Animagus

Reviewer at Twister6
A strong contender from a long bloodline of reference IEMs!
Pros: Very well tuned for the price, reference IEM, very good natural tonality and timbre, good bass performance (especially for a multi-BA IEM), sub-bass rumble, forward upper-midrange, fairly neutral smooth and natural treble presentation, good resolution and separation, build quality and design, close to CIEM fit with medium-deep insertion, noise isolation, good cable and case.
Cons: Mid-treble dip takes away from absolute reference presentation as well as what could've been excellent technical performance for the price. Big shells could be troublesome for small ears. Could've used more variety in stock ear tips.

About Softears.


Softears is closely associated with the highly popular Chinese company - Moondrop, as they share a lot of R&D and manufacturing assets while remaining sister companies that run their business independent of each other. As per what I'm told, Softears' CEO is actually an automobile engineer by education who joined Moondrop after completing his studies. Moondrop's founder, Herbert invested in him to create a no boundaries, no budget restrictions R&D brand, Softears, to see what could be achieved if money was no object. If you haven't noticed, Moondrop's IEMs like Blessing2 and S8 use Softears developed drivers for the reference quality midrange they are particularly known for.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer's website - Softears RSV (Official Website) | Softears RSV (Official AliExpress Store)

Softears RSV Solo 4




Technical Specifications.

  • Drivers - 5 Balanced Armature drivers
  • Frequency response - 5-40kHz (Effective range - 20-20kHz)
  • Sensitivity - 125dB/Vrms @1kHz
  • Impedance - 8 ohms
  • THD - < 1% @ 94dB
  • Shell material - Imported medical resin

Included in the box.

  • Softears RSV
  • 4 core cable
  • Silicone ear tips - 2 types (SML)
  • Leather case
  • Manual
  • Warranty Card
  • Cleaning cloth & brush
softears-rsv-box.jpegsoftears-rsv-manuals.jpeg

Build Quality.

RSV, like a lot of resin IEMs, is made with medical grade resin but its build, design, fit and finish are executed to very high standards. The stock design has black shells with carbon fibre + sprinkled gold flakes faceplate design. The right shell has the Softears brand logo while the left shell has RSV in a font that reminds me of one of my all time favourite games - Need for Speed. Even though this isn't the first IEM I've come across with this faceplate design, RSV's faceplate looks particularly special as the clear lacquer is finished to high gloss without any smudges underneath, which highlights the layered carbon fibres and gold flakes with a nice 3D effect.

Cable – RSV comes stock with a matte-black 4 core braided cable with 2-pin connectors and a 3.5mm jack. There is no info anywhere regarding the wire the cable is made of but I quite like it. It has a powdery matte finish and is fairly supple. Aesthetically, it pairs really well with RSV and has minimal microphonics. It has pre-moulded ear guides and a red ring on the right connector to indicate the right channel.

Softears RSV Cable


Case - RSV comes with a very nice round black leather case. I would've loved it even more if the stitching was black too but the case is quite roomy on the inside and comfortably fits RSV with the cable.

Softears RSV Case


Fit and Comfort.

Just for reference, I have medium-large sized ears. RSV's shells are quite large but are one of the snuggest and most comfortable fitting semi-custom universal shells that I've owned or tried. Noise isolation is class leading because of its snug medium-deep insertion fit, which almost feels like a CIEM.

Just beware that RSV's shells are bigger than Moondrop's Blessing2 and S8. So, if you have small ears and the Moondrop shells were big for your ears, RSV's shells might not be best for you. Still, RSV has better semi-custom contours than the Moondrop siblings and might fit and slide in your ears better. One can only know fo sure by trying 'em out.

Sound Analysis.


RSV stands for Reference Sound Five and it may again come as no surprise that this too is tuned close to Moondrop's VDSF target curve (which takes inspiration from Harman and Diffuse Field target curves) but has Softears' own flavour and take on the curve. For a lot of our readers, seeing yet another reference or Harman Target style IEM being reviewed by me might've started feeling like a monthly affair, especially since I've reviewed a lot of them, a lot of them just from Moondrop (Aria, KXXS, Blessing2 and S8) but well, what do I say, I quite enjoy these different flavours and takes on the curve as this style of reference tuning and tonality are quite in line with my personal preferences, and they all do sound different, even though similar-ish in the larger scheme of things.

Summary - RSV has a warm-neutral reference sound signature with Harman Target style sub-bass bass shelf of around 6-7dB, very neutral and accurate midrange presentation, forward upper-midrange presentation with 10dB pinna gain, clean and accurate lower treble, a dip in mid-treble which is responsible for the warmth in the signature, and fairly neutral upper-treble extension and presence. RSV is very well tuned as it has excellent warm tonality and timbre presentation, which is not just very close to tonally accurate but also very easy to like, enjoy and live with on a daily basis.

Of course, it shares a lot of similarities with its similarly priced cousin, Moondrop S8, but also quite a few differences, which we shall get into later in this review. But first, let’s break down RSV's signature and performance in detail.

