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PHB EM-023 In-Ear Metal Earphone

Rating:
3.83333/5,
  1. DallaPo
    PHB EM-023 | 2*DD & 2*BA | Rating: 7.6
    Written by DallaPo
    Published Oct 30, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - good separation
    prominent, but clean bass
    build quality
    Cons - bad cables
    sometimes aggressive trebles
    detailed, but tonal not always coherent mids
    too bright for my taste
    Intro
    PHB is actually not known for its hybrids, but rather for the constant use of dynamic, mostly single drivers. Now they are throwing their hybrids onto the market (EM-021 & EM-023), which, due to their configuration, are in line with the TRN V80 or KZ ZS6 etc. (2*DD & 2*BA).

    The EM-023 will certainly not be my favorite in-ears. Musically they are simply too inconstant. I appreciate more all-rounders, where I don't have to think about what kind of music I want to listen today, because this in-ear has a lot to offer, but sometimes just leaves you out in the rain.


    Handling
    The supplied cables (2) are simply to be forgotten. Anyone who decides to order this IEM should already have a matching MMCX with earhook in their hindquarters. Since I evaluate the in-ears in and of themselves and not the cables, this is not very important for me, but the deductions are in the B-note.

    Otherwise, the workmanship is excellent. You can argue about the design, because there are so many Campfire -Andromeda remakes (optically), that it is nothing special anymore, but almost presumptuous. But as a result they don't look bad either. They are made of metal and have a half-open construction, which was realized by the stamped W-LAN symbol on the surface, which is a nice detail.

    Apart from that you will find a metal case in the packaging, various silicone tips, as well as a pair of foam tips, which I find extremely pleasant, and a cable organizer!

    The isolation to the inside is not bad and surprisingly bearable to the outside. Despite the construction the music is hardly perceptible for others.


    Sound
    Let's see what the EM-023 does well:
    The bass is really remarkable and knows how to please in almost all areas, such as depth, detail, speed, or its punch. The bass is really very prominent and makes almost every song a bass pleasure when you like it. This makes the EM-023 extremely suitable for hip-hop and a lot of electro.
    Those who love a lot of bass will surely have their fun here, because despite its presence the EM-032 is not a pure bass IEM, but has even more to offer.

    But here it gets a bit more difficult and you have to differentiate.
    The mids sound a bit strange if you know the song well. Some of the instruments sound quieter than they should and some of them louder. In general, the lower mids are taken back, but this is added directly to the upper mids. Thus the mids sound unnatural in some cases, because there is something missing in the body and around the top it gets too bright and partly shrill. However, this is not the case with all recordings and therefore not easy to judge. I could pick out 10 songs, according to which I would call the EM-023 a really great In-Ears. However, this also applies to the negative.

    The heights also have their share in this lottery game. These are too bright and often aggressive for my taste. I have to say that the EM-023 in the internet is certified with relaxed, soft heights, which I simply can't confirm. I've already received a second pair, as I initially assumed that the BAs had a defect. However, not much has changed in the situation. Yes, the highs can provide some brilliance and detail, but for what price.
    If I have to make an exquisite choice of music and vary a lot with the volume, then I'd rather go for other IEMs right away. Generally speaking, quieter is more, as they are just as easy to drive. For my part, they are simply too tiring in the long run and I'm not such a treble freak either. But there are certainly people who can resign themselves to it and make friends with it, or even search.


    Outro
    I don't want to speak badly about the EM-023, because it's not that! You just have to be clear about what you're getting and if you're looking for it. If you are looking for very bright in-ears, with a good separation, average stage, really impulsive lows and preceding clear and detailed mids, which are not always tonal correct, you will find it here. The discrepancies in the midrange don't carry so much weight with hip-hop or electro, because the location works well and voices sound intimate and natural despite the bright signature. Who likes to listen to rock, metal, or a lot of random stuff, isn't too well advised with the Em-023.

