The review is based on a demo unit arranged by InEar company.
The box presentation is elegant and discreet. It may not be meant to amaze as seen on other flagship products but it is also different. It arrives in a large black wood box with a soft magnetic closure. The upper level holds the leather case with the ‘InEar’ writing on it carrying the ProMission X earphones themselves inside. Beneath the foam there is an extra paper box with all the accessories. The package includes a selection of standard silicone tips in 4 sizes, a pack of SpinFit CP100 (the new version) also in 4 sizes and 3 sets of Comply Foam TS400 tips. There are also 3 cleaning cloths and a 6.35mm adapter. Lastly, the cerumen filter H3 set, one set for each right and left nozzles colored in red and blue, respectively. These filters are to replace the one installed in case wax gets in the nozzle, but I had no need to try them.
Like all the InEar models the ProMission X (PMX) follows their very unique design. There are many universal fit in-ear sets that intend to offer a more custom-like design, some better achieved than others. However, the InEar’s housings could hold a category by their own being the closest design to real custom IEM shells. These make options like the iBasso IT03 and IT04 or the qdc feel much like another standard universal IEM. As for build quality, well, at first look the PMX may seem cheaper than what they really are and the reason might be the very lightweight shells. However, InEar already introduced the use of wood within their previous models, and now with the ProMission they offer a new mix of resin and wood. It is not just a faceplate ‘wood’ design that you may choose on some CIEM, but real wood material mixed with the acrylic resin. This so called ‘hybrid wood’ mix is finally covered by a glossy coating giving the whole earpieces a very shiny and smooth finish. All of this contributes into a striking colorful and exotic design, unique for each single piece. There are 3 color options to choose, and the one here is the “resin blue” which I also find to be the nicest among them (lucky!).
The shells are completely smooth with zero sharp corners to be spotted. You can still see they are made of two pieces and look very solidly assembled as a single unit. With all the so custom-like shape, the nozzle is quite short. The length itself is fine considering the whole earpieces will be covering all the outer ear part, but missing the proper angle to achieve an even more natural fit into the ear canal, and with this kind of shape there is no room to adjust the shells any further.
Of course, this will strongly vary between different users. Even after testing hundreds of ear shapes to find a most accurate universal custom fit there is still no guarantee it will fit everyone. In fact, the fit and comfort are probably a ‘hit or miss’ with the PMX shells. The earpieces are quite large too. Fortunately, the PMX now also arrives in a ‘small’ version, more suited for smaller ears, and personally, I found the shape to be quite correct with my ears, but not the size. They fit too snugly and the whole contour of the shells can add too much pressure after not a long listening time. I guess the ‘small’ versions should had fit much better. Those with larger than average ears could pick the standard size, but otherwise for small to medium ears the smaller shape will be a safer bet.
For the inner side of the earphones, the selection of the right ear tips is most critical, much more than any other universal IEM. The very fixed fit and the nozzle length/angle can be also a challenge to find the proper seal and comfort. The included standard silicone tips didn’t work at all for me. The new SpinFit CP100 were right in comfort but cannot keep a seal. Comply Foam tips are very good, though they tend to affect the overall sound and are not durable as silicone tips. Instead, the SpinFit CP145 are much better match, and ultimately I opted for dual flange tips (see photos). These dual tips have a softer texture, longer body and wider bore so not only they provide the best fit, comfort and almost immediate perfect seal with the PMX but also the best sound quality.
Passive noise isolation, is probably the highest I’ve tried with universal IEMs, which is not surprising having the uniquely shaped and very large shells. Unlike real custom IEM with a deep fit, the fit on the PMX is normal to a bit shallow.
Lastly, the cable is quite simple. It looks plain and somehow underwhelming for a high priced IEM, especially when compared to the included cables by other brands that include more customized and attractive cables. On the good side, the cable is quite compact and soft with a 4-wire twisted design, very light and has no noise. (Cannot comment much about durability due the limited time with the ProMission X). The 2-pin connectors are standard 0.78mm. and there is memory wire to act as guides. 3.5mm plug and y-split have a rubber coating. The curious part is the plug unusual shape. It is 90º terminated but with very compact round shape.
