Reviews by nymz


Reviewer at nymzreviews
QKZ HBB – Heavy-weight sound, feather-light price
Pros: Well executed warm tuning from top to bottom, including treble extension
Cons: Might be too bassy/warm for some.

Disclaimer: This unit was bought with my own money on Linsoul. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction and Accessories​
  2. Sound
  3. Brief Comparisons
  4. The verdict

Driver Setup: 1DD
Price: $20
Purchase link and info: Linsoul
Included in the box:
  • QKZ HBB​
  • QDC 2-pin cable with a 3.5mm termination​
  • 6 Pair of silicone tips​

Comfort, fit and isolation: Great comfort and fit, isolation is average.
Source used: Topping L70, Xduuo Link2 Bal, Sony ZX300 (Mr. Walkman Firmware)
Tips used: BGVP W01
Measured volume level: 77db @ 440 hz
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

Introduction and Accessories

By now, neither QKZ or HBB need an introduction, as both are very well established trademarks in this hobby, teaming up to heist the end-of-the-year-sprint towards the gold medal of probably the most competitive bracket of the year (aside from planars, of course): the sub-20$ segment that proves my faith on that good tuning should be free.


Now, before I can share my conclusions about it and without further rambling, I’ll leave here just some quick notes about the accessories and physical aspects of the QKZ. Starting from the latter, the build quality feels sturdy and well finished given its price tag, shaped in the form of a semi-custom fit, helping me achieve a great fit and comfort throughout long sessions and never tiring. If anything I’d note here would only be the isolation that is average to above average, given its vent placed in the bottom of the faceplate.

As for the accessories, that’s a totally different story. The offered tips are just decent and the cable is actually terrible. A lack of carrying pouch or something of the sorts would be amazing but again, I can see how much every corner has to be trimmed down to achieve such low prices and still apply every penny into the sound related stuff, so no complaints from me personally, as I switched the cable right away.

Now, into the candy store, shall we?



The QKZ HBB falls into the tuner’s preferred signature: a warm balanced curve with a late self-correction bass-shelf and some well extended treble, without much elevation.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and going by “the first things first” moto, comes the sub-bass. The close to 10 db raise in the lower tail brought nothing but joy during the replay of tracks like “Why So Serious?” or “Limit To Your Love”, helping with physicality required.

Given the sub-bass region has nothing for me to point on, I will rather spend my words talking about the mid-bass and its transition into the lower mids, as I have a feeling it will be the most divisive aspect of this set. With that in mind, there’s two aspects I would like to note:

  • The bass in on the looser side, à la Blon Bl-03 or Sony N3;
  • The elevation and the late self-correction will turn the replay warmer than your average neutral or harman sets.
And… I like it. Ok scratch that. I love it. But let’s dissect that, shall we?

By calling it looser (or uncontrolled like some people like to call it but I refrain from that as it has a negative connotation rather just a tuning a preference), it means that there is more bounce it it, as opposed to overly tight drivers – like the foster dynamic drivers always come to the table. This effect won’t feel as good for genres like prog metal, where the tightness helps with the clarity on busier parts and smearing is the enemy, but shines on genres like Hip-Hop, R’n’B, classical rock, some EDM, etc etc.

You can easily see the pattern here: the trend follows the tuner’s library. When replaying Kendrick Lamar’s Collard Greens or Backseat Freestyle, the QKZ HBB comes alive in the mid-bass. Its bouncy nature helps with the sense of fullness to the track, allied with the sense of impact and the rest of the tuning, that we will come to in a second.

Speaking of the tuning, the second note referred to mid-bass’ elevation and late correction. On an objective note, this means there’s warm coloration to the replay, flushing out the sense of heavy note weight, opposed to the (once again) an harman tuning. A great example for this would the be the jazzy-soul-warmer track I’ve Got a Sousamaphone, by Riot Jazz Brass Band, that turns into a full jam session and I can’t guarantee you that not even critical listening will be done sitting down with on your lazy boy, but rather up and doing those crazy dance moves like none’s watching.

All of this shouldn’t come really as news, as anyone that has followed HBB or knows his tastes will know that this works well with his library, and this late correction has been used before on another collaboration of his (Olina and DQ6s from the top of my head). On a replay level, this translates on emphasized instruments like kick-drums and bass guitars.

This effect can be really perceived during Pomplamoose’s Daft PTX Mashup (2:43m – 2:49m), that once the bassist starts the (really nasty) bass slap, it takes a step more forward that it’s usually considered neutral versus the main vocalists’ voice. But hell yeah if it sounds good, and so does her voice, which segways us into the next section.


The mid-range has been briefly referenced above in the lower regions, alluding to its warmth, but let’s dive briefly into it. The pinna region is only elevated by around 5 or 6 dbs, not overcompensating the bass shelf, which would turn it into a V-shaped tuning. It rather adapts the warmth but keeps the mid-range just north of neutral on its positioning, hence the balanced warm tag.

When listening to pianos such as Hania Rani’s Glass or Yann Tiersen’s Comptine D’un Autre Ete – L’apres-midi, despite the warmer note weight, all the information is kept, turning the replay more “musical”, as it’s usually referred as. The separation and layering are just enough to not feel like a creamy potato mash and given that, there’s not much I can complain about it given the price range.

Where the QKZ HBB really starts to shine for my library in the frequency is regarding the vocals.

Firstly, the lack of overdone pinna compensation translates into a pretty much untouched timbre accuracy to the vocals, while the ever-so-slight bump around 4.5k helps retrieving back some of the bite and detail to the warm replay, which I can only see as welcome, without ever feeling shouty or sibilant, as more elevation in this or a subjacent zone would have done. From Adele’s replay of Oh My God to the more warm and rounded interpretation of Tainted Love by Karen Souza, there’s nothing but pure joy to write home-about. Lacking some bite and having a hair more huskyness than I’d prefer comes the male vocals on In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, interpreted by The Death South, which is a sin I’ll allow since I’d rather take this over any recessed or thin male vocals.

The treble region is rather subdue, but just the right amount. I have to say it was the biggest surprise of the set for me and one of the main reasons I really like it. It does a slope down after the pinna gain area, but never falls off or dips too much after that, plateauing across the range, culminating in a very pleasant and rather rare extension among the more budget segments. Live replays like The Fearless Flyers’ album, Live at Madison Square Garden, turns into a joy and never claustrophobic or lacking harmonic extension. The cymbal strikes during The Sleepwalker in that album are just a pure bliss of decay and never fatiguing hits.

Good tuning is free and at the end of the day, we are talking about the ultra budget segment, and just like anything in this world, nothing is perfect. Given the price range, it’s safe to assume this would fall down into the more subjective part: the technicalities.

I would be hard pressed to call this new generation of IEMs bad in the technical bits, but it still is what it is, and won’t touch well established IEMs, costing five times as much, like the tuner’s own Olina, but the QKZ HBB is not dull on its own turf. The imaging chops are actually not that claustrophobic, as seen on other more expensive offerings – yes, I’m looking at you Performer 5 – and the resolving power is actually above average given its tuning and competition. Where it falls short is in the sense of macrodynamics (Polyphia – Playing God) but, again, looking at its tag, the QKZ HBB gets a free pass all day long.

Brief Comparisons


  • 7hz Salnotes Zero
The Zero tuning follows closely the harman tuning, which means that it’s on the brighter side, polar opposite of the QKZ HBB that is warm. Contrasting with a more pillowy bass, the latter displays a more impactful lower region, while the Zero has more clarity across the spectrum, coming out as better separated in the mid-range. Due to a big elevation in the pinna gain, Zero’s female vocals are way more prominent, borderline shouty on some tracks, while the QKZ displays a more relaxed approach in exchange for detail, until the upper regions where it shines over the former.

Taking a look at the technicalities, they are very close, but Zero has a slight advantage due to the brighter tuning, but overall I would not call one more technical than the other.

  • TANGZU Wan’er SG
This comparison is closer in tuning than the previous one, with the Wan’er coming out as more tonally balanced given the earlier and more prominent pinna region, while cutting the bass shelf by around 2 dbs. Again, the clarity goes up but when we isolate the treble itself, the Wan’er isn’t brighter but rather darker, especially past 6k during sine sweeps.

On bass heavy tracks, the Wan’er does feel more neutral and less warm, thanks to the cleaner cut of the bass-shelf and tighter nature, while the QKZ HBB’s bass is more prominent but also more tactile.

The mid-range (especially pianos and male vocals) does sound cleaner and more correct on the Wan’er, while I find the timbre accuracy of the female vocals better preserved in the QKZ HBB.

Technicalities are again close, but this time I feel I have to give the advantage to the QKZ, especially on the resolving power and imaging accuracy, while the Wan’er has more stage depth.

The verdict


The year of 2022 closes out with a budget bang, with the QKZ most likely taking the spot as my favorite $20 IEM of the year, taking the podium together with the 7hz Zero and the Tangzu Wan’er SG, elevating the price to performance ratio of this segment.

But personal preferences and hair splitting aside, it’s probably a good time to reflect on how good an IEM can sound for so little price nowadays. It’s incredible how much the budget scene has evolved in just a year, and I can’t wait to see what the next one brings us.

Congratulations to QKZ for making a stylish comeback and to HBB for releasing yet another banger. Touché.


Thanks for reading!


Reviewer at nymzreviews
AFUL Performer 5 - A new generation
Pros: Great tonal balance
Price to performance
No pressure build up
Resolving power
Cons: Intimate stage presentation
BA timbre
This review is a crosspost from my website. I usually post my reviews there first, so be sure to not miss them out!

Note: I was just informed by HifiGO that a giveaway of the AFUL Performer 5 is now live on their Facebook page, through this link. Good luck everyone.


Disclaimer: This unit was provided by HifiGO for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to HifiGO for the opportunity and support.

Table of Contents

  1. Prologue
  2. Tonality
    1. Sub-bass
    2. Mid-bass
    3. Mid-range and Vocals
    4. Treble and Air
  3. Technical chops
  4. Comparisons
    1. Sony N3
    2. Xenns Mangird Tea2
  5. The verdict

Driver Setup: 1DD+4BA
Price: $219 (Black Friday release price)
Purchase link and info: HifiGO
Included in the box:
  • Performer 5
  • Standard 2pin cable with a 3.5mm termination
  • 3 pairs of silicone tips in two color variants (6 pairs total)
  • A puck style carrying pouch
  • Paperwork

Comfort, fit and isolation: Great in every aspect
Source used: Topping L70
Tips used: Final E
Measured volume level: 77db @ 440 hz
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal



Out of all this year’s late releases, there’s only a handful stirring some waves. This one is no exception, given the context of today’s market.

First of all, we have the brand - AFUL. A new player in town, established four years ago and has spent the last two in full research and development, promising to shake the current market.

Second reason, and most important, falls into the product itself - the Performer 5 (P5). Before we dive into buzzwords, let’s take an objective look at the non-sound aspects.

Inside a relatively simple but well thought packaging you can find the following:
  • Six pairs of generic narrow bore tips that come in three sizes and two color variants, so you can use red and blue tips to signal left and right monitors. Tips are very personal and for me they did not work the best, and I ended up tip rolling which I will comment in a moment, but as always, YMMV;
  • A well built 2-pin cable, with a working chin slider and branded only on its termination. It’s light-weight and very user friendly, so there’s no need to change it other than for aesthetic purposes, in case you wish to. My only nitpick will go into its limitation to 3.5mm only, meaning that you can’t choose different terminations or a modular plug. Again, not important;
  • A puck-style carrying case that is well built and very easy to open, displaying the brand's name on top. Opposite to similar offered cases by other brands using this style, AFUL’s one is very light-weight due to the usage of hard plastic instead of metal. The interior has some sort of fluffy fabric to prevent your IEMs from scratching or breaking.
As for the monitors themselves, the build quality is pretty top notch. AFUL used some kind of special way to 3D print them, according to information provided. As far as I can’t tell, they don’t feel cheap in any way, at least compared to most stuff on the market nowadays.

The above is not the only “special technology” used in building the Performer 5. One of its main appeals consists of newly developed ways of building, and therefore tuning, the IEM itself. You can find all this information in the product page, but to briefly summarize it, there’s three key fundamentals technologies that I will paste here:

  • EnvisionTEC High-Precision 3D Printed Acoustic Cavity Structure: Using high-quality 3D printing technology, AFUL Acoustics has designed a precise 3D printed acoustic tube structure for the Performer 5. They have named it EnvisionTEC acoustic tube structure. This features a 60mm ultra-long and ultra-thin bass tube with a 30mm mid-bass duct structure for a powerful, slamming bass response. It helps maintain a proper phase correction between different frequencies.
  • RLC Network Frequency Division Correction Technology: In order to get the best out of the five-driver hybrid configuration, Performer 5 features in-house developed RLC Network Frequency Division Technology. It not only allows the different drivers to have accurate frequency division but also corrects their non-ideal frequency response for certain frequency bands presenting the listeners with a smooth frequency response without any peaks or irregularities.
  • High-Damping Air-Pressure Balance System: AFUL Acoustics Performer 5 is designed with a high-damping air-pressure balance system. It releases the air pressure inside the ear canal when the pair is worn promising a comfortable listening experience. With this specially designed air-pressure balance system, the bass texture and slam of the Performer 5 are also improved.
Buzzwords aside, the first two will eventually come out on sound analysis, but the later will be touched on here, as it’s very important to a lot of people. There’s absolutely zero ear pressure with the Performer 5, which is a more usual than not problem with BA sets. And hell if it feels great. Combined with an extremely satisfying and easy fit, you can achieve great comfort and isolation, made to last on your ears for several long sessions.

Last word of this chapter will go into tip rolling. I’m not sure if this was caused by all the special tubing tech inside the shell, but I noticed a significant mid-bass drop while using wide-bore tips, to the point that I had some first impressions ready and I had to re-do them. I do recommend narrow-bore tips with the Performer 5 and they seem to help the bass the most, at least in my case, but as always, YMMV.

Now that I just wrote an essay without even touching the sound, I think it’s time for us to analyze the actual sound and check if the Performer 5 lives up to its name.



Depending on your definition of neutral, you could call this IEM a bass boosted neutral or U-shaped. As for me personally, it tends to fall more into the first, but with some weight added to its notes, due to the 300 hz self correction of the bass shelf.

After the sine sweep, I would say the area around 8k hz of my graph is slightly boosted by the coupler, but the extension is actually pretty accurate, starting to roll off at around 16k hz, and needing an amp volume rise past 18k to be heard.

But that only tells us so far, right?


The sub-bass replay at the 3:25m mark leaves me with no doubts that this DD is very capable and the tuning is well extended - in fact, the roll-off only starts at around 18hz, so there you go, measure freaks!

The sub-bass feels physically impactful during this replay, actually rumbling inside your ear, providing the expected claustrophobia effect, so it gets a giant pass.

As a double check, I also pulled out a masterpiece by James Black, Limit To Your Love, and the suspicions were thrown off, confirming what the first track also represented. Touché.

One strange nitpick I will have to disclose is that I would prefer for the Performer 5’s sub-bass to be slightly press prominent, which I will explain why in a second.


With a sub over mid-bass shelf, this is the area that usually suffers, so nothing better than the good old Magnetar to test it.

The tuning itself is pretty spot on, warm and thick, bringing the bass guitars and kick drums to the front, not to be mushed into the background melody. The kick-drums have a sense of impact that is commendable at this price range, especially since I’ve heard worse at higher steaks tables.


My only critique will go into the bass texture, as it gets somewhat masked or blurred on more busy tracks, especially by the sub-bass. This is unfortunately more common than not and not really a pick on Performer 5, but most iems with sub over mid-bass shelves.

Despite my nitpick, the mid-bass doesn’t suffer from an overly tightness a la Foster driver, having just enough bounce to it to make it fun during Haywyre - Permutate bass drops. This effect also means that the bass drops on hip-hop tracks like Backstreet Freestyle by Kendrick Lamar are well replayed by this set.

Mid-range and Vocals

The mid-range of the P5 is warm but still clear, but running far from the usual harmanesc thin notes, result obtained by the bass shelf as previously mentioned. Still, there’s a sense of separation between the bass and the shelf, avoiding some of the bleed into this area.

The tonal balance of this range is pretty spot up, especially in the upper regions, but lacks some sense of separation and layering (this effect will be explained further down below), which has me no choice but call it probably the weakest link of the frequency chart on the Performer 5.

Despite that, it still comes out as very detailed and you can clearly distinguish both hands keystrokes and hammers on Glass.

As for vocals… I have zero things to point out. Adele’s Oh My God shows no hints of shout and just a hint of prolonged “sssss” sounds that I can totally get by as the timbre accuracy for it it’s pretty spot on, with some correct bite to avoid any roundness.

The story repeats itself while enjoying the track In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company by The Dead South. Despite the bass shelf hinting their presence forward, the male vocals still have some sense of bite and absence of dullness, tilting just ever-so-slightly into huskyness.

Treble and Air

The treble region of the P5 is pretty commendable. Adapting a neutral style, it doesn’t show any signs of dips and peaks, being quite flat until its air regions. While it is not overly cooked, customers looking for dark sets might not appreciate this, while as for me, my hat is off.

The violins on this Mozart piece sound full and their harmonic decay is pretty much spot on for a BA driver, which is rare on a set, let alone for the price. Nothing stands out or fatigues me during my extensive take.

The cymbal strikes and electric guitar's replay during Cosmic Sands by Cory Wong follows the same trait, as the violins, with only fast decay being my nitpick, causing the fabled BA timbre to show up, but without being overly plastic.

I’ll cut this short: impressive.

Technical chops


The technical capability of the AFUL Performer 5 is no slouch whatsoever, minus a caveat.

Actually, that caveat might be a deal-breaker for you, so I’ll quickly rip the band-aid off: the soundstage is very intimate, and below average in size. This is not an hyperbole whatsoever, so if you are a stage size freak, this won’t be for you.

Another small note I will also mention while we are at it is the hint of BA timbre displayed mainly in the treble region, especially with brass instruments, where the decay is on the shorter side, leaving some plasticity tint in the tongue. The reason I called it a small note is that it’s not that obvious as some past sets I’ve tried like the Blessings, VX or the Lokahi.

With that out of the way, there’s mostly only good things from now on. The detail retrieval, anchored by the Performer’s tuning is pretty good and above average.

The dynamics are not dull or giving a sense of compressness, and I will consider them way above average given the price range we are talking about.

The coherency of the sound is not great, but not terrible. You can find a speed difference between the dynamic driver and the balanced armateurs (more obvious in the treble area), but other than that, I would assume most people would not pick this up as obvious or even ignore it.

The last subjective topic I will touch is a sum of three parts, affected by an external one. I do believe the layering, separation and positional accuracy (imaging) are solid, but they all take a hit due to stage size. Nonetheless green card and enjoyable.



In this section, I will do brief comparisons vs other hybrids in the market around the $300 bracket. All comparisons were done using 4.4mm terminated cables connected to my Topping L70, at a measured volume of 77db @ 440 hz.

Sony N3


Tips used: DUNU S&S (Cylinders)

The legendary N3 comes out pumping a warmer replay, thanks to a more pronounced bass shelf and less energetic treble. The P5 has better overall tonal balance and will appeal to more people as a standard choice.

Sony N3’s bass is an acquired taste, so objectively I will have to attribute this region to the AFUL, especially in the impact meter. Given that shelf, the mid-range of the AFUL is cleaner and better tuned, where the treble region is a masterclass into N3’s side of the field.

The technical chops are curious between the two, they both suffer in their imaging chops, but the N3 still feels wider, despite also lacking depth. The AFUL is more resolving while the Sony displays much better timbre and coherency.

In sum, I do think both sets are more of side-grades between each other and excel at different things.

Xenns Mangird Tea2


Tips used: BVGP W01

Just as blunt as the graph, the tuning conclusion is pretty obvious: the Performer 5 a slightly V-shaped version of Tea2’s tuning, bringing less mids and vocals into your face in exchange for more bass and mid to upper-treble.

The bass dictates the warmer tonality of the Performer 5 which I will admit, I prefer on some tracks and Tea’s on others, as at the end of a day, it’s kind of a toss. Technically, the bass bass of the Tea2 has more clarity to it (less blurred) and it’s snappier, but it’s still a BA bass. The Performer 5 shows better texture on its mid-bass and more physicality on its sub-bass. Gesaffelstein - OPR is a toss, as the speed and clarity of the Tea2 really show off but the impact and texture of the Performer 5 also bring the replay alive.

As for the mid-range and vocals, Tea2 has the total advantage due to its tuning and subjective aspects like separation and layering. It is more transparent and has more correct note weight - neither too thin or too thick.

Treble is more correct on the Performer 5, due to less dips, avoiding some of the vocal timbre wonkiness that vocals on the Tea2 might have due to its lower treble dip. The latter comes out as more relaxed and way more fatigue free, especially on some genres like rock and hip-hop, or older records. The extension is better on AFUL’s set.

Technically speaking, it’s majorly a win for Tea2, especially on imaging chops and timbre, where the Performer just can’t catch up. Do keep in mind Tea2 hits my HRTF pretty well and gives an insane sense of holographic display. The resolving power is close between the two, with a slight advantage for the P5 giving its treble boost.



Tips used: Azla Crystal

Once I switched between them, two major differences arose: the bass texture and the imaging chops of the VULKAN are on another level, but the tuning of the P5 is much more palatable, turning into a completely different approach and experience.

Tonality wise, the Vulkan is way more relaxed, where the Performer uses a more U-shaped approach in comparison, which means that for some, the Performer will come out as more engaging, especially in the sub-bass region. The mid-range is cleaner on the VULKAN but AFUL has more forward vocals, both male and female.

The treble region is much more prominent on the Performer 5 and also better extended, with the VULKAN having better timbre (Max Richter - Winter 1) and less fatigue. Resolving wise, they are close but the P5 comes out as having more sharp transients.

The verdict


Buzzwords and patents aside, AFUL’s team entered the building in absolute style, kicking down the front door. I’m finding myself hard pressed to find a more tonally balanced model than the Performer 5 at his price bracket or below (let’s ignore ER2XR due to fit, shall we?).

In sum, I think the price is pretty clever, positioning themselves far enough from the $300+ kingpins like the technically gifted Blessing 2 twins - which also have fundamental flaws of their own, - and being so competitive in price that everyone will want a bite of this pie. Hell, I’ll go further and say that minus the mid-range, I’d take the AFUL’s tuning over the Blessing 2 or Dusk, while the twins prey the Performer 5 open on imaging chops and better dynamics.

Despite any of the direct hybrid competitors, there was a void left between 200 and 300 dollars, where almost only Tanchjim Oxygen and some planar IEMs rested their heads, having now to face the orange powerhouse.

I really do think that if the stage wasn’t so intimate, it had a real shot of raising its asking price and still triumph. That’s the only aspect I will actually criticize on the Performer 5’s and this is the reason why I can’t consider it evaporates the competition or simply undercuts them.

As of now, I think it’s pretty obvious to assume that it is my pleasure to give my full recommendation to the Performer 5. My last word goes to AFUL, to whom my hats are off, proving that tuning is not a matter of price.


Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
Sweet review of the Aful Performer5
Scarlets Eyes
Scarlets Eyes
please what is the weight of the box it is important for my delivery costs
vs your beloved olina ?


Reviewer at nymzreviews
7hz Salnotes x Crinacle Dioko: The shy brother
Pros: Price
Tonal Balance
No fatigue
Better stage than direct competition
Great technical value for the price bracket
Cons: Bass shy
Treble is better than direct competition but still a bit wonky
Less technical than the other planars I've tried
Fit is as it looks

Disclaimer: This unit was sent to me as a loan by another reviewer, SenyorC. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to SenyorC for the opportunity and don’t forget to check his website.

Driver Setup: 14.6mm Planar Diaphragm Driver
Price: $99

Comfort, fit and isolation: Fit is a bit wonky, but comfortable for me. Isolation is average.
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack, Singxer SA-1
Tips used: Final E
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

The Planar Year

Well, at this point I’m no longer sure if the 1st of February marked the Chinese Year of the Tiger or the Year of the Planar. Two trends are settling down and Crinacle just decided to mix them: planars and colabs.

