It’s rare to see a dual dynamic driver earphone in the sub $100 range, and that’s exactly what we will be taking a look at today. After reviewing top tiered IEM’s, I thought it would be good to take a step back and look at some budget IEM’s, tailored for all the mid-fi people wandering around on the market. The SonoCore COA-803+ is a dual dynamic driver earphone that appears to have tons of bass, at least according to the frequency response graph. I haven’t heard a lot of talk around these earphones and I’ve seen them only once on SonoCore’s official website and an eBay listing and it seems like this is what appears to be SonoCore’s first ever jump into the IEM market. Oh, and for anyone that is wondering, they are made in Korea, and have some rather unique specifications to them. But we’ll get to that a little later, for now, let’s jump into the review of the SonoCore COA-803+.
Coming from Korea I didn’t know what to expect with the COA-803+ (I’m just going to call them Bryan from now on, as that is their proper name without all the fancy numbers). But, I did get some pretty decent accessories with the Bryan’s. The packaging was pretty basic and came in a medium sized plastic box with SonoCore’s name and logo on the front as well as the details of the product on the back. Taking a deeper look inside the packaging you will find that the Bryan’s do come with a very nice and modern looking aluminum carrying case, a manual, a foam earphone wrapper, and three different sets of ear tips. All three were made out of rubber but two of them seemed to be coated in a matte type material.
Taking a look at the actual earphone themselves you will find that Bryan’s have very unique design aspect to them. They are rather large and the outer shell is made up of two different parts that coexist alongside each other and are snapped together. Each individual part has a different color, one being silver and one being white. If you look closely you will also see the words CO-Axial on the sides of each earphone as well as left and right markers on the back. The earphone has a rather elongated nozzle and is covered with a very thin layer of wire mesh. Apparently this is a step up from the previous model which had no wire mesh at all. To me, the Bryan’s look like something out of a future sci-fi movie, kind of cool to be honest, but still a little bit to large. The cable is made up of a thin rubber and I haven’t found tangling to be a problem and strain relief seems to be pretty decent as well. The cable splitter is just a basic white cable splitter, so not a lot to talk about there. Lastly, the headphone jack is white just like the rest of the components of the earphone and is gold plated.
Next up we have comfort, fit, and microphonics. The provided ear tips were rather stiff to my ears and I would feel a little bit of ear fatigue after about 45 minutes. But after switching them out with my Ortofon e-Q5 tips, everything was good and there was surprisingly a good amount of sound isolation besides the fact that they are quite large IEM’s. Now, in terms of microphonics, I found two different results in the way the Bryan’s were worn. When worn in the downwards (or hanging off of your ear) position, there was a lot of rumbly cable noise and was quite bothersome listening to music, wether it be sitting down on the couch shuffling around or walking on the sidewalk. However, that all changed when wearing them over (or looped around) the ear. The microphonics almost immediately disappeared and all I could hear was a slight tap when playing around with the cable. So it seems like the SonoCore’s suffer from the same wearing style syndrome that almost every other earphones experiences.
In terms of build quality, this is probably the one thing that needed a major revision on SonoCore’s part. While the cable, headphone jack, headphone splitter, and the yolk were all built decently well, it’s the earphones themselves that make for less than desirable design. The housing is so cheaply made that it takes only a little nudge to pull the backside of the housing off and reveal the wiring and the drivers. It’s a good thing that SonoCore has opted for a snap back in design because if they hadn’t allowed this, then the back part of the housing, if accidentally pulled out by the average joe, could be permanently damaged and reveal the drivers forever. At least the music still plays even if the back housing comes loose, right?
Now that we have everything else out of the way, let's talk a little bit about sound, which will be quite short since this is a budget IEM. I wasn't expecting a lot from a $90 earphone, but I wasn't under-impressed either by SonoCore's attempt at the budget IEM market. The sound signature of the Bryan is bass centric. Bass was forward, warm, and had a decent amount of boomy-ness although not enough to be overpowering and bloated. Fun is the best way to describe bass with a tiny bit of texture, and low end rumble being highly present and extension being okay with a slight bit of roll off around the 15-20 hertz range. Attack and decay are pretty subpar and are accompanied by a pretty slow speed. The midrange, just like the bass, is warm and slightly muddled when bass is present in the background.
It also seems slightly thick and maybe a tad bit laid back. I also noticed a slight peak in the upper end midrange around the 1.6 kHz region on the frequency graph. The treble response is decently extended but overall flat with no obvious peaks or dips, where there seems to be no sibilance or bloomy-ness ever present, and while it doesn't exactly have the best extension in the world, they actually had a pretty good range in them up in the higher frequency levels for a $90 IEM. The best way to describe the high frequency response is warm and smooth, and not even entering near the cavern of being bloomy or analytical. Soundstage was pretty subpar as well with separation, width, and depth being slightly congested.
Overall, I have mixed feelings for the SonoCore COA-803+. While I do like the fun and bass centric sound that the Bryan’s offer, to my ears, it definitely does not match up with its price of $90, as you can find a much more detailed and just as bass centric IEM like the Meelectronics CC51P that retails for the same price. You can pick up the SonoCore COA-803+ for the price mentioned above on SonoCore’s website. Hit up the link for more info.
Note: All auditioning was done with a HiSound Audio STUDIO-V. All songs range in genre and are FLAC ranging in sound from 256 kilobits to 320 kilobits.