Hisoundaudio Crystals Review
Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample
First Impressions: I see they still have the tiny box barely bigger than the case they come in. I rather like that, okay so a big fancy box might be nice too but I appreciate the efficiency of it. It’s a really nice little case too. The buds though, erm they are bonze, every pic I’ve seen of them they are a silvery grey colour. I haven’t seen anything about there being a choice but I guess there must be. Oh also they really are on the small side of things, really, really small.
Having a little listen to them and the first thing that strikes me is holy crap that a bit of a low end. I can hear there is quality there too but make no mistake, this is no analytical IEM we have here. Fingers crossed it gets even better with a burn in since it’s a dynamic. I think I’ll like this one.
Source 5G iPod Video line out through a Practical Devices XM5 with LM6171 opp amps
Lows: Oh my oh my, these tiny little miniscule babies have a thunderous low end on them. They physically fit in to the teeny toaty, so small you could lose them in your ears category. This in my experience is occupied by dual driver BA things like the excellent q-JAYS and the not excellent UE700. They both arguably are on the lighter side of bass. The same most certainly cannot be said about the Crystal, not that’s it’s too bassy either even if it gets close to that level. Yes it is a touch on the heavy but its more about its ability to move air and power out a low end when it’s called for. If you ask it to it can power out like a large, if not the best sub out there. It can roar and go deep with just oodles of power and fullness. Now I must confess its isn’t the tightest bass, it lacks the precision and articulation of Balanced Armatures and even that of the fabulous RE-0/ZERO but none of those can come close to the tactility found here. It has such power and vigour that the only thing that I recall feeling similarly about is the Shure SE215. It’s not something I have to hand but from what I recall I think the Crystals are a good step above them. These have seriously plentiful and seriously good bass.
Mids: The mids too are just great, not blow you away great but they have a rich, dark warmth to them. They flow like a melting milkshake, rich and thick. While they are very pleasant they are well over on the warm side and have a bit a struggle to do airy or dry. It’s not that they don’t sound great because they do, they just have their own flavour going on and they will present vocals as rich and flowing. I’ve also noticed that if you let them sit shallow in the ear they can on occasion get a touch sibilant. That’s really odd for something warm but it only happened on very sibilant songs anyway and if they were sitting shallow.
Now if you want rich, sultry smoothness (Norah Jones, Cold Cold Heart) then these are arguably about as good as it gets. All dark, rich , warm, gooey goodness.
Highs: Treble junkies look elsewhere. As I mentioned above these are all about the dark, warm etc etc and accordingly the treble presentation is slight, sweet and smooth. They can do treble, do it pretty well too but clearly it’s not where its talents lay. The detail level is rather good but it’s no challenger to things like the RE-0, not even close but then it’s not trying to be. The treble here gives you everything you need to know and gives it smoothed, polished edge. Even on treble heavy songs the treble never seems to take centre stage. It’s that rambunctious low end. If it sound signature were a seesaw then the fat kid is sitting at the treble side. Yeah the treble fine but its lack of edge and hardness means it really doesn’t stand out which is just fine if that’s what you want. There is certainly no splashy brutal treble causing offense here. Actually its rather like the SE215, a bit pushed back and a bit polite. This can be a good thing if the recordings a bit poo, its rather forgiving.
Soundstage: It is a dynamic driver in there so as you might expect it’s not bad, not bad at all. It may not sound immense but it’s very rich and full sounding. Placement and instrument separation suffer a little but then this is about enjoyment. It’s not trying to be a monitor so it doesn’t really need to do those things.
Fit: As a dynamic and unvented the fit did give me some venting / air pressure issues. It wasn’t anything major and would gradually correct itself after a few min but given I’m reviewing and pulling them out constantly and trying other things it became annoying. It’s not alone in this but as someone with sinus issues it annoyed and so I stuck on comply’s, that instantly fixed the issue. YMMV.
Comfort: Just fine. I could wear these fairly shallow with a bigger tip but they didn’t sound as good so I mostly wore them deep. They are so tiny they can just melt away and disappear inside your ear. They were perfectly comfortable always but I could see those not used to things going so deep maybe feeling little violated. Don’t worry you’ll get over it.
Cable: It’s a little stiff and bouncy but otherwise great. Feels sturdy and strong and looks like it should last a good long while. I do miss a chin slider though; not a big deal but it lacks one.
Microphonics: I wore these up like I do pretty much everything and I got none at all. I dare say wearing down with the lack of a chin slider may yield different results however.
Accessories: You get a really nice little case, it’s nice the attention to detail. You get a shirt clip and a bunch of tips, erm 4 or 5 pairs I think. I confess I think I’ve managed to lose some and as I have 3 bags of tips on my desk right now I may have miss paired things. Oops.
Amped/Unamped. Well they sound just fine unamped but they do like a little power. They scale pretty well and in my opinion like a brighter amp. (They are rather dark and warm after all.) The more power you can throw at them the better but don’t feel you need to in the same way the RE-0 needs an amping. These just clean and tidy up they don’t alter in sound signature significantly.
Isolation: I remember commenting at how Shure and all their boat load of R & D money had managed to make a dynamic that isolates like a BA IEM. Hisoundaudio have done it too. When you take these and stick them in they isolate excellently, the only way you’ll get better is using some etys and even then there won’t be much in it. These are easily good enough for daily Tube use or flights to everywhere and anywhere. Be warned though, if you’re not used to it you had better remember to look for traffic before crossing, if not you will die. Seriously you will die because you won’t hear that bus hurtling towards you.
Value: This really depends on the price and I’ve been told circa £65. As the only competition as I see it is the SE215 and a quick look around and I can’t see them for less than £84. Given going by memory these are better sounding (but I don’t have to hand to compare directly) then how is that not great value? These kick ass.
Conclusion: Now those familiar with my rambling scrawling’s will know that I’m not really a big bass lover. So personally I’m not loving these because the bass is just too big, too abundant, too powerful. Too, if it was a sub it would be like getting kicked in the guts by the bass, that kinda power and energy. That said I did find it fun in short bursts, like holy crap its big energetic and enthusiastic bass. Still much like I said with the 215 it’s a sound that is going to just be hugely popular in some circles, in the mainstream audio world huge bass is what’s wanted and these do it. They are fabulous, just fabulous. That they have managed to get this big yet good bass going on and isolates is a real achievement. As I say the only other in the 215 but its more expensive and you must wear it up and not everyone likes that.
What you do have to remember though is that these are taking aim at the 215, a big meaty mainstream sound that is a pretty good quality too. It is not trying to take down the audiophile kings of the price range like the RE-0. It’s trying to take the sound that’s popular and add quality, making no judgement about how much bass is too much bass. The fact is lots find the RE-0 to be horrifically bass light, it’s not what they are used to and not what they want. The Crystal’s give the people what they want and I can see many just loving what they have to offer. It’s not what I want to hear every day, but if you like your low end to kick it with real vigour then you’ve really got to give this a thought. Especially if you want some isolation too as it’s practically unheard of to offer both at the same time.