500+ Head-Fier
"Perfect" does exist and it's this right here.
Pros: Metal construction, design, high-quality leather, comfortable, great clamp force that keeps them on your head, outstanding balanced cable, high-quality pads, exceptional build quality (even the internals that aren't exposed), "reference-grade" audiophile sound, compatibility with aftermarket pads (really allows you to fine-tune the sound to your liking). +iBasso customer support
Cons: None


The first time I heard the concept of the successor to the SR2 thrown into the conversation was almost two years ago. Without a clue how long the wait will be, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about the SR3. New silhouette? Different driver type? Another diaphragm material? Different price bracket? These are among the things that crossed my mind. When images of the SR3 started popping up a few months ago, I was very excited for it to finally see the light of day. It had a very quiet press release, so there wasn't much information that we could rely on. All we knew was that it had an impedance of 150Ω, a different cable, and that it shared the same look as the SR2. However, there was one distinct photo of the SR3 that suggested that it was an open-back version of the SR2. To address the elephant in the room, the SR2 was marketed as an open-back, but many including myself have come to agreement that it is a semi-open-back headphone due to the congested grill it has, and also due to how it sounds and behaves. It featured a double-grill design, with a thick grill on the outside and a micro-mesh beneath it. In SR3’s marketing material, there was a photo where the smaller grill appeared to be removed and revealed the rear of the driver. It turns out that it was misrendered. On one hand, I am bummed out that we didn’t get a natural progression in iBasso’s headphone lineup, but on the other, I am glad that they stuck to a proven formula. Consider the SR2 and the SR3 to be twin siblings.
The SR3 has been provided to me free of charge by iBasso. I am neither paid nor am I gaining any financial benefit from iBasso for writing this review. The review is based on my personal experience, and is free of any bias from an external force (whether that's online influence, other people's opinion, or the manufacturer itself).
The article you are about to read serves as an extension to my SR2 review. Before reading this article, I strongly advise you to first read my SR2 review, as a lot of questions you might have about the SR3 are already answered there.

When you think about must-haves in a headphone package, what comes to your mind? Speaking for myself, it’s accessories that are going to either benefit their experience or performance, or the ones that will increase their versatility—an extra set of pads, an extra cable (preferably differently terminated than the primary one), an adaptor, and a nice convenient storage case. These spring to mind. Not only do the expectations for quality rise as you climb the price ladder, but also for the accessories to be tailored for the headphones. If, let’s say, an extra pair of ear-pads is in question, a simple material change will not do. Especially when you are purchasing multi-thousand-dollar headphones, the manufacturer should be putting some serious thought behind the accessories. Anyways, both the SR2 and the SR3 share identical package contents, with the exterior box being the only difference between the two. At this price point, you would be lucky to get a good pair of headphones and a cable, yet iBasso managed to include a complete package. Here, you get a functional spacious storage case, an extra set of large perforation ear-pads, a nice balanced cable, and a 4.4mm to 6.35mm extended adaptor. What more could one ask for?

Few headphones pull off the “high-end look” in general, much less those that do so at this price point. Denon AH-5200, Final Audio Sonorus VI, and Dan Clark’s ÆON line are the only ones that I would even consider saying to hit the mark. The SR3 achieves the premium look without being over the top. It does so by making use of materials, surface finish, and texture. Many manufacturers fall victim to the mistake of being overly ambitious with their designs, without first learning the core concepts and principles of [headphone] design. Looking at the SR3, there is nothing flashy or groundbreaking in its design. Circular ear-cups, fork-style yoke, and a basic headband. The designers at iBasso have mastered the basics and possess a deep understanding of the fundamentals of headphone design, hence why they were able to push the SR2 and SR3 concepts to the next level. ShuHaRi. Take for instance the mindful use surface finishes on both of these headphones; the ear-cups are semi-matte, the grill is glossy, while the whole headband construction is satin, even extending the finish to the leather headband. Or what about the classic approach for the headband design? Stripped to the bare minimum, it’s made up of just two rods, two sliders, and two stoppers. Perhaps the team’s expertise is most on display here, on the ear-cups. I love how the grill looks like it's erupting out of the shell! It’s as if it was being pushed through the ear-cups, but the inner lip tightly squeezed it and prevented it from expanding any further. The details are hiding in plain sight. Whether it’s the bubble-shaped grill, the headphone connectors being placed at a 30˚ angle, or matching textures, it’s clear that the design team didn’t rush the process.


