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In-Ear item created by Brooko, Oct 3, 2013
Pros - Flat sound and decend built quality. Price. Microphone. Carrying case and cable holder.
Cons - A bit harsh uppermid, with couple of nasty resonances. Hard to set in ears properly.
Just few words about my self: Im professional sound engineer, who enjoys pure and flat sound. Nothing hyped and no snake oil for me thank you.
Just got them couple days ago, and i was very anxious to see, how they work for me. Lots of reviews i have read was very promising, but in this thread there have been so many dissapointed people, so...
Package came from post and i plug those in to my iPhone4s and selected my soundcheck track no.1. and boy was i dissapointed. Weak bass, distorted sound and very peaky and unpleasant upper mids. Try to fiddle them out and in and try to adjust tips, and what not. Another, pro-audio soundsource did not make any difference. No gicar. So i thought that these must be bad pair, and mailed to seller who runs local small busines and is specialised in in-ears, so he knows he´s product. He was baffled, but promised to check them out and to send me new pair.
Then i listened my other familiar cans again, just to quadruple check, that it´s not me, and went back to BA100.s and suddenly whoa!!! Very clean and smooth soundstage. Good balance, exept slight overtightnes in upper mids. What happened? Take them off and on again and they sound thin again. Fiddling them in ears and boom, sound is back. So these things are VERY precise, how to place them in ears.
Then i tried foamtips, that came along them and now i found that sweetspot much easier.
So how is the overall sound?
It´s quite flat overall. Subs are a tiiinybit shy, but definedly there. Bass is very clear, non hyped and precise and Lo mids are pure and nice. Upper mids are a bit bright and there are resonance peaks at 3300 and its upper harmonics at 6600 Hz, and that bothers me quite a bit. I´m sure that many people wont even notice, and prefer this as clarity, and in a sense it is: you can find details exelently with these headphones, but do you need to find things that aren´t naturally so visible? And it would be nice, if they could go a hint higher at the freq range.
So overall: At pricepoint, they are very nice. Mick works fine as well. But you neet to adjust them very precise to get good sound off them and if you are like, me and use iems just on the go, when you want good sound, when you go jogging, biking or something like that, it´s a bit hustle.
So i still prefer my lost (sob) Sound Magic E10:s, wich are cheaper, not quite so flat, but exelent sounding and much more easier to use.
PS: I found that when you place them so that cord points up and go from front behind you ear, they seems to settle down much easier.
PPS. That distorsion that i mentioned when i first heard them, was in the record. Never before i have noticed it. So yes, they are very precise
Pros - midrange, clarity, balanced sound
Cons - treble extension, no chin slider
Thanks to Jack and HSA for sending me the BA100 as a review unit for a hefty 50% off. It is a single balanced armature IEM with a retail price of $99. For a sub-$100 IEM, I would say that it definitely has a lot of potential with a few shortcomings.
Design and Accessories : The first time I took them out of the packaging, I was quite pleased to see the metallic construction and the 45° jack. The wire is descent and has been rather tangle-free. The included tips are nice, I was using the foam tips that came with the BA100 for some time. Finally I switched to the MEElec double-flange tips which are very comfortable and also sound nice with the BA100. The included fish-thingy has been of no use and the absence of a chin slider is a little disappointing.
Microphonics and Isolation : The isolation is descent and gets better by using a foam tip but not so much with the Meelec tips that I use. Microphonics is much lower than what I would have expected and wearing them over-ear eliminates it completely. I have to say that I think the soft wire used on these IEMs helps with the microphonics.
Sound : Lets talk about the most important part, how do they sound?
Bass : The BA100 has a tight and very well balanced low frequency response. The bass has nice quality and can redeem itself when needed. I am not a fan of bloated bass and am pleased with what HSA have achieved here.
Mids : This is where the BA100 out-shines its competition IMO. I love the mids on them and specially how female vocals and guitars sound. I listen to a lot of Jazz and Blues and would recommend the BA100 to anyone listening to these genres if only for their wonderful midrange.
Highs : The highs are a little weak on these babies, compared to their very well-textured lows and wonderful mids. Don't get me wrong, the treble is clearly present and sound good but without the extension as can be heard in more expensive dynamic or multi-driver IEMs.
Imaging and Soundstage : This is one part of the sound from an IEM that I am not very fond of. Considering that, the soundstage on the BA100 is quite wide and has good depth and height. The imaging is a little lacking but again few sub-$100 IEMs get it right.