For the audio section, this new flagship sets a round number of 10 drivers per side. It is an all balanced armature drivers’ setup like the previous models released by InEar. It may sound not as fancy as the mixed hybrid offers from other companies which have recently included electro/magneto-static drivers, but there is still no prove that multi-BA configurations had been outdated yet. Moreover, a pure armature IEM still has its advantages next to hybrid sets, and anyways it is not the type or number of drivers used, but the quality and final tuning what makes a good earphone.
Primary sources used here were the iBasso DX220 (with stock AMP1 Mk2) and the Shanling M6, which personally I find the most accurate and favorable for the PMX or testing earphones in general. Other DAPs (from HiBy, iBasso, Fiio, Shanling) were tried as well. Also, the stock 3.5mm cable was mainly used.
As for the Pro Mission X own sound, it follows a very neutral, uncolored tuning with a ‘monitor’ reference kind of response. Undoubtedly, the overall balance is a strong suit of the PMX and it is very technically strong, well weighted for being flat to neutral and shows very high refinement and clear detail all the time on its whole frequency.
For an earphone focused in neutrality and detail the low end on the PMX won’t offer great power or depth, but as result of that won’t show any unwanted mid-bass bloat. Even so, the amount of 10 drivers per channel is not for nothing. There is a slight hint of added warmth that prevents the lows of sounding too sterile, and being all BA units the PMX offers a punchy and fast bass response. The bass control is top-notch and extremely accurate. I don’t find it yet to be the fastest earphone so far, however it can be seen as a plus here as the low end sounds more realistic in attack and natural in decay. Still, it is not an alternative to dynamic based drivers used for lows as it lacks the fullness on notes and texture. Quantity wise while soft in character and without not much of impact, the PMX would still rate as slightly above neutral. A good thing, being not completely flat making it more competitive for what a top-tier IEM should rank. The extension is a bit limited with a small roll-off not reaching the lowest sub-bass range. Interestingly, it is not a source picky set but yet responds nicely to different DAPs in sub to mid-bass amount and overall balance. (For instance, with the HiBy R5 there is more sub-bass feel and with the DX160 a greater mid-bass power what coincides with the general impressions of these players; a good sign of the transparency of the ProMission X.)
The whole midrange is completely balanced. If the bass could carry a soft sense of warmth, the midrange on the other hand is even more neutral. Pretty much flat; never sounding distant but not forward either. There is no sense of coloration and leans to being cold and more analytical. The detail is very impressive capable of showing the micro nuances with much ease. It is not presented in an aggressive way as it manages to keep a degree of musicality despite the too neutral approach. As with many good balanced armature drivers, the mids are liquid and very accurate; dynamics, however, are kind of missing for what could be expected at this high price point. Instruments are quite equally weighted, just having a bias to upper instruments due the brighter tonality, with a sharp separation and coherent positioning. The cooler tonality is also accompanied with some dry texture, which is clearly noticed with vocal oriented music genres. They are very clear and detailed but just missing the sweetness and emotion to make them shine.
Treble performance is amazing. Easy to say it is one of the best things of the PMX if not the best. It performs at top-tier level as should be expected of a flagship earphone at this high price point. Quality is simply excellent and it is rivaling another TOTL model (and favorite), the Anole VX from qdc. Could not care much about the number or type of drivers used for highs as long as there is quality, and the PMX has that. The treble presentation on the PMX is on the bright side of things. While the lows and mids are fairly neutral, the highs are always forward and very prominent. Despite the greater amount of treble it remains impressively controlled without being unpleasantly sibilant or harsh. Balance is excellent too, lacking a lower-treble/upper mids peak to avoid being ‘hot’, and very even with the upper treble region. Still, the bright nature and amount can be tiring after some time, but those who have a bright treble preference will sure be enjoying the PMX. Sparkle and attack are everywhere and in a rather natural way. The top-end extension is superb as well, unlike the low-end part. I think the custom-like fit blocking lot of outer noise and increasing isolation level allows the PMX to perform very comfortable at lower volume levels.
