Reviews by davidmolliere


Headphoneus Supremus
Elysium Extraordinaire!
Pros: Class leading bass performance with tremendous power and speed
Class leading treble performance with refinement, speed and nuance
Clean, articulate midrange with excellent timbre
Holographic stage with superb height and depth
Superb build quality and design
Excellent stock cable
Flawless unboxing experience
Complimentary signature to Elysium rather than more of the same (both have their strength)
Cons: Needs a powerful source to shine (scales big time)
Fit might be challenging for some & highly sensitive to tip rolling
Product page : (Price : 2650€)


Fit, Build & Isolation​

There are some advantages to a universal build and one is that you can use different materials, the purple with complex CNC machined faceplates. The EXT also features a special aluminium acoustic mesh “giving the dynamic drivers the air to breathe and unfold their rumbling power” as stated on Vision Ears website.


The shell is made of “solid black acrylic in a semi-custom shape”, but “a black transparent area is allowing you to have a discreet peek on the green HALC and the four electrostatic drivers”.


Let’s just say the pics do don’t them justice, those shells are beautiful, but will also attract quite a bit of attention if you’re in public transportation so be mindful. As you can see the EXT shell have a low footprint relatively to their driver count and the fit is obviously shallower than the custom Elysium. The build is as usual with Vision Ears absolutely perfect.

Strangely for me - I fit everything – I had some trouble finding the right tips to get a perfect seal (yes given my large canals shallow fit require very big tips) and best performance but once I did the fit was good. Isolation though is not the EXT forte so if you’re listening at lower levels like me you’ll hear some external sound.



Vision Ears is a “small and owner driven company in the heart of Cologne/ Germany” as they define themselves but every other audiophile knows that they’re a big name in the hobby. It didn’t take long for Amin and Marcel who founded the company in 2013 to rise to fame with the most demanding audiophiles. From the get go, the focus on craftsmanship certainly paid off and Vision Ears IEMs stand out with among the best craftsmanship money can buy. Their flagship VE8 might be the IEM that placed Vision Ears on the map and also nothing less than my very first custom IEMs as well.

In January 2021 I got myself a set of custom Elysium and when I did, Amin hinted that an “extended” Elysium would be release in a few months. I ordered the Elysium nonetheless and I am happy I did, as when the EXT was released I learned there wouldn’t sadly be a custom version. As we’ll see, the EXT features a quad EST driver that is located so close to the bore exit that it would have been challenging to build this as a custom at least for most ear canals. Anyway, I told myself the EXT wasn’t for me, after all every flagship I have purchased these past 3 years with the exception of Dunu Luna was custom fit. Once you’ve gone there, it’s hard to go back…

Still, wondering how a dynamic would change the overall Elysium signature, with a quad EST setup on top while retaining those mesmerizing Elysium mids kept me awake some nights… Trusted people posting impressions in the VE thread didn’t help either, I must say and I finally ordered a pair!

But back to the matter at hand, I like to begin with the original intent and check out if it holds true… from the Vision Ears website each IEM tuning goal and intent is precisely written.

The EXT mission statement is to keep the Elysium vibrant DNA with “More lows that make you feel the rumble. More mids that vividly embrace you. And more highs to bring an airy and elated experience. An easy lightness surrounds this creation, airy, silk-like notes gather around your head, musical areas you never recognized will unfold before your closed eyes, a truly electrifying experience”. As we see, the EXT is defined vs its older brother and I'll include some comparison with EXT along the review.

Is EXT true to its tuning goal?
The name Elysium in Greek mythology is the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent.
Bold statement for an IEM but great to strive for!

Does the EXT take us to paradise?
Let’s check this out!



Like the Elyisum, the EXT might spec will low impedance at 10ohm and 108.5dB sentitivity but they are deceptively hard to drive to their full abilities, which means they will scale greatly with more power. When properly powered the EXT follows the footstep of its bigger brother being exciting and vibrant but also bigger and bolder! Yes the EXT are more grounded with the stronger bass foundation : bass is felt as well as heard and the feeling of power that the Elysium was lacking is obvious. The EXT are a toe tapping IEM with its fast, powerful and tight bass. The stage clearly has more height and depth as well. On to the midrange, if you focus the bass out or listen to bass light tracks then it’s clear the EXT is still an Elysium with its rich, vibrant midrange. Last but not least, the top end clearly benefits from the quad EST setup and VE managed to build an even more refined IEM although the overall picture is not that clear cut.


VE has done some fantastic work on the EXT DD, it’s clearly done right and up there with the best DD implementation I have heard to date. The EXT bass has tremendous power, it’s a commanding bass that will rejoice everyone’s inner bass head with its physicality and power but also everyone’s audiophile aspirations as well. Properly powered the EXT has impeccable control and surprising speed : this was the big surprise to me as it sounds faster to me than the original BA bass of the Elysium. This provides for a fabulous sense of rhythm and sometimes makes up for a whack whack whack speedy Bruce Lee like punches. Wow. You like faster genres that requires speed, get the EXT! The EXT has snappy bass attack and shorter decay than the Elysium bass note simply start and stop on a whim when called for especially when properly powered.

EXT vs Ely bass shootout

Nils Petter Molvaer “Khmer”


I like this track mixing jazz and electronica, the low pitch acoustic drums of Rune Arnesen combined with Nils synthetic drum’n’bass sub bass samples is a good test. It’s a deep rhythmic almost hypnotic track.

The EXT ability clearly shows here with superb extension down low and a physical sensation on each burst of subs that can clearly be felt, I found myself entranced and actually almost surprised when the next track started. The contrast between the low rhythmic tones and the stroke and the dulcimer chords shined with the EXT.

Comparatively the Elysium lacked physicality on that track, but still reached low with excellent extension and inducing the same hypnotic like state. Interestingly the track had quite a different vibe with more emphasis and energy on the midrange, we’ll expand on this later on but the Elysium had quite a bit more bite there. The Trumpets that kind of felt more subdued on the EXT while the dulcimer was more highlighted.

My pick : Purely from a bass performance standpoint, the EXT is the clear winner on bass presence and physicality but for that specific track, I preferred the portrayal of the Elysium as a whole.

Marian Hill “Differently”


This track is a co-production with hip hop artist Boi-1da. This song features heavy electric bass, claps, and catchy synths, a blend of sounds that I find interesting to test several aspects of bass.

The physicality from the EXT is obvious from the very first notes, the quick synth bass notes start and stop quickly and the EXT effortlessly draws you into the track, the occasional drum and clap are clear and you can hear details of everything going on at once in a very articulate manner. Vocals are a bit farther away in the mix but clear nonetheless.

The Elysium is no slouch but can’t compete, bass has less impact and presence but also feels slower with a more rounded presentation with softer attack and longer decay. The occasional drum and claps are more blended into the mix making it a less articulate experience, I had to focus to hear them. Vocals on the flipside are closer in the mix and Samantha Gongol vocals are more engaging and take more space. Last but not least, the Elysium has more lower treble presence which I found more engaging. The EXT was on the other hand more resolving with better extension up top.

My pick : This time around definitely picking the EXT, for this track is more engaging bass wise than the Elysium and the overall experience is more articulate and effortless. Yet, the Elysium offers and interesting alternate take on the track with its own strength on vocal emphasis and higher percussive sounds.

Lucy Dixon “Stormy Weather”


Lucy Dixon is one of my favorite artists, the backstory is interesting she started in musicals, was a member of the band Stomp for over a decade and it shows in her rhythmic jazz songs that make you want to dance. Stormy weather is in my bass test tracks as it’s a well recorded track that provides a lot of details in percussions with fast hits of the drums and also many percussive elements.

The realism of the percussion from the EXT is really breathtaking on this track, the speed and control is obvious and combined with rich textures and very accurate tone I was really struck with a feeling of being right there with the drummer. The contrast in this track is fantastic with the hi hats and the snappy and punchy EXT really does wonder there.

The Elysium does an excellent job but just lacks the punch and power that the EXT gives to the drums, in favor of a more fluid and smooth portrayal that has its appeal as well but it’s a less spectacular sense of engagement. Vocals on the flipside are again more engaging and forward, as well as a touch sweeter with a welcome wetness. There is less snap to the hi hats with a softer attack but a bit more energy so this one is really a different presentation. The vibe of the track is less spectacular but more nuanced.

My pick : This time it’s really a tie, yes the EXT wins the bass match but the overall tracks is just as enjoyable with the Elysium and honestly I think it’s the more natural presentation.

Darkside “Paper Trails”


I really love this slow and dark mood in the track from Nicolas Jaar that kicks off with a slow-stepping beat, rhythmic hand claps, and features reverb-soaked guitar plucks from Dave Harrington.

The EXT handles the low beats with superb presence and the reverbs sound perfectly controlled, the mood is set and it’s simply as good as I have heard this track, period. Nicolas Jaar altered vocals sounds deep and hypnotic and the dark mood of the track is superbly conveyed. The hand claps are snappy and contrast beautifully with the overall low pitch of the track.

The Elysium portrayal is less contrasted, the bass is a tad less present although the rhythm is properly conveyed I didn’t feel the same level of engagement as the EXT. The overall mood is less gloomy and vocals don’t carry the same gravitas and nuances. Hand claps are seamlessly integrated in the flow of the track and provide less of a contrast as well but electric guitar have more emphasis.

My pick : Another one for the EXT, the mood of this track is clearly better set, the vocals are more engaging with more gravitas. The Elysium is more fluid in a way, less contrasted but for this track the EXT just works better.

Bass verdict : The EXT is the clear winner in absolute terms for sheer bass power, speed and physicality. The Elysium features a less impressive bass but, there is a but as we've seen depending on the track I feel Elysium has a more seamless integration of the bass in the signature so it's not that clear cut in the final appreciation of the tracks. Let's now see who wins the battle of the mids!



When VE announced the Elysium and I saw a dynamic driver for the midrange I was quite excited as I always felt good DD were just superior in timbre for instruments and vocals alike especially when acoustic treatment is well implemented and the backstory of how HALC was tested and designed shows VE has put tremendous R&D effort to make sure that the Elysium dynamic provides the best experience possible. The Elysium midrange has become one of the benchmarks of the industry : it’s a vibrant midrange with highly accurate timbre and plenty of bite. One of the biggest question mark for me was : would changing the recipe with a DD bass driver and a quad EST up top break the magic of the Elysium?

I trust Oliver at VE to handle this as I have yet to experience anything but superb coherence on tuning. Yet, when you find that magic mix, it can also break it’s a bit like cooking when you change a little something that makes all the difference to your plate. Let me cut the suspense short, VE did keep the magic but with a different recipe and it was wise anyway since the overall balance of the EXT is a bit different from the Elysium.

How does that translate? Well for starter, the EXT has less lower mids presence to my ears… maybe it’s apple to oranges since I am comparing a custom Ely to a universal EXT (doomed to be dependent on tips… sigh) but still it’s how I hear it. It also makes sense since the EXT has significantly more bass presence to lighten the lower mids presence a bit to avoid the EXT sounding too warm and possibly congested. The resulting effect is that you don’t perceive too much the lesser lower mids presence because upper bass infuses some warmth on the mids anyway. Then, the EXT also has a tad less upper mids bite to its mids as we’ll see in my usual Whiplash test and that’s probably to prevent getting a brighter hue and shadow the different treble presentation on the EXT. This doesn’t mean the EXT has no bite, it does, just not the kind that will cross the threshold for some which I think the Elysium is bound to do. It’s a safer upper mids.

All in all I love what VE chose to do with the EXT midrange as it both maintains the overall coherence and balance but also makes it a very strong complimentary IEM to the Elysium which is still very much relevant and will address different preferences.

Let's see how it translates in terms of listening experience...

EXT vs Ely mids shootout

Joe Lovano “I’m all for you”

This is one of my most favorite Jazz track of all times and one that moved me so much with the Elysium… It’s one of the most soulful piece I have ever heard period, with the rich nuance and tones of Joe’s tenor saxophone but Hank Jones on piano, George Mraz on bass and Paul Motian on drums are just as breathtaking. Pardon my overly emotional tone here but it’s what music is about to me, when time is suspended and magic happens where all earthly matters disappear.

Back to earth if I can manage it… the Elysium is just purely magical out of FiiO M17 in desktop mode but any excellent desktop setup will do justice to the Ely and this track. Yes, you need headroom on this perfectly mastered track and sorry a regular DAP won’t cut it for the almost religious experience you can get. This is where engineering meets art to make the gear disappear and let the music shine. Hats off to the VE team as it is exactly why we are in this hobby.

Now on to the EXT : I was dubious the magic would remain but well let me say it, it’s there and then some. The EXT bigger soundstage especially height and depth and more precise imaging make this an even more immersive experience. Just wow. How do I keep writing after this? I am speechless! I have to hand it over to the EXT, the quad EST is providing an extra level of refinement that reaches even higher elite levels

My pick : I think you got it, Elysium is magical on that track but so is the EXT with extra height and depth and refinement it goes even further. EXT wins that one.

Hank Levy “Whiplash”


“Whiplash” is the title of a composition in odd meters in 7/4 written by Baltimore jazz artist and educator Hank Levy. Levy was a saxophonist and composer known for his love of unusual time signatures. Incidentally this is my go to track to test upper mids harshness, it’s absolutely ruthless and will discriminate IEMs quickly. It’s highly energetic and aptly named and in a way a total opposite to the previous Joe Lovano track.

The EXT goes through that test OK for me but I am willing to bet some people will wince as the EXT features good bite and portrays this track uncompromisingly and in a ridiculously effortless way given how busy, fast and complex this tracks is.

The Elysium again has more forward mids and both lower treble and upper mids have more energy which requires a higher threshold in those regions although I have to nuance this the sharper attack and faster decay of the EXT versus the softer attack and longer decay of the Elysium treble makes this a close call in the end.

My pick : It’s a close call to me both IEMs pass the test but it depends on your sensitivities (on such extreme tracks) you might find yourself wincing. The EXT takes the win on this one for its ability to better handle the complexity in a more articulate way and also faster pace ability.

Blue Mitchell “Na Ta Ka”

Bantu Village.jpg

Another jazz track but this one is more funky and from “Bantu Village”. It’s an album by trumpeter Blue Mitchell which features arrangements by Monk Higgins released on the Blue Note label in 1969. It has a very rhythmic quality with a fast paced arrangement and I like the groove on that track.

The EXT bass really brings excellent rhythm to that track with its powerful bass presence and the bass line is really portrayed with weight and authority that this track requires. There is superb bite on the trumpet and the track complexity is perfectly articulate on the EXT which again sounds so effortless. This is not an easy track as it both require a deep strong bass line and the right energy in the midrange, as well as excellent instrument separation to keep things organized. The EXT is not even breaking a sweat there.

The Elysium doesn’t feature the same authority in the bass but the bass line is well portrayed and overall this is a more fluid take on the track. Effortless as well and somewhat smoother although there is more energy in the upper mids it’s delivered in a more rounded way with softer attack and longer decay. It’s not as articulate as the EXT but I find it more mid centric and musical for my preferences.

My pick : It’s really not easy both EXT and Elysium are doing great, EXT is more immersive and articulate, Elysium is more fluid and the midrange shines more to my ears. I have a slight preference for the Ely but it will really come down to preferences at this stage.

Mids Verdict : It's really a tough one but the original Elysium still takes the cake for me with its fuller and more forward midrange and its smoother attack and bit longer decay. It's also a bit more exciting with its upper mids bite. It really will be down to personal preferences though and the EXT midrange can be just as magical with a less intimate but more immersive experience (with its taller and deeper stage) which provides just as much engagement just a different kind. The image is more precise and the mids are more articulate. It also shows that dissecting the frequency range is really a simplification, how the mids integrate into the whole signature is of the essence as well and it clearly shows there.


Compared to the Elysium, the EXT ups the ante so to speak with a modern quad EST setup, which sits right near the exit bore probably for maximum yield. It’s very apparent upon first listen that the EXT is seriously impressive and in fact just as much as its highly praised bass. The original Elysium just can’t match it and the EXT is significantly more refined and nuanced as well as more extended. The EXT is among the big boys and in fact I think the best quad EST treble implementation I have heard to date. This makes the EXT more revealing as well for better or for worst.

How does this translates?

EXT vs Ely treble shootout

Laurie Anderson “Born, Never Asked”


This is a complex track is somewhat of an experimental music kind of track with complex nuances that reflects on the ability to keep up with the treble produced by Laurie keening violin (an instrument of her own design, featuring magnetic tape on the bow rather than the more usual horsehair and a magnetic tape head in the bridge), the marimba strikes and hand claps rhythmic baseline.

The EXT impresses by its overall clarity, treble speed and control, the hand claps sound snappy and the marimba strike pop and fade beautifully…. all of this contrasting with a pitch black background. There is an eerie atmosphere setting in with the EXT. The Violin sounds on the flipside a bit distant and in the background.

The Elysium from the get go puts more emphasis and sweetness to Laura’s voice, marimba strikes have more energy and the violin has quite a bit more emphasis it’s like you’re more in the track than the EXT. I find the Elysium more engaging and smooth with its softer attack and more natural decay.

My pick : I have to go with the Elysium on that particular track, it’s a special kind of track but still I found the Elysium and EXT to paint a very different picture. Again more a personal prefence on my part, the EXT does provide a special atmosphere to that track.

Jack Johnson “Staple it together”


One of my favorite artists and albums, this track is probably the funkiest and grooviest track he wrote, which was an improvisation when Johnson and the band were just messing around at sound checks. It’s a speedy track where there is a lot going on with Adam Topol drums and percussions with superb hi hats, triangle and higher pitched percussions.

The EXT does a fantastic job on that track, the chimes on the intro sound magnificent…. then the bass line starts, so powerful and contrasting so well with the hi hats and guitar and overall I heard details there that I had never heard before and I know the song by heart. Jack’s vocals are perfectly clear and integrated into the mix. The EXT doesn’t even break a sweat with the song fast tempo and just sounds absolutely effortless.

The Elysium again sounds so very different from the EXT… I hear more energy to the chimes in the intro and the bass line is more of a supporting cast than a star here but the hi hats have less energy and presence. Vocal is more forward and I was surprised to hear much more detail in the vocal portrayal. Some wooden percussions that were in the back of the song with the EXT were also quite more present in the mix.

My pick : Overall I found the Elysium was much less articulate with less detail making it harder to articulate the track as a whole. The EXT does such a better job of handling the complexity of that track, but also is more engaging with a better balance in its treble.

Radiohead “No Surprises”

Radiohead - No Surprises (CD1).jpg

A classic, no doubt with the glockenspiel melody from Jonny Greenwood which I find interesting to check out lower treble especially how it decays but other than that it’s also a great track that leaves you in a dreamy state when well portrayed…

The EXT really made me rediscover that track, first of all well I had never heard this track bass properly and it came as somewhat of a surprise (no pun intended). The centerpiece always has been the glockenspiel melody to me as well as Thom Yorke’s vocals. The EXT adds a real immersive quality to the track with Colin Greenwood deep powerful bass line but also a darker mood and looming presence. But back to the treble, the glockenspiel notes are breathtakingly nuanced and you can clearly hear the intensity picking up and subsiding which each minute variation reflected in Jonny Greenwood interpretation. The EXT sheer extension also provides fantastic articulation and everything is resolved with exquisite yet natural detail. Breathtaking…

On to the Elysium, the glockenspiel captivated me right away with more presence than the EXT and a mellower presentation with notes lingering quite a bit more, the bass line is there but doesn’t provide that sense of gloom the EXT conveys. Thom Yorke’s vocals are closer to me with a better portrayal of Thom tessitura there is more nuance and emotion than the EXT. But the Elysium fails to portray all the facets and complexity of this track, the track is more perceived as whole and the EXT is better at picking the richness of all aspect in this track.

My pick : This one goes to the EXT although it’s true for that particular track and the Elysium is a different portrayal that is highly engaging as well.

Treble verdict : There is no going around it, the quad EST setup of the EXT makes this an unfair battle... yes the Elysium performs quite well with its own strength but the EXT just takes everything one notch up and then some in terms of performance. This gives the EXT the edge on extension, resolution and imaging.



It's always a challenge to build upon an IEM that has become a classic like the Elysium has, chance is you'll disappoint with a marginal 2.0 version or that you'll break what made the recipe work so well. I think it was really a smart choice for Vision Ears to just build a complimentary IEM that is not just an Ely with a DD and quad EST upgraded setup. In that sense, for those who don't have the original Elysium the choice is a little less clear cut than "just get the EXT it’s the original Elysium with a DD and a quad EST." Vision Ears team has luckily made this much more complicated and the original Elysium still has its own strength and uniqueness. Keeping both IEMs in a collection makes total sense, as Ely and EXT provides different portrayal of music and in no way their signature is marginally different. Last but not least the original Elysium is available as a custom and honestly it’s a much better experience in terms of isolation and confort although the EXT is pretty good as a universal.

If you’re looking for an IEM with powerful and fast bass, with articulate engaging resolving mids and the best treble money can buy all in a superb build then look no further the EXT certainly punches up there with the best of them! The EXT is one of the few IEMs that can boast being able to satisfy the inner basshead as well as the most demanding audiophile which kind of means VE has squared the circle. Hats off!

Listening notes
I spent approximately 80hours with the EXT and several hundreds with the Elysium, listening on FiiO M17 and Hiby RS6 as well as RS6 + Zen Can balanced with the stock cable.
Last edited:
WOW !!!! what a job you have done, amazing.
I waited till yesterday this specific review, as it was not published yet and based on some of your former comments, reviews of the EXT and some other reviews here or other websites => I ordered yesterday and already received this morning my sample of the EXT...
Your review will help me to catch the main properties you have described and probably I will be able to have much faster my own opinion as I will better understand what the EXT is.
Thank you.
Edit : As I can find more or less all tracks on Amazon Music HD, it takes a huge time to follow your review.. but, again, wait a detailed and remarkable job you've done ! I discover the EXT in the best way I ever discovered an IEM.
@newworld666 Thanks for the feedback! You helped me get Stealth so glad I could help you make a decision and enjoy the first steps :)
Hello David, did you try other câble on this ext, do you know witch one can be better than the stock ?


Headphoneus Supremus
Cozy fire
Pros: Highly coherent transparent and relaxed tuning
Superb upper treble extension providing excellent air and resolution
Remarkable timbre accuracy making for a very realistic portrayal of music
Strong bassline with excellent textures and detail
Highly transparent to the source and cable, opens up a lot of possibilities
Cons: Switch system is a missed opportunity, OFF switch not really useful
Sub bass extension and presence is lacking, making for a less visceral presentation
Must be paired with the right source to fit your preference (because of transparency to source)

Fit, Build & Isolation​

The Spark feature a lightweight shell and just like the Land the build quality is excellent. I picked a custom fit for the Spark as I do for all my flagships now. The fit is perfect and Tansio accepts STL file which makes the process seamless and safe. The Spark features the same beautiful smoke (transparent grey) shells that show the internal craftsmanship is very good including the switches system with tight tolerances.


The fit is deep but not overly tight and provides both comfort and excellent isolation which was something I felt was lacking with Land. Custom has its perk vs universals especially when the fit is deep like Spark is. Just like the previous flagship Zodiac, the bass BA are vented with a color coded ring to indicate left and right.



I must confess I hadn’t heard much about Tansio Mirai before I reviewed the TSMR-5 but I am very happy that my fellow headfiers mentioned it as a brand to get a look into. Just like Fearless Audio, Tansio Mirai is one of the chinese brand to keep tabs on as they are getting quite a bit of traction among audiophiles that want to get high sound quality at affordable prices.

The TSMR-5 review clearly put Tansio Miraï on the map for me as a strong contender with great build and tuning knowledge. I didn’t get to audition TSMR-8 and TSMR-10 but those have a strong reputation in the audiophile world. When I reviewed the Zodiac, I was quite impressed at how well Tansio’s flagship fared against a highly competitive landscape and it’s still one of my favorite all BA IEMs.

As you know the landscape has changed a bit with the generalization of EST drivers and the flourishing offering of tribrids, especially in the mid tier segment. Tansio Mirai didn’t rush things and took its sweet time and rolled out it EST lineup first with the Land and now Spark in a short time frame. I must say, when it was announced I was quite excited at the prospect given their track record of price to performance ratio as well as tuning mastery.

If you’ve read my review, you know I value the Land as being probably the best bang for bucks in the lower mid tier and I sure was excited about Spark although I must say I wished they had kept a dynamic down low but hey BA and EST sure worked out fine for Oriolus Traillii so… how does the Spark compete with the current flagships?

Let’s check it out!



This is will all switches to ON, which also was my favorite setup with Zodiac and Land. This will be my baseline for the Spark. I’ll go into switches combination in the detailed bass, mids and treble sections.

Spark name could imply that it’s an energetic brand of sound, but it seems like marketing didn’t line up with the actual signature which is of a more relaxed kind (cozy fire rather than bonfire !)… the Spark feature a balanced and transparent signature with impressive technicalities without ever sounding clinical or analytical. It builds up upon the Zodiac tuning philosophy but on EST steroids so to speak : treble extension is reaching elite level which benefits resolution, imaging and separation compared to its older flagship brother. Land was already quite excellent up top but quad EST setup can’t really be matched. It’s the current state of the art in the business and it shows there. As we’ll see, Spark clarity and transparency is remarkable and this immediately stands out. Note that Spark is not as smooth as the Zodiac or even the Land and has more bite with a bolder signature while remaining free of any harshness.

Soundstage is excellent with great width, but I actually feel Land has a tad better height and depth. Spark stage is more elliptical. True to Tansio tuning, vocals are forward and clear but on the accurate side compared to the sweeter Land.



Bass switch to ON
The Spark shares a lot with the Zodiac bass. Back when I reviewed Zodiac I wrote “It is the epitome of audiophile bass done right” and it stands with the Spark and after some A/B I would be hard pressed to find differences really. Tansio chose to stick to the winning recipe.

My usual sub bass test track Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” didn’t bring the same enjoyment I got from Land dynamic driver but with the switch to ON the sub extension is very good just not with the same presence, density and power. You can’t really mimick a dynamic driver with a BA but as BA goes this is a good performance especially when paired with Shanling M8 granting the Spark significant additional presence and weight.

The mid bass is textured and detailed with superb control, but depending on the source the bass line might lack a bit of rythmic presence for my taste. From that standpoint I preferred the Shanling M8 and Hiby RS6 pairing to N6ii Ti (R01) and AMP12 on the DX300 over AMP11(mk1).

