Fanmusic is a distributor and a brand of Chinese audio-equipment which also has an eBay store. I was contacted by Tony, their manager a while ago and he informed me that they were working on an IEM (under their brand as far as I know), with a dual-dynamic setup in a metal housing with a user replaceable cable, simply named "MS-E1011". Tony offered to send me a pre-production/prototype to review it and the MS-E1011 is going to be the subject of this review. I received it with the accessories but not with the packaging. I'm not sure if this is how the final product will look or sound like, but as far as I know, it should be quite close to the sample that I have in my hands. According to my contact Tony, these should be priced at around $99.00, but again, it might change.
Impedance: 16 Ω at 1 KHZ
Sensitivity: 98dB +-3dB /mW at 1 KHZ
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 20000 Hz
Distortion: 0.2% or less at 105 db
Rated Power: 2 mW
Cable Length: 1.2 meters with a 3.5mm plug
My sample came with almost all of the accessories that are supposed to be included with the final retail version. The included accessories are as follows:
Five Pairs of Ear-Tips- we get three pairs of white single flanged silicon-tips (Small/Medium/Large) which have a large bore.
The manufacturer provides us also with two pairs of Shure-like foam tips (Small/Medium) together with two pairs of rubber tubes so they'll fit securely on the IEMs' nozzles – nice thinking about small details.
Two User-Replaceable Cables- as I've told you in the introduction, these IEMs have a detachable-cable system. We get two cables, one standard and the other one with a microphone and a single-button. Both are the same except of the microphone and one button control, which fully work with both iOS and Android devices.
The included accessories are nice, and I was impressed especially by the fact that the customer receives two different cables, a thing which usually doesn't come even with double-priced IEMs. Most of the customers (not including the audiophiles of course) use their IEMs directly out of their phones during their daily routine, so a mic'd cable is a nice one to have. My contact told me that a case is going to be included with the final version, and that it is currently being designed by them.
Building Quality & Design
The MS-E1011 is a very tough and sturdy IEM, starting from the housings, which are made of two silver colored shiny metal pieces, held together by a red ring. In my opinion, the rings should have been made side indicators, and I hope to see this happen in the final version. There is a small venting hole near to the housing's end and there are side indicators printed on the housings' back in gray letters.
The nozzle is very strong and sturdy but quite short too, and the sound tube that is in its top is covered by a protective plastic filter.
As I've mentioned, these IEMs utilize a user-replaceable cable, which is a quite special thing to have in a sub $100 priced IEM; I only know two under $100 IEMs that have this feature: the VSonic VC02 and the EXS X15. The connection socket is placed in the bottom of the housing and near its end, surrounded by a gold colored metal ring, which keeps the detachable cable's pins locked and secured inside when fully inserted into the socket.
This locking system is quite well made as the cables never disconnected not by my intention during my listening sessions. The earpieces connectors don't have any side indicators on them, but that is because both connectors can do both channels (according to my testing), meaning that the channel's side depends only on the earpiece with these IEMs. The cable starts with the earpiece connector, which is housed inside of a shiny metal chassis. The chassis continues the metal-ish design of the housings and protects the sensitive connectors. Talking about the connectors, unfortunately, they aren't any of the standard Shure, UE or Westone ones, so that means that replacement cables might be a bit difficult to find.
They seem to be similar to the ones that T-PEOS utilized for their new H-200, but the Fanmusic connectors are lot shorter than the T-PEOS ones, so the H-200 cables probably can't be used with the MS-E1011. There is a quite short strain relief after the connector's chassis which doesn't seem to be flexible enough in order to do its job. The cable itself is nylon-sleeved and isn't too thick, both above and under the metal cased Y-Split, but it seems to be quite durable and well made.
There is also a small and low-profile cable-cinch which slides quite smoothly on the slightly rubbery wire. The cable ends with an I-shaped 3.5mm gold-plated plug, which has a metal housing and a nice strain-relief to it.
Comfort & Ergonomics
The MS-E1011 is a very large IEM, but I still find them comfortable enough even with my small ears. That probably has to do with the way that the bullet-shaped housing is made – its largest point is in its middle, and it gets smaller when getting closer to its front and rear. They do stick out (and not a little…) and their insertion depth is quite shallow, but due to that, even small ears can fit them. The included tips are all very comfortable and of a quite good quality, and it's just a matter of finding the right ones. I prefer the silicon tips (but that is mainly due to the better seal that I have with them, a thing which could differ as well between people), but others might prefer the foam tips, which are so soft and nice. These are not only big but quite heavy too – these are actually one of the heaviest IEMs that I have ever had till now. That means that fatigue usually comes after an hour or two of listening, but a short few minutes break easily "fixes" this for me. One thing that I have to say is that the smallest size of both tips kinds is a tad too small – I don't see anyone using such small tips; the size gap between the small and the middle ones is just a bit too big in my opinion. These can be worn comfortably both straight down and over the ears, but the latter looks a bit awkward due to the IEMs' size.
