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Audio Earz AUD-8X by Dream Earz Custom In-Ear Monitor Review

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Audio Earz AUD-8X by Dream Earz custom in-ear monitors

Make: Audio Earz by Dream Earz
Model: AUD-8X
Base Price: $865 + shipping
Country of Manufacture: USA

Audio Earz is not a new company, but a sub-brand of Dream Earz that was started by Mitch Marcum, a gigging musician and entrepreneur. The brand originally started as Drum Earz, which is now a sub-brand along with many others including Guitar Earz, Bass Earz, Vocal Earz, Keyboard Earz, Motorcycle Earz, and Dream Earz.  While it is easy to figure out what most of the sub-brands are for, the Dream Earz product category consists of active ambient products.  This review focuses on the Audio Earz sub-brand, which consists of products designed for the audiophiles, and the AUD-8x falls into that category as does the previously reviewed AUD-5X.  Since my AUD-5X review, three new models have come out: the more neutral AUD-6X and AUD-8X and the AUD-7X, which is tuned like a Westone ES5 in the midrange and treble, but with the additional bass kick of the AUD-5X. With a starting price of $865, the AUD-8X holds the distinction of being the most affordable 8-driver CIEM I know about, edging out the In Earz 8 driver by $10, and hopefully living up to the price/performance ratio of the AUD-5X.  The review sample was provided by Dream Earz.

I wanted to take a minute to share more about Mitch, who is truly one of the great people I have met in this business.  Mitch takes his business very seriously and provides exceptional customer service before, during, and after a sale.  He is always quick to respond to me as well as others from the feedback I have read on in the AUD-5X thread, which highly praises his service.  Mitch will do whatever it takes to please any reasonable request and has custom tuned monitors and worked on special projects to make people happy.  He also offers an “upgrade” path, allowing people to upgrade from one model to another, allowing people to use their initial investment toward future product upgrades.  He will also reshell his own 2nd hand products, which is rare in the world of CIEMs.  Ultimately, if you buy a Dream Eaz product, you can rest assured that he will do his best to take care of you!

HOW TO ORDER AND OPTIONS
Visit the Audio Earz page and select the “BUY NOW” button below the AUD-8X.  An online form will load that includes information on the process.  Fill the form out and hit submit.  Mitch will contact you and work with you.  Options and colors are selected on this page before you submit.  The base price is $865 + $7 standard shipping with costs ranging up to $55 for international shipping.  The cost of my Dream Earz AUD-8X review unit is $945 + shipping ($865 base + $20 for colored canal tips + $40 for recessed sockets + $20 for hard case, waterproof), which was provided for review.

Options: Cable: beige, white, clear, black; custom colors – $25; custom art – $50; carbon fiber faceplates – $50; wood faceplates – $50; colored canal tips – $20; glitter – $25; recessed sockets – $40; hard case, waterproof – $20; rush job – $50

WARRANTY
One year parts and labor, 30 day refit

DESIGN
The AUD-8X incorporates 8 drivers in a 4-way configuration with four sound tubes in an acrylic shell with detachable cables.  The drivers are configured as follows: dual ported woofer, dual ported woofer/ported mid, TWFK tweeter, and TWFK super tweeter per side.  The sound tubes are recessed in the canal which lowers the chances of ear wax clogging the sound tubes.

Listed specifications:
Frequency Response: 16hz – 16khz Isolation: -25 – 30db
Impedance: 45 ohm Sensitivity: 118dB /1Mw

 

ACCESSORIES
The AUD-8X comes with a jewelry case style box, soft pocket pouch, cleaning cloth, and cleaning tool.  A hard case is optional for $20, and at the price charged, is an acceptable add-on price.  The no-frills accessory package gives the customer what is needed.

 

CABLE
The cable is a standard twisted cable similar to those provided by Westone, JHA, and many other manufacturers.  The cable received with my AUD-8X was silver with a clear jacket and will discolor over time.  The other color options, black, beige, and white will not discolor.

ISOLATION
The AUD-8X isolates about on par with other acrylic shelled CIEMs.  The canals can be filled with silicone for a bit extra isolation, as is the case the AUD-8X reviewed.  Isolation scores 6.5/10 with tie silicone tip fill.  The original AUD-4X I received and became the AUD-5X I reviewed scored a 5/10 with no fill.

SOUND
The Audio Earz AUD-8X received 100+ hours of burn in as is typical before I do my serious listening.  The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: Audio Earz (formerly Dream Earz) aud-5X, Lear LCM-5, Logitech Ultimate Ears IERM, Hidition NT-6, Hidition NT-6 pro, Rooth LS8, ACS T1 Live!, EarSonics EM4, M-Fidelity SA-43, Heir Audio 8.A, Dunu DC4, and Ambient Acoustics AM4 pro.  Comparisons can be found on the second page of this review.

Bass: With half of the drivers in the AUD-8X dedicated to bass, this frequency region stands out with a very capable, relatively clean, and detailed presentation that is enhanced and warm without dominating the sound.  Bass quantity reacts to the track, and with bass light tracks the emphasis is less than models such as the JH Audio JH16, Heir Audio 8.A, and EarSonics EM4, but can compete with bass heavy tracks.  Note sustainment and punch are very good and able to keep up with any type of music.  Clarity could be better as there is a slight thickness to the notes reducing clarity and control isn’t top-tier in comparison with more expensive CIEMs such as the NT-6 pro, LS8, or JH16.  The 8X bass extends below 20 Hz, the frequency response starts to slope downward below 26 Hz.  Performance in the bass region is capable and well integrated into the overall sound signature resulting in excellent performance for the price.