Partnering with 7hz, the gate opener thanks to the release of the Timeless, Crinacle’s plan was clearly to take a gauge on a better tuned planar while still making it affordable to the masses. It is no news that most of the planar IEMs suffer from tuning wonkiness so let’s delve straight into the sound and check if the marks were reached!


graph - 2022-08-24T195705.708.png

Just by glancing at the graph while measuring, I had no doubt the tuning would be something I would enjoy and close to my prefered target. Despite the still wonkiness of the planar treble tuning, everything looks clean and balanced until that point, but let’s hear it, shall we?


Going against the tide of the planar trend, the tuner decided to soften the bass region by focusing on a less elevated but clean shelf. Its sub-bass over mid-range is still evident but is now more polite and with a leaner transition into the mid-range.

Truth be told, I am not 100% sold on Dioko’s bass. In my mind planars need a touch more energy in the bass department than your regular off-the-shelf dynamic driver. Due to its nature, planars tend to bleed a lot less but require more brute force to be felt, especially in the dynamics department, an effect that is amplified by their own ultra-fast speed.

Given my preferences, I prefer something more polite than something totally overcooked, and for that I’d rather have this softer bass presentation than an over elevated one, so I’m not hating on it, just leaving with the water on my mouth feeling that I could have ate a desert and I didn’t, especially on the microdynamics.

Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?

Looking at the 3:25m bass drop, the Dioko replays it without much effort due to its great speed and extension, having some rumble to it. Again, this is one of those cases I’d like a touch more elevation to its shelf to get that enclosed feeling the track demands. Other than that, there’s not really something I can pick on.

Charl du Plessis Trio - Prelude WTC I no.2 (Bach)

In this track I tend to pay attention to two things: the bass line throughout the whole track and the busy passage once the drum pedal and the piano also chime in around the 1:40m mark and onwards.

This is the first time we will notice planar advantage: its speed. To me planars are something in between the typical BA and DD drivers, both in speed, dynamics and texture. The speed helps the perception of the bass line much easier, with good note definition and separation to easily spot what is what and once the track gets busier, the Dioko just stays as cool as ever.

As for the bass line (not just on this track, and the same applies for kickdrums), I would enjoy more impact and elevation, but it still has enough to feel present and ever so tilted into the warmer side of neutral.

Gesaffelstein - OPR (0:36m drop)

Before jumping into the next section, I’d like to just add a quick note on bass texture and articulation by using the Dark Prince’s OPR to do so.

At around 0:36m, the bass drop shows good signs of both by Dioko, especially due to its speed to make it cleaner, just sinning by lacking a hair of elevation for my own tastes (that is higher than usual with planar drivers, especially in the mid-bass).

The mid-range is pretty clean and not really too much to point at, especially at this price point. Due to its bass shelf, Dioko has enough weight to not feel thin, but just about that.

Hania Rani - Leaving

Pianos, keystrokes, pedal sustain and female vocals - Leaving has it all.

Despite not being my favorite mid-range of all time, the Dioko is no slouch in this regard and the mid-range is by far the star of its show. As expected, the details and separation of the keystrokes and back vocals are great. Other than that, the clarity of them is commendable without feeling overly thin, but not thick either.

Despite the forward mids, they come across as not much as in-your-face kind of mids but rather just north of neutral. The pianos sound very balanced from top to bottom and nothing else that can be added at this price range.

Govi - Espresso

In this track, Govi plays an acoustic guitar and the only thing I’ll be checking here is the guitar’s balance in the overall frequency range, the plucks and the finger slides.

Well, as seen in the track above the mid-range balance is very good, so it goes the same way on Espresso. Regarding the chord plucking and finger slides, as expected, planars do it better due to their resolving power and driver speed. At this price range it’s really hard to find these types of characteristics and Dioko just proved everyone wrong. Touché.

Pentatonix - Daft Punk

Checking for vocal tonal balance between male and female vocals with some hidden gems in the background, Pentatonix is a great example with even some extra beatbox.

The first part is easy, and I got the idea right in the first passage: the female and male vocals on the Dioko are very even and for that, the advantage goes for the female ones. The lean bass shelf takes some of the power male vocals usually have over females, who usually have more bite and which this set has.

The sounds in the background, showing out of nowhere like hidden gems come out clear with resolving power and that’s no match for planar like Dioko.


Treble range, the Achilles tendon of the “recently” released planars. Dioko sounds better in this area than other planars I’ve tried, just from memory, but don’t fool yourself as some of that “wonkiness” is still there.

David Carroll - Hell’s Bells

High pitched sounds and lots of harmonics to analyze treble and its extension, as well as its elevation and the overall timbre.

Extension on the Dioko is great and nothing to point of, as it has lots of information up there backing up a nice sense of air to never feel a claustrophobic replay during all the tracks I have tried on it.

Despite its graph, the treble elevation was just in the fine line of energetic but never coming across that, which is great for sensitive and easily fatigued people like me. I would say there’s a couple DBs more than I wish to around the 8k hz, as per usual on the new planar catalog, but nothing that bothers me as much, but if you are ultra sensitive to this area, be aware. I would say that on very treble heavy songs, the average user can expect at least medium sized listening sessions

As for the timbre, it’s a very fast and sharp transient so expect the usual “planar timbre”, with a fast attack and detail with no smearing left behind.

John Wasson - Caravan

During Caravan I’m usually looking for the cymbal strikes coming out of nowhere and also checking how they feel compared to the rest of the frequency response.

Dioko doesn’t have much for me to point out. Cymbals feel energetic enough but not overbearing or fatiding. Again, it’s not an immersive dark set, but for sure ain’t as bright as some other planars out there.

Technical Chops

Yosi Horikawa - Crossing / Bubbles

Regarding soundstage, Dioko falls under the category of “It’s an IEM!”. Stage width is fine but height and depth could use some love. Imaging is average as well.

Polyphia - Playing God

Planar’s speed makes a commendable replay and Dioko ain’t no exception. This level of transition speed between notes and instruments is something most dynamic drivers can’t achieve. As for macro dynamics and separation, I would consider Dioko average and, as per planar usual, very good for the price bracket.

Great replay if you ignore the softer than usual drop around 0:27m.



For this section I will do a quick shootout between three of the current market favorites, plugged into Singxer SA-1 all at the same time, just switching and adjusting volume between them. The lineup:

  • Raptgo Hook-X (using W01 tips)
  • LETSHUOER S12 (using Final E)
  • 7hz Salnotes Dioko (using Final E)
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Tracks to pin down the final notes:

Trentemøller - Chameleon (0:30m and onwards)

Both S12 and Hook-X smoke Dioko out on bassier tracks like Chameleon due to the nature of its tuning, leaving it a couple of steps behind the other two in the bass department.

As for between S12 and Hook-X, they both do great on this song but the S12 takes the plate home due to showing better texture and rumble capabilities.

Agnes Obel - The Curse

Dioko has a better position of the mid-range and less warmth, feeling more transparent while the other two are more recessed. Also shows a better sense of air between the vocals and the instruments, causing a better replay of this song in the vocal aspects.

Between the Hook-X and S12, the latter has more recession in the mid-range and more sharpness to Agne's voice. On the other hand, it comes out as the most resolving of the three and the one with better dynamics by a step or two.

Hook-X is the middle of the road, being the warmer of the three, more “analog”, packing more energy in the treble than Dioko but not feeling as wonky as the S12 in this region. Comparing the stage air, it’s also a step above S12, just not as much as Dioko.

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life (Intro)

Dioko shows better control over this frequency range, despite still being a bit odd, by compensating the lack of bass shelf with a treble reduction as well, being more polished.

The Raptogo Hook-X has the most energy and feels somewhat crunchy, but has the bass to back it up and kind of plateaus after the pinna gain, so won’t feel as piercing as expected, at all.

The S12 is the worst replay of the three by having not only the energy but also the grainy feel, adding that to being the least well extended of the three.


The verdict


The 7hz Salnotes Dioko is no 7hz Timeless, but costs less than half on release. It surely is an improvement on Timeless’ stage and imaging wonkiness, but at the cost of less resolving power.

What it lacks against competition in technical prowess compensates with a much more palatable tuning, sinning only by being a couple of dbs shier than it needed to in the bass-region.

As for those who think planars are great but too V-shaped or too bassy, Dioko might be for you. As for those who love the other planar offers, this might not be for you. Hate it or love it, there’s no denying the obvious: the 7hz Salnotes Dioko is an incredible offer at $100 and overshadows most of the sets until that price range, at least. Given that, there’s no way for me to not recommend it.

This is all about giving credits where they are due and Dioko is a great example of that, probably by starting a war on how cheap can planars go after this.

As for Crinacle, good job.

Value ranking: 4.5/5. Personal rank: B-.

Thanks for reading!


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Nice review and beautifully written.
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Reviewer at nymzreviews
Yanyin x HBB Mahina - Musically born
Pros: Immersive and musical
Great bass shelf
Tastefully tuning overall
Stage depth
Cons: Bass texture could be better
Not for treble or clinical heads
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Disclaimer: This unit was provided by Linsoul for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Linsoul for the opportunity and support.

Driver Setup: 1DD + 4BA + 2EST
Price: $650
Purchase link and info: Linsoul

Included in the box:
  • Mahina
  • 2-Pin Graphene Silver-Plated Cable with 3.5/2.5/4.4mm termination of choice;
  • 3 Pair of silicone tips;
  • Storage case;
  • Suede pouch;
  • 3.5mm to 6.35mm stereo adapter;
  • Airplane adapter;
  • Warranty and paperwork.

Comfort, fit and isolation: One of the best ever - perfect.
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack, Questyle M15, Qudelix 5k
Tips used: BGVP W01
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal


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Just like 2021, the year of 2022 is all about either collaborations, planars, good budget or all of the above at the same time. Hawaii Bad Boy (HBB) is no stranger to that and seems to be on a collaboration rampage. Tagging along with Yanyin, a now known brand for models like the Aladdin and the Canon, HBB chose their last release as a canvas, the Moonlight.

Yanyin Mahina (Mahina), which means moonlight in Hawaiian, is the second tribrid with HBB’s logo on it, right after the Kinda Lava. As a full disclaimer, I have never had the chance to heard the Moonlight and neither will I be able to compare it to Mahina, but I will be able to compare it to Kinda Lava down below.

A justified paragraph goes into the visual aspects of the set and its accessories. From the best storage case ever to the beautiful and full of quality cable, nothing was left underlooked to match one of the most beautiful and best fitting IEMs I have ever got my hands on. The case is big and serves as storage only, not for everyday carry, but god I do need one for each of my beloved IEMs in the future.

Before diving right into the sound, a quick author’s note: this review will be different from my standard ones as I want to adopt the same style of review HBB does, given the ocasion. Also a disclaimer that despite my relationship with the tuner, no words about this set were shared other than logistics updates and photo sharing. HBB did not try to influence in any way shape or form my take of this set and no I have no monetary incentives to do so.

From now on, enough words, let the music roll!


Since I’m adopting HBB’s style of review, instead of talking you through the sound by just words, I will use even more music queues than usual to help you conceive a correct picture of Mahina. If you want more detailed info about some of the tracks I use, you can check it on my spreadsheet, under the “Test Tracks” tab.

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Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?

This now modern classic around the audiophile world is a great track to check for the sub-bass rumble and texture. What we will look for is the low tones starting around 3:26m. Once the drop happens, Mahina gives the replay we are looking for here which is a good extension, rumble and a somewhat claustrophobic sense.

The sub-bass is just one of my favorite traits of the Mahina and this track just puts amongst some of the top replays I have experienced up its price point.

The same exercice can be done using tracks like:

Deadmau5 - Hypnocurrency (Intro)
Jay Cosmic - The Tunnel (0:58m drop)
Mark Lettieri - Magnetar


Mark Lettieri - Magnetar

The most important bandwidth sharing for me and my library happens in the mid-bass region, when bass guitars and kickdrums play together. Right from the intro, Magnetar is a great example of an epic bass line supported by the drummer and it’s also where stuff can get messy, especially on warmer tunings. Essentially, what we are looking at here is just not the elevation itself (positioning) but also the micro dynamics of the driver.

The Mahina mid-bass position is around my prefered elevation for a warmer tuning, as more than this crosses balanced line for me (Sony N3 is a good example of how much is already a bit too much for me), positioning the instruments in this region just right and giving them some sense of empowerment without feeling the sense of bloating the rest of the frequency. Regarding the micro dynamics of the mid-bass, I would consider its speed a nice middle of the road compromise that neither feels too tight or too loose, making it a great all-rounder for genres that need a touch of both. Impact and texture are there and certainly above average, but Mahina isn’t the best example of these two characteristics, and I’ll come back to this personal nitpick down below.

Other tracks used for this region analysis:

GoGo Penguin - Raven (same as Magnetar, pretty much)
Ulf Wakenius - When God Created The Coffee Break (Bass and drums lines position in the overall tonality)
Elise Throuw - How To Get What You Want (Live Loop) (Intro - Pedal power and slam)
Radiohead - Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box (Bass beat in the background right from the start and throughout the whole song. Elevation and impact)


Hania Rani - Glass

Using pianos to check the mid-range? Guilty as charged!

Throughout Hania’s songs, she uses mics pointed directly at her keys to record the sounds whenever she presses a key, making songs like Glass have multiple layers. I like to use these records not to just evaluate the note weight of the mid-range but to also check for transparency and details.

Mahina has the mid-range forward but very well done: despite the position, you still feel they are not screaming in front of you or even masking the rest of the spectrum, something I really appreciate as a mid-head and with a mid-heavy library. The mids have the right note weight and warmth to not feel overly thin and are slightly north of my perceived neutrality, being musical but still retaining every stroke detail there, and most importantly on this specific case, being very audible and not sent to the background or meshed (separation/layering) with the sound of the notes themselves.

This mid-range is something I consider very close to my prefered slightly warmer tuning, and for that I have not a single thing to point out but to appreciate it.

Couple more track examples to check this range:
Nils Frahm - Says (same parameters than Glass)
Nils Frahm - All Melody (Same as above, but with the introduction of keyboard/electronic factors and reverbs)
LITTLE TEMPO - Little Journey (Mid heavy song, check for overall separation/balance, mid-range position and dynamics)
Yann Tiersen - Comptine d'un Autre été: L'Après-Midi (Tonal balance, note weight, note sustain, dynamics)
EWF - September (Mid heavy song with vocals, check for overall separation/balance, mid-range position and dynamics)
Dire Straits - Walk of Life (Intro - Synthesizer/keyboard position and transparency)
[Album] Lorde - Pure Heroine (Mid-range everywhere throughout the whole album. Great to also check stage and holographic factors. One of my favorite albuns for mid-range checking)


Agnes Obel - The Curse

One of my favorite tracks of all time due to its complex simplicity: Vocals and piano, a viola and a cello.

This is usually the first track I play on any new set and it will give me a lot of info about my preferences. If the bass presence is too low the cello will feel left out; if the pinna-gain region isn’t well done the vocals will sound off; if the upper regions aren’t well done the viola and the air will feel cutted off.

Mahina exhibits very well all the above into a very relaxed replay, feeling intimate (I don’t mean the stage). Agne’s vocals are spot on as well as its reverbs/back vocals, just lacking a hair of more bite and decay for my perfect replay, but well done nonetheless. It also shows some nice indications of the above average stage depth we will talk about shortly.

Other test tracks used to check for vocals:

Pentatonix - Daft Punk (Female and male vocals, multiple sounds and layers, different voice timbres, beatbox)
The Dead South - In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company (Male vocals with different timbres)
Michael Bublé - When I Fall In Love (Male vocals, look for clarity and throat details)
Jacintha - Danny Boy (Intro up to 2:38m - solo female vocals, looking out for vocal details like voice cracks, lips and breathing)


David Carroll - Hell’s Bells

High pitch and metallic sounds everywhere. The focus is to find if something stands out of the ordinary (peaks), if something is too boosted (fatigue), how the treble extends and how it decays.

Mahina does what she does best: keeping the information while being relaxed and immersive. During my tests nothing standed out, which some will call boring but me, being treble sensitive, called just right. This is the region where I also found out that despite the somewhat subdued treble region, the sheer detail of the set is amazing given the warm tuning. Brighter sets will give a sense of more perceived detail or clarity, but after A/B, the information is still there, just presented differently.

This is where a set lives or dies for me and the best answer I can give you is that I’ve been able to use Mahina for 12h straight with only small breaks. Touché.
Some of the other tracks used to check the treble on Mahina:

Max Richter - Vivaldi Four Seasons, Winter 1 (Violins starting at around 1:14. Check for any sharpness and decay)
John Wasson - Caravan (Cymbal strikes elevation and decay)
Larnell Lewis - Change Your Mind (Electric guitar and cymbal strikes. Checking for any sharpness)

Checking for problematic zones

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Fleetwood Mac - Dreams

Right off the bat, at the start of the song, a cymbal strike comes out and if the 5k hz region is too elevated it crashes my ears. After that I check for any kind of sharpness or shout on Steve Nick’s voice along with the occasional cymbal strikes, especially in the chorus. Mahina passed the test with flying colors, showing also good separation between the main vocalist and the back vocals.

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life

Lust for life starts with a big multiple instrument solo before Iggy’s vocals kick in at around 1:12m. During this time, I can get a good sense of the treble elevation and believe it or not, get fatigued. Overly bright sets die to my preferences on this track and Mahina did it just right, adding that last leg of warmth these types of classic records need.

Polyphia - Playing God

From a classical to a modern track, Polyphia complex skill showoff isn’t easy for every pair of headphones, especially in the balance and dynamics department. Mahina showed above average macro dynamics but a slightly over tuned bass line for the genre not helped by its middle of the road speed and tightness. I would not recommend Mahina for progressive metal if you like a clean analytical presentation.

Adele - Daydreamer

Starting at around 1:05m, I’m looking for the shoutiness in Adele's voice. Mahina did just not pass that with flying colors but was one of the best sets to tame it down that I’ve heard.

Gesaffelstein - OPR

During the intro and first drop, I use OPR to check for bass articulation and texture. During this track I found my only setback with Mahina’s technicalities: its bass texture is average. It’s not bad, but it’s also not top tier. Other than that, the overall presentation of the song is indeed top tier thanks to its bass tuning and a joy to press replay on.

Ghost-note - Shrill Tones

Given Shrill notes is one of my favorite jazz songs and I know it pretty well, I use it to check on the overall presentation and to check for any info missing. Mahina, as expected, turns the jazz session into an old school sweaty jam that keeps your groove going and unable to sit down. Although I still would take single DDs for its timbre and a more balanced or brighter tuning for jazz tracks, I’m guilty of enjoying warmer presentations sometimes, especially on parts like the Mononeon’s solo around 3:21m.

If you are looking for a bright accurate set for Jazz, Mahina might not be for you. But it will make you dance if you don’t.

Kendrick Lamar - Backstreet Freestyle

I don’t usually delve deep into hip-hop or rap, but Kendrick I do enjoy and respect.

Backstreet Freestyle lets me check for a couple of things: the sub-bass pan through all the song, the bells in the background and vocal position.

Mahina didn’t just pass the test, she made a statement. This is the best genre I’ve tried with this set. The sub-bass elevation and the medium tightness of the bass are just a chef’s kiss for the genre, which makes sense given HBB’s Library.

Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles / Crossing

Yosi tracks need no introduction: the imaging chops trademark.

While being good on stage width, it was the depth that completely got my attention as being very good. If you add that to a good imaging and holographic psychoacoustics, Mahina has one of my favorite stage presentations until its price point.

Philipp Gorbachev - 5Th New Century Ft. Polina (Len Faki Hardspace Mix)

Last but not least, I could not leave the room without touching my roots: techno.

Techno is one of the last things I try on any set because if passes more demanding genres, it might as well pass this one. Since it is my roots, I usually just check for tonality balance across the spectrum and bass authority - and oh yes, is Mahina authoritative. Allied to separation and stage depth, the bass just feels the room and speakers come in. Back to the nightclub we go!

TL: DR Sound Overview

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We already used music to talk about the tuning, but now I will make a very short overview of the sound characteristics to make sure nothing was left out and for ease of reading.

Mahina is what I would call a mild L-shaped tuned IEM. The prominent star of the show is of course the bass, tastefully done by a nice glide that corrects itself around 300hz, turning the tuning into the warmer side of the spectrum. This glide will affect the rest of the tuning, mainly the mid-range, bringing up the note-weight of the harmonics, needing a well done pinna-gain region and treble to back it off and not feel overly warm or dark. This was also accomplished by extending the treble region, which also allows Mahina to be very immersive and musical. For those looking for a clinical tuning or more energy uptop, these ain’t for you.

As for technicalities, they are in the same ballpark as the other tribrids in this price range, which is actually a standout given the tuning, especially in the stage depth department. The nitpicks will have to go into mid-bass texture, that could be better, but good nonetheless.

With all the above said, the presentation is extremely smooth and can be enjoyed for very extensive sessions.



LETSHUOER x HBB EJ07m Kinda Lava (resin shell, W01 tips)

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In general, the LETSHOUER x HBB Kinda Lava (KL) is more balanced while the Mahina is warmer, filling different spots in my collection and adapting better for different genres. The main differences, as the graph will show, will be on the bass shelf and the upper mids/lower treble region.

On actual sound analysis, starting with the sub-bass (Why So Serious @ 3:25m), the extra elevation of Mahina helps to get a better rumble and claustrophobic feeling, which is no surprise, as I feel the real difference comes into the mid-range transition.

The mid-bass is where these two turn into a pickle: The Mahina has better prominence and will replay better bass guitars and kickdrums (Magnetar, Shrill Tones), where the KL shows a better controlled and textured bass (OPR, Playing God). It’s not to say, as mentioned above, that the mid-bass on Mahina is bad, but the DD on Kinda Lava feels more textured and articulated. The pickle sums up to me preferring the Mahina bass replay, but wishing it had a tiny bit more texture like the KL.

The mid-range tuning only varies in the note-weight due to bass differences (Glass, Says), with Kinda Lava being more in your face presentation and sometimes shadowing other frequencies in comparison to the Mahina (Little Journey) that is more relaxed and immersive, mostly due to the pinna-gain region. The upper-mids difference is what sets them apart as well on the vocals, with the replay of female vocals (Daydreamer) on Kinda Lava being more energetic and with a touch more bite, where the Mahina feels more smoothed out and better controlled, which I prefer.

Once we get into the lower treble region, those who prefer more energy on cymbal strikes (Dreams, Lust for Life) will choose the extra energy of the Kinda Lava, but due to my preferences, the energy and decay on Mahina take the cup. From that region and upwards, they are pretty much the same extension wise (Hell’s Bells), with the Kinda Lava having a touch more of perceived details due to the the clarity offered by the lower bass shelf, but I’d say that other than the treble boost, the actual micro details are on pair if not better on the Mahina.

Since we already touched the technicalities, might as well end with it. In short, I feel that they will be around the same ballpark, like most capable tribids around this price range, other than tuning influence.
The Mahina has a better stage presentation than the KL due to the depth of it, while the other has a hair of better imaging (Crossing, Bubbles). Macro dynamics feel a touch better on Mahina where the micro dynamics of the bass are better on KL as explained above (Playing God). The decay is close and goes around the usual tribrid implementation, still lacking that sweet timbre of the DD master race (Winter 1, Dreams). Separation and layering fall into Mahina’s side of the turf, where the Kinda Lava show’s more perceived clarity, both related to differences in tuning.

Quick Impressions vs other sets:

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  • MiM Dark Magician
Mahina is more technical, which comes out as no surprise due to driver count vs a single dynamic. The treble on both is very reminiscent of each other, with the DM having a touch more energy. The main difference comes down to the bass boost on Mahina vs the lean curve on the DM, with the latter showing better speed and control, and the first showing better impact and sub-bass rumble. The DM is a better all-rounder, especially on vocals, where the Mahina is better suited for bass heavy genres like classical rock and hip-hop.

