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Earbuds item created by audio123, Jun 19, 2017
Pros - THAT CABLE!! YES!! - Comfortable, light design - Well-tuned mid-focused signature
Cons - Bass extension - Average sound stage for an ear bud - Poor L/R indication
Today we're going to be checking out Penon Audio's newest in-house creation, the BS1 Experience Version Ear Bud.
Back in the day when Penon Audio released their first audio product, the Penon IEM, I hopped on board and included them in my purchase of the Fidue A31s. At that time I was just getting into the hobby, Chinese stuff in particular, and was enjoying all the great gear you could get for not a lot of money. When the IEM arrived, I was impressed with the clean, comfortable design and powerful sound that was comparable to much of what Knowledge Zenith was putting out at the time. They were a somewhat mid-bassy and slightly veiled, but for 10 bucks they were a great little earphone. Durable too. Three years later and they're still going strong.
Penon is back and time time they're targeting those who are passionate about ear buds, a style of earphone that has recently been receiving some much deserved and well overdue love. With a clean design, excellent materials, and an engaging signature, the BS1 is a pretty solid entry and something to consider. Let's look at the why in greater detail, shall we?
The BS1 was purchased at a discounted rate for the purposes of review. There is no financial incentive for writing this review. The thoughts and opinions within are mine and mine alone. They do not represent Penon Audio or any other entity.
The BS1 retailed for 39.00 USD at the time of this review; http://penonaudio.com/Penon-Audio-BS1-Dynamic-Driver-Earbud?search=bs1
Spoiler: My Gear and I:
I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, LG G5, Walnut V2s, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with the Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I've been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1 with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
If you've been following my reviews for any length of time you'll know that I appreciate an engaging unboxing experience and useful accessories. Engaging can mean an in-depth and flashy experience like the FLC 8S or something no-frills and environmentally friendly like the Double Tap Audio R1. Penon kept it sweet and simple with the BS1.
The first thing you see is a small blue box with a colorful Penon sticker in the top left hand corner of the main face. Other than that, the box is plain as day. From the front, the lid is held shut via magnets. Flip it back and you're immediately greeted by a small, clam shell hard case which holds the BS1 and accessories. All-in-all you get:
- BS1 ear buds
- carrying case
- shirt clip
- 5 sets of foams in various colors (includes one set of donut foams)
- Penon branded Velcro strap for cable management
(I got a few extra foams with mine)
I appreciate that Penon includes foams of various colors because the L/R indicators on the BS1 are limited to a single dot on the left earpiece, hidden behind the strain relief. An area of improvement in my opinion, especially if someone who is vision impaired orders this ear bud. Without performing a channel test it's unlikely they would be able to tell which channel is which.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation (I jk, I jk, these don't isolate. They're ear buds.):
From my first glimpse of the preview pics, I was confident the BS1's cable was going to kick some serious butt. When they arrived, I was not disappointed. This is a cable I've gushed about in the past in it's application on the MusicMaker TW1 and AK Audio Light T2. It does nearly everything right. Strain relief? All there except at the y-split where you find a chin cinch. Memory? Completely absent. Bounciness? Nothing. Microphonics/cable noise? A thing of the past. Durable? So far, so good. All that and it looks great. I've said it before and I'll say it again; this is the best cable you can get on a budget product right now. Good choice Penon.
The rest of the BS1's build isn't all too shabby either. The rear section of each ear piece is metal while the face plate protecting the driver is plastic. The matte black housings are free of any branding and have a very straightforward bell-shape to them that flairs at the back. This makes them easy to hold and ensures they stay securely in your ear. Down near the strain reliefs are three vents through which you can clearly see some filter material. I wouldn't be shocked to see modders playing around with different materials to see what effect they would have.
When it comes to comfort the BS1 is excellent. Like many ear buds, you just pop them into your outer ear and they rest ever so daintily, held in place by your antitragus. The BS1 is very light and free of sharp edges so there's really not much to say. Although, since this is a pretty standard ear bud design and the housings have some thickness to them, those that have trouble getting ear buds to fit probably won't be experiencing a revolution with the BS1.
I, like many, for the longest time was under the impression that ear buds were a waste of time and money. They were cheap throwaways packed in with audio devices and were simply meant to be a stopgap until you could get something better. Clearly that's not the case with the modern ear bud scene thriving the way it is. You've got wicked good entry level stuff and totl gear from Venture Electronics, TY/HiZ/Seahf, Rose, and many others. Penon's entry costs a little more than your hyper-budget cheapos, but it's still far from what I would consider expensive. Also, it's got a unique design instead of running with the same MX500 housing everyone and their mother uses, fantastic build quality, and most importantly, the sound quality to back up the 39 USD they're expecting you to pay.
I found the BS1 to be characterized by a slightly warm, mid-focused presentation. Lower treble, mid-range, and mid-bass are all the most prominent aspects. Treble rolls off slowly and smoothly while the sub-bass dip is a little more prominent than I would prefer. I'm not knocking them for this quality given ear buds aren't necessarily known for a killer sub-bass experience. It's simply an observation that is in line with my experiences with most earphones in this style. The way they fit you may also lead to a differing experience, so keep that in mind.
The BS1's treble is prominent but not overpowering. Listening to one of my favorite treble-heavy tracks, that being 'Bluestep' by Gramatik, the BS1 shows itself to be smooth and well controlled with good clarity and detail retrieval. It also lacks the shimmer and sparkle that really makes the track come alive, though on the other hand this helps make it a non-fatiguing listen. In this case it's a nice trade-off as there is still enough shimmer to keep some of the excitement going.
In the middle frequencies is where the BS1 truly shines. It's a thick, weighty presentation with good body and a naturalness that many earphones I've used struggle to encapsulate. This is very evident on Godsmack's acoustic ballad 'Hollow'. Sully Erna and Lisa Guyer's surprisingly powerful duet is matched by an emotionally poignant acoustic guitar, mandolin, and cello that are faithfully reproduced by the BS1, drawing you in.
The BS1's low end takes on a prominent mid-bass focus that has a surprisingly good punch for an ear bud. It lacks extension though, taking away from some tracks such as Haywyre's 'Sculpted' which relies on a deep bass-line to guide the tune. Shift over to a song that has less sub-bass and more mid-bass reliance, such as Supertramp's 'Rudy', and the BS1 will put a smile back on your face.
When it comes to sound stage, I didn't really find the BS1 doing anything special in terms of size. This is a bit of a bummer as they image very well and have great separation. Going back to 'Rudy', the BS1 does a stellar job of giving each vocal element and instrument a clear stage to play. on The immersion is impressive, and would only be made more so were there more space to play within. Bringing in King Crimson's 'Starless and Bible Black' shows off the BS1's ability to separate congested and busy aspects of a track. After a hilariously slow, yet intense build from ~4:25 to ~9:08, the track explodes into a crazy jazz rock extravaganza that with many earphones lacks any sense clarity and definition, devolving into a glob of noise. Not the case here. It was a cake walk for the BS1. Didn't break a sweat. Two thumbs up.
Overall the BS1 is a very enjoyable and well-tuned ear bud. They have a competent, textured, and fairly detailed signature that really only falters on tracks reliant on deep bass. I would prefer it had a larger sound stage allowing it to really flex and show off it's excellent imaging and separation qualities, but as-is it's just fine.
*Slow Clap* Well done, Penon. You've brought to an ever-growing and extremely competitive ear bud market something that really sells what makes this style of product appealing. The BS1 has a great cable with quality materials that are put together with care and precision, and with a clean and comfortable design to boot. It's beautiful, mid-focused presentation is a treat for the ears and while I wish it's sub-bass extension were improved, what is there is acceptable.
If you've been hesitant to try ear buds and want to give them a go with something that will make you feel like you got something worth your while, the BS1 is well worth a look.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock - Crows 1
Aesop Rock - Maintenance
BT - The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method - Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk - Touch
Gramatik - Bluestep (Album Version)
Godsmack - Hollow
Godsmack - One Rainy Day
Incubus - 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Haywyre - Sculpted
Infected Mushroom - Deeply Disturbed
Jessie J - Bang Bang
Kiesza - Hideaway
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd - Money
Skindred - Death to all Spies
Supertramp - Rudy
The Prodigy - Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack
Various EDM mixes by SubSil3nt and Vintage Culture
Pros - Sub-bass Extension, Transparency of Mids, Price to Performance Value
Cons - Soundstage can be wider and deeper
Penon Audio is a Chinese company selling audio gears. They have decided to come up with their own earbud named Penon BS1 Experience Version Earbud. For simplicity sake, I will just call it the BS1 in this review.
I would like to thank Penon Audio for this review unit.
Below is the purchase link:
Driver: 15.4mm dynamic driver
Frequency response: 15Hz-25KHz
Cable length: 1.2m
The BS1 comes in a blue package with the Penon sticker on the top left. After opening the box, you can see a Penon cable wrap on top of the black circular case. Inside the case, there are 2 packs of foam cushions, 1 shirt clip and of course, the earbud. The accessories are enough for an earbud. I must say Penon is very professional in their overall presentation.
The BS1 housing is made of plastic and it is non-detachable, meaning you cannot change the cable for aftermarket cables. I really like the build quality of the BS1. Really solid. There is good strain relief too on the earbud. You can tell that the designer of the earbud is extremely thoughtful given how many earbuds these days do not have them. Given this point, I am very impressed already. Moving on to the cable, the material is probably your standard silver-plated copper (SPC). The cable is soft and supple. It is nicely done for cable management. Keeping the entire earbud slick-looking, the components (earbud housing, y-splitter, slider and jack) used are all black. Next up, the slider is just a black rubber that allows you grip on it and adjust accordingly on the cable. The y-splitter is made of metal and with some grip on the bottom part of it. Lastly, it is a straight jack with the Penon logo on it with strain relief.