Bass – RSV has a 6-7dB sub-bass bass shelf which is quite in line with Harman Target's style of bass shelf boost. As a result, it not only has good low end extension but also good punch, rumble and impact. RSV has very DD like bass tonality and character, so well done that I probably would've guessed this as a DD in a blind test. It has softer and more rounded bass transients, which aren't the sharpest or quickest but have great slam and punch, which makes it extremely fun, exciting and pleasing to listen to. Even though its bass tonal character is very good, sharper transient precision and high-end definition is the only thing stopping it from TOTL levels of performance. Regardless, this is class leading BA bass performance and most might not even care or know what I'm referring to until you listen to something like 64 Audio's U12t, which I consider a great specimen of TOTL BA bass performance.

Mids – RSV has a very tonally accurate midrange presentation. Lower-midrange is clean and linear; quite neutral with ever so slightly fuller body than Moondrop S8. Upper-midrange has a very nice forward presentation with around 10dBs of pinna gain. RSV has excellent instrument tonal and timbral accuracy. Vocals and instruments have strong definition and presence. Midrange has good resolution, layering and separation between instruments.

Treble - RSV's treble sounds very natural and has no sibilance or sharp intrusive peaks. It has very accurate and natural sounding lower-treble presentation. Middle treble is my major gripe with RSV's performance. It has a dip in middle treble which gives a warmer tinge to RSV and takes it away from absolute neutrality. As a result, RSV has a pleasing tubey-warm, analog-ish character but is slightly missing the final shine, crisp sparkle and finesse that acoustic guitars, drum cymbals and vocals need to have for them to sound absolutely accurate and for RSV to have class leading technical performance. It is also responsible for the slightly softer transients that RSV has, which gives RSV its pleasing character but also takes away the absolute neutral crisp precision it could've had if it didn't have this mid-treble dip. Upper-treble has good extension and neutral presence that isn't too airy, nor too dark. I personally wouldn't have minded a bit more upper-treble sparkle and air since I like airy signatures but there is nothing wrong with RSV's upper-treble presentation as such and I can see a lot of people actually preferring this character more.

Soundstage and Imaging - RSV has good width and depth, fairly good for its price segment but it's not the biggest soundstage I've heard in this segment. What I really dig in fact is its very dynamic, musical and involving character that feels like I'm performing the songs with the band in a nice sounding, acoustically dead-neutral studio room rather than a lively hall or arena. Imaging is not the sharpest or class leading, primarily because of the mid-treble dip but is fairly decent for the price.

Technical Performance (Resolution, Separation and Detail Retrieval) - Even though RSV has a slightly warm character than absolute dead-on reference, it has good separation between instrument layers and overall resolution for the price. It's not class leading in its price range but is by no means a slouch. It has very good macro-detail retrieval quality but micro-detail retrieval is where it loses out against Moondrop S8 and other IEMs like Fearless S8F or Craft Ears Six but the latter two get help from their brighter signature, not merely technical ability or excellent absolute reference tuning. A bit more mid-treble and upper-treble in RSV would've definitely pushed those micro-details out way better. In this price range, jack of all trades goes to Moondrop S8 but RSV isn't falling behind by a lot. The thing is that RSV's tonality and timbre takes the cake over most IEMs under $1000 and the technical performance is fairly good that I definitely wouldn't mind using it as a monitor in concerts or for casual monitoring when recording.

Sofears RSV Solo 2


Comparisons.


Moondrop S8 ($700) - S8 is RSV's perfect contender for a comparison, with it being similarly priced at $700 and coming from the same family. S8 has 8 BAs whereas RSV has 5. Build quality is similar, though RSV's shells are bigger than S8's. Design choice is subjective but RSV's design is more my thing since I love black, but S8's clear shells are no slouch and definitely have high eye candy value. Coming to sound, even though they both take inspiration from Harman Target and are tuned to Moondrop's VDSF target curve, they are quite different in a lot of areas. RSV is more pleasing tonally with its slightly warmer analog-ish reference character, while S8 is more accurate when it comes to absolute reference, is cleaner sounding with faster and more precise transients and definition. RSV has very slightly more bass presence and takes the cake with its dynamic bass character, slam, punch and rumble, whereas S8 has cleaner, quicker and more precise bass transient presentation, while just a smidgen less quantity. For example, drum kicks have more punch in RSV but quicker attack and decay in S8. RSV has very slightly fuller instrument lower-midrange body whereas S8's sounds slightly cleaner and leaner in comparison. Both have similar forward upper-midrange presentations but S8 has very slightly more gain and as a result, a bit more instrument definition and presence. On the other hand, RSV comes off a bit more musical tonally, whereas S8 can come off slightly shouty at louder volumes in comparison. S8 has very slightly more lower-treble presence though both are quite neutral in presentation. S8 has slightly more accurate mid-treble whereas RSV has a deeper dip there, which is one of the main reasons for their character difference. S8 is also slightly airier in its upper-treble presentation, which may give perception of better extension, though RSV by itself has good upper-end extension and is very capable of playing information till 20kHz properly. S8's soundstage is slightly cleaner sounding, though they have similar width and depth boundaries. S8 is a bit more precise and sharper in imaging owing to better overall reference tuning. It has slightly more resolution and smidgen better separation between instruments layers. S8 also has better micro-detail retrieval capabilities too, though the difference is less than what you'd expect out of 3 extra drivers. Overall, S8 does better in technical performance and reference tuning accuracy. Even though S8 is as exciting for me personally, I can see a lot of people preferring RSV for its more pleasing and warm tonal presentation, which isn't as accurate as S8 when it comes to absolute reference, but is definitely more musical and fun.


