Reviews by Takeanidea

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Hidizs MS1 Galaxy - the guardian of the Galaxy
Pros: £19.99 - excellent value for money
Visceral Bass response. Cosmetic appeal. Fit. Cable, esp. good fit.
Cons: Slightly bloated bass when not on the move. Needs eq'ing to get £100 performance!! Tips need experimentation.

The blockbuster budget battle - Hidizs MS1 Galaxy v Moondrop Chu - both £19.99​

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Hidizs are a Chinese Company. That means they can somehow produce decent stuff at ridiculously low prices. Products that a ChiFi enthusiast can get excited about are available at under £20. How do they do it? I don’t know, but I’m not complaining! These were sent to me for a review by Hidizs, and were accompanied by their stylish AP80 Pro Digital Audio Player. This AP80 Pro replaces a review model I have had for some time. Unfortunately I put it in the washing machine, for an hour, and having been thoroughly soaked and spun at 1400 RPM, the screen would not work as well as it could! Having said that, amazingly, it still plays music! I now can put that behind me and make sure I take this tiny player from my pocket before I put my trousers in to clean!

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The MS1 Galaxy is the latest budget IEM from Hidizs. It is currently on sale here, for £19.99 , in the microphone cable I requested. If you wish for a cable without mic the price goes down to £18.99, at the time of press. Seriously, please don’t bother trying to get this cheaper; either buy from an authorised dealer or direct from the manufacturer. It does not make sense to save a few £s or $s on an unauthorised sale with little or no comback should anything go wrong. Peace of mind lasts a long time. I get no commission from these links, please use them to find out more, or to make a trustworthy purchase.

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About the MS1 Galaxy​

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This is a Single Dynamic driver IEM with a detachable cable. The Galaxy sticks as close as it can to the Harman 2019 Frequency Response Curve; this means the tuning should not particularly annoy any listener. The driver shell is made of resin. The sensitivity is 108 dB, the impedance is 32 Ohms. A sensitivity of 105 or greater and an imepdance of 32 Ohms or less is what is needed as a minimum spec for working well in your smartphones. I will not dwell on the smartphone aspect overly, as, of course, I have the beautiful AP80 Pro to mess around with; during the review, fear not, I shall certainly put my Samsung A52 into play as a source. The detachable cable is a 78 mm 2 pin affair, so is easy to interchange with any custom cables you may have.

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Unboxing and testing​

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The first 2 things that struck me imediately about the Galaxy – 1. The Driver shells. They’re very pretty! I’d pick the transparents over the rest of the colour range every time. They fit in my ears comfortably, and, due to the resin construction, they’re warm from the outset. These are the classic olive shape, so they will not be a pain to keep, or to fit into the ears. 2. The cable. The earhook strengthening is excellent; it pulls the driver naturally into the ear canal’s entrance. There is no need for readjustment once in place. The tips are cheap and cheerful, but don’t cause any irritation in the ears. There is no carry pouch supplied, but, at this price, I’d rather every cent was spent on sound and build quality. As for build quality, the strengthening on the cable and the finish of the drivers is perfect.

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Contrast this with the Moondrop Chu; £19.99 on amazon uk as of time of going to press. The Chu has a non detachable cable, which is not a litz design, and has no earhook. The drivers are a third smaller than the MS1s, and they are not an easy fit, as they are only locking into two thirds of the outer ear. Instead, you are given some silicon hooks to slide on to the cable. The Chu has a higher level of sensitivity and a lower impedance than the MS1 Galaxy. Therefore, it should be louder.



I discovered that the Chu, despite the superior efficiency specs, was noticeably quieter than it’s counterpart. There was also a noticable difference in the perceived sound signature between the MS1 and the Chu. I put together a playlist of 3 songs to use as a test. They were chosen for their particular styles. Track 1 was Immune, by Act – this was a synth pop FLAC track. Track 2 was Big Day by XTC. This was an audio fidelity ultra hi res track. The third was a throwaway pop track – Ooh ahh just a little bit, a 1996 Eurodance number by Gina G, that has somehow got into my subconscious!

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The Chu has little to no visceral impact. There is no perceived air pushing against the contours of the ear, on any of the tracks. The signature of the Chu, as compared to the MS1, can be described as lean. The mids and highs of the Chu sounded rougher than the MS1. The bass, on tracks 1 and 3 was faster and more linear, or, simply put, slightly less bloated sounding. The MS1 has visceral bass impact in spades. It has some presence in the lower mids. There is also a decent width of sound in the mids and highs, much of the roughness present in the Chu’s does not make an appearance here. I have an MSEB function on the AP80 Pro. This enables me to really fine tune the bass response. Of the 3 bass settings, I chose to reduce the thickness of the bass by 5%, but this was only for tracks 1 & 3. For track 2, an audio fidelity ultra hi res track, the bass, as engineered in the studio, was much less bloated, and didn’t need any further mixing on my part. On this track, with no adjustments made, the MS1 was a clear winner.

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Bass is often the deciding factor when choosing an IEM. Where bass comes into it’s own, where a little bit f extra warmth can help, is in circumstances where background noise is present. This could be on a busy street, during a sweaty workout, or commuting on the metro. Low frequency noises will drown out much of the bass in your music. In quieter environments, there is not so much need for low end energy. It pays to have an IEM that can at least adapt to it’s surroundings, and, in that case, I would recommend some form of eq for the MS1s. I also believe they are worth some experimentation with eartips, as the ones supplied are undoubtedly contributing to an enhanced bass response. The cable is a triumph. It has been adjusted to a painstaking attention to detail, and it has really done wonders for the overall fit of the Hidizs. For those of you who like to feel your bass, this £19.99 single driver is a no brainer. For the remainder who have discovered that bigger is not always better, I firmly reassert these as worthy of a tweak or two. They will handsomely reward the efforts you are prepared to go to .
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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Simgot EA1000 - Fermat's Last Stand
Pros: 3 tuning nozzles to customise your sound - based around Simgot & Harman Frequency Response Curves.
Excellent sound quality. Goes loud enough to work well in a smartphone.
Cons: Can be enhanced with a better cable. Not much else

Single Dynamic Driver IEM with 3 differently tuned nozzles - £219.99​

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Simgot - Fermat's Last Theorem​


With gratitude to Simgot for including myself in their reviewer distribution, I hereby contribute my take on Fermat's Theorem. No money has been exchanged in return for this, or any other review, for that matter. Simgot also provided me with the LC7 cable. I worked out that this constituted a grand total of 9 listening modes. I did them all, just for you.

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First off, you'll want to know why this IEM is called Fermat's Theorem. The Fermat is also known as the EA1000. I suspect that no other IEM will be called anything like the Fermat, so, at least for me, I'll find it easier to remember. Think about it - it's already making an impression, before it's had a listen.... Fermat's Theorem is a mathematical problem posed by a French gent called Fermat. Arguably one of the greatest challenges ever presented, it was finally answered by Alan Wiles, in 1995, over 350 years later. I no more understand the question than the solution, but more information is contained in the packaging of the product. In particular, you can become a member of the gold card club. The equation that proves the theorem to everyone's satisfaction is embossed on it, so you can put it in your wallet and proudly display it whenever the conversation turns to either 1637, or integers. The company's brand is described as a salute to Science and Art, and I believe, in the EA1000, they've outscienced all but the most sciency of us.

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I am a member of the Gold Card Club!


About the Simgot EA1000​


Does the Fermat justify the lofty aspirations of the Theorem that took three and a half centuries to crack? It does not have the glamour of the multi driver hybrid setup, a useful marketing tool as well as , arguably, a way of overcoming some limitations of the tinyness of the in-ear model. Of course, a single driver design cannot suffer from crossover distortion, a problem which has to be addressed with every other hybrid earphone.
Worry ye not; Simgot has some tricks up their sleeves! Instead of going with a hybrid setup, the EA1000 has a 3 nozzle system. There's 3 different sound signatures to go for. Simply unscrew a nozzle from the driver housing, screw a different nozzle in, and you'll have a sound that corresponds to 1 of 3 different frequency curves.

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Harman research is renowned for it's frequency curve. It took a huge sampling of the sound signatures preferred by the music listening public and took an average of them all. Voilà! This was born the Harman Frequency Response Target. This is a curve that many manufacturers have placed their reputations on, and they tune their products to stick as closely to the curve as their drivers can handle. The Harman response is, by definition, a jack of all trades, and a master of none. Not many people chose that exact bass hump and reduction in treble, but there again, manufacturers are pandering to the masses, and it makes sense to follow the path of least resistance, as the Harman Frequency Response Curve will be ok for the majority of listeners.

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It's often best to play it safe when you're looking for mass appeal. What Simgot has done is to take 3 tweaks of the Harman Curve, and tune their nozzles accordingly. The tuning is subtle, as I'm sure has been mentioned before. Nevertheless, married to a decent source, the flavours of each become apparent. Yes, I am also willing to include my Samsung A52 smartphone in my list of good matches. I accept, and have no issue, with those of you out there who are minimalists, and use nothing but a phone to listen to your music. That is surely the aspiration of every portable audio enthusiast. It certainly takes a lot less space in one's apartment/rucksack or trouser pocket. For those of you who have seen the light; forgive me! I shall be basing the majority of my insights on the splendiferous Fiio M11.




What it is about there always being something unique about each iem I show you? It is a tribute to the imagination of the research teams that they find new ways to fill what is in reality a tiny space of driver and housing. Simgot's latest iem here has SDPGD and PR logos proudly displayed on its shiny packaging. The first abbreviation stands for 'sputter deposition purple gold diaphragm', the second relates to a new design of a resinating chamber, called 'passive radiators'. The dynamic drivers have dual magnets, the diaphragm of the drivers have been sparkled up with a few layers of gold, they sit in a new acoustic chamber, and the nozzles can change the signature. All in all, a very good sell. The whole thing is presented in a shiny box, with the signature Simgot case. It's ready to roll with a silver plated oxygen free copper cable in the Litz, or woven, design. The cable has a velcro tie and a chin strap, and is terminated in a 3.5 jack.

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Simgot realise that many of us have balanced connections on some of our more bespoke devices and to that end, have also supplied me with their LC7 cable, available for $69.99, which not only sports the usual 3.5 jack; it can morph into a 4.4 as needed, an unbalanced or balanced cable; not something I normally see.

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The LC7 Upgrade cable


For those of you that are keeping up with this, that means I have a grand total of 12 comparisons to get through; 3 nozzle variants on the smartphone using the standard cable, 3 using the LC7, and the whole process repeated for my M11 test. Wish me luck.....

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The Sound Test​


The smartphone test was quickly underway. 3 nozzles, 3 signatures. Will I like the red, blue or black nozzle? For the Samsung phone I went for the red nozzle. The silver steel tube, built around the Harman 2019 curve. This was regardless of which cable I was using. The LC7 cable is much heavier, and would be more problematic for a vigorous workout, but sounded better, needless to say. The Fiio M11, again, no surprises, worked best with the LC7 cable and a 4.4 jack popped onto the end of it. For the M11, my preference was for the copper nozzle. The bass was faster and the mids were slightly more pronounced. The stock cable had a softer sound than the upgrade cable. The termination of the LC7 cable did not initially fit into my A52 jack. With the protective case off, no problems. The Fiio M11 was fine with either cable. My case is a rather bulky affair. It's a sort of pelican design. Thinner cases should accommodate fine, but worth noting if you are thinking of pushing the EA1000 a bit more.

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I am pleased to say that I was impressed with the Fermat's. They gave a really good account of an HDCD version of 'It's still rock n roll to me' by Billy Joel from his 1980 album, 'Glass Houses'. This was an Audio Fidelity release, and was an extremely limited edition. This version has long since been out of print, is not available on any streaming platform, has an incredibly high sound quality, and proves that retro is not only alive and well in the 21st Century, in many cases it is a darn sight better. The song was chosen for its fidelity, driving rock sound and use of brass instruments, always a good test for an earphone. The rich tonal cleanliness of the track shone through on the EA1000, with the smooth, silky delivery on my smartphone, contrasting with the attack of the M11. There will be a lifetime of adventures out there for the swapper; does the copper suit classical music better than the middle of the road red nozzle? Will rock , or pop, or hip hop , benefit from the slight bass light of the blue nozzle? I can state that I believe the effort will be rewarded for those who will become loyal followers of the Simgot Fermat.

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Conclusion​


In the right environment, say in front of TV you need to avoid watching, in a bed where your partner is fast asleep and you're not; this is where the qualities of an IEM like this can flourish, and a full size headphone, such as the similarly priced HiFiMan Sundara, can be beaten. It's difficult to see where they can improve on the sound of a single dynamic driver at the price level of £219.99. There are hybrids out there that people will prefer, there are planar iems in this price range; but they both offer a different sound. The punchy delivery of a single dynamic driver is a timeless enjoyment that , thankfully, has survived, and even flourished, despite the relentless quest for the answer to Hi-fi's ultimate question - how can I improve the sound quality? Sometimes, my friends, the answer to the future lies in the achievements of the past.

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Simgot Phoenix EM6L a real performer in the £100 IEM market
Pros: SQ - I can't find anything to criticise here
Fit - Beyond reproach
Comfort - 3D resin - the right temperature for any season, no edges or pressure points
Value - when you add the above, it's difficult to believe the RRP
Cons: 1 Colour design Cheap case Lack of accessories
Simgot EM6L Phoenix

£104 1 DD 4 BA 3D Resin Printed 2 Pin IEM

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In a rush?​


What better companion to share the stress with than an IEM? Pop em in your ears, plug em into your phone. Voíla! Instant music, great distraction. Now, where was I? Thanking Simgot Audio for their kindly review model of just such a thingey; the Simgot EM6L "Phoenix". It is a 1 DD 4 BA Hybrid IEM. To which I mean 1 dynamic driver, for the low end frequencies, and 4 Balanced Armature Drivers for the rest. This is per side, not in total. You get the 5 for £104, at the last time of looking. The driver shells are 3D resin printed, and in the olive shape that is ergonomically suited to the shape of our ears and is much my preference. The connectors are a recessed 78mm 2 pin affair. There has been strengthening protection applied, in decent amounts. The cable supplied is terminated with an unbalanced plug, so users of a balanced connection need to seek after market solutions. In Ear Monitors continue to be attractive; the cables are getting better value than ever, the designs push boundaries, the appetite for a wired connection refuses to be pushed aside by the advent of TWS. The vast array of £100 IEMs out there attests to the fact. I cannot be there in person with every one of them, however I know what good sound tastes like, and my pallete can give you some guidance as to what represents quality out there. Read on and we shall look at whether these are suitable in theory. Then we shall delve into the practical, and take a listen together.

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The scientific stuff​


The EM6L will perform in a smartphone, provided you have the right connection, of course. It has 26 Ohms of resistance and 119 dB of sensitivity, the IEMs sit flush into the your inner earlobes and the eartips supplied are reasonably long. The combination of isolation and reach into the ear canal combine to ensure dangerous volumes can be reached with no need for further amping. Better amping or better sources will achieve better sound; that makes logical sense and hopefully shouldn't need further explanation. Having concluded it goes loud enough; will it sound good enough? Never fear, there's measuring here!

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The H2019 Target has been lovingly, adoringly, stuck to. Depending on the scale we are looking at here, the updated Harman frequency response curve is closely aligned to the tuning of the EM6L. The wavelength looks pretty smooth, with no more than a measles sized bump or 2 towards the higher end of the FR spectrometer. Hoping that this will reassure the average portable audio thrillseeker, let us look and see what other seduction techniques Simgot has employed. There is a blown apart diagram showing you the numerous bits that have been somehow fitted into the design of the phoenix. There are separate cavities for each type of driver to ensure each frequency arrives at a realistic time, and there isn't too much of a mixed mess going on. The next part of the experience is in the unboxing ritual. For that, we turn to YouTube, and my video upload and general chitchat within.



The stuff inside, putting it together, testing it for size and for sound.​


The unboxing experience was a surprise. Nothing was particularly missing, but it wasn't as luxurious as I was expecting, having dealt with the King Wonder, Simgot's Flagship, not too long ago. The case and eartips supplied felt like an adequacy, rather than an ecstasy.

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Gone is the lovely case with the embossed logo, shown here:

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There is a case. But it doesn't have the Wonder feel to it. It is a generic black case with a zip. Here, have a look:

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The Wonder was all about changing the earplug, to change the sound signature of the earphone, so I wasn't expecting lots of different ear plugs. What you get is the standard 3.5 mm unbalanced plug, on a cable that feels pretty good actually. All terminations have been thought about, and protected, and all potential weak spots have been carefully considered.

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Notice the brass colured chin strap, the plastic collar around the Y split, the thicker plastic on the recessed 2 pin terminations and the clear plastic ear hooks.


The setting up is a doddle, thanks to some some useful Gold stencilling for L and R on the inside of the driver shells. The cable was applied snugly and without incident to the driver shells. The drivers were a great fit for me. The eartips applied and sat well into the ear canal entrance but I couldn't, and cannot now, feel them in my ears, as I bring this article to you. The resin material means there is no issue with temperature, the smoothness of the design results in a no pressure point issue. Anyone hwho has had time with IEMs can attest to having issues with getting a comfortable fot, especially over prolonged use. Why companies don't all employ Simgot's current design philosophy is beyond me. I would rather have a comfortable fit than an extra 10 drivers. What is the point of all the drivers if they fall out of your ears constantly?




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Even with glasses on, move along please, no problems here


Having now put them in my ears it is time to take the plunge. The results started to emerge immediately, as I listened to this, on my Samsung Galaxy A52, using USB Audio Player Pro with no EQ applied.

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It's a nice enough track, that was chosen entirely at random, but one which has never really gripped me before. I was at once noticing the linearity, transparency, or sheer elegance of this track as played through the Phoenix. It was an instantaneous reaction. I can honestly say; if I did not know the retail price of these IEMs, I'd have had no ide ahow much they retailed at, but I'd have been guessing way way higher than £100. Remember, this is not using any of the masses of gadgets that I have to further squeeze SQ; it was by plugging them into my smartphone. Context was needed. I plugged a pair of £60 KBear Quinlong IEMs in.

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KBear are now slouches when it comes to a value v performance match up. If you have them, please don't take offence at what I say next. I'm sure I will enjoy using them in the future. I'll just make sure I don't have the Simgot Phoenix anywhere nearby....


The EM6L absolutely, unequivocally, kicked the proverbial stuffing out of the Quinlong. The TKO was achieved in 37 seconds. That is not an approximation. The Quinlog were taken off after I realised that the bass was not as deep and more bloated, the vocals were grainy and the micro detail was lost in a sea of muddiness, at least in comparison with the Phoenix.


In the end​


It comes down to what you want. This is a fantastic IEM for the money. You just need to make sure that an IEM fits your needs. An IEM has cables. Sometimes, cables can get in the way, they can be an annoyance. They get caught in things, they make the drivers fly out of your ears if you're not careful. When running , or working out, a flapping cable can be off putting. You can put it under your gym clothes, but be prepared for an equally uncomfortable experience as the cables attract the sweat that you are producing in copius amounts. I have run many 1000s of miles with wired earphones. Despite the fact that they sound slightly better than wireless equivalents, in almost every circumstance I now go for wireless. It simply means that I have one less thing to worry about. If sweat isn't a factor, I really think IEMs can still present an enticing alternative to a wireless earphone, or headphone. The Phoenix has no sound leakage, excellent isolation, the fit is warm and stays firmly in the sweet spot. The sound quality still has me looking for something to criticise. I have found nothing yet. This is a stunningly good IEM which can brush off the lack of accessories and one dimensional colur scheme with disdain. Because of the sound, the Phoenix rises. Because of the that alone, I'd be a fool not to recommend it.