Midrange: The forward midrange manages to be the center of the presentation without taking all the attention as a result of the balance across the spectrum.  Imaging, presentation depth, and layering are excellent, but the thick note presentation can lower clarity depending on the track and source.  This thickness doesn’t lead to congestion as all the details and layering are still there, but it requires increased attention to “listen through” the thickness to make it out, and it is something that is easy to get used to.  The combination of forward mids and great spatial qualities results in a very engaging presentation that competes with higher priced products, and A/Bing with less mid-forward CIEMs left me missing the up-close and involving sound of the 8X.  The upper midrange has a boost, resulting in a brighter and airy sound to the midrange and giving vocals added clarity.  This boost is a peak, and while OK considering the price, can sound a bit unnatural in comparison with other CIEMs with certain tracks.  Overall, I have not heard another product in this price range that has the combination of depth, detail, layering, and imaging, but unfortunately certain tracks and sources can cause the 8X to lose clarity due to the presentation thickness.

Treble: With a tonal balance that is just a bit brighter than what I would consider neutral due to the upper midrange and lower treble boost, the 8X isn’t lacking in the treble region, but also isn’t dominant.  The treble note is more analytical than the rest of the spectrum with plenty of detail and resolution, it is good for the price range, but lacks the refinement of higher end CIEMs such as the ACS T1 Live!, Rooth LS8, and Heir Audio 8.A.  While the treble is extended up to 19KHz, the amplitude drops at around 13.5K, and when combined with the more analytical note, instruments with treble energy such as cymbals don’t shimmy quite like with the higher priced competitors.  As with the rest of the spectrum, the treble is overall quite good considering the price and how it integrates with the rest of the spectrum.

Presentation: Putting everything together, the Audio Earz AUD-8X offers a presentation that tries to be everything to everyone and for the most part, succeeds.  Other than the Kozee Infinity X3, which lacks the refinement and capability of the 8X, I haven’t heard any CIEM that sounds like the 8X across the spectrum.  There is a good balance between the bass, midrange, and treble regions, but the boosts result in a combined response that isn’t all that linear overall.  The thicker note in the bass and midrange compared with the treble hurts coherence a bit, but does a great job of increasing the overall clarity given the thickness in the lower parts of the spectrum.

While the midrange is forward, the bass and treble feel like they are in the proper place respectively, and the depth and imaging give a great sense of space even with the mid-forward presentation.  As with the frequency response, the spatial presentation is not standard since mid-forward sound signatures usually don’t have an open sound like the 8X.  As mentioned in the midrange section, depth of presentation is excellent and the overall soundstage presentation is engaging with great layering and imaging.

Dynamics are very good with the 8X due to a quick attack which leads to an exciting sound and plenty of speed, even if the presentation is on the thicker side in the midrange and bass.  Instrument details are high and resolution within the soundstage is very good due to excellent instrument separation, although black space between instruments is just OK.  Transparency is good but the linearity issues within the frequency response and less than optimal black space stop the 8X from comparing with the top-tier CIEMs.  The 8X has so many thing going on, so many good with a few negatives, the overall presentation is excellent as long as you aren’t striving for ultimate clarity.

Volume performance: The 8X performs well at low volumes, with the bass driver exhibiting good dynamics, retaining a relatively lively performance at lower volumes.  Once moderate volume levels are reached the 8X performs at its best with power and precision.  As the volume increases past moderate levels, the midrange starts to thicken up and the slight bass bloat becomes more prominent and the upper midrange becoming a bit sharp.

Sound Summary: The Audio Earz AUD-8X has a sound signature that is both up-front and spacious with good depth and imaging, recreating a realistic listening environment.  The bass is mildly enhanced and warm, the midrange is forward, but not in-your-face, and the treble is present but not overly bright.  Putting all of this together gives a performance that is engaging, exciting, and involving, most of the time.  The added excitement does take away a bit from natural tonality, especially in comparison with more expensive, neutral CIEMs.

Notes in the bass and especially the midrange are on the thicker side, and tracks that are thicker to start with can reduce the clarity a good amount, although layering and imaging isn’t affected.  This is a contrast to the upper midrange and treble, which are more analytical and detailed, adding clarity to the presentation that wouldn’t be there otherwise.  The bass region falls between the two, and while very capable of sustaining deep bass notes, the clarity and control does leave some room for improvement.

When you take everything into account, including price, the 8X performs quite well and at a very high technical level with an engaging and involving sound that is never boring.  The sound signature is somewhat reminiscent of the Shure SE535, but better.  Much, much better!

COMPARISONS
Audio Earz AUD-8X by Dream Earz custom in-ear monitors
Audio Earz AUD-5X: While the more nid-forward, detailed, and punchy 8X has a somewhat enhanced response at both ends of the spectrum, the 5X is brighter and more bass heavy.  Due to the more laid-back sound, the 5X has a more open and airy feel, but the 8X can project further in all directions due to a larger overall space. Technically, the 8X is superior to 5X in every way with a cleaner, clearer, and better articulated sound.  The presentation of the 8X also changes more on a track-by-track basis, presenting with more accuracy. The 8X is also more forgiving of poor quality tracks than the 5X.

