Firstly a shout out to Dimitri, excellent fellow, great customer service and super quick shipping from Japan. Really great company to deal with I found!
So, a bit of history to show where I am coming from with this review. I have had a number of IEM's over the years, dynamic drivers such as Sennheisers IE8's Denon AH-C700's and JVC Victor FX500's. As far as balanced armatures go I own UE Triple.fi10's Etymotic's ER4S and have owned the ER6.
I have had extensive listening periods with Shure SE530's and short listening periods with JH 16's (admittedly with universal tips so I won't include those as I cannot give them a fair shake of the stick!)
I also own Audeze LCD2 rev1's cabled with Toxic cables Silver Poison balanced cable.
My system is: iPod 160G Classic with lossless files ripped from CD, Cypher Labs Algorythm Solo, RSA SR71-B interconnects are custom pure silver strand and all the iem's run from the single ended output on the amp.
Music I like is pretty broad. Anything from classical, Wagner, Bach and such to Jazz, some eighties pop, folk and rock including Zep, Clapton, Stones and Floyd. A lot more in between but I am not into metal or modern R&B or most modern pop.
So to the review!
I have been looking for an IEM that combines all the traits I love that are my ER4S's but with a bit more bottom end and warmth. I have found that multi-driver IEM's really don't do it for me. I just find too much smearing of instruments and a muddled sound. Of the more bass heavy headphones in my collection the problem I have had is the bass is overpowering and seems to swallow the details that I love. The ER4S's really shine on detail and I love that but they lack the warmth and bass I have come to love with my Audeze's and so my search went on.
I read James's excellent reviews of the Heaven series. He recommended the Heaven A1's but after reading a great many reviews my gut told me the SB's would be more of what I was wanting.. I was right!
These BA's are unusual as they are ported. There is a small pin sized hole at the rear of the casing. Some have reported no difference in sound when covering these ports up. I however have noticed quite a difference! When I place my finger tips over the ports the sound stage decreases as does transparency.
The casing by the way is shaved brass gold plated. Fit and finish are exquisite, construction and attention to detail is typically Japanese, in other words beautiful! The cabling on this model is flat and brown, about the width of dry linguine! The cable is quite stiff, long and has some micro phonics but it feels like you could pull a train with it! Right angled termination which is always preferred for portable use. I have written to Final to see how many cables are in the casing. If enough I may have it terminated to balanced for my amp.
One of the things that has been reported with these headphones is the the treble can be a bit harsh and grainy. Normally I don't think BA's benefit from burn in but now I am not so sure after my experience with these. Also, I wonder what equipment is being used by other users and what bit rate they listen at as these headphones are very transparent I find, actually them more revealing than the ER4S's and that is saying something! I feel that, like the Etymotic's one needs to make sure the chain feeding these headphones is very good indeed as they will reveal lack of quality in components and lack of quality in terms of bit rates!
When I first got them, for the first 50 hours the sound was very good but I did experience that grainy top end and the bass though better than the Etymotic's was not what I was hoping for. However! A number of things have changed my opinion. firstly. I had them in too deep. So used to that with the ER4S's these do not require going in so deep. In fact I find the most balanced sound to be when they are in firm enough to hold but just that, no deeper. Also I find the medium tips to be the best for me in terms of both sonics and isolation.
Before I go on about sonics I want to mention isolation. In my experience only the ER4S's beat these. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much these isolate considering they do not go in deep and that they are ported. They are also environment friendly and bleed very little sound out to those around you.
So, sonics. Well. I have now been listening to these headphones for almost 200 hours and over that time they have developed a strong, deep rich bass. No bloat like the triple.fi's or IE8's just clear, defined and deep bass (by deep I must add I am not a car door rattling bass fan, I simply do not feel that is what bass is about!) .
Mids are luscious! Rich and inviting, they draw you in with such emotion and feeling. To hear the likes of Loreena Mckennit or Alison Krauss is to behold something very special indeed!
With poor quality equipment these two voices can sound sibilant and harsh. The top end of their vocal ranges can sound edgy with poor equipment I find. But with good quality equipment their voices are transformed as it allows the full range of their vocals to be appreciated.
This is the case with the HeavenS's. After an extended burn in these IEM's are the best I have heard in reproducing these two voices. No grain, no harshness just true to life. They allow the full range to be experienced and enjoyed with no ill side effects. I find this quite remarkable in an IEM. I experience this with my Audeze's but never thought I would with an IEM, until now!
Another thing I want to talk about with these is the soundstage. Simply this is as near to full sized cans as can be I feel. The stage is wide and deep but not artificially so, just about spot on I feel.
Within that soundstage instruments are placed with clear definition and precision. There is simply no smearing of instruments. Each is clearly defined within the soundstage but not at the expense of a cohesive overall presentation of the performance. For music that has complex arrangements and percussion like a great deal of Peter Gabriel's work these IE's excel! Each part of the performance is captured in it's individuality but presented with ease as a whole.
What can feel like a confused and muddled mess in the acoustic is transformed into something that makes absolute sense. Complex arrangements can be followed with ease.
Strings, be they nylon or metal have that waxy feeling that one hears when a finger or bow is swiped along the string. These IEM's excel at PRaT. Again this is due to zero smearing of the acoustic or instrument.
These IEM's give a visceral presentation, they draw one closer to the music and to the performance. The allow one to be there, completely absorbing the intricacies and details but at the same time allow one to absorb the musical whole and what the musician is trying to convey to the audience with their performance.
Classical music, be it the wide sonic range and complexity of a Wagnerian Opera to the intimacy of a solo violinist or pianist is reproduced in such a compelling way that one gets lost completely in the performance so much so that you forget you have been listening for hours on end! Truth be told the same can be said for all my favourite genres of music!
But here is an odd thing! When I have experienced headphones so transparent I have found it almost impossible to listen to poor recordings. But this is not the case with these. The warmth I mentioned seems to allow thin recording to sound fuller but fuller recordings don't sound overwhelming. I don't know how Final do that but it has me addicted!
To sum up. The HeavenS is not going to wow you with a specification list of drivers or lot's of graphs or performance spiel from it's maker. It is not going to impress at a headfi meet other than it looks pretty special but, listen to them with a decent system, high bit rate music or CD and your going to fall for them.
They don't need multiple drivers with crossovers to get in the way. One simple, well designed driver closely matched (I am guessing) to it's partner delivers all you really need in terms of performance, clarity, dynamics and detail. It manages this at the same time as giving a warm and inviting musical presentation.
When I got my Audeze's I knew I stopped my search for the perfect full sized headphone. I can truly now say the same with owning the HeavenS's. They tick all my boxes, give me oodles of detail, emotion and performance. I simply could not want more!
Thanks for reading and I hope you find the review of some use in making your next IEM choice!
To end, a picture of my system with the Heavens!