Price: Retail price is U$499. Final price may vary.
The SR2 review is based a demo unit provided by iBasso. Thank you very much.
The SR2 arrive in a different box than the usual two layer boxes with iBasso earphones and players. Inside there is a black box with a short manual and an extra pair of ear pads, different than the already attached. Below you’ll find the large storage case with the SR2 headphones and a small pouch holding the cable. The cable is terminated in standard 3.5mm plug and it arrives with a 6.3mm adapter attached to it. The storage case is of good quality with dual zipper and with a proper inner design to correctly hold the SR2 headphones.
Build & Design
The SR2 are large over-ear headphones with an open-back design. While I haven’t tried the SR1, I think the SR2 have a more conservative look on them than the original ones, in a simple yet stylish black and silver color theme. Overall build quality may not be outstanding class-leading, but certainly feels solid enough for the price with well selected materials. Well, it clearly is better than similar priced models from Hifiman, but sit behind the so neat Sendy Aiva, and even the Meze 99 feel sturdier at the metal sections. I gratefully received a detailed description of the specific materials chosen for each part of the SR2.
The upper band is made of memory metal. It is not too thick to avoid adding extra weight, but very rigid to maintain its broad arc shape. To the sides there are three plastic parts. The top one is to limit the headband adjustment, and if not wrong, it can be readjusted to a different height by loosening the small screws that attaches its two plastic sides. The second holds the leather headband and act as slider through the whole lower metal band section. And the lower plastic part connects to the yokes and acts as limiter to the minimum headband size. While the sliding mechanism is tight enough it can chip a bit the paint of the metal band – a little cosmetic issue.
The headband is made of real leather (and apparently the same vegetable-tanned leather used on the first SR1). It is thick and quite wide sitting more comfortable at the top of the head. The yokes are made of very thick aluminum and are connected to main band by larger torx screws. They allow a smooth rotation of the cups that can go flat if turned to the back of the headphones and about 30º to the front side. I should note here that with the SR2 unit I received the left yoke got completely loosen after just a short time use and could rotate to a 360º. It wasn’t broken and could be fixed with the proper tools if needed.
The ear cups are also made of aluminum in a completely round shape and have a very smooth finish. With the large drivers inside and the whole suspension mechanism the ear cups are large, but don’t feel heavy, though when combined to the whole structure it results a bit heavy making the SR2 weigh almost 400g. There is a standard 3.5mm socket on each cup in about 45º angle to the front side. There are no side indicators on the cups, only on the inner part of the plastic part above the yokes.
The SR2 include two sets of ear pads of same material, shape and size, only differing by the perforated holes diameter. The already attached pads have very small holes, while the on extra sets are wider making them a bit more breathable with certain effect on the overall sound. The pads attached very tightly to the cups and may take a bit of time to exchange. The padding inside is very soft. The inner diameter of the pads seems fine for small to medium sizes ears, and they have more than enough depth (my ears never reach the drivers’ side unless really pressing the cups). The pads also have an angled shaped, thinner at the front and thicker to the back for what I find them more ergonomic.
Overall, the SR2 are above average in terms of comfort if a little on the heavy side. The headband can be adjusted for small heads but people with larger heads may find them more suitable with a better distributed weight. I personally found no uncomfortable clamping force with the SR2, but as usual your mileage may vary, especially those with larger heads.
The cable is very nice in both design and build, and so far the best I’ve tried on any headphones at around this price. It is a 4-strand cable, softly braided at the lower half and twisted at each right and left sides. It is very soft with zero memory effect and carries no noise. The outer transparent jacket allows seeing the inner silver wire inside; not sure if it is silver or silver-plated copper. The 1.8m length is suitable for desktop use, but not ideal for portable use. The plugs are standard 3.5mm TRS connecting to each side of the headphone with red and blue indicators but no R and L markings. The cable is terminated in a 3.5mm TRS straight plug. I wished it was a 2.5mm balanced cable as with the other iBasso IEMs, but the SR2 does not require too much driving power to sound good. All the plugs are well covered by aluminum round pieces. The 6.3mm adapter follows the same design as the cable plugs and it is well attached to the 3.5mm plug by a simple screw mechanism.
The SR2 rate an impedance of 24 Ohms and sensitivity of 108 dB so can be driven easily from many sources. However, they do scale better well with certain players. Sound is good from any decent player or amplifier. Main impressions were primarily taken with the DX220 (AMP1 Mk2 & AMP9), but also with DX160 and Shanling M5s and M6. For a more portable option, the Hiby R3 Pro can also push them to a very good level, or the Qudelix 5K if you prefer a BT solution. Also tested with the Aune X1s Amp/Dac for desktop use, which brings some changes and improvements to the SR2 sound.
Prior to writing the final impressions, the SR2 run under at least 100hrs as suggested from iBasso. It is hard to say how much of benefit the headphones got as I only briefly listened to them before that. Regardless, the sound is good enough to deserve a positive feedback. Overall, I would be describing the SR2 sound as warm and full with a slight dark presentation. ‘Balanced’ it is not, but rather warm and rich tonality through the whole frequency response, as it shows a clear bias towards the low frequencies. A characteristic I found on all the iBasso in-ear models which always present a good mix of quality and quantity, and now taken into a full-size open headphone design. As such, there is plenty of room for the midrange and highs to play along with a well-rounded soundstage and an already common sense musicality that iBasso products present. The SR2 sound is not as colored as the 99 Classics from Meze, but certainly more flavored than the more neutral Senn HD650/660s series.
The second set of ear pads having wider holes on them provide a better balance for the SR2. With the already attached ones the sound is warmer/thicker while the extra pads give more air and separation. It is definitely a nice addition to the whole accessories pack and the differences are worth a try.
The most immediate part to notice out of the SR2 is the enhanced low-end with an extra emphasis at the mid/upper bass region, holding the sub-bass a bit further. Even so, the whole low-end response is well layered and impactful. Still not heavy-bass headphones, not sufficient quantity and power for true bass-heads fans, but otherwise they have more than enough rumble and depth. Speed is also pretty good, and while not as fast and accurate as planar drivers, they SR2 show good control and more natural decay.
Despite the elevated mid-bass and warm tonality, the midrange remains clear and detailed. It has a certain level of coloration but feels quite natural. It has fullness and a smooth and rich texture. Not really forward but definitely not distant. The lower-mids are thicker while the upper range is less weighted. While it never sounds lean or cold it can be a bit dry, especially at the upper-mid range with female vocals. The separation is quite good, with enough air and space between instruments and vocals sound well balanced into the mix. While it feels a bit more as a ‘safe’ tuning, cutting sibilance or harshness, upper acoustics and string instruments still show a needed amount of brightness as to not sound ‘off’ or boring.
The treble is equally balanced with the midrange in terms of quantities, so behind the low-end yet well present. However, not as smooth as the midrange as there is some unevenness and sharpness that turns the highs less linear. It is quite more natural and comfortable than for example the Meze 99, though not as linear as the HD660s or Sundara but much more forgiving than the Sendy Aiva. Treble extension is good, maybe not as far as on the low-end (and shorter than the above two planar headphones); the extra included pads do help here.
Clarity and resolution are above the average with good level of detail even though it is not focused into all the micro-details. In spite of the enhanced low-end and warm, richer tonality on the SR2 the sound is fairly open with enough headroom. There is good sense of space and soundstage as expected with the open design, with more width than depth or height.
Paired with the Aune X1s amp/dac the presentation changes to a more forward and aggressive take. The bass maintains the same balance, though tighter and faster with a better level of dynamics. The midrange is more elevated, especially at the upper range giving more energy to upper instruments and vocals. The treble is the most changed (blame it to the Sabre DAC or not) sounding brighter and aggressive; not necessarily more detailed, but yes more balanced or at least ‘v-shaped’ balanced. In general the sound benefits from having more body and a richer texture through the midrange, while the soundstage remains the same in size.
I still find the better synergy with the DX220 DAP and its stock AMP1, for the simple reason it gives better balance to the SR2, elevating the upper-mid and treble, and giving more control to the bass. With the DX160 and R3 Pro the sound is smoother and darker with a greater mid-bass lift, and while with the more neutral and transparent small 5K it has a more limited soundstage, the tonality is a bit more balanced that the DX160 or R3.
All-in-all, SR2 headphones present a solid product with a nice design and well-tuned sound presentation. At a ~$500 price they are currently one of the top models of the company and a new contender for the mid-fi options (or entry mid-fi for some). They may not be the best in comfort for everyone (including myself) and are a bit on the heavy side too. On the bright side, the SR2 are relatively easy to drive and the sound tuning does not compromise much with different music genres. They also scales better with more power and can show a more positive synergy when paired with different and more audio dedicated sources.
iBasso SR2: A respectable gentleman does not hide emotions
I am glad to inform you that today we have in our editorial office another creation from a brand that does not require special introduction, iBasso. Testing new developments from this reputable company is always an interesting and exciting activity. The full-size SR2 headphones that finally arrived to me were no exception. The predecessors, SR1, somehow passed our editorial board, but I think it will be more interesting to get to know their successors right away, because iBasso engineers always manage to perfect even their most successful developments, making them even better.
SR2 is a semi-open headphone built on a dynamic driver with flexible silicone suspension, Tesla magnet system and biocellulose domed diaphragm. According to the designers, the result of the combination of these technologies is a wide dynamic range and excellent transient characteristics. And the elasticity of silicone is combined with a Tesla magnet to deliver precise, detailed, high-resolution sound, while the biocellulose diaphragm delivers smooth, comfortable sound. In general, everything is smooth, detailed and with due expression.
My description sounds promising, let's find out how the headphones actually sound.
The headphones are delivered in a large cardboard box with excellent silver-gray printing: the brand logo on top, a photo of the headphones with the model name, familiar to all audiophiles as "Our Father", the inscription "High Definition Headphones" and driver technology refinement. Detailed specifications are shown on the back.
Inside we find a hard case with a zipper, in which there are headphones and a replaceable cable, and another small box with replaceable ear pads and instructions-guarantees.
The status of the headphones emphasizes their aesthetically restrained, "gentlemanly" look. Premium sound should live in its proper place, you can't argue with that.
Silver ear cups (once again, I note the semi-open acoustic design) and black arches, on which a soft and extremely comfortable headband made of high-quality leatherette is attached, are made of metal. The fastening elements of the headband arcs to the cups are made of durable plastic. The outer side of the cups is framed in a circle with the inscription "High Definition Headphones SR2 Design by iBasso Audio" and is securely closed with a black metal mesh.
At the bottom there are connectors for connecting a 3.5mm cable.
The ear pads are voluminous and extremely soft, simply airy, made of leatherette with perforation throughout the surface. Thanks to the ergonomic design and softness of the ear pads, the SR2 sit on your head more than comfortably and their weight (395 grams) is almost imperceptible. Moreover, I became so friends with SR2 during our long joint music parties that by the end of the audio testing, removing them from my head, I felt that my head no longer had enough of their comfort and warmth. A little more and I would give them a name and start talking to them (joke, just a joke).
Nice braided cable made of monocrystalline copper. It is silver in color, very elastic, with 3.5 mm jack connectors on one side (connected to headphones) and a 3.5 mm jack with an adapter to 6.3 mm TRS, made in the same style, on the other. Even in the solo nomination, this cable is worthy of admiration, and its duet with SR2 gave me a real visual delight; in one word - stylish!
So, after the first act of our Marlezon ballet (kit, appearance, workmanship and convenience), the headphones confidently gain the highest points. Now let's immediately move from this wonderful overture to the symphonic part, namely to the sound talents of SR2!
The headphones were burn-in for 70 hours before listening.
Listening (audio testing) was conducted on: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, QLS QA-361, iBasso DX220 (AMP7), DX220 MAX & iFI micro iDSD Black Lable.
With all sound sources, the headphones played at a decent level.
The SR2 sound is balanced, open, with a well-developed low-frequency range, with a light elegant afterburner in the midbass area, smooth and rich mids, with good resolution, as well as a clean and unobtrusive high-frequency range.
It is a smooth and sweet-voiced manner, where the main focus is on the mids, and the low and high registers interact clearly and harmoniously with the midrange and add character to the sound.
The musical canvas is drawn broadly, in contrast, in detail, with good separation of instruments, the transfer of textures, timbres and a scrupulous display of all the small nuances of the composition. It is a dynamic and well-balanced manner, where sound images intertwine and form a skillfully assembled mosaic.
The headphones strike a good balance between serious academic manners and the emotional component of the music.
iBasso SR2 builds excellent stereo panorama and have good detail, presenting songs legibly, smoothly, broadly and musically.
Low frequencies have good articulation, density and punch. The bass is thick, firm and deep. It is neatly forced: it is not a "hump" at all, but a light and elegant rise. It clearly interacts with the mid-range register, complementing it with depth and rhythmic basis. The drum kit sounds dense and rather sharpened: the rumblings of the beats effectively scatter on both sides of the head of the admiring listener.
As I already mentioned, the lower register unconditionally supports the mid-range, which is assigned the leading position in SR2, and the lows add a little warmth and lively body substance.
Mids are smooth, smooth and natural. Here, each musical image is endowed with its own tangible basis (thanks again to the lows). The flow of the mid-range register is simultaneously solid, smooth, velvety and extremely detailed. Drive, emotion and dry neutrality are perfectly combined here. Every timbre, every vibration of a voice or tremor of a string is transmitted naturally and deeply, naturally, evenly and melodiously, without a hint of synthetics.
High frequencies are reproduced clearly and harmoniously. Quantitatively, there are not many and not a few - more is not necessary, since, to my taste, the delicacy of the highs is only beneficial here. The register is transmitted clearly enough, comfortably, without excessive sharpness and distortion. He diligently contributes to the overall work, exactly matching the entire sound canvas. Pure harmony and nothing more. And such obedience is a good level for such a capricious register.
In terms of genre preferences, SR2 confidently show their versatility. In my opinion, they play rather interestingly both instrumental music, jazz, electronics, rock, and brutal genres.
SR2 is the case when you predict everything even before you include the first piece of music. These headphones, like a respectable gentleman, can do a lot, but do not try to amaze you with catchy effects. Oh no, in a world of beauty, fairground tricks are inappropriate. The style in this case is observed in everything: from the impeccable appearance, the most comfortable and well-thought-out design to the high-quality, neutral, detailed, melodic sound. Such an audio signature, I am sure, is able to satisfy the needs of the widest circle of music lovers.
Once again, I say this phrase, but you cannot erase words from the song: the engineers of the iBasso company coped with their task brilliantly - the headphones turned out to be very good. Well, as a code that concludes our lofty review, a few words about the price. The SR2 has a suggested retail price of $ 549. Considering the good kit, great design, build quality, ergonomics and - most importantly - great sound, I find the cost of these headphones more than acceptable.