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In-Ear item created by Byran, Mar 28, 2017
Pros - Clarity, detail retrieval
Cons - Isolation, cable, maybe to bright for some
I got recently opportunity to try and review triad of cheaper earphones, this opportunity was given to me by PenonAudio.com and I´m grateful for that. This is my impressions of first one.
Seahf-AWK-009 – these earphones are smallest from tested group. Shells are made from metal alloy and quality of manufacturing is very good. Seahf shells are shaped as bullet in gold/red colours. On the back of shell is hole for ventilation. Inside is one dynamic driver of dimeter about 8mm, but I could not find any exact information about it. In the package beside of earphones you can find set of ear tips and clip. Probably weakest part of Seahf earphones is cable. It is like common twin cable you can find at your reading lamp. I found that there is more versions with different cables, but this one I got really look poor. Is not flexible enough as it should be and it not make impression that will last long.
Fit is thank to small size not issue and it is very comfortable. But isolation is below average. Seahf earphones will be not bad choice for office listening, but for outside use, in noisy environment is better to take something else. Clip, which is added in to package is very useful, because microfonic effect of cable is very present.
Sound is generally on brighter side, but is very clear and airy. Detail retrieval is on 15USD units very decent and same is instrument separation. Bass is present when it should be, but its coherency on rest of band is not best and is slightly cut off. Sound stage is well presented from left to right, but it miss deepness and in that sense is flat. Seahf will suit well for string instruments and smaller music bands. Sound of huge orchestras will miss body and dimension. On the contrary violin quartet will be sweet and nice to listen.
Seahf-AWK-009 will be not earphones for everybody. They are not versatile in terms of music genre either, but they do not sound really bad and if you prefer brighter side and classical music perform by small band is your genre, than you will not regret 15USD you will spent on Seahf-AWK-009.
Pros - Great build on the housings. Above average cable at this price. Non-standard tuning
Cons - Treble can get rather fierce
There is a huge number of sub $20 earphones available to consumers right now and many of them come from Chinese manufacturers. Some brands have become iconic on Head-Fi, like KZ and Venture Electronics (VE are technically earbuds, I know) and there seems to be a never ending supply of new ones popping up in the market. For some reason they all seem to think what people want is "powerful bass" or "heavy bass" and "fever bass!!". For the most part, they deliver with earphones that have big, loose, floppy bass, washed out midrange and feeble treble. Every now and then something different comes along and that's where the Seahf AWK-009 comes in. But does different mean better? Let's find out.
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. I am not affiliated with the company and all opinions and observations here are my own, based on my experience with the product. The AWK-009 can be purchased from Penon Audio for the price of $14.99: http://penonaudio.com/Seahf-AWK-009-IEMs
Packaging and accessories
The AWK-009 comes in a slim, black rectangular box with a transparent window on the front through which you get a view of the earphones inside. On the left side are some safety instructions and over on the back are the specifications in several languages. Once opened you find the earphones seated in a foam insert along with some spare sets of silicon ear-tips. At the bottom of the insert is a space where the cable is wrapped up and a little bonus in the form of a shirt clip. It's a simple yet effective package and falls in line with what you'd expect for something at this price. The earphone is available in two colors, namely black and red, with and without microphone for a total of four variations. The version I'm reviewing is black without mic.
Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz
Plug 3.5 mm gold-plated
Cable length 1.2 m
Build, comfort and isolation
These are a traditional barrel-shaped IEM but are a little smaller than average. The metal housings are black with gold nozzle and a small gold highlight at the back. On the inner side of the housings are L or R denotations making it super easy to know which side is which. Excellent! On the outer side is some Seahf branding. The finish is very smooth and build quality looks really good.
Where the cable joins the housings is an excellent strain relief that should do a good job of protecting the internals in the event of a cable snag. The cable itself is actually really good. It's supple, smooth and doesn't have any kinks or bounciness. Thickness above the Y is sufficient and feels durable. The cable terminates in a 45° gold-plated plug which also has a very good strain relief. Overall this cable is much better than most you'll find on most ultra-cheap IEMs and the only better one I have come across is on the QKZ W1 Pro. Microphonics are considerable but are almost impossible to escape when dealing with housings this small and besides they can be greatly reduced by using the included shirt-clip.
Of course with something this small and type of shape these are very comfortable. There are no sharp edges or ridges, everything is polished and smooth so these can be worn for long periods easily. Their light weight also means you'll hardly notice they're there most of the time.
In terms of noise isolation these are pretty good for something so small but of course a great deal will depend on how good a seal you're getting. As always finding the right tips is crucial for isolation and getting the best sound.