Isolation & Microphonics
Being a shallow-insertion and a vented IEM makes the MS-E1011 not so well isolating when using the supplied silicon tips. Its isolation level is similar to the one of another dual-dynamic, the TDK IE-800 and of the T-PEOS H-100, meaning not good enough for most of the noisy places that you walk through during your daily routine. However, using it with the included foam tips increases it; it doesn't make them a super-isolating IEM, but rather a lot more useable. I've experienced some wind-noise issues because of the vent in the IEM's back, but they weren't too bothering or distracting. The cable is quite microphonic, but that is easily solved by wearing them with the cable up.
The MS-E1011s were given about 200 hours of burn-in prior to beginning the critical listening; no noticeable changes have been detected after the burn-in period. The gear that I have used during the reviewing process is my 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is loaded with mostly iTunes Store M4A files and 320 KBPS file. For some of the time I've listened to the MS-E1011 directly out of my iPod, while I've also tested it with amplification, provided by Firestone Audio's Fireye HD & HA amplifiers, connected to the iPod's dock input via a generic LOD to 3.5mm adapter.
The MS-E1011's dual-dynamic drivers-setup produces a bass-heavy, warm and "fun" type of sound-signature. These are definitely "bass-head pleasers"; they're a bass-head's dream. You would also be glad to know that these do not leave the midrange and the treble behind at all, a pretty un-typical thing to say about a pair of distinct bass IEMs. I have noticed an ample amount of annoying driver-flex, which is sometimes accompanied by a weird static sound. I really hope that this is going to be fixed in the final version of these IEMs, as it is quite bad in the case of my unit. We will now move on to a more detailed description of every one of the sound's parts:
Bass- these IEMs have one of the heaviest hitting lows I've ever heard in an IEM. The bass amount is a little bit more than the amount that the Hippo VB has with the two dots bass-plate installed, meaning really big.
It is very (and I mean VERY) deep and impactful, while also being well detailed and of a good quality (e.g. never muddy or distorted). Surprisingly enough, its speed is also better than the average, completing a nice package of technical abilities that the bass has. Compared to another Dual-Dynamic IEM, the TDK IE-800, the IE-800 seems to have a faster bass, while the MS-E1011 seems to have a lot more amount of bass in its sound.
Midrange- usually when talking about bass monsters, the midrange is recessed or overshadowed by the powerful bass. However, I was glad to hear that it is a different case with the MS-E1011, which has a forward, thick and lush midrange. It has some more warmness and thickness than what I like, but that is only my personal preference, so others might like it better than me. I find them to not have the best mids clarity too, as they have a quite noticeable veil to them. There is a nice vocals layering, but the detailing of them is only about average. I also find them to have a bit of reverberation in the upper-mids. The IE-800's mids are quite a bit more detailed, clear and less thick than the MS-E1011's ones.
Treble- The good thing about these IEMs' treble is that it isn't fatiguing at all even after many hours of listening. That is because the treble is warm, lean and relaxed. It rolls off quite early and is not too extended, but you will probably be happy to know that its presence doesn't seem to lack. There is only a bit of sparkle and almost no energy, plus the clarity is not quite good either. Like the midrange, also the treble's detailing is decent only. It isn't that the treble is bad; it is just not as good as the other parts of the MS-E1011's sound. The TDK IE-800's treble is a lot more energetic and has a lot of additional sparkle while being better detailed and clearer too.
Sound-Staging and Instrument Separation – the sound-stage is average in its size, nothing really special or exciting to summarize. The imaging is a bit better than the sound-staging, and it is around the level of the HiFiMAN RE-400 in this department. Instrument separation is quite good for such a bass-heavy IEM; there is enough black space between the instruments and the vocalists and it doesn't sound congested or compressed.
Amplifying- I found the MS-E1011 to be quite power hungry, and thus I'll recommend to amplify them to scale their sound up. Amplifying them makes the midrange lose some of its exaggerated thickness and warmness, the treble gets a bit more sparkle, energy and extension, while the whole sound becomes clearer and better detailed.
At a price point of $99, the Fanmusic MS-E1011 provides a great value for the money and a sound packed with pure fun. Not everyone is going to like their sound due to the lows' heaviness, but on the other hand, it will surely provide some pleasure to all of the bass-lovers; if you are looking for a more technical and balanced pair of IEMs at the same price my recommendation will be the excellent HiFiMAN RE-400. The treble is their sound's main weakness, and I hope to see it improved in the tuning of the final version. Another thing that I hope to see improved in the final version is the housings' ergonomics; they're just too large and there are probably some people which won't be able to fit them comfortably enough. I was quite impressed by their building quality and by the fact that the manufacturer includes with them two different detachable-cables – it is an awesome thing to have for 99 bucks.
Purchasing Info- The Fanmusic MS-E1011s are expected to be sold at a price point of $99 via the Fanmusic eBay store and they should probably appear there soon enough. I'll update the review with a link to purchase them as soon as it'll be up.
I'd like to thank Tony of Fanmusic for sending me this pre-production unit for the review.
Edited by ItsMeHere - 5/21/13 at 10:35am