Detail retrieval is top-notch. It may not escape from having a bit of analytical tilt on it, and if considering its ‘monitor’ kind of tuning it should be expected. Nevertheless, the PMX is capable of showing all the minimal tiny details and in a so effortless and precise way. My preferred synergy is with the Shanling M6 even over the DX220. With the M6 it is capable of a more vivid and realistic treble. The presentation is very airy and open. It is spacious but the soundstage is not too large having a more oval shape with greater width than depth or height, and while imaging is accurate it is still missing in overall dynamics for what a TOTL may perform. Even switching to balanced mode changes are still minor to boast about and the extra power is not something needed for the full BA ProMission X low impedance anyway. It does perform noticeably greater with mid to high sources, but finding the correct ear tips is more critical here.
I have not listened to the other InEar products before, but comparisons were done with other flagships (and previous flagships).
qdc Anole VX (10 BA)
A direct rival of the InEar ProMission X would be the qdc Anole VX. They both retail for $/€ 2000+ and carry an all multi-BA setup of 10BA units per side and are considered the current flagships of each company (well, there is a new 10K+ Limited qdc IEM, but that’s out of reach). The qdc VX does hold a semi-custom like shell, but the PMX is still beyond that being the closest to a real CIEM could be. However, the VX has an extra feature, 3 switches that allow to change the impedance for the different frequencies and can give a some extra sound tuning; probably something similar the own InEar ProPhile 8 applied, now missing on the PMX. In terms of design and built, both have flashy appearance, though the qdc VX feels more solid with thicker shells. The 2-pin on the PMX will be more comfortable when choosing extra cables over the proprietary qdc sockets. The qdc is not really a small earphone, and yet looks more compact next to the InEar large shells (standard size version). Fit is simply more ‘universal’ for the qdc and ear tips rolling is much easier too, while isolation goes for the PMX.
As for what sound quality goes, they both perform on top-tier levels with excellent resolution, accuracy and incredible micro detail everywhere. Do note that the lower impedance rate of 10Ω on the PMX means a lower volume need to match the more standard 15~19Ω from the VX. In their technical abilities, both IEMs perform on about the same level. Speed (mainly in bass) is a higher on the VX, and so the extension in the bass, capable of reaching a more natural and solid sub-bass impression. It is more about their tuning where they differ. Even taking the qdc with all switches off it has a more even bass performance, more equal sub to mid-bass response, whereas the PMX shows an earlier roll-off and more focus in its mid-bass impact, though about the same in pure quantities as the qdc mid-bass. The qdc sounds still fuller in overall note, especially when reaching the midrange adding more body and natural texture, much sweeter vocals and generally forward mids. The PMX is more neutral and colder, leaner, less favorable for vocal genres but yet has a very sharp instrument separation. In the treble area, the qdc maintains more neutrality while the PMX boosts a brighter treble, more aggressive and greater in attack. Treble extension is still about the same. VX is more natural, and even presents a bit more air and open sound over the PMX. Soundstage feels wider on the PMX with less depth and height, while the qdc VX offers a similar width along with a more surrounding 3D effect.
Ultimately, my preference goes for the qdc over the PMX, though considering having used the Anole VX for a much longer time may not be completely fair against the PMX. However, depending on synergy results the PMX pairs much better with the Shanling M6, while the qdc VX is less favorable with it but less demanding with any other sources.
Dita Twins – Feality & Fidelity
Between the two Dita Twins, the Fidelity is the one that shares a very similar signature with the PMX, linear, neutral to bright. There are certain differences that some may address to the dynamic (single) driver vs. the all BA on them. In pure bass quantities they are very close, nothing much above just neutral, though the PMX can have a bit more punch (BA type of), while the Fidelity a more even response. Also, the extension is more natural on the Fidelity reaching a more realistic sub-bass texture. The PMX has more speed; however, the Fidelity can benefit from some extra amplification power and reach great dynamics. In the midrange, both are rather flat with a cool tonality. The PMX is more liquid and clear, more open and effortless. It is also more forward when presenting all the tiny details. In the highs both go for a bright, forward and aggressive treble. The Fidelity can sound harsh and too sharp, and while the PMX is also large in treble amounts it manages a much better control and comfortable to listen presentation, much rarely showing signs of sibilance. The detail is also superior on the ProMission X, higher in resolution, definition and precision.
On non-sound comparison, these are too different. An all metal shell, very shallow fit in a kind of half-in-ear shape and much simpler design on the Dita earphones. A plus on the Dita models is the special cable with its popular exchangeable plug system.
