ECCI PR401 Review
Thanks to delonicdevil for sending me the review sample.
First Impressions: It’s a small box, very small. Oh my, it may be one of the cleverest and simplest boxes I’ve ever seen a set of IEM’s come in. Once you open the outer box you find inside a sealed ECCI IEM case. How has no one else ever done this? It’s just so simple and elegant I absolutely love it! Inside you get the usual bits and bobs but outside I also got a set of “fake” hybrids in an envelope. Looking at the PR401’s they look really rather squat so much so that I can’t help but worry the drivers aren’t going to have room to breathe, plus they just look weird. I also can’t say I’m loving the cable. Its flat but mostly what my fingers pick up from it is that it’s thin. I’m not saying it wont be sturdy but it feels very thin and very light.
Sound wise first impressions are pretty damn good. A thick, big sound. Actually it’s reminding me of the Sony house sound. Is it me or is Sony everywhere recently? Anyway I like what I hear but a burn in they go.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Lows: Big, rich and powerful. It seems as though it’s becoming a habit but it feels like I’m always saying just how good the lows are on something new. So the lows on these are fantastic, the quality and depth is immense. Think M3 quality but M2 abundance. Its tonality is somewhere in between the two of those two as well. That hint of warm rich loveliness but not going too soft as big bass is want to do. The quantity is probably a bit much for me day in day out but I’ve got to say it’s not likely to be an unpopular choice. Since this is the first ECCI IEM I’ve heard I can’t compare it to its siblings but whatever they are doing over there, they are really hit the nail on the head with this one.
Its sound so clichéd but stuff just keeps getting better and better. The bass here is a stunning example of why Far East manufacturing is kicking the rest of the world’s ass. The quality is outstanding. The speed and punch it can deliver while retaining a richness that is seldom heard makes for a fantastic combo. This here is some of the best bass out there. Okay so it lacks a little timberal accuracy and now and then feels like someone has hit a bass boost button but I don’t care. It’s awesome.
Mids: Stunning. Granted these shouldn’t be something you choose if you a mid lover as they are little pushed back. Not quite what I’d call recessed but they feel a little distant and I’d rather vocals much more up front. In a band the singer is right up at the front not standing in the back with the drummer are they? That aside the quality cannot be faulted. It is fantastic and timbrally spot on. That more relaxed (quite Sony like) laid back nature still managed to retain the intimate sound and clarity on vocals is most impressive. For something I’d define as being on the richer side of things its distance still lets it cope with dry, breathy vocals. I know that’s a little contradictory but the PR401 manages to ever so carefully tread the line between too much in any direction. Think M3 but more lush. Listening to The Beautiful South’s “A little Piece of Advice” the vocals are just so well composed. Not too intimate but not too distant (okay, so maybe a touch distant) but altogether put together so very, very well.
On the downside if you are looking for the absolute height of detail and want something cold, clinical then this isn’t for you. The mid’s are gently warmed and gently softened too. The rough edges on vocals have been ever so finely sanded down. Personally I don’t see it as a failing but a tonal choice, a beautiful sounding tonal choice. Still if you’re after something dispassionate then these aren’t going to what you’re after.
Highs: I really am convinced whoever it was tuning these is a big Sony fan. Once more I find myself being reminded on the Sony house sound. The highs are probably where if anywhere these lack a teeny tiny touch. They feel a tiny bit compressed and don’t have the world’s best extension. The clarity they offer for something so warm and rich though is very impressive. The treble has no trouble cutting through to be heard without getting lost. More than anything I think the treble spike that’s in there gives you all the detail you want and never gets hard or abrasive. Even on very heavy treble songs that themselves don’t have the best quality recordings (Relient K, I’m looking at you here) they still sound smooth and refined. That ever so fine edge sanding that I mentioned in the mids is evident here. It works damn well too.
However if you’re a treble junky after a treble heavy sound these these aren’t for you. The treble here maybe good but its far more about giving you the crispness that a song demands but nothing more. Treble heavy songs are beautifully rendered but these really don’t want to do hard and aggressive.
Soundstage: Weirdly good. It manages to offer a borderline intimate sound signature but still offer remarkable size and distance. The imaging is somewhat fuzzy, sounds can be a little distant and I can’t quite pinpoint where they are coming from. The instrument separation is likewise very good.
Comfort: I can’t deny I was worried about the comfort when I saw the shape of them but it was entirely unfounded. They are very, very comfortable.
Fit: Again their shape had concerned me and their weird squatness but same thing. The fit was easy and effortless for me.
Cable: I still am not sure I like it. I’m not saying it’s not capable of standing up to sustained abuse but it’s very thin and light. Some things you want to feel heavy and sturdy or I do at least.
Microphonics: As usual I wore them up and I got none. Wearing down you do but you do get a shirt clip and that goes a long way to removing the issue.
Amped/Unamped: Like most things they do like more power and impedance. It’s not killer if you can’t add either but I can and I would always want to.
Isolation: About the new norm for a dynamic, a little better than most perhaps. The sort of thing that is fine for out and about or enough to get you run over if you aren’t used to looking. Something I’d be happy using on a bus but not really for a plane or on the tube.
Value: Outstanding. There really is no other way to look at it; yes they aren’t head and shoulders the absolute best you can get around this price as there are a few others out there. What this offers is the same kind of quality but with a wholly different sound signature.
Conclusion: These are pretty much bass monsters but still offer superb clarity. That’s not a common combination you’ll find out there and if I’m honest it’s not one for me. The bass on the PR401 is stunning in every way from its massive power and punch to its rich liquidly smoothness. It’s amazing how well it can handle every low end type you throw at it. What’s more is even though it sounds smooth and rich it has astonishingly speed and agility. Comparing the low end to the accomplished Brainwave M2/ViSang R02 it’s shocking. In direct comparison the M2/R02 sounds so thick, heavy and slow. Of course its technical abilities don’t come up to the insanely high standard of the RE-0 but as has been well documented it’s not something everyone likes. The RE-0 is super neutral and many want a far more rich and bassy sound and I think this could be it. This is to the low end what the RE-0 is to treble and that’s no bad thing given many want that kind of bass driven sound. Here you can get big low end many are used to but you also get fantastic clarity. Right now the little shuffle is pounding out “Jai Ho” a song that absolutely demands speed and low end power and the PR401’s utterly nail it. Okay so I recognise Beethoven it isn’t but so is most music out there. Oh and they also deal superbly well with the ever and overly treble happy stuff from Owl City.
You know I am really surprised I haven’t been hearing and seeing much wore about these than I have, I know they aren’t the easiest things to come by in the wild but people, they really are worth the effort. They are remarkable stuff and may well have become my new default recommendation for fast, bassy music.