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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
HiFiMan HE6SE v HiFIMan Arya Organic - does the HE6 still have a place in the modern World?
Pros: Sound - legendary status - improvements over previous design - an absolute bargain compared to paunch RRP
Cons: Heavy & difficult to drive
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In which I thank my suppliers and give a casual introduction and generally set the tone for the musings which will follow​

I got married in 2019. Typically of me it was a laid back experience where things just seemed to fall into place. That is, until HiFIMan came along. The esteemed company started really upping their game. There were headphones, Dacs, Amps coming out of that factory faster than the reviewers could keep up with. I have had a close relationship with HiFiMan for many years, but 2019 was when it got serious. I can remember the date it got real. It was 20th April 2019, 7 days before I was due to get married. The Jade II system arrived. The HE6SE arrived. Both big launches and both building from a huge cult following of previous designs. The items had been in the subjective review offices for a week and I recieved an email requesting their prompt return. Despite working full time and preparing for a wedding the following week, the business on these 2 items was done, they were returned, and, since that time, I have not had a single chance to return to the HE6SE. Now, we are back together again. I have the time to relaunch the relaunch, as it were.
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HiFiMan had their arm twisted gently round their back and have very kindly sent me another review sample. Typically, the review samples from them are no different than that which you would get, should you order them. The SE part of the HE6 stands for special edition – it’s important not to confuse that for Stealth Edition. Special Edition, in this case, means the old HE6 has had a facelift. Based on feedback and research from the great brains that work behind the scenes to bring you these endless improvements, the HE6 looks quite different from it’s elder brother. A new headband, new connectors and a shiny new set of cups gives me the distinct impression that this looks like the Massdrop version of the legend.
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Why is the old HE6 a legend? Because there is great love for it. Huge numbers of posts have been submitted regarding every aspect of this phone, how good it is, what is needed to bring out it’s best, who has what version, which pads are the best, how and what to mod, nothing has been left untouched. When the HE6 went out of production, to make way for new models such as the HE1000, there was a deep sigh of anguish which could be heard echoing through the valleys of the portable audio clan. How could they discard such a headphone? There were reasons, of course. The HE6 was heavy. The planar drivers were notoriously difficult to drive. Not only that; it was expensive aswell.
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The HE6SE now​

The relaunch of the HE6 was a greatly anticipated affair. A new look, a more comfortable headand, a universal connector and a highly polished aluminium styling brought an old design a new flair. What hadn’t been changed were those planar drivers that so many people held in reverence. What remained of the old design was the weight and the inefficiency. Despite a new headband and an adapter to hook these up to a speaker amp, those 2 factors appear to have been stumbling blocks. It’s fair to say that the SE version of the HE6 has not sold as well as HiFiMan had hoped. The HE6SE are now becoming scarce. There are less SE’s around than there are 6’s. When you can find them, such as on the HiFiMan website this week, as per the introductory picture shown, they are on sale for a fraction of the RRP on launch, as illustrated below:
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The UK bit of Amazon seems to be the only stockist around at present, although I’m sure HiFiMan would do what they could to source an SE for those of you outside of the UK. Do Not despair! Ok, so we have talked about buying them and how to find one, but are they actually worth purchasing, when there are 100s of other choices out there? That, my friends, is down to you. I can guide you as to what I think, but you really need to give them a listen first. When they’re so scarce that’s going to be difficult. Until now….

The HE6SE in action​

The opportunity to listen to the HE6SE and to compare it to another top class headphone as in the power of your fingertips. This is because I have the ability to bring you the actual sound of a set of full size headphones, as if you were wearing them yourself. All you need is an open mind, plenty of time, and some half decent headphones or earphones. I’ll do the rest. How though? Easy! I have a set of binaural in ear mics – the Sennheiser Ambeo, which I have connected to an ipad. I put these in my ears, set the volume correctly, put the headphones on over the in ears, put the music on and press record. The mics pick up what is going on inside the cups. I record in lossless, 44.1 quality and upload the results into the cloud, and provide a short sample on the YouTube video, as below:



You are closer to the truth now. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that measurements for a headphone are interesting and important, especially in the design and quality control stages of their construction. But we don’t cannot listen to a measurement, we can only imagine what a headphone can sound like by studying it’s relative performance. Such analysis I will leave to the likes of those that have invested the time and money into doing them, at least for now. The only way you can truly know what a headphone sounds like is to listen to it over time, with different genres of music, different sources of hardware, in different moods. Of course, even I can’t provide you with all of this. My samples are at least a start, a part, of that journey. My observations are drawn over time, and with the different genres and sources, so bear with while I demystify the HE6SE/Arya debate, that is, hoping that you have had a chance to have a listen yourself by now. If not, please head back and equip yourself witha listen or 10. Then you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions.

HE6SE v Arya Organic​

This match is a legend v pedigree setup. The Arya is part of the new styling that stems from that 1st glimpse of the large teardrop design that was introduced for the HE1000 series. The headband for the 6SE is usually seen on the HiFiMan base models, the planar driver wouldn’t fit into the teardrop shape either. The overall aestetic impression is therefore that the HE6SE looks cheaper. I mean, it is now, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. The Arya Organic doesn’t need anything like the amount of power the HE6SE craves, it is happy with a fairly standard DacAmp. The Organic will respond to a bit more juice, as one would expect from a headphone of this class. I make no excuses for putting these 2 headphones into a very special headphone amplifier indeed. Fang Bian, the CEO and founder of HiFiMan has stated that the SE needs 2W at 50 Ohms to make it sing. I can provide 20W of Pure Class A mode with the kit I have used. How does that sound?!
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Yes; that should do it. The EF1000 amplifier. A £13 000 slab of valve/transistor amplification that has no compromises. That is certainly a fitting place to plug in a couple of headphones for our little demo, don’t you think?
The results are in. The HE6SE was a punchy, detailed, lively affair, which could arguably be described as a little forward, or hot, or peaky, in the mid to high frequencies. The bass was faster, and leaner, than the Arya, the mids had more clarity, as did the highs, than it’s counterpart. It had to be turned up an awful lot higher than the Arya Organic. The Arya had an effortless, smooth, balanced sound to it, a fuller, richer bass and mid response, that hid some of the detail that was present in the HE6SE. The highs were rolled off somewhat compared to the SE, but tastefully so.

Conclusion​

So,which was best? For detail and clarity – the HE6SE. For richness and tonality – the Arya Organic. For shortish periods of listening to music – the HE6SE. For longer sessions, using lots of different genres of music – the Arya Organic. These are my opinions, I respect if you feel differently, and maybe the measurements will asist you with that. I hope to see more reviews of theHE6SE in years to come. In fact, I shall take a look at the differences between this and the original, and see if there is anything sonically different. I suspect I may be part of a dying breed, but I sincerely hope that I’m not

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Exclusive Look at the all new HiFiMan Svanar Wireless R2R TWS Earbuds
Pros: Sound - surprisingly close to the Svanar Flagship
Fit - Excellent
Looks - Techy yet elegant
Cons: Price - £479 - makes this the most expensive TWS
Not as sophisticated in features as Samsung Apple or Sennheiser
https://subjective.reviews/

EXCLUSIVE WORLD FIRST LOOK AT HIFIMAN SVANAR R2R TWS EARBUDS​




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Hello my name is Trev, AKA Takeanidea AKA The Geekologist. If you want a straight up straight down take on things, you have arrrived at the right place on the World Wide Web. Congratulations. You have found me.
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Today, I’ve been given the opportunity of a sneak preview of the HiFiMan Svanar Wireless . Loyal followers will note my previous review of the £2000 Svanar Wired Model. HiFiMan realise this is not the price point they can realistically achieve for a bluetooth earphone, as, of course, wired models are considered to be far more posh, and can attract a discerning audiophile with a far bigger wallet. The Svanar Wireless is a TWS earphone. As I am the Geekologist, I can you not just a definition of the above abbreviation; it stands for Truly Wireless. I know, it should be 3 words, but its not. TWS is simply, no cable between the 2 earphones and a charging cradle for when said lefts and rights are not in use.
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There; the science is over, at least for now. The Svanar Wireless will be retailing at under £500, and has a claimed performance within the range of the £2000 Svanar Flagship. I’m going to save my assesment of said claim for later, after all, we are still painting a picture here, amd i wish to hold back the final flourishes of my brush strokes until it seems right.
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You’ll have plenty of chance to take a look at my Svanar Wired review, there seems little point in regurgitation other than to say, yes, it is expensive, and yes, I like it. It doesnt beat a HiFiMan full size headphone in a similar price bracket for technical skills, but boy, does it deliver when you need a bit of intimacy in your musical life.
Given my reaction to the Wired at that price point, its not surprising that I’d be one of the first to get hold of this, dare I say it, budget version of the big brother.

First of all, let us deal with the elephant in the room. For a TWS, this is some serious cash being asked. What does this have to offer, as potentially the most expensive TWS ever made? HiFiMan have managed to incorporate their R2R Himalaya DAC chip into this design. This is the same DAC that goes into their £12000 EF1000 DacAmp. What’s R2R? I hear you, I hear you. It’s a type of digital processing from the earliest CD Players, and is still considered to be the Gold Standard for purity of sound, dCS and Lampizator are 2 other ultra high end companies who swear by R2R. To keep the no compromise audiophile happy, they have managed to cram an LDAC codec into the Svanars. I know! LDAC is a lossless codec for bluetooth, and it can deliver the bit rates of a CD. An LDAC is the de facto for a higher end TWS these days. This TWS offers 3 modes using a gesture control on the left shell of the Svanar. You can change it from ANC (automatic noise cancellation) to transparent (you can pick up outside noises) to hifi (that’s what we’re all about). HiFi mode works with LDAC, the others have drop outs. For serious listening, HiFi mode is the only way forward. Believe you me, I am all about serious when it comes to this sort of stuff. You can make and receive calls and do voice searches, just like most of the TWS.
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The snazzy stuff the Svanar Wireless is capable of is perhaps not quite as amazingly spectacular as, for instance, Sony, Samsung or Apple are doing with their multitude of mics and apps for their devices. I dont think HiFiMan had any intention of outdoing their rivals on Geekiness. HiFiMan are staking their reputation on this as being a TWS that dominates on sound quality, at least for a TWS.



Dont worry, I’m almost there. You’ll soon get to know how good, or bad, these things sound. There is 1 more aspect I must address, and this is wearability. That almost feels like a made up word, because I regard wearability as being a make or break factor for a TWS. It must look good, these do. It must be comfortable in all weathers, these are. Finally, it is absolutely essential that a TWS fits well. HiFiMan have been in the TWS market with the TWS600 and 800, neither of which were a good fit for my somewhat diminutive earlobes. Not only have HiFiMan been the culprits. Shame on you Samsung! I had to call my Wife out to search for a left earbud on one dark, rainy night. We realised she’d accidentally driven over it due to my confusion as to where it could have bounced. The thought of such things happening to a £500 TWS? Unimaginable! Im pleased to say that the fit of the Svanar Flagship has been replicated with the Wireless Model. It feels rock solid. For those who insist on a HiFi experience, even when at the gym or running, the Svanar Wireless shouldn’t give you any problems with sweat ingress, given their rating of IPX5 for wayer resistance. A rating of 5 is comfortably above the IPX1, which is the sweat resistant and dripping water level of protection. Wearability has now been done in full, the Svanar has passed this, the strictest of standards. And now, finally, the much anticipated verdict.
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How do they sound? How close do they get to the Flagship? The Wireless Model is close to the Flagship. This is indeed a serious attempt at making a TWS earbud into a musical experience. The bass is full and rich, the clarity coming through despite the viscerality of the sub bass. There are micro details present , the vocals are easy to follow and there is a reasonably wide sound stage. The TWS models I have; the HiFiMan 600/800, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Sennheiser Momentum, none of them can live with the Svanar on sound quality. The sq on the rivals sounds either ordinary, shrill or compressed in comparison. If I was thinking as to a genre that the Svanar might struggle with, it wouldnt be a genre that I tend to listen to. I’m not sure that the sub bass herein would suit drum n bass and hip hop, especially that synthetic bass. I’m sure there’ll be those of you out there that are finding their favourites among that lot a trifle dry sounding, in which case, yep, these will appeal.
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We’ve now arrived at the end. The Svanars are expensive. They are less than a quarter of the price of the Flagships, but with TWS convenience added. Can they do everything a normal TWS can do? No, not everything. Do they sound like they’re HiFi. Yes, the TWS market has had a bit of a shake up here.
Hanesu
Hanesu
Check out the Bloom Audio review! There is an excellent comparison to the ZE8000😊👍
sofastreamer
sofastreamer
sadly people dont seem to know the difference between an earbud and wireless iems anymore.
sofastreamer
sofastreamer
sry, double post

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Lavricables Grand Silver Custom Cable for HiFiMan HE1000 Stealth Edition
Pros: More detailed and dynamic sounding than HiFiMan's Stock Cable. Luxurious in materials used, looks, feel and build quality.
Cons: The cost v performance dilemma
Lavricables Grand Series
The great cable debate
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This is all about a custom cable. Before we start, there is a great deal of debate on this subject, and I won't be shying away from that. The elephant in the room is the custom cable that replaces the freely supplied stock cable that came with your already expensive headphones. The one function of the custom cable is to improve the sound quality of your headphones. There are a huge variety of opinions out there as to whether the cable alone can make any difference to the sound quality of a headphone, no matter how expensive it is. Hitherto, the most I have spent on a cable, of any description, is perhaps £40, and that was to get a certain type of balanced cable that I didn't already have. This means that I am by no means an instant convert to the principle of a cable making any real difference to the sound of a headphone, which means that Lavricables, having sent me their statement product for my latest review, have no guarantees that I'm going to be enthusiastic about this particular product. That being said, I keep an open mind, I will give anything (within reason) a try, and I know that many of you out there have already taken the plunge and have shiny stuff hanging from your headphones.
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For this review, I have plugged the cable into the HE1000 v2 Stealth Edition, a rich sounding favourite, retailing at £2000 in all good stockists. Lavricables were especially interested in my thoughts on these with the HE1000 although of course they'll work with any headphones that have 3.5mm sockets, and aren't the fixed cable variety.
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About Lavricables
The company, Lavricables, are from Latvia. They make some very fine looking cables and they believe in the purity of silver stranded cables to improve your stock options. The cable, depending on your options chosen, will range from €469 to €969. I will be reviewing a 4 pin XLR terminated 2 metre cable, I also had a XLR to 4.4 balanced adapter fitted, to try the cable out on several amps. If you like what you see, I am sure that such a cable with adapter could easily be arranged.
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About Burn in
The concept of burn in has been around since I have been involved in HiFi. Many companies recommend a period of time in which their particular audio products, ranging from speakers to cables, are given a gentle dose of music over a considerable period of time before their product settles down and performs at it's best. In similar fashion, when buying a new car, the advise was to not put the car above a certain amount of revs for the first 1000 miles or so. I had a replacement engine that I managed to break by not following the guidance as per rpm and readjusting after a certain mileage. Undoubtedly, a car engine is a finely tuned device and will generate huge amounts of heat while in use, and has many parts which must all work together perfectly. Could the same thing apply to a mere cable? I've made you think now, haven't I? The cable I received came with a 150 hours burn in procedure.This will cost an additional fee should you choose that option. The burn in procedure rather stole my thunder of attempting to answer the question "does burning in make any difference?" I could have done a before and after test recording, as is my usual way of things, but due to my Latvian friends wanting to guarantee that I received the cable at what they think is the optimal, this particular controversy can be avoided for this review. Look on that as a positive. I am able to devote more time to the more important aspects of Lavri's Grand Series, which is, is it any good? It's that simple, and yet, that complicated too!
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I am a reviewer, and am more than happy to offer you my subjective opinion on any product that comes my way. To explain what I mean by the word subjective, this is an opinion based on no science. It is essentially a "feeling" for the item, and it is based on several hours of listening between the review item and a similar product. In this case, it was easy, all I had to do was unplug 1 set of cables and replace them with another, over and over again, to several songs , in several genres of music, from Classical to Pop, as my tastes are diverse, and I am no longer interested in what is regarded as "cool". I just like what I like. Of course, as a reviewer, my opinion will be deemed extremely important by both yourselves and Lavricables. However, I am happy to tell you that, not only do I get the opportunity to rate these cables. You do too! Yes - it's true. I have 2 recordings for you. They are recorded in lossless format. They are recordings of the stock HiFiMan cable and the custom Lavricable. They have been recorded using a set of binaural in ear headphones, the Sennheiser Ambeo. The Ambeo has been placed at the entrance to my ear canals. The Ambeo is then plugged into an ipad. The ipad is duly prepped for an audio recording. I have then placed the HiFiMan HE1000 Stealth Edition Headphones
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carefully onto my head, so as not to disturb the in ear mics. I press play to start the music, I press record on the iPad, and 7 minutes later, a binaural field recording of Peter Gabriel's SACD version of "Come Talk to Me" from the Album "Us" is ready to put into Dropbox. I repeat the same process using a different cable and recording 2 is done. Only the cables are different, the volume is not moved, the track is recorded in it's entirety, I am using the same head(mine) and the same equipment, in this case, a World Class R2R Dac, the Lampizator DAC4 which famously uses valves for the output stage, and a World Class Speaker/Headphone Amplifier, a McNeish Designs, which runs in pure class A and uses a no compromise separate power supply.
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I have enclosed the 2 recordings for you to download, at no cost, with no ads or subscriptions etc. You will find them very strange sounding through speakers, as they have been recorded using headphones. This is therefore a headphones only moment. Before you read my opinion, take a listen:
The Stock Cable

Lavricables Grand Series

Have as many listens as you wish. Provided you use headphones, you should have a convincing experience. I'm hoping your brain will feed you yet more visual cues which will convince you that this is very close to demoing the cables yourself, in a shop, or a show, albeit without the pressure of having to make an instant decision as to whether there is any difference between the cables and, if there is, which cable is better, and, if so, how much better....


The results are in
I am, of course, anxious to hear your opinions, but I am equally sure you want my expert(!) take on this. Look; when push comes to shove, and in all seriousness, the Lavricables are an upgrade to the Stock Cable. I have used a headphone, costing around £2000, a DAC originally retailing at £5500, a headphone amplifier worth probably more than the DAC4 and a DSD track to highlight said differences. Arguably, such equipment is typical of the kind of clients that use custom cables, so I make no excuses for using such high end kit.
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My impressions, for this field test are that the Grand Master adds more detail, a faster bass response and a cleaner sound when compared to the Stock Cables. I say this not knowing what you, my assistant reviewers, make of the experience. As is often the case in field tests like this, when I first put on the Lavricables, having listened to the Stock cables beforeheand, the differences grabbed me fairly immediately. I have deliberately used the word "fairly" in this context, because, honestly, I get the feeling of whether I prefer the sound before I can describe why I feel that way. Are you the same? Of course, detailed back to back listening over a course of time can alter those initial impressions, and I take great care and time over trying to keep a open mind, constantly looking for differences in vocal clarity, bass depth, overall balance of sound, the type of signature being produced, how close the instrumentation is to my ears, any harsh peaks. I can only do this by listening over and over again and giving my brain the task of picking up these differences without pressure. Only then am I prepared to reveal what I think to the World!
This was my impression for the top set up I have, and I used the Lavricable as was, without the supplied adapter. I next set myself the task of trying a cheaper DacAmp. The results on said Amp were a different story. Read on as to why......

Using the HiFiMan EF400
Did not give the results I was expecting. I am aware that there can sometimes be interference when using high grade silver cable, but I was not expecting it to be so noticeable with the EF400. The EF400 has 2 gain and 2 sample settings. High gain is not needed for the HE1000. I used it, of course I did! The interference was heavily amplified, and there was none with the stock cable. In low gain mode, the NOS setting caused twice the level of white noise as compared to the Over Sampling switch. Once the music was in full swing, the effect of the cable was less noticeable, but in the quiestest moments the white noise still clung on. Therefore, if you seek the Grand Master as an upgrade and you wish to use it on the EF400 in conjunction with your HE1000, I could not recommend this as an upgrade. The EF400 seems to prefer OFC cables and simply doesn't have the stomach to be able to digest the purity of a Lavricable.
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My next test was on SMSL's Dac and Amp range, thus giving me the chance to check out the adapter.

Using the SMSL DO/HO100 Combo
What a delicious combo! I was relieved that, on first switching on, there was no white noise apparent. Nothing. strange... But good. The cables where still well ahead of the stock, even on such a humble setup. That wasn't quite what I was expecting. I moved the DO100(which is the DAC part of this little stack system) and the sound cut out completely on my Macbook. I then plugged it back in. No output. I unplugged, switched off, plugged back in and switched on. There was that white noise again! Hang on...have I made a horrible mistake? Is this the same cable I was using for the EF400? If so, would swapping the USB cable for a different one achieve different results? I may well be needing to eat a huge slice of humble pie at this rate....

