iBasso IT03

Rating:
4.46154/5,
Tags:
  1. thelittleaudiophile
    iBasso IT03
    Written by thelittleaudiophile
    Published Jul 30, 2018
    4.5/5,
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    SPECIFICATIONS:


    Driver: 2 x Balanced Armature + 1 x Dynamic Driver

    Impedance: 8 ohms

    Frequency response: 10 – 30,000 Hz

    Sensitivity: 105 dB

    Connector: MMCX

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to iBasso in any way and do not benefit monetarily or in any other form for writing this review. I purchased this in-ear monitor with my own resources and I am simply giving my honest review of the product!
    Review by: “Charlie” from The Little Audiophile

    iBasso IT03 Recommended Retail Price (at time of writing): S$379

    TLA Score
    Physical Attributes
    Comfort: 9/10
    Durability: 9/10
    Ease of Wearing: 7/10
    Noise Isolation: 9/10
    Microphonics: 8/10
    Value for Money: 8/10

    Sonic Attributes
    Bass: 8/10
    Mids: 7/10
    Trebles: 8/10
    Sound Stage: 9/10
    Separation & Imaging: 8/10
    Source Matchability: 6/10

    iBasso is a brand name that needs no introduction in the audio enthusiast realm. The DX200 and DX80 DAPs are just some of the popular products under iBasso’s belt, to name a couple. With all these experience in this market, iBasso ventured out and developed their first IEM – the iBasso IT03. Subsequently, iBasso released the IT01 soon after and the IT04 is hitting the stores (in Singapore at least) really soon.

    Coming back to the topic, I purchased the IT03 from Zeppelin & Co.located inside Sim Lim Square and I have been evaluating this IEM ever since. With the launch of the IT04, I think it would be great to touch base and talk about the IT03 for a bit. So, for my humble opinions on the IT03, do read on!

    THE BOX
    If there is one thing that iBasso really knows about the packaging is that first impressions count. I must say, for the price the IT03 is one of the most professionally packaged IEM I have encountered. It is minimalistic yet practical. The box on the iBasso is slightly on the larger size for an IEM. It has the typical picture of the IEM in the front, some specs and relevant information on the sides. Nothing out of the ordinary.

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    Slide away the white shroud thingy, it reveals the all-black box with houses all the goodies you paid for. Open the magnetic flip black box and you are greeted with a frequency response graph and the obsidian black IT03 on the top shelf. On the bottom shelf, you will find the genuine leather (GENUINE, MIND YOU!) carrying case, along with a ton of ear tips and a warranty card.

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    Personally, I think the inclusion of the frequency response graph is a good way of advising the listener on what sound signature to expect from the IEM. However, I would have preferred it if iBasso included the frequency response chart with the different tips attached while having the measurements available on their website instead (the IT03 measurements charts are not available on iBasso’s official website). I know this is sitting on the lines of nit-picking and it is what sounds best to the individual user that really matters, but having solid data and measurements is always good nonetheless.

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    IEM Case
    One thing I need to address is that the provided IEM case is just so stupidly small, I can barely fit the IT03 into the leather case. I like the genuine leather case provided, but unfortunately, it just cannot fulfil its intended purpose.

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    BUILD AND DESIGN
    Housing
    Just like all of iBasso’s DAPs, they did not cheap out on their IEM line of products and the IT03 is built really well and the design is very robust. I trust this IEM would survive the abuse of being an everyday carry.

    The shell is made of a high-quality plastic that is only available in the obsidian black colour, unlike the funky little brother, the IT01, which is available in all black, or red and blue (for the right and left housing respectively).

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    The MMCX female connector is secured well on the IT03 and I do not see them facing issues of the connector sinking into the shell over repeated plug-ins and outs. Also, the connector is of pretty good quality and would not dent or bend if the user takes decent care when cleaning or plugging or unplugging the cable.

    Cable
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    The cable provided with the IT03 is a tightly braided 4-core Oxygen-Free Copper cable and is actually of pretty high quality in my opinion. It sports a very robust TRS 3.5mm jack and shroud, along with memory ear guides. Nothing fancy, but essential in the making of a good all rounder IEM. Do note that the provided cable does not come with an in-line microphone, though you will be able to switch third-party MMCX cables with an in-line mic.

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    I have found that the male MMCX connector on the provided cable has a slightly protruded shroud, in which you may not be able to use this cable with other IEMs.

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    COMFORT
    The IT03 is shaped very much like how a Custom IEM would, less the nozzle region. There is a protrusion in the shell above the nozzle to fit into the concha of the ear. The bore of the nozzle is also substantial in size (like T400/T500 kind of size), though the shaft is not unnecessarily long.

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    The IT03 fit me well, though for some your mileage may vary. The protrusion for the concha and wide nozzle may not fit users with smaller ears. Anyways, in my experience, there was just a tad bit of heat build up over extended listening sessions (2+ hours) and the large nozzle was not fatiguing for my large ears for I am a good listener (hehe)! I will talk about tip selection regarding comfort in the later segments of the review.

    SOUND QUALITY
    Honestly, the IT03 did not impress me during my initial auditions at Zeppelin & Co. (on a side note, the staff at Zeppelin & Co. had been really awesome as I auditioned the IT03 many times over my visits to their shop because I was frankly undecided if I wanted to pick a pair up. Thank you for being so patient with me XD).

    After trying the IT03 out for a little longer, I started to fall in love with them. Here’s why…

    Pre – Burn In
    Burn-in – do you believe in it?

    Out of the box, the first thing you’d probably notice when you play your first track is “Damn… these IEMs are peaky and sharp as heck! In the Trebs! Damn… NID inducing” Well, I won’t lie, they really are. I was going through my albums and I came across the track “Do Something Good” by Zayn, which was a sibilance fest. The “S” consonants and cymbals we so pronounced that it literally just ruined the whole song.

    Sub-bass was seismic and a tad bit loose. Though I do not really mind this as much as the peaky trebles, the raw sub-bass can get a little bit overbearing on bassy tracks.

    Sound Stage and Imaging
    Nonetheless, the soundstage is VERY wide. I’d say there is a greater sense of width than depth and height, however. There is this very cool almost “surround sound” effect where on one track (can’t remember which one though :p), the soundstage was from my 7 o’clock to my 5 o’clock, and this isn’t even supposed to be a binaural track. With me being able to perceive the exact point where the sound is, it shows how accurate the imaging is on the IT03. In short, the wide soundstage coupled with excellent imaging makes a very immersive listening experience..

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    Post – Burn In
    After about 100 hours of run-time, I can safely say that the peaky-ness has mostly resolved itself and the bass has tightened up a little bit. I revisited the song “Do Something Good” and found that the “essy” sibilance has lessened (not disappeared though).

    Sound Signature
    I found that the IT03 has a rather U-shaped, aggressive sound signature and has a higher treble presence than bass presence. The excellent, detailed treble response means that the IT03 is quite a resolving pair of IEM.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    Soundstage remains unchanged or that the changes are too minute for me to pick up, even after the 100-hour burn-in, so I shall not mention about it again.

    Bass
    The bass on the IT03 is fantastic. It has enough impact and has a fantastic extension to come off as energetic and full. There is slightly more audible sub-bass than mid-bass and does not muddy the mids in any way. I’d say bass-head should stay away from this IEM though as although the bass is energetic, it might be a little too quick and decays a little too fast for bass-philes.

    Mids
    The mids are no slouch either. I love how the vocals sound clean and uncongested, especially on live-recordings. For male vocals, I especially liked listening to Ed Sheeran’s “So” with this IEM as I could almost feel that he meant every word he sang.

    Female vocals were again fantastic. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman was a complete joy to listen to as could really “feel” the song and that I too really wanted to cross the border and (go) into the city to… I dunno… something.

    However, with all these good things said about the vocals, I should say that the vocals are not (and nowhere near thick). They are slightly lean and therefore does not have the “chesty” kind of sound which occurs when there is a hump in the lower-mids.

    String instruments were fast and engaging to listen to. Guitar plucks were very crispy and the fast decay does not smear the following note. The boost in the upper-mid range meant that guitars and especially acoustic tracks are something to ride home about.

    Trebles
    Smooth, analytical, revealing, sparkly. These are the words I’d use to describe the trebles. Trebles are forward so they do add details to the vocals and also expand the soundstage.

    Do note that the IT03 will reveal nuances in poorly recorded tracks and can be fatiguing to listen to on such tracks. Other than that, trebles are lovely and extremely well detailed for the price.

    PAIRING
    Alternative Ear tips
    Final Audio Type-E
    I found that the Final Audio tips helped make the vocals more articulate while introducing some sibilance. It provides a great seal, though the insertion is not very deep.

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    Sony Hybrid
    These tips helped make the IT03 sound a little fuller in the mids, while not introducing any sibilance into the tracks. I do not notice any difference in the bass response with these tips. Insertion, like the Final Audio tips, is not particularly deep.

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    KZ Starline
    With the KZ Starline tips, you are as close to making the IT03 fit like a custom as you can get. The insertion is deeper than the Sony Hybrid or the Final Audio Type-E tips, but it does not feel abrasive or uncomfortable in the ear. These tips do, however, elevate the bass response a tad bit, especially in the mid-bass.

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    3rd Party Cable
    I threw on an Infinity Audio Copper Litz Cable just to mute the trebles a little while forwarding the mids and bass a tad bit. I personally prefer this pairing as although the IT03 is no longer as analytical as with the stock cable, tracks just feel richer and more weighty.

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    Sources
    I found that a warm sounding source compliments the U-shaped sounding IT03 the best. As such, the Astell & Kern AK Jr with Fiio Q1MKii slung as AMP was my choice of pairing over the Fiio Q1MKii as a DAC as the pairing, to simply put, lost all its charm. Really.

    Also, do note that the IT03 shares the similar characteristic as most other multi-driver hybrids, which is that it needs a competently powerful source to be able to get the full performance out of this IEM. For example, I tried this IEM with my Sony Xperia XA1, which does not have a very powerful amplifier. The experience was just… Yuck. The sound presentation and dynamics just sounded off.

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    SELECT COMPARISONS
    Note: All prices stated were at the time of writing.

    IT03 Vs Shure SE535 LTD [S$729]

    The Shure SE535 LTD is a fairly popular IEM and is relatively neutral. As such, I will use this as a baseline comparison with the IT03

    The SE535 LTD is intended to be a stage monitor, thus the tuning is pretty flat. The sound signature is neutral to a slightly dark, with a rolled-off treble. The mids are flat and the bass is nowhere accentuated.

    In comparison, the IT03 is more U-shaped. Bass on the IT03 has better impact and weight while mids sound a little leaner. Treble wise, the IT03 is brighter and more detailed, though definitely the more fatiguing of the two. Between the two, the IT03 is the one with the wider soundstage.

    IT03 Vs IT01 [S$149]

    Now, this has gotta be interesting. It’s sibling rivalry time. But unfortunately, not really. Despite sharing the IT0x name, they are vastly different in sound signature.

    The IT01 has a balanced sound signature with lower-mid warmth. Bass is emphasized and is pleasantly weighty. Though the bass does not decay very quickly, it does not sound bloated or overbearing. As such, it is a very natural sounding bass. Mids are pretty smooth with warmth in the lower-mids, in which male vocals sound especially erm… “luscious”. Trebles are not accentuated and are very unintrusive. There is sufficient detail, though I would have preferred a slightly more forward treble. The soundstage on the IT01 is also decent with more width than height.

    The IT03 has the more “audiophile” tuning of the two. The overall bass region is less thick and more agile. Mids are leaner than that of the IT01 but do seem more articulate. The IT03 is also very much brighter, more detailed and more prone to sibilance, with it’s BA driver working the trebles. Soundstage is much wider on the IT03 than on the IT01.

    CONCLUSION
    The iBasso IT03 is a fantastic IEM for the price. Not many other IEM manufacturers are able to deliver such performance at under S$400 and I truly believe that this IEM strikes well above its price range, especially when you have found the right pairing. If you do wish to pick one up, do audition it first as the fit might not be for you.

    With a fantastic build quality and a ton of accessories, you do not need to worry about these breaking if you take adequate care of them. Also, I wanna say EXPERIMENT. Try the IT03 with different cables and different tips. See what you like and it will grow on you, as it has for me. That is all for now I guess… Thanks for reading and see you in the next one!

    Do check out our WordPress site at https://thelittleaudiophile.wordpress.com/ for more reviews!
  2. Zelda
    iBasso IT03 – A new challenger for the Musicality
    Written by Zelda
    Published Jul 3, 2018
    4.0/5,
    REVIEW: iBasso IT03 – A new challenger for the Musicality title

    it03 (7).JPG



    Specifications
    • Drivers: Dynamic: 9.2mm Driver for low freq. & Balanced Armature: Knowles dual BA for mid and high freq.
    • Freq. Response: 10Hz-30kHz
    • Sensitivity: 105+/-2dB
    • Impedance: 8 ohm
    • Noise Attenuation: -30dB
    • Rated Power: 5mW
    • T.H.D: <1% (at 1kHz /1mW)
    • Plug Size: 3.5mm gold-plated
    • Cord Length: 1.2m
    • Weight: 9g without cable


    Price (MSRP): U$D 260


    The box…

    The IT03 arrives in a nice hassle-free box. The earpieces are well arranged and protected and the cable tightly wrapped. The accessories are all placed at the second section which include 3 sets of single flange eartips (in 3 sizes per set) and a genuine leather carrying case. The eartips arrive in two types, narrow and wide bore. A larger variation of tips should have been added for this price, like double flange and foam tips. Also, the case is very small to hold the large earpieces inside.

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    The Design

    A piano black color theme with a very classy and elegant look surrounds the IT03 everywhere. The shells are all made of a thick acrylic material with a completely smooth surface and zero sharp edges. The shape is very unique taking a custom-like form factor, and the size is quite large indeed. The nozzle is wider than standard and not too long, and also lacks the stopper at the upper part to properly fit the eartips, what limits a lot the possibility of extra tips rolling.

    The included detachable cable utilizes the standard MMCX connections; never been my favorite choice, but it’s very popular. The earpieces’ sockets allows any regular MMCX cable to be used on the IT03, but the included cable can’t be used with every IEM. The cable itself consists of a twisted 4-wire and it’s ended in a very solid L-angled metal plug. The cable doesn’t tangle too much and microphonics are nonexistent.

    Now, trying to fit the IT03 might be quite a challenge at first. The universal custom-like shape means the IEM needs to be fit in a similar twist motion as a real Custom IEM. The nozzle is not as long as with a full CIEM so the IT03 doesn’t get too deep into the ear canal, but the rest of the earpiece sits almost like any Custom made IEM filling the whole outer ear cavity. Those who are not used to CIEMs will need some practice at first, but it becomes very natural afterwards and easier than real customs in-ears.

    While the fit is very secure, the comfort is not the best. The shells are very large and probably meant for medium to large ears. I don’t have large ears myself and the IT03 tends to cause some discomfort usually after an hour of use. Having a custom shape might look nice on a universal earphone, but it also limits the fit for many people. Personally, I think a more standard ergonomic shell would be a wiser option for a next earphone release from iBasso.

    Apart from that, the isolation is very high among universal fit IEMs, getting close to full sealed acrylic custom in-ear models.

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    Into the Hybrid Sound…


    The combination of both drivers technology, dynamic and balanced armature, is always a challenge. I’ve already auditioned a long list of hybrid in-ear models from various companies from the sub $50 range to over $500 including Custom ones, some of them being superb masterpieces and others utterly awful in every bit part of their sound. Selecting the right dynamic driver and choosing the best BA unit(s) and then tune them together into a single shell is not an easy task, and matching their speeds and decay needs extra dedication to avoid (in)coherence issues as much as possible. A small mistake and you get a terrible V-shaped response, a serious lack of bass quality or an overly bright product. But, if done right, you got yourself an excellent earphone which can manages every frequency at its best.

