The POPO's you've linked are probably the older version? The build details are different.
For instance there is no "hi" at the back of the housing and the cable connection to the earphone is also different.
So I don't know if these are really still $60 but the $89 unit from hisound's official page is bundled with a AMP3 M Player. Good deal imho.
First off, I'd also like to thank Jack for allowing me to review a sample.
From the email he sent back to me, the specifications are as such:
Size of the driver：@9mm
Maximum SPL (Sound pressure level)：127db（1khz，1 Vrms）
earphone jack ：3.5mm
Length of the cable 126CM
Secondly, take note that this review is based on personal observations and contain personal opinions.
Lastly, I will be comparing these to the re0 very often in this review, as they are in the same price range and are (or were once?) one of the popular recommendations on Head-Fi for it's amazing sound for the buck.
Without further mention, here are my appreciations:
Visuals: With red cables, one thing people may ask you is "are those Beats?", and we can't blame them. These are built quite visually appealing, though opinions could differ by the individual.
Accessories: I was truly surprised when I opened the box to find so many tips! The hisoundaudio POPO comes with a medium single flange pre-fitted like most IEM, and sports a pair of S, M, and L of single, bi, and triple flange in the accessory bag. Yes, this means you have a total of two pairs M single flange tips, which is very much appreciated if that is the size you wear. Also included is a clip.
The large variety of tips should provide you with at least one proper fit: to me these were the single flange and the hybrids (bi-flange) in M. The type of tips used will affect the way it sounds and how well it stays in your ears, so unless you are traveling with all of them, try them out before choosing your to-go set. Note that these tips are pretty standard size, so they will fit a wide range of IEMs and the use of other brand tips will also be possible (I've had IEMs in the past where this was not the case). As for the build, there is not much to say as these things are pretty standard. I have, however, found some tips where the flange silicone has not been properly trimmed off and small bits of the excess still remain.
These earphones come with a shirt clip that doubles as slider. No, the earphones do not have a built-in slider on the Y-split, which was a first to me. Since I almost never use the slider, this is not a big issue; for those that do use slider, using the clip may be obstructive and may look slightly ridiculous as they're pretty big. The clips on the other hand, are quite solid and grips well on thinner fabric, compared to the similar looking clip from the HiFiMAN re0 which do not.
Sadly there is no carrying case for these, nor any form of pouch. These may possibly be available optionally...? I am making this assumption based on the box the sample POPO were sent from; the PAA-1 box shows optional features such as carrying case and cable extension for that specific model, which may mean the same could be possible with the POPO.
Isolation: If you get a nice fit, the isolation is quite good. If ljokerl placed re0's at a 3.5/5, it would be safe to say that these will score higher. At 3 bars volume on my iphone4S I can barely hear the treadmill I am running on!
Cables and Microphonics: The red cable is nice and springy. I did find it's texture to have changed from a rubbery feel to being somewhat drier and rougher. The same applies to the rubber Y-split and the rubber covered 3.5mm plug. While the cable does have minor case of memory (after over 2 weeks they still retain their original packaging folds), the cables are not one that will instill you with the fear of it failing. It is very solid and will stand abuse.
In terms of microphonics, I found them to be minute at first. After the surface hardening, the microphonics have increased substantially. Wearing them over the ears reduces microphonics significantly, although not completely eliminating it; in fact there is a bigger issue when wearing over ear... read on.
(There can be multiple causes to the hardening of the cable and rubber. Do not forget that these have been sampled with everyday use, which includes using them outdoors in winter. Montreal is also significantly drier than Asia, and ever more so in winter. These have proved to at least retain better cable flexibility in the cold compared to my other earphones/headphones; in fact they fare better in the cold than all of my other gears.)
Fit and Comfort: These IEMs have a smaller girth, and the comfort will depend on the tip. When wearing them I can barely feel anything other than the tips and are definitely on the comfortable side. I can wear them for hours and not feel discomfort. Notice I do not mention feeling the cables at all, which is a plus in terms of comfort, but can be problematic on the fit.
No matter how well the tips fit, these have been giving me comfort issues related to the fit. Since these earphones have a smaller diameter but a longer barrel, it means that the cables are hanging off further from your ears. Many have mentioned 'deep insertion design', but at the deepest even with a smaller tip size, the barrel will still stick out quite far. Put this in very simple analogy, the length of the barrel gives the cables very good leverage to pop the earphones out of your ears, or at least destroying the seal to your ears. If you are wearing a jacket, know that these will pull out even with a very good silicone tip fit.
The other issue regarding the fit is wearing over ears. Fitting them over-ear is not much of an issue, but the earphones become more sensitive to being pulled off. Having the cables far from where your ears are sealed not only provides leverage for cables to pull off the IEMs, but also makes it very hard to keep the cables wrapped around your ears due to its distance and because the cables are very springy.