    ___________________________________________________
    more reviews at:
    https://david-hahn.wixsite.com/chi-fiear
      trellus likes this.
  2. darmanastartes
    Expansive Insight
    Written by darmanastartes
    Published Aug 28, 2018
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Detailed, large soundstage, build quality
    Cons - Cable QC, comfort, upper midrange may be too bright for some
    INTRODUCTION/DISCLAIMER:

    The PHB EM-023 is a 4 driver hybrid IEM (2 DD+2BA). I first became interested in the EM-023 when I came across a picture of the crossover board used in this IEM in a teardown here. I was excited to see a crossover used on a budget hybrid IEM, and purchased a commercial unit for the purpose of this review. The unit was purchased for $29 from the NiceHCK Audio Store on AliExpress. The EM-023 normally retails for around $39. The discount was provided in exchange for an honest review.
    This review can also be read on my blog here.

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    ABOUT ME

    I listen mostly to heavy metal, hip hop, and electronic music, as well as movie and video game soundtracks. I value detail, clarity, and soundstage above other acoustic qualities. I like pseudo-Japanese V-shaped sound signatures with a boosted upper midrange. Other headphones I own or have owned in the past include the Campfire Audio Polaris, Meze 99 Neo, E-MU Teak, Aiwa Arc-1, Yersen FEN-2000, Rose North Forest, Mee Audio Pinnacle P1, Mee Audio Pinnacle P2, Fostex TH-X00, V-Moda M-80, V-Moda LP2 Crossfade, Beyerdynamic DT-770 (250 ohm), KZ ATE, Mixcder X5, Mee Audio M6, Hifiman HE-400S, and (very briefly) Phillips Fidelio X2.

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    SOURCES

    I have used the PHB EM-023 with the following sources:

    Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Global > PHB EM-023

    Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > PHB EM-023

    I have tested these headphones with Spotify Premium high-quality streaming and local FLAC.

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    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The PHB EM-023 comes in a rectangular matte black box with the manufacturer’s logo in silver on the front. Inside this box are a smaller box containing the cables and eartips and a round metal tin in which the IEMs are seated in a foam cutout. The EM-023 comes with a cloth drawstring bag with PHB branding, 2 MMCX cables (one rubbery black cable with a mic, the other a non-mic’d silvery cable), an alligator shirt clip, and three sets of eartips (short wide-nozzle grey silicone [Small, Medium, Large,], foam [Medium], and black silicone [Small, Medium, Large].

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    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN

    The EM-023 housings are, like the KZ ZS5/6, “inspired” by the iconic design of the Campfire Audio Andromeda. The metal housings are solid and the quality of the CNC machining is impeccable. However, the red anodized finish has already begun to wear off on the edges of the housings over the weeks that I have had these IEMs due to the housings rubbing against each other in transit. The nozzles and vents on these IEMs are covered by brass sheets perforated in a grid pattern. I have noticed occasional mild driver flex when inserting the IEMs into my ears, a phenomena which is exacerbated by covering the vents on the outer face of the housings. The cables have strain relief at the 3.5mm end and at the Y-split, but not at the MMCX-end. Both cables use a straight 3.5mm plug and slightly angled MMCX connectors. Both cables have an adjustable choker. I have had issues with signal cutting out on the right MMCX connector depending on the orientation of the cable-side connector. I also have had issues with the mic’d cable triggering Google Assistant on my phone, but it is likely that this is an issue with my phone’s 3.5mm connection and not the cable itself.

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    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    My primary complaint regarding Chinese OEMs copying the signature Campfire Audio housing is that the design is inherently uncomfortable. The straight edges of the housings press into my small ears, and the housing extends out of the ear, making wearing these IEMs to bed ill-advised. The EM-023 has a shallow insertion depth but a relatively wide nozzle, making them mediocre from a comfort perspective. Isolation is average.

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    SOUND
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    The sound signature of the EM-023 is defined by a bright, detailed midrange. Sound quality seems independent of tip selection. I used the included foam tips and the silicone tips from the Fiio F1 for most of my listening.

    Sub-bass extension is superb, and sub-bass quantity is elevated compared to the mid-bass. Mid-bass slam is limited. Bass articulation is average. Bass texture is monolithic. The bass does not bleed into the lower midrange. Lower mids are essentially linear with the bass, while upper mids are lifted to the point of mild fatigue. Male vocals are presently distinctly and intelligibly. In genres like black metal, even on albums with good production, distorted electric guitars are far too bright. Female vocals can have too much presence. The treble is clear and detailed with excellent dynamics.

    Soundstage width is above average for a sub-$50 IEM, though soundstage height is cramped. Instrument separation is not great. While subtle details like quiet synth textures can be discerned in more sparsely populated compositions, dense/complicated music can sound congested.