  • Softears RSV
Despite the more perceived bass impact of RSV’s due to the mid-bass focus, the sub-bass is bloodbath on Mahina’s favor and showing the DD vs BA differences. The mid-range and the treble are more energetic on RSV, showing a better replay of vocals, while Mahina throws the punch on the technicalities side of things while containing more perceived clarity.

  • Sony N3
Bass dynamics and tuning is better done on Mahina, ruling out N3’s bloatedness and being way more technical. N3 timbre and treble tuning are still a point in its favor over the Mahina but showing one can be an interesting upgrade over the other.

The verdict

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Well, it seems this take turned into a longer one than expected, but I hope it is clear what the strong suits of the Yanyin Mahina are. For those who are already used to HBB’s colabs or share his library tastes, they can probably know what they can expect from this set.

I think it’s easy to understand that I really enjoyed my time with the Mahina so far and that I intend to keep it on my collection as the warmer offer. It’s a very musical and immersive set that just lives alongside my other pearls for those mood shuffling days. Harman targetted or sterile sets are easy to find, well done musical ones ain’t so.

This doesn’t go without explaining, once again, that if you have a more clinical based library or you are looking for a sterile replay, these might not be for you, such as K-Pop or progressivel metal. Mahina will shine on Hip-hop, EDM or Classical Rock, as a counter example.

With that to the side, the Yanyin x HBB Mahina gets my recommendation and will now be my default bassy rec around its price point.

Good job Chris.

Value ranking: 4.5/5. Personal rank: A+.

Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
@goodvibes i havent heard the Moonlight, but there's also EJs on the line for that. Mahina is suited for a different audience/library, imo
@nymz Would you, please, compare Mahina sub-bass and bass with Tea 2?
Who's YanYin?


Reviewer at nymzreviews
7hz Salnotes Zero: (T)chu (t)chu does the train
Pros: Price
2-pin cable
Cons: None at this price range other making you rethink your expensive collection.
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Disclaimer: This unit was provided by Linsoul for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Linsoul for the opportunity and support.

Driver Setup: 1DD
Price: $20
Purchase link and info: Linsoul

Included in the box:
  • Salnotes Zero
  • Standard 2pin cable with a 3.5mm termination;
  • 5 pairs of silicone tips, color coordinated;

Comfort, fit and isolation: Great.
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack
Tips used: BGVP A07, Final E
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

Context - why did we need the Zero?

Timeless - one of the words you can’t avoid reading anywhere when searching for IEM nowadays. Bought out of nowhere in 2021, 7hz took the market by the storm with a strong proposition on hand: filling the gaps. Given the fast paced moving markets and the introduction of better and better budget options by the day, brands and consumers want timeless things, but not the eternal ones (giant pun intended).

And 7hz just did it again with their Salnotes Zero (Zero). They aimed for the audiophile twitter trends: calling a set Zero and making it around 20 dollars. Step aside as the train passes, chu chu (ok I’ll stop!)

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I’ve been an advocate that tuning is (or should be) free. Consumers should be paying for technicalities, driver count, customer service, accessories, you name it, but not tuning.

Tuning is what makes or breaks an IEM for me. It is the most relevant thing when I hit play and with different tunings come different listening moods. There are exceptions and since I am talking about 7hz, might as well bring back Timeless to the table, as it’s one of the IEMs the tuning wasn’t as balanced for me but I could easily let it pass due to its resolving power at the given price bracket. Timeless was a setting stone and a true bracket disruptor and extrapolating that, so is the Zero.

The Salnotes Zero is a modest single dynamic driver IEM clocking in at twenty dollars without much fault. The costs were shorten where they should be - simple packaging, lack of any accessories other than tips, - but the focus was kept on where it matters - good enough shell, fit and comfort, using 2 pin connectors, a good enough to be usable cable and the most important thing, the sound.

As fast as Timeless took the world by storm, so did the more recently arrived ultra budget option, the Moondrop Chu. By not reinventing the wheel twice and focusing on taking something good and making it better, 7hz presents us a (spoiler alert) better Chu. If we rewind a couple of months back, the three major complaints about the Moondrop Chu were the following:
  1. Pillowy/soft bass;
  2. A hair more energy in the lower treble regions than needed for some libraries;
  3. Non-detached table.

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It doesn’t take a genius to look at the graph and find that the point number 2) was taken care of and as mentioned above, the number 3) as well. So we are left with the number 1) that we will segway us into the sound section.

The Sound

The Salnotes Zero’s bass has what I would never describe as pillowy, but as the opposite. Once I played “5th New Century” remix by Len Faki, any doubt was gone as the microdynamics are there: it has a sense of rumble and slam that are commendable for its price and trading blows with most outliers in the budget range. “Why So Serious?” sense of claustrophobia is right there and the bass guitar on “Magnetar” is no slouch and very well positioned for my tastes.

The Zero has some of that warmth that just gives bones to the music, a tone to a party, but without ever spilling the drinks into the mid-range. Hania Rani’s piano on “Glass” has all the info with the right amount of weight despite the keys played. The “Prelude WTC I no. 2” by the Charl du Plessis Trio or “Mario Takes a Walk” by Jesse Cook just show how balanced these mids are with not much to fault on, tuning wise. Vocals are better portrayed when in their female form (Agnes Obel - The Curse) when compared to the male counterpart (The Dead South - In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company), showing better frontality and bite.

The upper mid-range is the only place I will nitpick by saying that I’d prefer a db or two less around the 4 to 5k area, as that is my sensible spot, but nothing I can’t adjust with some brain-in (Adele - Daydreamer). Again, I say this is a nitpick because I know most people reading this would be happy with it or even more energy here.

Past that, I have nothing to point on, as the treble is very well done and nicely extended, which was a rarity given the price range in the past (David Carroll - Hell’s Bells). Despite the graph, the energy up there is just right and never overcooked.

Now, as expected, the castle is made of cards and it would eventually fall down. Well, Zero’s weak spot is without a doubt the technicalities. The stereoimaging is not perfect, but I’ve heard much worse on things costing 20 or 40 times more, due to having just enough depth for the sound not to feel trapped inside your head. Another expected vital spot is the details and that goes along with the budget range - it is what you pay for. I would say the rest of the technical parts fall along the average for a sub 50 or 100 IEM, namely dynamics and timbre, which are neither bad nor good. (Polyphia - Playing God)

Quick Comparisons

graph - 2022-08-10T234826.350.png

Moondrop Chu

I was one of the praisers for Chu and, as mentioned in the introduction, Zero fulfills the gaps left behind - in fact, it was probably just a matter of time before someone threw a shot at it. I find Zero to be an overall upgrade to the Chu and for that, a new king rules in the 20$ bracket.

DUNU Titan S

Let’s face it, Titan S trumps all over Zero in the technical department, as it should, since it costs 4 times more. But again, when we look into what Zero really shines, such as its tuning, I’d prefer it over the Dunu’s offer. Nonetheless, the Titan S is still a better overall IEM.

Same story as the Titan S, as I’d take Zero’s tuning, especially mids and treble, but CRA’s technicalities. Good budget compliments if you want something more laidback vs something more energetic mildly V-shape like the CRA.

The verdict

If I praised CRA, Mele or Chu when they came out and given their price, it would only make sense to praise Zero as much as I can given it has almost literally my preference curve and it is now probably my favorite all-rounder IEM until the 100 dollar king pins touch base.

Is the Zero a perfect IEM? No, it is not, especially in the technical department. But in this reviewer’s opinion, as perfect as 20$ can get you right this moment. Highly and blindly recommended, with a cookie on the side.

With influencers like Crinacle and HBB basically confirming one of their next targets is also the 20$ bracket, I think we can expect even more competition here in the future. As for now, good luck beating the 7hz Salnotes Zero.

Value ranking: 5/5. Personal rank: C+.

Thanks for reading!
Maybe this is what happens to Moondrop Aria?

Anyhow, is there any better way to dampen upper frequencies without smearing the transients? I use micropore nowadays to dampen the nozzle and close vents, but I’m looking for more permanent solutions.
from years of modding, i learnt that foam is the best damper to use to absorb unwanted "ringing" resonance, as long as they don't block entire nozzle. You must have good airflow for DD to get non smeared bass (tight and right). Micropore is good, but poke a little hole in the center just to create good airflow for the case you missed it, i tried micropore too with Blon BL-03 few years back with measurements :
Best damper that i can think is make a medium density foam, with holes on the center, so it will be shaped like donut. from that, just make the foam longer or shorter depends on needs. Whoever do this, they win the competition if tuned nicely also.
Can I just cut a hole into the stock tuning foam and that white part on top of it to achieve simillar result?


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Truthear x Crinacle Zero: Harman living picture
Pros: Bass
Good for Harman lovers
Cons: Mid-bass scoop
Treble feels grainy
Upper-mids are harsh and offset

Disclaimer: This unit was provided by Shenzhenaudio for free in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Shenzhenaudio for the opportunity and support.

Driver Setup: 2 Dynamic Drivers - 10mm (woofer) + 7.8mm (mids to highs)
Price: $50
Purchase link and info: Shenzhenaudio

Included in the box:
  • Zero
  • Standard 2pin black cable with a 3.5mm termination;
  • 6 Pair of silicone tips;
  • 1 Pair of foam tips;
  • A carrying pouch (PU leather);
  • Documentation and warranty card.

Comfort, fit and isolation: Nozzles are long and thick so fit, comfort and isolation might get tricky for those with shorter canals like me. Very lightweight shells.
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack
Tips used: Stock silicone - narrow
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

Sound characteristics

graph - 2022-08-04T192924.080.png

If the title of this review hasn't been specific enough yet, the Truthear x Crinacle Zero (Zero) is a Harman Target doppelganger, meaning it follows the (in)famous Harman curve very closely for its tuning.

Translating that into an actual analysis and easy going words, you will find an almost V-Shaped signature, only not touching it due to the usual clean and drier bass, neutral mid-range or just slightly north of it.

Zero, being a deadringer to Harman, is no exception. According to the Crinacle, the idea is to take a shot on a harman target but including a twist: having a dedicated woofer crossed over at around 100hz. This generated a lot of hype but also doubt, so I will try to simplify it for you the best that I can in the following paragraph to hopefully answer some of the questions that have been brought to me.

Think of a 2 way channel system with a subwoofer. The bigger drivers handle lower frequencies better, adding impact, texture and authority, but being incapable of having the needed speed required for higher frequencies. The usual smaller drivers have the opposite effect and some systems even include tweeters for ultra high frequencies to achieve better results. In this particular case of the Zero, by using two different drivers, the bigger one is allocated exclusively to the bass region, not overcharging it with the usual full range stress, which also leads into the fabled dynamic drivers fallacy of not extending far enough in the upper regions. The second driver, being smaller, can take the rest of the spectrum by itself without sweating as much and reaching better volumes at higher frequencies. In short and on paper: better bass and treble extension.

1659745880340 v2.jpg

Now, from the paper to the ears, it worked. The Zero has a very good bass impact for the price range - one of the best in my opinion, - which approves of the formula. Addressing another elephant in the room, the sub-bass roll-off, I can see why it was done and I commend it, trying to emphasys this bass impact and let’s be honest here, there’s not much music below 30hz anyway, let alone perceive such roll-off other than in sine sweeps (Big Boi - Kill Jill). Final verdict is that the sub-bass passes with flying colors in my library with some nice rumble.

Now, it wouldn’t be me without nickpicking it and bringing up my usual not-so-likable distaste for the harman target: the mid-bass is very dry and feels scooped out at times on kick drums and bass guitars, namely the lower mids (Ghost-Note - Shrill Tones).

Given the mid-bass, it’s easy to perceive how clean and on the thinner side of the spectrum the mid-range is found. Being a mid-centrist, I have to appreciate its transparency, but sometimes I just feel they could use a touch more of note weight (Yiruma - River Flows In You). I still have to disclose that these are more personal nitpicks than actual complaints, as the mid-range is very good for the bracket and I have a wild guess most will like it.

Now, my main problem with the Harman target reaches up on us once we climb up in the frequency range: the upper mid-range and the treble. Zero is no exception and the usual forward but harsh female vocals of the Harman Target show its claws. I was doing a random shuffle on Tidal when Miley Cirus - Malibu kicked in and from the first second she sang I could feel the sense of sandpaper and off timbre in her voice. This sense moves along up the treble region (David Carroll - Hell’s Bells) where I think people who enjoy more energetic signatures will like the Zero, but to me and my library I can’t fully commend it, as it has some more energy than I can take, leading into a volume dial down. To note that other than this, I didn’t find any type of piercing peaks that are the oh-so-usual around this price bracket.

The only two subjects left in the working bench would be the male vocals and treble extension. Well, regarding the latter I have nothing to point other than the lack of air sometimes which comes more obvious on busy passages. Male vocals fall into the more subdued side of things, sometimes meshing with the background (Woodkid - Run Boy Run) and lacking emphasis.

Closing up my thoughts with a word regarding technicalities, I would say that the Zero falls along the same guidelines of the best contenders for the sub-50 category.


To keep this section short, I have chosen three solid contenders for the price bracket that I had on hand and probably my three favorites for different reasons, with the honorable mention going to CCA CRA but that needs PEQ in my opinion, so I have to leave it out of this comparison.

Moondrop Chu

graph - 2022-08-06T002951.100.png
Being almost siamese twins after the 400hz section, there’s not much to be said about these two other than bass differences and minor technicalities. The bass on the Zero is much more impactful and feels more average DD like, where the Chu’s bass is soft and pillowy in comparison but with a slightly warmer touch. The hair on the tech side goes also in favor of Zero with the Chu costing less than half. Overall I think I would pick Zero over Chu due to the bass dynamics.

CCA CRA+ and Tripowin Mele

graph - 2022-08-06T003604.208.png

These are two different beasts when compared to the Zero, given their warm signature vs its drier presentation. The CCA CRA+ comes out as more technical and airy than the Zero and, despite not being perfect, suiting my library better. The Mele is even warmer than the CRA+, and feeling mudier due to the drop in the air region, but having my favorite mids and vocals of the three.

Overall, I would pick both Mele and CRA+ over Zero.

The verdict

1659745880348 v2.jpg

Despite my personal nitpicks, I have to still get around my brain and remember that we are talking about the sub-50 dollars bracket and recognize how far we have come in the last few months.

In my opinion it is just as fair to give the recognition to the Truthears Zero as much as I gave to other market sets, despite not being my cup of Tea. I feel that people who actively love Harman Target or sets like the Moondrop Chu can’t go wrong with the Zero, and for those this gets a recommendation at 50 dollars.

I wanna go on a tangent and also say that it’s a “cheap” way to find out if this target is to your likings before delving into something like the Moondrop Variations blind. Yes, you heard that right but please read it again with a giant bag of salt and keeping in mind technical differences and driver setups. But if Zero overall tuning is to your liking, Variations will just get better than that.

As a last word about Crinacle’s objective, I think the tuning speaks for itself and it’s nice to see some new inside the hood experimentation in the budget segments rather than the usual setups found on any shell. Kudos to that.

Value ranking: 4.5/5. Personal rank: C.

Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for your review. I'm not sure if I should get the Zero, I like bass and I already have the Mele but it doesn't fit my bass taste, does the Zero have better/more bass punch???
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@iron2k I'm not sure I got your question right. Would you love more bass, less bass or just the same but better quality? Anyway, feel free to PM me for a chat in case I miss your answers!


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Hiby R5 Gen 2: Entry level benchmark
Pros: Class A mode sounds delicious
Outstanding battery on eco mode (30h)
Google Store
Amazing price to performance
Power on class A
Cons: Android 8
Slow when compared to modern phones
Buttons are okayish and no volume wheel
Gets warm and batery takes a hit on Class A mode
Eco mode sound is just fine
1658868198248 v2.jpg

Disclaimer: This unit was purchased by me through Linsoul with a discount in exchange for a written review. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Linsoul for the continuous support.

Price: $450
Purchase link and info: Linsoul
Operating system: Android 8.1
Hardware: Snapdragon 425, ES9219C x2 DACs, WiFi up to 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 2.0, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and up to 2TB through SD cards, 4500mAh battery
Display: 4.7’ IPS , 720*1280

Included in the box:
  • Hiby R5 Gen 2
  • USB-C to USB-A cable;
  • 2 screen protectors;
  • A blue leather case;
  • User manual and warranty papers.
IEMs used:
  • Softears RSV
  • MiM Dark Magician
  • LETSHUOER x HBB Kinda Lava
  • Tripowin x HBB Olina
  • Sennheiser IE600
Other sources used:
  • Singxer SA-1,
  • Cayin RU-6,
  • Qudelix 5k
  • Xduoo XD-05 Plus w/ Burson V5i opamps
  • iFi xDSD Gryphon
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal

Form factor, connectivities and interface


Last year I had the chance to own a Hiby R5 Saber for a short period of time but oh boy was I impressed. At that price, and still to this day I find it one of the best entry level digital audio players (DAPs) that you can get if your intention is to get a nice packed battery, clean sound and a lot of power.

Walking the footsteps of its older brother, the Hiby R5 Gen 2 (R5) has a couple changes to be noticed, namely the form factor. It now has a bigger body (123*71.3*15.5mm), screen and battery, together with a new amplification circuit that we will delve into later.

On the top for the chassi you will find nothing but tempered glass, as the buttons stay on the side panels. To the left you have your volume up and down rockers as well as the SD card slot. On the right side you have four buttons: power button, previous track, play/pause and next track.
As you can see, it’s simple and effective, but I’d like to nitpick the button quality: when using the included protective leather case, I had this problem where sometimes it was hard to find the right button to press or they pressed out by themselves when the Hiby was in my pocket. And yes, you can easily figure out I’m a volume wheel fanboy!


One of the things I love the most about the R5 is that it covers any connectivity needed on the go. Labeled across the glass, you will find Hiby R5 Gen2 inputs and outputs at the bottom of the player and it contains nothing less than two balanced outputs (2.5mm and 4.4mm), a single ended output (3.5mm) that also works as a lineout and the USB-C port that lets you connect any dongle to it or, using it the other way around, lets it act as a USB DAC/Amp if you connect it to another digital source such as a computer. Again, lots of choices!

Using the R5 Gen2 as a USB-C DAC/AMP combo for desktop usage is a breeze after installing a small and quick driver on your computer. I’ve only used this method a couple of times and it worked flawlessly, but you have to keep in mind there will always be some delay in the DAP world when compared to pure DAC/AMP combos, but nothing troublesome and you will only notice it in some videos or movies.

What I really used the Hiby R5 Gen the most was purely as a source. Both headphone outs and lineouts worked flawlessly and were easy to set up even for the go, when attached to other amps or dongles. I will disclose that over 95% of my time with the Hiby R5 Gen2 was using it as a music player, on local FLAC files and this is where this review will mainly focus.

Gliding down into the interface territory, there’s not much else to say other than it’s your typical Android 8 player - It won’t be lightning fast when you compare it to your average phone or tablet but does the job right. If your use case is mainly like mine, which means using FLAC files and Tidal, you won’t even notice the interface speed - just pick your album, put it in your pocket.

Now, this leaves us with the final use case, adopted by myself a good dozen of the times, which is the Bluetooth pairing with your phone. In this scenario you can either control the DAP through Hiby Link or, my favorite, use it as a Bluetooth amplifier and run streaming services on it in places where you can’t connect it to a wi-fi network. Trust me, very useful during commutes where you can just jam to something you haven’t downloaded into local files yet.

Now we know how the swiss knife works but how does it sound?

Sound and different amplifications


Right off the bat you will be faced with two amplifying modes: the regular delta sigma (economy mode) and the festival headliner, Class A amplification. I won’t be covering the technical differences between the two given there’s a lot of articles written by much more capable people than me all over the internet.

Mode selection or not, there’s common factors to both: It has a dead-silent background even on my Zen Pro with High Gain turned on for testing. Speaking of gain modes, the R5 has three so you can better tune the volume for your needs.

In my opinion, the economy mode resembles the typical ESS implementation you can find commonly in the market, leaning towards the neutral bright side of the spectrum. It’s the usual very technical and clean, sometimes dry sound that has become an industry standard and very reminiscent of its predecessor, the Hiby R5 Saber.

This mode will also come out as the most sparkly and detailed of the two, but let’s face it, it is called economy for a reason, right? The economy mode pumps up a stunning 30 hours of playtime which I can attest for by not charging it during most of my holidays. Second to the sound, I would say this is the biggest quality of the R5 Gen 2.

Outputting “only” 10 hours of playback, comes in the Class A mode. This is due to its nature of amplifying the sound. Keep the battery time in mind but also the fact that it gets VERY warm, are the only two negatives I can think of in this mode, so let’s get into the positives.

The Class A sounds amazing. The moment you press it (it changes after a quarter of a second sound drop, useful to A/B after volume adjustment) the party starts.

Everything gets a touch of smoothness that is converted into musicality, leaving no doubts of the greatness Hiby has built inside such a small device. The neutral-bright sound of the ESS chip swifts into a neutral warm type of sound, more refined and with a bigger stage. Female vocalists like Agnes Obel just take you on a bigger journey.

I have concluded that this mode worked the best with all of my IEMs, but as expected, it paired the best with the brighter ones. This doesn’t mean it turns dark like the Cayin RU-6 R2R dongle, but instead just warmer with a neutral treble, turning every jazz note into a jam session - and who doesn’t like that?

Again, the economy mode may give a sense of a hair more of details due to its treble boost, but the order in this mode is by far musicality. Once I tasted it, I have to admit I almost never went back to economy mode other than for testing purposes and battery stress, but that also means you have options: you have two sound signatures on a single device.

Despite the Class A mode sounding better to my ears and giving the form factor of the Hiby, you can’t expect a day and night difference. It’s on the more subtle side but undoubtedly present.



Cayin N3 Pro

Android vs non-android. Utility vs speed. Tubes vs Class A.

The Cayin N3 Pro is a non-android based DAP, which gives it advantages and disadvantages vs the R5, as obvious as the interface speed or the boot up speed. Being the connections partially the same (difference resumes on the N3 Pro not having a 2.5mm connect but having an extra balanced line out) and sharing the same price bracket, let’s just focus on sound here.

The solid state on the Cayin N3 Pro sounds better to my ears than the economy mode of the R5 and it’s much more powerful (800mW vs 320mW @ 32 ohms). It is more neutral and technical, namely the stage size. The AKM implementation of the Cayin is still one of the best I have heard to this day. The R5 will fit darker iems better if it is your intention to give it a small bump in the upper region.

Now, the caveat comes when we compare their “special” modes and this is where the tables completely turn. The Hiby R5 Gen2 now has more power than the Cayin (475mW vs 130mW @ 32 ohms) and brightens up one of my biggest complaints on the N3 Pro: you can only use tubes on 3.5mm headphone output while with the R5 you can use Class A in any jack.
Now, regarding preferences, the R5 Gen2 is a clear winner when we compare it vs the N3 Pro tube modes: it’s less warm and bloated, giving a sense of just musicality where the N3 sometimes feels extremely warm. Regarding technical differences, they aren’t much different and I will say the R5 comes out ahead on details and stage, but nothing to call home about.

The last words go into the ease of usage. The Hiby is much easier to carry around, connect transducers to and has more utility due to Android where the Cayin is faster and gets less warm in tubes than R5 does on class A. The battery of the Cayin is around 9 hours which goes close to the 10 hours of replay time in the Hiby’s Class A mode, but once you switch to economy mode, it’s a bloodbath, as the R5 outputs an outstanding 30 hours.

Cayin N3 Pro’s speed helps it being fast to transfer songs into it but the Hiby R5 Gen 2 comes out ahead in the charging time thanks to its quick charge 3.0, taking almost half.

The verdict

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I have no doubts about the crazy price to performance ratio Hiby R5 Gen2 brings to the table in the budget segment of the DAP market - and yes, this is “budget” for a DAP. It might not be for you as it is not for me, but DAP prices have always been high and it just seems to be getting wilder by the day.

