Separate names with a comma.
In-Ear item created by lin0003, Jul 26, 2013
Pros - Good build, minimal microphonics, nice bass presentation.
Cons - They are IEMs. I hate IEMs
I am a Grado fan. More precisely, I am a Grado modder. Everything I listen to is tinkered with, and woodied….Needless to say, I favor a bright sound signature, open-backs and am not very into IEMs. For all of my listening I use my FiiO X5 on low gain, loaded with 16/44 FLAC files. IEMs are a necessary evil in an occasionally noisy world, but given I have oddly shaped ear canals (thanks to a nice little head-fracture at the tender age of 3) fit has always been an issue with them, and let’s be honest, no one likes giving their office mates the chance to sneak up on and scare the living daylights out of them.
I have recently had the pleasure of acquainting myself with @EmpJ of CTC Audio and after a little conversation he very generously sent me a review sample of a pair of the HSA E212. I was skeptical at first, but after a revelatory experience (who knew…use two different sized tips if you have two different sized ear canals…) with fit, a promotion at work that moved me from my open cubicle environment to a private little office and a week-long stint at a noisy conference I find myself…*gasp* listening to IEMs and…dare I say it…enjoying them.
With regards to build, the E212 is very robust. I don’t believe they are metal, but they are heavier than they should feel if they are plastic. The cable is a nice, simple affair, braided and wrapped in smooth plastic. I experienced very little of the usual annoyance with microphonics I usually go through. The jack is a nicely angled affair that is, like the rest of these IEMs, a rather sturdy looking thing. They came in a nice little hard case, perfect for flinging into a backpack/messenger bag while on the go. Included were three pairs of red silicone tips, ostensibly small, medium and large. I didn’t see much difference between the mediums and the larges, but bear in mind this is a review sample. A simple slip of the hand is most likely the culprit here.
Soundwise, these have a nice, warm, weighty low end. As I mentioned, I am by no means a bass-head. I like it lean and clear, properly subdued. These have become my guilty pleasure. Listening to my usual jazz favorites, as well as some leftfield ambient work and a little hip-hop, they are a wonderful change of pace from the clinical, seared eardrums, brightness of my Grados and my Magnum build. Detail wasn’t lost in the shuffle either…I wasn’t hearing every pin drop, but I had to look to notice that.
I did notice that I can hear what sounds scarily like the driver diaphragm buckling and unbuckling whenever I put them in or pull them out. I am assuming this is not the case though. That would be crazy. I am not sure what it is, but once these are in, it’s gone.
Overall, these are a fantastic buy for the price. I would not hesitate to pair them with a Clip+ for a nice little on-the-go setup, or keep them for the odd occasions when I need isolation. Between you and me, I intend to have these handy to whip out every once in a while, just to balance out that crazy Grado obsession of mine…if I find a full-size can that sounds like these, I am definitely going to be having a look into it. For now, the E212 will do nicely thank you very much.
Pros - Build Quality, comfortable, cable, case and looks
Cons - Tad bass heavy
3 pairs of red silicone tips
Build Quality: Excellent build quality with a great cable. It's light and stay in place very well when at the gym.
Isolation: Amazing for me. Fits very well and never had a problem getting good isolation
Comfort: one of the best. Comparable to Vsonic GR06/GR07, M6
Microphonics: slight but nothing to worry about
Sound: It was a slight warm bassy sound thats perfect to get you pumped to work out. These are very good gym iems. It was a slight warm bassy sound thats perfect to get you pumped to work out.
Accessories: Has a very nice hard case with lots of room. Enough to fit a small mp3 player like a sansa clip. Tips could have a better selection. Cable manager sort of useless but nice to have it.
Looks wise its very pleasing. I LOVE the color red and this was perfect for me. Great Value and amazing customer service.
Pros - Cable, small clamshell case, bass quality, forward mids.
Cons - Prone to driver flex, bad fit on smaller ears, overly bassy; these are my main caveat.
Alright, to be fair they did also say "best IMEs under USD 100"... okay, I shouldn't be mean and nitpick on typos. We all make typos.
This will actually be my second review write-up from a hisoundaudio review chance. Grateful to Jack of hisoundaudio for opening these positions! The previous model that I tried was actually a POPO, which in comparison these were a BIG leap from there. In the good direction.
For all purposes and intent of this review, I did not use any amps for these.
Ever since my review on the Chord & Major earphones, I've only gotten more picky about sound; what was probably a good bass-head IEM the POPO was, today is quite the mediocre one. Well, it wasn't an expensive one either so let's let it go; many name brands at these price range are pretty terrible as well. But there are gems out there nonetheless.
Now as a reminder: to some extent we all hear differently and we might all have differing degrees in our definition of various sound signatures. For this reason, keep in mind to take reviews--not just mine but in general--with a grain of salt; especially the sound description sections. We also have differing tastes in evaluating "good sound", do not forget that. A hyped headphone/earphone is not necessarily a headphone/earphone you will like. I tend to have sensitive hearing to sub bass and treble, so keep that in mind while reading my review.
Once again, sorry for the TERRIBLE pictures... my camera broke on my trip and the lighting was simply unacceptable.
Anyhow, let's get down to business.
Well. Not much to say. A thin cardboard box with a plastic form on the inside. You can read the specs from the picture or on the original E212 thread linked above.
"Unbeatable sound quality"? Well, let's evaluate that.
Regarding hisoundaudio's idea of having the two earphones sticking out of the clamshell case... well, it's a little silly, perhaps a little fun or interesting. On the other hand, it's not being nice to the cable; the day I received them there was already a pretty deathly kink on the cable exactly where the clamshell case's zippers closed off. Mine turned out okay but repeat this on much larger production size through various shipping situations there might be a few that will perish from the zipper, aesthetic only or functional as well.
