iBasso IT05

General Information

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Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: solid all rounder, w-shaped signature, balanced, detailed, vocal performance, value
Cons: very occasionally some sibilance or a metallic quality in the mids. Forward upper mids might not suit some people's preferences
Introduction:

Well hello there! :)
It’s been a while since I posted a review of an iBasso IEM; back in 2021, if my memory serves me well (although frankly, it often doesn’t!) :)
Having said that, the aforementioned IEM was the IT07, which I thought was fantastic, so at least we’ve got a solid foundation upon which to build here :)

I usually start with a lengthy preamble, introducing the company and perhaps some of their previous releases; however in this case, I struggle to imagine there being a Head-Fi reader who is *not* already aware of iBasso and at least some of their products.

This prolific manufacturer has been a leading light of quality Chinese audio products, and especially noteworthy for delivering outstanding value for money time and again.
Which leads us neatly (almost as if it were planned by the reviewer!) into the subject of today’s review, namely the IT05.

It’s a $299 IEM (at the time of release) with a sizeable 11mm dynamic driver, encased within a double Helmholtz resonator structure and with an impedance of 16 Ohms.

As with most IEMs, and especially dynamic drivers with a powerful low end, eartip selection is going to be crucial in order to ensure that you’re hearing the IEM as it’s intended to sound. I’ve had many IEM’s in the past that have sounded anaemic in the low end, and/or tinny from the upper mids onwards, only to have those impressions completely turned upside-down once I found a set of tips that worked well with that IEM and my ear shape.
So, my advice is, try several pairs of tips and experiment until you feel you’re hearing the IEM at least roughly as described (or roughly as another reviewer describes, in case my hearing is defective!) :)

My sincere thanks to Paul and the team at iBasso, for providing me with a review unit to keep in exchange for an honest review.
So, enough of the preamble; let’s look at what $299 gets you in iBasso-land :)

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Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

The packaging and accessories are very nicely done, befitting of an IEM rather more expensive than this one is!
There’s the excellent iBasso metal case, which offers solid protection and a classy design, along with an astonishing variety of tips from which to choose (which, given my tip-experimenting advice above, is especially welcome!).

There is also the now familiar set of 3 screw-in filters, which can be used to tailor the sound to one’s preference.
The box includes not one, but two cables (!):
a 3.5mm terminated cable with a black cloth-wrapped design, made with 4-core, high purity, oxygen-free copper
and (my favourite, and the one I imagine most people will probably use);
a 4.4mm terminated cable, which is an 8-core hybrid cable featuring 4 conductors of OCC copper with 6N purity combined with 4 conductors of silver-plated OCC 6N copper, each wrapped in a soft and flexible PVC insulation (black and transparent colour, respectively).

Having an 8 wire cable of this quality on a $299 IEM is pretty impressive, and made more impressive still by the very stylish and unique chunky stainless steel hardware which graces the cable (and the 3.5mm one too!). Whilst not making the cable heavy enough to impact ergonomics, they nevertheless make for the appearance of a solidly-engineered product, not to mention making it look considerably more luxurious and classy in the process (which I just mentioned) :)


The Fit:

They have a very good insertion depth for me personally; neither too shallow nor too deep. I started with New Bee foam tips in the Large size, and I suspect if I were wearing mediums or smalls, I would be able to insert the IT05 even more deeply, so there’s room to roam, as it were :)
Later, I switched to Sedna Xelastec tips (in ML size), which fit just fine too.
All in all, they are extremely comfortable and I have been able to wear them for extended listening sessions with no discomfort or fatigue.


The Sound:

I listened using my hardware-modded Sony WM1Z and ZX300 DAPs, and also tried them with the DX220MAX.

I tried the three different tuning filters finding the balanced gold ones to best match my sonic preferences and sticking with them throughout the review period. The difference in the other filters wasn’t night and day for me, but I heard the black ones to smooth out the mids somewhat and boost the treble, where the silver ones seemed to increase bass quantity a bit, for a somewhat more L-shaped signature.

I’d note as well that I tend to prefer a warmer, more organic tonality on the whole.
As such, I found these IEM’s to pair very well with my Sony DAPs, whereas I found them to be more intense with the DX220MAX; more detailed and with the mids brought forwards.
Both were good in their own way; in the end it will really just come down to your personal preferences with regards to sound signature.

Before I continue, a quick disclaimer: I pretty much exclusively listen to comparatively high-end portable hi-fi gear these days. The last review I wrote was for the $2300 Unique Melody MEST Mk III, and I have recently spent the last few weeks listening to the Campfire Audio Trifecta (approx. $3400).

I started out with very humble audio beginnings and have been very privileged to have access to the kind of gear I do these days; a fact that I never take for granted, nor cease being grateful for!

I mention all this to highlight the challenge of going from hearing and reviewing IEMs that sit in the upper echelons of the price tiers, to suddenly dropping down to budget or midrange. I have never wanted to forget how I felt starting out in this hobby, and have always wanted to continue highlighting gear at frankly more sane prices, that I can recommend to fellow Head-Fi’ers without feeling like I’m enabling the black market in used kidneys! :sweat_smile:

But it takes time to adjust my hearing to products in such a different price bracket, and by way of declaring any possible reviewer bias, it’s possible that I overlook weaknesses that I might hear on lower price gear, on the basis that I figure it would be unreasonable to expect a lack of weaknesses at this price point, or to fall prey to applying the kind of standards I use with TOTL gear to something that costs a fraction of the price.