Remember that episode in ‘The Simpsons’ where Homer undergoes cosmetic surgery after fearing Marge will dump him? He prepares a romantic welcome for her, leaving roses all over the bed, showering her in compliments, and of course, revealing his “new body”. The scene has since been widely memeified, with one shot showing Homer looking slim from the front, and the other exposing all the excess skin tied behind his back—beneath the glamorous shell lies a sea of flaws. Unfortunately, this applies to a lot of products in the audio industry.
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”—Aldo Leopold
What fascinated me in iBasso for the longest time, is the amount of care that goes into its products. Showcasing craftsmanship on the exterior is one thing, but doing it to the same extent in the corners that will never see the light of day, truly proves that excellence is more than just a buzzword for iBasso. In this case, “legal” is what one could and would get away with. The number of consumers that will peek inside the headphones is close to none. Whereas other manufacturers see this as an opportunity to cut costs and compromise quality, iBasso sees it as an opportunity to demonstrate that its attention to detail knows no bounds. Be honest with me, how many headphones can you disassemble and go around showing them off? Excuse me for generalizing, but in most cases, the manufacturer itself would be embarrassed to expose that to the public. As for myself, the only thing I wanted to do after opening up the SR3 was take pictures for the world to see. However, you be the judge for yourself:
If that doesn’t reflect the company’s dignity, I don’t know what does… Actually, there was a moment of clarity I had after seeing what the SR2 driver looks like under the covers. All credit goes to the brave @Bonddam who completely disassembled the headphones (pictures). It’s been a long-running joke within the audio community how audiophiles will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on cables, only to have a few cents worth of cabling and solder connecting the speaker drivers to the connectors. The irony! This is why seeing SR2’s internal cabling was a turning point for me. What’s more, it’s how iBasso didn’t even use it in their marketing, never mentioned it anywhere—it’s all in the quote. The same goes for how iBasso engineers design, develop, and have the materials made exactly to their spec for the drivers. The company invested time, effort, and money, into the parts of the headphone that no one will know about or ever see. This isn’t something exclusive to the SR2 or the SR3, because even inside their DAPs, you will find the neatest soldering, cabling, and manufacturing. One thing's for certain: the number of customers that will open up their multi-thousand-dollar players can be counted on one hand.

Reading through my SR2 review, I now realize that I didn’t quite express just how much I liked its cable. It’s my favorite stock headphone cable, and I find it perfect. It has everything I am looking for in a cable. More than that, it meets all my criteria for a great cable. It’s durable due to the high-quality metal housing and sheathing, it’s flexible and formless like water, it’s lightweight, it’s thin, it’s extremely easy to put away, and it has a gorgeous look and finish. As I’ve brought up earlier, one of the differences between the SR2 and the SR3 is the cable. Apart from being upgraded to a balanced one, it has been changed to a 2-core OF (oxygen-free) mono-crystal copper cable with a purity of 99.999%. For reference, SR2’s cable was a 4-core custom copper-silver alloy cable. I believe the change is for the better, as the new cable is even more premium. However, with this change, the cable isn’t as flexible as it was before and it has gained some weight. On the other hand, the housings remained untouched. I’m pretty sure most will be in favor of the upgraded cable, it looks a whole lot more attractive.