Overall, the build quality is excellent and the included accessories are good. I would say lose the fish and add a chin slider. I am very happy with how the BA100 sounds, given its price point. It is almost neutral with a slight preference towards being a little bright. If I were asked to describe it in one word, my answer would be "clarity", especially in the midrange frequencies. I would recommend the BA100 to anyone who listens to Jazz, Country or Blues.
Pros - Small, comfortable, nicely built
Cons - Fit might be finicky, accesories
Full review here:
Fit, Comfort and Isolation:
The BA100 are one of the smallest in-ear phones I've seen, and like the Crystal model I previously owned, they're very easy to fit and impossible comfortable with the right tips. Unfortunately, to my surprise, I couldn't get a good fit with the included eartips, so tip-rolling was a must. Other single-flange tips, such as the Auvio and Audiofly tips, offered a more secure fit, but I ended settling with the Meelec double-flange tips as they offered better sound results.
Isolation is above average, and again, potentially better with aftermarket tips.
The BA100 are the first Balanced Armature based IEM from HisoundAudio and, according to a company insider, they've designed the BA driver themselves (and they're also one of the few companies that have the rights to design their own BA units).
As expected, the BA100 feature the typical balanced armature driver characteristics, speed, accuracy and detail that beat most of their dynamic driver earphones rivals. They're also ahead of other BA ones, such as the PL50 and A151 that use the well known Knowles Siren driver.
The overall sound is neutral with an added touch of brightness, well balanced from lows to highs. Within the HSA line they offer a totally different presentation compared to the much colored, darker or V-shaped sounding models. What that they do share with previous models is the extra volume to shine and also need some more time to get used to their sound to really start to appreciate it.
The low end is very tight, fast and detailed. As a full range single BA driver, sub-bass is very limited in extension, depth and rumble but it's more rounded than something like the SoundMagic PL50. When it comes to mid-bass, they're quite surprising. While they remain on the neutral side, there's a small extra 'hump' or kick in the mid and upper bass that adds some fun to whole presentation, making up for the sub-bass lack.
The midrange is slightly forwarded, but on the whole has fairly neutral tone. Like a true BA it's very effortless and detailed. While other similar priced single BA may focus more in bringing sweeter and thicker mids, the BA100 offer more transparency and clarity. Vocals, both male and female ones, are given higher priority than the rest of the mids. They lack the texture and sweetness that more mid-centered IEMs (both dynamic and balanced armature) can offer, but manage to be quite enjoyable on their own.
As for the highs, they have more than enough quantity and could even fall into the 'bright' category. They are very crispy and energetic. When it comes to quality they are somehow splashy at the lower treble region and lack the definition and control of higher-end and pricier BA-based earphones. There's no hint of grain, and while not exactly smooth or flat they are never peaky even with less forgiving tracks.
Surprisingly, soundstage has good width and height. Wider than the RE-400 for example, but not as resolving, and don't have that 3D feeling either. Air and separation is pretty good for the asking price, and they can handle complexity with not much effort.
While I can't really say that the BA100 is able to match pricier single or multi-BA earphones, they do compete quite well in their sub $100 price bracket and are a good option for those who want to know what a true balanced armature earphone is capable of. There is still some room for improvement, though, but I think HisoundAudio has made a nice first step into the BA market.
Pros - Clarity, detail, soundstage
Cons - build, sibilant, not too good with modern genres
The BA100 from HiSoundAudio is a single balanced armature in-ear headphone that has ups and downs.
Big thanks to Jack at HiSoundAudio for the review unit!
Accessories - Hard carrying case, 3 pairs of tips (S,M,L), and 'fish' cable winder.
To be honest, I never found a use for the fish. It doesn't fit into the case, and I always keep the headphones in their case when not in use. The best use I got from it was showing it to a friend and telling them that I have a dead fish.
Spoiler: Images: Headphone and accessories
Build - The BA100 has an interesting design. Unlike most balanced armature in-ear headphones, the BA100 utilizes a wider nozzle, that turns into the standard narrow nozzle that is common with BA IEMs. I believe that the nozzle is purely for fitting purposes. It allows for a wider variety of tips to be effectively fitted and used on the headphones.
The tips are unique. They're similar to the standard wide-nozzle tips that you would find on some in ears (IE. Skullcandy Ink'd), but these tips are slightly longer. I also believe that this is for fitting and comfort purposes. I do like the tips, for sure, but I don't think they allow for the BA100 to sound its best. More narrow nozzle tips and foam tips seem to be better suited for the BA100. I just wish HiSound would have included some in the package.
The housing is made out of what I believe is actually brass (peering down the nozzle reveals a metal that has a striking resemblance to brass). The strain reliefs don't feel particularly relieving. And with the cable that the BA100 uses, I would honestly worry about cable issues.