Moondrop A8 ($666) - Moondrop A8 has 8BAs and its sound signature is a more fun take on Harman Target. RSV and S8 are more similar than RSV and A8 are. A8 has less sub-bass rumble than RSV but has more mid-bass slam, whereas RSV has a more neutral mid-bass presentation. A8 has slightly cleaner and leaner lower-midrange body compared to RSV as well as S8, whereas RSV is more linear and accurate. Both RSV and A8 have similar forward upper-midrange presentation but A8 has slightly stronger instrument definition whereas RSV is slightly easier sounding in comparison. A8 has a more neutral and accurate treble presentation whereas RSV is warmer in comparison. A8 is also airier in its upper-treble presentation, has a cleaner soundstage with a bit more depth and slightly better technical performance. RSV is more accurate in bass to midrange presentation whereas A8 is more accurate with its treble presentation. Both are equally enjoyable for me personally, where RSV is more musical, warm and pleasing tonally while A8 is cleaner, airier and more exciting.


Craft Ears Four (~ €520 and upwards) - CE4 has 4BAs and is a more fun take on Harman Target. RSV has more sub-bass rumble and punch whereas CE4 has north of neutral mid-bass slam in comparison. RSV is more tonally accurate and linear in lower-midrange presentation whereas CE4 has a dip in the 400-1kHz region. CE4 too has a forward upper-midrange presentation like the RSV but it has more presence in the 1-2kHz region which leads to RSV being more tonally accurate when keeping absolute reference tonality in mind. Post that, CE4 has the signature Craft Ears lower-treble dip in the 5-10kHz region whereas RSV is more a linear, natural and accurate in the region. Post 10kHz, CE4 has more presence in middle and upper treble, especially a significant 16kHz peak which makes it airier whereas RSV has a dip in mid-treble but is more neutral in its upper-treble presentation. CE4's treble sounds a little uneven compared to RSV's because of more substantial dip and boosts, which also makes CE4 a more fun IEM and RSV a more accurate reference IEM. CE4 has a slightly wider soundstage while RSV has slightly better resolution and separation between instrument layers.


Craft Ears Six (~ €870 and upwards) - CE6 has 6 BAs. I'd classify CE6 as a neutral-bright reference IEM while RSV as neutral-warm. Even though CE6 and RSV have similar bass tuning and quantity, RSV has more slam and punch owing to its warmer character and tonality, while CE6 has sharper and quicker bass attack. Both have similar neutral and linear lower-midrange presentation and forward upper-midrange presentation but RSV has peak presence at the more tonally accurate 2.75kHz while CE6 has it at around 3.3kHz. Treble is where they both differ significantly and do the opposite cutting and boosting. CE6 has a dip in lower-treble in the 5-7kHz while RSV is more neutral and accurate there. CE6 has a prominent 8kHz peak and is then more linear in mid-treble whereas RSV has a dip from 8kHz to around 14kHz. Then RSV is more neutral in its upper-treble presentation whereas CE6 has a significant upper-treble boost and is significantly sparklier and airier in comparison, which might tickle the sensitivity of the treble sensitive. CE6 has a slightly wider soundstage and slightly better detail retrieval because of its brighter character. RSV is a more pleasant sounding reference IEM whereas CE6 is vivid and energetic.


Custom Art Fibae7 (€1200) - Fibae7 has 7BAs and is CustomArt's take on reference tuning. It has a bass boosted Diffuse Field style sound signature. Fibae7 has a linear bass shelf of around 5dBs that boosts sub-bass as well as a bit of mid-bass (2dBs or so). Both have very clean and linear sounding lower-midrange, though Fibae7 sounds very slightly leaner around 500Hz. Both have forward midrange presentation but Fibae7 has a bit more forwardness/gain, and comes off shoutier in comparison whereas RSV is more pleasing tonally. Fibae7 has dipped and warmer lower-treble and mid-treble presentation but is airier and sparklier in upper-treble. RSV is more accurate and neutral in lower-treble presentation and a bit more even and linear in overall treble presentation, even though it too has a dip in mid-treble. Fibae7 has a cleaner, leaner and bigger soundstage compared to RSV, which is slightly warmer and more intimate sounding in comparison.


ItsFit Fusion ($950) - Fusion is a tri-brid with 1DD + 2BA+ 1 Magnetostatic driver. Fusion has a fun sound signature. It's not really a reference IEM. Fusion has ever so slightly more sub-bass rumble but you need to listen to sub-bass specific songs to realise that. Fusion has more, north of neutral mid-bass slam as well as fuller lower-midrange body. RSV is more reference style neutral in both those regions. Fusion upper-midrange doesn't sound as forward as RSV's because it has a dipped tuning, where it has peaks at 2.5kHz and 5kHz but dips in between those peaks. RSV is more tonally accurate in its upper-midrange presentation. Fusion has a dip in lower-treble in the 5-7kHz region whereas RSV is more neutral and accurate in the region. Post that Fusion has a prominent 8kHz peak whereas RSV has a mid-treble dip. RSV has slightly better upper-treble extension and presence compared to Fusion. Fusion has a wider soundstage but not as much depth as RSV. RSV is the more accurate sounding IEM with better tonality and timbre presentation as well as better and more consistent instrument definition and separation whereas Fusion isn't as linear because of dips in midrange as well as lower-treble.