Look at those kinks! All due to the zipper.
Might I also mention that the box was half crushed during shipping; either the shipping needs to be packed more safely or the box made a little more sturdy. In reality, there was no damage to the IEMs themselves nor any of the accessories (maybe the cables caught be zipper was partially done in by the shipping process) so strengthening the packaging might be meaningless and more expensive for little reason. The packaging is, however, needlessly large for the amount of stuff it contains. Making it a bit more compact might in turn strengthen the box already, while cutting down on material costs. I think it would be easy to churn down the size by a good 30% or even more. That is my honest suggestion to HSA.
Well, I'm unsure if it was intended this way but the package included 3 pairs of ear tips (total), a fish carcass cable manager and a reduced size clamshell case. No shirt clip.
Beginning with the ear tips, they seem to be a little bit thicker and more textured than your standard freebie silicone tips. Thanks to the thicker tips that are also stiffer, getting a proper fit is a bit more difficult if it doesn't already fit perfect. The slightly textured tip does play a bit on the give and take on isolation, but does facilitate taking them off with a small twist.
As far as sizes go, I am honestly unsure if that is two pair of Medium and one pair of small, or one pair of L/M/S each.
The picture shows one set obviously larger, but that is due to picture angle and (camera) lens curvature.
Now the cable winder.
Now WHERE have I seen those before?? OH right. Ebay.
Do any search on Ebay for "cable winder" you're sure to find some of these fish bone silicone cable winders of assorted color with the EXACT same shape.
The difference is that these are "rebranded" to HiSoundAudio. Let's say that there wasn't too much design put into these; they're pretty much grabbed from existing bins.
Needless to say, build quality or whatnot is just a piece of silicone without much precision given to it. I've actually never tried them since they don't fit well in the clamshell case anyway.
Regarding not fitting, they don't even conform to the shape of the plastic form of the packaging. I don't even know what happened to mine; maybe it got into a fight before being packed but he (or she...or it) certainly has a black eye! The poor guy...
The clamshell case in the other hand...
I can simply say that they serve their purpose very well. The zipper is pretty smooth. the interior is nicely lined and has a small pouch where I put my little box of spare tips. Note that the pouch has an elastic BUT the design isn't for small object it seems; the elastic is floating in the case, enough for me to slip my pinky in without touching the elastic at all. That said, if you want to put anything in the pouch it should be thick enough but not too thick to crush your earphones.
One great aspect of this clamshell case is the size. It's pretty small in my opinion, yet not too small (for the E212 and most IEMs with more flexible cables and smaller plugs). Roughly 8x8x3 cm, it's quite pocketable. It's a semi-hard shell case with "hi" embossed outwards on the cover.
So, hisoundaudio's new E212 seems to still take the same type of flair in design as the POPO I previous received. The POPO had red cables, taking inspiration from flamenco (for... pop?...); these have a chrome and red body along with a fully black cable. Let's start with the cable.
The cable on the E212 is simply said... great. Let's not get into the cable sound and etc. but simply that it is fairly light, very supple, little memory and, well, they look nice. It's actually reminiscent of higher end IEM cables; braided (or twisted, rather) but with a slightly reflective layer over it. There's no slider above the Y split though.
I must say that at first sight I thought they looked hideous... like having electric tape wrapped all over. They grew on me real fast.
Microphonic is pretty average.
The plug end is a 45 degree plug. The body is larger than the V-Moda plug (left) though the strain relief is thinner---understandable as the cable is thinner as well. All in all, the cable is one element of these IEM I really like.
Let's talk a bit about the nozzle.
hisoundaudio did a pretty interesting thing to their nozzle.
You can see that the chrome part is the only reflective material on the IEM body. The red parts give off a matted reflection... and whatever the base material is, it seems like they put a thin layer of a soft material over it. Silicone?
Whatever the soft material is, what that means is that the nozzle area is more grippy! Thanks to that, tips stay on nice and tight, you won't have to worry about them slipping off. Good idea, hisoundaudio!
Now there are two down sides to having this (let's say) silicone layer over the nozzle.
Firstly is the aesthetics. Because the nozzle features concave shapes, spraying on whatever material is harder to get even coats. The white reflection on the picture? that part didn't get any silicone coating. This reflects into the build quality, if at least as far as aesthetics is concerned.
Secondly and more importantly, is the size of the nozzle. It seems to me that the designer did not account for the fact that this silicone layer would increase the girth of the nozzle, making tips even harder to put on/take off. It also slightly limits the number of tips that work with these; the nozzle is noticeably larger than standard tips. Mind you that the nozzle was already slightly larger than standard to begin with. The larger (and possibly even larger than intended due to coating) nozzle makes many standard tips unusable; Monster gel tips for one will come off with a small push on the side.
Aside from the bad selection of tips for such nozzle size, another point to take into consideration is how it may not fit well in some people's ears. Personally, they don't fit very comfortable at all, despite being able to get a decent seal. This is the same problem I have with the KEF M200, which I absolutely loved the way they sound but even small tips did not work for me.
I normally use M sized tips, and these are uncomfortable with the M tips. I get no seal with S tips. If you normally use L, then it may not be a problem for you at all.
As far as the build quality goes, I think hisoundaudio does a pretty good job on the IEMs. Can't say the same for the accessories (*ahem*cablewinder*ahem* or the ear tips on the POPO).
One thing that does HIGHLY bother me on these though, is the driver flex. Not entirely sure if build quality should be the section to write this but the driver flex on these is really bad. Not only does it occur every time I try to adjust my fit, the flex is REALLY loud. I'll be honest in saying that my ears have really hurt from the driver flex... might even have damaged my hearing to some extent by the sheer loudness of the flex and how frequently it occurs.