Bass of the 5X is more prominent than the 8X, however the 8X is more capable of sustaining deep bass notes and punches deeper while retaining better clarity and more detail down low.  The mid-bass through the midrange is cleaner and clearer, presenting more detail that is easier to hear.  Voicing is quite similar, but the more prominent upper midrange of the 8X adds a softer tone to vocals.  Treble is more prominent with the 5X, although the 8X has better extension and a more refined note.

The 5X is a nice starting point for CIEMs, and the 8X is a minimal cost upgrade. Whether you save for the 8X, or get the 5X for enjoyment now and get the 8X later, you have options within Dream Earz product line.

ACS T1 Live!:  Both have a similar overall note presentation while the 8X is brighter, more mid-forward, and dynamic compared with the more laid-back and smoother T1 Live!.  While the T1 has an overall slightly larger soundstage, the 8X sounds larger in general with most tracks.  Focus within the soundstage is superior with the T1 resulting in better clarity, if just by a bit while the T1 sounds a bit more tonally accurate with better transparency and coherence, resulting in the ability to disappear more.  In contrast, the more dynamic and detailed presentation of 8X results in a punchier, more resolving, and well-articulated sound. The average note thickness of the T1 is more neutral and forgiving compared with the thicker 8X note, but the 8X has a faster attack and more sustained decay capability.  When complex tracks are played at a moderate volume, the T1 can become somewhat congested in the midrange area in comparison with the 8X, which can sound thick but maintains the layering and detail levels.

Quantity and capability of the 8X in the bass region is superior to the T1 with more punch and note sustainment, although the T1 has better control and layering.  Warmth is similar between the two, but the T1 is a bit clearer in the bass region.  While the 8X has more forward mids and is more detailed and resolving, the midrange isn’t quite as clean or clear as the T1 due to focus within the soundstage.  The 8X does also have better instrument separation and layering but in direct comparison the cleanliness of the T1 gives a better sense of realism.  Vocal tonality is similar, but the 8X tone is slightly higher due to a bit more upper midrange boost.  The treble region is the most divergent as the 8X is brighter and the notes are thinner and more analytical.  The more prevalent 8X treble has more detail but is harsher and less forgiving than the laid-back treble of the T1.

Sharing similar frequency responses from the midrange and below, the punchy and dynamic Dream Earz AUD-8X is more resolving with more bass capability and a brighter sound for an exciting and involving experience, excelling with fast tracks.  The T1 Live! on the other hand has a more organic presentation that doesn’t offer quite the speed or punch, but has a relaxing and natural feel to the sound that will result in less chance of listening fatigue, even at louder volumes.

Heir Audio 8.A: While they may share the same number of drivers, the 8.A presents with more enhanced bass and is overall more laid-back and liquid compared with the more detailed and brighter 8X.  Presentation space is wider with the 8.A, but the 8X has a bit more depth while the 8.A images better and presents with better focus.  Notes are smoother and have a slower average decay on the 8.A while the quicker and more analytical 8X shares a similar attack with similar capability to recreate a wide range of notes accurately.  Dynamic range is close, but the 8.A has more punch, especially with bass heavy tracks at a louder volume.  Clarity is dependent upon which part of the spectrum is compared, as the bass and midrange of the 8.A offers a bit better clarity while the treble of the 8X are clearer.  Detail and resolution levels are higher on the 8X, but transparency and coherence are superior with the 8.A.  While the 8.A is more forgiving of poor tracks, it is more susceptible to sharp S’s.

With bass presentations that aren’t too far off, both have enhanced bass, but the 8.A has more with better punch and is slightly more capable of sustained reverb.  Overall quality is better with the warmer 8.A. Both offer thick midranges, but differ in how that thickness can mask the spectrum, with the 8.A having a more consistent thickness while the 8X thickness changes from track to track.  The superior imaging and instrument separation of the 8.A provide an overall cleaner sound.  Voicing of the two is quite different, as female vocals sound more natural and accurate on the 8X due to the upper midrange, while the 8.A has a nasally quality in comparison in addition to the sharper S’s.  Male vocals are of similar quality, but the 8X puts more emphasis on the upper midrange, giving a bit more air to male vocals.  Treble is more prominent and detailed with the 8X, but isn’t as smooth as the 8.A, which has superior note decay in this region.

Offering more of a compliment than a competition, the mid-forward 8X offers an analytical sound with a relatively neutral presentation across the spectrum.  In comparison, laid back 8.A has more bass emphasis, smooth but casual treble, and different vocal voicing.  While the 8.A performs at a higher level, they aren’t too different technically and your decision between the two should come down to preferred sound signature.

Lear LCM-5: The 8X has a richer, thicker presentation in comparison with the brighter, more laid-back reference sound of the LCM-5.  Spatially, the LCM-5 has slightly better presentation depth and focus within the soundstage while the width and imaging are equal. Dynamics and detail levels are significantly different with the 8X resolving more detail and provides greater dynamic range and a quicker attack resulting in a more exciting sound.  The LCM-5 is more coherent and transparent with better clarity as the average note on the 8X is thicker in the bass and midrange, but the treble is more analytical on the 8X.  Both present poorly mastered tracks equally well, but it depends on the track as to which sounds better.

