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[REVIEW] HiSound Audio’s Battleflag (Popo) / Crystal / PAA-1 Pro / Living

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

First, I’ll like to thank HiSound Audio (HSA) for the samples. A few years ago, HiSound Audio was introduced to Head-fi as an audiophile DAP maker and made a fairly big splash among the community.  Nowadays, they also have their own line of earphones. I’ll be reviewing one of their latest DAP, the RoCoo-P soon. But for now, let put our attention to some of their earphone models first, including two IEM models, Battleflag and Crystal, and two earbuds, the PAA-1 Pro and Living.

 

A few things to take note – Firstly, the official English name for Battleflag is ‘Popo’ (*no idea what that’s supposed to mean). The name ‘Battleflag’ is the direct translation of its Chinese name. Secondly, though I am reviewing Crystal, it is not the same Crystal currently on the market.  There have been several batches of Crystal being released in the past, and mine belongs to the previous batch. As far as I know, the same IEM is now being referred as Golden Crystal. So even though I am reviewing Crystal, you can equal it to the Golden Crystal as the current Crystal is a different sounding IEM of its own. Confusing? Yes, but we will leave that discussion to the build quality section.

 

The price on this models are: Battleflag – US$59; (Golden) Crystal – USD$199; PAA-1 Pro – US$49; Living - US$149.

 

Spec

BF-01.jpg

 

BF-03.jpg

 

Battleflag (Popo)

Driver: 9mm Dynamic

Rated impedance: 16Ω

Sensitivity: 110dB

Frequency Response: 16KHZ-23KHZ

Channel Balance: 127dB (@1KHz)

Plug size: 3.5mm

Cord length: 126cm

 

Crystal-01.jpg

 

Crystal-03.jpg

 

Crystal

Driver: 5mm Dynamic

Rated impedance: 16Ω

Sensitivity: 110dB

Frequency Response: 15KHZ-23KHZ

Channel Balance: 125dB (@1KHz)

Plug size: 3.5mm

Cord length: 124cm

 

PPA-01.jpg

 

PPA-03.jpg

 

PAA-1 Pro

Driver: 16mm Dynamic

Rated impedance: 32Ω

Sensitivity: 105dB

Frequency Response: 17KHZ-22KHZ

Channel Balance: 120dB (@1KHz)

Plug size: 3.5mm

Cord length: 124cm

 

Living-01.jpg

 

Living-03.jpg

 

Living

Driver: 16mm Dynamic

Rated impedance: 32Ω

Sensitivity: 110dB

Frequency Response: 16KHZ-23KHZ

Channel Balance: 125dB (@1KHz)

Plug size: 3.5mm

Cord length: 124cm

 

Here is one of HSA’s biggest ‘weakness’, and probably one that is most complained about – the lack of proper spec. While there are some description of difference models on HSA’s official Chinese webstore, most are ads rather than proper spec. Spec can be misleading sometime, but at least it will give some idea to the buyer. Given the price of these models, I think there is big room for improvement. The specs above are grabbed from eBay, which is better than having nothing listed at all.

 

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality

As I have mentioned, the models I have are from the older batch, so the packaging are not the same anymore. Regardless, there are a few points that I thought needed to be addressed. Most HSA earphones come in plastic hard case, which aren’t bad at all. The problem is HSA uses color instead of model name and printing to differential the models. For example, Battleflag has a red paper lining while Crystal, PAA-1 Pro and Living use gold lining, yet everything on the box is labeled as PAA-1 and every spec is the same. The only difference on the box is a sticker that tells you the name of the models. While cutting corner on printed material might suffice for a short while, HSA really should put in some work on their packaging in the long run. It certainly will help to lift up the DIY’ish image of the brand.

 

BF-04.jpg

 

Crystal-04.jpg

 

Accessories are actually pretty standard on the previous batch. Old Battleflag comes with three double flanges and three single flanges eartips and a shirt clip. The latest batch adds three triple flanges eartips and a soft pouch. Crystal comes with only shirt clip and three single flanges, which is really slim for its price tag. The good news is the latest batch offers much better outer case, as well as more eartips and a hard case – definitely more befitting for a flagship. For PAA-1 Pro and Living, you will also get a shirt clip and a few replacement foam pad (Living has more), plus a 1/8’ to ¼’ plug adapter. The latest batch adds a soft pouch.