Out of Hiby RS6, the bass line of José James “Better off Dead” is very satisfying with both percussions and bass guitar getting me toe tapping along. Stefon Harris “Song of Samson” drums and percussions feature a very satisfying presence and excellent levels of details with smooth attack and a very natural decay of notes. This is a strong but relaxed and detailed mid bass, reminiscent of the Zodiac in many ways except Spark is more articulate and detailed.

Bass switch to OFF
Given what I wrote in the ON section, you probably guess what I am about to say : I wouldn’t use the bass switch to OFF unless you’re bass averse. When switched to OFF, even M8 can’t lift the bass presence enough and the bass line is really too weak and lacking weight. I switched it for the purpose of the review and see what happened but really never used this setting.



Mids switch to ON
The Spark midrange is not the intoxicating brand of midrange that the Land was, Tansio clearly had different goals of transparency and timbre accuracy. This was true of the Zodiac mids but with a fuller and slightly warm twist the Spark doesn’t feature. Spark midrange looses a bit of fullness which benefits a remarkable instruments separation and a more accurate timbre. Adam Ben Ezra’s double bass on “Bolero” is so realistic, soulful and natural sounding providing a “live” feeling of listening straight to the instrument and same goes for the guitar strings. Also worth mentionning is Gerry Mulligan “Chelsea Bridge” which gave me goosebumps. I usually get this kind of feeling with TOTL dynamic drivers like Dunu Luna or JVC FW10000 but Tansio managed a timbre accuracy and realism that is pretty special there.

The Spark is also about transparency and it shows in its chameleon like ability to reflect the source coloration or absence thereof. From this standpoint having several sources to switch from made for interesting pairings. My preference goes to more organic sounding sources with Spark, and DX300 with AMP11mk1 added a smoother more organic touch that makes the Spark more natural sounding. Likewise, Hiby RS6 (my favorite pairing) was a fuller brand of organic (especially NOS mode) but more lively with excellent bite and overall more forward mids. On the flipside pairing with N6ii Ti emphasizes the superb layering abilities of the Spark and incredible separation with a fairly neutral brand of midrange. DX300 with AMP12 was the most balanced presentation of all my sources, reflecting what I think is Spark baseline. It was also interesting to cable roll with the Spark as it’s responding very well to it – more so than usual – bringing the desired adjustments : Penon Totem brings interesting weight down low and furthers the treble performance, ISN Solar adds a touch of warmth to the midrange and quite a bit of bass presence, Penon Storm brings transparency to higher levels yet.

The Spark lower midrange is combined with a safe upper midrange : instruments have good bite and energy providing excitement but it will remain safe at all times (My usual Hank Levy’s “Whiplash” passed with flying colors). Some might find it lacking bite compared to say Vision Ears Elysium. I know I don’t mind going to the edge with Saxophones or Violin with the Elysium but the Spark won’t provide that shivery feeling. One good example is John Coltrane “Equinox”, the Elysium provides me with the extra bite that makes the track much more exciting. On the flipside, those who are upper mids sensitive will feel right at home with the Spark as it still packs excellent energy while remaining smooth.

Vocals are forward and clear, true to Tansio house sound. Depending on the source, male vocals can range from having satisfying power (RS6, M8) to lacking a bit of grit and chest (N6ii Ti/R01, DX300/AMP12). Female vocals – regardless of the source – are highly engaging while never featuring any hints of harshness or sibilance. Positioning is forward emphasizing the performer significantly.

Mids switch to OFF
Just like Land, the mids switch affects mainly the lower mids region. Unless you really like leaner mids I wouldn’t recommend it. If I was nitpicking I’d say I would have prefered Spark to have a bit more upper mids bite and have the option with switch OFF to have the setting that Spark features with the switch ON which is safe. It would have been a more interesting choice IMHO.



Treble switch to ON
The Spark treble section is a bit different than its brother Land in the EST range. It’s much less energetic, with a gentler lower treble more akin to the Zodiac. There is good energy but some might find bite lacking a bit : like upper mids, it won’t bring you to the edge which can be a good or bad things depending on your taste in treble. This being said, lower treble has good energy. Piano notes are realistic with satisfying energy and weight, as exhibited in The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)”. The Spark is engaging but is a more relaxed listen over the more exciting Land.

The upper treble section is the main differentiator to the Zodiac, the 4 EST driver array of the Spark is simply in another league with much better extension it provides more air, significantly more resolution and faster transients. Given the bass and mids tuning, this makes Spark a very transparent IEM. It betters my Elysium as well in terms of detail retrieval, with a more relaxed presentation. Laurie Anderson “Born, Never Asked” is somewhat of an experimental music kind of track with complex nuances that reflects on the Spark ability to keep up with the treble produced by Laurie keening violin (an instrument of her own design, featuring magnetic tape on the bow rather than the more usual horsehair and a magnetic tape head in the bridge) while remaining smooth. Color me impressed.

Treble switch to OFF
The treble switch seems to be aiming mainly the lower treble section, as turning the switch to OFF clearly takes away some of the lower treble energy while not affecting the upper treble extension. The treble has more of an upper treble tilt and the Spark looses quite a bit of energy. Again, I think Tansio could have provided a tad more energetic setting here brining Spark towards Land energy with the ability to turn the switch off.



When I read Spark announcement I must say I was both excited – Zodiac is one of my favorites – but also after Land I really thought they would do a tribrid flagship with a dynamic down low. I have come to love the dynamic – BA – EST trio and some of my favorite IEMs feature it like Elysium, Volt and Tansio very own Land. So when it was announced that Spark was a BA and EST array I was a bit disappointed.

This being said, I couldn’t pass up on Spark as I am a big fan of Tansio and have always been impressed by their tuning mastery. Spark has earned a special place in my lineup and prooves once again that Tansio Mirai is certainly one of the best at tuning IEMs that are transparent, natural sounding with a very coherent tuning. They have their own unique brand of sound and that’s what I am looking for. Sure, I would have preferred different choices for the tuning switches and I can’t help but feel like it’s a missed opportunity to make Spark a more versatile IEM.

If you’re looking for an IEM with remarkable transparency, impressive air and resolution combined with a relaxed presentation then the Spark certainly has a place in your collection! It does so with superb build quality at a fair price in a soaring prices segment.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 250 hours with the Spark, listening on Cayin N6ii Ti using the stock cable, Penon Storm, ISN Solar and DITA Oslo. I also tested the Spark with Shanling M8, DX300 and RS6.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Tansio Mirai for providing a discounted priced unit of the Spark. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
I find your review very consistent with the thought that I also have on TSMR Spark. If it had the possibility of having more depth and body in the low range, it would be an even more engaging listening.
@fabio19 Thanks! Actually I just got myself a iFi Audio Pro iCAN Signature and the Tube+ mode does just that to the Spark it's really something to behold!


Headphoneus Supremus
Promised Land!
Pros: Outstanding price to performance ratio
Intoxicating midrange with a sublime balance of fullness and transparency, bite and smoothness and excellent timbre
Textured, detailed and layered mid bass with excellent speed
Refined treble with excellent energy
Impressive resolution and precise imaging with holographic soundstage
Deeply seated physical sub bass power
Highly coherent tuning
Lightweight comfortable shels with high quality resin and perfect build
Cons: Average isolation
A three position tuning switch system would have opened interesting variants
Product Page :
Price : 599$

Fit, Build & Isolation​

The Land feature a lightweight shell and the build quality is excellent and I do feel one step up from the Zodiac (seamless joints of the faceplate, resin quality). The inside of the transparent grey shells show the craftsmanship is very good up to the switches system with tight tolerances.


The fit is perfect with lightweight shells that you quickly forget once you wear them. The included tips are high quality, a good thing because the stem of the Land EST is on the bigger side (slightly bigger than the Zodiac already big e.g >5mm) and this means not everyone of your tip collection will fit. The fit is not too deep either which make the Land quite comfortable especially for those who don’t like deeper fits. Like Zodiac the isolation is only average but that should be an issue only for those listening in noisy environments with moderate volume like I do.



I must confess I hadn’t heard much about Tansio Mirai before I reviewed the TSMR-5 but I am very happy that my fellow headfiers mentioned it as a brand to get a look into. Just like Fearless Audio, Tansio Mirai is one of the chinese brand to keep tabs on as they are getting quite a bit of traction among audiophiles that want to get high sound quality at affordable prices.

The TSMR-5 review clearly put Tansio Miraï on the map for me as a strong contender with great build and tuning knowledge. I didn’t get to audition TSMR-8 and TSMR-10 but those have a strong reputation in the audiophile world. When I reviewed the Zodiac, I was quite impressed at how well Tansio’s flagship fared against a highly competitive landscape and it’s still one of my favorite all BA IEMs.

As you know the landscape has changed a bit with the generalization of EST drivers and the flourishing offering of tribrids, especially in the mid tier segment. Tansio Mirai didn’t rush things and took its sweet time building the Land EST and when it was announced I was quite excited at the prospect given their track record of price to performance ratio as well as tuning mastery.

The Land didn’t arrive first at the tribrid party for sure, but I do expect Tansio Mirai is able to provide a strong contender!

Does this hold true? How does the Land fare in a ferociously competitive landscape?

Let’s check it out!



This is will all switches to ON, which was my favorite setup with Zodiac. This will be my baseline for the Land. I’ll go into switches combination in the details bass, mids and treble sections.

The Land feature powerful and balanced bass with excellent speed, an intoxicating midrange that strikes a superb balance of transparency and fullness with excellent bite and a highly refined treble that packs some excellent energy. Soundstage is excellent with great width, excellent height and good depth. Vocals are forward and clear with just the right touch of sweetness.


Bass switch to ON
The Land features a powerful bass with excellent sub bass power, the 10mm driver definitely brings additional physicality compared to the Zodiac excellent BA bass, the subs can be felt. My usual test track Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” brought thunderous subs with excellent density and power. On Phanee de Pool “Amstram” the Land really impressed me with the short burst of subs that provide the rhythm of the track, the weight of the notes was among the best I have heard it especially contrasting with the upper treble extension does justice to the extremely high contrast between the subs and highs. This is combined with an excellent recovery speed between the bass burst, note start and stop on a whim with excellent performance for a dynamic. I had a similar experience with Marian Hill “Differently” where the sub notes contrast with the treble beautifully, against a pitch black background. Vivid.

The mid bass slam is excellent, the Land with the bass switch to ON is clearly a fun IEM but not at the expanse of technicalities. The Land is actually pretty impressive in terms of control and speed as revealed on Lucy Dixon “Stormy Weather” where the drums snappy sequences are perfectly rendered. Textures are rich, detailed and layered, there is clearly a family of tuning with Zodiac and this is a good thing in my book given how high I rate the Zodiac mid bass. In Ted Poor “Emilia” the drums are perfectly portrayed with both power of the flow tom and bass drum and nuances one can easily pick out the snare drum, high and medium Tom. I highly recommend Ted Poor’s whole album “You already know” on the Land.

Worth noting, while powerful bass is really well integrated into the overall signature, it doesn’t overshadow or bleed into the mids while providing great pace and rhythm.

Bass switch to OFF
I was surprised at the sub bass presence which honestly is a bit attenuated but not by much the Land still provides excellent power and rumble. The bass switch seems to be affecting mainly the mid and upper bass with a leaner bass presence. The bass is faster and cleaner but on the flipside the Land looses physicality and becomes drier, less textured and full. This could appeal to some in the sense that it’s a purer bass that is not devoid of power and physicality in the sub bass.


Mids switch to ON
The Land midrange is quite intoxicating and Tansio has found a rare balance there. It’s not quite as transparent as the Zodiac midrange, but it’s fuller with a quite a bit more body to the instruments, it’s really a very subtle balance of transparency and fullness that I already loved with the Zodiac but the Land offers me a nice variant there.

This level of transparency combined with a full bodied midrange is pretty intoxicating to my ears. When I listen to Gerry Mulligan “Chelsea bridge” with a huge smile on my face, something is happening and not many IEMs can provide the level of nuances and engagement that I found with the Land. Gerry’s saxophone sounds soulful and provides so many levels of nuances and that’s what gives this track its full flavor with the Land : the ability to convey the minute nuance of interpretation makes all the difference. Sorry to keep on raving about Jazz tracks but the same goes for tracks like Houston Person “Everything must change”. This is a soulful interpretation and honestly not many IEMs have given me chills like the Land has and in this price range it’s simply quite unique.

The Land midrange fullness is combined with the right amount of bite in the upper mids as well. The Land passed the Hank Levy “Whiplash” test with flying colors : Land has good bite and takes me to edge on the cymbals but never crosses the threshold. It’s an energetic midrange but a safe one. This is a delicate balance which is hard to find.

Vocals are clear, both male and female reflect the nice balance found between the lower and upper mids tuning. Male vocals have satisfying power and female vocals have a sweetness that I find adds naturalness without going to far and timbre while not dead neutral is respected. Positioning is a tad forward emphasizing the performer and vocals are energetic and highly engaging.

Switching from Hiby R6 2020 – which is my main source for this review – to Shanling M8 takes the Land even further up the ladder of special midranges to me. Cable rolling to Penon Totem took me to heights I didn’t think a mid tier IEM could take me. Color me impressed, although it might not be a coherent setup for most as the Totem is more expensive than the Land it still pull off every bit of greatness the Land can deliver and show how it scales with sources.

Mids switch to OFF
I wasn’t sure how the mids switch would go. Less upper mids could have been a choice but it was clearly apparent from the moment I turned the switch off that it affects mainly the lower mids region. The Land sounds significantly brighter and leaner on this setting. Gone is the fullness of the midrange that I find so intoxicating with the switch to ON. Take the bass switch off as well and the Land sounds almost hollow. I really didn’t care that much to put the mids switch to off and unless you really like leaner and brighter mids I am not sure I would recommend it.


Treble switch to ON
I was really curious at how the first EST powered Tansio would sound? Well, it’s a pretty impressively mature EST tuning from Tansio and hints at what heights their upcoming Spark could reach. Tansio took time to release its first EST but it did right.

The lower treble section is always the one I check with EST arrays. It’s the weakest part of EST drivers to me and the first EST IEMs on the market lacked luster here. Not with LAND. I am pretty impressed at the lower treble energy with the switch to ON. Note weight still can’t really match the best BA setup but still, very close. The chimelike Kalimba in Vaiteani “How they call it” and the percussions in Stan Getz “Maracatu Too” both sound spot on and energetic with good weight to the strokes, and both track imaging are impressive with a very holographic image. I also enjoyed Stefon Harris “Let’s take a trip to the sky” dreamy vibraphone intro.

The upper treble is just impressive as EST done right can be with impressive extension and a sense of air and a resolution and fast transients that other technology fail to deliver. I have become a huge fan of EST tuned right and it’s hard to match. The Land is no exception and it performs really well, surpassing it’s older brother the Zodiac… until the upcoming 4 EST Spark comes out in a couple of months.

Treble switch to OFF
The treble switch seems to be aiming mainly the lower treble section, as turning the switch to OFF clearly takes away some of the lower treble energy while not affecting the upper treble extension. The treble has more of an upper treble tilt and the Land looses quite a bit of energy. I could see the appeal for those who are treble sensitive depending on sources and personal preferences of music genres but I do again prefer the switch to ON.



I must confess that when I heard that Tansio Mirai was releasing a mid tier tribrid I got pretty excited at the prospect as I have always been impressed by the coherence and refinement of their tuning. I was really curious to see how they would implement a dynamic and the EST and how it would benefit both the bass and treble.

The dynamic definitely adds physicality to the mix and I must say I am almost a bit disappointed that the upcoming Spark flagship won’t feature one, although again Zodiac has superb BA bass I do love a physical sub bass and the slam that a dynamic can add. The EST technology really did bring a lot to the table for the Land, providing a level of performance that benefits Land resolution, separation and imaging greatly. It manages to surpass Tansio’s previous flagship the Zodiac at half the price. This being said despite the benefits of a dynamic down low and the EST up top, Tansio manages to also pull off a very intoxicating midrange with a pretty exquisite tuning, technology is not all!

I am nitpicking but The only minor gripe I would have is I would have liked a three position tuning switch system : it would have opened interesting variants like a more fun bass, more lower mids and less upper mids or more treble energy for example. Right now you can have a leaner bass, brighter mids and a less energetic treble. As it is, I am sticking to all switches to ON just like I did for the Zodiac.

This is a sweet time to be an audiophile and despite the insane price rise in the flagship segment thanks to EST becoming widespread there are some gems in the mid tier segment now and Land is a very strong contender there.

If you’re looking for an IEM with an intoxicating midrange, powerful textured and fast bass and impressive air and resolution at a reasonable price then the Land is one of top alternatives in a crowded segment with tough competition! It does so with a really singular combination of transparency, engagement and refinement crediting a real tuning mastery from Tansio Mirai.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the Land, listening on Hiby R6 2020using the stock cable, Penon OSG, ISN Solar. I also tested the Land with Shanling M8 and DX300 with Penon Totem.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Tansio Mirai for providing a review unit of the Land. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
Last edited:
Oops. Sorry. Commented on the wrong review!

Thanks for the review sir!


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Highly engaging, fun and distinctive tuning
Outstanding subwoofer like sub bass
Toe tapping authoritative mid bass with excellent slam
Smooth, natural and transparent midrange with excellent bite
Energetic treble with smooth delivery and excellent extension
Outstanding stage height and excellent depth
Excellent price to performance ratio
Scales well with better sources
Custom at the price of universal
Cons: Only if you don’t like powerful bass ;)
Product Page :
Price : 850€ (universal and custom)

Fit, Build & Isolation​

The universal Mundaka features beautifully made shells with a piano black finish along with a colored nacre decorum. The shells are small except for a significant depth. They should fit smaller ears pretty well but will protrude a bit from your ears. The socket is a flush 2pin and I had no issues with cable rolling (worth mentioning).


Note that Alambic Ears can build a custom Mundaka for the same price as the universal. Also, my Mundaka although it’s the finalized product, it is a pre-production sample as I had the chance to preview it before its release.


Alambic Ears has been gaining traction in the french community, first with excellent reshell services but now with a growing lineup. Some of you at headfi might have read some of @Aldo40 post in the DIY section.

Frédéric has a very interesting background that all caters to craftsmanship over 25 years : he has been building music instruments professionally and also… surfboards with quite a reputation over the years. If you’re a surf fan you won’t be surprised to notice Frédéric’s IEMs are named after surf spots.

As a DIYer speakers, amps, DACs and 4 years ago started building IEMs. He did quite a bit of re-shells in the french community and one thing leading to the other a year ago, people started asking him to build IEMs and that’s how the Jaws (3 way 5 BA) model was born (an upgraded Jaws II is now available).

Since then, he has started a full lineup from the Bali (350€) a 3 way 3 BA which was my first listen and I was mightily impressed at how coherent and fun the Bali was. I then had the chance to preview the Mavericks, a 4 way 7 BA : a fun IEM that features visceral, toe tapping, bass head level bass presence combined with a balanced midrange with excellent bite and an understated but refined treble. I haven’t heard the top of the BA range yet, but I have heard great things about he 4 way 11 BA Noosa and I’ll very probably review it soon.

The Mundaka is Frédéric first hybrid (and tribrid) featuring a 10mm DD, a full range BA and a dual EST. Alambic Ears website states : “Deep and clean bass. Intra-balanced to well-timed and lively mids with a natural extension of highs, crisp and impacting bass, a coherent scene and depth.”

Let’s check this out!



There is no mistaking the Mundaka upon the very first minute it’s clear it has a very strong personality seated in deep and very powerful bass, a smooth and natural midrange and a lively and well extended treble. The Mundaka is a visceral and fun IEM but with strong technicalities as we’ll see. The soundstage is not the widest but it’s very tall and deep it’s more spherical than elliptical and its height is really outstanding making for a very immersive listening experience.


The Mundaka’s bass is simply put something to behold. Upon first listen you’ll probably get a aha aha moment and go “wow”. That was my initial reaction : I haven’t heard bass like this in quite a while (and my second reaction : I wonder how it would sound as a custom).

Last time I was wowed like this was with Campfire Solaris. The Mundaka provides visceral bass that will provoke an emotional response and unless you’re averse to bass you’ll love them and it’s a big part of the Mundaka’s engaging nature although it’s far from its only attribute.

The Mundaka sub bass feels like you have a subwoofer driver in there, very few IEM can deliver this type of sub bass, period. It might be too much for some, but the good news is it’s also a transparent bass and that’s one interesting trait of the Mundaka. It will provide a powerful, visceral sub bass only on tracks that do feature it. My usual Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” sub bass test track was thunderous and I think the best I have heard it and Phanee de Pool “Amstram” was just as good. I found myself going over more sub bass tracks than any of my previous reviews : Booka Shade “Paper Moon” and Darkside “Paper Trails” as well as Marian Hill “Differently” or Klangkuenstler “Man on the Moon” were so enjoyable it was clearly apparent that something was missing before. Color me impressed.

The mid bass is highly engaging and fun with a strong bass line, but not at the expense of realism : I was so impressed by the drums in Lucy Dixon “Stormy weather” I felt like being right there as I was toe tapping along the quick burst of Stomp’s drums rendered with good speed and outstanding authority. Very few IEMs manage to do this and in fact not every headphone will. The same was true of the Drums in Ted Poor “To Rome”, Fink’s “Resurgam” and Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” or Yom “Une épopée” : the Mundaka clearly excels with drums. This being said, stringed bass also work wonders and Rubén González “La Lluvia” double bass is deep and powerful with a very natural decay.

Source wise, the Mundaka loves power and I recommend a good source. You don’t need an amp per say but authority and control rely on good power as usual and it applies here. You won’t get the full experience otherwise. Hiby R6 2020 was a good fit to the Mundaka if you love your sub bass it has excellent sub bass power and the linear response is a great fit to the Mundaka signature. DX300 is a bit on the relaxed side and although it did pretty well my prefered source was Shanling M8 giving me the full Mundaka experience with a bit less subs than R6 2020 but the best mid bass experience. Cable wise, the Mundaka responded quite well to upgrade cables but the best two were Penon OSG that provide the best control among my collection although it trims down the bass quantity a bit and Penon Totem is the most energetic pairing across the range if it’s your thing. I would stay clear of bass boosting cables as the Mundaka doesn’t need it IMHO.


The Mundaka midrange is my favorite kind : it’s smooth, natural sounding and fairly transparent which honestly was unexpected given its fun low end. This is quite an interesting combination. Instrument timbre sounds spot on to my ears and contribute to the naturalness of the Mundaka’s midrange.

The lower mids is not dipped but it’s not boosted either and the transition with the bass is seamless and progressive. Warmth and body is infused by the Mundaka’s bass presence. In Carlos Henriquez “Cuchifrito” the double bass deeply seated bass grants the track body while the balanced lower mids keeps the stage quite open and transparent, reinforced by the lively upper mids on brass instruments in that track.

About brass instruments, the Mundaka does a pretty good job there and Joe Lovano tenor saxophone in “I waited for you” features the right amount of bite with a soulful portraying. In Blue Mitchell “Na Ta Ka”, Bill Green alto saxophone is quite energetic especially with DX300 and it was quite fun especially along with Paul Humphrey’s drums which contrast nicely on the low end. This contrast between the low end and upper mids is something that I like a lot about the lively Mundaka.

The Mundaka has a bit of vocal emphasis and vocals are clear. I found both male and female vocals to be engaging with excellent timbre, although I would say female vocals fare better given the upper mids tilt. Male vocals are accurate but don’t have the grit that lower mids focused IEMs can provide. Note that depending on tips, source and cable pairing I had a little sibilance on the most demanding tracks.

I liked the DX300 better than the Shanling M8 pairing there for instruments, it has more forward mids with more bite and it’s a good synergy for a more lively midrange but it won’t be for everyone and the downside is some hints of sibilance on vocals. M8 on the flipside had no sibilance and little less vocal emphasis. The Hiby R6 2020 sits somewhere in between. For the same reason, I liked the Totem the best out of the 3 cables I have rotated during the review as it’s a bit more energetic but the OSG is the more balanced.


The Mundaka’s treble is a nice counterpoint to its bass, bringing both balance in terms of energy and refinement and technical icing on the cake if you will.

The lower treble has excellent energy (although less than its bass :p) and like Tansio Mirai Land I recently reviewed shows that EST driver can catch up to balanced armature in terms of energy although I do feel it’s still a bit short in terms of weight compared to the best BA and that shows on piano notes. But it’s more a statement regarding the technology than the Mundaka EST that do an excellent job here. The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” intro piano notes features spot on energy and nice weight. The electric guitars in The Pixies “Where is my mind?” are as energetic as they should be while remaining safe and this track is a good test.

The Mundaka upper treble is characteristic of EST done right : it might be Alambic Ears first tribrid but it doesn’t show! The extension and resolution is excellent and the fast transients provide a sense of air that was previously the mark of multi thousands of euros TOTL. I have said it numerous times, I have become a huge fan of EST tuned right and the Mundaka is in that category. In my opinion it’s a big part of why mid and upper mid tiers IEMs are much closer if not equal to upper tier offerings in this department and this is true of the Mundaka.



I love an IEM that shows a real “parti pris” as we say in french, one that has a clear tuning intent that is not meant to please all. The Mundaka has a strong personality with its incredibly powerful bass. Yet if it can be a basshead dream come true, it’s not at the expense of the “audiophile” criterias thanks to its transparent midrange and excellent treble performance. Think of Mundaka as a good excuse to satisfy your inner basshead without compromising your audiophile backbone 😉

If you’re looking for an IEM with outstanding bass authority and power, a natural transparent midrange with excellent bite and a lively treble with excellent extension then Mundaka should be at the top of your list! I haven’t heard the Project 4+2 but it should be a very interesting comparison when I get my hands on it…

Listening notes
I spent approximately 80hours with the Mundaka, listening on Shanling M8 using Penon OSG, ISN Solar and Penon Totem upgrade cable balanced.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Frédéric for providing a loan review unit of the Mundaka which needs to be returned at the end of the review process. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


Headphoneus Supremus
Electric Dreams
Pros: Potential is high Volt will scale superbly with better sources and cables
Highly resolving and open sounding organic tuning that manages to be non fatiguing (quite a unique combination)
Superb upper treble performance providing superb air, resolution and refinement thanks to blazing fast transients (Rises to elite levels with Totem)
Smooth lower treble with good energy
Full bodied, smooth and soulful midrange with sweet vocals (Totem brings extra bite, clarity and transparency)
Powerful and detailed bass that strikes a good balance of control, punch and rich textures (Totem makes it punchier and snappier with more power)
Excellent build and fit
Outstanding value for money
Cons: Needs good current to shine (don’t hesitate to try medium / high gain you’ll be rewarded!)
Some might find upper mids and lower treble to miss bite (upgrade cables like Totem will make this a weaker con, brighter sources can also help)
Fit, Build & Isolation
The Penon Volt features a superb build, worthy of its flagship status and the fit was perfect right out of the box, I sent my usual digital STL prints and it took 10 days to build which is pretty good time from my experience. The fit is quite deep (deepest of all my customs in fact) but not too compressive it’s very confortable. I can see people having a problem with the artist fit as compared to the usually more relaxed fit of audiophile CIEM. I personally love it but if you’re sensitive I would ask for a shallower insertion.