    As for the new released iBasso IT03 hybrid, while I don’t know the full details about the R&D, it’s not hard to tell that the engineers put a lot of effort and dedication to make this earphone. The IT03 is quite different from other hybrid sets that sell at a similar $200-300 bracket, not just in its unique shell design but most importantly in its sound tuning.

    Overall, it has a very warm and engaging sound with a very strong and dominant sense of musicality that takes all the attention from the listener. While the 9mm driver inside takes a main role in the stage, it still gives enough space to the natural mids and smooth highs to play along in a coherent and unison way with the low end, with a large and deep sense of stage.


    The “Bass” in the iBasso…


    At the low end, with a 9.2mm Dynamic driver, the IT03 is very powerful and full-bodied, carrying great impact and more than enough of weight. The whole bass is always very present and quite dominant, but more focused into the mid and upper regions rather than the lower sub-bass parts. Its strong presence takes a lot of attention from the listener, but it isn’t something too overpowering and actually has a great control with heavier tracks. I wouldn’t classify it as pure basshead, but it is not too far from being one; in fact, any bass boost could easily make the IT03 a bass monster. Regardless the source or track, the low-end sounds very full, thick with a strong of attack if the music allows it, and a very correct decay. Sometimes it may be a bit boomy and show a slight bleed into the midrange but it remains well controlled and can be easily separated from the rest of the sound just adding a better sense of warmth and more importantly a good sense of musicality.

    Extension is very decent and quite effortless, though the IT03 is not particularly a fast hybrid at the lows, nor the most accurate and informative in its lowest frequencies; the Dunu DN-2000 while stronger in impact and more aggressive, also sounds more spacious and fuller with its larger dynamic driver. The new DN-2002 with its double dynamic drivers is much faster and cleaner as well. Nevertheless, the IT03 is well tuned for any kind of drums,
    metal, rock or pop genres.


    Add ‘Balance’d to the ‘Dynamic’s and dive into the midrange…

    For starters, we have the well-known and so famous twin BA drivers from Knowles, the tiny TWFK (in whatever version). Nothing new for a triple-driver hybrid option nowadays. The so pricey K3003 from AKG, the Dunu’s and many other hybrid sets all of them included these dual balanced drivers for their mids and highs, and yet all of them turned to be quite different from each other due their respective dynamic part, filters/damping and final tuning. The iBasso offer is no exception. Being a fan of the TWFK in its ‘pure’ (no hybrid) implementation, I always have my doubts on how ‘another’ new hybrid may result with this small and yet extremely detailed and accurate drivers.

    The midrange is full thanks to the lower end dynamic driver part, though it can result a bit overshadowed by the extra mid-bass kick, especially when paired with a warmer sounding source. Even though, the real bass bleed is kept as minimal as possible, giving a relatively flatter midrange response, followed by a strong clarity and detail. Still, overall accuracy is not the main offer of the IT03, which seems aimed for a more musical and engaging presentation rather than a ‘reference’ signature type, making a different use of the extreme clarity and high level of detail of the smallest Knowles dual drivers. It’s not a real v-shaped sound that gives a more distant midrange for a pronounced bass and too sparkly highs, but the powerful low end may overshadow the rest of the frequencies sometimes.

    Anyway, regardless the bass response, I still find that the special part of the IT03 is in its midrange. Generally, it is somewhat more distant to create a better sense of space but knows when to be pushed forward when it gets to the voices sounding smooth and sweet. Male voices sound full and well balanced with the low end, and while female voices are also well placed they are just a tad thinner in texture.

    All in all, the mids on the IT03 may not be too forward to fall under a mid-focused IEM and won’t be the best match for accuracy, but they have that special and unique sense of musicality within.


    Reaching the Highs…

    The treble on the IT03 is a bit different than the other similar triple hybrid IEM sets (with similar Knowles drivers). It is more laid-back but not rolled-off, full and present in its musical presentation. Despite the lack of treble emphasis, the IT03 can’t be called dark or off sounding, but might be considered a bit “safe” with its less sparkly, smooth and more inoffensive presentation. The treble detail is very good in the TWFK based driver fashion, but not a true TWFK analytical or overly bright signature. The IT03 doesn’t carry the airy feel of the discontinued Rock-it R-50M or DBA02/B2, and surprisingly it also doesn’t have the same accuracy level of those, though it’s less treble emphasis works as wonder to control down the extra harshness or sibilance that these tiny Knowles drivers usually deliver.

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    Soundstage & Presentation

    The soundstage is rather large when the IT03 is properly powered. It’s very equal in terms of width and height for an IEM, and has excellent depth. Separation and positioning are very good, though the IT03’s ability to give an engaging and musical presentation gives up significantly in timbre and imaging that hybrid sets can offer at this price point. It’s still has a very enjoyable sense of realism that can be addicting despite not having the most coherent 3D effect.
      B9Scrambler likes this.
  3. Layman1
    Forgotten Corner: A review of the iBasso IT03
    Written by Layman1
    Published Mar 14, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Huge soundstage, outstanding separation, detail and clarity, combined with musicality and a top-notch low end.
    Cons - None really; if I were forced to nitpick, I would suggest the $89 iBasso CB12 as a cable upgrade.
    A review of the iBasso IT03 In-Ear Monitor (IEM):


    Introduction:

    As one of the well-respected old-timers on the DAP (Digital Audio Player) scene, iBasso raised a few eyebrows a year or so ago when they decided to venture into the congested and competitive IEM market. They released the IT03, a hybrid IEM featuring a dynamic driver combined with two balanced armatures, priced at $259 at the time of writing.

    Since I started writing this review (months ago!), they have released the IT01 (a single dynamic driver, priced at $99) and are about to release the IT04 (1 DD plus 3 BA’s, priced at $499).


    I own the IT01, and since I received it, I listened to it non-stop, to the exclusion of the IT03 and my TOTL Noble Katana. This was partly due to the extensive recommended burn-in period and partly due to it being crazily great for the price, featuring a stunning low end which combines well with an otherwise balanced and cohesive sound signature that has detail and sparkle in spades.

    Terrific as an on-the-go IEM (and I am frequently on the go!), and good enough to satisfy deeply for more critical listening at home.

    NB: for anyone reading who might not be familiar with the ‘lingo’, TOTL = Top Of The Line; a flagship model, usually with a high price tag attached.


    I have also heard a demo model of the upcoming IT04, which blew me away in basically every regard!


    With the (pretty deserved) hype of the IT01 and the upcoming IT04, the IT03 seems to have been somewhat overlooked in recent discussions.

    I heard a Chinese phrase some years ago; I don’t know if it’s still in common use, but it humorously refers to things or people being relegated to ‘forgotten corner’; I can’t help feeling that this has been the fate that has befallen the IT03 of late!


    Upon a sudden whim, I picked up the IT03 a few days ago and revisited it.

    I was immediately blown away by its qualities and remembered why I’d loved it so much in the first place. It has gone straight back to being my first-choice IEM.

    Hence, I decided to force myself to make the time to return to this review and finish it off!

    This IEM deserves the exposure, without question.

    Without wanting to give too much away, this IEM absolutely warrants your time, I guarantee it!

    Read on for more, intrepid explorers!


    The IT03 can be purchased directly from iBasso (and shipped to many locations) at the following link (correct at time of writing):

    http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=4756


    A (somewhat lengthy) bit of preamble first:



    The Fit:

    Regarding the fit, I think one’s individual ear anatomy will play a part in how comfortable these are for you, along with a bit of care being taken as to putting them in.

    The protruding upper nodule makes a useful anchoring point that remains unnoticeable when correctly positioned. However, sometimes I’ve become aware of it digging uncomfortably into my ear, but this is due to me either failing to put it in correctly first time, or fiddling with it unconsciously and moving it slightly out of position. This caveat aside, I love how securely these IEM’s fit and never have trouble getting a good seal with the right kind of tips.


    Tip Selection:

    This is an important factor with these IEM’s that should not be overlooked.

    The first time I heard them, I felt they displayed a jaw-droppingly huge soundstage and stunning transparency, clarity and airiness.

    However, I recall thinking “wow.. where’s the bass?!” (especially since I was expecting this to be a strong point in an IEM containing a good quality dynamic driver).

    That was with Silicone tips, which I generally never get along well with and have trouble gaining a good seal (I have large manly ear canals, heh).

    Once I switched over to Comply-style memory foam tips, the qualities I noticed in my initial impressions all decreased to a slight degree, but then I discovered the magnificent bass capabilities of the IT03. Switching to Crystalline Audio’s Crystal Tips (the name represents the sound quality rather than the construction material!) brought back slightly more of the original qualities without sacrificing bass. Monster Foam Supertips again offered further incremental gains in the original qualities whilst also increasing the bass capabilities.

    Finally, there are the tips on which I have settled of late, the Symbio wide-bore tips.

    These are a hybrid tip similar to previous offerings from Sony and Trinity Audio, but with a couple of factors that make them unique.

    They use a silicon outer skin around a bonded-in cushion of dense memory foam (rather than the light and somewhat less effective foams I’ve experienced in other products).

    The silicon outer is very thin and heat sensitive so that once inserted, the heat of your ear makes it conform nicely to your individual ear canal shape, whilst the foam keeps it securely in place, and both combine to produce a seal nearly as good as a quality memory foam tip would provide.

    These factors, along with the wide bore had pretty startling results compared with any other tip I’d used previously. Those original qualities I mentioned increased significantly and noticeably.

    The bass perhaps decreased very slightly but was largely unchanged.

    However, whilst I’d certainly encourage one and all to try the Symbio wide-bore tips, the key take-home point/valuable life-lesson here is simply “Tips Matter” – experiment and go with what you know works well for you (allowing for the fact that an ear tip that works well with one IEM may not fit so well on another).


    I’ve heard (or heard of) some people trying the IT03 and saying “ugh, where’s the bass?!”.

    Whilst respecting the views and different tastes of others, given the amount of bass (sub bass, mid bass etc) that the IT03 is capable of putting out, I strongly suspect that people having such reactions are either:

    a) Suffering from a lack of correct seal or tips that aren’t a good pairing with the IT03

    Or

    b) They are bass-fiends who find that even with the dial turned up to 11, the IEM is not inducing the desired levels of involuntary incontinence, even when playing their 24/192 ‘The Barry White Collection’ FLAC files with the X-Bass function of their DAC engaged :)


    Gratuitous Photos! Graphically exposed! :)

    Just the main pics you need to get an idea.
    The IEM comes professionally presented with good packaging, and as a lovely extra touch, a classy looking carrying pouch.
    Note that I'm using the upgraded iBasso CB13 cable in these photos.
    The stock cable is black and very light and thin. I personally think upgrading to the CB12 ($89) or better may bring out even more of the qualities of these IEM's.

    Carry Case back.jpg Carry Case front.jpg Carry Case interior.jpg IT03 Box 1.jpg IT03 Box 2.jpg IT03 Box 3.jpg IT03 faceplate view.JPG IT03 profile view.JPG



    The Sound:


    As ever, my preferred method of testing is to try out the product(s) in question with a selection of songs from various genres and to let that process draw out the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each product.

    I have a few tracks which I’ve only found available on MP3; the rest are FLAC or WAV in 16/44 or 24/192.
    As a way to test and benchmark, I have A/B tested the IT03 with the Noble Audio Katana on all these tracks (and many others), since it’s the best other IEM that I currently own (and an outstanding IEM in its own right). If anyone wishes to send me more TOTL IEM’s to expand my review with, I would not attempt to dissuade you from this course of action :p


    Also, for the purposes of this review, I have used two DAP’s to play the music on for testing; the iBasso DX200 (with AMP1 – balanced mode and AMP3) and the Shozy Alien+ (single ended, but using a 2.5mm balanced to 3.5mm SE Eidolic adapter).


    I would add that this review has been done over the course of many months. I do property management/investment in London on a self-employed basis, and anyone reading who has their own business will know how it has a marvellous tendency to intrude upon one’s intended activities!

    Since I wrote the bulk of this review, iBasso have released AMP units 4 and 5.

    I haven’t yet heard 4 (and greatly wish to do so!), but I own AMP5, and I would say that the sound signature of the DX200 with AMP5 is comparable to the strengths of the Shozy Alien+ DAP used in this review. So, if you are a DX200 owner and you are salivating at my descriptions of the Alien+ sound on certain songs, AMP5 is going to give you a similar experience I believe! :)


    As mentioned above, please note that all impressions below are in both comparison to the Noble Katana as well as ‘stand-alone’. It’s hard to quantify something without a benchmark against which to compare it!


    With all this box-ticking preamble out of the way, shall we proceed?

    Make it so, number 1 :p



    Hobotalk – Walks With Me (from Beauty in Madness, 16/44 FLAC):


    This song, by a relatively obscure Scottish band, is one of my all-time favourite songs. A piece of pure bliss; warm and wistful, slightly melancholic without being cold or depressing, beautiful and peaceful in equal measure.



    DX200 (AMP3):

    Well, this track was nothing short of magical with the IT03.

    Every instrument sang with clarity, detail and lifelike timbre. The soundstage seemed even more expansive and open than usual, and a song that itself dances on the edge of perfection found in the IT03 a perfect partner.


    DX200 (AMP1): The IT03 impresses again with its beautifully open, 3D, spherical soundstage.

    Whilst the notes exhibit slightly less thickness than I hear on the Katana, the articulation of the guitar plucking here is very crisp and accurate. The separation and placement of the instruments is absolutely first class. In the latter parts of the song, where all the instruments are playing and there’s a lot going on, this keeps everything crystal clear, all the details discernible without any feeling of fatigue or muddiness.

    This is helped by slight increase in smoothness brought by this combination.


    Alien+: Like jewels laid out on black velvet, the black background, superb separation and clarity on this DAP really allow the detailed nature of the IT03 to shine through, with the musicality of the Alien+ bringing an extra sparkle of magic but without in any way reducing the levels of detail.

    There’s a faint sound above the guitar fingerstyle playing, which I think might be the brushing of a sleeve or part of the player’s hand against the guitar body. The IT03 brings out this small detail more than the Katana, and even more so when played through the Alien+.




    The Darkness - Black Shuck, Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman, Givin' Up:


    Now then. I’m autistic (but fortunately was blessed with extreme attractiveness to compensate), and this seems to come with a sensitivity to certain sounds and frequencies.

    I love rock, and I love these songs, but I’ve mostly found them difficult to listen to, due to the dense and noisy nature of the song, the joyful bashing of cymbals, occasionally piercing falsetto and so on.

    Also, these tracks really benefit from a powerful low end (doesn’t need to be one that is not balanced with the rest of the sound signature, just not an anaemic or lacking one!).

    Here’s what I found:


    DX200 (AMP3):

    There was more crunch and power to the guitar riff’s second opening segment on ‘Get Your Hand Off’, but after that, its accurate and slightly forward presentation of the percussion rendered the sound a bit noisy and overwhelming to my hypersensitive ears. However, that’s not been a normal incidence with these IEM’s rather something unique to this specific, difficult track that I love but have often found difficult to listen to in the past due to fatigue and noisiness.


    DX200 (AMP1):

    In comparison with the Alien+, the cymbals here are kept more in check.

    The sound overall is a very good match for these songs. I have noted repeatedly the musicality of both the Alien+ and Katana generally, but with these songs (especially noticeable on the song Givin’ Up), this combination with the IT03 has plenty of musicality in abundance and sounds extremely engaging.




    Alien+:

    Cymbals a bit forward for my tastes, which (as noted above) makes the track a slightly difficult listen for me. Having said that, all other aspects of the song sound so outrageously good that I listen anyway, and for those without any sensitivity in this area, I think you’re going to be sitting with a big grin on your face!








    Ray Lamontagne - A Falling Through:


    This track features a gorgeous drum beat in the background, a delightful deep thump with significant bass weight and presence, that still doesn’t dominate the song but increases its emotion. Along with this, the strumming of the acoustic guitar is a great test for an IEM’s faithful representation of timbre.


    DX200 (AMP3): There’s a gorgeous lifelike thump and shudder to the drum, which is more prominent in an extremely likeable way; not over-accentuated in any way and still retaining the original gentle quality in the song. Guitars sound a bit brighter in tone but softer in overall presentation.