 

PPA-04.jpg

 

Living-04.jpg

 

Overall, build quality is quite decent. It is worth noting that the cables on all models are pretty good in quality, especially on Living and Crystal. The cable guides (chin slider) are missing on all models. This is more of an issue for the IEM as it makes it hard to use them over-the-ear or secure the cable under the chin. One extra note is that Living has visible glue mark around the transducer housing. According to HSA, it is a special type of glue that is meant to both seal and provide dampening to the transducer. It does have an unfinished look to it but it doesn’t impair any function and is covered by the foam pad anyway, so it is not a big deal. I just thought I’ll mention it in case someone thought they might have received a fake earbuds which in fact is the genuine product. Last but not least, I detect a very mild case of driver flex on Battleflag. Annoying but It is not enough to worry me

 

Overall I am satisfied with what I have seen on these earphones. While they are generally good, they do have a few minor issues of their own. 1st, it is confusing to name different batch of different model with the same / similar naming. 2nd, packaging really need improvement, especially on printing out the spec (which is the basic of all the basic). 3rd, a chin slider / cable guide, especially on the IEM models, should be included. While HSA is targeting more on the niche audiophile market right now, these improvements will help to lift the company’s DIY’ish image and help to attract a bigger audience.

 

Sound Quality

All models have been burnt in for over 50 hours before the review. No significant change was detected during and after the process.

 

BF-06.jpg

 

It is hard to define how ‘woody’ sounds like by words, but there is always a sense of lushness caused by reverberation of the wooden IEM housing that are pleasing to the ears, though it might not be the most accurate sounding. Like many woody IEM, Battleflag (Popo) carries the lushness of the wood into its warm and sweet sound signature. While it is quantitatively above average, bass can often be boomy but shallow in depth. However, it is not boomy enough to be offensive and in fact, quite enjoyable for casual listening. Though it is classified as being sweet sounding, the mid isn’t particularly forward. It has enough warm and thickness to keep pace with bass and give it some sweetness, but back away enough to reserve a sense of space between the signer and the listener. Treble has good extension but missing some of the top end sparkle – not something very noticeable unless you are looking for it. It is decently crisp but overall smooth and tends to trail behind the mid and bass. Soundstage is pretty good, airy, specious but more immersive than it is transparent. Technically, Battleflag is not strong in any particular area. But as a whole, the sum is larger than its parts. It is rich, it is lush, and most importantly, it is fun and relaxing to listen to. This makes it compared well to more expensive IEM like the Shure SE215 and even Fischer Audio Tandem. For its price tag ($59), it is not quite as ‘popo’ as its official name might let you to believe in.

 

Crystal-06.jpg

 

As mentioned before, the Crystal under review is really the $199 Golden Crystal. The sound signature, in short, can be described as the dynamic version of the Brainwavz B2. It is bright and analytical with a slightly aggressive presentation. Bass, though no abundance by any mean, has really good body and impact that are not often found in analytical IEM.  Mid is placed slightly away from the listener but not enough to really call recessed. Thought it lacks a sense of thickness, the overall detail of vocal is still very clean and decent. Treble is crisp, sparkly, well extended and full of micro detail. It can be slightly harsh on bright passage, but never quite as the more aggressive B2.  As a dynamic transducer based IEM, Crystal offers something different from B2. That is, it is more specious, textured and with a better bass reproduction while B2 offers better speed, resolution and fine sparkle. Those who find B2 to lack a bit of the lower end or just a bit too much on the higher end will likely find Crystal to be the perfect substitute as technically, the two are very much comparable with just a small touch of different in presentation.

 

PPA-05.jpg

 

The overall sound signature of PAA-1 Pro is rich, warm but most neutral, smooth and relaxing. While tonally rich and full (which gives the earbuds a sense of warmness), the overall presentation or the sonic energy distribution is actually rather neutral, if not with a slight roll off at both ends. It is smooth but never feels lacking in particular area, neither excessively bassy, sweet in mid nor bright in treble and vice versa. If there is any flaw, it will be its slightly slow speed and overall flatter dynamic. But on the other hand, those are what make it so smooth and relaxing and good with any music that doesn’t required a fast speed to enjoy. For the same price range, it is still not quite the competition for Blox M2c. But other than Blox, the PAA-1 Pro still compared well with pretty good sounding earbuds like CrossRoads HR2, Yuin PK3 and BeB 328R. This makes it one of the most solid choices under $50, especially if considered that its build quality is a little ahead on the competition.

