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Review: ECCI PR100 and PR200 - Cyclone's Fresh Start

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
Intro

Anyone who has spent more than a few days around head-fi’s portable forum has probably heard of the Cyclone PR1 Pro, one of my favourite budget IEMs of all time. Though I originally got my hands on the little wonders entirely by coincidence, I quickly fell in love with their amazingly balanced and easy-going sound. Even more amazing was the price, which started dipping below $50 just months after their release.

But just as interest in the Cyclones started to grow, availability dwindled. The earphone arm of Cyclone, a well-known Chinese manufacturer of headphone amps, began a rebranding process. All existing models were dropped and two new models were announced under the new ECCI brand, the PR100 and PR200. According to the manufacturer, the 'PR' in the model designations stands for 'Pop & Rock'. The pricier PR200 is tuned differently from the PR100, boasting higher impedance (55Ω vs 16Ω) and slightly more refined overall sound. Naturally, I put in an order for one of each.

Fast forward three weeks and there they were, in the same tiny square packaging as the old PR1 Pro, white for the PR100 and black for the PR200.



Included accessories:



-S/M/L clear narrow-tube single-flange silicone tips
-S/M/L clear wide-tube single-flange silicone tips
-Generic shirt clip
-Large square clamshell hardcase

Appearance & Build Quality



As is obvious from the photos, the PR100 and PR200 look identical. Indeed, except for the etched model numbers on the front of the housings, all elements of the construction are shared by the two earphones. Not necessarily a bad thing as the new housings are very impressive. The sturdy two-piece metal shells have a nice weight to them and feel quite solid. They look good, too, with the gunmetal finish on the rear part of the shells and brushed aluminum on the front. Mesh filters are placed at the end of the unusually long nozzles of the earphones. Despite the added length, I have no fear of snapping off the nozzles when changing tips. The brand-new dark-grey TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) cable is thick and sturdy, with proper strain reliefs on cable entry and a functional cord cinch. If there is one qualm I have with the construction it is the translucent plastic sheath on the 3.5mm plug. Calling it a strain relief in any sense of the word is an overstatement – the hard-edged piece of plastic is more likely to damage to the cord than protect it in case of a snag. But of course this is a small problem in an otherwise very well-built budget earphone.

Fit & Comfort



The extra-long sound tube of the new ECCI models allows the earphones to be inserted deeply without pressing the wearer’s ear into the housings - a good thing as the front edges of the shells are rather sharp. Short strain reliefs and elongated bodies make the earphones easy to wear cord-up as well as cord-down. I also rather like ECCI’s approach to tip choice. To halt the endless battle of Shure vs UE-style tips, the PR100 and PR200 include a full set of each – 3 sizes of elongated narrower-tube Shure tips and 3 sizes of shorter wider-tube UE tips. The bi-flange tips that come with the PR1 Pro are not included but with the long sound tubes of the ECCI models they aren’t much use anyway. With either type of the stock single-flanges the earphones are quite comfortable for prolonged listening sessions.



Isolation & Microphonics

The aforementioned deep insertion of the earphones also boosts isolation above what one would expect for a ported straight-barrel dynamic. Though the bottom-facing ports of the PR100 and PR200 are smaller than those of the PR1 Pro, they are just as susceptible to wind noise as the older model. But isolation with the simple single flange tips is a tad better than what the PR1 was capable of with bi-flanges.

Microphonics are the one area where the j-corded PR1 Pro has an advantage. The y-corded PR100/PR200 aren’t particularly exercise-friendly when worn cable-down, carrying a fair bit of noise up the cords. Using the cord cinch and included shirt clip helps quite a lot and wearing them over-the-ear eliminates the problem entirely, but for those diametrically opposed to such solutions, the earphones may not be an ideal choice.

Sound

Technical Specifications (PR100 / PR200):
-Type: Dynamic Driver
-Driver Diameter: 9mm
-Impedance: 16Ω / 55Ω
-Sensitivity: 102dB/mW
-Frequency Range: 20~20,000Hz
-Max. Input Power: 40mW
-Plug: 3.5mm, straight
-Cord length: 1.4 meters
-Cord type: y-cord

Testing Setup
All on-the-go listening was done straight from an unamped Sansa Fuze using a selection of tracks in 192-320kbps 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 significantly wider selection of tracks in FLAC and Windows Media lossless formats.

Stemming naturally from my affection for the PR1 Pro were my high expectations for the sound of the PR100/PR200. But comparing them to the PR1s was a mistake. The sound of the PR1 Pro is a uniquely balanced combination of wide soundstage, tonal accuracy, clarity, and detail that is completely out of place even at their original $50 price point. Though comparisons to the PR1 Pro are unavoidable, the PR100 and PR200 go after a more mainstream market at a lower price point and should therefore be evaluated on their own merits.

