Hello, and welcome one and all!
Are we all sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
Once upon a time, a well-known and respected manufacturer of DAP’s suddenly announced that they would be releasing a new IEM (the excellent IT03)...
I actually considered writing the whole review in story format, but I’m in a hurry, so perhaps another time
In fact, I’m surely going to flex my creative writing muscles and do exactly that sometime soon. Now that the idea has popped into my head, I can’t forget it, and it sounds (to me at least) like a lot of fun
Meanwhile, back to the iBasso releasing their first IEM part!
Well, that was back in 2018, if I recall correctly.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I think it would be fair to say that iBasso have similarly established themselves as a name of note in the world of IEM manufacturers too now.
Today, I’ll be reviewing their latest offering, the IT07.
This is a new addition to their ‘In Tune’ line-up and is another hybrid IEM.
All details can be found on iBasso’s website (link below – despite the correct name, it didn’t seem to go to a particular product page, but I don’t know if that’s a temporary glitch or not), and the IEM can be purchased there and delivered to locations around the globe. It can also be purchased from various other dealers globally of course too.
The IT07 features a dynamic driver, along with 6 x Knowles balanced armatures and ergonomically designed shells.
See the link above for all the details
The RRP at time of writing was $899, placing it – financially speaking - at what I suppose these days would be close to the upper limit of mid-fi level.
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.
Well, now it’s time to indulge in some vicarious thrills and see what the IT07 actually look like!
The cable, plus 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor:
The same cable, deconstructed!
Unboxing, packaging and accessories
The packaging and accessories are nicely done, and the nicest yet from iBasso with regards to their IEMs.
There’s a metal case with a soft lining, comparable to those released with TOTL products.
The cable here is a very nice pure silver Litz cable. It feels fine in daily use and I haven’t noticed any particular issues with it. It’s terminated in 2.5mm balanced.
At this price point I think I would have liked to have been given a choice of termination options (in which case I would have gone for 4.4mm), but I’m fairly happy to let that go, given that there’s currently a pandemic causing havoc all over the world, and also that at least a 2.5mm cable can be plugged into an adaptor to easily make it into 3.5mm or 4.4mm.
Hence they are making it available to the widest range of consumers.
There are IEMs costing 2-3 times the price that come with 2.5mm or even (shudder) 3.5mm SE, so it’s not so bad overall
The shells are smooth and very comfortable in use. Since their first IEM, the IT03, iBasso have adopted a kind of semi-custom shape to their IEMs, featuring – in one form or another – some kind of nodule which sticks out a bit from the shell.
They’ve revised the design a few times, but with the IT07, I think they’ve perfected it this time. Well, for my ears at least! Of course that’s a personal thing and others may find a better or worse fit.
But since I can only speak for myself, I’d say the fit, with New Bee foam tips, is superb for me. I compress the foam tips, then insert the IEMs one at a time, pulling on the top of my ear as I do so to open up the ear canals a bit more.
I purposefully insert the IEMs at about a negative 30 degree angle from upright, and then twist them into position. Doing so, there’s a delightfully satisfactory feeling each time, as the little nodule which sticks out from the body locks into place in some part of my ear (concha?) for which I am not sure of the name
It’s probably similar to the feeling a Rolls-Royce owner will get upon closing the perfectly-engineered door before heading to their private jet.
Alas, such a luxuriant feeling is deprived to Layman1, having only a couple of Lambo’s myself*, but at least I can console myself with the wondrous ergonomics of my IT07
*Well, I’ve seen
a couple of Lamborghini’s once. Does that count?
All in all, they are extremely comfortable, and I have been able to wear them for extended listening sessions with no discomfort or fatigue.
I listened using the Sony WM1Z DAP, with MrWalkman’s custom FW (DMP-WM1 Mk I), and the DX220MAX, combined with a variety of tracks in lossless or hi-res lossless format.
I used New Bee foam tips, which are my go-to tips and pretty much consistent across my reviews, although I may try other ones alongside as needed.
I’ll begin with the summary of my findings, then some comparisons, followed by a brief conclusion.