Softears RSV + Case


Conclusion.

Softears RSV might not be the most accurate reference IEM or the best in technicalities in its price range but definitely has one of the most pleasing tonalities under $1000. Its tonality and timbre is so musical that I can comfortably sit back, relax and listen to music for hours and hours without any complaints, which I can't say for a lot of IEMs in my collection. If only it didn't have that mid-treble dip and had a bit more upper-treble (latter is a subjective preference), it would've definitely hit the ball out of the park, improving the technical performance too. Still, RSV has impressed me quite a lot to be honest. It has excellent build quality, a CIEM like snug medium-deep insertion fit, a reference signature which is very close to perfect, very good tonality and timbre, good resolution and separation and most importantly - a warm musical signature that is highly inviting and satisfying to listen to, which makes you wanna go on new music discovery journeys. If that's what you're looking for in your next IEM, definitely give RSV a shot!



Gear used for testing and review.

  • DAPs – HiBy R6 2020 | iBasso DX160
  • Laptop – Apple Macbook Pro 15″
  • Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro

Reference Songs list.

  • Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow album
  • Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia album
  • Foo Fighters – The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
  • Coldplay – Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
  • Ed Sheeran – Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
  • Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
  • John Mayer – Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
  • Gavin James – Always & Hearts on fire
  • Switchfoot – Meant to live & Dare you to move
  • Porcupine Tree – Sound of Muzak, Blackest Eyes & .3
  • Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
  • Linkin Park – Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
  • Maroon 5 – She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
  • Lifehouse – All in all & Come back down
  • Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
  • Karnivool – Simple boy & Goliath
  • Dead Letter Circus – Real you
  • I Am Giant – Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
  • Muse – Panic station
  • James Bay – Hold back the river
zeissiez
zeissiez
Great review and I agree on the sound signature described. Personally, I slightly prefer the RSV over the S8 as it’s more coherent and fuller sounding. For orchestral, I prefer the S8. I also find the RSV having a more forward sound than the S8. Overall neutral tuning, fatigue-free and engaging.

KickAssChewGum

100+ Head-Fier
RSV - Midrange Reference Master
Pros: Exceptional musicality in a warm/neutral signature
Excellent resolution and imaging for this price bracket
Stunningly good value. I have yet to hear better for the cost.
Scales well with cable/source rolling
Cons: Really nothing at all.
Huge thanks to the incredibly lovely team at @Softears for sending me the RSV free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.

When I recently reviewed the @Softears Cerberus, I expressed an interest in hearing more of the brand’s products. Thanks to the lovely folks at @Softears, I didn’t have to wait too long to do so, as the RSV was soon winging its way towards me.

As many of you already know, the @Softears brand is the luxury, high-end division of the Moondrop brand, responsible for many popular IEMs such as the S8, Variations and the Blessing 2 Dusk edition (tuned in collaboration with renowned reviewer/head-fier @crinacle).

Unboxing:

RSV-2-2.jpg


RSV-1-2.jpg


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not one to get too hung up on unboxing experiences but, I have to say, I think the RSV packaging is pretty cool, giving it a somewhat understated yet premium feel. Inside the main oblong box, there’s a beautifully crafted, round black leather carry case which contains the earpieces in individual bags for safe transport. On the opposite side of the box are the cable and accessories (including a cleaning brush and 2 sets of tips – silicone and foam in S, M and L sizes – and a braided, matte black 4 wire cable that’s soft and pliable, terminated with 2pin and 3.5mm connectors at each end. It’s a simple package but high-end in feel, much like a designer-label accessory, functional but very classy.

Design:

RSV-2.jpg


This premium feel extends to the IEMs themselves. Each earpiece, of the pseudo-custom type, is beautifully crafted from medical grade black resin with carbon fibre inlays, interspersed with a few gold foil flakes. Even the printed logos are sexy as hell, with the @Softears logo on one earpiece and the (pretty cool) RSV logo on the other, reminiscent of that of a high-end sports car. All in all, a TOTL presentation for a mid-range product that retails at just $729. Bravo @Softears!

The shells are mid to average size and provide a very comfortable fit (for my ears at least) and provide a good level of isolation. They are also very lightweight (largely thanks to only containing 5 BAs, I suspect) and can be worn for a very long time with no fatigue. In fact, I have found myself completely forgetting they were in my ears on occasion, which is not something I can say that often about IEMs in general.

Inside, these are all BA IEMS - 5 in total - with 2 BAs assigned to the lows, 1 BA taking care of the mids and a dual-BA looking after the highs, all connected by a 3-way crossover. At an impedence of 8 ohm@ 1khz and a sensitivity of 125db/1VRMS@1khz, they are very easy to drive from either a DAP or smartphone.

Sound:

RSV-4.jpg


A premium look and unboxing experience is one thing but that all amounts to nothing if the sound is lacklustre. But I’m pleased to report that the RSV really delivers where it counts the most. And I mean REALLY delivers!