Bass weight is very different between the two as the 8X has a bass boost while the LCM-5 is quite neutral with better quality.  The 8X is warmer and that warmth continues up to the thicker midrange, which is more mid-forward on the 8X.  Midrange details are easier to hear with the LCM-5 even though there is less detail and the 8X has better layering.  The LCM-5 frequency response is more linear from top to bottom, and this remains the case from the upper midrange on up, even though the LCM-5 is brighter.  The LCM-5 is a bit smoother in the treble while the 8X is more resolving with better treble note decay.

Comparing with the optional adapter cable for the LCM-5, the presentation becomes even further apart as the LCM-5 is brighter and more analytical, but the detail level improves at the expense of dynamics.

With different purposes, the LCM-5 is a neutral reference source with a sound on the brighter end of the spectrum vs. the warmer, richer 8X.  The LCM-5 will please those that want to study the music and/or prefer a more neutral frequency response, especially in the bass region while the 8X provides a more dynamic, punchy, powerful, forward, and engaging presentation.

Logitech Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitor (IERM): The 8X is thicker and more mid-forward in comparison with the brighter, more analytical IERM.  While having a more up-front presentation, the 8X has a slightly wider soundstage while sharing a similar presentation depth and offers a bit better focus within the soundstage. Even though the 8X has better focus, the IERM has better clarity due to the quicker note decay giving a more analytical sound while having slightly better capability to recreate a wide range of notes.  Detail levels and overall resolution within the soundstage are higher on the 8X, and the presentation is a good deal more dynamic and punchy.  Integration between the drivers of the 8X is good from a frequency response standpoint and a bit superior to the IERM, but the difference in note thickness allows the IERM to pull even in transparency.  The 8X is more forgiving of poorly mastered tracks as the IERM treble is very unforgiving in general.

The bass region of these two is very different as the 8X has a good deal more quantity and presents with more authority, enhancing and sustaining deep bass notes in a way the IERM can’t.  But, the IERM bass quality is higher overall, presenting bass with better clarity.  The IERM has a slight warmth to it but the 8X is noticeably warmer in part due to the thicker note, which carries into the midrange.  Both have good layering and presentation depth, but the closer perspective of the 8X results in a more engaging and enveloping experience in contrast to the relatively detached presentation of the IERM, which enables a better evaluation of the music.  Tracks mastered with extra warmth can become very thick with the 8X, reducing clarity but maintaining layering and detail, albeit behind a veil.  The upper midrange is similar between the two, but the IERM does have a bit more energy leading to an overall brighter tone.  Treble of the IERM is boosted in comparison with the smoother yet more detailed and forgiving 8X.

Made for different purposes, the 8X has a presentation that is full, fun, and balanced, with great dynamics and an engaging mid-forward sound while the IERM has a brighter reference sound that allows you to hear the presentation for what it is and separate yourself from the experience for evaluation of the music.  Bass capability of the 8X is greater at the expense of refinement, and notes have a thickness and weight that reduces the relative clarity, but overall the 8X performs at a bit higher technical level than the IERM.

Hidition NT-6: These two are different in many ways with the brighter, laid-back NT-6 presenting with what I consider a neutral “reference” sound in comparison with the richer, warmer 8X.  The more mid-forward 8X presents with more average width and better depth of presentation while the NT-6 has a wider overall presentation with spacious tracks.  Imaging of the NT-6 is superior in large part due to better soundstage focus and coherence between the drivers, leading to better transparency and a cleaner, clearer presentation.  Both offer high levels of detail and resolution, but the NT-6 offers more.  Notes of the 8X are thicker than the NT-6, especially in the midrange, which allows the NT-6 to present a clearer picture of the music.  The NT-6 has the ability to recreate a wider range of notes more accurately, leading to better tonality overall, and while dynamic range of both is similar, the 8X is punchier in general.  The smoother 8X is more forgiving of poor quality tracks.

Bass of the warmer 8X is enhanced and punchier in comparison with the close to neutral NT-6, giving a better sense of power to the 8X while the NT-6 bass is cleaner and clearer.  The deepest register of the NT-6 are slightly boosted relative to the rest of the bass while the 8X has a bit of roll off in comparison, resulting a different bass tonality.  The more forward midrange of the 8X makes the presentation more of a personal experience, but superior instrument separation and better detail articulation from the NT-6 offer a clearer window into the music. With more emphasis in the upper midrange and treble, the NT-6 has a brighter tonal balance, but the less linear 8X can make certain frequencies more forward and brighter.  Treble of the NT-6 is superior in extension, smoothness, and refinement.

With very different sound signatures, both serve different purposes.  The NT-6 is more of a sterile, neutral reference design that is a great tool for monitoring while the 8X takes an enveloping and enhanced approach for a fun but colored sound.  The 8X conveys more power and weight in an enveloping way at the expense of the razor sharp focus and clean and clear presentation of the NT-6.

Hidition NT-6 pro: Both offer boosted bass and north of neutral treble, but the differences end there as the tonality, note presentation and style differ considerably.  The 8X is more mid-forward compared with the larger sounding NT-6 pro, but the NT-6 pro soundstage size changes much more with each track which affects how they sound in comparison.  Note presentation of the NT-6 pro is more analytical on average, yet more capable of both speed and sustainment, which results in a clearer and more precise presentation that is more detail with higher resolution.  While punch and dynamics are similar, the NT-6 pro is more capable overall.  With fairly significant differences in clarity, transparency, and coherence, the NT-6 pro offers a different level of refinement and clarity to “see” into the music.  The 8X is more forgiving in general, except with thicker mastered tracks.