As you might notice in the picture above there are 3 sound tubes and 3 bores with only one larger bore at the exit so the Volt is somewhat of a horn bore design which is great to avoid was to enter the sound tubes. The 2 pin socket is not recessed which is something I generally prefer for a more secure fit this being said the sockets are tight and the cable secure.

The Volt comes with a very nice stock single crystal copper silver-plated copper cable with assorted colors to the Volt blue. The cable is 2.5mm and comes with a 3.5 and 4.4 pigtail extension.


Like most people I know I have enjoyed Penon as an online shop, a trusted distributor of many brands I love like Dunu, Astrotec or ISN to name a few. Penon started building IEMs (the BS1 earbud in 2017) and great value for money cables (like OS849). In 2019 they launched their first IEM the Sphere and it was a success. Lately they have been on the roll with the Penon Orb I recently reviewed and the flagship cable Totem I’ll soon review.

The Volt is a tribrid sporting a 10mm dynamic driver for the lows, 2 Sonion balanced armatures for the mids and no less than 4 Sonion electrostatic drivers for the highs. Penon didn’t really write up a summary of the tuning goals and very little to no marketing happened at launch. This means I had no expectations and I simply blind purchased it based both on a few reviews I trust and on how good the Orb sounded to me and the trust I have in the brand to build a flagship that would fit my tastes. Let’s check out what is Penon’s take on a flagship with the Volt!


The Volt is one of those IEMs that from the get go I knew was going to be interesting as it clearly is a multi-faceted IEM with its own brand of sound. As you’ll see further down this review, there is more to the Volt than meets the eye upon first listen. This is largely based upon the fact it needs some experimenting to get the best out of it.

First thing I quickly noticed is how Volt needs power or rather good current to shine. It’s deceptive because at 12ohm it’s easy to drive loud enough, you could be fooled to think to stay in low gain with relatively conservative volume levels. But as I experimented I quickly found out it sounded best between medium and sometimes high gain. The laid back nature that is a recurrent theme of most Volt impressions and reviews is to be taken with a grain of salt. The Volt needs, as we’ll see, more juice to reveal what it has to offer.

Second, upon first listen my brain had to adjust to the expectations I have for this type of signature. The Volt is a singular IEM for it features a sublime top end extension with blazing fast transients on top of that full bodied, smooth and organic signature. This is a particular taste of organic that is very resolving and refined with great separation, air and detail retrieval all presented in a natural way. Something that I very rarely experienced aside from Vision Ears VE8 or StealthSonics C9 Pro. But Volt takes yet a different twist with a different balance between a less energetic lower treble than the C9 pro and more extended upper treble than the VE8.

The Volt bass shares a driver and a common baseline with the Orb. It’s a powerful bass that strikes a good balance of power, control, punch and rich textures. This being said while the sub bass is equally powerful and controlled as the Orb the mid bass is just a bit less prominent than the Orb and the tuning goal seems to have been to make this a leaner more reference bass. As we’ll see this is coherent adjustments given Volt features more lower mids presence than the Orb.

Sub bass extension is excellent, my usual test tracks gave me plenty of sub bass rumble on Sohn’s “Falling” or Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” or Phanee de Pool “Amstram”. There is a sense of power and physicality that is unmistakenly the trait of a good dynamic driver, the Volt has great sub bass presence when called for but at the same time it does not overshadow the rest of the spectrum.

The mid bass is a bit less prominent in terms of presence compared with the sub bass. The Volt shows a bit more restraint than the Orb with a more controlled presentation. This being said the bass line is still strong with beautiful textures and impressive detail. This shows with percussions where the Volt manages to pull significantly more detail and nuances thant the Orb. In Ruben Gonzàles “La Lluvia” the double bass presence is very strong in the mix and it’s always a good test of how good mid bass control is. The Volt does very well there for with excellent control and good speed. It won’t be as fast and snappy as the best BA bass though and I get a snappier and faster performance from my best BA IEMs as we’ll see in the comparison section.

The deep percussions on Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” is outstanding and close to the best portrayal of this track that I have heard. Okvsho “Algoriddim” is rendered with great punch and is quite snappy as well, it shows that depending on the recording the Volt can deliver more speed and snap. Ayo “Throw it away” show how deep the Volt bass can be, with its almost hypnotic rythm operating as it was intended I was totally immersed in the song with a very tactile bass oozing of rich textures and deeply seated bass line.

All those impressions are with the stock cable, let me now tell you about how the Volt bass fare with Penon flagship cable the Totem. The Totem is a cable built for superlatives, combining a silver plated copper, a gold plated copper and a palladium plated silver in 2 wires each containing a whopping 334 cores. It’s also the very same price as Volt. Price notwithstanding it gave me a clear view of how high the Volt can scale and let me tell you right away, this is a stunning combo in every way. So much so that it warrants a full write up…

The Totem takes the Volt the extra mile in terms of sub bass. The 3 tests tracks Sohn’s “Falling”, Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” and Phanee de Pool “Amstram” all exhibit a more focused and controlled presentation. I am talking subwoofer like performance with a physicality that goes well beyond what the excellent stock cable can deliver. I was simply utterly impressed by this combo and the sub bass coming out of those IEMs was simply unreal. Consider me stunned. Wow.

On to the mid bass, the Totem tightens the mid bass significantly, bringing a much snappier performance out of the Volt dynamic driver. It’s now very close to the best BA bass I have at hand with my custom EM10 and FIBAE7. It’s a bit shocking how this cable affects the mid bass performance again bringing a more focused bass with more punch along with more detail. The Totem brings a sense of visceral realism to the Volt bass and I got lost in time listening to my bass test playlist, absolutely hypnotized by the sound coming out of a pair of custom IEMs. Again, wow.


The Volt mids are full bodied, with sweet vocals that are forwardly positioned. Like the Orb it’s an engaging and smooth midrange but the Orb is more lively with more upper mids bite while the Volt feature a silky smooth midrange. As we’ll see, the Volt upper treble presence and extension have a huge role on its midrange presentation bringing separation, air and balance to what would have been a darker signature otherwise. This is one key aspect of the whole signature.

The lower mids remind me greatly of Stealthsonics C9 Pro in that it’s an elevated lower mids that provides satisfying body and weight with a delicious “tactile” feel to them. As we’ll see in the comparison section, the Volt is not as warm and thick as the C9 Pro but it does have a warm hue to its midrange. This does benefit the whole range of wood instruments from the double bass to the violin, which sound more soulful and powerful and in the brass section the tuba and trombone as well.

The upper mids on the other hand are on the smoother side. There is good percussive attack and electric guitars have good bite but above around 5kHz there is a dip and some might find hi hats to lack crispness, kick drums and toms to lack a bit of snap and brass instruments are overall on the safer side. If you’re looking for deliciously hair rising bite on some saxophone performance the Volt won’t get you there. Not that it won’t be beautiful. I know I like it’s soulful presentation but in terms of bringing you to the edge it will just be too safe for some in how it portrays brass instruments. On the flipside Volt is non fatiguing and tracks like Hank Levy “Whiplash” or Miles Davis “So What” are absolutely devoid of any agressive hints that have me cross my personal threshold with some IEMs.

On to vocals. Given the lower mids tuning and overall fullness of the Volt, male vocals have power and Leonard Cohen “Nevermind” was a pure treat. Female vocals are slightly on the sweeter side but I find it gives a natural tone. I loved how the Volt portrayed Juliette Armanet vocal performance in “L’accident” which was as good as I have heard it. The presence range is elevated and there is vocal emphasis, and the upper mids being on the safer side there is no hint of sibilance whatsoever. As we’ll see to bonify things the superb upper treble brings welcome air and nuances to an otherwise smooth presentation, making the Volt a very enticing vocal performer.

All those impressions are with the stock cable, let me now tell you about how the Volt mids fare with Penon flagship cable the Totem. The first thing that is clearly apparent is how the Totem brings the Volt mildrange towards more transparency and clarity but also more bite in the upper mids. The overall tone of the mids is more balanced despite retaining a slight warm hue. The stage is more open with better instruments separation with the lower mids loosing a bit of thickness over the stock cable. This provides a fantastic sense of realism and the cleaner attack and faster decay also make it an even more engaging IEM and I had a hard time putting the Volt down going through my midrange test tracks. The additional bite now makes brass a totally different story and while Volt remains smooth and won’t bring you to the edge of performances in terms of bite it will provide a good amount of it which I think make it more engaging.


As I have hinted before, treble is somewhat of a cornerstone of the Volt signature but also somewhat of an atypical treble range with a buttery smooth lower treble and an impressive upper treble extension providing air, resolution as well as sublime transients. The Volt clearly features an upper treble tilt.

The lower treble has good energy but is consistent with the upper mids and the overall tuning goal which seems to be smoothness first. This means some will find the lower treble lacking bite, it’s not the kind of treble that will rejoice pure treble heads in this respect. This is a weakness of the EST in the lower treble in my opinion and I think BA have long good days as the best tech for lower treble if you want bite, weight and smoothness. Don’t misread this as the treble being lifeless, it’s not! It has good energy but it lacks bite and weight that is so yummy on piano for example. You can get a better result with setting a higher gain there and get extra energy but it might not be enough for those who seek thrilling lower treble. On the flipside this means the Volt is absolutely devoid of any sibilance even on the worst tracks and albums, Paul Simon “Graceland” album comes to mind there and it’s the first time since the FIBAE Black I had no sibilance at all.

The upper treble has top notch extension and presence and at the risk of sounding cliché I have just re-discovered many tracks and album subtleties and details with the Volt that I had only heard with my former KSE1500. This is where EST shine with blazing fast transients that add superb air and refinement. Contrary to many IEMs with excellent upper treble performance, I didn’t find the upper treble presence was overdone like it sometimes is : detail is not presented in a way that is at the expense of the overall musical message. This might be the most impressive aspect of the Volt, it provides boatloads of details in such an effortless and natural way. Volt is very resolving but not in a way that is “in your face”.

All those impressions are with the stock cable, let me now tell you about how the Volt treble fare with Penon flagship cable the Totem. I am not sure if it’s the palladium plated silver, but first very apparent difference is the extra lower treble energy you get out of the Volt with the Totem. Things remain absolutely smooth no matter which track but you have welcome extra energy that makes Volt more engaging. Electric guitars, piano and hi hats and snare drums are more enjoyable to my ears and when I compared Jack Johnson “Staple it together” with both cable it was clearly so much more enjoyable with the Totem. Last but not least, with the Totem upper treble section is less significantly improved but you still get extra resolution and refinement that comes with the last 5% improvements that flagships are known for and let me tell you Volt is among much pricier IEMs in that configuration.


Select comparisons
Note : I couldn’t resist the temptation to make this comparison using the Totem to bring the best out of each contender.

ItsFit Lab Fusion
Of all the comparisons in this section, on paper this is one of the most fitting in my collection : for starter, both Volt and fusion are tribrid, with a dynamic driver for lows, BA for mids and their own new tech for treble magnetostatic for the Fusion vs EST for the Volt. If you’ve read my Fusion review you know I consider it’s a punchy and clear sounding IEM with a balanced signature, great soundstage and fantastic imaging.

Starting with the bass, the Fusion bass presentation is clean and absolutely flawless technically with clearly a reference take. It’s a tight, snappy, detailed and controlled bass with no particular emphasis on sub or mid bass. The sub extension is excellent with good presence, the mid bass is on the leaner side with sharp attack and quick decay. You could be fooled to think it’s a BA bass if not for the physicality of the sub bass. Comparatively Volt is more fun with both more overall bass presence, more physical sub bass and more mid bass slam.

In terms of midrange, the Fusion is coherent with its bass tuning, furthering the reference approach and it’s a very balanced clear and clean midrange with very good separation where the Volt is clearly fuller bodied with an overall warmer hue in terms of overall tone. The upper midrange is where Volt are more similar with safe upper mids that aim to be smooth.

Treble is where I was quite interested to check out how the Fusion magnetostatic would fare against Volt EST drivers. The magnetostatic promises fast transients but does this equal the EST incredibly fast transient performance ? Not quite, although it’s the closest I have heard to EST performance and it’s not a one sided story either. While the Volt upper treble is more extended with faster transients and I found it more resolving and airy than the Fusion, the lower treble packs more energy than the Volt with more weight as well. Of course we’re comparing Apple to Oranges here as Volt and Fusion clearly have different tuning goals but still this is interesting. Volt is more refined and resolving but the Fusion are more energetic and engaging.

Custom Art FIBAE7
As you might know, this is still my all time favorite IEM and another organic IEM that is an obvious comparison to the Volt. The FIBAE7 signature is to me the epitome of musicality : sub bass provide physicality and strength, engaging mid bass it provides great rhythm and pace, full sounding, smooth, rich and textured mids pack plenty of bite, while lower treble energy provides plenty of excitement and upper treble finesse, air and resolution.

In the bass department, despite its 2 BA drivers array vs Volt dynamic, the FIBAE7 holds its ground with astonishing sub bass presence that manages to rival the Volt in terms of physicality. Volt and FIBAE7 have the same sub bass tilt relatively to the mid bass, with FIBAE7 tilting a bit more towards sub bass which I think allow to compensate the more physical dynamic driver of the Volt. On the flipside, the Volt has more mid bass slam with an overall more reference and snappier presentation over the more textured and a tad longer decay of the FIBAE7 (although FIBAE7 is quite faster than the C9 Pro).

Now the midrange is where the biggest difference lie between Volt and FIBAE7 : the FIBAE7 has similarly full bodied mids but the midrange overall balance is totally different. FIBAE7 has forward upper mids with significantly more bite which makes it a much more energetic and forward midrange than the Volt. Comparatively the Volt is the more relaxed listen of the two, almost understated as compared to the brazen midrange of the FIBAE7 that feel much more lively and saxophones, acoustic guitars and piano have more presence and bite.

This is furthered by the treble presentation where the FIBAE7 has much more lower treble energy and note weight. This provides an additional sense of rythm and excitement where the Volt won’t be pushing your buttons so to speak and its presentation will be beautiful but polite compared to the energetic FIBAE7. Conversely, Volt has much more upper treble presence than the FIBAE7. Not that the FIBAE7 is not extended but it’s less so than the Volt by a significant margin and more importantly Volt upper treble presence is more prominent. Basically their treble balance is a bit of a story of opposites. This makes Volt more resolving and open with better separation, along with much faster transients as well.

Earsonics EM10
The EM10 is a very smooth yes but energetic IEM all around : punchy bass with what I consider to be the best BA mid bass I have heard providing a unique sense of rythm, full mids with bite and energetic and refined treble for a clearly TOTL performance all accross the board. Comparison with the Volt will prove interesting.

Starting with the bass, the EM10 distinguishes itself with a significantly faster bass and Earsonics custom bass driver (built in house) certainly holds its own again the Volt dynamic in terms of impact and physicality. The EM10 bass is key to its power and physicality, it’s a deep, rich, strong and full bass that extends fairly low and exhibits impeccable control. Compared to Volt, there is a mid bass tilt in terms of presence while sub bass is well extended the Volt pack more power and physicality. But the EM10 much faster speed combined with a physicality that falls just behind gives the EM10 a better sense of rythm and pace. It’s still king of PRaT in my book.

On to the midrange, where some key difference lie : while both Volt and EM10 have full bodied midrange, the EM10 is more balanced with a bit less body and weight but more importantly more bite and upper mids presence. Volt is comparatively warmer, smoother and fuller bodied. The EM10 feel more articulate and mature with spot on bite and energy, with a more delicate balance than the more brazen FIBAE7. The EM10 mids feel like a Sean Connery James Bond in a smoking classy, dashing and mature.

Last but not least, treble. The EM10 lower treble is smooth but energetic and this is a real treat especially on piano notes, this is a lower treble with good weight as well. Overall the lower treble contributes to the rythm with satisfying hi hats and guitar riffs have great bite as well. Comparatively Volt feels a bit subdued but this makes for a more relaxing listen. Now the upper treble : the EM10 is a very refined IEM there with superb extension and a refined presentation and it’s boast one of the best resolution I have heard. Among all contenders in these comparisons this is one of those that can almost hold its own against the Volt. Almost, because the Volt EST drivers feature better extension with faster cleaner transients that give a sense of air that no BA can provide in my opinion. Volt is more airy, open and resolving.

StealthSonics C9 Pro
For those of you who have read my C9 Pro review have already figured out it’s one of my favorites organic IEM along with my all time favorite Custom Art FIBAE7 and beloved Earsonics EM10. The C9 Pro will make for an interesting comparison as it shares some key aspects with the Volt : a full bodied IEM with a smooth signature and yet strong technical foundations.

First let’s compare the bass. The C9 Pro bass is well extended and controlled but with a clear mid bass emphasis although sub bass is quite physical for a BA. Delivery is on the smoother side – with a soft attack and a tad longer decay making for a rather “romantic” delivery with beautiful textures and a high level of detail and good control. The C9 Pro emphasizes the bass line with a strong sense of rythm and a level of nuances in how it portrays drums that is something to behold. Comparatively, Volt has a different balance to its bass starting with a more controlled and snappier presentation. Sub bass is more physical and relative to the mid bass more present than the C9 Pro : the Volt is more balanced with less mid bass emphasis. Volt mid bass has shaper attack and faster decay sounding cleaner but also more detailed. The Volt is on the fun side of reference and balanced with the mids and highs while the C9 pro has overall more emphasis on bass in the overall frequency range.

The mids are an interesting comparison especially in the lower section where both the Volt and C9 Pro don’t rely on a classic “clarity dip”. Both Volt and C9 pro own up their full bodied nature and balance it each in their own way as not to become congested or overly dark. This being said the C9 Pro is a much warmer IEM than the Volt as its has more lower mids emphasis and were Volt is full sounding the C9 pro can be considered thick and with more weight to its midrange. Despite similar safe upper mids, the Volt has a bit more energy in the upper mids and therefore a more balanced midrange. As we’ll see its upper treble is more extended with more air and resolution also helping the overall transparency and clarity.

The treble are quite different starting with the lower treble where the C9 Pro has more energy and bite along with considerably more weight to its treble note making it a better performer on piano notes in my opinion. This where the C9 Pro relies on its lower treble to balance its prominent bass and lower mids, although its top end is refined and extended it just can’t compete with Volt there. Volt doesn’t have as much energy and bite or weight, but it has much more upper treble presence than the C9 Pro and it’s also more extended with much faster transients. Volt is definitely more resolving, open and airy and separation is better.

Penon has been on the roll lately with excellent value for money cables (Penon OSG for example) and IEMs (Sphere, Orb). It was a only a matter of time before they would push the enveloppe and get their own shot at a flagship.

It’s not as easy as it seems to pull off, as it’s a very different story when you tackle flagships because the game has only gotten much tougher these past few years (competition is stiff) and people that are willing to pay for flagships rightfully have very high expectations. On the flipside the insane prices trend over the last 5 years where flagships have gone from around 1K$ to whopping 2/3/4K$ or even above definitely opens up opportunities for manufacturers that are willing to keep things sane. I for one love the likes of Custom Art, Dunu or StealhSonics to keep things real in terms of prices. At 799$, Penon definitely has priced its Volt aggressively for a flagship offering.

So did Penon succeed their entry into the flagship segment? Very much so in my opinion and the Volt competes very well with the market and manages to do so with its own rare brand of signature. Paired with Totem I’ll go even as far as saying Volt competes with the best and that’s interesting because even Volt and Totem combined manages to be a reasonable bundle against flagships that are much pricier without an upgrade cable. Not to mention you can enjoy the cable with the rest of your 2pin IEMs 🙂

If you’re looking for flagship performance at a reasonable price and you like full bodied, smooth signature with strong bass foundations, impressive resolution and treble refinement then you’d miss out not adding the Volt to your list. Make sure you have a proper source though to provide enough current to bring the best out of it (not necessarily an expensive DAP, iBasso DX160 does a great job there). And if you have a bigger budget, Totem is a fantastic pairing that brings a more punchy, energetic, focused presentation as well as elite performance that matches much pricier flagships.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I don’t know but I sure know as a late night listening session adept I sure dream of Volt!

Listening notes
I spent approximately 150 hours with the Volt, listening on Hiby R8 using the stock cable and Penon Totem flagship cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Penon for allowing me to get a discounted price on my custom Volt in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Driver: Sonion 4 electrostatic + Sonion 2 Balanced Armature + 10mm dynamic driver
  • Impedance: 12ohm@1khz
  • Sensitivity: 114db@1khz@1mw
  • Frequency response: 15-80Khz

  • Cleaning brush
  • Carry case
  • Cable: single crystal copper silver-plated (comes with 2.5mm balanced female to 3.5mm audio male adapter / 2.5mm balanced female to 4.4mm balanced male adapter)
    • Connector:2pin 0.78mm
    • Plug:2.5mm balanced
    • Length: 1.2m
Thanks for the review David, I'm sure Philip K Dick, if alive, would also be dreaming of the Volt.
Raise the gain? Shouldn't amp gain buttons only increase voltage (getting louder) and have little effect on current?

Do you mean use the better output of your amp? Like if it is designed to have more current from it's balanced output?
  • Like
Reactions: Alino
What a great review! Do you have any thoughts on how these compare to the Dunu Zens?


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Clear, articulate and transparent midrange with very good separation and a surprisingly accurate tone
Female vocals are beautifully portrayed
Good sub bass extension provides physicality
Good tight mid bass slam with snappy attack and quick decay
Clear and smooth treble with fairly accurate tone providing excellent realism
Excellent build quality, punches above its price point
Affordable CTU-01 upgrade cable with superb build and superb synergy with the OH1
Cons: Bass tips (blue) really don’t do justice to the OH1, I would stay away from them!
Product Page :
Price : 139$​

Packaging and accessories
The Ikko OH1 comes with a superb packaging featuring nice art piece, a rare sight at this price point.


The box feature a premium quality cardboard with a nice tray system and the unboxing is a real treat and suprise at this price point. The package contains the OH1 along with a soft leather carry pouch and two sets of tips one is “bass” focused (blue) and the other “balanced” (gray).


Fit, Build & Isolation
Consistent with the packaging quality, the Ikko OH1 features a shell made of aerospace alloy with only 6 grams per side the OH1 are very lightweight. The anodized painting is superb and the overall finish is quite premium and unexpected at this price point. Competition should take notes!


The fit is shallow but very good once you’ve found the right tips and secure thanks to preformed earhooks and the fact the cable is lightweight. The stock cable is a small gauge 4 strands of 8 high-purity oxygen-free copper plated (OFC) silver-plated cable. It has very good build and is lightweight and quickly forgotten, with no microphonics.

The CTU-01 upgrade cable is a silver plated cable but this time is an OCC build with 127um high purity single crystal copper silver-plated core with ultra-low cable impedance which Ikko says maximizes the transient performance. I was impressed by the build and as we’ll see it’s very much worth spending an extra 59$ as we’ll see further in the review.


Ikko Audio is a relatively new brand that started in 2018 and quickly made a name for themselves with well thought out designs and coherent tunings. Recently they launch two very well received portable DAC/amplifiers with IKKO Zerda ITM03 and ITM05. I have never auditioned any of their IEM so I was thrilled at the opportunity to review both the OH1 and OH10 as well as their very nice CTU-01 upgrade cable to check how both OH1 and OH10 would scale with a balanced upgrade.

The OH1 is a hybrid featuring a 10mm polymer composite titanium coated dynamic driver along with a Knowles 33518 balance armature driver. The OH1 features an alloy sound cavity while the OH10 as we’ll see in our next review, features a copper cavity.

The OH1 is a fairly balanced IEM aside from its emphasized bass presence it packs a suprisingly clear, articulate and accurate midrange and treble with a smooth delivery. Soundstage is balanced and quite good expansion in all directions with good imaging.


Note : The following impressions are based on the gray “balanced” tips as I found the “bass” blue tips to be too bassy with too much bass presence and less control. Your mileage may vary.

The OH1 features good sub bass extension and very good presence with good control, the dynamic certainly delivers a welcome physicality that was expected from a modern hybrid. I enjoyed my usual test tracks, both Sohn’s “Falling” and Aphex twins “Ageispolis” were highly enjoyable with the OH1.

The OH1 mid bass is spot on to my ears with less presence than the sub bass it stills packs good slam with very good control. It has a quite snappy attack and quick decay with good speed for a 10mm dynamic. There is moderate texture and detail but I am nitpicking here given the price bracket this is quite good performance.

I switched to the CTU-01 upgrade cable balanced again out of DX160 and I found the sub bass extension was a tad better with also better presence and control. The mids bass is tighter and more impactful with a bit more detail as well.

The OH1 midrange is clear, articulate and transparent with very good separation and a surprisingly accurate tone. I honestly didn’t expect this from an IEM in this price range. There is just a slight warmth infused by the bass prominence relative to the mids and the OH1 is just slightly north of neutral (keep in mind I am still writing with the balanced tips on, bass tips do tilt the balance to much more bass presence and less mids clarity).

The lower mids are spot on to my ears with no emphasis or dip and the instruments have good body but it’s not a thick midrange. Separation is very good and the midrange is very articulate and the OH1 is able to handle complex passages with larger ensemble. Instruments timbre is accurate making for a very realistic presentation. The upper mids have good bite providing excellent clarity although the tuning is on the safer side avoiding any sensitive area there.

Vocals are just slightly forward and very clear. Sibilance is a non issue with the OH1 and female vocals are engaging and convey good emotion. A very strong performance in the price bracket.

Switching over to the CTU-01 upgrade cable was very interesting as it affects the OH1 midrange very positively : separation is significantly better and I hear both fuller lower mids instruments have more body and better bite in the upper section. It’s a more engaging and lively midrange with more satisfying body and a lifelike presentation. Impressive. Vocals are a bit more forward and I hear more nuances in interpretation making for a more engaging listen. Overall the better treble presence with the CTU-01 as we’ll see also comes into play tilting the overall signature towards a more balanced presentation where bass is balanced by upper mids and treble presence.

