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Review: the Cyclone PR1 Pro - Another $50 bang/buck heavyweight

post #1 of 244
Thread Starter 
Just got home for the first time this weekend and found a nice surprise waiting for me - my review sample of the new Cyclone PR1 Pro earphone.

Cyclone is pretty unknown around these parts, but in Asia they are a well-known manufacturer of headphone amps. Released just last month, the PR1 Pro is their new budget-oriented in-ear monitor. With a $50 price tag, the PR1 Pro is a contender in a market that, while dominated by a few major players just two or so years ago, has grown considerably in both the number of offerings and consumer interest.

According to the manufacturer, the 'PR' in PR1 stands for 'Pop & Rock'. The PR1 Pro apparently differs from the PR1 by offering a J-cord setup and metal nozzles instead of plastic ones. The impedance is higher (32Ω vs 20Ω) and the sensitivity lower (106 db vs 110 db).

I will write up a proper first impression in a few days time [Edit: now posted]. Suffice it to say that I think these could beat out the Soundmagic PL50 as the $50 Chinese earphone to own.

Technical Specifications:

-Type: Dynamic Driver
-Driver Diameter: 10.77mm
-Impedance: 32Ω
-Sensitivity: 106dB
-Frequency Range: 20~22000Hz
-Distortion: <= 1%
-Stereo Separation: <= 3% @ 1000Hz
-Rated Power: 10mW
-Max. Power: 40mW
-Plug: 3.5mm, straight
-Cord length: 1.3 meters
-Cord type: j-cord

Included accessories:

-Instruction manual & specsheet (in Chinese)
-S/M/L clear single-flange silicone tips
-black bi-flange silicone tips (identical to those that come with the Soundmagic PL30)
-Generic shirt clip
-Small clamshell hardcase



And now a few money shots:






Appearance & Build Quality

The Cyclone PR1 Pros utilize a two-piece housing, with the rear of the shell being a somewhat conical asymmetric plastic piece with a seal “fin” and the rest being made of metal. I wouldn’t call them handsome, but they aren’t repulsive, either. The metal nozzles are sturdy and I have no worries about snapping them off when changing tips. The metal-mesh filters are also a welcome change from the paper filters many other Chinese manufacturers use. Unfortunately, I can see the glue used to secure the filters in place, but at least it seems to be holding both at the filters and at the housing seam.

The biggest flaw I can already see with these is the lack of strain reliefs on the cords at the housing entry points. Although the cables seem sturdy, they are quite thin and I wouldn’t feel confident throwing these around the way I do with some of my other IEMs (for testing purposes, of course). I imagine strain reliefs were not utilized to allow more flexibility in terms of fit, but I do wish Cyclone had come up with a compromise that inspires more confidence in the longevity of the PR1 Pros.

Fit & Comfort

The PR1 Pros are very light and small. The tapered housing gives them an unobtrusive fit and the lack of a strain relief means they can easily be worn cord-up or cord-down. The included single flange tips are fairly standard, but the biflanges are my favorites. They are identical to the Soundmagic PL30 biflanges, which are the tips I normally use on all my IEMs, partially because they are a wide-channel silicone tips and add little additional coloration to the sound, and partially because I can always get a good seal with them. The only drawback I can see with the PR1 Pros is the asymmetrical j-cord setup, which sometimes makes it difficult to wear the PR1 Pros over-the-ear since there is no weight on the cord on the right side. Luckily, the cord is plenty long (1.3 meters to the shorter side) unlike the cord on, for example, the Hisoundaudio PAA-1 earbuds, which forces me to keep my mp3 player in my left pocket.

Isolation & Microphonics

The Cyclones are dynamic-driver IEMs and are ported on the side of the housing for increased air flow. Despite this, the isolation they provide is perfectly adequate for my daily commute. I did not feel the need to raise the volume when stepping out onto a busy street. Frequent flyers may want to look elsewhere, but for the average commuter the PR1 is perfectly competent.

As for microphonics, they are almost nonexistent in the nicely rubberized cord. The noise-conducting properties of the cord are very similar to those of Soundmagic cables, which I consider some of the best in the realm of budget-fi.


