Cons - Poor Accessory Pack, No Packaging, No Cable Cinch
Bette 1+1 Hybrid IEMs
Today I’m looking at a value priced 1+1 Hybrid purchased from ToBetter on Amazon. The “Bette” hybrid is a 1 BA + 1 Dynamic hybrid IEM that costs under $40 but still produces excellent sound quality and manages to punch way, way above it’s price point.
Err, well, there wasn’t any included. The IEMs showed up in a small black EVA foam case with tips and then wrapped in bubble wrap. Given the price I’ve no problems with this - it’s pretty clear that the money went towards the IEMs and not the packaging.
Accessories 1x Hybrid Dual Driver Headphone 1x Carry Case 3x Ear Buds Set (Specifications from the Amazon webpage)
There were actually four sets of ear buds included in the package, not three. All the sets are short flange, medium bore tips and are of decent quality. Sizes included are 1 x Small, 2 x Medium and 1 x Large. The case is good, if a rather standard semi-rigid EVA foam case, suitable for both transport and storage. The accessory pack is very basic but at the price point I’m quite happy - the case is the most important to me. A pair of ear guides and perhaps a shirt clip would’ve been appreciated but aren’t necessary.
Build Quality Overall build quality is very good. The ear pieces, splitter and plug are made of machined aluminum. Strain reliefs are present all round, though the reliefs on the (somewhat small) splitter are internal rather than external but rubber plugs can be seen on close inspection.
The earpieces are a standard straight barrel form-factor and on the smallish side. There are some sharp edges present on the earpieces but I noticed no comfort issues. The strain reliefs are long and flexible and don’t in any way interfere with cable up wear. Anodization is clean and well-executed. The L and R markings are embossed on the strain reliefs and can be difficult to see at times. Driver flex is non-existent.
The splitter and plug are both made of machined aluminum and rather small. Strain reliefs are present on both but somewhat short. The plug is very low profile and has knurling on the body for ease of grip, but is straight (rather than a 90 or 45 degree plug, which I prefer).
The cable merits some attention - though somewhat stiff and a little bit “sticky” it is highly resistant to tangling while still easy to use and move. It is of an internally twisted design with a translucent PU sheath and looks quite good. There was a slight memory effect that lingered for the first day or so but it is all but gone now. The one thing missing that I would’ve liked to see is a cable cinch, and I’m unsure of why companies continue to do this especially since the Bette doesn’t have a microphone.
Comfort, Isolation, Microphonics Comfort is overall excellent, helped in no small part by the small, light earpieces and somewhat shallow fit. There are some sharp edges present on the earpieces but they do not contact my ears at all. Those with small ears and steeply angled ear canals may experience some issues but I would imagine that the vast majority of users will have no fitment problems. The cables are a touch stiff but manageable. Over ear wear is possible even with the long-ish strain reliefs though the lack of a cable cinch can be a problem.
Isolation is moderate given the short insertion depth and small rear vent. This can be improved with longer tips or foam tips but I didn’t find it to be necessary in most instances. The Bettes are relatively forgiving with different sized tips.
Microphonics are low cable down and non-existent cable up.
Sound Quality Between burn-in and listening the Bette’s have some 50 hours on them right now. No noticeable changes were observed.
The Bette is rather easy to drive and I didn’t notice any difference using an amplifier. Most critical listening was done through my Nexus 5.
General Signature The general signature of the Bette hybrids can be described as mildly V-shaped with a slight treble tilt. Overall the sound signature is extremely enjoyable and the tonality can be described as coherent and natural. Clarity is excellent throughout the entire range with the exception of the extreme low extension where the Bettes lose a touch of texture.
Experience with other hybrid headphones has shown that tuning a BA + Dynamic headphone, especially at the low end of the market, can be very difficult. Given the extraordinarily low price of these headphones I’m absolutely astonished at just how well it is tuned.
It is possible to do some mechanical tuning on the Bette Hybrids. Blocking the rear vent doesn't seem to do much, I suspect that it's a depressurizer rather than a tuning vent. However, there is a small, nozzle-mounted vent. Blocking off this vent with a piece of blu-tak or tape increases the base response at the expense of making the soundstage a bit smaller. Mid and high range frequencies are unaffected as far as I can tell.