There are many reasons why I fancied the SR2, but above all, it was for how it sounds that it became so dear to me. The SR2 and SR3 are the only headphones I can put on my head, and from the moment of pressing play, get blown away each time. They’ve got this special something that makes them sound, for the lack of a better word, different. Sound through these two doesn’t sound like sound, it’s this hyperrealistic quality that gives sound a physical form. I know this seems like the biggest bag of bullsh*t you’ve heard, and I’m well aware of it as I’m typing, but it’s hard translating the auditory stimulus from my ears into words. I’ll tell you what, when listening to these two, I feel as though I am getting the complete headphone listening experience, which I cannot say I got from any other headphone. As a casual music listener, I love me a pair of headphones that sound like a pair of headphones, I don’t need me headphones to sound like loudspeakers. Everybody has their preferences, but I absolutely adore the intimate listening experience I get from the SR2 with the stock pads. Okay, it’s about time we get to the burning question everybody’s asking: Does it make sense to upgrade from the SR2 to the SR3? Before diving into that, we first need to address their differences.


Oh my, is there a MASSIVE difference in the bass response! It’s likely what sets their tuning apart the most. On one hand, you have the SR2, which is a heavier-sounding bass monster, and on the other, you have the SR3, which is more refined and balanced. Most heavier-sounding headphones suffer from all that bass quantity polluting the mix. The SR2, however, doesn’t let the quantity get dispersed around, but instead retains good control over it. Achieving such speed despite having a thick low end is why the SR2 never stopped fascinating me. Of course, there are physical limitations that are inevitable when moving a grand mass of bass body. As for the SR3, iBasso got rid of the majority of the weight, resulting in a cleaner and more resolving low end. To be precise, the sub-bass has been decreased by as much as 4dB! If we follow the 3dB rule, that’s more than half the SR2’s sub-bass sound energy, which I find to be pretty accurate in practice. Aside from sounding lighter, the bass benefits from being more responsive, read fast, and better defined. This makes a great impact, so much so that every single drum hit can be distinctly heard and felt, unlike the SR2, where some get lost. If we are strictly talking about the bass response, the SR3 blows the SR2 out of the water when it comes to imaging precision and accuracy. The thing is, SR2 slams harder, of course it does, but SR3 has a more tactile punch.

Considering how much I favored the sound of the mid-range on the SR2, the SR3 had a lot to live up to. Not only did it meet that bar, but also earned its spot as my favorite with the mids’ new sound. Speaking of which, there's a clear sense of similarity when comparing the differences in the low-end and mid-range of the two headphones. The elevated low end follows the SR2 well into the mid-range, causing a fair amount of mid-bass bleed. Other than sounding heavier and thicker, it also has a more forward presentation. In contrast, the SR3 has more airiness and a much lighter sound. Regardless of these two qualities, there isn’t an instance where I found it lacking in body. However, you’re much more likely to differentiate these two headphones by their upper mid-range. You have the SR2 which is all exciting and pronounced, and there’s the SR3, which has the edge shaved off ever so slightly. This leads it to have a softer-sounding mid-range that is easier on the ears but still retains an adequate level of detail and excitement. Due to these variations, the timbre does differ between them, but the overall character remains largely the same.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I can say that the SR2 has more forward and extended highs. The treble pops, there’s sparkle, it’s more open, all making it sound more exciting. Please do not misinterpret this, as it is not sibilant or piercing; think of it as a fine Japanese knife with a smooth, sharp cutting edge. The SR3, on the other hand, carries the softness from the upper mid-range, leaning towards the more relaxed side of the spectrum. This is not to say it’s dull or boring, it just doesn’t snap and push the same energy as the SR2. I have to make the SR3 10%–20% louder to get a similar level of brightness. Needless to say, due to their difference, the SR2 naturally has more detail retrieval in this region.

To answer the big question, yes… buuut it’s a little more complicated than that. If you are an SR2 owner considering upgrading, first ask yourself what you like about it, and then ask yourself what you wish it had that it doesn’t already, and what you wish it didn’t have. Once you’ve got the answers to these two questions, you can start moving forward with the decision-making. If you adore SR2’s thick and heavy bass response, then stick with it. If you would rather have a lighter and thinner bass response with a significantly faster speed and technical capability, then get the SR3. If you enjoy the more forward mid-range presentation of the SR2, stick with it. If you want a “bigger-sounding” headphone, get the SR3. It has both better separation and a wider soundstage than the SR2. If you love the crisp and more forward highs, stick with the SR2. If you found the SR2 to be too bright, and would rather the highs be softer, get the SR3. You’ll also want to take the SR3 if you listen to a lot of poorly recorded and peaky tracks. Making the call will be particularly hard for those who spent a lot of time with the SR2 and enjoy its sound performance. At the end of the day, both of these headphones are truly exceptional. iBasso gave you the choice between two flavors, it’s up to you to pick the one that suits your taste. Ideally, you’ll end up with both because they complement each other.