I am practically ready to disrecommend these based simply on the driver flex...
The driver flex is, sadly, the result of the driver design. These excel at bass (read on), and that inglorious bass basterd requires the drivers to be thin and light, which in turn causes driver flexing. Give and take.
Let's start with the overall impressions. Bassy.
Alright, let's talk some more.
The overall sound of these is that they are very fun and bassy but unlike many of the cheaper bass-head IEMs, the mids are not sucked out. In fact there is a mids emphasis on these, which makes vocals enjoyable. They're quite dark though. Warm and dark. Muggy.
The bass on these have great extension and impact. These IEMs are proficient at bass and sub bass, and are not afraid to show it. In tracks that have sound effects to replicate wind, rumbling of trains, etc. the sub bass really does kick in. There's a few tracks I got to hear things I never noticed before thanks to this 'sensitive' sub bass. In fact, I'd be saying I hear more sub bass than mid bass... probably due to the sensitivity to sub bass in my own hearing though.
So aside from knowing it has a lot of bass quantity, what about the quality? I'd say the bass quality is really good. I love it, if only less in amount. Maybe then I can listen to them without giving myself headaches. After thinking through things a lot, these actually have the best bass texture and presentation in all IEMs I've tried ($1 to $1800? naturally I didn't try everything though).
Does all this bass quantity make them nice beaters for commuting? Well... at first I thought they would. But the average isolation doesn't help you hear the sub bass--which nobody really needs to hear when you're on the bus or subway/metro. Just because you don't hear it doesn't mean it isn't present though; the sub bass on these definitely gives me nausea even during my bus/metro rides.
The mids on these are so-so (read on). To me, the bass doesn't bleed significantly into the mids. The mids are pretty forward--to speak--and have a good presence that isn't superimposed nor mixed with the bass. This makes pop music among other genres very suitable. What is great about the midrange is that there are no obvious/perceivable/notable dip within the mid range itself. This is important.
But let's talk a bit more in details... vocals have great body but the upper midrange is missing in action. These lack A LOT on detail---let's not talk about detail.... they lack A LOT on clarity. Note that I'm not talking about hi-end gear clarity but basic lo-fi ones. While you won't have trouble hearing vocals and mids in general over the strong bass, and the vocals can sound very enjoyable, give it another listen on any other decent gear and you'll start feeling depressed. The lack of clarity feels like a day with clogged ears... and as audiophiles that is depressing.
The treble and uppers are far from exciting. While you still hear the cymbals without any blatant dip between the frequency range transition, it is as if you hear them through a pillow. There's no sparkle, no shine, just a depressing tsfft while it should have been tssst! The upper range is, without a doubt, non-fatiguing (debatable as some weird, unnatural sounding high frequencies do creep on) but could be boosted or extended for more enjoyability like the Chord & Major which don't have sparkly trebles either.
One weird thing though is the way the soundstage feels to me. These feel pretty spacious, and in layers. Or concentric circles.
I mention concentric circles because of the sub bass (or overall bass) presentation, which feels VERY omnidirectional, which is the property of low frequencies. However, these truly feel like you're immersed in a sea of sub bass, and you're drowning in it. In a sense, I find the sound stage of the bass too large. Added to the sheer amount there is, no wonder it gives me headaches. While this could be a problem to audio, they do give allow great immersion in sound effects (games, movies, etc. where things like wind, rumbling and explosions! would be commonly encountered).
The mids also are fairly spacious feeling, though as a smaller circle within the sea of (sub) bass. The spatial feel of the mids is quite nice.
As far as the upper frequencies go, they seem to emerge from here and there in between the mids and bass. The feeling that they come out squished between the bass and mids, is probably due to the fact that they're so muffled.
So what does this sound signature mean for musical genres? Well, throw rock out of the picture. The balance is completely wrong and way too dark for it. Faster paced tracks also tend to muddy up. The mids simply do not have the upper mids to clear up the cloudy water.
They do work pretty well with jazz, though jazz tends to work well with various sound signatures as long as you have enough details in the bass, of which these are frankly quite amazing.
As far as EQ goes, I didn't find a proper graph to make them sound to my bidding. They DO behave well to EQ, although the treble still doesn't perform all that well. The speed does not improve with EQ either.
On the note of using different ear tips, I found two odd combinations that work decently well to reduce the overwhelming bass and slightly improve the apparent clarity: foam ear tips that transform IEMs into canal-type earphones (read: typical earbuds), and longer silicone tips. Both work under the same principle: increase the distance between the drivers and your ear drums. By doing this, a slight shift in the apparent frequency response happens; less bass, less mids, more upper mids and a more treble. Depending on the seal, the amount of bass remaining will vary from still a lot to hardly heard. Naturally, the problem with these sound shift is whether or not the sound shift sounds better. From the stiff foam tips and the Monster gel tips I have, they certainly don't sound significantly better despite the no longer deafening bass levels. The problem is simply that the increased distance may increase the upper mids and treble quantity but at significantly lower quality.
Verdict & Comparisons
So, how do these fare as ""Best IEMs under USD 100""? Once again, if you're a bass head maybe. Even so there are better ones if you like heavy bass but better overall balance. If you're anything else, no.
What I did like about these is how it sounded like there was no big, important dips within it's effective FR range. But it also felt like it started rolling off starting from 2k.
That said, I wouldn't call them V or U shaped because there's no notable or good uppers... These are more \ shape without being so abruptly angled downward.
Priced in the $50 range plus shipping you're up to around the $60~70 range.