With profuse apologies to the EF400.....
Replacing the cable eliminated the white noise interference problem. Instantly, immediately and totally. It was all about the cable! It just wasn't the Lavricable, or the EF400 not being able to take a silver cable, it was just a cheap usb cable that was on it's way out. Cables DO make a difference! Who'd have thought? The EF400, swinging away quite happily now, shows the SMSL stack a clean pair of heels and NOS is once more my weapon of choice on this R2R DacAmp.
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Conclusion
The question I set myself before I started on this review was : "is there a difference between the audible sound quality of this cable over the stock one, and, if so, is the difference worth the money?" That is the problem that lies at the heart of the great cable debate. Can I hear the difference and should I be spending lots of money on a cable when I can upgrade the headphone instead? The answer I have arrived at is, yes, there is a difference between the Grand Master series and the HiFiMan stock. The cable is an upgrade. This particular upgrade will cost somewhere in the region of £600. Let us have a think about this and do some rough sums and see where that leads us. The HE1000v2 Stealth retails at £2000. The custom upgrade here will make them £2600. Is there an upgrade path to the HE1000 at that price point? I would say the next clear upgrade for the HE1000 lies with the HE1000SE. This retails at £3500. Maybe there is something in this, when one comes in at this market level..... Would £600 spent anywhere else in the chain improve the sound quality to the level the Lavricables give out? I'm assuming that anyone with the HE1000 has a decent source and headphone amplifier. If not, perhaps replacing an ageing source with something like the HiFiMan EF400 would probably make a better investment. However, if the average Lavricables customer base are already happy with their source and amp and want to squeeze that last % from the HE1000, without taking a risk and breaking the bank with ever more expensive headphones, notwithstanding the hassle of selling the beloved HE1000s for much less than their worth, then one can see how this custom cable rabbit hole might be worth falling into. Have I changed your mind?
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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
HiFiMan HE1000 V3 - the Stealth Magnet Version
Pros: HE1000 with bass slam Easier to drive. More pinpoint sound. Much of the previous flavour of the HE1000
Headphone Stand included
Cons: Although robust looking, cables lack the "luxury" feel of some competitors.
Headphone stand is welcome, but the same as many much cheaper HiFiMan Headphones. No case.
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The legend gets Stealth Magnets




Introducing Version 3 of HiFiMan's HE1000


And in they come with stealth magnets for the 1000s. HiFiMan are interfering with a truly cherished headphone! First of all, let me justify this lofty comment. The HE1000 - this is the one - this is the striking design, the mega hyped teardrop Planar that offered to knock the HD800 off it's pedestal, the one that we all wanted, before it came to market, because we KNEW that Fang (CEO and Genius behind HiFiMan) was on to something. I cannot begin to tell you how much I wanted to get hold of one of these headphones! The unveiling happened at CanJam London in 2015. I was part of the volunteer staff, a job I have been doing for many years now. I was placed on the front table for Saturday afternoon by Ethan, which meant I would be able to take a look around for the start of the show. Needless to say, I got up early.... I was at the start of the queue and got to HiFiMan before anyone else. I am not ashamed to say that I was shaking when I saw that the stand had several HE1000 V1s. This was the scoop of the show - have no doubt about it. I was about to hear for myself what the fuss was all about. Even back then, I was the owner of several pretty posh headphones; an early HD800 and an Audeze LCD2.2 were among them. Despite this, the anticipation was high, the tension electric. The HE1000 did not disappoint. I was enthralled, envious and wistful - 3 powerful emotional reactions in almost as many seconds. Believe me when I say that THIS was THE headphone that every headfier wanted. I set my heart on a draw that Headfi did - the top prize was an HE1000. It was a hopeless dream. I convinced myself that I could win this. If I did succeed, of course, no question, I would sacrifice my soul at whatever crossroads the devil ordered me to head to, or never do a bad thing again, or ANYTHING in fact that it took to put a pair of those in my hands. I'm not proud! Or at least, not back then.

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The HE1000 V1

My journey has brought me many incredible experiences in the Audio World. I have heard them all; the Shangri La Snr - the finest headphone system ever made, and a headphone that was in my comany for 4 unforgettable months; a morning at Harrods with the Sennheiser HE1 - the 3rd finest headphone system ever made, and several other listens to said heapdhone and amp. The Sennheiser Orpheus, serial number 001, before that particular headphone was cruelly stolen from the back of a vehicle at an audio show. I have listened to the Orpheus and it's exquisite effortlessness for a grand total of 60 minutes, over a course of 3 listens, and I know that I am extremely fortunate to have done all these things. Let me tell you; that listen to the HE1000 ranks with those moments. If you share this hobby with the passion I have, then I know that you can relate.

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Showing some age now

So what was/is so special about the HE1000? The sound - the most important part of an audio product always being whether what comes out is digestible after all, is world class. The HE1000 has a character to it's sound. The personality is that of a smooth operator. A rich, tonal sound that has enough width to awe and enough presence to ground you, without the edginess or artificiality of some of it's competitors. A striking teardrop design that dared to rest the earpad against the cheekbone was/is a strange sensation that takes some getting used to. To add to the uncompromising appearance of this bright new star was a 2 part headband. With 1 part leather resting against the head, the metal piece that holds this in place makes the HE1000 look like a curious crown. Obviously far nicer than a crown, but there it is. For the non believers you could be accused of looking rather eccentric. For you and I, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that every millimetre of the HE1000 cannot be compromised. Therefore, we don't care what they all think. We wear it loud (cos it's incredibly open) and proud.

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V3

I have been so lucky to have HiFiMan products sent to me over the years. Not all have been a success, not all have made me wowed. But....in the main, the HiFiMan sound, for me, as a discerning reviewer, is the signature that will deliver music in a way that can be enjoyed in pretty much every area of the market, and for full size Planar Headphones, they boss it. The HE1000, as much as I adored them, have been bettered. The HE1000SE, owned by myself, and the Susvara, of which I have a pair, have pushed Planar tech even further. And that's not forgetting what they can do with Electrostats, particularly the Shangri La Jnr and Snr. The HE1000 is the one that started it all. Let us not forget that. I am lucky to have acquired 1 of the HE1000 V1's. Would you expect any less, dear reader? Let us now take a look at the 3 different versions.

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V1 & V3

V1 - the start of it all. V1 needs 2.5mm terminations and is not particularly sensitive. It has the teardrop shape, a nanometer thick diaphragm and a veneer covered earcup. The pads are not thick. The earcup width and the earpads combined put the driver mesh very close to the ear when worn. There were a few murmurs about this which led to the V2 - a version which added thicker earpads made with better materials and a thinner earcup design, which attempts to marry the same sound stage with a less claustraphobic feel. Not that I have a problem with my V1s, but yes, the V2s were worth doing and do improve on the issues raised by the one that started it all. And now, 8 years on, we have arrived at a V3, and this one IS different.

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Showing Width variation and pad thicknesses

From 2015 to 2023. This is how long is has taken for HiFiMan to dare to radically change the HE1000. I can only speculate as to why it has taken so long, other than for the obvious, commercial reasons, but the HE1000 has been given the Stealth Magnet treatment. Given that this trickle down tech, first introduced with the Susvara Flagship, I have been expecting this for some time now. I have been sent a set of HE1000 V3 by HiFiMan - no palms have been greased, no platitudes demanded, simply my opinion to be brought to you through this medium and in the spirit of honesty and integrity.

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V1

What does a stealth magnet do to a HiFiMan headphone? I have a few, as is evident in my reviews of Susvara, HE400, Sundara Closed, and Arya. There are 3 differences I have found in every Stealth Version when compared to the original. The bass changes it's shape. The bass has more presence. It forces the listener to sit up and take notice; it is no longer a passenger - it is the vehicle. Expect more sub bass and more bass slam with a stealth magnet. The second is that sounds are closer to the ear. The width is pushed slightly in, creating a less airy sound. The 3rd is that, in each case the sound appears louder at the same volume than it's older sibling. Whether this is an inevitable consequence of the stealth magnet is somthing I am not 100% sure about, and I will leave that to discussions from people that have thrown their hats into the ring and are willing to fight it out in engineering terms. Does the V3 have the same characteristics? More importantly - is the V3 an improvement on the non Stealth? If you're expecting a V2 to arrive in the post, what should you do if you get a V3 Stealth Edition? Fear not, dear reader. I shall provide you with all the answers in this next paragraph.

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This is a radical change for the HE1000. The Stealth Magnets did things to the sound in exactly the way I have alluded to in the previous revisions of the Arya, Sundara and HE400 Headphones. The HE1000 V3 IS different from the 1 and 2 version. It is still an HE1000. The wide sound is still there, just slightly less. The forgiving nature of the signature, which allows lo fi and older to be heard in a lovingly nostalgic way is still there, albeit with just a smidgeon less compromise. The V3 needs plenty of power, but perhaps not so much as it's predecessors. The Stealth Magnets have given a less airy feel to the HE1000. They are still smooth. There is a tonal richness that still remains, but there are elements of being closer to the micro effects, there are more edges to the sound brought about by the magnets, that were previously smoothed off and polished. The boldness of the low end response is, of course, the 1st thing that anyone coming from an original HE1K will notice. One could be forgiven for thinking that the overall sound has been compromised at the expense of producing bass slam when listening to the 2 side by side for a few seconds. In reality, the balance of producing bass without destroying the qualities of the HE1000 can be evidenced - it just needs a little time and reflection for it all to sink in. The Stealth Magnet does make for a technically better sound, retaining some of the character that gave the HE1K it's reputation but adding an easier to drive, more linear signature. It is not an easy thing to mess with a tried and tested design. The bass on a non stealth magnet HiFiMan never really seemed like it was missing much, did it? However, Planars are renowned for the mids and highs and are often thought of as lacking the slam of a dynamic driver, so why shouldn't you be able to have all 3? Think of the new HE1K as being the old one, but with more bass, and, give or take some minor points, you have, in summary, my description of the Stealth HE1000. If you ordered the old one and, knowing nothing about this new one, end up with the Stealth version, and come across this article in a desperate search for the truth, or you are sat on the fence and wondering which one to get, here is my advice. No one likes change. Like the passing of the seasons and turning of the tide, everything changes, and everything has to change. It takes time to come to terms with change. Live with them for a while. You will love them.

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Equipment used -
HiFiMan EF400 Desktop Dac Amp
Balanced & unbalanced standard HE1000 V3 Cables
USB Audio Player Pro
Qhao
Qhao
HE1000
HE1000V2
HE1000SE
HE1000Stealth

They're all different
wwinter86
wwinter86
When was the Hifiman he1000 stealth first released ?
Nicholasheadfi2
Nicholasheadfi2
would you say that the hek2 stealth scales with better equipment i compared with 2 systems
one wy more expensive with little or no difference in sound quality ?

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
SMSL DO200 MKII MQA DSD Dac
Pros: MQA rendering
DSD native playback
HDMI input
Smooth sound
Lots of sound options
Remote Control
Cons: Less detailed sounding than the EF400
Plain packaging with basics only supplied
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It looks battery operated but it needs the mains

Introduction​


Kindly provided by aoshida-audio.com , this is the latest SMSL, the MKII version of the DO200 has had an overhaul. The DO200 MKII is available here - https://aoshida-audio.com/products/smsl-do200-mkii-mqa-audio-dac


and is currently (06/01/23) on sale at $459. The review will focus on the bits and bobs that make up this DAC, how well it works , what it sounds like, and how it matches up to the competition. SMSL are a company based in China. Aoshida sent me the C100, which I reviewed last week, and the DO200 MKII, which deserved a little more time, given it's higher price tag.

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Note - HDMI inputs and Bluetooth aerial (supplied)

About the DO200 MKII​


The DO200 MKII has 2 ES9068AS Chips. The DAC will accept a DSD through all inputs excepting the Bluetooth, because BT don't go that high in the bandwidth. LDAC is admirably covered by the DO200 for those wishing the ease of wireless streaming from their phone or laptops. MQA has been put right at the heart of the DO200's skillset. MQA is covered into the final stages of unpacking. Think of MQA as a letter that is folded into 4 pieces. Quite a few DACs can look inside the envelope, but this DAC can take the letter out , unfold it once, twice, thrice, and there's a magenta colour to prove it's been done properly. I managed to achieve the Magenta colour through the audivarna plus software on my Macbook Pro - I couldn't achieve that final stage through the Tidal Software, despite enabling exclusive mode and passthrough. The results were pretty impressive, especially for streaming software. DSD played pretty reliably, with their being no noise at the start of the tracks if I had DSD over PCM Standard 1.0 selected.

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There are various enhancements input wise that are possible with this new ES9068AS chip - there are the usual slow minumum, fast linear and minimum phase PCM filters

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The filters - Fast linear is the cloest to no filter - but these settings are very subtle, given that the sharp drops are all past human hearing thresholds
plus a sound colour setting which can subtly alter the signature of the DO200; 3 Rich settings, 3 Tube settings and 3 Crystal settings. We can argue til the cows come home as to how subtle these settings are; they will lend some longevity to your DAC if you decide to buy it, because you can adjust yourself to a new sound every so often, and keep things fresh. Clock stability settings are also accessed via the remote control; the default setting (5) can be changed up or down according to how good a clock is in your source. A TV may experience stuttering on the 5 setting; SMSL recommend that you adjust this setting downwards until the sound is as it should be. Brightness/display timer/volume on/off variable/fixed output are all catered for from the remote control, as are all switching between inputs. As well as unbalanced outputs, there are balanced on this higher end model. Do not expect too many goodies with the DO200 MKII, SMSL don't believe in jazzy packaging and have not yet bought into the magic of the unboxing experience. They give you a plain white box with black and white drawings and a gold HiRes decal. Inside you get a mains cable, a leaflet, a USB A-B cable, a remote and a warranty card, and that's your lot.


Sound quality​

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The competition
I tested this against the HiFiMan EF400. The EF400 is a similar price ($599), and is primarily a DAC/Amp - sporting a 4.4 Watt Headphone Amp, whereas the DO200 is a separate DAC. The EF400 only takes USB inputs - that's where the compromise seems to lie. My gut feeling - this was a fair match - 1 is cheaper with more features and the other is more expensive and has an amp built in. For the match up, we won't have to worry about the EF400 amp. Good as it is, well, just let's say, I've gone up a few notches, even allowing for my usual overkill style of putting ludicrously expensive kit in between much cheaper stuff.

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The Japanese only SACD release of Avalon - super rare
With digital components the differneces are far harder to detect than with headphones, so I figured I'd need all the help I could muster. The testing was done over many hours, and I recorded a track that I used in that process. The audio sample is available for you to listen to, either embedded on the YouTube video below, or available as a WAV download in the description on the YouTube page. I recorded the sound from a set of HiFIMan Susvara Headphones being fed by a McNeish Designs Class A Speaker/Headphone Amp, using a set of Pro Binaural In Ear Mics which were placed at the entrance to my ear canals. The mics were plugged into a Pro Olympus PCM recorder. You can hear the results for yourself and make a judgement on the sound quality you prefer. I have used the same wiring to do the test - the same USB cable and the same phono cables were interchanged for each recording. The volume level is set at the same. Both sources heard the same track, at the same bitrate.









What do I think? I prefer linearity in my bass and detail in my mids, above all else. Whilst I appreciate that a smooth, refined sound is likely to be preferable to many audiophiles who have to live with that sound for many hours over many years, I always go for that slight lifting of the veil, that extra bit of transparency. This means that today, the SMSL came 2nd to the EF400. The R2R chip had that extra squeeze on the track - that ability to add a little more edge to the end of the note and that extra depth to the sound stage won me over. My able assistant, Wife Jo, felt that the smoothness was a winner over what she felt sounded "too loud" through the DO200 MKII. This is why it's soo important that 1- you work out what type of sound you are looking for and 2 - you take the time to research for the components that can give you that sound. It isn't easy, but I'm trying my best to make it easier, review by review, box by box. Is it working?

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
SMSL C100 - their ultra portable budget DAC
Pros: MQA native playback, reads up to DSD512. Asynchronous. Coax/BT/Optical/USB in a micro unit. Jitter adjustment for older devices/TVs. SQ is excellent at this price level. Needs no external mains power.
Cons: Quirky connection - comes up with a "could not connect" on Macs - although it works fine on them.
No OTG to smartphone connection - bluetooth is excellent however
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Introduction
No palms have been greased with wads of dirty cash to enable this review to spring forth from the creative centre of yours truly. Nevertheless, without the kindness and loyalty from aoshida-audio.com, this SMSL would have waited far longer to be unveiled to the World of Portable Audio, and that would have been a shame, wouldn't it? Thank you to my friends from China who have sent me a sample to bring to your attention - the SMSL C100 is the focus of our first look at 2023. The micro DAC can be found exclusively on aoshida's store, just follow this link. I have suddenly realised I have a lot of Dacs; I have 5 SMSL Dacs.... The C100 is their budget model - there are compromises, which we can talk about, but the focus, as always, will be what the end result looks like. The end result is the sound that goes into your lugholes, fellow audio enthusiasts. That is where it is at. The rest is theory, hyperbole, graphs on a chart, wishful thinking in an engineer's vast grey matter. SMSL is a Chinese Company, they have made lots of Dacs and DacAmps, and so far I've found them to deliver an honest performance for the monies being outlayed for them. Are you considering dipping your toe in the water of the standalone Dac, perhaps to take on the audio duties of your aging CD player and looking for a diminutive, modern looking black box that doesn't break the bank or your desk? You'd be a fool not to read on in that case! Curious to know what the latest moves in the marketplace are? Perhaps you're wondering what all the fuss about Dacs are. However I've got you here, welcome aboard. We'll get to the the bottom of this Dac conundrum together, I can assure you.
For the purposes of providing some healthy competition, I am going to be using a similarly priced Dac, the Fiio BTA30, as a comparison. You'll be able to listen to real audio samples of both Dacs in the video I've embedded. Aren't you lucky?!

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About the C100 - in fact, about Dacs aswell
The SMSL C100 is a Dac. A Dac is a digital to analog converter. A Dac converts the digital information (0000s and 1111s) into sound. A dac accepts the digital outputs from sources like CD Players, TVs, Game Consoles, Laptops, Smartphones, PCs and Tablets. The external Dac has digital output connections to accept 1, or more sources. In the case of the C100, reading from left to right, Coaxial (my Ibasso DX100/Fiio M11 players + a few others) Optical (CD/DVD/Blu Ray Players + my Macbook Pro) Bluetooth ( this is how the C100 handles your Smartphone) and USBC (think Laptop/PC/Tablet/Ipad). Apart from Bluetooth, all you need to do is to link an appropriate cable from your source's digital output to the C100s digital input. You attach a set of phono plugs to the analog output of the C100, attach those to a spare input on your amp, and you're away. You don't have to bother doing any of this, of course. All of these sources have Dacs built in. They often have analog outputs too, so you can hook your TV up to your amp using a set of phono leads, for example. However, all Dacs are not created equal.... Some Dacs are ducks, and some are swans.

Inputs.png


The C100 is a micro Dac, it's
tiny. Lengthwise we are talking just over the circumference of a coffee mug, widthwise it's narrower, and height; it won't reach above the 2nd knuckle of your little finger. Yet - we are promised much. A certification from the Japanese Hi-Res Society, 4 inputs, no mains power needed, vanishingly small distortion from a new AK Dac Chip, the 4493S, 6 digital filter options, variable volume, DSD and MQA Asynchronous handling that scales the heights of the 512 DSD or 768 MHz PCM File Formats. Michicon caps, a decent clock for jitter problems and a super besty built in power supply filter are all promised. All options are accessed without touching the C100. There is a button on the front you can use to switch between inputs, but the remote control does everything - power on/off, volume up/down/mute, display on/off, brightness, digital filtering. All can be done from the comfort of your armchair. For those MQA enthusiasts, this is an MQA enabled device. Green, Blue and Magenta colours are discretely offered for each of the 3 levels of this format, available on the Tidal Streaming App.

C100 MQA G.jpg

The C100 in use
USB Power Issue

We can't proceed until we have discussed the elephant in the room. The Macbook appears to dislike the SMSL C100. When I plugged it into my Macbook (Pro Retina Mid 2014/2.5 GHz/Big Sur 11.7.1) it displayed this:

Error Message.jpg


In fact, this message was a big fat lie. It plays all files and all formats, on any software I've so far used, without so much as a bead of sweat. My advice is, if you see this message displayed on your Mac device, have a look see if the C100 works ok. If it does, press the X in the top left corner of the message. The message will then disappear. The problem, that wasn't there in the first place, is solved.