 

Living-05.jpg

 

Different from PAA-1 Pro, Living goes for a leaner, cleaner and more analytical sound signature. Detail is its strength and it is finicky about fitting because of its rather large transducer. Didn’t get the fit right and you might lose what little bass it has.  In a sense, Living is quite opposite to most top end earbuds that tends to offer warmness. Instead, it offers speed, detail and accuracy like an Etymotic, and sometime a bit too much brightness as well. It has fairly deep bass reach, just not quite enough in quantity. It doesn’t need any amping, but a little bass boost (i.e. digiZoid ZO) really does wonder. I won’t say it beats PK1 flat out, but it does scale better with just a bit of EQing. This makes it a unique choice for analytical listener as there simply aren’t that many good analytical earbuds around, left alone one that is on the top-tier level.

 

Verdict

One thing I notice immediately about these HiSound Audio earphones when I received them is that they are all of really good sound quality. At least they are befitting to the price HiSound Audio is asking and actually still make pretty good bang for bucks. It is a good sign that HiSound Audio knows what they are doing and what the market demands. But on the other hand, these earphones still lack something for the prime time just yet. With a bit more effort on build quality and overall packaging to take care of the detail, who to say HiSound Audio won’t make it big in the earphones’ world?

 

For quick sum up, check out the link to Concise Multi-IEM Comparison and Earbuds Round-up in my sig.


Edited by ClieOS - 1/27/12 at 8:36am
post #2 of 38

Thanks for the effort Clieos..

I am not sure but i have my doubts about the golden Crystal in disguise. I had the Crystals but sold them because it seems i have some problems with fully closed iems and the pressure created.

If indeed they were selling these in the price of the the simple crystals and are actually the goldens then its pretty stupit move for HSA to sell them so cheap. But seriously i highly doubt it.

They didnt even told me this when i asked them and they just said its an improved version by removing the nozzle filter. I dont know why they say different stuff to you. Maybe they respect you more.

 

Lately i am disappointed with the small iem brands.. They make things so confusing. HSA, vsonic Sunrise.. All of them have iems that make me interesting about them but so confused and insecure as a customer.

 

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

They didn't told me anything. Actually it is a conclusion I reached by doing some research over the internet. Remember the Crystal I have is from the old batch, a month before HiSound Audio released the current batch. The old Crystal received complaints about being bright, so they remake a version (the current one) that is much milder and warmer (and cheaper as well) and rename the old Crystal to Golden Crystal. This is why I believe the old Crystal I have is in fact the same IEM as the new Golden Crystal. Regardless, it is confusing no less and thus my suggestion to HSA to stop reuse the same name across different generation.

post #4 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

They didn't told me anything. Actually it is a conclusion I reached by doing some research over the internet. Remember the Crystal I have is from the old batch, a month before HiSound Audio released the current batch. The old Crystal received complaints about being bright, so they remake a version (the current one) that is much milder and warmer (and cheaper as well) and rename the old Crystal to Golden Crystal. This is why I believe the old Crystal I have is in fact the same IEM as the new Golden Crystal. Regardless, it is confusing no less and thus my suggestion to HSA to stop reuse the same name across different generation.


 

I feel kind of bad of asking this.. i dont want to minor the work you put to write the review, but why didnt you prefer to review the versions consumers can buy now.. Did they just send you them as samples or you bought them with your own money.

 

And in order not to troll you threat.. This seller sells both Crystal (simple versions) they one is called Crystal and has the box you reviewed and the other one Crystal2 and has a new box. Both of the are listed as iems with 7mm driver

post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Angelopsaro View Post


 

I feel kind of bad of asking this.. i dont want to minor the work you put to write the review, but why didnt you prefer to review the versions consumers can buy now.. Did they just send you them as samples or you bought them with your own money.

 

And in order not to troll you threat.. This seller sells both Crystal (simple versions) they one is called Crystal and has the box you reviewed and the other one Crystal2 and has a new box. Both of the are listed as iems with 7mm driver

HiSound sent them to me as review sample, I didn't pay for them. The story is a bit complicated. The review was supposed to come out at November last year, before HiSound released the new batch to the interntational market. So basically it was supposed to be kind of a preview + review for them. But the international batch was not ready yet (as they had plan to change the package as well as adding new models, *Golden Crystal, Crystal and such), so they sent me the old batch that already on sale in China at the time instead. That's the reason why I didn't have the latest batch. As for why the review is published now instead of Nov. last year - There was a family emergency at early Nov. that forced me to travel between countries and hospitals to take care of my father. He turns out alright but needs follow up till late December. Hence why I posted very little review for the last few months and why everything was delayed.

 

The eBay seller you mentioned (actually I bought things from him before) got his stock straight from China, so his stock uses the model name in China, which are sometime different from the international stock. For the last year or so I have seen at least 4~5 different Crystal being released in China, and I believe Crystal 2 is the latest addition to the Crystal family, release only a few week ago in China. Confused yet?
 