If I were to compare the sound, I'd actually say the E212 is comparable to the SonyEricsson MH1C, TDK MT-300 (that was under $5), which are all bassy sounds.
The differences being namely that the MH1C's mids are more recessed but has a much better performing (and still slightly unnatural) high frequency range. Both these and the E212 has bass levels to give me headaches.
What about the MT-300? Those are also bassy, but not as bassy as the E212. The E212 does however perform better on the bass quality and arguably in the mids as well than those TDKs. The MT-300 still fares better in the uppers, and that's not saying a lot since they both feel as if rolling off since the high mids.
What about other earphones that I've tried but not owned?
I'd say the JVC HA-FX31 (~$18?) which are also bassy IEMs. The mids are not forward but there's at least upper extensions (albeit unnatural sounding).
Under $50 I'd probably still say I prefer AudioFly's AF33, which gives a overall better balance also without large notable breaks. Now those aren't for bass heads. For those needing more bass, the models with increasing model number pretty much have increasing bass in a nutshell, the AF45 being in the E212 price range.
I'm picking models from the top of my head; there's surely more interesting models.
Still, a good departure from POPO. Would I recommend these? no:
-Large nozzle may not fit smaller ears
-Driver flex is unbearable.
-Too much (sub) bass.
-Needs at least some clarity.
These MIGHT be problems specific to my ears, specially regarding the fit issue. However, we should not forget that these all fall into design choices that HSA made, and it simply is not as versatile for smaller ears. I use Medium tips, but my ears are definitely on the small side. If you have larger ear canals then perhaps you will encounter none of the first two issues. If you are a bass head to boot, the third one and maybe even the fourth one can be non-issues for you.
P.S.: If you wonder why I bothered to review a bass heavy IEM if I don't like high amounts of bass. Well, Jack assured me that these have great bass that is well controlled and does not bleed in the mids and highs, and to check out Hisoundaudio's skills at developping earphones. Well I'll be. I certainly did want to hate them the moment I put them on and head the bass quantity (and the driver flex). But the mids were certainly there, if only about 3/4 of it. The highs however were a big flunk to me. It could, however, be the shape of my ear canals working against non-deep-insertion IEMs. They were enjoyable in the end... but still too bass heavy. But I give my regards to Jack and Co. because that bass was impressive no doubt. Hoping the next iteration could have that kind of bass but with a lot less in quantity, without having to resort to EQ.
Changelog: (23/09/13) Fixed a few formatting errors and added a bit more details to various parts.
(13/11/13) Added some sound science, fixed some formatting and typo, and put in bold the key phrases.
Pros - Build quality and aesthetics, weight, cable (excellent), value, sound (but only if EQ'd), nice carry case, good fit (if you find the right tips)
Cons - Default OOTB sound is too bassy, poor selection of tips, no chin slider, isolation is not the best
Most of this review is taken from my original longer comparison review here; http://www.head-fi.org/t/679360/review-hisound-audio-paa1-pro-earbuds-e212-iems-opposites-in-almost-every-way
Ignore the green bars on the side - it's not where I set mine (something wrong with the Head-Fi rating system). I listed price at $50 - which is normal price - but I paid $10 (postage only).
Introducing HiSound Audio's E212
I'm always a sucker for trying new things - you never know when you'll find a hidden gem. So when I saw HiSound Audio's thread, giving Head-fiers an opportunity to try their E212 IEMs (just for the price of shipping), I jumped at the chance.
I was provided the E212 for just the cost of shipping. I am in no way affiliated with HiSound Audio - and this review is my honest opinion of the E212. 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, Beyer DT880 (600 ohm), Mad Dog V3.2, Shure SRH840 and Shure SE535 Ltd Ed. IEMs. My recent headphones have also included the Sennheiser HD600, AKG K701 & Q701, and Grado SR325i (full woody). I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear any flagships (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 E212 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 would not use additional amping anyway. By now I have probably notched up around 40-50 hours listening on the E212. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' 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 ideal for a retail presentation - an easy to display rectangular retail box - with an 'average' footprint. The specific sales blurbs / descriptions on the box is interesting. The E212 claim is "extreme bass and detailed sound ". It also claims to be “audiophile grade earphones” with “unbeatable sound quality”. We shall see (keep reading).
For accessories, included is an excellent semi-rigid soft-shell case (dimensions approx 75x75x30mm). They're an ideal size for the IEMs - and has inner pouches for spare tips etc.
It also comes with a rubbery 'fish' cable management tool. I'm not really too sure what to make of this. I tried it - but it's terribly cumbersome. I can't really see anyone actually using this.
The E212 comes with 1 spare set of medium silicone tips (they come with medium tips fitted) and one set of small ones. The tips included are very insufficient IMO (see build/fit etc section). Other than that there is a warranty written entirely in Chinese.
(From HiSound Audio)
Type : Dynamic, Closed. Inner Ear Monitor (IEM)
impedance : 16 Ω
sensitivity : 100db
Maximum SPL : 125db（1khz，1 Vrms）
Frequency response : 20-20 khz
Jack / cable : 3.5mm angled, 124 cm
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation / 'Style'
The E212 is a really classy looking IEM. The deep red and silver styling in comparison with the black cable look really good. The shape is also nice with slight inward angling on the nozzles – so it is very easy to tell left and right earpieces apart.
The shells look and feel extremely solid. There is acceptable strain relief at the shells. The 3.5mm plug is angled (cable at about 40-45 deg from plug), looks relatively sturdy, and includes strain relief. 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 E212s are designed to be worn over-ear.
