Able Planet Clear Harmony SI1050A Review
- TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Neodymium Magnet Speaker: 15/7mm
- Magnetostrictive Linx
- Impedance (1kHz): 24Ω ± 15%
- Frequency response: 8 Hz ~ 20kHz
- Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 100 dB/mW
I’m going to start by saying that these are a pair of earphones that make use of a dual dynamic driver system. These days you may find a lot more of these (still only a handful) but it was only a couple of years back that we was graced by the presence of one of these unique set ups. What you usually find with earphones is a dynamic driver that will cover the whole frequency, as they are rather large and hard to fit in housings. With balanced armature drivers there can be a few more, as they are much smaller and they use crossovers and dampeners to assign one driver to a certain frequency. So what we have here is a dual dynamic earphone that features a woofer (for bass and low mids) that is a rather large 15mm and tweeter (treble and high mids), which is 7mm. This is not the first take of this design (dual dynamic) that was the Radius DDM a little while back but this is certainly one of the first. In fact it looks extremely like Radius’s DDM2 quite significantly.
These are produced by the company Able Planet who are known for the closed, noise canceling, full sized headphones which are known to be some of the best of there kind with some stellar reviews. Because of this, I feel that their IEM range is fairly overlooked and people do not tend to go there as they see them as a company that are only good for there noise cancelling headphones. In my opinion they are missing out. As it happens they have quite a large range of IEMS. The IEM in subject, the SI1050A, is their flagship IEM and goes to retail at $180. It also features a three-button iPhone remote control.
I will point out that I will listen to these with a wide range of genres of music.
I have used them with a variety of sources to test different things. I have used them with my iPhone 4 which as a collection of music in 128 kbps to 320 kbps AAC. I have used them with my Cowon J3 that plays mainly FLAC and also has some various MP3s that are mainly 320 kbps. I have also tried them with my home set up of: iMac to Epiphany Acoustics EHP-O2 that plays mainly FLAC or Apple Lossless.
For the purpose of the review I have used no EQ on them and used the medium sized stock tips.
From the moment I got these out of the box I was immediately not impressed with the build quality of these earphones.
The cable is ridiculously thin and coated in plastic not too dissimilar to what you would get with any cheap ‘budget’ earphones. Starting with the jack it is a gold plated straight ‘I’ jack, which causes no fizzing. The termination is a gloss plastic that feels cheap and poorly designed; it also looks generally tacky. This moves into the thin, main cable that is rather flexible and actually does seem to resist tangling. This then goes into a split. This is quite an odd design and is a circular shape with the starry Able Planet design. This is again plastic but actually feels solid enough. The wires then get even thinner after the split and remain flexible. On the wire it has a three-button iPhone remote which is plastic with silicone buttons. It has the usual of a micraphone, play/pause and volume controls which can also do and array of other things. It is fragile as the rest of the stuff. One thing that I am quite disappointed that it does not have is a chin slider as they are something I have become to use.
The housings are also made of the same plastic as the jack and the Y-split. There is a thin part between the strain relief and the driver chamber that is really thin and looks and feels fragile. Ill be ultra careful with that. The sound tube also is thing and plastic and that is worrying. The strain relief is probably the best bit, as it is a flexible plastic and can really be tugged around.
The design of these is quite unique and very eye catching, a reason for this the way the driver chamber stands out and because of the large driver inside it is quite pleasing look. There is also a little vent on the driver chamber that I felt is worth mentioning. They are also not silly or shiny such as Monster Miles Davis Tribute earphones that I think are over the top and these are all black with a touch of silver on the housing.
While speaking to a representative at Able Planet i have actually found out some impressive information regarding the circular split that these have on the cable. They house a could that actually effect the performance of the earphones. Its a Linx Audio Coil and heres some more information about it.
Able Planet embeds LINX AUDIO(tm) into audio and communication devices to enhance sound quality and speech clarity. LINX AUDIO(tm) creates high frequency harmonics that enhance sound quality and speech clarity of difficult to hear words or notes, and increase the perception of loudness without increasing volume. LINX AUDIO(tm) provides full rich sound and enhanced speech clarity even at lower volumes, which may lead people to "Turn it Down(tm)" to preserve hearing. It removes undesirable sounds and noise making it easier to hear high frequency words or notes where clarity is often lost, maximizing full rich sound for music, and enhancing clear voice for speech intelligibility. Increasing volume increases all sounds, including distortion. As volume is increased, standard audio products hard clip peaks with traditional square-edge characteristics. LINX AUDIO(tm) reduces harsh sounds by soft-clipping distortion.
This comes with a humble amount of accessories that cover the basics if you already have a collection of earphones. If this were your first earphone however, then you would fine to be lacking some necessities. It comes with a small, square clamshell case that fits them in nicely and although is a fabric case feels solid. It has the Able Planet logo on it as well as having an internal mesh pocket that can store some additional tips in. It is all in all a solid enough case.
It also includes three sets of tips all of the single flange variety, in small, medium and large. It is more than likely that with on pair you will get a good fit that is good enough for me. I found a good fit instantly with the medium tips.
Now, if these were your first earphone purchase however I think that there are some accessories that you will find handy. These are items such as airplane adapters, resistors, cleaning tool and 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapters. These I don’t mind them not including but others may be disappointed.
To me I am happy that you get a case and some tips as that is all I need and a lot of others will feel the same.
If you look carefully at the design of these you will see the way that the sound tube is at an angle. This leads to a more ergonomic fit. You can push them into your ear and they then angle into you ear canal and therefore there is no pressure applied to any parts of your ear.
I will also note that these have a shallow fit and are like a semi earbud design than a full in ear canal phone. They are far from intrusive that you may get and be put of with from earphones such as the Etymotic series. This can be to your liking but is down to preference.
