Reviews by kmmbd


500+ Head-Fier
The Yang
Pros: Good accessories
– Comfortable shell
– Bass texture and speed
– Warm, relaxing midrange
– Treble has more sparkle than the OG Aria without any harshness
– Good microdynamics
Cons: Aria SE are prone to discoloration of the shell over time
– Lack of sub-bass rumble
– Slight tizziness in the upper-treble
– Average staging and imaging
– Not the most resolving
– Competition is stronger now

I will keep this review short and sweet, since the Moondrop Aria SE (Snow Edition) are more of a side-grade to the already reviewed Moondrop Aria (2021).

The primary differences lie in the color, the driver (and corresponding tuning), and of course – accessories.

I think Moondrop could have just named it something else entirely since apart from the shell – nothing else is in common with the Aria 2021. Then again, Aria 2021 is a very popular model, so it’s not a bad idea to piggyback on that popularity.

Let’s see if the Aria SE can become popular on their own right, or are they overshadowed by the already-accomplished predecessor.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Shenzhenaudio sent me the Aria SE for evaluation.
This review originally appeared on
Sources used: Questyle CMA Twelve Master
Price, while reviewed: $80. Can be bought from ShenzhenAudio.


It’s not a Moondrop IEM without anime-themed (or “waifu”, for those men of culture) packaging, and the Aria SE are no exceptions.


Inside, you get a noticeably better cable than the OG Aria, Moondrop’s own “Spring” tips, and some spare nozzle filters. I am not a big fan of the Spring tips since they attenuate treble abruptly and even the largest size won’t fit those with larger than medium canals. Your mileage may vary.


The shells are the very same one that OG Aria uses, which means a composite metal shell, colored with (seemingly) baked enamel processing. I have seen numerous Moondrop Arias with discolored shells, and I suspect the Aria SE are not going to be any different. It’s the price you pay for the striking design, I guess.


Other than paint chipping off, general build is very good given the price. The 2-pin ports are thankfully recessed, which further strengthens the connection. The two vents are located on the inner-side, just like OG Aria.


General comfort and fit are excellent. I felt no fatigue in long listening sessions. Isolation is unfortunately below average.



The Aria 2021 are fairly easy to drive, so any decent budget dongle will be enough to power them. However, they do benefit from better quality amplification, which tends to improve the bass texture and slam to a degree. For this review, I used the Questyle CMA Twelve Master and the Spinfit CP-145 tips.


Moodrop Aria SE replaces the LCP driver of the Aria 2021 with a 10mm DLC-plated diaphragm. This is the same driver that the 2019 Kanas Pro use, which used to be a $150+ pair of IEMs. So in a sense, you are getting the same driver for half the price.

The shell has two vents to equalize pressure inside the chamber, and there are dampers placed inside to suppress specific peaks in the frequency and control resonance.


The general tuning of the Aria SE can be described as “warm-neutral”, with rolled-off sub-bass. I will compare the Aria SE with the Aria 2021 throughout this sound section, thus the lack of a formal “comparison” section in this review.


I think bass is the weakest aspect of the Aria SE, which is somewhat surprising since that was one of the strengths of the Aria 2021. The bass sounds hazy, especially the mid-bass. Sub-bass rumble is lacking and sounds rolled-off, though the graph says otherwise.

Things get better as we move into the mids. Lower-mids are warm, albeit a bit recessed. Snare hits have good body. Male vocals sound tonally correct, while female vocals have a smooth, relaxing undertone. Strings and pianos have very good timbre, and the way Aria SE renders these instruments are perhaps their strongest suit.

The biggest difference between the Aria SE and Aria 2021 is in the treble response. Treble sparkle better than the Aria 2021. The Aria 2021 sound overly dark in the treble at times, so this is definitely a welcome change.

However, the Aria SE sound somewhat over-emphasized in the upper-treble region. Depending on your sensitivity to upper-treble, this may not be a noticeable issue. I found the random “zing” in the treble distracting though. Tip-rolling can help with restraining the upper-treble issues to a degree.

Imaging is average. Stage height, width, and depth are average as well. This is a downgrade from the Aria 2021 which have a wider stage width and taller stage.

Finally, microdynamics are rendered fairly well, with subtle gradations in SPL being noticeable to a degree. Sadly, macrodynamic punch is lacking, so sudden bass-drops and orchestral rise do not exhibit their dramatic nature.


So, the Aria SE are a warmer version of the Aria 2021, with better treble sparkle and extension. In a vacuum, the Aria SE are good IEMs for those who want a mostly relaxing listen, without completely sacrificing treble response.

Unfortunately for Moondrop, the competition is stronger than ever. Dunu’s Titan S offer a tighter bass response with superior staging and imaging and cleaner mids. Dunu’s Kima have a similarly warm, analogue-ish tuning with better staging and imaging. Truthear Hexa offer a competent hybrid setup with superior resolution and technicalities. Tin T4 Plus have a similarly relaxed tuning with a cleaner bass.

That’s just four offerings from three manufacturers, and I am not even scratching the surface of the numerous collabs, planar offerings, and the usual FOTM (flavor-of-the-month) syndrome that plagues this hobby.

So the Moondrop Aria SE remain a decent alternative, but fail to elevate themselves into something special. The market has reached a saturation point, and there isn’t much the Aria SE can do about that.


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Exceptionally well-built
– Switch-based tuning works well
– Sub-bass rumble
– Solid macrodynamic punch
– Stock accessories good enough to get you going
– A welcome departure from KZ house-sound
Cons: Mid-bass texture on the KZ D-Fi is lacking
– Upper-midrange glare
– Fairly strong mid-treble peak can get fatiguing
– Upper-treble extension is lacking
– Staging is average

It’s been a while since I have last reviewed a pair of KZ IEMs. Almost three years, to be exact. I missed out on quite a few KZ models in that period but from a tuning perspective, they were mostly more of the same.

However, around the end of 2022, KZ began to churn out some interesting models in terms of tuning. That departure comes full-circle with the KZ D-Fi, which is aptly named in the sense that the tuning “defies” the typical KZ house-sound (V-shaped, in other words).

Now, this is not a radical departure for KZ and some of their “signature” sound characteristics still seep through the cracks. However, the 4-way switch is a novelty in the budget segment, and the dynamic driver promises performance beyond the price point.

That’s a promise I hear often, but very few manage to keep it. Can the D-Fi be the one to follow through?

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. KZ provided the D-Fi for evaluation.
This review originally appeared on
Sources used: Questyle CMA Twelve Master
Price, while reviewed: $33. Can be bought from KZ’s official store.


KZ rarely focuses on the packaging and presentation and in the budget segment I applaud this move. I do wish that less plastic was used in the packaging for environmental reasons.


The stock accessories are good enough to get you going. The stock cable is an SPC affair that gets the job done. Stock tips are decent but tip-rolling may help in controlling the bass, for example.


Phenomenal, in one word. The metal shell is dense and I find the face-plate visually appealing. The review unit is the one with the tuning switches and I recommend getting this one because the price premium is absolutely worth it.


The switches are somewhat fiddly to operate with the fingernails, so KZ supplies a SIM-card tool to make the task easier. There is one vent on the face-plate and one on the inner-side of the IEMs. The 2-pin ports stick out of the shell – a choice I am not a fan of, but it is what it is.


While the shells are shaped ergonomically, the added weight can be a bit of a bother for long listening sessions. Other than that, no qualms with the comfort. Isolation is above-average and becomes drastically better with foam tips.


The D-Fi are very easy to drive and on my desktop Questyle CMA Twelve Master, I “over-drove” them when using standard gain, so I had to use low gain while testing them.


KZ D-Fi have a 10mm single dynamic driver with the usual “dual-cavity”, “dual magnetic circuit” bonanzas. The driver performs well for the price, but the most interesting part for me is the Zobel network-based crossover-circuit. I do not recall seeing such tuning methods in any of the IEMs in the past… decade?

From what I can gather, the Zobel network is used to “attenuate” the frequencies by approx. 5 dB. When all the switches are down (default position), the entire FR remains same but things go “quieter”. Flicking each of the first three switches (in conjunction with the other one) adds 1dB of sub-bass boost from 50Hz downward.


When all four switches are engaged, the networks does not attenuate the frequencies anymore and you get a noticeable increase in loudness. A clever mechanism indeed. Keeping only switch four engaged, meanwhile, increases the loudness of the treble region by a couple dBs.


KZ D-Fi have an upper-midrange forward tuning. The lower-mids still sound recessed but the focus on the upper-midrange is what you notice the most. The overall tuning is rather energetic.


Sub-bass rumble is strong and noticeable even around 25Hz. Mid-bass texture is lacking though, so snare hits do not quite have the timbral characteristics you’d expect.

The mids are affected by the upper-midrange glare. It does not seem too much at the graph at first, but the upper-mids can get intense in soaring female vocals or while playing certain guitar riffs. As a side-effect, male vocals can sound somewhat “hollow” in some tracks.

Upper treble lacks airiness. Treble is mostly there due to a noticeable 8kHz peak. Then the treble rolls off past 13kHz or so. Given the budget nature, I think this performance is acceptable despite the hit on perceived “resolution”.

Despite the treble roll-off, initially, there is some “wow factor” due to the hyper-energetic tuning. Things can get fatiguing though if you are sensitive to boosted upper-mids.

Stage is narrow. Imaging is good for the price though some of the peers do it better. Macrodynamic punch is strong, while mIcrodynamics are lacking.


It’s a bit difficult to make “Apples vs Apples” comparisons when it comes to the D-Fi because, let’s face it – there isn’t another option in this price range that has tuning switches.

Putting the novelty aside and only focusing on the sound quality, Final E1000 are better tuned across the board, even though they lack the bass rumble of the D-Fi, and the build is nowhere near as reassuring.

The BLON BL-05S, meanwhile, have a gaudy color scheme that hides the overall great sound, which is better than the D-Fi in terms of tonality and technicalities. They need changing the cable and tips, however, and the price tag can go well beyond USD$50 after that fact.


KZ D-Fi are the odd ones out in the budget segment. The tuning is closer to the current “trends” of boosting the upper-midrange and dialing down the bass, while the tuning switches can be novel enough for many to warrant a purchase. I am not a fan of the shoutiness, nor the lack of mid-bass texture and warmth. Then again, the pricing is fairly competitive.

I do wish KZ further tones down the upper-mids in the next release, and perhaps focus on making the sound slightly warmer and more inviting. Once that happens, I may finally have found a pair of KZ IEMs that can stay in the collection for future comparisons.


500+ Head-Fier
Budget Delight
Pros: Good build quality for the price
- Comfortable
- Good layering and separation
- Good imaging
- Near-neutral tuning works well with most genres
- Class-leading resolution
- Mods improve the sound further, driver handles EQ well
Cons: Middling stock cable
- Sub-bass roll-off
- Upper-treble can get fatiguing, with noticeable planar timbre
- Some hollowness in the mids (fixable via EQ)
- Narrow staging, a bit hazy imaging
- Need a decent amp to shine

HiFiMAN is one of the few brands that offer the most expensive, alongside perhaps the cheapest, pairs of planar-magnetic headphones in the market.

The HE400se are of the latter category and strangely enough, have a few of the latest technical breakthroughs employed by their more expensive siblings. It’s rare to see a pair of budget headphones offer so much on the spec sheet.

So are the HE400se too good an offer to be true, or is the hype justified? Read on.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.


HiFiMAN has a simplified look to all their product packaging nowadays, and the HE400se box is no exception. The stealth magnet sticker points to the revised driver design of this model. I’ll discuss more on the driver redesign later in the sound section.

he400se - package.jpg

The stock cable has been revised in the recent production run, with the tangly mess of a transparent sheathed cable being replaced by a black PVC coated one. The current cable is serviceable but I'd recommend getting an aftermarket cable just for the ergonomics and aesthetics.

he400se - cable.jpg


The earcups are plastic and have a similar shape and size to the older gen, round-earcup HiFiMAN models. The headband and yoke are metal though, so there shouldn’t be much concern about durability.

he400se - build.jpg

The earpads have a perforated cloth material on the front with a solid pleather surround. The headband is foam-padded as well and I find the padding adequate. At the bottom, there are two 3.5mm TRRS ports.

he400se - pad.jpg

The yoke design is similar to older HiFiMAN models and some newer ones like the Deva Pro and HE6se. There is a full range of motion across the Y-axis and a good amount of side-swivel to adjust to most face types.

Comfort and isolation​

While the HE400se have a decent amount of clamp, due to the headband distributing weight evenly, no hotspots are formed. The stock pads are the HiFiMAN Palipads and they are comfortable even in the summer.

The weight is also lighter than many planar magnetic headphones due to the single-sided magnet assembly. Isolation is non-existent as these are open-back headphones.


HiFiMAN uses their tried-and-tested single-sided planar magnetic drivers on the HE400se. The most notable change in this revision is the stealth magnet assembly.

The stealth magnet assembly has magnets with rounded edges. This apparently reduces the turbulence as sound waves pass through them. This makes the magnet array almost “acoustically transparent” and reduces distortion.

he400se - driver.jpg

HiFiMAN HE400se Sound​

The HE400se have a mostly neutral tonality with a bright tilt in the upper-mid and upper-treble regions.

The sub-bass is also rolled-off so the mids and treble sound even more up-front.


Bass response is mostly linear until around 40Hz, below which bass starts to roll off. As a result, sub-bass rumble is lacking, and kick drums, for example, lack the physicality. Mid-bass could also do with a bit more body since snare hits can sound sharper than they should.

Bass texture is average, not as well done as some dynamic drivers in this price range. However, said dynamic driver headphones also have more severe sub-bass roll-off or higher distortion in the bass, so it’s a fair trade-off.


Mids can sound shouty at times due to midrange suck-out near 1.5kHz. This is an old issue with this particular driver design, as the HiFiMAN HE-6 and their variants also suffer from similar midrange hollowness.

Due to this suck-out, upper-mids sound more intense than they should and are brought to the forefront. Fortunately, male vocals sound pristine with good tonality. It’s only certain high-pitched female vocals that exhibit occasional shrillness.


The treble is mostly even and not emphasized near the lower-treble. Upper-treble has some strong emphasis near 11kHz (to my ears) that adds “tizziness” to the sound, resulting in sharp snare hits and occasional glare.

If you are extremely sensitive to upper-treble, the HE400se might be fatiguing in the long run. Those who like airy treble should have no problem with this peakiness. I find this peak too much though and prefer to EQ it down (or modify the headphones, more on this below).

On a more positive note, the HE400se are very resolving considering their price. Part of it might be the treble emphasis, but even after EQ-ing the treble down you don’t lose a lot of information.

Soundstage and imaging​

Staging is narrow, partly due to the upper-mid focus and partly due to the driver design not aiding in staging. Stage depth and height are above average, on the other hand.

Imaging is very good with precise localization in most soundtracks. This spatial accuracy also makes the HE400se good for gaming, though there are better headphones at this price that specialize in gaming tasks.

Dynamics and speed​

Microdynamics are above-average for the price, with subtle shifts in volume picked up in most cases but certain nuances are missed. Macrodynamic punch is lacking due to sub-bass roll-off and a general lack of slam.

The HE400se showcase the typical planar speed. They will fare better in speedy or busy song passages than the typical budget dynamic driver headphones.


Grille mod​

The most interesting part of the HE400se, to me, is how mod-friendly they are. I will explain a simple and effective modification – the ‘grille mod’.

The grille mod consists of basically removing the grilles from the cup. To do that, you have to detach the ring surrounding the grille and then the grille just pops out. This video is helpful if you’re unsure about how to go about it.

So, what improvements can you expect with the mod? Firstly, wider staging and better bass extension. Bass slam is also slightly improved and most noticeably the treble peakiness subsides.

The biggest downside of the grille mod is that the drivers are exposed. If you live in a humid or dusty climate, this might be a bad idea.

Alternatively, you can just remove the fabric mesh from the grille and then put it back on. This doesn’t widen the stage as much as the whole mod, but you get better bass extension and less peaky treble.

he400se - mod.jpg

Air gap mod​

Another less popular mod is to increase the air gap between the driver and pads. Basically, you break the “seal” between your face and the pads by inserting foam between the driver and the cups.

This mod increases the distance between the driver and the ear, and the sub-bass gets a bump near 60Hz. The bass slams harder and becomes noticeably punchier. However, bass roll-off is not addressed and lower-mids become recessed. If you like a lot of bass, this mod might be for you.

Or, you can just EQ these headphones. Unless you are increasing the sub-bass or upper-treble a lot, the HE400se can take a healthy amount of equalization.


The only other budget planar that I have tried are the Fostex T50RP mk3. They cost slightly more than the HiFiMAN and also require a lot more power to drive. The Fostex headphones are also semi open-back, unlike the fully open HE400se.

Just like the HE400se, the T50s are extremely modder-friendly. The driver inside is very capable and the construction aids in swapping out parts or adding dampening inside the cups. Check out this excellent rundown of the T50 series mods and the community surrounding them.

However, with the mods included, the T50 RP mk3 noticeably increase in price. Without the mods, I find their sound wonky and the comfort is poor.

In terms of sheer price-to-performance ratio, HE400se are still uncontested.

he400se - cover.jpg


HiFiMAN offers tremendous value with the HE400se, and they are kind of an anomaly in the headphone market. Although budget-priced, there are no glaring issues in the build or design. The driver is fast enough to offer a taste of planar, and they respond well to EQ.

Most of all, you can mod to your heart’s content and the price is low enough to not fret over breaking something. Aftermarket parts are also easily available, making the HE400se an ideal subject for modifications.

I recommend the HE400se to anyone interested in modifications, looking for a pair of budget planars, or just wanting a decent pair of planar magnetic headphones in general. They are not perfect, but they get a lot of it right while being light on the wallet.
Lifted Andreas
Lifted Andreas
Thank you!

Your write up actually helped me decide if I should keep mine or not.
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500+ Head-Fier
Dongle Par Excellence
Pros: Unique design that stands out
– Doesn’t get too warm given the power output
– Good support for both Android and iOS
– Class-leading resolution
– Can power almost any IEMs and even some headphones
– No hint of glare when driven from laptop
– Fantastic instrument separation
Cons: Drains the host’s battery when in high gain
– Somewhat narrow staging
– Unforgiving nature might not suit the bright or peaky IEMs
– Slight upper-midrange glare when driven from phones
– No volume or playback controls
– Prone to RF interference

Had I been a YouTube reviewer, I would have littered a ton of “fire” emojis across this review title. The thumbnail would allude to something akin to “shut-up and buy it”, while a somewhat disturbing image of my agape face would round-up the level of bewilderment and bemusement that the M15 has evoked.

Sadly, in the written form, I am but slave to the words.