The general sound signature of the new models emphasizes balance without giving up the fun factor. The bass on both extends to 30Hz or so before dropping off, not reaching into the sub-bass quite as well as the PR1, but performing respectably for the asking price. There is a bit of mid-bass emphasis (greater in the PR100 than PR200) but it is miniscule next to IEMs such as the Ai-M6 and VSonic R02ProII - the overall response of the ECCIs is surprisingly linear. Bass is tight and punchy but not particularly powerful - low notes are heard more than they are felt. The transition to the midrange is smooth and with no bleed. The midrange is obscured by neither the bass nor the treble – it’s really quite pleasant but not the focus of the presentation the way it is with, for example, the Soundmagic PL50. Detail is very good for the price though they are notably lacking in resolving power compared to, say, the Head-Direct RE0s. Same goes for clarity – good for the price but not class-leading. The treble of the ECCIs is fairly accurate and rolls of gently near the top. There is some peakiness in the lower treble and they will accentuate sibilance already present in recordings. Those who are extremely sensitive to sibilance should take this as a warning; I personally found the treble perfectly pleasant on properly-recorded material. Soundstaging is good – not as wide as with the PR1s, but there is space around each instrument and a good sense of air in the overall sound. Positioning and instrumental separation, going hand-in-hand, are both quite decent.

The differences between the two models themselves are rather minute – the higher-impedance PR200 boasts better clarity, a smoother and more balanced frequency response, slightly better imaging, and deeper bass extension. It is also expectedly difficult to drive, requiring several more volume notches from my mp3 player and tightening up better with a portable amp than the PR100. The PR200 also exhibits no hiss with my netbook’s not-too-clean HPO while the 16Ω PR100 hisses slightly. Whether the differences justify the 50% price hike is a personal choice. Having both I will of course pick the PR200 every time. If I were only buying one, though, and planning to use it exclusively with a portable player, I would be tempted to opt for the cheap-and-cheerful PR100.

Added 03/07/10

Compared to the PR1 Pro, the PR100 and PR200 are more coherent and boast a smoother, thicker midrange, partly as a result of narrower soundstage. The overall sound is a bit more intimate (at least compared to the wide-open presentation of the PR1) and easier to swallow. Some microdetail is glossed over, the frequency response isn't as flat, and extension on both ends isn't quite as spectacular, but the overall signature is easier to like. All three earphones are easy to enjoy and equally easy to ignore - aggressiveness is not present in any of them.

Conclusions

With the PR100 and PR200 ECCI has achieved something that I could have bet was impossible – created two earphones with a small difference in price and an identical look and feel that nevertheless both make sense in the crowded sub-$50 market segment. The PR200 is better by just enough to make them worth the price hike in the land of head-fi. For the average user the PR100 are without a doubt the better value. Whether either is worth purchasing over the usual sub-$50 crop is a matter of preference. Both provide a balanced and very competent sound. Yes, I have small issues with the signature, but that goes for any earphone I’ve tried in the price bracket. In the end I keep coming back (to the PR200, since I have both) for the natural, uncolored sound over my Meelec M6, Maximo iM-590, and other similarly-priced earphones in my collection.

Do they come recommended? For those looking for a well-built all-rounder that does nearly everything right, yes. The PR100 ($32) is right up there with the best earphones I’ve heard in its class. The PR200 ($45) is a bit more complicated, benefitting more from extra juice and providing small improvements over the PR100 here and there, but at a nearly 50% price premium. If the PR1 Pro were still available widely, I’m not sure I could recommend the PR200. But with things as they are, I have a feeling the PR200 will soon become one of my most-often recommended sub-$50 earphones.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 39
Thanks for the review Joker! Seems like the PR1Pro is a better buy, if they are still available.
post #3 of 39
interesting review..so this is what cyclone have been doing

so what are the prices for these? my guess is the pr100 is 30 and the other 50? The tips are kinda interesting however. I guess the Shure type tips can be stretched to fit?
post #4 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rawrster View Post
interesting review..so this is what cyclone have been doing

so what are the prices for these? my guess is the pr100 is 30 and the other 50? The tips are kinda interesting however. I guess the Shure type tips can be stretched to fit?
Oh my bad. I'll add pricing to the 1st post. PR100 is $30 and the PR200 is $42 on ebay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KLS View Post
Thanks for the review Joker! Seems like the PR1Pro is a better buy, if they are still available.
If you don't mind the price premium (PR1 currently sell for just under $60), shoddy build quality, and j-cord, the PR1s are the better unit. In terms of value, however, the PR100 is very close at half the cost.
post #5 of 39
Nice review...seems like the PR200's are nothing like the Pr2 they replaced.
post #6 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by litigator View Post
Nice review...seems like the PR200's are nothing like the Pr2 they replaced.
I don't think they were meant to be replacements for the PR2 considering that the PR100 and PR200 are nearly identical signature-wise. Both are definitely in the same vein as the PR1 - balance above all.
post #7 of 39
Nice review,Its a shame they didn't replicate their PR1 with these.
post #8 of 39
Different from the out-sourced PR1 (pro) and PR2, PR100 and PR200 are said to be more of an in-house production (or at least that is what I heard from rumors). If it is true, that will explain a lot of things as you can imagine.
post #9 of 39
Interesting read, thanks |joker|.
post #10 of 39
Joker, so pr1pros have a more accurate tonality compared to the ECCIs (and they do have the most natural tonality vs anything else ive heard), does it mean those are on the warm side of neutral? Also, how do their bass compare vs pr1pro : more or less extended, more or less weight, emphasis on mid or sub-bass? I like how pr1pro are able to give a little bit of that rumbling sub-bass in some recordings, can they do this too?
ABout the treble, is it more sibilance-highlighting than pr1pro, or about the same?
Thanks in advance, and sorry about all the questioning!