Sources used for testing
Acoustic Research M20
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
At 16 ohms it makes sense that these do not require amplification. They can be driven by pretty much anything but you might get the best results depending on which source you're using. Due to their inherent brightness a warmer source is my preference here.
Aggressive is how I would describe the sound of this earphone. On first listen it was quite a shock to be bombarded up and down the dynamic range by these little chainsaws. It's almost like all frequencies are on steroids and competing with each other for your attention. They lean towards bright but that's not saying they lack anywhere else - they just have loads of everything.
The bass can thump and it can rumble. With fast attack and decay these have a punchy and well-controlled bass that does a good job of balancing out the brightness of the AWK-009 at least to an certain extent. Even on heavy bass driven tracks like "Mol" by Connect Ohm the upper frequencies still manage to stay out in front. This is a really nicely executed low end more refined than what I usually expect in earphones at this price point.
In the midrange the Seahf surprises again being quite forward with good resolution and revealing a lot of detail. It's a little on the thin or analytical side of things but vocals sound great and remain clearly distinct amidst the din. Female vocals don't fare quite as well though because of the dryness in the higher ranges but overall it's pretty impressive what the AWK-009 brings to the table.
The treble is where things start to go awry unfortunately. HOT is how they come across up top. They're not sibilant but the high notes are lanced into your ears with a vengeance. This aspect makes the 009 very genre or track dependent. Listening to Katatonias "The Racing Heart" is amazing....until you get to the chorus where the constant clashing of the cymbals lance into your ears with malicious intent. The snap of certain drum snares can also be a little unpleasant, hence why I think these are track dependant. I find them particularly good for ambient, folk and EDM music.
Soundstage is not spectacular, rather fairly intimate but the 360° positioning is accurate. In Solar Field's "Random Friday" the swirling electronic noise in the beginning of the track can clearly be heard rotating all around you without any noticeable gaps or missing areas.
vs MEMT X5 ($18 USD)
The Seahf has a tighter, punchier bass than the X5. Midrange is a bit warmer on the X5 and when A/B with the Seahf can sound a little muddy in comparison. Up top the MEMT is a lot more forgiving making it a more laid-back and less fatiguing listen. There's no clear winner when it comes to comfort, both being small and lightweight and the accessories are similar with each offering. Technically the Seahf comes out ahead but I think both are great value IEMs and good value for money.
vs KZ ED9 - brass filters ($11 USD)
The KZ has has a very flat/neutral low end meaning significantly less bass (with brass filters) than the Seahf. The ED9 is well known for its natural sounding mids and this is an area where the Seahf also score high points. When it comes to the treble the KZ is much smoother and less strident than the Seahf. Both have great build quality though I find the Seahf to be easier and more comfortable to wear as they're smaller and lighter. Choosing between the two I'd say ED9 for mids and Seahf if you like more bass. Things get a lot more complicated if you include the ED9's gold filters but it seems that the general consensus is most people prefer the brass and with the latter in place their sound signature is a lot closer to the AWK-009.
The Seahg AWK-900 is a good little earphone for the price. With a little less emphasis on the lower treble it could have been great (for me that is). It's built really well, is very comfortable and a nice change from the more common V-shaped sound signatures we're used to in the budget segment. If you like a bright sound these are definitely worth checking out as they offer something unique and are technically very capable. It will be interesting to see which direction Seahf goes from this point.
Pros - Crisp, detailed sound - Comfort - Cost
Cons - Clear cable; bouncy, sticky, lots of memory
Today we're going to be checking out a little budget gem from Seahf, the AWK-009.
The AWK-009 falls into what has become a very competitive category, namely earphones under 20 USD. There are tons of shockingly good, inexpensive products out there and sorting the wheat from the chaff has become an exercise in tedium. However, every once in a while when the hype has died down, those earphones that have had a lasting affect on their owners rise to the top and become benchmarks for those to follow.
While I think the 009 is an excellent budget earphone and a no-brainer at the asking price, will it have enough staying power within the budget enthusiast community to become a top recommendation? Let's find out.
A big thanks to Penon Audio for sending over a copy of the AWK-009 for the purposes of this review. This unit was provided free of charge. All thoughts and opinions within this review are my own and do not represent Seahf, Penon Audio, or any other entity.