The grass was greener

It wasn’t always like this. When my younger self just turned the page and started a new chapter in life, I used to go to a large consumer electronics store every weekend. There wasn’t much purpose behind my visits other than to kill boredom and explore ‘what’s out there’. But actually, this very place is where all my tech geekiness originates from. One of my favorite sections in the store was the headphones aisle where I spent countless afternoons. At that time, the most popular consumer headphones were Marshall Major and Beats, while Sennheiser’s Momentum line was enthusiasts’ preferred choice. Opting for the former was seen as a waste of money due to their overpriced nature. However, the models that piqued my interest were the comfortable Bowers & Wilkins P5, the Sennheiser HD598, and the then-latest gimmick, the Skullcandy Crusher. Late 2014 and early 2015 were among the sweetest years of my audio enthusiast beginnings. This is when I was introduced to Sony’s latest offerings, which included the MDR-1A, MDR-Z7, an over-ear Extra Bass model, and an on-ear model. The only way I can put it is that it was an eye-opening experience for me. Forget sound quality and technical details, I knew nothing about that back then. The sole opportunity to hold a pair of high-end headphones was a privilege. Unlike other headphones, the Sony lineup had a whole dedicated section in the store, and it was quite fancy. I don’t think the MDR-Z7 was on display, but I remember trying the other models. The packaging was all fancy, design unlike anything else I’ve seen, and they had the softest ear-pads! If I had to guess, this is probably the moment when the audiophile in me woke up.

Mind you, my headphone inventory consisted of a pair of Sony MDR-V55’s and a pair of stock Samsung phone earphones. So, when I say it was a privilege to spend time with all those headphones, I mean it. Something that will forever live in my memory is the day I saw the Shure SE846. As usual, I was on my way out of the electronics store, but was forced to stop after sighting this oversized earphone box locked away in a clear, theft-proof case. Seeing the price tag of €999 was so bizarre to me that I assumed the store must’ve mismatched the price… Little did I know these weird-looking transparent earphones did indeed cost that much. While I could easily justify investing such a sum in a computer, the sheer thought of spending that much on a headphone was beyond my understanding. In my head, it was a waste of money. Perhaps this explains why it took me the longest time to bring myself to upgrade from the Sony’s. Before I finally made up my mind about getting a more serious pair of headphones, I spent countless hours obsessively researching the market. I only had a budget of €150, yet I wanted everything. Long story short, I pulled the trigger on the Sennheiser HD598’s after their price dropped within my budget. And that’s exactly when my audiophile journey began.

Every so often I look back on this period to put everything into perspective, to remind myself the worth of a dollar. I was looking through the lens of a consumer, a consumer with sky-high expectations and shallow pockets—the worst kind. The reason why I shared my story with you was to enlighten you about how demanding a customer like myself was. When you have an empty wallet, you are very cautious regarding unnecessary purchases. You not only learn to look through the marketing but look past it. It’s about perspective, right? It’s once you strip the product naked, that you can see its true worth. For instance, that Sony audiophile lineup was unobtanium for me, and even though it gave me an idea of what a luxury headphone is, I judged it with skepticism. It was a matter of separating real qualities from marketing tactics used to sell the product to its target audience. Nowadays, prices for the most high-end audio gear are nothing more than numbers. Hundreds of dollars are like pennies, thousands of dollars are like hundreds… Numbers are thrown around like nothing, yet there’s close to nothing to back them up.