EDIT: forgot to be polite : thanks for the review! Build quality looks much better on these vs Pr1Pro, but Im probably the only one to regret they didnt opt for a J-cable again!
post #11 of 39
Nice write-up! Is the cable similar to one on the MX471? looks like it. like the addition of the cord slider. Lord knows the PR1 Pro liked to braid up on itself. Don't know but from the pics it looks like you could do two tip positions on the stems. Either stop at the first ring or go to the second for deeper insertion.
post #12 of 39
overall, pr100 or m9?
post #13 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
Different from the out-sourced PR1 (pro) and PR2, PR100 and PR200 are said to be more of an in-house production (or at least that is what I heard from rumors). If it is true, that will explain a lot of things as you can imagine.
Thanks ClieOS, that's what I heard as well. Props to them for going the in-house route. I originally though that they would have a pair of higher-end IEMs to take over the spot vacated by the PR2 (price-wise), but if everything they sell now is to be designed in-house, I am not so sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daouda View Post
Joker, so pr1pros have a more accurate tonality compared to the ECCIs (and they do have the most natural tonality vs anything else ive heard), does it mean those are on the warm side of neutral? Also, how do their bass compare vs pr1pro : more or less extended, more or less weight, emphasis on mid or sub-bass? I like how pr1pro are able to give a little bit of that rumbling sub-bass in some recordings, can they do this too?
ABout the treble, is it more sibilance-highlighting than pr1pro, or about the same?
Thanks in advance, and sorry about all the questioning!

EDIT: forgot to be polite : thanks for the review! Build quality looks much better on these vs Pr1Pro, but Im probably the only one to regret they didnt opt for a J-cable again!
The PR1s are more natural/accurate than the PR200/PR100 (though not by much). These aren't necessarily warm but there's something about the PR1s that just screams "I'm true to source". These don't do that but I have trouble calling them warm. Maybe just a little...

Bass-wise the PR1 Pro is more linear. They have more sub-bass and therefore more 'rumble'. These have pretty flat bass but it rolls off earlier. The PR100 has a tiny bit more midbass (almost imperceptible). Weight-wise they are about the same - in balance with the rest of the sound.

The PR1 pro is also more linear up top. I didn't feel they accentuated sibilance at all, whereas these do just a little. I might add a paragraph contrasting the PR100/PR200 and PR1 Pro a little later since that's what everyone seems to want, but I feel that all three have a place in the market assuming the PR1 stays at its current $60 price point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jant71 View Post
Nice write-up! Is the cable similar to one on the MX471? looks like it. like the addition of the cord slider. Lord knows the PR1 Pro liked to braid up on itself. Don't know but from the pics it looks like you could do two tip positions on the stems. Either stop at the first ring or go to the second for deeper insertion.
Cord is a similar color to the MX471 . It's not as soft and has more memory character. The MX471 cord is just stellar, really. But yes, it's still a huge improvement on the somewhat tangly PR1 cord. It still tends to tangle as it's quite rubbery but it's thicker and easier to roll up. I like it.

As for the tip positions, pulling the wider set of the stock tips down to the 2nd notch leaves a few mm of nozzle sticking out the other side. Not very comfy, as you can imagine. I will try it with some bi-flange tips though. Might give more isolation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stonyboys View Post
overall, pr100 or m9?
PR100. The M9 is great at what it does but it's a fun IEM first and foremost. The PR100 is more balanced, more natural-sounding. Also more controlled at the low end and less harsh up top, though that might stem from the fact that it has less low end and less up top .
post #14 of 39
Fun IEM sounds good to me =3. I guess I'll pull the trigger on them now.
post #15 of 39
Joker, thanks for your precise answers, those ECCI look interesting but i should probably refrain from buying them since i already have enough cheap-and-cheerful chinese IEMs in my possession... I will probably consider getting them when the Pr1pro finally die on me, if no other bang-for-buck phenomenon pops up until then
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Review: ECCI PR100 and PR200 - Cyclone's Fresh Start