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    COMPARISONS

    PHB EM-023 vs Yersen FEN-2000

    The Yersen FEN-2000 is a sub-$30 hybrid (1DD+1BA). The FEN-2000 is an overall warmer IEM, with a more recessed midrange and less pronounced treble. It has better bass texture and articulation and more mid-bass slam. It is not as airy or detailed as the EM-023 but it is less fatiguing to listen to for extended periods. The EM-023 has a larger soundstage.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING

    At an impedance of 13 ohms and a sensitivity of 103dB, the EM-023 can be easily driven by a smartphone. I do not feel that they benefit noticeably from having more power on tap. The EM-023 is forgiving of lower-end sources and does not hiss.

    CLOSING WORDS

    I found the EM-023 to best suit music with ample low-end and male vocalists. This is an excellent IEM for hip-hop, EDM, and orchestral music. They are less suited for dense, guitar-driven music like metal.
      trellus, Lothar101, ShakyJake and 2 others like this.
  3. Otto Motor
    PHB EM-023: The WiFi Earphone
    Written by Otto Motor
    Published Aug 17, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Extremely smooth and mature sound with great detail resolution; huge accessories package incl. two cables.
    Cons - Yet another Campfire Andromeda lookalike; not for extended-treble fans.
    You also find this review and much more on my blog audioreviews.org



    Executive Summary

    The PHB EM-023 is a very clean and refined sounding 2+2 hybrid that once again raises the bar in the low-priced Chifi category. It will please treble-sensitive listeners who like a warm, bright, and smooth sound underlain by a healthy, controlled bass as well as those who appreciate a generous accessories package.


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    Disclaimer


    I once again purchased the PHB EM-023 from the NiceHCK Audio Store for $0.10 for the purpose of this review. Thanks, Jim NiceHCK, for the discount (is NiceHCK really your surname, Jimbo?)! This earphone is presently being prepared to be given to charity to avoid conflict of interest (I have yet to find a communal service to put it to good use). As always, I tested the PHB EM-023 across a section of music that broadly covers the frequency spectrum, including natural sounds generated by voices and orchestral instruments…and for many hours.


    Introduction


    The price of an earphone appears to be broadly correlated with the number of drivers – at least in the high-end segment. The opposite appears to be the case in the low-price category, where additional drivers are consistently added while the $$$ melt away. Until recently, there was a sharply defined $15–30 single to dual dynamic driver (DD) area, and another one with additional balanced armature (BA) drivers at or above $50...with some exceptions. Most recently, a new generation of competent four-driver hybrids has nested in the previously largely orphaned $30–40 segment. Reviewers have praised one of them, the TRN V80, uniformly. The PHB EM-023 is another contender in this segment. Shenzhen PHB Technology Co., Ltd. has existed since March 2008.


    Specifications

    Price (at the time of the review): $39
    Product Name: Original PHB EM-023 In-Ear Metal Earphone
    Earphone Type: In-ear
    Impedance: 13Ω
    Earphone Sensitivity: 105 ±5 dB/mW
    Frequency Range: 20-40000Hz
    Interface: 3.5mm Gilded
    Plug Type: Line curved
    Cables: 2 pcs MMCX cable (one with wic, one without mic)
    Cable Length: 1.2m±3cm
    Colors: Green, Red, Silver
    Earphone Interface: MMCX connector
    Driver Unit: 2BA+2DD hybrid driver unit
    Purchase Link:
    NiceHCK Audio Store

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    Packaging and Accessories


    The black box contains a lot of goodies: first, the earpieces come in their own round tin case. But removing the foam insert disappoints: the rather thin-walled case is not padded and therefore unsuited for storage until you “mod” it. A grey bag of rather stiff velvety material serves as official earphone storage. Two standard-quality MMCX cables are included, a black one of high-purity copper (with a one-button microphone), and a silver-plated one (without). Both feature a chin slider. There are two sets of (S/M/L) rubber tips, one black (narrow bore), one grey (wide bore), and one pair of foam tips. A shirt clip, warranty card, and manual including frequency response graph (see below) complement the package. No complaints here.


    Physical Appearance, Haptic, and Build

    See KZ ZS6. Vents on the faceplate that are arranged to resemble the WiFi logo distinguish the PHB EM-023. Allegedly, the PHB EM-023 is referred to as the “WiFi earphone” in Japan.