    DX200 (AMP1):

    A nice balance between the drum and the delicate guitar



    Alien+:

    Drum very slightly too forward here for me, and the vocals have a slightly forward presentation too, but in this case they are presented beautifully and soulfully. The musicality of the Alien+ shines through on this combination.




    Club 8 - Love Dies:


    My goodness, this song is astonishing. The first time I heard it, my jaw dropped.

    It’s extremely crystalline, clear, beautiful. It takes a good combo of equipment to display this to perfection without letting the highs become piercing or strident in occasional places.


    The track starts slowly, and from about 50s in to 1:07, you can hear a progression of sounds being introduced at the edge of the soundstage, giving the impression of the soundstage opening out like a blossoming flower.


    DX200 (AMP3):

    Staggering, crystalline clarity and openness, huge soundstage, precise detail.
    Occasional slight sharpness in the treble.
    Beautiful blossoming out of the soundstage from 0:50 - 1:07.


    DX200 (AMP1):

    As I go through these songs, I’m starting to notice that this combination really displays great power and control in the low-end, without any muddiness, and still with sparkle in the high-end and that huge soundstage and great separation.



    Alien+:

    This song has some sharpness in the treble and occasional moments of sibilance.

    This combination seems to bring that out; as ever for others less sensitive, this may be no problem at all. Conversely, this helps to really make the background synthesiser arpeggios shine from 0:25 – 0:52. Terrific detail and resolution here.





    RDF (Radical Dance Faction) – Borderline:


    This is a somewhat cold and melancholic song, but with a hell of bass line.

    It features a wonderful moment in the beginning where the percussion being employed changes 3 times in succession, giving one’s equipment a wonderful opportunity to show of faithful representation of timbre.


    DX200 (AMP3):

    Superb detailed presentation of the varying percussion techniques from 0:33 - 0:50; bass line is deep, tight and controlled.


    DX200 (AMP1): Didn’t get a chance to compare; apologies!



    Alien+:

    This came across as the weakest combination here (although I should add that I imagine it would still eat plenty of other combos for breakfast!). The bass and percussion felt slightly too much and it simply didn’t engage as much as other combinations. It wasn’t bad by any means, just the lesser of several giants :)




    Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing:


    One of my go-to test tracks for testing (and just listening), and I know several other reviewers on here share this point of view!

    A staggeringly good song, with lots of things to look at; percussion, timbre, guitar fretboard wizardry etc.


    DX200 (AMP3):

    This combination presents the bassline wonderfully, bringing the song alive and driving it along.

    There’s so much space and openness, I’m having fun just focusing on one instrument, then another, then the vocals; every component here is given its own distinct space in the mix, and yet there’s just this INCREDIBLE cohesiveness and musicality over it all.

    It’s not like this is the first time I’ve heard this combo, or even this combo with this specific song (I’m actually listening again, just prior to publishing this review), but I’m just staggered by how amazing this combination sounds.

    By way of comparison, the TOTL Noble Katana sounds relatively mediocre compared to the IT03 on this song (and with this DAP/AMP combo). The IT03 is just so dynamic, the soundstage and separation so world-class, and the bass so satisfying, that is in itself, TOTL on this song (and many others!).



    DX200 (AMP1):

    The bassline is wonderfully strong and musical at first on this version; but without unbalancing the sound; it enhances the music rather than detracting from it.

    Background details (soft acoustic guitar strumming for example) are brought enchantingly to attention, and overall this is an engaging and moving presentation of the song.




    Alien+:

    This has plenty of weight and presence in the low-end too. The dextrous and delicate fingerpicking of the guitar line is brought out beautifully here and overall the sound is musical and extremely engaging. Nothing whatsoever to fault. Just superb.






    Anberlin – The Art Of War:


    This is a staggering track. There’s so much going on in it and so many things to zone in on when listening. There’s powerful percussion and bass, a driving rhythm, synths and sound effects and over all this, great vocals, searing lyrics and simply majestic rock!

    In terms of analysis of detail retrieval, on this track, around 9 seconds in, there’s a sudden sense of space opening up in the upper-central zone of the soundstage, along with a faint, almost imperceptible hum.

    I don’t know much about music production, but I’m guessing this is the ‘channel’ being switched on that the bass guitar is linked up to (as indeed the bass comes in at the same spatial location a second or two later).




    DX200 (AMP3):

    This song sounds superb with this combination.

    It brings out all the best points described above, without any imbalances.

    I could wax lyrical about it all day! The bass and drums have the tactile, percussive quality that I love and which seems to be unique to Dynamic Driver setups. As a result, the whole song has this irresistible force and driving energy, shivering with sub-bass, soaring gloriously as all the instruments in the dense mix are given space and clarity to shine. The IT03 has the speed, accuracy and detail in its low end to really present this song extremely well.



    DX200 (AMP1):

    Increased soundstage and separation vs the combination with the Katana.

    A good balance overall to the sound, without anything being smothered.

    I found I could mentally flip my focus easily from one aspect or instrument in the song to another, or simply sit back and let it wash over me. An improvement in bass weight over the Alien+; overall this combination is an outstanding match for this song.




    Alien+:

    A big smile broke out on my face at about 11 seconds into the song as the bass and the drums kicked in and the keyboards followed shortly after. Huge soundstage and separation, but with all the bass weight that I longed for, but none of the muddiness or smothering of the final details; everything is rendered crystal clear and powerfully; technically excellent but capturing the essence of great rock music. I find the cymbals very slightly too forward (because I am especially sensitive to such things), but regardless this is a close to perfect match-up for this song.



    ‘Homeless’ by Paul Simon (Graceland, 25th Anniversary edition, 24/96 FLAC):

    Listening to the African vocal ensemble (Ladysmith Black Mambazo – credit where it’s due!) at the beginning, the song sounds warm and luxuriant; the audio equivalent of sinking into a cosy armchair on a day of deep snow, with a hot cup of cocoa in front of the dancing flames of a log fire*.


    *other clichéd imagery is available:

    A duck waddling and falling over on a frozen lake.

    An old couple holding hands in an historic street.

    A cat standing up on its hind legs wearing a top hat.


    DX200 (AMP3):

    Oh, the humanity! :p

    This combo brings the detail, clarity and separation that allows each of the distinctive voices to shine individually, whilst the weighty and musical low end brings out the resonance when the voices sing together in harmony. The cup of cocoa has had Bailey’s, Bruichladdich or one’s tipple of choice added to it :)


    DX200 (AMP1):

    Much as above; slightly less richness but still sounding really, really good!



    Alien+:

    Much as with the AMP3 above. The (very) slight decrease in detail and clarity are offset by blackness of the background and the even greater weight and musicality here to offer an experience that is sublime.



    Shawn Mullins – The Gulf of Mexico (16/44 FLAC):


    Well, I’m adding this on at the last minute. I don’t have time for a full breakdown, but this song features shimmering, chiming acoustic guitar strumming, gravelly vocals, picked electric guitar harmonies and so forth. It’s a song I’ve loved for years, but listening to it with the IT03, DX200 and AMP3, I can honestly say that it’s one of the best musical experiences OF MY LIFE.

    Seriously, it was just magical; I was transfixed. OMG, the soundstage, the separation, the SOUND!


    Everything was crystalline, beautiful, perfectly presented. SO musical, just perfect.
    I’ve listened to it about 10 times now since the first (about a month or so ago), and it’s not getting any worse!

    Comparison with the iBasso IT01:

    Now, this is interesting.
    As mentioned, when I first received the IT01, I put everything else on hold to listen to it (and give it a very extensive burn-in period - for those that believe in such things).
    I really fell in love with the IT01.
    I has a huge bass, and a much more V-shaped tuning than the IT03 - possibly it could even be described as L-shaped, due to its remarkable bass quantity and quality.

    I find the IT01 sounds especially good on hard rock tracks, with it's weighty and visceral low end and sparkling highs.
    I think it is an outstanding IEM which offers terrific value for money, especially considering the overall package it comes with - the cable, the carry case, etc.

    However, having revisited the IT03, I can confidently say I believe it to be in an altogether different league.
    It has excellent bass too, but not so overwhelming, tighter and more controlled.
    In pretty much every other regard it is a significant step up from the IT01, and I say this as a big fan of the IT01!


    Conclusion:


    This IEM is simply remarkable. It seems to be something of a chameleon in that it can sound neutral and analytical, or powerful, bass-rich and musical, depending on the tips, DAP/DAC and Amp it’s connected to.


    Earlier, I alluded to the magnificent bass capabilities of these IEM’s.

    And ‘capabilities’ seems an appropriate phrase to use; they are able to exhibit subtlety, warmth and delicacy, or to go as deep, rich, visceral and impactful as the song and source material requires/permits, but they never bloat, bleed into the mids or add bass that wasn’t there to begin with.


    They are all about faithful reproduction, with the technical sharpness, speed and detail to do that to a high level, combined with the facility to (re)produce whatever depth or quality of bass or percussion is present in the music. This is a huge plus point for them.


    Along with all these qualities, it has the thing that blew me away when I first put them in my ear; the huge soundstage, separation and clarity. This is such a blessing; I’ve found it makes so much of the music I love even more accessible; dense and complex tracks are allowed to ‘stretch themselves out’ and make all the components shine individually without losing any of the cohesiveness or musicality.


    Its outstanding clarity (combined with its fairly analytical sound signature) can occasionally come with a touch of sensitivity in the treble (for those who are sensitive to such things). However, this is me making myself have to look for something to be critical about; I can't stress enough how much I love these IEM's and what terrific value for money they offer. And bear in mind that I actually have a sensitivity to treble, but I find it’s only rarely an issue with these IEM’s, and frankly, they sound so damn good that I can’t stop going back to them anyway :D


    People looking for a neutral and analytical sound will likely find these to hit their sweet spot, especially if they are also fans of sparkling clarity, detail and transparency allied to an expansive soundstage and all the benefits to bass and percussion that a dynamic driver brings.


    However, for those whose tastes steer more towards a warm/natural/musical sound, these are able to do exceptionally well in that regard too, when paired with a DAP/DAC/Amp of a more warm, organic and/or musical nature; the iBasso DX200 with AMP3 or AMP5, Alien+, WM1Z would be excellent, and in the more budget range, the Shanling M2s or the Cayin N3 – both of which I have reviewed previously - could perhaps fit the bill nicely).


    Bluntly, there are certain combinations of song and equipment with which the IT03 sounds like a TOTL IEM. No joke, no hype. The Katana is far from being the only TOTL IEM I’ve heard, and I still can sit with a jaw slack with amazement and utter delight when listening to the IT03 with DX200 (AMP 3) on Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”, and Shawn Mullins’ “The Gulf of Mexico” and various other tracks.

    And I haven’t even tried it yet with AMP 4 or AMP5!


    With the caveat that this is my own (absolutely honest) opinion, your mileage may vary and all the usual disclaimers:

    If you're looking for the next step up from the IT01 ($99) or IEM's in and around that price range, and perhaps you can't or don't wish to go up to the $500 level (where the IT04 resides, for example), I don't think you can go wrong with this.

    At this price point, and with the world-class soundstage and separation these have, combined with the many other great qualities I’ve mentioned, I have no hesitation in recommending these outstanding IEM’s.
  4. seanwee
    Ibasso IT03 : Good unit, bad unit
    Written by seanwee
    Published Feb 24, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - GOOD UNIT: Sub-bass quantity, smooth mids, crisp and clear highs, deep soundstage, good instrument separation, good fit

    BAD UNIT:Crisp and clear midrange, good fit
    Cons - GOOD UNIT: Sub-bass quality, smooth mids sacrifice texture, slight sibilance on certain tracks

    BAD UNIT: Near absent Sub-bass, Very sibilant highs, Poor instrument separation on soundtrack or classical type of music
    Just some info:
    After buying the QDC Neptune, I was told on the QDC discussion and impresion thread that there was a better option I could have gotten for about the same amount of money. And that option was the Ibasso IT03. After reading a number of reviews here and there (mostly here on head-fi though) I thought that really did go for the wrong IEM since the reviews describe the IBasso IT03 as having just the sound I like. Very detailed, airy, deep textured bass with good soundstage and instrument separation.

    Preference:
    I dislike the sound of most IEMs as they tend to sound veiled or muddy. Having tried a lot of IEMs in Japan both cheap and expensive I found that I prefer the tuning of the Noble Audio Kaiser 10 but sadly the price was prohibitive. I also found the CA Andromeda to sound a little too smooth for my taste.

    Update 5/3/2018: I got to try out another Ibasso IT03 unit at a separate store and I'm happy to confirm that the first unit I heard was faulty :)

    This mini review would just be on the sound as I think that the rest of the reviews have already done a superb job with the build quality ,included stuff and whatnot.

    I have read that the Ibasso IT03 are picky with tips and pair well with the JVC Spiral dots, luckily, the spiral dots are my tip of choice so I managed to swap tips with my IEMs and try them out with the Spiral dots instead of the stock tips. The following reviews are purely using the the Spiral dot tips.

    I am using a Cayin N5ii as a source.

    GOOD UNIT Impressions

    Lows:The sub bass quantity is the star of the show here. Make no mistake, you're getting lots of rumble on this IEM. However, it's slow and loose sounding rumble lacking texture. Personally I'd prefer a more textured bass. Mid bass quantity is less than the Sub-bass but is also tighter and hits with more crunch.

    Mids: The mids are smooth sounding akin to laying a thin piece of cloth on everything. As a result the articulation and crunch are a bit smoothed over. Fast piano tracks suffer the most as there is less definition from one note to another. Instrument separation is very good but instruments could use a little more air in between. The detail retrieval is also good but the lack of crunch makes softer and quicker sounds less audible.

    Highs: The highs are clear articulate and sparkly. It is also very detailed. On certain tracks it may get slightly sibilant but not too ear piercing.

    Soundstage: The soundstage is quite deep due to the tuning of the sub bass. It also has above average width though the soundstage has more depth than width.

    Instrument separation: Although the mids are smooth, the instrument separation is superb on this IEM. Layering is very good on the IT03. Background instruments are readily heard through the louder main instrument.

    Comparisons:
    Vs JVC FXH-30 (4200 JP¥ - $40) - The FXH 30 has little less sub bass but it is much tighter with significantly better texture. Mid bass wise the FXH-30 has a little more quantity while being more textured and detailed. The mids are more articulate and crisp on the FXH-30 but the IT03 has superior instrument separation and layering. Highs are clearer, crisper and more detailed on the IT03. Soundstage of the FXH-30 is better defined due to the crisper sound but the IT03 has a deeper soundstage.

    Vs QDC Neptune ($200)- The sub bass of the Neptune sounds anemic next to the IT03 but again, it is tighter and more textured than the IT03. The mid bass quantity is about the same but the Neptunes present a tighter, crisper bass. The mids of the Neptune are much much more articulate and crisp than the smooth sounding IT03 but the IT03 has a much better instrument separation and layering. The highs are equally detailed with the IT03 being a touch more detailed and better extended. The Neptunes lose out in both depth and width of soundstage.


    ~~ BAD UNIT Impressions ~~
    This weekend I just so happened to visit a mall where there was the audio store Jaben and surprise surprise, there was an Ibasso IT03 in the display case. Luckily it was available for demo.

    Disclaimer: I do not own the Ibasso IT03 but I demoed it at Jaben with hundreds of songs over a time span of an hour and a half.
    Now onto the sound

    Lows : After reading a so many reviews talking about the superb bass of this IEM, I was thoroughly surprised that the deepest sub-bass was completely absent. At first I thought that it might be because the songs I was using so I tried Hotel California, the deep rumble of the drum was mostly gone with just a ghost of it remaining. Even on the track with the strongest sub-bass I have ever heard, the starting part of Castor [5m26s Final Scheme Alt] (), the sub-bass sounded anemic. I then asked the staff if the dynamic drivers on the Ibasso IT03 had malfunctioned but after trying it out he confirmed that this was how it sounded all along. (He was also a fellow audiophile sporting a sony NW-ZX2 and a JH audio 13 so he is not “just” a casual listener, he had tried out the IT03 before and after burn-in so he knows). In short, I was very disappointed with the bass. The midbass was ok but its more of a thumpy kind you hear from single BA IEMs.


