Head Gear Reviews by kmmbd
  1. Cayin C9, TOTL Tube/Solid-State Portable Amplifier

    5.00 star(s)
    Cayin is no stranger to amps. In fact, they make some of the best desktop amps out there, including the venerable iHA-6 and the top-dog, the HA-6 (one of the best amps I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to, by the by). The Cayin C9 is their flagship portable amp, meant to be more transportable than portable given the ~0.5kg of weight. Being a flagship and perhaps the best showcase of Cayin's technical achievements so far, the C9 comes with a hefty price-tag of $2K. That's a pretty penny and demands top-tier performance. Let's see if the C9...
  2. Final Audio F3100

    3.00 star(s)
    I'll keep this review short, and won't go through the usual details about packaging and such. I bought the Final F3100 with my own money, and thus have no need to display spectacular honesty (😉). Let's head straight into sound. The F3100 is all about the mids. They have a singular focus: the midrange, and I think Final tuned the mids really well here. Do note that you'll need to go for a deep fit to get the best sound out of these. I used tips a size smaller than I usually do. These resulted in a rather even frequency response from the upper-bass to...
  3. KBEAR Neon

    4.00 star(s)
    INTRODUCTION KBEar released the Neon outta nowhere, and at first glance I assumed the existence of a Knowles BA driver at this price-point (where most IEMs are using Bellsing BA drivers) was supposed to be the sole Unique Selling Point. To my complete surprise, the KBEar Neon had another trick up its sleeve and a darn good one – its tuning. I never thought KBEar would come up with something that goes for neutrality to the degree that the Neon has gone, and it’s quite fascinating indeed. This review originally appeared on Audioreviews. Note: the...
  4. Apple AirPods Max

    3.00 star(s)
    The moment Apple removed the headphone jack from its latest iPhone 7, it spelt doom for the headphone jack itself on all flagship devices. It’s incredible how something as innocuous as the 3.5mm jack became the bane of existence for Apple and how they called it “courageous”, but that rant is best delivered elsewhere. This is a review of the Apple Airpods Max, Apple’s most expensive headphone, and one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones out there. If you are someone who is enamored (!) by the Apple ecosystem and also an audiophile, this review...
  5. SONY IER-Z1R

    4.00 star(s)
    Sony needs no introduction. I mean, you have used at least one of their products in your lifetime. Thus, let’s cut to the chase. The Sony IER-Z1R is their flagship (universal) in-ear monitor. Priced at $1700 retail, these are true top-of-the-line contenders in the IEM space and is looking for a place among the best of the best earphones around. Does the Sony IER-Z1R justify the hefty price-tag, or is it another underachiever? Let’s find out. Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. The IER-Z1R was a loan unit from a friend...
  6. KB Ear KS1

    3.50 star(s)
    Budget single-DD IEMs are on the rise lately, and KBEar decided to join the party as well with the KS1. This time they’ve ditched the way-overused “Balanced armature driver in the nozzle” bit and I am glad they went that route. Let’s see if the KS1 has what it takes to stand its ground. Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Wendy Li of KBEar was kind enough to send the unit. Disclaimer This review originally appeared on my blog. Sources used: LG G7, Sony NW-A55 Price, while reviewed: ~13 euros. Can be bought from KBEar’s...
  7. Moondrop Aria 2021

    4.00 star(s)
    Moondrop needs no introduction nowadays after being one of the most consistent manufacturers out there in terms of releases and their adherence to hitting “target curves”, or a specific frequency-response in other words. The Moondrop Aria 2 (2021) is their latest release that, on paper, succeeds their age-old model, the Aria (which had a shell similar to their now discontinued Crescent). Confusing naming schemes aside, the Aria refresh is nothing like the old model with a very different shell design along with a detachable cable (whereas the...
  8. Audirect Beam 2SE

    4.00 star(s)
    The disappearance of the 3.5mm jack from the mobile phones was rapidly followed by the emergence of “DAC/Amp dongles”, and the Audirect Beam 2SE is yet another contender for the DAC/Amp of your choice award under the $100 price bracket. My first encounter with Audirect was their original HiliDAC Beam which sounded great but was a bit large in size. I missed out on trying the original Beam 2, but fortunately could try out this Beam 2SE which is a slightly cut-down version of the HiliDAC 2S and comes with a single-ended output only. It’s not a bad...
  9. ZEN by DUNU

    5.00 star(s)
    Edit 27/08/2021: FR and extra pairing notes added Single-dynamic driver IEMs have been a rare breed in the flagship territory for a while. In the years past, most TOTL stuff have either been all-BA or hybrid designs. A subtle letdown for those who prefer a single dynamic setup due to the coherency and the dynamism they are capable of producing. Dunu raised some eyebrows at the beginning of last year when they announced the Dunu Luna — a $1700 pure Be-foil totting single-dynamic flagship that introduced a number of “firsts” for both the company and...
  10. DUNU Studio SA6

    4.50 star(s)
    It’s hard to stand out in the IEM space lately. New brands pop up every now and then with claims of performance that far belies their price-tag, having measurement graphs that seem just about perfect, hitting a specific target curve. Driver count that would seem overkill even in $1000+ IEMs just a few years ago. It’s really hard to stand out. Dunu, having dealt primarily with single/multi dynamic drivers and hybrid IEMs for the past decade or so decided to move towards multi-BA setup again. Their new Studio series of IEMs are strictly multi-BA...
  11. Reecho Insects Awaken