The cable is very squishy. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it's squishy. If you were to place two fingers around one of the cables that leads to the headphones, the cable would squish to being almost perfectly flat. I'm not sure if this is a strain relief in itself, or a cable issue waiting to happen.
The Y-Split feels decent. No strain reliefs, and the cable often does squish around when I examine the Y-Split. Once again; not sure if that's good or bad.
The cable is terminated with a 45° 3.5mm jack with the letters 'hi' on it, representing HiSoundAudio. The jack itself is good. Good strain reliefs and thickness.
On the cable is an in-line microphone/multifunction button that is useful for taking calls and operating music.
Microphonics - I would have expected a bit more microphonics that what is present with these. Thankfully, I was wrong. Cable noise isn't too present nor is it bothersome. Over ear wear eliminates it completely.
Sound - Similar to many BA in-ear headphones, the BA100 has an overall bright and unforgiving signature.
Bass - The BA100 is somewhat bass light in my opinion. No, I would not call it anemic. It definitely has more bass than, say, the Rock-It R-50 (in stock tips). The bass is detailed and extends deep. If you're looking for a bassy in-ear headphone, you can just stop reading (and I would also tell you to look at dynamic in ears instead of balanced armature in ears)
Mids - The mids are excellent, especially with female vocals. Female vocals are forward and lively. The vocals in "Blue Skies" from Ace Combat 4's soundtrack sounds magnificent.
Treble - The treble is harsh. It's obviously sparkly and bright. Due to this, overall clarity is stunning. Orchestral music really sounds detailed. However, it seems to lack some extension that is most noticeable in more modern genres like electronic and pop.
Soundstage - There's a good amount of space to the presentation. It really does do orchestral and jazz justice.
Overall - The BA100 is a decent offering from HiSoundAudio. I might recommend it to someone that listened to more classic genres, like rock, jazz, orchestral, etc. If clarity is a high priority, you can't really go wrong with these.
Pros - balanced sound, good detail retreval, controlled bass, awesome comfort and fit
Cons - not a fan of iPod controls on any IEM's, better strain reliefs needed on IEM housing entry points, roll off in upper highs, cable tangle prone
If any questions please feel free to ask away on here or YT. Hope you all enjoy the video
Pros - Size, Comfort, clarity, price and build.
Cons - A bit tip depth fussy but easily done right. Highs could be a little more extended.
So after a day of somewhat abusive run in (free and impatient) and tip rolling, I can say these easily play in a realm at or above their $100 price point. The stock tips are fine and Grado tips also work well but try a few doubles on them all the way to the base and you may get really great results. The stock tips are short and I prefer those up near the tip, the Grado/Orto tips can go lower on the body of the nozzle as they're longer and the UE doubles are quite long, should sit against the base and just sing on these. I have a half dozen double flange tips and these were the best overall. Second was a set with a slightly smaller opening and more taper on the top flange. May have been very slightly better balanced in the mids but not as interesting overall. (I'm now using these) Unlike some here that think frequency response is almost the only thing that matters, I find it's less important than other aspects of music reproductions as long as things line up well enough. The amount of extension, detail and balance with these is hard to fault now.
I really didn't like the stock tips pushed down to the base as others have mentioned but thought them good installed at the tip grove as described earlier. Still prefer the Grado singles and UE doubles overall. Lots of you have a pair ultimate ears double flanges from the tf10, sf3/5 days. Run these puppies in and try them. You wont regret it.
As for break in, they don't move that much but do so in important ways. Out of the box, they sound less extended in either direction and less refined overall. After some loosening up, that goes away. They open up on top, have texture and play notes in the bass. They don't get as black as the best but with these tips low level detail is all there, balance is good and they exhibit HiEnd type qualities in placement etc. Perspective is a 10th row sort of thing but there is depth and width if not totally 3d. I'm a bit spoiled by my JH13s
As setup, these have some extra lower treble and are a perhaps slightly warm overall but they are neither aggressive or sibilant and vocals sound quite natural and not weighed down in the least. There is technically some roll at the very extremes but with these tips, I bet you don't notice it on top unless you work to hear it or on the bottom unless there is some sub bass material. Bass roll is relative and I'm of the school that it needs to rise below 100hz to sound flat. These sound like they rise a bit in the midbass and stay linear from there down which is what many folks prefer anyway. The lower treble may bot suit some but I find it mitigated quite well with good tip choice.
