Onkyo has been a force in consumer audio for a long time but the IE-FC300 is their first venture into earphones. I've always liked Onkyo receivers and in the past have owned a few (and a CD player) so I was interested to see what they could do in the world of portable audio. Initially I was planning to buy the KEF M200's but my smaller ears and narrower than average ear canals meant I'd likely be struggling with fit issues so I sprang for the Onkyos instead. Now it's time to break everything down into relevant categories.
Build Quality: It's excellent. The earpieces themselves are heavy and solid made of a combination of aluminum and ABS resin. They are detachable and there are four cable options with gold plated MMCX connectors. You can choose between white, red, violet and silver; the latter being more expensive and of supposedly higher quality (for a 30% premium). I opted for white as in photos the red appears pinkish and the violet also seems more than a little feminine (though don't get too excited about buying a pair for your girlfriend, mine thought these were damn ugly). The cable itself is flat like linguini with a rubbery, springy feel that helps to avoid tangles.
Also included is an excellent, spacious oval hard case and some of the worst silicone ear tips you'll ever encounter which leads to...
Fit & Comfort: I was expecting canal phones and I'm used to pushing tips deep into my ears. The Onkyo housing are huge and initially I was frustrated, trying tip after tip and not getting a comfortable fit. Normally the smallest silicone tips provided with most earphones work for me but nothing Onkyo supplied even came close to being comfortable. Part of my problem lay in my expectations; the truth is the Onkyo is not so much an in ear as it is an ear bud. Once I switched to larger tips (eventually settling on medium silicone from UE) they sat in my ears with no problems. They are definitely comfortable and people who don't enjoy deep IEM insertions or fans of earbuds will raise a cheer. Of course the price for shallow insertion is....
Isolation: Definitely well below IEM average. Even worse if you plan to move around as these are heavy and hang in your ear, so a slight pull on a cable can easily shift them. But if you're not looking for complete aural separation from the outside world and like an IEM that's quick to remove and insert the Onkyos will work for you. Provided you enjoy the...
Sound: Bass lovers rejoice. The sub-bass here is big, thick and definitely the IE-FC300's defining sonic quality. With trance and deep house music the Onkyo provides a satisfyingly deep thump. There isn't a large mid bass hump but there is some bass bleed into the mids rendering them very slightly veiled. Normally this is a deal breaker for me but the truth is the Onkyo handles mids very well, voices have good clarity and decent (though not wonderful) texture. Highs are smooth and roll off gently without providing much air. Treble heads will be left wanting more.
I compared the Onkyos with the excellent Hifiman RE-400s; they're priced the same but take very different sonic paths. The Onkyo is tuned to sound like a set of speakers with a subwoofer; presentation is softer with more rounded notes and slower decay. The Onkyo sounds bigger than the RE-400 and has much more bass. The RE-400 is more precise with melodic mids and a better ability to create a sound stage.
Think of the Onkyos as fun earphones that punch at the level they're priced at but not above. It's also good to be aware that they enjoy a little amping and sound much better/tighter out of a better than average source. In my case they sounded good out of the HRT Microstreamer and iBasso DX50 but lost definition out of the Sansa Clip Zip.
Buy these if you want: Big sub bass, solid construction with detachable cables and a fun full sound.
Avoid these: If you're looking for the ultimate in clarity for your dollar, expect isolation and like a bright treble rich signature.
Overall I like the IE-FC300. I'm not a bass head and I still find it easy to enjoy their laid back big sound. I'm using them far more than I expected so despite some initial reservations I'm happy with my purchase.
Edited by Deviltooth - 10/22/13 at 11:46pm