Reviews by cappuchino


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Transparent sounding
Relatively efficient for a planar
Cons: Build
"Boring" signature

I would like to thank Mr. Mark and HIFIMAN for providing a review unit of the Edition XS. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The Edition XS was released to serve as the middle ground between the cheaper Sundara and the more expensive Ananda. It utilizes “Stealth Magnets” and a “NEO Supernano Diaphragm,” with the former becoming a shared characteristic across a few models in their headphone line. Sensitivity is at 92dB while impedance is rated at 18 ohms. The Edition XS is sold for 499 USD, which puts it in mid-tier or budget-tier price range, depending on who you ask.


Phone/laptop -> Zen Blue V2/HUD100 MK2 -> Topping L50 -> Edition XS

I am glad to say that the Edition XS does not require a desktop amplifier to be satisfactory to listen to. With slow music that does not utilize lower bass to sub-bass frequencies, there is no significant difference to warrant the need to “amp” the headphone, given that your listening volume is relatively close to mine. However, if the music you listen to is not as stated and your listening volume is higher, amping the Edition XS would result in modest improvements across the frequency region and its technicalities.

Topping L50 at high gain, between 8 and 9 o’clock (main amplifier used). HUD100 MK2 at 18/100 (for testing efficiency)


Build and Comfort: The cup is basically the same design as the Ananda, with the only difference being the headband used, similar to the Deva and HE400se. Everything except the grill and the cup holder that swivels thingy is plastic. There, my dear folks, is where I have a problem with the Edition XS. I’ve tried two other budget HIFIMAN models, namely the HE400se and the Deva (wired). Those are essentially built the same as the Edition XS, whilst being ~350/300 USD cheaper respectively. The Edition XS feels the same as the other two. When you shake the cans themselves, there are squeaks here and there, particularly in the part where it swivels.

However, while the build is rather mediocre for its price, it does allow for godly comfort, at least against the five total headphones that I’ve tried. The cup, and in extension the earpad, is egg-shaped. The earpad, when looked at directly, would appear flat. But, the front-end has a very subtle contour. Add that to the fact that the earpad hole does not touch my ears, and it’s like the headphone isn’t even there. The swivel is satisfactory to adjust to your head’s shape. The headband is well-padded and does not hurt the top of your head even with longer sessions (YMMV). Length can be adjusted in a multitude of steps. And lastly, it is surprisingly light for a rather big headphone. Clamping force is light though, so do take note.

Cable is dual 3.5mm to 3.5mm. Length is standard and is rubber-sheathed. It is very supple, does not tangle and no microphonic is heard. This is the best stock cable from the four total HIFIMANs I have/had.

Package: ¼" adapter. Paperwork. Stock cable.

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the headphone was left stock, without mods, with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.


neutral. Extension bests the HF580 (same driver as Aiva), and while isn’t as abundant quantity-wise, is satisfactory for most music. With rap/hip-hop, it does leave you wanting for more physicality. The quality, meanwhile, is the most phenomenal of the headphones I’ve tried – IF you want to analyze every minute detail, reverb if present and change with the bass note. It reproduces bass in its purest form, laying it bare for your ears to critique. There is no “blur” along the edges nor does it struggle with control in fast/consecutive hits, thereby avoiding intruding into the succeeding frequency region. This basically just makes it sound like what a planar driver can do, for those that have tried a headphone with such LOL. I won’t deny, I remember using similar descriptive statements in my past planar headphone reviews. And while that is truly the case, with how the Edition XS articulates bass is how a neutral planar headphone sounds like, it does so in the most exquisite manner. Now, if you desire that engaging tuning, do stay away from the Edition XS. It cannot, in any way, provide that energetic and fun bass without any form of EQ.

Midrange: again, neutral. What is interesting, however, is that with every genre I have listened to using the Edition XS (I go from KPOP to Alternative and Electro; basically everything under the sun), it never sounded thin, even with the lack of midbass warmth to add body to the sound. With string instruments, every tiny detail is heard by the ear without specifically looking for it. I just have one gripe – it decays too fast for my liking. You know that feeling of getting hooked into the playing of Carlos Santana? That caressing touch? That, does not happen with the Edition XS for me. Notes just sound too abrupt in a sense, more so than the other planar headphones I have listened to. Now, I do understand it is all preference but I had to get this out for everyone reading this review. Regarding vocals, there is no bias with both genders so no problem there. It sounds like what a neutral pair of headphones should sound like. Not much to talk about. Both are placed comfortably – not too forward where it becomes shouty nor too far back and becomes difficult to hear. It is worth mentioning that the pre-to-upper midrange dip isn’t as apparent as what the graph suggests, even when compared to something like the Sundara. There is, however, an “almost there” sibilant voice as how I would describe it (read: gives out the start of the ssss but doesn’t go all the way), most present with poorly mixed tracks.

Treble: exhibits brightness but is relatively neutral. Couple that with the technical prowess of the planar driver, the neutral bass response, and the detailed midrange and we have ourselves a headphone made for analysis of music. To avoid an overly clinical or “sterile” presentation, what I would do is pair it with an amplifier that can be subjectively described as velvety or warm. However, at the time of writing this review, I only have the HUD100 MK2 and Topping L50, both of which have been described to be bright-neutral. The Edition XS reproduces the treble region with clarity, thanks in part to the previously mentioned tuning. All the characteristics of a planar headphone regarding treble still do apply with this headphone.


Like what I’ve mentioned, compared to the other four planar headphones I’ve tried, this noticeably has the fastest note decay of them all, making it sound less natural than it should be.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: If you’ve tried the Deva or have read reviews of it, imagine if its soundstage was perfected. That, is how the Edition XS does staging. Exceedingly lifelike presentation, thanks in part to its tuning, imaging prowess and separation capabilities. Wherever any sound comes from, you will notice it in a very hyper-focused manner. I have never encountered any track that gave the Edition XS trouble with imaging and separation. It's a can't miss in terms of technicalities.

Detail-retrieval: Most detailed transducer I’ve listened to. The combination of the tuning and the technicalities bring out every macro and microdetail in the music, thus providing a hyper-realistic listening experience, excluding the occasional brightness of the headphone. It made me hear detail that I never have obviously noticed in songs I thought I knew by heart.



Transparent – that’s the word that best describes the HIFIMAN Edition XS. Is it the best headphone sub-500 USD? I cannot say as I have only tried four others apart from the Edition XS and all of them are at the very least a hundred USD cheaper. This is also the first transducer I’ve tried that crossed the 400 USD mark. However, if you really want a neutral headphone that is able to reproduce sound in a lifelike manner, albeit with the occasional brightness and almost sibilance, then the Edition XS is for you. Using the HIFIMAN Edition XS is like consuming music in a very discerning manner – you taste and appreciate all the good parts but at the same time perceive the undesirables.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the headphone mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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I agree with you, though I'm using it with earmen tr-amp (I know it needs more power), it is not a musical headphone for me, it does not move me, very detailed and revealing but no engaging, Like I'm sitting paying attention to how everything sounds without Feelings for it... Such a Pity, I'm thinking seriously to put in on sale. I wonder what would it be a musical and technical upgrade to mdr z7 and Oppo pm3..
it is not a musical headphone for me
This is why I highly recommend you try it with a tube amp. I have it on basically same setup I had my HD600 on and it sounds alive. I've tried it on a transistor amp or directly to the dac (no difference but just in volume and a little more bass on the amp) and all life is gone. The setup I have also fixes most of their downfalls except the high-end that need -4dB correction at 12khz+.


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Exceptional build quality – really solid and weighty
The iFi design language is attractively unique
Wireless capability with support for virtually every Bluetooth codec
Can serve as a BT receiver for your DAC/Amp stack
Stable Bluetooth connection with remarkable range
Comes with 2 antennae and an RCA cable
Components come from well-renowned manufacturers
Cons: That iFi at the center looks like a low-res pic due to the frosted cover (I don’t know, might just be me)
There’s no on/off switch
No USB input (understandable, but still)
4.4mm balanced output (an included cable in the box would have been much appreciated)

I would like to thank Karina from iFi Audio for assisting me in acquiring a loan unit of the Zen Blue V2. I would also like to express my gratitude to Sir Rico of Egghead Audiohub Philippines (local distributor in the PH) with providing the unit. I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The iFi audio Zen Blue V2 is an update of the model with the same name (released 2020). Its purpose is to convert your Hi-Fi setup into one with wireless connectivity. It has both digital and analogue outputs, with only BT input. It can also output via a balanced cable if ever you have amplifiers that support as such. The iFi Zen Blue V2 is available for purchase at the price of 190 USD. TL;DR – it’s as advertised and everything works properly, but I have a few complaints.

These were connected to my phone (Realme GT Master) and laptop via Bluetooth (varying codec), to the Topping L50 through RCA with the transducers used for testing.

Specifications and Measurements (from iFi audio):
ChipsetsQualcomm QCC 5100 Series (Bluetooth)
ESS Sabre (DAC)
InputBluetooth 5.1™ with AAC, SBC, aptX,
aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC,
HWA Codec
Output4.4mm Balanced
3.5mm S-Balanced (SE)
Frequency Response10-48K (-2DB) under LDAC
Output Voltage @ OdBFS2.05V (+/-0.05V)
Dynamic Range109dB (A)
Signal/Noise ratio111dBA/106.5dBA (BAL/S-BAL)
THD & N @ OdBFS<0.009% (BAL 6.5mW/2.0V @ 600Ω)
<0.03% (SE 100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)
Output Impedance<50Ω
Power Consumption<2.5W
Dimensions158 (I) x 100 (w) x 35 (h) mm
Weight476g (1.05 Ibs)


Package: Unit itself. 2x antennae. Power adapter. User manual. RCA cable. General accessory instruction card.

Design and build:

The Zen Blue V2 follows iFi audio’s iconic design language. It’s a full metal build with the faceplate done in a brushed finish while the dark grey main casing is matte-like, effectively avoiding any fingerprint mark. Being an aluminum case, it has weight which one usually associates with quality and the word “premium.”

At dead center is a circular cutout with a frosted cover. Behind that is the word “iFi” that changes color to represent what codec is currently in use and doubles as an indication that the device is active. At initial pairing, “iFi” will light up with said specific color (please refer to the product page of the Blue V2 under “Tech Lockdown). The smaller circular cutout at the right, meanwhile, is there to show the sample rate. Moving on to that “iFi,”, it is rather undesirable. I have a feeling this was due to the use of that frosted cover, which in turn made the lines of each letter really soft, blurry and unclear, making it look like a poorly printed legend. It looks like a low-res pic.

The only negative I found on the build quality of the Zen Blue V2 is the BT pairing button that also functions to turn off the two LEDs of the device. Design-wise, it fits the whole image of the Blue V2 – color, shape and all of that. But the button just feels so cheap to use – out-of-place, in a sense. It’s very wiggly and when pressed, feels extremely plasticky. I understand that this button would likely not be used all the time. Heck, I’ve only ever pressed it for less than ten times. However, this small detail would have made the Zen Blue V2 perfect, build and design-wise (subjective), excluding the two stuff I will be talking about next.

A subjective dislike I have with the Zen Blue V2 is the lack of an on/off switch as well as the color of the antenna. The former is just a personal need of mine while the latter I find to not fit the color palette of the unit (antenna’s white) *shrug*


Connectivity and Features:

Input is purely via Bluetooth. SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, and LHDC – these are specifically what the Zen Blue V2 supports. The jump from SBC to aptX HD/Adaptive is significant while aptX HD/Adaptive to LDAC is less apparent though still noticeable if you go back and forth. If you don’t, I say either of the two will satisfy most ears. Choose based on your use case as well as compatibility.

There’s not a lot of features to talk about. It can function as a BT receiver for your setup via its digital output. There are also analogue outputs – the standard RCA and a 4.4mm balanced that puts out ~2x the amount of Vrms.

Oh, I forgot to mention – it has this neat feature wherein a voice prompt is heard as you pair your device with the Blue V2, also including what codec is currently in use.

Now, onto sound… wait, how do I go about this?
*reviewed as a BT DAC

While the BT chip that iFi opted to go with for the Blue V2 is considerably higher end, it serves one purpose only – receive BT signal and provide support for whatever codec your device uses. The one that converts the signal itself is an ESS Saber DAC. Now, what model exactly? I do not know. It isn’t disclosed and the pic of the “guts” of the Blue V2 has the model name blurred out. Why they did that I also have no idea. There are screws at the back that suggests the unit can be “opened up.” However, as this is a loan unit, I have to respect iFi audio as well as Egghead Audiohub Philippines and ultimately decided not to do so. I did read on the internet, however, that as per iFi audio themselves, it is a “specialized DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Saber family to convert the signal from digital to analogue.” It may be safe to assume that the DAC chip is a custom-made model to serve the needs of iFi for its use in the Blue V2.

Moving on, the Blue V2 was “stacked” with the Topping L50 via RCA. For those that are concerned with the numbers, third party measurements can easily be found online. Said data suggests that the DAC part of the Zen Blue V2 is decent at what it needs to do and is nothing exceptional. Now, how does this sound like with transducers I tested it with? If you’re curious, read the section marked as a spoiler. You see, there comes a point where with DACs, it is simply highly subjective, where the power of the mind comes into play. I do not trust myself in this situation unless I have equipment with me that can level match these DAC paired with the same amp and the same transducer with the help of another individual (there’s also the filter used which may actually be the biggest difference between these DACs as well as how much voltage it outputs). Even with that, whether I can “hear” a change and confirm that it is not merely imagination or confirmation bias cannot be determined at the current time of writing this review. I simply cannot state with certainty and confidence how a change in DAC can produce audible change/s on the bass, midrange, treble and technicalities of the transducer.

The next sentences will be highly subjective (inconsistent, even, with my previous statement) and I cannot assure that your experience will be similar to mine. This is just to give an idea for readers that may buy the Zen Blue V2 not just for its wireless capabilities but also for its “sound.” To determine the change, I went back and forth with the Zen Blue V2 and the HUD100 MK2 (bypass mode, high power). There is really only one difference worth mentioning – the latter, somehow in some way, produced a more highlighted treble region. The former made no such change with the “sound.” I tried my best to volume match the two setups by ear. The HUD100 MK2 had this unpleasant sharpness, that while isn’t apparent at low volume level, became distractingly and fatiguingly harsh as I increased volume. The Zen Blue V2, meanwhile, maintained a neutral response without highlighting any frequency region whatsoever, consistent to any volume level.

Now, is this just my imagination and my mind playing tricks given that I have always heard of iFi having that “smooth” signature while the HUD100 MK2 has been described to be neutral (or bright-neutral, depending on who you ask)? No idea. Take from that what you may.

I am also on the table that as long as the DAC maintains a clean signal without objectively undesirable distortion (read: audibly bad measurement), it is more than enough. Also, I lean more towards the better measurements = better DAC table, most especially if one’s capacity does not allow them to possess several DACs of different “flavor.” If you need some change or want to tweak a frequency, there’s always EQ for that *wink*.


Battery Drain:

Not applicable as the Zen Blue V2 has its own power supply. Battery drain of BT connection is also negligible in today’s gadgets. But, generally speaking, the higher quality the codec, the less battery efficient it is.



1. There’s no 4.4mm to 4.4mm balanced cable included in the box. As it is a rather uncommon I/O in desktop setups, it would have been greatly appreciated if iFi provided as such.​
2. Bluetooth is nice, but where’s the USB input? I do understand that the Blue was purposefully designed and built for wireless connectivity as its feature. However, this makes it a one-trick pony with a beautiful chassis for close to 200 USD. That’s considered expensive in several areas of the world. There IS the Zen One Signature that has said input but that one’s around 300 USD. And just recently, iFi has announced their new Air lineup, specifically the Air Blue. That one will be selling for ~100 USD, albeit without the balanced out, digital out and now a plastic case material. Specs, when compared to the Zen Blue V2 suggests similar DAC performance.​
3. Again, like what I’ve mentioned before, why is there no on/off switch or button?

The iFi audio Zen Blue V2 is a wonderful device – IF you desire that Bluetooth connection in your setup. It has an abundance of outputs that should cover everything (both digital and analogue), supports virtually every BT codec in the market, with a beautifully designed case (IMO) and decent DAC performance based on measurements available online. However, there are certain areas worth looking into before you decide to buy the Blue V2. And, there’s the Air Blue, so it would be better to wait for reviews for that product and see how the Blue V2 performs against its little brother.

Test Setup:
Phone/laptop -> Zen Blue V2 -> Topping L50 -> Hifiman Edition XS/Sundara, Sennheiser IE400 Pro, Moondrop SSP, KZ DQ6, Smabat M2s

****If you have other questions/concerns with the DAC mentioned, feel free to message me****​


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Female vocal bliss
Neutral treble response
Exceptional technicalities for a single-DD at 50 USD. Decent at 79.99 USD.
Weighty yet comfortable and good-fitting shell (it also looks sick, personally speaking)
Generous number of accessories
Cons: Stock cable shouldn’t be like this in this price range. It’s downright bad and annoying.
Reported cases of paint-chipping
Harman bass response (sub-bass over mid-bass) - preference-dependent
Note weight
Limited listening volume due to upper midrange elevation (tolerance-dependent)

I would like to thank Ms. Cloris and Moondrop for providing a review unit of the Aria. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The Moondrop Aria is arguably one of, if not, the most hyped IEM this 2021. It uses a single LCP-diaphragm dynamic driver, with an impedance of 32 ohms and a sensitivity of 122 dB. Selling for 79.99 USD (cheaper in some sites, like 30 USD cheaper). Does it live up to the hype or have we all become cult followers of the “Harman” tuning.