The cable is wound in a circular motion, and covered by a smooth sheath which is shiny, very malleable, and has extremely low micro-phonics. It’s also pretty much tangle free, and for an IEM in this price range – is really well executed. Bravo HSA. Please include this on all of your models (get rid of the rubbery ones!)
As far as comfort goes – these are very small, very light, and pretty much 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 not good. I tried the stock tips, and whilst I eventually got a seal, there was significant driver flex, and the seal would not remain intact (merely moving my jaw would break it). I was extremely frustrated by this as HAS has been too frugal with the tips, and there isn’t enough variety. I was lucky that I had some tips left over from the Popo (and other IEMs) which thankfully fit perfectly. I chose a triple flange – which I cut down to two flange only – and at last I could get a relatively stable seal. I also had a pair of large silicones which worked OK. I do wish I had some foam tips – as these would have been my preferred option.
Isolation is ‘average to slightly below average’ for an IEM. Yes I am probably spoilt by my Shure SE535’s truly excellent isolation – and maybe I am judging these too harshly. But I tried them during a 7 hour flight to Perth a couple of weeks ago – and sorry – but I wouldn’t use them in a noisy environment. They do attenuate noise – but in a noisier environment (public transport etc) , these are not the best.
All-in-all, positive – but let down by the included tips.
The following is what I hear from the E212. 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 Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” as there is a lot of micro detail in the track, and it is pretty well recorded
The major issue with the E212 (stock sound) is that it is just so bassy and warm that the detail in the upper mids and highs seems to sit a long way in the background. The E212 don’t sound bad with this track – it’s just that the bass gets in the way of everything.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I’m using 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 used some other live performances (Loreena McKennit’s “Dante’s Prayer” and others).
The E212 cues are not great – the bass again just gets in the way. The imaging appears smeared to me with instruments being positioned where they should be, but overlapping. On LMcK’s D-P the stage is very narrow and confined – almost “wall of sound” type.
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 E212 actually has some top end, and when it shines through, it’s actually quite pleasant. The problem is that this only happens on tracks that have been recorded / mastered on the ‘brighter side of neutral”. I have some Genesis and also some Beth Hart which actually does have a shimmer to it. The issue is that the bass overpowers everything else for me and the only tracks that don’t sound excessively dark are the ones I’ve just mentioned. Highs can be heard, but upper mids are often set too far back, and lower mids suffer from bass bleed. Everything is excessively warm and dark to me. And it’s not ‘lush’ and enveloping, but rather just dark (brooding) and lacking life. One of my favourite female artists (new find for me) is Lianne La Havas – and when she is singing the opening of “Don’t Wake Me Up” (the bit where she is mainly solo), the E212 actually does quite a nice job with her vocals (really nice mid-range). The problem is that once the music kicks in – again the bass and resulting bass bleed just kills everything.
The E212 lives up to half of it’s slogan on the box. “Extreme bass” is an accurate description – but the problem is that the promise of “detailed sound” fails to deliver. It can’t when there is so much bass present, and so much mid-bass bleed into the lower mids. It does have a surprising amount of sub-bass – it’s probably the bassiest IEM I’ve ever heard, but for me it’s simply too much. The thing that worries me (for HSA’s intended audience) is that if they listen to bassy music with this much bass emphasis, it’s going to be simply too much.
The E212 is easily powered out of an iPod Touch G4 or iPhone4, and on most tracks I was well under 50% on the volume slider.
What About Response To EQ?
Before I get to the summary, as a last resort I thought I’d try some EQ with the E212. I have Accudio Pro installed on my Touch and iPhone – so I ran the app with the E212s. I use this app because of it’s presets, and the fact that I don’t need to spend considerable time setting up profiles. As they don’t have a preset for the E212, I downloaded the preset for one of the bassiest ‘dull’ IEMs I’ve ever experienced – Sennheiser’s CX300. I applied the EQ and played some of the tracks I’d been auditioning up until now.
Three small letters …… O M G
All of a sudden with the bass reduced, these IEMs start to shine. The bass is where it should be – elevated but separate. Mids are very clear, and upper mids and highs start to have some sparkle. Clarity is actually pretty amazing for a sub $50 IEM. I’m really enjoying these. Everything about them is better – including perceptions of sound staging and imaging. Yes they are still bassy, and still warm – but this time it’s a plus rather than a huge degradation of sound. Why weren’t these voiced closer to this signature to start with?
The E212 – despite it’s devilishly flashy charm and good looks – for me is very unappealing sonically (default sound). Too bassy, too warm, dull, and congested with the bass overpowering the lower mids, and little to no real sparkle. In my view HSA has inexplicably crippled it by the amount of bass they’ve tuned into it’s default signature. Dial that back a bit (via EQ) and you’re left with a very capable and good sounding IEM. For sub $50 – especially for the aesthetics and build – with the new SQ – it’s a winner. Sadly – many may end up being disappointed by this IEM. I hope that if HSA will fix this with the next ones they release.
Recommendations to HiSound Audio
Here is a short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Jack.
Lose the fish
Increase the number and variety of tips. Driver flex may be tip dependent, so this may help with that as well.
Add a chin slider
Dial back the bass. If you can – use an iDevice, grab the Accudio Pro app, apply the CX300 EQ, and you’ll get an idea of the capability of this IEM. Great bass impact without the overpowering issues it has now.
Once again Jack – thanks for the opportunity with these. Loved the experience. I have some other tips on the way for the E212, and I’d be more than happy to give you more feedback if it helps.
Pros - good build quality, angled cable design, rich bass, will improve on burn in
Cons - few selection of eartips on the package, doesn't sound good out of the box
First, I want to thank Jack and HiSoundAudio for the review unit of ES212.