The OH1 treble are clear and smooth with again a fairly accurate tone with excellent realism.

Lower treble has just enough energy to be engaging but treble heads will lack the treble bite that can be so satisfying when going to the limit. The flipside is that the OH1 is a non fatiguing IEM. Upper treble is well extended and there is good air with smooth delivery which feels very natural.

Switch over to the CTU-01 balanced upgrade cable and things are quite different : There is more lower treble energy with excellent bite, making for a more energetic and engaging treble while retaining it’s smooth delivery. There is also more air which is beneficial to a much better soundstage and more precise imaging. This cable brings the best out of the OH1 IMHO.


The entry segment is not the easiest for a manufacturer to stand out as there are so many options around it’s actually near impossible to comprehensively compare every option. This being said, Ikko stands out right away with the OH1 premium packaging, impeccable build and accessories. There is a clear attention to detail that spells quality and it’s furthered by how well tuned and refined the OH1 is for its price. You wouldn’t figure Ikko is a relatively new brand but rather a seasoned one.

If you’re looking for a decently priced well built IEM with good slam and physicality down low, a clear articulate and accurate midrange and treble with smooth delivery then it’s hard not to recommend to add the OH1 to the list of IEMs to seriously consider. If you can spare the 59€ extra their CTU-01 balanced cable is strong value and a superb match to the OH1 to take it one setp further and frankly with a SQ punching above its price point.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 20 hours with the Ikko OH1, listening on iBasso DX160 and Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock and upgrade CTU-01 cable balanced.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Ikko for providing a review unit of the OH1 as well as the CTU-01 upgrade cable. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Leather carry pouch
  • Stock SPC OFC cable braided 4 wires
  • Set of S,M, L balanced and bass tips
  • sensitivity: 106 dB
  • frequency range 20-40kHZ
  • Impedance 18 ohms
  • 5.7mm nozzle


Headphoneus Supremus
Singing Angel
Pros: Outstanding bass at any price point striking a superb balance of power, control, punch and rich textures
Engaging and lively midrange with good balance and good instrument timbre
Forward and clear vocals
Energetic and refined treble
Excellent soundstage with a coherent image (stage height is outstanding)
Scales with better sources
Good fit with very lightweight shells
Cons: Very tight 2 pin socket on my unit (your mileage may vary)
Isolation is average (but shells are very lightweight)
Product Page :
Price : 259$​

Fit, Build & Isolation
The Penon Orb features a fully transparent medical grade resin material shell, highlighting excellent craftsmanship of its internal. The Shell is on the smaller side and very lightweight. I found the Orb to have only average isolation, but the shells are so light I am not too suprised. This shouldn’t be an issue in real world condition for most with music playing except for noisier environment if you’re a low volume listener like me. Note that the shell is quite deep to lodge it’s dynamic driver meaning it protrudes significantly, something that can be of importance if you want to listen in bed lying on the side.

Other than this disclaimer and unusual use case, the Orb is very comfortable IEM to wear with an average depth insertion and very lightweight it’s quickly forgotten and disappears in the ear.


The Orb features a 2 pin socket and comes with a low footprint small gauge 8 wire cable in my case a 2.5 balanced version but the Orb comes with a 3.5 cable unless you take another option. The cable is supple and with good ergonomics. The sockets on my unit was fairly tight, better be careful there at first and plug – unplug a few times with the stock cable before trying out upgrade cables.


Like most people I know I have enjoyed Penon as an online shop, a trusted distributor of many brands I love like Dunu, Astrotec or ISN to name a few. Penon started building IEMs (the BS1 earbud in 2017) and great value for money cables (like OS849).

In 2019 they launched their first IEM the Sphere and it was a success. Lately they have been on the roll with many highly praised products : the Orb and the flagship Volt IEM as well as cables such as the OSG cable (I’ll soon review it) and the flagship cable Totem.


As can be seen in the picture above the Orb packs a dynamic driver. This is a fairly unique design that I know of as its a custom 10mm driver is made of graphite fiber silk with a paper dome driver featuring a grainless overhanging diaphragm. Interestingly it also packs a full range balanced armature, quite an interesting choice as it implies a crossover-less design. Overall quite an advanced design at this price point.

The Orb is not just another hybrid IEM, Penon clearly had an intent to build something different there and it’s very nice to see this kind of effort at this price point. Penon advertises punchy bass, crystal clear vocals, crispy and sparkly high frequency with a holographic soundstage.

Does that hold true? How does the advanced technical design translate in terms of sound quality? Let’s check it out!


Upon the very first listen (after proper burn-in), it’s clearly apparent that Penon’s tuning goals are fulfilled : the Orb features powerful and physical yet controlled and refined bass, full and smooth mids, energetic and well extended treble. The stage has very good width and depth but more impressive is its height which is excellent, with a very coherent image.

The Orb is a very engaging listen, a clearly fun IEM built on solid technical foundations. Let’s dive a bit deeper!


Bass is clearly an outstanding feature of the Orb and is nothing short of impressive : it’s a powerful bass but strikes a rare balance of power, control, punch and rich textures. Usually IEMs tend to fall either towards faster, snappier attack and quicker decay for a punchy and clean bass or towards a smoother attack and a bit slower decay with richer textures. The Orb is quite singular in that respect in my opinion as it seems to have squared the circle with usually contradictory qualities.

Could that be that the full range balanced armature is complimentary to the dynamic driver in the bass section providing both the qualities of the BA and DD? Just a theory but I think Penon has built a very special IEM there : it’s both punchy and richly textured, detailed and physical with good slam.

The sub bass is well extended with good rumble and a welcome physicality and presence is to my ears spot on. I like to have enough sub bass to feel the subs but not too much as to not overshadow the main message. The Orb is able to provide a sub woofer like bass like few can, only other IEMs that come to mind are ISN H40 (comparison at the end of this review) or Campfire Solaris. My usual test tracks like Sohn “Falling” and Aphex Twins “Ageispolis“, Marian Hill “Differently” and Phanee de Pool “Amstram” were so enjoyable with the Orb.

The mid bass is very balanced in terms of presence with the sub bass and there is no tilt either way. The bass line is strong with beautiful textures, in Ruben Gonzàles “La Lluvia” the double bass is really sublime and as good as I have heard it with lot of interpretation nuances conveyed. The deep percussions on Ayo “Throw it away” is equally impressive, as is Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” or Okvsho “Algoriddim”. Again, regardless of price point the Orb is simply one of the best bass around, please Penon keep the recipe for future IEMs as it’s really something special!!!

Let me say I spent much more time on the bass section for this review than any review I have done for a while, as it’s so enjoyable and impressive. I just kept delaying going into the mids testing all the tracks in my bass review playlist. I really was shocked at how good the Orb is again at any price point, especially with cable upgrades like PW n°10. I would need to compare but it’s reminiscent my memory of 64 Audio N8. The maturity of the bass tuning and its performance is a shocker. Hats off!

The Orb mids are full bodied but with good bite, with clear vocals that are forwardly positioned. It’s an engaging and lively midrange with good balance and good instrument timbre.

The lower mids have good presence, the Orb doesn’t rely on lower mids dip for clarity but rather as we’ll see on its upper mids presence and treble extension. Instruments are full bodied but not thick either, a wise choice as given the bass presence it would have made the Orb congested. Instrument separation is not the greatest but it’s quite good for a full bodied IEM thanks to its upper treble presence.

The upper mids are tuned both for forward vocal placement and for instruments to provide good energy : snare drums are crisp, hi hats and cymbals have good sizzle and brass have a nice bite making for an engaging presentation and a good balanced with the full bodied mids. This makes the Orb a versatile IEM as well and I enjoyed jazz very much there.

Both male and female vocals are a treat on the Orb. Thanks to the full mids male vocals are deeply seated with good power, Pete Alderton “Malted Milk” and Jack Savoretti “Written in scars” gritty voices were adequately portrayed with both power and nuances. In a very different register, James Blake “Vincent” benefits from the upper mids bite conveying a lot of emotion. Depending on tips, on some tracks like Diana Krall “Let’s fall in love” I found hints of sibilance though but it’s very slight (your mileage may vary) and is also source dependent. Only DX160 exhibited this, while Lotoo PAW S1 and AAW Capri lightning cable didn’t. Cable rolling can also help there, I tried the 8 wire copper Null Audio Tiburon and PW n°10 with the DX160 and it definitely smoothens out the issue.

The Orb treble is very balanced with slight lower treble emphasis. It’s an exciting treble but not a fatiguing one either.

The lower treble energy is spot on to my ears with an accurate tone. The Orb is energetic and it shows, electric guitars in Spin Doctors “So bad” have satisfying buzz, piano notes in The Hot Sardines “Come love (l’amour s’en fout)” have good weight, presence and overtones are faithfully portrayed. The Pixies “Where is my mind” is a good test of how safe your treble is and the Orb does a great job of being totally engaging the hi hats sizzle as well as guitar riffs play with the limit without ever crossing the threshold and I loved it on the Orb.

The upper treble has less presence than the lower section but it packs very good extension and is what I consider to be a refined presentation with the right amount to provide air and boost resolution without placing details too forward like some IEMs which I always find detrimental to the musical message. The Orb doesn’t disappoint and tracks like Guthrie Trapp “Buckdancer’s choice” or Laurie Anderson “Born, never asked” are portrayed with a level of refinement that I didn’t expect at this price point.

Select comparisons

If you’ve read my ISN H40 review you know it’s among the best value for money of its segment and given their respective tuning the Orb and H40 will naturally be compared. How do they respectively fare against each other? Let’s see!


The H40 massive bass presence was a memorable aspect of its signature and it holds true : the H40 sub bass extends a bit more but more importantly it has more presence and is clearly into bass head territory. The H40 sub bass is more physical and is more prominent in the signature while the Orb is physical but with a more balanced signature. The Orb bass has less presence but it doesn’t mean it lack punch or physicality, just that it’s less predominant. I also find the Orb bass to be more detailed with richer textures so I’d give the Orb the edge on bass quality where the H40 has the edge if bass quantity is your priority.

The midrange is maybe where the H40 and Orb are more similar than different with a full bodied midrange with good bite. Despite the similarities there are significant differences. I hear the H40 being fuller, more forward with a more forward vocal placement as well as more upper mids bite. The Orb has better clarity and transparency and is the more balanced of the two, with also better instrument separation.

The H40 treble is again not too far off the Orb at least in the lower treble department : both feature very good energy and remain safe of any hotness with the Orb being a bit smoother and nuanced. The main difference lies in the upper treble were the Orb clearly takes the edge with more extension and presence. This is where the Orb leaves the H40 behind in terms of sheer resolution as well as better air and separation between instruments. The H40 has the edge on soundstage size but the Orb features a much more precise imaging.

If I had to sum it up the H40 and Orb share quite a bit with great bass, full exciting mids and energetic treble but the H40 is the more physical and powerful while the Orb is the more refined and mature tuning.

Dunu DK-2001
If you’ve read my DK-2001 review you know how high I rate it in the segment in fact it might be my favorite along with H40 so far. Given it’s pricing and tech, it’s only natural to compare with the Orb. Let’s see how both fare against each other!


Bass wise the DK-2001 has good slam but comparatively to the Orb a softer attack and decay and the Orb is therefore the punchier bass of the two. This is furthered by better sub bass extension on the Orb providing more physicality on top of a snappier attack and quicker decay. Both provide very nice textures but the Orb packs more detail. Overall DK-2001 is engaging but more relaxed than the focused and more energetic bass of the Orb.

The midrange is somewhat of the same story, the DK-2001 is a more relaxed IEM with a more linear midrange. The Orb has both a bit more lower mids presence as well as much more upper mids bite and more forward vocals. It’s both fuller and clearer and overall more articulate with better separation. Both feature surprisingly refined mids for the segment, but the DK-2001 is more relaxed and linear where the Orb is more exciting and forward.

The treble of the DK-2001 shares the same balance as the Orb treble with no particular focus on either the lower or upper treble in terms of presence but they differ in how this is executed. The DK-2001 has a slightly warm tone to its lower treble where the Orb is accurate. The Orb also has a bit more energy and again the DK-2001 is more relaxed. Both have good note weight but the Orb has slightly more and piano notes for instance are more accentuated. The upper section is more of the same story, the DK-2001 is well extended and has good upper treble presence and good air smoothly delivered but the Orb has a snappier treble with faster decay. I hear the Orb has having more air and being more resolving.

If I had to sum it up, I’d say the DK-2001 like the H40 shares quite a bit with the Orb in terms of the general tuning but with very different execution : the DK-2001 is more relaxed with softer attack and longer decay where the Orb is snappier and more energetic across the range with better resolution and imaging.

It’s really hard to believe that it’s only Penon second IEM after the Sphere given both the maturity of its tuning and the price to performance ratio reached by the Orb. The Orb is up there with the best in the segment namely ISN H40 and Dunu DK-2001 which is no small feat in my opinion. As we’ve seen there are similarities but the Orb is both snappier than the DK-2001 and more refined than the H40 so it will come down which tuning fits your preferences best. Note that the Orb also scales very well with better sources, I plugged it into my Hiby R8 and let me tell you with more power and headroom, it reaches even more impressive performance and refinement levels. If you have a desktop amp handy, plug it in and see!

If you’re looking for an IEM with of the very best bass, a full yet clear articulate midrange and refined treble then it’s hard not to recommend the Orb as one of the very best value for money on the market! A no brainer in my opinion. If you’re a basshead then the H40 might suit you best and if you’re looking for a more relaxed listen then the DK-2001 should be on your list.

About the title
The title was inspired from a Shakespeare quote from the Merchant of Venice : “There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st But in his motion like an angel sings”

Listening notes
I spent approximately 30 hours with the Orb, listening on iBasso DX160 and Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock cable, Null Audio Tiburon 8 wires and PW n°10.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Penon for providing a review unit of the Orb. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Hard leather carry case
  • Tips
  • Stock 8 wire SPC cable
  • Driver: Balanced Armature full frequency + custom 10mm Dynamic driver graphite fiber silk with a paper dome driver featuring a grainless overhanging diaphragm
  • Impedance: 10 Ω @1khz
  • Sensitivity: 112 ± 3dB @1khz
  • Frequency response: 20hz-20Khz
Last edited:
Codename john
Great review. I have all 3 and I agree you won't find better than this trio in this price bracket. It's a very tough call. All 3 are superb and unique. I can't call it. I'm very very happy that I have the luxury to own 3 wonderful tuned and special iems 🤓


Headphoneus Supremus
For DUNU SA3 in In-Ear
Vocal reference
Pros: Highly coherent tuning
Remarkable vocals with great presence and spot on tone
Engaging and fatigue free treble with good extension
Very good instrument separation and precise imaging
Well extended sub bass with good rumble
Very good resolution
Cons: Leaner lower mids on reference sources means less engaging presentation with weaker bass line (SA3 sound much more engaging with beefier sources!)
Product Page :
Price : 139$​

Fit, Build & Isolation
The SA3 shell are made of a transparent blue lightweight 3D printed biocompatible photopolymer resin. The shell is a bit surprisingly bigger than the 6 drivers SA6, and is ergonomically shaped with a metal grille to protect the bore.


The SA3 feature a 2pin 0.78 connector which the choice Dunu made for all Studio IEMs in the lineup. As usual with Dunu the SA3 comes with a nice 27 AWG kevlar-reinforced, high purity silver plated OFC with a (fixed) 3.5 termination (as opposed to the SA6 interchangeable plug system).


The cable is supple and nice to wear and of high quality for an entry level IEM.


Dunu is a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu builds its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN series, DK series and the flagship Luna I reviewed recently) but until the launch of the Studio series with SA3 and SA6, no full BA IEMs.

The Studio series is a totally new lineup and the SA3 targets a new market segment with an entry level reference tuned 3 BA IEM.

I was curious to see how the first Studio series IEM sound, let’s check this out!



From the very first second listening to SA3 it’s clear that Dunu has built a reference IEM with subtle touches. The SA3 sound very clean, articulate and fast with no particular emphasis on any part of the range with the notable exception of a clear vocal emphasis. Background is black and totally exempt of hiss and the resolution is quite good. The soundstage features very good width but average height and depth but is very good considering the price range. The stage is coherent and imaging is very precise with good layering.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper!


Bass is quick and clean with a snappy attack and quick decay, ranging from a bit lean and dry (DX160) to just north of neutral and more organic (Lotoo PAW S1).

Sub bass is well extended and for a BA a fairly impressive rumble, I didn’t expect this out of the SA3 but given the shell size and what I can see I’d say the balanced armature driver is on a bigger side which in my experience does help.

Relatively to the sub bass, the mid bass presence is lesser and I felt myself wanting for a bit more slam there out of the DX160. Switching to the Lotoo PAW S1 there is quite a bit more mid bass presence with more power to the bass line with better toe tapping factor. The AAW Capri DAC/cable for the iPhone fell somewhere in between the leaner mid bass of the DX160 and the fatter ones of the PAW S1. On the flipside the SA3 packs very nice detail and impeccable control as well as excellent speed.

The mids are on the leaner side out of DX160 with a slight lower mids dip for clarity but not so much that it would sound hollow or thin.

Again the source affected how I heard the SA3 and the Lotoo PAW S1 is adding just a little more lower mids presence which makes the SA3 fuller bodied, straying from the pure reference presentation of the DX160 but I feel the S1 is more natural sounding. The AAW Capri cable again fell somewhere in between the DX160 and PAW S1. The upper mids are consistent across sources and the SA3 sounds very articulate with good separation of instruments and nice bite with a safe tuning and no peaks.

Vocals are remarkable on the SA3, as I hinted above there is a clear vocal emphasis and vocal stand out with great vocal presence and a very faithful tone as well as plenty of detail. Female vocals convey good nuances and emotion with a slightly sweeter twist on the PAW S1, and male power have good power on the PAW S1 but can be lacking there with the DX160 lacking a bit of body.

The SA3 treble is a display of a well mastered tuning : it packs enough lower treble energy to be exciting and engaging yet is neither agressive nor fatiguing. I found the lower treble tone to be spot on and unlike bass and mids, unaffected by source.

The upper treble on the flipside was significantly better on the DX160 with better extension and more presence with airier and more refined presentation. The DX160 retrieves more detail and shows what the SA3 is capable of there and I was very pleased by its performance. Combined with its black background the SA3 exhibits very good resolution and even more so considering the price point.


The launch of a new lineup is always a very exciting time, and I looked at the Studio series launch with anticipation. After a fun acclaimed hybrid range and a stunning dynamic driver flagship, what would Dunu do with all BA IEMs with a reference tuning?

If you’ve read my SA6 review you know I loved it’s reference tuning with its beautiful organic touch. The SA3 is a purer reference with a clear and beautifully done vocal emphasis. I must say I love how complimentary the Studio series is to the DK Line.

If you’re looking for an engaging entry level reference IEM with solid technical foundations and an emphasis on vocals, along with good sub bass extension and rumble then the SA3 should definitely be on your list! If you want a more organic take and can afford mid tier pricing then check out the SA6.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 20 hours with the SA3, listening on iBasso DX160, Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock cable and also the AAW Capri lightning cable out of the iPhone.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Kevin at Dunu for providing a review unit of the SA3. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Three Sets of Ear Tips (S/M/L each)
  • Cleaning Loop
  • Blue Leatherette Carry Case
  • Specifications
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 112 dB
  • Impedance: 13 Ω @ 1 kHz
  • Cable Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
  • Cable Material: 27 AWG Kevlar-Reinforced, High-Purity Silver-Plated OFC
  • Cable Resistance / Capacitance: 0.5 Ω / 300 pF (max.)
  • Like
Reactions: KarmaPhala


Headphoneus Supremus
Organic reference
Pros: Refined reference signature with the right touch of organicity and bite
Excellent transparency and clarity along with very good resolution
Open soundstage with excellent separation and precise imaging
Engaging subtle and refined vocal presentation
Accurate tonal balance for lifelike timbre
Superb flagship level build
Smart no tool switch system usable on the fly while wearing
Cons: Switch system is rather fine tuning, doesn’t really offer an alternate signature but a slightly more organic touch
Product page :
Price : 549$​

Fit, Build & Isolation
The SA6 features one of the most beautiful build among Dunu IEMs, with its high quality resin acrylic sourced in Germany and hand-poured shells and unique stabilized wood faceplates. As usual it comes with a very nice cable, here an 8 core silver plated copper cable featuring the now famous switchable plug system (you get 3.5, 2.5 and 4.4 termination in the package no less).


The SA6 is a looker but note that you don’t get to choose your color as those are unique handmade pieces but whichever color you get, those are stunning IEMs :

Image courtesy of Dunu

This design is a departure from the alloy housings of hybrids and note that for the Studio lineup Dunu opted to depart from MMCX for a 2 pin 0.78 socket that is more widespread in the pro world. The nozzle is a 3 bore setup with a rather wide and short stem, but the ergonomic custom like shape of the SA6 means you insert them deeper than the stem size would suggest. As you can see in the picture below, craftsmanship is superb on the internals as well.


The SA6 is a rather small shell for a 6BA setup and is fairly compact (smaller than its little brother Dunu SA3, see pitcture below). This is good news for those with smaller ears but I had great fit as well with my bigger ears.


Last but not least the switch system : Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’) and Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’) is really smart as you can switch with no tools while keeping the IEMs in your ears, kudos for this!


Dunu is a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu builds its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN series, DK series and the flagship Luna I reviewed) but until the launch of the Studio series with SA3 and SA6, no full BA IEMs.

The Studio series is a totally new lineup and the SA6 with its vented dual woofer and custom midrange and tweeter drivers combined with the superb build show the SA6 is certainly meant as a showcase of what Dunu can do with BA drivers.

Does the SA6 sound as good as it looks? Let’s check this out!



The first thing that struck me upon first listen (switch off) is the overall balance, transparency and clarity of the SA6, the SA6 is faithful to the recording but not unforgiving either. The imaging is pinpoint precise with a very open and realistic stage. The SA6 is a fast IEM with snappy note attack and realistic decay across the range and remains smooth in its delivery. Turn the switch ON and you get both a lift in bass and lower mids : contrary to a lot of bass boost switches this is subtly done and I feel it’s going to be a nice option to have to turn on and off based on preferences and/or sources.

The bass is snappy and fast, with a bit more weight with switch set to ON but it’s not a punchy bass with impact rather a detailed and agile bass with superb control and suprisingly good sub bass extension. The mids are very accurate with very nice bite and slightly forward vocal presentation (Note : The mids get a bit fuller with the atmospheric switch to ON). Treble strikes a superb balance with good lower treble energy smoothly delivered and a well extended and refined upper treble. Resolution is quite impressive at this price point.


The SA6 features a very accurate and controlled bass presentation the choice of a vented dual woofer BA certainly fit the bill here. You might loose a bit of punch over sealed BA but you gain in control and extremely low distorsion even on the most bass heavy tracks.

Switch off, the bass is quite balanced favoring neither sub bass, which has good extension and very good rumble for a balanced armature or mid bass which sounded spot on in quantity with very good detail and texture. Turn the switch on and you get a slightly “fatter” mid bass with more heft but I don’t hear the sub bass being affected.

On my test tracks Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” and Sohn’s “Falling” the SA6 was able to render the sub bass section with nice physicality. As far as mid bass goes, the percussions on Jyoti “This Walk”, Fink “Resurgam” or Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” were portrayed with impressive textures and nuances by the SA6.

Last but not least the SA6 bass is a fast bass and can keep up with the fastest tracks but it’s not a dry and quick bass either with a quick attack but a bit longer decay it has somewhat of an organic touch.

The SA6 mids are in line with the overall signature which is an organic blend of reference. It’s very balanced with no particular emphasis in the range, except maybe for slight vocal emphasis.

The lower mids are not prominent but they aren’t dipped either and I find that there is spot on body and weight, it’s not a lean lower mids that can make some IEMs clearer but also thinner. I like notes to have a realistic weight and the SA6 certainly not disappoints there and has a touch of organic to its reference tuning that is very pleasing to my ear. Once again setting the switch to ON add just a bit more body and organic touch yet.

The upper mids show the same restraint, with just the right amount of bite and don’t seem to be affected by the “atmospheric” switch. I like my upper mids to be safe from any harshness but at the same time I like them to have a bit of bite especially so that there is good presence to acoustic guitars, sizzle to hi hats, snare drums crispness and buzz to the electric guitars among other. The SA6 certainly has it and at the same time remain safe from any harshness, this is harder to do than it seems.

The SA6 treble is going to be a very coherent story with its bass and mids : it has a superb balance between good lower treble energy and upper treble presence. Just like its mids, the SA6 treble are exciting and engaging but smooth at all times a rare and very enjoyable combination.

I loved the lower treble energy on one of my favorite test track The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” the piano notes are delightful with both superb presence and beautiful overnotes along with a spot on tone. On Vaiteani beautiful polynesian folk “How they call it (accoustic version)”, the chimelike Kalimba sound heavenly on the SA6.

The upper treble on the SA6 is very refined with excellent extension and it’s also very natural sounding with no overly done emphasis. The SA6 has therefore good air and the resolution is quite impressive at this price point.


The SA3 gave us a preview of what the Studio series held in store for us with a reference tuning and very good value for the price. The SA6 is the current top of the line of the Studio series and it’s a very clear step up in every way : build quality is great at any price and stunning at its price point, it’s both flawless and spectacular both external and the internals.

The tuning of the SA6 reflects great mastery across the range and it’s the epitome of reference with the right touch of organic with its full lower mids, the right amount of upper mids bite and good lower treble energy smoothly delivered combined with good upper treble presence. The SA6 sounds great out of mid tier sources like the DX160 and PAW S1 but plug it into flagship DAPs such as the PAW Gold Touch or the Hiby R8 and it will scale beautifully with yet other layers of nuances and in the case of the R8 yet a bit more organic character and a tad more bass presence that makes it even more engaging. In this setup it sounds more like IEMs over double the asking price and I have heard a share. Impressive.