So to conclude, with a bit of care, these play pretty easily at their $100 retail price (about $70 street) and at the current $49 deal are a no brainer. If you get them and don't like the way they sound with their tips pushed down to the base of their nozzles, don't fret, I didn't either but you can get very good results with proper use of the stock tips at the tip grove at the end of the nozzle that supports them and even better results with some others tips.
Easy fit, comfort and storage due to size is obvious. I like everything about them except that there is no cinch and the mini plug is neither straight nor right angled and just a bit odd though absolutely no problem in use. A cinch is easy enough to make. Either a bit of heat shrink on it's own or to hold a cylinder together will get it done. That said, these are probably designed to be worn down and since microphonics are low, the cinch isn't required but if you like to wear your cables over the ear, it's useful.
Pros - Bass, Midrange, Detail, Separation, Comfort
Cons - Treble, Fish (WTF), 4 Pole Plug
First of all, I’d like to thank Jack Fu of Hisound Audio for sending me the new BA-100 for me to review. Hisound has been a company that IMO raised the bar in terms of price/performance. I was very impressed by their PAA-1 Pro, E212 and E350 and believed that they all performed very well in their price bracket. The BA-100, as its name suggests uses balanced armature, or BA drivers. There is one driver in each ear, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that other multi driver IEMs are superior. Quite simply put, I was blown away by the BA-100 when I first heard it since I was expecting it to perform at a much lower level than it did. This tiny IEM retails at $99 and it is the best sub-$100 IEM that I have heard. It even comes with a universal mic and remote for smartphones!
**Disclaimer** I am in no way affiliated with or against Hisound Audio in any way and I was given these and was told to give an honest, unbiased review.
Most of my listening was done through a Sansa Clip+ and my DX50 but I did run them through my HDP-R10 and when I was writing this review, I was using the DX50. The BA-100 scales up well with higher end DAPs, but the Sansa Clip+ was perfectly fine. They sounded great through my Clip+, but moving to a better source had better soundstage and overall refinement. I wouldn’t suggest buying a better source specifically for them, but if you already have a better source like the DX50, it will be better than the Clip+. I found that adding an E6 didn’t really do much to improve the sound.
Unboxing & Accessories
Like the other Hisound products that I have reviewed in the past, these come in a rather minimalistic packaging and has a few accessories. I suppose this is to keep costs down. Anyway, the box slides out and you get the BA-100 with a square Hisound case and inside that, there are 2 pairs of tips, a cable clip and a Chinese manual. On the right side, there is a fish that comes with the E212 and PAA-1 Pro. Seriously Hisound, I’m not the first one to say so, but I probably won’t be the last – lose the fish! Just makes the whole thing look like a small kid’s toy. I am perfectly happy with the accessories since it’s all I really need.
Design, Isolation & Cable
First of all, I’d like to say that I really do not like 4 pole connectors because they can be very troublesome. For example, they fit into my DX50, but the fit is much tighter than usual and I don’t really use the mic and remote option because the sound quality from phones is generally pretty bad. Perhaps a 4 pole to 3 pole connector should be included. Onto the design of the housing, I actually like the simplicity of it. The all white design allows them to blend in into the sea of apple earbuds. They are very comfortable as well, no complaints there.
Isolation is about average and could be better if there were no vents allowing sound to get in. Should have no problems for normal use, but may become a problem on trains.
The cable is very nice and quite thick, but very flexible as well. The mic and the absence of a cable slider makes it quite hard to wear it over the ear and straight down has quite a bit of microphonic. Luckily, a cable clip is included.
Here is the best part of the BA-100 – the sound. I completely exceeded my expectations for a sub $100 IEM. As per all my reviews, the sound section will be split into 3 main sections – bass, midrange and treble.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I was to expect here. Hisound products normally have a boosted bass but single BAs that I have tried weren’t that bassy. When I first listened to them, I was quite surprised really – the bass is very well balanced and rather neutral and has a go impact. No boost and not lacking at all. It is very clear and detailed with no bloat at all. Also, the bass was the depth was impressive and the BA-100 handles sub bass very well, especially for its price range, but don’t expect a lot of rumble. Another thing that was very impressive to me was the layering of the bass which exceeded many more expensive IEMs that I have tried. I have to say, this is the best bass that I have heard from a Hisound product so far and is the highlight of the BA-100 (IMO of course).
The midrange was also very nice, and according to a graph that a Head-Fier got from Jack, is slightly forward. What I hear is a very flat midrange that is fun and neutral at the same time (if that is possible?). Vocals are very clear, not too upfront and I did not at any time feel like they were recessed in any way. Instruments sounded impressive as well and there was not a lot of colouration. Even at higher volumes, I could not detect any sibilance, which is a big plus for me. Overall, the midrange is very musical and easy to listen to without any peaks. I don’t see how one can really be let down by the midrange performance at this price range.
