HiSoundAudio Crystal Review
17 - 23KHz
7mm dynamic driver
First off I would like to thank Jack at HiSoundAudio for sending these to me.
HiSound are a Chinese company that is around 15 years old. They make a range of amplifiers, DAPs and earphones/earbuds. The Crystals are sitting just under there flagships, the golden crystal in which they share the same housing.
At the price point they sit in, £70 ($110), they are at a very competitive price point and there is a lot of choice.
From first of they boast their minuscule, low profile design, awesome isolation and some awesome bass. Now this meant I would to be curious on how they sounded as I already have the Phonak Perfect Bass earphones from the same price range and I found myself really quite taken by them in terms of sound and build.
Set-up Rig and Testing
For review purposes my Cowon J3 with a flat EQ. All music is FLAC or MP3. I did for extra testing try them with my iPhone 4 on its own and with my cMoy BB. As well as that I have used them with my iMac and my Objective 2.
I have been using the oval stock tips, as they seem to get the best sound from the earphones and help bring the mids forward.
I have also used a large range of music genres and the sound quality is and average how they performed overall.
Just thought I would mention I have to turn up my Cowon a bit more than usual even though there are no differences in sensitivity or impedance.
These do more than enough in this area. I have quite picky when it comes to build quality and too me if it is not good enough I will quite simply have to get rid of them.
The cable starts off with a straight ‘I’ plug, which is terminated with a gold jack. The strain relief of the jack is solid plastic, which goes into a flexible plastic. All very nice so far. Yes I would prefer a right-angled jack as I find them more useable but I will not complain about that as everything I have ever had at the price range also has a straight jack. It then goes into the lower cable. Too me it looks like a braided cable coated in a layer of plastic. I say this as it looks like you can see braids bulging inside. This is good as it will reap the benefits of a braided cable but not turn stiff over time or risk unbraiding. It is extremely supple and flexible and has yet to have problems with tangling. Thickness wise however, it is not close to my current favorites at this price, the Phonak Perfect bass and in comparison these are thin. But I see the extreme suppleness of these protecting them. The Y-split is a large solid piece of plastic much bigger than any other I have but not large enough to be annoying. The cable gets a lot thinner now and is less than half of the thickness of the lower cable. There is no cable slider either which is a large disappointment as I find these necessary personally.
The cable then goes into a strain relief, which is plastic and is attached to the back of the housing. It is solid plastic and although a bit on the thing side seems strong enough. The rest of the housing is then metal including the sound tube/nozzle. This is well metal and obviously not going to suffer.
The design of these is quite subtle but also classy. There is a ‘hi’ logo on the jack plastic which is the only company logo on them. On the top of the housing there is the ‘R’ and ‘L’ as well as crystal written in bold. On the underside, engraved into the silver metal, are crystal but this time in italics, which is rather cool.
I am not sure if I was meant to get a case or not as they are sold on Frogbeats (UK reseller) with one but I have did not have one and like I have started by saying it, it was the first thing I noticed when unboxing them. I find a case necessary as I want the best longevity for my earphones and without a case they get put in my pocket or left on the side open to the elements and dangers of the world.
So moving onto what you do get and these include a plethora of tips. You get two pairs of triple flanges, two Sony hybrid clones with the colors inside and then 6 pairs of different sizes (super small to large) oval shaped tips, which I have preferred down to sound quality. The Sony’s are the more comfortable and the triple flanges get the best isolation. So tip wise they are spot on and there are of good quality offering different benefits and an array of different sizes. You also get a shirt clip, which features the HiSoundAudio logo and this, very handy indeed to be included as it helps combat the microphonics problem.
These are tiny and even though metal, fairly light. They do not insert to deep (unless using the triple flanges) and you get a seal at a very comfortable depth that will please anyone who doesn’t like their earphones touching their brain. Because of there size these do not have much presence in your ear and sit in nicely without rubbing anything. Because these are light they are never fatiguing. That being said they are light but not super light and that is because of the metal and you do know that these are in your ear.
One of the claims of these is the super isolation that they offer. Is it super? No. Is it good? Yes. Because of them being not super deep inserting they do not get the isolation levels that encounter when using my Etymotic HF5s. The triple flange tips really add leaps and bounds to the isolation and even the ovals, which are quite long, are not half bad. Another reason why they are not ‘perfect’ isolators as I have found the more of your ear, earphones fill up the better isolation and with these earphones small size I don’t think this helps.
Overall those these will happily isolate train, traffic and work/school noise easily so these will easily satisfy most peoples isolation needs and I am just a bit spoilt by my Etymotics.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
Yeh, these suffer big time. Just walking at a slow pace and these are causing almost unbearable cable noise. I found this majorly annoying.