Due to these fitting limitations, note that these will not be suitable for use with a lot of moving around, needless to say exercising. Commuting is borderline. For those that sleep with their earphones on, please do not try with these, especially if you are a side sleeper.
The sound is not fatiguing to listen to, although I would recommend listening to them without a proper seal from time to time since the bass can be overwhelming.
Build Quality and Design: The finish and the overall build quality of the earphones are very good. No issues with that. The POPO also does not use felt filters like the re0, and after 2 weeks+ of use, there has been no problems regarding the filter getting even a tiny bit dirty. I cannot go over 12 days without changing filters on the re0...
As for the design, aside from the ones causing fitting issues, these are very well suited for use with modern portable sources. While many do prefer an angled plug, these are straight and very small. With that said, the plug will fit virtually any case you may have for whatever portable device used. Naturally, those with cellphones that output their earphones from the side, these will be very obstructive. I would suggest an angled adapter. The Y-split is covered in a pretty large section of rubber, which will provide frankly a good deal of protection against anything getting hooked. As for the strain relief on the connector, while it may not seem very safe, it works very well with these cables.
As for durability, I believe that these can last for a fairly long time with minimal care. All remains to see is whether the wood will experience cracking problems. So far, going from the cold and dry exterior to a hot and humid interior, such as in buses and metros, has not caused any problems in this regard.
Drive-ability: Okay, not sure if that's a word, but these are definitely on the easy side to drive. Definitely no amp required to drive, and I can achieve my commuting listening volume at 1~3 bar on my iphone. Since these also have very high sensitivity, be ready to hear background noise you normally don't notice, depending on your setup.
Sound: The POPO is not a neutral earphone, but a fun one. The first impression right out of the box was that it sounds... okay. Before any burn-in has been done, the first things I’ve noticed is that the sound is warm, bass oriented, and that voices sound hollow. Depending on the type of music you listen to, this may have huge effects on your enjoyment. While deeper male voices sound very good, higher pitched voices suffer from two hints of tin-can syndrome. Fortunately, after only 30 minutes of listening, the sound changes for the better. These changes are very small. After over 100 hours of burn-in, the overall impression of the sound is roughly the same: warm. The voices no longer sound hollow, but it is then clear that these are dark. I know that hisoundaudio purposed these earphones for pop and the likes, but without being able to fully portray normal to high pitched voices, I cannot call these for "pop" (strictly pop). Maybe other forms of popular music, but pop and rock are not at their best here. In the case of rock, the voices are fine but the guitars may suffer a bit. BUT! if you like listening to the basslines rather than the guitar, you will be very pleased with these!
Dark and warm. If you can withstand this sound signature, they definitely sound very good. Though depending on what kind of music you listen to, once again, things change a lot. Now since these are bass oriented phones (the only ones I own where I can actually hear some sub-bass while commuting!), let's talk about bass. The bass is not to the point of being bloated, but there is definitely more in quality than in quality. Perhaps even a tad bit too much in quantity for my liking; these IEMs rumble in my ears! The bass is controlled, but definitely not tight. This also leads me to talk about decay. The sound, especially the low frequencies, do not decay fast enough and that makes the bass and sub bass muddy. Listening to some club/dance music, you can notice that the whole lower end becomes chaos. On slower songs, or songs without too much different low frequency sounds, there is no such problem.
Now with all that said, it may sound as if the bass on these is horrible. No, they’re not. The sub bass is not controlled enough, but in this price range that is a definitive asking for too much. With most types of songs I’ve listened to, there is no issue with the bass not keeping up. The bass is very prominent, however, and those not seeking for bass heavy IEMs should definitely look elsewhere.
Now in terms of midrange, there is a bit of bass bleed. As mentioned previously, the midrange is nice and warm, but seems to have a drop approximated around 700Hz~1.2kHz, which explains why the voices do not sound full. If you hit YouTube and seach for Sam Tsui, that will give you a pretty good idea of what kind of voice will suffers from this. The overall listening experience will still be pretty good however. As for treble, it definitely is there, though not full enough to give the impression of lots of clarity and detail.
Ideally, these IMO are best suited for songs without too much voices (as in, too much different sounds), or songs of slower tempo. While the instrument separation isn’t the culprit, in fact it is quite acceptable; the problem lies with the reverberation time as discussed previously. Genres like orchestra and choir music, which tend to have extended notes, will sound fair. Acoustic guitar sound nice and warm, and are perhaps some of the best portrayed voices. For those familiar with guitars, the POPO will represent choosing a mellow set of strings while the re0's would represent choosing steel strings. Though I should emphasize that not all fast(er) songs will sound bad. I am a huge fan of Falcom (Japanese game company) and their JDK band, and their music sounds really good on the POPO. Part of it is because their music often incorporates violin, and the bass part is well written. Search YouTube for “falcom jdk super arrange” for a taste of it, and know that these music mostly do not have problems with the slower sub bass of the POPO, nor with human voices since there are none.