Questyle M15 is the flagship dongle in the brand’s lineup, and overall, perhaps the best dongle one can buy. Sadly, such sweeping generalizations do not favor anyone, and everything is reliant upon context.

So, this review is to contextualize the reasons why the Questyle M15 might be the best dongle ever, or why it may not be the right dongle for certain use-cases. Read on.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Thanks to Questyle for sending the M15 for evaluation.
This review originally appeared on Audioreviews.
Price, while reviewed: $250. Can be bought from Questyle’s Official Website.


The packaging is minimal, while the accessories are basic. You get a type-C to type-C cable by default. For Apple users, the lightning cable is sold as a separate bundle for USD$20 premium. There is also a nice leather case that you can purchase separately.


Questyle opts for a CNC-milled aluminum chassis with a see-through acrylic window for the M15’s design. It’s a simple yet effective design decision to go for a see-through top, as it makes the M15 stand out without going overboard. Questyle is not new to this, as many of its desktop products offer an acrylic top for those so inclined.


In terms of inputs and outputs, things are decidedly simple. The type-C port allows USB connection while the 3.5mm and 4.4mm jacks offer unbalanced and balanced connections respectively. The balanced output sounds markedly better as an aside, but that is the case for nearly every dongle that offers a balanced output.


There is a button on the side for gain control, and that’s about it. No volume or playback buttons are there which might be an issue for some. There are two LEDs on the PCB that shines through the acrylic, one for gain level and another is the file type indicator.


Overall, a very simple yet elegant design that panders to my inner-geek thanks to that PCB that’s been laid bare.


At 61.8mm X 27.2mm X 12mm dimensions, the M15 is not the most innocuous of dongles in terms of size. However, I find it to be fairly practical on the desk and the low 25g of weight makes carrying it around easy enough. Even after prolonged usage, the M15 does not get hot which is another plus.


Questyle has a knack for making pretty PCBs. Even the desktop DAC or amps have exceptionally clean PCB layout, and the M15 is no exception. Thanks to the acrylic window, all of it is in plain view. Apart from the ES9281AC DAC chip and the aforementioned status LEDs, you can also see the two SIP (system-in-package) current mode amp modules. Each module handles one channel.


There is also a TOREX power management unit that keeps the M15 inactive when no music is playing. In terms of specs, you get a really respectable 0.0003% THD and <-130dB SNR. Then you notice the output power specs and things just do not add up. A measly 22mW into 300ohms? Surely that cannot be right?

In terms of the actual “sound pressure” produced, that indeed seems to be misleading. The M15 can drive most dynamic driver headphones and nearly every single IEMs out there. Only issue is that for best performance, you need to use a laptop as the source. The higher current from the USB ports enable greater dynamic swings.

Speaking of dynamic swings, the SE out can have almost 2Vrms voltage swing from the single-ended out, and about 3.8Vrms from the balanced out. You can connect the M15 to a pair of powered monitors in a pinch and use it as a DAC/pre-amp combo. Just make sure to put the volume at max on the DAC side.

All in all, respectable measured performance, except for the amp specifications which do not really add up to real world experience.


As always, it’s difficult to simply talk about the “tonality” of a source gear rather than specific pairing notes. That being said, the M15 has certain “characteristics” that shine through no matter which IEMs or headphones you connect on the other end.

The first thing you notice is the resolution, and how easily the M15 delineates between instruments. Rest assured, the amount of perceived details on the M15 eclipses any other dongle under USD$300. Minute details are pushed to the forefront, making it easier to analyze and dissect tracks. If it’s resolution and precision you want, M15 is practically peerless.

Such hyper-realistic rendition comes at the cost of two things: spatial qualities, and a tendency to be ruthless with poorly mastered tracks or bright/shouty gear. The M15 is unforgiving, though the lack of “etchiness” in the treble and upper-mids make it a potent option for borderline bright IEMs and headphones. The staging won’t be engulfing or stretched outwards, like it can be on some of M15’s peers.

Dynamics are good in terms of macrodynamic punch, though microdynamics are not as evident as they are on certain desktop sources (or even Questyle’s higher-tier DAPs).

Finally, the power output is ample for practically any IEMs out there. When connected to a laptop or desktop, the M15 is too powerful for most IEMs, in fact. I routinely found myself lowering the gain and/or lowering the volume on the desktop side. This is still not enough for power hungry monsters like Hifiman’s HE-6, for example, so for the pesky planars, you still need a more substantial setup.


I’ll try to keep this section short and sweet.

IEMs that paired well with the M15: most of them, but highlights include Sennheiser IE 900/200/300, SoftEars Turii, Final E3000/A5000/E4000, JVC FW1800/FW10000/FDX1, Campfire Holocene/Andromeda 2020/Solaris.

Headphones that paired well with the M15: not the absurdly power hungry planars, including the likes of HE-6 (and Susvara, by extension, though I fail to understand why anyone would try to run Susvaras off of a dongle), Sennheiser HD800S (too bright), and Beyers (same issues as the Senns). The HD650 had a good pairing though it lacked the liquid smoothness you get off of tubes or high output impedance sources.

Hifiman HE-400i and Arya sounded exceptional through the M15, and if you own the Arya Stealth (or even the newer Arya Organic), the M15 will be more than enough to do justice to their resolving prowess.


I have pitted the Questyle M15 against every single “hyped” or well-regarded dongle that has been released so far. None of them are as resolving, period.


Quloos MC01 gets close at the cost of sounding edgy in the treble and artificial throughout. Apogee Groove has better rendition (and sense) of space, but it sounds a bit veiled in the bass and treble comparatively. The Cayin RU6 are too smoothed out, while the Cayin RU7 opt for a more relaxed, engulfing, and timbrally-accurate presentation than going after raw details.


Lastly, the L&P dongles (W2 and W4) do better in terms of microdynamics but fall flat in every other aspect. The output power is lacking compared to the M15, and once again – not as resolving.


I received the Questyle M15 back in November, 2022. At the time of writing this review (end of July, 2023) the M15 managed to ward off every single competition by the wayside.

It’s a remarkable achievement in the age of rapid-fire chi-fi releases, where even the parent brand makes its 6 months old “flagship” redundant by releasing something new and “improved”. The M15 is here to stay, and shall remain one of the best, if not the best DAC-Amp dongles out there for the foreseeable future.

The only caveat is the nature of the sound itself – it may become “information overload” for those accustomed to relaxed and laid-back tuning. With certain IEMs, the treble region can sound exaggerated and become bothersome in the long run.

These caveats apply to most, if not all products though, and the M15 achieves the one thing it set out to accomplish: the crown for the most “effortlessly resolving” DAC-Amp dongle out there. Questyle captured lightning in a bottle with the M15, and I hope the spark does not go out anytime soon.
Nice review 🙂

I love the m15, but if I was a daily user i would be a bit worried of that beautiful glass window. 😅

Again thats just me though.
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WARNING: Last month I ordered a Questyle M15 Dac and the Protective Leather Cover (grey) directly from the Questyle website. Last week my package arrived but was missing the Protective Leather Cover (US$25). I have since sent them numerous emails advising them of the missing cover and requested one to be sent. All of my emails have been ignored so far as I have not had any reply from Questyle. I’m very disappointed by the lack of communication and poor customer service from Questyle
UPDATE: After no response from Questyle, I lodged a dispute case with PayPal and have received a refund of US$25 for the missing item.


500+ Head-Fier
For SMSL DO300 in DACs
Spec Monster
Pros: Solid build
– Low-noise PSU
– Many input and output options including I2S
– Remote control works well
– Highly resolving signature
– Excellent macrodynamic punch and bass slam
– Reconstruction filters and tone colors allows further sonic customization
– MQA certification and full MQA decoding
Cons: DO300 chassis is a fingerprint magnet
– Stage depth and microdynamics are lacking in comparison to higher end DACs
– Rotary encoder feels cheap
– Subpar playback of DSD files
– Too many similar options in SMSL’s own lineup

SMSL has become immensely popular in recent years, thanks to the consistent delivery of well-measuring and well-specced source devices that match or undercut the competition in terms of many objective metrics.

The DO300 DAC is the latest in line of products that have a very impressive spec-sheet while the asking price is relatively modest. DO300 is also one of the first DACs to utilize the latest and greatest ESS Sabre ES9039MSPro chip, sporting class leading distortion figures and dynamic range. There is also numerous input and output options to mix and match with any system out there.

So, does the DO300 manage to harness the TOTL DAC chip inside to its full potential, or do they end up being another generic release? We shall see in due time.

This review originally appeared on Audioreviews.
Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Aoshida Audio was kind enough to provide me the DO300 for review.

Headphones and IEMs used: Sennheiser HD650, Hifiman HE-6se V2, Sennheiser IE 900

Price, while reviewed: $550. Can be purchased from Aoshida Audio.


The packaging is a fairly basic cardboard box. Inside, you get the DO300 DAC itself, a power cable, an USB type-B to type-A cable, and a remote control. No batteries are included.



Build quality is good in general. The DO300 will not impress with its density or heft, but the CNC-milled aluminum chassis has smooth finish all around with a matte black paint-job. I am not a fan of the coating though, it catches fingerprint and grease all too readily.

The front panel is basically a large rotary encoder with a color LCD beside it to show the line-out gain, current phase, sampling rate, and input type. The LCD is not the best in terms of fidelity, with the contrast being lower than your typical smartphone. Then again, this is a mid-priced DAC and even higher tier ones employ far cheaper displays at times.


i do wish the LCD display showed a few more information, like the current selected filter, tone color enhancements etc. On a similar note, the rotary encoder is not my favorite. It has distinct steps but the feedback is somewhat mushy. There’s also some wobble to it when pressing down (to select an option, for example), which further cheapens the feeling.

As a result, I mostly operated the unit with the supplied remote control which makes it much easier to change the various tone colors, filters etc.

Now let’s move on the other ports on the back. You have the COAX/TOSLINK inputs, the usual USB input (type-B port), I2S, AES/EBU, and Bluetooth inputs. Outputs include both RCA (single-ended) and 3-pin XLRs (balanced).


SMSL basically put in every common input and output types in the market, so most users should not face an issue integrating this DAC into their chain, whether they’re running a small desk setup or a full-fledged stereo rig. I do wish the USB port was type-C because, well, type-C everything is the mantra nowadays (albeit type-B is more robust).

Some notes about the I2S input: I could not test it out due to the lack of such a device at my disposal. However, I shall receive the Cayin N7 soon, which has I2S out. I will update the sound section with impressions regarding I2S input if the difference is noticeable.

So, in essence: good build quality, with no visible imperfections or issues. The rotary encoder could be better though, and type-C input would be nice.


The official specs are as follows:


The interesting part here is the ESS Sabre ES9039MSPro chipset. Apart from that mouthful of a name, this is a completely redesigned chipset, as per ESS’ claims. However, they have historically been opaque with their datasheets (with manufacturers or DIY-ers often having to sign NDAs before getting intricate details about the implementation).

Some forum discussions hint at the 9039MSPro being just a more power-efficient 9038, but it’s all speculations and hearsay for the time being.

As for the BT chipset, Qualcomm QCC5125 is utilized. It supports all mainstream codecs including several AptX variants and LDAC. The BT version is 5.0 which is “older” than the latest 5.2, but this should not be too big an issue. The rest of the components includes XMOS XU-316 USB chipset, SMSL’s self-developed system clock, a low-noise linear PSU (which works surprisingly well at suppressing ground hum and RF interference), and 11 dual op-amps.

Another plus is the automatic switching between any voltage range between 100V – 240V. This helps in avoiding the mess of mistakenly connecting the plug without switching the voltage selector and damaging components. So, while the internals are not the most beefed up and do not use many discrete components, the design is competent and should be fine for most use cases.


I find describing the tonality of digital sources a futile exercise, as most of the characteristics depend on the pairing with various headphones and IEMs. Nonetheless, there are some commonalities between all pairings.

However, I consistently noticed some sonic characters on the DO300, even in blind testing. Basically: the DO300 has a noticeably harder hitting bass slam, and the stage is slightly cramped compared to my reference setup. Microdynamics is another area where the DO300 struggled, with subtle shifts in volume not being as apparent as they are on the LPGT.

Another gripe of mine is the playback of DSD files. Basically – if you listen to many DSD files, skip the DO300 altogether. The replay gain is too high, reducing dynamic range and robbing the DSD files of their nuances during playback. I have a few albums in DSD so overall it was not an issue but the few DSD64 and DSD128 tracks I tried with the DO300, things were not pretty.

Before proceeding further, a description of the test setup is in order. I used the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (LPGT) + Cayin C9 as the reference system, and the SMSL DO300 is replaced as the DAC for the A/B test (LPGT would then act as the transport). The amp was left untouched, ensuring volume matched comparison.

One interesting feature the DO300 has is “phase inversion” where phase issues on the output side can be compensated for. I’d recommend keeping it turned off unless things sound “strange” (e.g. the center instruments or vocals sound strangely compressed).


I find describing the tonality of digital sources a futile exercise, as most of the characteristics depend on the pairing with various headphones and IEMs. Nonetheless, there are some commonalities between all pairings.

However, I consistently noticed some sonic characters on the DO300, even in blind testing. Basically: the DO300 has a noticeably harder hitting bass slam, and the stage is slightly cramped compared to my reference setup. Microdynamics is another area where the DO300 struggled, with subtle shifts in volume not being as apparent as they are on the LPGT.

Another gripe of mine is the playback of DSD files. Basically – if you listen to many DSD files, skip the DO300 altogether. The replay gain is too high, reducing dynamic range and robbing the DSD files of their nuances during playback. I have a few albums in DSD so overall it was not an issue but the few DSD64 and DSD128 tracks I tried with the DO300, things were not pretty.

Before proceeding further, a description of the test setup is in order. I used the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (LPGT) + Cayin C9 as the reference system, and the SMSL DO300 is replaced as the DAC for the A/B test (LPGT would then act as the transport). The amp was left untouched, ensuring volume matched comparison.

One interesting feature the DO300 has is “phase inversion” where phase issues on the output side can be compensated for. I’d recommend keeping it turned off unless things sound “strange” (e.g. the center instruments or vocals sound strangely compressed).



The Sennheiser IE 900 show noticeably harder-hitting bass when the DO300 is used as the DAC in the chain. The stage is also narrowed, and stage depth is reduced compared to the LPGT. This “effect” was consistent between tracks. The treble fortunately did not sound “etched” or “fatiguing”, so SMSL has improved upon one of my complaints in their previous offering – the M400.

SoftEars Turii also showed similar change in bass response. It also highlighted the lack of stage depth compared to the LPGT’s DAC section. Imaging seemed fine, though center-imaging is more convincing on the LPGT.



The story continues with headphones. Sennheiser HD650 do not benefit from added bass slam as the driver is just incapable of reproducing such low notes, but the mid-bass tightened up slightly. I also tried out the “tube” tone color with the HD650, and while it emulated the soft bass bloom of tube amps, the mids were not as “colored” as they are on the Xduoo MT-601S with tube buffer, for example. An actual OTL amp like the Bottlehead Crack will display even more dramatic difference between SMSL’s emulated tube effect and the real thing.



Finally, I used the SMSL DO300 with my desk rig and desk speakers (KEF LSX), with the Questyle CMA Twelve Master being a point of comparison. The KEFs have a low-frequency cut around 70Hz, so the change in bass was mostly imperceptible. The staging was noticeably different between the Questyle and the SMSL, however.

Basically, the Twelve Master had wider, deeper staging as the vocals sat a few inches further away in the presentation. It is not midrange recession, mind you, rather the center imaging and stage depth that is more up-front and “in-your-face” on the SMSL DAC.


vs SMSL M400

The M400 is one of the older SMSL DACs that I have tried. It’s one of the few DACs to run the now defunct AKM AK4499 chip (AKM’s past flagship) and offers similar settings to the newer DO300 including tone color and reconstruction filters.


The signature has noticeable differences, however. The DO300 is not as etched in the treble as the M400, and the M400 also tended to push upper-mids a bit too forward. The DO300 is a step up on that front. Staging and imaging are similar on both, but the bass slams harder on the DO300 (which seems to be a thing of this DAC at this point).

So, should existing M400 users upgrade? I think the DO300 is better, but the differences are subtle and a change of amp will have more profound effect. The bass and macrodynamic punch is definitely noticeable, so if you are into that, the DO300 can be an upgrade on that front.


The DO300 is competent, no doubts about that. It measures well, has every input and output you may possibly want, and the BT support is the proverbial cherry on top (though I find BT audio lacking vs the usual wired affair and as such – ignore it unless absolutely necessary). The build is good and stock accessories are good enough to get you going.

Speaking of the sound, DO300’s bass reproduction is truly satisfying. If you like “slammy” bass – this won’t disappoint at all. Staging and imaging could be better, however, so could be the rendition of microdynamics. DSD files are played back with too high a gain, reducing DR in the process, so DSD collectors should skip this one

The big issue lies elsewhere – it’s about SMSL saturating its own lineup. There is the DO200 mk2, the D400ES, the D300 (with ROHM DAC), and even more upscale options in their VMV lineup of products. It gets dizzying, confusing, and the average consumer might even give up since there is no clear delineation between these products.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a midrange DAC with most common inputs, some “sound shaping” via reconstruction filters and tone coloration/DSP options, and don’t care about DSD – then the DO300 is a good option. It’s overall better than the M400 it’s essentially replaced, though given SMSL’s rapid-fire release schedule, this one might get replaced soon anyway.

Despite that possibility, the DO300 gets a recommendation based on how solid an offering it is, all things considered.
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500+ Head-Fier
Redemption Arc
Pros: Excellent build
- Comfortable fit for the first hour
- Good resolution and separation for the price
- Sheer sub-bass reach
- Excellent midrange tuning
- Especially suitable for low-volume listening
Cons: The aluminum grill has sharp edges on the inside
- Sub-bass rumble and bass slam are not the most physical
- Upper-treble can get fatiguing
- Average staging and imaging
- Heavy
venus - build 3.jpg

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. The Moondrop Venus are the second headphones in Moondrop’s lineup.

Apt naming, I guess.

Moondrop’s first-ever headphones, the Void, are an unfortunate disaster. They have an atrocious build, the pricing is way off-the-mark, and the sound is lackluster.

The Venus are priced even higher, sport a planar magnetic driver, and have swapped the creaky plastic for aluminum and leather. An all-around improvement, prima facie, but how do they sound, and can they dethrone the status quo?

This review was originally published on Headphonesty.


The packaging of the Venus is pretty heavy, weighing over 1 kg, even without any headphones inside. There is foam padding to keep the headphones protected during shipping.

venus - packaging.jpg

In the box​

  • Moondrop Venus headphones
  • 1.5m, 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm Copper cable
  • 1.4m, 4.4mm to dual 3.5mm SPC cable
  • 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter
While the basics are included, I would prefer a carrying case or pouch to be in the box as well.