You can order the Seahf AWK-009 here at Penon Audio for 14.90 USD: http://penonaudio.com/Seahf-AWK-009-IEMs?search=awk
Spoiler: My Gear and I:
I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M8, LG G5, Topping NX1 portable amplifier paired with an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox), and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I've been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1 with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
Basic earphone, basic packaging, basic accessories pretty much sums up the AWK-009 here. The black cardboard box is delightfully simple and clean in it's design. There is Seahf branding on the front and a large viewing window showing off the earpieces along with the included large and small eartips (medium pre-installed) placed within a foam insert. The rear contains the technical specifications in six languages.
Pulling out the foam insert via a ribbon reveals the cable neatly wrapped and secured with a twist tie. Attached is one extra accessory, a large cable clip. I was glad to see this included as the clear cable on the sample I was sent isn't the most co-operative at times, but we'll get to that later.
Overall the unboxing experience is perfectly serviceable. The packaging does what it needs to without any unnecessary frills; that being get the earphones to you safely. The included tips are a common inclusion with Chinese earphones and have proven themselves to be a durable, well-sealing option, just not suited to every product they're included with. The omission of a basic carrying pouch is a small oversight I feel given they help protect your purchase.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
While it may sound gaudy or overly "bling-bling" on paper, the AWK-009's matte red and washed-out gold color scheme looks reasonably mature, subtle, and attractive in person. I quite like it. I also enjoy the shape of the metal housings which aren't breaking the mold by trying to do anything unusual. The basic barrel-shape Seahf chose may not be exciting, but it's a proven design. The low weight and rounded edges means the AWK-009 seals well and is very comfortable, either cable up or down.
Speaking of the cable, the version of the 009 that I was sent came with a clear sheath. It's sticky, bouncy, and retains memory of bends and kinks. These qualities make it difficult for cable up wear as it has a tendency to hop up and over your ear. Unfortunately, wearing the AWK-009 cable up is almost a necessity for dealing with the microphonics (cable clip to save the day!). This particular cable could certainly be improved upon. Thankfully the AWK-009 is available with a variety of cable options which seem better behaved according to @bloodypenguin.
These faults in the cable are mostly made up for with excellent strain relief at the compact, 90 degree angled 3.5mm jack and ear pieces. The y-split is extremely tiny and I really don't see the need for relief there as a result. This cable feels exceptionally durable so while I don't necessarily like it, it feels like it will last which is pretty high on my personal priority list.
The AWK-009 isolates reasonably well, better than expected given the port on the back. They do a good job of dulling the sound of my fingers pecking away at a keyboard in addition to outside noise like voices, cars rumbling by, birds, and other ambient sounds.
Overall I feel the AWK-009 is a well-built earphone using decent materials and good fit and finish, though this particular cable should be selected only if durability and looks are the most important qualities. Isolation is about average, maybe slightly above for a dynamic based earphone.
Tips: While the stocks tips on the AWK-009 are fine, I preferred to use them with KZ's "Starline" tips. The extra core length helped maintain a consistently good seal.
Amping: No need as the AWK-009 is very easy to drive. They did perform better at higher volumes though coming across a little flat, both literally and figuratively, at the low volumes I prefer to listen at.
Straight out of the box I was quite pleased with the sound coming from the AWK-009's tiny housings. They were less warm and more detailed than I was anticipating with greater balance between the treble, mid-range, and bass. After well over 50 hours of play time, they're still impressing and quite reminiscent of another budget champ from one of my favorite brands, but we'll get to that in the comparison section later on.
The 009's treble is sharp, crisp, and quite detailed. I find they run a little hot in the lower treble at times and can be a touch unforgiving on poor quality recordings, but this is not the norm. It's also well controlled, as evident listening to the horrendous screeching on The Crystal Method's 'Grace (ft. LeAnn Rimes)' which I find highlights treble flaws quite well.
The AWK-009's mid-range is quite prominent and completely unaffected by mid-bass bleed. It's somewhat dry presentation is better suited to male vocals, as female vocals lack a touch of warmth and intimacy. Texture and detail retrieval is outstanding for an earphone in this price range, shaming inexpensive options from glamour brands like Skullcandy and Marley.
The AWK-009 doesn't disappoint in the low end either, though some extra reach into sub-bass regions would be welcome. The bass seems to fall off sharply at some point and as a result they lack that visceral feel you get from some other budget phones. This minor flaw is countered by good speed and realistic decay with again, lots of texture. Despite being the most downplayed aspect of their signature, it's the most rewarding aspect of the AWK-009's sound to my ears.
This earphone's soundstage falls firmly into the realm of average. It gives you neither an 'out of the head' experience or 'playing from behind my eyeballs' sound. I get a slightly wider than ear-to-ear experience out of the them, slightly enhanced by the use of the KZ tips which move the drivers further from your ear canal. Within this soundstage your music moves with grace and precision; i.e. separation, layering, and imaging are quite fluid and more than acceptable for a sub 20 USD product.