If you’re looking for a superbly built IEM with a reference baseline beautifully spiced with a subtle touch of organic that you can adjust with the flick of a switch, then the SA6 holds fantastic value for the price and will be tough to beat! It packs impressive resolution and a remarkable tonal accuracy across the range. A very engaging reference IEM, that follows in the footstep of hallmark IEMs such as the InEar Prophile 8 at a fraction of the price.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 60 hours with the SA6, listening on iBasso DX160 and PAW S1 and the Hiby R8 using the stock cable balanced.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Kevin at Dunu for providing a review unit of the SA6 . As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

Select Comparisons
Tansio Mirai TMSR-5

When I reviewed Tansio Mirai TSMR-5 I was quite impressed at the value for money for a mid tier priced IEM : very good soundstage, excellent resolution and a similarly balanced and engaging signature. I wished I had TMSR-6 handy but I do not so the TSMR-5 is a close enough competitor. Let’s see how the SA6 compares to it! For this comparison, I’ll use the SA6 cable on both IEM and as it’s my prefered setting, SA6 switch ON and all TSMR-5 ON and DX160 as a source.


The first thing I noticed when doing the A/B session is the TSMR-5 is significantly more sensitive which equates to lower volume but also a bit of hissing that is totally non existant on the SA6. This give the SA6 an edge on quiet passages with a much blacker background. This is important has note contrast is greater and depending on the type of music you listen to it can be important. The second thing I noticed is the TSMR-5 has a slightly bigger soundstage (in width and height but not depth where SA6 is better) with significantly more upper treble presence on the flipside the SA6 has a much more natural treble tone where the TSMR-5 can be a bit edgy at times. Last but not least I found the TSMR-5 to have a snappier attack and quicker decay sounding overall drier and less organic than the SA6.

As far as bass goes the snappier attack and quicker decay means a tigher, punchier bass on the TSMR-5 where the SA6 is more textured and tonally more pleasing to my ears feeling more natural. Sub bass extension is similar with a bit more presence and rumble to the TSMR-5 but it’s also affected by more mid bass presence on the SA6 where percussions and double bass sound “fatter” with more body.


The midrange is probably where a key difference lie, the TSMR-5 has leaner lower mids with a tuning focus biased towards clarity and bite (this holds true even with the mids switch off). The SA6 is fuller sounding with more body and weight as well as richer texture while not lacking bite compared with the TSMR-5. Vocals are similarly placed but the SA6 thanks to its lower mids presence makes the male vocals more seated but also a more natural tone a better tessitura on both male and female vocals with a touch of sweetness the TSMR-5 lacks. The SA6 is also exempt of any sibilance while the TSMR-5 can exhibit hints on some tracks. For the same reason, instruments notes sound drier and less textured on the TSMR-5.

Treble is consistent with the rest of the range, with TMSR-5 being drier with faster decay and sharper attack with overall more upper treble presence that sometimes feels a bit like a sharpening filter and can become edgy at times. Lower treble is the most similar with a smart tuning providing excitement while remaining safe. The SA6 lower treble carries a bit more weight there and I must say it’s the little details that make the SA6 a very refined proposition at its price point. Similarly the upper treble is better balanced with the lower section on the SA6, and the tone is overall more pleasing with a slight warm hue where the TSMR-5 is more neutral.

Dunu DK-3001 Pro

While the DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with 1 dynamic and 4 BA, it makes sense to compare the mid tier hybrid from Dunu lineup for those who wonder which one to pick on a similar budget (469$ for the 3001 Pro and 549$ for the SA6).


The DK-3001 Pro is a hybrid with a very compact shell even side by side with the rather compact acrylic shell of the 6 BA driver SA6. Ergonomically both work perfectly for me but the DK-3001 Pro has the smaller footprint. Cable wise both get a very nice stock cable but feature different termination the DK-3001 Pro being MMCX while SA6 is 2pin 0.78. For this comparison I’ll use both IEMs with their stock cable balanced out of the DX160.


Upon the very first A/B session it’s very clear that the SA6 has a very different tuning from the DK-3001 Pro. The DK-3001 Pro is warmer and the 13mm beryllium coated driver provides a more physical and powerful bass while the SA6 is more resolving and has better upper treble presence and extension. Soundstage is taller on the DK-3001 Pro and a tad deeper as well, vocal placement is more neutral where the SA6 has more emphasis on vocals. The SA6 has a much more precise imaging and better separation between instruments.

Bass wise the DK-3001 Pro 13mm driver physicality and sub bass extension can’t be matched by the SA6, it’s more a reflection of the technology than anything there is no way around the ability of a fairly big dynamic driver to push air. This being said the DK-3001 Pro has more bass presence than my Dunu Luna for example, it’s also a matter of tuning. On my sub bass test tracks sub bass was so very satisfying with the DK-3001 Pro but it has always been a superb performer. The SA6 exhibits a bit more control, the vented dual woofer certainly fares very well there and the bass is more agile and fast. Of notes is how detailed the SA6 is bass wise compared to the DK-3001 Pro clearly more on the fun side and more focus on rythm where the SA6 is more serious which rich detailed textures (DK-4001 is a bit of the best of both worlds there but it’s another price point as well).

The DK-3001 Pro midrange has some key differences with the SA6 : there is a bit more lower mids making for an overall warmer tilt, vocals are not emphasized but rather a bit farther away making for more depth soundstage wise but a presentation that is less clear and smoother. This is closely related to the SA6 upper mids providing more instrument bite and more vocal presence. The SA6 is more resolving and the nuances in interpretations are just not on the same level the SA6 conveys more emotional vocals. Brass instruments, snare drums and hi hats are more exciting on the SA6 where the DK-3001 Pro is more relaxed. Different philosophies.

Treble wise, the DK-3001 Pro has a warmer tone and a bit less lower treble energy although both share good treble weight the delivery is smoother on the DK-3001 Pro while it has more bite on the SA6 which I feel is more exciting without ever being agressive. The upper treble is more of the same story and a key differentiator : the SA6 has significantly more upper treble presence and extension with more air and subsequently better separation and resolution. Both are fatigue free but the SA6 feels more open and exciting, the DK-3001 Pro is almost cozy in comparison.

In the end, it boils down to which tuning you prefer : the SA6 is more refined with more nuances, better tonal accuracy and significantly higher resolution while the DK-3001 Pro has more bass power and presence, smoother mids and treble for a fatigue free fun listen.

  • Leather zipped carrying case (blue)
  • Collection of tips
SENSITIVITY: 113 ± 1 dB at 1 kHz
IMPEDANCE: 60 Ω at 1 kHz
  • BASS [2]: Sonion AcuPass Vented Dual Woofer
  • MIDRANGE [2]: Knowles Custom Midrange Driver (×2)
  • TREBLE [2]: Knowles Custom Dual Tweeter
  • Default Signature (Switch Position ‘I’)
  • Atmospheric Immersion (Switch Position ‘ON’)
  • SHELL: German Nice-Fit Hand-Poured UV Acrylic Resin
  • FACEPLATE: High-Grade Stabilized Wood
CABLE CONNECTOR: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
WIRE MATERIAL: 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper
Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System

  • 4.4 mm TRRRS Balanced,
  • 3.5 mm TRS Single-Ended
  • 2.5 mm TRRS Balanced
Nice review, as usual! Just curious how you feel this compares to the Volt? Only asking because I own Penon's flagship and was curious how this stacks up. Thanks!


Headphoneus Supremus
LZ A7 – Silver or Gold?
Pros: Scales up beautifully with more powerful and better sources
Superb transparency and clarity with silver filter in monitor mode, punching well above its price point
Excellent resolution with silver filter in monitor mode, again punching above its price point
Open soundstage and excellent imaging with silver filter in monitor mode, very good with black filter
Clear and articulate midrange with the black and silver filter in monitor mode
Forward and clear yet smooth vocals with silver filter on monitor mode, gold filters is a sweeter tone with similar qualities
Spot on treble tone with silver filter in monitor mode, a bit warmer and very natural and smooth with gold filter
Excellent balance of lower treble energy and smoothness with a very engaging presentation
Powerful bass in Pop mode, good sub bass physicality and mid bass slam
Sturdy build and very nice stock cable
Cons: Silver filter in Pop mode can be agressive with upper mids peaks, also causes sibilance on vocals
Pop mode is overall less coherent than Monitor mode, I wished there was a more linear tuning along with bass boost
Product Page :
Price : 318$​

Packaging and accessories


The LZ A7 come in a nice package with a pseudo wood finish and a very nice hard leather green carry case but I wished there was a holding compartment for the filters and switch tool there.

The filter holder is metal and you can screw the unused colored filters on it when you’re not using them. The switch tool is used to switch the A7 from Pop to Monitor mode. The switch is located on the metal faceplate.


Note that the filters are color coded and easily identified. The notice for the filters and switch is printed in a small leaftlet that I found way too small to really be usable.

The LZ A7 user manual contains two frequency charts : one for Pop mode with all filters variants curves and one for Monitor mode with all the variants as well. Still, from what I can tell from the tiny graphs, Pop mode has more bass and upper treble presence while Monitor is more linear. The general peaks and dips are similar aside from the Red filter in both modes that seem to have a much more linear midrange with no peaks. All other filters seems to be variants of the same tuning.

Fit, Build & Isolation
The LZ A7 is a very sturdy IEM with a meta shell with black polished finish. The shape is reminiscent of shure IEMs in shape including position of the MMCX connectors but the bore is on the bigger side compared to shures. Given the material and shape, isolation is very good.

The filters include a grille that protects the driver from external elements. Everything is precisely machined and switching filters was flawless.


The fit is very good for me with good seal and a stable secure fit. There are clear left and right markings both on the shell and cable, kudos for this.


The stock cable is an 8 strands of 6N single crystal copper silver-plated cable and the sheathing reminds me of the ISN AG8 with a brown gold color that I find pretty classy. The cable is supple and the small gauge (my guess is 28 AWG) makes it a low footprint cable even with 8 wires. It features a single ended 3.5 termination.

The A7 is the first IEM I have had the chance to audition from LZ Hifi Audio, although I had heard good things about the A4 and A6 but never had the chance to audition them so I’m coming to LZ with a fresh set of ears.

This is always a challenge to review IEMs featuring multiple filters because of how many variants are possible. The LZ A7 features no less than 5 filters along with a switch which equates to 10 different variant of the signature no less. A sound way to start with this kind of IEM is start with the baseline tuning, in the case of the LZ A7 the black filter is the reference position. The following overall sound impressions is therefore based on the black filter, with stock cable out of DX160.

With the switch set to Monitor, the LZ A7 is a clear sounding IEM with a fast, tight and controlled reference bass with decent punch. The mids are even bodied being neither full nor thin and overall it’s a clear midrange with good bite and no signs of harshness signs of a well mastered tuning. Vocals are clear and forward and my usual test tracks show no sibilance or harshness. Lower treble as good sparkle but the energy is well controlled and no hint of hotness, the tone is spot on to my ears. The stage is open with coherent and precise imaging, wider than it’s tall and deep though. Overall, the black filter with switch on Monitor is a very coherent reference tuning with vocal emphasis. This is quite impressive at this price point.

With the switch set to Pop, right the LZ A7 is clearly a more fun IEM with more bass presence down low and more sparkle up top. The bass is much more present with a significant boost. Sub bass now provides a real physicality that border bass head territory, mid bass has more presence and I had much more fun with my bass test tracks with a clear toe tapping factor. Compared to the Monitor setting, although they are not recessed per say mids take a back seat to bass and treble, vocal are neutrally positioned providing more stage depth. They have a smoother presentation with a warmer tone. Treble is consistent with the Monitor switch setting with a bit more energy and sparkle although the significantly more present bass balances this. Overall the black filter with switch on Pop is a fun tuning with a strong bass line, smooth mids and exciting treble.


Now on to filters here are quick impressions based on Monitor switch first then Pop :

  • the Red filters provides a more linear but also darker presentation things are more balanced and smooth relaxing nature on the Monitor switch. In Pop mode this is a bassier and relaxed presentation, thanks to more linear mids and dipped upper treble. I prefer the Monitor setting on the Red filter.

  • the Gold filters provide a less linear presentation than Red but more than the black with less upper mids emphasis, with makes for sweeter vocals and is my favorite filter for vocals on Monitor mode as it strikes the best midrange balance for me being a bit fuller sounding and smoother with a slightly warmer tone. Treble is also a bit less sparkly and energetic than the Black filter. This is consistent between monitor and pop mode where pop mode has more bass presence, mids are fuller and less articulate with less vocal presence and more treble presence. I like the Monitor switch much better with the Gold filter.

  • the blue filters provide a brighter presentation over the black filter, with significantly more upper treble and upper mids presence, but a bit more bass than the black filter with a sub bass focus. Lower treble sparkle though is still spot on and not overly different from the black filter. Lower mids have less presence than the black filter to my ears making the LZ A7 overall a bright, punchy and thinner IEM on the blue filter with Monitor on. Switching to pop, bass is meatier with more mid bass, vocals a bit recessed and treble emphasized further. Again I like the Monitor setting better on the blue filter.

  • the silver filters provide the closest presentation to the black filter to me, it’s close to the baseline signature but I hear better transparency and clarity thanks to more upper treble presence. Upper treble is very refined and impressive with the silver filter. The stage benefits and is the most open of all filters in Monitor mode, with the most holographic presentation. Resolution is also at its best with the silver filters and I must confess I was impressed by the performance of the LZ A7 at its price point. Mids are balanced and consitent with my impressions of the black filter with better transparency and a similar good balance of bite and smoothness. This is a mature, mastered tuning and the silver filter are my pick for Jazz. Switching over to Pop, the silver filter looses quite a bit of its magic in my opinion. It sure get a lot more bass making the bass line more prominent, but vocals loose their magic and I found it exhibited sibilance at times compared to the silver/monitor setting. Similarly while upper treble remain just as good the upper mids are not as clear and it looses the coherence of the silver/monitor setting.
Now let’s dive deeper into my two favorite filters on the LZ A7, the Gold and Silver filters!



Silver filter
The monitor mode provides a reference take with the silver filter, it’s a tight, fast and controlled bass with lots of detail and a sub bass tilt. It does convey the rythm nicely but lacks the engagement that you get from a more impactful bass and the bass line is a bit subdued at times. As we’ll see the beauty of the silver filter on the monitor setting lies elsewhere.

Switching to pop mode totally transforms the bass section with much more bass presence both sub and mid bass are affected. The bass line is much stronger and the LZ A7 bass is both more engaging and physical. But as we’ll see further down, this takes away a bit of what I consider is the magic of the silver filter mids and treble wise on monitor.

Gold filter
The monitor mode provides a natural sounding bass with good mid bass presence and moderate impact, it’s not a punchy but smooth bass delivery with good control. Sub bass presence is good and provides a good amount of physicality. The bass line has good presence but is not prominent in the mix either. I feel like decay is slower than the silver filter so it’s not only a matter of bass presence but also there is some damping happening here, frequency graph don’t tell the whole story.

Switching to Pop mode, there is much more sub bass presence with great physicality in both Sohn “Falling” and Aphex Twins “Ageispolis”. The bass is more seated on tracks that have more sub bass and provide a better toe tapping factor as well with a bit more mid bass presence. On the flipside, on bass heavy tracks the extra bass presence shadows the mids which take a seat back.


Silver filter
The monitor mode mids immediately struck me as impressively transparent : it’s a balanced midrange with superb clarity and separation and tonally spot on with very accurate instruments timbre. The resolution is nothing short of impressive at this price point and we’ll see how that relates to the treble performance of the silver/monitoring combo. There is something reminiscent of Cayin excellent YB04 and few IEMs manage to be highly transparent and with such a natural tone.

The lower mids are neither thin nor thick striking a great balance and contributing to this natural tone. Upper mids are a bit forward but show admirable restraint remaining smooth, sign of a well mastered and mature tuning. Again, call me impressed at this price range. Vocals are forward and clear and every minute aspect of the artist emotion is conveyed in a smooth way. Etta James “At last” is a good test and never did I wince when Etta goes to the upper registers, just to the limit but never accross. Hard to pull off. Male vocals don’t stand out as much as female vocals though, but I must confess I prefer a bit more lower mids to provide a more grounded portrayal of male singers. Don’t misread this, for example Pete Alderton “Malted Milk” or Big Daddy Wilson “Thumb a ride” were enjoyable with nuances aptly conveyed and the tessitura is beautiful and it’s not thin either so I am nitpicking here (because I do love the LZ A7 silver/monitor mids).

Now how does the silver/pop combo works for the LZ A7 mids? Well it’s a mixed bag in my opinion. The bass is more present so I think LZ thought relevant to boost the upper mids and there are peaks there that make them agressive to my ears, too much bite and prone to sibilance on vocals even on tracks that are usually not particularly problematic like James Blake “Vincent” or Gabrielle Alpin “My Mistake” were almost unlistenable.

Gold filter
The monitor mode provides a smooth and organic midrange with good lower mids presence tastefully done with a slight pleasing warmth. The mids retain some of the qualities of the silver filter here it’s a bit less transparent with the warmer tone but it’s still a very clear and articulate midrange with great clarity. Mainly it’s the same mids with a warmer tone and a slightly smoother presentation with a tad less upper mids bite. This makes for a fatigue free listen but not at the expanse of technicality as separation and detail are fairly impressive. Where the silver filter had me think of YB04 midrange, the golden filter is more along the lines of DK-2001.

Switching to Pop mode, I feel the overall tone is warmer with a bit more lower mids presence, the additional bass presence certainly gives a fuller tilt to the LZ A7. It’s also a more relaxed midrange and depending on what you’re listening to can be handy for thin/brighter recordings.


Silver filter
The monitor mode treble is once again a revelation at this price point, it’s spot on in terms of lower treble energy and tone making it an engaging and natural listen with smooth delivery. It’s also well extended in the upper section with a refinement that is utterly surprising at this price point. There is a lot of air and the resolution benefits greatly from the LZ A7 silver/monitor upper treble performance. On Guthrie Trapp “Buckdancer’s choice”, both electric guitars and percussions are beautifully portrayed. In totally different genres complex tracks like Infected Mushroom “Jeenge” and Stan Getz “Maracatu-Too” were quite impressive with the LZ A7.

Switching to pop mode, the treble is probably the most consistent with monitor mode contrary to bass and mids, but will definitely be perceived differently in the context of the overall signature in Pop mode. The upper mids peaks certainly make for a brigther sounding LZ A7 but it’s not due to the treble tuning specifically. For the same reason the increased bass presence makes it a much more fatiguing IEM with silver/pop.

Gold filter
The monitor mode with the gold filter is again quite close to the silver filter just with a warmer lower treble tone and a bit less upper treble presence. Despite the tone being warmer the lower treble energy is similarly engaging but more relaxed. Imaging and resolution are not as special as with the silver filter though but that’s natural, and remains very good.

Switching to Pop mode, I hear a bit more lower treble energy especially hi hats are more pronounced with higher percussions taking more space in the mix and also more electric guitar emphasis. This means on some tracks treble take over the mids in terms of presence. Despite the added presence, treble remain smooth.


I had no expectations coming into this review, as I have never heard another IEM from LZ Hifi Audio. The LZ A7 was a totally fresh look at a brand and I didn’t expect anything good or bad to begin with except a slight concern on piezo drivers (do those right is hard). On paper the LZ A7 sounded like another midrange tribrid with a filter system. After reviewing it though, I must say I am impressed by the maturity of its tuning and the value for money.

Not every filter / switch combination are equal though, but that’s were filter systems are interesting to match personal preferences. I clearly preferred the monitor switch position no matter which filter but I see the appeal of Pop mode. My main concern with Pop mode is the upper mids peak and the less balanced signature overall. Monitor mode is consistently more coherent although if bass is among your priorities it’s clearly the route to take.

With the Silver and Gold filters in monitor mode, I can either choose between a highly coherent reference IEM with superb transparency, resolution and imaging all with a smooth delivery and a level of refinement rarely found at its price point or a warmer tone and slightly more relaxed variant with the Gold filter.

I was so impressed by the LZ A7 silver/monitor combo that I decided to plug it to my Hiby R8. A combo that won’t make sense in the context of a 300$ IEM review but I had to check and let me tell you : in low gain / turbo mode the LZ A7 scales yet further with a bigger soundstage that benefits separation and imaging, as well as more powerful bass and even more refined treble and better textures. A hint that plugging into an amp would maybe make total sense especially something accessible like iFi Audio Zen DAC/amp. Note that I didn’t try a balanced mmcx cable for the LZ A7 connectors are very tight and I didn’t want to get the cable stuck to it but I suspect a balanced would provide benefits out of DX160 with the additional driving power.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the LZ A7, listening on iBasso DX160 and Lotoo PAW S1 using the stock cable. Also using AAW Capri ligthning cable out of the iPhone XS Max.

Special Thanks
Thanks to LZ for providing a review unit of the A7. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Leather hard carry case
  • Set of S, M, L tips
  • Switch tool
  • Set of filters
  • 8 strands of 6N single crystal copper silver-plated cable, Length :1.2 meters, Plug:3.5mm standard single-ended
  • 1 dynamic for low frequency (liquid crystal molecule coating composite diaphragm)
  • 2 BA for medium frequency
  • 2 BA for high frequency
  • 2 Piezoelectric ceramic ultra-high frequency
Frequency response range: measurable frequency response 5Hz-40kHz
Impedance: POP mode is 15Ω/ MONITOR mode is 13Ω
Sensitivity: 109dB/mW in POP mode / 113dB/mW in MONITOR mode, @ 1kHz
Distortion: <1%
Earphone pin: MMCX interface
hi, thanx for the great review :L3000: how did you like the pairing with DX160?
Awesome review. I noticed that you've listened to both the Lz A7 and the Fiio FD5. How do they compare?
@ davidmolliere. Very nice review, for a superb iem. Using A7 with same gear you used for testing: DX160 and PAW S1, albeit with FiiO LC4.4C balanced cable; sound quality from the Sparrow balanced output with FiiO LC4.4C belies the fact that the A7 is a $338 IEM!


Headphoneus Supremus
Organic silver
Pros: Very good build with flawless braiding
Excellent soundstage expansion
Improved imaging thanks to better separation
Smooth delivery across the range
Good quality carbon termination and splitter
Tight slider stays in place
Color coded left and right
Cons: Cable weight and no preformed ear hooks makes it a better at home option than on the go
Product Page :
Official Distributor’s page :
Price : 199$​

I discovered the ISN brand when I had the chance to review the sales hit ISN H40 IEM which boast fantastic value for money. When I had the opportunity to review their 8 strands pure silver cable the AG8 I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to write my first cable review. I actually spent a lot of time (200+ hours) with the AG8 before finally getting to write this, with a lot of different pairings.

Build, ergonomics and comfort
The AG8 comes in a relatively simple package not unlike the H40, but given the amazing value for money they provide the interest is in the product itself rather than the packaging.


The build quality is great and the braiding of the cable is flawless and quite beautiful. ISN doesn’t share much on the strands nature, the manufacturing process, gauge (but I’d say 24 AWG comparing to other cables I own), geometry or even source of the material like some cable makers other than it’s high purity silver. The cable sheathing color, giving somewhat of a golden brown color is very classy. The carbon splitter and termination feels sturdy with classy golden touches. The plug is gold plated as it should be in this price range.


I have a 2 pin version of the AG8 and I was happy to see that it works with all my recessed IEMs and CIEMs as it can sometimes be an issue. The pins also fit every of my IEM with no extra force needed which is always something I am wary of (my DITA Oslo comes to mind, fits only a small share of my IEMs pins are too fat). The AG8 is neither loose nor tight and fits everything nicely.


Worth noting the blue and red color is something often missing on cables forcing you to check hard to read markings, not the case here with clear color coded markings, kudos ISN here!


On to the slider it’s built to either sit nicely with the splitter, note that it’s fairly tight which is good because it sits securely when you slide it up, on the flipside it’s not easy to slide and I was careful along the way not to slide it too fast. The slider is important ergonomically especially with universal IEM since the cable weight is felt (by nature of it’s 8 wire) and there is no preformed hooks on the ears so the cable holds basically on fit (not an issue with CIEMs) and tension from the slider. ISN chose wisely to make it tight enough.


Despite its 8 wire footprint especially considering the 24 AWG, the AG8 is supple and comfortable to wear. Given its footprint and how classy it looks though, I feel better wearing it at home that on the move where lighter alternatives can be more appropriate and also allow to enjoy its sonic qualities to the fullest.

The ISN AG8 is not at all the typical silver profile in terms of its signature, but the past years have shown material is not the only element determining the sound profile of a cable. If I had to sum up the AG8 I would say it’s a smooth and full sounding cable with good vocal presence, with remarkable soundstage expansion, layering and imaging. As we’ll see in the pairing section, the AG8 pairs better with IEM with reference to natural signatures rather than the bassier and warmer IEMs.

The AG8 is an interesting cable bass wise, while it does not boost bass particularly neither adding quantity not tightening the bass for a punchier more controlled presentation.

Rather it improved the bass quality and in particular the bass detail and textures on every IEM I tried it with. There is something very analog about the AG8’s bass with a smoother presentation thanks to a smooth attack and a bit longer decay. I also found the percussive instrument’s tone to be quite accurate.

This makes the AG8 an interesting pairing with IEMs that can side on the drier side bass wise, I don’t have many of those but for example the fast, punchy and controlled bass of the Fusion had just an extra wetness and richness and therefore a more tactile feel that I found to be great as it doesn’t compromise the underlying qualities of the Fusion.

The AG8 is going counter to most silver cable tuning mids wise : it makes every IEM fuller sounding with a definite lower mids boost, but also smoother sounding with again somewhat of an analogue feel with smooth attack and longer decay.

Note that it’s neither overdone – timbre is not affected – nor at the expense of clarity and transparency which is quite remarkable and makes for a nice combination of smooth yet clear presentation with IEMs with good upper mids presence and an open signature.

Instrument separation is improved with the AG8, as is usually the case with 8 wires cables, giving more breathing room to instruments and a better portrayal of more complex ensembles. Last but not least, I enjoyed the vocal presentation on the AG8 very much, it brings vocal a bit more forward with a smooth and clear delivery.

As we’ll see in the pairing section, the AG8 does wonder with the likes of Tansio Mirai Zodiac, ItsFit Lab Fusion, Earsonics EM10 or Dunu SA6. It doesn’t work as well with the warmer, smoother and fuller StealthSonics C9 Pro where clearer cables and source do pair better.

The AG8 is definitely a consistent cable across the range, it doesn’t betray its smooth nature from bass to treble.

The AG8 lower treble is spot on to my ears both in the energy it conveys and the tone, with a wetter treble presentation it helps bring the little something that provides extra engagement to more neutral IEMs as well as a more natural tone.

This doesn’t go in the way of the treble extension and the AG8 doesn’t disappoint with resolution and air being improved, benefiting soundstage as well as imaging precision.