Every product has a weak spot in sound quality and I believe that this is the BA-100’s. The treble is undoubtedly rolled off, but not too much and gives a feeling of smoothness. There is still enough sparkle for it to have an interesting and fun sound, without having an overly aggressive treble. The graph shows quite a step roll off at around 5K, but honestly, I don’t think that it is as bad as the graph suggests. Personally, I like a brighter than neutral treble so I do wish that these had some extra sparkle, but I do still enjoy listening to these very much and I don’t find there boring or dull at any time.
Soundstage & Imaging
I was quite impressed by the BA-100’s soundstage, but if you are just judging the soundstage, there are probably IEMs with larger ones in the same price bracket. However, it doesn’t do too badly.
Imaging is very good indeed. Everything is spaced out very well and it seems to be very easy to tell where each instrument and singer(s) is/are.
Separation & Detail
Let’s talk about the instrument separation. IMO, it does incredibly well and bests every IEM in its price range I’ve heard. Vocal separation was also great and once again, I feel like it is the best in its price range. Overall, separation was one of the best things about the BA-100.
Another point that I feel like I have to bring up is the amount of detail that these have. These only lose out slightly to my AX7 which I feel is a very good IEM. Hard to believe the amount of detail these tiny little things pack.
The BA-100 is the first IEM from Hisound that has really wowed me. While the E212 and PAA-1 Pro are great, they just don’t reach the level of these. While it may not be the most technically impressive IEM in its price range, it is, to me, the most musical and best overall IEM in the ever growing sub $100 market. This is the best bang for the buck IEM under $100 and I can easily recommend it.
Pictures coming soon.
Pros - Size, weight, cable (good), value, balanced sound, nice carry case, good fit
Cons - No chin slider, build quality deteriorates over time, overall sound is a little thin
Introducing HiSound Audio's BA100 Balanced Armature IEM
After reviewing HSA's E212 and Crystal IEMs, and PAA-1Pro and Living buds, Jack from HSA approached me and asked if I'd like a review sample of their new BA100 Balanced Armature IEM. Naturally I jumped at the chance – as for the most part I have enjoyed both their IEMs and earbuds, and I was intrigued as to their next offering. They arrived just on a week ago – and in that time I’ve logged a lot of hours with them. I’ve listed price at USD $59 (available at Noisy Motel for this price) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).
I was provided the HSA BA100 as a review sample. I am in no way affiliated with HiSound Audio - and this review is my honest opinion of the BA100. I would like to thank Jack and the HiSound Audio team for making this opportunity available.
Preamble - 'about me'. (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 46 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile - just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up. I vary my listening from portable (i-devices) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). My main headphones at the time of writing are the Shure SRH1840, Senn HD600, AKG K702, Shure SRH840 and Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs. I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear/own any flagships other than the SRH1840 (at current time of writing this review).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range. I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV. I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.
For the purposes of this review - I used the HSA BA100 straight from the headphone out socket of both my iPhone 4 and iPod Touch G4. I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not require an amp – and the likelihood is that HiSound have targeted them toward an audience who may not use additional amping anyway. By now I have probably notched up around 30-40 hours listening on the BA100. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in). I will allow that the more time I've have spent with these IEM's, the better they continue to sound to me. Personally I think this is brain burn in - but I will respect others choice if they interpret this as physical burn-in.
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is once again ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. I quite like the colouring of this particular one – matches the IEMs really – understated but still modern. The specific sales blurbs / description on the box once again are interesting (all of HSA’s boxes have a different message for each model). The BA100’s claim is "BA Drivers – Incridible Sound " (slight spelling mistake there HSA). It also has the usual HSA claim - “audiophile grade earphones” with “unbeatable sound quality”. On the rear of the box we have one more descriptor (Balanced Armature Tech – The Most Detailed Sound), and also the technical and physical specifications.
For accessories, included is once again an excellent semi-rigid soft-shell case (dimensions approx 75x75x30mm). It is an ideal size for the IEMs - and has inner pouch for spare tips etc. I’m a big fan of this pouch. It is large enough to hold the IEMs safely – yet small enough to fit in a front pocket.
It also comes with a rubbery 'fish' cable management tool – every review sample I’ve had has included this for each of the different models. As per my other HSA reviews, I'm still not really too sure what to make of this. I have tried it - but it's terribly cumbersome. I can't really see anyone actually using this.