The moniker RSV stands for Reference Sound Five and whilst the RSV certainly delivers on the promise of a reference sound, it is also infused with a deep musicality that is often missing from IEMs labelled as such. Their sound definitely leans to the warmer side of reference neutral, although that emphasis is reflected more in the sub-bass than the mid-bass. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of mid-bass slam when it’s required, but the sub-bass texture and rumble is the star of the show here, lending tracks a weight and authority that is not often common in ‘reference’ monitors, let alone ones made up entirely of balanced armatures. In fact, the bass is so impressive on the RSV, that I constantly find that I’m having to remind myself that there is no dynamic driver in their make-up. Even more impressive is that there is absolutely no bleed from the lower registers into the mids.

The mids themselves are equally impressive, with a weight and texture that make both male and female vocals extremely natural. As the mids in any good reference tuning should, they sit very comfortably in the overall mix and, thanks to a slight recess in the tuning of the upper mids, never get harsh or shouty. Similarly, instruments have impressive body and texture, creating an overall very satisfying mid-range that never feels lacking in the way that warmer tuned IEMs often can.

In keeping with the RSVs overall warm to neutral tonality, the treble is incredibly well controlled, with a slightly laid-back quality that is never overly aggressive or sibilant. Despite this control, detail retrieval is still very impressive, with nothing lacking in the presentation.

Overall a very pleasing and incredibly coherent signature with excellent timbre.

From a technical perspective, resolution is much better than average in this price bracket. Actually, I would go so far as to say it’s pretty impressive. Is it as highly resolving as, say, the Orilous Trailli or even @Softears’ own Cerberus? Of course not, but those are monitors that are several multiples more expensive than these. Having said that, the RSV are not a million miles away which is super impressive. Separation and layering are equally impressive, even more so, in fact, than in a few much more expensive TOTL IEMs that I have experienced. Soundstage, too, is above average for this price point, with impressive depth and height in particular. Width, whilst still above average, is not the widest that I’ve heard, perhaps somewhat owing to the overall warmer tuning and dead-central vocal imaging, but it’s certainly nothing to complain about.

RSV-5.jpg


When I reviewed the Cerberus, @Softears’ super impressive TOTL tribrid, I found its one failing to be the stock cable. Not so in the case of the RSV. The included cable, as well as being supple and comfortable to wear, is actually a pretty decent performer and matches the overall sleek look of the RSVs aesthetics. I would have preferred a balance termination rather than the 3.5mm offered here, but that’s a very small niggle, especially given the asking price.

Because I’m a cable freak, though, I couldn’t help myself and just had to see how the RSV would scale with a higher-end cable. I know many feel that it’s ridiculous to pair a mid-range monitor with a high-end cable, but I don’t agree, as I feel that if the combination of cable and IEM attain a level comparable to a similarly priced TOTL IEM, then that cost is justified. Given the overall sound signature of the RSV, I suspected that it would be a great match with the Eletech Iliad (@Eric Chong's outfit makes some exceptional cables) and, spoiler alert, boy was I correct! Paired with the Iliad, the RSV steps everything up to the next level. Soundstage is wider and deeper, resolution is noticeably increased, positioning and layering is even more precise, whilst bass is even more well-controlled with incredible texture. The mids, too, are refined further, with more texture and micro details present, and the treble has more sparkle whilst still retaining that pleasing, detailed, non-fatiguing, laid-back quality that keeps the overall signature so natural.

RSV-6.jpg


In fact, the RSV/Iliad combo reminds me very much of that enveloping, ‘just right’ sound of the Orilous Trailli, and, just like the Traili, the RSV (with or without the Iliad) excels across pretty much all genres of music to equally pleasing effect. Is the resolving power of the RSV/Iliad combo equal to that of the Trailli? Is the layering, separation and staging as impressive? Not quite, of course, but, even with a TOTL cable such as the Iliad, the overall cost is less than a third of the cost of the Trailli, with FAR more than a third of the performance. Trailli lovers, please put the pitchforks away. I still love the Trailli and don’t ever intend to part with mine, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to how many times I reached for the RSV/Iliad combo over the Trailli in the last few weeks. That sub-bass rumble is just so damned addictive!

At the cheaper end of the cable scale, I found the @Penon OSG and @ISN Solar to be really fun pairings with the RSV as well, both adding a bit more sparkle to the treble whilst leaning even further into the slam and rumble of the low end, for a highly musical presentation.

From a source perspective, I tried the RSV from both my Astell & Kern SP2000Cu (with and without the @Cayin C9) as well as my @Cayin N6ii (with the recently released R2R R01 motherboard).

Out of the Sp2000Cu, the sound was exactly as described above (I tend to use the SP2000 as my benchmark DAP). Adding the Cayin C9 to the chain increases the size of the soundstage a touch in all directions and enhances the layering and separation slightly, with a slight increase in bass and overall note body.

The Cayin N6ii/R01 takes everything up a notch, retaining the clarity and detail of the RSV whilst ramping up the musicality, giving everything more of an analogue liquidity, particularly in the mid and lower registers.