 

post #6 of 38

Filter difference in the new Crystal? That may be what tames the treble. The old Crystal's filter didn't have much of a dampening factor. 

post #7 of 38

Am cool clieos.. Everything is so unlcearly clear now xD.

Inks, the one i received had no filter..

post #8 of 38

Agree with the description of Golden Crystals. Bass quality and texture is better than RE272 (sounds much softer), packs a good punch too. I find myself listening to these more and more after 1 month. RE272 is on back seat now. Intimate, bright and aggressive sound signature is quite complementary to the kind of music I listen to (Post-rock). Though I wish soundstage could have been wider but everything else is just perfect.

Additional bonus is they really seat deeper with tri flanges providing the best isolation out of all the other IEMs I have tried.

However, they are a bit more revealing of bad recordings.

post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post With a bit more effort on build quality and overall packaging to take care of the detail, who to say HiSound Audio won’t make it big in the earphones’ world?

 



Here are the pics of current packaging and accessories:

Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal Hisoundaudio Golden Crystal

post #10 of 38

Tai, I believe you also have a Rocoo P. I remember you made a comment about the signature compared to the T51. Any chance you could mention the Golden Crystal/Rocoo synergy? Seems like they would be a great match for an analytical taste but still have enough bass.

post #11 of 38

Golden Crystal are vented, ClieOS your Crystal look like the second version of the oldest Crystal.

post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by psygeist View Post

Agree with the description of Golden Crystals. Bass quality and texture is better than RE272 (sounds much softer), packs a good punch too. I find myself listening to these more and more after 1 month. RE272 is on back seat now. Intimate, bright and aggressive sound signature is quite complementary to the kind of music I listen to (Post-rock). Though I wish soundstage could have been wider but everything else is just perfect.
...

RE272 really need to run from a balanced amp to show what it can do. Try it if you have the chance. I do agree RE272 doesn't hold that much advantage from normal single-ended source as compared to IEM that level of Crystal.
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psygeist View Post

Here are the pics of current packaging and accessories:

...

I know they are getting better boxes and accessories, though my complaints are not on the boxes, but what printed (or the lack of) on them, Also, the missing chin slider and of course a better naming system. These are the minor things in the big picture but at the end, I do believe your average consumers (outside of HF) are more into the first look than they are into the first sound. In any case, it helps to build up the brand.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jant71 View Post

Tai, I believe you also have a Rocoo P. I remember you made a comment about the signature compared to the T51. Any chance you could mention the Golden Crystal/Rocoo synergy? Seems like they would be a great match for an analytical taste but still have enough bass.

For an analytical setup, I'll say they are pretty good together. Crystal already has really decent bass by itself and RoCoo-P are not bass light either (just no particular emphasis in bass)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by saykong View Post

Golden Crystal are vented, ClieOS your Crystal look like the second version of the oldest Crystal.

Yep, it could be that as well. Though I had saw a dealer comment that the Golden Crystal was adapted from the previous Crystal (thus my assumption that they are the same thing). I have really see much explanation for different generation of Crystal on HiSound's forum in the topic and I think, either the same or not, they should adapter a different naming system, or at least attempt to make it clear once and for all the difference across different generation of Crystal.
 

p/s there is a small vent on the back of the housing of my Crystal as well, just no showing up in the picture.

 


Edited by ClieOS - 1/27/12 at 6:22pm
post #13 of 38

@ClieOS

Not getting a balanced source/amp anytime soon. But will be getting ZO2 and Fiio E17 soon.

 

 

How do they fare with amping (esp with ZO2 and Fiio E17) ?

 

I found the normal level volume to be substantially less when compared to other IEMs.

post #14 of 38
Thread Starter 

They are very efficient. No extra amping needed.

post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

They are very efficient. No extra amping needed.


 

But my impression is exactly like this:

 

Quote:

 

Amped/Unamped: These both liked additional power and impedance. Nothing earth shattering going on but they do like it and I’d strongly suggest using amps if you have it. Also I should not they are pretty quiet compared to most IEM’s so you probably want to use something that can pump out a bit of volume. The little 1G shuffle had no trouble even with the 75 ohm Ety adapter added but I did have to turn the volume up further than I would with most things so be warned. If you have a weedy DAP then maybe this isn’t the IEM for you.

http://9811194.blogspot.com/2011/10/hisoundaudio-golden-crystals-review.html

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › [REVIEW] HiSound Audio’s Battleflag (Popo) / Crystal / PAA-1 Pro / Living