What I am about to say is going to spark quite some controversy, and I’m here for it! Yes, I am about to use the P-word. The SR2/SR3 is perfect—there, I said it. Yeah, I know…the forbidden word. What’s the worst awaiting me? Being labeled a fanboy? In that case, allow me to get some apologies out of the way, just so the noise goes away:
I’m sorry they use full-metal construction. I’m sorry that the headband is made of quality leather. I’m sorry their headband construction is purposefully minimal to reduce weight. I’m sorry they feel sturdy. I’m sorry that the adjustable headband strap can be affixed. I’m sorry they stay comfortable for hours. I’m sorry they stay on my head even throughout the most intense headbanging sessions. I’m sorry they are versatile and compatible with aftermarket ear-pads. I’m sorry the cable is premium. I’m sorry the speaker housing is made of high-quality plastic. I’m sorry for recognizing the use of advanced design knowledge. I’m sorry I couldn’t find any manufacturing flaws. I’m sorry they sound exceptional through a laptop. I’m sorry they don’t require an audio chain three times their price to sound “right”. I’m sorry I was there to track four separate threads from the start and got to hear people’s experience of the company’s customer service. I’m sorry they are priced below $600… I’m sorry, but I find both the SR2 and the SR3 perfect for all of the reasons mentioned above.


It’s no secret that I’ve been in an ongoing love affair with the SR2 for the past three years. This is the headphone that I dreamed of back when I was innocent and all of this was so alien to me. I wish I could hand it to that younger self just to prove that those ‘unrealistic’ standards can indeed be met. In all honesty, the SR2/SR3 doesn’t feel like a hobbyist product, but rather a complete product that’s ready to take off in the consumer market. You see, when it comes down to reviewing, I do my job to the best of my professional abilities, but to endorse a product? It must tick all the boxes and beyond! If by now you’re still debating which model to get, let me put it like this. If I could go back in time to when my audiophile journey officially started, I would recommend the SR2 to my self that enjoyed the excitement of the Crusher so much, and the SR3 to the one who chased the high-fidelity sound.

As far as I’m concerned, I can comfortably leave this hobby with either one and never look back.

...forever and ever

I use them every day. I am surprised at the quality the sound. Nice and 3d if the music has it and a nice raw edge (natural) to good rock. Detail is excellent and I have some of the best phones in all types to compare to.
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Very exciting review. I've put this headphone in my sites because of your review. Thanks!
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Reviewer at hxosplus
Outstanding value
Pros: + Musical and balanced sound signature
+ Realistic timbre
+ Excellent bass extension and technicalities
+ Physically impactful and dynamic
+ The two types of ear-pads offer two well distinguishable sound signatures
+ Suitable for both casual and critical listening
+ Wide and spacious soundstage with excellent imaging
+ Relatively easy to drive and immune to source noise
+ Very comfortable for extended periods of use
+ Excellent build quality and premium materials
+ Ear-pads and headband are made from real leather
+ High quality cable with 4.4mm plug and a single ended adapter
+ Hard carrying case is also included
Cons: - Not recommended for analytical listening or treble fans.
- The soundstage is not as holographic and immersive as the best of the competition
- The cable is mildly microphonic
- Swapping the ear-pads is not that easy and straightforward
- Frequent swapping of the ear-pads might damage the attachment ring
The full iBasso SR3 review and the usual disclaimers are available in my website.

The price of the iBasso SR3 is $599 and you can buy it from iBasso-shop.eu

Build quality and fit

The iBasso SR3 is a premium looking and well made headphone which uses first grade materials and has an excellent build quality. The ear-cups are made from aluminum alloy with a silver finish while the outer grills, the headband frame and the yokes are made from a black painted metal. The headband strap is made from a wide piece of real leather with a thin foam insert to offer the user a comfortable wearing experience. Care should be taken not to scratch the black finish because it is a little thin and can easily get pulled off.

The suspension mechanism is self adjusting, the ear-cups are rotating and there is plenty of adjustment margin to fit both small and larger heads. The iBasso SR3 at 395g is not that heavy and the headband ensures that the weight gets evenly distributed at the head. The clamping force is medium and just as needed to ensure a good seal without causing excessive pressure to the head. The comfortable ear-pads have large diameter with plenty of inner space to house larger ears without exercising pressure or letting them touch the driver mesh. This is a very comfortable headphone that you can wear for hours without the need to take a break.