Oppo Reno 4 > Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) > Transducer


The Moondrop Aria is easy to drive and doesn’t require further amplification. A phone will do.

Build and Comfort:
A safe shell design that should work for most ears without any comfort issues. It’s actually perfect, in a sense – not too small where it has an unsecure fit, nor too large where it becomes too bulky to use. Just the right size.

It feels weighty and has that premium-feel from the cold metal shell. Colorway is subjective, but with my taste, it does look nice. I forgot to mention, it uses a 2-pin connection which worked with all the cables I have on hand without any problem.

Nozzle is of average width and above average length without a lip. I didn’t encounter any issues with this design and the tips I rolled with. YMMV.

Now, for the cable. OH, THE CABLE. Why is it a good idea to push through a thin, 2-core, braided and sleeved cable? It’s a tangly mess, annoying to use, and comes with all the kinks you can think of with a “bad” cable. There have also been cases of the sleeve itself fraying. 2-pin connectors have plastic housings, splitter and slider are metal with the splitter having Moondrop-branding, and the jack’s housing is metal with a very generous strain relief (L-jack).

Average isolation.



Package: 6 pairs of silicone eartips. Moondrop-branded hard case. Tweezers. Extra filters (2 types).

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without any modification/s other than a cable change (TinHifi T5 stock cable) for usability purposes and a tip change (preference and fit - dependent). It has also been “burned-in” (putting an emphasis on quote-unquote) for more than 150 hours just for the sake of complying with the instructions from Moondrop themself (exceeding the indicated hours, even). I didn’t do any serious listening for more than three song throughout the entire “burn-in” process as I wanted to avoid any form of placebo that something did “change” with “burn-in” which may affect my judgement. Listening volume at low-medium.

This review was done with the Aria’s selling price of ~50 USD as that is the price I have access to here in SEA.

Let’s do quality before quantity first. It’s decently controlled for the most parts with enough texture and detail to not sound smoothened-out and is of the fast attack and moderate decay. Extension is more-than-good and will work with any song that utilizes lower bass frequencies. Now, for the quantity – Harman bass is not for me. There’s just something wrong with the elevation of the sub-bass. It randomly jumps at you and will be overbearing in some tracks. It also consumes the other bass frequencies where you start hearing nothing but sub-bass depending on the song. Mid-bass lacks weight and is overly light which is a bad thing especially with drums appearing to have inadequate body and bass guitar and the like being exceedingly too clear and weight-light (might be good for some, but unnatural for me). I do understand that this tuning is based on the mass-preference in this modern age, and putting myself in their shoes – it will definitely play well with modern songs and get you engaged with that sub-bass-driven music (club, music festival, party and the like). Definitely provides those “hard hits” necessary for that kind of music.

Midrange: The Aria’s allure and it’s fatal flaw. I’m dividing this into two parts – 1. midrange to upper midrange, and 2. male vocal region (and lower midrange). Generally speaking, there is a great sense of clarity with the midrange presentation, with it being well-defined and textured, giving this energetic color to the music. For the first part, it is very transparent with excellent articulation and “alive” factor. The Harman female vocal is something I adore with a passion. Especially at lower listening volumes, there’s just this sense of intimacy, emotion, and breathiness with the presentation of the female vocals that is different from any other tuning. Definitely one of, if not, the most appealing feature of the Aria. I didn’t encounter any shoutiness or harshness with my tolerance levels and listening volume. Now, with the male vocal presentation (lower midrange and such), there’s just no other way to describe it other than unpleasant for my preferences. it’s slightly recessed compared to female vocals, sounds overly clear, dry and lacks body (lean). If you like that type of presentation, then I guess it’ll do just fine. Personally, it doesn’t work with what I need and want.

Treble: Very mature tuning (read: neutral-ish) with a delicate presentation. It’s a gradual slope following the neutral curve and you will not be left out with any part of the treble region (decent but nothing noteworthy air extension). With that, it also avoids any peaky-ness, sharpness, or fatigue with listening for longer sessions. Nothing much else to talk about here, honestly speaking, other than if you’re looking for an energetic, airy, or lively treble response, then the Aria’s not for you because the Aria’s treble is of the smoother and more neutral side (might be dull and boring for some).


LCP-diaphragm sounds natural with no metallic tint to it and is quite organic-sounding. No problems here.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Variable. IF we don’t listen to songs that utilize lower-bass frequencies, the Aria presents music in a “free” manner, with instruments and vocals having abundant space to move around in all dimensions. Introducing the elevated sub-bass fills-up the stage and becomes something of the average presentation in its price range. Decent, but nothing exceptional. Imaging, meanwhile, is a different story. The movement and placement of instruments in the soundstage is easily noticeable and quite focused. The driver can also handle busy and complex tracks, maintaining definition all throughout the listening experience… if there’s no sub-bass to distract you.

Detail-retrieval: The tuning of the upper midrange to treble-proper allows the Aria to render as much detail as it can (especially macrodetail) without sounding overly analytical. Microdetail is not as present as macrodetail (though still perceivable) due to the neutral tuning and the non-emphasis in the necessary frequency regions.


For 79.99 USD, I’d think twice unless you really adore Harman and don’t mind its one-too-many flaws in the bass and midrange. But for ~50 USD on sites like Shopee and Lazada, and if you’re a sucker for female vocals, it climbs a lot of floors up the building. Just try to avoid listening with male vocals if you’ll buy the Aria 😐 Oh, and do consider if you like or can tolerate Harman bass.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Hi. Any suggestions for iem that do both female and vocal well? Aria looks like lacking in male vocal
Hi, @tendou . That's gonna be rare at the price bracket of the Aria. Although, I can think of one IEM that does both at the very least decently without any lacking frequency (still a bit recessed) and even cheaper - KZ DQ6 with foam/filter mod. @RikudouGoku has the latest mod (using Tanchjim filter) and a YT video shows the 1st version of the mod (earbud foam). Only catch is that you'll need to be open to adding some sort of filter that acts as a dampener to the upper midrange-lower treble. I personally currently use a Moondrop filter. Hope this helps 😁/

Forgot to mention, you also have to use any eartip other than the ones the DQ6 comes with 'cause those are trash.
Thanks! I'm not sure if I can mod them. Right now I'm using KC2 and it's good for both male and female vocal. Aria should be better but it will bug me if the make vocal lacks body compared to them.


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Bright-neutral tonality
Modular system
Comfortable, albeit a bit big for my ears, shell
Cons: Thin-sounding (it depends, actually)
Bright-neutral tonality - not well-balanced
Cable’s not attractive at all. Although considering the price, one can say it’s acceptable.
Only two pairs of foams

I would like to thank Smabat for providing a review unit of the M0. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.

The cheapest of all Smabat’s, the M0 is a 15.4mm dynamic driver earbud with a “titanium-plated” diaphragm. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its older brothers like the 3D-printed labyrinth acoustic chamber, but what it does maintain is their new modular design as well as MMCX connection, all for 35 USD (sale price). Impedance is at 20 ohms while sensitivity is at 110 dB.

Oppo Reno 4 > KGUSS BH3 > Takstar HA101 > Transducer

The Smabat M0 is very easy to drive and doesn’t require further amplification from what a modern phone can provide. Regarding pairing, I say that if you have the resources, it will play well with a warmer source due to the M0’s bright-neutral tonality.


Build and Comfort: Nice and simple. It’s not part of the three major shell types (i.e., MX500, bell, and PK) and is more of a cross between a bell and the Nicehck ME80. Finish is in blue with some gloss over it. No sharp edges whatsoever.

With how the shell holds the driver, it’s the same with the M2s Pro, in that it depends on a silicone ring over the opening of the shell to hold the two together.

I do have to note that the MMCX connection of the male and female is not as tight as that of the M2s Pro, in that it spins when effort is applied. Take from that what you may as I have not spent enough months/years with it to determine the durability of the MMCX used in the M0.

Stock cable is is not the best feeling one out there. It’s 4 cores but done in 2-core fashion, with plastic MMCX housing, metal splitter and jack, with a generous strain relief. There is no chin slider. The cable is coated in some sort of clear plastic covering. It easily loses shape which is a good thing and is soft enough to avoid microphonics, though does have a tendency to tangle. If you don’t like that, there’s a multitude of aftermarket cables as cheap as 3 USD on online shopping platforms.

NOTE: To easily close the shell, what I do is let the +/- cables to go around the modular system and twisting the driver itself into the shell. I think Smabat has a guide as well on YT.



Package: 1 pair of full foam. 1 pair of doughnut foam. Smabat-branded carrying pouch (with closing mechanism).

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the earbud was left in stock mode, without mods using the full foams included with a listening volume of low-medium.

due to the bright-neutral tonality, it will appear bass-light for most. However, give it some time and you’ll adjust to the signature and find that it has “enough” bass for even your bassy tracks, sometimes even providing just a little bit of that sub-bass rumble. Definitely not the most ideal bud for them bassy tracks, but hey, at least it works on them and doesn’t outright fail. Bass response is fast, shows some texture and is very controlled showing the speed prowess of the driver (clean-sounding bass). Overall an excellent bass response, in quality, most especially for the price. Regarding tonality, I find the mid-bass to be lacking (little-to-no punch, at all). It’s just too neutral and not enough in quantity to balance out the spectrum. Throwing the "YMMV" sword here.

Midrange: bright-neutral in that it prioritizes clarity at the expense of the tendency to sound thin and/or shouty in certain genres. It sounds very, very forward and is a wonder if you love an intimate presentation of the midrange. Surprisingly enough, lower mids don’t sound that lacking considering the tonality and those that reside in that region like male vocals have enough weight in them to not sound weird. Now this is where I would have wanted more bass – it can more-than-usual be thin and shouty, and more midbass quantity would have compensated that. There is a reason why almost all the earbuds I’ve read about have elevated midbass. Again, a big YMMV on this as I found the midrange to be unnaturally bright, particularly female vocals.

Treble: bright, zingy and has enough extension to provide air in the mix. Not as well-extended as its bigger brother (M2s Pro), but shares that speed although sometimes exhibits instances of splash. It gets fatiguing after a few hours in due to the prominent peaks across this region. For the last time... YMMV! Ha!

the thin note weight and bright-neutral tonality keeps throwing me off. However, there was no artificialness on the M0 and how you will appreciate it will highly depend on personal preference (not "YMMV" this time 'round 😂). Tonality and how natural it is however is a different thing altogether.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: I always found transducers that have a brighter treble tuning to have a wide, tall and airy stage. That is the case as well for the Smabat M0. Depth, however, is the drawback. Not that it doesn’t have any, but that brighter treble plus the rather neutral bass response (not that well-extended, as well) doesn’t provide a lot of depth. Imaging, for the most part, does its job but doesn’t provide that sharp placement of sound found in better imaging transducers. Separation is decent for the price but does show how much it costs when multiple instruments start playing, with the whole presentation blurring and going “out-of-focus" which might actually just be due to the peaks in the upper frequencies, depending on how you see it.

Detail-retrieval: With said emphasis on the upper frequencies of the M0, I actually expected to hear at least some macrodetail and a few microdetail. You do hear them, but if I’m being honest? It’s not the good detail. I was greeted, or a better word, shouted with the “fake” detail with the peaks in the treble. The clarity and emphasis on the midrange and treble presentation plus the rather neutral bass response give an illusion of a detailed listen but what you really hear is the sharpness most of the time inherent to this tuning. Not bad for the price, but definitely not ideal. This is a common occurrence on the cheaper transducers to compensate for the technical capabilities of the driver.



For 35 USD, it’s a decent earbud. However, it is priced too close to the bigger brother, M2s Pro, which is simply better in every aspect, especially if you have access to something like Shopee or Aliexpress with the cheaper prices and vouchers/coins. A bright-neutral earbud with an interesting modular design and MMCX connection for under 40 USD, the Smabat M0 is an interesting choice for those looking at such a bud.

I do have a feeling that a filter in the vent might do wonders for the M0 (no filter in stock) and turn it into a wonderbud sub-40 USD.

M0/M2s Pro Experiment…

So, I decided to swap out the drivers of the two earbuds and here are my short impressions:

> M0 driver in M2s Pro shell – suffocated, muffled midrange with the still bright treble tuning with a perceived increase in bass quantity, particularly mid-bass.

> M2s Pro driver in M0 shell – similar to the initial mix pairing, midrange sounded muffled. Interestingly, it is also significantly bassier. Same phenomenon as the first mix.

The changes in sound due to the shell swap is eerily similar. Now, does this mean that they use the same drivers only with a different impedance? I honestly can't say. There are also a lot of factors – the said impedance difference (20 vs. 40), how much space the chamber has (resonance and such), how thin/thick the tuning cotton is, damping filter in the vent, as well as the venting itself, among others. All of these can affect the sound one way or another. However, I am sure of one thing - the two earbuds are way better when they’re in their respective shells. How far the buds can go with some effort on tuning is something that is up to the wise ones (i.e., those knowledgeable in modding and stuff; awesome individuals).

****If you have other questions/concerns with the earbud mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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How do you compare it with Monk Plus in overall Soundstage. Monk+ has less Bass and No Sub-bass but how do you see it when compare M0 Vs Monk+?
Sorry, @MelodyMood , I don't have nor have I tried the Monk Plus 😅


Previously known as sub30
Pros: All-rounder capabilities
Bass quality
Decent build quality and comfort (MMCX, as well)
Improved modular design
Cons: Only two pairs of foam
Sharp edges at the MMCX section of the shell but doesn’t actually present any issues for my ears

I would like to thank Smabat for providing a review unit of the M2s Pro. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The Smabat M2s Pro is a modular, dynamic driver earbud currently selling for 64 USD (on sale at the time of this review). It improves from the company’s initial attempt at modular earbuds, tweaking the design to be more reliable and better implemented. The changing of the driver doesn’t require any soldering and is just as easy as removing the pin (?) and then connecting with the other drivers they sell separately, from 6 USD up to their flagship driver (Super One), at 38 USD. The M2s Pro utilizes a titanium-coated dynamic driver, with an impedance of 40 ohms and a sensitivity of 110 dB (MMCX connection). To “customize” more the signature, one can also acquire damping filters to alter the venting of the shell (sold separately).


Oppo Reno 4 > KGUSS BH3 > Takstar HA101 > Transducer

The stock driver of the M2s Pro is portable-friendly and easy-to-drive. A phone will do, though a more “hobby-oriented” source will bring improvements (varies).


Build and Comfort: Shell is all-metal, with the driver faceplate being an exception (plastic + silicone; mesh is metal). Regarding design, it is simple-yet-classy looking (lightweight, to note). There are sharp points near the female MMCX connection but I didn’t encounter any comfort problems with them.

The M2s Pro follows the design language of the company, when compared to their other models.

It fit me better than MX500 shells but not as perfect as the Zen LL shell (note: I have small ear canal). YMMV on this.

With how the driver attaches to the shell, it just holds there. No mechanism to lock it in place and depends on friction created by the plastic outline of the faceplate and the silicone ring around the shell opening. I didn’t experience the earbud itself falling apart with daily use so I guess the design works? Only time will tell how long that silicone will hold out.

Cable is four cores, in twisted fashion. Every component is made of metal, from the jack to the splitter, slider and male MMCX connector. Regarding the male MMCX connector, out of all my MMCX transducers, only Smabat has ever done this – the L/R markings are enlarged and by doing so, easy to notice and read. I can’t express in words how much I appreciate this design consideration from the company. Another way to determine L and R is to use different colored earbud foams, but as I don’t prefer mismatching colors, the connectors are a huge help. Cable is very light and on the thinner side, so it doesn’t introduce any issues with the earbud design. Twisting is decent and there are no inconsistencies that jump at you. While the cable is thin, I didn’t encounter tangling with casual use.

MMCX connectors don’t exhibit the “helicopter effect” that is common with poor quality ones.

Nonexistent isolation with minimal-to-none sound leakage (depends on listening volume).

NOTE: To easily close the shell, what I do is let the +/- cables to go around the modular system and twisting the driver itself into the shell. I think Smabat has a guide as well on YT.

Package: 1 pair of full foam. 1 pair of doughnut foam. Smabat-branded carrying pouch with a tight closing mechanism (nice touch and very functional when going out).

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the earbud was left in stock mode, without mods using the standard foams included with a listening volume of low-medium. I cannot use doughnut foams as they just slide off the earbud, not just on the Smabats but for all the few earbud shells I’ve tried.


the only earbud that competes with the IEMs I’ve tried in this price bracket on bass quality. Out of the few earbuds I’ve listened to, I’ve been assessing them on the factor that they are earbuds, and earbuds in general have inferior bass quality to IEMs. The M2s Pro’s stock driver is way, way different – it goes sub-bass deep, is fast, well-textured, and very clean-sounding. It is still elevated, as usual with earbuds to compensate for the form factor, but still remains a very “mature” tuning with a bit of “fun” due to said elevation. Another thing different is the emphasis, or rather the lack of that mid-bass mountain common to earbuds. Don’t get me wrong, there is still mid-bass presence that provides overall weight, but it is not exaggerated to the point of sounding overly thick, going muddy. Regarding extension, this is the only earbud that I don’t find lacking with more bass-focused tracks, particularly those that utilize lower bass frequencies.