This is pretty much in keeping with what I’d expect of a monitor like the RSV where, because of its relatively neutral signature, it is likely to be affected by the colouration traits of specific sources.

RSV-3.jpg


If it isn’t clear already, I absolutely love the RSV. Quite frankly, it’s astounding what @Softears have achieved with only 5 BAs, from their incredibly well-balanced signature and impressive layering, to their spectacular DD-like bass. It is a perfect match with almost any genre of music and retails for an incredibly impressive $729.99. As such it is simply astounding value for such an accomplished product and is possibly the easiest IEM recommendation I have made to date. @Softears, fast becoming one of my favourite brands, have excelled themselves once again by pushing the boundaries of what can be done, not only within this price bracket but with BAs in general. The RSV is an astonishing success that makes me hunger even more for a chance to hear their two other IEMs, the RS10 and the Turii. Very highly recommended!

darmanastartes

500+ Head-Fier
Index
Pros: beautiful tuning, very dynamic-sounding bass for an all-BA set, similarly superb timbre
Cons: large shells not comfortable to wear for extended periods, detail retrieval and instrument separation not class-leading
DSC08615.jpg


INTRODUCTION AND DISCLAIMER:

The Softears Reference Sound Five (RSV) is an in-ear monitor (IEM) using five balanced armature (BA) drivers per housing. The RSV retails for $729.99 at ShenzhenAudio. I received the RSV from ShenzhenAudio as part of a review tour. I have had the RSV for just around three weeks and have listened to it extensively during that time. ShenzhenAudio will cover shipping to the next reviewer on the tour, but I am not being otherwise compensated for writing this review.

SOURCES:
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I have used the Softears RSV with the following sources:

  • Qudelix 5K
  • E1DA 9038D
  • Hidizs S9
  • Meizu HiFi Pro
I have tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:
DSC08756.jpg

The Softears RSV comes in a rectangular black cardboard box. Abbreviated technical specifications for the RSV are provided in a mix of Chinese and English on a small sticker placed on the bottom right corner of the rear face of the box. Opening the lid of the box reveals a round faux-leather protective case on the left, and a small cardboard box containing additional eartips, documentation, and a cleaning tool on the right. The RSV includes six silicone eartips (S, M, L) and six foam eartips (S, M, L). The RSV earpieces are individually wrapped in small cloth drawstring bags inside the protective case, along with the detachable 2-pin cable. The cable is terminated in a 3.5mm jack. The RSV includes what I assume is an abbreviated user manual, written entirely in Chinese, and a credit card-like certificate of ownership listing the unit serial number.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN:
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The Softears RSV has black acrylic housings with a pseudo-custom fit. The seam between the faceplate and the shell body is invisible to my eyes and fingers. The faceplates are backed with sparsely allocated gold flakes, which avoids the appearance of gaudiness. The left faceplate is engraved with the text “Softears” in silver text, while the right faceplate reads “RSV” in a slightly bolder, more aggressive typeface. The top of each housing is faintly engraved with the unit serial number. The 2-pin connectors are slightly recessed below the surface of the housing. The nozzles have three circular openings. The nozzles do not have a mesh cover, but I suspect that the mesh dust cover intended for the Moondrop S8 will fit the RSV. The nozzles lack a lip for securing eartips but I have not had any issues with eartips coming loose thus far. The nozzles are slightly thicker than the Moondrops S8’s, which could limit their use with aftermarket tips. I have only used the included set of foam eartips and Misodiko foam tips sized for the Moondrop S8 with the RSV.
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The two strands of the 2-pin cable are wrapped in a soft black fabric sheath. The strands are coiled in a double-helix pattern above the Y-split, and a quad-braid pattern below it. The Y-split hardware is metal, but the modular termination system is made from black rubber. The Y-split hardware is anodized aluminum marked with a “V” in white text. The straight 3.5mm jack hardware is formed from the same type of material and is unmarked. There is rubber strain relief above the 3.5mm jack, but none at the Y-split. Additionally, there is no chin slider. The right 2-pin connector features a small red O-ring. The cable has pre-formed opaque black ear guides.

COMFORT, FIT, AND ISOLATION:
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The Softears RSV is intended to be worn cable-up. The earpieces have a moderate insertion depth. The housings are large and become uncomfortable for me to wear for more than a few hours at a time. Secureness of fit and isolation are above average. As an all-BA set, the RSV does not have driver flex.

MEASUREMENTS:
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My measurements were conducted with a Dayton iMM-6 microphone using a vinyl tubing coupler and a calibrated USB sound interface. The measurements use a compensation file derived from relating my raw measurements to published measurements from Crinacle and Antdroid. The measurements are presented with 1/24th smoothing. There is a resonant peak at 8k. Measurements above 10k are not reliable.

I am also happy to introduce my own measurement database, hosted on Squiglink:

https://bedrock.squig.link/

Many thanks to Super* Review for helping me get this set up. I will be uploading as many of my older measurements to this database as possible over the coming weeks.

SOUND AND COMPARISON WITH THE MOONDROP S8:
Softears RSV (Gold) vs Moondrop S8 (Red)
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The Softears RSV measures similarly to the Harman-ish Moondrop S8, with a few differences. In terms of measured tonality, the RSV has slightly poorer sub-bass extension, a slightly more relaxed upper midrange, and less mid-treble emphasis. However, the biggest differences between the two IEMs cannot be shown by a frequency response graph.