Bass of both is enhanced but in different places as the NT-6 pro focuses the boost in the deep bass while the 8X boosts the entire bass region, resulting in a different tonality and experience.  When reproducing deep bass, the NT-6 pro bass sounds significantly more powerful, but at the same time cleaner, clearer and more controlled, but is a bit cold in the mid-bass region in comparison. The midrange of the NT-6 pro is more laid-back, yet presents with better clarity and ability to hear detail within the soundstage even though the 8X has better layering and more depth of presentation.  The upper midrange of the two is similar, but the treble of the NT-6 pro is a good deal more enhanced than the 8X, which can lead to an unnatural sound with some tracks that already have enhanced treble.  Treble quality of the NT-6 pro is superior with better note decay and a smoother yet more detailed presentation.

Both the AUD-8X and NT-6 pro are designed with a bit of added fun and have different things to offer.  The 8X is warmer and thicker with a more up-front presentation that accentuates the bass region but still offers a balance across the spectrum and good soundstage space.  The more technically capable NT-6 pro enhances both bass and treble at the extremes and combines a more laid-back midrange with an extremely clear, precise, and transparent presentation from top to bottom.

Rooth LS8: The LS8 and 8X both have warmth and boosted bass, but the LS8 is brighter and more laid-back in comparison with the warmer, thicker 8X.  Presenting with similar width even though the 8X is more mid-forward, the 8X manages to offer a greater depth of presentation and imaging.  Detail and resolution levels are similar but note thickness differs quite a bit as the more analytical yet liquid LS8 presents detail in a clearer and more intelligible way with superior instrument separation and a thinner, more neutral average note thickness.  Dynamics are close, but the 8X pulls ahead with a punchier and more capable note sustainment.  The 8X is slightly more coherence while the LS8 is more transparent.  Both reveal certain issues within tracks the other doesn’t, and therefore how forgiving they are is dependent upon the track.

Bass weight and note sustainment capability is superior with the 8X, but the quality of the bass is a bit better with the LS8.  While both are warm, the 8X is warmer.  The midrange of the 8X is more forward and engaging, but the LS8 presents with more clarity and intelligibility, having a bit brighter tonal balance with vocals while not being overly analytical.  The upper midrange is similar, but the 8X is more forward and isn’t as smooth as the very linear LS8.  LS8 treble quality is better as notes are smoother and have better decay while matching the level of detail on the 8X.

Sharing a warmer sound with present treble, there are differences between the two that easily separate them.  The LS8 is more laid-back with less bass and warmth and a brighter tonality to go with a more linear frequency response and more analytical, yet liquid and musical note that offers great clarity.  In contrast, the 8X presents is more enveloping and forward with a greater sense of power, but gives up clarity in the process.  Both are very capable and offer different flavors for your music.

EarSonics EM4: The 8X is more forward and brighter than the more liquid and bass emphasized EM4.  Spatially, the EM4 has a width advantage but presentation depth is similar while imaging and focus are superior, and when combined with better clarity leading to better sense of depth and realism.  While the 8X only holds a slight advantage in dynamics, the presentation is punchier and more immediate due in part to being more forward.  Note attack and decay capability are better overall with the EM4 as notes are more coherent from top to bottom, resulting in a more organic sound and better transparency.  The 8X is more detailed and resolving, good or bad.

Both have very capable low ends but the EM4 bass is more of an “always enhanced” bass while the 8X only really comes on with bass heavy tracks.  The quality of the EM4 bass is a bit higher than the 8X and is more reverberant in general while the 8X is punchier.  The EM4 is a bit warmer than the 8X, but the 8X gets thicker than the EM4 moving into the midrange.  The midrange presentations are quite different, as the 8X is more forward and resolving in comparison with the more liquid and layered EM4.  Vocals have more emphasis in the upper region with the 8X, but the EM4 has sharper S’s.  The treble of both is pulled back in comparison with the upper mids and similar in proportion, giving the 8X a quantity advantage.  The EM4 treble is smoother and more liquid in comparison with the more detailed and analytical 8X.

These two offer different presentations as the 8X is up-front, punchy, and expressed detail in recordings the EM4 smooth’s over, but can sound a bit sloppy in direct comparison.  The EM4 is more laid back and liquid with a focus on the overall presentation with a cleaner, more relaxed, and natural sound recreation.  Overall, the EM4 performs at a higher technical level.

M-Fidelity SA-43: The 8X is more forward, bass heavy, and brighter than the spacious and laid-back SA-43.  The wider and more laid-back presentation of the SA-43 provides a feel of being further from the performance, but the soundstage also has more depth and recreates a better sense of room ambiance.  Imaging and focus within the soundstage are more precise with the SA-43, providing a more transparent, coherent, and realistic presentation.  The 8X has higher levels of detail and resolution as well as a much more dynamic note in the bass, thicker note in the midrange, and more analytical note in the treble.  This leads to a more forgiving presentation from the SA-43, but the SA-43 can sound slow in comparison with fast, dynamic music.

Bass enhancement is close, but the 8X can sustain bass notes longer, has more punch, extends deeper.  The SA-43 is warmer, with a thickness to the presentation, but the thickness is different than that of the 8X, which can put a veil on the sound.  The upper midrange of the 8X is much more prominent and the treble is more present than that of the laid back SA-43.  The more analytical, detailed, and extended 8X treble can be somewhat harsh at times in comparison as the SA-43 has a very natural treble note decay.

