Cosmic Ears Special Edition Blue Single Balanced Armature Review
Cosmic Ears have already impressed me on a range of fronts like their awesome customer service and their interest in developing the company every day with new models and options coming thick and fast and also keeping the crowd pleased with the likes of special editions and this is what I am going to be reviewing here.
This is a pre production unit of an upcoming line of special edition Custom IEMs form Cosmic Ears. The options will be as follows:
SEBS Special Edition Blue Single Balanced Armature £95
SERS Special Edition Red Single Balanced Armature £95
SEBT Special Edition Blue Twin Balanced Armature £145
SERT Special Edition Red Twin Balanced Armature £145
SECT Special Edition Smoke with Carbon Faceplate Twin Balanced Armature £165 (Otterbox included)
This model is the SEBS and like this list may go through some changes. It may not have the same cable that mine does for example so bare this in mind. The first thing that may strike you like it did me is the price for this customs molded earphone, yes under a £100 and like me this was unheard of until Cosmic Ears entered the market and I am so glad they did.
Through out this review I would like you to bear in mind that the sound of this will also apply to other models from Cosmic Ears. This uses their Single Balanced Armature driver that is the first driver that Phil over at Cosmic ever used and it is deep to his heart for that reason and how good it sounds. They also use this driver in their pure plus option, if you get a sport plus and if you select a single BA driver in the Flex options menu. So you can get this in a variety of ways in a range of colours and cable options.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier. I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB.I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB, Fiio E17 and a plethora of Jaben (GoVibe and Hippo) amps.
This has a cool design with its flat cable, it becomes more mainstream and I like the way it looks. This also features (can be removed if requested) a Cosmic Ears logo and it is metallic silver that does really look awesome. The faceplate also has an underlying affect that looks like the texture of carbon fiber.
The build however is slightly let down by the cable. The cable may look very good but it is weak It starts off with a straight jack with an okay strain relief and a plastic housing but it then goes into the cable and it is clearly not the strongest. Just by feeling it I am a little worried and giving it a little tug (this sounds like something else…) it does not make it seem any better. The strain reliefs going into the housing is the worse bit as this does not have a removable cable and it feels like I could pull it out the housings. However luckily this is only the pre production model and the real thing will likely either feature a stronger flat cable or a premium cable (classic CIEM cable) but will still be bottom exit.
The actual shells them selves are what I would call, awesome. The only little bit of imperfection is around the strain relief the cable and around the sound bore it is not to smooth. Keeping in mind that this is a pre production model is rather impressive because the shell is smoothly finished, the logos look great and the colour is very nice. The faceplate has been attached to the shells seemingly unseen and the inside all look very neat. I would not think of a way to break the shell even though it is not completely solid and I feel with great confidence handling the shell that is not always the case handling a silicone IEM like my ACS T2.
These come with the same HY3XB so this what I put for that:
‘Some CIEMs may come with loads of accessories but like with most things about this CIEM, it takes cost into the picture and I guess to lower the price they do not over do it here. You get a small clamshell case which great for protecting and have a little pouch inside. Nothing more and this no big problem because look at the price. What is very nice however is the overall packaging of the CIEM that features your name in metallic silver and the Cosmic Ears logo and it is very personal and looks great.’
These have the medium shell from Cosmic Ears. Cosmic Ears offer three shell sizes, a full shell that is like any other CIEM and fill the whole of your ear, up to your flap, the medium shell that this has does not quite go up to the flap of your ear and only feels around half of your ear. This means that it is easier to insert and fit into your ear, which is really handy and makes these extremely usable, just twist in and out.
As for comfort these nail it of course, they are custom fit to you ear, they feel great inside your canal and do not irritate any of your outer ears, this is the reason of custom IEMs and no universal matches the comfort of these. These are also cable down which means you can lay down when wearing these and have not problems with the memory wire twisting the monitors out. I really like the cable down.
These are acrylic and they do not feel your whole ear out and for this they isolate slightly less than a full acrylic custom and a silicone custom but these still get rid of all the ambient noise that one may encounter. These exceed a Etymotic universal which I think means to most that no universal can match them and this is just another one of the advantages of having a CIEM. These will get rid of any noise one could find in an urban environment or travelling and only some super powerful mass destruction tools may get in.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
So they are cable down and this is normally a trap for cable noise but this flat cable actually is fairly quiet, not as much as perhaps my HY3XB’s premium over the ear cable but this is far from a pain. I was actually rather surprised but as I have said they may substitute this for a cable more prone to cable noise when worn cable down.