The BA100 comes with a 3 different sized silicone tips (large, medium and small) but this time, I’m happy to say, the tips are outstanding. They are a thicker material – and others have described them as being similar to the Ortofon tips. This is the first time I’ve had the stocks tips from an HSA product fit me really well – so big thumbs up. The tip range included (because of the quality) is adequate IMO, but once again I would have liked to see some sort of foam tip (personal preference). There is also a shirt clip, and a warranty written entirely in Chinese.
(From HiSound Audio)
Type : Balanced Armature, Inner Ear Monitor (IEM)
Driver size: ~ 3.2 x 5.7mm
Impedance : 36 Ω
Sensitivity : 109db
Frequency response : 20hz-20 khz
Jack / cable : 3.5mm angled 4 pole jack, 124 cm cable with button control and mic
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation / 'Style'
The BA-100 is a very small but incredibly stylish looking IEM. I was intrigued with the body of the BA-100, as it looks at first glance like a metallic (copper?) interior and a plastic shell. But although they look a lot like shiny plastic – they don’t feel like it. So I emailed Jack – and the reply I received was that they use an aluminium alloy for the entire chamber. This then undergoes a proprietary treatment which leaves the exterior looking and feeling similar to ceramic. Anyway – needless to say that the build quality appears excellent. I have to say as well that the white colour scheme is appealing. I immediately thought ‘i-buds’ when I first saw them – but the quality of the finish and materials is far superior to the Apple i-buds. After a while the colour has really grown on me – they are clean and stylish.
EDIT July 2014 - over time the paint has started to lift and chip, and the cable (whilst still intact) looks like it may pull away from the housing over time. These are not quite built as well as first suspected. Pity - because I for the price, I do enjoy their sound signature.
Again (similar to other HSA products) – the L & R markings on the metal chamber of each earpiece are still quite small – but this time it is easy to tell the earpieces apart (the microphone + controls are on the right hand side). The only other writing on the chamber is the product name “BA 100”. There is a small hole (bass vent?) close to the exit point for the cable. I have noted on promotional shots (possibly later iteration) of the more colourful BA100, that there are 3 vents shown. Mine definitely only has one each side. In each of the nozzles there is a very fine mesh filter (unfortunately my camera didn't capture this well - even on macro mode).
There is acceptable strain relief at the shells (but it is rigid – possibly needs some relief with a little flex. The 3.5mm plug is angled (cable at about 40-45 deg from plug), looks relatively sturdy, and includes strain relief. It is a 4 pole plug – giving functionality to the mic and cable button control. The cable split has strain relief at the apex of the V. There is no chin slider though. This to me is a real shame – as this can really help with fit – especially for listening while on the go. The BA100 are designed to be worn over-ear – but could easily be worn hanging down if so desired.
The cable is interesting. It looks very generic and ‘rubbery’ – but that’s not how it feels, or acts. The main part of the cable is of reasonable thickness – but the surface is quite smooth and soft. It doesn’t seem to retain a lot of memory (a plus in my books), and does not easily tangle if wound for storage properly. I asked Jack what it was made of and received this reply:
“The material is high quality OFC (oxygen free copper). Yes, we hope to have the best user-friendly cable with durable design and not only flash.”
So I’m still not sure what the outer material is – but I like it. Microphonics are low when worn over ear – slightly worse when worn down.
The cable comes with an integrated mic and single button toward the right side earpiece. I tested this with my iphone, and when taking a call the audio was clear – both for myself and the caller. The button answers the phone with one click, and hangs up with another click. I didn’t experience much of that hollow “tin shed” feeling when taking a call via the cable – so this particular set-up is pretty good.
The other nice thing about the button set-up when playing music (with i-devices anyway) is the added functionality. One click plays, or pauses. Two quick clicks advances to the next song. Three quick clicks goes back one track. Pressing and holding activates the voice commands on the iphone. Unfortunately I haven’t set mine up yet (voice commands) – but I can see how this would be very handy (eg calling without taking iPhone out of pocket etc). The only thing missing is a volume control – but that is nit-picking really, especially as the other functionality is so good.
As far as comfort goes, like their previous IEMs – these are very small, very light, and disappear into my ears. It would be possible to sleep with these in. For my ears, they do not protrude past the outer ear.
The fit (for me) is excellent. I’m using the stock large tips, and they are extremely comfortable and give me an excellent good seal. There was no sign of driver flex (I don’t think you can get flex with a BA unit anyway as they are a sealed unit). The nozzle itself is quite long – so you have the choice of using the tips at the end of the nozzle (leaving a long stem), or further down. Personally I preferred further down the stem.