Despite measuring as having less bass overall than the S8, and quite a bit less sub-bass, the RSV offers a much more tangible sense of impact and dynamism in its bass region. The RSV has some of the meatiest bass I have ever heard from an all-BA set. Note weight is exceptional in this context.

However, in a trend that holds across its frequency response, the RSV is a distinct step back from the S8 in terms of resolution, instrument separation, and overall clarity. The S8, while more clinical in terms of its tonality, offers much better detail retrieval. In addition, the S8 has a much roomier soundstage. Instruments have a great deal more breathing room between each other on the S8. The RSV has an average soundstage size and comparatively poorer instrument separation. While the RSV has more substantial note weight, particularly in the bass, the S8’s precise attack during frantic musical passages leaves the RSV in the dust. Finally, while I do not hear much of a difference between the two IEMs in terms of bass texture, the S8’s superior articulation and instrument separation give it the advantage in dense electronic music for me.

The RSV has a more natural-sounding midrange than the S8. The S8, while netural-sounding to my ears, can sound a bit cold. The RSV has significantly more body to its midrange than the S8, which sounds comparatively thin. Those who find Harman-ish IEMs too “shouty” will have no such issues with the RSV. The S8 seems to have more presence, and distorted electric guitars have a greater edge to them. Again, the S8 offers greater detail retrieval and overall clarity. Male and female vocals are roughly even with each other, though I do think male vocals are a hair more emphasized on the RSV. Unlike the S8, which has a twinge of BA timbre, the RSV is exceptionally natural-sounding for an all-BA set.

The RSV has a very safe treble tuning. I find the RSV’s treble too understated, but no one could accuse it of harshness. The RSV’s inferior detail retrieval compared to the S8 is most evident in the treble region. The S8 presents a degree of micro-detail and micro-dynamics to cymbal hits that is unmatched in my experience. The RSV’s transient delivery also sounds slightly blurred in comparison.

Despite measuring similarly, the Softears RSV and the Moondrop S8 are very different IEMs and are far from interchangeable. If I have come across as overly critical of the RSV, it is because the S8 does better at delivering the characteristics I value most about an IEM. It should also be noted that I purchased the S8 with my own money, albeit at a discounted price, so there may be some bias there.

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING:
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I found the Softears RSV to be very easy to drive. I did not notice hiss with any of my sources.

CLOSING WORDS:
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The Softears RSV is an incredibly inoffensive monitor that does virtually nothing wrong and a lot of things very well. If you are looking for the heft afforded by a dynamic driver in a sealed all-BA set, the RSV will get you pretty close.

The RSV can be purchased at the link below:

Softears RSV RS5 5BA IEM Reference Sound Series In-Ear Monitor Earpho (shenzhenaudio.com)

HansBarbarossa

Head-Fier
Softears RSV: the sacred dance of the five planets
Pros: Sound, ergonomics, design, workmanship, kit, price
Cons: No
Hi friends!

As promised, after a short break, we return to the story about extremely interesting in-ear monitors from the Softears brand.

Earlier we have already fruitfully discussed the "big brother", a 10-driver, rather expensive and flagship IEM model - RS10. Now the time has come to prove himself to his younger relative: a more accessible fellow with a beautiful mesmerizing voice, graceful RSV. "V" is not a letter, but the Roman "five", indicating the number of drivers on board each of the IEMs.

However, the reduction in the number of drivers, in comparison with the "big brother", in this case, did not affect the sound quality in any way. Yes, manners have changed, there is more "warmth" and musicality, but the concept of an honest and genuine sound has remained unchanged.


I will allow myself to make a small excursion into the history of Softears, in case one of our readers is not familiar with it yet. The company was founded in 2017 in China and worked exclusively for the domestic market. By 2018, the brand is announcing two very serious IEM models - the RS10 and the Cerberus. These are two flagships: the first is built on 10 (BA) drivers, the second is a hybrid: 1DD + 4BA + 2EST (electrostatic). Then, quite recently, the TURII model built on 1DD followed, and now, as they say, in the heat of the heat, their novelty has seen the light, the hero of today's review - absolutely incomparable five-driver (5BA) - RSV.

Due to its focus exclusively on the domestic market of the Celestial Empire, the company until recently was little known in the international market. Fortunately, now the brand is confidently gaining momentum and decided to push the boundaries of its presence, and this, believe me, is great news for all lovers of great sound.


Well, let's finish with the introductory word and go directly to the review.

Peer into the night sky and listen, today we are witnessing the sacred dance of the five planets. On stage - Reference Sound Five!



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Text by Alexey Kashirskey aka Hans Barbarossa



Specifications

Driver Configuration: 5 Balanced Armatures
Shell: 3D Printed from Imported Medical Resin
Technology: flat impedance / linear phase
Sensitivity: 125db/1VRMS @1kHz
Impedance: 8Ω @1kHz (±15%)
Frequency Range: 5Hz - 40kHz (1/4’ Free Field, -3dB)
Effective Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz (IEC-60318-4)
THD+IMD @94dB: <1% @1kHz
Cable Connection: 2-Pin 0.78mm





Appearance kit and ergonomics

The IEM are packed in a neat cardboard box in the form of a black "book". On its cover, in the very center, a "V" is inscribed, meaning, as we have already figured out, not a vendetta at all (hello Guy Fawkes), but a peaceful number five, on top of which the model name "RSV" is applied in a silvery font with a clarifying decoding "Reference Sound Five ". On the edge of the package, there is a nice Softears logo and a protective sticker seal.