The presentations are at opposite ends of the spectrum with the SA-43 presenting from a distant perspective, excelling at recreating the overall presentation in a very spacious yet encompassing way with a more organic, natural sound and gets out of the way of the music.  The 8X presents with more punch, detail, and extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum while highlighting detail in instruments and enveloping the listener with its up-front presentation.

Dunu DC4: The DC4 and 8X have quite similar sound signatures in the bass through the midrange but differ in the treble region.  Spatially the DC4 is more mid-forward while the 8X has better presentation depth and width, but the overall soundstage proportions are quite similar.  Both image similarly and have similar focus within the soundstage, but the 8X is slightly superior in both regards.  Dynamics, detail, resolution, and clarity are superior with the 8X, resulting in a different feel as the punchier 8X also presents more detail that is easier to hear.  Note weight is similar except in the treble, as the 8X treble is much more analytical, and the attack capability of the 8X is superior.  The DC4 is more forgiving of poor tracks and presents with similar transparency and coherence.

The bass region of these two is almost identical in quantity while the quality of the 8X is higher, with more detail and better control.  Both have similar warmth and the midrange of both is on the thicker side.  With a larger soundstage space as well as higher resolution and detail levels, the 8X offers better clarity.  The 8X has more treble presence and is more analytical and detailed in comparison with the much smoother and more linear DC4.  While the 8X has a detail advantage, the DC4 has a more forgiving and natural, if a bit dark, presentation.

The 8X is similar to the DC4 in the bass and midrange, although the 8X performs at a higher technical level.  The difference is in the upper midrange and treble region, which are brighter and more analytical on the 8X, making the overall performance sound more exciting in comparison with the smooth DC4.

Ambient Acoustics AM4 pro: The brighter, more analytical AM4 pro has similar voicing to the more spacious and bass heavy 8X.  The larger spatial presentation of the 8X also images better.  Detail levels and dynamics are much better on the more expensive 8X while holding a small lead in transparency and coherence.  Both have similar note attack and decay ability, but the AM4 pro is slightly clearer due to a slightly thinner average note.  The 8X is more forgiving of poor tracks as the AM4 pro is revealing even though it isn’t as detailed.

Bass quantity of the 8X is higher and has more deep bass rumble even though the AM4 pro also has enhanced bass.  The AM4 pro bass has slightly better bass control, but in comparison it does miss out on the bottom octave with bass heavy music in comparison.  Warmth is close, but the 8X is warmer.  The midrange presentation is close, but the 8X is more mid-forward and spacious with a thicker note, but the AM4 pro is clearer and more precise.  The upper midrange is similar between the two resulting in vocals that are close in both tone and presentation, but the AM4 pro has more emphasis in the treble region while the 8X extends further.  From a quality perspective, the 8X treble is smoother and more detailed as the AM4 pro can be slightly harsh in comparison.

The significantly cheaper, brighter AM4 pro offers a slightly more neutral presentation that can sound a bit thin in comparison while performing at a fairly high technical performance level.  The thicker, richer, more refined 8X outperforms the AM4 pro in dynamics, level of detail, and extension at both ends of the spectrum.

SOURCE MATCHING
Portable Sources, DAPs

Sandisk Sansa Clip+: The 8X sounds good with the Clip+ and doesn’t exhibit any weaknesses.  The balance is good across the spectrum and the presentation space is decent.  Bass isn’t as powerful as with higher-end sources, but isn’t lacking. 5/10
Apple iPhone 5: While not much different than the Clip+, the iPhone 5 presents with a slightly more laid-back presentation that has a bit higher instrument separation, leading to slightly better clarity.  Bass is also slightly more powerful.  Overall, the differences between the two are very minimal. 5/10
Hisoundaudio RoCoo BA: Compared with the iPhone 5, the bass quantity is significantly less, but not absent.  The overall presentation is more forward with similar presentation size, space, and detail levels.  There is no real advantage of the RoCoo BA over the iPhone 5 when paired with the 8X unless you want less bass.  There is a slight hiss that can be heard at times with the BA that can’t be heard with the iPhone 5, reducing the score by 0.5. 4.5/10
Hisoundaudio Nova (HSA set to User): The Nova is closer to the RoCoo BA than the iPhone 5, as the presentation isn’t really an improvement, and the bass quantity is lower than that of the iPhone 5.  Clarity, space, detail, and other traits are similar, but the Nova is slightly more forward.  There is no noticeable hiss.  5/10
Fiio X3: The X3 is closest to the Clip+ presentation, but is a bit brighter while still retaining bass quantity and punch.  Spatially, it is slightly larger than the iPhone, RoCoo, Nova, and Clip+, and while closer, it doesn’t have the spatial presentation of the DX50.  There is no hiss with the 8X. 6/10
iBasso DX50: The DX50 shares the presentation style of the DX100, which is a bit more laid-back than the Nova, X3, AK120, or 901.  The DX100 has more bass and presents with more power and better layering, but the DX50 presentation is a bit cleaner and clearer, falling closer to that of the AK120 in quality. Compared with the X3, the DX50 has a bit larger presentation space and slightly more powerful bass.  There is a slight bit of hiss with the 8X.  7.5/10
AK120: This pairing adds a bit of detail, depth of presentation, space, and bass weight to the iPhone 5 presentation, but the biggest improvements come in clarity and cleanliness of the presentation.  The iPhone 5 sounds a bit messy in comparison to the more refined AK120. 8.5/10
HiFi Man 901: The differences between the AK120 and 901 are minimal, with the 901 presenting with a bit more soundstage space, otherwise sounding very similar. 8.5/10
iBasso DX100: The DX100 differs from the AK120 and 901 in that it is more laid-back and has more depth to the presentation, giving a more 3D sound with better instrument separation and layering.  It also is warmer with more bass, but the bass region of the 8X isn’t as controlled as with other source.  The midrange is thicker and the treble is more analytical, which lowers clarity in the mids and adds harshness to the more detailed treble.  If you have spacious tracks that don’t have much bass, the DX100 could be a good choice, otherwise the AK120 and 901 are overall better. 7/10