Isolation is very good for an IEM. Superior to the other HSA IEM’s I’ve reviewed – but still falling marginally short of my Shure SE535’s. I’d imagine with the right foam tips, that they’d be on par, or close to it.
Overall extremely positive on build and fit – no foam tips or chin slider would be my only grizzles – and I guess that is simply personal preference.
Notes On The Driver
I’ve had a good chance to correspond with Jack regarding the BA100 – and what I have learnt has impressed me. Whilst HSA don’t build the BA units, they have designed them from the ground up – and they contain some proprietary HSA internals which are evidently only being used (to the best of Jack’s knowledge) by themselves. The normal fault rate (ie the ones that are not selected for the finished product) for BA drivers can be as high as 2/3, and there can be an up to 6dB imbalance between generic type drivers. HSA’s BA100 (with its proprietary designed internal tech) has a targeted matching of 1dB or lower. Production so far is actually averaging 0.2dB – and this helps HSA with a far lower fault rate – and therefore lower manufacturing cost. The other advantage – the one that really matters – is the sonic advantages from such closely matched drivers. The picture (below) is taken by Jack and shows the driver matching.
Jack also tells me that he is aware of only 5 BA driver families that have the manufacturers name on them (the rest are generic). They are Sonion, Knowles, Sony, Cresyn – and now HiSound Audio. This speaks volumes regarding the quality of the finished drivers.
So what do these little suckers sound like ……… ?
The following is what I hear from the BA100. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).
For this I’m using both Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both track, and the recording quality for both is excellent.
Edited July 2014 (after more comparisons with sub $100 IEMs from RockJaw and Brainwavz S5)
The BA100 displays good detail with a nice crispness, and good balance so that detail is present without having the treble overly highlighted. The more I wear these, and my ears get accustomed to their signature – the more they feel natural. It’s only when switching to my 535 Ltd Eds that I realise that the Shures to me are an additional step up in clarity and detail. But for their price point – the BA100 show a level of clarity that is very good for a sub $100 offering (without an over the top treble glare). The one thing I noticed in switching between the 535 and BA100 was that the BA100 may have a slight treble roll off in the upper registers. Cymbals are still fully present – but they are more apparent with the Shures. I have no complaints about the BA100 though. The overall presentation of detail for an IEM in this price bracket is very good.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I use a binaural recording – Amber Rubarth “Sessions Form The 17th Ward” - “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage. I also use some recorded live performances (including tracks from Joe Bonamassa’s “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House”).
IMO it’s always going to be difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor. The stage is quite small / close – with an average impression of space. The Shures and the BA100 are quite closely matched with the track “Tundra”. Both show good separation and imaging is pretty accurate with both. Switching to Bonamassa – and both IEM’s once again really excel with this exceptional live blues album. The acoustics of the Vienna Opera Hall are well represented by both the BA100 and the SE535 – and once again I’d be hard put to find a winner on pure stage and imaging. The only thing that draws me to the Shures is the way they pull you into the music – they are just a touch more engaging to me (able to convey more emotion). What continues to stagger me though is the way the BA100 performs against an IEM over 6 times its price.
Rather than referencing tracks – I’m going to give general impressions – as I’ve tried to listen to as many varied genres as I can.
The BA100 actually has a nice top end with just enough shimmer to make it interesting. Whilst they have a slight crispness to them – it is not overdone, and never borders on sibilance. If anything it is quite a polite treble. It is actually very pleasant and in extremely good balance with both upper and lower mids. Cymbals are heard –but not over emphasised. If anything I’d describe the treble as sweet and very smooth. Treble heads and extreme detail freaks – look elsewhere – these may not be for you. For my personal preference I would have liked just a little more clarity and shimmer – but once again that is personal preference only, and easily fixed with EQ.
The mid-range is how I like it – nicely balanced with the rest of the spectrum. If anything – maybe slightly forward just a touch. Vocals are wonderfully clear – and acoustic guitar has a nice edge to it. Both male and female vocals are realistic. The more I use the BA100 the more I really like them. I concentrated for a while on some really good acoustic – first Nil’s Lofgren’s acoustic live. What I loved was the naturalness of the presentation. The guitar sounds the way it’s supposed to with good bite – without being showy. Another album I really love is Seether’s “One Cold Night” acoustic album. Once again, a very balanced presentation – one that I can listen to for hours. They really do nothing wrong.
Edit July 2014 - after a lot of comparison with other IEMs in a similar bracket, I've come to realise that the BA-100 son't have the fullness throughout the mid-range that I initially thought. When I use them exclusively, and my ears adjust accordingly, then everything seems perfectly balanced. But comparing directly with another IEM like RockJaw's Alpha Genus, or Brainwavz's S5, and I've begun to realise that the BA-100 does sound a little thin through the mid-range. Despite this - I still enjoy the overall tonality.
