the amp, iM716 takes a major hit on SQ as the lean mid – bass is even leaner now. iM716’s sound signature becomes quite dull and lifeless.

For RE2, the lower high region is no longer over emphasized. SQ resembles that of the first song. A sense of airiness can be detected. Better performance than on second song.

SA6 has a full mid that is very different from RE2 airiness. It may be a bit too warm for this particular song (or source). Treble and bass impact are still better than the other two.

Conclusion
Head-Direct’s RE2 isn’t as detail as iM716, nor is it has a very fun and full sound like that of SA6. However RE2 does have a SQ that compromises the better part of both. It is detail enough to show spark, but not to a point of fatiguing. The bass might not be strong, but it is not lean. The mid has a feeling of airiness in it, but warm enough to still be fun and lively.

All in all, I find RE2 to be a much better IEM than ER6i and unamped iM716, and almost on par with my amped iM716. It might not be able to match up with SA6, but it certainly has a very solid and compatible performance directly out of a DAP. I believe it will be most suitable for those who are looking for a top-end entry class IEM with kind of an analytical SQ, plus a bit of fun element in it. Definitely worth the $119 retail price and it is a steal for the current $80 group buy.

[UPDATE] Since the review, Head-Direct has changed the cable design. Now it is one piece instead of two.
post #3 of 103
Damn they look nice, can't wait to see the RE1s..
post #4 of 103
oh, the extension cable looks nice.

RE2 is kind of a looker compared to PK series

I'm very curious how it would stack up with PK1/2 in performance.

can't wait for your review~
post #5 of 103
I personally find that the cable and everything looks nice... up until the point of the buds itself.
IMO, it looks a little cheapo and looks actually pretty weird with the vent holes
post #6 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TSi View Post
IMO, it looks a little cheapo and looks actually pretty weird with the vent holes
It is just a variation of the generic Sony design. Instead of a solid cover like that of a Sony, there is the vent holes cover in place.
post #7 of 103
Thread Starter 
Have a look at this: RE2 w/ bi-flanges (which I didn't received in my package, reason on first post).

In comparison, RE2's finish is much better looking than that of Sony (not the mention the SQ is worlds apart). I am using UE bi-flanges on mine.
post #8 of 103
Thread Starter 
Can't really beat this guy: Frederik seems to race ahead again (first the SA6 and now this?) and posted his RE2 review on techPowerUp!.

A good quality review again, Frederik! *Thumb up*

(now people will think I am stealing your idea since our opinion seems to resemble each other )
post #9 of 103
Doesn't look like the Shure Black Olives will fit, is there anything that would give me a similar fit?
post #10 of 103
Thread Starter 
You'll probably have to remove the inner tube in olive to make it fit. On the other hand, you can give some cash to Comply and get the T400. They might not last as long as olive, but they do provide a more comfy seal.
post #11 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
Can't really beat this guy: Frederik seems to race ahead again (first the SA6 and now this?) and posted his RE2 review on techPowerUp!.

A good quality review again, Frederik! *Thumb up*

(now people will think I am stealing your idea since our opinion seems to resemble each other )
Hehe ClieOS
I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the headphones!

Consensus is always a good thing, that way you know that you are making good assessments.

Sweet pictures btw

Cheers,
Frederik
post #12 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
You'll probably have to remove the inner tube in olive to make it fit. On the other hand, you can give some cash to Comply and get the T400. They might not last as long as olive, but they do provide a more comfy seal.
Thankyou, I just might do that. With the humid summer weather on the way in NYC, ya can't have too many IEMs.
post #13 of 103
Thread Starter 
Finally, the full review is up. Go ahead and read the second post.

Enjoy
post #14 of 103
Nice review.
post #15 of 103
Still burning in my RE2s, want to hit 50 hours of white noise, then I will give them a try. Always fun trying new phones.
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