    Mids: The mids are a tad recessed but are crispy and have good texture. It may be considered thin by some but a thinner sounding midrange usually has a very crisp sound. Vocals sound good, crisp and clear and instrument solos also sound very good. However, on more complicated tracks like movie soundtracks it becomes noticeable that details are lost. Softer instruments are very hard to hear over the main instrument.


    Highs: The highs sound unnatural on the Ibasso IT03 and are sibilant. Words with a dragged out S are ear-piercing. Basically, anything from around 5khz and above sound metallic and unnatural due to the treble emphasized tuning. On tracks like Hotel California this is less noticeable and this tuning may actually give the illusion of a detailed sound as the leading sound is the singer. However on soundtracks where the instruments are front and centre the sibilant sound makes for a very ear-piercing experience. Songs like Pines of Rome which features trumpets and triangles is completely unlistenable on this IEM.


    Soundstage: The soundstage is just average sounding to me, nothing special. I did find the soundstage to be relatively shallow compared to most iems I have tried though.


    Instrument separation: Above average on most tracks but really suffer on soundtrack type music.


    Conclusion : The Ibasso IT03 was completely not what I was expecting after reading so many positive reviews. It sounded nothing like what reviewers were promising and I have to say that I was thoroughly disappointed with this IEM.



    Edit : I just noticed that Krisman’s impression mirrors mine so a possibility im thinking here is that Ibasso has poor quality control with the IT03 so while some units may sound like crap, most units may sound good. I will update this review when I get another chance to demo another IBasso IT03 unit.
  5. Aerosphere
    iBasso IT03 & CB12-CB13 “Volatile”
    Written by Aerosphere
    Published Nov 16, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Deep, layered bass. Energic sound signature. Price/Performance ratio.
    Cons - Upper mid control, unpractical carrying case .
    20171006_130927.jpg
    iBasso.
    We all know them because of their success in DAP industry. Now they’re in IEM business too. Are they good? We’ll see!
    Today we’re taking a good look at the IT03 Semi-Custom IEMs. Let’s get to it.

    Specifications & Highlights
    • Sensitivity: 105 dB/mW
    • FR Range: 10 Hz -30 kHz
    • Rated Power 5mW
    • Impedance: 8 ohm
    • 9.2mm 1DD + 2BA driver configuration
    • Weight: 9 grams without the cable
    • MSRP: 259 USD

    Testing Equipment
    • Chord Hugo (Main Source)
    • iBasso DX200 (AMP1 BAL - AMP2)
    • Centrance DacPortable
    • BiFrost + H10

    Accessories & Packaging
    iBasso’s unboxing experience is always neat. This rule does not change with IT03 either. It comes in a durable, medium sized box. No doubt your IEMs will stay safe during the international shipping charade. Inside the box there are 2 compartments. Top compartment is where your IEMs held by a protective foam. Bottom compartment stores tips & carrying case. iBasso included many tips, kudos!

    However the carrying case is not very convenient. It is small and feels cramped.

    Plus there is no chance fitting IT03 with CB12 in there. Stock cable is glossy, elastic and light. I’ve spotted few micro-creases but nothing major. I can say with confidence that overall unboxing experience is great!

    20171006_140709.jpg 20171006_141002.jpg 20171006_141139.jpg

    Build Quality
    I’ve experienced semi-custom IEMs before. InEar, Fender, ES.. I am really happy that iBasso went this way because my previous experience with semi-customs were really great. Let’s talk about build quality. IT03 is a 2-piece design. IT03 features hardened acrylic shell, metal mesh nozzle and flush MMCX sockets. Build quality is good but there are little dents on the metal mesh. Nothing serious. IEMs feel durable and sturdy. Fit is also good, I can wear them without irritation for long period of time.
    20171006_131243.jpg 20171006_131805.jpg 20171006_131856.jpg

    Sound Signature
    IT03 can be classified as V-shaped. Highlighted treble and bass response, recessed midrange and neutral signature can be said to cover IT03’s signature except the bass region. Dynamic driver adds some warmth to the equation but IT03’s aggressive treble equalizes the scales.

    Lows
    This is the tricky part. You’ll have to try many tips because they change the bass response dramatically. I found my perfect spot with JVC Spiral Dots. Bass is big, punchy and powerful. I often found myself listening to old deep house tracks with the IT03. Let’s go lower. Sub-bass rumble is satisfying in most cases and we Hans Zimmer’d the IT03, experienced no sub-bass shortages along the way. IT03 had some trouble coping with fast twin pedal passages but overall experience was satisfactory. Mid-bass is kind, only here when the track asks for it. This contributes to overall airiness in a good way.

    Mids
    IT03 offers a mixed bag of treats when it comes to the midrange. Lower mids are light resulting in slimmer note thickness. You feel this the most with string instruments. This may be important if you’re coming from something like Westone UM30 or TG334. Although I must say, detail retrieval is very impressive for a 250$ IEM. Some vocals may sound “dry” but the V signature works in favor of IT03 in this regard. Upper mids. Well, this is where ‘schiit’ gets real. Source selection is everything when it comes to IT03. It has a volatile upper mid region. For example with Chord Hugo I’ve noticed peaks that can be classified as sibilance. However, with Centrance Dacportable, upper mids were smoother. Tamed. So yes, try to choose sources that has recessed upper mid region for the best balance.

    Highs
    Energetic. Crispy. Clear. High region of IT03 is good, certainly performs above its asking price. Extension is also good with plenty of details. Cymbal shimmers are bright and energetic. Listening to wind instruments feels great with IT03. Wrong source selection may result in aggressive, sticky highs and this can cause ear fatigue very quickly. So, if you’re not a treble junky, I recommend you to select your source accordingly.

    Soundstage, Imaging & PRaT
    IT03’s headroom is above average. Instrument separation and imaging is decent. Soundstage is depth oriented. Sadly, sense of location is often lost with fast paced track but when we consider its price tag, it’s good.

    20171006_141427.jpg 20171006_141502.jpg 20171006_141521.jpg

    CB12
    Specs: 6N Single Crystal Copper & Silver 8-Braid

    Signature: Forward lows and highs. Classic hybrid cable signature. Detail retrieval is great and cable is very well built. Plugs are stiff and sturdy. Braiding and coating is great, CB12 is quite flexible. I am really blown away by iBasso’s cables to be honest. Both CB12 & CB13 is quite beautiful.

    CB12 contributes to the airiness and increases the perceived soundstage. It also adds extra oomph to the bass region and tightens subbass. On top of all these, resolution stepped up a notch! For 89$ this is the very definition of “upgrade cable”.

    CB13
    Specs: 5N Mono Crystal Silver & 6N Mono Crystal Copper 8-Braid

    Signature: Balanced. Excluding the price tag, I love everything about CB13. Build quality is amazing, from plugs to splitters. Coating is soft and cable is very flexible. It’s signature is balanced and it almost contributes to every aspect of the IEM. For IT03, it increases the resolution, coherency, musicality and clarity. It also neutralizes notorious peaks in the upper mid region. CB13 equipped IT03 deals with congestion more easily, therefore pushing the threshold of distortion. I have to say that these do apply to other earphones as well, I am currently using CB13 with Sony N3-AP and I am VERY satisfied with it!
    20171006_131135.jpg
    20171006_132050.jpg 20171006_132125.jpg
    Quick Comparison
    Vs. Westone UM30
    UM30 is more emotional and its upper mid region is recessed compared to IT03. UM30’s highs are tamed whereas IT03’s wild. Soundstage wise they’re similar. Fatigue can be a problem if you’re switching from something like UM30 to IT03.
    IT03’s resolution and clarity is superior.

    Vs. Earsonics ES-2
    They are both clearly different in almost every way. ES-2 is a warm, dark, relaxing IEM whereas IT03 is energetic, more neutral, bright and V-shaped. Resolution wise IT03 is ahead. Dynamism-wise they’re almost equal. When it comes to soundstage and imaging, IT03 is airier whereas ES-2 is emotional. ES-2’s vocals are very forward and its treble is trimmed.

    Verdict
    For the price, IT03 offers a good fit, a fun signature, great level of clarity and solid, punchy low end with a equally highlighted treble response. Do not forget that selection of source is vital!

    Aero - QuantumEars.com

    20171006_141258.jpg 20171006_142244.jpg
      tarhana likes this.
  6. Krisman
    Wide soundstage but piercing, brittle highs and hollow mids ruin the experience
    Written by Krisman
    Published Dec 17, 2016
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Soundstage, vocals, timing, separation
    Cons - Hollow mids, piercing sibilant highs. Bass is lacking. Over all SQ not much better than sub £50 Chinese OEM earphones
    Preamble: ​


    I have a set of around 30 – 40 tracks all in the FLAC from varying genres that I use as my test reference playlist. I try to cover as many genres and stick to recordings that have good reputations as well as tracks I know have been lovingly mastered. ​


    I naturally prefer a more balanced sound signature and get treble ‘fatigue’ fairly quickly. Therefore I usually mark down anything that gives me discomfort in the higher registers. ​


    I have experience in mastering, DJ’ing and have had a keen interest in Hi-Fi and Head-Fi for almost 2 decades. I love this hobby and like to share experiences with others. ​


    For this test my source were the Onkyo DP-X1 DAP & Cambridge Audio DAC magic. ​


      ​


    Aesthetics and Tactility: ​


    The iBasso IT-03 earphones have a large housing with a nice shape and high quality gloss finish. I had no discomfort issues even after 30-60 minutes of use which is a real plus as I tend to struggle with larger housing earphones. I found the medium silicone tips to work best for me to get a complete seal. Once inserted I had no issues with the earphones slipping out or the seal breaking. Overall the I am impressed with the design of these.  ​

     ​


    Cable Comments: ​


    The cable is similar to that which you find with earphones from the likes of Westone. The memory wire is easy to shape and stays shaped unlike other memory wires around nowadays. The cable is very supple and quite thin which is a double edge sword. On the one hand it will not get in the way during everyday use, on the other hand I could imagine if the cable got caught in a zip it may get damaged easily. Microphonics are medium to low. I would have expected better from this particular design but they are low enough not to cause major irritation during every day commutes. ​

     ​


    Sound Balance: ​


    Be under no illusion these are not flat response earphones. These lean very heavily to the mid to upper highs. These excel in the vocal ranges. The detailing is very good in the vocal registers but things seem to tail off significantly when you go the frequency range. The mids are almost non-existent with certain tracks. I had to do a number of A/B tests with other earphones/headphones to try and find what was missing. I have never come across this so strongly before where certain instruments/sounds completely disappeared. It was nearly always instruments in the mid range that were lost. When the mids were present there was a good level of detail but this was only when there were not many high notes creeping in as this would completely dominate the track. ​


    The lows are a mixed bag, if the track has impactful bass then they may come through and dare I say with good levels of detail/timing. If the track has more subtle bass tones then there is a chance they could disappear of end up being so meagre that their impact is totally lost.  ​


    The highs are well detailed but just too omnipresent. It is like someone has accidentally turned the high frequency EQ up of your playback device. ​


     ​


    Soundstage and Other Notes: ​


    For me the IT-03s are a very forward earphone. The soundstage is nice and wide with medium depth. Like sitting in a small auditorium somewhere in the middle. Stereo separation is very good. There is a good amount of 'air' around each instrument too. Nothing bleeds too heavily into any other and with some tracks had good layering but busier tracks didn't fare so well. Instruments tended to become more dispersed and individual elements started to lose their finer details.  ​


    For me the highs were so forced and forward that I began to get ear fatigue after about 20-30 minutes of use. There is an unnatural harshness with some tracks that is very annoying. They are so sibilant and brittle that the delicacy and details is completely lost. There is a dryness that can make some tracks sound lifeless. But then some more delicate and gentle tracks the detailing and instrument separation can be very pleasing. To say these are hit and miss would be an understatement. ​


     ​


    Overall: ​


    If I were to completely remove the price factor here I would say these are very good earphones that would suit people looking for lots of treble detailing and vocal satisfaction. Do not even consider these if you like a flat response and warmth. For me the lack of mids, harsh treble and almost non-existent low bass kills the deal.  ​


    Some may think my overall score is harsh but in todays market I think one has to accept that you can buy a very competent performing earphones for less than $50 thanks to the wave after wave of Chinese earphones flooding the market. I have bought/tried several recently and been amazed how good they sound. This is a huge problem for brands like iBasso that do not have the heritage of someone like Sennheiser/AKG but do tend to trade on 'value'. These do not represent good value when pitched next to earphones from Senfer or KZ, nor do they perform anywhere near the likes of higher end Westone/Shure/Sennheiser.  ​


    I do believe that iBasso can correct the issues I have found and come back with a second generation that can take the fight to the big boys so I look forward to hearing their next effort. ​


    Although not that high I feel my rating is snapshot of what is happening in the earphone world right now. If you want to big in the midrange priced bracket you better have something that clearly separates you from the budget IEMs. IBasso are JUST above, but not $100+ above
      Phuca, aisalen, Gandasaputra and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Krisman
      Hey, I use Westone W4r mostly. If you have a look at what I have owned/trialled you will see I am no strange to the variety on offer out there. Regarding the bass it is what it is. There is a distinct lack in certain tracks, a great example is Alex Clare - Whispering. There is absolutely no impact whatsoever and that is not the way it is supposed to sound. Anyway, if you enjoy using them then great but my friends and I unilaterally agree they are subpar and do not represent good value considering the wave after wave of cheap Chinese offerings out there now.
      Krisman, Dec 18, 2016
    3. Bastianpp
      Hmmm, rare review...
      I test it03 and i'm not aggre with this.
      mid range is neutral, this iem have a balanced high ~ and touch of bass.
      But you said ''mid-highs'' hard?
      You have a test unit or something? i don't know, but it03 don't sounds like this........., someone review aggred with me, and it03 ban be bass heavy but never mid upper highs hard.
      I read too you said '' this is absolutely no impact '' but it03 is a aggresive iem, i don't know with this review xD
      Bastianpp, Mar 27, 2017
    4. 468384
      I know the iT03 has been out for a good while now, I just thought I would show some love for them.
      Regarding them being bass heavy, I have to disagree, its there but no way is it bass heavy in my opinion.
      Dire Straits Sultans of Swing, one of my goto test tracks also, the guitar on that track is excellent.
      468384, May 31, 2018
  7. H20Fidelity
    An impressive mid-tier offering from iBasso
    Written by H20Fidelity
    Published Nov 21, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Price to performance, transparency, soundstage, separation, sufficient detail, unique shell design for universal
    Cons - Small carry case, fit might be tricky for (some) owners, slightly more mid-range vibrancy would fit my (personal) preferences
     
     
     
     
                 
                      Coverphoto.jpg
     
     
     
    iBasso have stamped their name on this evolving portable audio scene for some time, up until recently focusing on portable amplifiers, dac/amps and portable players. With units like iBasso DX50, DX90, DX80 and earlier DX100 they always came across to me as a company offering great bang for buck and they're quite openly spoken about it. While their firmwares take time to mature with digital players the sound offered is always above standards. About a year ago some IEMs surfaced carrying the iBasso brand name, one of them being their Oriolus, It was priced on the higher side yet still managed to prove itself a worthy addition to their products on our Head-fi forums.
     
    Now in 2016 we're greeted with a cheaper alternative, iBasso IT03, a hybird design IEM using one single dynamic driver and dual balanced armatures. Hybrid IEMs are quite popular designs they combine the bass ability and extension capable of common dynamic drivers while balanced armatures handle the mid-range and treble, the areas they do best. So many companies have released a hybrid design earphone over the years since AKG K3003 led the way, Fidue, Sony, Audio Fly, Tralucent, T-Peos, Dunu the list goes on. Hybrids are personally my favourite type of IEM, I've heard my fair share and know what to listen for. Some are just OK, others stand out when implemented correctly.
     