C100 Side .jpg


MQA/DSD Playback
The problems

I believe that the C100 doesn't play DSD files natively, nor am I convinced that MQA files can be unwrapped to a Magenta finish. I'd welcome any findings on this, as the C100 gets more exposure. I have audivarna plus, Foobar, HQ Player and Pine Audio, all of which offer exclusive audio mode and native DSD playback. I haven't managed to achieve a display on the C100 that convinces me I am listening to an unconverted DSD file. The AK Chip has a DSD part to it, so I'm baffled. In other words, the track that I recorded was from an SACD version of Avalon, by Roxy Music. That is a DSD64 file. It displays as 352 on the C100 Panel. Pine Audio recognises a 352 MHz capable Dac.

C100 BT.jpg


Solutions?
I have done some research and I'm guessing that the C100 is a DoP Dac. This is what I found "The DSD information as a 176.4khz at 16-bit comes out to a bit-rate of 2822kbps; the same physical bitrate as DSD64. So rather than packing PCM sample data in to the PCM frame...they just pack 16-bits of DSD data in to each sample." I changed the Dac profile in the midi settings of my Macbook, to a 32 big 768 MHz capable Dac. Therefore, it would appear that 352 is the same number of kbps that the DSD64 file would need to fit in the space of a PCM file without being downconverted. If anyone can validate this I'd be grateful. In the absence of any more expert opinion, I am taking this as a DSD playback Dac, albeit in the DoP spec, evidenced through an analysis of the circuit diagram of the AK4493S chipset, and the posts out there I came across.

Chipset.png
Resistor.png


As for MQA, I can, through Audivarna or the Tidal Desktop App, achieve native MQA playback on my Macbook. I was getting green, for standard MQA, and blue, for studio MQA. The real magic, I am led to believe, is when the full unwrapping takes place. An MQA is a music track that has been folded, like a letter in an envelope, or something else you can think of that's folded, except for an omelette. An omelette tastes better folded,so we can't use that as an example of a folded thing that improves once it's unfolded. Oh...I thought of something - the wings of a bird. When the wings spread out, the birds are capable of something truly beautiful, truly a wonder of nature; because they can fly. Why crawl when you can walk, why walk when you can run, why run when you can fly.... Whilst musing on this impossible dream, I had another look at the Audivarna + app on the Macbook. I changed a setting from MQA Decoder to MQA Renderer. I now have a fully unwrapped, Magenta coloured MQA experience. I am, as they say, in the Pink. Look, whatever you think about DSD or MQA, I have now, with serious focus and determination, got both playing as they should. That is serious for $119.

Screenshot 2023-01-02 at 21.21.42.jpg

This is for the DSD setup - for MQA - untick auto detect and click MQA renderer and you're all set


The bottom line
The problems are now ironed out. They took some doing, but I'm there. Now all I have to do is to sit down and evaluate. I then need to record a couple of tracks for you. And you can hear what I hear. Can you hear what I hear? Forget that! Christmas is gone! I have recorded 2 samples of Take a Chance with me - Roxy Music. Both are in DSD64 format, making an already excellent sounding album into a tour de force of every nuance of whispered beauty that could be possibly breathed into a piece of music, almost eclipsing the boundaries of the physical Universe. At least we can all agree that said track is the poppiest one on the Avalon album. A good beat, lots of whizkid effects, exquisite vocals and some hidden bits that only a DSD file with a decent Dac can reveal properly. I can now, with your help, begin to unravel the sound behind the brand. Just what is going on here, and does it compare favourably with the Fiio BTA30?



Have you had a look at the above? If not....go back! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!! Seriously; what did you think? Forget about my opinion; I have used my ears as a recording device here, and, in my opinion, I should only be 1 of many who have their own thoughts on what they liked, or disliked, about the sound of the C100. To make matters slightly easier, I chose some absolutely World Class gear to strap onto the SMSL. Stax SR009S - electrostat headphones that were designed to improve the sound of their iconic SR009. The SR009 is plugged into a HiFiMan Shangri-La Jnr. Amp. I mean, this is truly overkill! The reasoning behind using gear of this calibre is simple; I found it very difficult to tell the differences between the Fiio BTA30 and the SMSL C100. Only by using ultra hi-end equipment and doing lots and lots of back to back listening tests could I begin to discern any type of personality that these components were instilling. You can draw your own conclusions as to this admission. Anyway, back to the supertest.

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You've heard it - you've made your own mind up. So what did I think? If we leave my comment above to one side, I'd choose the sound of the C100 over the BTA30. I felt that the bass was leaner and faster on the C100 and the highs had slighltly less energy. In the end, the extra mid range clarity of the BTA30, for me, was not enough to steal the prize of winner over the SMSL. The concept of winner and loser is not one I'm particularly enamoured with; you might prefer clarity over things that make me a tiny bit frustrated with, such as slightly shrill highs and slightly boosted lows. I respect that people want me to fall into one camp or another; after all, if you're in a shop and you have a finite budget, you're going to come out with 1 product, 100% of the time.

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C100:BX4 Close Up.jpg


You have a little money to spend; you want to see what these Dacs are all about. You would rather not have your partner involved in your buying decision because you know they just won't understand. So what can you do? Buy something so discrete that it can be hidden away and worked with a remote that couldn't possible cause any suspicion. And take over all dusting and cleaning duties for the electrics. In this scenario, I can see you becoming very accustomed to the SMSL C100. To be honest, there are worse guilty pleasures in life, but maybe not many can bring so much pleasure.

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C100:BX4 Side View.jpg

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Simgot EN1000 - my 1st ever experience with detachable plugs
Pros: 3 sound signatures - all have their good sides
SQ/Accessories/Build Quality are superb
Cons: Eartips don't keep these hefty shells in my small ears
I'm wondering about the name "King Wonder" - That's it

Can a sub £200 do it all and still deliver?​

Shells-Front-Better-Pic-1024x768.jpg

I was approached by Simgot recently through the hallowed pages of head-fi. The introduction has resulted in my being able to bring you the latest, and greatest, this company has yet built. I bought an EN700 Bass IEM on impulse several years ago. I liked the sound of it, despite it's obvious affinity with lower frequencies. I still have it knocking around the offices, and have customised the body shell, which, although it has my favourite pebble shape, had this urge to keep pushing away from my inner ear. Unknown to Simgot, I can say that this is a company for which I already have a feel. I got the impression that Simgot wanted to push the boundaries, in every direction, of what could be achieved in a budget earphone. The Simgot was the best of several AliExpress purchases made on a slow day between review samples. We all get those days. Such days now feel more like moments as my reviews have taken on a momentum, but, if you've got the time I'd encourage you to do a random dive into Ali and see where it takes you. It can get pretty interesting. Simgot is a Chinese Company, they make pebble shaped single driver in ear moniters their speciality. The EN1000 review sample here came with all the packaging of the retail model. The packaging has been as well thought through as the engineering process. There is a question mark over the title "King Wonder", however, with it being stencilled in every conceivable crevice of the EN1000, familiarity will overcome any initial misgivings. More detailed reactions can be found in my YouTube vid :





The soon to be released EN1000

About the King Wonder​


I'm going to call them the EN1000 from now on I think.... This is a single driver IEM design. The single driver is a dual dynamic. It is housed in a pebble shaped body shell. There are 2 designs for the face plate; the black and gold leaf filligree as shown above, and it's white and gold cousin. The iems are connected to a detachable cable which is terminated with a 3.5 mm jack. I have deliberately given you just the basic facts here; this is the essence, the core, of the EN1000. To each part of the IEM there are various tweaks, which at least deserve a little more discussion.

Shells-Front-Close-Up-1024x768.jpg

Single Driver


A single driver is a bold move for an IEM in these driver heavy days. A classic design is never really going to disappear though, is it? A single driver needs no crossover. It needs to be a good driver. That's it. Many years ago, AKG decided to give it's engineers a free reign to create a Flagship Headphone. They came up with a dynamic single driver model - the mythical AKG K1000. The Sennheiser IE800 remains 1 of the best sounding IEMs ever made, despite it's terrible fit, overly heavy cable which (shock horror!) is fixed. The IE800 is a single driver dynamic, and is unashamedly so. This particular design has a few updated things going on compared to the 2 I have described. It is housed in a dual cavity. The wiring connecting the driver to the electrics is pure silver.

Shells-Back-1024x768.jpg

The diaphrahm of the driver is stronger than your standard paper cone. It has a beryllium coating. If you have followed my writings over the last few years you'll know that I'm a great fan of the linearity that beryllium appears to bring, having seen this in the KBear Believe and the Final D8000 In Ears. The diaphragm also contains DLC. This is short for diamond like carbon. Diamond, being, of course, one of the hardest materials on the planet. Not quite as tough as beryllium though. Beryllium was used for the shields surrounding the space shuttle, to protect it from melting on re-entry. The body shell is made from CNC Aluminium Alloy, the face plate from crystal, to protect it from scratches. The results of said are all hints of quality. Attention to detail, important selling points yes, but also not only should this produce a better feel than the standard plastic iem, it should provide a better resonating surface for the driver, and thus a better sound quality.

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The Accessories


I am pleased to say that, from the tasteful professionalism of the outer cardboard, to the earphone case that comes as a pleasant surprise,

Case-close-up-1024x768.jpg

Simgot have sat down and thought extremely carefully about what will keep the customer satisfied. The mark of quality has been cast over the entirety of the EN1000. Other comapnies take note - the gauntlet has been thrown down here. The only thing I can criticise is the eartips. I've got better ones, and eventually I'll start using them. The tips are not quite there; they tend to slip out of the earlobe. A little more grip is called for, be it slightly larger tips or different material, or a patterned finish - I'm not that hard to please folks at Simgot. I'm a medium guy, so those large tips supplied are too large. Everyone's earlobes are different and I have a small ear canal entrance which bends ridiculously away as soon as it gets the chance. The fit, absolutely critical for me, i.e sweet spot or no sound, may not be as bad for you. My advice is to hold onto your existing eartips if you are upgrading to the EN1000 - the fit is everything.

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The Cable


This is the showpiece for the EN1000. The previous stuff is all typical of what is being offered in many good IEMs out there in the sub $200 category. The EN1000 comes with an 8 strand silver plated oxygen free copper cable which has a .78mm 2 pin fit and is 1.2 metres in length. It has memory wire and is angled at the end. It has a soft feel, is shiny and is fairly weighty. What I have left til the end is; this cable has a replaceable plug design. The Simgot comes with 3 different sounds before you need to touch your eq settings. The box reveals not only a leather effect carry box - there are 2 plugs contained inside- a blue and a red one. Simply put; you can alter the signature of the EN1000 dependant on which plug you use. This allows bit perfect to be utilised, which, of course, means you cannot use eq. All it takes is a quick unscrewing of the barrel, 2-3 pulls of the male and female bits and in 10 seconds, you have a different plug on.

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The test​


For this bit I will give a synopsis of the differences between plugs 1, 2 & 3. I will then go on with the show with my favourite plug, the grey, and tell you about my impression in more length.


The Plugs


I don't blame you for being skeptical regarding just how much a plug can alter the sound from an iem. I am very wary of such claims, having tested the Tri Starsea which had a switch system on the body shell, much more convenient than taking a cable apart. The review of the Starsea is here : https://subjective.reviews/tri-star...-allows-you-to-beat-the-engineer-but-can-you/


In summary, I found the Starsea didn't sound that good unless you kept the switch on default. The switch made the sound worse. The plug design is more radical and does create an audibly altered signature which has good things going for each of the plugs. Good news! Let me tell you a little more as to what I heard when I put these different plugs in.


The Grey plug


This is the stock plug. I reason this because it is the plug they put on to get you up and running. This is what you listen to for the first time while you are checking that everything is working properly. And, as I have preached many times before, first impressions are really important. This is never more crucial in todays blind purchasing scenarios, whereby there is nowhere to try out an iem one is interested in, and the closest you'll get will be from reviews like this. Companies know this and offer (well, it's the law) a 28 day return policy. The most critical part of that timeframe, in my opinion, is the 1st 15 minutes of a listen. A product simply has to perform to it's intended level during those 1st few moments. Therefore, nothing too risky should be tried. The eartips will have medium ones fitted, and they will be the most neutral of any particular grades offered. All goods will be dressed in their best clothes, all middle of the road, all judged to be the least controversial. In the case of the EN1000, the grey plug fits that description to a T. The grey plug has a bit of visceral bass but not overly, has a sweetness in the highs and a clarity in the mids, with the widest of the sound scapes. It is my opinion that this plug squeezes out the best the EN1000 can give. It the sound signature that the engineer would be happiest with. It's my favourite because it's not the blandest sound of the 3 plugs; it technically has a faster bass and more micro details are present in this version than in any of the others. I'd pick the grey plug for rock, pop, and classical music.

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The Blue Plug


This is my 2nd favourite plug, although I could find a use for all 3 when the need arose. The bass on the blue is turned up, and to enhance the experience the mids and highs have been tuned down slightly. The lows have real punch and will make a lean track sound fuller. The mids and highs have been toned down, but the iems have a sparkle that won't go away completely, so there is plenty to enjoy, even if you're not an r&b, grime, hip hop or rap fan, these blues have a decent sound stage and clarity, despite it being pulled in slightly compared to the grey plug.

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The Red Plug


The red plug is perhaps the way to tune into todays remixed, remastered, over compressed music. It tones everything down, from taaking some of the annoyance from modern bass and subbass tracks and the shrill density of the ceiling of acceptable noise in the mid to high frequencies. The sound stage is more intimate and there is little chance you will be annoyed by too much energy in the upper range. This plug is the least fatiguing of the 3. I'd use this for all day listening sessions, and I'd be quite satisfied.

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Frequency Response Curve w Grey Blue or Red Plug fitted

Sound Quality​


The EN1000, on sale in US an Asian markets is retailing at slightly under $200, and that is where I shall set my impressions. If this comes in at under £200 in the UK & European markets, then it's an absolute steal. If you have 2 pin earphones, you may even be lucky enough to be able to transform them with this modular cable. They fell out of my TruthEar Hexa IEMs, so they won't fit everything, and, as far as I'm aware, they aren't claiming to be able to do wonders with any other product than a Simgot. The sound signature, at it's best with the grey plug, is crisp, like a cold bright Winter's morning, and clear, like the crystaline coating on the shell outer of the EN1000. The bass is not understated, instead a fast linearity with a teasing of viscerality is offered. The mids capture the beauty of a husky voice. The highs open the curtains of the sound stage and let the stars in.

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Conclusion​


The competition


I have raved about the Truthear Hexa, this is the last IEM I reviewed and I did that less than a month ago. The Hexa is a player indeed, but it sounds thin and lacking compared to the EN1000. The Hexa sets the standard for £79.99, the EN1000 is much better, at what is likely to be more than twice the price. The only thing the Hexa wins out on is the fit. The hexagonal shape actually creates 6 points of contact with the earlobe. Not only that, but the shell has less depth, so it doesn't stick out as much.

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The product


Apart from this King Wonder name, which I'm not sure about, and the eartips, which don't keep the shells firmly in my ears without a lot of jostling, there ain't much I can think of to criticise about the EN1000. They're great. They're a man for all seasons. You can go 3 ways with the Simgot - linear, bass or laidback. The EN1000 promises even more in the future. There is scope , and a plan, for Simgot to incorporate a USBC, a lightning adapter, a 2.5 and a 4.4 plug. I would be disappointed if Simgot didn't try to make this into a nice little Dac Dongle. How cool would that be? A little nod to the rest of the cast - used in this review were; courtesy of Amazon Music HD, lots of weird and wonderful streaming tracks, USB Audio Player Pro (in bit perfect mode, of course), Astell & Kern AK380 DAP, Little Bear BX4 Dual Mono Tube Headphone Amp, Samsung A52 5G, unbranded Portable Headphone Amp,

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and an open minded reviewer that, after all this time, still gets impressed by the products out there that add the word 'extra' to the 'ordinary' that for so many years was considered the pinnacle of Portable Audio. This is me signing off for now, there are many many more products I am anxious to talk to you about, so please keep your eyes peeled and your ears attached to that which makes you happy.
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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Truthear Hexa Hybrid IEM - In Truth
Pros: Bold design
Great DD/BA tuning
Carry Pouch
Cons: 6 sided design may pinch inside some earlobes
Need external amping
6 sides to every story

A little bit about me, a little bit about the people who sent this to me.
I have still yet to make my first million from the reviewing malarky - in fact I have yet to make my first anything. I still go to work hoping that someone somewhere will recognise my astonishing brilliance in bringing life to this rather quirky hobby we all have, and, I dunno, whisk me off to some swanky hotel and start throwing money at me in ways that one would only normally see on a monopoly board. Sadly, it hasn't happened just yet. So we plod on. In all seriousness I don't want their money - and I don't know who they are anyway. In true Walter Mitty style, I have 2 me's. The real me is like this - if this is as good as it gets, I'm happy. I'm happy sharing this stuff with you - and I'm chuffed that some companies, such as ShenzhenAudio, who provided me with the Hexa in return for this, believe in the Takeanidea Brand.

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About Hexa
The easy bit
Hexa is short for Hexagonal. The IEMs are 6 sided. So that makes sense. I am ashamed to say that, in my rush to open these and talk about them, it did not occur to me that this was why they were called Truthear Hexa. Oops! The 1st thing that will strike you about the Hexa is the sheer angularity of it all. The look is sharp, all straight edges and brushed metal. It is daringly different. I like that. This is a thumbs up from me. In a World where companies are afraid to polarise opinion with anything other than a bland, boring aesthetic, here we have a fresh approach. Long may it continue. A splash of colour here and there wouldn't have gone amiss, but, hey, I'm gonna go easy on Truthear for what they've done. The looks may polarise some, I sincerely hope not because that would be a shame. The fit may be an issue, but again, I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this aspect. I have tiny earlobes and I'm not experiencing any problems with wearing these for a few hours at a time. I'm confident in stating that you'll be extremely unlucky to feel much pressure from those sharp corners.



The engineers have given us a hybrid DD/BA configuation. They have kept the sound signature close to the Harman Response Curve. Given that a dynamic is tried and tested in it's ability to replicate the lower end, I'd use the magnet push/pull of a DD to drive the bass and the (arguably) sweeter, cleaner balanced armature drivers to add to our musical canvas. And that's what they've done. There are 3 BA's that make up the mid and high frequencies. I'll chuck up a few graphs that have been provided because I know that many of you can almost hear them if you can see the various squiggles.

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For me it's a case of hearing is believing. I deliberately steer clear of any such influences. I write about what I hear, that is my forte´. If I spent too long on the Science bit I'd only end up getting confused. There's so much music that gets pushed in between my 2 ears that there remains precious little space for anything else. What else can I tell you about the Hexa? Is has some of the ingredients necessary to work well without amping. Obviously there are amps in everything, even a smartphone. We reviewers normally say that over 100 dB sensitivity and anything around 16 Ohms resistance should be fine to plug into a phone. The Hexa is
Impedance: 20.5Ω土15% @1kHz
Sensitivity: 120dB/Vrms @1kHz
So the impedance is a little high for an IEM. I found that they didn't perform as well as they could through a straight connection to the 3.5 on a phone. When I introduced them to a DAC dongle, in this case the KA1 from Jade Audio, and, better still, the UP4 22 from Shanling, (using the ultra high gain dual DAC boost mode), I got a real feel for the capabilities of these IEMs. I'd say if you are determined to rely on your standard smartphone's credentials and you want a new set of in ears, you'll be needing to look elsewhere.

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Liquid crystal is a robust material by anyone's standards and has been used for the diaphragm of the N52 dynamic drivers, which in turn are housed in a dual cavity 3D design that Truthear tell me is normally reserved for custom in ears.
The fit of the Hexa has already been mentioned, but, of course, the fit into the earlobe is only half the battle. Will the Hexa remain securely there? Will the weight of the cable pull them away from the sweet spot? Are the tips any good? Is the cable soft and luxuriant? Is there memory wire and does it tuck everything right and properly behind the ears? Is there a cinch to hold everything into place? Well yes, I think it does all of these things pretty reasonably. The tips consist of small bore and wide bore nozzles with a thin, highly flexible silicon outer. They're not the last word in tips, but they're not bad either.

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There is a little anime card with a stand included. This is a cultural thing I suspect because I was quite surprised to see it. As colourful as the anime figure was, I couldn't see myself displaying it in pride of place in my offices. I'll leave you with a picture
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and you can see whether this is a deal maker for you. However if you're talking about useful things, then surely what could be more welcome than a smart little carry case for your new possessions? A tasteful leather pouch is included and I was impressed enough that I must mention this and send you a little pic. Ok, maybe it's not real leather, but I haven't seen 1 that looks like this before, and being easily pleased, I was only too glad to bring you good tidings; a la´ accessories that mean something.