Portable Sources, DAPs with Amps

iBasso DX50 ->
Shonyun SH-306A: The 306A is cleaner and clearer than the DX50 headphone out (HPO) with better instrument separation.  Presentation size is about the same, but the 306A is slightly more laid back overall.  Bass is more prominent from the DX50 HPO.  While hiss isn’t too dominant from the 306A, it is present.  7.5/10
JDS Labs O2: The O2 presents with a more refined, smoother sound than the DX50 headphone out, with a slightly more laid back sound.  Clarity is similar and the presentation size is nearly identical, with the DX50 having a slight bit more presentation depth. Bass is slightly better controlled with the O2 and there is no noticeable hiss. 7.5/10
Sunrise Dolphin: The Dolphin is similar to the O2 in that the presentation is more refined than the DX50 headphone out, but the Dolphin has a bit more presentation depth and further refines the sound, and the treble is overall softer.  Bass is slightly less prominent than the O2 or DX50 HPO.  There is a slight amount of hiss. 8/10
Headstage Arrow 12HE 4G: The Arrow 4G adds width to the presentation and pushes the midrange back a bit.  Compared with the Sunrise Dolphin, the presentation isn’t quite as 3D and the overall presentation isn’t as refined.  Deep bass is a bit less than the DX50 headphone out.  There is no hiss. 7.5/10
Headamp Pico Slim: The Pico Slim takes the strengths of the Sunrise Dolphin amp and slightly improves, with a cleaner and clearer presentation than the DX50 headphone out while giving up some bass emphasis.  Treble is more refined and smoother without losing detail, and the presentation is slightly more laid back. There is a slight amount of hiss. 8/10
Ortofon MHd-Q7: The MHd-Q7 has good clarity and a brighter sound that gives an air and clarity to the presentation other sources don’t.  Spatial reproduction is average and the presentation is a bit more forward than the DX50 headphone out.  The MHd-Q7 overcomes the issue of the thick presentation better than the other amps I tested.  Unfortunately there is a good deal of hiss, although not enough to take away from the clarity when music is playing. 8.5/10
Leckerton UHA-6S MKII: The UHA-6S performs well with the aud-8X, adding refinement to the sound while keeping the sound cleaner and clearer than the DX50 headphone out.  Bass is about on par with the DX50 HPO.  There is no hiss. 8/10
Tube Amp TA-1: The TA-1 sounds a bit more lively, 3D, and spacious than the Leckerton UHA-6S, Pico Slim, Arrow 4G, and Dolphin.  The presentation is cleaner and clearer than the DX50 headphone out with more deep bass weight that is well controlled.  Overall, the sound is more refined and realistic than the other amps in the price range.  There is a bit of hiss. 9/10
Lear FSM-02 V2 (class A): The FSM-02 V2 presents with a large space that is a good deal larger than the DX50 headphone out and is slightly wider than the Tube Amp TA-1, but doesn’t have the depth.  The bass is more prominent than the DX50 HPO, but less than the TA-1.  Refinement is about on par with the TA-1, which is better than the DX50 HPO.  There is no hiss. 8.5/10
Portaphile 627: The 627 is an improvement over the DX50 headphone output in space, presentation cleanliness, and refinement.  While the improvements are close to that of the Tube Amp TA-1 and Lear FSM-02 V2, the presentation depth isn’t quite as good and the bass isn’t quite as controlled.  The presentation is slightly more forward than the other two amps and there is a very faint hiss. 8/10

Source Summary: The AUD-8X performs relatively well from entry-level sources such as the Clip+ and iPhone 5, and while upgrading to better sources improves the sound, the changes aren’t very significant.  Bass impact and depth do improve with many higher end sources, but if there is too much bass power, control can suffer.  Paired sources don’t significantly alter the midrange when it is too thick, except the Ortofon MHd-Q7 amp.

Audio Earz AUD-8X by Dream Earz custom in-ear monitors

SUMMARY
The Audio Earz AUD-8X by Dream Earz is designed to be a full range, high performing, relatively neutral custom in-ear monitor at a reasonable price.  The fun, dynamic, and engaging sound is better for those that want active involvement with their music rather than listen to a flat reference tool or something to use as background music.  Technically, the 8X performs at a very high level with excellent dynamic range, detail levels, imaging, and creation of soundstage space.