Tansio Mirai Zodiac
This is probably my favorite cable with the Zodiac. If you’ve read my Zodiac review you know that I rate it very high. the Zodiac is a highly transparent IEM with superb soundstage and imaging. It packs good punch down low, open transparent mids with good bite and refined upper treble.


Compared to the stock cable, the ISN AG8 bring a lot to the table starting with an even more expanded soundstage. The Zodiac is already a top performer there with holographic stage but paired with the AG8 it goes into elite soundstage territory with further instruments separation and stage expansion. Overall the AG8 brings a more organic signature to the Zodiac, while not compromising its fundamental qualities.

Bass is even more layered and textured, with a tad more weight as well. Mids are fuller sounding with a bit more body and overall slightly warmer tilt on tone. Upper mids is smoother so there is a bit less bite making for a more romantic presentation. Instruments separation is a bit better and I felt this was beneficial for larger ensembles and more complex tracks. Treble tone is more natural with a slightly warmer tone which I like while at the same time retaining the nice lower treble sparkle the Zodiac is capable of.

Dunu SA6
I recently reviewed Dunu SA6 and it’s one of my favorite mid tier IEMs. The SA6 is a reference IEM with an organic twist, and its SPC stock cable is pretty good to begin with so I was interested in what the AG8 would bring to the table. Given my experience with the Zodiac, I expected the AG8 to make the SA6 a bit more organic still. As it turns out cable synergy is not always a same story with every IEM.

When paired with the AG8, the SA6 gains is a bit fuller but the gain is not as great as the Zodiac pairing which is not a bad thing per say as it doesn’t take the SA6 too far from its reference baseline. I must say while I use the SA6 with its switch to ON with the stock cable, I felt that switch turned off was better with AG8 with Hiby R8 (with DX160 I enjoyed both settings).

But the main benefit that was instantly apparent was the stage, the AG8 opens the SA6 up more than it does the Zodiac and the extra stage size in itself makes the SA6 an even more engaging listen than its very good stock cable.

Earsonics EM10
This is still one of my favorite custom IEM if you’ve read my review you know I consider it a most under rated IEM that can compete with the best and is no less good than the highly praised Grace. The EM10 is a highly engaging all rounder CIEM with totl performance across the board. I also consider the EM10 to be among the very best BA mid bass around no less.


The AG8 is a great pairing with the EM10 if you want to beef up its lower mids and make for a fuller sounding unit, and add a touch of warmth and body to its reference midrange. The added body won’t go in the way of separation and stage since the AG8 will bring extra separation and stage size compared to the stock cable.

I also found the the treble to be more natural with the AG8 with a less reference tone infusing a touch of a warmer treble tone while not compromising the superb upper treble extension and air of the EM10. As for bass, the benefit is obvious and significant to the textures and detail although those are pretty great to begin with so I’d say the main benefit to the EM10 is stil the mids with the AG8.

Custom Art FIBAE7
This is one pairing I suspected might be a toss up depending on how synergy would play out. The other pairings I tried before had me a bit worried the AG8 would make the FIBAE7 a bit thick and warmer. As it turns out it didn’t play out that way and I didn’t find tone to be warmer but the F7 has enough upper mids presence to balance out its lower mids presence so I guess this has something to do with it.

The AG8 smoothened the F7 upper mids though, I am talking of delivery with smooth attack rather than any cable related dip there as the upper mids presence was not affected by the AG8. This makes it an interesting option for people who find the F7 is maybe going to close or beyond their upper mids sensitivity at times (especially on some source like SP1000 or Hugo).

The extra separation and stage size over the stock 4 wire Null Audio Arete was significant with AG8 on the F7 making for a holographic experience.

StealthSonics C9 Pro
The upcoming flagship from StealthSonics I had the chance to recently review before its release is highly engaging and smooth with a strong bassline, full mids with superb vocals and very refined and elegant treble. It’s one of the most organic tuning I have heard to date, I was not sure the pairing with the AG8 would not be too much.

I was right, I didn’t find the pairing to be the best, the C9 Pro has quite a bit more lower mids presence than the average IEM these days. It’s a full midrange with a lot of body and the AG8 just takes it even a tad farther which even with the extra separation and stage size compared to stock doesn’t quite compensate the added warmth and body.

It’s a clear lesson that AG8 is not the silver cable that will bring more treble presence, clarity and transparency to warmer IEMs. Other pairings are more appropriate.

ItsFit Lab Fusion
If you’ve read my Fusion review you know I like the punchy and clear sound, with great soundstage and fantastic imaging. It’s more of a reference tuning and I suspected the AG8 would give me a more organic take on the Fusion and looked forward to it. I was right and it turned out as I expected making it one of my favorite cable with the Fusion along with DITA Oslo.


The Fusion clear and punchy bass gain more textures on the AG8 but it’s a constant with all my IEMs, it’s more spectacular with the drier bass of the Fusion though as the slightly longer decay makes for a wetter bass presentation that is quite an interesting variant. The reference mids gain body thanks to added lower mids presence, this is actually a bit more than Oslo which I didn’t expect. The mids tone is warmer with AG8 and I find it a more engaging listen. The same applies to treble were the Fusion lower treble are infused with a touch of warmth that I find pleasing. The Fusion remarkable upper treble is a bit less defined than with Oslo but has a more relaxing presentation that doesn’t sacrifice details.

In a market where premium cables price are skyrocketing and can honestly be questionable investments, there is room for high quality and high value cables at a fraction of the price. The AG8 is definitely well built, consistent with cables 2 or even 3 times the price and the performance is also in line with this ratio which makes it insanely good value for money.

ISN definitely was bold with the AG8, straying away from the typical silver cable tuning in favor of an organic cable that brings extra texture down low, a nice lower mids boost and a smooth delivery across the range combined with a nice separation and stage size expansion. This makes for a superb pairing with reference and natural IEMs and at this price to me a no brainer. In a similar price range, it performs better than my Null Audio Tiburon 8 wire for example and I find the overall build quality including braiding is superior.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 200 hours with the AG8, listening on iBasso DX160, Hiby R8 using Tansio Mirai Zodiac, Dunu SA6, Earsonics EM10, Custom Art FIBAE7, ItsFit Lab Fusion and StealhSonics C9 Pro.

Special Thanks
Thanks to ISN for providing a review unit of the ISN AG8. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Carrying case
  • Material:High purity silver
  • Number of cores: 8 shares
  • Connector: MMCX/2pin 0.78mm
  • Plug:3.5mm audio/2.5mm/4.4mm balanced gold-plated
  • Cable length: 1.2M


Headphoneus Supremus
Silky Dream!
Pros: Full bodied, richly textured and smooth midrange
Exquisitely refined treble presentation
Beautiful vocals with excellent presence (powerful delivery for male and sweet delivery for female)
Powerful bass line with great slam factor
Very coherent and open soundstage with precise imaging
Excellent resolution
Superb build quality and perfect fit
Competitive price
Cons: Might be too warm and full bodied for some
Manufacturer’s website :
Price : 1499$​

Fit, Build & Isolation
StealthSonics is no newcomer to building IEMs and the C9 Pro build is simply superb, the shell is flawless and the smoke transparent show great craftsmanship on the internals. I picked simple colored transparent faceplates but the result is really nice and I love looking at them as much as I love to listen to them. The 2 pin socket is recessed, which has my preference for a more secure fit.

As you can see there are 3 sound tubes and bores are flush, which means be careful with was obstructing bores. I admit I prefer horn bore designs (like the EM10 or VE8) for that reason but it’s not widely spread yet.


StealthSonics C9 Pro build is flawless and shows perfect craftsmanship, fit is superb as well. For those of you that are used to customs, note that the fit is on the relaxed side (special thanks to @Deezel177 for his input on this) so if like me you like your fit a bit tighter with lower tolerances then don’t hesitate to ask.

StealthSonics took my now usual digital prints and the build time was pretty fast around 2 weeks, the result was perfect from the get go the seal is great as well as comfort. This is top notch custom experience.

The folks at StealhSonics are a « group of audiologist, engineers and musicians that have been serving the audiology and audio needs of musicians, audio professionals, audiophiles and patients in SouthEast-Asia for almost 10 years ». I confess I hadn’t heard about them before I took part to the U2, U4, U9 review tour but I am glad I had the opportunity to discover the brand.

The C9 Pro is the upcoming flagship (it’s actually not released yet) from StealthSonics along with the C9 with both a different tuning and technologies. The C9 was a hybrid with a dynamic and 8 BA while the C9 Pro is a 9 BA setup. StealthSonics does quite a bit of R&D and has its own techs implemented in the C9 Pro Klarity valve to reduce pressure build up and fatigue in the ear canal from long usage; Stealth damping for more controlled bass response ; and SonicFlo Acoustics for resonance and cancellation reduction.”

In the lineup I really liked the U9 which is ruler flat reference and loved the more organic U2 as it fits my personal preferences in terms of signature. Basically I liked the U9 technical chops but the signature of the U2 stuck with me. When I heard StealthSonics was coming up with a flagship with a very organic tuning my interest was piqued to say the least and I jumped into the opportunity of getting it early!

From the very first minute listening to the C9 Pro it was apparent that it was everything I hoped for and then some… the C9 Pro is the epitome of an organic signature to me, which is a full bodied, richly textured, full of nuances and smoothly delivered sound. But it doesn’t stop there, as we’ll see and that’s what sets it apart.

The bass line is powerful with a clear mid bass focus, and the C9 Pro has a lot of slam factor. Mids are full bodied with beautiful textures and a smooth delivery yet very open and articulate. Treble is exquisitely tuned combining excellent lower treble sparkle and energy along with excellent upper treble extension providing air and resolution as well as balancing the overall signature. The C9 Pro is organic, but it’s neither dark nor congested quite the contrary. Soundstage is excellent and very coherent making for a very precise 3 dimensional image. The overall coherence is flawless, and reflects a masterful tuning.


The C9 Pro bass is well extended and controlled but with a clear mid bass emphasis – the delivery is on the smoother side – with a soft attack and a tad longer decay. Bass notes linger a bit and decay beautifully.

It’s not a snappy, punchy bass but rather a more romantic delivery with beautiful textures and a high level of detail and very good control. Don’t mistake this for a weak or slow bass, the C9 Pro has a powerful bass line and it can keep up with faster paced music it only does so with a smooth delivery at all times. This is a fairly singular presentation among all the IEMs I have listened to and I must say I like it especially on percussion where the C9 Pro conveys nuances of interpretation in a way that not many IEMs can.

On José James “Better Off Dead”, Nate Smith drums are exquisitely rendered and and Ben Williams bass line is powerful with a lot of weight to the notes. In Lucy Dixon “Stormy Weather”, David Aknin drums also shine with the C9 Pro lots of nuances and interpretation cues. I also loved the way the C9 Pro presents the double bass on Jazz tracks, rich, soulful but some might find they prefer a snappier presentation. I like that the C9 Pro offers something different from most IEMs there and Caro Emerald “Back it up” sounded just as good as I have heard it.

Out of more powerful sources, like iFi Audio ICAN Pro or iBasso DX220 Max, it’s very apparent that the C9 Pro will scale yet a bit further with a more powerful source providing even better control and more slam factor.


The mids are the heart and soul of the C9 Pro, it’s a full bodied, richly textured and smooth mids with beautiful vocals.

The lower mids are probably among the very best I have heard elevated enough to provide satisfying body but not so much so that the mids would become congested. It’s also one very distinctive item of the C9 Pro’s tuning in a day and age where a common way to gain clarity is dipping lower mids. As we’ll see in the treble section, the C9 Pro relies on other qualities to bring clarity. This lower mids tuning highlights fundamentals on the rythm section of tracks and the C9 Pro has a strong rhythmic emphasis which makes for great toe tapping factor along with its mid bass emphasis. It also makes some older albums (80s come to mind) more enjoyable. Coherence between the bass and mids is also a remarkable quality of the C9 Pro’s tuning, while there is no bass bleed into the mids the transition is seamless.

The upper mids on the other hand are on the smoother side, there is good percussive attack and electric guitars have great bite but above around 5kHz there is a dip and some might find hi hats to lack crispness, kick drums and toms to lack a bit of snap and brass instruments are on the safer side. On the flipside this makes the C9 Pro non fatiguing and tracks like Hank Levy “Whiplash” or Miles Davis “So What” are absolutely devoid of any agressive hints that have me reach the limit with some IEMs.

Last but not least vocals on the C9 Pro are special, thanks to the fullness of the lower mids male vocals have power (Leonard Cohen “Nevermind” never sounded so good) and female vocals are on the sweeter side but it’s not overdone. This makes for a romantic presentation so to speak. The presence range is elevated and there is vocal emphasis, and the upper mids being on the safer side there is no hint of sibilance whatsoever. As we’ll see to bonify things the upper treble brings welcome air to an otherwise sweet and romantic presentation, making the C9 Pro a superb vocal performer in my opinion as it also emphasize higher notes and James Blake “Vincent”, Etta James “At last”, Ruth B. “Lost Boy” are some of my vocal test tracks I enjoyed a lot with the C9 Pro.


The C9 Pro treble, as I hinted earlier are key to its signature. The power of its mid bass and its full bodied mids is balanced by the energy of its lower treble and its superb extension and presence. Consistently with the rest of the signature, the C9 Pro delivers its treble section with a smoothness that is so very elegant to my ears.

The lower treble features excellent sparkle and piano notes have great energy and weight, the Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” intro is simply superb. In a very different genre Infected Mushroom “Jeenge”, Erez Aizen acoustic guitar is superb as well as the airy synth sounds. Also worth mentioning, Stan Getz “Maracatu-Too” where Jose Paulo and Luiz Parga percussions are simply beautiful.

Uncharacteristic for a very organic IEM, the upper treble has excellent extension and presence, which brings a lot of air and refinement to the C9 Pro signature but also grants the C9 Pro impressive resolution and detail retrieval as well as excellent separation. This is even more apparent out of DX220 Max versus the smoother LPGT where the C9 Pro reaches impressive resolution. The upper treble presentation reminds me a lot of Vision Ears VE8 and that’s not a small compliment. It’s a very effortless and consistent across the range – again – smooth presentation making for a very natural presentation, refraining from any artificial accentuation which is the sign of a masterful tuning.


The C9 Pro is without a doubt my favorite IEM from StealthSonics and has quickly earned a place as one of the top favorites in my collection along with Custom Art FIBAE7 and Earsonics EM10. It’s a daring choice in this day and age for a flagship to go for a more organic signature but StealthSonics has delivered with the C9 Pro a flagship that is both technically impressive and a masterful organic tuning with its own unique twist.

If you’re looking for an IEM that is highly engaging and smooth with a strong bassline, full mids with superb vocals and very refined and elegant treble then the C9 Pro is definitely among the top options especially at its price point! If you like your organic signatures with a bit snappier and punchier bass presentation, clearer mids with more bite and energetic treble then there are other alternatives as we’ll see in the comparison section.

Note that for those of you who prefer universals the U9 Pro will also be available.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 300 hours with the C9 Pro , listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, DX220 Max and PAW S1 using PW Audio n°10, DITA Oslo and Dunu Blanche balanced cables.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Raj at StealthSonics for providing an early preview to the C9 Pro at a discounted price. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

Due to character limitation I can't post the select comparisons with FIBAE7, EM10 and U9 here but you can find them on and
on the C9 Pro thread.
Last edited:
great review and beautiful earphones, much better looking than the universals
@FastAndClean Stealth Sonics told me they will be redesigning the shell of the forthcoming U9 Pro (the universal version of the custom IEM in the review); I think they said they'd be aluminium, so I'm waiting with interest to see how they turn out :)


Headphoneus Supremus
Bright done right!
Pros: Excellent resolution and detail retrieval
Great overall speed and quick clean note decay
Excellent treble extension and beautiful lower treble with accurate tone
Balanced and articulate mids with accurate timbre
Tight, fast and perfectly controlled bass
Great value for money
Cons: Signature is highly influenced by tip selection
Needs a source with decent power to sound best
Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the AF180 mk2, listening on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and PAW S1 with the stock cable and also Dunu Lyre and Hansound Zen 8 wire cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Michelle at Audiofly for providing the opportunity of a review unit of the AF180 mk2. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. The unit has been returned to Audiofly.

Fit, Build & Isolation
The AF180 mk2 comes with a very nice sturdy protective hard case that is worth noting at the price point, also of note is the stock cable which is quite good and the cordura fibre looks sturdy and is very agreeable to wear.


The AF180 mk2 features a very compact plastic shell with a glossy black piano finish and thus is very lightweight, and you easily forget you’re even wearing them. The stem is long with a narrow bore that reminds me of Westone products and unfortunately I didn’t have Westone Star tips handy but I suspect those who be a great choice for the AF180 mk2.


Tip selection is key to having a good seal given how compact the shell is. Tips will also have a significant effect on both bass and treble on the AF180 mk2, the stock silicon tips made the AF180 mk2 brighter with a bit less bass presence while the stock comply foams did tame the treble a bit and helped the bass presence. The best experience for me was with Custom Art silicon tips I hade made for the KSE1500 and share almost the same bore size as the AF180 mk2. It was the best bass experience without loosing anything on the top end.


AF180 mk2 with Custom Art custom silicon tips

Audiofly has been developing IEMs and headphones since 2012 in Australia with the aim to achieve clear, accurate sound and superb ergonomics for audio professionals and music lovers alike. It’s a brand I have long heard good things about and never had the occasion to audition, this review is my first opportunity at the lineup.

Among the lineup, the AF180 mk2 is a “detail oriented IEM which encompasses a perfect balance between bass, mids and highs. Housing four high-resolution balanced armature drivers in a precision-tuned electronic 3-way crossover, this IEM boasts a brightness that cuts through the noise with unparalleled speed.”

Let’s see if the AF180 mk2 holds its promises in terms of tuning and performance!


Upon the very first minutes listening to the AF180 mk2 it’s very apparent that the tuning is exactly as advertised, a balanced signature with a strong focus on clarity that indeed boast brightness. The soundstage is quite open and wide with a black background and very precise and stable image no matter how complex and fast the track is.

The AF180 mK2 is a bright IEM but it also boast some punchy and clean bass, very balanced and articulate mids and although the well extended upper end is fairly present it’s not harsh by any means provided you have the right tips as mentioned above.

Of note is the unusual lower sensitivity of the AF180 mk2 for a multi BA, 104dB is something more common among dynamic drivers. This means the AF180 mk2 needs a decently powered source to sound its best and some smartphones or lower tier DAPs will struggle. The little PAW S1 dac/amp had more than enough power but my AAW Capri lightning cable struggled a little.

Let’s go back to the AF180 signature and dive deeper!

The AF180 mk2 bass is definitely not as shy as one might expect from an IEM with a focus on clarity : it’s a very clean bass with very good speed and a snappy note attack and quick decay.

From that standpoint the AF180 mK2 certainly delivers a bass that is in the spirit of the intended signature, the bass features great detail and it perfectly controlled. Its aim is not the fun bass, other models in the lineup can address this, but accurate and detailed bass.

Sub bass extends fairly well but its presence is clearly not the main goal although my usual test tracks like Sohn “Fallen” or Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” or L’impératrice “Erreur 404” certainly deliver a much better presence than I expected with perfect control. It won’t deliver a physical sub bass but few balanced armature manage this anyway so I’d rate the AF180 mk2 quite highly there. Note that this is using my custom silicon tips, the picture is a bit less true with comply or silicon tips. Depending on the tips seal you’ll get a different experience.

Mid bass has less presence comparatively so there clearly is a sub bass tilt. The bass line is definitely articulate and the rythmic message is there but depending on the tracks you might feel the AF180 mk2 is a bit bass shy. This was expected and is coherent with the intended tuning. This leaves me wanting for more body on the double bass for example, but that’s personal preference as the AF180 mk2 definitely doesn’t loose any ability to convey rythm.

If there is something you can’t fault the AF180 mk2 for is lack of coherence. The AF180 mk2 is a great testimony to this and again it holds its tuning promises delivering a very balanced midrange : timbre is spot on and Audiofly wisely stayed away from a upper mids tilt that could have made the AF180 mk2 go from a bright and clarity focused IEM to a harsh one.

There is no hint of harshness and the AF180 mk2 provide a very open, transparent, very articulate and accurate midrange. Audiofly also smartly didn’t dip the lower mids and while the midrange is not full bodied or thick it isn’t overly thin and artificial sounding (to my taste) like some clarity focused IEMs. This means instruments have satisfying body and notes have sufficient weight.

Speed is also of the essence, with a very short decay that makes for clean and articulate notes. The AF180 mk2 has no problem keeping up with faster and more complex and fast Jazz for example Hank Levy’s “Whiplash” is absolutely brilliantly rendered.

I expected the AF180 mk2 to feature good treble extension, presence and energy and again it didn’t disappoint. Audiofly has a lot of tuning experience and it shows : the treble have excellent extension and the lower treble energy is superbly done.

There is a more upper than lower treble presence and it shows in terms of resolution and air as well as a safe lower treble region that can sometimes be an issue with this kind of tuning. Ari Ann Wire “My favorite things” or Stan Getz/Laurindo Almeida “Maracatu-Too” are good examples of tracks that really made the AF180 m2 shine.

I was utterly impressed by the resolution out of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and the AF180 mk2 certainly shines in term of detail retrieval especially at its price point. More importantly to me is how it retrieves detail never feels artificially boosted with the all too easy peaks. It’s natural sounding detail retrieval if that makes sense. The treble tone is spot on.

Coherent accross the whole frequency range, the AF180 mk2 treble is fast with snappy attack and quick decay and has no problem handly anything you decide to throw at it.

I always find it interesting to review gear that are not in your personal preferences comfort zone and the AF180 mk2 is not my typical signature of choice. I often have issues with brighter signatures but with the right tips and source I enjoyed the AF180 mk2 very much in fact much more than I expected to be honest. I must say this made me quite curious to hear the other IEMs in the Audiofly range, from the AF140 to the AF160 and definitely the flagship AF1120.

Audiofly certainly did a superb job of tuning a bright but not agressive and never harsh IEM. To me it’s more of a balanced signature foundation with a touch of well tuned brightness. This being said with the wrong tip selection and on some tracks the AF180 mk2 can sound quite brighter so be careful about it and take your time tip rolling. Given my preferences I wouldn’t pair the AF180 mk2 with a bright source either, your mileage may vary. Cable rolling is very interesting with the AF180 mk2, as you can either take it towards even more detail retrieval or a smoother more organic route (typically what I got out of Hansound Zen 8 wire copper cable).

If you’re looking for a fast IEM that can provide superb detail retrieval without sounding analytical thanks to tight bass and balanced mids, then you should consider the AF180 mk2 especially given the price to performance ratio!



  • Audioflex™ SL twisted cable
  • Audioflex™ cable reinforced with CORDURA® fibre technology
  • Noise isolating
  • Protective Hard Case


  • Driver type: Four balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
  • Driver arrangement: Dual bass, single mid, single high
  • Frequency range: 15Hz-25kHz
  • Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
  • Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
  • Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
  • Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Engaging and transparent mids with the right balance of lower mids body and upper mids bite
Snappy and punchy bass with good control, speed and natural decay
Energetic yet smooth treble with good extension and speed
Open and coherent soundstage
Cons: Can’t think of one!
Product page :
Price : 299$

Fit, Build & Isolation
As I said in my DK-4001 review, the DK-2001 fit is one of the best I have had with an universal IEM, it is small, lightweight and ergonomic. The form factor is consistent across the DK lineup and I fit the whole range perfectly.

Design wise, I like that the nozzle has a small ridge line to allow for deeper tip insertion, I didn’t need it but it can come in handy and reflects the ergonomic focus in the DK-2001 design. Included spinfits are really good and I didn’t need to do any tip rolling with my own tips. The over the ear cable configuration with preformed hook makes wearing the DK-2001 very secure. Isolation is good thanks to deep insertion and as usual for best results comply tips provide additional isolation.


As usual with Dunu, the DK-2001 comes in with a modular design cable, in this case the newcomer “DUW-02” and it’s beautifully built and performs superbly. Contrary to the DK-3001 Pro and DK-4001, all the plugs don’t come bundled – just regular 3.5 – but can be purchased separately (unless you own another Dunu IEM and own the plugs already). This makes sense for a lower tier IEM.

Dunu is a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu built its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN series, DK series and the flagship Luna I reviewed recently as well as the upcoming full BA Studio lineup). When they launched the DK hybrid series in 2015, Dunu set out to design the most compact, optimal shell fit that would define our flagship series. It still works very well and Dunu fortunately decided to stick with the form factor with the DK-2001.

The DK-2001 is a much welcome addition to the DK lineup that included top and mid tier offerings with the 3001 Pro and 4001 but lacked an entry in the lower segment of the market. I was really curious as to how Dunu would differentiate the little brother of the lineup but they started by including some fun colors to the mix with a turquoise and orange (sorry, topaz) paint as well as the more traditional black finish. I picked the topaz for my unit but turquoise is pretty great as well.

I took this as a hint that the DK-2001 was tuned for fun and aimed at younger customers, but how would a forty something audiophile like them? Well, let’s check that out!

Upon first listen, I was a bit surprised by the DK-2001 : it instantly struck me as a mature, highly coherent refined tuning. It sure will do great with Pop, EDM or rap but it did fare so very well with all the other genres all the way through Jazz and Classical. I must confess, I didn’t expect that.

The DK-2001 is neither U nor V shaped but rather features a very balanced and smooth signature with a great deal of fun in all the right places. Bass are punchy and well controlled, with a nice mid bass slam and decent extension although they don’t feature as much sub bass as the DK-4001 or the DK-3001 Pro. Mids are the real surprise with surprising level of clarity and transparency that is quite unusual in this price bracket. The upper section is just as impressive with very good extension and just the right touch of energy. The DK-2001 is smooth and non fatiguing as well across the whole range. I quickly enjoyed it as a daily driver as it could do all genres very well. Soundstage is another aspect of its engaging nature with very good width and height and good depth. Certainly punching above its price point.

But now, let’s dive a bit deeper!


The DK-2001 is faithful to the great bass performance of Dunu hybrid lineup. It’s closer to the DK-3001 Pro with a nice hefty mid bass slam than the DK-4001 which has more controlled mid bass and a sub bass focus. The DK-2001 has a nice mid bass slam with very nice texture and perfect control. It packs some nice punch and the extension is very good as well.