Edit (11/10/09): Final Impressions added


Sound

Testing Setup
All on-the-go listening was done straight from an unamped Sansa Fuze using a selection of tracks in 256-320kbps mp3 format featuring a variety of genres including different subgenres of Rock & Metal, Pop, Acoustic, Blues, Jazz, and Electronica. Benefits of a portable amp are deduced from running the earphones through a 5x gain mini3 connected to the Fuze via a vampire-wire LOD. All critical listening is done via an optical-fed iBasso D10 with stock opamps using a wider selection of tracks in FLAC and Windows Media lossless formats.


Well, these have now been in my possession a whole two weeks. And man do I like them. Now, the very first thing I notice when I switch to these from any other IEM in my collection is the lateral size and airiness of the soundstage. For a $50 IEM, the soundstage is very large. Even larger (in comparison) is the headstage – with the right tracks, these can really give an out-of-the-head sound. Positioning is good but the soundstage is so large that they can sometimes sound... diffuse. As a result, many people will likely not find them engaging enough – forward and aggressive these most definitely are not.

What they are is poised and balanced. They don’t have a terribly sparkly high end or deep, in-your-face bass. Rather, it is all carefully portioned out and delivered in deliciously ‘correct’ morsels. The bass will not jump at you, but on tracks where the bass goes deep enough, these will go down with it. Due to the laid-back nature of their entire signature, these allowed me to hear some subtle mid-bass lines that I had not heard before on certain tracks. When the track calls for treble, these will carefully measure out the correct amount and place it properly in the sonic image.

All in all, these are quite laid-back-sounding earphones, with very gentle roll off on either end and a wide soundstage, which together give them a unique and gentle sound at their price point. The clarity and separation are outstanding and the level of detail they put out is quite good for the price. These are especially good at providing background music for (my) everyday life – they never impose and yet I never doze off while wearing them. Lovers of open-air recordings will be especially pleased.

Value

I was told that these would retail at around $50+shipping, and for that price they offer something very, very unique – a detailed, natural, dynamic, and yet laid-back sound signature that I have become such a huge fan of over the past few weeks. My previous favorite relaxation earphones were the RE0s, but honestly – I could live with just the Cyclones for those purposes. The build, accessory set, and comfort are all competent. Somehow, the fact that there is nothing aggressive about the way these are packaged or designed just jives with the sound signature of the phones. Worth mentioning again is the J-cord setup, which some may find unacceptable. I've learned to live with it and it doesn't bother me at all anymore. In any case, it is a sacrifice worth making purely for the sound and, after all, isn't that what head-fi is all about?
post #2 of 244
They look pretty good, I shall wait on your impression.
post #3 of 244
Interested in some more impressions as well. They BA or dynamic?
post #4 of 244
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChroniCali View Post
Interested in some more impressions as well. They BA or dynamic?
Dynamic.. edited first post, thanks.
post #5 of 244
I'm interested in your impressions and how they compare to the Skullcandy Titans you have coming in. I wonder if we'll hear the same things? Thanks Mike!
post #6 of 244
Youre right, they are popular on asia. I havent seen any reviews of them yet. I hope they become so popular here.
post #7 of 244
They're certainly a good looking pair. Looking forward to your review of it
post #8 of 244
Hmmm... Interested in what you think as well... Where didcha get em?
I have a Cyclone PR2 (got em for around $70) and I concur with james444 (from his review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/i...5-pl50-441431/ ) in saying that it has GREAT bass and more then acceptable general SQ (ample wide-ish soundstage, detailed but cold-ish mids, extended but grainy highs) out of my Nokia 5800, especially when amped through my lowly E5.

With little treble boost on EQ, it works pretty well for the entire spectrum of my musical needs (Trance - Pop - Rock) as well.

I don't own and have not yet heard the IE8, M5 and FX500 to claim that they are THE BEST for bass as he did though, but I can very well imagine these being an interesting new alternative to the C710/FX500/CKS70 triumvirate.

The only negative about them, is that build quality is about the same level as the old Crossroads Mylarone X3i, IMHO.