Overall the AWK-009 is a pretty impressive sounding little budget earphone. They have a very lively and detailed signature with engaging technical qualities. I find them a little rough around the edges in the treble and mid-range, but silky smooth in the lower regions. They make for a well-rounded and very pleasant listen.
KZ ED9 (10-20.00 USD):
- the ED9 with brass (neutral) filters installed sounds exceptionally similar to the AWK-009, but slightly darker and flatter
- the ED9's bio-cellulose drivers have a smoother, more refined presentation than the AWK-009
- with the Gold filters installed the ED9's bass has more quantity and greater depth
- the ED9 has a slightly more forward and natural mid-range
- it also has a larger soundstage with similar imaging but improved layering and separation over the 009
- AWK-009 has a tighter treble presentation, avoiding the splashiness the ED9 suffers from that often ruins my enjoyment of them; the AWK-009 does not have an equivalent negative
Fiio F1 (14.99 USD):
- compared to the AWK-009 the F1 sounds quite veiled with limited energy and extension at either end
- despite this, the F1 does have a more natural sounding mid-range that I preferences
- Seahf's bass on the AWK-009 is vastly superior I feel with better extension, significantly more texture, better speed, and most importantly, absent a notable mid-bass hump
- treble is night and day between the two, quite literally; F1 is dark, 009 is bright. I prefer the 009's emphasized upper ranges, but feel those who are treble sensitive would be most happy with the F1
Xiaomi Mi In-Ear/Piston 3 (14.99 USD):
- the Piston 3 is warmer, smoother, and bassier than the 009, but doesn't give up detail and clarity anywhere near to the extent of the F1
- the Piston's more relaxed presentation means they give up some airiness in soundstage to the 009
- the 009's bass is quicker, has more punch and better texture, but again feels like it's giving up raw extension
- the Piston 3's mid-range is one of my favorite aspects to it's signature; while not as forward as on the 009 it lacks the roughness around the edges and is consistently smooth and pleasing
- I find the 009's treble to be a touch more detailed than the Piston 3, emphasized by the extra prominence; Piston 3 is again smoother and more forgiving making them better suited to longer listening sessions
The AWK-009 is quite the little stunner. It's sound quality impresses with a crisp, detailed presentation backed by good build quality with solid fit and finish, good ergonomics and comfort, and a pretty low price tag.
The choice of cable on the pair I was sent is a little flawed, but at least it doesn't feel cheap and should be quite durable in the long run. It would also be nice to see Seahf include a basic carry bag should they opt to revisit the accessory package in the future.
Overall this is a great budget earphone and well worth consideration. Will it have some staying power within the budget enthusiast community? It ticks all the right boxes, so I don't see why it wouldn't. Plus, Master Chief is a fan. Do you need a better endorsement than that? Dude squishes aliens with his bare hands.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Penon Audio for the opportunity!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock - Crows 1
Aesop Rock - Maintenance
BT - The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method - Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk - Touch
Gramatik - Bluestep (Album Version)
Godsmack - Hollow
Godsmack - One Rainy Day
Incubus - 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom - Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J - Bang Bang
Kiesza - Hideaway
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd - Money
Skindred - Death to all Spies
Supertramp - Rudy
The Prodigy - Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack
Pros - Light, Comfortable, Easy on the Wallet, Quality Bass, Non-Sibilant, Good Isolation, Smooth Sound
Cons - Possible Springy/Sticky Cable (Depending on Which Version), No Microphone Version
You will notice two names in this earphone; Seahf and AWK. Seahf is one of the largest manufactures of earbuds worldwide. I have reviewed many of their other brand earbuds including TY Hi-Z, ColaRad and HE. AWK is another brand of Seahf that specializes in many HiFi builds, including this earphone in this review.
Seahf & AWK had a goal with this earphone, to allow consumers to get a quality sound while being easy on the wallet. Lets see how they did.
**Disclaimer, the AWK-009 was provided for my honest review with the help of Penon Audio & Seahf**
[Product Page]: http://penonaudio.com/Seahf-AWK-009-IEMs
[Current Price]: $14.90
- Impedance: 16ohm
- Sensitivity: 102±2dB
- Frequency response range: 20Hz-20KHz
- Plug: 3.5mm L-shaped
- Cable: 1.2M
Like the AWK-009, the box it comes in is budget minded. The Package is simple and straight forward, just a place to store the earphone until it makes it into your hands. Though, for this price range, it is nicely presented.