While there are many very good aspects of the AUD-8X, notes in the midrange are on the thicker side which can create a slight veil, reducing clarity with audio tracks that have been mastered with their own thickness.  Luckily, this doesn't happen too often.  Transparency and coherence, while good for the price range, don’t compare with the higher cost CIEMs used for comparison.  With 8 drivers, it can keep up in most ways with more expensive 8-driver CIEMs, but the tonality isn’t on par with the best.  Even with these issues, the Audio Earz AUD-8X is a very capable and enjoyable custom in-ear monitor that will please many people.

PROS

-       Impressive effortless dynamics and punch

-       High levels of detail in comparison with similarly priced IEMs/CIEMs

CONS

-       Midrange thickness can lead to congestion when a track is warm and thick

See where the AUD-8X ranks in comparison with other CIEMs in this interactive table.


Edited by average_joe - 11/22/13 at 7:20am
post #2 of 12

Great review as always Joe!

 

It seems you mention a few times that these are just not quite there with some top tier ciems. I personally really like the rooth lineup. Are these comparable to the LS8 that youve mentioned when the 150 or so dollar gap is considered? Basically, would you prefer these, would just spend the extra 200 or so and go for a rooth LS8.

 

Sorry i only have time to scan this real quick... (EXAM TOMORROW!) so i hope im not repeating anything that's obviously already written there!

post #3 of 12

Nice great review, been waiting for this a long time XD

post #4 of 12

Great review. All we need now is reviews of

 

JH 13 Freqphase

JH Roxanne

Noble Kaiser 10

UM Miracle

 

Thanks in advance :wink_face::wink_face:

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotnijoe View Post
 

Great review as always Joe!

 

It seems you mention a few times that these are just not quite there with some top tier ciems. I personally really like the rooth lineup. Are these comparable to the LS8 that youve mentioned when the 150 or so dollar gap is considered? Basically, would you prefer these, would just spend the extra 200 or so and go for a rooth LS8.

 

Sorry i only have time to scan this real quick... (EXAM TOMORROW!) so i hope im not repeating anything that's obviously already written there!

 

They aren't too far off in my overall technical scoring of them, but they are very different in sound signature so they are compliments, not competitors IMO.  Hope you did well on your exam.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iamdacow View Post
 

Nice great review, been waiting for this a long time XD

 

Thanks, it did take me too long!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas2402 View Post
 

Great review. All we need now is reviews of

 

JH 13 Freqphase

JH Roxanne

Noble Kaiser 10

UM Miracle

 

Thanks in advance :wink_face::wink_face:

 

NP, I will get right on that!

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas2402 View Post
 

Great review. All we need now is reviews of

 

JH 13 Freqphase

JH Roxanne

Noble Kaiser 10

UM Miracle

 

Thanks in advance :wink_face::wink_face:


Personally I'm pleased that Average_Joe takes the road less traveled and reviews CIEMs that usually don't get the same amount of coverage as those you've mentioned.  There are certainly no shortage of reviews for the JH13pro and the UM Miracle.  The Roxanne being a JH product will also get a lot of coverage as they're released; the Noble Kaiser 10 already has a few solid reviews on this site.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deviltooth View Post
 


Personally I'm pleased that Average_Joe takes the road less traveled and reviews CIEMs that usually don't get the same amount of coverage as those you've mentioned.  There are certainly no shortage of reviews for the JH13pro and the UM Miracle.  The Roxanne being a JH product will also get a lot of coverage as they're released; the Noble Kaiser 10 already has a few solid reviews on this site.

I was kidding.. but it would be interesting to see his review of the kaiser 10 or jh 13 freqphase .. cause i identify with joe's sound descriptions more than with others.. but you're right the miracle is popular enough so it doesn't need a review.


Edited by Andreas2402 - 11/20/13 at 10:44am
post #8 of 12

A great great read as always. Looking forward to reading your future reviews. :beerchug: 


Edited by hilosxdd - 11/20/13 at 11:53am
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deviltooth View Post
 

Personally I'm pleased that Average_Joe takes the road less traveled and reviews CIEMs that usually don't get the same amount of coverage as those you've mentioned.  There are certainly no shortage of reviews for the JH13pro and the UM Miracle.  The Roxanne being a JH product will also get a lot of coverage as they're released; the Noble Kaiser 10 already has a few solid reviews on this site.

 

I do want to review the mainstream products in addition to the "road less traveled" since I get asked for recommendations all the time, and the more I hear, the better job I can do at steering someone in the right direction.  But, time gets in the way as my comparative review style is very time consuming.  If time permits, I will see what I can do with the head-fi favorites.

 

   Quote:

Originally Posted by Andreas2402 View Post
 

I was kidding.. but it would be interesting to see his review of the kaiser 10 or jh 13 freqphase .. cause i identify with joe's sound descriptions more than with others.. but you're right the miracle is popular enough so it doesn't need a review.

 

Thanks, good to know!  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hilosxdd View Post
A great great read as always. Looking forward to reading your future reviews. :beerchug: 

 

Thanks!

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by average_joe View Post

I do want to review the mainstream products

This .

That's why I love reading your (non-mainstream) reviews wink.gif

Edit: Oops quoted wrong post tongue.gif
Edited by hilosxdd - 11/21/13 at 11:51pm
post #11 of 12
Joe, great review as always! Looking forward to more reviews and newer gear!
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hilosxdd View Post


This .

That's why I love reading your (non-mainstream) reviews wink.gif

Edit: Oops quoted wrong post tongue.gif

 

:bigsmile_face:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xingz View Post

Joe, great review as always! Looking forward to more reviews and newer gear!

 

Thanks!

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