The bass line is strong and the DK-2001 clearly has a toe tapping factor with a very good sense of rythm, thanks to good speed for a dynamic driver. Decay is very natural and attack is snappy. I’d go as far as say that it’s also a more balanced presentation than DK-3001 Pro (we’ll come back to this in my DK-3001 Pro upcoming review with a detailed comparison section to both the DK-4001 and DK-2001). This is especially apparent out of the “golden reference” provided by the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch but is already clear with the PAW S1 and to a lesser extent to the more coloured AAW Capri cable that has a bit of a warmer tilt.

The DK-2001 mids were the surprise of this review, I didn’t expect the mid tuning to be as balanced, articulate and dare I say refined presentation. The DK-2001 is fun for sure both bass and treble provide excitement, but it features quite serious mids with very strong technical qualities.

The lower mids are very balanced making for full but not thick mids, providing nice body and upper mids are forward enough to provide a nice amount of bite without ever compromising an overall smoothness that makes the DK-2001 a non fatiguing yet exciting listen. This is a delicate balance and very few IEMs manage to pull this off, let alone at this price point.

Vocal presence is very good, with the right touch of forwardness to my taste and the tonal balance is pretty impressive as well. There is a touch of sweetness that is slightly north of neutral that I like to call natural. Both male (like Pete Alderton “Malted Milk”) and female (Etta James “At last”) are faithfully portrayed, with very nice nuances making for a very engaging experience.

The treble section carries the same fun as the bass, it’s well extended, with good energy and sound technical foundations. This is a mastered tuning showing both decisiveness and restraint, again taking advantage of a long experience in tuning hybrid IEMs with the DK-3001 (and Pro) and DK-4001.

Lower treble is quite energetic providing a lot of excitement and fun, with clearly punctuated hi hats, nice sheen to electric guitar… Upper treble is well extended and provides very good resolution and air to the DK-2001. I started with Spin Doctors “So bad” and then went through the whole “If the river was whiskey” album. A pure treat. The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” piano intro was also a nice moment of this review.

As a reviewer, when you have purchased, owned and auditioned quite a few IEMs including some top of the line gear like I did it’s easy to get jaded and forget that this hobby is about music and enjoying getting engaged in a great listening experience. For me the magic happens when you forget the gear to be “in” the music and I must say very few IEMs have taken me to this place.

I have had the pleasure of experiencing this with some superb TOTL, but rarely with mid and lower tier. I expected the DK-2001 to be fun and good, but not that good and definitely not taking me to that sweet spot where I loose track of time and gear. Obviously your mileage may vary and it might not work for you but it did for me in a big way and that took me by surprise!

If you’re looking for a highly engaging IEM featuring a balanced and smooth signature with a great deal of fun in all the right places and a very rare level of refinement at this price point then look no further, the DK-2001 is in my opinion a gem and a steal at its price! It clearly shows the mastery of a manufacturer that has gained superb insight from developing a hybrid lineup for quite some time now.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 80 hours with the DK-2001, listening on Lotoo PAW S1 out of the iPhone XS Max and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch using the stock cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Dunu for providing a review unit of the DK-2001 . As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


  • High-Purity Silver-Plated OCC Copper Litz (Type 1) Cable
  • Modular 3.5 mm Single-Ended Plug
  • Cerulean Blue Leatherette Zip-Up Carry Case
  • DUNU DC-16 3.5-to-6.3 mm Adapter
  • Cleaning Brush & Loop
  • ‘Balanced’ Silicone Ear Tips (4 Pairs)
  • ‘Transparency’ Silicone Ear Tips (3 Pairs)
  • ‘Vocal’ Silicone Ear Tips (3 Pairs)
  • Memory Foam Tips (1 Pair)
  • NET WEIGHT: 14 g
  • SENSITIVITY: 109 ± 2 dB at 1 kHz
  • WIRE MATERIAL: High-purity silver-plated Ohno continuous cast (OCC) copper Litz Type 1 wire
  • CABLE LENGTH: 1.2 mm
  • DYNAMIC DRIVER: 13 mm dynamic driver with dual-sided Beryllium diaphragm coating
  • BALANCED ARMATURE(S): 3 custom-ordered Knowles BA Drivers (1 mid-high, 2 ultra-high)
how does it compares to spring1 that also has a 13mm DD a BA for mid-high but traded the 2 ultra-high BA for a piezzo ?
I have the DK 3001 (non pro), and I'm wondering if it's worth picking up the DK 2001. Are you able to compare the sound to DK 3001?


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Very good soundstage and imaging
Well controlled and very detailed bass
Clear, articulate mids with very good bite
Energetic yet smooth treble with good extension
Very good response to EQ if need be
Outstanding build quality
Cons: Bass might lack impact for some
Upper mids might have too much bite (can be EQ’ed)
Manufacturer’s website :
Price : 249$


Fit, Build & Isolation
The Solo shell looks identical to its bigger brother the Penta, the only difference being color. It’s compact and lightweight which contributes to excellent comfort and the fit is top tier as far as universal goes. This is no small aspect of an IEM for every day use. The build is superb with very tight tolerances and immaculate finish which punches well above its price range. The Solo look sturdy (up to the color coded metal nozzle).

Isolation is good, and much better than the Penta, probably due to a smaller vent and the choice of stainless steel versus the CNC Alluminium of the Penta.


The Solo right next to its bigger brother the Penta

Meze Audio is not a new comer, founded by industrial designer Antonio Meze in 2011 in Romania, it became widely known to the audiophile community with the award winning Meze 99 Classics. I purchased a set and it’s one of my favorites headphones regardless of price, with great value for money.

Since then, Meze move on to conquer the flagship headphones and IEM category with the highly acclaimed Empyrean and the Solo’s bigger brother the Rai Penta. While the Penta and Solo share identical shells aside from color, Meze chose a single dynamic driver for the Solo’s architecture versus the 4 BA and 1 dynamic of the Penta.


Exploded view of the Solo’s UPM dynamic driver (courtesy of Meze website)


On the left side, traditional driver and on the right UPM driver (courtesy of Meze website)

For the Solo Meze keeps innovation going with what they call Unified Pistonic Motion (UPM). Meze writes “In a traditional electrodynamic driver the voice coil lead wires are glued to the back side of the thin membrane. This is the major factor of the unbalanced vibration. The new UPM driver eliminates this inconvenience by using a totally different approach: the membrane itself is electrically conductive and, therefore, no wires are attached to the diaphragm. The result is a symmetric pistonic motion through its entire movement, without disturbance from the unbalance created by wires.”

Since I am a big fan of single dynamic driver in terms of coherence, physicality of the bass and edge in timbre accuracy I was curious about the tuning of the Solo, would it be the IEM counterpart of the Meze 99? Or would it be something entirely different?

Let’s see!


The Solo is clear sounding, with very good soundstage and imaging and its tuning is quite reference with a significant touch of mids forwardness. It boast well controlled and very detailed bass, clear articulate mids with excellent bite and energetic but smooth treble with good extension.

The Solo is characterized by well textured and highly detailed bass, more than a hard hitting, punchy bass. It’s a refined bass presentation rather than a full on bass-head experience.

Sub bass extension and presence is fair but nothing to rave about either especially for a dynamic driver. Sub bass is more heard than felt on most tracks. Only the most sub bass heavy tracks like Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” is the sub bass satisfyingly present but it’s a track that’s on the far end of the scale. Other sub bass test tracks like Sohn’s “Falling” or Alice Jemima “Liquorice” are a bit disappointing. Things are a bit different with the AAW Capri DAC/cable for the iPhone with a less neutral source the Solo sounds fuller and has more impact. I actually like the Capri’s presentation better than the LPGT without any EQ with the Solo. As we’ll see later on in this review, in my opinion the Solo matches better with a warmer source than a pure neutral one without EQ.

Solo’s mid bass is tuned a bit similarly, but there is a bit more presence and heft to percussions in Manu Katché “Keep on trippin’ ” and José James “Better of dead”. The Solo convey a nice rythmic baseline but more impressively the level is very high with a very articulate presentation. The Solo’s bass has good control in all circumstances and fair speed for a dynamic.

This makes up for a rather reference bass tuning that a fun one, and again switching to the AAW Capri there is a bit more impact and presence which sounded more satisfying to me.


The Solo’s mids are clear, articulate with very good separation and air, timbre is accurate and the presentation is forward. The Solo emphasizes lead instruments and vocals with a focus on the upper mids section.

Lower mids are not thin by any standards, but do take a back seat to the more prominent upper mids. The mids are full bodied, but neither thick nor warm. Vocals are clear and there are a lot of nuances conveyed with the Solo, this is where it punches well above comparably priced IEMs. On the flipside, out of the dead neutral Lotoo PAW Gold Touch Male vocals do lack a bit of power and sound a bit higher pitched than neutral. This being said, given it’s signature the Solo can be EQ’ed easily with great results without loosing clarity. Switching to the less neutral but excellent value for money AAW Capri DAC/cable out of the iPhone provides a bit more lower mids and is fairly similar to using EQ on the LPGT.

Upper mids are significantly forward, and the Solo therefore has limited depth to its soundstage, lead instruments as well as singer are not far away from you. Also, the Solo has a significant amount of bite, cymbals have great sizzle, snare drums are very crisp and electric guitar remarkable buzz… so much so that with a source like the LPGT and depending on tracks this might get into a sensitive territory for those who are upper mids sensitive. Again, things are smoother with a warmer source. Don’t misread this as the Solo being harsh, it’s not but it sure has much more upper mids presence and bite than most IEMs I know and the overall tone is – with a source like the LGPT – brighter than neutral. Things balance out a bit with a warmer source.


The Solo’s treble is definitely key to its signature, it has very good extension and provides good air and very nice resolution as well as great energy.

Lower treble sounds spot on to me, a perfect balance of exciting energy and smoothness. The Hot Sardines “Come Love (l’amour s’en fout)” intro was pure pleasure out of the LPGT, the piano overtones are just sublime. In Vateani’s “How they call it”, the glockenspiel was as good as I have heard it as well. In Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield’s “Albert’s shuffle” the electric guitar is again spot on and no signs of harshness although this track has plenty of bite up top. Same goes for the Pixies “Where is my mind”.

The upper treble section is well extended and contributes to the Solo’s very good soundstage and imaging.

The solo is a clear and energetic IEM especially out of a powerful and neutral source like the Lotto PAW Gold Touch. It responds very well to EQ and in my opinion will shine with warmer sources. Given its price range, and the probable match with lower to mid tier DAPs, that tend to be a bit warmer than neutral with a bass boost.

If you’re looking for a clear, energetic, open sounding IEM with strong technical foundations and a touch brighter than reference tuning then the Solo will provide fantastic value for money. If you own a warm DAP or source or are willing to EQ you can shift its signature easily into a slightly warm and fuller sounding reference IEM without loosing its clarity and energy.

Originally published here :

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40hours with the Solo, listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and AAW Capri lightning DAC cable out of the iPhone XS Max.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Alexandra at Meze Audio for providing a review unit of the Solo. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


  • 1.3m MMCX braided cables made of silver plated copper custom wires ending in high quality 3.5mm
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • 3 pairs of soft silicone eartips S, M, L
  • 3 double flanged eartips S, M, L
  • 2 deep insertion double flanged eartips M, L
  • Driver: 9.2mm UPM dynamic driver
  • Diaphragm thickness: 9µm
  • Impedance: 16 Ohm
  • SPL: 105±3dB at 1mW/1kHz
  • Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz
  • Distortion: <1% at 1mW/1kHz
  • Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm
  • Warranty period: 2 years
In one review the midrange is muddy and recessed, and in another one is forward... not very easy to follow guys...
These are good IEMs though I wouldn't spend $250 on these when other IEMs in this price range are better.

If you can find the Solos at $150, they aren't a bad choice if you are looking for a detailed, dry sounding IEM
Ahahaha :D you're right @dottormorte
It's neither recessed or forward.
This IEM's sound characteristic is colored. It's not a bad thing by any means. Mids are thicker and more meatier than usual. It's great for long, really long listening sessions. But some people might look for a more light, airy, sparkly presentation.
With the detailed sound signature across its hard to understand the sound characteristics easily.
I will write a review for it. I think I might be able give a better insight.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Black background makes up for great note contrast
Very powerful, fast and well controlled bass
Energetic well extended treble with good speed
Remarkably low distorsion
Very good resolution and good imaging
Superb build quality with great isolation and good stock cable
Cons: hallow fit might be an issue for some, tip selection is key to secure fit
Stark features a bit of a specialized signature (but excels at what it does best)
Product page :

Price : 1390€

Fit, Build & Isolation
The new hybrid lineup is a new form factor altogether for Earsonics universal IEMs : the inner part of the shell is acrylic while the faceplate is metal. Both Blade an Stark feature the same build, metal color is the only difference between the two. This is a clear departure from the legacy line up, the build quality is flawless and the Stark looks as sturdy as it comes both the metal obviously but the acrylic as well. It’s much heavier IEM than previous generations.

Fit was somewhat complicated for me, as is the case for shallower fitting IEM given my quite large and deep ear canal. Even my usual Flare Earfoams did the trick but on the go while moving it was not perfectly secure. Obviously your mileage will vary on this front but a secure and comfortable fit was only achieved with the silicon custom tips from Custom Art. On the flip side the shell density certainly does wonder for isolation and the Stark isolates much more than average provided you have a seal it’s just as good as my customs. Weight is well above average but balanced enough that it wasn’t an issue for me.


From its very beginning, Earsonics has always been associated with products targeted at pros : musicians, sound engineers and singers. They quickly gained a big share of the French pro market for customs but Earsonics became also well known in he audiophile world for its universal IEMs since the SM3 bestseller.I know the SM3 v2 was the first Earsonics model I owned and then I went on with the Velvet, the S-EM6 and S-EM9. I also own both their pro flagship custom the EM64 and the EM10 in the audiophile range. I have auditioned but do not own the Purple and the Grace, both universal inheriting quite a bit from their custom counterparts.

For the new generation Earsonics elected not only to totally change the build with a combination of metal and acrylic, but also – a first for the brand – no less than two hybrids offering featuring its first (8mm) dynamic driver. Stark is the flaghsip offering of the new hybrid lineup and I was curious about the tuning choices Frank Lopez had done and what the dynamic driver would bring to the table. Stark is described on Earsonics product page as « promoting high performance and level of detail while remaining musical and natural. ».

How does Stark sounds and does it hold its promise?
Let’s see!

The very first listen was a bit of a puzzle for me, as the bass was really overpowering the signature. I only had a couple dozen of hours of burn in on a fresh unit so I figured extra burn in was needed for things to settle but with a similar burn in period Blade didn’t exhibit the issue and they share the same dynamic driver unit. I put it back on burn in to reach a hundred hours.

Stark is aptly named. The first impression after this was still of a powerful and prominent but much more controlled bass. For all the greatness of both my EM64 and EM10, there is no way it can push air like a dynamic driver and it shows. Stark will bring joy to bassheads with tight, powerful, controlled bass. Stark has indeed more bass impact than the smoother Blade, but also more treble presence especially in the upper treble section.

Stark is logically more extended than its brother with an extra BA both for medium and treble. The soundstage is more expanded especially a bit taller but more importantly quite deeper. Vocals are clear but farther away and for vocal genres Blade is more engaging but Stark is more adept at Rock and Metal with its powerful bass and more bite in the treble section. Of particular note is a remarkable black background that makes up for very good contrast and Stark has an even more vivid presentation.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Stark signature !


Stark has a strong bass presence and it does clearly define its signature. It features superb sub bass extension and presence, there is a lot of control and great power. Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” sub bass has great and satisfying physicality, highly engaging. Kat Frankie “Too Young” and Santa Esmeralad “Don’t let me be misunderstood” was another great example of Stark’s power upper in the bass range with a strong rythmic baseline.

In what I think is its predilection genre, Stark does a great job on Free “All right now”, the kick drum provides a powerful toe tapping rythmic foundation to this song. Queen’s “Another one bites the dust” or INXS “Devil inside” are other fine examples of Stark’s ability to convey a very powerful bass line. This works also great with stuff like Rage against the machine “Take the power back” and I found myself going through music genres that I have left on the side for the past few years, rekindling with playlist from my youth. The note attack is tack sharp and explosive and the (smallish) 8mm driver is also quite fast infusing great pace, rythm and timing.

Stark mids are a clear departure from what is dubbed the Earsonics house sound in the sense that it’s much less mid focused than most Earsonics IEMs. To be honest, it took me a bit of getting used to and I had to spend a bit more time figuring out Stark mids.

The midrange takes a back seat to the much more present bass and treble, the mids do features peaks to highlight vocals, electric guitar, kick drum, snares and hi hats. I enjoyed classic rock like Van Morrisson “Brown Eyed Girl” better than say one of my favorite piece of Jazz like John Coltrane “Equinox”. Not that Stark is “bad” on Jazz but I do like more bite on brass instruments and more sizzle on cymbals where Stark felt too smooth.

Interestingly vocal centric tracks highlight another side of Stark and James Blake “Vincent” or Etta James “At last” both sound great which confirms the emphasis on vocals both female and male. Both tracks are as emotional as they should be. This is less true with a bit more instrument heavy track such as Anthony and the Johnson’s “Fistful of love”, Anohni Hegarty’s voice is a bit taken over by the band instruments.


Stark treble is key to balancing its powerful bass section : the treble is both energetic and well extended, providing more air and resolution than its little brother the Blade.

Lower treble is energetic and vibrant, snare drums are crisp cymbals with nice overtones and hi hats have good sizzle. In Radiohead “Creep”, Jonny Greenwood famous guitar tweaks is pure pleasure with the Stark with satisfying snap and sheen. The Whitest Boy Alive “Fireworks” was also one of those songs I loved with the Stark, Erlend Øye guitar is energetic and clear contrasting nicely to Marcin Öz bass line and Stark does a great job with this kind of tracks, conveying a lot of energy and rythm. GoGo Penguin’s “Raven” and Yusef Lateef “Bishop Schools” show that Stark has very good treble speed, contributing to its great PRaT.

As a long standing fan of Earsonics IEMs, I was really curious what to expect from the introduction of dynamic drivers as the EM10 and EM64, but also the S-EM9 are more than able to hold their own in the bass department. Earsonics masters balanced armatures as well as the best in the business, what does Stark bring to the table that the all BA lineup can’t? I think you figured out that the aptly named Stark is a powerful IEM, that takes it a notch further than the EM10 in term of pure bass physicality and the EM10 is no slouch to begin with.

I have mentioned it and the tracks I have mentioned should make this clear, Stark is rockin’! It’s a bit of the suprising thing in the hybrid lineup but Earsonics chose to tune Stark a bit more specifically than the Blade which is more of a “calmer” all rounder and its bigger brother is the unruly one.

If you’re looking for an IEM that can satisfy the basshead in you with a physical, powerful well extended controlled and fast bass, smooth mids with clear vocals as well as exciting but never harsh treble then you’re in for a treat with Earsonics Stark especially on Rock and Metal! If your music genre preferences lies elsewhere then why not look at its all rounder little brother Blade?

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the Stark, listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch using the stock cable, ISN AG8 and PW Audio n°10 upgrade cables.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Max at Earsonics for providing a review unit of the Stark . As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


  • STARK with 4C HI-RES cable
  • 4 Comply tips (various sizes)
  • 8 silicon tips
  • (various sizes)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carrying box
  • User manual


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Powerful bass with good rumble and speed
Full bodied engaging midrange
Good lower treble energy and upper treble extension with smooth delivery
Good resolution and imaging
Black background makes up for great note contrast
Remarkably low distorsion
Superb build quality with great isolation and good stock cable
Cons: Shallow fit might be an issue for some, tip selection is key to secure fit
Manufacturer’s website :
Price : 549€​

Fit, Build & Isolation
The new hybrid lineup is a new form factor altogether for Earsonics universal IEMs : the inner part of the shell is acrylic while the faceplate is metal. Both Blade an Stark feature the same build, metal color is the only difference between the two. This is a clear departure from the legacy line up, the build quality is flawless and the Blade looks as sturdy as it comes both the metal obviously but the acrylic as well. It’s much heavier IEM than previous generations.

Fit was somewhat complicated for me, as is the case for shallower fitting IEM given my quite large and deep ear canal. Even my usual Flare Earfoams only partially did the trick, especially on the go while moving. Obviously your mileage will vary on this front but a secure and comfortable fit was only achieved with the silicon custom tips Custom Art built for me. On the flip side the shell density certainly does wonder for isolation and the Blade isolates much more than average provided you have a seal it’s just as good as my customs.


From its very beginning, Earsonics has always been associated with products targeted at pros : musicians, sound engineers and singers. They quickly gained a big share of the French pro market for customs but Earsonics became also well known in he audiophile world for its universal IEMs since the SM3 bestseller.I know the SM3 v2 was the first Earsonics model I owned and then I went on with the Velvet, the S-EM6 and S-EM9. I also own both their pro flagship custom the EM64 and the EM10 in the audiophile range. I have auditioned but do not own the Purple and the Grace, both universal inheriting quite a bit from their custom counterparts.

For the new generation Earsonics elected not only to totally change the build with a combination of metal and acrylic, but also – a first for the brand – no less than two hybrids offering featuring its first (8mm) dynamic driver. Blade is the entry offering into the new hybrid lineup and I was curious about the tuning choices Frank Lopez had done and what the dynamic driver would bring to the table. Blade is described on Earsonics product page as providing a « high performance and level of detail while remaining musical and natural ».

How does Blade sounds and does it hold its promise?

Let’s see!


The very first listen clearly painted a picture : unlike what its name might imply, Blade is a smooth IEM, with a relaxed but engaging signature. The bass is well extended with rich textures and remains quite fast for a dynamic, mids are full and smooth, treble is well extended with good energy. Blade soundstage is good with average width but very good height and good depth. Like its big brother Stark it features a remarkably black background and zero distorsion.

Blade bass is well extended with powerful sub bass and significant mid bass presence. Despite featuring the same 8mm driver than its bigger brother Stark, it doesn’t share its snappy attack, tightness and raw power. There is a bit less control than Stark as well but remains as fast. On the flipside bass is less prominent in the mix with more lower mids the continuity between bass and mids means Blade is more balanced.

This doesn’t mean Blade doesn’t feature powerful bass and a strong bass line, just less so than its bigger brother but still much more than the rest of the Earsonics lineup. There is no mistaking the dynamic driver bass and tracks like Lilly Wood and the Prick “Middle of the night” or Kat Frankie “Too Young” were quite the treat to my ears and inner closet bass-head from my Campfire Vega days.

Blade features a full bodied yet articulate midrange that remains smooth at all times. Where Stark took me by surprise as an Earsonics fan, with Blade I felt right at home in terms of midrange although the mids are closer to my memory of the original S-EM6 than the more recent Grace or EM10 that feature quite a bit more bite in the upper mids section.

Blade has significant lower mids presence and thus fuller bodied mids than the Stark. This provides male vocals a bit more power especially considering Blade mids are more forward as well than the Stark somewhat recessed vocal positioning. Tonally Blade is on the warmer side with a pleasing warmth to its mids that is not overdone either.

Upper mids are smooth with a bit more presence than Stark in the 4/5kHz range providing extra presence to instruments and for example saxophones have a bit more bite and overtones are richer than Stark. This is quite relative as Blade has rather safe upper mids for those who are sensitive to it no worries there. On the flipside those who appreciate a bit of bite and energy up there you might find yourself wanting. Blade is smooth first and foremost, with a touch of energy and bite but just a touch.

Blade treble section reveals a clear choice from Earsonics, it brings balance and air to a signature that would have been dark otherwise. Given its powerful bass and relatively warm and thick mids, Blade benefits from a welcome lower treble energy and upper treble extension.

The lower treble energy is spot on, and seems to be tuned to be level with the bass : enough to bring satisfying excitement, not so much that it would sound incoherent with the bass and mids tuning. This is masterfully done and I enjoyed tracks like The Whitest Boy Alive “Fireworks” or Spin Doctors “So Bad” very much with the Blade providing just the right amount of energy while remaining smooth at all times.

The upper treble section is equally well thought out, Blade is more extended than usual for this type of signature bringing welcome air to an IEM on the warmer and thicker side. It also helps imaging and resolution greatly and Blade is doing well there especially in its price range. This combined to a remarkable pitch black background combines to provide a very articulate albeit average sized stage.

As a long standing fan of Earsonics IEMs, I was really curious what to expect from the introduction of dynamic drivers as the Velvet and Purple, are more than able to hold their own in the bass department. The mid tier hybrid market is quite dense and it definitely is challenging to take on best sellers like Dunu DK3001 Pro or ISN H40 to name a few.

Earsonics definitely added his trademark to the hybrid segment with a remarkable build quality for the price and it’s no wonder since it’s simply the same build than the much higher priced Stark with a different color. The all metal and opaque acrylic is impressive and a welcome departure from plastic. I do believe this comes into play in terms of the very low distorsion and the pitch black background which are both simply remarkable. Earsonics also showcase its tuning mastery with the Blade, their unique combination of smooth and engaging is faithfully there with the added power to bass brought by the dynamic driver and a bit more lively treble section as well.

If you’re looking for a smooth and engaging hybrid that feature powerful bass, a full bodied midrange and well extended exciting yet smooth treble then Earsonics Blade is a strong option in a crowded market. If you’re a Earsonics fan then this one should be a no brainer if you want the house sound with extra power in the bass and a clear step up in build quality. If you’re looking for a snappier, punchier hybrid from Earsonics then check my Stark review.

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40hours with the Blade, listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and AAW Capri using the stock cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Max at Earsonics for providing a review unit of the Blade. The unit was returned at the end of the review period. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


  • BLADE with 4C HI-RES cable
  • 4 Comply tips (various sizes)
  • 8 silicon tips
  • (various sizes)
  • Cleaning tool
  • Carrying box
  • User manual
Simply Wow, Perfect. i found a couple chifi alternatives: aroma musical box yao, tforce yuan li, idun skuld (less sure about this one) oh and seeaudio bravery. finally a custom inearz audio fusion and phonic brand (both stage monitor type vibe). i don't care for treble or its spaciousness/width at all, just depth and spicy in the lower treble not to be boring and as you know if too much low midrange it will be smothered/veiled which i also dont tolerate at all, ofcourse full sound, like these lush mid bois. :)
Chapter nt
not thrilled
Earsonics Blade x Akbar ?
-If you're not very capricious about that.
-Yea, Well..