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    Ergonomics, Comfort, Fit, Isolation, and Bleed


    Same as the KZ ZS6. Fit and comfort are hit and miss, depending on individual ear shapes.


    Source and Eartips

    I used the iPhone 5S and the black, included copper cable for the most part (I could not hear a difference between the copper and silver cables). The large grey, wide-bore tips worked for me (I did not try the narrow bore ones which should increase bass and reduce treble somewhat).


    Tonality

    The PHB EM-023 is a smooth, warm and bright sounding, upper-midrange-focused and treble-light hybrid. It has a smooth frequency response that is essentially as flat as a board from the sub bass into the midrange (although slightly forward tilted). The curve visualizes the completely fatigue-free sound. This hybrid sounds as close to analog as it gets…if you take this statement with a grain of salt. I found the tonality initially unexciting, but after a brain-break-in it grew on me – and quite a bit.

    The bass is well controlled and composed, but never sharp, reasonably powerful and fast, and with a bit of silk woven in to make it non-intrusive: it creeps nicely up on you and the slightly elevated upper bass/lower midrange adds warmth and clarity to the presentation. The bass is not as dynamic and textured as in the TRN V80, for example, but well extended into the sub bass. In some tracks, it can sound a bit dull. The bass does not leak into the midrange but is rather supporting it.

    The mids are smooth, warm, and the lower mids are slightly recessed. Voices could be a bit fuller but this slight lack adds sense of space. The elevated upper midrange gives the vocals presence.

    The treble is smooth - very smooth - with no pierce or sibilance owing to a dip in the frequency response curve between 2.5 and 9 kHz. A secondary peak at 15 kHz adds some clarity and lightness.

    Soundstage is wider than deep and amazingly accurate; detail resolution, separation and layering are very good. I often felt I was sitting in the room with the band.

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    Frequency-response curve from the PHB EM-023 manual.


    Select Comparisons

    TRN V80 (~38): The V80 is another latest-generation 2 DD + 2 BA earphone populating the $30–40 segment. If you want to know which one is better, the V80 or the PHB EM-023, then I have to disappoint you: both play in the same league and you have to read the detailed reviews across the board to make up your mind which one is for you…having both would be a side grade. The V80 has the more textured and powerful bass, more organic, present vocals, and a more aggressive treble. Its overall presentation is more dynamic and the timbre more natural. The PHB EM-023 plays generally smoother from the bass up with a more cohesive presentation. Mids are a bit brighter and less full. Soundstage may be wider but not as deep than in the V80. Both have a similarly good threedimensionality.


    KZ ZS6 (~$38): The ZS6 was the first low-priced 2 DD + 2 BA earphone that started the gala in this category. The presentation is more intimate (voices are more forward) but also somewhat harsher (with the infamous sharp 9 kHz peak that is piercing to some) and clearer than the PHB EM-023 (because of its 14 kHz peak). The bass is less extended in the ZS6 but the treble (much) more. The PHB EM-023 sounds rounder, warmer, and more homogeneous with and a warmer and more powerful bass that adds more depth. It has a more natural timbre. Voices are also warmer and richer. Call the ZS6 technically more capable and the PHB EM-023 more relaxing.


    BGEYZ KC2 (~$50):..presently with the Canadian Border Services Agency at Richmond, B.C.. Note, this is not the BGEYZ KZ2 but the BGEYZ KZC2.


    Concluding Remarks

    Here we are at the next stage in the race for the perfect low-priced hybrid, which are getting more impressive by the day. The PHB EM-023 joins the ranks of the TRN V80 and the already classic KZ ZS6 in cementing a new, cheaper segment of four-driver hybrids slipping below the $40 mark.

    The PHB EM-023 could be for you, if you don’t own a Campfire Andromeda look-alike. It could be for you, if you like a smooth sound after a hard day. It could be for you if you want a bang for your buck. It could be for you if you…just want them all.

    The PHB EM-023 is simply yet another really good sounding and crowd-pleasing new-generation 2+2 hybrid that makes us appetite for the years to come. Nobody will be disappointed by it.

    You can buy it from the from NiceHCK Audio Store.

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      trellus, antdroid, drawun and 4 others like this.