Sunrise Audio Xcape Impressive Edition Review
Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample
First Impression: Don’t get me started on the name and the “Impressive Edition” over v1 and v2 and then “Impressive Edition” it’s stupidly confusing for no reason, just give different things different names. Grrr. Anyway since I believe only the v2 and “IE’ (yeah cause I’m not writing “Impressive Edition” every time) are available with the v2 being warmer for the East and the “IE” for the West. Otherwise it’s a nice little package, nice small box and a very nice little case. The case may be different but they look exactly like the v2 I have. A little listen and I’m not hearing a great big difference from how I remember the v2 to be.
Of course I had to go grab the v2 and a cursory listen makes me wonder if they are actually the same thing. Yes as you can imagine this is doing the confusing naming thing a world of good. I thought the IE was supposed to be much brighter sounding?
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Lows: Large, voluminous and expansive. I don’t really want to say they are soft but they are a touch. It’s not what I would say was in a bad way, the rich gentility of the low end makes them sound huge. It’s not a close in, hard hitting low but a rumbley, powerful low end that gives a very impressive sense of scale and depth. Think “Lord of the Rings” vast epic sense of scale. It’s not what I always want but it is very pleasant to listen to and that’s what I think Sunrise Audio have gone for here. There is no pretending they have gone for anything other than a big, fun sort of sound. It walks a fine line but it manages to come across as being both full and bassy but never actually overwhelms or overshadows anything else. It’s a dangerous road to go down as you risk trying to please everyone one and end up managing no one but think they have just about got it. I might at times want things a little bit tighter, a little bit more controlled and little more hard hitting. The inverse though is more important. I never find it to be too warm, too soft, oppressively thick or suffocatingly warm. Given the actual quantity of bass the IE offers that’s pretty good going. It isn’t what I’d call a bass monster but clearly it is on the bass heavy side of things.
Mids: They err on the warm side but have a distance to them. Don’t mistake my calling the mids distant for meaning they are recessed (they are not) I mean that they sound distant. Distant as in far away. This makes for a bit of a weird sound if you are listening to something that is actually very upfront and intimate as the IE will add space. I know its a little paradoxical but it does actually work and can produce a very relaxed sound. Something you can gently just listen to and not be forced to sit up and pay attention to. Their distance with the warm tonal balance works very nicely if you find anything that tends to be vocally dry and upfront. Specifically I’m thinking Relient K “Beaming.” Distance is the key here, listen to stuff that works with it and you’re really on to a winner.
Quantity wise they are pretty much in the middle, they may be a rather heavier in the bottom end than elsewhere but not vastly so.
Highs: Good, they have a bit of an edge to help define them but otherwise have a nice level of detail. Actually at times I find the slight edge they have to be a fraction much but they do an admirable job for their price range. Quantity wise they sit a touch behind the mids which in turn in a touch behind the low end. It’s a very slight and gentle slope so if you’re a treble junky then this isn’t what you’re looking for and without doubt you can get better treble elsewhere. Not that it’s bad but it’s just doesn’t decay as smoothly as I would like to hear and the edge is a little scratchy when you pair it up to hard and edgy trebly songs. Its good but others do it better. (The Xcape for one.)
Soundstage: Huge. These have a vast and expansive quality to them. As I said earlier it’s a very “Lord of the Rings” epic vastness feel to them. Yes I realise that may make no sense what so ever to you but I’m not entirely sure just how to put into words. Sometime this huge sense of scale works so well but not always, if you’re after a close in, intimate feel then you want find it here. I’m not going to try to tell you expansive is better than close in and intimate because I don’t believe it inherently is. Like sound signature it’s a personal preference and sometimes one is more suited to a song and sometimes it’s the other. Whatever you prefer these are about as big sounding as you can find.
Comfort: Pretty good. They did get a touch tiring in my ears after after several hours but nothing I’d call sore. That their identical siblings the Xcape didn’t bother me may just be that my ears are feeling particularly sensitive today. YMMV
Fit: Absolutely fine. I did honestly expect to have venting issues with these but it never really manifested. Just a case of stick in ears and done.
Cable: Pretty nice cable, nothing amazing going on here. It seems perfectly good and functional with both the Y splitter and jack looking pretty sturdy. Should survive normal wear and tear pretty well I’d think.
Microphonics: As with so very, very money IEM’s, wear them up and your fine, wear them down and not so much. They have no chin slider too so that options removed. You do get a shirt clip but I don’t see why you would just wear them up to begin with.
Amped/Unamped: Honestly there was a reasonable difference when I amped these particularly when things got busy. Given their price they aren’t likely to see big grown up amp in the wild but you do gain by amping these
Isolation: Pretty reasonable. It’s a dynamic so nothing earth shattering but it’s likely to be enough to get you hit with a bus because you never heard it behind you if you aren’t used to wearing IEM’s.
Build Quality: Very nice actually. These don’t leap out at you and scream substance and quality but they are very solid little buds. I dare say they should stand up to a fair amount of abuse.
Accessories: Shirt clip, bunch of tips all af which are pretty standard fare. There is also an excellent little case included, I have said many times before but I think everything should come with a case and this one feels great. It’s a nice size and both looks and feels great. Kudos.
Value: Easily pretty good value for money. They may possible not be the absolute best you can for the money but defining “best” isn’t something that can be measured in absolutes anyway. These are still pretty near as good as you can find and they do particularly well in certain areas. Namely in term of their sonic scale and there warmth. While they may both be traits I may not clamour for there is no doubt it’s a very popular style. It’s warm, slightly thick and an edge in the highs is not a million miles away from the Sony classic house sound. This sonic signature goes down very, very well by all accounts in the Far East (especially China) and let’s be honest, Sony has done pretty well out of it too.
Conclusion: I hand on heart cannot say I love the IE’s. Not that there is anything wrong with them because there isn’t but they are just playing to a market segment that is not me. If I was going to a teeny bit snobby about it I could say that it’s a very “market orientated” sound. You know, a sound for the little people who are so unfortunate they just don’t know any better. I want a more “audiophile” style sound and for me that’s fine. However, normal people would find things like the RE-0 (known for its near faultless technical ability) to be woefully lacking. So many times on Head-Fi.org I have seen someone ask “what’s the best IEM for X amount of money?” There was a time when they would likely get a flurry of RE-0’s and the occasional warning they may be a bit bass light. So many times I’ve seen comments come back that they bought the RE-0 and how they had no bass whatsoever and ended up sending them back.
What I think sunrise have gone for here is to make something technically very competent but most of all they have set out to make something that the normal populous will like and enjoy. I am sure most people will very much enjoy the IE, especially its voluminous, rich expansiveness. It is very pleasant and I have no doubts it will appeal to many. You know there is a but in there don’t you. I found its bass and expansive sound to be too much for all the time and I would pretty much take the Xcited and its lighter, more neutral sound over it every day. Both are very accomplished and I suspect have the exact same driver that’s simply tuned differently. Arguably, of the two this the one I feel may cater to the general public’s taste more.