Midrange: if you’ve ever tried listening to an earbud foamless, you’ll notice how well-presented the midrange, particularly upper midrange, is. It can be described as “airy-sounding,” clear, balanced, and in some cases, neutral. Definitely, bass response suffers greatly with this wearing style. Now, what if I tell you that the M2s Pro achieves all of the good stuff even with full foams without the drawback? What this entails is that it provides foamless-esque midrange with its excellent bass quality. There is no bias in the forwardness between the two sexes and is very balanced in the mix, along with the bass and treble. No hollowness at all. Instrument and vocal texture is rendered and well-presented. Midrange peak is around 3 kHz, which works perfectly with my preference (YMMV). If you are sensitive in that region, you will definitely find the M2s Pro to be rather shouty.

Treble: Of the brighter side… but! Emphasis is on treble proper which I greatly appreciate with earbuds, as it helps the clarity and brilliance side of things. I say emphasized and of the brighter side but it isn’t necessarily so. The full foams tame down this tuning and results in a balanced signature. If you want more treble quantity, use doughnuts or better yet, thinner foams. Extension is surprising as heard in the overall presentation – there is a great sense of air with the music. Treble is clean and crisp.


natural. Nothing is lacking or in excess.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Oh, how I missed this earbud stage compared to the last one I’ve tried. It’s just magical – this sense of width, height, and of course the depth due to the bass extension. Add in the form factor and well, I can’t find anything bad to say about it. Imaging and separation are exceptionally good out of the 7 total earbuds I’ve tried, like IEM-of-this-price-bracket good.

Detail-retrieval: What surprised me the most. I never expected earbuds to render this much detail. Where does this unexpected experience come from? Well, a number of reasons: 1.) the tuning is usually of the more consumer and warmer kind, 2.) form factor doesn’t provide any seal, and lastly, 3.) the driver is just not technically-capable. The Smabat M2s Pro is the irregularity - you hear most, if not all, macrodetail and some microdetail without fatigue and harshness.



I’ve completed the trinity of the search for contentment (see account signature). I cannot express in words how good I feel with reaching this point in this hobby. With that, after finishing some pending reviews, I’ll be taking a long break from the audio world (I also have tertiary education to give importance to 🤣). The Smabat M2s Pro is what I call a perfected modular design – easy to install/uninstall drivers without any soldering, MMCX connection, and the possibility of using a different damping filter to tweak the venting of the earbud, thereby changing the signature itself. Add in how technically capable the M2s Pro is with its neutral-with-a-bit-of-fun tuning, and I can definitely say it’s one of the best value transducers of the few I’ve tried. A perfect 5 out of 5. Nothing short of exceptional.

M0/M2s Pro Experiment…

So, I decided to swap out the drivers of the two earbuds and here are my short impressions:

> M0 driver in M2s Pro shell – suffocated, muffled midrange with the still bright treble tuning with a perceived increase in bass quantity, particularly mid-bass.

> M2s Pro driver in M0 shell – similar to the initial pair, midrange sounded muffled. Interestingly, it is also significantly bassier.

The changes in sound due to the shell swap is eerily similar. Now, does this mean that they use the same drivers only with a different impedance? Don’t know. There are also a lot of factors – the indicated impedance (20 vs. 40), how much space the chamber has (resonance and such, as well), how thin/thick the tuning cotton is, damping filter in the vent, as well as the venting itself among others. All of these can affect the sound one way or another. However, I am sure of one thing - the two earbuds are way better when they’re in their respective shells. How far the buds can go with some effort on tuning is something that is up to the wise ones (i.e., those knowledgeable in modding and stuff; awesome individuals).

****If you have other questions/concerns with the earbud mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: Relaxing signature without any ear fatigue
Perfect shell, comfort and fit-wise for my ears
For the treble-sensitive
Bright/bad recording friendly
Can go high volume without pierce/harshness
Cons: Technicalities
Not for those who want a resolving earbud
Durability of fixed cable design and the cable itself (can be fixed with MMCX mod)
Will be too warm depending on a person’s taste (I did find it too warm)

I would like to thank Mr. Lee and Venture Electronics for providing a review unit of the Zen LL. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


Venture Electronics. Arguably one of, if not the most iconic earbud maker, at least in this present time. They have a wide range of products – from the legendary “hyperbudget” Monk series, up to the TOTL Sun. I have here the VE Zen LL (standard), selling for 69.80 USD, with an impedance rating of 150 ohms. It can be ordered with either a 3.5mm, 2.5mm, or 4.4mm jack. There’s an SLQ version as well, with the same driver but different colorway and cable, selling for 128 USD.

Oppo Reno 4 > KGUSS BH3 > Takstar HA101 > Transducer

It was possible to reach my listening volume using only my phone, with lots of headroom. While it is 150 ohms, I have a feeling that it has a high sensitivity that compensates for the impedance. However, compared to a phone, when plugged to the HUD100 MK2, the Zen LL experiences slight improvements in clarity (as well as treble, in extension), separation, soundstage, note weight and bass response when volume matched (only by ear). Not to a degree that prevents usage with a weaker source. A phone will be enough to enjoy the Zen LL but you will definitely benefit with further amplification.


Build and Comfort: Not a lot to talk about. Compared to MX500? this shell is a million times better, at least for my ears. Considering the price tag, the shell doesn’t feel “premium” at all. Plastic. Light. But a practical design nonetheless. It just disappears in my ears and I keep on forgetting that I’m wearing earbuds. No sharp edges whatsoever. Earbud fit is more personal and subjective than IEMs so as always, YMMV.

Cable, is, well… something I don’t particularly like. It feels jelly-like on hand, a bit sticky, holds some folded shape, and the worse of all – I doubt the durability. Mine arrived with a rip in the insulation. Cable was stiff OOTB but with some use it became more manageable, though not by much. One favorable aspect of the cable is that it’s not that microphonic compared to other non-removable cable earbuds. Good thing as well that it’s very easy to do recabling and/or MMCX mod with earbuds. I got the 4.4mm variant and the jack is metal and feels pretty solid. Splitter is nondescript with the tightest cable slider I’ve ever encountered (not efficient to use).

Isolation is non-existent and sound leakage is negligible.


Package: Carrying case. EX Pack Lite. Zen LL.

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the earbud was left in stock mode, without mods using the standard foams included with a listening volume of medium. I cannot use the included doughnut and thinner full foams because the former keeps moving around and falling off the driver while the latter ripped apart. Going foamless will help with clarity and soundstage (more airy) at the expense of bass extension (though is much, much cleaner sounding). I actually prefer foamless but as the majority cannot go this route, I did this review with foams.

I had a tendency to increase the loudness when listening to music due to the tonality of the Zen LL.


big, thumpy bass that's a step away from bloated. Large mid-bass emphasis which gives that noticeable weight in the sound. While you can get to “sub-bass” frequencies with a sine sweep, the tuning of the Zen LL doesn’t provide enough for this region and as such, there is little-to-no rumble when listening to music (you hear a lot of mid-bass, though). Surprisingly, it renders texture well but struggles to maintain control with more complex bass lines and loses definition. Average attack, slow decay.

Midrange: warm, full-bodied and intimate. Sounds thick and sort of veiled. With that, this will be controversial, – it doesn’t sound natural. It is definitely colored leaning on the warmer side. BUT I get how it can become a very pleasing tonality (subjective). With the weight that the bass brings, acoustic guitars have this mahogany-esque sound to it. Resolution leaves me wanting for more considering the price. Midrange texture as well – vocals sound too smooth, distorted electric guitars lack bite, and the like. Well, that does make it fit for getting you to sleep, the purpose it was made for. Depending on the track, vocals are overpowered by the mid-bass and sound recessed.

Treble: relaxed and warm. Too warm. Others can think of this as recessed and rolled-off. How you will like this type of tuning will be highly subjective. However, it was made to serve as a sleeping “bud,” and the Zen LL embodies this image perfectly, both in comfort and tuning. It sure does make me sleepy when I listen to them. Going foamless will help bring more energy if you like that. No instances of splash.


sooo organic. There’s just something with earbuds and timbre, at least with those that I’ve tried.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: This is the part that surprised me the most, particularly in staging – it’s intimate. It’s not what you’d expect from an earbud and actually reminds me of a good IEM’s soundstage along with the sweet layering. Depth is not that perceivable and just enough to not sound 2D. There is no weird imaging going on but the driver struggles when lots of things happen at once.

Detail-retrieval: Nope. Macro and microdetail are hard to notice with the tuning. Resolution, as well. Acceptable, considering the form factor. But for the price…



The contribution of earbuds in the audio world is that it is so rare to listen to a bad bud, regardless of price with a few exceptions (from those I've read about). The Zen LL is advertised as “the best sleeping-bud” and I fully agree with that. It’s a sound that holds you in a warm embrace, nothing offensive with it and something you can just put on your ears and get sleepy listening to music. One thing very important to consider is that the price-to-performance factor is crazy with earbuds, and I can’t say that I’ll 100% take the Zen LL over the multitude of hyperbudget models out there.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the earbud mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Great review!

For the price, I will just skip the Zen LL.

It seems these has been praised with no reason.

Plastic shells at $70 is a no go... Twice the price for a better cable... well, VE is always overpriced.

Thank you for sharing your thoughs.
Thanks a lot for the compliment, @rprodrigues !

Yeah, and with the existence of the Smabat M2s Pro which is simply better in every way possible, I just don't see how the Zen LL can be competitive in 2021 🤷🏻‍♂️


Previously known as sub30
Pros: w/ mods...

Musical listening experience
Treble perfection
Resolution and realism
Exceptional build quality (excluding earcups)
Cheap and affordable considering what you get (especially the driver)
Extra earpads
Not particularly hard to reach my listening volume considering it’s a planar headphone
Very easy to mod and open up
Cons: Need easy-to-do mods to achieve what I hear as perfection for my preferences
Add foam to earcup cavities to reduce unwanted resonance (optional but recommended)
Add a layer of cotton to lessen bass, bring up midrange (particularly upper), and further lessen unwanted resonance (optional, but highly recommended)
Plastic headphone cups in piano black finish (looks cheap for my tastes and is a fingerprint magnet)
Non-removable cable (easy fix: MMCX mod)
Thin headband padding (comfort depends on user’s head as obvious)

I would like to thank Takstar for providing a review unit of the HE580. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

Check out the Takstar HF580 on their website: LINK HERE

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The HF580 was released a few years back and received some hype due to it utilizing the same driver as a 600 USD planar wooden headphone. Everything matches – from the rated impedance and sensitivity, renders as well as the dimensions. Always seen at ~150 USD across multiple online platforms, does it offer off-the-charts value or is it a missed shot?

Asus X409 > KGUSS BH3 > Takstar HA101 > Transducer


It’s a planar, you need to amp the HF580 but it isn’t as bad as it seems and is relatively easy to drive.

Build and Comfort:
Everything is metal except for the cups themselves. Really heavy but you get used to the weight after some use. Hifiman Deva and HE400se feel like toys after holding these.

Headband adjustment is of the sliding type, no scratchy feeling whatsoever, is very smooth and holds its place. The leather bit is acceptable enough and doesn’t feel cheap at all. Then this is where it goes leaning down – there’s not enough padding than what I would have liked for my head. Tolerable but I would have appreciated more. You start feeling it resting on your head after a few hours in. And the HF580 being particularly heavy doesn’t work with the light headband padding. The metal end bit at the end has a Takstar branding at the outside and L/R markings inside.

Cups themselves swivel a bit for that extra comfort adjustment (front-and-back). It’s in a piano black finish with the metal grill having a shiny silver outline. Personally speaking, it looks cheap and the cups are very fingerprint-prone.

Clamping force is of the stronger side.

Cable is attached – one each for L and R. I could have accepted every fault of the design if the cable was detachable, but alas, it isn’t. While it is usable, thick, long (at least 1.2 m), and has a metal jack (splitter is plastic), it just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like I have two garden hoses attached to the headphone. Hit the cable near the cup and you hear the two wires moving around inside. Good thing that a pair of female MMCX only costs 2 USD so it will definitely be something I’ll do in the near future. It does have strain relief with L/R markings so I’ll give Takstar that.

Earpads are of the thinner side but I didn’t experience my ears touching the driver. I personally prefer the cloth over the leather as it is more comfortable and plays better with the HF580. Cloth – airier, less harsh; leather – more V-ish, harsher. Foam retains shape. Choose based on preference.

Surprisingly, isolation and sound leakage aren’t as bad as the two other open-backs I have but still undeniably open-back. Below average for both.



NOTE: Very easy to do modifications, be it as simple as adding foam, or complex like drilling new vents, because the HF580 is held by screws without any glue that allows for easy opening and access to the driver/PCB/grill/cup.

Package: ¼" adapter. Paperwork. Manual. Cloth earpads.

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the headphone was not all stock. I did mods as well as changed to the cloth earpads with a listening volume of low-medium to medium. The mods were adding foam to the cup cavities and a layer of cotton behind the driver. Without them, upper midrange sucked really bad, both figuratively and literally (scooped/cupped/hollow/honky/sLoWed and ReVErbED-sounding).

Of the three planar headphones I have tried, the HF580 exhibited the most recessed upper midrange of all and just sounded so weird without EQ.

The foam served as a sort of acoustic dampener (don’t know the right term lol) inside the cup. There are pockets/cavities in the outline of the cup themselves and I just inserted the same protective foam from the HF580 box to smoothen/lessen unwanted resonance/echoing inside the chamber. Layer of cotton is to reduce bass quantity and further remove unwanted resonance.

Another tip I have read that improves the HF580 is to change earpads to the SendyAudio Aiva ones, about 35 USD on Ali or to a fabric earpad made for the HM5 for 8 USD.


slams you hard, like face-to-the-wall, physical-feeling hard. I just have a love affair with the few planar drivers I’ve tried, they do something magical with the bass. It sounds solid and dare I say, dynamic. Close-to-neutral tuning with a hint of warmth, then add in the planar capabilities and it brings that weighty, engaging and satisfying bass experience. It also does not have that unnaturally fast decay (still fast, nevertheless) and is not the most open-back design which in turn provides sub-bass rumble, which definitely surprised me– that, my friends, is exceptional considering it’s an open-back. You can use the HF580 with any genre because of the bass response. That extension is also the reason why the bass “feels” so solid and weighty. Texture is well-registered without sounding analytical due to the tonality and control is retained all throughout the musical experience. The HF580 renders the most detailed bass of all transducers I have on hand. Checking with a sine sweep and the HF580 reaches sub-bass frequencies effortlessly without any rattle/distortion.

Midrange: Majestic. It’s neutral without sounding cold because of the influence of the bass, but then the ethereal highs grant air. It’s good - like really, really, really good. The positioning is perfect – not too forward where it is in-your-face nor way recessed that it sounds drowned. Just right – you between the singer and the instruments, spending the best time of your lives. The midrange is highly resolving, delivering realism (THAT BITE AND CRUNCH WITH ELECTRIC GUITARS!) and subjective vocal emotion with every song. There is no bias towards male or female vocals and both sound natural. No roughness at all and just sounds effortlessly realistic. Highly textured vocals – I have now listened to female vocal bliss. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, this is endgame for me.

Treble: the brilliance, energy and air it brings without any fatigue and sharpness is my kind of treble heaven. This is possible because the lower treble is more relaxed compared to the further-up frequencies, avoiding said issues (including splash). But because of the planar driver, macrodetail, and microdetail in extension, is still registered and is resolving. Complimenting the warmer-than-neutral, weighty bass response and realistic midrange, it is just a very, very “musical” listening experience. Extension is endless (treble emphasis is on brilliance and air frequencies) and you will hear every nuance of the treble region, while maintaining articulation and control across the board. This is what I would describe as “ethereal” – treble perfection for my tastes. I don’t know why but there’s this lightness to it that just makes everything sound unbelievably airy. And my god do cymbals sound crisp.


with a little bit of modding, it sounds as natural and realistic as it can get, without any metallic/artificial tint.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Soundstage isn’t as “open” as I would have liked with the expectation that it’s an open-back (HF580 must be one of them semi-open backs). It’s more of an intimate and isosceles triangle-esque presentation where you are with the artists and their instruments compared to something more hall-like. This type of staging does work wonderfully with the signature. It has exceptional depth, height and layering considering it can be found for less than 150. That capability also lets it avoid being congested-sounding. There is nothing wrong with the imaging and spatial cues are focused and easily heard. Usual in this price bracket, the HF580 doesn’t experience any challenge keeping up with my playlist and lives in the penthouse – instruments are highly separated in presentation and everything is effortless to discern.

Detail-retrieval: Highly detailed pair but it doesn’t jump at you. You’re going to hear everything in the music without sharpness or fatigue. Benefits of a “TOTL” planar driver. Add in the resolution and OH BOY! This is like VR for your ears. The realism is exquisite.