The stock SPC cable is very good and should not require replacement unless you need a different termination.

venus - cable.jpg


The Moondrop Venus have an all-metal build, with only the auto-adjusting headband and the earpads made of leather. There is a reassuring heft the moment you pick them up.

venus - cover 2.jpg

The Venus can be disassembled by removing several screws holding the headphones together with the headband. This construction increases durability and facilitates easy repairs in the long term.

venus - hinge.jpg

The earcups have a CNC-machined, hollowed-out design that allows a glimpse into the driver and swivel almost 180 degrees. There is a 3.5mm input jack under each earcup. One nitpick here is the pattern itself, which has sharp edges if you run your fingers across them.

venus - yoke.jpg

The pads are circular and easily removed by tugging along the sides. They are pleather with perforations on the inner side. The self-adjusting leather part of the headband seems sturdy and offers good support even on large heads. The perforated metal part on the top is primarily there for structural support.

venus - pads.jpg

The yoke design is similar to older HIFIMAN models and some newer ones like the Deva Pro and HE6se. There is a full range of motion across the Y-axis and a good amount of side-swivel to adjust to most face types.

Comfort and isolation​

Overall comfort is good, as the headband distributes the weight evenly across the top of the head. Moreover, the clamping force is on the lighter side, resulting in the earcups “hugging” your face rather than putting too much pressure on your head.

venus - headband.jpg

Unfortunately, the sheer weight (±550g without cable) of the unit makes wearing them fatiguing in the long run. I can last an hour and then need to take a break. Your mileage may vary if you are used to wearing heavy headphones, such as those Audeze cans. Isolation is non-existent as these are open-back headphones.

venus - headband 3.jpg


Some of the extra weight can be attributed to the dual-sided magnet assembly and large drivers.

Moondrop uses a 100mm diaphragm planar magnetic driver, one of the largest in the market.

To add to the marketing blurb, the diaphragm here is “sub-nanometer grade” and has pure silver etching on top for the voice coil. There are 18 N52 magnets on each side of the diaphragm. The entire assembly is encased in a metal driver cage, which is not too common in most planars.

venus - driver.jpg

Moondrop has also adopted a high-frequency waveguide mechanism, similar to Audeze’s Fazor or HIFIMAN’s Stealth Magnet technologies. In essence, the magnets on the front of the diaphragm have rounded edges. This reduces the turbulence as sound waves pass through them, reducing distortion and interference.

Moondrop Venus Sound​

The Venus have a mostly neutral tonality with a slight upper-mid and upper-treble forwardness. The mid-treble is especially pronounced, which sensitive listeners may find fatiguing.



Bass response is mostly linear until around 40Hz, below which bass starts to roll off. As a result, sub-bass rumble is lacking, and kick drums, for example, lack physicality. Mid-bass could also do with a bit more body since snare hits lack some of their density.

Bass texture is above average but not as well done as some biodynamic driver headphones in this price range. Fast bass sections are rendered well, and notes do not bleed into each other. Overall, the bass response is competent without stealing the show.


Mids are the bread and butter of the Venus, as this is one area where they excel. Many planar magnetic headphones have a suck-out between 1 – 1.5kHz, resulting in some harshness and shrillness for high-pitched vocals.

Moondrop avoids this familiar pitfall and has just the right amount of pinna gain in the upper-mids. This results in exceptional vocals that are tonally correct, have just the right amount of heft, and even soaring, high-pitched notes have zero shoutiness.

Acoustic guitars, pianos, and string instruments have a lifelike timbre. The midrange is generally highly resolving on the Venus, and I prefer this tuning over other planars in this same price range.


The treble area has a couple of issues. Firstly, the peak around 9kHz can add an odd bit of sharpness to cymbals in tracks like Tool’s Chocolate Chip Trip.

Upper-treble has some strong emphasis near 13kHz (to my ears) that adds “tizziness” to the sound, resulting in sharp snare hits and occasional glare.

The Venus might be fatiguing in the long run if you are extremely sensitive to upper-treble. Those who like airy treble should have no problem with this peakiness. However, I find this peak too much, and EQ it down for a smoother listen.

Overall resolution on the Venus is as expected for the price tag. It won’t break new ground but isn’t inadequate, either.

venus - source.jpg

Soundstage and imaging​

Staging is somewhat narrow, partly due to the upper-mid focus and partly due to the driver design not aiding in staging. Stage depth and height are very good, on the other hand.

Imaging is above average for the price tier, with good left/right delineation, but the positioning gets fuzzy for instruments placed between the two extremes. Some of their peers fare better in this regard.

Dynamics and speed​

Microdynamics are rendered well, with subtle shifts in volume picked up for the most part. The effect is not as exaggerated as with certain TOTL headphones, but I have heard worse in this range. Macrodynamic punch is lacking due to sub-bass roll-off and a general lack of slam on the driver front.

The Moondrop Venus showcase the typical planar speed. Busy song passages or high bpm music have the instruments well separated to identify each of them. Again, it’s not necessarily TOTL level, but what one should expect below the kilobuck range.

Another aspect of these headphones that stands out is how “full” they sound, even at lower volumes.

The fullness can be attributed to the tuning that Moondrop went for, which allows you to listen to all the frequencies clearly without pushing the volume up too high. Low-volume listeners, rejoice!


The biggest problem the Venus faces is the established market competition.

Vs. HIFIMAN HE-6se V2​

HIFIMAN has a stronghold when it comes to affordable planars, and the HE-6se V2 are hidden gems. If you have a powerful amplifier, these headphones put to shame most of the offerings under the USD$1000 mark.

venus - he6.jpg

On paper, the HE-6se V2 are much pricier than the Venus. However, they are on near-constant sale (on Adorama) and can often be snagged for around the same price as the Venus.

The Venus are more comfortable overall (for shorter sessions) and have a better build and finish. The HE-6se V2 focus more on sound and offer slam and dynamics that very few competitors can manage. They are more resolving, though they can be a bit peaky in the lower-treble, and the mids are not as “smooth” as the Venus.

Soundstage is similar between both, but imaging is superior on the HIFIMAN. I pick the HE-6se V2 for most listening, while the Venus is reserved for vocal-centric tracks.


After the Void, Moondrop redeems itself with the Venus, as these are a viable alternative to the more established headphones in the market. Their midrange is spectacularly tuned and caters well to vocal lovers.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a slam-dunk for Moondrop. If you need pumping bass, wide staging, or sheer resolution – the Venus won’t do. Also, the peaky treble is an issue that puts a spanner into the works, but it’s an issue plaguing many planars in the market, so I cannot single out Moondrop here.

In the end, I recommend the Venus for those who love vocals, seek clarity, and are not too bothered by some mid and upper-treble peakiness.


500+ Head-Fier
Warm Embrace
Pros: Excellent build
– Very good accessories
– Mid-bass punch and texture
– Warm, smooth midrange
– Non-fatiguing highs
– Decent imaging and staging
Cons: Dunu Kima does not have the fastest bass
– Treble lacks air
– Not the most resolving IEMs in this price
– Instrument separation could be better
– Difficult to stand out amidst strong competitors

unu has been busy lately, trying to fill-up the price segment gaps in its lineup. The Dunu Titan S have been very well-received and offer a clarity-focused tuning that is fairly unique in the sub-USD$100 market.

Enter Dunu Kima, the slightly more expensive brethren of the Titan S that head towards the opposite direction. Whereas clarity was the name of the game for the predecessor, the Kima relies on warmth and organicness to differentiate themselves.

Is the change in tuning the only trick that the Kima can pull up their sleeves, or are there deeper changes that lie beneath? Let’s find out.

This review originally appeared on Audioreviews.
Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Dunu was kind enough to send me the Kima for evaluation.

Sources used: Questyle CMA Twelve Master, Lotoo PAW 6000
Price, while reviewed: $109. Can be bought from Dunu’s Official Website.


Dunu has finally moved to the… err, dark side and has embraced the waifu art for the packaging of the Kima. In fact, there is a little subplot about “Criz Faction” and why the maiden on the cover is gathering the protectors of the… yeah it doesn’t work for me. I’d rather have the metal-themed cover of the Titan S thank you.


When it comes to accessories, fortunately Dunu delivers, as has become the norm. The stock cable is silver-plated copper and has excellent ergonomics. The tip collection is very good as well, with both the S&S tips (boosts vocals) and the Candy tips (more balanced across the spectrum) supplied. The carrying case is also very good, offering adequate protection and room inside.



The CNC-milled zinc-alloy shell is a two-piece design and offers excellent rigidity. The model name and “Criz Faction” insignia are laser-etched onto the faceplate. Dunu opts for 2-pin connectors here, with the socket being recessed into the housing, offering better strain-relief than the exposed sockets.


There are two vents on the inner side. One near the channel marking (with special airflow control mechanism) and another near the nozzle. Overall, excellent build quality, even though it’s expected nowadays.


Comfort is excellent, with the Dunu Kima aiding a snug, reliable fit. Isolation is average due to the two vents.


The Dunu Kima are fairly easy to drive, with most budget dongles being enough. However, they seemed to scale with higher-tier sources, though not to the extent where investing into a dedicated source makes sense. I used the Candy Tips for this review.


Dunu opts for a 10mm DLC (Diamond-like Carbon) coated dynamic driver for the Kima. This is apparently a newer generation of the driver that has an improved voice coil. A competent driver that aligns well with the price bracket without breaking new grounds.


Dunu Kima have a warm, smooth tuning that focuses more on the timbre than absolute clarity.


What is most noticeable on the Kima is the density of notes. This is not very common in chi-fi nowadays where the “mid-bass bad” tuning philosophy has managed to butcher lower-midrange tonality in general, but the Kima is a welcome departure. The bass has good slam and sense of rhythm, the sub-bass rumble is present witout being overwhelming or hazy, and the driver is capable enough to keep the bass under control in most tracks.

Where tne Kima struggle is fast bass sections of double-pedals in heavy tracks like Lamb of God’s Ruin. Notes tend to blend into each other, blurring the outlines of each hit of the pedal or snare. Bass texture is good but not class-leading.

The lower-mids are warm, inviting, lush – the very essence of a laid-back tuning. The Kima never get fatiguing or shouty. This comes at the cost of clarity and those preferring utmost vocal forwardness might feel disappointed. Baritone vocals sound dense and grand, so do piano pieces and the occasional slow jazz. Strings could do with more bite, however, and guitar riffs lack the energy at times.

Finally, we get to the treble which is inoffensive without being spectacular. There is some upper-treble emphasis around 12kHz but that’s about it. Cymbals and hi-hats sound a bit dampened, opting for smoothness at the cost of raw resolution.

Soundstage has good depth, but the width and height are about average. Imaging is good, falling slightly short of class leaders (more on this below). Macrodynamic punch is decent, but microdynamics are where the Dunu Kima excel. Subtle gradations in volume are discernible and this makes the whole presentation feel more organic.


vs Tin T4 Plus​

Tin T4 Plus are similarly warm-tilted in terms of tuning, but has a more recessed midrange and more emphasis in the treble region.


The issue with the T4 Plus lies in the technical department. The staging is wider than the Kima but not as deep. They sound less refined in the mids, and the more present treble is offset by poorer imaging and slightly worse dynamics. I think the Dunu Kima showcase a better execution of the “warm, inoffensive” tuning than the T4 Plus.

vs Dunu Titan S​

Ironically, the most formidable opponent to the Kima come from within the family – Dunu Titan S. The clarity and imaging of the Titan S are a tier above the Kima, and the bass also seem faster.

However, the Titan S can sound too sterile at times, and the midrange shoutiness can be a bother – two issues the Dunu Kima avoid. I also find the Kima to have better build and accessories in general.

If it’s clarity you are after, the Titan S are better options. For those preferring warmth and easier listneing, the Dunu Kima are more suitable.


The Dunu Kima are competent in terms of tuning, come with excellent accesories, have a great build, and the price is not too absurd.

Sadly, the market has become so saturated that it’s difficult to stand out by being “good enough”. You have to go the extra mile or offer something unique – two aspects that are sorely missing in most recent releases. The Kima are no exceptions. They are a sidegrade to the existing Titan S. A different tuning, but not a product that shifts the paradigm.

Thankfully, the Kima are pleasing to listen to, so even though they do not excite, they do not offend either. If you found the Titan S to be too sterile and clinical, give the Kima a shot. Their warmth might just convince you.


500+ Head-Fier
Smoothness Overload
Pros: Excellent build
– Very good stock cable
– Smooth, relaxing signature
– Well-tuned midrange
– Good imaging and separation
Cons: Poor stock tips
– Thick nozzle can be an issue for some, alongside the ventless design
– Wooly, undefined bass
– Macrodynamic punch is severely lacking
– Lacking in energy and engagement factor

Kiwi Ears had one of the “underground hits” of recent years in the form of Kiwi Ears Orchestra: a multi-BA offering that offered a smooth tuning and promised performance akin to the kilobuck mainstays.

While I never heard the original, the Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite, the brand’s latest offering, landed at my doorstep recently. The paper specs are impressive, especially once you consider the price. The frequency response graph looks great on paper.

Let’s see how much of that paper spec translates into real world performance.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Linsoul was kind enough to send me the Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite for evaluation.
This review originally appeared on
Sources used: Questyle QP2R, iFi Go Blu.
Price, while reviewed: $250. Can be bought from Linsoul.


The packaging is minimal but has all the necessary accessories.


The stock cable is very good – flexible/pliable and doesn’t tangle easily. The flexible ear-hooks are much better than those stiff, hard to manipulate ones you often find. Unfortunately, the stock tips are useless. There are 3 different kinds supplied, 3 pairs of each. Unfortunately none of them would provide a good seal and comfort.


In the end, I used Spinfit CP-100+ tips. The carrying case is good enough if a bit bland in design. Overall, apart from the tips, good accessories.



The 3D-printed, UV-cured resin shells of the Orchestra Lite have good consistency and give a dense feeling in the hand. There are some refractions inside the shells though some may consider them a design element. Nonetheless, overall shell quality is similar to Moondrop’s Blessing2, if not at a slightly higher level.


The backplate evokes a sense of depth, though the artwork itself is somewhat generic. There are no vents on the shell, making this a completely sealed design.

The nozzle has three bores, one for each frequency band (bass, mids, treble). More on this later. Unfortunately, the large size makes it difficult to fit some tips.


Finally, the recessed 2-pin ports complete the build tour. I think given the budget constraints, Kiwi Ears managed a good job here.


Comfort is average due to the large nozzle size. Moreover, the ventless design creates some pneumatic pressure in the ear canal, resulting in added awkwardness. I’d recommend trying out the Orchestra Lite in person before purchase if possible to see if they fit your ears.


The Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite are very easy to power, and should be driven well by most dongles. I used Spinfit CP-100+ tips, as the stock tips had poor seal and were a challenge to put on the thick nozzle.


Driver count on the Orchestra Lite is mighty impressive. A total of eight BA drivers are placed inside with triple crossover design. Two Knowles ‘sealed’ woofers with dampers in front take care of the bass, while four “custom BA” drivers take care of the mids, and two more of those take care of the highs.


Kiwi Ears went for a triple-tube design and all tubes have dampers in the sound path. You can also see the crossover board on the side. All in all, competent driver setup and the coherency should not be too big of an issue due to similar drivers being used across the board.



Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite have a smooth, relaxing “U”-shaped signature with somewhat darkened treble response.


The two Knowles woofers unfortunately do not sound that impressive. Bass lacks slam and authority. Bass notes almost feel “wooly”. Reverb is unusually slow (try Nariyeh Thanei by Siamese Youth to get a feel for that).

Mids, fortunately, fare much better. They sound good for the most part and avoid shout, even though at high volumes the shoutiness can creep through (as the bass does not have body and impact, upper mids become more prominent). String instruments have a slightly softer leading edge, which avoids some BA timbre at the cost of crispness.

Finally, we get to the treble which is inoffensive without being spectacular. The bass tuning is a bit too safe at times, lacking excitement and engagement. Guitar riffs lack energy, while cymbals and hi-hats sound over-dampened. Upper-treble is also almost absent, so resonances and decays are lost.

Soundstage is not spectacular but manages to sound fairly “open” without being congested. Imaging is good, falling slightly short of class leaders like the Blessing2 or Oxygen. Separation is also good and comparable to the best performers in this range.

Macrodynamic punch is severely lacking. Sudden bass drops feel hollow. Microdynamics are not so evident either.


vs AFUL Performer5​

The AFUL Performer5 sport a hybrid design, with a single dynamic driver taking care of the lows and the mids and highs being handled by BA drivers.

I find the Performer5 to be more comfortable due to better pressure relief and less obtrusive nozzle design. The stock accessories are good on the Performer5 but I am not too keen on the stock cable. Your mileage may vary.

As for the sound, the Performer5 have slightly better bass response, though the dynamic driver is underwhelming in terms of slam and punch as well. Mids are similarly tuned on both but female vocals are more intimate and have better articulation on the Orchestra Lite.

The treble is where the Performer5 edge out the Orchestra Lite with better engagement and extension up top. However, staging and imaging are overall superior on the Orchestra Lite.

So in the end, the bass and treble performance are superior on the Performer5 and that alone should make the decision easier for many. However, those who need a more relaxing presentation with a better sense of atmosphere (due to superior staging and imaging) might find the Orchestra Lite more appealing. Just keep in mind that they would not excite you as much.


Overall, the Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite are not technical powerhouses. The bass definitely does not live up to expectations and might be the deal-breaker for some. Some EQ makes things better, but the fundamental issues (lack of slam and body) remains.

While the mids are tuned well and the sound has a certain calmness that might appeal to those who do not like infusion of energy, it might be too polite, too safe, and too smooth.

So, the Orchestra Lite are suitable for a niche audience with niche tuning preferences. I would highly recommend an audition to see if these fit your tastes before making a purchase since, for me, they are just bland, lacking in life and verve.

Ah well.
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500+ Head-Fier
Falling Short
Pros: Good build quality
- Good stock cable
- Rather uncommon bright-neutral tuning
- Good stage width and imaging
- Coherent sound for a dual-driver setup
Cons: Bass slam is lacking
- Lower-treble peak can be jarring in poorly mastered tracks
- Lacks upper-treble extension
- Some nasality in deep male vocals
- Not the best value-for-money given the competition
devil - cover.jpeg

HarmonicDyne is primarily known for headphones rather than IEMs. The PD1 were its first pair of IEMs, but due to some tuning quirks, those never quite took off in terms of popularity.

Enter the HarmonicDyne Devil, a second attempt at IEMs by the brand. The marketing pitch boasts two years of R&D and a novel diaphragm material to enhance the sound further.

Let’s see how much of that translates into real-world performance.