The BA100 was again a surprise to me. I was expecting a full range BA to possibly be either on the bassy side, or be too bass light. But the overall balance of these IEMs is quiet superb for the price. What I have found is that the bass is nicely balanced and textured. It’s not overdone – thumps when it needs to, and also reaches reasonably low. To my ears, it doesn’t seem to have elevated mid-bass (maybe slightly above dead-flat – but never loose or flabby). There is a very slight boom on a few tracks that the Shure doesn’t have – and it’s in the bass line that the Shure separates itself just a little.
Don’t get me wrong the BA100’s bass is articulate and present where it should be. It’s just that the Shure is noticeably better – as it should be.
Once again I tried Lorde’s new release “Royals” (16 yo NZ girl on the rise internationally) – mainly because the bass absolutely reaches low and has quite a bit of power. It handled the bass very well – good quality and quantity.
While I was doing this I had a rapid switch with the 535, and I’d estimate the BA100 has very similar quantity (maybe very slight roll-off compared to the Shures). It also just doesn’t have quite the same texture or clarity.
Of the albums I tried (and I’ve listened to a lot in the last week to try and get a good feeling for these IEMs) – the most enjoyable bass for me (overall cohesion) was definitely the Seether album. It was captivating – and once again I’ll refer to that term ‘balanced’ and also ‘natural’. Another one that stood out was Porcupine Tree’s “In Absentia” (Trains was sublime).
The BA100 is easily powered out of an iPod Touch G4 or iPhone4, and on most tracks I am under 50% on the volume slider. I did try them out of my desktop set-up (NFB-12). Had to muck around a little to get both channels - because of the 4 pole connector – but eventually got it working. No real difference that I noticed. Again YMMV.
What About Response To EQ?
For me – these are bordering on perfect without thinking about using EQ. Overall they are very balanced – and if anything remind me in some ways of the HD600 (without the mid-bass) - but also slightly lacking the HD600’s overall realism. But the resemblance is there. I did give them a little lift in the upper mids and highs using the Equaliser app – and they responded extremely well.
I couldn’t find a lot to fault the BA100. IMO it punches well above its current price of $60-$70. It appears to be an incredibly well built IEM (modified rating July 2014 - build not as good as first indicated), that is light weight, comfortable – and sounds (to me) pretty good for the price.
Sonically it is really well balanced – and has a nice natural sound with nothing over emphasised, or missing. My one critique sonically (and this is my own preference) would have been for a touch more sparkle – but that is easily achieved with EQ. I have found the midrange to be on the thin side in comparison with other IEMs.
What makes it more intriguing is the fact that they design their own drivers from the ground up. This bodes well for future offerings, as if they can produce something this classy for this price – then I’ll be very interested to see what they can do in the coming years with newer models.
I would have no hesitation recommending these IEMs to family and friends – and I guess that says a lot for how highly I regard them. Whilst I’ve found other HSA offerings to fall slightly short in fit, design, or sonically – these just really tick all my boxes.
They won’t dethrone my 535’s – somehow the Shures just convey a touch more raw emotion that pulls me into the music – where the BA100 sit a little back (are maybe a little more polite). But what the BA100 does bring to the table is good balance and tonality for a BA of this price.
Once again before I completed this review – I did a side-by-side with my SE535s. Whilst the 535’s remain a step above (especially on clarity and definition) – if I was taking into account value, the BA100 would kill the 535s. For someone on a budget – these are a no brainer.
July 2014 - unfortunately I no longer have the SE535 for comparison - but I have A/B'd them with the sub $100 Brainwavz S5 and Rockjaw Alpha Genus, and both would now get the nod from me over the BA100. I still remain interested to see what HSA can do with their next single BA IEM. With a little more fullness, and better quality finish, they would definitely deliver something I'd be interested in.
Recommendations to HiSound Audio
Here is a very short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Jack.
Again - lose the fish. I know it’s probably going to stay because of the carton designs. But it really is useless.
Add a chin slider – please. Really – they should have one.
July 2014 - although they are not an expensive IEM, more care needs to be taken with the coating over the body, and also the cable rubber connecting to the body of the IEM.
Once again Jack – thanks for the opportunity with these. If you do a more expensive offering in the future (dual driver etc) – my only request would be to please include volume buttons on the cable (if it is to have smart phone controls), and include some type of foam tips. Removable cable for your flagship as well