What's included in the package:
3 pairs of red silicone tips
Hard carrying case
Fish-type cable manager
Build Quality: The build is above average. I really like the design. Metal housing, angled 3.5mm jack with braided cable.
Isolation: For some reason this IEM fits well with my ear. I feel like I'm wearing the GR07 with moving nozzle, the design plays a good role on isolation.
Microphonics: almost non existence thanks to the braided cable and over the ear design.
Sound: The bass is heavy to moderate and can be felt. Soundstage is decent enough, better than of SoundMagic E30 but not as good as GR07. Vocals can be muddy on some tracks.
Overall it sounds awesome for $49 retail value. If you're looking for V-shaped entry-level IEM ES212 is definitely good to go.
Pros - Rich, Deep Bass. Nice build quality. Good included Accessories.
Cons - Rolled off treble. Fatiguing to listen to.
Very Comparable to Sony MH1Cs - That is to say, they both have the most bass, a decent midrange, and rolled-off treble. However, I think the Sony MH1Cs are better (and a little cheaper). Besides the irritating cord, they are much less fatiguing to listen to especially in the treble, and have a richer, deeper bass.
Build Quality: Is very nice. I really like the shape of the plug, it seems like it will be more destruction proof. The cord is lightweight with a lot less microphonics than the Sony MH1Cs. The included case and cord holder are very nice.
Treble: It is rolled off but not that bad. It certainly isn't good for listening to sopranos however.
Midrange: Not as effortless as the Sony MH1Cs. Not as warm either.
Bass: Very comparable to the Sony MH1Cs. It is rich, and loud, but not boomy.
Soundstage: Is above average. Not incredible, but the instrument separation is nice. Vocals do sometimes get muddied together.
Thanks to Jack at Hisound audio for giving me this sample to review.
Side note: I agree with other reviews. These IEMs really need a burn-in. They sounded terrible at first.
Pros - Good build quality and housing design, relatively good bass.
Cons - Lack of accessories, such as a cable slider and a larger variety of tips.
HiSoundAudio E212 Review
Driver size: 9.2mm
Impedance: 16 ohms
Cable Length: 124cm
Accessories (3/5): Silicone Single-flange tips (3 sizes), clamshell carrying case, “fish bone” cable winder
Build Quality (4/5): Metal housings, braided cable, sturdy L-shaped plug.
Isolation (3/5): Average isolation, small tips are better in fitting into the ear canal for isolation.
Microphonics (4/5): Quite decent due to the use of braided cables, but isolation is best when worn over-the-ear.
Comfort (3/5): Doesn’t feel quite good when you wear the IEMs since there’s a squeaky sound when you wear it, and their silicon tips don’t feel as good as the ones that come with the low-end Sony IEMs.
Sound (7/10): For the price the HiSoundAudio is asking for these IEMs, the E212 has a fairly wide soundstage for the price bracket and also decent bass, but the vocals seem to fall behind of the bass since the IEMs are bass-orientated. The treble performance of the IEMs is slightly above average compared to other IEMs in the price bracket such as the Sony MDR-EX60LP and the Panasonic RP HJE355. Amplifying these IEMs with the FiiO E6 doesn’t really help in improving its performance.
iPod Nano 4[sup]th[/sup] Generation, sometimes paired with the FiiO E6 Amp with a LOD. Reviewed after 50 hours of burn-in.
Note: This is my first review, so if you have any comments on my style of reviewing, please feel free to send me a message and I will humbly accept it, and change it if I ever get to review more gear. Pictures will be uploaded shortly.
Pros - Nice Nozzle design, good bass, wide soundstage
Cons - Color scheme,odd rear profile, no cable clip and adjuster
I would like to thank HiSound Audio for this review unit. This is my first review of an IEM.
To begin with, I compared the E212 to Crossroads Bijou3 which costs about $10 more.
HP ProBook 4410S, GS3 with Noozxoide & Poweramp
3 pairs of red ear tips, cable manager, flexible phone case
The flexible phone case supplied is good. A cable clip instead of the cable manager would have been more useful IMHO.
I've been using the Bijou3 for about a year and although they look like they have very steady cables, the right side of the cable gave way just after a year. The cables on the E212 looks thinner than the Bijou3 (but now I don't think thickness of a cable is relative to its durability), it is braided and shorter than the Bijou3 cable but I like the cable of the E212 as it is less tangle prone and is is a good length when using with my notebook. The Y split is also quite thick and looks durabable. The phone jack is oddly angled but I like it as it is easy to insert even on a mobile phone with thick casing. The stress relief on the phone end is twice the size of the Bijou3.
The phone body looks a bit cheap with a metallic plastic sleeve enclosing a shinny red body and comes supplied with 3 pairs of matching red tips. The best part of E212 for me is angle of the nozzle. This ensures a good fit and makes it sound vastly better than the Bijou3. More of the sound in the Sound quality section.
The isolation of the E212 is about 30-50% better than the Bijou3 and it grips more firmly in the ear. This can be attributed to the nozzle design and the isolation is good. The sound quality is quite dependent on a good seal and a good seal is easy to achieve on the E212.
The sound quality of the E212 is fantastic considering it is sold for about $38 on eBay and comparing it with the more expensive Bijou3. It is a lot better than Bijou3. The bass and the highs are much clearer and the sound stage a lot wider. This made picking out all the instruments in the song a lot more easier. EDM type music sounds great with these phones. Generally it was superior to the sound quality of Bijou3 in almost every attributes except maybe the very deep lows of the Bijou3. This is just after 20 hours of burn-in.
I don't think it is easy to find any other IEM that is better than the E212 in it's price range. If so, I would like to know too.