Linsoul provided the HarmonicDyne Devil for evaluation.
Price while reviewed: USD$200.
This review originally appeared on

In the box​

  • HarmonicDyne Devil IEMs
  • 7 pairs of silicone tips
  • Coin with a serial number etched on it
  • Carrying case
  • 2-core OCC copper cable with mmcx connectors and 3.5mm or 4.4mm plug
  • 6.35mm adapter

The carrying case is decent and gets the job done. The ear tips, though, proved useless for me. I could not get a good seal with those included, so I had to resort to third-party alternatives.

devil - case.jpeg

The stock cable is okay and should be fine for most users.

It is a two-core design with cloth braiding. Purchasers can select between 3.5mm and 4.4mm terminations. The cable exhibits some microphonics (which is the case for most fabric-sheathed cables), but it’s not too distracting.

devil - cable.jpeg


The HarmonicDyne Devil adopt a no-frills, minimalist approach to their aesthetics.

The entire build is CNC machined Aluminum. It’s a two-piece shell design, and the general fit and finish suit the price.

There is one vent on the inner side, while the back houses three elongated slits, seemingly used to tune the drivers.

devil - cover2.jpg

The nozzle is on the longer side, and ear tips do not slide all the way down. As such, deep fit is a no-go. Finally, the mmcx connector seems sturdy and did not loosen up after multiple cable swaps.

All in all, a good build quality, as is expected in the mid-price segment.

Comfort and isolation​

Comfort is good, but isolation is below average due to the “shallow fit” design.


The HarmonicDyne Devil utilize two 10mm dynamic drivers with “LDM” diaphragms.

I could not find any information regarding this material or the arrangement of the drivers inside the shells.

HarmonicDyne Devil Sound​

The following sound impressions are formed with Azla SednaEarfit Vivid tips, stock cable, and a Questyle CMA Twelve Master as the source. Test tracks are available on Tidal as a playlist.

The HarmonicDyne Devil have a neutral-bright signature.

The bass is not too elevated in the sub-bass region, which is a departure from popular tuning tendencies.

devil - graph.jpg

The bass has fast attack, and natural decay, and the sub-bass rumble is noticeable though it won’t rattle your brain. The mid-bass punch also adds body and physicality to the lower region without becoming prominent.

Bass has decent texture, but some of their peers offer better-textured bass. Moreover, those looking for physicality and slam will be disappointed.

Lower-mids exhibit some thinness due to the “scoop” between 500 – 1000Hz. Upper mids are prominent, with almost 10dB of boost compared to lower-mids, but the mid-treble peaks tend to balance things out somewhat.

High-pitched female vocals in tracks with sparse instrumentation can lead to shoutiness, but such instances were rare. Acoustic instruments have a nice “bite” to their attack, as heard on Damien Rice’s Cannonball. Heavy guitar riffs exhibit their characteristic energy.

However, keyboards and pianos could do with more note weight. Baritone vocals also lose some of their heft due to the tuning choices.

The treble has a noticeable lack of air.

To compensate for this, HarmonicDyne tuned the Devil to have more lower and mid-treble emphasis. There is no lack of energy as a result. The initial hit of cymbals is well defined, albeit ensuing resonance is missing.

For a bright-neutral pair of IEMs, the lack of airiness seems like a strange decision, especially since there are two drivers, and the second one, in theory, should take care of the treble (including upper-treble).

The HarmonicDyne Devil sound surprisingly coherent despite having two separate drivers.

The staging is fairly wide and tall, though stage depth could be better. Imaging is also good, with the ordinal placement of instruments being noticeable in tracks like Yosi Horikawa’s Crossing.

Macrodynamic punch is lacking due to the “reserved” sub-bass tuning. Sudden bass drops lack physicality and punch.

Microdynamics are rendered better, with subtle shifts in volume being easy to pick up. The driver is fast enough to keep up with complex tracks, though some of the competition best them in this regard.

At 123 dB/Vrms sensitivity, the HarmonicDyne Devil are easy to drive and should run well out of most budget dongles.

Vs Sennheiser IE 200​

The Sennheiser IE 200 retail for a lower price than the HarmonicDyne Devil and sport a single 7mm dynamic driver.

In terms of build, the HarmonicDyne IEMs feel more premium and substantial in hand. Comfort, on the other hand, is far superior on the IE 200, with the IEMs almost disappearing while worn. Isolation, too, is a strength of the Sennheiser IEMs.

The IE 200 depends on positioning the stock tips (which cover a bass vent if pushed fully downwards) to tune the bass and the upper-mids. The Devil, meanwhile, lack such tuning flexibility.

In terms of sound, these IEMs venture in different directions. The HarmonicDyne Devil showcase more clarity due to their upper-midrange boost, whereas the IE 200 go for a dense, smooth tuning.

The lower-treble tuning on the IE 200 is more conducive to long-term listening, and the upper-treble is noticeably more extended. This added airiness can sometimes be fatiguing, though the same applies to the boosted presence region on the Devil.

The soundstage is wider on the HarmonicDyne IEMs, and the imaging is slightly more precise. Mids are the bread and butter of the IE 200, with better timbre, a fuller-sounding lower-midrange, and a complete lack of shout.

Overall, I like the IE 200 for most of my playlist.


HarmonicDyne’s second attempt at IEMs left me with mixed feelings. The tuning differs from most current releases, and the driver setup seems good on paper.

Sadly, the actual performance is a mixed bag. I like the bass’s linearity and the mids’ clarity, but the mid-treble focused signature with a lack of airiness feels like a puzzle with the final pieces missing.

So the HarmonicDyne Devil fall short of being great. I hope HarmonicDyne works on the upper-treble in the next release, and things may become far more interesting.
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No price listed for it.
Price added, thanks.


500+ Head-Fier
Something Different
Pros: Decent build
– Good amount of accessories
– Good sub-bass rumble
– Treble sparkle
– Good imaging and staging
– Good separation
Cons: Thin lower mids
– Upper-midrange glare
– BA timbre


Those who have been following the Chi-Fi scene for a while would surely have come across Rose as a brand, and their penchant of cramming sizeable amount of drivers in an inconspicuously tiny shell.

The Rose QT9 MK2S is no different, and they sport a 1DD + 4BA configuration in a shell that’s small enough to sleep while wearing. In terms of driver config, Rose Technics competes well with the peers, but that alone does not ensure success in this cut-throat market.

Let’s see if the QT9 MK2S can carve a spot for themselves in the hyper-competitive mid-range IEM space.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Rose Technics was kind enough to send me the QT9 Mk2s for evaluation.

Sources used: Sony NW-A55, Questyle CMA-400i
Price, while reviewed: $250.



Rose supplies two hard-shell cases in the QT9 mk2S packaging, with one containing accessories and the other containing the IEMs and the cable. The packaging itself is fairly minimal and compact.



Supplied accessories include: 4 pair of silicone tips including 1 pair of double-flange tips, 1 mmcx removal tool, extra nozzle filters, and a quarter-inch adapter.

The cable has a fabric sheath and 6N OCC copper core. Not the best in terms of ergonomics, but at least the core config with 6N OCC copper seems nice on paper.


Rose went for a pseudo-custom fit design with the QT9 MK2S.

The transparent resin-shell has a metal faceplate with Rose logo on it. There are three vents in total. One vent near the mmcx connector, and two more vents underneath the Rose logo on the faceplate. This heavily vented design allows the dynamic driver to move more air than a sealed design.


The mmcx connectors are fairly robust, though the IEMs would spin if rotated with some pressure. I did not notice any rattling or looseness in connection. The resin shell is also free from bubbles and noticeable imperfections, though I have seen better finishes on more expensive IEMs.


The low-profile is perfect for those who like to sleep wearing their IEMs, though that is something I do not recommend for safety reasons. The IEMs can be too small for large ears though, so you may have trouble finding a good seal if your ear-canals are large.


Most of the review was completed while pairing with the Questyle CMA-400i. Sony NW-A55 was used when listening to the QT9 MK2S on the go, alongside the stock cable and Spinfit W1 tips.



Rose combined a 10mm dynamic driver with Knowles FK30018 and FK30019 dual-BA drivers. The BAs have Knowles dampers within the internal tubing, so kudos to Rose for properly implementing these BA drivers.

The dynamic driver also has over 1Tesla of magnetic flux density, which basically translates to better sense of bass slam and impact (when tuned as such).



The general sound signature of the QT9 MK2S can be described as mildly V-shaped, with thinned out lower-mids, boosted sub-bass, and extra focus on upper-mids and lower-treble.


The thin lower-mids get slightly veiled by the decaying sub-bass notes, making this the weakest spot of the QT9 MK2S’ tuning. The bass itself has nice body and rumble, and should satisfy those who need extra bass “oomph”. Mid-bass texture is somewhat lacking, but makes up for that with noticeable punch.

The upper-mids are mostly within control, though the subsequent 6kHz peak makes them sound strained in higher-pitched vocals, especially in tracks with less-than-ideal mastering. The lower treble peak also caused some fatigue for me in long listening sessions, as I am particularly sensitive to that region. Your mileage may vary.

Upper treble is characterized by a small bump near 13kHz and later some more emphasis near 15kHz. Not the most airy-sounding IEMs in this price bracket, but cymbal hits resonate longer than on IEMs with poor extension.

Imaging was precise for the most part, though lateral imaging left something to be desired. Stage width and depth was above-average, but falls behind category leaders.

Macrodynamic punch was good, while microdynamics were about average. General resolution is somewhat hampered by that clouded lower-mids, but in energetic tracks you can pick out most of the subtleties in the recording.


The Moondrop Blessing2 costs slightly more than the QT9 MK2S and comes with a similar 1DD + 4BA config. Moondrop opts for a paper-cone diaphragm vs the LCP diaphragm on the Rose IEMs.

In terms of build, the Blessing2 is “chunky” and can cause fit issues and discomfort for those with smaller ears, whereas the Rose will cater well to those with small ears. I’d say both have similar build quality. Moondrop has a more elaborate internal structure with the Blessing2, while Rose went for a simpler venting mechanism for the dynamic driver.

In terms of sound, bass is nimbler on the Blessing2 with less impact and sense of rumble. QT9 MK2S give a more palpable sense of rumble with better slam. Lower-midrange is thin on the Blessing2 as well, but doesn’t get as clouded as the QT9 MK2S due to more conservative sub-bass boost.

Upper-mids are even more prominent on the Blessing2 and brings vocals a lot closer to the listener. Fortunately, shoutiness is mostly avoided barring the most intense of high-pitched vocals. Lower-treble is where the differences become more apparent again, with the QT9 MK2S having less sparkle in treble due to the dip between 4-5kHz.

Upper-treble is somewhat reserved on both, but I think the QT9 MK2S slightly edges out the Blessing2 here. Staging is slightly wider and deeper on the QT9 MK2S, while the Blessing2 have more precise imaging with accurate positional cues. General resolution is also better on the Blessing2.

For the extra bucks, Blessing2 indeed out-resolve the QT9 MK2S. The Rose IEMs strike back with a more physical bass response and more comfortable fit. If you find the fit of the Blessing2 an issue and need a more robust bass response, the QT9 MK2S are viable alternatives.


Rose QT9 MK2S is a decent offering and doesn't sound outright wrong. However, the treble tuning may be a miss for those with extreme sensitivity in that region, and the fit might be challenging for those with larger ears. Other than those – you get one of the smallest 5-driver hybrid IEMs with good bass and generally competitive resolving capabilities.

In the larger scheme of things, the lack of marketing and Rose’s relative silence in recent years might be a bigger challenge, as new IEMs come up almost every other week and it’s difficult to filter out that noise for potential buyers. That being said, the QT9 MK2S is a nice reboot for Rose as a brand, and I look forward to their future releases that address the minor niggles.
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500+ Head-Fier
The Hype and the Aftermath
Pros: Build and accessory pack
– Comfortable fit
– Proper “subwoofer” driver configuration
– Sub-bass response is unique, with more focus on the density of notes than impact
– Good layering
Cons: Sub-bass has softened impact, might be an issue for those expecting robust bass
– Truthear Zero has thin, lifeless lower-midrange
– Scooped mid-bass region hurts impact of snare hits and thins out baritone vocals
– Dark, grainy treble
– Upper-mid shout may sound more pronounced due to lack of treble presence
– Middling technical performance


Reviewer collaborations are all the rage now. At the beginning, it was more of a novelty than a marketing shtick. At present, it’s rarer to not see a “tuned by X influencer” tag instead.

Truthear is a relatively new brand, but they chose to collaborate with Crinacle for their very first mainstream offering. Crin has been tuning IEMs for a while, and some of them have been quite popular e.g. the Blessing2 Dusk. Truthear Zero is the latest in the line of Crinacle-tuned IEMs and has a rather unique dual-driver setup where one driver acts as a true “woofer”.

Does the novel driver setup and Crinacle’s signature tuning manage to elevate the Zero above the rest of the competition? Or is another flavor-of-the-week that will soon have the spotlight stolen? Let’s find out.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. ShenzhenAudio was kind enough to send me the Truthear X Crinacle Zero for evaluation.
This review originally appeared on

Source used: Questyle CMA-400i
Price, while reviewed: $50.


The packaging of the Truthear Zero has the trendy “waifu” cover art. In fact, the unit I received also came with an acrylic replica of the pictured character, named “Virgo”.


Otaku-fanservice aside, we also get 6 pairs of silicone eartips (2 types), 1 pair of foam tips, and a nice carrying case. The stock cable is good for the price, though the memory hook is stiff. The carrying case looks and feels nice, but offers little protection.



The entire shell is made out of resin with a glittery faceplate. I quite like the hue of blue on the Truthear Zero.


There is one vent near the 2-pin connector, which are recessed thankfully. Crossover circuit can also be seen near the connectors. While the build is generally good, the shells are smudge prone and slippery. So keep a cleaning cloth handy.


The Truthear Zero are very comfortable due to their pseudo-custom shape, and they offer good isolation.


The IEMs were tested with stock cable and eartips. Questyle CMA-400i was used as a source. The Truthear Zero is fairly easy to drive with any budget dongle.



Truthear Zero uses two dynamic drivers in an asymmetric orientation: one near the nozzle (tweeter) and the woofer is closer to the center of the shell.

The larger 10mm “woofer” uses an LCP diaphragm with a PU suspension. The smaller “tweeter” clocks in at 7.8mm, and while the diaphragm and suspension material remains same, the voice coil is changed to a lighter CCAW material.


The crossover circuit acts almost as a low-pass filter with the low-frequencies being solely handled by the woofer, and the tweeter having no response in sub-bass frequencies.


Truthear Zero has a near-Harman 2019-esque frequency response. This essentially means a “clean boost” of sub-bass from 200Hz downwards, and an aggressive rise to the upper-mids from the low-mid region.

Also, this leads to a strange hollowness in the mid-bass region, something “mid-bass bad” crowd will probably try to pass off as a positive, but it is not often the case.


Speaking of bass, the Truthear Zero has a detached sounding sub-bass akin to a 2.1 speaker setup. This is perhaps the intended tuning decision. Sub-bass has good density and dominates the scene in many electronic and live tracks. However, there is a softness to the sub-bass that makes it sound more polite than one would expect. Sub-bass rumble is not the strongest either.

Mid-bass is utterly devoid of body and slam. The bass is thus solely defined by the sub-bass emphasis near 50Hz. As a result of mid-bass hollowness and a near 12dB rise in the upper-mids, midrange is dominated by the upper-registers.

Snare hits lack body, baritone vocals sound thin, soaring male vocals get screechy and strained. Female vocals in bass-light tracks veer towards shoutiness.

Add to that the dark treble, which lacks sparkle and extension. As a result upper-mids gain further focus. Needless to say that this kind of tuning did not work well with my metal/rock focused library, and the occasional acoustic tracks and singer/songwriter pieces were marred by the shoutiness in the upper-mids.

Staging is average, imaging is mostly left and right. Not a technical tour-de-force in those regards. Layering is surprisingly good though, probably one of the strengths here. Overall resolution is middling.

Microdynamics are good, while macrodynamic punch is lacking due to the lack of mid-bass and dark mid and upper-treble.


vs Final E3000

Final E3000 has a more physical, impactful bass. They have superior male vocals in comparison but female vocals are noticeably more laid back than the Truthear Zero.

E3000 also has better treble definition and extension, wider staging and far superior imaging. The areas where the Truthear Zero trounce the E3000 are: build, vocal clarity, and far simpler amplification needs. E3000 need a good source to shine, which adds to the cost.

vs BLON BL-05S

Compared to the Truthear Zero, BL-05S lack bass impact and rumble. Bass is in fact the weakest aspect of the BL-05S.

Things get very different as we move upward the frequencies, with the BL-05S being far more resolving in treble and mids. Imaging and separation are superior on the BLON as well.

One caveat of the BL-05S is that they need cable and tip change, whereas Truthear Zero is good to go in stock form. If you need a more technically accomplished pair under $50, BL-05S will be a better pick.


Truthear Zero aces the frequency response graph game. If you primarily base your purchase decisions on a pair of IEMs hitting a specific target, the Truthear Zero will be right up your alley. Also, those preferring Harman-ish tuning should be happy with the tuning here.

Unfortunately for me, most rock, metal, and pop songs sound odd and lack the body and density I expect, especially if the vocalist is male. The Zero fare better in instrumentals and female vocal based tracks, but there are better options in this price range if those are your priorities.

In the end, the driver configuration is the most interesting aspect of the Truthear Zero, and there is nothing wrong with that. They just do not stand out enough in terms of technicalities, and the shouty vocals followed by dark treble doesn’t make things better.

I hope Truthear reigns down the upper-mids and focuses on refining the treble on the next release, and if a dose of mid-bass is added with that – color me interested.
I purchased these recently, and these IEMs give me a conflicting feeling. The sound signature (i.e. Harman 2019) is one that I prefer and I'm amazed at the sound quality I get for just 50$. Now I'm interested in the Truthear Nova which (allegedly) has the same tuning as the Moondrop Variations, an IEM that's 5x its price.


500+ Head-Fier
Stumbling Blocks
Pros: Lightweight
- Warm-neutral tuning that facilitates easy-listening
- Good stock cable
- Comfortable for long listening sessions
Cons: Atrocious build quality, cheap materials throughout
- Mushy transients, poor resolution
- Lack end-to-end extension
- Poor dynamics
- Claustrophobic staging, flat imaging
- Superior alternatives exist at even lower price points
void - cover 2.jpg

Getting out of your comfort zone to expand your horizon is easier said than done. Such an endeavor is met with hardships, failures, and oftentimes – ridicule. Companies take serious risks when trying to do something new.

Moondrop is one of the most established IEM manufacturers around. So when Moondrop announced its upcoming range of headphones across various price points, it was met with commendation and skepticism.