As a note before I begin, the IT07 distinguishes itself by including 3 tuning filters in the box (Black, Gold and Silver), that screw onto the ends of the nozzles.
Like many such filters, they seem to be primarily about altering the amount of bass in the sound signature.
The black filter seems to bring out the low end a bit more prominently with slightly recessed mids, whereas the gold one diminishes both mids and treble somewhat (or enhances the bass at the cost of them) for a more L-shaped signature (think EE Legend X, or iBasso’s own IT01).
Finally the silver filter is effectively our ‘neutral setting’ not in the sense that it changes the IT07 into a neutral-reference sound signature, but rather that it lets the pure original sound of the IT07 come through without any additional colouration one way or the other.
I actually like this filter the best and stuck with it.
This is a real strength of the IT07. I hear the sub-bass to extend deep, and unlike some other older iBasso IEMs, there’s an above-neutral amount of mid-bass presence here too.
The effect is a low end that’s rich, powerful and brings the emotion into the music.
I hear it as having quite a good balance of accuracy and decay; the timbre is realistic and as an example, when I listen to things like ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips, or Paul Young’s cover of ‘Everytime you go away’, the IT07 absolutely nails that quality of infusing head-bobbing musicality into the music via the basslines, and with the drums and percussion too in other songs. On a song like “Please don’t fall for me” by Norwegian pop singer Marit Larsen where the drums are mastered quite powerfully in the mix, the kick drum that comes in at 0m28s has a really rewardingly solid thump and impact.
Some warmth and richness comes through from that mid-bass. I hear the mids to be perhaps slightly forward – if so, it’s more the lower mids than the upper mids – full bodied, natural and with quite big note size. There’s a lushness and a vivid quality to the sound here, with strings sounding particularly fine; on ‘Little Sister Leaving Town’ by Tanita Tikaram, there’s real timbre in the ‘bite’ of the cello bow against the strings, and a rich sweetness in the violins.
On ‘Future Days’ by Pearl Jam (a beautiful acoustic number) there’s such definition with the opening instruments, although I found the vocals to sound a little lacking in body and richness for some reason. IT07 manages to bring great clarity, something which might have been hampered by the note size and lushness on an IEM without this level of technical performance. All instruments seem to have clearly defined edges, but enough decay and richness to bring out the best in their timbre.
Having said that, despite the lushness and whatnot, I hear male vocals to be presented accurately and fairly centrally in the soundstage, but on some tracks I feel they could use just a touch more thickness and body; I don’t feel this with instruments, so perhaps it’s related to a particular frequency having been elevated or diminished in the tuning of the IT07? Having said that, listening to “One minute you’re here” by Bruce Springsteen, all that body and richness is there in his voice (also, the chime sounds that come in from 1m47s onwards are gorgeously presented!).
So it does vary from artist to artist, and even (in the case of Gregory Porter) from song to song.
Oh, and his song “Don’t be a fool” could have been made for the IT07; sheer perfection here, with every instrument infused with richness and a gorgeously smooth musicality
I don’t hear any such issues with female vocals – listening to some Chinese pop songs, the vocals sound fantastic – among the best presentations I’ve heard on any IEM; a real strength here - but the same goes for female vocals in pop, Motown and opera too. Even on Hong Kong opera singer Alison Lau’s rendition of Handel’s ‘Lascia la spina’, the vocals never became too piercing due to the smoothness and richness of the IT07’s tone, whereas they do on a great many IEMs for me.
I hear the highs to be fairly extended. There’s some air infused into the sound signature, just enough to bring balance and space amidst that lushness. I wouldn’t describe them as bright or sparkly, although those qualities will vary with ear tip selection.
Detail retrieval is very good; not at the superlative levels of the UM MEST or the EE Odin, but then few IEMs are! Still very good though, and fairly organically done. There’s not that sense of almost clinical dissection you can get with a super-detailed IEM; the details just naturally come across to you as an integral part of the song, rather than seeming like a spotlight just picked them out.
I hear the timbre as being natural and realistic, infused with richness and body for the most part. Layering is done pretty well, albeit without a vast amount of air-infused ‘real estate’ to really bring a great deal of space, but certainly there’s never been a feeling of congestion.