These have been recognized to have very good soundstage for the price range. Since I normally wear closed headphones, I will say that I did not particularly feel the soundstage. If this does not tell you heaps about it, then I will rephrase: the soundstage is comparable to some closed full-size headphones. Naturally, I mean the ones with smaller headstage, but that is still very good for an IEM of this price range.
And for those wondering, these definitely can hit 16Hz as listed in the specs. I cannot hear it very well but the vibration and pressure level change in my ears when I generate the tone on Audacity is definitely felt. If anything, 18Hz is still audible for me and I can definitely hear it rumble in the POPO!
Equalizing: These react very well to equalizing. For those that do not mind using equalizers, most of the issues with the slightly lackluster treble and the sometimes overpowering bass can be solved. I have found that equalizing on my e17 with -4 bass & +4 treble balances it out pretty well for me. In fact, the problem I stated previously about the lack of body in voices is improved if not mostly fixed.
Value: In all honesty, these are pretty good for, say, $60. Now how much the final pricing will be for the earphones alone, I do not know yet. But as mentioned at the top of this post, at $89 including an amped MP3 player, I'd say it is very good, especially if you need a portable source. [EDIT: Put this into perspective: The bundle is $89 and the AMP3 M is listed for $59. This means the POPO is actually $30! If this is 'pretty good' for $60, it is quite the value at $30, or even say $40.] Whether or not I would recommend these would depend on a few factors: if you do not mind darker sounding phones; if you like warm sounding phones; and if you like bass. Also, if the music you listen to tends to have more male voices than female, since the mids are not full. If none of these are you, the re0 will probably still satisfy your needs better. The POPO ,however, seem likely to outlive several pairs of re0's based on reliability and build quality (bias based on the lengthy reports of broken re0's)… All in all, I have to say I enjoy these very much. Note that I do play electric bass so I like to be able to hear basslines, I enjoy warm sounds and I do not mind slightly dark sound signatures. Listening to anything from bass to upright or even cellos will sound very good with these.
I've also asked my brother to give me a short impression of these. His conclusions were very similar to mines: the highs do not come out very much (you should know that he usually uses a AKG Q701 which have a lot of treble),and the sound is definitely warm and bassy. If it really is around 60$, they're not bad as long as the user does not mind dark sound.
For those interested, I've also tested the POPO against the similarly priced re0's with some CDs out of a Pioneer CLD-1190 CD CVD LD player, and a Realistic STA-2000 AM/FM Stereo Receiver. The previous mentions are cumulative observation from the CDs and the various listening done with MP3s, FLACs and WAV from my Acer Aspire laptop or iphone4S.
Many of these CDs are very old. The ones I have chosen have very clean recordings (gotta love EMI), with the exception of the Soviet Army Chorus & Band, which has some background hiss.
From Luigi Alberto Bianchi & Maurizio Preda – Paganini - Sonate inedite per violino e chitarra (Dynamic digital, 1985): Violins sound very good, but compared to re0's they sound like comparing a good violin vs. an high quality aged violin (I do have some background with violinists and have had the chance to listen to world class violins loaned from museums) since the POPO does not portray the highs bright enough for violins. The guitars have their pros and cons on both units.
From The King’s Singers – A La Francaise (EMI Records, 1987): These CDs feature a lot of male voices, as well as orchestrated music. As expected, the POPO cannot bring out the full body of tenor voices, but fares better at bringing out the bass singer's voice. On fast piano rolls, the POPO is not fast enough to keep up without slightly muddying the notes.
From Shikata Akiko – Harmonia (avex, 2009): One of my favorite songs in this CD is 'Aoiro Kandume'. The song's two most important voices Shikata Akiko's voice and the accompanying electric bass which complements it. From the re0's, this is exactly how it sounds. On the other hand, the POPO manages to put the electric bass alongside Shikata Akiko's voice as a main voice without drowning it. Having loved the song's bassline, this is definitely a pleasent surprise! Both earphones manage to capture all the other instruments' parts very well. On other tracks in this CD where there were lots of sub bass synths (actually slightly higher than being sub bass), the re0 can barely make out those notes while the POPO was drowning in sub bass.
From Soviet Army Chorus & Band, conducted by Colonel Boris Alexandrov (EMI Records, 1986): The voices are all male, and with much less higher pitched voices like in The King Singers. All I can say is that the POPO sounded absolutely fantastic for this. It really manages to bring out the power of their voices.
Personally I also find these very good for movies and dramatic music
For now I will continue burning them in!
Changelog (Click to show)
Edit 06/03/12 11:50PM -- added equalizing.
Edited by kalbee - 3/6/12 at 8:51pm