IMO, just the fact that it shares the same driver as a 600 USD headphone makes it exceptionally worth-it for the price it sells for. Build, excluding the cups, is as premium as it can get for 150 or even less (excluding cup), and the tonality w/ mods is of the “balanced” side (using balanced because I don’t know how else to describe the signature). But, then again, you really need to do mods or EQ the upper midrange and increase it by a few decibels to be “correct-sounding.” Adding foam inside the cup cavities is optional but recommended. It also has attached cables, so there’s that. A positive view in that is that ALL of these “flaws” are fixable with relatively easy-to-do modifications. Think hard if you see the value in the Takstar HF580.

While others may see that the need to EQ and mod is a straight-up NO-NO, I see differently. The HF580 only needs a few dB more in the upper midrange frequencies (or lower the bass quantity) and
nothing else. After that, I don’t think anyone can say otherwise after listening to the HF580, MOST ESPECIALLY at the price it sells for.

NOTE: I have no idea if it was updated since its initial release. I asked Takstar but wasn’t able to get an answer (though I did ask a multitude of questions so maybe that one wasn’t noticed 😝)


UPDATED MOD (8/8/21): Stock cloth pads. Still attached cable. Foams still in the cup cavities. Now with a layer of cotton to further lessen unwanted resonance and as a side effect, lessens bass quantity, which then brings up the midrange, particularly upper midrange. Now there is no need for EQ.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the headphone mentioned, feel free to message me****​


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Previously known as sub30
Pros: 1W portable amplifier
Brick-like construction (in a good way)
Bass boost is a nice feature
Cons: Micro-USB
I have no idea what the output impedance is…

I would like to thank Takstar for providing a review unit of the HA101. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

Check out the Takstar HA101 on their website: LINK HERE

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


Their only portable amplifier dedicated for headphone use, the Takstar HA101 is a powerful amp currently selling for 90 USD or even less (released in 2019). A tl;dr? It’s a really good addition for your portable set-up if you can get by with one quite big drawback depending on your view.


These were paired with the KGUSS BH3 (ES9038Q2M) via RCA for the review.


Description from page:

• Professional audio operational amplifier, high slew rate, low distortion to reproduce original sound

• High power output, sufficient headroom to easily drive headsets of various impedances

• Bass gain switch provides more warm and powerful bass

• Optimized analogue circuit design effectively decreases residual noise

• Hi-Fi chip for audio compensation, and greatly boosting audio density and sound field and dynamic range

• High-capacity Li-ion battery lasts for more than 12h operation continuously

• Al housing, anodic oxidation processing, exquisite dull polish, durable

• Compact design, velvet fabric bag for convenient carrying

• Frequency Response: 20Hz-50KHz (-1dB)

• Dynamic Range: 110dB (THD≤1% 1KHz RL: 16Ω)

• Max Output Power: 1W (THD≤1% 1KHz RL: 16Ω)

• Suitable Headset Impedance: 16-300Ω

• Residual Noise: -97dBV (A weighted)

• Bass Gain: 80Hz+5dB

• THD: <0.005% (at 1KHz OUT=88mW RL16Ω)

• Input Impedance: > 5KΩ

• Dimension: 160×66×16.5mm (L*W*H)

• Net Weight: 180g

Battery Specification

• Battery Type: Li-ion battery

• Recharging: USB 5V (1-1.5A)

• Battery Capacity: 11.1V 880mAh

• Recharging Time: approx 4h (1.5A adapter)

• Operation Time: more than 12h(at normal volume)

• Standby Time: more than 15h

Connector Specification

• Audio Connector: AUX 3.5mm stereo input

• Headset Connector: 3.5mm stereo output

• Power Supply Connector: Micro USB interface

Package: 3.5 to 3.5 cable (short, L-plug). Micro-USB cable. Fabric bag. Long cable tie (2 pcs.). Short cable tie (2 pcs.). Antiskid pad (1 pc.). Manual.


Design and build:

Built like a brick. Hard, cold metal everything. There is nothing I can see wrong with the design other than one quite major thing. Bass boost switch satisfyingly clicks in place and locks in. The volume control is smooth-turning. Literally no flex at all with the body when I try to bend it.

Size is portable which is quite obvious because the HA101 was designed to be a portable amplifier. Not too small to compromise battery life nor too large to hamper portability.

The only thing that is bad is the use of Micro-USB. Now, I do understand this as the product was released in 2019 where having Micro-USB in your device was not preferable, but still acceptable. I do hope that if they ever release an update, the next one should be using USB-C.


The only way to connect HA101 to your source is with a line out. What I do with mine is I pair it with the KGUSS BH3, which has an ES9038Q2M as its DAC, via an RCA-to-3.5mm cable (disables amp function and becomes a pure DAC). This sets it as a hybrid portable/stationary setup, where it is rather large to bring with me when I go out of the house (not impossible, though impractical), but is small enough to be able to move easily when I decide to transfer to a different room.

You can use the HA101 with a device without a dedicated LO though I wouldn't advice it as you'd be double amping - usable but not recommended.

I won’t be using them portably as I see no need with my use case. I purely use the HA101 to power the planar headphones I have and only used IEMs/Earbuds in testing for this review.

Now, onto sound:

So clean, so good. The HA101 is a neutral-sounding amplifier, without any sort of harshness in the treble region nor cold characteristic to its sound. It’s just there to provide amplification as much as it can to whatever you bring on the road. One improvement I noticed even with easy-to-drive transducers is that the music and its parts are more defined and separated, which in turn makes it easier to determine at which direction sound is coming from (imaging and such). They also got to have more space and depth to move around. I didn’t perceive any roll-off with both ends of the spectrum.

Bass hits deeper, harder, faster. Midrange doesn’t sound thin and is weightier and more textured (brought up by a notch). Treble exhibits more “air.” Transients don’t experience any adverse effect and is actually the opposite – everything just sounds livelier and more realistic. I also hear more detail and texture though this did depend as well on the raw capabilities of the transducer I plugged in.


Bass Boost:

Works really well to provide that punchy and engaging bass response. As per specifications stated by Takstar, the switch increases 80 Hz by 5 dB. What this does with a more neutral transducer is help it make the signature more “mainstream” and “fun,” if ever you find a need for that (particular song, current mood and such). With a V-shaped transducer, and you get something akin to subwoofers. The increase in 80 Hz also adds more body to the overall signature especially in the midrange, without muddying the mix, though it does decrease perceived treble quantity.

Hiss Amount (no music playing):

None, be it from IEMs (except two of them), to earbuds, and planar headphones in my rotation, unless I go past 70% volume (ear-shattering level) using the HA101 knob control with everything in the chain maxed out (system, MusicBee) I only encounter noticeable hiss with the KZ DQ6 and Audiosense DT200 when I go past said volume level (KZ earlier). At my listening volume range of low-to-medium, none of the transducers I have exhibit hiss. I therefore conclude that the HA101 has a low noise floor, excellent for any type of transducer you have (unless you have those 8 ohm or abnormally high sensitivity ones).


I get similar numbers with the indicated running time of the HA101 by Takstar. Charging from 0 to 100 takes me about 3.5 hours. The 12+ hours of operation is enough to last me a day or two at my listening volume of low-medium, powering Takstar HF580 (planar headphone). Using an easier-to-drive transducer would of course lengthen the battery life of the HA101, say for example it was used with an IEM.



For ~90 USD, the amount of amplification the HA101 can provide is more than enough - from easy-to-drive KZs, to the unassumingly hard-to-drive SSP, 150-ohm Zen LL, and any planar headphone not considered “nuclear power-requiring.” Everything is livelier, more textured, faster – basically just more realistic-sounding. the bass boost is also a nice feature when I have the urge to “feel the bass.” Only bummer is the Micro-USB in 2021.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the amplifier mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Hello! Whats up, i'm really thinking to buy these... But it's a older product, and there's almost none review about it... So, i should ask you, the only reviewer that did it. Why this isn't MUCH more famous? If it's working (still) and like the description, this should be a gem. Its a under 90 dollar portable amp which can provides 1w at 16 ohm. This is just great to this price point. Takstar is known to make such good things a very affordable prices. I saw people prefering the planar HF 580 than 6_ series from Sennheiser... But Amps are a very concerning stuff, a lot of little things to pay attention to. You have experienced good amps? Should i still buy these for something like Hifiman Sundara? Thanks :)


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Lots of bass~
Pleasing midrange tonality
Shell feels solid and durable with a straightforward fit
Cons: Bass overpowers midrange in certain tracks
Treble proper peak that gets fatiguing over time
Driver flex on both sides
Fixed cable and the microphonics
Came in a plastic bag…
Competition in 2021

I would like to thank Mr. Wild and Venture Electronics for providing a review unit of the Bonus IE. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


VE also make IEMs, for those that weren’t aware. A rather old IEM, the VE Bonus IE is currently selling for ~20 USD, and available in a variety of terminations (3.5mm, 2.5mm, 4.4mm). It was birthed around the time of the rise of “Chi-Fi” around the world. Is it still relevant nowadays, or has the BIE now become a relic of the beautiful past?

Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 > Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, low power) > Transducer

The VE Bonus IE is easy to drive and doesn’t require further amplification. A phone will do.

Build and Comfort:
The BIE is an IEM with a bullet form-factor. Shell is metal with a nozzle that is average in width but below average in length. I didn’t encounter any issues with third-party tips. As far as I’m aware, there is only one colorway. It’s sort of a light gold finish that really looks good. No wearing discomfort experienced other than annoying driver flex for both sides (foams help).

There’s not a lot to talk about with the cable. It’s generic and slightly better than a Vido. There’s also a working plastic chin slider. I got the 4.4mm variant and the jack is pretty solid and attractive. No easy-to-notice L/R indication other than the one found in the generous strain relief.

Average isolation.


Package: 4 pairs of silicone eartips (S/M/L/XL). IEM.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without mods other than using double-flange tips with a listening volume of low-medium to medium. Tip roll per user preference.



rich-sounding with excellent sub-bass extension for the price. Said bass quantity becomes overbearing with some songs (like you always have bass-boost) and slightly bleeds into the other frequencies. But, I have to admit, it is fun, punchy and provides a very engaging listen. Attack and decay are of the moderate speed and is natural. Texture and control are average for the price and will register bass detail. They do however show that they are 20 USD IEMs when they are challenged with more speedy bass hits.

Midrange: that full-bodied, warm midrange, though a bit recessed due to the tuning. Male vocals have that deep characteristic which deliver weighty lines. You do notice that it’s definitely warmer than natural when A/B-ing with a more neutral transducer. Female vocals aren’t as good, especially with singers sitting in the upper midrange frequencies as they are influenced too much by the bass response. Regarding vocal presence, I don’t hear any bias between the two. However, it doesn’t mean that it avoids the Achilles’ heel of this type of tuning, especially in "budget" sets – there is a lack of texture, clarity and detail with the midrange.

Treble: typical warmish-V with a roll-off starting just past lower treble then peaks at treble proper that you won’t notice but will cause fatigue after a few hours of straight listening. Other than that, it is a generally relaxed-sounding treble region with barely enough energy to contrast the elevated bass.


really, really good. Single-DD IEMs just do well with timbral accuracy (with an exception or two from the ones I’ve tried).

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Staging is in your head with a tendency to sound congested. Depth, due to the bass extension is excellent but cannot be put to good use with most songs due to the limited length and width. Imaging is decent for the price and gives the listener spatial cues. The driver can handle songs to a degree but struggles when multiple instruments are playing at the same time, losing definition.

Detail-retrieval: For 20-ish USD with this tuning, I say it’s acceptable. Macrodetail is registered but only perceivable when you focus to it while microdetail is just non-existent.



It was a very enjoyable listen for me. The sound signature will definitely please the casual listener. However, I just don’t see it leading the pack with the current IEMs in the supersaturated price bracket it resides in, both in features and sound quality. For 20-ish bucks, shell build is above average, with a generic V-shape leaning towards the warm side of things. However, it’s an “old” IEM, released IIRC in 2019, when non-detachable cables were still acceptable. This 2021? I can’t say it’s still the same unless it offers exceptional SQ.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: Bass cannons (extension is exceptional; still great even at 2x the price)
Decent soundstage
Excellent fit and comfort considering the size
New, decent 8-core stock cable
Responds well to EQ
Cons: Slight incoherency, particularly in the bass region
Bass cannons
Treble tuning (lacks sparkle and brilliance for my tastes)
Resolution, detail and clarity
Shell feels cheap considering the price
NEEDS EQ BADLY (for my tastes)

I would like to thank Cecelia and Knowledge Zenith for providing a review unit of the ZAS. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The KZ ZAS is a 1 DD + 7 BA hybrid currently selling for roughly ~60 USD on multiple online platforms. The DD used in the ZAS is the dual-magnetic XUN driver with KZ’s own “updated” blacked-out BAs. There are two colorways available – silver and black (mic, no mic), with an impedance of 24 ohms and a sensitivity of 109 dB. Connection type is “Paragraph C.”

Oppo Reno 4 > Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, low power) > Transducer


The KZ ZAS is easy to drive and doesn’t require further amplification. A phone will do.


Build and Comfort: essentially the same shell as the KZ DQ6, only slightly larger and lighter. Fits excellently well for my ears without any discomfort and is surprisingly very secure. It is not resin-filled, and the IEM itself is extremely light for its size, too light even as it doesn’t feel premium at all (quite cheap-feeling on hand). I assume it’s because of the thinner/less dense resin used (compared to DQ6), as well as the acoustics chamber.

Faceplate is plastic, looks good on pictures, but feels cheap. There’s a rough edge at the pointed part but shouldn’t irritate your ear. It’s indicated in the marketing materials that the gold outline of the faceplate is made of metal but it doesn’t feel like it.

Nozzle is the newer KZ style, average length but below average width. You will encounter issues with aftermarket tips and I suggest that you use a nozzle adapter (I just DIY’ed mine from a foam tip I don’t use). Insertion depth will depend on the ear anatomy and eartips used.

One exciting thing regarding this model is that it now comes with a new 8-core cable. Quite thin for the number of strands it has. HOWEVER, it is very supple, light, comfortable and doesn’t hold the “rolled” shape and is a big improvement from their previous stock cable. I do have an issue with the left preformed earhook – it’s shaped awkwardly. There are several fixes for this: 1. reshape it so that it perfectly molds to your ear with some heat (I usually use a hair dryer), and 2. just remove it entirely (would be more prone to tangling). It doesn’t have a chin slider, but the jack is relatively heavy (metal) and feels high quality. Splitter is quite small and is also made of metal. Connectors are plastic.

Isolation is above average due to fit and shell size.

Package: 3 pairs of silicone eartips (S/M/L; not usable for my ears). Paperwork. 8-core cable.

*size comparison of DQ6 (left) and ZAS (right).

*KZ Au, Ag, Cu cable (left) and ZAS stock cable (right)

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without mods other than using whirlwind tips (w/ nozzle adapter), as well as switching to the KZ Au, Ag, Cu cable for aesthetic purposes, with a listening volume of low-medium to medium. As per my testing, I have found the ZAS to be tip-sensitive. Tip roll per user preference.


monsters. Whatever KZ sound engineers did to the ZAS to reach this deep is nothing short of exceptional. Sub-bass frequencies are easily reached and has serious rumble. Mid-bass contains heavy punch. Texture and control are sub-par considering the price. However, I have a feeling that the XUN is not the only one handling this region. From my experience with the DQ6, the XUN driver is of the faster side, both attack and decay-wise. The ZAS is different. It has a tendency to sound boomy especially with continuous bass hits. There are songs where you notice that it feels like a clearer (and cleaner) bass response is hiding behind the bass cannon persona. Good thing is that both play around the same speed but would show incoherency in bassier tracks.

Midrange: a mixed bag. Let’s get the obvious out first – it is recessed (excluding upper midrange a bit, but still applicable), close to the point of sounding drowned by the bass. Female vocals sound fine for the price, showing hints of thinness. Male vocals, meanwhile, are a different story. As I have mentioned a few sentences back, most of the midrange is recessed, and this include male vocals. It also has a tendency to sound nasal in some tracks. Peak is exactly at 2 kHz. No observed shouty-ness in my listening volume (low-medium). I do have to note that the midrange of the ZAS is… soft. Electric guitars don’t have bite, toms lack definition, and vocals don’t deliver emotion (subjective). One good takeaway from this is that the ZAS is very much fit for casual use.

Treble: mellow, non-fatiguing, and smooth-sounding but rolls-off after lower treble. Air extension is alright, nothing amazing (though almost inaudible when listening to music). IF you listen to non-bass focused tracks, you will notice how *mature* this treble tuning sounds like. BUT, OOTB, especially if you got used to more energetic highs, it will sound dead and muted at first, most especially due to the bass quantity/quality. In my experience, after a few songs, my ears got used to the signature. This is very, very different from the two other KZs I’ve tried (DQ6 and EDX) as well as the KZ hybrids I’ve read about. I have to say, this tuning would have been fine, fantastic even, if not for that bass. No sibilance nor harshness, at all. Lacks sparkle and brilliance but doesn’t show splash (though decay is faster than natural, as expected of a BA).


Not the most organic, but also not unacceptably artificial. Decent considering it has 5 BAs but definitely shows hints of that BA timbre especially in the vocal region. Treble not so much due to its laidback character.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Soundstage doesn’t favor any dimension and is spacious (shell size plays a role). What is exceptional for the price is the depth due to how well-extended the ZAS is in the sub-bass region. Imaging, as well as separation, is as expected of a multi-driver IEM – good. Each instrument has a place of their own and won’t blur along the edges.

Detail-retrieval: Assuming that your ears have been “saturated” by the signature, it still won’t show 😂 Unless you really look for it, of course. The ZAS isn’t tuned to deliver a detailed and transparent sound. Sup-par detail, micro or macro in the price bracket it lives in.


To EQ or not to EQ?

With Wavelet/AutoEQ being talked about in a thread I participate in, I remembered that I had said application download in my phone. And so, I run it, plug in the ZAS directly to the phone, search for the ASX, and set the EQ strength to 45%. The selection of the ASX EQ preset is under the assumption that the tuning shares similarities with the ZAS (can’t prove because I don’t have the aforementioned IEMs nor have I listened to them, but I have seen the graphs and they share the same generation BAs 🤷🏻‍♂️). As far as I know, the AutoEQ preset is patterned to mimic the 2019 Harman target. Do correct me if I’m wrong. Thank you.

So, how does it sound? Good. Like really good. Mid-bass is toned down to a degree (also sub-bass by a little) but is still present unlike full-blown Harman. Bass, in general, is definitely elevated (retains that rumble). Texture shows more and bass lines are cleaner. Midrange, and in extension vocals, show better resolution and definition (less recessed and airier, as well). The ZAS female vocals (w/ EQ) is a treat for female vocal lovers like myself. Instruments now exhibit texture. Treble has more, much appreciated at that, presence and better extension (finally some air and brilliance). Soundstage has even more “space/air” around the instruments. More detail perceived due to the increase in the upper frequencies.

2 kHz peak is also lessened and the preset favors ~3 kHz, which is much, much better for my ears.

*ASF and ASX EQ presets share similarities. Choose based on what your ears like more.

**EQ strength refers to how much dB is being added/deducted to or from the specific frequencies. Choose based on what your ears like more.

***I didn’t perceive any distortion when EQ was applied (indicated strength). YMMV due to differences in audio set-up.


Is the ZAS a representative of Knowledge Zenith’s new image, as well as its tuning? If you ask me, I do think it is. However, as the ZAS appears to be of the first pages of this next chapter in their continuing legacy, we can only hope that it gets better from here on. A new and way better stock cable, excellent fit and comfort considering the size of the shell, great bass extension even at 2x the price, and relaxed highs – these are what makes the ZAS a compelling choice. However, you will have to deal with a whole lotta bass, recessed midrange, non-existent detail and a feels-cheaper-than-its-price-suggests build.

In stock tuning, I would definitely not recommend the ZAS for its price, unless you really like them bass. HOWEVER, if you are open to EQ, then it’s a 50-50 😊 Just needs a little cleaning up.

No EQ – 2.5/5

With EQ – 3.5/5

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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nice review
I also own them. This review represents my opinion. Disappointed, to suffice.
chris the man
chris the man
Just chiming in here to see if there are any recent users trying these? From all graphs I have seen, they look quite impressive for the basshead within the price range!


Previously known as sub30
Pros: A relatively relaxed neutral signature
All the planar benefits without the drawback/s
That soundstage, when amped…
Not as power-demanding as its little brother
Sophisticated look (subjective)
Large “earpad hole”
Relatively light clamping force (preference-dependent)
Cable is usable – this is a huge pro coming from the HE400se
Cons: Nothing for 219 USD (wired)

I would like to thank Mr. Mark and HIFIMAN for providing a review unit of the Deva. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


Deva. A simple Google search tells me that it is a Sanskrit word related to Hinduism meaning “a divine being or a god.” I have here the wired version which sells for 219 USD, with an impedance of 18 ohms and a sensitivity of 93.5dB. There’s a BT version with an included BT DAC/Amp for 299 USD. As it is a HIFIMAN, it utilizes a full-sized, planar driver and follows in one way or another the neutral “line.”

Oppo Reno 4 > KGUSS BH3 > Kenwood KA-7300 > Transducer


It was possible to reach my listening volume using only my phone, with a bit of headroom. But, as this is a planar, amping is mandatory.


Build and Comfort: There’s something with the color scheme of the Deva that I just frickin’ adore. It oozes sophistication, luxury, and dare I say, “divinity.” As looks are subjective, it will of course depend on your preference. For me? I really, really love how the Deva exudes this delicate “air” around it, when on display.

As is typical of HIFIMAN, build is a mix of metal and plastic. Cup is made of plastic, but the grill and the “cup holder” thingy are all metal. No “wrong” moving part, whatsoever.

It also uses the new headband which fit comfortably on my head (same with HE400se, swivel’s front-and-back to an extent). YMMV.

The earpads are angled, aren’t circular, and are rather… elliptical? Hole is larger than the HE400se and should fit most ears. I do have to note that it was quite stiff OOTB, but a few days of leaving it “engaged” on the product box resulted in a softer feel on-ear (break-in).

Shaking the headphone itself, and you get some “wiggle” but nothing I would say unacceptable.

Now, for the cable… IT’S AWESOME!... coming from the HE400se, that is. It’s a 3.5mm TRS to 3.5mm TRRS cable, with the input source side being L-shaped. I’m not sure about the length, but it’s definitely more than 1 meter, which is very useful for me as I am always plugged into the amplifier, and a shorter cable would have been a hassle. This length is quite, personally speaking, impossible to use portably. But, then again, the Deva is an open-backed planar headphone and it’s generally not intended for portable use, no matter how it is advertised.

If you want to commission a custom cable if ever you need different connector types (balanced and such), cable material, or others, just send HIFIMAN a message on Facebook and they’ll send the pinout immediately.

Clamping force is on the lighter side and comfort would depend on the user’s head.

Package: ¼" adapter. Paperwork. Stock cable.

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the headphone was left in stock mode, without mods with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.


it’s neutral-sounding but mid-bass is more noticeable in the mix due to the sub-bass roll-off, resulting in a warmer tonality. What this does is that while it retains the “flat” line, the listener is provided with a fuller and punchier bass response, compared to a more analytical bass, to a degree, that is. However, even if it easily extends lower than 40 Hz (quite amazing, if you think about it), as it is an open-back, the Deva doesn’t work well in providing that sub-bass rumble for tracks that utilize such frequency. I have only listened to two planar headphones currently, the HE400se and the Deva. The former’s bass response is significantly more analytical/linear than the latter. However, the latter sounds much more “organic.” One can interpret this statement as, “The HIFIMAN Deva actually sounds close to how a dynamic driver presents bass, with the DD being vaguely described as having that organic tonality.” That’s a huge advantage, in my opinion – the best of both worlds, tonality of a DD + technicalities of a planar. But, it is still quicker in decay than the usual DD. Detail/texture is perceived and because it is a planar, bass lines are controlled and articulate, although isn't the best I've heard, regardless of transducer type.

Midrange: still that pre-upper/upper midrange dip… but it’s not as bad as the HE400se! While it is essentially “neutral,” that very slight dip does make the Deva appear to have a more delicate midrange. It does come off as recessed with certain tracks if you listen carefully, but it is still very much present, nonetheless. Coming from the HE400se, I didn’t expect the Deva to sound so… organic. Vocals are presented satisfyingly weighty, definitely influenced by that mid-bass presence – lush and emotional. The dip allows for an “ethereal” display. That quality is so hard to explain in words without having listened to it, but if you’ve ever watched movies/shows with the “coming-from-the-heavens” voice, or one of the dryad or any mythical creature kind of stuff, its close to that. Very, very preference-dependent but also very, very addicting. Instruments are articulate, detailed, and well-separated in the mix.

Treble: relatively neutral with the deviation of a peak going above neutral at around lower-to-mid treble. What this does is add zing to the presentation, but because the mid-bass is noticeably prominent on-ear, everything balances out. Extension is excellent and there are no lost frequencies. As it is a planar, along with the benefits of the driver technology granted that it is being fed with ample power, treble is very crisp, airy and detailed. But it is not the smoothest presentation – due to the few dips here and there, while staying in line with neutral (note: more mellow even on some sub-regions), highs sometimes sound grainy depending on the track, though is admittedly a rare occurrence. This is nitpicking, ngl. No sibilance heard at all.


the Deva is exceptionally natural sounding considering it’s a planar, with no artificial tint whatsoever.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: You gotta amp the Deva. After that, you are enveloped in this majestic soundstage that simply presents music as if you’re not wearing anything on your head – it’s *that* holographic. The lighter clamping force, larger earpad hole, and the open-back design plays a role in this. Add in the accurate imaging and effortless separation, and the Deva keeps getting better and better.

Detail-retrieval: The technical capabilities of a planar headphone is just fascinating. Even if it’s not an aggressive tuning to maximize perceived detail, it effortlessly presents macro and microdetail even with the distinct mid/upper-bass presence.



While I cannot speak for the more expensive wireless version that comes with the Bluemini BT DAC/Amp, the wired Deva that I have presents incredible value at 219 USD. With a close-to-neutral tuning that is tonally exceptional, the HIFIMAN Deva incorporates its namesake to its looks and most importantly its sound. Endgame-material tonality, in my most honest opinion.

*Dropped rating due to Takstar HF580

****If you have other questions/concerns with the headphone mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: Exceptional soundstage
Build quality is worth double its price
Fit and comfort is awesome!
Exquisite unboxing experience
Cons: Generic signature
Sub-par SQ in this price bracket

I would like to thank DD-Audio Store for providing a review unit of the T5. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The TIN HiFi T5 is the latest release from the audio company. Utilizing a single 10mm “DOC” dynamic driver, the technology is advertised as an evolution of the DLC drivers people have come to love. I don’t know if that’s just random marketing “facts” or something, but spoiler alert – they don’t sound particularly exceptional. Currently selling for 129 USD, it has a sensitivity of 103 dB with an unusually high impedance for an IEM at 48 ohms.

These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) for the review. While the impedance says otherwise, there were no observed improvements with more power. A phone will do.


Build and Comfort: Exceptional build. On their page, it says that the shell’s made of aviation-grade aluminum and it feels awesome on hand. Shell is of the bigger side but has cuts that contour to the human ear.

Regarding fit, looks can be deceiving, and that is the case with the T5. It fits surprisingly well in my small Asian ears, doesn’t feel heavy at all, nor fits big where you will always know that it’s there. One of the best-fitting IEM I have.

Nozzle is of below average length and average width. It did fit all eartips in my possession and I didn’t encounter any issues with the nozzle design.

The stock cable is a 4-core, Kevlar-reinforced cable with a twisted design. In my considerably short audio journey, I’ve found twisted stock cables to be rarer compared to the more commonly included braided ones. Handles well though is on the thinner side. Connectors, jack, splitter, and slider (sometimes works) are all made of metal.

Isolation is below-average. Basically consider it non-existent for an IEM especially of this size. Earbud-like isolation.

Package: 3 pairs of colored stem silicone tips (S/M/L). 3 pairs of translucent grey “spinning” silicone tips (S/M/L). 1 pair of foam tips (M). Faux-leather carrying case. Paperwork. Cleaning brush. 3 pairs of nozzle filters. Filter application tool. 4-core cable.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without mods using the BQEYZ Summer vocal tips (any eartip advertised as vocal-enhancing will do) with a low listening volume low.


elevated tuning. Sub-par detail and extension. Close to non-existent texture. Tonality leans slightly towards mid-bass over sub-bass. Sub-bass, while present, is like a trickle (no rumble felt at all). Unacceptable for the price it sells for. IT BLOOMS. Due to the bass quality concerning speed (unacceptably slow) and tightness, it has a more-than-usual tendency to present monotonous bass lines – smeared and woolly. Bass bleed manifests a lot. Worst aspect of the T5.

Midrange: they alright… if it was selling for 30 USD. The upper midrange elevation leads to a shouty presentation at higher volumes, with a significant lower-to-mid treble peak adding to that (can’t turn up the volume; maintain at low volume listen). Slightly recessed midrange overall (excluding quite shouty upper midrange), which does add to the stage presentation. Resolution is average. Midrange proper sounds thin and harsh (can’t go more than 1.5 hours). Male vocals get eaten by the bass response.

Treble: “most inoffensive” part of the T5’s sound when compared to the other regions. Decent air, clarity and control (though does almost cross the splashy border). BUT it is exceptionally *chef’s kiss* peaky in ear, which become unbearable in longer listen (same experience with EDX; peakier with stock tips). Really, really close to being sibilant for my ears/tolerance. Listening to badly recorded tracks is quite the torture from the highs department with the T5.


The DOC driver utilized in the T5 sounds particularly dry with a tendency to be thin and artificial.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: The stage immerses the listener inside this huge world. Though it is absolutely unnatural, the presentation is, for lack of a better word, quite magical. The feeling is like freediving – where the individual is engulfed in this unexplainably vast and deep space. I’m attributing this trait to the large chamber thanks to the huge shell as well as the non-existent isolation. Imaging does well in presenting spatial location of sound/s. HOWEVER, the other half of the presentation – separation, falls short. While it does image well, its instrument separation capabilities cannot fully utilize the remarkable soundstage, most especially when things get even the slightest busy. The driver cannot handle multiple instruments and the space between instruments blur and go over each other.

Detail-retrieval: nothing exceptional. Macro and microdetail is present but doesn’t jump at you. You have to specifically look for it to notice.



The unboxing experience was very premium-feeling. The box has debossed print literally all over it, which look like they were made as the product box of a designer brand. The IEM itself feels like a 200+ USD product on hand. But the most important aspect in this hobby fails real hard. If I were to conclude the SQ, I’d say it’s decent… if it was sold for 30 USD. The only special thing it does in the price bracket it unjustifiably lives in is soundstage. But then again, who buys a 129 USD IEM for its soundstage when everything else fails?

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: LDAC-capability
Low noise floor (can be used with more sensitive than usual IEMs to a degree)
No popping noise/s when inserting/removing jack nor any random “electronic” noises when music is playing
Bluetooth 5.0 connection
Hot-swappable dual op-amp design
Quality components
Cons: Not a transparent sounding DAC/Amp at all
Nothing else

I would like to thank sen hu audio/ for providing a review unit of the KGUSS BH3. Check their store out on Lazada and Shopee. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


I have no idea what to put here. Before the BH3, I wasn’t even aware of KGUSS’ existence. They seemed like one of those unknown audio companies that focus on DAC/Amps. But that changed when I received the BH3 – IMO, they should be put on the map. Selling for around 40 USD, the BH3 is a Bluetooth desktop DAC/Amp, that uses an ES9038Q2M chip, CSR8675 for BT 5.0, and JRC 5532DD op-amps. I can stop here and say that these are a steal deal with a warmer-than-neutral signature, but do read on for more details.

These were connected to my Oppo Reno 4 and Asus X409 for the review.



  • Brand:KGUSS
  • Model:BH3
  • Chip combination:ES9038Q2M+CSR8675+JRC 5532DD*2
  • Bluetooth version:BT5.0
  • Support Bluetooth format:LDAC、APTX-HD、APTX-LL、APTX、AAC、SBC
  • Transmission distance:About 10M
  • Bluetooth input selection:Bluetooth priority, pause bluetooth automatically switch to USB audio source playback
  • Bluetooth sampling rate:16-24Bit 44.1-96KHz
  • COAX sampling rate:24Bit/96KHz
  • USB DAC:16Bit/48KHz
  • headphone matching impedance:16-300Ω
  • USB powered:TYPE-C DC5V(DAC+ powered)
  • Product Size:L:105mm W:85mm H:33mm
  • Package dimensions:L:198mm W:155mm H:70mm
  • Product color:Silver 、Black
  • Weight:About 0.4kg (including packaging)

Package: USB-C cable. Antenna. BH3 unit.

Design and build:

Not a lot to talk about. The KGUSS BH3 won’t win any design awards. Nothing special with it, though I do have to give them a round of applause for providing an all-metal build (even the volume knob), with included rubber feet OOTB, sub-50 USD. The BH3 itself feels pretty solid given the materials, roughly the size of an adult male palm, and about the weight of what you’d expect with said size and materials. Volume knob is satisfyingly smooth turning. Power switch also snaps. 3.5 mm output jack has no wiggle.

Powered by USB-C cable which is included in the box (5V)

Uses WIMA and Nichicon capacitors.


It’s either Bluetooth 5.0 or wired via USB-C. I can’t see a reason to use the latter as it doesn’t have any advantage over Bluetooth. My phone detects it can transmit SBC/AAC/APTX/APTX-HD/LDAC. Latency is negligible in media consumption but I have not tested it with FPS games (only NBA 2K21 and no hampering delay observed, though 2K21 is not a decent game to test this 🤣). Honestly speaking, it is pretty comparable to wired when just watching videos on YT.

The Bluetooth connection in LDAC mode is very stable – I didn’t get any disconnection throughout the time of my testing. Distance from source to DAC/Amp is also exceptional thanks to the external antenna. I can walk all around our house, phone in pocket, and still be connected to the BH3. As context, our home is 2-stories tall, with walls built to support 3 floors (about 200++ sq. m).

> Was not able to test APTX-LL due to device limitations.

Now, onto sound (using stock operational amplifier):

The KGUSS BH3’s sound is characterized by a warm-neutral signature. There was a noticeable increase in bass quantity, particularly in mid-bass (warmer), added weight in the midrange (addicting “fullness”), and a smoother treble response. No observable decrease/increase in extension on both ends of the spectrum.

Find your midrange thin? Get the BH3. Too harsh treble? Get the BH3. Want a DAC/Amp that will take away upper frequency fatigue from your transducers? Get the BH3.

BUT, if you are chasing for that transparent and resolving listen, stay away from the BH3. Because of the effects of the DAC/Amp to the transducer, it does remove a bit of texture across the spectrum (especially in the bass department) and smoothens macrodetail. There’s also minute distortion around the edges which increases depending on listening volume and how sensitive the transducer is.

Audible soundstage depth increase due to the effect of the BH3 to the bass region (subjective).


Bluetooth vs. USB:

I recommend to always go wireless. USB is also limited in sampling rate with Bluetooth having access to the max sampling rate of the ES9038Q2M DAC chip.

Hiss Amount:

Testing with all of my IEMs, at my listening volume range of low-to-medium, there was no hiss heard. Going past really high volumes, without music playing, and slight hiss starts to manifest with only one of my IEMs (KZ DQ6).

Battery Drain:

Not applicable with this product.


Only observable with the two headphones I tested (HIFIMAN Deva and HE400se) at medium-high loudness [volume source (system and MusicBee) at max, adjusted via BH3 knob]. Understandable, as this is pushing the BH3 to its limits. As I am a low to low-medium listener, this was not a problem for me. YMMV.

To avoid this as well as to achieve better volume control with my IEMs, I have the source set at 50/100 and do the volume adjustments via the KGUSS BH3.

Volume Knob Position at listening volume (just estimates as there is no marking/s):

HIFIMAN HE400se - 9.8


KZ DQ6 - ~7 (exception as it is at medium volume)

Moondrop SSP - ~7.7

* Interestingly, there is a noticeable big loudness jump from the lowest volume, ~6 o' clock and 7 o'clock when source volume is maxed out. Also, perceivable channel imbalance in that "gap" but disappears once you get past said gap. With the planar headphones, they do wake up the drivers to an extent, better than a phone, but as is obvious, is nothing compared to a “full-blown” amplifier.



Highly recommended if you are in the market for a warmish-sounding Bluetooth DAC/Amp. It’s not resolving nor transparent-sounding in any way at all, the design doesn’t look appealing (subjective), and it doesn’t have the blackest background. HOWEVER, you can find it for ~40 USD, has hot-swappable op-amps, build quality appears to be durable and should survive falls (not advisable, of course), and it also uses quality chips (ES9038Q2M & CSR8675) and components (WIMA and Nichicon capacitors). Very “bad recording” friendly. I, personally-speaking, will not be using the BH3 for my reviews. But for casual listen, it has usurped the HUD100 MK2.

** I am a firm believer that the DAC does not influence the sound in any way, but the amplifier does. The two terms, as I have observed, are usually interchanged by many which causes misconceptions to the people that read/see it.

*** Tested with my favorite gears. Please check my signature 😊.

**** Back part gets very slightly warm with continuous use (>5 hours). Negligible.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the DAC/Amp mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Planar for the Masses
Pros: Planar driver benefits
Close-to-neutral tuning
Heavenly pads
Cons: HIFIMAN/planar pre-upper midrange dip
Soundstage depth
Will not fit larger heads
Cable (new orders are now shipped with 2 cables)
Needs lots of power – understandable as it is a planar headphone
Timbre (preference)

I would like to thank Mr. Mark and HIFIMAN for providing a review unit of the HE400se. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


HIFIMAN is one of the biggest players in the headphone world. Founded in 2007, they have since been at the top when it comes to creating the best value-for-money and the TOTL “endgame” headphones. We have here the HE400se (Global Edition), the cheapest of all HIFIMAN headphones – an open-back, planar headphone utilizing "stealth magnets", currently selling for 149 USD. It has a sensitivity oh 91 dB with an impedance of 25 ohms.

These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) and the Kenwood KA-7100 for the review. Needs lots of power for drivers to wake up (bass extension/rumble, treble energy, clarity, soundstage improvements, etc.). 2 Vrms is enough to reach my listening volume with enough headroom but is in no way going to "wake-up" the sleeping planar of the HE400se.


Build and Comfort: A mix of plastic and metal. It’s a balance between weight, practicality and ease of use. Due to the earcups and grill being plastic, HIFIMAN was able to keep the weight down to a comfortable level. Headband is on the thicker side, is well-padded and feels nice on my head. There’s a bit of rattle on the phones themselves, but understandable for the price. The hybrid pads, meanwhile, are heavenly - soft, plush, and non-irritating. It’s also angled for better wearing comfort. I didn’t encounter any issues regarding comfort with the HE400se. Forgot to mention, but this HIFIMAN utilizes recessed dual 3.5mm female connectors.

HOWEVER, I have the headband extended to the fullest and as reference, I have an average adult Asian head. Do take that into consideration as an estimate whether the HE400se will be comfortable for you or not. To note, I wear prescription glasses and the HE400se doesn’t get in the way of wearing said glasses properly.

Cable’s bad. Like really bad. It coils, is extra stiff, retains shape (like memory wire), and doesn’t give the headphone justice. Jack’s housing is plastic but it does have generous strain relief. The dual 3.5mm connectors also have plastic housing. And my biggest caveat of them all – it doesn’t have a splitter.

*Edit: it appears to be that new orders are now shipped with 2 cables.

Isolation is non-existent. Sound leakage would get you hit on the head by the people around you.

Package: 6.35mm adapter. Paperwork. 4-core cable.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the headphone was left in stock mode, without mods with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.


neutral. Considering that it’s an open-back design, it extends surprisingly well. But do keep that design choice in mind as while it does reach sub-bass territory, it struggles and starts rolling off at around 45 Hz or so. Not for EDM at all. Texture is well-presented so as not to sound overly smoothened out. Due to the planar driver, the HE400se can keep up with any song no matter how fast the bass lines are, though it does lack the visceral and physical impact of a dynamic driver. No bleed whatsoever. An overall satisfyingly excellent bass quality for the price. Weight and impact improve with more power.

Midrange: transparent, highly resolving and airy but there’s something weird going on. I know what it is and I’ve read about it in the past – the HIFIMAN pre-upper midrange dip manifested in their planar headphones. This takes away the possible shouty-ness from that region and highlights the airy highs, which in turn generates more space between the different regions. It does take some time getting used to and will sound particularly strange on initial listen. What this does negatively is it takes away a bit of bite from instruments like that of a distorted electric guitar. After that dip, it starts picking up again to neutral level where it provides clarity and definition to the overall presentation. Male and female vocals are presented without any bias towards one or the other and resolves fairly well.

Treble: very revealing treble region following a neutral tuning, but not the most refined. Has peaks in the upper end of the spectrum which leads to a tendency for the HE400se to sound zingy at higher volumes (preference and tolerance-dependent). Also extends well which adds more air, and in extension “soundstage.” With a weaker source like a phone or a laptop, the treble region sounds dead. It really needs more amplification for the planar drivers to wake up. After that, the listener is greeted with cymbal strikes that have planar fast attack and decay, maybe even too fast for their own good as they don’t provide that realistic rattle I look for and dies down quickly. One good thing is that harsh splashy-ness is simply never gonna occur.


Planar hits different. I do believe that the driver type plays a huge role on the timbral characteristics of a transducer. And with the HE400se? While it does sound pure without coloration, it has this stiff and dry trait to it where it can also be interpreted as being rather artificial and not organic-sounding.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: With the HUD100 MK2, there was limited soundstage width and height, having this sort of barrier a few centimeters away from your head that prevents a freer presentation. Plugging it to the Kenwood KA-7100 is a different story – everything opens up (more width and height; equal amount) with sound having more space to move around, giving the listener all o' them open-back goodness. Depth is enough to provide a 3D stage though I would have appreciated more as it’s barely enough to sound holographic (also presents the midrange in a more intimate fashion but still remains un-claustrophobic). Layering is sophisticated and compensates for the soundstage depth of the HE400se. Imaging plays along with that stage as well and is quite sharp and accurate, where it is easy to pinpoint where sound is coming from. Thanks to the instrument separation being able to handle any song, the HE400se can play virtually any genre but due to the depth, it has a tendency to sound crowded in the "extreme" multi-instrument tracks.

Detail-retrieval: Again, that planar goodness! Due to said driver and its close to neutral tuning, both macro and microdetails are rendered beautifully and clearly. As the resolution is also exceptional, it is a treat to listen to the HE400se.



A neutral-tuned headphone with a slight bias towards the upper frequencies, I see the HIFIMAN HE400se as a great value headphone sub-200 USD. While there is nothing going on with the packaging, the headphone themselves are built justifiably for the price, along with the heavenly pads. 2 Vrms can bring forth enjoyment, but do feed them with more power. Oh, and did I mention that they're full-size planar headphones all for 149 USD and even less?

*Dropped rating due to Takstar HF580

****If you have other questions/concerns with the headphone mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: Bass, midrange, and treble quality
Soundstage, imaging, and instrument separation
Very easy-to-drive
Made in Germany (higher QC standards compared to other countries)
Cons: Has a lot of bass
Not detailed-sounding
Midrange would sound veiled to some (takes some listening to get used to)
Cable shouldn’t be like this in a 350 USD IEM (release price, 2019)
As stock tips are part of the tuning, third-party tips might cause issues
Proprietary connectors – gotta go custom-made


I would like to thank Mr. Wenbin and Sennheiser for providing a review unit of the IE 400 Pro. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


I guess there’s no need for an introduction with a brand as established as Sennheiser. Released in 2019, the IE 400 Pro was initially sold for 349.95 USD. It’s the embodiment of keeping things simple, with a single dynamic driver responsible for sound reproduction (123 dB, 16 ohms). Marketed for musicians to be used while performing on stage, does it fit this hobbyist’s taste?


These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power). No need for external amplification or more power, as a phone will do.


Build and Comfort: While it is in no way made of premium feeling materials, it sure is built well (German-made). Shell is arguably the most ergonomic design for all ears I’ve tried, tied with the Moondrop SSP. Practical, small, light and functional – it disappears in your ears once you put them on. Only time will tell how long the plastic shell will hold up but considering that this was intended as a stage monitor, Sennheiser’s confident that it will be able to handle abuse without breaking.

Nozzle is of below average length and average width. Would fit most third-party tips but I won’t recommend it as the stock tips play a part in the overall tuning of this specific IEM.

Cable’s usable but isn’t the best. Jack, splitter, slider and connectors are all made of plastic. Earhooks is memory style, meaning that it will hold its shape. Slight microphonics are heard when turning your head. In using them, I found that widening the cable “opening”, then putting on the IEM, and pinching the part where the cable starts going over your ear provides the easiest, fastest and best fit for my ears. I can’t say I love the choice of memory earhooks. However, I do see the reason for this, as again, this is intended as a monitor, and it’s a given that plastic parts would last longer than metal on the stage. Memory earhooks would also be able to hold onto the musician’s ear better while performing than other designs. It also does used proprietary connectors designed for said purpose.

While the stock cable’s fine, there was something that I really wanted to do – make my own cable for the IE 400 Pro. With that, I started browsing for parts on Shopee and settled on a set of connectors and cable to start making my very first self-made custom cable. In the time of this review, I still have not made the cable, but it will surely be done in the future.

Average isolation. Slightly microphonic stock cable.

Package: 6.3mm adapter. 3 pairs of silicone tips (S/M/L). 3 pairs of foam tips (S/M/L). Cleaning tool. Stock cable. Carrying case. Paperwork.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without mods, using the stock small silicone tip with a listening volume of low-medium to medium. As there is nothing offensive in the tuning, turning up the volume would cause no issues (i.e., harshness). FWIW, I mainly listened at medium loudness with the IE 400 Pro.


Easily the best bass response I’ve heard in an IEM. It’s detailed, sufficiently fast, well-textured, and drops to the deepest sub-bass frequency. This is premium bass quality right here. It’s engaging and embraces wholeheartedly sought-after characteristics of a DD bass – weight and impact. While the driver size is of the smaller side for a dynamic at just 7mm, what surprises you is with how deep it can go effortlessly. It’s more of a sub-bass focused tuning but mid-bass doesn’t sound lacking/light, which I personally see allows for better transition to the midrange. I do have to warn that this has A LOT of bass. But while it is more-than-elevated, due to the quality, it doesn’t eat away the soundstage of the IEM nor smear across the spectrum (unlike a certain IEM I reviewed recently), staying focused and defined all throughout the listening session. Overall an engaging bass response that would play along with any genre. No bass bleed at all. Visceral.

Midrange: Neutral with a hint of warmth. The listener would need some time to get used to the rather low pinna gain of the IE 400 Pro, way different than the “Chi-Fi” tuning with the more than elevated upper midrange/lower treble. It would sound “muffled/veiled” at first due to said pinna gain. Once you get set and your ears have gotten used to it, it’s pure bliss. The naturalness of the midrange of the IE 400 Pro is something you’ll always be looking for, for the rest of your life. Vocals are rich, and while not the most transparent-sounding (tuning plays a role on this), does resolve well to not sound overly smooth. Male vocals exhibit a slight warmth which adds in the weight and richness of each line. Female vocals stay close to neutral without any coloration and is balanced in presentation with male vocals. No harshness or graininess heard in the IE 400 Pro. While it may sound vague, the tuning of the midrange is something that touches your heart and triggers several emotions in the music. There’s just this magic in IE 400 Pro.

Treble: On the brighter side, but very much welcome. With the conservative tuning of the midrange and the elevated bass, the treble compensates with a sparkly, crisp, airy, and brilliant presentation. That airiness also affects the midrange, giving this sense of “air,” especially with vocals (and in extension, soundstage). Echoing sounds run across the stage exceedingly well. No instances of excessive splash that leads to strident highs and pierce that causes fatigue. I did write that the treble is tuned brighter-than-neutral, but even in higher volumes, there is nothing offensive/harsh about it. Might be a different case for treble-sensitive folks.


Organic-sounding. Nothing sounds wrong at all. Also very cohesive, with it being a single-DD.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Considering that it’s a single DD and how tiny it is, soundstage is exceptional. With the way-more-than-neutral bass response and conservative midrange, one would have expected a more in-your-head presentation. But that is not the case at all due to the overall quality. This is the most realistic sounding soundstage in an IEM I’ve listened to where no dimension is favored than the other and height, width, and depth show remarkable performance. Imaging is sharp and you’ll be able to create a mental image of where instruments are located in a stage and where exactly sound is coming from. Separation is also impressive for a single-DD and no region goes over each other with every layer having a space of their own to operate, staying distinct throughout the listening session.

Detail-retrieval: Not the IEM for this. The upper midrange/lower treble, while resolving enough, is too “relaxed” of a tuning to highlight macrodetail. It does show, but doesn’t jump at you. Microdetail-retrieval, meanwhile, is a different story. As treble is shimmery and extends well, lots of them are perceived while listening, even with the elevated bass though not on the same level as say that of a piezoelectric.



Sonic-wise, I’d give it a 5/5. A 6 even, if possible. However, with the package you’re getting for 349.95 USD (base price), there are more premium options out there at a cheaper cost (though I haven't tried them, just read about them). But then again, is it German 😉 ? Good thing you won’t be looking at your IEM when you’re comfortably listening with the IE 400 Pro in your ears and it’s also now easier than ever to purchase aftermarket cables even with the proprietary connectors. With that, I give the Sennheiser IE 400 Pro a score of 4.5/5.

As this is a rather old IEM, wait for sales and grab it fast 😉.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****

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Well written and objective review in my opinion.
I've own these for a year, having picked them up in a Sennheiser sale for less than 200euros.
They truly sound fantastic. I've recently coupled them with IE Pro Bluetooth cable which has an amazing battery life with not much effect on SQ relative to wired (though midrange depth and details improve if coupled with a decent DAP).
Truly great an IEM for the price (especially if you can get them at a discount).


Previously known as sub30
It's a budget IE 400 Pro, tonality-wise, if you put filters in the nozzle~
Pros: Engaging and lively signature
Extension on both ends
Basshead bass quantity
Exceptional technicalities especially for a single-DD
Very generous tips selection
Beautiful cable
Cons: Bass quality
Unnatural upper midrange
Lower treble intensity
Fit for some ears
Needs power to sound good – muddy with weaker sources

I would like to thank Paul and iBasso for providing a review unit of the IT01X. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


iBasso has long been in the audio game. Specializing in DAPs, or digital audio players, they have arguably created the most value for money DAPs with excellent sonic performance and rich features. A few years back, they ventured into the IEM world, with the AM05, IT07, and the IT00 as notable models to mention. We have here the latest iBasso IEM, named IT01x, with its “double-sided beryllium dynamic driver,” of which driver technology/implementation I have never encountered till this IEM. It utilizes an MMCX connection with an impedance of 16 ohms and a sensitivity of 108 dB.


These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) for the review. It sounds muddy and dead with less than 1 Vrms devices. Dynamics, resolution, extension and technicalities improve with more power. Midrange is also brought up, particularly lower midrange/midrange proper. Treble wakes up.


Build and Comfort: There was no mention of the shell material but it’s definitely not metal. They do advertise the paint used as “premium metallic paint used in luxury imported cars.” I have to say, that paint is both good-looking and not irritating for my ears. Shell is light and would disappear in your ears once you put them on (on the smaller side, as well). Shape is very smooth and have no sharp edges.

Nozzle is of above average length and width which might cause issues for other ears. I did encounter comfort issues, but this is due to switching to third-party tips (“lengthened” the nozzle). With that, I run them with the stock whirlwind tips (needs significant hours of break-in to be less stiff and more comfortable).

Cable is advertised as a 4-core high purity, silver-plated copper cable. Jack, splitter and slider (functional) are all made of metal and feels solid on hand. Handles well with the most comfortable preformed earhooks I’ve ever used. Regular thickness.

Isolation is average to below-average. Depends on tips used. Stock wide-bore tips have poor isolation.

Possible to be worn cable-down.

Package: 4 pairs of white wide-bore silicone tips (S/M/L). 3 pairs of translucent grey wide-bore silicone tips (S/M/L). 3 pairs of black regular-bore silicone tips (S/M/L). 3 pairs of grey/blue wide-bore silicone tips (S/M/L). 2 pairs of foam tips (S/M). Metal iBasso Audio-branded case. User Guide. Warranty card. 1 pair replacement screw-on nozzle w/ O-ring.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode, without mods using the whirlwind tips (small) and the Faaeal Hibiscus cable, with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.


warning – I perceive this as true basshead level in quantity (leaning towards sub-bass, lean-ish mid-bass; ~11 dB boost). Basshead to the point of being distracting when tracks utilize lower bass frequencies due to the tuning favoring that sub-region. Why do I say this? It’s because the quality can’t keep up with the elevation. Response is of the average attack and moderate decay which would have been fine if the IT01X didn’t have an 11 dB elevation, sub-bass focused tuning. One thing worth mentioning is that OOTB, the bass quantity was not this much to the point that I determined the signature as relatively neutral with a slight bass boost. Over time, it significantly increased. I don’t know if this is the burn-in phenomenon or just the driver loosening up or brain burn-in (or silicone tip break-in concerning fit). Extension is excellent for the price and will provide you with that satisfying rumble and movement of the “double-plated” beryllium dynamic driver. Tightness and texture are average which can't keep up with the quantity. Slight bass bleed perceived in drops but usually non-occurring.

Midrange: one more thing – this is not for those that want that natural/neutral midrange. It’s the most resolving midrange I’ve heard of the few IEMs I have sub-150 USD, but the upper midrange tonality is strange/unnatural (approaching nasal). I’m attributing this to the constant rise from upper midrange to lower treble. Very intimate and intense-sounding, especially female vocals - it bites and it growls. Male vocals/lower midrange sound noticeably recessed compared to female vocals/upper midrange (forward presentation) but still wouldn’t fall in the “lost” midrange category due to the technical capabilities. With brain burn-in, you can get used to the tonality. Quite fast actually, in my case. But there is a way better and easier solution.

Treble: crisp and airy. There’s a significant peak at lower treble which plays a huge role in why there’s a lot of perceivable macrodetail (maybe even too much; gets fatiguing over time ~3 hours) and the rather unnatural upper midrange tonality. Interestingly enough, while the treble region is generally energetic and does come close to sibilant and harsh levels, it’s half-a-step away from it. Doesn’t come off as grainy/thin even in badly recorded tracks. Splash is non-existent. I do have to note that weaker sources can’t make the treble alive – sounds muddy/dead with phones and such.


Beryllium just hits different even if all I’ve ever heard are plated ones (still wondering what pure Be DD sounds like). The timbral characteristic of the IT01X is very organic-sounding.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Because the upper midrange/lower treble is very intimate, soundstage width suffers. Add in the bass quantity/quality that also eats away the stage width, and what you get is a narrow, longer-than-wide presentation. Thankfully, layering is excellent and there is great perception of height and depth of music. Imaging, due to the technical prowess of the driver, is sharp and separation will be able to handle any track but is adversely affected by bass quality when listening to sub-bass/lower bass-heavy songs.

Detail-retrieval: Astonishing macrodetail due to the tuning of the upper midrange/lower treble but gets fatiguing in longer sessions. Microdetail-retrieval is also excellent but is counteracted by the bass quantity though this does depend on how bass-heavy the track is.


What you can do to fix the upper midrange:

Add a damping filter (standard density), and you have yourself a budget (highlighting the word) Sennheiser IE 400 Pro. So easy to do especially that the IT01X has removable nozzles.

Though the iBasso is in no way competing to the Sennheiser in terms of technicalities (most especially in soundstage), it now follows a similar tonality. This mod also takes away the fatigue from the IT01X. It was already similar in tuning in the bass department, but with the filter bringing down the upper midrange/lower treble, you get even closer.

In slower and simpler tracks, you can consider the two as a younger brother (teen) and his older brother (adult). They share a lot of characteristics, but what differentiates them is that the former is quite livelier while the latter acts more mature.

However, with more complex tracks, you’ll be able to hear how the IT01X is trying hard to keep up, particularly in bass response. The Sennheiser has way, waaay better and incomparable extension and overall response to the iBasso. Also keep in mind that this is 119 USD vs. 349.95 USD.

It’s not all improvements with this mod. One exchange is that it further highlights my issues with the bass quality especially when things get busy.

I think you can get closer in tuning with a denser filter, but I currently don’t have one to try. Might also “suffocate” the sound . Switching to foam tips is also another option to further remove the fatiguing aspect of the IT01X.


A V-going-U signature with basshead bass quantity, lively midrange (albeit quite unnatural, for me in stock), and crisp and airy treble, the IT01X is a considerable option for those that want such a signature. Selling for 119 USD, just the package itself is awesome for the price. However, SQ-wise, there's just too much competition at way cheaper prices for the IT01X to be rated highly. Better with a damping filter (preference).

3/5 – stock

3.5/5 – with damping filter

Averaged to 3.25/5... As Head-Fi star system doesn't support 3.25, I rounded-up.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Dude (@Nazar70 ), check my past posts on the IT01X. I actually perceived them as bright-neutral with a slight bass boost (first days impressions). But then, over time, strangely, the bass quantity just started increasing and increasing. And thus, soundstage width decreased to the point that music is presented in-your-face.

I would so love to go balanced, but it would cost quite a lot 😅

Yeah, I do agree they're not all-rounders. Quite niche if you really want that midrange detail and resolution for ~100 USD.
I would say that if the soundstage got narrower, even single ended, and not larger with time, then something is wrong with the set of IT01X you have as that is nothing like what I hear on the ones I have here.
@cappuchino - "if you really want that midrange detail and resolution" - This is exactly what I paid attention to. IT01X will complement my collection (and they differ greatly in their signature from the others: ISN H40, Moondrop SSP, Reecho SG-03, Shanling AE3, Tanchjim Tanya and a few others). And in my opinion, the soundstage is also not that small - it is especially noticeable with binaural recordings.


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Excellent and straightforward fit
Exquisite build quality
Beautiful shell design
Well-done V tuning
Exceptional technicalities and SQ, especially for a single-DD
Easy-to-drive – a phone will do
Cons: Upper midrange elevation (for others)
A tinge of metallic timbre especially in the treble region
Highly microphonic and tangly cable
Nondetachable cable

I would like to thank Ms. Alexandra and Meze Audio for providing a review unit of the 12 Classics V2. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 is a titanium-coated single-DD, bullet-style IEM, selling for 69 USD. It has attached cables terminating in a 3.5mm jack with a rated impedance of 16 ohms and a sensitivity of 101 dB. Spoiler alert: this is the best IEM SQ-wise I’ve heard in this price range but there’s one deciding factor not related to sound.


These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) for the review. There was no significant difference observed compared to low power and thus the 12 Classics V2 is an easy-to-drive IEM. A phone will do.

Build and Comfort:
Beautiful. Unique. Special. This IEM was designed by Antonio Meze and I have to say, the 12 Classics V2 is exquisite, looks-wise. Housing is a combination of walnut and copper-anodized aluminum, which complements the overall image of the IEM. Fit is straightforward and shouldn’t be a problem for any type of ear. Nozzle is of regular length and width. You can wear them two ways – cable-up or cable-down and that’s where the deciding factor enters.

For 69 USD, it has nondetachable cables. The cable, while feels good and well-built, is highly microphonic and tangle-prone. Splitter and jack follow the palette of the 12 Classics V2 and complements the look.

Oh, and one more thing – there’s no easy-to-know indication which is left and right. There’s this very small lettering of L and R at the bottom of the strain relief which is hard to see even in broad daylight.

Package: 3 pairs of narrow-bore black silicone tips (S/M/L). 1 pair of double-flange silicone tips. Paperwork. Protective case.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode without mods, other than using a M short-stem, wide-bore silicone tip with a low-medium listening volume. I had to go 1 size up because the housing was touching my ears.

The included narrow-bore tips I found to adversely affect the SQ as it was a V-shape and with said tips congested the sound. A wider bore tip will open it up.


It’s definitely elevated. However, the elevation doesn’t favor a particular sub-region and sounds balanced-going-lean (influenced by driver characteristic). Bass, due to that titanium-coated driver, is punchy, fast, tight, hits hard and well-textured. Sub-bass extension is excellent, controlled and will satisfy bassheads (especially when you use the double-flange tips). Truth be told, this was not the response I expected of the 12 Classics V2. I was thinking of something along the lines of warm, with a mid-bass emphasis, average attack and slow decay. And while what I got aligns with my personal preference, I can’t say I wouldn’t have preferred my expected Meze Audio house sound.

Midrange: Reminds me so much of the Moondrop SSP, with a very slightly less elevated upper midrange but similar, nonetheless. That would make the 12 Classics V2’s midrange neutral sounding - clean, forward, articulate and detailed but is unforgiving on certain tracks (badly recorded) and would be thin if you’re sensitive to upper midrange/lower treble frequencies. Guitars have that crunchy bite that makes for an engaging and emotional listening experience. This is where I would’ve preferred that warm bass. Alas, with the bass response and timbral characteristic of the 12 Classics V2 due to the driver, that is not the case. Highly depended on what you want and expect of this IEM.

Treble: A lower treble emphasis extending to treble proper with limited extension to the far-end-of-the-spectrum frequencies. It is very controlled and crisp. However, there is a metallic tint to it which I’m attributing to the driver coating. Not quite BA-timbre but definitely not the most natural. Regarding sibilance, the tuning is like it’s a step away from it – where it feels like you should have heard it but then the “ssss” is like at the edge of the cliff, almost falling but not quite.


With the titanium-coated DD, there is a hint of metallic timbre especially in the upper midrange/lower treble region. While it is a single-DD where one would expect to have natural timbre, the coating which is a major player for me to consider the 12 Classics V2 the best sonic-wise of the few IEMs I’ve heard under this price range brought with it the aforementioned issue. The listener can get used to this timbre with brain burn-in.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Soundstage is just outside of your head, with no dimension being more than the other. Couple that with the accurate and sharp imaging, well-presented instrument layering and the excellent separation that can handle any track you throw at it, and you have yourself a treat. It’s a holographic experience. Awesome considering that it’s a single-DD sub-70 USD.

Detail-retrieval: Decent enough. Due to the treble extension not reaching the “above human hearing capabilities” frequency/ies, for tracks that use that, it won’t be heard. However, with the tuning of the upper midrange/lower treble/treble proper regions and the titanium-coated driver capabilities, macrodetails are audible and registered clearly. The articulate bass response also plays a positive role on this.



For 69 USD, this is easily the best IEM I’ve heard under 100. A well-done V (objectively) with technicalities nothing short of exceptional. Add to that the exquisite design and build quality of the Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 and we have ourselves a winner.

However, there is one huge caveat – it has nondetachable cables. In the year of 2021, where even sub-6 USD IEMs have detachable cables, this is a major deciding factor. Add to that the fact that the cable is sleeved resulting in more microphonics and being more tangle-prone, oh well… BUT, there’s an easy solution for this problem – let a local modder perform an MMCX mod. From where I live, that would cost me around 15 USD which I would say is very much worth-it, as for the base price of 69 USD, you’re gonna be set for a long time with this IEM.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Good review. I have the same thoughts about them. The cable is my sore point of contention, otherwise such a well performing DD. I love how much body the tuning adds to snare hits without bleeding into lower mids.


Previously known as sub30
For TRN TA1 in In-Ear
Random Short Hair Winking Girl
Pros: Build that punches waaay above 25 USD
Decent package with 2 sets of silicone eartips and 1 pair of foam tips
Cheapest Knowles-equipped IEM out there
Non-offensive signature and good enough sound quality for the price
Cons: In no way a detailed pair
SQ is just average, nothing extraordinary or special (other than the rather unique signature in this bracket)
Fit is not straightforward OOTB – you HAVE to roll a lot of eartips/cable style and wear them a certain way (at least for my ears)

I would like to thank HIFI Audio Store for providing a review unit of the TRN TA1. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


Currently the cheapest Knowles-equipped IEM in the market, the TRN TA1 can be found for less than 25 USD. I have here the JP-exclusive version with the random short hair winking anime waifu compared to the boring TRN-logo faceplate of the standard edition (uses MMCX connection). The TA1 utilizes a hybrid setup with 1 BA & 1 DD, rated at a sensitivity of 107 dB and an impedance of 16 ohms.


These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4/Asus X409 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) for the review. There was a very slight improvement in note weight as well as technicalities (soundstage and overall clarity, specifically) compared to in low power mode. No drastic change observed to warrant the use of an external amplifier for the TRN TA1.


Build and Comfort:
I gotta say, the build and design of the TRN TA1 is something that should be impossible in this price range. It’s weighty, uses premium-feeling materials, and of course, the shell design which is reminiscent of a certain 1000+ USD IEM. The waifu also gets plus points (lol). However, these don’t fit well OOTB for my ears. Using the stock cable and stock ear tips, the TA1 just kept falling off my ears. As I have a Faaeal Hibiscus cable lying around, I switched to that along with double-flange ear tips, and wore them cable down. Fit well for me and I thought it was the best one. But then I started using the stock IT01x cable (over-ear) with the short stem, wide-bore ear tips the IT01x came with. Angling the IEM towards my ear canal/s just like with earbuds, I achieved optimal fit for SQ (concerning seal and such). Nozzle is shorter than usual which is what I suspect caused an issue with fit, as the shell itself is relatively medium in size (note: it is on the heavier side, as well).

The stock cable is essentially the same as the one that came with the TinHifi T1 Plus, only with MMCX connection. The earhooks are uncomfortable for my ears (like the ones with the Audiosense IEMs).

Regarding comfort, assuming that I’m wearing them using my “best” setup, it is not exceptional. The design itself causes discomfort for my ears after ~2 hours of straight use (over-ear; due to the edges). Wearing them cable-down avoids said issue. As the shell is also heavier than usual due to material, it won’t go unnoticed in your ears. One bummer is that the waifu is upside-down when worn cable-up. So you have to wear them cable-down if you don’t want her to be defying gravity.

Isolation is below average.

Package: 3 pairs of black silicone tips (S/M/L). 4 pairs of clear silicone tips (S/M/L). 1 pair of sticky foam tips. Paperwork. 4-core MMCX cable.


Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode without mods, using the stock wide-bore white tips (S) and the cable from the iBasso IT01x, with a listening volume of low-medium to medium.

Regarding tip rolling, the 2 types of included ear tips didn’t work for me (one was too bassy/muffled while the other was boring). Double-flange tips allow for cable-down wear and provides a tighter/deeper bass response with clearer highs, in exchange for an even more closed-in soundstage. With that, I prefer short stem, wide-bore tips as they “open” the sound, bringing improvements in the clarity of the midrange and treble (TA1 really needs that) while still maintaining satisfying bass quantity (though noticeably worse extension compared to other tips) without muddying the sound or limiting the soundstage.


Warm-sounding to the point that others would say it is bloated/muddy. Extension depends on eartip, but generally speaking is relatively average. Decent for the price - meaning that it does “rumble” but is more like a trickle and not deep enough to provide a satisfying listen on EDM and the like, personally speaking. There’s a hump leaning on the midbass and thus the influence on the midrange. Speed is of average attack and decay so it won’t cause any issues with any genre. Tightness is average while texture and detail is sub-par. Bass lines won’t sound monotonous but it’s not the fastest in this price range and it also doesn’t fit my preference of BA-like bass response (fast attack and decay). There is slight mid-bass bleed which compliments the intended tuning of the TA1, influencing the midrange and overall signature.

Midrange: This one will be up to preference. It is very non-fatiguing, warm and pleasant using my preferred setup. There’s also this unique thickness that I have never heard in an IEM – syrupy. I have to admit, that characteristic hooked me in, especially with the homey vocals… for the most part. It was addicting to me at first, but then I came to realize that it seriously lacked resolution and that thickness took away the naturalness of the midrange. It also blunted guitars and the like. Male and female vocals have good positioning without one being overly forward or the other being recessed.