Accessories and ear-pads

The iBasso SR3 comes tight with two different types of ear-pads and a premium carrying case.


The ear-pads

There are two types of ear-pads included in the package that are used to fine tune the headphone. The outer surface of both ear-pads is made from perforated leather and the inside is stuffed with memory foam. Their shape is asymmetrical, they are thicker at the back part for enhancing the wideness of the soundstage. The main difference between the two types of ear-pads is in the diameter of the perforation holes which are larger on the spare set thus offering a slightly different sound signature as we are going to find out later on.


Swapping the ear-pads

Swapping the ear-pads is not an easy and straightforward procedure because they are not attached by the means of a plastic ring with clips but instead there is a narrow leather band around them that must be fitted inside a rim which is located in the outer perimeter of the ear-cups. You need to be skilful and the whole procedure usually requires more than fifteen minutes to swap both pads. The longevity of the stripes is also highly questionable and best chances are that they are going to wear with frequent pad changes making them pretty useless in the long run.



The iBasso SR3 features a 1.6m long, detachable, cable with 3.5mm plugs in the headphone cups and a 4.4mm plug on the other end plus a short 6.35mm adapter cable. A 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter is not included so you have to buy one if you want to use the headphone with 3.5mm sources. The silver-plated, single crystal copper cable is of high quality, it is well made, it doesn't get tangled, the plugs are from aluminum alloy and have strain reliefs. The cable is mildly microphonic but only if you tap on it with your hands and not during the friction at your body.


Power requirements and associated gear

The iBasso SR3 is rated at 150Ω with a sensitivity as high as 108dB SPL/1mW thus making it a pretty easy load for most sources. You can drive it from DAPs or portable DAC/amps with a decent power output, such as the iBasso DX320 or the Q7. At the same time, using desktop amplifiers with larger voltage swings, like the FiiO K9 PRO or the Schiit Lyr+, greatly enhances the performance because the headphone responds very well to more power. The SR3 is also immune to potential source noise thus making it suitable for use with tube gear. After some testing with the stock cable I then switched to the Lavricables Ultimate pure silver cable. As per usual practice the iBasso SR3 was left playing music for more than 200 hours before listening evaluation.
(FiiO K9 PRO ESS review , FiiO Q7 review , Schiit Lyr+ review , iBasso DX320 review)


Listening impressions

The two sets of the ear-pads are so effective in fine tuning the overall sound signature of the iBasso SR3 that we can essentially talk about two different sounding headphones.

With the stock pads we have a balanced and warmer, but not dark, sound profile with a very even mid-range and a smooth treble that is quite inoffensive but still energetic and transparent enough.

The SR3 has an excellent and linear sub-bass/bass extension that is followed by a slightly emphasized mid bass that is not out of tune when it comes to faithfully reproducing the low register acoustic instruments. The bass is not missing in quantity but it is not that much emphasized to cause bleeding into the mids or masking any other part of the frequency range. So, although the low end is not strictly speaking neutral, you can still use the stock pads for listening to classical and acoustic music as well as more modern and bass heavy music and it is really unlikely that the SR3 will not satisfy almost everyone when it comes to the low end response. Technicalities are also excellent, the bass is physically impactful with great dynamic contrast and a weighty, almost visceral, texture. It is very tight and controlled with excellent layering, plenty of definition and inner clarity while there is an audible reverb that adds a speaker-like quality to the presentation.


The spare pads on the other hand offer a more critical and neutral bass response with a slightly lowered quantity and a flattened out mid-bass that add better tonal accuracy and reference characteristics to the low end. There is also a gain in clarity and definition, the bass with the spare pads is slightly more tight and controlled with enhanced layering but it is a bit more dry and not as weighty as with the stock pads. And while it remains equally impressive, if not slightly better, when it comes to dynamics and physical impact, unfortunately there is some loss in the spatial qualities of the stock pads.