Everyone had one question: will these headphones be any better than the already established options on the market?

The Void are Moondrop’s first full-sized headphones and are priced the lowest of the three planned models. Concerningly, the Void were already released a couple of months back but were halted due to some feedback regarding critical build quality issues.

Moondrop claims to have fixed those build quality concerns and that the revised Void, which we are looking at today, are now ready for primetime.

Or are they? Let’s find out.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.
Thank you, ShenzhenAudio, for providing the Moondrop Void for review purposes.


The Void come in a plain cardboard box, with nothing much to write home about apart from the anime art on top.

void - package.jpg

The stock cable has a black sheathing that’s quite flexible. I do not see any need to replace the stock cable unless you really want to use balanced outputs.

void - cable.jpg

There is also an aftermarket cable option available from Moondrop: the Line V – priced at about 20% of the headphone’s cost. It’s an 8-core silver-plated copper (SPC) cable with a 4.4mm termination. I find the sheathing stiffer than the stock cable, and the sonic benefits on the Void, at least, are negligible.

void - cable 2.jpg


The Moondrop Void have a fully plastic build with a metal headband that feels cheaper than some headphones at ¼ of their price.

I will get it right out of the way – the Moondrop Void fail spectacularly on the build quality front. If a solid build and long-term durability are major concerns – the Void are sure to disappoint.

void - cover.jpg

From afar, the Void do not look that objectionable. Sure, the white finish might not suit everyone’s taste, but the clean lines and utilitarian design seem apt for a product of their price class.

void - earcup.jpg

Sadly, once you pick them up, disappointment creeps in.

The original version rattled and creaked every time someone looked at them wrong. Moondrop spent two months refining them and fixing some critical build issues. So far, I have found only three changes from the OG version of the Void to this current version:
  • The plastic parts have a new finish. The previous one had a rubbery texture. The revised version has a matte finish with no such “grippiness.” This is a downgrade in terms of feel in hand.
  • Rubber stoppers were added to the hinge so that the earcups do not make the “clack” sound when pressed against the headband part. An improvement over the original.
  • The hinge is less squeaky and the swivel mechanism is not as abrupt, with more tension between the cups and the headband. The OG version tended to exert pressure near the swivel point. Another improvement.
Considering all the above-mentioned changes, the Moondrop Void still feels cheap and poorly built. This is somewhat ironic given Moondrop has clearly been “inspired” by the design of the Sennheiser HD650/600 headphones – some of the most robust headphone gear out there.

void - build.jpg

To further explain my point, let’s look at the individual components. The earcups have an oblong shape, not entirely unlike the oval earcups of the Sennheisers. Both ear cups have a 3.5mm input at the bottom, unlike the proprietary connector on the Sennheisers.

void - port.jpg

This is where the significant differences end. The yoke design is very similar, with the earcups striking the top of the hinge when tilted backward.

Sennheiser does it better, though, as they dampen the movement of the earcups before hitting the frame. Void’s earcups hit the frame directly with no friction in between, resulting in a loud clack.

void - hinge.jpg

The swivel mechanism is also similar, as the metal band is affixed to the hinge with covers on both sides and rotates across a plastic bit. The Sennheiser HD650 meanwhile has no cover on the inner side, so it has smoother movement.

Lastly, the headband is practically the same. Two different padded areas on top to reduce hot spots, the metal band itself being a two-piece design, and the same method of removing the padded area from the headband (pop open the plastic bit and the ends of the headband).

void - headband 2.jpg

In the end, the Moondrop Void feels like a cheap imitation of the legendary Sennheiser cans.

In a sense, I get Moondrop’s thought process – why reinvent the wheel? Sadly, the execution leaves too much to be desired.

Getting back to the other parts of the headphones, the earpads are Moondrop’s own design. They use a heavily vented surround to tune the sound. As a result, I am not sure if many third-party ear-pads will fit the Void without significantly changing the sound, for better or worse.

The foam padding inside the earpads also feels mushy and cheap. No saving grace here for Moondrop, none at all.

void - pads.jpg

Comfort and isolation​

On a positive note, the lightweight design and low clamp pressure result in a very comfortable wear. The Void are suitable for long listening sessions and do not introduce any hotspots around the head.

Isolation is almost non-existent due to the open-back design. Not a con, just how things are meant to be.

void - pads 2.jpg


The Moondrop Void use 50mm metal-deposited PET diaphragm drivers with a corrugated surround.

The drivers are nothing special in terms of diaphragm material – the metal coating might be Aluminum or Titanium, Moondrop doesn’t state their exact nature. Moreover, only the dome is metal plated, with the surround being regular PET.


The corrugated surround was first seen on Sennheiser’s HD580 headphones. This design helps reduce driver break-up at high frequencies, reducing distortion in those regions.

I do not see any specific damping material within the driver chassis. The chassis is surprisingly hollow, with only a thin film-like material covering the top and bottom of the driver assembly. The earpads are very easy to remove, however, with just a tug from one of the corners being enough.

Moondrop Void Sound​

The Moondrop Void have warm-neutral tuning with a noticeable emphasis towards mid-bass and darkened treble.

The mid-bass elevation is not too apparent from the graphs. What’s noticeable, though, is the de-emphasized presence region that gives rise to certain characteristics of the Void’s tuning.

void - graph.jpg


The bass on the Void lack rumble at the extreme end and tends to roll-off past 70Hz quite dramatically. Moondrop tries to counter-balance this by adding some emphasis between 100-300Hz.

Unfortunately, said emphasis further highlights the lack of texture in the mid-bass. Moreover, the bass is slow and somewhat nebulous, as can be heard on American Football’s Where Are We Now.

In fast-paced bass sections, notes tend to blur into each other. This also makes the Void a poor performer when it comes to EDM or such sub-bass heavy tracks with lots of synthesized low notes.


Lower-mids sound muddy and veiled. Upper-mids fare better, with female vocals having more up-front presentation. Sadly, guitar riffs sound dampened, lacking their natural energy. The same applies to acoustic tracks where the leading edge of notes is over-smoothened.

This works in cases where the tracks are poorly recorded since the Void manage to suppress compression artifacts and other anomalies quite well.

Unfortunately, if it’s resolution you are after, the Void will disappoint.


The good thing about the treble is that it’s inoffensive and has the correct timbre. Cymbal hits sound natural without any hint of metallic sheen or sibilance.

Due to the aforementioned dip in lower treble, the hi-hats and cymbals are all put in the background as bass and vocals take the center stage. If you are after finding nuances in the mix, especially in the highs, the Void won’t offer that.

Soundstage and imaging​

Soundstage is closed-in and lacks any sense of depth. This is an extremely poor showing for a pair of open-backs which are usually known for their open soundstage or at least the illusion of one.

To add insult to injury, the imaging is completely flat, with no sense of ordinal orientation.

Some budget IEMs offer better positional cues.

Dynamics and speed​

Macrodynamic punch is severely lacking due to the lack of sub-bass rumble and overall treble extension. Microdynamics (gradual shifts in volume) are also barely noticeable, if at all.

Speed, as already mentioned, is on the slow side. This results in fast-paced tracks sounding somewhat lethargic and lacking engagement.

void - headband.jpg


Vs Hifiman HE400se (Grille-modded)​

The Hifiman HE400se are the cheapest planar magnetic headphones in Hifiman’s lineup. Usually, Hifiman is known for sketchy build quality, but when compared to the Void, the HE400se are far superior both in terms of materials and feel in hand.

The Void do come with a better stock cable, but even with a basic third-party cable for the HE400se, you are looking at a substantially lower price point.

As for the sound, I will be comparing the Void with the grille-modded HE400se due to two reasons:
  • The grille-mod does not require any special tools or skills
  • The grille-mod is easily reversible
Just to reiterate, the grille-mod brings about more emphasis in the sub-bass, better extension in that region, along with smoother highs. The soundstage is also expanded laterally at the cost of slight imaging precision.

The Void have a more substantial mid-bass punch than the modded HE400se, but the Hifiman have faster and slightly more textured bass (though neither are that good in terms of bass texture).

As for the mids, the Void are warmer while the Hifiman are leaner due to a dip near 1.5kHz. This tends to make male vocals sound somewhat thinner. However, female vocals sound wonderful without any shout or shrillness.

Treble has noticeable planar timbre on the HE400se, while the Void are more timbrally accurate. However, overall resolution, staging, and imaging are noticeably superior on the Hifiman cans.

In short, the Hifiman HE400se absolutely outclass the Moondrop Void for about half the price.

Unless you really abhor the thinness in the mids on the Hifiman (which applies to even far higher-end Hifiman models, by the by), the Void will be a pass.

Vs Sennheiser HD 560S​

Sennheiser’s HD 560S manage to bring some meaningful improvement over their older brethren and are priced similarly to the Moondrop Void.

Both are plastic in terms of build, but the HD 560S feel better put together. The overall fit and finish are also better on the Sennheisers.

As for the sound quality, HD 560S go for a slightly bright-tilted neutrality, thanks to some emphasis between 5-6kHz. This peak tends to make them somewhat fatiguing when listening to poorly mastered tracks, but in most recordings, things are fine.

The 560S also have a deeper, wider stage (though again – not that wide or deep in the grander scheme of things). Imaging is more precise on the Senns, and general resolution and speed are superior.

The Void have a more easygoing signature and will not cause fatigue in tracks with poor mastering, but that’s about it. In all other aspects, the Sennheiser headphones reign supreme.


Getting out of your comfort zone is never easy and warrants some applause. Moondrop has branched out from IEMs into full-sized headphones with the Void release. The tuning is not bad; in fact, the Void are one of the few warmly tuned, full-sized, open-backs under USD$200.

Moondrop deserves some kudos for trying, but in many ways, the Void are failures. No sugar-coating that.

The build quality is worse than certain headphones at half the Void’s price tag, and the overall technical performance is very disappointing. Unfortunately, the inoffensive tuning doesn’t excuse the myriad of other issues that cropped up along the way.

In short: aVoid (for the lack of a better pun).

Interesting how matching the target did not help this headphone that much.
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500+ Head-Fier
Singular Focus
Pros: Great build, unique design
- Very comfortable to wear for longer periods
- Good battery life with the case
- Smooth, analogue-ish tuning that’s never fatiguing
- Exceptional technicalities given the TWS landscape
Cons: Somewhat bulky shells that do not have the most secure fit
- No ANC
- No app support
- Touch controls are unreliable
- The microphones pick up too much noise in crowded areas
- Slight treble emphasis might be a problem for those who abhor brightness
ze3000 - handling.jpg

Final is a company that rarely, if ever, follows current trends. They took their sweet time before unveiling the ZE3000, their first pair of mainstream TWS IEMs. In the past, they did some collaboration IEMs in the form of the EVA series, but the ZE3000 truly kickstart their wireless lineup.

Unfortunately, the market is teeming with competition, and newcomers are often met with familiar failings. Do Final manage to avoid the pitfalls and stand out amidst a sea of also-rans? Or are the ZE3000 bound to be overshadowed?

Let’s find out.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.
Disclaimer, or lack thereof: I purchased this unit with my own funds.

Build and the Rest

ze3000 - cover 2.jpg

The case can be opened using one hand. The LED bar on the front shows the battery level and doubles as a charging indicator.

The carry case design is my favorite after the diminutive Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro case. It has a DSLR-body-like texture on top that Final refers to as “Shibo” finish.

ze3000 - case.jpg

Shibo” in Japanese means wrinkled paper, and the ZE3000’s exterior texture evokes the feeling of touching a paper-like material.

The shape is perfect to hold on your palm, and the magnetic clasp is satisfyingly crisp when operating. It’s also very pocketable and can barely be felt while in a trouser pocket. The type-C port is on the bottom of the case.

The case holds an additional 28 hours of charge, coupled with the 7 hours of battery life in the IEMs. I need to charge them about once a week during regular use using the AptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec. Your mileage may vary.

The Final ZE3000 take about 1.5 hours to charge fully. There is no quick charge function, sadly.

ze3000 - cover.jpg

The triangular region beside the final logo on the faceplate acts as a touch-sensitive panel. Unfortunately, this panel is too “trigger-happy” and gets activated while trying to adjust the IEMs.

Touch accuracy is atrocious, with accidental activations being common.

This poor control scheme is the most annoying part of the ZE3000, and Final should go back to the drawing board for a better mechanism.

Here’s a short rundown of the available controls:
  • Tapping the left or right earpiece once pauses or plays the music.
  • A long press results in the earpieces shutting down.
  • Tapping on the left or right earpiece twice turns the volume down or up; respectively.
  • Triple tapping results in the activation of the voice assistant on your phone.
  • Pressing and holding the right/left earpiece until a beep sound skips to the next/previous song, respectively.

ze3000 - build 2.jpg

The ZE3000 stand out in terms of design and build with a distinct shape accentuated by the sharp angles and a bulging profile. The large shell is surprisingly comfortable to wear thanks to the flattened inner faceplate and the excellent E-type TWS ear tips.

ze3000 - build 3.jpg

The interfaces for charging are on the inner side of the IEM, alongside the channel markings. The entire surface has the same “Shibo” finish as the shells. Fingerprints and smudges are not visible at all. The added texture also helps to add grip.

My one nitpick is the need sometimes to adjust the IEMs.

Using the right-sized ear tips and pushing the IEMs deep into the canal is crucial for obtaining an ideal fit and sound. As a result, you may need to fiddle with the IEMs while running or working out since they sometimes lose their seal.

Final utilizes their self-developed 6mm F-core DU drivers in the ZE3000. An ingenious damping scheme consists of a front and back acoustic cavity to equalize pressure within the driver housing. This design allowed Final to eliminate any vents while avoiding driver flex.

ze3000 - driver.jpg

The mic has good voice pickup in quiet places but falls apart the moment noise creeps in. Wind noise is especially destructive and, at times, renders the mics useless.


Final ZE3000 have a V-shaped tuning with some added warmth in the mids.

Before going further with the sound impressions, I’d like to note that the Final ZE3000 are quite sensitive to ear tip changes. I use the stock ear tips, and while they are perfect for me, some have reported benefitting from trying out other tips.

If the treble is too much for your ears, a different type of ear tips might help.

ze3000 - graph.jpg

The bass response here is mostly sub-bass focused, though the mid-bass punch is not overshadowed. The bass emphasis somewhat clouds the lower-midrange while adding heft to male vocals. Bass has good rumble, but the texture lags behind certain wired IEMs in this range.

Transients are uncannily sharp for a pair of TWS IEMs, with the leading edge of acoustic and electric guitars having a certain crispness. This allows the ZE3000 to handle even complex tracks with multiple instruments playing in unison.

There is no shoutiness in the mids, and the vocals sound correct for the most part. Male vocals are slightly pulled back, while female vocals are more up-front. The treble has a noticeable peak around 7kHz (and might shift upward in case of deeper insertion). It rolls off rather quickly after that, with a final peak around 14kHz.

The mid-treble peak can give rise to sibilance in very rare cases (e.g., David Bowie’s Under Pressure) and adds a sense of “zing” to hi-hats and cymbals. I did not find the treble too offensive for the most part, but it’s something to take note of.

In terms of dynamics and speed, the driver is one of the fastest in the TWS space. Staging is exceptionally wide but not as deep as certain higher-tier wired IEMs. Imaging is very good for instrument cardinal and ordinal placement, though center-imaging suffers.

The macrodynamic punch is good, with sudden bass drops having an impressive impact, even though Bluetooth’s compression rears its ugly head. Microdynamics (subtle shifts in volume level) are better represented.

General resolving prowess is reaching wired IEMs territory here, as you can pick up any pair of wired IEMs in the USD$100-$200 range, and the ZE3000 will be competitive. Apart from the recession in the lower mids and the somewhat zingy treble at times, I have no complaints.

There is no ANC, but the passive isolation is very good, if not excellent.


vs Sony WF-1000XM4​

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are the flagship TWS IEMs from Sony and demand a significantly higher price tag than the Final ZE3000.

With the extra bucks, you get app support, ANC, wear detection, and other smart features exclusive to the Sony IEMs. If you need ANC and such, you can skip this section entirely and pick the WF-1000XM4. If you can compromise, read on.

ze3000 - comparison.jpg

The Final ZE3000 have been outpaced so far, but they gain back momentum with their sound quality alone.

The ZE3000 are more resolving than the WF-1000XM4, and the bass is tighter and faster with better texture.

The mids have outstanding clarity, and the treble has noticeably more sparkle. Staging is very wide, even when compared to wired IEMs. Imaging is also touch more precise. Stage depth and overall smoothness of the sound are the only areas where the Sony IEMs have the upper hand.

In short: if you only need good sound, save the extra bucks and get the ZE3000 – they simply sound better. If you need all the smart features, the WF-1000XM4 are hard to beat.


Final gave up a lot in pursuing raw sound quality without DSP wizardry or forceful equalization.

They’ve succeeded in that effort, as the ZE3000 sound like a wired pair of IEMs in the same price bracket. The rendition of wired fidelity in a wireless setup is reason enough to applaud.

However, you will be disappointed if you want all the bells and whistles. Final’s singular focus on sound quality comes at the expense of smart lifestyle features that consumers have come to expect. The finicky touch controls further compound that issue.

Despite all their shortcomings, I highly recommend the ZE3000, as they sound delightful. They perform their most important task admirably; sometimes, that’s all one needs.


500+ Head-Fier
Cutting the Right Corners
Pros: Sleek design, excellent build, and ergonomics
- High output power, selectable gain levels (via app)
- Excellent performance in terms of objective parameters
- The Moondrop Link app is handy
- Frugal
- Neutral tuning that does not veer into analytical territory
Cons: Fixed cable, no Apple Lightning version available
- No single-ended output
- Not the best match for certain low-impedance, low-sensitivity loads (lower than 16 ohms)
- No MQA certification
dawn - build.jpg

DAC-Amp dongles are a dime a dozen these days. Not too long ago, most IEM manufacturers would purely focus on earphones and perhaps cables. The sources were left to dedicated source manufacturers.

Things have changed now, as popular brands are coming up with their own dongles. Moondrop also wanted in on the fun and introduced the MoonRiver 2 as their top-of-the-line offering.

The Dawn aims to cater to mid-range buyers instead and comes in two different flavors: 3.5 (only single-ended output) and 4.4 (only balanced output). The Dawn 4.4 stands out between the two with its superior output power, lower distortion figures, and significantly higher channel separation.

Can the Dawn 4.4 stand out amidst a sea of competitors? Read on to find out.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.


The Dawn comes in a very interesting container, with an aluminum can serving as both the packaging and carrying case.

The DAC/Amp and accessories sit inside a foam cutout to prevent damage during transport.

dawn - package.jpg


Moondrop absolutely nailed the industrial design of the Dawn 4.4.

The cylindrical shape with no buttons or protrusions on the sides makes the Dawn 4.4 a joy to hold. The transparent cable-sheathing adds to the glamor and gives it a unique look.

The anodized aluminum shell is spray-painted and resistant to RF interference. A solitary LED button on top glows orange during operation. On top, there is the 4.4mm balanced output.

dawn - cover 2.jpg

The bone of contention here is the fixed USB type-C cable.

As such, no native compatibility with iPhones since you’ll need an adapter to get it working. Also, this raises concerns about long-term durability.

I am not too concerned about the durability here since there is ample strain relief all around. Also, a detachable cable has its downsides too (mainly, the mechanical stress exerted during transport), so it’s not all so black and white.

dawn - cable 2.jpg


The Dawn 4.4 connects directly to Android phones, Macbooks, and iPads without any external driver or app installation. You will need the windows driver to get things working properly for Windows.

The Moondrop Link iPhone and Android app allows finer customization of features, including gain level, controlling the LED light, selecting reconstruction filter, etc.

Power Consumption​

Optimization here is good for a dual-DAC device, with the Dawn 4.4 drawing approximately 400mW of power from USB at 25% volume.

The Apple dongle has a noticeably lower power draw at a similar volume (approx. 150mW) but does not sound as dynamic or detailed as the Dawn.

Something’s gotta give, I guess.


Moondrop went for the tried and tested CS43131 chipset by Cirrus Logic. It is basically the CS43198 with an onboard amp, so you are getting similar specs to the nearly three times more expensive MoonRiver 2.

dawn - cover.jpg

There are a pair of dual-crystal oscillators that further improve jitter performance. Overall, a very competent design from the folks at Moondrop.

Moondrop Dawn 4.4 Sound​

The Dawn 4.4 has a neutral sound signature with a slightly lean-sounding midrange.

It does not sound analytical or harsh. However, the mids are not the most lush or engaging, if those are the terms. Treble does not exhibit any glare, and staging and imaging are fairly good for a small DAC/Amp.

Macrodynamic punch is decent and microdynamics (subtle shifts in volume) are not as obvious as they are on some higher-end sources. At this price, though, that would be nitpicking.

I like the output power, especially when connected to a laptop or PC. It can drive full-size headphones with authority (unless we are talking about low-impedance, low-sensitivity monsters).

The voltage swing is not high enough to fully drive high-impedance dynamic driver headphones but most IEMs will be driven with authority. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the Dawn 4.4 complemented the Hifiman HE-400se.

Even planar magnetics can be powered by the Dawn 4.4 – unless we are talking about very inefficient designs.

dawn - pairing.jpg

One area where the Dawn 4.4 falls short: powering low impedance, low sensitivity IEMs. One such example is the Final E5000. Having just 14 ohms impedance and 92 dB/mW sensitivity (both of which get lower with frequency), most portable devices fail to power them properly.

The Dawn 4.4 is no exception. They can get the E5000 loud, but the bass lacks control, and treble air is reduced. Staging and imaging suffer as a result.

This, however, is an extraordinary case and does not apply to most IEMs.


The Moondrop Dawn 4.4 is the second cheapest dongle in my collection, with the least expensive being the Apple dongle. As a result, the comparison is a bit unfair on paper.

Quloos MC01​

The Quloos MC01 is a more interesting comparison. It has the exact same specifications on paper, with the only difference being added digital power filters, a single-ended output, volume buttons, and an OLED display.

The MC01 sounds more detailed than the Dawn, but can veer into “information overload” territory. The slightly more laid-back nature of the Dawn is more agreeable to my ears. Power figures are similar between them.

If you do not need the display or the buttons of the MC01, the Dawn 4.4 is a great alternative at one-fourth the price.

Questyle M15​

The final comparison is against the best dongle I have in my collection, and the best I have tried until now: Questyle M15. It doesn’t have a display or buttons but makes up for all those with the sound.

Sadly, the Dawn 4.4 is no match for the M15, with the Questyle dongle displaying better dynamics, transparency, and imaging than the Dawn. Only stage width is slightly better on the Dawn 4.4. Power draw is even lower on the Questyle.

Then you look at the price tag – four times the cost of the Dawn 4.4! So the Dawn 4.4 wins the “price-to-performance” battle.



Moondrop did a great job with Dawn 4.4. For a mere USD$10 extra over the single-ended Dawn 3.5, you get almost twice the output power, much better channel separation, better noise performance, and a dongle that can drive some planar headphones.

Some corners were cut, namely a lack of buttons and display. Also, no single-ended output means you have to have a balanced cable with your IEMs or headphones.

If you have already subscribed to the “balanced” lifestyle, the Dawn 4.4 is a no-brainer when it comes to mid-range dongles. I struggle to find another dongle that offers the same level of sound quality under USD$100.

Subjectively and objectively, the Moondrop Dawn 4.4 is a great product and earns my recommendation.


500+ Head-Fier
A Good First Attempt
Pros: Solid build
– Very lightweight
– Warm-neutral tuning
– Four audio modes that provide noticeable sonic difference
– Strong Bluetooth connection
– Changing reconstruction filters alter presentation subtly but noticeably
– Good output power from balanced out
Cons: No carrying case in the box
– Fingerprint-magnet front
– Single-ended output is essentially useless
– Decent but not great battery life
– Slightly lacking in dynamics compared to certain wired alternatives
– No companion app, convoluted firmware upgrade process


IKKO Audio has been slowly, but steadily growing into the audiophile scene over the past few years. The IKKO OH10 managed to snag a place in our Wall of Excellence, and enjoy a cult-following amidst those preferring well-tuned V-shaped signature.

As such, IKKO is now transitioning into portable source market, and the ITB03 (codenamed: Heimdallr) is its debut BT DAC/Amp offering. The competition is fairly stiff in this space, with the likes of Quedelix, Fiio, Shanling, and Radsone leading the pack.

Can the IKKO ITB03 stand out with its features and sonic performance, or will the first attempt be a forgettable one? Let’s find out.

This review originally appeared on Audioreviews.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. iKKO was kind enough to send me the ITB03 for evaluation.

Sources used: Pixel 4 XL
Price, while reviewed: USD$150. Can be purchased from IKKO’s official website.


The IKKO ITB03 doesn’t have a lot of extras in terms of accessories. You get three different cables: type-C to type-C, type-C to lightning, and a type-C to type-A cable. That’s about it. No carrying case in the package which is a bummer.


General build quality is good, as the ITB03 goes for the usual glass-and-metal sandwich design. The glass front and back attracks loads of fingerpirnts and smudges, so keep a microfiber cloth handy.


The right side of the device holds all the buttons. The volume up/down buttons are flanked by the enter/function key. At the bottom, there is the power on/off and menu key combo. More on this later. The left side hosts the microphone that can be used for phone calls.


The top of the device has the 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended outputs. The single-ended output also acts as an optical output. At the bottom, there is a type-C port. On the top of the device there is a 64*128 px OLED display that shows some basic information. The back of the device houses the NFC chip for easier pairing.


Overall, the build quality is robust, and the OLED display adds a bit of flair in an otherwise utiliatrian design.


As I am lazy to type out the specs, here’s a screenshot from IKKO Audio’s product page regarding output power and chipset specifications.


While the BT version is not the latest 5.2, 5.0 is absolutely fine as the improvements are mostly in power management. The ITB03 supports LDAC/APTX/APTHD on the bluetooth codec side, and can decode DSD as well as PCM upto 384kHz (not sure who’s using such high sample rate files though).

The biggest omission here is a companion app, which could have considerably increased usability of the device. iKKO could then stash some of the filter options and other settings into the app itself, along with allowing the use of basic or parametric EQ.

The ITB03 allows you to tweak certain aspects of the device, especially the sound. There are 4 different filters, and each alter the sound subtly but noticeably. Filters 1 to 4 are respectively: Sharp, Short-delay Sharp, Slow, Short-delay Slow. For this review, I stuck with Filter 1 (Sharp) for the most part.

You can also choose if the device should charge when connected as a USB device. There is Car Mode (turns on when connected to a power source, off when disconnected), brightness control at 6 levels, and four different “sound profiles”.

These sound profile offer various colorations, and they can feel heavy-handed at times, especially the “Movie mode” which adds some excitement into the sound by boosting bass, widening the stage, etc. The Music mode is default for wireless operation, while Game Mode allows driverless installation of the device to use with PCs.

However, the HiFi mode is meant for wired use exclusively, and unlocks high sample rate and bit-depth options using UAC 2.0 mode. Lastly, you can select gain level (low/high) from the menus, and that concludes the list of functions in the menus.

The ITB03 also allows upgrading the firmware. As of writing this review, version 2.0 of the firmware is out (it just got out like a couple days ago). However, I found the upgrade process overly convoluted, and I am fairly certain that less tech-savvy people will find the whole process very confusing. Another task that rests on iKKO’s hands.


Carrying around the ITB03 is straightforward: put it into your pocket and just go about your day. iKKO has told me that a carrying case is in development, and I wish they also consider throwing in a shirt-clip there.

General usability is a mixed bag. First up: pressing on the power button for two seconds takes you into the menu, and pressing for longer (about 5 seconds) turns the unit off. Meanwhile, double pressing the function key opens up Google Assistant/Siri/Bixby, but single-pressing doesn’t seem to do anything.


From an UX perspective, I would’ve preferred single-pressing the function key to get into the menu, long-pressing it to get out of menu, and allowing the user to choose if they’d like the double-pressing to trigger assistant option.

Another issue I have is the placement of the volume buttons, which are above and below the function button. They also serve double-duty as skip forward/backward buttons (long-pressing them does that). While navigating through menus, it’s annoying to shift the thumb up and down constantly while avoiding pressing the function button.

Lastly, I am not a fan of the tactile feedback the buttons provide. They are too stiff, which is good to avoid mistakenly pressing them, but adds up to the chore.


IKKO ITB03 has a 650 mAh battery inside with 8 hours of advertised battery life. In practice, it lasted me a bit more than 7 hours in LDAC mode. Note that battery life will vary depending on several factors (codec used, gain level, IEMs or hedphones used etc.).

Recharge time is fairly long at 1.5 hours. So with regular use, you have to charge once every 2-3 days, which is about average for a product of this class. I wish iKKO put in some fast-charging mode or a beefier battery to distinguish its product, but alas.


iKKO opted for a pair of AKM AK4377 DAC chips in a dual-mono configuration. This chipset is frugal, and often used in portable DAC/Amps since they offer fairly good performance in a compact format.

As for the op-amp, Ricore RT6863 has been used, which is another power efficient solution, albeit sound quality is not the most impressive. i expected iKKO to use 2 or these op-amps, one per DAC channel, but it appears that only 1 is being used, so I suppose that the built-in amp section of the AKM chips are also being used in conjunction with the dedicated Ricore op-amp.


The ITB03 has a warm-neutral, inoffensive signature. it pairs well with all types of IEMs, though the lack of macrodynamic punch might be a negative for those who need great bass slam and proper dynamics.

The biggest negative is the anemic output from the single-ended out, so I’d highly recommend going balanced if you plan on using the ITB03 as your daily driver.

Staging and imaging is not spectacular, but not bad either. The issue is stage depth, which is lacking compared to certain higher-end DAC-dongles. Fortunately, there is no noise or hiss, so even sensitive IEMs fare well.



ITB03 sounds smoother than the Fiio BTR5 in BT mode, and in wired mode it’s a bit less energetic in the upper-mids and treble while having a denser bass response. Shanling UP4 is slightly more aggressive sounding than both of them, but in the end, overall technicalities and dynamics are similar.

It’s splitting hairs between these three, but I personally like the design of ITB03 the most. Fiio BTR5 has the most powerful output, and the companion app is handy. It also has the OLED display as ITB03. UP4 is my least favorite one in this comparison, as I find the volume wheel somewhat finicky at times, and a lack of display makes operation cumbersome.

Battery life is better on the UP4 in single-DAC mode, though then you are sort of only half-using it. Overall, with a companion app, ITB03 would probably give the BTR5 harder competition. As of now, if you find the BTR5 more energetic and want something smoother, the ITB03 is a good option. Just know that you are stuck with the on-board functions.



It’s often difficult to transition from one kind of manufacturer to another. So, for an IEM maker to focus on sources, there is always some hurdles involved, along with the trials and tribulations of a first-gen product.

iKKO nailed the overall aesthetics of the ITB03, and manages to provide a sound that’s on par with the competition while offering a different flavor of things. Unfortunately, the lack of an app and the generally confusing UX and operation bares the unpolished nature of a debut product.

Nonetheless, the iKKO ITB03 performs within the margin of expectations, but doesn’t exceed them. It’s utilitarian without being exciting. That remains the next big challenge for iKKO – to come up with a source product that blows past the competition.

Once it manages to do so – color me intrigued.
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500+ Head-Fier
Future Cult Classics
Pros: Exceptionally well built
– Head-turner color scheme
– Gobs of output power
– Fully digital potentiometer
– Resolving-yet-natural signature
– Great staging and separation
– Excellent matching with most planars
– MQA certification and full MQA decoding
Cons: Heavy, bulky design
– No line-in/amp-only function
– Picky about USB cables
– Not for very sensitive IEMs

EarMen has made a name with its source gears, and the Angel is the flagship “portable” DAC-Amp offering in its lineup. This also happens to be the first Earmen product I’ll be reviewing, so there’s that.

From a market-positioning perspective, the Angel fills the niche of “portable powerhouse” DAC-Amps that have rather high output power, albeit in a less pocket-friendly manner compared to typical dongles. Usually the idea is to power inefficient planars and high impedance dynamic drivers while on-the-go, or perhaps to settle for a minimal setup that can be moved around in a pinch.

Does the Earmen Angel manage to carve a spot for itself, or is the first attempt at a powerhouse dongle a forgettable one? Let’s find out.

This artcile originally appeared on Audioreviews.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. Earmen was kind enough to provide me the Angel for review.

Headphones and IEMs used: Sennheiser HD650, Hifiman Arya Stealth, Hifiman HE-6se V2, Moondrop Venus, Dunu Zen, Final E5000

Price, while reviewed: $800. Can be bought from Earmen’s Official Store.


I received the Angel without any retail package, since back then a retail package was not even designed yet. So please check other reviews over at head-fi for a proper visual depiction of the packaging and accessories.


Exceptional, in one word. The blue finish is unique and makes the Angel stand out from a myriad of similarly-toned devices. I imagine this colorway could be divisive, but I find it flashy while being tasteful. A very fine line that Earmen manages to tread well.


The entire build is a three piece construction, with the front and back “caps” being held by 4 screws. The middle shell is milled out of a single piece of aluminum. The front panel of the device has the output jacks (4.4mm and 3.5mm respectively), gain switch, pre-amp mode selector, LED indicator, and the rotary encoder.


The rotary encoder has very smooth feedback with precise “steps” that have the right amount of feedback. It also doubles as the power buttons, since pressing it down is how you turn on or off the device. There is a slight wobble to the wheel for this reason but it’s very common for wheels that can be pressed downwards.


The LED indicator flashes between alternating colors depending on the input selected, the sampling rate/format of the file etc. A more detailed description can be found in the following.


The back houses two USB type-C ports: one for charging, and one for data transmission. The separated inputs are great to avoid any potential interference between the power and data lines, but poses a new challenge: finding a USB type-C cable that works.

Another oddity is the situation with fast chargers. Basically – the Angel do not charge at all with fast chargers. It turns out that Earmen recommends charging with 5V-2A chargers in the manual. So this limitation is by design.

Full recharge takes over 3 hours. Quite a long time, but the Angel holds charge really well. Standby drain is practically negligible. Moreover, the amp section does not even engage if no headphones are connected.

Now let’s move on the other ports on the back. You have the COAX/TOSLINK input, and finally two line-out ports in balanced or single-ended flavor. A curious omission here is a line-in. That way it would be possible to use the Angel as an amp alone. But alas.


Overall, flagship-grade build quality with no qualms whatsoever regarding the workmanship.


The Angel is rather substantial in size. You can grab it in one hand, but stacking together with a phone, for example, is quite impractical. I find the Angel more suited as a sort of “transportable” device than something truly portable. The 340gm of weight definitely hints toward that direction.

Battery life has been within expectations for a device of its class. When powering the Sennheiser HD650 and Hifiman Arya SE, the Angel lasted me about 7 hours on a single charge. The 2x3000mAh battery pack does the job, though I suspect using IEMs will yield slightly better results. Nonetheless, expect to charge every other day if you are a frequent user.

Another nifty usability feature is how the rotary encoder works. It acts as a fully digital potentiometer for one, and the volume is automatically reset to zero every time you unplug something or turn the unit off.

As a result, the chances of accidentally blasting your ears with high volume becomes diminutive. It does make volume-matching and comparing between multiple IEMs/headphones a chore, but that’s something you don’t do every day.

The dial also works as pre-amp volume control when the line-out voltage is set to “pre-out” via the switch on the front. Setting it to “direct” turns on fixed line-out mode instead, which is useful when connecting external amps.


Earmen does not specify the exact current at a specific load on their website. So I asked them for those figures and they told me that the output power of Angel is:
  • Single-ended: 1.62W @32 Ohm
  • Balanced: 2.25W @32 Ohm
The Sabre ES9038Q2M is used as the DAC chip, which is the highest end 2-channel Sabre DAC. The rest of the specs are as follows:



I find describing the tonality of digital sources a futile exercise, as most of the characteristics depend on the pairing with various headphones and IEMs. Nonetheless, there are some commonalities between all pairings, and in general the Earmen Angel has a “Reference” tuning. Which is another speak for: they are neutral and does not really emphasize on any frequencies.

There is a bit of “excitement” up top, which can be evident while pairing with some warm/laid-back gears, but it’s not overdone. The upper-mids/lower-treble show a hint of the infamous “Sabre glare”, though it’s not distracting and well under control. The staging was consistently wider than average. Rest of it is how it should be – uncolored, close to neutral.



The Angel pairs well with moderately sensitive IEMs with 16ohms or higher impedance. Anything lower with high sensitivity, and you will notice some hiss. Anything lower with low sensitivity (ala Final E5000), you’ll notice that IEMs sound underpowered.

I noticed some hiss with the Campfire Holocene and Dunu Zen (when using Gain+ mode especially). Granted – this DAC-Amp is way overkill for those sensitive IEMs but certain products in this category manages to handle IEMs just as well. I find the Angel to be more geared towards headphone use than IEMs for this reason.

On the positive side, output impedance is lower than 1ohm, so you should not have issues with multi-BA or hybrid IEMs having their frequency response thrown off.

A surprise exception was the current crop of planar IEMs, which paired wonderfully. Dynamics were spot on, and the staging was somewhat widened (a weakness of most if not all planar magnetic IEMs in the current market, the non-Audeze ones that is).


Powering headphones is where the Angel flexes its muscles, especially planar magnetic headphones that do not require absurd wattage.

I have tried a number of Hifiman planars with the Angel and apart from the HE-6se V2 (83dB/mW @ 50 ohms) – the rest of them were adequately powered. The pairing with Arya SE was something exceptional. Great bass slam, enveloping headstage, precise imaging, no harshness in treble – just wonderful all around. If you own an Arya SE – try the Angel.


Sennheiser’s high impedance dynamics were driven well too. The HD650 lacked the warmth and tactility that you get on an OTL tube amp, but it sounded as good as on any solid state amp. There is plenty of voltage swing here to fully power the drivers (usually HD650 and the likes require >= 6Vrms to sound their best, I will link to the calculations here if I can find them again).

A note about the Gain+ mode here: it adds some distortion to the sound which might be distracting esp on planars. I did not need to use the Gain+ mode that much but your mileage may vary. I’d recommend not using it until you absolutely need to.

Overall, if you are predominantly a headphone user, the Earmen Angel will be a fantastic source for most of them, unless all you own are the Hifiman Susvara, Abyss 1266, HEDDPHONE V2, or the likes. In which case – none of the portable sources can really help.


As standalone DAC

The DAC section is very competent and competes well with other desktop DACs in this range, e.g. SMSL M400. While those desktop DACs have more outputs and features like filter selection, the sonic differences are fairly minimal considering the massive difference in footprint. There’s also MQA decoding capabilities for those who believe in MQA.

As a result, I can see the Angel being a transportable all-in-one while on the go, and a nifty DAC connected to some powerful headphone amps when at home or desk. You may have to invest into some 4.4mm to XLR cables but the flexibility on offer is excellent.


vs iFi xDSD Gryphon

The iFi xDSD Gryphon has become one of the most popular portable DAC-Amps around. We reviewed it and found it to be a great all-rounder.

When it comes to build quality, both are exceptional. The Gryphon has a sleeker, more modern design, whereas the Angel has the subtlety of a muscle car. Poor car analogies aside, the weight difference between them is substantial, with the Gryphon being over 100gm lighter.

Despite the lighter weight, I don’t think Gryphon makes a suitable “stack” either, since the wide footprint makes it awkward to hold the phone and the Gryphon together. To aid in that, iFi has added Bluetooth DAC functionalities to Gryphon, which is absent on the Angel. Gryphon also has the ability to select different filters, and the on-screen display is a helpful addition.

The volume pot on the Gryphon is analog, vs the digital rotary encoder on the Angel. Gryphon also has hardware EQ functionalities which are fun to use.

The Angel has been on the backfoot until now, but it hits back with sheer output power. Planar magnetic and high impedance dynamics are far better driven on the Angel, with loads of headroom to spare. The DAC section is also better overall, with noticeably wider stage and better dynamics when connected to external amps.

The Gryphon pairs better with IEMs, and the IEMatch switch is another helpful addition. To summarize: for predominantly IEM usage and BT capabilities, the Gryphon is the better choice. For using as a standalone DAC and to power planars or high impedance dynamics – the Angel is a no-brainer.



The summary kind of writes itself – if you are a predominantly headphone user, and need something to carry on the go or act as a solid DAC when on the desk, the Earmen Angel is one of the best options out there. The build is excellent, the usability features handy, and the price is rather competitive when you consider the overall market of such devices.

The biggest downside here is the slight hiss with sensitive IEMs, and the lack of a line-in which would allow DAP users to use the Angel as an amp. Given the target demography, these are not deal breakers, as when connected to external amps or full-size cans the Angel just shine.

I think that the Earmen Angel will gain a following over time, as devices of their class usually do. As such, I have no qualms to recommend the Angel for headphone users who need something portable.
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Adnan Firoze
Adnan Firoze
Stellar review - amazingly balanced and perfectly detailed. Keep more coming!
Very nice and complete review...
As a Heddphone One and DCA Stealth user, I would say too most basic of the portable amps can't move properly, though I found at least 3 portable amps doing the Job nicely :
1) The Less BX2+ is really convincing, but it is bulky with a rather poor battery playing time (< 4 hours)
2) Centrance Ampersand does a very good job too and is rather compact, but with a poor battery playing time too, > 4 hours but less than 5 hours
3) Fiio M17 in enhanced audio mode with a proper external battery (samsung 12V 2A) is rather convincing too with at least a 5 hours playing time, so Q7 should to the Job too.

I think all of these portable amps are heavier than the Earmen Angel..


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Sleek design, excellent build, and ergonomics
- High output power given the form factor
- Anti-aliasing filters make a noticeable change in sound presentation
- Excellent performance in terms of objective parameters
- Probably the only dongle with selectable digital power filtration
- Highly detailed signature
- Excellent implementation of NOS (non-oversampling) mode
- Hardware volume buttons
Cons: - Edgy treble, too analytical at times (NOS filter fixes this)
- Better options available at the retail price
- Not the best match for certain low-impedance, low-sensitivity loads (lower than 16 ohms)
- No MQA certification
quloos - cover 3.jpeg


A wise man once told me, “premium dongles are akin to organic vegetables – just another way of emptying your pocket with virtually the same product.”

Now, I am clueless about the organic vegetable part as I rarely buy them (gotta save money for random audio gear, after all). But I have some idea about the premium dongle part, and I don’t completely disagree.

Premium dongles tend to shoehorn themselves into a niche that’s neither here nor there. You can buy a feature-rich DAP at their asking price, and their spec sheet is not overly dissimilar to much cheaper dongles.

Quloos is primarily known for its DAPs and desktop systems. The MC01 and MC01se are the first dongles in its lineup and bear a premium price tag. This runs the risk of suspicion on the buyer’s part, as we do not get to test out a cheaper variant first.

Let’s see if the MC01 manages to convince as legit competitor in the "premium dongle" market.

This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.
Thanks to ShenzhenAudio for sending the Quloos MC01 for review.


Quloos MC01 comes in no-frills packaging, with the dongle placed inside a foam cutout and the accessories set underneath.

quloos - package.jpg

In the box​

  • Quloos MC01 DAC/amp
  • USB type-C to type-C cable
  • USB type-C to lightning cable
  • USB type-C to type-A adapter
  • Magnetic mounting system
  • Adhesive mounting system
The mounting systems are rather nifty and allow you to “stack” the dongle to your phone. The magnetic mount is my favorite option, as the adhesive-based one tends to catch dirt and grime.


The Quloos MC01 is perhaps the sleekest dongle I have tried.

It’s CNC machined from a solid block of aluminum and has subtle design cues all around. The beveled edges, ridges around the chassis to enhance grip, and screwed bottom underneath allowing access to the PCB are all really well thought out.

quloos - cover 2.jpg

The anodized aluminum shell is spray-painted and resistant to RF interference. The OLED display is on top, with the hardware buttons placed on one side.

quloos - buttons.jpg

The top of the device houses the 3.5mm and 4.4mm ports, while the bottom has the USB type-C port. The display is a monochromatic OLED panel. By default, it shows the sample rate, volume level, gain mode, reconstruction filter in use, and power filtration mode.

quloos - cover.jpg

The buttons are used to navigate through the UI. One press of the mode button brings up the menu, and repeatedly pressing the button cycles through different options. You can use the volume buttons to change or adjust each of them.


The MC01 connects directly to Android phones, Macbooks, and iPads without any external driver or app installation. You will need the Windows driver to get things working properly for Windows.

iPhones are supported via the supplied type-C to lightning cable.

Power Consumption​

At 50% volume on the dongle side, the Quloos MC01 consumes nearly 600mW from the balanced output.

Granted, this is the power draw with the highest power filtration setting and high gain, but even then, this is really high for a dongle. Fortunately, for most IEMs, you’ll not need to push the dongle so hard.

In a typical “efficient IEMs” use case, expect somewhere between 300mW – 400mW of power draw.


Quloos went for the tried and tested CS43131 chipset by Cirrus Logic. It is basically the CS43198 with an onboard amp.

There are a pair of dual-crystal oscillators that further improve jitter performance. What’s unique with the MC01 is the use of triple LDO (Low-dropout regulator). The power filtration level is also selectable from the menus.

quloos - build.jpg

Quloos MC01 Sound​

The Quloos MC01 has a bright-leaning sound signature by default, though it can change noticeably via selecting different filters.

Using the default “fast” filter, the MC01 sounds somewhat analytical, with a noticeable glare in the treble region, causing most neutral, mid-forward, or bright IEMs to sound over-processed. It can get distracting, if not fatiguing.

Macrodynamic punch is decent, and microdynamics (subtle shifts in volume) are not as obvious as on some desktop sources. It’s more of a nitpick, though.

I like the output power, especially when connected to a laptop or PC. It can drive full-size headphones with authority (unless we are talking about low-impedance, low-sensitivity monsters).

The voltage swing needs to be higher to drive high-impedance dynamic driver headphones fully, but it powers most IEMs with authority.

Even planar magnetics can be decently powered with the Quloos MC01 – unless we are talking about very inefficient designs.

quloos - pairing.jpeg

One area where the MC01 falls short: powering low impedance, low sensitivity IEMs. One such example is the Final E5000. Having just 14 ohms impedance and 92 dB/mW sensitivity (both of which get lower with frequency), most portable devices fail to power them correctly.

The MC01 is no exception. They can get the E5000 loud, but the bass lacks control, and treble air is reduced. Staging and imaging suffer as a result.

This is an extraordinary case and does not apply to most IEMs.

The more polarizing aspect of the MC01 is the tuning itself. Apart from NOS mode, all the other filters have an aggressive, up-front signature that tends to add glare to the sound. Given most IEMs these days have prominent upper-mids, the end result is shoutiness galore.

As such, I mostly used the MC01 in NOS mode, which tended to smoothen the leading edge of notes (most noticeable on snare hits). Also, this mode simulates the nature of R2R DACs rather well, which is not the case for most such dongles.


The Quloos MC01 is the second most expensive dongle in my collection (priced between USD$200-$300), with the Questyle M15 being marginally more expensive.

Cayin RU6​

Cayin RU6 is an R2R-based dongle, which is unique in the dongle-verse. It comes with an OLED display and volume controls as well. The price is also close to the MC01, making a nice comparison.

Build quality is great on both. So let’s get straight to the sound. There is a marked difference in presentation between these dongles, even when both are set to NOS mode.

The RU6 sounds noticeably better in NOS mode than OS mode, so that’s what I used for this comparison. The RU6 is smoothed out in NOS mode, almost to a fault. Staging has good expansion, but depth is lacking somewhat. Imaging is also fuzzy in busy tracks.

The MC01 has a similar spread in terms of staging but resolves more when it comes to fine details. The MC01 also lacks the hiss that the RU6 exhibits with sensitive IEMs.

It doesn’t quite emulate the creaminess of the RU6, but it gets close. Imaging is also better on the RU6, with superior delineation between instruments.

Overall, I prefer the MC01 to the RU6, though I appreciate Cayin’s efforts in bringing R2R DAC architecture to a very compact form factor.

Questyle M15​

The final comparison is against the best dongle I have in my collection and the best I have tried until now: the Questyle M15. It doesn’t have a display or buttons but makes up for all those with the sound.

Sadly, the MC01 is no match for the M15, with the Questyle dongle displaying better dynamics, transparency, and imaging than the MC01. Only stage width is slightly better on the MC01 in NOS mode. The power draw is even lower on the Questyle.

Given their very close price tag, I’ll recommend the M15 in almost every case unless you really, really need that OLED display and volume buttons.

quloos - comparison.jpg


Quloos’ first-ever dongle is ill-marketed, in my opinion, as there is not a single word about the excellent NOS mode implementation in the promo materials. The focus is solely on power filtration settings, which made little to no sonic difference in practice.

The Quloos MC01 is decent, but being decent ain’t good enough anymore.

There exists a certain Questyle M15 that curb-stomps the dongle competition all around. It’s like bringing a knife into a gunfight, and Quloos just cannot keep up with the incoming barrage.
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500+ Head-Fier
Wireless Blues
Pros: One of the few open-backed, Bluetooth, planar-magnetic headphones
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Fairly decent battery life of the R2R BlueMini module, although less than advertised using the LDAC codec
- Multiple connectivity options in both wired and wireless modes
- More resolving than the closed-back Bluetooth headphones in this price range
Cons: Metal yoke has sharp edges
- Audible Bluetooth compression (most noticeable in AAC or SBC codecs)
- R2R BlueMini module does not have the most secure fit and connection
- Fatiguing sound signature due to boosted upper-mid and treble regions
- Lack of stage width and depth
- Wired mode sound is lackluster and does not scale with higher-tier amps
deva pro - cover 2.jpg


In 2019, HiFiMAN surprised everyone when they announced the Ananda BT, a pair of wireless, planar-magnetic headphones that were also open-back. It was unlike anything available on the market and had an extremely niche use case.

Fast forward to 2022, and HiFiMAN now has the Deva Pro, a cheaper alternative to the Ananda BT that address some of the key issues of that model, namely the lack of an analog-only mode and heavier weight.

Both of these issues are solved on the Deva Pro courtesy of the included BlueMini R2R module that can be detached as needed.

Let’s see if the Deva Pro can match their peers when it comes to sound quality, as they are taking on both wired and wireless planar magnetic headphones.

HiFiMAN was kind enough to provide the Deva Pro for review.
This article originally appeared on Headphonesty.


HiFiMAN has a simplified look to all their product packaging nowadays, and the Deva Pro are no exception. The stealth magnet sticker points to the revised driver design of this model—more on the driver redesign later in the Sound section.


In the box​

  • HiFiMAN Deva Pro headphones
  • 1.5m, 3.5mm terminated cable
  • 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter cable
  • BlueMini R2R module
  • USB-A to USB-C cable

The supplied accessories are pretty decent considering how notoriously poor the stock HiFiMAN accessories are. For example, their flagship Susvara come with perhaps the least ergonomic stock cable in existence and lacks a carrying case or even an extra set of pads in the package.

deva pro - cable.jpg


HiFiMAN opted for a slightly different ear cup design than their existing HE-series of headphones or the likes of Arya or Ananda. The shape of the cup is not as oval as the Arya, nor as round as the HE-400se.

The ear cups are made of plastic though the silver finish meshes well with the aluminum yoke.

deva pro - build.jpg

Another less noticeable design difference is the wire running through the underside of the headband from one cup to the other. This wire allows using the BlueMini module to plug into just one earcup and get sound on both sides.

Sadly, you cannot use BlueMini module on other Hifiman models that lack this “bridging” wire between cups.

deva pro - pad.jpg

The earcups have a perforated cloth material on the front with a solid pleather surround. The headband is foam-padded as well, though I wish the foam was slightly softer. Nonetheless, no hotspots formed on the temple or the sides of my head during the review period.

At the bottom, there are two 3.5mm inputs, with the left one being TRRS.

deva pro - input.jpg

The yoke and headband are made out of aluminum. Unfortunately, the yokes have sharp edges that can be annoying. It’s not sharp enough to cause injuries, but it does illustrate some deficiencies in the fit and finish of the product.

deva pro - hinge.jpg

Comfort and isolation​

Comfort is excellent due to the lightweight design, plush earcups, and low amount of clamp force. Isolation is non-existent, as expected from an open-back design.

BlueMini R2R module​

The highlight of the Deva Pro is the BlueMini R2R module (it can be purchased separately if you wish). This module allows the Deva Pro to become a “Bluetooth” pair of headphones, since the Bluetooth electronics are all inside the module instead of the headphones. The module can be plugged only into the left earcup.

deva pro - r2r.jpg

There is a Type-C port at the bottom that can either charge the module or allows connecting to a computer to act as a DAC-amp. The solitary button can be used to power on or off via long-press, whereas a short-press disconnects the Deva Pro from the current device. A double press takes it into pairing mode.

deva pro - r2r 2.jpg

There is also a status LED at the bottom, though voice-prompts are there as well to let you know when the BlueMini has connected, disconnected, or put in pairing mode. Finally, there is a mic at the bottom. It’s serviceable at best with a compressed-sounding voice and little noise cancellation.

deva pro - r2r 3.jpg

The battery life is rated at 8 hours, although I only got about 6.5 hours connecting via the LDAC codec. This is not as good as most mainstream BT headphones, but, keep in mind, that those headphones do not use planar magnetic drivers.

There is ample power here to get the Deva Pro very loud. A quirk of the module is that the volume increments are not linear when connected via Bluetooth. At lower volumes, it’s too quiet, and then right after 50%, it gets tad too loud for me. Connectivity is stable until 7 meters, then there are occasional connection dropouts.


HiFiMAN is using their tried-and-tested planar magnetic drivers on the Deva Pro, though they made the driver even more efficient this time. The most notable changes in their latest driver revision are the stealth magnet assembly and the neo-supernano diaphragm.

The stealth magnet assembly has magnets with rounded edges, which apparently reduces the turbulence as sound-waves pass through them. This apparently makes the magnet array almost “acoustically transparent” and reduces distortion.

deva pro - r2r 4.jpg

Meanwhile, the neo-supernano diaphragm refers to the nano-scale thinness of the diaphragm itself, with a sub-micron level voice coil traced onto the diaphragm.

HiFiMAN Deva Pro Sound​

The following sound impressions were formed with the stock earpads and stock cable or the BlueMini module. The Questyle CMA-400i and Macbook Pro were used for wired listening, and Pixel 4XL was used for wireless listening. The LDAC codec was used throughout. Test tracks are available on Tidal as a playlist.

The Deva Pro have a bright-tilted sound with the bass being more emphasized in Bluetooth mode, whereas the treble gains more presence in wired mode.


Bass starts rising from 30Hz and becomes noticeable around 40Hz. Bass response is pretty much flat. In BT mode there is more emphasis near the sub-bass it seems, though the bass sounds rolled-off after 35Hz in all three modes (Bluetooth, USB, and wired).

The bass has a decent amount of punch and slam but lacks physical rumble. Also mid-bass texture is lacking to a degree. Bass is fast, thanks to the planar drivers, but can also veer towards distortion at high volumes.


The lower-midrange is well-tuned with male vocals having enough body. String instruments also have a good sense of “bite” in the leading edge of notes. Keyboards and pianos lack the heft or the note-weight to truly sound “grand” but they do not sound anemic in any way.

Unfortunately, the upper-midrange is quite intense. There is no noticeable frequency dip between 2-5kHz, resulting in a very up-front midrange. Such tuning also hampers soundstage depth and microdynamics.

This intense upper-mid focus makes female vocals sound overly energetic at times, and the lack of sub-bass extension coupled with flat mid-bass exposes this further. Colbie Caillat’s Realize is a good example of this intensity.


Treble is peaky and the boosted upper-treble frequencies cause fatigue in long listening sessions.

Cymbal hits have extra sizzle to them, which I cannot listen to for any extended period. The lower-treble emphasis also adds instances of sibilance, though those are rare.

Sibilance is more evident in wired mode, as the R2R BlueMini module reduces it noticeably. Treble extension is lacking as there is not much response after 12kHz. The boost near 11kHz cannot hide the lack of resonance, instead, it adds an unnatural “sheen” to hi-hats and crash cymbals.

Soundstage and imaging​

Soundstage lacks depth no matter which mode you use. Stage width is also compressed in Bluetooth mode but fares better in wired mode. Imaging is average as it’s hard to discern the location of instruments in ordinal directions.

Dynamics and speed​

Dynamics are compressed, with little macrodynamic punch and non-existent microdynamic shifts (subtle gradations) in volume. Speed is above-average for the price range, and busy passages could have better instrument separation.

deva pro - cover.jpg


It’s hard to make an “apples vs apples” comparison with the Deva Pro since I have not used another wireless, open-back, planar magnetic pair of headphones.

The Audeze Penrose is wireless and has a planar magnetic driver but they are closed-back. The remaining Bluetooth headphones use dynamic drivers and are tuned very differently, e.g. the Sony WH-1000XM4. Compared to mainstream Bluetooth headphones, the Deva Pro are more resolving in the bass and treble and have better imaging.

Their open-back nature make them unsuitable for commuting, though, and the low clamp force is not ideal when wearing them during physical activities.

When it comes to comparing similar open-back wireless headphones, there are the HiFiMAN Ananda BT but they are priced near the flagship range and would be a very unfair comparison. So, the Deva Pro escape further scrutiny in the comparisons section by being the lone-ranger in their price bracket.

deva pro - ananda bt.JPG


The HiFiMAN Deva Pro are below average when compared to other wired planar-magnetic headphones in their price range. On the other hand, they are more resolving than the typical wireless, closed-back headphones out there, but also less practical and lack features like ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) that many consumers expect in this price range.

So, the Deva Pro face an identity crisis and do not excel as Bluetooth headphones or as wired planar-magnetic headphones. One potential use-case could be having them as an all-in-one solution, but then you are sacrificing the lifestyle features of the best wireless headphones and the sound quality of the best wired headphones.

The Deva Pro are an interesting experiment, but they are underwhelming with all things considered. I gave them an additional 0.5 as a bonus in the rating for being innovative, but innovation alone cannot hide the fatiguing sound signature and less-than-stellar build.


500+ Head-Fier
Bling Factor
Pros: Excellent build with a striking gold finish
- Comfortable shell design
- Highly resolving
- Bass has good physicality and planar speed
- Energetic, exciting tuning works well for modern genres
- Stock accessories are good enough to get started
- Overall good price-to-performance ratio
Cons: Modular cable has questionable durability
- Too much sub-bass at times, bass lack texture
- Lower-mid recession masks low-level details
- Chance of fatigue in poorly mastered tracks, planar timbre
- Narrow staging, average imaging


Reviewer collaborations are all the rage nowadays. What started as a way to “test-drive” the ideal tuning of some popular reviewers has now become an entire product line.

Zeos from ZReviews is one of the most popular reviewers out there, and Letshuoer decided to take his input to tweak the popular S12 planar magnetic IEMs. The color scheme has been updated along with the stock cable.

Let’s see how it all stacks up and if the Z12 can differentiate themselves enough from the originals.

HiFiGo was kind enough to send the Letshuoer Z12 for review.
This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.


The Z12 arrive in a compact box that depicts the gold-black color scheme of these special “Gold Edition” IEMs.

z12 - package.jpg

In the box​

  • Letshuoer Z12 IEMs
  • 6 pairs of silicone tips (3 pairs of narrow-bore, 3 pairs of wide-bore)
  • 3 pairs of foam tips
  • PU leather carrying case
  • Modular cable with interchangeable terminations (2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm)
I usually prefer to tip-roll IEMs, but on the Z12 the stock tips are good enough. The foam tips are a good match as they soak up some extra treble.

z12 - tips.jpg

The carrying case has an extra pocket to hold additional tips or terminations for the modular cable. Not the most pocket-friendly case, but it offers good protection.

z12 - case.jpg

The stock cable (named “Chimera”) is a 4-core silver-plated copper cable with heavy sheathing. It feels substantial in hand, and I like the pre-applied ear guides which have the right amount of tension.

z12 - cable.jpg

Unfortunately, the modular system needs to be more robust for frequent termination changes.

The 4.4mm plug on my unit has developed connection issues after just a few weeks. This is likely caused by the female connector of the hot-swap mechanism having a shorter length than competing designs.


Overall build quality is exceptional, with the gold color adding an extra dose of flair.

Letshuoer kept the same chassis design of their previous S12 IEMs with the Z12. The only differentiating factor is the laser-etched Zeos logo atop the 2-pin connectors.

z12 - build.jpg

There are two vents: one beneath the 2-pin connectors and another on the inner side of the IEMs.

z12 - build 2.jpg

The CNC aluminum body with anodized shells feels durable, and overall fit and finish belie their low price tag. Subtleties like the machining marks around the Zeos logo add to the appeal.

Comfort and isolation​

The Z12 is the most ergonomic of the current large-diaphragm planar magnetic IEMs.

Comfort is excellent as a result, and isolation is above-average with the foam tips. The silicone tips are not as isolating.


The Z12 use a 14.8mm planar magnetic driver with a dual-sided magnet array.

Since this particular driver type has become popular lately, companies differentiate themselves via various damping schemes that add an audible difference in the sound and overall tuning.

Letshuoer Z12 Sound​

The following sound impressions are formed with stock wide-bore tips, stock cable, and a Questyle CMA-400i as the source. Test tracks are available on Tidal as a playlist.

The Letshuoer Z12 have a V-shaped tuning with a noticeable focus on sub-bass frequencies.

Zeos suggested adding 2dB of extra boost under 50Hz, which is the sole difference between the Z12 and S12 tuning. This sub-bass focus can get too much at times, for me, at least.

z12 - graph.jpg


Planar speed? Check. Dense sub-bass? Check. Noticeable bass slam? Check.

So far, so good. The catch is in the subtleties. The bass lacks texture as the sub-bass hum dominates the scene. Snare hits have a dampened leading edge, losing the sense of naturalness.

Most of these issues can be solved via EQ if you turn down the somewhat excessive (+10dB over lower-mids) boost below 100Hz. Then again, this extra bass adds to the “fun factor.” Nonetheless, the driver is capable enough to handle such EQ, so I encourage testing things out.


In typical V-shaped fashion, the lower-mids take a backseat.

Male vocals sound chesty and somewhat far away in the mix. Female vocals fare a lot better with ample focus.

String instruments lack bite, as heard on Damien Rice’s Canonball. I suspect this is due to the damping scheme that rounds off the notes as a side-effect of controlling the driver response.

Nonetheless, there is no shoutiness in the mids, and the smoothed-out notes sound pleasing in the long run. I just wish the vocals were better articulated.


Treble is perhaps the most divisive aspect of the Z12.

On the plus side, the treble has good extension and energy for the price. Cymbal hits are pronounced due to the peaks between 5-8kHz. There’s another peak in the upper-treble between 15-16kHz, which adds to the airiness.

Then come the downsides. Planar timbre is noticeable throughout the treble region, characterized by a metallic “sheen” to cymbals and hi-hats. The emphasis between 5-8kHz can also add hints of sibilance.

In bassy tracks, the treble peak is less noticeable. Songs with sparse instrumentations and little sub-bass in the mix can get intense. Poorly mastered tracks further exaggerate the planar timbre. Foam tips help in this regard, but they kill the dynamics.

z12 - cover 2.jpg

Soundstage and imaging​

All of the current gen “efficient” planar magnetic driver IEMs have a narrow soundstage, which is mostly true for the Z12.

The stage feels wide at times, but that’s due to the recession in the lower-mids. In reality, cymbals and hi-hats are much closer to the listener than they should be. Stage depth is lacking too. Stage height is good, thanks to the large driver.

Familiar failings appear in imaging, too, as positional cues originate from either left or right, with little information in between. If you require precise imaging, efficient planar magnetic IEMs are probably not the way to go (Audeze’s iSine series of IEMs being the exception).

Dynamics and speed​

Macrodynamic punch is well reproduced, as sudden drops in bass or crescendos maintain their dramatic nature.

Microdynamics are middling, as the excessive sub-bass masks low-level details and subtle shifts in volume.


Vs 7Hz Timeless and TinHiFi P1 Max​

The 7Hz Timeless kickstarted the current planar hype train and are still one of the most popular pairs of planar magnetic IEMs around. In terms of build, 7Hz goes for a metal build and a more distinct circular faceplate design. Accessories are also better on the Timeless.

As for the sound, the Timeless are smoother in the treble but still maintain the same sense of resolution as the Z12. The big difference is in the bass response, with the Timeless’ bass lacking body and slam in comparison.

Staging and imaging are similarly average on the Timeless, though center imaging is even worse. The smoother treble helps the Timeless avoid fatigue in the long run, even though both IEMs exhibit planar timbre.

Tin HiFi P1 Max is another recent release priced lower than the Z12. TinHiFi opts for a resin shell instead of metal.

On paper, accessories are better on the Letshuoer Z12, but the modular cable appears to need to be more durable for frequent termination changes. Then again, the Z12 come with a good carrying case, so that’s a plus.

The P1 Max sound noticeably softer and laid-back compared to the Z12, with a flatter presentation. The resolved detail is superior on the Z12, though it’s mostly attributed to the extra treble.

Staging is also lacking on the P1 Max, but imaging is not as precise as on the Z12. Macrodynamic punch has a visceral presence on the Z12, whereas microdynamics are better rendered on the P1 Max.

The extra detail comes at the cost of fatigue on the Z12, whereas the P1 Max can be listened to all day long. As long as you can handle the bulky shells, that is.

Among these three IEMs, the Z12 are my favorite in terms of design and ergonomics.

Sonically, I recommend the Letshouer Z12 to those looking for the most exciting presentation. For a slightly more balanced tuning with the typical planar speed and resolution, the 7Hz Timeless are a good option.

The P1 Max stand out as the only laid-back planar in this comparison and should cater to audiences preferring a smoother tuning.

z12 - comparison.jpg


At this point, a similar theme is emerging across the current crop of planar magnetic IEMs.

They are all above average in terms of resolution, with the treble tuning determining the sense of resolved detail. Almost all of them have mediocre staging and imaging. Price is also similar, once you take store discounts into account.

Thus, the listener’s preference determines the winner. In that regard, Letshuoer Z12 targets those who like some extra dose of bass and added presence in the treble. It’s an unabashedly colored signature, but it works for the most part with modern pop and rock tracks.

I just wish the tuning changes were more than just a couple of dB of bass boost. As far as collaborations go, the Letshuoer Z12 is fairly vanilla, with the color scheme adding most of the glamor.


500+ Head-Fier
Milquetoast Planar
Pros: Warm, inoffensive tuning that avoids fatigue
- Good layering and separation
- Little hint of “planar timbre”
- Very good stock cable
- Above-average resolution for the price
Cons: Bulky shells can be uncomfortable
- Narrow staging, average imaging
- Somewhat dampened leading edge of notes
- Lack upper-treble extension
p1max - cover.jpg


Planar magnetic IEMs are all the rage nowadays. It is a rather amusing trend given that most of them have timbral issues, large shells that may not work for smaller ears, and they lack the staging and imaging of many dynamic or BA driver IEMs.

TinHiFi has been releasing full-range planar magnetic IEMs long before the recent trend. The TinHiFi P1 Plus, P2, and the flagship P2 Plus use smaller planar drivers that are very difficult to power. The P1 Max address this drivability issue by adopting a more efficient, larger diaphragm driver.

So are the P1 Max good enough to stand out among the crowd, or are they just another also-ran? Let’s find out.

TinHiFi was kind enough to provide the P1 Max for review purposes.
This review originally appeared on Headphonesty.


P1 Max come in the usual minimalistic TinHiFi packaging. While I do not mind the minimal packaging, I wish TinHiFi supplied a proper carry case with the P1 Max.

p1max - package.jpg

In the box​

  • TinHiFi P1 Max IEMs
  • 9 pairs of silicone ear tips (3 pairs each of white, gray, and black)
  • 2 pairs of foam ear tips
  • 3.5mm, single-crystal copper cable
  • Carrying pouch
p1max - tips.jpg

The foam tips offer great isolation but hamper dynamics and dull the sound.

The stock cable is excellent. Unless you want balanced termination, there is no need to swap this cable for a third-party offering. I wish TinHiFi allowed the buyers to select their choice of termination at the time of purchase.

p1max - cable.jpg


TinHiFi chose resin for the shell material on the P1 Max. As a result, the earpieces are very lightweight. This aids in comfort but somewhat reduces the premium feel.

The faceplate has a printed honeycomb pattern. There are two vents on the inner side, on both sides of the channel marker. The nozzle is also plastic and has a metal mesh.

p1max - build.jpg

TinHiFi went for flat 2-pin connectors. I personally prefer the connectors to be recessed into the chassis, as that improves stability.

Overall, a basic shell design that works well without being too flashy.

Comfort and isolation​

There’s no getting around this: the bulky shells of the P1 Max can be uncomfortable in the long run.

The “bulge” on the inner side is the main culprit, as it presses against my ear and causes discomfort. As such, I highly recommend auditioning the P1 Max before purchase.

p1max - size.jpg

Isolation is about average since the large shells do not sit flush with the ear. Foam tips offer better isolation at the cost of resolution.


TinHiFi P1 Max utilize a 14.2mm planar magnetic driver with dual-sided magnet assembly.

The diaphragm thickness is 2 microns, and the voice coil is aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than copper but also less conductive, so the trade-offs depend on the design of the voice coil.

TinHiFi P1 Max Sound​

The following sound impressions are formed with Spinfit CP145 tips and a Questyle CMA-400i as the source. Test tracks are available on Tidal as a playlist.

The sound signature of the P1 Max can be summarized as warm and laid-back.

Most planar driver IEMs in the market target a detail-heavy tuning, with a noticeable emphasis in the treble and upper-midrange. TinHiFi decided to tone things down with the P1 Max, but at times they are dialed down a tad too far.

p1max - graph.jpg


The lows are elevated without being overdone. There is some mid-bass bleed into the lower-mids, thickening the timbre and slightly masking low-level details.

Bass texture is decent, though I miss the planar speed at times. Bass slam is not as prominent as certain dynamic-driver counterparts.

Overall, the bass here adds rhythm and body to the presentation rather than visceral punch and grunt.


Due to the aforementioned masking of low-level details, baritone vocals may sound “stuffy” at times. The rise towards the upper-midrange (peaking around 2kHz) begins too early, thus adding some nasality to certain vocals.

Female vocals are somewhat restrained, with extremely high pitches not having as much energy as expected. String instruments sound somewhat blunted, though this can add a pleasant coloration to some acoustic tracks.

Nonetheless, this tuning avoids all shoutiness and harshness, so that’s a plus. On the downside, the energy of electric guitars and the sharpness of acoustic guitars are over-dampened.


Treble lacks airiness and starts rolling off early, around 9.5kHz.

The treble on the P1 Max is fairly even, lacking the abrupt peaks and dips of some of their planar-magnetic peers. The lack of airiness further allows the warmth to take over.

One good aspect of the treble is the timbre and a general lack of metallic sheen that plagues the other planar IEMs. The leading edge of cymbal hits lacks the rawness, but the overall sound is pleasant enough to overlook.

Soundstage and imaging​

Staging is fairly narrow, partly due to the driver type and the lack of upper-treble extension. Fortunately, layering and separation are very good, as showcased in Landon Pigg’s Can’t Let Go (Acoustic version).

Imaging is nothing to write home about, with fuzzy delineation between the ordinal and cardinal placement of instruments. Center imaging is also hampered with subtle shifts to the left or right channel being pushed too far on the one side or just being played around the center.

Dynamics and speed​

Macrodynamic punch is lacking, as sudden bass-drops or crescendos lack the authority I prefer. The lack of bass-slam and rolled-off upper-treble might explain this deficiency.

Microdynamics (subtle gradations in volume) are well articulated, being one of the strengths of the P1 Max.

Despite being a planar IEM, the P1 Max do not sound particularly fast due to the softened leading edge of notes.


Vs 7Hz Timeless and Letshuoer Z12​

The 7Hz Timeless kickstarted the current planar hype-train and are still one of the most popular planar magnetic IEMs around. In terms of build, 7Hz goes for a metal build and a more distinct circular faceplate design. Accessories are also better on the Timeless.

As for the sound, the Timeless are peakier in treble, which provides a sense of extra “resolution” but also gets fatiguing in long listening sessions. Staging and imaging are similarly average on the Timeless. The Timeless are noticeably faster in the bass, even though bass lacks slam in the default tuning.

Letshuoer Z12 are relatively new and have a more detail-oriented tuning philosophy. The shells are metal, similar to the Timeless, but have a more traditional shape. Among the three, the Z12 are my favorites in terms of design.

Accessories are better on the Z12 on paper, but the modular cable does not appear durable enough for frequent termination changes. Then again, the Z12 come with a good carrying case, so that’s a plus.

The sound signature of the Z12 is bright V-shaped, and clarity is the name of the game. The P1 Max sound noticeably softer and laid-back in comparison, with a flatter presentation.

Staging is also up-front on the Z12, but imaging is more precise. Macrodynamic punch has a visceral presence on the Z12, whereas microdynamics are better rendered on the P1 Max.

This extra detail comes at the cost of fatigue on the Z12, whereas the P1 Max can be listened to all day long. As long as you can handle the bulky shells, that is.

In conclusion, for those looking for the most exciting presentation, I’d recommend the Letshouer Z12. For those in need of a relatively balanced tuning with the typical planar speed and resolution, the 7Hz Timeless are a good option.

The P1 Max stand out as the only laid-back planar in this comparison and should cater to audiences who prefer a soothing signature.

p1max - comparison.jpg


I started out this review with one question: are the P1 Max good enough to stand out among the crowd?

The answer to that is a definite “yes.” A warm, laid-back tuning is not commonplace in the IEM space, and theP1 Max fill that gap.

The P1 Max have their share of imperfections. The shells are bulky in size and can cause discomfort. The bass doesn’t sound as fast as I’d hoped, and the treble rolls off too early, resulting in a loss of resolution at the top.

Staging and imaging could also be better, but that applies to most planar IEMs in the market. In the end, TinHiFi does enough to justify the market position of the P1 Max. I just hope that with their next release, they break a few more barriers and do not always play it safe.
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I have the P1 Max and your review is spot on. Thanks for sharing your impressions.