Treble: A rather controversial part of the TA1. When the graph of the TA1 was shared to the public by a certain reviewer, there was major uproar. A huge ~15 dB dip starting on 4.5 kHZ up to 9.1 kHz was seen. While this does avoid harshness with highs sounding delicate, it also pushed back the unenergetic in-the-first-place treble region to the point of being muted. And even if it utilizes a Knowles BA, there were instances of splash. Sibilance, or the chase to its non-existence, will highly depend on fit and tip use.


not the most natural of IEMs due to the hybrid set-up. There is a hint of artificial timbre from the Knowles BA. But because of the thickness of the midrange and the dip in the treble region, this is mostly hidden.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: Average to Above Average, Average to Above Average, and Average to Above Average… for the price. That Knowles BA does bring its advantages on technicalities. You’d survive any genre. Soundstage isn’t particularly wide nor deep but has enough to not sound congested or 2D. You’ll notice where sound is coming from but it isn’t focused. The TA1 will be able to handle any song to a certain degree (but can’t go orchestral and the like).

Detail-retrieval: You’ve seen the dip that affects the lower treble to treble proper region? Yup. Add to that the mid-bass bleed, so don’t expect too much for 25 USD.




Having used the word average a total of twelve (12) times, while the TRN TA1 is not the best of the few IEMs I’ve heard in this price range, there is one thing it has that the others don’t have – a waifu. When other IEM companies only put the waifu on the box, TRN takes it to another level and designs an IEM with a random short hair winking girl printed on the faceplate. For 25 USD, as a collectible (assuming that you’ll buy the JP-variant), I say it’s worth-it, most especially for the upscale build and shell design. But more importantly, sonic-wise? Not so much when there’s the BL-Mini and the even cheaper and "best" sub-30 KZ DQ6 (with foam tips).

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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Previously known as sub30
Pros: Excellent bass quality and quantity
Textured midrange
Crisp and controlled treble
Above average technicalities
Fast transients, particularly decay (preference)
Premium build
Attractive cable and decent tips selection
Cons: Want more soundstage depth
In a very saturated price range
Dry timbre (preference)

I would like to thank KEEPHIFI for providing a review unit of the BL-Mini. Check their website out (KEEPHIFI)! Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


Blon. Blon. Blon. The Megalodon of audio budget-fi. Is it your mission to disrupt the system every now and then with your releases? It is my first product from the company and I am quite sure it definitely won’t be the last. Today we have the Blon BL-Mini, a single micro-DD IEM available in silver or gun for ~30 USD or even less depending on the platform. It has a sensitivity of 115 ohms with an impedance of 16 dB. For connection, it utilizes the proprietary 2-pin from the company which can be modified to fit QDC. There have been memes due to its rather unique design choice, to say the least. I personally like it but I do have weird design preferences (e.g. MT300). You know what isn’t a joke? The way it sounds.

These were plugged to my Oppo Reno 4 with the Earstudio HUD100 MK2 (bypass, high power) for the review. There was a noticed slight improvement in note weight, driver speed as well as detail retrieval compared to in low power mode. No drastic change/s observed and I determined that the Mini will happily play with any device you plug it in.


Build and Comfort: Hate its shape or not, it works. Though it may look weird, it’s a very ergonomic and somehow practical design. No problem at all with wearing them - they fit securely into my ear, and feel light so as not to cause discomfort. I mentioned the light feeling but this is currently is my heaviest IEM shell. That combination with the build equates to this premium feel when they’re on your hands. Isolation-wise, it’s slightly above average. Insertion depth meanwhile is deeper than usual and having a shallow fit will change the signature for the worse. I only recommend using the “Blonfit” and not the other type of silicone tips included. Cable is literally the same as the SSP cable just with a better made splitter and jack. It handles well, is comfortable, and won’t require you to buy aftermarket cables. A round of applause for BLON’s improvements on the cable.


Package: 3 pairs of silicone tips (S/M/L). 2 pairs of “Blonfits” (M/L). Paperwork. BLON-branded sack pouch. 4-core cable (in 2-core fashion).

Now, onto sound:

For this review, the IEM was left in stock mode without mods, using the “Blonfit” M, with a listening volume of low-medium.

The Mini utilizes a 6mm microdynamic driver that somehow reminds me of a BA because of the attack and decay speed with considerably better extension. Perfect for my preference. This is the highlight of the BL-Mini - it’s fast, satisfying, controlled and punchy. If you’ve seen the graph, the extension is bonkers going down to the deepest sub-bass region. However, people might expect differently/wrongly as the BL-Mini does not provide a lot of “bass” (the one that consumers usually look for – average attack and slow decay). Others might not like this characteristic of the Mini which might make them think it is “bright” sounding and has “few” bass quantity. However, when called upon, you’ll definitely be surprised by how deep it can go while still maintaining control (I always am just astounded). Texture shows and the Mini doesn’t suffer from the “one blob bass” as it is very tight sounding. Bleed is non-existent and drums are snappy and defined even with double kicks. It is very controlled as well, with sub-bass being represented in a non-wobbly manner.

Midrange: I’d say it’s a balanced presentation, not warm nor lean, just… balanced. Not shouty at all. I’m hesitating to call it recessed, but it is a tad further back than what I would’ve liked (midrange proper, particularly). Peaks close to 3 kHz which has now become my preference. Textured midrange with no thinness whatsoever on female vocals or hollowness with male. Note weight isn’t heavy nor thin, just right.

Treble: Has a bit of energy but doesn’t come off as sharp or piercing. Very well controlled and splash is non-existent. Extension is decent and there are no extreme dips resulting in serious lack of detail (other than the one found at lower treble). Crash cymbals have a realistic decay and rattle that doesn’t become strident. Treble, while extends quite well, isn’t as emphasized as what you’d usually expect in the “budget” segment – this tuning of the region actually results in a “balanced” presentation with enough treble presence and air to give a bit of zing to the music There’s a dip after 3 kHz, “extending” for the whole lower treble that makes it possible for the Mini to not sound harsh and fatiguing. I didn’t hear any sibilance even in badly recorded tracks. There's a reported peak at around 8 kHz, but for my non-treble sensitive ears, this wasn't issue. Do take that into consideration for your decision on whether to buy the Mini or not.

different than the past IEMs I’ve heard. It’s evidently drier in comparison. I don’t see it as bad but it’s not as pleasing or satisfying as say the analogue-ish timbre of the KB Ear KS1.

Soundstage, Imaging, and Separation: One would expect that an IEM of this setup would have a very in-your-head presentation, but that is not the case with the Mini. Soundstage is wider than deep. Layering, imaging and separation is above average.

Detail-retrieval: Because there is a dip in lower treble, some detail is lost. Further than that and it is registered – present but isn’t emphasized. If it’s about midrange/vocal detail, now we’re talking! Breaths and the subtle imperfections/crunches are heard and vocals in general isn’t unnaturally smooth sounding. The driver speed also plays a big role in detail-retrieval, in a very positive way.




For those that haven’t read my review of the KB Ear KS1, I basically just wrote about how I loved that IEM so much. Want an upgrade, preferably sub-30 USD? Look no further than the Blon BL-Mini. It’s a refined/perfected KS1, better in every way possible. Wanna know a bad thing about it? I want to try another BLON. My excitement for their next releases cannot be contained, and I am experiencing early symptoms of FOMO in that I want to buy the 01, 03, and 05s.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the IEM mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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request some comparison, 🙏
@Strifeff7 , I don't have a lot to compare to, but which one do you want 😅?


Previously known as sub30
For KZ AZ09 in Wireless
Pros: It works
Voice recognition for assistant is excellent
Design of module is practical and comfortable
Snappy Controls
Battery life
Bluetooth 5.2
Cons: QC Concerns
AAC-limited (Not a problem for Apple users)
Compatibility with other QDC IEMs
Cable might turn green after some time

I would like to thank Knowledge Zenith for providing a review unit of the AZ09. Rest assured that my impressions written in this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions and in no way influenced by outside parties.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an "audiophile." I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


They say that third time’s the charm, but what if in my second time was already amazing? EDX (nope. still don’t like it). DQ6 (awesome ultra-budget). And for this review, AZ09. The KZ AZ09 is an “upgrade” in a sense if you want to turn your wired IEM into a TWS. It’s only available in QDC, is AAC limited, charges via USB-C, and is currently on sale for 16 USD on Shopee/Lazada. This is KZ’s first ever product that delves into wired IEM-into-TWS conversion and hint, hint: it’s AWESOME! If you can get by the cons, that is.

These were connected to my Oppo Reno 4 for this review as it is the only device I currently have that has Bluetooth 5.1 (close to AZ09’s 5.2). I did test it with my laptop and it works as intended.


  • TWS high-definition Bluetooth upgrade earhooks, support AAC audio encoding transmission, professional sound quality comes from the dual protection of chip blessing and AAC advanced encoding capabilities. Adopt AAC advanced audio coding transmission technology to greatly improve the quality of hearing and bring natural and clear sound.
  • The earhook battery capacity is 50mA, the charging compartment battery capacity is 800mA, the earhook can be used for about 6 hours when it is fully charged, and the charging compartment can last 7 times. Small body, multiple core functions.
  • Using RTL8753 Bluetooth 5.2 chip, transmission is more stable, high-performance mode. Compared with the 5.0 version of the chip, the power consumption is lower and it brings longer battery life. 2PIN pluggable design, 0.75mm gold-plated pin, the earphone can be turned into a wireless earphone in seconds, getting rid of the wire shackles.
  • Ergonomic design. The structure is optimized according to the contour of the outer ear, and the design is ergonomic. Reduce weight and improve wearing comfort. High-purity oxygen-free copper silver-plated wire is used inside the earhook to ensure the lossless transmission of audio signals.
  • Eliminate conventional single host, dual-channel transmission, lower latency, two earhooks can be connected to the same mobile phone at the same time, earhooks can be used individually. When you are ready to enter the game, press the button on the earhook three times to enter the high-performance game mode. The sound signal is transmitted faster.

Package: KZ AZ09. Charging Case. USB C to USB A cable. Paperwork. User Manual


Design, Build, and Fit:

For the charging case, it’s all plastic. Acceptable for the price it sells for. Size, meanwhile, while still pocketable, won’t go unnoticed when you start walking around. It has an indicator light that shows how much charge is left in the case itself (Red 0-30%; Yellow 30-70%; Green 70-100%). I have tested this feature and it did work… for the first day, that is. On the second day, I tried charging the case again but it didn’t light up anymore. At first, I was scared that it was the battery that had a problem. Upon further testing, I discovered it was the indicator light that was defective and the case still charged the Bluetooth module properly.

The AZ09 itself is reminiscent of the “first” TWSs released in the market and sports-oriented TWS, with the battery pack at the back and the over-ear design for stability. I wore them for ~6 hours straight daily and they remained snug, tight, and most important of all, comfortable over ear (it is light over-ear). Hook is shaped perfectly and should fit most ears. The battery pack itself is entirely plastic as well as the physical button for commands (not touch-operated). Button doesn’t wiggle and has a satisfying click when pressed. There’s also a mic located with each module and while it isn’t the clearest, it’s more than decent as I have used it for online class and my peers understood me easily at my usual speaking volume without raising any concern on mic quality.



Opening the charging case automatically puts the AZ09 in pairing mode. Since the initial pairing, I have not experienced any sort of disconnection or random “unpairing” of the two modules to the source which I have experienced with my previous TWSs. The AZ09 is SBC and AAC capable, and while it can’t reach APTX, for the price it is selling for and what it offers, this is way more than acceptable. Nitpicking it for its lack of APTX support is just “hating.”

Now, for how far I can get from the source without losing connection, as context, our home is more than 200 square meters from front to back (floor area not sure), 2-stories high with walls built to support up to 3 floors. Long story short, I can walk all around our home and enter any room without losing Bluetooth connection, with the source and AZ09 on opposite ends.


Play/pause, skip track, switching between the two modes. Those three are what I deemed as the most important controls here in the AZ09. Playing and pausing songs has a very, very slight delay, skipping track (forward & backward) is registered fast (even consecutive ones which is awesome) with a note playing to signify command recognition, and switching modes is seamless with a female voice prompt (in English). There’s no volume control which I personally do not find as an issue. I could just simply remove the IEM from my ear and let it dangle if I am talking to someone.

To activate voice assistant, you have to hold the button of either the left or right earpiece for ~two seconds. My voice is recognized immediately and is registered correctly all the time in sub-optimal conditions (i.e., relatively noisy environment). For example, with the command “play Sleeping in My Dreams,” my phone perfectly recognized it and went straight to Youtube, playing the video. A nifty function for those that use said assistant. To add, even Filipino and romanticized Japanese words (simple ones) are easily recognized [e.g., Tayo Lang Ang May Alam (Filipino song) and Zutomayo (Japanese artist)]. More complex words and the Google Assistant has a hard time correctly recognizing it (e.g., Yorushika).

The lack of volume control? The assistant is the fix for that and it worked in my experienced (command: “set volume to n” where n is a number from 0 to max volume step, or “volume set to n%” where n is a number from 0 to 100).

Now, onto sound:

It does what it is meant to do – that is, to convert your wired IEMs into TWS. I didn’t notice any noticeable change across the spectrum with the T1 Plus and DQ6. If I might say, it elevates the bass just a bit but I’m not so sure how much of that is placebo and my brain playing tricks with me as I was specifically looking for any change/s. There also weren’t any observed improvements or the opposite in technicalities as far as my ears go. However, I have a feeling that this will depend on what transducer will be used, especially whether it is easy-to-drive or hard-to-drive, as the AZ09 doesn’t have a lot of power, nor the cleanest while we’re at it. Estimating its driving force, I’d say it’s on par with Qualcomm chips found in your typical midrange Snapdragon-equipped phone.

Hiss Amount:

I was only able to test the AZ09 with two IEMs due to reasons that will further be discussed in the latter part of this review.

KZ DQ6 (112 dB at 24 ohms) – noticeable hiss on quiet parts of tracks but is still what I will consider fine; might be annoying for some.

Tinhifi T1 Plus (105 dB at 32 ohms) – no hiss at all


The AZ09 has two modes to choose from – high performance/low latency mode and standard mode. Switching between the two is straightforward – just three consecutive presses. For what it’s worth, I much prefer the former for media consumption as with the latter, delay is noticeable - tolerable for me but something I won’t prefer if there’s an available fix. If you’re only listening to music, then standard mode should be enough and will offer better battery efficiency. Wasn’t able to test it with games as I don’t play them.

For every connection of the AZ09 with your device, it is automatically set in standard mode.

Battery Efficiency and Charging:

Low latency mode - ~6.5 hours

Standard mode - ~8 hours

Results will vary depending on transducer used and listening volume. The recorded time was done with the KZ DQ6 on my preferred listening volume (low-medium). This can extend or decrease depending on said factors.

On charging the module from 0-100%, it took me about ~1.2 hours. As per the specs, the case contains an 800mA battery, which should theoretically fully charge the AZ09 8 times (50mA per module) but with the claims of KZ, the “charging box can last 8-10 times.” I wasn’t able to test this because I had a problem with the case that I’ll discuss in-depth in the next part. However, because my testing of battery life of the module matched with KZ’s claimed battery life, I am trusting them on this.

Low battery warning (every 30 seconds) for the AZ09 starts at ~25%. Prompts stop by ~20% and come back at around 10%.

Issues and Concerns:

1. It just doesn’t fit perfectly for two out of my three compatible IEMs. The QDC male housing/sleeve (?) fits “correctly”, tighter than what I prefer (this does make it so that the module and IEM do not separate/disconnect when moving around) with the DQ6. However, when I tested it with my TinHifi T1 Plus, it just wouldn’t go floor down. With the TRN STM, it doesn’t fit at all. I do wonder if KZ uses a different QDC housing compared to others, where they utilize something much thinner for their IEMs? Maybe this “fit” with other brands was intentionally done by KZ? Who knows, only KZ does.

Advice: Don’t force the AZ09 to connect with your IEM floor down if it doesn’t smoothly fit. Once it produces sound, even if not floor down, don’t push it down anymore. If you do that, you’ll be having a very, very hard time trying to remove the connection, which might result in damaging the AZ09, or worst, your IEM itself.

Fix: Filing the male connector to enlarge the hole should work. I, however, wasn’t able to test this because of lack of tools.

2. Red light, green light… go? The charging case features an indicator light that changes color depending on charge left. It’s a nice feature to have, I must admit. But with my unit, it only worked for an awesome one whole freakin’ day. The following morning? Didn’t light up anymore. The case still charges the module, though. Personally, I don’t see this as a deal breaker considering how "cheap" it sells for but it does make it hard to estimate how much battery life is left in the case.

Advice: Hope for the best with your ordered unit? And wait for more user/reviewer feedback, if you want.

Fix: Opening the case and changing the light? Or, if this happens to you, just contact the seller/store (what I would do).

Important Details in User Manual:




It’s a wonderful product/accessory, if you can get by the “flaws” it comes with. It’s the cheapest adaptor by far that comes with a case and USB-C charging, and while it has limitations, it still does its job properly – that is, to make your wired IEMS into TWS. Wanting APTX support, wireless charging, blah, blah, blah, etc. and reasoning out that because it doesn’t have those then it’s a bad product is like asking for a Snapdragon 888 chip, glass front and back, aluminum housing, 590183325 MP main shooter in a phone under 200 USD.

It’s 16 USD on Shopee and Lazada. 23 for my Amazon brothers and sisters. In my most honest opinion, it’s a steal for that price. The next adapter you can find with a case and USB-C charging is worth ~4 times more than the AZ09. But of course, it still depends on what you have, what you want, and what you need right now.

****If you have other questions/concerns with the product mentioned, feel free to message me****​
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