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Sound quality
Is it quality?
I am relieved to say that, yes, the Hexa delivers in the sound stakes. The bass is fast and does not intrude into the mids. The bass has some slight viscerality, but, compared to the Shlouer Tape, you would be saying that the Hexa comes behind when looking at slam. The Tape IEMs feel like they are slightly too bassy when compared side by side with the Truthears, the presentation of the Hexa being noticeably thinner but not slim enough to put one's nose out of joint. Like many things which are new and unknown it just takes a bit of getting used to. I come from a background of having the Susvara, the HD800, the Stax SR009S and having had a fair few hours with the Orpheus, the Shangri La Snr and the HE-1. None of these has a particularly huge bass sound. Too much slam can induce a headache after a while. What you need is something with a little more control. This is what the Hexa has. It's not going to push the other stuff I just mentioned, but sometimes lean beats muscle is all I'm saying. In the mids highs and soundstage, the Hexa delivers a believable presentation with the curtains open wide enough to allow a little intimacy and those micro details a little sparkle. Vocals and main instruments have space and are kept close to the eardrum. The acquisition before these were the 7hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko. Naturally I stuck thse in my ears as I was sampling the Hexa. The 7hz weren't as enjoyable a sound as the TruthEar. The 7hz have a cracking mid and high thing going for them and the sound is quite different than your usual IEM sound, but they sounded more distant and more hollow than the Hexa. This could be down to my being more used to the traditional sound of a decent IEM as opposed to the Planar, but I have to say it as I find it-the Hexa's were nicer.

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Conclusion
Is it for you?
Even if it's not I hope I've kept you entertained. There are many many IEMs out there. Only you can decide what you are looking for and what you can afford. Based on the signature I have described, I can tell you that these are good value for money, shouldn't annoy you overly, and you get a swanky pouch to keep them in. They are an easier upgrade than Planars and that includes slightly more expensive models. They need amping-your DAC dongle should suffice for now. They suit all musical styles, perhaps they are most comfortable with acoustic and symphonic worls although I preferred the way in which they toned down some of the heavier music in my collection, thinning out some of the early Black Sabbath albums and making some ultra fast stuff a little easier to follow. The Hexa is an interesting combination of new looks with a traditional approach to hifi sound. I think it achieves both, admirably.


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T
tubbymuc
Thanks for the review

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
UP4 a challenge - Shanling's UP4 2022
Pros: Wireless v Wired gets closer
Refreshing choice for both IEM and Full Sized Headphones
Make any headphone a decent hands free device
Cons: Lack of native support for Hi Res and DSD
Introduction

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I am a wealthy man, if wealth is measured by happiness. If wealth is also defined by the number of review items I have been sent over the last decade, then yes, I may also be considered abundant with riches. This particular pocket sized product has been kindly provided by aoshida audio Not only that, but it is for sale right at this very moment and can be found precisely here That means if you are interested in finding out much it costs ($114 as of launch) and you must have it, I have put you right already and thank you for your time. If you wanna know more, and you need a blow by blow, no frills, no jargon look at this here Shanling thing, with a comparison field test between this and a budget dongle, you'll be pleased to know you've arrived at the right place. I have written 100s of reviews, both of the great and the small. I treat each new arrival with the same frisson of excitement that I have always experienced in my adventures in the World of HiFi. The hunger to bring you the latest output from those who care and those who dare remains at the core of my motivation. If this disappears, so will the reviews. It would seem that, despite my having little time available to pitch to the manufacturers out there I am still supplied with a steady stream of audio to mess around with. Honestly, I do have my own stuff and would love to talk about that. This appears unlikely given how much I am constantly being sent.
About the UP4 22

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The Shanling family has reinvented their alleged "best selling" UP4 with a new Dual DAC Chip, the ES9219C. Although I compare this to a budget Dac Dongle, the Jade Audio Fiio KA1, it isn't really a dongle. Shanling have plenty of those available. The Dac Dongle carries no power itself, instead feeding from the charging port of mother, the smart or iPhone, or from the voltage of the USB port of the laptop or PC. The UP4 is a bluetooth equipped ultra portable USB Dac Amp. It is a little more versatile. It doesn't drain your smart phone battery in the same way as a dongle. Once you have seen how good the audio from the wireless aspect is, you won't have the worries of a cable attached to the bottom of your phone. Cables can snap, causing terminal damage to your device or your smartphone, or, worse still, to both. Better to have your phone in your pocket and your dac amp at arms length. The UP4 makes for a pretty nifty hands free device. It comes with a snap on carry clip. Attach that to the top of your t shirt, or if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it'll be to the neck part of your coat at the moment. When a call comes through, it takes a simple press of the volume wheel and you are in a conversation. Using your headphones as the receiver and a knowles microphone as a transmitter, you have a pretty snazzy setup and don't need to look like a cretin by holding your phone horizontally and enabling the speaker. As you can tell, this is a pet hate of mine. Not everyone wants to be distracted by a telephone call, an interaction I have always felt is a private affair. The UP4 22 carries a good bit of onboard power, for a decent amount of time. I am led to believe there is 300 hours of standby time available, which means there seems little point in switching it off. When I say versatile, I mean it. There are 2 output connections. I will talk about both. The 3.5mm is not just your typical, boring unbalanced jack. This jack will cover all of your iem needs. There are 3 output modes for the unbalanced. I was puzzled as to why so much attention had been placed on what is normally viewed as a rather unglamorous slot. I get it now. It makes perfect sense. Mode 1 - I'm gonna call that Normal mode. That is suited to your super efficient KZ/CCA/KBear/Moondrop budget iem models. Mode 2 - let us say that is high power mode. Definitely good for your hybrids and customs. Mode 3 harnesses the twin power of the dual dac chip - Shanling call it boost mode. Almost like a flux capacitor, Planar IEMs, the latest must haves for the fashion conscious, eat this power up. They love it. It is what they crave. What this boils down to is a respectable 100mW at 32 Ohms, with every sail up and the wind blowing briskly. It doesn't stop there. The UP4 has a balanced cable. The balanced connection has just 2 modes to satisfy the needs of the user. Why less, you may ask? I ponder such things at great length, so you don't have to. Because the UP4 is the size of a lighter there is only so much power available. There are only so many gears you can go up. That being said, normal mode in balanced is naturally catering for IEMs with the posh 2.5mm cable. I know you have some of these, and I know you'll be itching to find out what they sound like in the UP4. In time, dear reader, in time. The high mode for 2.5mm delivers a solid 165 mW at 32 Ohms. This is a 65% difference on the 3.5mm jack, and although I am a Rocket Scientist(maybe not in this life) it doesn't take any skills in quantum mechanics to realise that this is where your full sized headphones are going to be comfortable. I apologise if you don't have the relevant cable because you really need to get one if you intend to use the likes of the HiFiMan Sundara with the Shanling. The unbalanced jack does not unleash the type of power that makes a full sized Planar start to work properly. A balanced jack needs a balanced cable. I have a balanced cable with a 4.4mm termination. Therefore I needed a 4.4mm to 2.5mm adapter which set me back £9 on Amazon. A full cable will cost much more unfortunately. I am forever chasing more and more cable configurations and if, like me, you find this frustrating, I sympathise. On this occasion I forgive Shanling. The investment is well worth the money. Not only do you get more power, but the sound quality goes from so so to HiFi for full sized phones.


UP4 22 in use

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Bluetooth mode
The advantages of Wireless are will continue to reap ourselves, the punters, improvements in sound quality as our audio engineers strive to wean us away from the direct connections we have been enjoying for the past 100 years. The Bluetooth 5 chip is a bang up to date Qualcomm CSR8675. It can play all your files in LDAC mode without so much as a s.s.s.s.sssstutter. Being that LDAC is lossless, the theory goes that there shouldn't be too much difference between the format you start with (WAV,FLAC) and the LDAC conversion. In fact, I tried the UP4 as an OTG device using the USBC and USB Audio Player Pro and tested it against using Shanling's own Eddict Player and Bluetooth. The results went in favour of the wireless mode, particularly noticeable being the reduced output using the OTG method. Consider myself won over by the UP4's bluetooth. For once, convenience and practicality are combined with good sound quality, so much so, that I have not been tempted to cabilise my smartphone since the test.
Dac Mode

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Connecting up to a laptop or PC is as simple as plugging the supplied charging cable into an available USB port. The UP4 is instantly recognised. I used it on my aged but venerable 2014 Macbook Pro Retina. There were 2 findings I must convey to you. Discovery no.1 - my posh, expensive audivarna software only recognised 44.1 and 48 as available formats for the UP4. Native DSD playback, even 24 192 hi res FLAC, is not achievable from the Shanling. This bolsters my opinion that this is primarily a bluetooth dac amp. Everything plays, but is converted through the UP4's hardware. Revelation no.2 - the extra voltage being pushed from the Macbook pushes the output of the UP4 upwards. The UP4 2022 goes significantly louder through the Macbook when compared to using my smartphone. This is good news for users of less sensitive headphones than the Sundara, and offsets some of the disappointment of the lack of format compatibility. What I'm saying is that even more headphones start to become useable if you are wanting this in your study. Not a Susvara and not an HE6, nor an AKG K1000. Be reasonable! This is tiny!
Sound quality

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As promised, I deliver no jargon, no fills and no nonsense in my description of the sound quality. I also remember requesting your patience earlier on in this article. You need wait no longer. I compared the UP4 to the KA1 from Jade Audio, Fiio's budget subsidiary. The KA1 is something I've reviewed at length before, and I liked it. It should be noticeably below the capabilities of the UP4. It is. The KA1 connects directly to your smartphone and will play MQA and DSD natively. Despite that, the UP4 sounded more alive, more full of room, with a larger, but not bloated, bass presence and enough of those tiny little details to satisfy those of you suffering from upgraditis to feel you have a temporary respite from your affliction. A HiFiMan Sundara has been my weapon of choice for the majority of my listening, and for the YouTube demo I have posted here. I tried the Moondrop Chu for the 3.5 in unbalanced normal, the Sennheiser IE800 in unbalanced high and the Dioko 7hz Timeless Crinacle Planar in boost mode. The Shlouer Tape Electrostat reassured my faith in the lush sparkle of these super duper IEMs. I managed to snag the 2.5mm version of these. I made a blind purchase of these, as I did the Crinacle's. I have been satisfied with my instincts, and I would say that the Tape's outperform the Crinacle Planar, which is no slouch in itself.
Conclusion

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It never ceases to amaze me what can be thought up in the offices of so many Chinese Audio Companies. I mean, how many times can you reinvent the wheel? You have a smartphone jack to plug your earphones into. You can add a Dac dongle and improve things. The ultra portable bluetooth dac amp follows. Perhaps a Mojo 2, as a strap on? Then the desktop, then the separates, incorporating any number of boxes, for dedicated clocks, power supplies, monoblock amps. You name it. There is a market ready to receive it. The choice is bewildering, the quality questionable at times. To make things even more complicated, Shanling start throwing things like the UP4 22 at us and even the adage "cheap and cheerful" doesn't make sense anymore. All I know is this; each of the steps up from your smartphone jack should make an improvement in your enjoyment of the music you love, the passion for our hobby is reliant on this and this alone. I am confident in stating the UP4 achieves this aim and submit this article as subjective evidence m'lud. Now...where did I put that adapter?
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senorx12562
senorx12562
Sorry, but no bluetooth codec is lossless, not even LDAC.
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Takeanidea
Takeanidea
There's absolutely no need to apologise

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
HiFiMan Sundara 2020 - finally reviewed
Pros: $299 - it was great at $499 Bass - slam without too much wobble SQ - all the right moves in all the right places
Cons: I still prefer my old version

Reviewed - finally​




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The bestest seller ever


I know. I get to talk about lots of HiFiMan stuff. It may seem like I snap my fingers and all this stuff comes winging it's way to me. You just do not know the blood sweat and tears that goes into the turmoil of arranging one of these reviews, just for YOU dear reader! There is not enough space within the confines of these venerable pages to describe the struggle. I hope you find that the pain comes through in the emotion that pours from my every word adds a little something, a little "Trev", to the party. In other words, I am still neither richer, nor poorer, for having had the HiFiMan pallet drop a little something on its way to the rest of the dealers in the UK. Nor am I to be the last person to have these headphones. That honour rests with my brother, Graham, known more famously as "Radiocruncher" (look him up on YouTube). He has had the onerous task of fixing my audio gear, and has had a look at some rather precious items for HiFiMan lately. Being of an engineering background and possessing the family genius seems to give the man an uncanny ability to diagnose and repair faults for equipment he's never seen, has no circuit diagrams for, and no spare parts with which to get them going again. And yet, time and time again, equipment has been saved from the passage of shame back to China and has been kept in the UK, much to the benefit of those who frequent the Audio Shows both here and in the rest of the World. Thank you my brother, on behalf of me and on behalf of HiFiMan. By the time you read this, he'll be unboxing these headphones for himself. Not quite new, but not quite that old eh? He deserves them.

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Introductions​


I wonder whether I should introduce myself? There is a possibility you've not read my work before or not come across me in your travels in the audio realm, either virtually or in the flesh. My name is Trev, I am a hobbyist, it is extremely likely that I am older than you, but please don't feel too sorry for me because I have a life full of work and play just like you do. I have been reviewing here for several years, on headfi for even longer and have 130 videos on YouTube as of the latest count. My musical tastes were formed in the 1970s, through the music my parents listened to, when a music centre was still considered to be an essential part of a lower middle class' front room, and in the 1980s, where I spent much of my time with an ear glued to my Aiwa Ghetto Blaster before I bought a Rega/Rotel/Yamaha/JPW setup with my 1st wage packet. My Mum loved Classical music and ballads, my Dad liked anything my Mum said he should put on the record player, my Grandad introduced me to Electronic Music and my brother enjoyed putting his slippers on and listening to Punk Records at life threatening volume on his garish stack system (which I envied to an unhealthy extent). In short, there are not many genres of music that I haven't had a listen to and I have interests in cassette, vinyl, cd, sacd, dvd, blu ray, digital and streaming. I have every available means of being able to play any of these things through either portable or back breaking devices. This is because I am old, not because I am rich. Perhaps I would be rich if I didn't have these things? Actually no, I'd be poorer.

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That was all about me. This is all about HiFiMan. I'm going to write this up because the Sundara is the apple in the eye of our Chinese friends. The Jewel in the Crown. The Diamond in the Rust. The glittering prize. Because of this, I believe that some of you will be here because you've been made aware of the popularity of the headphone and want to know what all the fuss is about. It all started in China with a phD... No, I don't really know all of that story too well, but there came a time when headphones started getting really good, which was about the time I bought the Sennheiser HD800. HiFiMan had started with a player but quickly earned a reputation for making planar magnetic headphones at almost every price point you could imagine. The range eventually got the Sundara. When it 1st came out it was $499. The Audio World liked them. A lot. Here was a Planar that there was little to criticise and much to admire. The Sundara was full sized in every way, including the sound stage. Introduced in late 2017, a "silent revision" took place in 2020, and is still with us now. A silent revision occurs when a company changes a headphone, and tells no one. Not a soul. Silence. Then we find out. We are horrified. They come clean. We get an explanation. We are relieved. We are happy. They are happy. We all go off and play again. The revision was that HiFiMan changed the pads. They started getting the pads from a new supplier. The pads however, look exactly the same as on the originals. How to tell an original from a 2020? There are 2 ways I can see. 1 - weigh them. My original is 387g. The 2020 is a whole 3g lighter. The reason that the 2020 is lighter brings us to way no. 2 - there is glue behind the pads of the original Sundara but the new pads are so incredibly super awesome they don't need no extra fixing. This means that when you try and take the pads off the original drivers you are in for a flaky mess, cos all the thin pleather is going to be flexed by the band of glue that was designed to hold them in place for eternity. For the purposes of no glue alone, it would seem like the silent revision made sense.


Looks​

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You read it - do you agree? It wasn't love at first sight for me. There is a basic look about this side of the HiFiMan range - I think that the design won't alienate many, but it's plain. Maybe one should look beneath the surface for beauty? Is this the lesson that HiFiMan are trying to teach us. Oh Wise Ones....I'm all for there being more colour in our lives so this is never going to be me oohing and aahing over a matt black and grey finish. Perhaps we should get a diamond version once the Sundara reaches a million sales? Too late you say? It already has?


Versatility​

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This is for amps - take the shiny thing at the end off if no want the amp


The specifications of 37 ohms and 94 dB may leave the odd punter in a quandary. Is that enough to work off my smartphone? Will these need an amp to sound at their best? Yes - that is enough to work off your smartphone. Yes - these will need an amp to sound at their best. A man I greatly admire, crinacle, posted an extremely persuasive video with a picture of a $20 apple dongle entitled "You don't NEED an amp". I have plugged these into my phone and I have plugged these into the HiFIMan EF1000(please google this if you haven't heard of it). They sound BETTER through an amp. You don't NEED an amp. You don't NEED a Sundara. See what I did there?



Sound Signature​


The sound stage is wide enough to raise a smile but not cavernous enough to make one fall off their chair in the way that a Sennheiser HD800 grabs you. I could throw some crazy diagrams at you - they're definitely here in my head. But perhaps that's where they should stay. You see, there is a balance between sound stage and thinness or airiness. Even eeriness could describe an unnatural in the ear environment. If you want a speaker like level of staging - why didn't you buy speakers? If you want an intimate experience - closed backs are that way please, move along please. This is in the middle. Where most open back headphones sit. The most important thing you need to know is that sounds appear close to the front of the driver and therefore get to your ears pretty quickly. This seems to make vocals easier to follow and the main instrument stands out from the crowd. The bass has slam and there is visceral subbass, in other words, air pushes pleasantly against your ears at times. The high frequencies are rolled off slightly.

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Sound Quality​

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Nothing changed apart from the pads


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The Sundara is the best seller for a reason. I find it difficult to dislike the presentation I am given. I miss some of the micro detail I had in the original design (but nothing changed apart from the pads) and the treble is a little more rolled back in the 2020s (but nothing changed apart from the pads). For those of you out there who want to feel their music in a physical way, you'll be ok, you're catered for. And I'm not saying these are Beats in any way. No Sir. They just changed things. I spent some time being re-educated whilst listening to the SACD of Let's Dance with these on. The drumming on any one of those tracks is...Well, I just never realised how good that album was until yesterday.


Conclusion​

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I've done many Sundara v this Sundara v that mashups, but it occurred to me that I'd never really looked at it properly. I'd taken it for granted. A piece of the woodwork so to speak. It was a go to headphone because everyone knew about it. But - did I know about it? I assumed I knew what makes the Sundara tick. I think I assumed wrongly and I have enjoyed this re imagining of HiFiMan's top seller. The originals are now in tatters and waiting for replacement pads. They have definitely been overlooked by myself due to ever increasing demand for products to bring to a captive audience. I will give you some quiet time, Mr Sundara, that is a promise. For the 2020s, my brother can get his tape collection ready - they are almost with you. There'll be plenty of shouty stuff that'll keep the Sundara's contended til the end of their days.
o0genesis0o
o0genesis0o
Great review, sir! Thoroughly enjoyable to read. It feels like having a coffee or tea with a fellow audio geek and chat about gear.
Caipirina
Caipirina
Don't know how I came across wanting Sundaras today. I had put on my old old HE400 (no i, no SE, no XX) and realized how much I enjoy these .. of course, next thing one does is checking what I can do to get this in 'better' ... sure, the 400SE looks better and cheap, but might sound just the same? so, check 'level up' and i find myself scouring the web for everything Sundara ... and here is my question: I may have a chance of getting one gently used, but how can I spot if it is the revision? In some reviews it appears the texture of the cloths material is smooth instead of honey comb weave, but that is not always the case, some say the new pad thing is 'fat in the back, slim in the front' ... so, your expert take please? And is it folly to want those in early 2023 for the equivalent of 230USD? Or is there anything else I shall take a look at? Thank you kindly!
The Third
The Third
Hilarious witty writing, I managed to pick up a mint condition Sundara for 180 euro's. Probably best value for money headphone I ever bought.

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
HiFiMan Sundara Closed Back Planar Headphones - compromise or champion?
Pros: Sound - will surprise many critics of the Closed Back design - cos it's good!
Headphone stand included
Cons: Sundara Open is $299 the closed is $399 - on sq alone - the Open is better
Plain packaging
A Closed Subject
HiFiMan Sundara Closed
Introduced July 2022

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Included - this headphone stand

I'm surprised to be the first to do it, having felt that I was somewhat late to the party, but here's my take on the review sample of the Sundara Closed, which is now on sale in all decent outlets.