Pros - Excellent angled earbud design; Reasonably wide soundstage; Good bass response + depth; Good Value; No major flaws
Cons - colour scheme may not suit everyone; slightly on the larger side; some may dislike sound signature
Full disclosure: these were provided to me by hisound for this review, free of charge for only the cost of shipping. i am not an expert in reviewing audio equipment, and therefore my descriptions are more qualitative than technically correct so some of the terminology used may not be accurate. I consider myself an audio enthusiast, having owned in the past (and currently) - IN EAR - beyerdynamic MMX-101i; NOCS NS400 titanium; Astrotec am-90; jays a-Jays four, brainwavz m4, ; OVER EAR - Nokia purity pro.
- overall good design, nice blend of metal (?steel) and soft touch red plastic with a metallic sheen to it. compares favourably with the competition. with a bit more "flair" than something like the beyerdynamics and NOCS and astrotecs, although (as you may have guessed, I prefer minimal design)
- seem like they will hold up over time, although the wire insulation seems thinner than on any earphones i've owned, akin to the MEElectronics insulation. On par with other headphones in this price range.
- I especially like the slightly angled design of the output tube - kind of like the way medical stethoscopes are angled slightly forwards to mimic the shape of the outer and middle ear. This is unique to the E212s out of the headphones i've owned and/or tested and definitely unique to this price range, i think. (I know that there are various other designs that try to fit the shape of the ear canal well like phonak audeo's line of IEMs, similarly bowers + wilkins and all the custom IEM manufacturers).
- would've liked to see a mic + playback controls, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.
- packaging etc is about average for price.
Comfort: (i am quite picky here)
- The only slight downside to the earphones design/build is the size. These buds are not as big as the astrotec am-90s, they're around average for dynamic driver based earbuds but they certainly aren't q-jays that you can forget about. The angled design means that they sit in the ear canal really comfortably, and should be good for long sessions, as long as you're not resting your head on one if it's sides - like lying in bed. Definitely above average. Usually it would take time for me to "break-in" new headphones (although it was probably more the headphones "breaking-in" my ear canals), with the E212s. As soon as i got the small tips on, i was enjoying a very comfortable listening experience.
- The provided silicone eartips (1 pair of small, and 2 pair of medium tips) provided a good seal, and i was able to get very good isolation due to the comfortable and stable positioning of the angled earbuds.
- I tested the E212s with mostly post-dubstep, indie rap, and indie rock etc. to compare sound quality to songs that i listen a lot using my blackberry z10. diverse stuff like das racist, foals, destroyer, etc.. I also tested them when watching videos on my macbook and smartphones.
- Again, i'm not an expert, the easiest way for me to remember and convey qualities of headphones is by comparing them to sound from other headphones. These ones definitely seem to be slightly warmer or bass heavy than the more neutral beyerdynamics or astrotec am-90s (but they suit my tastes better, so i prefer the E212s), but the bass is not just more bountiful, it's also very well layered, and blow things like the beats IEMs out of the water! the sub bass experience listening to the E212s is quality - tracks like vitalic's "stamina" and das racist's "who's that brooown?" had that irresistible wub to them! then again, for some who might prefer a more neutral soundstage - may not be ideal. but i think it's quite clear what the mainstream buyer wants. if you're not sure what you want, you want bass, trust me... and the E212s will provide that for you.
Value: decent value if you consider the audio and build quality. overall package could be improved slightly - those who need large sized tips may not be very happy - none included in the box!
Overall: Top marks to hisound for breaking the mould somewhat (pun intended) and designing a pair of ergonomically designed headphones that achieve that almost impossible balance between organic feel and machined-ness. A very often overlooked part of the listening experience. I loved the way the angled earbuds so simply moulded to the shape of my ear canal without sacrificing that clean, almost minimal aesthetic. There isn't much to complain about, either - the sound quality is solid, and for me definitely competing with much more expensive IEMs, especially if you're into bass. Therefore, they've become my current first choice as my daily-driver portable headphones that i can tuck away in a pocket. They're simply the best overall pair of portable, "not-too-expensive" IEMs i own, and i would have no hesitation recommending them to somebody looking for a good balance of value, quality design and audio quality.
Pros - Sound, Nice Case & Accessories, Very Comfortable For Me, Exceptional Customer Service, Easy To Use Cable
Cons - No Cable Slider, No Cable Clip, May Come Off As Dark
First of all, I'd like to thank Jack Fu of HiSound Audio for sending me a E212 for review. I am in no way affiliated nor against HiSound Audio in any way and I will try my best to give my unbiased opinions. These were given 100 hours of burn in, in which I feel like the E212 has improved dramatically. However, this can be just my ears getting used to the sound. Tested with my HDP-R10, Sansa Clip+, Fiio E6 and my SGS3.
Design, Accessories & Unboxing
Sure, this is a budget minded $50 pair of IEMs, but HiSound does everything that it can to make this look like a $100 IEM. Most IEMs in this price range just come with a a few pairs of tips but this has a very nice and useful case, tips and a cable manager which I will probably never use. However, I'd rather more than less. The case is a square clamshell case like the one on the box which is easy to just pop in your pocket when you aren't using it. It might not protect the IEMs if you hit them with a hammer, but it is enough for day to day wear and tear. This is a vented dynamic driver earphone and doesn't really have a lot of isolation, but it is enough to stop ambient noise from being annoying on cars, public transport and in noisy places. A few things that I find really annoying is the lack of a shirt clip and a cable slider. Although the cable is one of the most non-microphonic cables that I have tried, it is still a bit noisy when worn down and you can't wear it over the ear or else the cable will slide off the top of your ear. I do find that a bit of tape fixed that, but I would still have rather HiSound have included one. The build quality is very good, much better than the PAA-1 Pro that I reviewed recently. It is made out of metal and a rough red material that also feels like metal and the strain reliefs make me feel confident that the cable isn't going to break soon.