It's possible that someone who focuses more exclusively on IEMs in this price range might identify more weaknesses, or have more criticisms than I do? Just food for thought! As always, my review is just one subjective opinion and I always recommend listening to/reading others to get as balanced a view as possible (and of course demoing the product, if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so).

So, to move on to the now-long-overdue actual reviewing part of this review, overall, I would describe the IT05 as being a quite balanced IEM; at this price point they maintain an impressively high standard of transparency and detail retrieval across the frequency range. This is coupled with a quite wide and immersive soundstage and again, at this price point, impressive separation and imaging. I used them whilst watching a Korean sci-fi drama and it really enhanced the experience. I’m not a gamer, but I imagine these same qualities would make the IT05 an attractive option for gaming too.

I hear them as probably having a W-shaped sound signature overall, since the low end, mids and treble all stood out to me in their own way, and I can’t say that any one of them is more dominant than the other. I do hear a touch of brightness and forwardness to the upper mids, but nothing excessive and indeed it is this that I feel balances out the bass and treble and leads to the W-shaped descriptor.

I have a particular sensitivity to forward upper mids; I loved the Empire Ears Odin for example, but really struggled with the upper mids at times for this reason. With the IT05, occasionally I feel they are pushing to the limit of what I would regard as comfortable, but they managed to – just – stay within that boundary.

Again, to re-iterate, I have autism and this is a known sensitivity of mine, that is probably more extreme than the average person! So unless you know that you’re unusually sensitive to forward/bright upper mids, I doubt you’ll even notice this, and will just be able to enjoy the benefits to the sound signature that this tuning brings.

I also noticed occasionally – most songs were fine – a slightly metallic or sibilant quality in the background. It’s by no means a big deal, since I noticed it on just a few songs out of 50 or so. But it would be remiss of me not to mention it for your consideration.

Digging down into the minutiae of the sound signature, I hear drums as having a very pleasing thump, impact and tactility. There’s a density in the midbass that adds some warmth and body to the midrange generally, and I hear the sub-bass extending nicely.

The lows (and lower mids) strike me as a bit more analogue and organic than I’ve been used to from iBasso’s IEM offerings (perhaps with the exception of the IT07, which leaned a bit more in that direction too). Interestingly, I’d probably describe the upper mids and treble as the opposite, feeling very precise and detailed, with a gentle touch of brightness which balances out the dense and solid low end.

Vocals sound good on this IEM; listening to ‘Hey Julie’ by Fountains of Wayne, I really notice the backing vocals in the chorus; they stand out in a way I’ve never noticed before, and it’s an enchanting effect. In fact, this bears repeating; vocals, in particular harmonies and lead vocals twinned with backing vocals are presented exceptionally well on the IT05.
They are separated perfectly, such that you can clearly make out each singer’s individual voice, but still combine and harmonise beautifully.

Given this is a Chinese IEM, I tried it out with one of my favourite Mandarin songs, ‘Di Wu Ji’ by Angela Zhang (‘第五季’ by 張韶涵). Ok, this is one of my all-time favourite songs of any genre, so I’m inclined to think it sounds majestic on pretty much any gear! However, it does really shine here; the note weight and gentle warmth in the low end add presence and authority to her already powerful vocals here, and the instrumental timbre is captured very well indeed.

So, to wrap things up, and by way of comparison, I’d say that sonically the IT05 sits in between the IT04 and the IT07 in terms of sound signature. It has a fairly powerful low end and lower mids, similar to the IT07 but balanced with a delicacy of touch and forwardness in the upper mids that is more reminiscent of the IT04.

I’ve thrown songs at it from a plethora of genres; rock, pop, hip-hop, RnB, country, Motown, classical, K-Pop and Chinese pop, blues and jazz. I can’t say I found that it lacked anything with any of those genres and will serve well as an all-rounder.

I'll note again that I occasionally found a little bit of a metallic or sibilant quality in the background on a few songs, and that it's also possible that the forward upper mids might be a a bit much occasionally for people with sensitivities in that area. However, on balance I'd rate these as fairly minor concerns, and I certainly wouldn't expect flawless perfection at this pretty reasonable price.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said this, but once again, iBasso have produced an IEM that delivers outstanding value for money at its price point.
On top of its sonic prowess, the IT05 also features a striking and unique design, with its chunky engineered hardware and 8 wire cable.
Overall, if you’re looking for an IEM in the sub-$300 price range, I would definitely regard the IT05 as being worth your consideration.
DarktoreS
DarktoreS
I really like these Ibasso IT05s, however with the DC Elite they can sometimes be a little too lively in the treble. But with Comply TSX-500 it's better because for me it's almost ideal, in my opinion it makes the IT05 more versatile than with the original tips !

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Layman1
Layman1
Thanks for dropping by and contributing! Definitely tip rolling is a good idea on the IT05!
I haven't tried the DC Elite myself, but I've found as a general rule that iBasso IEMs and DAPs tend to have a good synergy together in most cases; not especially surprising if you think about it :)

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