    4.00 star(s)
    Reecho is a relatively newcomer in the IEM scene. They seem to have garnered some recognition thanks to their Seasons Series of IEMs (Spring, Summer) which tried to make a niche in the $100–150 bracket. Reecho Insects Awaken is their latest release and seems to be their “flagship” of sorts, at least in the international market. It’s a 4BA setup and at $330 aims to take on some of the favorite mid-rangers, which is never an easy task. Quite a bit to explore, thus without further ado. This review was originally published on Audioreviews Note: the...
  12. KBEAR Believe

    3.50 star(s)
    KBEar generated a lot of buzz when they announced the Believe. “Is it truly a pure Beryllium (foil) driver?” — asked the dumbfounded onlookers. Why won’t they? The only two pure Be foil diaphragm drivers that are out in the market, Final A8000 and Dunu Luna, cost $2000 and $1700 respectively. KBear Believe had a list price of $180. Naturally, some were skeptical of the authenticity of the driver, and that led to long and winding story which I’d rather not go through here. In the end, if the KBEar Believe justifies its price tag in terms of sound...
  13. iFi audio NEO iDSD

    4.00 star(s)
    iFi Audio is on a roll lately with new releases. First there is the Zen stack. The Hip DAC soon followed, and then came the iDSD Signature. The release of the Neo iDSD, however, was quite sudden as it’s been a while since iFi has released a desktop all-in-one solution. Nonetheless, iFi refreshing their lineup is definitely a welcome move as they’ve been lacking options in certain price-points. The Neo iDSD aims to fill in the sub-$1000 bracket, and with a list price of 750 euro is definitely targeted towards premium buyers. This market segment is a...
  14. iFi audio ZEN CAN

    4.00 star(s)
    This review was originally published on Audioreviews.org/my blog “Can it power the Sennheiser HD650 to its full potential?” This is the most common question I’ve been asked whenever there’s a talk about any good budget amp. Fortunately, nowadays there are numerous good offerings around the $100 mark that will power the HD650 and other such demanding cans with supreme authority. Yes, you can always try to get the last bit of performance out of these evergreen Sennheisers but diminishing returns quickly set in. iFi Audio is a UK-based manufacturers...
  15. Cayin N3Pro

    4.50 star(s)
    This review was initially published on Audioreviews.org Tube amplification is a rather divisive topic. For some, it’s the holy grail and a step closer to the “analogue” feel. For others, it’s just gooey warmth that robs instruments of detail and also introduces coloration by adding distortion artifacts. Cayin, in their usual out-of-the-box manner, decided to give listeners the best of both worlds. This is not the first DAP with tubes from them, that would be the flagship Cayin N8. However, it’s the first somewhat affordable one, and thus carves...
  16. FIIL T1XS Ceramic White True Wireless TWS Bluetooth In-Ear Earbuds

    4.00 star(s)
    This review originally appeared on my blog. Headphone jacks are a dying breed. Ever since Apple decided to be “courageous” and remove the headphone jack on iPhones to sell their average-sounding Airpods (and the various Pro/Max iterations), the rest of the mobile manufacturers followed suit like spineless sheep. It’s an entire rant that I’m saving off for another day. Ah well… Back to the topic of discussion: FIIL T1XS TWS IEM. That’s a mouthful. FIIL has been pretty popular among wireless/true-wireless IEM users lately, and while I’ve been pretty...
  17. Cat Ear Audio MIA

    3.50 star(s)
    This review originally appeared in my blog. Cat Ear is a new brand from Shenzhen who has gone for a rather feline-themed branding. The Mia (meow?) is their first IEM (and the only one so far in their lineup) and at $99 retail faces stiff competition from both the lower and higher priced segments. Usually newcomers in the market try to generate hype by some sort of novel driver setup or offering absurdly good value-for-money on paper at least. Cat Ear has a similar trick up their sleeve: cryogenic treatment. Apparently both the drivers and the...
  18. Cowon Plenue V

    4.00 star(s)
    This review originally appeared on my blog. Ah, Cowon, never change! While every manufacturer are focusing on providing streaming, BT, WiFi and all the bells and whistles inside their DAPs, Cowon is one of the few who are keeping things simple and basic. Put in an SD card, load some music, go about your way. The Cowon Plenue V is a good showcase for Cowon’s philosophy. It has one of the best DAC chips in the market for budget devices (CS43131), the battery life is awesome at 45hrs (rated) and of course Cowon’s entire focus went into sound tuning...
  19. KZ ASF 5 BA Universal IEM

    1.00 star(s)
    This review originally appeared on my blog. I will cut to the chase with this one. KZ ASF is an IEM I cannot recommend under any circumstances. KZ usually gets things somewhat right but this is a turd that you can’t polish, and anyone who tells me otherwise will only get a stare of disbelief. KZ ASF is one of the new/refreshed models from KZ and apparently it replaces the AS10… or something like that among the dizzying array of IEMs they’ve released over the past three years. It almost feels like eternity, but I digress. The ASF is supposed to...
  20. KBEAR Diamond i1

    3.50 star(s)
    This review originally appeared on my blog. Letting other people tune your earphones is quite a bold move. This particular tendency, however, is in vogue lately and I won’t necessarily call it a bad thing. Other than having yet another shouty sham or treble trash-can, why not let the (experienced) users find the “right” sound for a change? Solid idea, and the buyers shall be the judge of the execution. KBEar took the decision to allow user-input/feedback into the tuning decisions of the KBEar diamond, their highest-end single-dynamic offering...
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