Introduction

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HiFiMan have found another way to reinvent the wheel. They have added to their small selection of Closed Back Headphones, of which the HE-R9 is the least ($369) and the HE-R10P ($5500) the most expensive. Why the wild diversity in price? One of the reasons is the driver. The R9 is a dynamic, the R10 P is a Planar. Up until now the R10 P was the only Closed Back HiFiMan could sell you. Of course, this price level is out of range for a normal headfier. But $399, that could just tempt a few to see whether a Planar might overcome their misgivings about full size Closed backs.


About the Sundara Closed

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The move by our Chinese friends to do a Closed version of the Sundara is significant. The Sundara is their top seller. It has been out for a while and is still selling well. It has a 2022 version which features the NSD diaphragm, a super thin affair as featured in the Susvara. No mention is made of Stealth Magnets for the new open back version, so please correct me if I have that wrong.
Let's assume, for the sake of common sense and logic, that the Closed Sundara is a transplant of the heart of the Sundara Open Back. The driver, headband and cabling are the same. But will the sound have the same characteristics of the Open Back?
If they have managed this and if the company can persuade people like yourself to try a closed back, they could be onto a winner.
Let's look at the differences between the two . The impedance of the Closed Back is 20 Ohms and 98 dB , the Open is 32 and 94. This, theoretically makes the Open much harder to drive than the Closed version. In reality, the Closed Back goes much louder, much quicker than the Open. It is much easier to drive, but doesn't get particularly loud when driven through a smartphone such as my Samsung A52. No surprises here. The Closed Back version of a popular Open Back will need many practical advantages to overcome any obstacles that may present themselves in a direct shoot out.
The cups have had much work done to them, both to produce a more traditional finish than their HE-R range and to make the cup aesthetically easy on the eye. It has a few ridges to it, but it won't polarise the buying public in the way those triangular cups did on the R 10Ps, which also attracted their fair share of controversy due to their rather close relationship to a much loved Sony Closed Back.
The packaging is stark to say the least when these came through the post. The one redeeming feature here is that you can use the foam insert for a rather decent looking headphone stand....

Open v Closed

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Is a debate prevalent among these hallowed pages. For the purist (and I include myself in this camp) only an open can deliver the airiness and extract the hidden secrets of an exquisite piece of music. There are some exceptional headphones that buck this trend-but who has $5500 spare? In truth, Focal, Sennheiser, Audeze, DCA and the like have made some valiant attempts to get decent sound bouncing off the inside of your cul de sac cans, but today's high end market is dominated by the open backs.
It wasn't always that way. Sony's finest headphone, the MD-R10, was a closed back. It was the World's first CAD designed headphone and had a highly unusual shape. It has a mythological status. I've yet to hear a pair, although I spent 2 months with HiFiMan's copy. That brief partnership had me torn as to whether I preferred the sound of the R10 P over the Susvara. The Flagship Planar eventually won the War. The battles were unforgettable and the HE-R10P was no slouch when it came to elegance and micro detail retrieval.

Closed - the positives

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The audio sampling, as per YouTube vid, done by Roland Binaural In Ear Mics and Olympus Digital PCM Recorder

What is the point of headphones? Surely they have been made for private music listening, have they not? There are so many times when we headfiers feel compelled to enter our own secret World. Whether it be on the bus, the train, the gym, the plane, the studio, the workplace or the home, there are multiple options for you.
And yet, for many of us, the go to, favourite, poshest headphones are the ones that are the most limiting. I'm talking about open back full sized headphones. And why is that? It is because they leak sound. Sure, it isn't as loud as putting on a set of loudspeakers- nothing like. This means that you can listen to your favourite when all is quiet in your household. How many times does that happen? If its when everyone's gone to bed, isn't that what you need to be doing too? Of course, for decent listening one only has to go to a room that's not being used and no one will hear you, even at high volume levels.
What a closed back allows you to do is to take your music into a room where someone else is there. Revolutionary stuff! You can spend time in someone's company , your family can do their thing, you can do your thing, in splendid isolation, no longer alone.
I state this as a fact but of course I am exaggerating for the sake of painting an idyllic picture. Some Closed cans leak more than others and some listen to music at levels so high that it can be picked up at close quarters. Ultimately these folks will damage their hearing. Conversely they may be doing it because their hearing is already damaged...

Closed -the negatives

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Featuring the ATH W1000Z (foreground) and the Sundara Closed (background)

I have developed an anti closed back prejudice. This is despite having a much better experience with them at CanJams, where the noise is constant and distracting. Some of the most celebrated models have equally loud rivals beside them on the tables and one ends up hearing more from the LCD4 than the LCD5 you're wearing. Such is life, but a closed back can overcome. IEMs are very popular at headfi events and you can see why....A closed iem is the ultimate in isolation and intimacy and can block out pretty much everything . An IEM will almost always be my go to for travelling, of any type.
So, despite this, why do I hate them so much? Well...hate is not quite the word, but you get the picture. It is because of three things . One- the bass. The low end on a closed back just doesn't seem quite as realistic as their open counterparts. I often experience bloated bass which leaks into the midst and can become fatiguing or in some other downright annoying after a while.
Two- the highs. I find that many closed backs I have tried in the past are rolled back in the top regions , destroying micro detail that would be plain sailing for an open headphone.
Three-the soundstage. That imaginary musical picture created by your brain that gives a shape to the music you are hearing and the illusion that the band are in front above and to the sides of you. By definition, an open headphone has more space to play with and a closed back has only the space between the cupswith which to toy and confuse you. Of course, the space between the cups includes your brain. Much can be done with that....

Does the Sundara Closed overcome all these obstacles?
Sound Quality - the verdict


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Diligent readers will already know the answer to this. The Sundara Closed Backs are almost there in the all important sq category. Bass is slightly slower than my old Open Back Sundara. I'm not going to do a big Sundara Open/Closed comparison because I don't yet possess the 2022 Open Model. Please take the comments as applicable to the old Sundara. Significantly, the bass never gets annoying, and on some tracks, I'm thinking classical symphonic works in the main the extra warmth can be most welcome thank you.
The bass on the Closed doesn't bleed into the mid ranges. This makes vocals easy to follow. It gives the main instrument focus and makes us remember why we prefer hifi and not consumer sound signatures.
There is no dullness to the upper midst and highs, micro details can be enjoyed if you are in the mood for a detailed listening session. I confess that sometimes I just want the music to wash over me pleasantly rather than to dive deeply into its depths.
The sound stage is drawn inwards, when I compare it to the Sundara Open. I understand that I am getting into taboo territory here because HiFiMan's claim of "huge soundstage as offered by open planars" appears to be in dispute. The Closed has a review rating of 4.5 stars. This means that I was impressed with pretty much every aspect of the Sundara Closed, including the sound stage. I agree, the sound stage is large. However the instrumentation and vocal give the impression of being closer to the ear than that of its open partner. I don't find this a disappointment. The picture is believable, the clarity is good and the personality of the producer can heard in the mix.

Conclusion
Can you have your cake and eat it?


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By which i mean can you listen to music in the same room as your faithful companions, without compromise? The answer is yes. You knew that before i said it, didn't you? This can is $399, it's a Planar and it doesn't possess any particular weaknesses, cosmetic appeal of the beechwood(which I personally like) notwithstanding. The bass in a closed back will always be the stumbling block for someone that likes a fast lean linear focus to their signature. I didn't dislike it and the inhibitions disappeared after a few minutes sat next to the TV. Sat next to the TV, but I couldn't have been farther away from it in those first few, irreverent moments of the Pastoral Symphony.
IXOYE
IXOYE
Great review, thank you.
tvrboy
tvrboy
Great review, thanks! I continue to be puzzled by all the various HiFiMan headphones that overlap each other in terms of technology and price point ... now that the HE-R9 is heavily discounted, what exactly is the selling point of the Sundara closed?
Takeanidea
Takeanidea
Hiya thanks for all your praise you're all very kind. The selling point of the Sundara Closed is a tricky one...can anyone remember whether the 9 is a Stealth? If its not I suppose that will be the extra bit. Also it doesn't look like Madonna's Vogue bra

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
BQEYZ its Summer! 3 way hybrid iem designed for hot hot hot!
Pros: A lot of drivers for your money
Good cable Good fit Go loud Made my Colorfly C10 usable for the first time ever - oh I'm so happy!
Cons: Won't suit bassy gear - Will need eqing for purists. Bass is bloated and sound can be fatiguing unless carefully matched
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Close up showing proof of Summer


I decided to get this review done while the Sun is still shining in the UK. I have a shoutout first of all to BQEYZ. Thank you donating peoples of China. I would like to humbly remind people out there who care about my wealth and prestige; no sadly, this review package has not been sent with a boat or sports car or big ole gold chain. I am still not a richer man by receiving these - it's sad isn't it? They found me and they sent me these to get the word out - if it's not already out there, that is. If it is - welcome, you're no stranger here. If this is the first time you have heard of the BQEYZ Season range, where have you been? (Whisper stage left) - this is my first time too! Anyway, being no stranger to things small and pretty and shoved into one's ears - let's fly through this one - the Summer's not got long left!

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Piezoelectric layer anyone?

BQEYZ Summer - an IEM, a hybrid job, and it hybridises Dynamic, Piezoelectric and Balanced Armature drivers. More so, this piezo is a 5 layer ceramic affair, so be assured of getting up into the audible threshold of a cat with the frequency response, which is measured at 7 (delivered by a 13mm dynamic using a couple of different materials) - 40 kHZ. 7 drivers - a well thought out combination, so a good start. The engine (the 7 drivers) is cased in a reasonably well fitting resin shell which has 3 concentric waves embossed onto each one. There is a BQEYZ logo machined onto the left and SUMMER lets you know which side goes into the right ear. The shell is concave along the entire inside diameter, rather like a huge bite taken from an apple.

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A discrete chunk taken off the inside of Bqeyz summer

This reduces the bulk of the design and allows for a smarter fit, as, of course, there is a big engine to get in under the hood. These IEMs are sensitive, at 107 dB, despite having a relatively high impedance, at 32 Ohms, and are as easy to drive as most of my similar IEM collection at around this price level. The price? This is as per amazon.co.uk as of going to press.

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A nice, soft cable, which almost shimmers, comes with the Summer. It is a 2 pin IEM and can take a detachable cable, which we'll come onto later. The 8 strands make for a heavy cable, for most listening opportunities the ear hooks are finished well and the weight will simply pull the shell a fraction further down the outer ear lobe and remain there. In short, if you're sat down, you have nothing to worry about. Mine came with a standard 3.5mm jack, but other finishes are available.

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8 Strand Silver Plated Copper. Not too shabby
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Arty shot of otherwise sensible looking eartips

The eartips displayed above are the clears - there are darker ones supplied aswell. There are small/medium and large sets of each.

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Being ware is to warn of escaping eartips. You now have been.

Beware! They are mounted upside down in the presentation case and are the darnedest thing to prise out, and then, of course, they fly off and head for the shadows and you can't find them! It only happened once (maybe twice) and it was only on the medium tips. As you can imagine, they were the ones I needed...Now - I preferred the darker ones; my thoughts were that they sounded "clearer" than the "clears", but that sounds daft doesn't it? More about that later.


What else is there, before we get to grips with the reviewing part? A fairly plain purple blue and white box with a less is more approach to presentation.

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Here comes Summer

Opening the box up there is a false book inner which lets you know that you have made a wise choice in getting these earphones, so a big confidence boost there.

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Wow! They know me!

Inside said box is a safety card, instructing you not to drive with these on; sensible words for sure.

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Words of warning

The bottom half of the inner reveals a square PVC case and a stiff brush for digging out that stubborn ear wax and other routine cleaning and maintenance needs.

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Shimmering shimminess

Build & Beauty


The finish of the shells is precise. Everything looks as it should and the quality control looks pretty much spot on. The fluted wave design didn't particularly grab me, as I hope it grabs you, because this, after all, a subjective opinion which places beauty firmly in the eye of the beholder.

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The 3 wave resin shell

I get this feeling of familiarity with the cosmetics, and a slight disappointment that it wasn't more adventurous. The size of the shells is inevitably going to stick out slightly from my rather tiny ears, however the design has kept it reasonably well held until I start walking fairly hard and the effort makes my mouth and jaw flex and start to push the shells outwards slightly. This is nothing different to most IEM designs out there. Certain eartips will lock them in, even when down at the gym. They're not supplied as standard, but for those of you who need this info, you know where to get them. The case was the cheap Chinese one supplied with tons of cheap Chinese Gear, although this has had a mottled BQEYZ treatment, which lends it some authenticity. The case is better than nothing, but not very, for want of a better word; "Summery".

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A case of mistaken identity? Surely I have seen such a case before?
The decals on the left and rights are ok - but again, I was left a little underwhelmed by the finish, I guess I was looking for something a little more unique to identify the brand.

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The box - your prize awaits
These are all minor quibbles. I am happy for the Summer to redeem itself in the next, incredibly important, element of my inspection.


Sound character and quality


What does Summer evoke in you? The word Summer; ahhh.... gentle, slow days, sipping cocktails, smiles everywhere, beaches, bbq's. The best of days. Summer by BQEYZ has a lot to live up to my friends! The Summer is not a cold earphone; of that I can assure you.


The bass


The lower end is thick and meaty, like a great juicy slab of Tbone on those hot coals that keep your outdoor event going into the warm murkiness of an August night. The signature of the Summer is built around an extremely energetic sub bass, mid bass, and every other bass department there might be. This stridency brings an instant element of excitement; if you like your bass to have width and depth then you will not be disappointed here.


Vocals


The voice is surprisingly clear and therefore easy enough to follow on the Summer. I say surprisingly because the bass will not be interrupted; not for nothing! But there you go, that BA/Piezo lot have muscled their way in to the mix, and very welcome they are too.


Rhythm Instrumentation and Peaks


Following the beat on the Summer made a veteran reviewer like myself feel a bit fatigued, in stock mode, with no eq applied. Think of it this way; at least there's plenty of bass there. Turning it down in some way should bring the rest of the mix more into focus. More on that later. I keep saying that, don't I?

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Slinky cable shot
The instrumentation can be judged against similar priced product out there and it reasonably holds it's own, it doesn't do anything particularly wrong apart from being a little harder to follow than some of the models I tested the Summer against, particularly in stock, non eq'd form.


The peaks were a little peaky. With so much bass going on, unsurprisingly, the rest of the mix needs a little extra to keep it audible. I found the highs a little shrill. Some of the busier sections felt a little flooded with too much sun, where shade perhaps could have been the more cautious, but less exciting approach. Judicious volume is required for the Summer - this iem can be tamed with a few, simple alterations.

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More boxing

How to get a great sounding BQEYZ Summer​


I suspect many of you have a favourite 2 pin cable, or, if not favourite, perhaps a cable that delivers less low frequency energy and more clarity in the mids and highs. I have an incredible Peterek copper cable that I just love. It took about 3 hours with the stock cable before I simply HAD to treat myself with the Peterek. Armed with a snazzier pair of Bermudas and I felt like I was squeezing a little more from BQEYZ, and why not? If you've got it, flaunt it! The beach body must be honed to perfection! Next up, I have some Spinfits. They have a better fit and are more leaner sounding than the stock eartips. My KBear Believe IEMs have been stripped naked by now, but I don't care! These hybrids need some help, and assistance they will get!

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What a looker
Do you happen to have a slightly bass light Digital Device? The Colorfly C10 is my secret weapon for just such an eventuality. The C10 has a beautiful wooden finish, a horrible looking GUI, a mad impedance and won't even accept an IEM with a built in mic. With the bqeyz Summer is has found a perfect partner. Even with the stock cable and eartips, the sound of this match up had it all; timing, detail, separation, all in abundance. This is the best results I reckon I've achieved from the C10. It has finally come into its own.

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A complement, a yin yang, a Laurel and Hardy
These are the tips I feel that produce the best possible results from these extremely capable earphones in terms of linearity and resolution; however, its Summer! Maybe you want to tackle a heatwave? At least for a while? For the time when you need to apply the after sun, read the above carefully, my fair weather friend.

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Splash screen disguising dodgy looking front
The Supporting Cast


KBear Believe


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Unbelievable
The sad withdrawal of these from the market has meant a lot of you out there never had a chance to see how good these are. There was some controversy surrounding the purity of the beryllium diaphragm. Rather than pursuing definitive testing, which would have proved economically unrealistic for a relatively small company, KBear felt the wisest choice was to stop making them altogether. The bitter irony here is that the title of the IEM certainly lived up to its name...

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A photo of the case? My pleather
The resolution of the Believe is superb. I have customised it with the Peterek and the Spin Fit tips as mentioned earlier, and I am a great fan of this earphone. It is tough to fit into the sweet spot of the earlobe, and I'm forced to go unbalanced because of the Peterek cable's jack. The Believe needs lots of power to get moving properly; its a tricky feller. It is all worth it.

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Plus a bit of Peterek
With all the stakes being equal (no eq, AK380, Peterek, Spinfits) the Summer cannot live with the stunning clarity of the Believe. The bass (which I know some of you will prefer on the meatier Summer) is leaner, faster, and extremely liveable over many hours. The character of the voice is in stark evidence with the Believe when compared with the Summer. There is no fatigue with the Believe despite the more evident micro detailing.

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A bit more Peterek
With leaner equipment, the gap narrows wildly, so please, if you're into the lower end you must bare this in mind.


ACS Evoke


Think of the ACS as a mini marvel. They have an even leaner bass response than the Believe, they are tiny things that are almost invisible when worn and cut out huge amounts of background noise. They are extremely resolving, but the signature would take the newcomer some time to adjust to.

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They're tiny but look big here
The linearity of these is way beyond the Summer on an even playing field, but everything must be right for them to come into their own; an AK380 with DSD files certainly helps bring out the best in these.

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The wonky elegance of the AK380
Bring them onto the Colorfly and they don't perform against the Summer - they are a distant 2nd.


Shlouer Tape

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Shlouer with more Peterek wires
The look of these is a winner for me, before I even wore them, I was determined they'd be great. They were, indeed, great! They're electrostat hybrids and the upper and mids are just great. The bass could be turned down a tiny fraction, but its not altogether too fatiguing. Against the rest, these were the best for mids. The silkiness of an electrostat is a great thing to hear, especially when its done well like this. The Tape was better in every department compared to the Summer, except when paired with the Colorfly. That was when the Summer came out to play properly.

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Why won't companies copy this case?

Conclusion

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My efforts rewarded
My time with you this Summer is fading. I have time to leave with a parting gift. There are many of you that will appreciate what these IEMs have to offer, but you will have to consider whether you have brought everything to the Beach Party to appreciate what BQEYZ have to offer. The Summer will need a lean source, or a tweaked eq, and benefits from better cabling and better eartips, but who doesn't? It fits well, but active users will need to look at other, grippy eartips. I am pleased to say I have found a place in the Sun for these, and for one, that makes me happy. Tequila Sunrise, anyone?

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
SMSL C200 DSD 512 HI RES 2.6W DacAmp
Pros: Price, Inputs, Features, Sound
Cons: Short Mains Lead, be careful with DSD, you pay more money you'll get slightly better sound quality, but, for what it did to the HE-6 - it has to be 5 Stars

EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT SMSL C200 DSD512 DACAMP​


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This will be my 4th look at SMSL DacAmps and I’ve not been let down yet so… here’s hoping.
The C200 incorporates many of the features of the D0 and H0100 stack that I reviewed not too long ago in these here parts. SMSL have taken $100 off and streamlined the stack into a fetching 1 piece, retailing at $219 via this link to my suppliers, https://aoshida-audio.com/products/smsl-c200?DIST=REM=
Whilst I am not paid for my review, or any writing I do come to that, I am, as a rule, supplied items in return for either a written or a video in which I have a little natter about them. This, I’d imagine, is where pretty much all established reviewers find themselves, barring a few professionals who are sent caviar and boats and a ton of money in return for their nod of approval. Crikey, my YouTube isn’t even monetised, and even if it was, I make it it my mission to get a copyright strike on every posting I do there! Ooh, I’m such a rebel!
Aoshida-audio.com have kindly kept me up to date with SMSLs prodigious dacamp output during 2020-2022. They have a habit of doing of doing some nice little packages with plenty of inputs, and plenty of grunt too.