🎶There's Just One Playyy, i've yet to🎶


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Class leading macro and micro dynamics provides a uniquely vivid presentation
Superb clarity, resolution and ability to retrieve detail
Reference tuning with smooth and natural delivery
Class leading timbre accuracy both for instruments and vocals
Very open and coherent soundstage with pinpoint precise imaging
Very compact shells, small footpring
Superb build quality and fantastic “stock” cable
Cons: Isolation is only average
Product page :
Price : 1699$


Fit, Build & Isolation
The Dunu Luna is clearly a superb piece of engineering, the housings are precision machined entirely from a custom-modified grade 5 titanium alloy. This is a flawless build worthy of a flagship and an even smaller footprint than the curent hybrid lineup.

The small footprint makes for a very comfortable fit, even more so than the hybrid line up that was pretty good to begin with. The footpring is such that even with custom silicon tips the Luna does not protrude much and the lightweight means there is absolutely no strain.

On the flipside this also equates to limited isolation and in noisy environments and for low volume listeners like me you will hear the outside world. Things do improve a lot with custom silicon tips.

Last but not least, Dunu provided a stunning cable with similar braiding and shielding as the Dunu Noble cable that is sold along with the DK-4001 with the same fantastic plug system that is so versatile. The cable is mixed strands of Furukawa OCC copper and DHC silver, with silver plated OCC copper shield surround.


Dunu is now a well established brand in the audiophile world, which started as an OEM for famous brands. Since 2014, Dunu built its own IEM and now has a fairly complete lineup of dynamic and hybrid IEMs (Titan series, DN and the top DK series). I have reviewed the excellent DK-4001 and upcoming are DK-3001 Pro and DK-2001.

Back to the Luna, one might say it’s a big milestone for the company and as usual they didn’t spare any effort to build what is clearly a statement product from the grade 5 titanium housing to the rolled foil beryllium driver (a first ever in an IEM). And, last but not least, one of the best unboxing experience ever designed (I didn’t get the box though for Tour practical reasons given the box size but the video speaks for itself).


Luna’s dynamic driver is at the heart of what makes it unique as we’ll see further in the review. Dunu explain that “Beryllium has an extremely high stiffness-to-mass ratio that allows to provide a very high speed of sound at over 12,000 meters per second, around two and a half times faster than other commonly used cone/diaphragm materials like aluminum”. Dunu clearly tackled a feat of engineering and manufacturing with this driver, and they say it’s 10x longer to build than a regular beryllium coated driver. “The major engineering hurdle DUNU had to overcome during the development of the LUNA was the process of getting the rolled foil beryllium diaphragm to be bonded circumferentially to a very thin polyurethane suspension. Doing so required formulating bespoke glues, lightweight and thin enough so as not to impact the total weight of the acoustic system, and reliable enough to be glued evenly against a very thin lip and still confer enough durability to sustain the immense mechanical energy delivered during driver excursion.”


The uniqueness of the rolled foil driver is its ability to maintain pistonic motion of the driver, even at the edges of a diaphragm. Dunu says it preserves the imaging properties of the music being reproduced. ” The structure of the beryllium metal is retained even at very high frequencies, translating to remarkable treble evenness. All these unique properties of beryllium enable audio designers to gain extra octaves of clean, non-distorting, non-ringing, high-resolution sonic output at both ends of the sonic spectrum.”

How does all this bleeding edge engineering translates in the real world?
Let’s see!


Dunu states that “Luna was tuned to a reference sound signature — deep and natural imaging, even and smooth from top to bottom, and maximized for extension at both ends. The result is the most supremely detailed, transparent, sumptuous sounding earpiece ever crafted by Dunu.”

From the very first minutes, it was clearly apparent that Dunu had reached its goal in terms of tuning but it’s not what struck me upon first listen. No, what struck me is how different Luna sounded to anything I had heard before. This is the first time since my first audition of KSE1500. The KSE1500 was a shocker because I had no frame of reference of electrostatic and the blazing fast transients were just different from anything I had heard. This translated into a very different presentation of sound, note that I am not talking about anything related to the frequency range distribution. Those who read my first impression of Luna were a bit puzzled that I wouldn’t mention anything about bass, mids, treble and the overall signature. This is not only because it’s a reference tuning that doesn’t favor any part of the range but because its uniqueness lies elsewhere.

From the get go I was focused on why Luna sounded so different from anything I had heard. All the more puzzling that we’re still in the realm of dynamic driver technology and I have heard and owned my fair share of flagship dynamic. So what’s so different about a rolled beryllium foil dynamic driver? It didn’t take long for me to realize that it’s the off the charts macro (and micro) dynamics. A quick tour of Large ensembles playing pieces like Wagner’s Ride of the Walkyries (act III) or the opening of John Williams Star Wars theme is something to behold from Piano to Forte! The presentation is grandiose and powerful and you can hardly believe this comes out of such tiny earpieces… of particular notice is the ability of the Luna to handle quiet passages just as well and superbly. Wow… Beyond impressed, I was stunned. On top of that remarkable speed, rich textures and exceptional timbre accuracy certainly stood out.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the Luna’s signature, even if its uniqueness doesn’t lie in the frequency range distribution it still does matter!


I always had a thing for dynamic driver bass, the fact that the driver does push air contrary to balanced armatures definitely comes into play with a more physical sense of rumble.

From that standpoint the Luna certainly does not disappoint with superb sub bass extension and control but what stood out was how rich the nuances are conveyed. Ageispolis “Aphex Twin” delivers a physical sub bass with perfect control and the bass is beautifully textured as well. This is not something I would ever say of sub and lower bass, they’re either here or not with good control or not. The Luna provides a sense of micro nuances in intensity that I yet have to hear in any IEM and I was able to pick up on details I had never heard before. Manu Katché “Introducciòn” and the Unstatic album as a whole was a real treat. On the flipside the presentation is not the snappy hard hitting bass that bass head rejoice too, but rather a powerful yet smooth delivery. Attack is progressive and full of nuances in intensity, rather than a fast attack delivering a “sudden punch” like say Campfire Vega.

The mid bass stands out with incredibly rich textures, the Luna gave me the best portrayal of Steve Davis double bass and Elvis Jones drums in John Coltrane’s “Equinox”, with the smallest cues in interpretations conveyed beautifully. I actually played that track several times in a row as I was so mesmerized. So far my all time favorite dynamic for mid bass was JVC FW10000 but Luna takes things a step further with a more nuanced presentation, a more natural tone and richer textures yet. In a different genre, GoGo Penguin “Raven” reveals how fast the Luna’s bass can be and Luna’s dynamic driver is definitely much faster than your regular dynamic, maybe not as fast as a balanced armature but close. Impressive!

The Luna’s midrange is typical of a reference tuning. It’s not a warm and thick midrange but a clear, open and very articulate midrange with plenty of space between instruments and just the right amount of bite to my ears.

Lower mids have good presence and the Luna is full sounding and provides male vocals good power but just the right amount to preserve tonal accuracy. The Luna has body but is not of the warm and thick kind. It’s a balanced midrange, with a lot of clarity and bite, with good measure.

Male vocals are accurate and rich. Eddie Vedder’s “Broken heart” is deeply seated and simply beautifully portrayed and full of emotion conveying a wide array of nuances. This is also true upper in the range and James Blake “Vincent” is truly mesmerizing. Female vocals do shine as well and Diana Krall “Pick yourself up” is simply as good as I have heard it, period. Still upper the register, Etta James at Last gave me shivers with the ability to rise to the edge without ever going to far. The Luna is clearly a fantastic IEM for vocals because of the accuracy and lifelike nature of the tessitura. I honestly haven’t heard any IEM like the Luna before, even among the best dynamic drivers. This gives a sense of intimacy, the singer’s presence is so strong and emotional.

This is also true of instruments, the Luna’s accuracy and rich textures makes everything sound so different from what I am used to. Gerry Mulligan’s “Chelsea Bridge” was quite an experience, a richer one than ever before, and I know it by heart. There is a sense of “being there” with the Luna that derives from its ability to convey such rich nuances and a lifelike presentation as well as its exceptional dynamics. I have mentioned the ability of the Luna to handle large orchestral arrangements, but obviously those qualities stand true whatever you decide to listen to.

The upper mids section is superbly done with – to me – the right amount of bite. Electric guitars on blues were a pure treat, I am thinking John Mayall “The Devil Must be Laughing” but in other genres Nils Lofgren “Keith don’t go’ or the Pixies “Where is my mind” were both stunning examples. I enjoyed Jazz a lot with the Luna as well and the Luna does justice to Miles Davis trumpet and Coltrane’s saxophone in “So What”.

The Luna’s treble reveals a very refined tuning, one that is focused on providing a airy and vivid picture. The lower treble energy is great but characteristic of the presentation of the Luna remains smooth at all times which makes for a very vivid yet non fatiguing presentation (depending on source and personal sensitivity though it might be too much for some still). The upper treble extension and presence participates to superb resolution and a very open soundstage with excellent separation and class leading imaging.

Lower treble is very energetic, which is clearly apparent in tracks such as Miles Davis “Concierto de Aranjeuz (Adagio)”, flugelhorn, trumpet, castanets and percussive shakers are all magnificently portrayed. This is a track with a wide dynamic range between quiet passages and sudden burst of energy. It’s typically very hard to portray this track well and out of the LPGT, the Luna does a magnificent job. It goes to the edge of my own sensitivity but never crosses the threshold which makes up for a thrilling experience. I reckon that despite the Luna smooth delivery its very vivid nature will probably be too much for some. This is a bit hard to describe but treble is never shrill or piercing but it is definitely intense and while its delivery is smooth it doesn’t smoothen out the energy (if that makes sense).

To be honest, even though I am a Jazz fan I always had issues with Miles Davis energetic treble sections and the Luna reconciled me there and I found myself enjoying those sections a lot. In a very different genre but oozing treble energy, the much faster “Bishop school” from Yussef Lateef is a restless jazz-funk track with a mix of tambourine, drumkit percussion, string and brass sections, flute with a rythmic sense of urgency that is hard to convey. The Luna’s speed is clearly revealed here and it’s vividness and smoothness, combined with great separation help the Luna handle this complex track like a breeze.


I must say I had high expectations for the Luna from the first day I heard of the upcoming new Dunu flagship and the R&D aspect were interesting but I never expected the Luna to sound this different to anything I have heard. I expected the Luna to be among the best dynamic like the JVC FW10000 and potentially make history like Sony EX1000 or Sennheiser IE800. I didn’t expect to be met with an experience as fresh and new and different as I had when I auditioned Shure KSE1500, no less.

In a time where everyone is playing with new technology (eStat, magnetostatic) and goes hybrid, Dunu boldly went the other way and set to push single dynamic driver technology to what I think is probably the top of its capability and it shows! The rolled foiled beryllium driver property certainly makes a difference. As I said time and again in this review, macro dynamics in particular are stunning, many full size headphones are not up to par with the Luna and it’s a major accomplishment to be able to do this with that small a driver .

Dynamics alone sets the Luna apart – it’s in a different league altogether – but the reference yet organic tuning translate into a unique listening experience. Contrary to Shure KSE1500 that sounds unique and different but ultimately un-realistic to me (a bit to “ethereal” for lack of a better word) the Luna sound unique but with a fantastic sense of realism. I wrote several times there is a sense of presence, being there with the artist in person (no, I won’t use the “live” word) that draws you into the music. Isn’t that what we all are looking for ultimately?

If you’re looking for an IEM with class leading dynamics, spot on accurate timbre, fantastic speed and beautiful textures then look no further, the Luna will take you to the moon and beyond!

Listening notes
I spent approximately 200 hours with the Luna, listening on Lotoo PAW Gold Touch using the stock cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Dunu for providing a review unit of the Luna and Thomas for organizing the EU Tour. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

Originally published at


  • SENSITIVITY: 110 dB at 1 kHz
  • DRIVE MODULE: 10 mm Acoustic-Grade Pure Beryllium Rolled Foil with Polyurethane Suspension
  • HOUSING MATERIAL: Titanium Alloy, Grade 5 (Ti-6Al-4V, TC4, with modified rare earth metal formulation)
  • NET WEIGHT: 10.3 g
  • CABLE LENGTH: 1.2 m
  • CABLE MATERIAL: Mixed Strands of Furukawa Electric Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) Copper & DHC Silver, with Silver-Plated OCC Copper Shield Surround
  • CABLE CONNECTOR: Patented Catch-Hold® MMCX Connector
  • PLUG CONNECTOR: Patented DUNU Quick-Switch Modular Plug System
Last edited:
@Bookbear See previous comments, Custom Art made these :)
@davidmolliere how would these compare to say the Periodic Be? I love my Custom Art FIBAE4, wondering if this might be a nice alternative every now and again.
WOW!... I'm sorry... and I don't mean any disrespect. The reviews were all very well done but are you kidding me??? A single driver, some metal, some wire: $1,699.00!!! So they are about 3 times the price of gold.... maybe we should fund our 401K's with IEM's???? I'm sorry, but can you spell profit margin? I hope you enjoy them - you should at that price.

Enjoy the music!


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Reference signature with a subtle organic touch
Very open sounding, superb soundstage with pinpoint precise imaging
Superb transparency and resolution
Top notch treble extension and good lower treble energy delivered in a smooth and refined way
Superb balanced and very open sounding mids with good bite and smooth delivery
Bass is well extended, controlled and layered with good textures and impressive detail
Value for money
Cons: Isolation is only average (due to vented design, can’t have it all)
Bass might lack impact for bass-heads even with bass switch on
Manufacturer’s website :
Price : 1349$


Fit, Build & Isolation
The Zodiac feature a lightweight shell and the build quality is very good, the inside of the shells show the craftsmanship is very good up to the switches system with tight tolerances.

The fit is perfect with lightweight shells that you quickly forget once you wear them. The included tips are high quality, a good thing because the stem of the Zodiac is on the bigger side (over 5mm) and this means not everyone of your tip collection will fit. The fit is not too deep either which make the Zodiac quite comfortable especially for those who don’t like deeper fits.


Isolation is fair but not as good as TSMR-5 I reviewed earlier. This might be due to the vent port that is fairly unusual for an all BA IEM. I can only theorize that this port is used as a controlled vent for the 4 BA array used for the lows, we’ll see how it translates in terms of the Zodiac signature.

I must confess I hadn’t heard much about Tansio Mirai before I reviewed the TSMR-5 but I am very happy that my fellow headfiers mentioned it as a brand to get a look into. Just like Fearless Audio, Tansio Mirai is one of the chinese brand to keep tabs on as they are getting quite a bit of traction among audiophiles that want to get high sound quality at affordable prices.

The TSMR-5 review clearly put Tansio Miraï on the map for me as a strong contender with great build and tuning knowledge. It’s one thing to be a solid option on a mid tier offering, another one to be able to contend in the higher tier.

Did Tansio Mirai hit a home run on their first attempt at a flagship IEM offering? Let’s see!


It didn’t take me a lot of time to realize the Zodiac is well above the TSMR-5 and clearly worthy of contending in the upper tier, I expected the Zodiac to be good but not by that big a margin over TSMR-5. The very first minute I clearly was impressed by the soundstage and imaging, the Zodiac is a very open sounding IEM with superb imaging and a very balanced signature with a subtle organic touch.

A very refined IEM for sure and one that does not usurp its flagship positioning, with great extension both ways, a solid midrange and smooth delivery all across the range while at the same time featuring good bite in the upper mids and good lower treble energy.

Let’s dive a bit more into the Zodiac signature!

Note : All the following impressions are provided based on setting 123 with all switches to ON.

The Zodiac bass is the epitome of audiophile bass done right : excellent sub bass extension, great but not overdone mid bass presence as well as good speed providing a great sense of rythm and a layered and detailed presentation with impeccable control. I was unable to get more information on the technical implementation so I can only theorize as to the purpose of the filtered vent ports but it would make sense to assume that it helps the ability of the Zodiac to exhibits great control as well as a layered presentation.

Sub bass extension is great, I ran Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” and Sohn “Falling” and on both tracks the massive sub bass is felt with very good power and impeccable control. This gives the Zodiac a sense of physicality somewhat of an exception to an overall smooth delivery.

The mid bass is spot on in quantity, which in my book is a strong but not overpowering bass line that does provide a sense of rythm while not take the attention away from the rest of the signature. This is exactly what the Zodiac delivers, and then some. The Zodiac exhibits an outstanding ability to portray a very detailed bass, with an onion like layering that seems to be limited only by the recording and source quality.

This is especially apparent on percussion rich tracks like african percussions from Guem “Le Serpent” : congas, darbukas and djembe are portrayed with such rich nuances of tone and textures that it’s quite a mesmerizing experience and you can almost feel the percussionist hands. Guem always says he is telling a story, it sure felt like a fascinating story with the Zodiac.

Back to one of my genres of predilection, John Coltrane “Equinox”, Elvin Jones drums have nice punch and girth, Steve Davis bass guitar good hefty weight and Coltrane Tenor Saxophone has a nice satisfying growl. This track is portrayed as well as I have ever heard it. Color me impressed.

Setting the bass switch to OFF, sub bass has less presence and the Zodiac looses its physicality but it's still very enjoyable. Mid bass presence is more reduced with much less presence and overall this result in a less bodied presentation.

The Zodiac midrange is characterized by remarkable transparency thanks to a delicate balance : just the right amount of fullness to provide body to the airy presentation, just the right amount of upper mids presence to grant instruments spot on bite while remaining smooth at tall times and a spot on timbre for vocals and instruments alike.

The Zodiac simply gets out of the way and paints a very accurate and highly detailed picture of the midrange : it’s a smooth yet vivid presentation, with lots of details and great separation between instruments with a very open soundstage. Each instruments has great space, but the overall coherency is high therefore it doesn’t sound artificially separated.

Lead instruments as well as vocals are positioned slightly forward, there is no artificial sense of depth but rather a sense of depth provided by superb imaging that does stand out on the z axis. The Zodiac soundstage is very natural and participate in the “live” feeling you get when listening, especially through a very good source on very good recordings this is really a stunning attribute.

Vocals are beautifully portrayed, both male and female and I enjoyed both Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo’s soulful duo, “Quizás, Quizás” has never sounded better.

Setting the mids switch to OFF, the mids balance remains similar the balance between lower and upper mids is unchanged, the switch seems to affect vocals and lead instruments placement. The slight vocal and lead instrument emphasis with the mids switch to ON reverts to a balanced presentation with mids switch to OFF. I do prefer the extra clarity of the vocals with the mids switch to ON but it's useful to have the ability to choose.

The Zodiac is an IEM with superb upper treble extension which is key to its excellent resolution, air and refined presentation.

It’s not in your face let me show you what I can do kind of treble but more like just the right amount of presence to actually present exquisite details without loosing any naturalness. The lower treble follows the same philosophy with a nice balance between energy and smooth delivery, the Zodiac is never fatiguing but it sure packs plenty of excitement especially with the treble swicth set to ON.

Snare drums packs good crispness and snap, cymbals have a satisfying sizzle, electric guitar buzz with energy and piano and saxophone overtones are exquisite. This might explain why I found myself enjoying my favorite Jazz albums a lot with the Zodiac, in fact I think I have a new favorite IEM for the genre.

Setting the highs switch to OFF, the Zodiac upper treble presence and lower treble energy is reduced significantly. While resolution is close, there is less air and shimmer. The treble energy is still very good but less exciting. I could see how the highs switch OFF could be appealing to more treble sensitive people. It retains the refinement but to me the Zodiac is a more exciting IEM with the treble switch ON.


It’s a hard venture to build a flagship IEM in the current market for any brand, let alone a brand that has no track record in the upper segment other than solid lower and mid tier offering like the TSMR-5 I reviewed recently. On paper, even harder to distinguish itself as a multi-BA offering in a time where tri-brids multiply. A switch system is always nice to have but is certainly not enough as others have ventured there as well, like the QDC Anole VX I recently reviewed.

One thing surprised me when I received the Zodiac : a vent port, for a BA array is quite unusual and I am still a bit puzzled that the product sheet doesn’t mention it or the lack of information on why it was implemented. Implementation interrogations notwithstanding the Zodiac has the chops to compete in the upper segment : resolution, extension both ways, transparency and clarity are all in line with flagship performance and it’s definitely what matters here.

If you’re looking for a smooth and transparent IEM with superb soundstage and imaging that packs good punch down low, open transparent mids with good bite and refined upper treble then the Zodiac deserves your consideration!

You can find the original review here with additionnal select comparisons :

Listening notes
I spent approximately 140 hours with the Zodiac, listening on Cayin N6ii with E01, Lotoo PAW 6000 and Lotoo PAW Gold Touch with the stock cable, PW Audio N°10 and ISN AG8 balanced upgrade cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Tansio Mirai for providing a review unit of the Zodiac. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Cary case
  • Switch tool
  • Stock 4 wire SPC cable
  • Driver configuration : 12 drivers, 4-way crossover, 3 tube
  • Sensitivity: 110dB/mW
  • Impedance: 32ohm
Last edited:
@Xinlisupreme I compared to FIBAE7 I think on my blog, Volt arrived later and I didn’t add the comparison I’ll try to update it
I wonder how close it is to the Voyager 14, it has a vented BA configuration.
The bass on the V14 is almost open back like with very wide stage, layering for days.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Powerful bass with very good sub bass extension
Smooth midrange
Energetic lower treble
Superb upper treble extension for the mid tier
Very good resolution and ability to retrieve details
Cons: 2 pin socket is too tight (on the demo) a limitation if you want to use third party cables
Treble energy might be too much for some
Bass attack a bit smooth lacks a bit of impact

Fit, Build & Isolation

The Gravitas features an excellent build and the shell are quite compact except for thickness which means they do stick out a bit, fit is good but shallow and I had to do some tip rolling to accommodate my big ears (either double flange or something like large EarFoams from Flare worked for me). The shell material looks like transparent acrylic and show the nice craftsmanship of the inside, and isolation is fair. The demo unit features exquisite custom artwork.

Like the Argent the sockets of the Gravitas are on the tight side on the demo unit and I was unable to use any third party cable except for PlusSound x Series.



Âme Custom is a relatively new comer to the IEM market based in South Korea. Their brand is named after the french word for “soul” and their tagline is “le son de l’âme” (the sound of the soul). They started as a small retail shop for local artists and musicians and recently expanded to the audiophiles market with 3 models : the Gravitas (1DD, 3 BA), Argent (4 BA, 2 EST) and Radioso (1DD, 1BA, 4 EST).

They aspire “to create the most dynamic in-ear experience. Our earphones are carefully crafted in-house utilizing only the finest components available and expertly tuned around the principles of the Olive-Welti target profile for the most engaging sound impressions and unparalleled listening experience.

Among the lineup, the Gravitas is the entry level offer and actually is not yet up on their website so neither product page or price are available.

How does the Gravitas sounds and fares in the current landscape of mid tier hybrids?


It’s always exciting to discover a new brand, as it doesn’t start with expectations, especially since there aren’t much impressions out yet. I was curious to say the least to hear the Âme house sound, and already have a baseline with the Radioso and the Argent, but the Gravitas is a bit different with no eStats driver.

As you know I value first impressions and the first thing that struck me with the Gravitas is the overall fun signature : deep, powerful bass with smooth mids and well extended and energetic treble with an energetic delivery. Ironically given its name, the Gravitas is rather playful all rounder and I found myself attracted to more Pop and Rock than my usual Jazz, Blues and Indie Rock/Folk preferences.

The Gravitas is not as resolved and clear sounding as the Argent or the Radioso but I didn’t expect it to. The same is true of soundstage which is above average and very coherent or imaging which is decent and consistent. But this is an unfair comparison to the upper tier, in the general mid tier market it’s quite good.



The Gravitas has a strong bass line, with a strong mid bass presence and a well extended sub bass which plays a strong part in defining the overall signature.

It’s a bass with great presence but a smoother attack and longer decay, contrary to the tight, controlled and fast bass of the Radioso so the dynamic driver is not tuned similarly. This means the Gravitas will not be suited to faster tracks nor be a basshead IEM as the smoother attack means less impact and slam factor. The Gravitas relies more on its bass quantity than the snappy nature of its bass. On the flipside this is non fatiguing and the more laid back presentation also has its advantages. This is all the more true that the bass textures are rich and nicely detailed.

The Gravitas mids are clearly distinctive of the Argent and Radioso, as there is much less upper mids presence and bite. The Gravitas midrange is characterized by smoothness and and overall balanced presentation that is neither forward nor recessed.

Vocals are sweet but not the star of the show and don’t convey as much nuance as the Argent or the Radioso. It’s more apparent on female vocals and it probably explain why I naturally listened less vocal Jazz and Folk and skipped over to other genres.

The Gravitas midrange doesn’t do anything wrong but doesn’t do anything exceptional either, contrary to the bass and treble.

The Gravitas treble is the second part of what makes it fun : it’s an energetic lower treble and despite not featuring eStats driver like it’s bigger brothers Radioso and Argent upper treble are very well extended and with good presence. It’s quite key to the signature of the Gravitas as it would have been on the darker otherwise. It bring excellent resolution and a touch of air that was key to open the soundstage and provide clear overtones.

The lower treble energy contrast with the bass and mids smooth nature, treble has a snappier attack and faster decay so much so that the raw energy of the treble might be an issue for some depending on how sensitive you are. On some tracks, I found myself using the Lotoo ATE settings to sweet when I was done writing this review and just enjoying the Gravitas a bit more on that setting that tames the treble energy a bit. Note that it’s also source and cable dependent so switching to a copper cable (stock is silver plated copper) could help a bit as well.


In a crowded and competitive market, it’s pretty hard to launch a new brand. The mid tier is just as competitive as the upper tier and Âme definitely came up with a worthy competitor at its price point, with their own house sound and tuning signature.

In the current Âme family the Radioso is clear, transparent, snappy and punchy while the Argent is the romantic one, with a rich smooth signature as we saw in both earlier reviews. In that lineup the Gravitas has a place of its own and a different character.

If you’re looking for a smooth all rounder with a strong bass presence, a contrasting treble energy which makes it a fun listen especially on Pop and Rock then you should look into the Gravitas as it’s a very serious proposition in the segment. The Gravitas stands out by it’s treble extension granting it excellent resolution and a touch of refinement that is distinctive

Listening notes
I spent approximately 20hours with the Gravitas , listening on Lotoo PAW 6000 and AAW Capri ligthing cable for the iPhone.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Âme Custom giving me the opportunity to review the Gravitas as part of the Âme Tour. The unit is a loaner and must be returned. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.

  • Metal carry case
  • 6N silver plated copper cable
  • Frequency Range: 10Hz – 20kHz (Theoretical)
  • Sensitivity: 98db SPL (@1kHz)
  • Impedance: 3Ω @ 1kHz (DCR 18Ω)