    This iBasso IT03 unit was sent to me as a sample in return for an honest opinion. Thanks ahead to iBasso and especially Paul for considering me to assess their latest creation.
     
    iBasso IT03:
     
    iBasso Website: http://ibasso.com/
     
    Price: $259
     
    Specification:
    1. Model : IT03
    2. Type :Triple driver hybrid
    3. Driver: Dynamic driver (9.2mm) x 1 , Balanced Armature x 2
    4. Freq. Response: 10Hz-30kHz
    5. Sensitivity: 105+/-2dB
    6. Impedance: 8 ohm
    7. Noise Attenuation: -30dB
    8. Rated Power: 5mW
    9. T.H.D: <1% (at 1kHz /1mW)
    10. Plug Size: 3.5mm gold-plated
    11. Cord Length: 1.2m
    12. Weight: 9g without cable
     
     
    Packaging:
     
    About a year ago iBasso updated their website which I suggest checking out, its really well illustrated with stunning images of their products. A new logo was born for the company which expresses itself on their recent packaging, and players boot screens, I think it looks quite nice indeed. They're always wanting to move forward and it shows on IT03's purchase presentation.
     
    First there is an outer sleeve with a graphic design of IT03, on the back some specifications looking fancy with a blown up design of IT03's internal parts. Under the sleeve IT03's box is made from a slightly heavy cardboard with Braille texture in dark grey almost black, similar to what I experienced with their iBasso DX80 player. From my observations iBasso care about presentation, the box is sturdy, hefty and possibly lending weight to the overall impression of a quality product. Its quite large though for an earphone packaging box. There's a magnetic flap which lifts open to reveal the earphones tucked neatly inside foam inserts with the cable wound underneath in its own little compartment. Once lifting that foam insert section there's another cut out storage space underneath containing your IT03 leather carry case and accessories.
     
    Overall I'm thoroughly pleased with the packaging, it may even be a little overkill for an earphone of this price range but regardless most welcome. Some earphones costing $1000 come packaged with less thought and attention for consumers so its nice to see from a mid-tier category.
     
     
     
    boxing4.jpg
     
     
    Boxingrear.jpg
     
     
    boxing2.jpg
     
     
    boxinginside.jpg
     
     
    Accessories:
     
     
    Far as accessories go I've seen more and less for the asking price:
     
    1. x3 Different types of silicon tips (S/M/L)
    2. x1 Leather storage case
    3. Warranty Card
    4. Frequency chart card / wearing instructions
     
     
     
    What's included though is quite nice including 3 different sets of silicon tips, a well-gestured leather carry case and some paperwork. Each set of tips are contained in individual holders sporting the iBasso Audio brand name which is a nice touch. Little areas like these are overlooked by the general consumer considering they could have been dropped inside a cheap resealable satchel bag. There's also a warranty card and some charts showing measurements of IT03, on the other side some quick instructions how to wear the IEM over the ear.
     
    I've been told accessories like the leather storage case were on the expensive side to make, it expresses some production went into it. However, its simply too small to hold the earphones in full-time comfortably. Unless you want to play “fold the cable, tuck this there' spin that here'' the excellent looking and genuine leather case is simply 2-3cm too short to fit IT03 in easily. Its frustrating in a way because someone went to the trouble designing it, gathered all materials, embedded the iBasso logo into it but the entire time it appears no one ever tried to store the earphones in before final production or test it. We're taking points off for that one iBasso. So close, yet so far....
     
    The tips on the other hand, are all useful, they come with an assortment of small bore and wide bore which should satisfy a majority of users. Its surprising actually, I usually always prefer some form of aftermarket tip over ones supplied with earphone packages. In the case of IT03 the small bore grey tips provide the most accurate/fitting sound. They fit straight in holding well onto the nozzle.
     
     
    acc2.jpg
     
     
    acc1.jpg
     
     
    Carrycase2.jpg
     
     
    Carrycase1.jpg
     
     
     
    Build / Design
     
    IT03 housing's themselves are rather unique with a design I've not seen taken on by many. At first glance from certain angles it appears they're acrylic custom molds or (CIEMs), it takes some second staring at pictures to understand they're a universal IEM, the mold has been taken into consideration so it locks neatly and securely into the majority of users ears. The black shells with gloss finish are quite hard to photograph which makes expressing their design awkward. Each shell is neatly finished without any glaring rough spots, seam lines or obvious flaws.
     
    The removable cable supports MMCX connections which aren't my most popular. We have had some members experiencing cutting out each issues from IT03 if you follow the Head-fi thread. The good news is a majority of owners aren't having many problems and usually if an issues are encountered its from the male MMCX plug on the cable which can be switched out for another.
     
    One area that needs mentioning is the nozzles on IT03 don't have a lip for holding/positioning tips on securely, all the supplied tips have worked well though some aftermarket tips may fit loosely or slide further down the nozzle over time. I think considering today's standard with owners users after market tips most of the time a raised area around the lip of the nozzle should be included on the design. Its a small area that wouldn't take much extra work or manufacturing but goes a long way for the end consumer for ease of use over the long term. But again, all stock tips fit tightly and stay on securely
     
     
     
     
    build2.jpg
     
     
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    Cable:
     
     
    Which brings us to the cable, its quite an ordinary affair being a rather thin black and braided with that same glossy finish. It reminds me a little of Noble's stock cables they provided on some earlier earphones, nothing over the top that gets the job done while always leaving you a choice to upgrade. Its not a terrible cable by any means on close inspection, just not something that stands out and little bit springy, tangly. The male right angle plug however, appears to have been designed by iBasso, it supports the new logo at the base with a decreased section of reach for fitting into most mobile phone cases and shows someone was thinking ahead.
     
     
     
    cable1.jpg
     
     
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    Fit / Isolation:
     
    Far as fit goes I had an easy time, when the earphones are new the ear-guides on the cable will want to pull in different directions which can make the fit seem unwieldy. After initial adjusting of the guide and a few listening sessions they do settle molding to your ears. You will need to position the housing a certain angle to achieve the correct insertion, particularly my left ear needs some extra attention. Once inserted the housings do exactly as intended for me, seating nicely into each ear, the faceplate coming in almost flush with my outer ear. I do feel like with any IEM though some will have problems, there's always a few that can't get a fit. What matters is fitting the majority of users, if that's accomplished the product was successful at the design phase.
     
    When isolation is concerned I'm quite impressed, sitting at my work desk with a noisy fan straight in-front of me the noise reduction is actually quite good even without music playing. Once a gentle songs playing in the background most outside noise is reduced to nearly nothing. Providing you're using the stock tips which provide a fair amount of reach I'd recommend these to people who take busy trains, buses and cope with the noisy environments of city living. Its enjoyable having this amount of isolation even if you want to zone out from the world temporarily.
     
     
     
    Sound Quality:
     
     
    soundsection.jpg
     
     
     
    Sources used:
     
    1. iBasso DX90
    2. Cayin i5
    3. Astell & Kern AK300
     
     
    Files Used: 16/44 FLAC
     
     
     
     
    Tonality:
     
    In terms of tonality I find IT03 just a smidgen warmer than neutral, particularly around its mid-range, not enough to ever sound veiled or lacking detail like some darker earphones can, just enough which gives it a slightly comfortable voicing without becoming overly bright or intrusive on the ears. When lifting the volume up to higher levels you will be thankful for this type of tonality as it keeps the signature in check without causing the listener short term fatigue while also allowing clarity and detail to push through. If IT03 was my personal earphone I'd prefer the tonality just a touch colder (brighter) to provide an edge or increased amount of vibrancy however, a touch of EQ could achieve this very easily. I think overall the tonality is in the right ball-park to please a majority of consumers without many complaints whilst still able to excel.
     
     
     
    Bass:
     
    Areas like the bass are neutral to my ears, maybe a 'smidgen' forward depending on your seal, volume used, and genre, there's not much emphasis to be found unless the genres summon it. Using my common Michel Jonasz test tracks the bass is well behaved displaying good amounts of extension. While the texture and clarity isn't at highest tier level there's no obvious flaws that display problems or errors, bass notes are heard clearly and promptly entering/exiting as a song continues along, areas like the mid-bass are at low levels staying well away from the mid-range. I think really for an IEM of its price range IT03 performs well in bass production, It could use a little more texture and clarity but clearly gives a good amount of detail making each note tightly and easily heard throughout each track with a nice amount of speed.
     
     
    Mids:
     
    For those who enjoy a common TWFK sound of balanced armatures IT03 is a great representation, its on the slightly thinner side yet displays that small amount of warmth to provide some smoothness. Area's like the detail are on great levels and the clarity expresses itself quite well. Areas like vocals can shine nicely, particularly for females reaching into the higher regions and there's an ever so slight push in the upper mid-range which allows the detail to edge out crisp. Areas like refinement are solidly performing however if there's some aspects that must be sacrificed this would be one of them but in no means a negative sense or under performing.
     
    What's impressive about the mid-range is the amount of separation and transparency, the earphone is able to remain coherent at higher volumes with great layering, this forms a solid wall of sound around you at higher listening levels. Many cheaper earphones start to pack up and bog down losing their form but IT03 can keep focal point on the song replicating a high energy sound wall. When we move to the timbre those familiar with TWFK's character instruments like piano and strings have a nice edge and decay to them to them, you can hear the depth of detail fading away in the background between notes.
     
    I would say overall taking the price to performance into consideration IT03 would perhaps sum up the most solid performing mid-range I've heard this year, which says a lot considering some other earphones were triple the price iBasso offer this product for retail. You're able to draw a sense of emotion from the earphone, it pulls you into a song and at some points even tricks me into thinking I'm listening to something several times its asking price.
     
     
     
    Treble:
     
    I find the treble practically spot on for my preferences, it is just a little forward at times which creates a nice gentle massage on the eardrums, crisp, clean and transparent, extension is decent along with the amount of detail. It won't have the absolute clarity of something like a Tralucent hybrid but there's absolutely no complaints. I say it meets a fine standard between a treble that's inoffensive while producing a nice amount of air and sparkle. I find it also layers quite well around the stage and gives the impressions its imaging itself in a accurate manner to the recordings.
     
     
     
    Soundstage / Separation:
     
    Separation is a strong suit combined with the amount of transparency, the mid-range is almost see through at times on the left/right channels which creates a good image of each instrument playing, I can easily pick out guitars on the left or cymbals coming from the right without any congestion or becoming too weighted down. The earphone is also quite open sounding and airy due to the large soundstage. For those who like to hear instruments cueing outside their ears a few inches IT03 can accomplish this. When you combine separation, transparency, air, and clarity it creates a truly pleasurable listening experience, a common TFWK tuning with highly competent technical ability.
     
     
     
    Conclusion:
     
    Overall, my experience with IT03 has been extremely positive, the price is right, the sound is good, the thought gone into the shells and design shows some innovation for a universal IEM. There's really not much to say wrong about IT03. We will need to mention the small carry case which is a shame not being a little larger but considering the amount of alternative cases out there it can be forgiven, the cable is a little thin and springy. Over my time with IT03 I've asked myself what earphone I'd choose if I had to take an alternative over my Tralucent hybrids, the answer was quite clearly IT03. Its not going to have the full technical ability or levels of detail from (some) $1k earphones but it does a damn good job tricking you into thinking it is one. Many times I've been browsing Instagram whilst using IT03 having to think twice which earphone I was actually using, its ability to pull in close to TOTL for ¼ the price makes it an impressive product.
     
    Thanks to iBasso for sending the sample, this one was a pleasure to review.
      sonickarma, djvkool, peter123 and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. SoundHound
      Thanks SoundHound! +1 For the Kegs.
       
      I'm going to wait till BlackFriday comes, and then make a buy.
      SoundHound, Nov 21, 2016
    3. SoundHound
      WTF have I been smokin. Let's try that again: Thanks jon parker!
      SoundHound, Nov 21, 2016
    4. svetlyo
      How would you compare the mids and the treble to the ones on ATH-IM02?
      svetlyo, Nov 24, 2016
  8. Jackpot77
    Ibasso's new triple threat - a triple-hybrid that raises the bar in the sub $300 category
    Written by Jackpot77
    Published Nov 13, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great balance between mid and sub bass, sense of solidity to the sound, clear and engaging mids, airy and crystal clear treble, high detail level
    Cons - Ergonomics may not be ideal for people with small ears, bass tuning not for people allergic to sub-bass
    20161113_173140_HDR.jpg
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
    Ibasso IT03 – initial impressions
     
    The danger about being a regular reader of a forum like this is the tendency to get swept up in one of the many “next big thing” crazes that flash across the threads here quicker than Usain Bolt running for a bus (and with far more frequency than most of the buses I have ever had the misfortune to rely on). One such IEM that has garnered a lot of praise in a short timeframe is the Ibasso IT03 – after reading about it on the threads and seeing a couple of very favourable reviews from high profile reviewers pop up, I happened to be passing through Singapore (where this particular IEM is now readily available), so decided to succumb to the hype train and pick up a pair to see if the buzz was warranted. Not to give too much away from the review below, but I tried a lot of mid-range and higher end IEMs and headphones in the few days I was in Singapore at a few of the better known Head-Fi haunts there, and despite being by far the cheapest of the IEMs IO listened to, these were the only set I ended up coming home with. To find out why, feel free to read on.
     
    About me: newly minted audiophile, late 30s, long time music fan and aspiring to be a reasonably inept drummer. Listen to at least 2 hours of music a day on my commute to work – prefer IEMs for out and about, and a large pair of headphones when I have the house to myself and a glass in my hand. Recently started converting my library to FLAC and 320kbps MP3, and do most of my other listening through Spotify or Tidal HiFi. I am a fan of rock, acoustic (apart from folk) and sarcasm. Oh yeah, and a small amount of electronica. Not a basshead, but I do love a sound with some body to it. Please take all views expressed below with a pinch of salt – all my reviews are a work in progress based on my own perceptions and personal preferences, and your own ears may tell you a different story.
     
    20161113_172744_HDR.jpg
    [​IMG]
    Tech specs
    1. Type :Triple driver hybrid
    2. Driver: Dynamic driver (9.2mm) x 1 , Balanced Armature x 2
    3. Freq. Response: 10Hz-30kHz
    4. Sensitivity: 105+/-2dB
    5. Impedance: 8 ohm
    6. Noise Attenuation: -30dB
    7. Rated Power: 5mW
    8. T.H.D: <1% (at 1kHz /1mW)
    9. Plug Size: 3.5mm gold-plated
    10. Cable: 1.2m silver-plated copper MMCX cable
    11. Weight: 9g without cable
     
    20161113_173256_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Unboxing
     
    The IT03 comes in a reasonably large black hardboard box, with a grey cardboard sleeve slipped over the top with a nice hi resolution picture of the hardward on the front, and a technical “blow-out” of the inner workings on the rear, along with the key technical specifications. Slipping the sleeve off, you are left with a black jewellery box sized package, which contains the IEMs in a bed of velour on the top and hinges in the middle library-book style to reveal the soft leather carry pouch underneath, and the various selections of tips on three plastic “trays”. The packaging feels slick and expensive, with the careful presentation and high quality accessories leaving a good impression. The attention to detail for a product in this price bracket, and evokes the same sort of “bang for the buck” feeling that the packaging for the recent budget flagship from MEE, the Pinnacle P1 managed to give off. The detailing extends to the cable (a specific silver-plated copper braid, selected for its specific sonic synergy with the IT03) and the real leather carry case, which is soft and feels more like something you would purchase in a decent department store than the usual hard poly-plastic zipper case included in IEMs in this price range. Overall, while the package doesn’t add anything to the overall sound signature, it definitely sets the expectation more in the mid-fi audio tier than the bargain basement retail section, which is a solid start.
     