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Inputs​

The C200, out today, in actual fact, (if you’re reading this on Monday 29th August 2022), is a willing partner for many of the different dances that are, or were, in vogue. We have the obvious USB input and those most generous Chinese ChiFlyers have included a USB C to USB B connection. This will get you into a laptop or PC, for those others, you’ll have to convert, purchase, beg, borrow or already have a drawerful of cables that are so anxious to see the light of day after your 100th purchase of audio kit that you definitely needed at the time. I can hear them screaming at you – “let me out! let me out!” Onwards please, we’re getting nowhere yet again! So…old skool coaxial. Any of you got any of this stuff? I found coaxial on my Ibasso DX100. It worked a treat and actually only needs a tiny wee cable thingy.

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Optical is another helpful input, and the old optical connection is a more abundant fruit growing from the Audio Tree. It can be worth giving it a shake sometimes. Optical is typically found on a Macbook, where those clever Apple people found a way to make a 3.5 headphone jack double up as an optical output. I used a CD Walkman to test out the C200. Yes, before the Apple people thought of the idea, it appears that Sony had realised they could have a dual purposed line out/optical out jack….

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We have bluetooth here. The C200 has a cutesy looking aerial supplied that screws into the back and gets you some wireless sounds. Whoo! Beware though, (as we of the ultra skeptical, nit pickingly methodical critters undoubtedly are) , the lossless LDAC codec did not auto default as the acceptable standard when paired with my otherwise faultless Samsung A52 5G Smartphone. I had to suffer the indignity of sub standard tunes until I realised I had to go back into my connectivity menu to set the matter straight. Shame on you SMSL, or Samsung (I dunno which one is responsible) for not offering the cream instantly and forcing your average user to unwittingly put up with the skimmed milk! Hopefully, if you end up as a purchaser you can remember this little ramble and tweak the necessary. LDAC runs effortlessly smoothly so there is absolutely no need to put up with nasty lossy. Lossy be gone! And close the door quietly behind you!



Can I go out on a limb here? I’d have loved SMSL to have put some “get me up and running” leads for the posh TRS input and output bits, and charged $220, or even $230? I’d have liked a nicer box too while we are on the ask.

Built in power supply​

There is a difference in the quality of an amplifier/DacAmp that is quickly apparent to the trained eye. Most of our cheaper stuff comes with a PSU which is known as a switching power supply. They are mass produced and have 2 bits to them – the mains bit and the transformer bit. They are inherently noisy, take up a lot of floor space, don’t look like they belong to the unit you bought, and are prone to breakage and just plain annoying. Companies that supply a switching PSU don’t have to worry about putting a decent power supply into their unit and can save a little bit on the design and get it out there faster. We shouldn’t dismiss every product out there for having an external PSU, we should just be mindful of it. The C200 has a built in power supply and just needs a kettle lead to get it working – easily replaceable. While I’m here – any chance of a longer lead? Or are we near a certain weight limit for transhipment?

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Remote and tweaks​

This tiny thing has a remote supplied! SMSL actually gives a remote with a C200…Will you use it? The volume knob can do all the stuff the remote can but, of course, takes a little learning to master. If you’re on a long lead with the display switched off then, for sure, it will have some benefits. I suppose my usage was more about discovery than it will be for those who live with this as their constant companion.
The C200 uses a ES9038Q2M Dac Chip which means you can configure your device to pull older sources into this Century. There is a setting that allows you to lower the clock speed for older TVs and the like, if you’re experiencing a ssssstutter. I didn’t find any issues so I left the setting where I found it. There are 7 filter settings for the C200. A lifetime of enjoyment for those of you who will be keen to hear what they can all do. Perhaps one of you can come back to me with which was best for what in the comments? I can’t hear enough in the time I’ve had to justify anything meaningful in writing other than to say, it’s there, go nuts. Brightness can be adjusted but doesn’t need to be, display can be switched off, that could be nice. Your display will highlight the file size you’re playing. The nerdy part of me always likes that, so I guess I’m never switching my display off….

Outputs​

The C200 has a preference. It wants your full sized headphones. The clue is in the headphone jacks, of which there are 2 on the front. No.1 is a full sized and no.2 is a 4.4 balanced affair. There is happily no prejudice between power ratings for either output. Both boast a 2.6W over 16 Ohms rating. Plenty enough juice to strike fear into the hearts of most of the phones out there, and with 11 dB of gain in high mode, enough to make an Abyss or Susvara raise an eyebrow…. Hooking up to your hifi should be easy enough. Either RCA (so simple, so many spare leads) or TRS (oh god! Not more leads to buy!) and you’re full steam ahead, for those times when only a visceral blast in your nether regions by your bass cannons will suffice.

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Sound Quality​

I tested the C200 through a selection of weapons from my armoury. I included no IEMs – this is aimed at full sized headphones folks – and this is what I found.
There is a distinct quality in the sound – it’s tuned well – there’s no hiss on any of my phones. I did a comparison with the much more expensive EF400 R2R from HiFiMan and I did find that $499 gets you a little more insight into the music, with there being a little more resolution being offered compared to the C200 and a leaner, faster bass response. What I also was surprised to discover was that, for some of more demanding headphones, I preferred the signature of the C200.

Using HiFiMan HE-6​


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Those of you who have been following this site over the years will know that I am an owner of 1 of the original HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphones from HiFiMan . The HE-6 predates the HE1000 range and was the (non electrostat) flagship for a while. It established a mythical status and continues to have a cult following, mainly due to a fast, punchy, wide delivery, especially when married to a suitably powerful amplifier. The amplification was 1 of several drawbacks to the HE-6. An extremely low sensitivity levels will put many modern DacAmps out of the running for getting decent sound from them. Most portable and many desktop Dac Amps will run out of steam well before the HE-6 has got off the starting grid, and more than 1 HE-6 has been literally blown to pieces when a hastily assembled hook up to a speaker amp has gone horribly wrong. The C200 will not disfigure your HE-6, nor will it deliver so much power that the drivers of said headphones are in jeopardy. However, with 2.6W and 11 dB in high gain under the hood, there is enough to have the HE-6 muscling around the circuit at a hellish rate. The next issue with the HE-6 is a rather dry, crisp character to the presentation, and some ringing effects in the upper mid/lower high frequency tonal range that most of us human beings have an intolerance for. This effect can be mitigated with some modifications, of which, naturally, I have been happy to make to mine. I have tamed the beast somewhat with an open design, and a less tempestuous cable. In fact, the C200 has taken what I’ve done and has added some of its own ingredients. The less linear presentation of the C200 has taken some of that over polished glare off the HE-6s upper ends. The HE-6 is, in short, more liveable. I found myself somewhat surprised on 1 fine Saturday afternoon when I realised I had been listening to the old warhorses for the whole day….. How long had it been since I’ve done that? If ever?

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Sennheiser HD-800​


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The HD-800 has so much going for it. It started the flagship battle, in my opinion. The HD800 is renowned for its splendiferously wild, wide soundstage. It throws your music into the outer depths of the galaxy; you are encased in a giant bubble of vivid, startling clarity, etc.etc. But… ohh….that lack of bass, that spike in the upper mids! I have summarised several years of praise and scorn here. The criticisms are spread across the pages of audio blogism and forum mongering. The HD-800 IS World Class. That IS the official view of subjective reviews. But…well…we at Team Subjective has tinkered heavily with ours, adding some fairly heavy felt around the driver rings and a little something to the dead centre of the diaphragms. The eccentricity’s of the 800s are still there, but we have added a little, and only a little, to the lower end, and have, delicately, snipped off some glare around the upper mids. We have not created an 800S on the cheap. We still have that sound stage and the HD-800 is not dark sounding like the S. The 800 can be improved further still; in fact a member of Team Subjective has sent his off for further expert intervention, at a not inconsiderable cost. That magic is still prevalent on the C200. The wide soundstage, the glasslike presentation of micro details is all still there on the SMSL DacAmp. It is not QUITE as much as some of my other DacAmps, but, as per the HE-6, I suddenly found myself having been sit with the Senn’s on for hours, and I hadn’t felt fatigue. No – it was hunger that drove me to call it a day and head for the kitchen.
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Other normal headphones​

Are fine. The C200 gives at good as it gets. For the money, it delivers bang. More money will get you more linearity, a little more micro detailing, a stronger sense of the rhythm and emotion of your music, provided of course that you choose well. For Planars the C200 has the drive to push when others out there tend to pull back their performance. For Dynamics, the bass and mids are given a suitably solid surface from which to smooth their way along the track. As always, my closed headphones – Mobius by Audeze, Audio Technica’s W1000Z and the on ear H1 from Even came up a little short against the open backs, being bloated in the lower ends, as the bass rattles around inside the cups, desperate for release. They’ve sounder far worse before though, believe me…
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Summary​

It is with great pleasure that I bring you the all in one C200. I have had a fine week mastering its ups and downs and ins and outs, but, in reality, it didn’t really need too much fiddling about with. The bits I wrestled with (so you don’t have to). DSD. Yep. Notoriously tricky. This baby can handle up to DSD 512, although Audivarna only recognised it as up to DSD 256. I mean who the heck has DSD 512 tracks anyway? In comparison, HiFiMan’s EF400 can handle up to DSD 64 on Audivarna. If you don’t put the C200 in a dedicated USB socket, DSD will not work. On my Macbook I got a thumping pulsing noise and nowt else. If the cable pulls out slightly on your socket, you’re gonna have to switch off, unplug, restart, the whole works. All the other files are fine, but DSD is a nightmare. The C200 is not alone with this issue, and close attention and maybe you’ll never hear this problem. But, if you do, I’m hoping you remember this article and, being ware, you are prepared. Is it worth all the trouble, just for DSD? I’ll leave that for you to ponder. Other than that, just note that this has a short kettle lead. An awkward person like myself can end up a dangling DacAmp, good for a dongle, potentially catastrophic for a C200…..

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All perils aside – (and there weren’t too many were there?) the C200 is a competent, solidly built, affordable performer, a jack of many trades, a good looker and again shows just how much you can get from China for your money. Now, where did I leave that remote control?
J
JAxB
Beautiful and very exhaustive test. I have recently discovered the C200, I am still deciding what is best for my Monolith M1060C, I would like to use them in balanced and C200 seems a good choice, What do you think? Straight from the mac using flac files.I had almost decided on a DX2Pro + Topping, but the C200 looks better
Takeanidea
Takeanidea
I think it would power your headphones easily

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Fiio Jade Audio KA1 gets deep Scienced
Pros: Cheap - latest Dac Chip - Good SQ - MQA support - DSD support
Cons: Output may not drive all headphones - No Fiio App Support

The DAC v No DAC debate

I submit the following evidence m'lord....

With grateful thanks to those lovely people at Fiio who have sent this to me in return for an in depth analysis and no holds barred breakdown of all that is good (and bad) in the audio industry today, I bring you the ultra portable Dac/Amp, the Jade Audio KA1.

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Jade Audio is a cut price subsidiary of Fiio. Designed for the budget end of the market, nevertheless there could be something here for the sceptics among you who wish to dip their toes in the water, to see what the fuss is all about with this portable audio malarky. The KA1 will only set you back £41.99. Sit back, reading my version of events and listening to the evidence I shall be providing, safe in the knowledge that you have not committed too much risk into your audio investment.

Dac v no Dac? What are you talking about?!!!​

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First of all, let me be straight with you. I was a little loose and fast with my wording at the top of this review. All digital audio products need a DAC. DAC stands for digital to analogue converter. Music stored in a digital format as a series of 0000s and 1s. It is decoded by a DAC chip and sent through analogue outputs and that's what you listen to. All digital products that you listen to have a DAC chip; yes, even your very cheap smartphone. What I mean by the "Dac v no Dac" is the argument that there is no need to add anything to your smartphone, ipod, dap, ipad, laptop or cd walkman. Just plug in your earphones and go! What could be simpler? Most smartphones have pretty decent onboard processors and seperate dac chips. For instance, my Samsung A52 has built in Dolby Atmos through it's stereo speakers, an Octa Core Processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G, which does pretty much everything from video rendering to audio output. It has a micro sd card slot to store your FLAC files and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, marking a retreat from the wireless only versions of their predecessors in the Samsung range. As far as specifications go, the dac output from an internal chip has almost ruler flat distortion levels. In other words, the measured sound should be perfect. These are all convincing arguments. The graphs look good, the smartphone is equipped with everything it needs to listen to music. The engineers at one of the biggest brands in the World would not skimp on audio performance and risk losing business now, would they?

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Smartphones are jacks of all trades. The sales generated from say, having a good camera, will be significant when compared to having a high end audio performance. People just don't care about how good the sound quality is from their smartphones. Not as a rule. And wireless tech is making that gulf ever wider. Bluetooth headphones have their own Dacs built in. The DAC in the smartphone is obsolete when the cans are being worn. The wireless market is going through the roof, and will continue to gain popularity as every audio company tries to have a slice of this lucrative pie. The headphone jack is seldom noticed, and if used, it is not being used by powerful, full sized headphones. In many cases it will be cheap, high sensitivity earphones which are easy to power to loud levels.

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When it comes to using decent earphones or headphones, people will find that they have to turn their smartphones up to the highest volumes to listen to music. Once that is being done, even if you can hear the music loud enough, you are probably introducing levels of distortion from the 3.5mm jack into your listening experience which will not be affecting the music in a pleasant way. Most people will probably accept this and go wireless if they're not happy with their sounds. But some know different.... A significant % know that wireless does not beat wired. Sound quality is higher with a wired device. A wired headphone or earphone £ for £, will outperform it's equivalent bluetooth device in terms of sound quality alone. In this debate we must forget convenience and features and concentrate on what we are listening to. Audio companies have known this for many years and have many wired products to suit every audiophile's taste. From ultra portable Dac/Amp dongles, which need no external power, to huge R2R Dac's with seperate power supplies and no outputs and everything in between. Popular products include the Chord Mojo and the Dragonfly Black, Blue and Cobalt series. I have owned both the Cobalt and the Mojo, but have long since sold them on.

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About the KA1​

The KA1 is essentially a lower powered, stripped down version of the KA3. It still has a lot of good stuff going for it. It uses the ES9281AC PRO for a heart. That is the Dac chip. The engineers at Fiio have then tuned the chip to the following spec. It has an output impedance of 1.5 and a output power of 45 mW at 32Ω. These 2 specifications are an essential tool in evaluating the dac/amp's power capabilities. If the figures are too high they may cause hiss in your earphones, if too low you will not be happy with the results. The results, if too little power is being fed to your headphones will mean that you can't listen to your music at loud enough volumes to enjoy the sound quality waiting to be untapped by the sweet spot, where dB and distortion live together harmoniously. The next thing you need to do is to find out the sensitivity and impedance of your headphones or earphones. Once you have these 4 things you need to ask our friend Google - how much power do my headphones need? That will take you to sites like iFi or headphonesty. Tap in the information and voila! You now know whether your headphones have enough power for the KA1 to work with them. See how scientific this is getting? Awesome, isn't it? However, we're not going to get nerdy enough that we are going to start putting our head down some very dark holes. Some of these holes have some very suspicious (but tempting) titles like "headspace". For now, let's put that to one side and deal with descriptions such as "quiet" or "loud". That, we can all understand, and we can all deal with. I fed in the details on the Sennheiser HD800, just for laughs. And yet..... The answer came out that the HD800's would be "moderately loud" at an output level of 49 mW. If you remember, I can get 45 mW from the KA1. A "Real World" test by yours truly shows that, yes you can play the HD800 through the KA1 at 75% volume to loud enough levels that you would not wish to dial up the volume any further, with only minor evidence of distortion creeping in. Bear in mind, this is a 300Ω headphone and was probably not intended to make sweet music with a £41.99 dac/amp. But, you have my assurance; it can...

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More Science​

I used the Deva Pro full sized over ear headphones from HiFiMan for my testing. They have a sensitivity of 93.5 dB, which isn't great for low powered dac/amps, but they make up for it with a forgiving impedance of 18Ω. There is enough juice in these that we can even plug them into my headphone jack of my Samsung A52. Folks; that is exactly what I did. I have tested these in the A52 headphone jack. I then plugged the KA1 into the USBC slot of the A52 and had a listen. In fact, (as any scientist would do) I had several listens. The results of that extensive evaluation have been captured for posterity. Using a set of professional binaural in ear mics made by Roland, a professional PCM recorder made by Olympus, Audacity editing software and a Macbook Pro Retina, I'm able to render the results, as heard by my ears, in as accurate way as is currently possible, as I am not proficient in telepathy. Provided you have your favourite in/on/over ear devices at the ready, you'll be able to hear the test as I heard it. You'll not hear properly using speakers; it'll sound strange. You'll also need to keep an open mind and be patient; wait for your senses to attune themselves to the nuances of the 2 recordings, and the differences will begin to emerge. If you don't hear the difference; that's fine. Congratulations! You don't have to spend £41.99. Listen, I've expounded my theory for long enough; it is now high time for you to become part of the experiment. Take a look at the WAV files contained below:

Yeha Noha using headphone jack of Samsung A52 5G
Yeha Noha using headphone jack of Jade Audio KA1




The song, Yeha Noha, is from the CD Instrumental Moods. The subtitle is "wishes of happiness and prosperity". It was recorded by Sacred Spirit, in 1994. This came at the same time as Deep Forest brough the sounds of lost Amazonian tribes to life, and Enigma brought Gregorian Chants to the attention of the World. Sacred Spirit are a German collective who put the song of the Native American Indian Chants into the present day. The song takes the form of a chant. It was sung in the Navajo language by Navajo elder Kee Chee Jake from Chinle, Arizona. The literal meaning of Yeha Noha is "the giant says give it to me". You now know some Navajo! I chose the song to bring it to a new audience, and because it uses voice, synthesizers and haunting ethereal effects, all of which should show some of the qualities present in the Deva Pro headphones.

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I'm wrapping this review up​

The KA1 is about as low as I'd go if you want to improve the sound that comes from your phone. It will play anything you can throw at it, including DSD and MQA files. It has a tiny little colour coding system which shows the bitrate of the file being played. It can't get much simpler than this: you choose your dongle, as either a lightning or usbc connection and you plug it into the bottom of your phone. On my A52 it instantly recognises there's an OTG device for listening to audio and it takes over the duties of the speakers or the earphone jack. It's well made, it's metal, not plastic, it's got 1 of the latest dac chips which means more efficient use of power, and therefore less drain on your phone battery, it's cheap at £41.99, it's powerful enough to run many efficient headphones out there, (and I've told you how to find out whether yours will work), it comes with the build quality and reputation of Fiio, who I can vouch for, having used a few of their products including the M11 DAP, the M11 Pro DAP, the BTA30 and the UTWS5 bluetooth products, all of which can be found in my previous reviews.

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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
HiFiMan GR8 Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset - my first ever listen to a bone conduction headphone
Pros: Safe to use outside - No chance of hearing loss - Likely to be affordable - The fit is good - Not unpleasant sound - A very novel experience!
Cons: Don't expect audiophile sound - EQing is needed - Lack of bass depth
HiFiMan GR8 - what happens when a hi-fi company gets involved in bone conduction headphones
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I need not give you much of an introduction to HiFiMan. I have worked with them on reviews for 6 years. This is why I am able to bring some exclusives from time to time. This is one. I have been sent a sample of what HiFiMan have been selling in India only up til now. They intend to introduce the GR8 to the rest of the World in due course, so this is my chance to introduce it to the headfi community.