These are worn cable down and these have a rather long strain relief but the design of these prevents it from touching your ear or cheek.
Because of there full plastic design these are also very light unlike some ear dumbbells that I’ve worn so this causes a lack of fatigue as well as ear biceps.
As I have for mentioned that these are shallow fitting and although a boost in comfort, it does not take a rocket scientist to work out there will be a downside to this. That downside comes with the isolation of these. It is not bad by no means and it will still keep most noise out when outside. But that’s only ‘most’. It’s not as bad as vented earphones or other shallow inserted earphones such as Sennheiser IE8 but is not too much better.
The major downside to this is that it could lead to you turning up the volume in order to keep ambient noise out which can potentially cause damage and no one wants that. In summary it is just below average.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
Now whenever I see a pair of earphones I instantly think, NOOOOOOOOO MICROPHONICS! So when I stuck these in my ears and went for walkies in these, I was not bothered at all. Something about the way the cable is designed it seems to be slightly kinked always and this tends to prevent any bother. Hitting it even goes quietly and too actually gets some noise you have to hole the cable tight and then hit it. These are not bad at all.
Okay unburned in impressions. I’m not going to go into too much detail as they are fresh out the box and of course these are going to need some big burning in.
These have a warm and sweet sound signature at the moment but this could change in the next few days. The first real noticeable thing of these earphones that is not something that i usually note instantly is the speed of these. These are super fast and deal with fast passages more effortlessly than anything I've ever had already. The next thing on these is the bass that has a ginourmous shuddering impact that rocks you. That being said at the moment it is far from tight and lacks punch. I am really hoping that it does not stay as loose as it is. Highs are quite harsh and the clarity is not that great so far. Vocals are not veiled at all by the bass that I have encountered before and are not at all pushed back. Everything is quite in your face and the soundstage is at a tinny point at the moment.
Okay a tiny update. The bass has settled down a bit and become more controlled. The highs have however become sibilant. They do now have a bit of sparkle to them.
I have lost the tinny soundstage and it has begun to expand nicely. Gone fairly wide with depth to it. Height is average.
These are really taking to my liking and think people out there should check them out. The bass has tightened up nicely and died slightly with a big well-bodied punch. It does bleed slightly into the mids which are very warm and do not feel to recessed either. The bass can outdo them at times but other than they keep up nicely. Then there is the poor old treble underneath all this and you'd think, "surely there’s no presence or extension". Well you'd be wrong as presence is actually not to bad and when it is called upon it pops out with good sparkle and does what need to be done. The treble can be harsh and sibilant but these are not bad for a warm bassy package that does not feel dark! I’m on just under 50 hours of burn in now and I'm hoping for some more slight improvements.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly a 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so dint make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
I think this is where you can really feel the presence of that second driver. The soundstage is not humongous but is satisfying and accurate. The reason I like it is that the music is not in your face and it also expands out of your head but its not distance. Think front row seats. Close but in your head. It feels accurate because of the nice imagery and positioning of the instruments and vocalists is great.
It’s far from perfect still though and I am lacking a few things. I’m going to start with id like and addition in depth to make it more 3D. It could also just be pushed a bit further back too let’s say third or fourth row compared to its front row soundstage. It also needs an air to it that really boosts separation.
In all I’d put these with an above average soundstage.
Bass: The dominant force of these earphones. These are bass monsters. There is a peak in the mid-bass of these that helps the bass feel emphasized. The mid-bass quantity is large and it will please you to hear that it does not move into being boomy and loose. With burn-in this really tighten up nicely and they’re not going to pack that accurate punch of a balanced armature earphone but they have punch with a large body of warmth that is rather pleasing. There is a slight lack of detail with it but this is not something worried about. I was quite impressed as anything I have heard with this much mid-bass quantity as rather a large bleed into the low mids but this although does bleed it is rather small.
Now these have a good extension that goes low, which cause a heavy thumping sub-bass. These have the best sub-bass of any of my earphones and it really does shake you.
Now I’d love to say the awesome bass does not affect the mids but unfortunately they are. But not as much as you may have expected. They are pushed back and recessed but to a nice amount. You can most of the time hear the lyrics over the bass nicely but there are situation in certain songs that the bass just takes over. The lyrics them selves are warm, think and well bodied. The clarity is not great but it is helped along by the speed of these earphones that I feel are really fast and helps them sound clearer. In summary the mids are laid back and could be pushed up a bit so that they are less behind the bass.
I enjoy the treble on these quite a bit and I’m someone who values treble well above bass. The treble sits in line with the mids so is behind the bass but its detail is really nice. There is okay quantity and its presence is easily hurt. There is a sparkle that is fairly harsh and raw but complements the earphones. There is sibilance but not bad or uncontrollable. The treble alone prevents these from sounding dark so credit is due there.
These are far from something that will become your reference but they a bundle of bass. They do genres like pop and dubstep second to known and also excel at metal, hip-hop and heavy rock. For a company that focuses on active noise cancelling headphones I think it is impressive that they managed these. These should be not overlooked and should be one of the main contenders for a bass-head earphone as well as to the other dual dynamics. I think this is a solid effort. I would not say they are worth the asking price just down to the build quality. If Able Planet have another go with more controlled bass, better detail and transparency and redone build of these they could be something amazing.
I also thought id mention something else I tried with them. I took them into school and showed them off to my Beats by Dre adoring friends. They instantly took to the unique design. I offered them to try to a few mates who have a selection if Beats such as iBeats, Tours, Solos and Studios. After the music started their jaws dropped and there smile was unreal. They asked me the price and were to get them and that they couldn’t believe how much better they were. I’m not saying it’s an impressive feat to beat Beats by Dre but I feel like these are what Beats should sound like and claim to be.
Edited by Swimsonny - 5/29/12 at 6:16am