- Seahf AWK-009
- 3 Pairs of Silicone Eartips (S/M/L)
- Cable Clip
Again, following suit of the packaging, accessories are kept to a minimum. The basic three pairs of various sized eartips and a clip to keep your cable in place if so needed.
In my opinion, the Seahf AWK-009 is quite handsome in appearance. The metal housing design is well thought out and feels good in the hand. There a quite a few options for colors as well.
The interesting thing here is that there is a vast amount of unique cable options for the AWK-009. There are two different cables only that come with the red housings; a round clear version and a flat red version. This same flat cable also comes in black with the black housings. There is also one more round black cable version, though I did not have one of those to test. The only build issue I found with the AWK-009 is the springy cables of the flat and clear. The clear cable, while the coolest looking, is not only springy, but a touch sticky as well. I'll be honest here, this was one of the hardest photo shoots I have ever done, because all these cables have a mind of their own and did not want to be placed where I wanted them. Also, I wish there was an optional version that came with a remote/microphone, as a lot of people will most likely use these with their cell phones.
The 3.5mm plug is angled on all variations of this earbud and has sufficient strain relief.
Lows – My first worry was quickly put to rest, these are not muddy, at all. Instead there is a nice control to the lows, that leans towards a slight bias of mid-bass, with a hint of sub-bass. All and all, the AWK-009 is nicely tuned and smooth in the lows.
Mids – Vocals are neither veiled or distant. Though they do take a relaxed, but very pleasant approach. While listening to "Grimes - Oblivion", I was taken back how haunting Claire Boucher's vocals seamlessly flowed through each word.
Highs – I cranked up the volume on "Twenty One Pilots - Stressed Out", just to test if it got harsh, but I am happy to report, the AWK-009 handled the highs well enough without being too bright. I will say these do climb a touch into the upper frequencies, but not enough to be bothersome. If anything, this allows the AWK-009 to grab more detail at the top end of the spectrum than would be expected. Fatigue is only present when listening to brighter tracks for long amounts of time.
Soundstage – On average, the soundstage is just a tad smaller, but it never feels congested. While not the widest presentation, there is decent instrument separation and they are able to keep up with quicker tracks without getting lost.
Isolation – The AWK-009 does isolate surprisingly well. I think it has a lot to do with the solid fit the smaller housing are able to provide. My wife has came in to talk to me while I was writing this review, I had to remove the AWK-009 so I could hear what she wanted, we are apparently out of milk.
Driving/Sources - At 16ohm, you would be hard pressed to find any device that would have trouble driving the AWK-009. I can plug these into any of my sources and get a consistent sound, though ever so slightly altered by the nature of the source themselves. The simplicity of the signature allows all these devices to provide a close amount of quality in the final product. Basically, the AWK-009 will play nice with all your gear.
Looking through my IEMs, I thought it fair to put the AWK-009 head to head with a budget earphone heavyweight, the 1More Piston Classic. Only $5 separates these two earbuds, in today's current market. That extra $5 spent on the Pistons Classic goes towards a slightly better packaging and an added remote/microphone.
Build wise, the AWK-009 has much smaller housings to the wider design of the Piston Classic. When it comes down to cables, I do prefer the braided version of the Piston as it is smoother and much more flexible. Overall comfort is edged out by the AWK-009 as it has a smaller footprint in the ear, though both earphones are quite light.
Sound signatures of these two earphones do share some similarities. Both have a refined ease to the playback that gives the user a calming feeling. There is never any reason to flinch with the possibility of harshness when in use. Neither earphone dips down into the sub-bass much, both prefer the bump of the mid-bass. Though, the AWK-009 does have a touch more bass presence stand out when listening to them back to back. Mids are closer to neutral with the Piston Classic. While both earphones have nice vocals, the Piston does a bit better with presentation. Get to the highs and the AWK-009 stands out with a range that extends further up and in return greats the user with ever so better detail than the Piston Classic.
Both these earbuds give you a big bang for your buck, you just have to decides what type of sound you are looking for and if you need a microphone.
The overall quality of build and sound for this budget earphone give the AWK-009 a very good fighting chance of becoming a big hit. You will neither hurt your ears or wallet with this Seahf IEM.
While not all versions are perfect, they do show potential and promise. My suggestion is to go with the version I did not try and that is the one colored black with the simple black cable. One of the only downfalls of the other versions is that the cable lets it down by being sticky or springy. I also think a future version with a microphone control would be very beneficial.
I look forward to seeing the direction and design that Seahf choose to take with the future of the AWK-009.