About bone conduction headphones

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Bone conduction headphones do not go into the ears. They produce sound by sending vibrations onto the contours of your face. The drivers, normally larger than your usual earbuds, sit close the bottom of the ears and rest against the top of the cheekbone. The headset is weighted down equally on either side with a box of circuitry which provides a gentle pressure to keep the driver in place. The headband tends to be a semi rigid,rigid,rubberised plastic design which is not adjustable.
When it comes to this type of headset, I am in virgin territory. I know of the AfterShokz, know rebranded as Shokz, they seem to be the leaders in this niche market. I have never tried a set, but I am increasingly seeing them being used by runners. As a runner myself, it was inevitable that our paths would cross sooner or later. Why do they seem to be the domain of the runner? Runners make a lot of noise. They grunt and puff their way through the streets of our towns and cities and are seemingly oblivious to the rest of the World around them. Commuters who are wearing earphones don't have the problems of the runner. They are isolated from the outside World, sure, but they have more time to look around them and they are seeing potential dangers in slow time and have plenty of time to react. They are not sweating profusely like the runner, so they don't have issues with potential ear infection, build up of wax inside the ear canal, or damage to their earphones or the cups of their headphones. The commuter is not moving their earphones around vigorously like the runner - fit is not a concern. Many a runner will tell you how uncomfortable they have felt on a run, either by needing to ram the earphones deep into the ear canals, constantly having to readjust the position in the ears or by noise vibrating into the entrance of the ear canals - the list goes on and on. Furthermore, and most importantly of all, the volume that a runner needs to generate to block out the noise they are making is far beyond that of the pedestrian. Inevitably the volume has to be pushed into the red on a conventional set of earphones/buds/headphones. This may lead to premature hearing loss. Despite all of the risks I've just mentioned I'd argue that the recreation of running was made for listening to music. Unless you are lucky enough to be part of a running club, or running with a companion, this is a solitary occupation, and for many, it can be an exhausting chore. The music provides a rhythm to your stride, a distraction from the toil, and a sense of wellbeing to your day, adding to the endorphins one produces, a chemical process triggered in the brain which is also known as the "runner's high". Having convinced you of the benefits of going out for a run, 🏃‍♂️how do I now ensure your safety? The bone conduction headphone was made for this purpose. I have hitherto avoided the bone conduction for one reason only - sound quality. I have long been aware of the reputation of the bone conduction tech being somewhat lacking in this department. The limiting factor of having a set of earphones which do not go into the ears convinced me that I would not be satisfied with the experience of this weird science. I resisted the temptation to buy a set to hear for myself whether here was anything to this. Until now! I now have a set:scream: I have no choice ; I am compelled to bring you my findings.


This is a surreal experience

I trust by now that most of you will have had a look at the video above, and can see how mystified I was about the GR8. :upside_down:Forget everything else ; I have to get my head around the concept of bone conduction before I can talk about what HiFIMan's version sounds like. It took some getting used to, lemme tell you! I did not expect to put the headset on and be wowed, my preconceptions were too strong for that. Compared to normal in ears, the bass is the first thing that struck me as different. At first I thought it was non existent! However, there is bass. It is produced by vibrations onto the cheekbone. It is more subtle than the rest of the frequency range. It is a little time before my brain was able to sense what was going on and tune in. I have done some experimenting; if you are determined to try these out at home, you'll benefit from a better bass performance. Not only does the bass makes it's presence felt at lower volumes, you won't be deadening the effect by the constant pounding of your feet on the roads when you're out for a run. I have decided that that the bass effect lessens as the volume gets louder. As time goes by and my head gets around this new way of listening that impression may change. For now, I'm reasonably confident that's a result I can share with you. My next observation is that the sound out of the box can be changed. Whether in time the brain adjusts to the way the default GR8 sound like is not a subject for this review ; we need it to be listenable right now - life is too short:smile_phones: I am lucky enough to have a sub app called Morphet attached to my Android app USB Audio Player Pro. Morphet takes a set of frequency curves from many of the most famous headphones/earphones/earbuds out there. There are literally 100s to choose from. I scanned through a few of the presets and settled on the tuning of the Stax SR009. This changed the sound quality radically. The electrostatic needs more bass and less higher frequency boost do the majestic quality of the tech and the drivers. Therefore, I have a slightly rolled back but bass boosted set of bone conduction earphones. You may prefer another entirely different pairing, but I'd recommend this as a starter. It may be useful at this juncture to explain how I'm finding the GR8's compared to every other method of listening to music. Believe you me ; this is unlike anything else! Think of listening to a set of speakers that are being placed close to your ear and a set of IEM's that are seated really deep in your ear canal but that you have on low volume. Couple that with the pressure of hundred's of the tiniest hands massaging your cheekbone. It's somewhere near that feeling. There are plusses here, even listening to the GR8 in the comfort of your own home. There is zero listening fatigue. There is no discomfort. Vocals are an absolute doddle to follow. Every hour listening causes a much needed adjustment to the sensory perceptions of the sound. You can easily hold a conversation while wearing them, and you can hear everything that's going on around you.

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There are negatives too:slight_frown: The wife, already able to swear she can hear your IEM's when you're wearing them beside her, even when they're not playing music, will take a great delight in telling you that she can hear the music as plain as day. The missus will try and prove a point by talking to you in an extra low voice so you can't hear her clearly. Don't worry ; these things are perfectly normal and nothing to be overly concerned about:beerchug: You will be itching to take these out for a run ; the feeling will become almost unbearable:sweat_smile:

About the GR8

The headset comes with the HiFiMan brand, which is usually an indicator of at least a certain level of quality. "In HiFiMan we trust", and all that sort of stuff. I am therefore working under the assumption that HiFiMan have added their engineering pedigree to the bone conduction market, cos it has their name on it. They have made a tentative step of introducing these into the Indian marketplace before any other territory. I make another assumption that this was successful enough that I have been sent a set to talk to you about, with the intention of sending it out to the rest of the World.
The set was for sale in India for RMB 249, which my research tells me is approximately £30. It is on sale at an outlet I don't recognise, so therefore cannot recommend at present, for £42. Expect the GR8 to go on sale for something around that price mark. My research tells me that Shokz headsets are considerably more, although I've yet to compare the sound quality of these against HiFiMan's. What do you get for your money? The headset looks pretty much the same as most bone conduction's ; the driver design looks different than Shokz's in that theirs appears to be a smaller, longer rectangular affair. HiFiMan's is a larger, circular shape and looks like a more traditional earbud driver, if somewhat bigger. The GR8 has bluetooth 5.0. You can pair these with 2 bluetooth devices. That means you don't have to disconnect one before using the additional device. Just switch your GR8's on and play the music on whichever device you choose and it'll do the rest. Bluetooth 5.0 means low latency, low battery consumption and higher range and signal quality. The ipx rating is 4. This is against a maximum of 7 and a low of 1. A rating of 4 will get you a showerproof, sweat proof, condensation proof headset. You can't swim or surf or dive with these, but a quick dip in the shower or a wallow in the bath may well be achievable. The battery life is 7 hours. I've yet to work out how long it takes to recharge, but 7 hours is too long for a run, more than long enough for a walk and not quite enough for a day in the office, if you are lucky enough to be able to be allowed to do such a thing and are efficient enough at multitasking to be able to do so with enjoyment. That is not the way of the audiophile, of course:smirk: I assume, again, that this takes not too long at all to get enough charge on it to get you back out on the streets for some exercise or to make the commute home survivable. There are a series of functions that you'd expect on a bluetooth device - they all work easily enough, and are illustrated below, for your convenience and reference :
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In use, as per the video (and please refer back to that if you need to) without previously having the above instructions, I was able to get to grips with how to operate the GR8's. They're logically thought out and contain the usual features you'd find in a bluetooth device. That is, part from noise cancelling and ambient sound - for, of course, you don't need these features on a pair of bone conduction headphones.

Conclusion

It was a long time coming. Finally, I succumbed to the bone conduction experience, despite my previous reservations. It was not an altogether unpleasant experience. As I sit here writing this article with the GR8's buzzing away on my cheeks, there are worse things in life than this. How do I get to a rating of 4 out of 5 for a device I have never come across? I looked at what I expected from these ; and they were able to surpass my expectations. I looked at how much they would retail for, and, at a guess, this is likely to be more reasonable than I would've expected from a HiFiMan product, and looking at the rest of the market represents value for money. The GR8's won me over enough to dispel much of the prejudice I felt about the concept of bone conduction. This is one of the first articles I have ever written about audio where I was actually able to listen to music at the same time, usually IEM's and headphones are too much of a distraction, but not so with these. I found 4 positives and each 1 is comfortably worth a star, don't you think? Now, if you don't mind, it's a lovely Sunday morning, and it's about time I get out there and feel some fresh air. The call of the Nike's is no longer resistible ;

It was a long time coming. Finally, I succumbed to the bone conduction experience, despite my previous reservations. It was not an altogether unpleasant experience. As I sit here writing this article with the GR8's buzzing away on my cheeks, there are worse things in life than this. How do I get to a rating of 4 out of 5 for a device I have never come across? I looked at what I expected from these ; and they were able to surpass my expectations. I looked at how much they would retail for, and, at a guess, this is likely to be more reasonable than I would've expected from a HiFiMan product, and looking at the rest of the market represents value for money. The GR8's won me over enough to dispel much of the prejudice I felt about the concept of bone conduction. This is one of the first articles I have ever written about audio where I was actually able to listen to music at the same time, usually IEM's and headphones are too much of a distraction, but not so with these. I found 4 positives and each 1 is comfortably worth a star, don't you think? Now, if you don't mind, it's a lovely Sunday morning, and it's about time I got out there and feel some fresh air. The call of the Nike's is no longer resistible ; I need to head out for my run. I'll see you in an hour.


The true test​


Of all head gear - the run. This task is a measure of all the attributes of a headphone - pounding feet reduces the bass effect, opening the mouth changes the fit of an iem completely, cables are slapping against the body, sweat is being produced in alarming quantities, covering the cable, around the ear, in the ear, on the driver of the iem or the cups of the headphone, sound has to be turned up to drown out harsh breathing and pounding feet, nothing can be heard from the outside World. The abilities of an IEM to remain in place with all this going on is tough, to say the least. There are various noise cancelling and ambient sound effects built into some clever little TWS and bluetooth devices. They use external mics to listen out for louder than usual noises and mute your music down to draw your attention to them. When running, in all cases, even the slightest wind noise is picked up by the mics and pushes a hollow whooshing sound into the ear canal. Other sounds from a distance sound eery and unnatural. Sound quality is being sacrificed over safety, which I agree is a price worth paying, but what if it didn't have to be that way? The GR8 has found a way to overcome all of these problems.


My findings on the run​


Using the bone conduction headset on a run is like not using a headphone at all. Yet you can still hear your music. What's more - there were added benefits that I had not thought before I put my running shoes on. I could hear everything from the outset of my run. My breathing, my pounding feet; neither can be heard at all whilst I am out for my usual run. Being able to hear that somehow changes the experience ; it makes it feel less alien. I can hear all noises around me, despite setting the volume of the GR8 to maximum. I can hear cars approaching me, and all sounds are natural. I get the pleasant feeling of wind around my ears, which were sweat free for the entire hour. The sound quality now takes on a different flavour. This is because the performance of the bone conduction is dependant on the interaction with the surface of the face. When you run, you naturally will open your mouth, as you are forced to take in more air as your lungs expand to cope with the exertion. This pushes the jaw forward, the ears outwards and the cheekbone will move up slightly. These actions will cause a greater pressure to be placed against the bone conductors. The result is a louder, more detailed sound with a significantly better bass response. That is just with me at a jogging pace. For those that can push it harder I'd expect even better results. The bass response is no longer dependent on how heavy footed a runner you are. Once you are out on the run the bass remains consistent, the volume remains consistent, and it can be heard in spite of what is going on around you. Quieter genres of music, such as classical music, are now audible throughout the entire track ; they aren't affected by the harshness of your breathing. The fit is perfect. There is no other way to describe it. I needed no adjustment to the headset and felt no effect of sweat on the GR8, despite seeing plenty of that when I took them off on finishing my run. I found myself wondering why I had put up with so much discomfort, so much disembodiment up til now. I have a feeling that my runs will never quite be the same again. For the runner, these have to be 5 out of 5 on the star rating. I hesitate to change the star rating to 5 out of 5. This is because people would be tempted to buy a set thinking that bone conduction headphones are the holy grail of sound quality. Inevitably, they'd be disappointed. The finger of blame would point to me. Let us keep the star rating at 4 as a more universal appraisal of the HiFiMan GR8. This gives some wiggle room and throws down the gauntlet for HiFiMan to find a way to come up with a little more bass. Now that would be a crowd pleaser.
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Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Fiio UTWS5 World's first dedicated DAC chip tested on the Meze Rai Penta - TWS with no compromises
Pros: Price - £99.99
Fit - just right
Features - they work!
Sound - nothing to worry about here
Cons: Buttons - when you're on the move, at speed, sometimes it goes wrong!
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The TWS market. Where do we start? It exploded. The Wireless World has taken over. Yes, we cling on to the cabled IEMs and headphones and hi-fi's we love, but are we still represenatative? Let's face it - we're not. Audio companies of repute have recognised the need to cater for the growing interest in a life without the need of lots of wires. No-one in the audio industry can afford to ignore what is happening. Everyone eants less clutter - less fuss. Therefore, bluetooth is the way to go. And you and I should encourage it. The reason? Because the more hype there is about wireless, the better the technology will get, the more products will be sold, and the cheaper the tech will sell for. Sermon over, let's get down to business.

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Many products that are sent to the Subjective offices are now wireless products. This is where the innovation is coming from. This is where the manufacturer can see the market going. This is where we can see your interests are changing - you, the discerning punter. Why shouldn't you deserve proper audio products without wires, without fuss? It can be done. It is no longer the future. It is now.

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Which brings us to the TWS market. I have heard some nice TWS products. Even the Galaxy Buds Pro are a decent sounding set of earphones. But, there is alway compromise. No-one is gonna put a $1000 IEM into a tws shell and try and sell it for $1100. No-one would buy it, becaus it won't sound as good as the wired version, and for that type of money, it would HAVE to be hi-fi. Fiio have had a thik about this. They have come up with this. The UTWS5 contains no IEM or earbud. It is the same as those earhooks supplied to guide your cables around the outside of your ear for a better fit. With a very subtle difference. These contain a DAC and a Bluetooth chip. You can put whatever IEM you want in them subject to them conforming with the MMCX or 2 pin standards, that is.

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I took my Meze Rai Penta Flagship IEMs out of their cabled prison and gave them freedom. It was utter madness, I know, but I just had to know how they'd perform with the latest TWS (dongle?) Snapping them into place was a cinch. The fit was as good as the cabled variety. Once out of the box, the Fiio's set to work on befriending my smartphone and we were away. This is how we got on....



First up, features. After all, you have this TWS, it's got to be user friendly to make life on the road smoother to be of any benefit, am I right? The UTWS5 has looked at this issue and has come up with some really good solutions to making life just that little bit easier. First of all, it's a breath of fresh air not having to try and find the button on each of the TWS buds to do stuff. When you're on a run, it's too small and fiddly and it often goes wrong. The Fiio has sensibly put a larger button at the bottom of each of the left and right hooks and they work with more success tan any of the other TWS I've used. 1 button accepts a call, on either the left or right side. 1 button will be volume down on the left or up on the right. 1 button will be play on either side. 2 presses of either side is pause. 3 presses releases alexa, bixby or your chosen companion. 3 presses is a little harder to achieve on the gallop than the other stuff, but is doable for the determined. For those of you less energetic, the Fiio Control App is a must. Download that from Google Play etc. and you can change all sorts, from the digital filtering of the dac chip, to the graduated ambient sound options, which let you listen and communicate with the outside World when needed, but immersed in your own when not.

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Seconds up, sound quality. Listen, (and I've done lots of this) I was happy with the Rai Penta on the move. There was a good fit. No cable noise, there's no cable. No movement in the ear discerned, there's less to move, of course. The sound stays stable, brings out the rich, organic qualities of the Penta, and really important, makes you WANT to exercise. Think about that, for a second. This is something that you will want to head outside with. We all know the benefits of being outside. We all know the benefits of exercise. We all know the healing power of music. There is more than a good chance that this sort of device will score a hat trick - outside, exercise, joy. What sort of a price would you put on that? Fiio already know the answer. At all good shops this will retail at £99. I'm a fan of Fiio, I think they make good quality products and they consistently surprise me with what they come up with. I am the proud owner of Fiio M11 DAP and hae previously reviewed the M11 Pro and the BTA30. That being said , no money changes hands here; Fiio have kindly supplied Subjective Reviews the UTWS5 in return for an honest opinion.

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Conclusions - and I hate to say farewell, but all things must pass. The UTWS5 is the go to for TWS wannabees with good IEMs. This will beat any TWS I've yet tried. No-one comes close to a Rai Penta through AptX; it's that simple. If it get's you off your chair and into the open air, Fiio have won, you've won and I'm a happier person for it.
Takeanidea
Takeanidea
Hi no, not tried them
Jaysound
Jaysound
I'm sorry but I'm confused. I "think" you're saying the UTWS5 is good but not nearly as good as the Rai Penta, correct?
MariusAB
MariusAB
Tried LHCD codec with UTWS5? This is where serious things starts to going on. Best wireless sound possible with good iems.

Takeanidea

Headphoneus Supremus
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless - moving forward with the TWS
Pros: Looks, fit and sound quality Available for a bargain price due to version 2 now out
Cons: Superseded by version 2. TWS mics generate lots of wind noise with ambient setting on. 12 hours battery life with charging cradle.

SENNHEISER MOMENTUM​


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The case is fabric and feels like home


I took a stroll to the TWS market. And I came back with 2 new buddies. The first, which I hope you’ve made yourselves familiar with already; the Galaxy Buds Pro. This, the Sennheiser Momentum version 1, is the 2nd. I shall use this article to gently critique between the 2. Although the Sennheiser has been superseded by a version 2, it remains popular and is still being sold at most good stores everywhere. That being said… your intrepid adventurer took a chance and bought these on eBay for the bargain price of £49. The Buds Pro cost was £50, so we have a fair contest in my opinion.
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Pretty much what you get + cable +manual

About TWS
TWS stands for truly wireless. It’s a relatively new design for portable audio. A clever person found a niche in the market. Lots and lots are being sold, or given away with new smartphones. A bluetooth headset has a cable going between the left and right driver, often with a small weight in the middle. This goes in the middle of the shoulders and keeps the whole thing more stable. TWS still uses bluetooth but needs no cable. The controls on the cable of the bluetooth headset are contained within one of the TWS Buds. This Bud sends the info to the other bud to create a stereo signal. One bud can be used on it’s own, as long as it’s the master and not the slave.
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A hint at the ergonomic shape of the driver


No wires means no cable snag, no sweat on your skin from the cable, no fear of the cable pulling out the bud, no microphonics from the cable, a more discrete look and, hopefully, a little more comfort. All functionality is accessed via a series of gestures, or taps on either left or right bud, as opposed to finding them on your cable. It also means less codecs are available, because there is no wire to bung any extra electronics on. This means, in most cases, lossy codecs only are available. The Momentum supports aptX, a reasonable codec which will give a near CD quality frequency response.
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The drivers unveiled

The Sennheiser Momentum look nice, feel nice, work well and sound nice. The current retail price of £100+ I’d fight shy of – I am not sure whether they’re that good. Let me tell you a little more on what I found. The gesture controls – volume up/down/play/pause/next/previous track/receive/end call/ambient sound on/off/voice control, are plentiful, but fairly easy to learn and responded well to my command. The ambient sound function -whereby you can hear outside noises by using the external mics, was good, but not as clever at the Galaxy Buds Pro.


I suspect the version 2 Momentum has better ambience, but I have not heard them to qualify this statement. The look of both case and the bud has met with some success. The box is a fabric design and a little different from the standard affair. The Buds have a brushed stainless steel faceplate which doesn’t show up smudges from your fingers. Yes, the drivers are larger than the norm. They are an older design and have squashed in enough tech to deal with the aptX codec. But they have got the shape just right. These feel substantial, and heavier than normal, in the inner ear. 95% of the fit problem has already been resolved by this alone; the shape is that good. The tips are a good quality and probably won’t reap much better results from being changed to aftermarket ones.
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The charging points on the buds are gold

The sound quality is more linear than the Buds Pro. There is slightly less bass, but enough to hear even when on a run. There is a clarity in the mids and highs that makes vocals easier to follow without there being any harshness present. Obviously, these are not the last words in sonics, yes, you’ll find a wired equivalent will edge these, but on the run, doing a workout, commuting on a noisy bus, walking the streets; this is where the TWS comes into it’s own.
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Brushed stainless steel faceplate

Conclusion
I have had several hours of use with the Momentum now. That means getting on for 100 miles of running. They have lasted me well, the bluetooth 5.0 keeps a decent signal, the aptX codec delivers a quality frequency response; the fit and the drivers output a decent sound. When in ambient mode, any wind becomes hard to deal with and this safety feature ends up being switched off. I have done some research and it seems there isn’t a huge difference in SQ between version 1 and 2; my most important criteria was for value for money. This is why I went for version 1. For £49 I am pleased with my purchase. Given a head to head with the Buds Pro, they’d lose out on sound quality, but win on features. All in all, a well fought contest with no real loser.
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