IT07 vs IT04
Regarding soundstage, it’s not an easy comparison. I’d say they’re probably pretty similar, but the sound signature of the IT04 makes the fairly holographic soundstage more immediately apparent, whereas with the IT07 it’s there too but the big notes, vivid sound and contrast fill up the space more and the size of the soundstage becomes noticeable here and there as you notice sounds occurring out at the edge of the sphere.
The low end is a real stand-out of the IT07, and one of the ways in which it differs significantly from its predecessor the IT04. I love that IEM, but the IT04 is a kind of a classic of the old iBasso house sound, with a fairly neutral-reference sound signature, with a touch of organic warmth and shimmer and a fairly neutrally tuned mid-bass, but a deep sub-bass extension that can kick in when appropriate.
The IT07 has much more ‘contrast’ than the IT04 for me; it’s more vivid, saturated and rich; not to excess, but it can’t help standing out in this regard next to the more classical sound stylings of the IT04. I think the IT04 does delicacy and shimmer with more finesse, but the IT07 is certainly capable of a lighter touch when the track demands.
IT07, CA Solaris and UM MEST (original)
Finally, rather than a set of direct A/B comparisons here, I’m going to talk about two IEMs from my collection that I found the IT07 to share certain qualities with, as in some ways I feel this would actually be more helpful.
Of all the IEMs I own or have heard, the IT07 most reminds me of a kind of hybrid between the original Unique Melody MEST and the CA Solaris 2020; it has a fairly deeply extended sub-bass which reminds me of the MEST, along with a rather W-shaped signature, but also – at certain times – something of the more intimate, slightly dark and mid-bass rich sound of the Solaris 2020.
It doesn’t quite have the huge, open, airy holographic feel of the MEST – although I’d say it gets about 70% of the way there. That’s not in any way a criticism of the IT07 though; it’s simply a somewhat different sound signature, the same thing I’d say about the Solaris 2020.
What it does share too with the MEST is a very vivid feel to the presentation, with a lot of energy, but not in a fatiguing or sharp way.
I think the Solaris 2020 is an excellent IEM and the IT07 also takes some qualities from that IEM that I really appreciate; it’s capable of a more intimate sound, despite a fairly expansive soundstage, and comes across as a bit darker to me than the MEST, more like the Solaris in this regard. However, I do hear a bit more separation and soundstage size with the IT07 than the Solaris and a more immediately noticeable presentation of detail.
I think Solaris 2020 has the edge in timbre, though it’s a close thing and both IEMs have a fairly rich tone, with IT07 more rich and vivid, vs Solaris 2020 being more rich and dark.
With their recent DX300 DAP release and the IT07 IEM here, I feel iBasso made a small, but noticeable shift away from their classic ‘house sound’.
There’s more organic warmth and musicality on offer with both. I’ve already reviewed the DX300 previously, so I’ll naturally keep my comments here focused on the IT07.
I hear it as approximating a W-shaped presentation, with a meaty and powerful low end, lush and rich mids and a treble lifted and extended just enough to balance out the lows and mids with a touch of air and shimmer.
Technical performance is excellent, although less clinically analytical and more musically organic.
I found male vocals on the whole to be good, but on occasional songs, felt there could have been a bit more thickness and body to them. However, this didn’t happen consistently, so it’s probably a case of listening for yourself with your favourite male vocalists and seeing if it matches what you like.
Conversely, female vocals were – for me – outstandingly
well-presented across the board.
From opera to Motown, Chinese pop to Bollywood, the female vocals were infused with a rich tone and body, and never became too shrill, even on tracks that usually trigger me with most IEMs.
There’s a lush and vivid quality to the sound signature that’s high in musicality, and the timbre is natural, rich and accurate.
This is an IEM that will have you tapping your toes/bobbing your head/playing air guitar or whatever form of physical expression you employ when enjoying your music
It stands up well against IEMs in the TOTL category, and all at a price of $899.
Once again, I feel iBasso have produced a contender for ‘value product of the year’.
The sound signature might be moving in some new directions, but their commitment to value and quality remain wonderfully consistent.
It’s been a pleasure for me to review this IEM, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it