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[Review] Sunrise SW-Xcape Impressive Edition

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

500

 

The Xcape IE comes with a nice case, 3 sizes of silicone tips, 1 pair of biflange tip and a shirt clip

 

The Xcape IE comes with a nice case, three sizes of silicone tips, a pair of biflange tips and a shirt clip

 

500

 

The Xcape IE (top) with the EX1000 (left) and HJE900 (right)

 

I had a chance to loan the new Sunrise SW-Xcape Impressive Edition from a fellow Head-Fier and the London meet. In return, I promised to write a review on them and here it is. This is the latest of the Xcape series and promises to improve on all the flaws the previous versions had. The first thing that anyone should note is that these are available at a budget price of £70 on eBay. £70 may seem a lot for someone who is not familiar with the pricing of audiophile oriented IEMs but trust me, that's not a lot of money to work around with. To be honest with you, I personally had more experience with top tier IEMs than mid / bottom tier IEMs so my opinions in this review are exactly what it is, my personal opinions. I try to be as honest and unbiased as possible at all times.


To put things into perspective, I've tried a few IEMs that are relatively close to the pricing of the Xcape IE. These are the Klipsch Image S4i, Westone UM1, Panasonic HJE900 and Radius DDM. I prefer to review an IEM while comparing to others because it gives people a foundation to start with. For example, I can simply say the Xcape IE is detailed but how detailed? £70 detailed or twice more or as good as top tiers? You get the gist. For this review and with all IEMs I listen to, I always set my Sony EX1000 as the benchmark so my opinions here also reflect from my experience with the EX1000.

Okay, the first thing about the Xcape IE is that it requires a rather long burn in time. For me, the sound signature settled after about 100 hours but Sunrise recommends 200 hours which is incredibly long for a small driver. It might be because these are not very sensitive IEMs, you'll need to turn the volume higher to get the most out of them but this isn't an issue at all as long as your source does not max out its volume before they drive the Xcapes properly. The burn in does not change the signature as much as say the HJE900 which are unlistenable out of the box. After burn in, the Xcape IE's sound opened up a little more, giving a nicer layering and separation to the already good detail retrieval and balance. The bass texture also improved throughout burn in and plateaus at a nicely refined level.

 

I used a Samsung GT-I9000 and the Open Your Ears album mainly as source and sometimes an FiiO E7 DAC or other songs in my library, all FLAC at 16 bit. So what is the sound like when it's finally burn in? It's very good I'd say. It must surely be the best at it's price range. The other "audiophile oriented" IEM at that price range I've tried is the Westone UM1 and the Xcape IE easily beats it in SQ. Of course the UM1 has the typical Westone fit, comfort and isolation but it simply cannot compete in SQ. The Xcape IE has more extension at the top and bottom, better transparency, detail and balance. Simple. Compared to the Klipsch Image S4i, the Xcape has better spatial depth and imaging though it only loses in bass quantity since the S4i is not what we call balanced. Similarly, the HJE900 is less balanced though I'd say it's a close fight this time. The Xcape IE has that balanced signature most experience listeners look for in top tier IEMs whereas the HJE900 is a specialist in rock music. 

There are very few things wrong with the Xcape IE. Top marks go to its detail retrieval, bass and treble texture / detail as well as spatial depth. Spatial depth which is the ability of the IEM to correctly portray distance, is slightly different that out of head imaging - something the Xcape IE doesn't do particularly great. I think what most people call "soundstage" is the combination of these two factors. The Xcape IE's midrange is sadly a bit behind its excellent bass and treble. Though not bad at all, it slightly loses to the excellent Westone (UM1) midrange. The tonality and timbre is a bit off from perfect but really only the JVC FX700 and Sony EX1000 manages to satisfy me in that area. The centre imaging is not the best either. That's not abnormal for an IEM this price and I'm sure is already the best in this price range. So apart from it's out of head imaging, accuracy and midrange tone, everything else is literally better than what its price suggests. Really, it's that good. I'm really liking the clean and well textured sound, with no attempt to colour the sound with some artificial "makeup" as well as its top class detail level and separation.

 

Comfort, fit and isolation with the stock biflange tips are great and if worn over the ear, microphonics is not too big a deal. I'm not too fond of the build quality and the tips provided. They do feel a touch cheap to me. Of course Sunrise had to make some sacrifices to keep the price competitive. But what you get in return is really great sound. Overall if I had to value the Xcape IE, I'd put it at a respectable £120 or almost twice its retail price. A true bargain indeed.

What bugs me unfortunately is that I'm not entirely sure which group of people will be interested in the Xcape IE. It has a signature that I think suitable for more experienced listeners, yet I'm sure most of them have already invested in at least one expensive top tier IEM. I can see someone who is less fussy about such things as detail and spatial imaging to prefer to much more fun S4i and even I personally enjoyed the S4i for its not so serious sound. What I'm saying is that it falls short of top tiers because of obvious budget reasons yet its serious signature may not appeal to most people looking at that price range. It has no unique sound that makes you want it (unlike the awesome electric guitar timbre on the HJE900 or bass quantity of S4i); it has a simple flawless sound, a bit like the Westone 4. It's certainly a niche product and I respect it for all it is. I hope it sells well and introduce many prospecting audiophiles to the sound is presents.