Why?

Because the PR2s I had literally came apart in my hands within the first half-an-hour of ownership. Oh the horror.

Those with the old batch PL50s (the ones with the problematic foamies) would know the kind of damage I'm talking about. But in this case, it was caused by me removing a silicone tip - which is not even THAT tight... *sigh*

Anyhow, the drivers weren't damaged AT ALL - and my set came with "ship it
back to China at your own cost and try to make us repair it" kinda warranty - so I promptly epoxy glued the whole mess together, and popped the other side open just as easily to epoxy it to heck as well (though I'm kicking myself in the nuts for not modding the insides better when I had them open - there wasn't any strain relief knots on the wires, as far as I could see).

I hope the build has improved (even a bit) on the PR1 Pros, because as far as SQ is concerned, whatever else I have (the PL50s and the Music Valley SP1s - all priced so very near one another) are simply nothing near the PR2s.
post #9 of 244
The metal sound tubes are nice. I guess the build will depend on how the two pieces are attached together. I like that they don't have that housing with the stem like the Grado iGi does. These can more easily be worn both ways if one so chooses.
post #10 of 244
Thread Starter 
First impressions added.

eiraku, you are perfectly correct in questioning the build quality - that lack of strain reliefs is a major concern. Will see how they hold up the long run - I'm not exactly babying them.
post #11 of 244
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljokerl View Post
First impressions added.

eiraku, you are perfectly correct in questioning the build quality - that lack of strain reliefs is a major concern. Will see how they hold up the long run - I'm not exactly babying them.
Not exactly babying my epoxy-ed PR2s either, and it seems that besides the very limited strain reliefs, the thing is actually holding out quite well to my kind of abuse. Maybe it was just the glue.

It would be heck if they released a Pro version of the PR2 though, and addressed the problems on the 2...
post #12 of 244
@ljokerl: Thanks, looking forward to your full review!

@eiraku: No problem with build quality of my PR2s so far *knocks on wood* - must have been the glue.

X2 on a Pro version of the PR2
post #13 of 244
Thread Starter 
Full impressions added!
post #14 of 244
Chiming in with my impression as I also have a review sample.

I might agree that these might be the $50 phone to beat. Things are moving so fast now though.

These are not the PR2. These are for the PL50, RE0 crowd that lean toward the neutral/slightly warmish side. The PR2 are for the bassier crowd.

I feel the PR1 Pro trounce the RE0 in soundstage and bring in just plain better bass and mids. Detail is a bit less as is the treble extension but not that great of a gap. I also tested with added impedance to counter the RE0's advantage there and might say they are close to even that way. Possibly 90% of the RE0 clarity/transparency, 85% of the detail, as much separation, larger soundstage, more impact and extension down low, similar tightness and speed to the bass. The Cyclone might have better imaging and a little more depth. I feel they are 85% of the RE0 overall and pretty much even with added impedance where one has more bass reach/bass quality while the other has more treble reach/treble quality. I would say the Pro build quality is slightly less than the RE0.

No, I don't have the RE0 still to directly compare but it was one of my more recent phones. I did compare to the ER4S which are still better than the RE0 for detail and transparency(RE0 at best matches the ER4P). The RE0 beats the S in soundstage and nothing else for sound quality.

They are easily worn both ways and have a bit better than average isolation. The J-cord is not popular with many but it does make it easy to identify R/L esp. in the dark and you can hang them around your neck if you need to take them out. Like ljokerl said, microphonics and bone conduction are handled nicely even worn straight(of course better over the ear).

I believe that ljokerl did trade his RE0 and replaced them with the Pro for his "relaxation earphones". If I didn't already sell mine, I would have have sold mine now. Though I would say that for me, they are fun, involving phones more than relaxing. They are totally non-fatiguing and smooth, yet crisp, where the RE0 can be harsh with some recordings or if cranked unamped. So, I see the relaxing part but they are more exciting and fun than the RE0 hands down.
post #15 of 244
Whoa, incoming from the RE0 crowd. Sounds very interesting, and maybe worth a purchase for that "laid back" phone. Very interesting. Things are moving fast.
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