There is also the ethereal question regarding how much price to performance you can get on the go if you get a portable dac amplifier or even a dongle, and everyone knows it. It will always fall under the use case scenario for each individual - some prefer to use their smartphone, some prefer to have a separate device to play music and don’t drain the phone’s battery. In my case, I do prefer DAPs but both types of portability have their own benefits, in different places at different times.

As far as DAPs go, and after carrying the Hiby R5 Gen2 for months while playing my favorite tracks to save me from the commute boredom, I have no other option but to highly recommend this DAP if you are looking for one at this price range. For those that got the early bird promotion or found it on sale, you made an amazing deal.

Thanks for reading!
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Reviewer at nymzreviews
TGXEars Serratus: A love letter to music
Pros: Everything that is not written on the cons list
Cons: Needs some power
Won't be suited for all genres
Earbud isolation
Not basshead friendly
You won't find it in the usual stores

Disclaimer: This unit was provided by @tgx78 with a discount in exchange for a written review. Despite me and him being close and speaking regularly, that fact won’t influence my opinion of this unit and I won’t tell him my feedback until the end of post this review for a matter of transparency. No incentives of any kind were given and the review you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Tgx for the opportunity and support.

Driver Setup: Single Dynamic Driver (300ohm Blue PET Polymer Resin Crystal Diaphragm)
Price: $200
Purchase link and contact info:

Comfort, fit and isolation: Typical MX500 shell fit and comfort with zero isolation
Foams used: Stock
Source used: Topping E30 + L30 stack (high gain), Singxer SA-1 (high gain), Ovidious B1
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal


Music, art and a passion to mess around and build stuff - three things that gave Jim his reputation across the online audio forums. Violin player since a young age, the “timbre checker” as some call him, tried out more gear than I could ever list, especially the ones labeled as TOTL. Later down the road he found his love for earbuds timbre and had this crazy idea of buying parts and trying to make them himself. The result of all this passion, knowledge and hard work is TGXEar.

Being relatively close to him, I had to try his work at least once to find out what he is made of, and since he asked nicely, I agreed to do a review on them and raised myself this question: is all that experience what it takes, or do you need something else?

To answer that question and more, let's quickly analyze the Serratus, his first released flagship, but not before unwrapping it first.

Build quality, accessories and driveability

1659088070190 v2.jpg

Big full stop ahead. Serratus has a 300ohm driver, a sensitivity of 102dB SPL at 1mW and it is power hungry. I don’t mean you won’t be able to run it through your regular bluetooth amplifiers, but I feel that the performance won’t be the ideal one if you care about that. As always, YMMV but beware you will need some juice to put this up in the air.

Now, with that behind our backs, let’s talk about build quality. The almost industry standard MX500 shell is used but the crystal clear skin leaves nothing to the imagination and reveals the star of the show dressed in blue.

From the gorgeous looks to the most small color coding detail, nothing was left by chance, and that moves along into the cable chosen. Distancing herself from the rest of the DIY competition, Serratus packs up a delicately thin 4 core litz 4n silver cable, 4.4mm terminated with a working chin-slider.

This gorgeous, tangle free and well built XINHS cable is proof that Tgx moved miles until he got what he wanted, as the included foams are no exception: carefully tested and picked to match the tuner's intention for the frequency response.

To wrap it up, a simple but personally written red-case, displaying the model name on the front with the serial name on the back, done with a silver marker.



Neutral, accurate and audiophile are the three words that came through my mind when I finished my first passage.

Jumping to the low end, it almost comes close to your ever-so-neutral type of earbud on a first look: a touch of a rolled off sub-bass in the tail but close to flat. Given it’s an earbud and we have no proper way to measure it but using our ears and doing a sine sweep, I proved myself right and to my surprise, the roll off felt minimal at 20 hertz.

Hypnocurrency” by Deadmau5, the now classic “Why So Serious?” or even “Dream of Arrakis” both by Hans Zimmer, showed a complex and articulated sub-bass, with enough rumble to be at the bare minimum felt physically (let alone compared to the majority of the earbud world). Despite its great texture, and as expected for the genre, I will disclose right now that the sub-bass is the weakling of this neutral focused tuning, but it’s so good in the grand scheme of things that you can already guess where this is going.

Once you go a step further on the frequency response, things just keep getting better. Mid-bass follows and don’t let the “neutral” tuning fool you: this will hit you in the chest. “Packt Like Sardines In A Crshd Tin Box” by Radiohead, during its intro, will show you just that. Again, the word articulation comes to mind as the bass has the right amount of speed to never feel too fast and for sure not slow, just a beautiful balance hitting the right spot along with its tightness. On more jazzy tracks (Mark Letteri - Magnetar comes to mind) you will even forget you are hearing a neutral tuned IEM, as the bass guitar and drums are so present and separated, despite the bandwidth share.

Moving up the candyland, the mid-range. Transparency but not enough to feel thin, as the shelf left some weight to it - it just sounds correct and accurate. It’s north than neutral, meaning they are slightly forward but still not your face and congesting the whole frequency. If we were talking about IEMs, I’d probably compare it to something that most people don’t know I like by now (wink wink) such as the Letshuoer EJ07 or EJ07m.

Let me try to explain the above paragraph with some music. Pianos never feel thin, over blurry or out of scale - they sound right, they feel right. Hania Rani, Nils Frahm, Yann Tiersen, Sawano, you name it and Serratus gives it back.
Agnes Obel’s vocals are reminiscent of my favorite replay (done by RSV), with a touch less bite and less in your face, and the male counterpart just follows suit (Dead South - In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company).

Every good thing has to come to an end and, oh boy, what a way to close it by talking about the treble region. Cymbal hits, claps, brass, electric guitars, you name it and it’s good, without any hint of sibilance. And that ain’t even the best part.

The air and extension on Serratus is something breath-taking and I’ll try to explain to you why. It’s usually very hard to have the cake and to eat it at the same time. Everytime you try to raise these most upper frequencies you get slapped with either fatigue or the sense of unnatural details. This has none of that. Zero. As expected as it is from a more neutral tuning to put the treble at the center of the show, I was certainly not expecting this. The last nail in the coffin.

To leave a note on library compatibility, I would say these won’t fit any bass addicts or genres that need sub-bass to shine like hip-hop or modern pop/K-pop that are sub-bass heavy.

Technical chops


The best was saved for the end, but I never told you it was regarding tuning, right?

One of the most difficult concepts to ever explain to someone that never experienced it is center imaging that is usually found on speakers. I will describe it as putting the vocalist in front of you but with some depth and the rest of the sound to appear on the sides and behind the vocalist. IEMs are one of the worst at this, they basically position the vocalist inside your head, close to your eyes and try to spread it around you (when they can), as they lack stage depth and can’t mimic 2-way channels.
This imaging and the giant stage even for an earbud are the first thing I noticed and I kid you not, I have been A/Bing Serratus vs my Edifier S3000 Pro since I got them and my conclusion is that Serratus is a mobile pair of speakers, and I think that speaks volumes on itself.

All of the above couldn’t be done without a brilliant sense of separation and dynamics, accompanied by the best level of resolving power I’ve heard in a bud. Serratus' sense of clarity is truly mesmerizing, even if I compare it to IEMs, and justifying the speaker comparison once again.

Now, to end this the best way possible and to give you even more reasons to think I am crazy or a shiller, I will touch on the best technical ability of this set: its timbre. It’s not good, it’s not very good, it’s not exceptional - it’s perfect by my ears.

Once I heard the first cymbal strike, I knew I was up for something with that decay. I decided to incarnate the tuner and went straight ahead into some jazz and classical and here I am, around 8 hours of playtime later and still not letting these go.

The first classical track I played was Vivaldi’s Spring 1, reassembled by Max Richter:

The positional cues of the violins acting like birds in front of me, the hype building up and the stage evolving more and more, filled with a cluster of instruments correctly separated. Don’t ask me what happened but I got shivers all over my body and before I noticed, I was crying while listening to this Vivaldi play. Oh, it’s been a while.

The verdict


I’ll be straight to the point, the TGXEar Serratus are the best earbuds I have ever tried and one of the best overall monitors I have ever heard and despite the higher-end price as far as buds go, these get the highest recommendation. If you are into buds, the money can be spent and it matches your library, look no further.

You might be guessing why I consciously avoided comparatives and well, I feel it wouldn’t be fair at this point. In fact, I had to re-do all my bud tierlist and drop everything down to make room for the newcomer.
Since the beginning of the year I had started a quest to find an ultimate version and upgrade to my forever beloved K’s Earphones LBBS (if you ever want to get into buds and you enjoy instrumental music or neutral tunings, start with these). No earbuds gave me that feeling so far since that one until now. This is the end of the line for me and I can now peacefully go back to my earbuds and not look for anything else, unless Tgx cooks something new.

On most technical fields the Serratus puts the majority of IEMs to shame. This won’t go without saying that there are two potential flaws to any person that wishes to buy these: earbud isolation and power requirements given they are 300ohm and hard to drive to its full potential, but nothing close to impossible.

Last but not the least, the price. For some $200 are just a mere IEM cable, to others are a lot of savings. These ain’t cheap, but to me they are worth it and after learning how long does it take to produce a single serratus, seeing the store price for every single part, Jim throwing away anything below perfection and the countless hours he lost in R&D, I truly think he is selling these on a loss and I wouldn’t do it as cheap.

To @tgx78, that will be reading this all I have to say is thank you. I have no words.

Value ranking: 5/5. Personal rank: S+.

Thanks for reading!
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Go Jim Go!
Congrats my friend, your buds is going to be better and better!
Great review!
I've had the Serratus for a few months now and they are so good I stopped looking at iems. I got addicted to the open sound and these are so good that they beat, in timbre, iems at 10x's the price. I know that sounds like hyperbole but if you like how earbuds present music over iems, and you prefer a clean more neutral sound then these are amazing. Yes they do need power. When I first got mine and tried them with an RU6 dongle, they sound a bit anemic and thin. Give them some power and the tone fills in, the stage opens and the bass seems to have no business being this good without the seal of an iem.

I also have the Tantalus and though it doesn't have the vast stage of the Serratus, I think it presents vocals near peerlessly from the iems/buds I've heard. The timbre on the Tantalus is both lush and detailed.

As I don't need the isolation afforded by iems, I have given up looking further than @tgx78 's earbuds.
@SBranson Can you please elaborate more on serratus and ru6 as pair. How exactly they perform


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Sony XBA-N3: The masterclass
Pros: Timbre
Balanced tonality
Cons: Mid-bass bleed
Technical chops
Stock cable
Fit will be wonky for some

Driver Setup: 1DD + 1BA
Price: $300 (discontinued)
Purchase link and info: Sony
Included in the box:
  • Sony XBA-N3
  • Standard MMCX cable with a 3.5mm termination. (The stock cable is designed to be able to be used down, meaning no ear hooks applied. It has a microphone included);
  • 4 Pair of Sony silicone tips (EP-EX11);
  • A leather carrying pouch;
  • A cleaning tool.

Comfort, fit and isolation: Bullet style fit which is not the most secure, but despite that, isolation and comfort are very good. Hands down the best bullet style fit I have tried so far.
Sources used: Topping E30 + L30 stack, Singxer SA-1, Qudelix 5k.
Tips used: AZLA Xelastic.
Test playlist with some of the songs used: Tidal



After just several minutes of listening to the XBA-N3 (N3) there was no doubt in my mind where Sony got the inspiration for the legendary IER-Z1R. The unmistakable house sound runs in the veins of the N3, which won’t appeal to everyone, but so is everything in life.

Depending on your definition of neutral, the N3 can be considered as a bass boosted neutral or a mild V-Shape but one sure thing, despite it matching your preferences or not, is that the tonal balance of the N3 is terrific on the fields they play on.

The bass is boosted and that is the reason to provide anyone's first impression once they hear these: they are very warm. Just by looking at the graph, it’s pretty clear that the bass was carefully raised in all its spectrum to achieve this sense of warmth and not to be just sub-bass boosted. Speaking of sub-bass, while doing a sine sweep to test these out the extension was sublime, reaching as low as 15 hertz and partly explaining its great performance on “Why So Serious?”, representing very well the sense of claustrophobia you can get once the 3:26 min drops.

The mid-bass was made to be gliding and very authoritative, and has an above average sense of taticality to it on its replay of Radiohead’s “Pckt Like Sardines in Crshd Tin Box” or “Shrill Notes” by Ghost-Note.

The amount of added warmth and the late bass flattening has the obvious impacts in the mid-range, making it fuller and heavier (Hania Rani - Glass). Being a mid-range fan myself, I would love to see a little less warmth presence in this region, but since it is so tastefully done, I can let it slide without moaning much - and also attenuated by the (very) well done pinna gain compensation where nothing what-so-ever gets in the range of shoutiness when replaying vocals - which isn’t the best suit for N3, but in my books the female portion (Nina Simone) sounds very involving and better than the male’s (Michael Bublé), as heard in the musical classic Feeling Good.

If I commended the upper-mids, I can’t get past how tastefully done the treble region is. Despite its warmth, the N3 still pours out details, air and extension by a brilliantly done custom balanced armature, counting as the cherry on top for how balanced the overall tuning is. The most impressive thing is doing all this without ever crossing any line, sounding sibilant or fatiding you (David Carroll - Hell's Bells).

Technical chops

N3 technicalities is where it falls short compared to its stellar performance in the frequency response. Other than the bass impact, the dynamics of the monitor are average at best, leaving no sense of volume spikes on most transitions.

The imaging chops on the N3 are nothing to write home about given its lack of stage width and average instrumental position, combined into a sense of blunted transients and lack of detail, which overall makes the technical performance probably below average for the current price bracket.

I left the best for the end and, following suit its younger brother Z1R, N3 puts out a masterclass on coherency and timbre that will completely mesmerize you, to a point I had to recall myself this isn’t a single dynamic driver but a hybrid.


graph (2).png

I have mentioned IER-Z1R a couple of times by now so it would be not fair to not give the perspective on these siblings compared to each other. It is very fair to assume that the Z1R is a terrific upgrade to the N3 on pretty much all aspects, especially the technical ones.

On tonality, I prefer Z1R due to its more tamed bass shelf, freeing up the other frequencies and paired with a more prominent treble response. This treble is a toss for me and I might tilt towards preferring the N3 one on paper, but it’s very hard to pick one as the Z1R has the technical performance to back it up better. Still in the tonality note, I prefer the pinna gain of the N3 as well, turning the mids closer to the listener and closer to my preferences, even though this effect is slightly canceled by its bass elevation.

To end on an objective note, both sets share the same DNA and don’t let the price tag fool you, as you will get the same pedigree, not the same performance but not by the price multiplier as some would expect. And don’t forget the cursed fit - as an IEM is only as good as if you can use it.

Now that we have seen the direct upgrade from the N3, it is time to mention who are these fit for and Blon BL-03 comes to mind. If you really love everything about the BL-03, look no further, as it maintains the coherency and timbre of the former, but elevates itself everywhere else, coming out as more refined.

The verdict

Released in 2016 but still holding its place in the food chain, the Sony XBA-N3 leaves me no other option but to recommend it, despite my preferences. Despite its weaknesses, Sony shows once more that the sound delivery matters more than the sum of its parts and frequency response graphs. It truly does something special to my library and after listening to it and Z1R, guess I am now also a sony cult member.

Again, this set ain’t your average analytical sounding one, but there’s enough offers for those out there and this is about giving credit where it is due.

Value ranking: 5/5. Personal rank: B+.

Thanks for reading!
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@vietzerg the tips in the picture are BGVP W01, but I used Azla in the end. A couple of days ago I found out that if you use Moondrop Springtips it tames the mid-bass bleed and I love it. Maybe you wanna check that out!
@nymz Thanks! I'm trying it out now! I think the N3 is pretty sensitive to tip choice. Have you noticed any degradation in other frequencies (mid, treble) when switching to Spring Tips?
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@vietzerg tips are personal and will work differently on different ears. Keep it rolling until you find your mojo!


Reviewer at nymzreviews
DUNU VERNUS - Green is the color of the season
Pros: Bass quality
Note weight
Tuning nozzles
Cons: Limited edition
Treble can get energetic for some
Mids aren't neutral
Sub-bass roll off

Inside the Box
  • Tuning nozzles;​
  • A pouch to keep your monitors inside (sock);​
  • Sereveral different tips in different sizes;​
  • MMCX cable with 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm interchangeable terminations;​
  • Carrying pouch;​
  • Cleaning cloth and brush;​
  • 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter;​
  • Warranty card.​


Clocking in at $220, DUNU has decided to bring something else to the table by re-tuning the now infamous Falcon Pro but with a caveat: only 100 units were produced and sold.
At this price and together with its predecessor, that makes VERNUS one of the cheapest monitors of the ECLIPSƎ family. For those that aren’t familiar with it, it’s a type of driver tech used on DUNU’s iems like ZEN and ZEN PRO.
Now, given the lack of positive reception given to the Falcon Pro on the eastern markets, does the driver, the new tuning and a fresh coat of Hulk paint give it what it needs to shine?

The VERNUS uses the same shell and philosophy as the Falcon Pro, which translates into having an semi-open back design by using five vent holes in the back. While this might help with air and stage, something must be disclosed right from the start: the isolation on VERNUS is terrible and won’t be suited for all ambients (and I have tested this for a good while).
Other than the above, it’s pretty straight forward. The fit is shallow and won’t feel the most secure even if you have bigger ears, but with shorter tips you should not have any problem. Speaking about tips, as usual by DUNU, it comes with a hefty choice of tips in the box, of different sizes, materials and colors. The reputation for accessory kings extends to the carrying case that is solid while being covered by a teal colored fabric. It’s the same shape as the one found on Zen Pro’s package and I really like it, especially compared to the Titan S one, but those that prefer smaller carrying pouches, might find it too big. To wrap-up the in-the-box chit-chat, the most eye-turners of all the DUNU’s accessories, and that’s their cables. With swappable terminations, this very thin 2-core silver cable has grown on me, since I didn’t like it at the start, but I have to give it out for its practicality and light-weight during the outdoor walks.


Given all that, it’s now time for the real reason you are reading all this - the way it sounds, - but we can’t go there without talking about the obvious kicker: the tuning nozzles. Yes, that’s right, VERNUS comes equipped with three tuning nozzles that were kindly named Reference, Atmosferic Immersion and Transparency, and they graph like the following:

graph - 2022-07-17T190800.784.png

I think Reference sounds the best, despite the Atmospheric leaning more towards my preferences, and I think it is the one people would enjoy more so that’s the one I will be covering. I don’t enjoy the Transparency nozzle as it gives much more energy to the set than I would like.

I will start by saying the VERNUS really reminds of its big brother, the ZEN PRO, with a more V-Shape approach. Given my love for the ZEN PRO, that speaks volumes. I would describe the VERNUS as a warm neutral or M-Shaped if I had to label it.

The spoken above ECLIPSƎ tech inside its 10mm driver gives the bass a great sense of fullness and extension, despite the sub-bass roll off. The best way to visually describe its bass presentation is as if it filled the whole room with its presence, like a speaker, but without much bleed into the mid-range. All of this combined with good texture and tactitality make my library shine, despite the not so elevated frequency response (Cory Henry - The Line, Anna ft. Miss Kittin - Forever Ravers).
This frequency response will segway us into the first nitpick: the sub-bass roll off. Despite it’s deep extension and the rumble, it is clearly disfavored over its mid-bass counterpart, which is very noticeable in tracks like Trentemoller - Chameleon or Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?, as it gets slightly thrown into the background.

Just by looking at the graph, the first question that will arise is how good is that mid-range, and let me guide you through it. Right out the gates, it is warm and thicc, and not in a bad way. You still get all the details of the sweet pianos (Hania Rani - Glass) but they are cozier than neutral, as if Lorde was wearing a blanket during her rendition of Buzzcut Season. While I think the mids are great and still clear, if you like neutral, transparent replays, this isn’t it. VERNUS has forward mids and despite the curve, the male vocals are actually good and clear, even when they share the bandwidth with heavy bass lines (Gregory Porter - Liquid Spirit), giving a nice body to the replay.

The upper-mids and treble range are where most of the energy is caught by my ears. Firstly, it never crosses the shouty territory, even on tracks like Adele - Daydreamer. In fact, these female vocals having some good note weight, makes them a great replay in my book. Most of the energy comes from the area around 5k hertz that, being my nemesis, was concerning to me, so we bring out the jazz. Brass instruments, such as cymbal strikes, hi-hats or saxos will appear on the replay as energetic, but I never found them to be too emphasized or fatiding, probably compensated by the bass-shelf (Larnell Lewis - Change Your Mind, David Carroll - Hell’s Bells). In fact, I found myself lost deep into the Jazz by the live replay of Bob Reynolds - Can’t Wait for Perfect, where VERNUS just kept me hooked and immersed.
The upper treble follows suit with enough extension so you can feel some air and detail, without any giant elevation. Despite all of that, I can’t say you can blast party volumes with these, only just to medium or high.

The lower treble and brass talk lets us quickly transition to the technical department and start it right off by a word on its timbre - it’s not perfect but it's good. It’s a fast and tight driver with a fast decay, but despite that it does not feel metallic or shrill at any given times. The stand out of the technicalities has to be its sheer detail after the magic recipe of a good driver plus some treble help and you get what you expect it to be - a very detailed IEM, despite its warmer tilt.
The imaging chops are where it got me twisted at start: the center imaging and stage width are actually very good for this price range, but as it’s more common than not, the stage depth could be better, especially on live replays. Despite that, I still think it has a good presentation and far from the usual “trapped inside your head” replay that most IEMs give.
The last word regarding technicalities goes directly into dynamics where VERNUS passes the test with flying colors and I have nothing to point on.


graph - 2022-07-17T190729.917.png

Quickly comparing the DUNU VERNUS with the Etymotic ER2XR, the first thing I noticed right out the start, other than the fit difference, was the accuracy vs the musicality. Etymotic brings you into the studio and clinical replays it while the VERNUS gives you a more musical approach. This is all done through the bass shelf as the treble between the two is very identical. VERNUS has a more open stage reproduction but the ER2XR feels more transparent and detailed in the mid range section. Despite the elevation difference in the low end, I prefer VERNUS intangibles in this department.

Tripowin Olina has a closer to my preferences replay, where there’s sub-bass over the mid bass and the more relaxed lower treble shine. Other than that, they trade blows technicality speaking with VERNUS coming out as more detailed and with a better driver response in the lower sector, while Olina has a more holographic presentation and depth and being less fatiding while costing half.

The verdict


Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the VERNUS since you cannot get it anymore. If it wasn’t for that, it would get the full recommendation. To those who weren’t in the lucky 100, I would say to keep an eye on the used market, as someone might try to sell theirs. During a time where we keep seeing more of the same with just a retouch, DUNU has proven that green is the season color and that VERNUS isn’t just a recolored edition of an IEM, proven themselves right and that they are on a roll since the release of the TITAN S. I hope this review was helpful and that it has made your mouth watery for the upcoming review of the ZEN PRO, which I consider the true upgrade to the VERNUS, while I personally keep an eye out for the newly released VULKAN.

Value rating: 4.5/5; Personal ranking: 6,7.

Disclaimer: All the above notes were done using multiple sources and tips, but the final assessment was done using the Topping L30+E30 stack and Final E tips.

Thanks for reading!
Excellent review. I thought that it's just a Falcon Pro with a different paint job. Looks like I was wrong.
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Reviewer at nymzreviews
Sennheiser IE600: When detail meets fun
Pros: Detail level for a single DD
Bass is always fun
Lower treble dip is tastefully done
Mids are still good, despite the tuning
Cons: Needs tip rolling
Fatinding due to treble and bass elevation
Mids are recessed
Fit might be funky to some people

Disclaimer: This unit was sent directly to me by Sennheiser and it is part of two tours arranged by themselves, one in Europe and one in the U.S. This unit will be sent back to Sennheiser after my assessment to be sanitized and sent to the next person in line. Sennheiser asked for nothing else but a full review and opinions, without giving any incentives or influence over them, so as always, what you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to the Sennheiser team for giving me this opportunity.