An afterthought: Since it beats a lot of expensive IEMs (but not what I consider top-tier e.g. Klipsch Image X10i), maybe it's people who are looking to buy those should seriously consider the Xcape IE! wink.gif

 

Also, there is a rumor saying that Sunrise is working on a top tier IEM at a sub £200 price range and that is something I'll look closely for if they can improve the sound and build quality of the Xcape series even further. Thanks for reading this review!


Edited by tuahogary - 5/26/11 at 8:30am
post #2 of 15

A great review tuahogary. You gave us a very clear picture of the xcape impressive's  sound, and it's strengths and weaknesses. Well done!

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks JxK! Your comment is much appreciated! biggrin.gif

post #4 of 15

I pretty much agree on everything that you mentioned. Well done review!

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks mate! New photos added as well smile.gif

post #6 of 15

Thank you for the review!

post #7 of 15

HJE900s don't satisfy you in tonality and timbre? besides the FX700s/500s those are closest in this area to me imo. I like how you describe the IE as a budget W4, as in it's a do no wrong somewhat conservative in-ear. 


Edited by Inks - 6/1/11 at 10:53pm
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NCT View Post

Thank you for the review!


No problem wink.gif I'm equally as grateful for you guys to loan me a unit!

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inks View Post

HJE900s don't satisfy you in tonality and timbre? besides the FX700s/500s those are closest in this area to me imo. I like how you describe the IE as a budget W4, as in it's a do no wrong somewhat conservative in-ear. 


Yep, the do no wrong somewhat conservative in-ear is exactly what I have in mind when I think of the W4 and Xcape.

 

As for the HJE900, they are very good in tonality and timbre but I find only for some instruments like guitars and drums. They aren't as good for pianos and vocals unfortunately. They're surely not as good as the EX1000, and I won't be satisfied unless the timbre is perfect. Such is what I look for in IEMs that even something that just fall short of perfect will not satisfy me tongue.gif

 

post #9 of 15

In terms of tonality, the HJE900s do really well with pianos but I agree that they don't do so well with vocals. Timbre and tonality is relative, there is no IEM that will do timbre better than another IEMs with every instrument when both have respectable materials and response. I think the material used on the driver and housing is important in terms of tonality for dynamics and frequency response for any IEM. Certain combinations somehow manage to coincide with how it portrays certain recorded instruments to bring out that good tonality.The FX500s do better with brass than the FX700s (despite using the exact same materials) and the HJE900s do better than both on electric guitars (and certain keyboard tones) despite the fact that the JVCs (both) coincide well with more instruments. It is also relative to how you tend to judge the tonality based on experience, piano tonality is really a toss up many times, for example. 


Edited by Inks - 6/2/11 at 11:38pm
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure myself if material and / or housing play a significant role in timbre and tonality of IEMs, but it may not be a coincidence that the best timbre IEMs usually have a unique build. Although I think the Ortofon e-Q7 is pretty good at timbre too despite being less unique than wood, zirconia or magnesium. Personally, pianos on the HJE900 decay a bit too fast and I even remembered a time when a piano sounded like an electronic keyboard on the "electric guitar" setting to me. That being said, I notice you are an avid piano player so you probably know more about pianos than I do. Perhaps it's the different recordings and music we listen to that may play a role in how we listen to the same IEMs wink.gif  

post #11 of 15

The HJE900s actually have a nice decay to me, I'm doing a deep fit using small tips.  

 

Dynamics are almost like woodwind/brass instruments because there's air movement involvement in the enclosure that has a say on the tonality. The EQ7s are good at timbre, specially for a BA and aluminum is a decent material to use. Their decay is less than the HJE900s, which to me isn't necessarily a bad thing as it isn't too fast like other BAs. 

 

Usually the harder the material the less resonants that are involved and the sound comes out clean with good tonality. Based on the Mohs scale ZC is probably the hardest material used on a dynamic to date. Magnesium alloy is merely a bit harder than aluminum both of which are behind titanium&stainless steel [CKM99]. But for tonality, the driver material would presumably be even more important. 


Edited by Inks - 6/3/11 at 5:58pm
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm using the HJE900 with the large tip and shallow insertion. Might be the difference right there. Couldn't find the comfort and fit with the medium and small stock tips. Currently, I'm happy the way there are. Perfect for rock music. Have you tried the EX1000s? They sound absolutely amazing to me and I think they're a lot better than the FX700 in fact. The EX1000 and FAD 1601SB are the only IEMs I've ever tried which I don't hear the ceiling limit of their technical ability at all when listening to recordings. Hard to explain but I digress. 

post #13 of 15

Haven't heard the EX1000s but I may pretty soon once my local Sony Style store has them in stock. Seems like they'll better the FX700s, but I take the "completely better" or "completely better timbre" comments with a grain of salt. 

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inks View Post

Haven't heard the EX1000s but I may pretty soon once my local Sony Style store has them in stock. Seems like they'll better the FX700s, but I take the "completely better" or "completely better timbre" comments with a grain of salt. 


Agreed. I think James444 ended up saying pretty much the same thing, that he ultimately preferred the ex1000 over the fx700 due mostly to musical preferences, rather than absolute technical merits.

 

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hey it's your opinion right. All I know is that they sound better to me, maybe because they fit and feel better too. The thing is they sound so effortless, never breaking a sweat which means they have so much headroom to work with amps, eq and sources so I never really hear their technical limit.

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