Going back to the stock pads, the mid-range is transparent, well defined and finely articulated. The tuning is even and linear, the mids sound balanced and blended with a polarizing upper-mids recession that some of you are going to love for it's smooth and fatigue free sound qualities but some others will find it as robbing some vocal intensity and excitement. The timbre is natural, the sound is very analogue and musical with plenty of harmonic variety, great tonal accuracy and a sense of realism that affects both instruments and voices. Can't help to mention here how much I enjoyed my beloved Dinah Washington as the iBasso SR3 did a great job in faithfully reproducing the unique timbre of her voice.


Staying with the stock pads, the treble is mildly subdued, very smooth and fatigue free but not that lacking in transparency and clarity. With the stock pads, the SR3 is on the warmer side and quite forgiving but still there is plenty of airiness, energy and detail retrieval. The good news is that if you are looking for some more excitement you can always switch to the spare pads.

The spare pads work in the opposite direction, they boost the upper mid-range and mildly subdue the mids while they greatly extend the treble making for a livelier and more sparkling sound with extra luminosity, plenty of airiness and deeper detail extraction. Combined with the more linear bass response, the headphone becomes considerably brighter and sharper, less forgiving and potentially fatiguing for people that are sensitive to this kind of tuning. The sound is cleaner, more transparent, better defined and less forgiving but also lighter and leaner than with the stock pads.

With the spare pads the SR3 is still musical and engaging but the truth is that the stock pads are definitely the more organic and analogue sounding. Timbre and tonality are very natural with both pads but the spares will add just a bit of artificiality in the upper-mids and treble. Rest assured though that with both pads, the iBasso SR3 greatest strengths are timbre realism and harmonic variety, this is an impressively lifelike sounding headphone where every last instrument is reproduced with great tonal accuracy both in its fundamentals and the overtones. With the stock pads the headphone is slightly slower and more relaxed while with the spares it becomes faster and snappier.

The soundstage is surprisingly wide with a solid stereo image and exceptional positioning accuracy. The soundscape feels expanded and immersive with plenty of holographic relief and grandness to the presentation while the SR3 offers great insight into the recording venue and excellent micro-dynamic contrast. Listening to symphonic music, like Shostakovich's 9th symphony, is great for discovering the SR3 capabilities.


The iBasso SR3 is like a chameleon, a headphone with a great adaptability that you can use for listening to almost everything. Use the stock pads for casual everyday listening of all types of music or switch to the spares when you are in a more reference and critical mood. In the past two months, the iBasso SR3 has become my favorite headphone of the category that I use on a daily basis for listening to music and evaluating audio gear.

Compared to the Sennheiser HD660S2 ($600)

The Sennheiser HD660S2 has the word famous iconic looks that give it a strong and highly distinguishable personality. It is mostly made from high quality plastic so it is lightweight and compact but not necessarily more comfortable than the iBasso SR3 which has larger ear-pads. It comes with two cables, one single ended and one balanced but is missing a carrying case and the extra pads.

The SR3 with the stock pads is more extended and neutrally tuned in the low end compared to the HD660S2 which is too mid-bass focused, something that doesn't work that well with all kinds of music. Technicalities are really good in the HD660S2 regarding tightness, clarity and lack of distortion but it cannot match the dynamics and the physical impact of the iBasso SR3. The mid-range of the iBasso SR3 with the stock pads, is really well tuned and engaging but the HD660S2 is the best if you are looking for a mid focused headphone. The HD660S2 favors an intimate presentation with a great proximity to the listener compared to the more distanced SR3. The treble is equally smooth and resolving without lacking in extension, energy and finesse, timbre is very natural and realistic in both headphones. The iBasso SR3 is considerably more open sounding with an expanded and spacious soundstage when the HD660S2 is narrower and more claustrophobic but not lacking in positioning accuracy. Switching to the spare pads makes for an even more pronounced sound difference between the two headphones.
(Sennheiser HD660S2 review)


Compared to the Meze 109 PRO ($799)

The Meze 109 PRO is a headphone with impressive looks and an amazing build quality. The iBasso SR3 is more ordinary looking but it is equally well built and while the 109 PRO is just a touch more lightweight and comfortable, the leather ear-pads of the iBasso SR3 stay cooler on the long run. The Meze 109 PRO comes with a premium carrying case and two cables, but none of them is balanced and is also missing the spare ear-pads.