BUT, there are a few ways to counter the problem. First way is to use the included shirt clip and this does by no means eliminate this but helps it a bit. The second way almost eliminates this and that is too wearing them over the ear. You can still but the right in the right ear etcetera, so know flipped sound happens, and this makes them go from a 3/10 up too at least and 8/10. However you lose a bit of the comfort, isolation and seal. Which way you wear them is therefore all down to preference.
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 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.
Soundstage and instrument separation
The soundstage is fairly open with these which I am feel is down to the dynamic driver (by no means the case). The expansion is just out of your head but the vocals seem very distant indeed. Height is okay but I found these to be really narrow and there is also a tad of depth to give the soundstage a three dimensional effect. However, if you are coming from a more expensive earphone such as an ASG-1, IE8 or SM3 then this is of course not going to sound 3D in comparison.
Instrument separation is not the best and everything seems to be a bit stuck together and blended in even with the soundstage as it is. Presentation also feels unnatural with things in the wrong place.
A Story of Two Tips
Now for the rest of the review i am going to separate my experiences into how the Crystals sounded using firstly the standard medium black silicone single flanges in contrast to the clear longer triple flanges as the whole signature actually differs between the two.
Black Single Flange
Mid-bass is the dominant force in these earphones and it is actually quite good. It has a nice body and push and hits with a nice punch. It is peaked above the other frequencies. Quantity wise there is a lot but by no means what you get with the likes of the Able Planets that I have but more than my ASG-1s If you have IE8s think of the quantity that they have on two notches. So is quite satisfying if you are looking for a fair bit of bass. There is a lack of detail but on remembering their price I let it off.
Extension is also great and its gets right down low supplying you with some low sub-bass rumble. Its not going to be crowned a sub-bass king or close but again the price comes to mind and it is not that bad in that respect.
To put it simply I am not a fan, at all. This suffers big time from the bass of these earphones. There is a bleed that warms up the mids but that’s not what gets me the most. The bleed causes the midrange instruments and vocals to sound muffled quite badly which does not sound good. The worst bit is how pushed back they are and hidden is a better description than veiled. Your lucky to hear the vocals in most songs and if you do not already no the lyrics you will find yourself straining to hear the lyrics. They also lack detail and they just don’t sound good. Vocals sound boring and instrument have no energy or edge to them
I am someone who appreciates mids over anything and do show preference to forward mids but can also appreciate recessed mids but these take recession to a new level in my eyes.
The treble is also recessed and has quite a large roll off (little extension) but does it quite nicely and not too sudden or sharp. It has no sparkle either which although can be too some people’s tastes it is not too mine. Detail however, is not nowhere near as bad as the mids. There is also handily no sibilance and they also do not sound harsh.
Clear Triple Flange
Now when using the triple flange tips though bass takes a step back and sits a lot closer too the mids and more with the treble. Bass quantity also drops quite significantly but continues to pack an almighty punch. This is much more to my liking and it gives much more bass than a balanced armature earphone but without being overpowering like others i have heard and these with single flange tips.
There is a less extension now but they do maintain a bit of there rubble from before.
Now before now i have always not been a big believer on tip rolling and thought people would spend countless hours playing around with different tips in order to get the slightest increase in sound quality. Well this is solid proof on the difference that can be made. The mids with single flange tips i said were more than veiled but hidden. Well with these tips they come right into the mix to play. They are slightly behind the treble and bass to make a U shape but nothing dramatic and it is very close to neutral. They are very breeze and emphasised well with some real aggression in them. The detail also increases and the is some real zip to the instruments and the vocals have gone from boring and nasally too exciting and clear.
Now with the other tips they make a smooth yet noticeable roll off. Now they extend well and offer perhaps 60% of the sparkle of my DBA-02s which with the single flange tips would have been 5%. There is still a bit of detail lacking but they are much nicer now and they sit a lot more forward. They are now in line with the bass sitting ever so slightly in front of the mids.
I would first like to say that I review my earphones without price consideration and if they do something wrong I would rather say it than be like “Mids were recessed but are still really god for one hundred bucks”. These earphones have a sig not too my taste and I will continue for the price continue to recommend the Phonak 012 but also these depending on what sig that you are after. However from what I have read these seem to out do the Shure SE215s and if they do so I think that would be a major scalp.
I do think that these are a good buy for the price and that you should spend a bit of times finding the tips that best suit you before making decisions as i have not too recently came across the difference it makes. I think the sound from the triple flanges is what they wanted you too hear and it is in my opinion ten times better. I think it is good however that you can get a more bassy signature at any time by just swapping the tips!
For the asking price they do beat in sound quality the likes of most Sennheiser earphones at the price and under as well as all the Skullcandy and other similarly priced earphones and I would take a guess and these would be one of the better earphones in the price with the exception of my Phonak 012s and likely a few others (I may be wrong).
As for comfort, design, build and isolation these do great!
Edited by Swimsonny - 5/9/12 at 12:02pm