Sennheiser needs no introduction. The German based company has proven over the test of time why they are considered one of the top dogs at the game - their full-size headphones are some of the most recommended and acclaimed pairs all over the internet (I still haven’t heard any, so shame on you nymz, what a joke).

Last year, during the summer, the world skipped a beat, as two single-DD IEMs were announced: the now (in)famous IE300 and IE900. Sennheiser’s plan was simple: take a shot at the fabled tale of great top-tier DDs with the 900, while giving the crowd a more budget approach to taste it.

To my sadness, I never had a chance to try any of these, as only the IE900 appealed to me, but the hefty price tag did not, as it’s still $1500 for a single dynamic driver IEM. Those who had a chance to try them, mainly complained about the relatively recessed pinna gain, affecting the mid-range of the replay, while others grabbed their tinfoil hats and started speculating how there would probably be another release between the 300 and the 900 later down the road. Half a year later, the tinfoil hats were thrown into the air like students after graduation, and there was the announcement.

The Sennheiser IE600 is a 7mm single dynamic driver IEM kicking in at 700 USD, according to the official website. Following the same form factor as the other 2 predecessors and with a 3D printed shell made of a special metal, the footprint is small and the weight is marginal.

Is it the fabled high-end DD everyone is looking for? Let’s find out together!

Non-sound characteristics

Inside the box

  • 3.5mm (single ended) MMCX cable;
  • 4.4mm (balanced) MMCX cable;
  • 3 pairs of silicone tips with tuning foams inside;
  • 3 pairs of foam tips with tuning foams inside;
  • Carrying pouch;
  • Manuals and warranty;
  • Cleaning tool;
  • Shirt clip.

Fit, comfort and source pairing


Before we delve into what really matters, I would just like to touch on some important non-sound aspects.

First one would be the fit. At first I had it and then I guessed it was related to the small form factor, but then I quickly realized it wasn’t - the fit on these is heavily tip dependent.

With stock tips, I was having problems even just having a seal. I panicked at first, as these tips have tuning foams inside it - a last line touch of tuning that Sennheiser uses to achieve the intended sound.
As you might guess, this was a major concern to me because, if I am having fit and seal problems when I move around and I need to change tips, that will affect the tuning, right?

Long story short, not by much (please see the graph below, in the sound section regarding this difference). In fact, after tip rolling and ending up using Final E (large size) tips, getting a better seal opened up the sound even more, giving me a sense of a more controlled mids and upper treble, with more impactful bass, and as of that, the following impressions are not based on stock tips but using Final E tips. If you end up buying this, beware, as you might need to tip roll a lot.

As for isolation, I would consider them on the average or slightly above average, depending on the size of your ears. The small form factor is brilliant for people with smaller ears or canals, as they fit really deep and not shallow. For people with larger ears, you might have more problems regarding fit or isolation.

Another word must be thrown into the pot, mentioning the stock cable. I must confess I did not try any other aftermarket cables with the IE600, and all these impressions were done stock.
Both provided cables are the same, only the termination changes and they connect to the monitors using MMCX standard connectors. The important thing to note about the stock cables is that they include moldable earhooks, which is unusual and only the second time I have used it (first one was Sony EX800ST). Keep in mind these are meant to be adjusted/tailored to your own ears, so play around with them, as I feel they are very important to help with the fit and comfort, as you can shape them how you please and together with the MMCX 360º rotation, they should fit your ears like they need to.

With the stock cable and the carrying pouch (that I love by the way, as it is simple and small), the IE600 turns into an ultimate grab and go IEM, as you just slide it in your pocket.

Given all the above, I feel I need to sprinkle all the gold dust right now and say that the Sennheiser IE600 is one of the most comfortable IEMs I have used, despite not being the best fit ever, and that plays a big role in my daily life as I am always using something on my ears, but keep in mind your mileage may vary, as every ears are different.
The nitpick I will leave is regarding MMCX connectors, as I am a public and vocal disliker of the system, but in this case it works for the best. My word to anyone using MMCX connectors is to choose a cable and stick with it, as these connectors start to get loose with time and/or if you cable roll a lot.

As for driveability, I would say they are on the average side of things. They require some power but most used sources in the market should suffice, including the usual dongles. Bluetooth DAC/AMPs like Qudelix5k shall suffice very well, as I’ve tested that as well one of the times I was shopping for groceries.

I am a source enthusiast, so what I am about to say should be taken with a grain of salt and keeping in mind YMMV: I think the Sennheiser IE600 scales a little bit with power and pairs better with slightly warmer or more analog sources.
I found the best results to be achieved with Class-A amps (Singxer SA-1, Hiby R5 Gen2), the more analog warmer sources like the iFi xDSD Gryphon or the more neutral and technical (Cayin N3Pro on Solid State). I also did extensive tests with the Topping E30+L30 stack, and it worked great as well, giving an edge on the treble and detail.

A last word on Gryphon, as I really enjoy the combo with the IE600: for bassheads you can just turn on the magical XbassII button to help you with that. I would recommend also using the presence switch to give both bass and upper mids, as it balances out the natural V-shape of the monitor. Xspace also works wonders for the presentation, although it will leave out the more natural or intimate feel of it.

Enough rambling, let’s talk sound, shall we?


Sound Characteristics

graph - 2022-06-25T224101.380.png

The Tonality

Right out of the gates, I would summarize the Sennheiser tastefully done V-Shape. Just by looking at its graph, it’s pretty obvious what was the objective traced for the monitors: A prominent bass and upper treble elevation, with just enough pinna gain for the mids to not feel that much recessed. Depending on each's own personal neutrality, some folks might even consider this more of a U-Shape than a V-Shaped IEM.

On my first impressions of this set, I shook things a little and started by the higher frequencies, but now I will serve you the course meal first, the start of the show and the reason most will fall in love with it - the bass.

In a word? Gooooooood. Tracks like “Why So Serious?” prove just that, just like the treble, bass extension is one of the show stoppers. At around 3 minutes and 26 seconds, the world will just rumble at your feet - funny fact, it happened to me while picking groceries.

Another proof of the lower end is the musical classic Angel by Massive Attack. This track’s intro also helps to explain how the tuning has emphasis on the sub-bass over the mid counterpart, by showing its rumble and going down low.

While listening to “Playing God” by Polyphia, all enphasized aspects come alive. The level of treble presence and detail bring a new level of micro-details to the song, while the bass drop around the 28 seconds just feels authoritative. Both are a bit on the overemphasized territory in comparison to the mid-range, but still leave out a clinical taste on your lips, without bleeds whatsoever.

Despite the mountain of elevation in the low end, the mid-bass is impactful but clean. It isn’t really a real Slam Jam party as some will expect from the graph, but it pushes some air together with the elevation, and you can bet you will feel it, while not overshadowing the track, at least not as much as the treble or the sub-bass. The pedal played by Elise Trouw on her live loop of “How To Get What You Want” is a nice proof of that, and correctly balanced with her voice, while still showing its authority.

Speaking of vocals, let’s quickly transition into the mid-range, or as expected, the weakest link. I will be honest, I was expecting much worse mids, and way more recessed. They are a bit recessed, but still just south of neutral to my ears. I still find the need to increase the volume a bit as I am a mid-head and on very balanced tracks like the famous version of MTV Unplugged’s “Hotel California”, where Eagles performance needs a touch more mids in comparison to the treble sparkles and the monotonous bass punch. Despite not being as balanced, it was one of my favorite replays of the track so far, so touché.

Given the ultra transparency of this mid-range, pianos sound great and very detailed, just like Hania Rani - Glass can show us - all the wood sounds are there, and just right and well separated, without a blur.

Vocals are, in my opinion, the IE600’s weakest link, but despite not being anything to write home about, they are very far from bad. They are transparent, clinical and very detailed. I still sometimes miss my Softears RSV’s organic presentation, that just fits me better in this regard, but you can’t have the cake and eat it at the same time. Again, for those that prefer neutral mids or vocals, this won’t be a much of a problem, as the micro details and the cracking on voices are just on point - a good example of this would be the Sway version by Diana Krall, where you can feel hear all her lip touches or vocal textures.

What was less expected to me is the fact that the female vocals sound better than male do, having more bite but without ever going into the shout territory whatsoever (Adele - Oh My God and Lykke Li - Silent My Song). Michael Bublé’s performance on “Feeling Good” gives a slight feeling of something missing, maybe some weight and presence that is, again, south of neutral.

If we keep climbing into the frequency range, we finally reach the other headline: the treble.

I think I can’t mention IE600’s treble frequencies without mentioning some of its technicalities: The amount of clarity and sheer detail you get thrown at, for a single DD, it’s impactful and deserves respect. Sennheiser did it and IE600 is the most technical single DD I have experienced to date, and I knew it in the first 30 seconds of my take.It’s actually pretty obvious how they are achieving this - besides all the work inside the shell and the driver itself, - if you look at the mid to upper treble region.

I’ve been extra kinda so time to cut the candy talk and rip another band-aid: These will be too hot for some people and/or music genres.

As an upper mids/lower treble sensitive person and fond of darker sets, the fact of me liking this level of elevation in the treble region surprised even myself. After further looking in the FR graph above, I would attribute this to the dip from the upper mids into the lower treble, a region where it makes or breaks an IEM for me, and holy moly did they get it right.

Cymbal strikes and electric guitars still sound great and natural, despite the dip. Lust For Life by Iggy Pop or the Larnel Lewis’s drum solo on Change Your Mind prove just that, along with Jason Richardson -Titan that also shows this contrast on more busy passages.

The boosted region above 8k hertz, it’s tiring for long sessions, and the first thing that came to my mind was the UM Mest brothers, who instantly overloaded me with too much detail, which I appreciate, just not the usual hours I listen to music everyday. Despite this fact, I respect the hustle, as it was cleverly done in my opinion.

Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac shuffled and here I am, mesmerized by how the intro of this song could describe this set’s upper treble: a beautiful bunch of stardust flying around, that can be too much for some, but beautiful nonetheless.



Sennheiser quality is undeniable, but let’s be realistic here, no one will be paying IE600 price just for tuning itself, as I’m still a preacher that tuning is free.

So, how are the technicalities of the set? In sum, a fallacy of composition - The whole comes out as great, as some of the weakest characteristics get blended in by the others, resulting in a better outcome.

Time to rip the band aid off, once again: the stage and imaging. Soundstage is size is modest and in some tracks it may be too close to your head or intimate, showing that it could use more depth and even width.
The stage height (Agnes Obel - Curse) is above average, but could still use a bit more extension, placing it well above the pack. Following the trend, its imaging (Yosi Horikawa - Crossing), sounds great on positional queues, despite not always being able to perfectly do the center imaging when compared to top dog’s like the 64A Trió.
The stage’s holographic presentation kicks in and is very well done, precise to be exact, when the track demands it (Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles), which is something I really value.

So how do these presentation flaws get masked, as mentioned above? For starters, the sheer detail is excellent, giving you a sense of micro and macro queues everywhere. Following the line, comes the dynamics of the driver, which are clearly up there with a fast tight response and sharp transients.

To close the winning formula, comes its timbre, something that I’ve been taking into consideration more and more nowadays with the instrumental part of my library, that despite not being the best in class, is up there, despite all the treble elevation that sometimes masks it or gives a metallic shrill on the brass instruments notes decay tail. In all, I would say the attack and the decay are pretty much in sync, neither too fast nor too slow (David Carroll - Hell’s Bells).


1656192749180 v2.jpg

As part of the Sennheiser tour, the reviewers were kindly asked to share some tracks that highlight the IE600, which I am always glad to oblige - always remember that music is the reason why we do all of this, not the gear. Instead of just dumping a bunch of electronic songs, I tried to fit some different genres in, to cover more angles and let people make more educated decisions. I will also leave some albums I listened to fully and I think the Sennheiser set did a great replay of.


  • O’Flynn - Tyrion
  • Jay Cosmic - The Tunnel
  • Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?
  • Hyper - Spoiled
  • Rameses B - Sonder
  • Vanilla - Azure
  • State Azure - Mirror Infinite
  • Jungle - The Heat (Joy Orbison Remix)
  • Marco Carola - Play It Loud!
  • Trentemoller - Chameleon
  • Sawano - aLIEz
  • Ten Walls - Walking with Elephants
  • Chris Lake - Free Your Body
  • The Prodigy - Thunder
  • Unlike Pluto - Everything Black
  • Flume - Insane
  • Billie Eilish - Oxytocin
  • Dnmo - Broken
  • Tyler the Creator - EARFQUAKE




The top dogs

I will now compare directly and talk about how I expected this set to rival my other single DDs like the Dark Magician and Zen Pro but (spoiler alert), I came to the conclusion they are all different sizes of the same tool, with the application and strong suits being library dependent.
I decided to highlight their worst and best features as some people who are considering one of them, will maybe also consider the other ones or they wanna compliment their DD collection.

Non-sound Characteristics

Sennheiser IE600

IE600 has the worst fit of the three with average isolation, being very comfortable nonetheless due to weight and shell material/shape. It needs the most power/volume to achieve clean and audible mids in comparison. The accessories are very good and a great package overall. Stock cable is fine, but earhooks might be a deal breaker for some. It is priced in the middle of the other two and it’s the lightest of the three.

DUNU Zen Pro

Zen Pro is the most expensive IEM of this comparison, too close to the kilobuck region ($900). Is by far the easiest to drive, which also translates into a problem as it is very/too sensitive, hissing on most powerful sources of the market. Between the three it has, hands down, the best accessories, build quality and fit. Due to its semi-open back design, it also has the worst isolation of the pack. Being an all metal shell, Zen Pro is also the heaviest.

MiM Dark Magician

The DM is by far the cheapest, at around $600. It is a DIY IEM and the production was limited and even hard to get your hands on one. Nowadays, it got discontinued and you can no longer find it, as it got replaced by a new version that doesn’t sound or graph the same. Due to this, it has the worst accessories (only comes inside a circular metal box with some tips). Stock cable is good and looks great, but the earhooks need some slight adjustment for the fit. It has by far the best isolation when compared to the two IEMs above. Comfort is great and they are very light weight, almost like a father, for something that is made of metal.

Sound Characteristics
All the comparisions you are about to read were done using the same source, the same plug (4.4mm balanced) and one of my test playlists (Tidal). I decided to add the following spider graph to be better visualized:


graph - 2022-06-25T202619.567.png

Sennheiser IE600

The IE600 has the most prominent bass and treble, which makes it the only V-Shape of this shootout. If you are looking for the most “fun” or energetic of the three, this is it. Nothing in this life is for free, as that much energy will come out as the most fatiguing of the pack - I would describe it as the one of the shorter sessions, best suited for electronic music.
Despite being the only one with recessed mids, this is just slight, and the upper mids/lower treble is very well done, on par with the Zen Pro, but coming out with the worst vocal presentation of the shootout. Stage size is the weakest point, as seen above in this review, but the imaging is good and it’s the most resolving IEM in this single dynamic comparison, giving a high sense of macro details and clarity, having the best extension on both poles.

DUNU Zen Pro

The Zen Pro is the instrumental beast. Paired with a balanced tuning, its timbre, driver speed and dynamics turn it into a technical beast. I would consider it a neutral with a slight bass boost and let me tell you, what a bass. It is the best bass quality and texture of the pack, together with a great sense of impact and its speed, putting it ahead of the others for people who prefer these characteristics.
One of the things that I immediately noticed was the sense of separation and layering it provides, but it lacks stage depth, despite having the best imaging of the three. The rest of the stage is above average, slightly holographic, and all this pretty much thanks to its open back design that comes out as a con for outdoor usage.
The micro details are good and have some sense of clarity, but not everything is all sun and butterflies, as the tuning is rolled off in both spectrums, and it’s slightly noticeable - despite not affecting my library as much. Another point against and that needs to be noted is that the upper regions timbre can get slightly off, especially with ultra bright sources, giving a sense of metallic taste. In my experience, it really shines with more analog sources like the Cayin RU-6 R2R dongle.
I would consider it best suited for instrumental/orchestral/jazz/classical libraries. It can get physical fatiguing after some hours of usage due to its weight and I would consider it good for medium sessions.

MiM Dark Magician

The DM has the most balanced tuning of the three - it is the real smooth operator. You can throw what you want to it, it will change like a chameleon and replay accordingly. Given its isolation and being less fatiguing than the others, I consider it can be used for ultra extensive listening sessions, for most libraries and anywhere.
Despite the semi-flat graph, don’t let it fool you, everything will show up when it needs to. The bass is the weakest of the 3 in terms of dynamics and texture, but it has very nice micro details all across the spectrum. Another point against the DM is that the imaging is slightly weaker than the other two.
Now, where it really shines is on stage presentation, containing the biggest and most holographic of the three, and having the best, or at least on pair with the Zen Pro, left/right pans.
Despite the good micro details, the overall clarity is very good but falls behind the other two, making it the least resolving one of this shootout. This fact is pretty much attributed to having the least amount of treble, which comes out as way less fatiguing and the best volume scaling by a mile.
The mids are borderline perfect and a true masterclass, making it the best vocal replays of the three. The frequency extension falls a hair shorter than the IE600, but above the Zen Pro.

The underdogs

graph - 2022-06-25T224038.371.png

I decided to add this chapter, as a last minute call, as I’ve read somewhere people complaining about reviews only comparing IEMs on the same bracket. This got me thinking and I decided to add a very short comment on how the Sennheiser IE600 compares to cheaper competitors in the single DD world. As we all know, the diminishing returns are pretty real so we will keep an eye on that.

Tripowin Olina (double stock filter)

My default single DD recommendation had to be included. For $100, Olina has been a tough bone to chew on.
While Olina features a Harman tuning, compared to the IE600 it comes out as less energetic. This also translates into a better midrange presentation by the Tripowin offer, paired with a better stage size and more holographic. The mid-bass is more prominent as well which makes it more impactful than Sennheiser’s.
Other than the points above, the IE600 is a much superior IEM in every front, especially on the technical side of things and the extensions. Despite costing 7 times more, it doesn’t not have 7 times the performance, but you are paying the premium for that last push.
If you are looking for an endgame V-shaped version of the Olina, the IE600 might be for you, as long as you are fine with the tradeoffs.

Dunu VERNUS (Reference Nozzle)

VERNUS, being a special and limited edition of the Falcon Pro, comes out as a neutral with a warm tilt, all across the lower frequencies. Opposite from the Olina, the biggest difference is in the bass, where the IE600 blows up the barrel and the VERNUS is shy. Combining that low elevation with a bigger elevation in the treble region, they feel like opposites, and filling different genres/libraries.
Same as Olina, the price difference won’t show the performance difference. However, if you feel you love VERNUS but want that XBass button on the go with better techs, the Sennheiser IE600 will suit you.

Tanchjim Hana 2021

I don’t have the Hana with me, so this will be a “from memory” thing, so take it with a giant grain of salt. If you really enjoy Hana’s signature, that mild V-shape, and want a technical upgrade, I feel the Sennheiser IE600 is your call.

The Verdict

1656192675652 v2.jpg

I might paraphrase once again the above review, but I really feel I am now in position to say that IE600 is the most resolving single dynamic driver I have experienced to date, and for that, it already comes out as a winner.

Again, every set has its flaws and Sennheiser or not, this is no exception. I feel this set won't work with every ear and every preference, and some will find it tiring after long periods of time. This won’t be a mid-heavy set, and I found it to work much better with the electronic side of my library, like techno and house, than it did with the more relaxed tracks. It won’t have the most accurate replay of a song, due to its bass and treble boost, but it sure will add a lot of fun to the replay.

To quickly answer the question I will be asked the most after reading this: Yes, I think IE600 is worth the price when compared to other sets in the market, for my tastes and library. Now, if spending hundreds on a single DD IEM is worth it, that’s up for you to decide.

If you are looking for a higher-end single DD, I hope this review helped you have a clearer view of which one to get. As long as you make an educated decision, I don’t think you can go wrong with this set.

I am very happy to recommend the Sennheiser IE600 to anyone that is looking for a fun and energetic single dynamic, especially a V-Shaped one that can also bring the resolving power to the table and challenge other types of driver setups.

As for me, I can’t wait for the future releases of single DDs and especially from Sennheiser. Good job!

Value Rating: 4.5 out of 5. Personal ranking: 8,7 out of 10.

Thanks for reading!


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Appreciate the input. I think im good with iems. Looks like its time to look into some over ear upgrades. 🙂
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Im more of a isolation type guy :)


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Tin Hifi T1S - Budget Beryllium
Pros: Non-fatiguing treble
Timbre is good for the price bracket
Cons: Accessories
Build quality
Too much mid-bass
Sub-bass roll off
Mids are congested
Not very technical

Tin Hifi T1S - Budget Beryllium


Disclaimer: This unit was sent by Linsoul for free in exchange for a simple review on it. No further incentives were given and everything you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. Thanks once again to Linsoul team for reaching out and supporting me with these.
Disclaimer 2: This review is much shorter than my usual ones due to time constraints. This review is part of a budget series that I have been running on my thread in another forums. I figured it would still be helpful to post it here.

Driver setup: 1 Dynamic Driver (Beryllium coated)
Price: 20$
Product link: Linsoul


Tin Hifi is no stranger to anyone. Focused mainly around the budget segments, Tin has paved its own way into everyone’s eyes. With two main line-ups, the T and P series, there’s an offer for everyone.

P series are the planar segment, which we will not talk about today, and of whose I’ve only heard the P1 Plus (while I keep my eyes on P1 Max), but we are going to rather talk about the T series, that have a DD as a core, either it’s alone or accompanied by something else.

Just like the planar craze that the P series are trying to keep their blood on, they are also focused on another market war: the ultra budget segment. Kicking in at 20 USD, T1S is the latest offer of Tin Hifi, with a single DD under its hood, claiming to have a beryllium coating on it. For those who don’t know, beryllium was very much appreciate once it got more common and accessible to the wallets, so this got my curiosity to say the least - I’m still a firm believer that a better tuning and/or implementation go a longer way, but it’s great to see this kind of stuff around this lunch money price, at least to some.

Given the influx of ultra budget IEMs lately, it’s not hard to imagine the competition will be rough, so let’s dive right into it.


Non-sound characteristics and accessories​

I know it will come as no surprise, but the package, accessories and build quality are on the budget side of the budget segment. What do I mean by that?

The shell is very small and thin, made of plastic and it gives it one of the cheapest feelings I’ve ever experienced on hand. Despite me feeling I could easily break it with my hands if I throw it around, this doesn’t bother me much as it’s light as a feather and has a rather easy fit to my ears, which I feel someone who has fit problems with bigger IEMs would appreciate.

As far as accessories go, once again, it goes as expected for the price: cable is not the worst I’ve seen but it’s very thin, tangle easy and hardware is made of plastic - comes in 3.5mm only. Regarding tips, the ones included are very wide and short, which I actually think work with this IEM, but I’m sure they won’t fit everybody - be ready to tip roll on this one, - while the biggest size almost doesn’t seal on me.

Sound characteristics​

graph - 2022-05-26T234751.335.png


We are in May and for those who live in south Europe at the moment, the weather will match this Tin pair, as they are extremely warm.

The sub-bass is a bit rolled off and is noticeable when compared to the mid-bass (Hans Zimmer - Dream of Arrakis) - it for sure could use some more extension and rumble. I would say it is on the average side of tight (Kendrick Lamar - Backstreet Freestyle), tilting towards the slower side of the speed metrics (Polyphia - 40oz).

This is actually a double down for my preferences as mid-bass is too elevated, and let me explain to you why with some examples. When listening to *Throw Away Your Television’*s intro, Flea’s bass is way too forward and blurred. This causes mainly two problems. First problem is that all this elevation and shelf shape affects the bass directly, giving it a sense of lacking detail and texture and also not feeling too micro-dynamic as expected - kickdrums aren’t thunderous as you would imaging from the graph (Ghost-Note - Shrill Tones).

The second one is that the mids are overly affected by its bass bleed, which causes the usual lack of transparency I look for. A great example of this would be pianos that get mushed into the rest of the song, sounding too thick and lacking some detail (Hania Rania - Glass or Nils Frahm - Says).