Sorry for it being upside down, but like I mentioned in the PAA-1 Pro review, have people started faking HiSound Products?
This is how the E212 comes in the box.
For those people who have never read one of my reviews before, I break them into 3 main section - bass, midrange and treble. Here we go.
HiSound says that these have extreme bass and detailed sound and I completely agree with them. The bass is arguably the best part of this IEM; I think so anyway. The bass is very strong and fun, reaching deep down and it really rumbles. Turn up the volume and you will probably find them vibrating so much that they come out of your ear. The bass quality is exceptional for the price and as I mentioned above, really does reach far down. However, you could also say that it is bloated and muddy and I would certainly understand why, but this IEM was designed for a fun, bass oriented sound, and is aimed at bassheads and not one who is looking for a neutral sound signature. IMO, the bass is great if you are a basshead; I'm more of a neutral person, but the bass is just so damn fun! There is a bit of bass bleed though.
The bass does bleed slightly into the midrange, but not until it becomes annoying. There is just a kind of midrange magic that is in the PAA-1 Pro as well. Vocals still sound extremely realistic and euphonic even though thy are on the slightly darker side, making female vocals sound a tiny bit "manly". However, this does not become annoying and is actually quite pleasant for most of the music that teenage boys are interested in. It's not only vocals that sound nice, but pianos sound extremely pleasant as well, since they sound quite tinny with many more neutral IEMs. I find that the extra weight makes them sound a bit more realistic. Guitars are very nice, but are a tiny bit dark, and this is the same with other string instruments. The midrange is very nice for vocals, but I would have loved for it to be a tad bit less dark.
This IEM is an ideal choice for people who are a bit sensitive to a hot treble. Straight out of the box, the treble is significantly rolled off and when I first listened to them, I was like WTF?!!! What have HiSound made here? However, after 100 hours, I do feel like the treble has come out quite a bit, but is still quite rolled off. Detail levels are quite good, but other earphones such as the PAA-1 Pro performs significantly better here. Cymbals sound a bit dull and the decay is shorter than neutral, but it is not as dull as some other IEMs that I have listened to. There is just enough sparkle to keep these from being boring. Overall, the treble is good in quality, but lacking in quantity. I will not mark it down though, because some people may prefer this sort of sound signature. I would have personally liked a little extra sparkle.
Tips that it comes with. I personally prefer and use the Sony Hybrids.
Separation & Details
To be honest, I'm surprised how well the E212 did in my separation tests. In the song "Some Nights" by Fun., the vocal separation was even better than the PAA-1 Pro and I could distinctly make out where each singer was. Instrument separation was exceptional as well, once again besting the PAA-1 Pro and it was less congested on the tracks that I tested it on.
Details are not as good as the separation. In almost all IEMs, big bass always results in reduced detail and the E212 is no exception. It's not to say that the detail levels are bad, just 0ot as good as other offerings of the same price.
Imaging & Soundstage
I was once again extremely impressed by the imaging ans separation of these. The sound stage was huge for an IEM of it's price and of the IEMs that I have heard only loses out to the UM Miracles, RDB v1 and IE8.
Imaging is also very good, but not as impressive as the soundstage. It was easy to tell where each singer or instrument was but sometimes on more congested tracks, it got a bit muddy.
Just about no changes were detected with amping. I actually liked them unamped, right out of my Sansa Clip+ more than out of the Sansa into the E6. I would not bother amping these; just plug them into a source and go.
HiSound E212 vs HiSound PAA-1 Pro
I was certainly very intrigued by the HiSound E212 since it was said as "the best IEM under $100". When I first heard it, I was shocked, and not in a good way either. They were a veiled, muddy mess. The bass was overpowering and the treble really veiled. I let it burn in for a while and after 50 hours, I listened to them again and to my surprise, they had opened up quite a lot. The bass became more controlled and the treble came out a bit. For the bass, the E212 still has much more quantity and more sub bass. The quality is about the same so which is better really does come down to personal preference. As for the mids, HiSound has done extremely well with both of the earphones. They all have this sort of clear but interesting and fun midrange. The E212 has a lusher, more creamy midrange while the PAA-1 Pro has a thinner midrange presentation. The treble is not a competition IMO. The treble on the PAA-1 Pro is quite obviouslybetter in quality and has more quantity. The roll off on the E212 isn't that bad though, and those who are a bit sensitive to treble will like it. The soundstage is a bit bigger on the PAA-1 Pro and the imaging is a bit better as well. I personally prefer the PAA-1 Pro, but I can see why people would like the E212 more.
HiSound E212 vs Sony MH1C
When I first heard of the E212 and it's pricetag of $50, I immediately wondered how it would fare against the Sony MH1C. Before now, it has been my go to recommendation for the sub $50 price range. However, I do think that the E212 defeats it. The E212 has better bass quality and more quantity. The midrange is also more natural and less metallic and also more aggressive. The treble is more prominent on the MH1C but for some reason, there seems to be more of a veil and I find myself choosing the E212 more. Details are more obvious on the Sony MH1C, but the E212 makes up for that by offering better separation, much larger soundstage and better imaging. IMO, the E212 is clearly the better IEM overall.
These are an exceptional of in ear monitors, especially at their $50 price. The bass is hard hitting ans has a very nice rumble to it, the midrange is natural and the treble is non fatiguing but has just enough sparkle for it not to sound dull. IMO, HiSound has created another winner here and thanks again, to Jack Fu for bringing us such a nice IEM for an extremely reasonable price.