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 don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The sound is smooth and linear. It is smooth enough not to become too clinical in the style of an Etymotic but it does remain still rather analytical and is rather on the cold side. I do not detect any bass emphasis over neutral or any treble over neutral either and the mids are very nicely positioned in the middle. The position of the bass however is quite dependent on source and amping and if the source used has a warmth to it then it will slightly lift the bass but with a more clinical, neutral or bright amp like my GoVibe VestAmp+ it has less bass presence. It is a super fast and detailed signature that one may rightly expect from a single armature driver and it does deliver. If I was to liken the overall sound to any IEM I would probably say the Fischer Audio DBA-02 but with a smoother top end which is a lot less fatiguing or sibilant.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
Soundstage here is rather small, it is all in your head and the width and height are not really present and the depth is not there. It does have a nice sense of airiness to it though which is very nice and stops it feeling claustrophobic even though it is small. In its small space it does image and position everything quite nice but nothing exceptionally awesome due to the size.
What it does do is separate instruments on another level to most IEMs under £100 because it is so fast as a driver and everything is clearly coming from its own space and nothing is congested or on top of anything else. Even when the speed of a passage gets really fast the Cosmic deals with it manages well.
The bass is stereotype for a single armature driver but this is not me saying it is the same as any other IEM I have tried in terms of bass, in fact it is bass different to any other I have heard. It is however small in body, fast to impact and very, very tight. The mid-bass is not satisfying any basshead but is slightly more in quantity to the Etymotic HF5 and easily more than the Grado GR8, level of bass is perhaps just under the Shure SE535 and the quality is very good. It does sound a bit thin but then it is packing more than the HF5.
Sub-bass extension is not exactly stellar; you can feel/hear a nice texture down to perhaps 30-50hz but then it rolls of without any sort of rumble. It is not lacking extension enough leave you feeling underwhelmed or for the bass to feel empty although it does feel thin.
These are quite bright, reminding me of the DBA-02 again in the midrange yet but slightly thicker and not as transparent while being very transparent nonetheless. It does not quite have the natural sound of the Etymotic HF5 or the Heir 4.Ai and it does favour female vocals slightly with a slight bump perhaps in the upper mids. Timbre is a tad to soft with a slightly short decay meaning that drums do not quite get the strongest of impact. It is in a great position, not that in your face but edging being forward and it does have amazing micro details.
The treble has large body and it is very present. It does give certain brightness to the entire spectrum. It is well detailed, extends very far and also has a good sense of sparkle to it but instead of becoming fatiguing due to its pretty intense treble it remains smooth enough to bypass this, it is really nice.
Etymotic HF5, Phonak PFE and Nocs NS800:
Cosmic Ears HY3XB:
These are both from Cosmic Ears but what I am about to say might surprise you, I prefer this fairly low model from Cosmic, to the Flagship model, the HY3XB which has a dynamic driver and a twin armature compared to the model I have here with just a single armature. However the HY3XB does not meet my preferences and it is just way to bassy for me, it has a lot more than the SEBS and it is looser and slower. The only thing it does better is the extension and rumble. The coherency is just better on the SEBS because of the one driver doing everything it is tidier than the crossover in the HY3. Mids and treble are more detailed on the SEBS and also more present and this is what really sets them apart to me.
The sound is awesome, the physical features near perfection with great comfort and isolation and they look awesome. How much for this, well let me remind you only £95 and I think everyone should own one, do you own a more expensive CIEM? Well you need one for the gym or as a back up, you do not own a CIEM but have always wanted to try one? Well treat yourself, this is cheaper than a lot of universal IEMs and yet you’re now in the territory of CIEMs! You are new to this hobby and want a great first pair of IEMs coming from your stock earbuds? Then this is equally a great option, you do not have to worry with things like tips and comfort or how they isolate because these ACE them areas and the sound really shows off what these are all about.
When I reviewed the Vsonic GR06 I said that I have never made an easier recommendation, well I now have because with these or any model featuring Cosmic Ears single BA, I think the world should all own one!
Edited by Swimsonny - 11/1/12 at 12:06pm