As for vocals, the male ones (Michael Bublé - Feeling Good) feel a bit husky while the female ones (Adele - Daydreamer) lack a bit of bite, sound nasally in some tracks, but never shouty which, lesser evil to be honest.

To me the treble is the best tuned region of this set. It’s not perfect, but it’s slightly different than what we get used to in this price range: no overcooked peaks attempting to give false micro details, no fatigue whatsoever and on the dark side, which I usually prefer (Iggy Pop - Lust for Life). It has some extension but its mid treble is clearly on the darker side.


As expected for 20 USD, the technicalities are mostly sub-par. Stage is rather small without much depth or height, imaging is not great and the detail level is low (Agnes Obel - Curse).
Timbre is very good for its price point, and I would say it’s one of the T1S strongest points in this department.
Separation and layering aren’t the best, but if you factor in the stage size and warmth, it’s not too shabby.
While listening to Polyphia - Playing God I got some sense of macro dynamics, which is again good for the price range, but the notes where a bit mushed up together and lacked definition between strings.

Again, this is what it’s expected for a 20 dollar IEM, but the market has become a minefield around this segment, so the competition is tougher than ever.


  • CCA CRA (with Final E tips)

graph - 2022-05-26T234831.717.png

Where the T1S can sometimes feel small and congested, CRA feels airier but also thinner - this is pretty evident to me on female vocals, where the presentation is good due to this sense of “air”, but the vocal replay feels more natural on the T1S. The CCA monitor shows a more “wispy” presentation, that also comes as more detailed, while the T1S is more softened out and organic.

The trend follows as we move up to the treble region. The darker replay of the T1S gives it once again a safer reproduction - fatigue and overcooked free. The extension is more present on the CRA where I can see it shine more on more treble demanding libraries. To me, I would take the T1S treble if I had to choose one.

Doing a full reverse to the start line, the bass is also pretty different between the two. CRA focus on the lower regions where T1S focus on the mid frequencies, at an arguable cost of mid clarity. Regarding intangible characteristics of the bass, CRA is the clear winner thanks to its speed, impact texture and tightness, making it better suited for more technically demanding bass libraries - double kick drums or guitars comes to mind.

Regarding technicalities, T1S is better suited in the timbre tests with my library, where the CRA shows a better capability of producing a better picture of the stage. Thanks to the tuning, T1S does also come out as less resolving overall.

  • CCA CRA+ (with BGVP W01 tips)

graph - 2022-05-26T234843.293.png

Just like its older brother and if you read the above comparison, the CRA+ will have basically the same turnout when battling Tin’s IEM. The reason I decided to include the CRA+ it’s due to the tuning, making it a more fair fight.

If a couple days ago I just mentioned that CRA+ has too much mid-bass to me, T1S takes it a step further. Again, this has direct implications in the mid-range and the overall perception of the psychoacoustics throughout the spectrum.

Basically, everything I said about the CCA CRA above still applies, with some subtle nuances. Treble disparity on CRA+ is better tuned than its predecessor, making it closer to T1S, but it still has some nasty peaks, which also affect the timbre.

Technically, I think the CRA+ is closer to the T1S as well, due to the tuning.

  • Moondrop Chu (with Final E tips)

graph - 2022-05-26T234907.798.png

The time has come for the current 20 dollar king to show up. Starting right out of the bat, their presentation comes out as polar opposites. The Chu feels cleaner, transparent but also arguably less natural.

The tuning is undeniably more balanced in the Moondrop’s, and also appeals more to my ear, but I can see the lower treble to be on the T1S side of the court - and this is also followed by having a better female vocal body to it, a more organic replay. Where Chu might get close to sibilant when volume is raised, T1S holds up. Once we go past this area, Chu wins hands down, especially in the most upper regions.

Now to the overall presentation of the sound and technicalities, Chu offers a better depth to the sound while feeling less congested with better separation/layering, especially in the mid range. This area is where Chu shines and where T1S falls short, pushed by its bass tuning.

Bonus track​

graph - 2022-05-26T234924.089.png

While doing this assessment, I tried to tune down T1S bass by adding some PEQ to the mix. The result was fairly impressive to my ears and I decided to graph it.

I usually avoid any type of modding or eqing in my reviews, but we are talking about a budget segment and these might shine some light on some potential buyers/current owners.

PEQ settings:
Peak @ 20hz, +6db Q:1
Peak @ 100hz, -2db Q:1
Peak @ 150hz, -1db Q:1
Peak @ 250hz, -3db Q:1
Peak @ 400hz, -1.5db Q:1.5

The point of this change is to open up the mids and free up the presentation, leaving it more analytical while still being very musical.



As you might have guessed, the T1S isn’t for me, but it might be for you if you are a warm-head. I really think that offers like the CRA+, which compete directly with the T1S’ tuning, are way more valuable for just 8 dollars more. Again, to me the Chu is still the king of the lower bracket and I would pick it over, for the same price.

I think Tin tried to get their own slice of the cake that everyone now wants, but the timing wasn’t the best. This court now belongs to solid offers and competition has to bring the A game to challenge them - and let’s take a moment, as consumers, to appreciate this!

Despite the competition, the driver on the T1S doesn’t feel that good, despite their achievement of making an ultra budget offer that doesn’t give me headaches after testing it for some days now. I hope Tin goes back to the drawing board and comes out with new and spicy ideas, with better build quality and accessories as well.

Value stars: 3.5/5. Personal ranking: 3.5/10

All my notes were taken using Xduoo XD-05 Plus with Burson V5i Opamps and using BGVP W01 as tips. Other sources were used to listen to this IEM like the Cayin RU-6 and Hiby R5 Gen2, but the final sitdown was done with the XD-05.

Main playlist used for the notes and comparisons on this series: Tidal

Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
I have T1S, Chu, and CRA. I pretty much agree with your insights on all three. Since you have both the T1S and the Chu, you might try putting the Chu tips on the T1S. As you state,, the T1S tips are quite wide, but the Chu tips are even wider. They do seem to bring the mid-bass down a notch, which helps with the treble as well. I put Sony Hybrids on the Chu to bring up the bass, so I could spare them for the T1S.


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Xenns Mangird Tea 2 - The cult sucessor
Pros: Holographic Stage
Mid-bass speed
Cons: 50usd more expensive and bigger shell than Tea OG
Not single DD timbre
Mid-bass impact
Treble loses to more expensive EST Tribids

Disclaimer: This unit was sent to me, for free, by Linsoul. No incentives were given for me to say anything about the set, so what you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions. I would like to thank everyone at Linsoul for this opportunity.
Disclaimer no. 2: Everyone knows how I feel about Mangird Tea, but I will try to leave these feelings at the door. What you'll read from below is not "nymz, the CEO" but Ricardo, a customer just like any of you, but in the role of a reviewer. I don't have or never had any type of affiliation or monetary benefits regarding Teas. I will be as honest as I possibly can, and as unbiased as I’m able to be, but we are all still human beings.

Price: 349 USD
Driver Composition: 1 Dynamic Driver + 6 Balanced Armateurs
Shopping link: Linsoul

The prologue: History of Mangird Tea

Anyone that has been around for a while and looked for any IEM around the 300 dollars price range has probably come across Mangird Tea, a balanced but dark hybrid that was somewhat polarizing amongst the crowds. Despite Mangird being somewhat unknown, some folks got their hands on a set of Teas and they were later made well known by a YouTube channel called Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews (BGGAR for short). Months passed and Mangird Tea kept gaining some fans, turning into somewhat a cult following.

Tuning wise, Mangird Tea is not a (most) people pleaser, per se. Most won’t hate it, but it’s very balanced and has a dark treble. That is one of the reasons a lot of people love it as well. Despite its confusing graph, Teas are like sleepers, and every frequency just shows when it’s called. It’s the definition of an all-rounder that combines everything into one, no matter what you throw at it. It clearly showed that their tuner is smart, keeping everything at a balanced that would strike as something else than it looks like: BA timbre hidden due to treble recession, mid-bass slam despite looking bass anemic, sub-bass greatness even though it’s not that elevated, etc.

This type of tuning also helps with the perception of its real technicalities: Good stage, great imaging, very dynamic, coherent, great separation and resolving for the price, carrying its weight and punching above its own tag.

Months later Mangird changed its name to Xenns and introduced UP to the world: A tribrid with a beryllium coated DD and a warmer graph - promising upgrade, right?

As human nature is made of expectations, everyone expected a Mangird Tea V2, but with ESTs and even better techs and tuning. As with most things in life, expectations turned into deceptions despite UP’s performance, mostly because people were expecting something else.

I was one of the lucky to have heard both. Xenns UP is a different breed and one of those IEMs that is very hard to describe. It’s the warmest set I’ve heard to date, but despite that, Mangird brilliance strikes again and once it struck me, I couldn’t unsee it: They used beryllium coated drivers to still push some sense of tactile punch into the bass, making it kick like a mule above all the warmth displayed. This trick was also applied to the treble, but by using ESTs drivers - treble could still be slightly boosted, picking up detail and giving it air for its presentation.

You can now see how expectation felt short: from a balanced and semi-accurate replay into a colored replay was a huge road to cross, and people weren’t all that excited for that.

The present: Tea2

Later this January, out of nowhere, a new product was announced with a mouth full name: Xenns Mangird Tea Mk2.

Hype was back. A successor arrived, looking great outside, but what about the performance?

I’ve spent the last month using Tea2 most of my day while working or commuting. I have to admit it has been a surprising ride.


Packaging and non-sound characteristics

Tea MK2 comes in a sleeved cardboard box, well packed, which also contains:

  • A 2-pin silver cable, terminated with a termination of your choosing - I got a 2.5mm;
  • 6 pairs of silicone tips - 3 starline, 3 narrow bores - Same as last versions of UP;
  • A rectangular, fake-leather carrying case - Same as OG/UP;
  • An airplane adapter;
  • Warranty and manuals.

The monitor’s shell is bigger than the original, but not by much, reminding me of Xenns UP or Yanyin Aladdin. These pseudo custom shells get me very good isolation, which made them a great companion for commuting. They fit deep and the nozzle has average width, causing no hotspots.

Stock cable feels fine, as it is the same as seen in the other Xenns’ offers, there’s no need for change.

Regarding tips, for silicone I used BGVP W01 (Large) for all my impressions. They gave me the best fit while keeping the sound balanced.

As for driveability, they are very easy to drive. For this review, all types of sources were used, such as: iFi xDSD Gryphon with IEMatch on, Cayin N3 Pro on Solid State mode, Quedelix 5k on performance mode and Topping NX7 on negative gain.


Sound characteristics

graph - 2022-03-27T183400.944.png


The bass has extension, texture and is very fast. Tea2 got a crossover revision from its predecessor according to product pages, stating that these came down in the frequency, as seen on newer releases like Monarch Mk2, where the DD handles the lower frequencies and the mid-bass is mostly done with a Balanced Armature. The speed is very noticeable while still retaining some punchy slam to it, which I appreciate, but it won’t be as much as a slam dunk machine.

The sub-bass kept the first version’s DNA: it’s rumbly, has texture and extension, and goes deep (as seen on Hyper - Fckd,Trentemoller - Chameleon, Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?, Jamie XX - Gosh).
The mid-bass now has more elevation and presence, while also adding a tiny bit of warmth and weight (Foo Fighters - Waiting On a War, KH - Only Human, Radiohead - Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, Marco Carola - Play it Loud, Jungle - The Heat [Joy Orbison Remix]).

This bass shelf also helps to give body to the mid-range, but without bleeding into them, as the dive is very clean, enough to not feel thin, but also just enough to not make the notes blurred or too heavy. As per usual in these types of tuning and following the same pedigree of the Mangird Tea, Tea2’s mids are very forward, with details (Hania Rani - Glass, EWF - September, Nils Frahm - My Friend The Forest) on point and together with the techs that I will talk about in a bit. They give a very curious sound presentation.

Regarding upper mid-range/vocals, they are just to die for. They feel organic, natural, and have note weight to it without ever coming out as thin or lacking bite, but still never as shouty (Agnes Obel - Curse, JP Saxe ft. Julia Michaels - If The World Was Ending, Postmodern Jukebox - Can’t Feel My Face). They are full of details and have a great timbre, treating reverb and back vocals like not most sets do, while keeping the gain at a slightly below average dB level that most offers in the market do.

Overall, the mid-range is clearly the main event of the set. There’s a clear feel of separation between it and the other frequencies, in a good way. For people that prefer mids over anything on their spectrum, this is just a wonderland.

Treble kept the same recipe that won my preference over and over again: a dip around the 5-6k area, which I’m personally sensitive to, just enough to reduce the fatigue and increase the forgiveness of the tracks. This was done on some of my favorite sets like the Shuoer EJ07 or Mangird Tea.

Cymbal strikes and electric guitars still sound great (Iggy Pop - Lust For Life, Cory Henry - Seven, Joe Satriani - Snatch Boogie), of course losing on timbre departments to other offers like single DD sets, but that will always be the trade-off with hybrid sets.

The extension got a boost which most will find welcoming and airy, without interfering with other frequencies. This is one of my favorite implementations up to this price point, but still no good EST extension, which is found in another price point.

To summarize, I think the tuning in Tea2 is spot on and won’t have much fault to it, pleasing pretty much everybody and doing nothing wrong.



is my favorite part of this set. It was the first thing I noticed when I tried the IEMs, but is also one of the hardest characteristics to describe, which I will now try the best I can:

It is wide, has depth and very good height. It’s not just big, but it is very holographic. I will even double down: It’s one of the most holographic and beautiful stage presentations I have ever heard.

Vocalists get positioned a step back, reminiscent of Xenns UP presentation by memory, while the rest of the replay happens around you, as if you were in the middle of a jam, a feature that reminds of Shuoer’s EJ07m. This also works very well with vocaless genres like pure electronic or even jazz/classical, as you can just appreciate sounds one by one. A delight to get lost in.

Example Tracks: Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles/Crossing, Tool - Fear Innocolum, O’Flynn - Tyrion, Lykke Li - Silent My Song, Jamie XX - Gosh, Agnes Obel - The Curse.

Imaging is very good; you can almost pin-point every drum-roll or sound in the spectrum. It’s not on tribrid level, but it’s close. It gets you through the stage without much effort, not ever feeling blurry or confusing you. Combining this with this set’s separation and holographic stage, you just get immersed by sound walls around you.

Example Tracks: Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles/Letter, Tool - Fear Innocolum.

Details are still very good, even though it has (almost) no tuning help. Of course, some other tunings or drivers will come out as more detailed if you microscope it. But as for the overall clarity, it’s crystal clear. I have to disclose they are still a half-step back from other sets that are at more expensive price brackets, but for what it provides and no treble boost, I’d approve over and over again.

Example tracks: Hania Rani - Glass/Esja, Ozy Ozborne - Dee, Nils Frahm - Says/All Melody, Larnel Lewis - Forgotten Ones.

Dynamics are good, low to high without any effort or discomfort. The left to right pans are very good and the speed is insane.

Example tracks: Mia Dora - After the Dog, Lorde - 400 Lux, Avenged Sevenfold - Bat Country, Jason Richardson - Titan/Hos Down, Disclosure - ENERGY.

Timbre is, in my opinion, the weakest point of Tea2 technicalities, not because they are bad per se, but due to driver configuration, it will lose to most single DD sets. I don’t find the usual plasticity of the BA timbre that is common, but rather the faster decay shown in the bass. This could be a pro or con, depending on your library.

To note that this varies more from set to set than just driver configuration: Tea2 has superb timbre if compared to a single DD like FDX1 with its metallic timbre.


Test Tracks

Here I will comment on some tracks I think that really shine on Mangird Tea2:

Lorde - Team

Dead-clean detailed intro, building up for the 0:26 drop where the kick drum sample shows itself with texture and speed. You can clearly hear its decay movement with detail behind the vocals, at the same time the claps start to mark up the tempo in the back lines, with a nice detailed echo effect. All this takes place while Lorde’s voice sounds detailed, with a nice timbre and weight without ever becoming shouty or distorted. When her own back vocals appear, the Tea2 just place them in another place, so you clearly know the scene has changed. A treat to listen to, not just this track but in fact the whole album.

O’Flynn - Tyrion

This groovy underground and jungly house track is a perfect example of what Tea2 does best. Any groovy track just gets even more groovy, as if the set was a chameleon to the genres due to its tuning.

All the percussion can be pinpointed due to its imaging throughout the track. Around 2:33 it comes closer and closer from the far back, while the volume also goes up, which Tea2 proceeds to show it’s great stage and dynamics effortlessly. After that, even when things get busier, the separation still holds and shifts panes very fast. Every touch has its texture if you listen closely. A great production replayed by a great set.

Radiohead - Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box

A great “classic” from a great album. Bass extension on point without ever changing its presence level or texture. The separation just makes everything crystal clear until Tom Yorke’s voice shows up, in a mellow theme, not overly emphasized or husky, in front of you, while other instruments and samples surround your room. At around 2:08 there’s a very subtle reverb/echo effect on his voice that Tea2 is able to pick it up and bring it in front, which once again shows how much this set likes voice effects.

Ely Bruna - I Like Chopin

Right from the start, Tea2 showed how great for pianos they are (see Nils Frahm or Hania Rani albums as well), but it was Ely’s voice that hooked me up. There’s some very subtle cymbals in the back, just as if there were rain decaying to the beat of this mellowy and slow song. You can clearly hear her raspiness and throat details on a beautiful timbre without masking the other instruments.

Jungle - The Heat (Joy Orbison Remix)

Dark. Hard. Methodic. That’s how the intro starts, and sirens firing off, out of nowhere, proving once again the stage is a bliss around you. Everything keeps getting thrown from nowhere and the vocals shine in. But it’s at 2:36 where the bass drops that the magic happens. Great texture and subtle rumbles while the higher frequencies keep you focused and in sync with the vocals. Makes you wanna go into an underground party and hug the speakers. Lovely.

Little Tempo - Mountain and Sea

Dub-dub-dub. Mids on your face, kicks on your chest, everything around you. Not much explanation needed. Tea2 takes me back to the sunny summer holidays. Whole album is great.

Kindness - Gee Up (Erol Alkan’s Extended Rework)

Impactful kick drum intro with a clear snare and defined vocals build you up for some sweet and simple electric guitar chords, without any harshness or fadeouts. The back vocals are clearly defined and follow the stage around, up to the main event around 2:41 where everything gets loose. You can clearly separate all the information and pinpoint where they’re coming from. They are literally, everywhere. Around 3:15 you have a bass guitar that has the right elevation - not pushed too in the back and not too in front, just right. That gets followed by great detailed cymbals into a dip of the song where, once again, reverbs and echos of claps chime in, impactful and treated the right way.

Listening on the Tea2 was one of my favorite replays of this song so far. It just makes me happy.

Other Tracks

I will leave here a playlist of songs I think Tea2 replayed very well and that I also used for this review, for you guys to listen and jam to. As stated, I spent a lot of time with this set and not everything could be fitted in here:



LETSHUOER S12 (with Final E)

graph - 2022-03-27T183436.554.png

Shuoer’s planar immediately comes out as a different beast to the Tea2 set. Despite the tuning differences, Tea2 instantly shows more clarity.

Bass is more impactful on the Tea2, with better rumble and texture and decay. S12 bass is still faster, despite Tea2’s being already fast (maybe too fast though).

Mids are a bloodbath in Tea2’s favor as expected, given that S12 is a mild V-Shape to my ears which pushes back details and information. For those that don’t like forward mids, they are way less fatiguing.

Treble has more elevation and extension on S12, but comes out as more fatiguing and hotter than the Teas. Cymbals’ decay feels too fast and crisp, but very detailed nonetheless.

S12 stage is much smaller in every axis, missing that 3D factor and superior imaging.

It’s still very surprising how good S12 sounds for its price, that when it’s on sale, it’s almost a third of the price of the Tea Mk2, so there’s that in Shuoer’s favor. That sweet planar timbre that some love, including me.

Mangird Tea (with Radius Deep Mount)

graph - 2022-03-27T183421.290.png

Despite the graphs and the name, both iems behave differently, although sharing the same name and brand.

The biggest changes to my ears are the presentation and the mid-bass. Original Teas already had a wide stage with nice height and some depth, but the revision just expanded the last two while providing some holographic psychoacoustics.
The mid-bass is faster and tighter on Tea2 but there is more DD punch (slam) on the original Teas. To me this is basically explained by the new BA crossover, giving a feeling of OGs being more visceral.

The mids are very even and the best characteristic on both. It’s basically a draw minus the male vocals, where I think Tea2’s elevation comes out as the winner.

Treble is better refined and extended in the version 2, where the loss here for the OG also makes it more forgiving on tracks, even if both are. This is another area that I consider the driver upgrade made some impact, in a good way.

Stage, imaging, detail and separation are better on Tea2 in every way, mashing up into a more resolving IEM than its predecessor.

Overall, I feel Tea2 is more analytical and technically superior, where Tea mk1 is warmer with more note weight, more relaxed. The timbre and coherency are a hair better on the OG version also helped to less elevation, but that’s not something I feel most people would notice. Another thing to notice is that the Tea OG presentation is more forward and in your face, despite its slightly more relaxed overall tuning.

Shuoer EJ07m/EJ07m Kinda Lava (with BGVP W01)

Coming soon™



To me, there’s no doubt the revision of the Teas (i.e. the Tea Mk2) is superior to its predecessor in the technical departments. It’s very obvious that Xenns wanted to try to reach a bracket between the original Teas and Xenns UP, while trying to do something refreshing. To my eyes, they did it.

There’s an elephant in the room that I would like to address, and that is the price. Mk2 had a 50 dollars increase over the already 300 dollars Mangird Tea, which puts it in a more expensive bracket than some of its direct competition, which I’m not sure will entice people to buy it.

With that out of the way, Tea2 gets a big recommendation from me. It plays most of my library very well, it’s a great set to just grab and go due to its form factor and easy driveability, and the stage presentation is just lovely.

To Xenns, my sincere thanks for putting the Tea lineup out, as they were my first real love set in this hobby.

Tea Cult lives on.

Recommended. Value: 4.5/5 Ranking: A

Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
Great review. Is the Tea2 fuller sounding than the original Tea in male and female vocals?
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@zeissiez OG is darker and has more note weight, if that's what you are asking
The Tea 2 needed a good DD to handle the entire bass, why would you put a DD only for sub bass?

Tuning is spot on, there is no "wow factor" but it's so pleasantly tuned.

I think of the Tea 2 as sweetened Ginger Ale if that makes any sense, it taste better the more you drink it.

Tea 2 sounds better after honeymoon period IMO, I wasn't that impressed the first time I listened to it.


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Tripowin x HBB Olina - Building Benchmarks
Pros: Great for acoustic/vocal tracks
(Holographic) Stage
Cons: Needs good fit/Tip rolling
Might be too bright for some
Might be too bass light for some
Some people prefer it with another filter on the nozzle

Disclaimer: This unit was sent to me, for free, by HBB/Linsoul. No incentives were given for me to say anything about the set, so what you are about to read are my own thoughts and opinions.

Price: 99 USD
Driver Composition: 1 Dynamic Driver (10mm CNT)
Shopping link: Linsoul


In 2021 HawaiiBadBoy teamed up with Tripowin to bring Mele to the public: an ambitious project to deliver good sound for less. Half a year later, this pair came out with a new release: Olina. By now, these need no introduction. This time, their goal is simple: to create a marginally similar IEM to Oxygen, one of the most acclaimed single Dynamic Driver set on mid-fi, for less than half the price and with better fit. But did they do it?

Packaging and non-sound characteristics


Olina comes in (very hard to open) cardboard box, well packed, and also containing:
  • A 2-pin gray cable, terminated with a 3.5mm plug;
  • 6 pairs of silicone tips - 3 wide, 3 narrow bores;
  • A circular, fake-leather carrying case;
  • 5 pairs of replaceable nozzle filters.

Regarding the shell of the IEM itself, those who already have his other collaboration, Mele, already know what to expect: a great fit to most people (YMMV), built like a tank, a premium feel for the bracket and a nice faceplate which I’m in love with.