The RE-2000 may not be a direct contender to the ProMission. The retail price of the first RE-2000 (gold) was of ~$2000 but then lowered and with the cheaper Silver RE-2000 that now is even below the $1000 mark. The one I tried is the Silver RE-2000 anyway. The RE2000 has a very wide U-shaped response. Neither of the two are more than slightly above neutral in the low-end, soft in impact yet very accurate. Despite being a dynamic driver (whatever that “topology” tech adds), there isn’t any more or better sub-bass reach on the RE2000 over the BA drivers of the PMX. The PMX may even show a hint of warmer tilt and extra mid-bass punch when called for. Midrange is closer to the above Fidelity than it is to the PMX, and can just have a nicer texture for upper vocals (in the not unusual Hifiman fashion), while the PMX is more precise and analytical in nature. The main problem with the RE2000 is a treble peak usually at the 2~4kHz region giving some unevenness and grain to the treble performance. It is somehow fixable changing tips (and even a better cable can help; my preference, the PW Audio No.10), while the PMX despite being bright enough it retains its control all the way making it a more refined earphone. The PMX is always more effortless and more micro detailed. For music genres, the RE2000 can excel with acoustics music, where the PMX suits better to electronic types.
Comparing to the Hyla Sarda is much easier than any of the above. Reason is quite simple, they sound completely different. The Sarda uses a triple driver hybrid (dynamic, BA, piezoelectric) combination and presents a very pronounced V-shaped signature. Even the Hyla is priced ~$1000 lower it still can offer things that the ProMission X cannot. The dynamic driver on the Hyla is tuned for a very powerful and engaging low-end. The mid-bass lift is nothing unusual, but where it excels is in the sub-bass extension, texture and depth. Of course, the PMX wins in speed and accuracy being a multi-BA. Soundstage is greater on Hyla, and not just against the PMX, but among many other in-ear sets. Midrange is warmer on the Hyla but more distant with its v-shaped curve. PMX sounds neutral and very balanced. Treble quality goes for the PMX for sure; the Hyla is energetic and similar in just quantities but lacks the air, openness and treble dynamics of the ProMission X.
Cons: No, (if you remove the price from the brackets).
InEar ProMission X: touch to the magic sound
After a brief interruption due to worldwide quarantine, we continue to introduce you to the latest in portable audio. It's time to escape from all this fuss and return to the beautiful, to the music.
Indeed, as we say in Russia, “Music helps us build and live,” and listening to your favorite compositions in good quality is even more fun. Anyway, all the hardships and troubles will pass sooner or later, and art - forever.
Today we are reviewing, perhaps, one of the most worthy of the world representatives of the highest quality audio, in-ear monitors from the respected German brand InEar Monitoring, a 10-driver model - ProMission X (PMX).
You all know very well that I have special feelings for German audio mastering, I mean the convergence of phonograms by sound engineers in the studio, their feeling and understanding of sound, as well as their technique, and audio carriers in general. So this time, getting to know inEar has sent me straight to the real audiophile catharsis. This is a blessed occasion when you know that the meeting promises to be fantastic and the result still exceeds all expectations. But enough with the talk, let's get down to parsing these miracle headphones essentially.
However, it is worthwhile to first say a few words about InEar Monitoring itself. So, for those who are not in the know, a short digression into the history of the brand. InEar is a German company that has been successfully researching professional audio and manufacturing in-ear monitors, as well as hearing aids and hearing protectors, for 27 years.
These specialized products are actively used by musicians and sound engineers, and for lovers of high-quality portable sound there is a series of StageDiver IEMs, the ProPhile 8 model and now the new flagship - ProMission X. InEar also has a range of CIEM (custom Headphones) - LivePro Series: LivePro 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
The ProPhile 8 and ProMission X models are only available in a universal package. The main difference between the universal IEM from inEar, and models from other manufacturers is the extraordinary comfort of wearing them and excellent sound insulation. These are perhaps the only earphones in the world that are not inferior to custom monitors (CIEM) in their ergonomic qualities. Well, about the transcendental sound level of any inEar product, I can talk for a long time and excitedly, but we really need to go directly to the review.
Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)
System: 4-way system (10 BA drivers)
Material: Hybrid wood
Frequency response: 10Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity: 120dB / mW
Appearance, kit and ergonomics
In the standard version, the IEM come in a black cardboard box that snaps onto a magnet, with a signature purple seal sticker on which the inEar logo, company address, and model information are located. In my case, the PMX arrived in an exclusive wooden box with an InEar logo carved on the lid and the slogan “hear the difference”. And it’s simply impossible not to hear, I’m telling you this for sure. Inside, a Sound with a capital letter awaits us, which is fundamentally different from what we heard earlier.
It should be noted right away that the retail version of the headphones, in addition to the box, which is also very pretty, is no different from mine. Inside your box with ProMission X, you'll find what you see in my photos.
Well, the kit is simply gorgeous. Opening the treasured chest, we find a branded leather round case in black with the brand logo, designed to store and carry headphones. Inside the case, we are waiting for the headphones themselves with a removable cable installed in them, 4 pairs of silicone tips (sizes XS, S, M and L), 3 pairs of foam Comply TS400 tips (sizes: S, M, L), wipes for earphones care, a tablet for draining excess moisture, an adapter 3.5 / 6.3 mm, a brush for cleaning sound ducts, a set of sulfur filters H3 and a nice little instruction book. In general, there is everything you need that you might ever need to use IEM.
Externally, the PMX is unrealistically cool. To begin with, this is the most ergonomic shell I've ever had to wear. The universal case is made flawlessly, as if by an individual cast of the ear. And this is no accident. The fact is that for many years the company collected and studied ear impressions/imprints of various shapes, and as a result, managed to find a common denominator that was most comfortable for everyone. Yes, I myself sent my impressions to inEar a couple of years ago, which is why my ears served for the benefit of the audiophile part of humanity. In general, no magic, but many years of painstaking work, experience, knowledge of the matter, golden hands and German accuracy.
The shell of this ProMission X is a fancy alloy consisting of acrylic and several natural wood species. This is an extraordinarily beautiful glossy, smooth surface, on which a bewitching pattern spreads subtly, where the purple-violet space odyssey enters into close contacts of the third degree with forest civilization. And if it seems to you now that I have peered at these phantasmagoric patterns for too long, then it is, but I hasten to reassure that it does not entail any consequences other than extreme visual pleasure - admire this magical miracle as much as you like.
Despite the universal design of the PMX shell, the sound insulation of these IEMs, as in the case of CIEM, is at a fairly high level. So when listening to your favorite music in the hustle and bustle of traffic, nothing should stop you.
Within each IEM placed 10 BA drivers/receivers. Above is a connector for connecting a cable. Replaceable filters are installed in the sound pipes, which serve to protect against moisture and sulfur. The complete cable is similar to what we saw on the SD-2, SD-5 and PP8 models: braided, made of oxygen-free copper, 2pin plug, jack L-shaped 3.5mm, with hard earhooks. For my part, there are no complaints about the cable, and having tried a number of more expensive cables from different conductors to study the sound, I still decided to return to the complete wire. For me, by the way, it is very convenient, but the hard ear hooks are, perhaps, not for everybody. Whether I will change this cable, wait and see. For example, in the case of SD-2, I prefer to use just such a cable, while paired with PP8 I really like the red HanSound RedCore.
Well, according to the results of the first part of the review, ProMission X deserves the highest awards. But the most important thing, as you know, is still ahead: we move on to the analysis of sound. And believe me, conducting a “dry” analysis without the admixture of my overwhelming enthusiastic emotions this time was especially difficult.
With all the devices, PMX played at a high level, the handwriting changed slightly depending on the source, giving PMX its unique shade.
The sound of ProMission X I would describe as well-balanced, smooth, with excellent transmission of the emotional component, the development of micro- and macro-nuances, excellent speed characteristics and amazing musicality. The musical canvas is drawn unusually lively, embossed, rich and contrasting, with excellent transmission of sound tones and a meticulous study of the details of the composition.
Unlike its ProPhile-8 brothers (with the high and low frequency toggle switches turned off), the PMX demonstrates a slight neat rise in the lower register area, with a well-developed, technical bass, as well as a light accent and a more sophisticated manner in the high-frequency region. These well-placed accents do not draw attention to yourself, the PMX sound remains neutral with the main action taking place in the mid-frequency range, but at the same time the listened to songs are added the very highlight, mood, richness of detail and a bit of expression. In general, ProMission X sounds a little more driving and emotional than PP8. The inclusion of the toggle switches Low and High on ProPhile-8 allows you to achieve a similar result, quantitatively low frequencies become even a little more than the hero of today's review, PMX against this background sound more balanced and accurate. In general, the very manner of sound of these IEM models is different, although family ties are, of course, captured.