The bass extension is pretty good. What I like about the BS1 is the sub-bass. It is so good that I would coin it the Ibasso IT03 of earbuds. The texture is smooth in general. It is important to note that the bass reproduction is quite effortless and since it is not hard hitting at all, the listener can listen for quite a long time. The mid bass has a nice slam to it. I really enjoy the punch that will keep you going for the rest of the songs without being fatiguing. Also, it does not bleed into the midrange. There is a smooth transition from the lows to the mids. At this point, I am more than impressed on its sub bass reproduction. Just marvellous. In fact, one of the best sub bass I have ever heard in an earbud.
The mids is very energetic with an emphasis on the upper mids. With this emphasis, female vocals sound extremely sweet but this does not mean male vocals sound bad either. Lower mids are not compromised either. There is a good level of transparency and cleanliness in the mids and it is very hard to find this level in earbuds at this price point. It is comparable to my TY Hi-Z 650 in all honesty with the 650 having a slight edge as it is capable of oozing out more details than the BS1. With such a natural midrange that will do justice for vocals, I really think this is one of my favourite earbuds already all for the right reasons - the mighty sub bass and the crystal clear mids. However, I have yet to cover the highs which I will do so in the next section.
The treble is just crisp and clear. It is extended nicely and you will not experience any harshness or sibilance. Very well controlled but definitely not the star of the show. However, it lacks that extra sparkle. For me, I feel the highs are just nice but some may prefer the extra sparkle. At this stage, I am awed by the seamless transitions across the frequencies considering the price of this earbud. Overall, a pretty non-offensive approach in presenting the highs.
The BS1 has a decent soundstage with an appropriate amount of depth and width. I will not elaborate much on here as it is just the standard soundstage you get from a mid- tier earbud.
I use the Ibasso DX200 to compare the different earbuds.
Penon BS1 vs MusicMaker TP16
The BS1 has a better extension with more sub-bass than the TP16. In addition, the mid-bass of the BS1 is punchier, hence, it is able to produce more impact than the TP16. The bass is much tighter too. Overall, the quality of bass in BS1 is on a much higher level than the TP16. There is no competition at all. Moving on to the mids, BS1 is much more transparent and cleaner with a sweet emphasis on the upper mids. The clarity is better. On the flipside, the TP16 has that tinge of warmth. The treble on both is quite similar but the BS1 is more refined. For soundstage, BS1 has the edge in the width but TP16 for the depth.
Penon BS1 vs Auglamour RX-1
The BS1 has more sub-bass rumble than the RX-1 while the RX-1 has more mid-bass punch. The bass decay of BS1 is quicker than the RX-1. For the mids department, the RX-1 is more full-bodied and organic than the BS1 but is not up to the level of detailing of the BS1. Very contrasting sound. However, if you are looking for a more clinical earbud, I would take the BS1 all day. Like-wise for a more musical earbud, the RX-1. I am not implying the BS1 is not musical but in terms of musicality, RX-1 has an extra edge. For treble, BS1 is more clear and crisp with a high definition. The RX-1’s treble extension is less than the BS1. For soundstage, BS1 has the edge in the width but RX-1 for the depth.
Penon BS1 vs MusicMaker Tomahawk Mr Z
The BS1 has more sub-bass quantity and extends deeper than the Tomahawk. Both are controlled nicely but in terms of definition, the BS1 has an edge over the Tomahawk. The mid-bass of BS1 is punchier than the Tomahawk. Overall, the bass impact of BS1 is more prominent than the Tomahawk. Both have outstanding transitions from the lows to the mids. In the midrange department, they have similar emphasis in the upper mids. The BS1 has a slight advantage due to the added clarity it has. Wonderful presentation of mids from both of them with a high level of definition. Moving on to the treble, there is hardly any sibilance and harshness on them. The BS1 has more air and extension than the Tomahawk. For soundstage, Tomahawk slightly wins BS1 in terms of depth and width.
Penon BS1 vs PMV A01 AOEDE
The BS1 has a higher definition of bass straightaway when comparing with the PMV B01. It extends deeper with more sub-bass rumble. The extra level of quantity and quality really gives the BS1 an edge over the PMV B01. The BS1’s mids has more transparency and details than the PMV B01 which is more full-bodied. The PMV B01 is warmer. In terms of clinical performance, the BS1 is in another league. The PMV B01 has more quantity in treble but the BS1 is more controlled in this aspect. For soundstage, the BS1 has more width and depth than the PMV B01.
With the QP1R, the bass has better extension and the sub-bass rumble is more addictive to listen. The lower mids have more body with a faster mid-bass punch. Treble is more articulate too.
Ibasso DX200 With Amp 1
The DX200 increases the treble performance as it is more accurate and detailed. The bass is less aggressive and the mids are even more forward, giving an more intimate listen. One of my favourite pairing.
The stage is more wide and deep with a more analytical sound. The sub-bass rumble is less and treble is more refined. Mids become more forward and there is a tighter mid-bass punch.
The Penon BS1 is an excellent earbud at this price point for those who do not wish to pay a premium. You get excellent sub-bass extension and transparent mids. All in all, this has become one of my favourite earbuds in my collection.