Olina is one of the best fits to myself personally, but they don’t have the best isolation for me, since they don’t fill all my concha, but again, YMMV. I’d describe it as a bit shallow, but if the deeper you can get it to fit, the better its bass will sound. I got no fatigue from using them on long sessions, passing those with flying colors.

Cable feels good for a budget IEM and has some nice details on it like HBB’s logo on the splitter. The only downside being you can only purchase it as 3.5mm single ended. I personally will use other aftermarket cables with it, but there’s no real need to change.

Regarding tips, for silicone I used CP100 (Large) for all my impressions. They gave me the best fit while keeping the sound balanced. I’m not a foam lover, especially for critical listener, and I’m a publicly anti-foam person for this matter. With Olina, I made an exception - I feel Comply TS-500 sound fantastic on them, taming the treble and tightening the bass, giving the best isolation, and are what I use for commuting. For people that love foams, you can give these a try.

As for driveability, I would consider these not hard to drive, but enjoy some power. I don’t think you can’t get a good sound from a simple dongle, but they do seem to like some kind of amplification. I would also avoid neutral bright sources, as it will brighten the signature even more. From my testing, I liked it paired with Qudelix 5k on the go and I got the best results from iFi xDSD Gryphon and I used it for these impressions.


Sound characteristics


Olina’s signature is a harman-neutral tuning. I know that’s not the best explanation for everyone, so I will try to explain it deeper:

The bass has extension, some texture and speed. Rolls off a bit on the sub-bass zone (as seen on Hyper - Fckd,Trentemoller - Chameleon, Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?) and has some punch on the mid-bass (Foo Fighters - Waiting On a War, KH - Only Human). I’d describe it as having a very clean bass, making it great for some other genres like acoustic music or jazz, while not the best for genres like K-pop, trip-hop or sub-bass heavy EDM. Kick drums and bass string guitars (RHCP - Throw Away Your Television) feel just right, with very good decay, on the tighter side. Regarding elevation, it has a bit of emphasys over flat neutral, but not into bassy levels.

This bass shelf also helps to give body to the mid-range, but without bleeding into them, as the dive is very clean, enough to not feel thin, but also just enough to not make the notes blurred or too heavy. The details are on point and together with the techs that I will talk in a bit, they just shine (Hania Rani - Glass, EWF - September). Upper mid-range is the usual harman, but with a twist. I usually find vocals to get overly shouty but not this time, but I can see how some people can. It just feels there’s enough energy for some bite on those female vocals, but never enough to come across as shouty - and my ears thank me for it. In fact, female vocals are even better than male vocals on this set, to my ears (JP Saxe ft. Julia Michaels - If The World Was Ending).
Overall they are clean, forward and detailed, which checks all the marks for me and my library, as I’m a mid-centric enthusiast.

Treble is nicely extended and energetic, although not yet fatiguing for me, but keep in mind peaks are personal. This was another surprised as, by judging the graph, I was ready to be murdered by this frequency, as I’m sensitive. Detail is very nice and the decay on electric guitar and cymbal strikes is on point (Iggy Pop - Lust For Life, Cory Henry - Seven, Joe Satriani - Snatch Boogie). This tuning also includes a lot of air that boosts the sense of separation, never leaving you feeling claustrophobic.

graph (93).png


I’m gonna say it right now: technicalities in Olina are a beast for its price point.

Stage is wide and deep, only lacking a touch of height, but the overall presentation is just great to my ears. I’m not sure if it just hits my HRTF just right, but I get a surrounding type of sound around my head, like a 3D, which I value a lot. Most of my favorite sets have this characteristic, and because almost like a must for me and my library.

Example Tracks: Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles/Crossing, Tool - Fear Innocolum, O’Flynn - Tyrion, Lykke Li - Silent My Song, Jamie XX - Gosh.

Imaging is amazing - you can almost pin-point every drum-roll, - and one of its best characteristics, especially when paired with it’s good separation (Hilary Hahn - J.S. Bach - Violin Concerto no. 1 in A minor: I. Alegro Moderato), turning it into a joy to listen to. If you listen to Snarkly Puppy - Shofukan, starting around 5 minutes and 19 seconds, you can clearly find Olina’s imaging at work. Almost perfect drumm rolls, with speed, clarity and detail.

Example Tracks: Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles/Letter, Tool - Fear Innocolum.

Details follows the same path, as it is very detailed, even though it has some tuning (treble) help. At this price, nothing else to add, but just to sit down and enjoy.

Example tracks: Hania Rani - Glass/Esja, Ozy Ozborne - Dee.

Dynamics are good. Low to high without any effort or discomfort. The left to right pans are what blew my mind.

Example tracks: Mia Dora - After the Dog, Lorde - 400 Lux, Avenged Sevenfold - Bat Country, Jason Richardson - Titan, Disclosure - ENERGY.

Timbre closes this chapter with a golden mark, reinforcing why I love Olina for instrumental music, classic and jazz.


Test Tracks

Here I will comment of some tracks I think that really shine on Olina:

Lorde - Still Sane

Lorde’s vocals are forward and the background pane goes from left to right, very dynamic. You can pick up most of the details while the presentation keeps flashing sounds from left to right. Once the chorus comes in, around 1:37, the back vocals just surround you, immersing you in the experience, while the treble extension takes care of far away sparkles. Vocals might be a step too forward, but they feel natural and every note has weight, like Lorde is singing in the mic with an arm around your shoulder while the universe is throwing sounds at you at the same time. I loved the presentation, so I had to include this track here, as it shows how great Tripowin’s set works well with vocals followed by sparkly sounds on good stages.

Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons - Summer 1

Chords instruments have great timbre and together with the detail and imaging, make this track a blast. The treble is just enough to feel present, borderline too much, but never crossing that line, even at louder levels. As the song reaches its climax, background instruments get more and more prominent, which Olina keeps separating with class, showing good dynamics. The best adjective I can think of is effortless. The sound is just effortless, the track just flows.

Snarkly Puppy - Tio Macaco

This is a great track to show the display of Olina’s technical abilities in a nutshell. The whole song is just enjoyable and rich. And then you reach around 4:05, and the imaging, separation, stage, detail and air just kick in, throwing at you a true display of skill on percussion instruments, making you get up from your chair, close your eyes, forget you have iems on and just join the freestyle jam. Try it if you can, I beg you.

Ani Difranco - Nicotine

Acoustic guitar with finger sliding and plucks detailed, dynamics kicking in through the notes, separation and layering doing its job, letting imaging do the rest of the work. Ani’s voice is just sweet and natural, correctly positioned while everything is well balanced. Everything is just right. By the end of the song you get a bunch of random noises that come from everywhere. Pure bliss.

Larnell Lewis - Change Your Mind

At around 5:54, Larnel’s drum solo begins. The record sits you on his bench and Olina just rides it. You can clearly feel the position and separation between everything he touches, dynamically. Kick drums and snares on your chest, timbre on point, left to right pans, clash cymbals decay very naturally and without being fatiguing or sticking out, hi-hats sweet like honey? No problem - Olina does it all, you just have to sit back, enjoy, and listen to it again and again.

Other Test Tracks

I will leave here a list of songs/artists/albums that I think Olina replayed very well and that I also used for this review, for you guys to listen, in case you interested or to find if it’s your jam:

  • Pearl Jam - Better Man
  • Gogol Bordello - Wonderlust King
  • Adele
  • Zoe Wess - Control
  • Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
  • Katie Melua - What A Wonderful World
  • John Williams - Harry's Wondrous World
  • Recomposed by Max Ritcher: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
  • KH - Only Human
  • Fleetwood Mac - Landslide
  • Jonathan Roy - Keeping Me Alive
  • Disclosure - ENERGY
  • Iggy Pop - Lust for life
  • Black keys - Lonely Boy
  • Woodkid - Run Boy Run
  • Molly Johnson - What A Little Moonlight Can Do
  • J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos



  • LETSHUOER S12 (with Final E)

graph (94).png

Planars took the market by storm. Firstly with 7hz Timeless, followed up by S12, resolving power was never this cheap in the IEM world. It’s no news that S12 comes out as more resolving than Olina, but the Tripowin’s set has better stage presentation and imaging, a weak spot for the planar brothers.

S12 comes out as more clinical and bright than Olina, which feels more relaxed and natural. This is also due to planar vs DD timbre, that some prefer over the over, but for me they are distinct loves. Mids are better and more forward on Olina, while S12 have them slightly recessed. Treble feels more refined on Olina, but bass is fastar on the planar, while lacking some texture and rumble compared to the DD.

To me they fill different gaps in my library, for instance, the more acoustic and vocal tracks sound better on Olina, while I love planars for the more electronic side of my collection. I have to say that I’m reaching more for Olina than for S12 these days, since I’ve been shifting a lot towards classical and jazz, more and more, in which the DD helps with its timbre, but they are still apples to oranges in my setup.

  • Tanchjim Oxygen (with Spinfit CP145)

graph (95).png

The inevitable comparison that everyone wants to read: Olina vs O2.

Well, I’ll preface my impressions by saying that if you have to A/B very hard to find differences, you are comparing apples to apples. Secondly, the best IEM is the one you can fit and afford - Sony Z1R might be your end-game, but it will do nothing for you if you can’t fit it or afford it.

With this is mind, and after spending a couple of hours A/Bing both, here’s my take:

Tuning wise, they are 95%+ alike. They are around the unit variance margin of error, to my ears. I’ve debated this with other reviewers and owners of both sets and some will say Olina is a hair brighter, some will say the opposite. And this brings me to fit again. I think what is the major difference since the nozzles between the two are different, and Olina fits much better to me, so this will change your perception, as opposed to Oxygen that gave me fit problems. When taking my notes, during the Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run track, I felt Oxygen more fatiguing, but again, we are talking placebo or unit variance range here.

In the technical department, I would say they are very close. Oxygen might have a hair better detail but I prefer Olina’s presentation, as I found it wider and more holographic like, with better height. The overall presentation also felt more up to the eye level with slightly better depth. As always, YMMV.

I would pick Olina every time since it fits me much better and costs less than half. Given we were discussing a hair’s difference, I would say HBB’s goal was met.

  • Moondrop Aria (with Spinfit CP100)

graph (96).png

Olina is a bit brighter and cleaner than Aria. Also feel more technical around all the departments. Bass is very different, despite graphs, the Aria bass feels like a pillow without impact, lacking clarity, while Olina has the authority and less mid-range bleed. Stage and imaging are a step above in Tripowin's offer, to my ears. I would pick Olina 10 out of 10 times for my own library, but Aria has the price savings in its favor.

  • Etymotic ER2XR (with Comply T-100/P-Series Foams)

graph (97).png

Fit, fit and fit. With that out of the way, I would like to say that, before Olina, Etymotic was my 100 dollars benchmark. I still think it’s an amazing IEM that I can’t recommend to anyone due to fit and, if you are an EU citizen like me, hard and more expensive to get.

Stage presentation imaging and timbre are better on Olina to my ears. Etymotic might feel more detailed due to tuning help, but they close.

I would say Etymotic is more neutral, with a less forward but cleaner mid presentation. If you like less warmth, this is still a great pick… if you can fit them. Bass on Olina has more elevation and impact, which most would appreciate. Treble is close, with ER2XR being a touch more refined and extended.

Olina fits my library better, but honestly I like both.

  • Moondrop Kato (with Spinfit CP100)

graph (98).png

Kato keeps some of the same characteristics as Aria like the pillow light bass, the mid blend with it and the typical moondrop treble curve, peaking at around 3k hz. It’s almost the case of you heard one of them, you almost heard them all - but again, compared to Aria, techs are on another level.

To me, Kato sounds thin, treble is well tuned but feels unrefined and bass hits like a spoon, when compared to Olina. They take the detail chasing approach, a more analytical or slightly colder version of this general harman tuning, which will appeal to some over the competition, and I can see why.

I’m not fond of Kato’s stage presentation, as it doesn’t come out very wide or deep, while lacking height, which I think Olina wins over for almost half the price.

  • Tanchjim Hana 2021 (with Spinfit CP100)
graph (99).png

Tuning wise, Hana 2021 follows the same harman curve, but has a couple DB boost in the low end, making it more V-Shaped than the Olina. It is clearly targeted at those that think the harman curve is a bit bass light or bright. They still pack some punch and texture, despite being warmer.

Mids and vocals got, of course, more recessed in the process, while still having some details to it. Of course male vocals are more emphasized than the female’s counterpart, but without being annoyingly obvious, which is the opposite of Olina’s replay.

Treble has a slight boost as well to compensate for the bass boost, but the ultimate replay comes down to a warmer set. Cymbals, cellos, electric guitars etc. still sound natural without any fatigue to my ears, so there’s that. Only place that, in my opinion, could have gotten a little boost as well would be extension, but it’s not bad per se.

Technically is also half a step down from its older brother Oxygen, and to my ears, Olina. While I feel they are 80 to 90% the same, especially on parameters like imaging, they give the feeling as not as technical. The most noticeable areas to me are detail, stage size and the pseudo 3D you can get from Olina and that Hana doesn’t have.

  • Dunu Titan S (with Spinfit CP100)
graph (100).png

Olina and Titan S share a fair share of the same tuning. I would describe Titan S as a more neutral bright IEM than Olina, with less warmth, less bass impact, but air and treble extension. Regarding technicalities, I would say Olina is a step above, but also costs 20 dollars more. Titan S would be more suited for someone that wants mids even more upfront and a lighter bass than the typical harman. I found the treble area very alike on both, so there’s that.

  • JVC FDX1 (with Final E and Green Filter on)
Edit as of 27th of February 2021: Addition of FDX1 comparison, now that I have them with me:

graph - 2022-02-27T085009.692.png

Olina is easier to drive and has better fit/isolation, while FDX1 needs more power and its heavy bullet style fit might not be for everyone.

FDX1 came across as more balanced in tuning, still also suffering from the 5k peak elevation, when compared to Olina. They are cleaner and airy, so less bassy and less energetic. FDX1’s bass is very pillowy and doesn’t feel as present as the others in these comparisons. This also makes the note weight to feel lighter and more clinical than the Tripowin’s set.

Technically speaking, FDX1 are slightly more detailed (which also helps with imaging) and give a sense of having a longer stage depth, but aren’t holographic like Olina is. They also don’t seem to scale as well with volume as Olina does.

What made me not buy myself a FDX1 to my collection is its (in)famous metallic timbre. There’s no way around it, it sounds really metallic with a weird decay, and for that, ruins the purpose of a single DD for me. Any cymbal strike or guitar pluck will show it, without much effort, or on average sounds like you can see here:

In short, I don’t feel they are compliments, but plain rivals, where I prefer Olina due to stage presentation, timbre and price, but FDX1 still shows why it is still considered one of the best, especially on it’s technical department. I don’t think you can go wrong with either, as long as you know what your preferences are!


In my honest opinion, these are a beast for 100 dollars. In fact, scratch that. These are THE benchmark for 100 USD. I would take them over ER2XR, which has been the 100 USD gatekeeper in my collection, and once you A/B them with more budget stuff, the difference is even more shocking. Given this, they have my biggest recommendation, if your library fits the criteria.

I think a great part of HBB’s goal was reached, but I wanted to spend more time to make sure these are real and not just a marketing trick. In my opinion, these will haunt the competition in this price bracket for a good while. Again, credit where it’s due, so touché.

To everyone on the fence, I would say give them a try if you can, as I don’t think they are just a marketing trick.

A word to tip roll to your pleasure and fiddle with it. People are already trying to do crazy stuff like using one of the included filters or tape on its vent:

graph - 2022-02-20T195948.183.png

Olina are staying in my collection and most likely be the daily beaters and more. I might even grab one more set.

Recommended. Value: 5/5 Ranking: A-

Edit as of 27th of February 2021:

As expected, people kept fiddling with it and a new consensus as risen: adding another included filter to the nozzle, on top of the existing one, while leaving the vent unblocked tames upper midrange frequencies, giving a better perception of its bass and turning now more holographic. With this mod, and according to my preferences, Olina is now closer to A ranking, but all the above review was done with the set in stock form.

Credits to @paulwasabii and @redrol for the graph and findings.

graph - 2022-02-27T085624.607.png

I would like to say that this mod is not needed and a lot of people even prefer it stock, so there’s that. It’s also fully reversible so you can just fiddle with it. Have fun!


Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
*delete post pls ignore
Amazing review, Thanks.
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The Olina reminds me of the FDX1 when it comes to to resolvability (I own both.) You can definitely tell that both IEMs use a pretty fast driver. FDX1 is a bit more detailed than the Olina but has worse laying and timbre. I'd go for the FDX1 if you prefer a very balanced tuning but is otherwise outclassed by the Olina.

No brainer budget pick if you don't mind extra brightness in your music, which the only problem I found with the Olina. Not to say the Olina will pierce your eardrums with upper mids and treble. but it's a bit too hot.

HBB made something special with the Olina, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Mele.


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Dunu Titan S - Smooth Operator
Pros: Timbre
Neutral tuning/balanced
Does nothing wrong
Cons: Bass will not suit everyone
Stage depth could be better
Slighly shouty on some tracks
Cable termination
Doesn't specialize

Dunu’s last entry on the 2021 IEM market took some attention ever since its announcement: A cyberpunk themed IEM on the budget range that promised to rival some of the kingpins in it. But does it?

Disclaimer: This unit is a review unit sent to me by Dunu in exchange for a full review. No incentives were given to me and my words are my own. Thanks again to Dunu for reaching out and being nothing but professional.

Non-sound characteristics


Starting with these, I will say right now they are excellent. Build feels amazing and, while being fully metal, it’s still lightweight. The shell size is on the smaller side, giving it a very good fit. Even though the nozzle is a bit longer than my canal, it’s really a small and personal nitpick, and I got past that by tip rolling. I’ve been using them as my EDC with Qudelix5k for the past weeks and they fulfill the job better than expected - Truly easy to carry around, just grab and go style like every IEM should be, but a lot of others aren’t. It’s easy to drive, so a simple dongle is just fine.


Another thing to note is its full package: Tips for every liking and a nice carrying pouch. Could be smaller, but good to fit Titan S + a BT amp or dongle inside and just throw it in the bag or coat’s pocket. Dunu keeps its track record for package quality, even on lower budgets.

Two small cons I would like to note are the isolation, that is average to below average, and the cable tangliness due to its slim thickness while also only coming with a 3.5mm termination option.

During the time of this review, Titan S was connected to iFi xDSD Gryphon and Topping NX7, using Spinfits CP100 and stock cable.


graph (81).png

These are basically a less bassier Harman, with just a touch of bass to give some presence, but not acting as the main course. Pinna gain has slightly more elevation than I would like (they came out as borderline shouty at first), but not so much for me to not enjoy them.

The reason I called this IEM the smooth operator is also related to this. It succeeds at replaying everything yet doesn’t really specialize at anything. This may sound boring but this seems harder to find in the IEM world each day. I would consider it a low profile all-rounder, and the genres I enjoy it most with are mainly instrumental or vocal, like classical, jazz, acoustic, etc.

Example tracks: Kendrick - Backseat Freestyle/Collard Greens, Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious, Beyoncé - Deja vu (intro), Trentemoller - Chameleon.

It’s a mid-bass focused signature over sub-bass. Low elevation or presence, but good texture, extension and control - feels somewhat fast and tight, while still retaining some of that sweet decay. It’s a sleeper and, half of the time, the bass only comes out when called. There’s a slight warmth added just to not feel too thin, but absolutely no bleed. Clean is the right word.
The two cons about lower frequencies will be its sub-bass feeling somewhat light - although it still rumbles (Hans Zimmer - Why So Serious?), - and its mid-bass could have more punch to it (especially kick drums).

Example tracks: EWF - September, Hania Rani - Glass, Nils Frahm - All Melody, Pentatonix - Daft Punk, Lorde - Buzzcut Season, Agnes Obel - The Curse, Michael Bublé - Feeling Good, Ursine Vulpine - Wicked Game.

Slightly shoutier than my personal preferences, but that might not be a problem for most people or different libraries. Mids have some separation and detail (easy to spot on Hania Rani - Glass), above average for its bracket.
Female vocals have a better replay than the male’s counterpart, that can sometimes lack a hair of some of the bite and whispiness to it, but still present (Agnes Obel - The Curse vs Michael Bublé - Feeling Good).

Even though this is slightly more shouted vocals than I would like, I still think the mids are the strongest link in this IEM’s tuning - I really like them for the asking price!

Example tracks: Daft Punk - Aerodynamic, Larnell Lewis - Change Your Mind, Yo-Yo Ma - “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Kid Cudi - Too Bad I have to Destroy you now, Twice - Moonlight.

Treble is good. No complaints, really. Cymbals, guitars, and cello sound great. There’s also no metallic treble up there. So, again, a smooth operator. Air is good and I’ve never felt claustrophobic due to its extension.
Larnell Lewis’ cymbal strikes on Change Your Mind just have the right feeling and decay, while Aerodynamic’s guitars are emphasized but without becoming overwhelming to the replay.



Timbre: Very good. Not just good but also consistent, from top to bottom - no upper treble metallic shrillness whatsoever, making it suitsome instrumental music just fine. Again, one of Titan’s strong points which is making instruments sing.

Example song: Max Richter - Four Seasons - Spring 1

Stage: This aspect called to my attention the most right away. Lacks some depth, as usual per these budget brackets, but width is good. There seems to be some air on it, as if the vent was giving the unit a semi-open style. Also seems that sometimes you can get something that I would call a semi-holographic and dynamic left to right sound, but not always. It’s surely not your cookie-cutter left/right stage around this price, but it’s also far from stages found in higher-end sets. I found it very good and intriguing.

Example song: Yosi Horikawa - Crossing

Imaging: Good and above average for this price point.

Example song: O'Flynn - Tyrion

Detail: Average to above average details. Nothing will sound lacking or missing, but it won't be as resolving as other more expensive or resolving IEMs. Treble elevation also helps a lot with the overall clarity, giving it the tuning upperhand.

Example song: Hania Rani - Esja



Etymotic ER2XR - The gatekeeper is still going strong and performs better than Titan S to my library and preferences on sound quality alone. But if you factor in the fit, no microphonics cable, stage and price (unless you are in the US), Titan S will appeal more to most people. I’d consider Titan a better package with better timbre that can be recommended to fit most people, as I can’t do the same to ER2XR, to my sadness.

Heart Mirror - Titan S is almost a true upgrade over Heart Mirror since it’s easier to drive, less hot in the upper regions and has more prominent bass. There’s a good chance that if you like stock Heart Mirror, you’ll like Titan S.

GS Audio ST1 - Titan S is better in all aspects - and for the same price. ST1 is more laid back but still close, but when it comes down to techs, it’s a bloodbath.
The only reason I’d say ST1 would suit someone is if they really wanna try BA for the first time without breaking the bank.

Tripowin x HBB: Olina - In my opinion, Olina is an upgrade to Titan S in almost every aspect. Titan S would suit better more neutral heads that look for less bass elevation and treble energy and would like to save a couple dollars.

Shuoer (LETSHUOER) S12 - The planar king wipes the floor of Titan S regarding resolution. Tuning wise, Titan S turns the tables to meet my preferences better, while also packaging a better stage presentation and imaging, which S12 lacks. While S12 holds the best for the most resolving IEM under 150 usd, Titan S shows that you can pay almost half and still have better tuning. Stage presentation is no challenge to Titan S, as it is one of Shuoer’s IEM weak spots.
Given their timbre, tuning and stage difference, I’d say both sets are more complementary than substitutes, maybe even risky to say that they serve libraries where the other falls short of.


In my opinion, I would describe Dunu’s latest release as a smooth operator: it doesn’t excel on anything specifically but also does nothing wrong. I don’t think that a bad thing, as I’ve heard IEMs that excel at something but then plain murders some other aspect in my library. It’s that kind of IEM you can’t really fault or point a finger at, and, given I spent a lot of time with it daily, it kept growing on me day by day.

