Having just received these, I thought I'd just share some of my initial impressions of the SBA-01s after having spent around 24 hours with them.
(Updated 2010-05-07: I have updated this with some images as well as rewritten some sections just to reflect my impressions of the SBAs after having spent some more time with them)
Having spent the last few years as owner of various Jays products, I have to say I was a bit surprised by the simplicity(?) of the packaging and disappointed by the accessories that came with; then again I may be expecting a bit too much. It came in a simple printed cardboard box and in it were the headphones, a soft drawstring case, warranty card, instruction manual, earhooks and 2 pairs of ear tips (including the pair that was already on the earphones themselves.)
Update: As mentioned in later posts, FA explained why the packaging is simple, and as far as anyone is concerned, it does do the job without any fuss.
Build quality (4/5)
The casing of the SBAs are all plastic split between black (towards the nozzle) and transparent (the rest of the casing). It looks and feels rather toy-like, but its by no means badly built. There is a certain novelty in being able to see the wires running to the driver inside. Cables were overall a very small fraction thinner after it has split and marginally thicker before they split when compared to the d-Jays which I also own and when compared to the Silver Bullets, they are overall thicker. The Y-junction itself is quite study with strain reliefs at each of the cables which while making the cable heavier/bulkier, more sturdy. Finally, the cable terminates with an L plug with plenty strain relief which is good to see.
Update: The other thing I should mention is the fact that the left and right markings look to be stuck on using stickers rather than printed or etched into the plastic, so I don't know how durable they are in the long run (in terms of fading or just falling off)
Update 2: It has since been found the L/R markings are small metal plates stuck on with very strong glue, which hopefully means they will be more durable
Comfort and Isolation (4/5 and 3.5/5)
Being small and light, the SBAs are very comfortable. Fit can be an issue owing to the fact that there are so few tips to choose from (only 2), but luckily for me, the standard tips that were already on did the job just fine for me.
While fit and comfort with the standard tips were ok, isolation was average, although I haven't got other eartips lying around to be able to experiment with to see if it made any difference.
There is good width and depth; is close to, but cannot match the spaciousness of the Silver Bullet/Eterna. Pretty impressive for a BA though and quite immersive.
Sound Quality (Updated) (8.3/10)
Overall: Sound signature slightly biased towards the lower mid-range and upper bass but can still be considered well balanced but definitely not considered neutral; Unfatiguing and very musical (or not analytical) to listen to with a good resolution; Individual notes have a good spacing in between.
Treble: Clear, concise and not recessed or overwhelmed by midrange or bass; but doesn't have that extra sparkle especially evident when listening to music with piano, no sibilance is particularly evident in vocals (8.25/10)
Mid-range: Nice, warm and enveloping (rich) sound but retaining a good sense of space and detail. Instruments and have good separation unless there is a stupid amount of things happening at once. Vocals don't sound hollow but is never covered my the rest of the music. (8.5/10)
Bass: Lacks quantity when compared to dynamic but more impact then compared to other BA; Quality of bass is good, tight and balanced and packs a small punch, but not overwhelming or boomy. Kick drums or bass beats are well defined adding good impact. Reasonable extension but doesn't quite match other dynamic drivers but can still be quite atmospheric and have good impact. (8.25/10)
Test song list (Source: Sony Ericsson Aino w/ and w/out Fiio E5 and HP Pavilion tx2500)
- First Train Home - Imogen Heap
The SBAs were able to convey very well the airiness of the vocals making is sound quite lush and musical. The large vocal range was also handled very well. At no point irrespective of range did the vocals become overwhelmed by the electronic and instrumental backings. Overall a nicely balanced presentation.
- Flaming June - BT
Again, the airiness presentation heard above is heard here also this time with the music instead of vocals. Typical of electronic/trance music, with many layers playing simultaneously, each layer can be identified, nothing was muddy, likewise the bass is tight and blends well with the rest of the music without messing everything else up.
- Babylon - David Gray
The acoustic guitar in the intro was crisp sounding and well resolved. The keyboard in the background despite being in the background was easy to pick out, although sometimes the (what seems to an imitation) double bass blanketed it a bit. In saying that it added a nice "carpet" throughout the song demonstrating how well the SBAs can extend and gave the song a nice enveloping feeling.
- 我讀得書少 - Leo Ku
A piece of music from where I come from. It combines a punchy bass line, a rapid and busy piano track and vocals on top. The bass as always tight and in this case packed a small punch providing a nice "floor" to the song. (With something like the Silver Bullets the bass was more a kick than a small punch, just as a point of reference). The vocals were always centre stage, not harsh and not recessed. The piano bit which extended through the whole song utilised nearly if not every octave of the piano was clear and was surprisingly well balanced with the rather heavy bass line. It has to be said though, in the higher octaves, SBA lacked the sparkle which I know exists in this song. But don't get me wrong, it is still very clean and clear.
- Piano Concerto No1 in A minor - Edvard Greig
The issue of the piano being clear but not being sparkly is again evident hear, this time in a proper classical situation. However, there is a good balance between the instruments and the large-ish soundstage means instruments have good positioning. Strings in the piece was lush and gave a nice atmospheric backing to compliment the piano. I certainly wouldn't use the SBAs to analyse this (that will be saved for something like the q-Jays which are more neutral) but to just sit down and enjoy the music, this is certainly a (very) good option
Despite the packaging being minimal (which is justified by FA) overall and looking rather toy-like (IMHO anyway), I am very happy with the sound of the SBAs and isn't that the most important thing about earphones anyway? While I'm sure there are better options out there, for the price, the SBAs are a good alternative if you just want to listen and enjoy your music. They also offer a nice contrast to the Silver Bullet/Eterna range in terms of how they sound so for those who may not like how the SB/Eterna sound, or think they are too bassy, the SBA might just be the alternative you're looking for!
(As this is my first review; although I don't know how to change it in the the title; any feedback and questions are welcome! )
Edited by xaf - 5/7/10 at 6:56am