    20161113_173710_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Build quality and ergonomics
     
    Slipping the IT03 out of the box, the first thing that strikes you is the stealth colour scheme - as Nigel Tufnell from Spinal Tap might say, “none more black”. The shells of the IEM are a shiny piano black acrylic (hand-finished by Ibasso in a similar way to how a custom IEM is made), with a gold coloured MMCX connector sitting flush with the outer shell and a small grey Ibasso logo on each outer shell being the only deviation from an otherwise perfectly black colour scheme. The overall effect it creates is quite striking, and gives another example of the attention to detail the design of these IEMs exhibits in all aspects. The shell is joined together with a visible seam, but this looks smooth and well engineered, and the whole IEM weighs just enough (9g without cables) to feel solid without too much heft to ruin the ergonomics.
     
    Speaking of ergonomics, the shell design itself is noteworthy, with Ibasso going for a “universal custom” fit reminiscent of the older Aurisonics ASG series or the Stagediver universal IEMs. The shell of the IEM is contoured to the inner ear almost like a custom build, with a protrusion at the top of the shell for a “concha lock” which allows the IEM to remain tightly fitted and stable after slotting into the fold of your ear. The IEM is a medium size, so this approach should fit most consumers apart from those with REALLY small ears – reading the literature, Ibasso have modelled the shell shape based on overlapping multiple scans of different ears to find the best “universal” shaping. All I know is that in terms of fit, this is by far the most comfortable and secure fitting IEM I have slipped into my ears yet, with a snug and comfy fit and great sound isolation. I must admit that my first few extended listening sessions did leave my ears a little sore from the unusual contact with the top half of the shell, but after I got used to it, it hasn’t bothered me since.
     
    Another noteworthy point in the overall design is the IEM cable itself. Ibasso have apparently gone through multiple iterations of the cable design and material makeup, eventually settling on a high quality silver-plated copper wire in a tightly braided configuration, which sits nicely in use with minimal cable memory or microphonics. The usual MMCX fitting issues occur with the memory wire portions of the cable due to the free rotation of the MMCX connector, but in terms of build quality and design, I haven’t had any problems with connection or any signal dropouts so far in over three weeks of daily use for commuting and exercise, which is more than can be said for some of the previous MMCX IEMs I have had the fortune of hearing or owning. I am not a massive cable believer (or disbeliever), but for those who feel like the first thing they need to do with a new IEM is upgrade the cable then the IT03 may prove to be more difficult to replace quality-wise than the usual stock cables supplied with most other brands.
     
    20161113_173007_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Sound quality
     
    Test gear:
    LG G5 (with HiFi Plus 32-bit Sabre DAC add-on)
    Hifiman Supermini / Megamini
    Cowon Plenue D
    Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (straight from the output jack)
    Test tracks (mainly 320kbps MP3 or FLAC/Tidal HiFi):
    Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. / Wasting Time
    Blackberry Smoke – The Whipporwill (album)
    Slash – Shadow Life / Bad Rain (my reference tracks for bass impact and attack, guitar “crunch”)
    Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (vocal tone)
    Sister Hazel – Hello, It’s Me (bass tone)
    Chris Stapleton – Whiskey And You
    Elvis – various
    Leon Bridges – Coming Home (album)
    Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (album)
    Aerosmith – The Definitive Aerosmith
    Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note
    Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide / GLA
    The Darkness – Permission To Land
    Led Zeppelin – Mothership
    Shawn Mullins – Soul’s Core
     
    20161113_172753_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    General impressions on the sound signature
     
    When you think of a triple-driver hybrid in 2016, there are a few assumptions that slip neatly to mind: a typical dynamic driver mid-bass hump, a warm and mostly V-shaped signature that is on the smoother side of things, with a dash of sparkle up top. The IT03 happily doesn’t fall into this bracket, with a neutral and airy signature through the mid and higher ranges and a deep and extended bass presence, with equal bias between mid and sub-bass to add a nice foundation to the sound without the usual “thumb” that accompanies it. If it wasn’t for the slight warming and impact that the bass brings, you would almost call this a musically neutral tuning, with a good sense of balance across the frequency ranges that isn’t quite analytical but definitely veers away from the typical “fun” tuning you would expect. While the notes carry substance, they still retain the agility and lightness typical of a good balanced armature setup, never too heavy or thick but just carrying enough body to flesh out the music nicely. If I had to categorise this into a sound shape, it would be somewhere between a very shallow “L” shape and a smiley U (again, shallower than a reality TV star’s grasp on third world macro-economics, so think more “Mona Lisa” than the Joker) – in reality, the sound comes across as a dynamic and enticing take on neutral, with a little added spice in the bottom end of the range to give the sound an enjoyable weight to it.
     
    20161113_172915_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Highs
     
    The IT03 have a reasonably airy treble, with good extension and a nice sense of crispness. This isn’t a hot IEM, but the higher frequencies do carry some sparkle, sharpening up the edge of cymbal hits and guitar strings and adding a good dash of crispness into the mix. Running through my normal gamut of high-tone test tracks, “Starlight” from Slash showcases the capability and extension of the BA driver being used quite nicely, imparting a nice solid weight to Myles Kennedy’s soaring vocals in the track while still retaining most of their cutting edge. The weight to the treble helps to keep the sound on the right side of harshness, giving a nice sense of clarity and fleshing out the further reaches of the sound, making it a clean and fatigue free listening experience for me. There is a good level of micro-detailing present in the highs as well, with the sounds of fingers sliding across the guitar strings and the light creaking of the chair he is sitting on all floating in the periphery of the soundscape on Chris Stapleton’s “Whiskey And You”, playing off the room echoes to suck you quite successfully into the music. Much like “Starlight”, this ode to whiskey and women is one of my other staple tracks for treble, as the so-so mastering usually manages to drag any harshness out of the lower-treble and vocal ranges quite nicely, turning Stapleton’s gravelly pleas into chalkboard-scraping torture on “hotter” IEMs. Again, the IT03 manages to navigate this track without crossing from gritty into piercing when it comes to the chorus, keeping any potential harshness or sibilance firmly pinned down under the surface.
    Switching gears to electronica, “Nobody To Love” by Sigma and “Go” by The Chemical Brothers are both dispatched with the same sort of nonchalance that the Ibasso devours more guitar based fare. Synths pop and drift through the soundscape, hi-hats “tsssk” with crispness and definition at the periphery of the sound, and the euphoric choruses and piano refrains all soar with just the right blend of musicality and snap. In terms of overall shape, the treble seems pretty even throughout the scale, with no major emphasis on the lower or higher frequency bands, leaving an impression of space and clarity without pulling the overall impression into more of a V or U shape.
     
    20161113_172822_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Mids
     
    The midrange is a neutral but not boring affair, with a reasonably intimate but not overwhelming forwardness about it. Texture and detail shine though here, with a great sense of clarity that carries down from the treble, the weight of the notes and the microdetailing blending nicely to provide a dynamic and engaging sound without leaning too far towards either analytical or warm. Vocals sound excellent, with the reverb of the studio microphones and the subtle phrasings of the vocalist all coming across with the main delivery to provide an accurate but emotionally engaging presentation. Listening to “Mother Maria” by Slash, the smoky quality of Beth Hart’s voice and breathless delivery play beautifully against the clear ringing of the acoustic guitar to build a real emotional momentum, pulling the pain and emotion out of the singer’s voice as you get deeper into the track. To be clear, these are very resolving and clear IEMs for their price bracket – the overall detail on offer won’t go blasting down into the individual molecules of the sound like some super high-end IEMs that can dissect a track like a guest neurosurgeon in an episode of House, but will definitely provide enough detail for all but the most demanding and analytical of listeners.
     
    Guitars are also very well handled, with the crispness of the sound and the moderate note weight allowing them to chop through the sound with speed and aggression – listening to rock music on these is a very engaging and toe-tapping experience, with riffs presented in a crunchy but clear way and the raw energy of most tracks shining through the presentation almost like a live concert. The spiky and angular mix of acoustic and electric guitars on “What You Do To Me” by Don Broco breezes through the IT03 earpieces with swagger, the IEM handling the interchange between Depeche Mode style indie-rock interludes and thundering guitar riffs without losing any coherency or grip on the overall track. Switching to some more acoustic sounds, the texture and feel of acoustic guitars is well rendered, with Rodrigo and Gabriela coming across with good speed and accuracy without sounding too sterile or artificial, the speed of the BA drivers handling this part of the sound coming to the fore again. Orchestral tracks are similarly well done, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sounding full and vibrant in my ears when listening to their “Burning Love” collaboration with the late Elvis Presley. The detail levels and well-considered note weight here help keep the instruments well separated, giving a sense of fullness to the wall of sound but allowing you to focus and pull out individual instruments if you concentrate.
     
    Overall, the midrange is agile, deep enough in body to convey emotion but not too heavy or thick, leaving it perfectly balanced between the weightiness and authority of the bass and the airy clarity of the treble. Neither too forward or to recessed, this works perfectly with the other sound frequencies to provide an engaging and beautifully tuned sound – very well played here, Ibasso.
     
    20161113_173154_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Bass
     
    This is the area where the custom 9.2mm dynamic driver Ibasso have selected gets to flex its muscles, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Straight out of the box, the bass tuning feels warm, full and boomy, with a presence that fills up the lower end of the soundscape with quite an impressive volume of sound. Once you have adjusted to the sound (either through brain or driver burn in, depending on what you believe in), the bass settles down to something still definitely north of neutral but not quite as all-encompassing as first impressions make out. The tuning is equally weighted between mid and sub bass, giving a nice solid layer of sound without the usual mid-bass “hump” common in some more commercial tunings, and a level of punch that is quite impressive. Firing up “Hello, It’s Me” by Sister Hazel, the opening bassline comes through nice and thick, with the firm sub-bass foundation adding a level of heft to the song that other IEMs occasionally miss. The thick and unctuous bass oozes in just the right place, coating the track in smooth and velvety tones, while keeping a nice rasp and texture of the bass strings as they vibrate sitting just above the main frequencies in the mix. This sums up the approach of the IT03 quite nicely – decent levels of volume and authority without sacrificing the fine detail and texture. Listening to the remastered original of “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith is a pure joy on these IEMs, with the drums beating out the familiar rhythm with real verve and the bassline crawling all over the track with the same sort of mobility as Steven Tyler’s rubbery facial expressions. Overall drum impact is quite impressive, with a nice sense of impact and “thud” as the bass drum kicks in, without too quick a decay, leaving the aftershock hanging in the air just long enough to create the sense of solidity and substance this IEM does so well. Kicking my other bass standard into gear, “Bad Rain” by Slash sounds equally mesmerising, with the solid bass drum underpinning the track leading things off nicely and the growling bassline hitting with a real blend of texture and weight when it drops in, snarling like a big cat at feeding time in the local zoo, all menace and contained power. Despite the substance, the detail levels are still maintained, leaving your foot tapping at the same time as you admire the fretwork, which is always a good combination.
     
    Firing up my electronic test tracks, “Nobody To Love” kicks off with a positively thrumming sub-bass driven bassline, firing the track on at pace and leaving a rumble in the ear sockets that almost threatens to move further down into your chest at some points. Playing the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack by Daft Punk, the low-end frequencies and sweeping pseudo-orchestral dance music flows around the listener, immersing you in a wall of vibration and low bass tones as the music builds. These aren’t the bassiest IEMs I have ever heard - as a former owner of the mythical Aurisonics ASG-2.5, there aren’t many in ears I’m likely to listen to that will ever take THAT particular crown unless Shure or Sony decide to bring out a nuclear-powered subwoofer for one of their next flagships. That being said, the carefully considered weighting between mid and sub bass gives the IT03 a thickness and balance to the lower end that I have found very addictive, and has become one of my “preferred” bass tunings if I had to choose just one particular style for all IEMs I could hear from now on. In summary, another well thought out piece of design, adding heft to the sound without skewing too far away from the sense of balance Ibasso were obviously looking for when they originally started putting these IEMs together.
     
    20161113_172947_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Soundstage/separation
     
    The soundstage on the IT03 is quite impressive for a triple driver setup, with good width outside of the head and a decent sense of height. It feels slightly more oval than spherical to my ears, with the depth from front to back feeling slightly less spacious than the straight left/right comparisons. Separation is also very good, with the crispness and detail of the balanced armature drivers helping to keep each instrument very well defined and individual in the overall sonic landscape. Complex guitar based music is easy to pick apart, with the layers of sound stacked neatly on top of each other and blending just far enough together to feel cohesive. When played super-loud the sound can start to encroach a little and become a bit more blurred, but as that would involve listening to music far louder than I am comfortable with (and I listen reasonably loud) then I don’t see that as a particular issue here.
     
    20161113_173719_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Tip and cable choice
     
    The IT03 comes with a decent array of tips, which should leave most users able to find a suitable configuration without too much effort. For me, the sound is best through the short wide bore silicon tips (giving a shallower fit and seal), which gives a more neutral and less impactful bass and a smoother and more “diffuse” overall sound. Due to my cavernous ear anatomy, I generally prefer Comply or Spinfit tips to get a full seal, and in this case, Spinfit have provided the best overall sound for my personal tastes – the brain-tickling insertion depth I can achieve with a pair of red-stem ML Spinfits adds a little to the bass impact and slam while keeping the highs sweet and sparkly, whereas the Comply add to the bass in the usual way but can slightly blunt the overall frequency response to my odd shaped ears. Everyone is different when it comes to getting the best tips, and the enclosed tips are pretty good, but if you get the chance then throw a pair of Spinfits on these beauties and see if it works as well for you as it does for me.
     
    Having recently taken delivery of my first balanced DAP (the Hifiman Supermini), I picked up a standard Fiio 2.5mm balanced cable (plus adapter from VE) to try out the IT03 in balanced configuration. To my ears, the only major plus point was the increased power, but as the Supermini actually has enough juice to drive 300 ohm headphones without an amp using the single ended output, the overall SQ benefit was negligible. On some tracks the bass did seem a slight touch drier and more controlled, but I suspect that was as much placebo and the effect of using a different cable as anything else. I don’t disbelieve those who say that running these balanced from the right source can be a benefit, but for me personally, the stock cable and single ended operation will be the way forward with my current audio source selection.
    [​IMG]
    Power requirements
     
    The IT03 is quite an easy to drive IEM, responding well in terms of volume from most outputs. It does scale quite nicely with more high-fidelity sources, but doesn’t require an outrageous amount of power to sound good, so external amping isn’t a neccessity. That being said, after testing this on a few DAPs in my possession (LG G5 with Hifi Plus, Hifiman Supermini and Cowon Plenue D), my favourite pairing on my current gear is the Hifiman effort, with the additional output power on tap allowing the Hifiman DAP to really get a grip on the dynamics this IEM is capable of.
     
    20161113_173101_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Comparisons
     
    Vibro Labs Aria –  the Aria is a quad-armature IEM from the new range designed by Luke Pighetti at Vibro Labs (currently consisting of this model and the flagship IEM the Maya). It is priced at $499, and aims for a more U-shaped sound with good extension at both ends and high levels of detail. These have been a personal favourite of mine since discovering their unusual tuning, and provide a good counterpoint to the more conventional neutrality of the IT03. Starting with the packaging and load out, the Aria comes with a more sparse and traditionally CIEM type set of gear, coming in a clear Peli case with the Vibro Labs branding, with the IEMs and cable held safely in a laser-cut velour insert. The IEMs also come with some Comply foam tips and a standard Westone-style 2-pin cable. Compared to the IT03, the Aria lacks a little in panache, but is pretty practical, so it depends here on whether you are a fan of the whole unboxing experience or just want to get on with the important stuff and listen to your music. Isolation and comfort are similar on both, with the IT03 just nudging ahead in terms of total sound isolation due to the more ergonomic and custom style fit. With regards to the music, the tunings do share some similarities, with both having a higher than normal level of sub-bass and good treble extension. In terms of the bass, the Aria provides a deep and bottomless bass sound that is anchored more in sub-bass than mid-bass, with a U shaped slant to the frequency spectrum compared to the more evenly distributed Ibasso. Despite matching (and possible exceeding) the IT03 in extension, the relatively lighter mid-bass presence and all-BA implementation sound a little less full and impactful than the IT03. The Aria gives a smoother and more laid-back overall sound, lacking the sheer air moving power and “slam” of the dynamic driver used by Ibasso. Texture and detail is similar, with the Aria just pulling ahead in terms of detailing and speed due to the well implemented dual-BA, but losing out on power and viscerality as a direct tradeoff. Mids are slightly further back on the Aria than the more neutrally positioned IT03, sitting in the shallow “U” of the sound between the bass and treble drivers (the Aria unusually lacks a dedicated midrange driver). They both convey emotion in vocals very well, and hold similar levels of micro-detailing and nuance just under the surface of the sound. Separation and definition feels slightly sharper on rock guitar with the Aria, with the lower mid-bass foundation leaving the listener more easily able to hear the fine textures in complex guitar riffs. Switching attention to the treble,  the Aria has a greater extension into the high treble than the IT03, and maintains a smooth and clear sound. It is slightly less weighted than the IT03, but adds a great sense of space and sparkle. In terms of soundstage, both are reasonably evenly matched, and separation is close, although can be edged in the midrange by the Aria on some tracks. Overall, both are excellent sounding IEMs tuned for different purposes – the IT03 is a lower cost and more energetic listen, with a greater sense of punch and a more solid bass presence, whereas the Aria has a more laid-back tuning that extends on both ends of the spectrum and brings great texture and detail to the music. In terms of price, as the IT03 is half the price of the Aria with comparable sound quality, it wins in terms of value, but any other recommendation will be purely down to the sort of sound you are after.
     