It not only gets my recommendation but is now my default for people looking for a more neutral IEM under 80$ (R.I.P. Heart Mirror). I want to remind people that this type of tuning isn’t abundant in this hobby, let alone being on the budget side - which was always a problem for me since I don’t enjoy V-Shaped IEM or ultra-bass boosted stuff. I feel Titan S is a great entry way for newcomers as well.

To summarize, I would like to add that I’ve been reaching for these in the last weeks more than I expected me to, especially at night after a tired day. Grabbing something to drink, Titan S and an amp, going into the balcony and playing some not-so-party music (like Bach or Vivaldi) is giving me joy. Truly making the big boys in my collection jealous. There’s just something easy going in them for me to just turn off the brain and enjoy music on it.

Final Ranking: B / Value ranking : 4.5/5 (due to Olina, else 5/5)

Thanks for reading!
Last edited:
I see.
I'm looking for an upgrade for my Tin T2 under 80 usd, what would you recommend me?
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Olina (dual dampener/tanya filter) if you want more of everything. Titan S to keep it more neutral.
Thank you
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Reviewer at nymzreviews
Moondrop Variations: The sub-bass prince
Pros: Sub-bass
Cons: Mid-bass lacking
Mids can get thin
Stock Cable

Disclaimer: The unit used for this review was paid full price with my own money on HifiGo. No incentives were given to say anything else but the truth in my own words. English is not my native language so I apologize upfront for any kind of miswording.

1. Introduction

Moondrop needs no introduction - any audiophile that has looked in the IEM world has come across with the brand. Variations it’s one the brand’s newest releases and their first tribrid, using:
  • For bass: 10mm liquid crystal diaphragm composite copper inner-cavity dynamic driver;
  • For midrange: Softears-D-Mid-B (Customized mid-frequency composite balanced armature driver);
  • For treble treble: SONION high-power electrostatic driver.

Moondrop Variations enters the market with a 520$ MSRP, placing it within one of the most competitive brackets of the hobby currently (tribrids), while still being one of the cheapest competitors.

2. Inside the box


  • Standard 2 pin copper cable with a modular termination (not a good one to be honest - spaguetti);
  • 3 termination modules: 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced;
  • Carrying fake leather box;
  • 3 Sets of Moondrop Silicone tips (S to L);
  • 3 Sets of Foam tips (S to L);
  • A tweezer and replacement filters;
  • Anime cards;
  • Warranty card.

3. Sources, accessories and fit

To get my impressions only flac files were used only. Both Shanling M3X and Luxury & Precision W2 were used, but in the end the final thoughts were used only with the set connected to L&P W2 on 4.4mm balanced using the stock cable. As for tips, all the review was done using Spinfit CP155 medium size.

Variations shell uses the same size and format as its predecessor Blessing 2. It’s a pseudo custom shell, on the bigger side, with a long and large nozzle. Any people that fits one of them, will probably fit the other. To my ears, they strike as the maximum size I can hold, so anything above this won’t fit. As for comfort, they aren’t the best to me after some hours, but as always, YMMV. Isolation is average to my ears.

A quick word about the filters: They don’t change the sound in any way. Mine came already off and I didn’t bother to replace them at all. also they don’t look any good when applied,

4. Sound Signature and Technicalities

graph - 2021-11-16T233227.756.png

Variations comes across as a sub-bass focused monitor, with a sterile sound signature and a sparkly treble. Its neutral with sub-bass boost clearly has some Thieaudio Monarch pedigree resemblance on it, which most will find appealing since it’s generally considered the most resolving IEM under 750 USD.

The strongest point of this tuning is its bass. It’s without a doubt one of the best sub-bass texture, extension and elevation I've ever heard. When a track goes low, it comes alive, shows it’s claws and rumbles like it should. My favourite trait of this set, by a margin - I consider it best in class so far.
Now that we’ve seen all the pretty, what about the ugly? To achieve such tuning, the mid-bass shelf is somewhat abrupt, forming a small dip, starting around 200hz, recessing this frequency. This means that anything that hits this frequency zone will be somewhat recessed, even more noticeable on busy tracks due to other parts' elevation. In short, bass guitars, kick drums, male vocals and others will not be as forward or even come along as somewhat muted, which makes a frontal collision with my personal library. This detail will also make it sound somewhat thinner and more analytical, leaving me wishing for some more warmth sometimes.

Mids follow the same pattern, sometimes lacking note weight or warmth for my preferences, but still present and not recessed - just less of an “in your face” presentation that can be found on more mid focused IEMs. As expected, female vocals will sound more present than the male’s counterpart.
Despite all of that, the detail on it is top notch and well textured. Upper mids are very well done, a little more elevated than my personal taste but I liked it as they never came out as shouty or intense.

The treble comes out as a close second to its sub-bass. Detailed, energetic while not piercing, airy, detailed and very well extended. Clearly a good implementation of EST drivers for that sweet smoothness, that will make sparkle lovers happy. Instruments like cymbal strikes and electric guitars might sound a bit emphasized, but with good decay while retaining some naturalness to it.

Soundstage is wide and outside your head. It has good depth and some height. When paired with its great imaging, any presentation comes alive, as if you’re on the first row. Lastly but not least, the level of detail of this set is outstanding, benchmarking and the one to beat at its price.


5. Sample tracks

  • London Grammar - Metal and Dust
Female vocals will come out as a bit thin and lacking some warmth, but with good details. Sparkles all over.

  • John Legend - All of Me
John’s vocals sound a bit thin and recessed, giving a somewhat lack of naturalness to the replay. Sparkles and reverb effects were pretty good.

  • Jay Cosmic - The Tunnel (0:58 - 1:15)
Variation’s bread and butter - it’s speciality. Sub-bass extension and texture are best in class, which makes it a great replay.

  • RHCP - Throw Away your television (0:00 - 0:15)
During the first 15 seconds of the intro, Variations mid-bass dip comes into play, muting the bass guitar and pushing it behind the rest of the band, showing its weakness. Any drummer or bass guitarist won’t like this set due to this particular reason.

  • Laurent Garnier - Crispy Bacon
I use this techno classic to look into the tuning balance. Variations showed some lack of mid-bass thumb and slam, while displaying

  • Hans Zimmer - Wallace
One of a kind replay. The bread and butter. If I had to choose a single track to listen to on Variations, it would be this one.

  • Snarky Puppy - What about me?
The lack of mid-bass will be very present on this kind of Jazz tracks and I can’t recommend Variations for the genre. Percussion instruments will get lost in the way.

  • Massive attack - Angel (0:00 - 0:20)
Everyone knows this track and it’s characteristics. Variations is no exception. Impressive, as expected.

  • Ariana Grande - Touch it (0:52)
Sub-bass pad drop with an amazing texture. Brings bass and treble upfront compared to vocals. Might not be ideal for vocal heads, but it’s a very fun and different replay.

6. Comparisons

I’ll now compare Moondrop Variations to another two IEMs in a Tribrid Deathmatch. Every set will be using 4.4mm balanced and stock cable. All of them are running from Luxury & Precision W2 (Low gain, Tune 02, no EQ) with flac files. I listened to a lot of tracks on all the IEMs, but I used the following three to bring the divine judgment on:
  • Billie Eilish - Oxytocin
  • Agnes Obel - Curse
  • Daft Punk - Aerodynamic

  • EJ07m (Spinfit CP145, Tanchjim Tanya filters)

graph - 2021-11-16T223211.305.png

Variations has better sub-bass texture, extension and rumble, while EJ07m compensates for it with more mid-bass elevation, speed and slam. On busier and more dynamic genres like metal, Variations mid-bass will hit like a spoon while EJ07m will slam.
Mids presentation is more forward and detailed on EJ07m, making it a better suit for vocals as well.
Treble is fully on the Variations side. EJ has great presentation and detail for a darker treble, but Variations is just top of the class.
Technically, Variations gives the feel of being more resolving, but on micro details they are very close or 07m even surpasses it. Stage is deeper on Variations, but EJ07m has better imaging and sense of holographic acoustics.

Verdict: In my opinion, EJ07m is a superior IEM and for people that are more treble sensitive, it’s a no brain. Its tuning makes it very easy to most libraries and be used as an all arounder, while Variations comes out more as a fun set to have on the side. For sparkle lovers, Variations is the pick.

  • Xenns UP (Spinfit CP100)
graph - 2021-11-16T231024.007.png

Sub-bass is a no contest in favor of Variations best-in-class texture and presentation. But what about mid-bass? Mid-bass is one of my personal nitpicks with this set. This is where Xenns UP will win since mid-bass on Variations sometimes feels non-existent.
Regarding mids, I prefer Xenns UP presentation, even if they are elevated. The vocals on Variations feel pushed more in the background that I like (YMMV).
Treble rolls the exact same way as sub-bass in favour of Variations. Variations treble is less on my preferences, I usually prefer darker trebles, but credit where it’s due - Variations treble is awesome with some nice implementation of those EST drivers.
Technically, Variations turn the arena into a bloodbath. With some Monarch pedigree on its ADN, Variations is a tough bone to chew on.

Verdict: Variations as a sterile presentation of the sound, while Xenns makes you feel you're at a beach party by comparison. Although Variations’ sub-bass and treble are best in class, I prefer mids presentation from UP. To put it briefly, to my library, Variations is to find detail and stains on records while UP is to enjoy a sound. Both are great at what they do, but they do completely different things - if Xenns put a warm instagram filter on, Variations reduce the saturation and increase detail.

7. Conclusions

Despite not fitting my library or preferences, it’s hard to not give credit where it’s deserved: Variations holds the flag for one of the most, if not the most, resolving IEM up to its price point. People looking for a very neutral IEM with a bass boost almost exclusive on the sub-bass region, should look no further. With the right library, it can be anyone’s end-game. I see it as a fun side IEM to have for specific tracks or genres and not as an all-rounder, but as always, ymmv.

Last edited:
May I know what is that grey balanced cable?? looks pretty :)
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Love your review. Well spot-on.
The sub bass boost was too distracting for me. I am also sensitive to the thinness of the mids.
As a result, I wasn't reaching for the Variation too often. Still it is quite an interesting realization.
The cable is fragile. I had issues with the swappable termination. When I attempted to replace it, one of pin got stuck onto the iem ... Since then my variations are in their boxes waiting for salvation.


Reviewer at nymzreviews
Xenns UP: Clubbing under the sun
Pros: Guilty please - FUN
Takes you back to raving
Bery DD bass
Mids presentation
Cons: Dark treble (I love it but some people will miss sparks)
Doesn't come as a resolving pair
Sometimes too much is too much
Needs other pairs to shine, IMO.

Disclaimer: The unit used for this review is a loaner set and will be sent back. No incentives were given to say anything else but the truth in my own words. English is not my native language so I apologize upfront for any kind of miswording.
All photo credits belong to
Resolution that took some shots on my request. Thank you for that.

1. Introduction

Xenns (former Mangird) is a relatively new and unknown brand that made some waves during 2020 and 2021 in the 300$ golden bracket of IEMs when they released the Mangird Tea. The Mangird MT4 was released after the Mangird Tea but has not enjoyed the same cult following the Tea has. Some fans of the Tea (including myself) became hyped when news came that Mangird would rebrand themselves into the name Xenns and UP would be their first release. More hype followed when the driver configuration was announced: Xenns UP contains 1 Beryllium Coated 10mm DD for low frequencies, two Sonion 2300 series for mid frequencies, two Sonion customs for high frequencies, Sonion EST65DA01 for ultra-high frequencies.

Xenns UP enters the market with a 700$ MSRP, placing it within one of the most competitive brackets of the hobby currently (tribrids).

More info and shopping on Linsoul page.

2. Box and accessories


* Silver cable: 2.5mm to 0.78 2pin;
* Box contains one 2.5mm TRRS female to 4.4mm TRRS male adaptor;
* Box contains one 2.5mm TRRS female to 3.5mm TRS male adaptor;
* Box contains one 3.5mm TRS female to 6.35mm TRS male adaptor;
* Airplane adaptor;
* Carrying PU leather box;
* 3 Sets of KZ starline tips;
* 3 Sets of Silicone tips;
* 2 Sets of Foam tips (S and M);
* Warranty card.



3. Sources and accessories

To get my impressions only flac files were used only. Both Shanling M3X and Luxury & Precision W2 were used, but in the end the final thoughts were used only with the set connected to L&P W2 on 4.4mm balanced using the stock cable and M3X as source only. As for tips, all the review was done using Spinfit CP100 medium size.

4. Sound Signature

graph (14).png

To begin with, let me preface UP’s sound by saying that this is the most specific and hard to describe set I’ve ever heard, but I’ll do my best to do it justice.

Generally speaking, UP is a very warm set, bass boosted and with a dark treble.

Let’s start with the bass region as it is the star of the show. Kicks with authority, rumbles when called, doesn’t bleed much into the mids and has a nice texture to it. One thing I have to note tho is that when listening to more bass anemic bass tracks, you don’t feel the drivers power. Seems like when bass is not emphasized enough, it won’t come out as powerful and more loose.

Mids are slightly recessed due to the bass tuning, but still very present and with a semi-forward presentation very close to its predecessor Tea.

The treble on this set it’s pretty close to the tuning used on Mangird Tea, only slightly elevated to compensate for the overall bass boost this set got - it’s tuned as slightly dark and non fatiding, while keeping some detail. Treble extension is also well done, giving some air and separation between all the warmth. Some people might dislike this type of treble, I personally love it.

With the obvious FR curve out of the way, let’s get into the special source, the warmth. UP sound signature is very hard to explain. It’s like all the replay is covered in a warm blanket. Not veiled, not distorted, just warm. It’s like you’ve added an instagram filter to the song.

Every note seems thicker, hitting heavier. And the even more “strange” thing is that it still kicks above all that warmth, still brings vocals forward and still has some treble spark and detail. I know, crazy. All this warmth comes more prominent when the tracks get busy- on simpler tracks, it’s less pronounced.

It’s one of those cases that a demo will be worth more than a thousand words. Hell, one million words.

5. Technicalities

Soundstage is above average, slightly outside your head. I don’t find it to have much depth or height, but it’s wide enough to go along the tuning.

Imaging is good, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel pinpointed due to all the warmth.

Detail and resolution are also average or above average, but can’t compete with detailed monsters like Mest Mk2 or sub-bass monitors like Variations.

6. Test tracks

1. Lana Del Rey - Carmen/Million Dollar Man

Lana is singing in front of you. She appears as if you were in the middle of the stage and instruments are correctly placed in front of you and on your side. Xenns UP’s warm coloration brings up the note weight to a whole new level - Her voice never goes thin. Low frequencies get very present and take over some of the higher frequencies. There’s still plenty of detail on the song but, due to the tuning, it loses some sparkle - which is still ok for me.

Coloration apart, UP handles female vocals pretty well due to its forward presentation. You’ll lose some detail on Lana’s voice on these tracks due to the tuning and bass emphasys tho. Instruments are warmer but still have presence on upper harmonics.

Clearly UP wasn’t tuning with this kind of library in mind, but for me personally, any set has to pass some vocal tests for me to even consider it, specialized or not.

2. John Legend - All of Me

John is singing in front of you while playing the piano. UP tuning brings John slightly forward, but it’s still close so no big deal here. His voice gets extra weight when it goes into upper notes, it’s slightly thicker than it should. The reason this is one of my test tracks is due to the details on his voice and because at around 2:24 his voice keeps going upper notes while some kind of subtle reverb effect is added. This is where UP falls short - it’s coloration is still adding too much warmth to the upper notes and the reverb effect gets too little attention, to the point of almost no notice at lower volumes.

I think overall UP handles vocals ok (good for the tuning, honestly - it’s not its specialization). It’s better for Male vocals, which was kind of expected. Its warmth blanket leaves out some of the details, specially on the upper regions.

3. Jay Cosmic - The Tunnel (0:58 - 1:15)

Sub-bass quantity and quality are definitely there. This is where UP’s beryllium coated driver starts to show up its claws. Texture is pretty good, not Variations level of texture, but close. Rumble is very present as well. Great replay.

4. RHCP - Throw Away your television

During the first 15 seconds of the intro, Flea's bass guitar passes the test with flying colors. When Chad’s drum kit kicks in, you’re in for a threat. I usually only use this track to test the first 15 seconds, but I got hooked all the way in. One of the best replays I’ve heard of this song, touché - not the cleanest, but one of the most “fun” ones. The electric guitar could use some more energy tho.

5. Laurent Garnier - Crispy Bacon

UP bring Gariner’s classic to a whole festival replay, makes you wanna stand UP and remember all the pre-pandemic raves. I usually prefer my techno tracks more balanced, but this kind of replay is more festival-like - Loads of mid bass kick, slightly less detail and upper frequencies, but FUN as hell. You feel every kick behind the warm tone, but you still get the clicks and clacks, even if less emphasised. Different replay, but a great and fun replay.

6. Cirez D - On/Off

A very balanced techno track that any unbalanced IEM tuning will change the song’s course.

UP colors it with a darker tone, emphasizing the lower frequencies, but still keeping some of the bells and whistles. Same as with Garnier’s, it brings back the festival vibes and replays. Beryllium hits with authority and leaves no prisoners. By 4:30, when the music goes down to start building up again, UP’s warm signature feels nice and cozy, slowly showing its bass texture out. By 5:30 I’m back into a techno party waiting for that sweet sweet drop to start jumping. By 5:45 shills come back and you’re transported into a dark and sweaty disco, feeling the low frequencies around you.

Even if I’m more into balanced presentations, UP sure made press replay and get up. Touché, Xenns, touché. Thanks for the trip.

7. Snarky Puppy - Tio Macaco

Good timbre, good separation and coherency. This track appeals to a set’s soundstage and imaging. Xenns passed the test on all of these with average or above average marks - imaging gets slightly blurred when there’s busy parts and warmth comes in.

To this kind of genre, I can’t recommend this set since it adds a lot of coloration to the replay and falls short on some of the individual instruments' replay/detail, but still does a good job. Turns the track more into a fun jam session and less into a studio record.

8. Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta

As expected, Kendrick’s vocals are slightly forward and the bass kicks with authority. Vocal is thicken, but you still get the melody and all the bells and whistles. Xenns UP brings a great yet warm replay to this genre. Hip-hop heads that like warm signatures might have they end-game right here.

9. Aerosmith - Dream on

UP’s warm signature and forgiveness work really well with older records like this one. Bass guitar is more prominent while high note vocals (3:30) and electric guitars get smoothen out, reducing its natural fatigue. It’s a different but fun and relaxed replay, still containing most of the track’s detail. If you are interested in this type of music I strongly advise you to check out HBB’s review of this set.

10. Slam - Vapour

I was going to talk about this song in this review until UP’s bass blew me off. If you get this set and like techno, try this song. Roar.

7. Comparisons


I’ll now compare Xenns UP to another two IEMs in a Tribrid Deathmatch. Every set will be using 4.4mm balanced and stock cable. All of them are running from Luxury & Precision W2 (Low gain, Tune 02, no EQ) with flac files. I listened to a lot of tracks on all the IEMs, but I used the following three to bring the divine judgment on:

* Billie Eilish - Oxytocin
* Agnes Obel - Curse
* Daft Punk - Aerodynamic

1. EJ07m (Spinfit CP145, Tanchjim filters)

graph (11).png

EJ07m has more sub-bass quantity while UP compensates it with more mid-bass elevation and kick. Texture and speed is better on EJ07m. UP’s mid-bass kicks you way harder in the chest, once again, bringing those live stage vibes.

Mids presentation is pretty close on both sets, although the warmth on Xenns UP makes voices thicker/meatier. EJ07m voice presentation is a little bit wider.

Treble presentation is pretty close as well, but due to UP’s warmth, EJ07m comes out as sparkly, while both being in the dark side. Overall air and extension always seem to be on Shuoer’s courtside.

Verdict: Overall, EJ07m has a cleaner presentation over UP, due to it’s more clinical/cool tuning, that some might even find boring - It’s more balanced. UP is the fun friend that turns libraries into parties.

Technically, EJ07m is on a level above Xenns UP - Overall detail/resolution, imaging, staging.

2. Moondrop Variations (Spinfit CP155)

graph (12).png

The mirror enemies finally meet. Cold vs Warm. Sub-bass vs mid-bass. Sparkle vs Bright.

Sub-bass is a no contest in favor of Variations best-in-class texture and presentation. But what about mid-bass? Mid-bass is one of my personal nitpicks with this set. This is where Xenns UP will win since mid-bass on Variations sometimes feels non-existent.

Regarding mids, I prefer Xenns UP presentation, even if they are elevated. The vocals on Variations feel pushed more in the background that I like (YMMV).

Treble rolls the exact same way as sub-bass in favour of Variations. Variations treble is less on my preferences, I usually prefer darker trebles, but credit where it’s due - Variations treble is awesome with some nice implementation of those EST drivers.

Verdict: Variations as a sterile presentation of the sound, while Xenns makes you feel you're at a beach party by comparison. Although Variations’ sub-bass and treble are best in class, I prefer mids presentation from UP. To put it briefly, to my library, Variations is to find detail and stains on records while UP is to enjoy a sound. Both are great at what they do, but they do completely different things - if Xenns put a warm instagram filter on, Variations reduce the saturation and increase detail.

Technically, Variations turn the arena into a bloodbath. With some Monarch pedigree on its ADN, Variations is a tough bone to chew on.

3. Bonus: Mangird Tea (Radius Deep Mount)

graph (13).png

Disclaimer: Mangird Tea will not use stock cable since mine came as a bit funky - as been replaced for a 1:1 silver cable for the matter.

I decided to add a quick observation to answer one of the most requested takes on the internet:

"Is Xenns UP the upgrade to Mangird Tea?"

In short: No, it’s not. Teas are more balanced, slightly warm but bring a more balanced vibe with a sub-bass focus on the lower end, while Xenns focus heavily on warmth and mid-bass. They do share some of the mids and treble presentation, but I wouldn’t consider them alike besides the house branding.

To this day, the closest to a true upgrade from what I love in the Mangird Tea is EJ07m (with tanchjim filters).

8. Conclusions

As mentioned above, Xenns UP is a completely different take on everything I’ve heard. I had to take some time and skim a lot of my library just to get the hang of it. It’s a very hard set to describe. When I heard it for the first time I liked it, but I couldn’t understand why. Guess the first thing I noticed was its kick, its roar.

I don’t think some people will claim Xenns UP has an audiophile tuning since it’s too colored. But so what? It’s FUN. I can’t recommend it as an all rounder for sure, but it’s a good set to pair along with some more detailed and cold sets. It switches the gears, it switches your library for good or worse, and that’s up to yourself to decide. As HBB stated in his review, these are a “Guilty Pleasure” pair, and I agree.

I think it’s a fine recommendation for specific genres like Hip-Hop or Electronic music for people that like ultra-warm signatures. Although, I strongly recommend trying to demo this set before buying. To my ears, it falls under the category of the “hate it or love it” set.

In an era of tier lists and “resolution” seeking, Xenns comes in to shake things up (pun intended) and remember us that not everything is about hearing the best scratch on a vinyl - sometimes it is just about having fun while doing the most important thing - enjoying music.

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@Ace Bee Sure, kilo salt.

Land will come with less bass (quantity and quality) and mids won't be as forward. Will also come as more detailed due to the tunning. It will feel ALOT colder and more energetic - with increased fatigue as well. Technically, ball is slightly on Land's court. In my opinion they will fit completly different genres - Xenns will fit eletronic, hip-hop or old school rock better while Land will have better advantage on female vocals, classic, jazz, etc.

Land is more of an all-rounder will the UP will be more of a party guy. Xenns is less fatiguing and more forgiving.
Codename john
Cool review . I was going to pull the trigger on the xenns heard them and decided they weren't quite worth the money. Definitely below the Variations & the EJ07M. I really like the EJs. Very underated set. Variations are best in class for the price
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This IEM seems to have the exact same shell material as ThieAudio Oracle, which I hate due to how cheap(light & thin) the material feels, as well as that same copycat, cheap looking & feeling silver nozzle and gold lettering. :thumbsdown: