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Hisoundaudio HSA-AD1 in-ear dual hybrid in-ear monitor with microphone and remote

Rating:
4/5,
  1. Hisoundfi
    Bass and clarity are a great combination! The Hisoundaudio HSA-AD1 hybrid in-ear monitor with single button remote and microphone for Android and IOS
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Feb 15, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Bass forward tuning with great clarity, Lightweight and comfortable design and fit, Universal remote and microphone, Plays all music genres well
    Cons - Will be too bassy for some, No carrying case or pouch, Flat cables have considerable microphonics, Not designed to go over the ear
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    At the time of the review, the Hisoundaudio HSA-AD1 was was on sale on Penon Audio’s website. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
     
    http://penonaudio.com/Hisoundaudio-HSA-AD1
     
    Introduction
    Here we go, another hybrid in-ear hitting the market!
     
    Have you noticed a theme here? It seems like all the sudden there’s an explosion of these things, and truth be told they all sound pretty good!
     
    I’ve been a Penon Audio fan for a while now. I make it a habit to check their web page almost daily to see if they have any new releases. Those of you who are familiar with the site, they always run banners across the top of their page, marketing either existing products or products that will soon be released. For the longest time there was a banner for Hisoundaudio’s new hybrid that is “coming soon.”
     
    I’m not going to lie, I messaged Penon quite a few times asking the status of this. Having heard the Flamenco and ES212 (both of which are very nice sounding budget earphones) and also being a fan of hybrid earphones, I knew this is something to keep on my radar. This back and forth communication regarding these earphones went on for almost a year and a half.
     
    When I received a message that the HSA-AD1 was finally ready, Penon was gracious enough to give me a chance to share a review with the Head-Fi community. Today I have the honor and pleasure to let you know about the new HSA-AD1 from Hisoundaudio.
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given an opportunity to review the HSA-AD1 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Hisoundaudio. I would like to take this time to personally thank Penon Audio not only for the opportunity, but also their commitment to quality customer service. If you plan on purchasing premium audio gear, make sure to put Penon Audio on your list of sellers to consider.
     
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
     
    I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
     
    REVIEW
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    HSA-AD01 comes in a small and somewhat simple and generic looking tan box. The front features nothing except a sketch of the earphones.
     
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    The back of the box has specifications and an introduction to the product. The sides of the box has the Hisoundaudio logo along with a scan code that takes me to the Android Market for an opportunity to download an application called “WeChat.” I’m not sure how this ties into the product.
     
    Specifications and Accessories
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    Specification

    1. Type: Dynamic BA driver in ear
    2. Impedance: 16ohm
    3. Sensitivity: 105Db
    4. Frequency response: 10-23KHz
    5. Maximum SPL: 125db(1KHz,1Vrms)
    6. Earphone jack: 3.5mm
    7. Length of the cable: 127cm
    8. Mic: Yes

    Package

    1. Hisoundaudio HSA-AD1 Earphone
    2. 2 pairs of foam eartips( M/L)
    3. 3 pairs of silicone eartips(S/ M/L)
    4. Free 4 pairs of silicone eartips

     
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    The HSA-AD1 has a great tip selection, offering various silicone tips and also three sizes of foam tips. The silicone tips have a very nice texture and density to help promote a secure fit. The foam tips are a very high quality memory foam that is easy to squeeze, snug into place, and allow the foam to expand and seal well also. One downfall of the HSA-AD1 was that they didn’t include a carrying case. I personally feel that this is a must have for any earphone that eclipses the hundred dollar mark. On a more positive note, Penon Audio has committed to providing several extra pairs of tips to go along with the AD1 package. Thanks Penon Audio!
     
    Housings
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    The HSA-AD1 features an almost all plastic housing with an ergonomic shape set up for under the ear fitment. The faceplates are a brushed plastic with the Hisoundaudio logo printed on it. The inside of the housing is a rounded bean shaped plastic. A braille-like series of dots are located on the inside of the right housing where they lead to the cable, allowing users to differentiate between the left and right channels. The housings are lightweight and seem setup to withstand the test of daily use.
     
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    The AD1 nozzle is very skinny, similar to the Shure lineup. They have what appears to be a plastic exterior with a metal interior ring to support its structural integrity. If there is anything about the housing build that would raise concern it would be the nozzle. Still, if handled with care they should hold up well.
     
    Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
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    Hisoundaudio uses a slim profile rubber jacketed flat cable for their AD1. It has a miniscule amount of spring and virtually no memory and seems pretty durable. Although I’m not a fan of flat cables this particular style, this one is on the better side of what I would consider adequate. The Y-Split is a firm rubber piece of plastic that is slim in profile. The cable jack is a ninety degree 3.5 mm gold plated jack with a firm rubber jacketing. Although Hisoundaudio doesn’t really offer much in terms of strain relief, the ruggedness of the cable should permit the AD1 to hold up well with daily use.
     
    Functionality
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    A universal single button remote and microphone is located about four inches down from the left channel. It was tested and works for both Android and IOS. Thanks to it’s placement, the AD1 worked great for phone calls. Friends and family reported my voice coming through at a four on a scale from one to five.
     
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
    AD1 has a really comfortable under the ear fit. I had no problem wearing them for extended periods of time. However, their shape didn’t promote the most secure fit. Any time the cable would snag something the AD1 was sure to fall out of my ears. The AD1 could also be worn over the ear, but it makes the fit awkward and difficult to get a consistent seal. Wearing them cable down was my preferred fitment. Worn cable down they had a considerable amount of microphonics due to the flat cable . Worn over the ear, there was still a small amount of cable noise but it was more controlled that wearing them down.
     
    Sound Review
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Source Selection
    At 16 Ohms the AD1 is designed to be used with your smartphone. However, I found them to benefit from the use of a portable amplifier. There’s a little bit of magic in their armature driver that’s waiting to be unleashed with higher bitrate files and slightly more powerful sources.
     
    The AD1 is pretty forgiving with poor recordings thanks to their somewhat bassy and warm sound. Still, they upscale pretty well. An amplification bump and high bitrate recording will make these sound tighter, more responsive and detailed. For best results use the AD1 with your best DAP or DAC plugged into your portable device.
     
    Sound Signature
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    The AD1 falls into the “basshead meets audiophile” classification. Bass tones are forward and controlled fairly well. They don’t succumb to the downfalls that many bass forward earphones have. Their response is controlled and robust at lower frequencies and finishes with a smooth but still crisp and extended finish. The overall feel is bass forward and warm without sacrificing resolution or details.
     
    Bass
    Bass tones are extended, authoritative, and slightly more responsive than the average budget IEM. Lower frequencies are in nice balance with equal amounts of rumble and punch. I didn’t get a sense that sub bass or mid bass are in front of each other whatsoever. When listening to them through my LG G3, the bass response was decent but just a bit slow in attack and decay. Switching over to my Shanling H3 on low gain, the bass tightened up quite a bit and although it still wasn’t the most responsive thing I’ve heard, it was pretty fantastic and very enjoyable.
     
    Midbass was controlled in the sense that there isn’t any kind of mid bass bleed. There’s a nice transition from dynamic to armature driver. Although I do feel that the difference in sound between the two drivers will be noticeable to trained ears, they really do compliment each other well. The dynamic driver brings the oomph while the armature provides a very detailed and colder presence to the mix.
     
    Midrange
    Midrange appears to be warm tilted because of the forwardness of the bass response. This part of the AD1 sound is unique, because to my ears the armature driver outperforms the dynamic driver to a certain extent. The armature driver is a cleaner and tighter sound, so at some points where I would say that the AD1 should have timbre and dynamics, it is more of a low end presence that is separate from a very sharp armature response. Because of this I get a quasi-sense of the AD1 being warm tilted, but when listening closely all vocals (including male vocals) sound very natural and not overly warm at all. Some will say that this is a very complete sound because it accomplishes a “best of both worlds” presentation that other in-ears can’t achieve, while others will say that the two drivers need to be more cohesive. I really like the way this presents because I feel that aside from a very beefy bass response the AD1 maintains an excellent level of resolution throughout the midrange and treble areas that is very unique and entertaining.
     
    There is a slight lift and plateau around 2-3k that combined with remarkable clarity that gives vocals a nice bump and balances pretty decently with the bass forwardness. I especially appreciated it when multiple vocals were playing at the same time.
     
    Treble
    Treble is crisp without being harsh at all. I feel this is the part of the AD1 sound that I enjoyed the most. I was able to get every detail without any sense of harshness. There is a gradual recession that tapers off from 3k all the way to the end of the limit of human hearing. Pronunciations of the letters S and T were heard without being fatiguing in the least. The treble seemed extended and smooth at the same time. I can guarantee that many who hear them will really enjoy the treble response of the AD1.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    For the type of tuning the AD1 has, Hisoundaudio has done well in this criteria. I personally don’t feel that a bass forward tuning can provide the same soundstage and imaging as a more neutral and detailed tuning. Still, with the AD01 the dynamic driver depth along with some really great clarity from the armature driver delivers a much better than average soundstage. Imaging is hampered by the slower response of the dynamic driver, but again the armature driver the AD1 has is fabulous and creates a really good sense of instrument placement.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Trinity Delta ($90 to $130 USD on many sites)
    The Delta is a dual hybrid design similar to the AD01. They offer up to 5 different tuning filters and an incredible accessories package.
     
    Because the Delta varies between filters I will try to summarize my comparison. With the bassier filters installed on the Delta, the AD1 and Delta sound similar, with the AD1 having a more enjoyable treble presence. With the less bassy filters installed on the Delta, Trinity offers a more cohesive but also brighter sounding earphone. I really enjoyed the sound of both. If you are looking for an earphone with a more forgiving and less fatiguing sound signature, the AD1 might be the better pick.
     
    Although Hisoundaudio provides a better tip selection, the Delta gets an edge for accessories. Their tuning filters along with a triangular clamshell case trumps the AD1.

     
    VSONIC GR07BE ($90 to $150 USD on many sites)
    The GR07BE is a legendary in ear-monitor. Their biocellulose driver was a breakthrough for in-ear monitors offering a level of resolution that was a game changer at the time of their release. Although technological advancements has subdued the momentum the GR07BE had for a long time, they are still a very relevant and popular IEM.
     
    Comparing the two, the AD1 has a more forward bass presence that is sluggish in comparison to the phenomenal GR07BE tuning. I give midrange and treble advantages to the AD1. The AD1 midrange is more forward and also more clear and detailed. Treble on the AD1 is less fatiguing and just as clear. Soundstage and imaging goes to the GR07BE.
     
    I give a slight edge to the GR07BE for accessories. The AD1 has a better assortment of tips, but the GR07 has a higher quantity of tips, and also a nice leather pouch for transporting the earphones.

     
    Conclusion
    Hisoundaudio stuck to its house sound, and now offers a fidelic upgrade from its past offerings. There is something magical about the armature driver Hisoundaudio has included in this earphone. It is an addictive signature that plays all genres well.
     
    Although this earphone probably won’t change the face of personal audio, there’s lots of things to compliment about the AD1, especially the sound. Moving forward I hope Hisoundaudio can match the AD1 armature driver to a slightly leaner and tighter dynamic driver. I also hope they go away from the flat cable and provide a housing that promotes a better over the ear fit (and chin/neck slider). A clamshell case would also be a much needed accessory next time around.
     
    The AD1 has four and a half star sound, but the previously mentioned tweaks would need to be applied for me to give them a mark this high. I am giving them a four star rating because of these factors.
     
    The AD1 is a phone friendly hybrid that will satisfy your inner basshead while providing a great sense of clarity and detail at the same time. If this is something you are looking for you can’t go wrong with the Hisoundaudio HSA-AD1.
     
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    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      peter123 and twister6 like this.
    1. shigzeo
      I'm confused by the name HiSound Audio. Are they the same company that built and marketed Studio V and AMP3Pro?
      shigzeo, Feb 17, 2016
    2. Hisoundfi
      Yes, they are the same company.
      Hisoundfi, Feb 17, 2016
    3. Drhonker
      Im a big fan of 90° ports, and an even bigger fan of warm, bass heavy cans/iems, Count me in!
      Drhonker, Feb 24, 2016