    Noble 5 (universal) – the Noble 5U has been a recent acquisition, and despite the original purchase price being considerably higher, on paper it should be an interesting match up for the IT03 with its more bassy tuning. In practice, while the signatures share some similarities, they are aimed at two slightly different areas of the market so not as close as I had initially expected. Starting with the ergonomics and build, the 5U use the classic Noble shell design, and are shaped like a particularly deep cross between a teardrop and a coffeebean. Fit is slightly less ergonomic than the IT03, with the more generic shell shape and depth of the housing leading these to marginally protrude from the bowl of my ear, compared to the more fitting and snug shape of the Ibasso. Comfort levels are similar, with both IEMs being able to be worn for hours with no major hotspots or issues. The accessory package is also similar, with both presenting a premium experience, with only the classic Peli case provided by Noble and the greater (and more useful) range of tips edging this element in favour of the more expensive IEM in comparison to the very high-end but fiddly leather storage pouch and smaller tip loadout of the Ibasso product. In terms of bass, despite this being the “basshead” IEM of the original Noble lineup, I actually find the bass of the IT03 to be more satisfying and impactful on the majority of my tracks. The bass on the N5U is well done, but carries too much emphasis on mid-bass in comparison to sub-bass for my taste, leaving a slight bassy tilt to the sound that doesn’t sound quite as full or balanced as the IT03 tuning. Texture and detail is similar, with the N5U BA driver rendering notes with slightly more speed at the cost of the more visceral impact and organic tuning compared to the slightly cooler IT03. Both carry good levels of detail and richness, so it is purely down to preference here. Moving through the high mids to the treble, there is a slight peak I can hear in the N5U (presumably to balance out the mid-bass thumb) which can make some of my harsher or more sibilant recordings quite unpleasant, leading to the N5U feeling mildly fatiguing in extended use as a result. Treble definitely goes to the IT03 for my preferences, with a clearer and more extended sound, with no harsh spikes or boost to any of the range, and a clear and clean note weight that opens up the sound in the higher registers nicely compared to the richer but more closed in sound of the Noble. Soundstage is close but is edged by the IT03 in width and height, with the Noble having a marginally deeper “feel” to the music due to the richness of the sound. Detail levels are actually similar, but feel more apparent on the IT03. Overall, these are two very different IEMs in different price brackets – the IT03 is like a fine but easy drinking wine, feeling smooth and velvety while still giving a good feeling of substance – in comparison, the Noble 5 feels more like a full-bodied Rioja, with strong and pungent mid-bass and a sharp and coloured taste that might not be to everyone’s preference but will definitely appeal to certain aficionados. If you are a fan of heavy mid-bass with aggressive treble, the NB5 will be your bag, but for about half the price, the IT03 takes it for me personally, with its blend of substance and clarity and a better overall balance to the sound.
     
    20161113_172801_HDR.jpg [​IMG]
     
    Overall conclusions
     
    Sound is such a subjective medium than when an IEM arrives on the scene as “flavour of the month”, it is always difficult to make an objective assessment if you pick it up while all the hyperbole is still fresh in your brain (the joy of expectation bias). In the case of Ibasso’s first effort, I am happy to say that hype train or not, the IT03 have really blown me away with the quality of sound, fit and craftsmanship that they exhibit. Put simply, this is a pair of IEMs built for the listener to enjoy music, not analyse it (although they carry enough detail and neutrality to allow that). When I first slipped these into my ears in the audio store in Singapore, it felt like sliding into a warm bath filled with your favourite music, the sound enveloping me and immediately bringing a huge grin to my face (probably at the thought of all the money I would be saving not having to go home with a more expensive set of IEMs!). As I have listened over the last few weeks, the sound has grown on me, while the grin still hasn’t faded. There is a sense of energy and immediacy about these that can really drag you into the heart of the music and keep you there for hours – I have lost count of the number of albums I have listened to in their entirety when trying to write these up after listening to my “test” track and realising I was 7 or 8 tracks down the road without having written a single thing. It may not be the most accurate or “reference” sound signature out there, but music just sounds enjoyable through these IEMs, and at the end of day, that is what matters.
     
    In the interests of objectivity, after my own addition to the (well deserved) hype around these excellent IEMs, I will state that despite all the positive comments, these probably won’t run rings around the $1k+ TOTL flagships currently doing the rounds (Andromeda, Vega, Zeus-R, K10 etc). They won’t resurrect the dead, they won’t make your souffle stay up in the oven, and they won’t make your teeth whiter in two weeks or less. What they will do is make your music sound damn good, and make you smile while they do it. For the price, you can’t ask for any more than that – these would be well priced at $500 or more compared to the competition, so for me, this is a “bang for your buck” IEM that can’t be faulted in the sub-$250 price bracket. Simply outstanding.
      Brooko, peter123, mgunin and 11 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Jackpot77
      @tikue666 - I don't have the A83 in my possession any more, but from memory, the IT03 gives a more neutral take on the sound, with a similarly emotive midrange but less of a V and more emphasis on sub-bass foundation. Overall, I prefer the IT03's more neutral style of signature over the more accentuated V of the A83. I believe some of the other guys who have reviewed the IT03 still have the A83 in their possession, so may be worth dropping one of them a line??
       
      @DoppenShloppen - again, I don't have the P1 any more to compare, but for me, the signatures were similar(ish) from the mid-bass up, with the IT03 having a fair bit more presence in the lower bass registers than the more subdued (and lacking in sub) bass of the P1. There is also a little bit more high end "sparkle" in the IT03s if my memory is serving me correctly - again, both excellent, but I think the IT03 steps up a bracket in overall sonic enjoyment for me over the P1.
      Jackpot77, Dec 2, 2016
    3. Jackpot77
      And to everyone else, cheers for the comments - very much appreciated and glad you enjoyed my ramblings! :wink:
      Jackpot77, Dec 2, 2016
    4. istirsin
      Great review. How do these compare to the FLC 8S?
      istirsin, Apr 13, 2017
  9. sonickarma
    iBasso IT03 - A New Era – Highend Signature at a Killer Price
    Written by sonickarma
    Published Oct 25, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent closeup vocals, Deep textured bass, Astounding price, Elegant design, Great fit,
    Cons - Need a decent source synergy, Tip selection/fit is essential for getting strong soundstage and mids
     ​
     ​
    I was honoured to be approached by iBasso with their first venture into IEM territory and they asked me to provide a review of their recently released earphone.
    iBasso are well know for their excellent Dap range so they know a lot about engineering and sound.
     
    They have been established for many years and are highly respected in the community. So everyone was excited to hear about this venture into the earphone market. The iBasso IT03 is a high quality balanced armature and dynamic driver universal earphone.
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    Manufacturer Description:
    1. IT03 earphone “single dynamic driver + dual balanced armature” three-way structure.
    2. From a purely acoustic point of view this earphone choosing three different features balanced armature and dynamic driver, with the adjustment of the earphone sound chamber, to achieve frequency division, sound field control and a smooth frequency response curve, which gives users a solid bass, full mids, clear treble and excellent layering sense of hearing.
    3. IT03 frequency range well beyond the traditional dynamic earphones, heritage the advantages of dynamic earphones, which use neodymium iron boron magnet and titanium diaphragm, these are generally only seen on high-end earphones also have on IT03.
    Manufacturer specifications:
    1. Model : IT03
    2. Type :Triple driver hybrid
    3. Driver: Dynamic driver (9.2mm) x 1 , Balanced Armature x 2
    4. Freq. Response: 10Hz-30kHz
    5. Sensitivity: 105+/-2dB
    6. Impedance: 8 ohm
    7. Noise Attenuation: -30dB
    8. Rated Power: 5mW
    9. T.H.D: <1% (at 1kHz /1mW)
    10. Plug Size: 3.5mm gold-plated
    11. Cord Length: 1.2m
    12. Weight: 9g without cable
    Price: $259
    Review/Impressions
     
    Packaging/Presentation:
    Outer packaging
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    The IT03 comes in elegant packaging with a great ‘exploded out view’ of the earphone components
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    Inside the outer white sleeve there is a flip top case with machined foam to keep them protected in transit to you.
    The dark obsidian looking jewels are inside.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Build quality:
    These are beautiful looking and seem to have a type of custom design feel to them, for me the fit was fantastic and reminiscent of Stagediver SD range.
    They sit nice an snug in my ears and stay put when I’m on the go with nice isolation. I have heard that a small amount of people have fit issues but my understanding is the majority should have a great fit as iBasso carried out extensive researching into the design. The fit and design is something that will gel with many people and they worked great for me and I was also certainly attracted to the elegant style of the design.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The nozzles have a strong mesh cover to protect from wax and debri which should help these endure.
    The connectors are gold coloured MMCX and have a real nice tight fit for all the cables I tried.
    I was very happy with this as my experience with MMCX sockets has been hit and miss in the past.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The shells feel solid and well built, although they are a 2 piece shell design the join doesn’t effect in any adverse way.
    I really like the attention to detail of the curve precision around the golden MMCX socket.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Stock Cable:
    The supplied cable is not off the shelf cable but a custom cable iBasso commissioned to be designed with high purity OFC.
    It has a nice right angle jack and exhibits very low levels of microphonics. It has memory wire in the earguides and keeps the fit nice and secure.
    [​IMG]
     
    Accessories:
    You get a good amount of decent accessories for your money
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    For the price the case is extremely premium, made of good quality leather. I personally prefer hard cases but this one is very nice almost feels handmade/artisan.
     
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    The range of tips is well presented and quite extensive
     
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    After a lot of tip sampling – my preference in the end was – Spin Fits and Sony Hybrid tips.
    These seems to have the best fit for me and provided the best balance of signature for my musical tastes.
     
    Burn In Changes:
    The burn duration recommendation is for 150 hours. I was sampling the signature at 30/50/100 and 150 hours. The core changes I experienced was the strong bass was reduced at the 50 hour mark and by the 150 mark the treble smoothed out nicely.
    I understand that this is typical of Balance Armature type in ears. I don’t expect to hear any changes beyond this timeframe and feel the earphone is more coherent and better balanced now.
     
    DAP Parings:
    I used the Cowon Plenue S and the Lotto Paw Gold Titanium Edition
    For me the Lotto Paw Gold has the best synergy with the IT03 and it really felt like they were tuned for each other. Tracks were energetic and full of emotion, the full range had good coherence with excellent detail.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    With the Cowon Plenue S everything felt too weak and soul less, bass lost all its magic textures.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    This goes to show the importance of source synergy as they could greatly vary.
     
    After Market Cable Pairings:
    I used ALO Litz cable and Custom Sony Kimber cable
    Using the Kimber Kable felt like the earphone was struggling somewhat and sounded a bit congested.
    [​IMG]
     
    The Litz cable pairing worked very well and softened the treble and resulted in a general smoother feel with less fatigue.
    [​IMG]
     
    Sound Signature:
    What will hit you first when you listen to these dark jewels is the deep bass range, especially in the low end. There is no distortion and the bass is beautifully textured. It provides a nice rounding to the music. There is no masking and its not overly dominant, it just maintains its tightness without feeling too snappy or clipped. It works very well with fast paced tracks and has the right extension depth to not overshadow the music. It seems to effortlessly navigate even complicated energetic tracks.
     
    The next wow factor for me was how vocals sounded. They are smooth and intimate with a real close feel. Live vocals are natural sounding and really give you the gig/venue feel for higher resolution recordings.
     
    The emotion and soul of the singer is done justice. I’m mainly into instrumental music but really got drawn in to listen to a lot more vocal tracks than I do ordinarily because the vocals are so well portrayed with the IT03.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Soundstage could do with a bit more wideness on some tracks for my musical preferences and I feel if the mids were a little fuller/warmer it would be a positive addition to this earphones wide repertoire.
     
    edit 12/012017: Applying the Tips much deeper on the nozzles - resulted in better soundstage and mid range depth
     
    On my pre-burn-in listen I was a little concerned that the treble sparkled at the higher ranges and felt sharp on occasion but this changed over the burn period.
    It now feels much less peaky and all round has smoothed out. As a result longer listening sessions are much more non-fatiguing now.
    Instrument separation/layering is clear and maintains the overall cohesion and musicality across the ranges.
     
    It has a precise but not clinical take on detail resolution especially on energetic tracks.
    There is a nice sense of space and a slight airy open feel to the resolution, something that really grows on you.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The level of quality for this very fairly priced IEM is extremely impressive and if you didn’t tell me how much it cost I would have guessed more than twice the price.
    iBasso looks very well placed to capture this price range audience and the higher end market will buy these also as these are such a great deal.
    I can see this IEM selling fast and I am very interested in what iBasso can achieve for future higher end earphone releases.
     
    This is my review originally posted on http://www.earphonia.com/earphones-iems-ciems/ibasso-it03-review/ and also posted here on headfi to share
      tarhana and Strkfreedom like this.
  10. HiFiChris
    iBasso IT03 - A nicely tuned and unique Hybrid Triple-Driver In-Ear in its Class
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Oct 18, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - evenly rising & sub-bass focussed bottom end, quite even treble, good separation and resolution, fast and controlled dynamic bass, fit
    Cons - leather carrying pouch not as practical/protective a normal carrying case, the dynamic driver doesn't sound as detailed as the two BAs
    IT03_Yellow.jpg


     
     
    Preamble:

    Who still knows iBasso Audio’s old website might remember that there was a tab labelled “Headphones” in the product overview, however it was empty and lacked content. Now it has happened and the Chinese company that established in 2006, having started with and still making portable headphone amplifiers, evolving to offering the digital audio players DX100, DX50, DX90 and DX80 (as well as having announced the DX200 and DX120), has announced a line of hybrid in-ears that were entirely designed and developed by iBasso. As you can see, the “Headphones” tab on their old website was there for a reason.

    When iBasso’s Paul approached me and asked if I was interested in testing their IT03 in-ear that backs on two BA as well as one dynamic driver per side, I surely was interested. At this place, I also want to take the time to personally thank Paul as well as iBasso for sending me a sample of the in-ears free of charge for the purpose of an honest, unbiased evaluation.

    How well the outcome of iBasso’s entry into the world of in-ears is and how the hybrid IT03 compares to other hybrid in-ears in about the same price range is to be found out in the course of this review.


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: $259.00
    Drivers: 1x dynamic driver (9.2 mm), 2x Balanced Armature
    Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
    Sensitivity: 105 +/- 2dB
    Impedance: 8 Ohms
    Noise Attenuation: -30dB
    Rated Power Input: 5 mW
    THD: < 1% (at 1 kHz/1 mW)
    Plug Size: 3.5 mm, gold-plated
    Cable Length: 1.2 m
    Weight: 9g without cable


    About Hybrid In-Ears:

    As you can read from the technical specifications and mentioned multiple times in the preamble, the IT03 is a little different from most In-Ears and doesn’t only use dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers, but combines both in one shell.

    Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.

    Higher-priced and professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering mids and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution and precision to the mids and highs – and that’s what the IT03 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, speed and precision.


    Delivery Content:

    The IT03 arrives in a black box that is covered by a light grey cardboard sleeve which contains the technical specifications and a really nice exploded diagram on the back.
    Opening the magnetic flap of the box, we are greeted by golden text that says “InTune – Your Universal Ambassador of Music”. Also, we will find a user guide that doesn’t only contain information on how to wear the in-ears, but also a sheet of measurements, including an uncompensated frequency graph (however without information about the used coupler and source).
    Below, the IT03 can be found, along with a real leather carrying pouch and three sets of different ear tips (narrow bore long stem black, narrow bore long stem semi-transparent and wide bore shallow stem black). One pair of medium long stem black silicone tips is already installed.
    A warranty card can also be found in the box.
     

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    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    The in-ears are made of shiny black plastic and ergonomically shaped, resembling the human concha. On the faceplate, a dark grey iBasso logo can be found.
    Each in-ear piece is made of two parts that could have probably been jointed more elegantly.
    On the inner side, white side-markers and IT03 letterings can be found.
    The in-ears appear sturdy and well made; only the visual “gap” of the two jointed halves of the housing could look less obtrusive (in my opinion).
    The nozzle has got a protective mesh to keep dirt and fluids from getting inside the in-ears.
     

    IMG_2112.jpg   IMG_2113.jpg
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    The cable is made of four single strands that are twisted, so it is basically like most other cables of higher-priced and custom-moulded in-ears, however it is slightly springier than those, probably because of its glossy (clear-painted?) finish.
    The 3.5 mm connector is angled and carries a small iBasso logo and is made of matte black metal.
     

    IMG_2121.jpg   IMG_2123.jpg
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    While the carrying pouch is made of premium leather and looks beautiful, it is (to some degree) a failure in my view as it is just too small to fit the in-ears well without stressing the cables and connectors when trying to put them away rather quickly. Also, dust and dirt can come inside. In my opinion, a normal carrying case would have been more practical despite looking less luxurious.
     

    IMG_2119.jpg   IMG_2120.jpg
    IMG_2125.jpg   IMG_2126.jpg



    Comfort, Isolation:

    The in-ears are somewhat more on the larger size which however shouldn’t be any problem for people with average or even slightly smaller ears as the IT03’s bodies are ergonomically shaped and resemble the shape of the human concha (not much unlike the InEar StageDiver SD-2). Inserting the earpieces, the in-ears sit very securely and don’t twist, however I would prefer 2-pin instead of swivelling MMCX connectors for this kind of body shape when inserting the IT03.

    Isolation is better than with most other vented in-ears and pretty solid (actually a bit more than that) while it doesn’t fully reach the level of fully closed models.


    Sound:

    My main sources for listening were my iBasso DX90 (as standalone device) and Chord Mojo plus Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII stack. The DX80 was used, too.

    Although I don’t believe in burn-in with headphones, I let the IT03 burn in with sine and noise signals for over 200 hours before even initial listening started.

    For listening, I used the largest size of the included semi-transparent silicone tips.

    Tonality:

    The tonality of the IT03 is something that is rather not very often found with hybrid in-ears: it has got an overall signature that is more on the fun side of balanced with a “true” sub-bass emphasis. Overall, there are four headphones that I find to share similarities with iBasso’s triple-driver hybrid in-ear: the FLC Technology FLC8s with the red sub-bass filter, the Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00, the ORIVETI PRIMACY and the UPQ Q-music QE80 (OEM of the Fidue A83).
    Roughly summarised, I would say that its sub-bass remind me of the Fostex and FLC Technology, that its midbass, upper bass and root remind me of the ORIVETI and that its treble is not much unlike the UPQ’s while still different and less bright overall.

    Beginning with my subjective observations listening to music, not including the sub-bass yet, I hear an overall rather balanced sounding in-ear that has got a treble that is somewhat more on the brighter side without sounding artificial or obtrusive at all. Vocals sound tonally quite correct with just a slight favour of higher voices (wherefore they are not as bright as the DUNU DN-2000J’s but a little leaner than the Etymotic ER-4S’s) and are overall a little in the background. The middle highs around 5 kHz are somewhat forward and so is the upper treble around 8 kHz with a good extension in the super highs past 10 kHz.
    There is no unnecessary fundamental warmth and the bass doesn’t bleed into the lower mids. Speaking of the bass (still not including the sub-bass), I hear it as evenly climbing and being somewhat more forward than a strictly flat in-ear like the Etymotic ER-4S, with a quantity of the lower root and upper bass (= around 100 Hz) that is about comparable to the ORIVETI PRIMACY, DUNU DN-2000J and InEar StageDiver SD-2. Then below 100 Hz, it climbs a little, reaching its climax in the sub-bass around 30-40 Hz with ca. a little more than 3 dB more than in the upper bass.

    The more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. Especially the very well made climb of the bass that reaches its climax low, in the sub-bass, is something that not that many headphones and in-ears really achieve. With that, unnecessary fullness, warmth and bloom can be fully avoided and the bass is also not perceived as too strong or obtrusive.
    The bass is definitely not shy in the sub-bass and also has got a firm upper bass punch, nonetheless it is not overly big and miles away from sounding boomy. Feeding the IT03 sub-bassy music, it has a nice drive but doesn’t add any bass with recordings that don’t reach as low. Here, it reminds me quite a bit of my Fostex TH-X00 that has however got a little more subjectively perceived impact because of its different driver and build principle (in-ears vs. over-ears).
    Then, the treble is overall fairly even and has got a nice amount of sparkle without becoming harsh or unnaturally bright, however people who listen to music at really high volume levels or are very treble-sensitive will probably not become best friends with the IT03’s upper end although it is not much brighter than a neutral in-ear’s upper end.
    All in all, I find the balance between tonal balance and fun with an advantage towards the fun side quite well-made and also personally really like the in-ear for a lot of applications aside from true stationary and critical CD-only listening where I usually aim for a flat/neutral response.

    Going on with the sine sweeps, this is what I am hearing:
    Down from 500 Hz on, the bass starts evenly climbing, having about 5 dB more quantity that an absolutely flat in-ear around 100 Hz, however it doesn’t stop climbing here but instead reaches its climax around 40 Hz, being able to keep it upright even as low as 25 Hz with ca. 9 dB north of a really flat in-ear like the Etymotic ER-4S (so the IT03’s lows are mainly sub-bass focussed).
    Going up, I hear 2 kHz as just being slightly brighter than 1 kHz, followed by a slight and broad-banded dip at 4 kHz and two broad-banded emphasises both at 6 and 8 kHz. Afterwards, the level drops a little but is still north of neutral, followed by a slight peak around 13 kHz and a beginning roll-off above 15 kHz.
    So what I am hearing in the highs is that above 6 kHz, they are brighter than before however overall the treble is quite harmonious without any abrupt or narrow peaks respectively dips and the upper treble is not ringing but only very slightly on the metallic side at times, however realistic overall.

    Resolution:

    To say it beforehand, the IT03 is definitely worth its price tag and plays pretty much in the same league as the ORIVETI PRIMACY and UPQ Q-music QE80 (which is an OEM of the Fidue A83), maybe a little above, while it doesn’t fully reach all qualities of some higher-priced hybrid in-ears like the DUNU DN-2002 or FLC Technology FLC8s.

    The midrange and treble are pleasantly as well as adequately detailed and vocals sound realistic without smaller singers’ variations being subdued. Overall, the midrange does also sound pretty open and not congested.
    Treble attacks aren’t decaying too quickly nor do they stay there for too long. Also with busier tracks, the highs remain well-separated and nicely controlled.
    The lows sound a bit less resolving than the mids and treble – I have heard (more expensive) hybrid in-ears that have got a somewhat better detailed dynamic driver, however this is probably the only thing regarding detail retrieval where the IT03 is not “very good” but only “good” and also something I have heard from other in-ears at this price point, so it is normal. What I really appreciate about the iBasso’s lows is that they definitely don’t need to hide from other really good hybrid in-ear when it comes to control and speed.
    Regarding bass attack, the IT03 is not trying to hide that it has got a dynamic driver for the bass reproduction, however the balance between impact and speed are good for the attack. When it comes to decay however, the IT03 manages to put a smile on my face as its dynamic driver doesn’t swing for too long but decays quickly enough wherefore the bass sounds nicely fast, well controlled and realistic in terms of decay so that it also doesn’t become muddy or soft with fast and busy bass-lines.

    Soundstage:

    Soundstage is a little wider than average and has got overall a rather oval appearance in my ears with more width than depth. Instrument separation is surprisingly clean and precise and a bit above the QE80 and PRIMACY while it is outperformed by the FLC8s which separates instruments even somewhat sharper.

    ---------

    In Comparison with other In-Ears:
     

    IMG_2128.jpg


    UPQ Q-music QE80 (OEM of the Fidue A83):
    The QE80 has got the somewhat warmer/fuller root and bottom end, however less level below 80 Hz and is somewhat rolling off towards the sub-bass whereas the IT03 is climbing here. So where the IT03 has got a more sub-bass driven bass, the QE80 is smoother and more relaxed sounding here.
    In the mids, the QE80 sounds a bit more distant and has got the leaner, brighter vocal reproduction. In the highs, the UPQ is brighter and leaner, however a little more coherent here whereas the IT03 sounds more realistic and tonally correct.
    Overall detail retrieval is pretty much identical with both in-ears. Still, I find the IT03 to be a bit more refined and separated in the mids and upper highs. In the bass, the QE80 appears a tiny bit more detailed, however the IT03 has got the better controlled and faster bottom-end.
    The QE80’s soundstage appears a little wider and also slightly deeper in comparison, however the IT03 outperforms the UPQ when it comes to instrument placement, separation and spatial precision.

    DUNU DN-2002:
    The DUNU has got more warmth in the root as its bass starts climbing earlier, however both in-ears have got the same amount of upper bass and upper midbass with the IT03 having a climbing and more forward sub-bass with the DN-2002’s rolling somewhat off. Male vocals sound a little fuller with the DUNU due to its more forward fundamental range. In the lower and middle treble, the DUNU is more relaxed and comes back in the upper highs around 8 kHz with an emphasis that is just a little above zero. The IT03 sounds brighter in the upper and especially middle treble (where the DUNU has a broad-banded dip).
    Regarding resolution, both are pretty close, nonetheless the DUNU’s dynamic drivers are somewhat more detailed and sound pretty much as detailed as the DN-2002’s mids whereas with the IT03, the mids are a bit more detailed than the lows. In the mids, the DN-2002 just appears very slightly more effortless than the iBasso, however both have got an equally detailed treble.
    The DN-2002’s bass attack is only minimally faster while both in-ears have equal control and decay speed.
    The DUNU’s soundstage is somewhat wider and deeper, wherefore it sounds more spacious and is able to generate more air between instruments. Separation is a little sharper with the DUNU because of its larger stage, nonetheless overall on the technical level, both are very close to each other with the DN-2002 only having the somewhat more detailed but equally controlled woofers.

    ORIVETI PRIMACY:
    Both in-ears start equally in the root, but below 100 Hz, the IT03’s bass continues climbing whereas the PRIMACY extends flat into the sub-bass with just as much sub-bass as upper bass, making its bottom end more realistic/sober than the IT03’s sub-bassy lows. The ORIVETI’s mids are more intimate compared to the iBasso’s slightly bright mids. In the middle highs, the ORIVETI has got a stronger dip around 5 kHz that makes its overall vocal presentation more relaxed and smoother – here, the IT03 sounds more direct, with the somewhat more forward overall treble.
    In the lows, the IT03 has something in common with the PRIMACY: the dynamic woofer sounds a little less detailed than the BA midrange driver. Directly comparing the two, the iBasso’s lows appear a little more detailed. The PRIMACY has got the slightly cleaner and quicker bass attack while both have an identically fast decay and control. The IT03’s mids sound more detailed and rawer, more direct, which is however mainly because of the PRIMACY’s 5 kHz dip that reduces the quantity of vocal overtones.
    The PRIMACY’s soundstage is smaller and more intimate, yet with just as much width as depth. Instrument separation is somewhat cleaner with the iBasso.

    FLC Technology FLC8s (red-grey-gunmetal filter combination):
    The FLC8s is even more of a truly sub-bass focussed in-ear with this filter combination as its lows start climbing lower, with even less level in the root and upper bass, but a comparable amount of sub-bass quantity with the FLC’s reaching its climax even lower (so in comparison with the FLC8s, the IT03 has got the fuller bottom-end while it is the more sub-bassy in-ear when compared to many other in-ears). In the mids, the FLC is more forward and intimate while both in-ears sound comparably open here. Though, to my ears, the FLC8s has got a spot-on correct vocal timbre with the gunmetal filter whereas the iBasso minimally shifts voices to the slightly brighter side. In the middle treble around 5 kHz, the FLC8s is more in the background and has got a narrower peak around 8 kHz, however the iBasso is somewhat brighter in the highs, nonetheless its upper treble appears a bit more realistic as its emphasis is more broad-banded and even.
    While the FLC8s has got the quicker bass attack with all of the other sub-bass filters, its (sub-) bass attack is moderately softer than the iBasso’s when using the red sub-bass filter. Control and decay speed however appear comparable. Nonetheless, the FLC8s’s dynamic woofer sounds somewhat higher resolving than the iBasso’s to me. In the mids, the FLC, that I also say to have more precise and detailed vocals than my UERM, sounds somewhat more detailed than the IT03 here as well. In the treble, the FLC8s appears a bit cleaner, however the IT03 is more even and tonally realistic here.
    The FLC’s soundstage is somewhat wider and deeper with the sharper and cleaner separation in comparison.


    Conclusion:

    A surprise can be either of positive or of negative nature. Fortunately, the IT03 definitely turned out as the first.
    The sound is nicely coherent, with a sub-bass driven nature and lows that start climbing low, avoiding spillage into the root and midrange. The highs are somewhat more on the brighter side but pretty even overall, avoiding any narrow dips or peaks, making the treble harmonious and realistic on the total.
    The amount of details is high and the IT03 definitely doesn’t need to hide from other hybrid in-ears at the same price point, despite the slightly less resolving bottom-end, nonetheless some of the other hybrid models in the same price range “suffer” from the same, and iBasso’s triple-driver in-ear manages to have a pretty nimble and well-controlled bass as compensation. Overall, I would even say that the, compared to the mids, somewhat less resolving bass is its only small taint, because on the whole, the combination of tonality, speed, resolution, evenness and instrument separation are definitely very convincing.

    What’s not so great though is the carrying case that looks nice but is a little inappropriate for in-ears of this size. Additionally, with the ergonomically shaped shells, either rotation-locked MMCX or 2-pin connectors would have been better suited for the overall insertion comfort as opposed to the swivelling MMCX connectors that would be better suiting for smaller and not concha-shaped in-ears. And just a small thing at the end, a more gracile (less visible) transition between the two parts of each ear piece would also be something that I would have liked to see.


    Overall, especially on the sound side, the IT03 is a very convincing in-ear, scoring 94 percentage points when it comes to sound quality of hybrid in-ears at this price point and 87% when it comes to build and accessories, making it a total of 4.595 out of 5 possible stars with my usual 70 to 30 weighting. 
      Brooko, peter123, mgunin and 7 others like this.
    1. drbluenewmexico
      nice review, appreciate the detailed comparisons to earphones in similar price range and technologies!! made me curious.....
      drbluenewmexico, Oct 18, 2016
    2. Lurk650
      Lol and they still don't have this earphone on their site
      Lurk650, Oct 18, 2016
    3. HiFiChris
      @Lurk650
       
      Yeah, while iBasso's new website looks good and is well-structured, it is not nearly as often updated with new products as the old one (except for the firmware update download section).
      It definitely wouldn't be the worst move if they updated their website and Facebook site with the IT03. 
      HiFiChris, Oct 19, 2016