Bass Bass is punchy, well defined and well controlled though lacking overall impact. Bottom end extension is very good though it lacks some texture at the extremes. There is a slight emphasis to the bass but it’s more in the sub-bass rather than mid-bass region, which contributes to the somewhat linear nature. The Bette takes EQ very well and even with a substantial boost in the low regions (>250hz) bass is very well controlled.
Midrange The midrange is beautiful, smooth, detailed and intimate. Both male and female voices are rendered extremely well, and the lack of a mid-bass boost ensure that no veiling occurs. The midrange is a little bit thicker and smoother compared to non-hybrid BA sets but the clarity is still very good. There is a little bit of emphasis in the upper edges of the midrange that gives electric guitars a characteristic “bite” but is not harsh at all. Detail retrieval is excellent through the midrange without sounding too thin.
Treble Treble is smooth, detailed and well extended. Even though the headphones have a slightly bright tonality the treble is extremely well-behaved - little to no harshness is present and sibilance is non-existant. Some sparkle is present but not a huge amount. Treble extension is very good and retains detail and texture to the limits.
Sound Stage The Bette’s have a medium sized sound stage. There is good width but only moderate depth and height. Instrumental separation and placement are good, and overall imaging as well as centering are excellent. Vocals are on the intimate side.
Conclusion Cheap, well made and they sound great, what else could you want? Seriously, at $36.99 these were asteal.
If there was one thing I would compliment above all else is the tuning. The OEM behind these headphones took the time to tune them so that the BA and dynamic drivers presented a coherent and well integrated sound signature and did so in a way that allowed the drivers themselves to work to their full potential. Take that and add the technical capability of the drivers, the well made and well designed headphones and in my book, you get a heck of a winner.
Pros: Coherent sound signature, good clarity and detail, build quality, comfort Cons: Minimal accessory pack, no packaging, no cable cinch
Macaw GT100S (Silver Reference Nozzle) The Bette’s have more enhanced bass compared to the flatter and thinner Macaw and give up some clarity and detail retrieval in the midrange and treble. That said, the difference between the two is not as much as one might think. The Bette’s are slightly smoother overall and the treble “splashiness” that can occur in the Macaw isn’t an issue with the Bette even though the actual amount of treble is similar between the two. The soundstage is much larger on the Macaw and instrumental separation is better but the Bette’s have slightly better imaging. Vocals also sound more intimate on the Bette compared to the Macaw, which I found distancing overall.
JVC FXT90 The JVCs are more V-shaped, with more bass and treble and a more pushed back midrange. The Bette’s have slightly better control in bass due to lacking a mid-bass hump and the treble harshness in the JVC is all but nonexistent. Clarity and detail retrieval are very similar between the two headphones, but the Bette has better treble control over all and a clearer midrange. The sound stage of the JVC is again somewhat larger than the Bette, but the comparison is much closer here than with the Macaw. I also preferred the tonality of the Bette compared to the JVC, which seemed much more natural to me while the JVC could come across as very metallic.
Maxell DBA-700 The Maxell DBA-700 is another 1+1 hybrid with an 8mm dynamic and single BA. With the strength of the US dollar and the relative weakness of the Japanese Yen the Bette and the Maxell cost more or less the same amount. The Bette betters the Maxell in every way here - it’s not even close. Better bass, better treble, better clarity, better extension at both ends. The midrange on both ‘phones is surprisingly similar but the Bette pulls ahead again here with better detail. Soundstage is a dead win for the Bette here, it’s not even close.
OM Audio Inearpeace The OM Audio is the first truly “good” hybrid headset I ever heard and remains the basis of comparison to most of my headphone collection. The OM has a larger mid-bass hump and more bass overall but still retains excellent control. The midrange is slightly pushed back compared to the Bette but clarity and detail in the mid and high ranges are very similar. The OM has a larger sound stage but imaging on the Bette is better.
ADDIEMs The Bette and Apple have similar bass and midrange amounts, and the Bette has a touch more treble. The Bette has better quality bass, maintaining better texture and note separation at the extremes of the frequency range. Midranges are very similar in terms of clarity but the Bette’s are a touch smoother and thicker though no less lacking in detail compared to the thinner sounding ADDIEMs. The Bette’s have a minor boost in the high-mid/low-treble ranges and sound somewhat brighter than the flatter Apples, but again, no harshness is present. The Bette’s also have the advantage in terms of soundstage - they sound wider and deeper than the more closed-in Apple IEMs while maintaining excellent imaging and instrumental separation.