With the stock pads attached to the SR3, the 109 PRO has stronger bass presence and more emphasized mid-bass, that is slightly out of tune with acoustic instruments but more fun and engaging with electronic music. It also has a touch more prominent vocals and is brighter on the treble which is also more extended, airy and detailed.

The 109 PRO is thicker and more full bodied than the slightly leaner iBasso SR3 which additionally can become even more neutral and linear with the spare pads. More youthful, bassy and electrifying tuning for the 109 PRO compared to the relatively more balanced iBasso SR3.


Compared to the HIFIMAN Ananda Stealth ($549)

The HIFIMAN Ananda Stealth is a super comfortable headphone but it might be too big for smaller heads while build quality and materials are rather inferior to the iBasso SR3. Accessories are also limited to a mediocre cable and a 6.35mm adapter.

With the spare pads on the iBasso SR3 you will be surprised by how close their frequency response is matched up to the mid-range. Then the Ananda has more emphasized upper-mids and treble, so it sounds forward and a little brighter than the SR3. It is also a bit more detailed, analytical and cleaner sounding than the SR3 and has a sharper imaging but it is not as impactful and dynamic. Again switching to the stock pads will yield a considerably different sound signature between the two headphones.
(HIFIMAN Ananda Stealth review)


Compared to the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth ($1300)

If you go as far as to compare the SR3 with the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth then you will find that except for some differences in the frequency response, the latter fares better in certain technical areas like clarity, lack of distortion, detail extraction, soundstage height, positioning accuracy and imaging. Still the iBasso SR3 is more impactful and dynamic with a fuller texture while it is more versatile and adaptable.
(HIFIMAN Arya Stealth review)


Compared to the Focal Clear Mg ($1200)

The Focal Clear Mg is a luxurious looking headphone that is well made but it is heavier and not as comfortable as the iBasso SR3. It comes with a high quality carrying case and various cables or spare ear-pads depending if you buy the pro or the consumer version.

The tuning of the Clear Mg is slightly more balanced with a frequency response that falls somewhere in the middle of what the two SR3 pads offer. The Focal Clear Mg is fuller sounding and more visceral, the sound is weightier but still very transparent while it is more impactful and dynamic by a fair margin. The iBasso SR3 is not a slouch when it comes to physical impact and dynamics but nothing can beat the suspended driver of the Focal. The iBasso SR3 is more open sounding with a wider soundstage but the Focal is a little more holographic and immersive while both headphones can impress with their excellent positioning accuracy.


In the end

We usually say that a headphone is a value King when it marginally outperforms the competition in its respected category but the iBasso SR3 takes it a step further. Build quality, materials and accessories are at least on par and sometimes better than the competition while it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the overall sound performance is comparable not only with the best specimens of the category but also reaching headphones much more expensive. It is not a giant killer but a headphone that combines upper tier technicalities with great musicality and timbre realism rarely found in this price tag, while it offers two well distinguished tunings thanks to the two different ear-pads.

The iBasso SR3 is a phenomenal headphone, one of the best your money can buy and you will need to spend considerably more to get improvements in sound performance.
And the best part is that it is equally suitable for both casual and critical listeners or people who want to combine both worlds in one headphone, raising its value even higher and rightfully crowning it as the undisputable value King.

Test playlist

Copyright - Petros Laskis 2023.
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I get better frequency extension with the SR3 than most of my headphones. And holographic is one reason I use the SR3 so much, as well as transparency. They are more transparent than the best of my planar headphones. And ear pad changing is the same as Fostex, and for me, pretty fast once you have done it a couple of times and I greatly prefer it over the stick on pads of some very expensive headphones, which often fails after a period of time.

I would agree, they are for the price or 3 times the price, a great bargain.
@ jamato: "They are more transparent than the best of my planar headphone". Which planers in your collection are you comparing the SR3s to?