I would say so, if ProPhile-8 is the sound of a high-class thoroughbred studio monitor, then ProMission X is an expensive home Hi-End speaker system tuned by the same people, but for a different purpose. Namely - to maximize the emotions and enjoyment of listening to your favorite music, without regard to more emasculated studio standards. InEar engineers set themselves a difficult task and dealt with it, in my opinion, excellently.
Yes, at the same time, personally, I would not strongly rank the sound of these two IEM models, each of them has its own unique handwriting and unique charm, and between them there are both common features and various. So here it is a matter of taste and personal preference. I also want to, since we remembered InEar's IEMs, to remember the IEM StageDiver SD-2 model that I adore and the chic StageDiver SD-5, which visited our editorial office and about which I wrote a review, they are also worthy of close attention. But let's return to the analysis of the sound of our today's hero.
From the very first minutes of listening, PMX impresses with its excellent resolution and rather spreading stereo panorama with precise localization of virtual sound sources in a space where each musical instrument is clearly in place. Here, every sound, its movement, as well as the impact force, are clearly distinguishable. This is a naturalistic manner of sound with a wide dynamic range, excellent technicality and a light, emotional color. All material is presented authentically, thoroughly and very musically. Amazing perfect driver consistency and a complete absence of phase distortion.
Low frequencies - dense, fast, with a good study of textures and excellent control. There is a clear cotton, and a tight, biting beat, and textured agile bass. I turn on Brian Bromberg's “Freedom jazz dance”, and here it is - an extremely accurate transfer of playing the bass guitar, where you don’t even listen with your ears, but with some of your inner fibers you feel the tension of the string, its beating on the pickup, you plunge into a bewitching timbre variety and richness of overtones. There is not even a hint of buzz and muttering, but there is quantity and quality combined with excellent balance. The sub-bass region smoothly and harmoniously passes to the mid-bass, which, in turn, life-giving complements the middle, filling it with depth, warmth and bodily substance.
It should be noted, however, that the bassheads are likely to remain unsatisfied. But for me personally everything is impeccable.
Mid frequencies are neutral, smooth, with excellent texture transfer and excellent resolution. Not a single detail escapes the listener.
Extremely naturalistic is the emotional component of the composition. Strings and wind instruments are chased and clean, guitar riffs cut through the air, vocal parts excite your ears so that they take your breath away, and the pianist’s nimble fingers crumble openly over the keys - everything is beautiful, relaxed and with a proper touch of expression. This is an unusually naturalistic, smooth, spacious and very musical manner. The positioning of instruments in space is clearly calibrated and realistic.
ProMission X demonstrates excellent detail and amazing visualization of sound images in space. Gracefully!
High frequencies sound lingering, sophisticated, legible, with good articulation, aftertone transmission and enviable correctness. This is a detailed, spacious, smooth and comfortable feed. This register has an elegant and light accent that adds air to the listening songs, but it is done correctly and accurately. There is no excessive brightness, but there is a magnificent working out of this range and a natural, extremely musical sound without sharpness and distortion.
In terms of genre preferences, InEar PMX is not at all capricious: they play very interestingly both classical music, instrumental, jazz, electronica, rock, and brutal genres.
ProMission X - Extraordinary IEM. This is definitely “TOTAL IEM”, a model of the highest class, with its charm and sophisticated musical flavor, which will find many admirers among the most demanding connoisseurs of sound. Everything is here: a perfectly balanced, clean and genuine sound, causing a storm of emotions, original design, unprecedented ergonomics and a rich set.
It remains only to inform about the price of this pleasure. On the manufacturer’s website inear-monitoring.eu IEM, the ProMission X model can be purchased for 2089 €. Yes, the price is not small, but the sound is worth so much from which you lose peace, head and sleep, and even in such an very original design.
In general, if you have the opportunity to fork out for a chic sound, then I without any hesitation recommend inEar PMX for purchase.
The more I listen, the more I like it. PMX is just awesome IEM