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We open our "tome" and extract all the contents from it: a black case-washer with an embossed brand logo on the lid, a silver metal business card, a warranty card, an instruction booklet, two sets of silicone and foam tips of different sizes (S / M / L) and a brush for cleaning the sound pipes.



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Inside the round case (wow, that heady smell of genuine leather again) neatly fit the RSVs themselves, carefully placed in two soft pouches, as well as a detachable cable and a branded microfiber cloth.



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As we can see, the kit contains everything you need that you might ever need to use these IEMs. So let's take care of them.

RSV looks just awesome! On the faceplate, through transparent varnish, we see a mesmerizing picture: as if Gustav Klimt sent sparkling gold leaf petals to waltz with his brush into the black rebellious sky, painted by Van Gogh. Before us is not just beautiful IEMs, but in fact a small work of art!



On the right IEM, at the bottom of the panel, there is the Softears logo embossed in silver, on the left, in the same place, - the name of the model "RSV".


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IEM black cast glossy shell made using 3D printing, material - premium medical resin. With all its appearance and convenience, it resembles an acrylic shell of CIEM monitors, made from an individual ear cast.

On the inside of the case, there is a sound tube with three outlets, in one of which you can see an acoustic filter-damper. In the upper part, in the recess, there are connectors for a cable plug with 2pin (0.78 mm).

Convenient shell shape allows you to wear RSV, provided the tips are correctly selected, for as long as you like without discomfort. Wearing is expected behind the ear.



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In addition to the five BA drivers, one 3-way crossover is placed inside each of the headphones. RSV also employs “Flat impedance” technology, which allows these IEMs to maintain their frequency response regardless of the output impedance of the amplifier / sound source.


The black cable is braided, cute and elastic, with soft silicone earhooks. Its length is 1.2 meters, connectors are 2pin / jack 3.5 mm. If you wish, you can replace the cable with any other with the appropriate connectors, although personally I find it very attractive and suitable.



Well, according to the results of the first part of the review, RSV confidently get five points. Excellent design, rich package and pleasant appearance are all worthy of praise. Well done Softears!


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However, the most important thing, as you know, is still ahead of us: we are moving on to the analysis of sound.

And this is the most exciting part of our review.




Sound

Listening (audio testing) was conducted on: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, QLS DA9.1 Melokin, Lotoo paw Gold, iBasso 220 MAX, QLS QA-361, iFi HIP DAC, xDSD & iFI iDSD Diablo.

With all of the audio devices the RSV performed well enough, their "voice" varied slightly depending on the sound source.

I will not tire of repeating this mantra over and over again: I strongly recommend that you take a responsible approach to the process of selecting tips, as they make a noticeable contribution to the creation of a sound picture.



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It should be noted that Softears, as in the case of the older model - RS10, once again demonstrated a responsible and thoughtful way of setting up their IEMs.

From the very first minutes of listening, RSVs demonstrate an extremely serious approach to “making music”.

I would describe the sound of Softears RSV as well-balanced, comfortable, with excellent working out of micro- and macro-nuances (a slight bias towards macro contrast), a slightly forced section in the low-frequency register, a charming round, "tube" bass, smooth, rich and detailed mids, and also a clean, crisp and slightly shy high-frequency range.


In principle, the relationship with the older 10-driver model is guessed here, but the "habits" are still different. If the RS10 is knocked down, unleashing sound rushes on the listener and resolutely injecting musical adrenaline right into the heart, then the RSV, on the contrary, enchants us with a warm evening breeze that envelops from head to toe and whirls in a dance, filling the body with universal harmony. But this is not at all lifeless dead calm. Where power and thrust are required, RSVs can throw a powerful hook that will twitch your head. For all its charm, it is a very powerful, smooth, beautiful, spacious and at the same time well-balanced manner of sound.


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In addition, the hero of our today's review is more gentle with the recording quality than his older brother RS10, presenting audio material in a more balanced, voluminous and melodic manner.

However, the philosophy of honest, truthful and "immaculate" sound - Hear the Truth - is present in both models.

RSVs have a well balanced, noble and extremely melodic sound. This is a smooth manner with a bodily filling of sound images, a slightly warm background, moderately expressive, with a good rhythmic base.

The compositions are presented smoothly, balanced, in a neutral manner, with a slight "color" in the lower register. This is similar to the character of a good studio monitor, interspersed with charm in the form of light expression, smooth as velvet, moderately emotional and melodic sound processing.


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The low-frequency range delivers a tight and precise punch, the charming, rounded bass fills the smooth, flowing, detailed mids with depth and warm bodily substance. The high frequencies, in turn, rising steadily from the middle, precisely, consistently and unmistakably complete the overall audio band. As a result, everything sounds right, smooth and beautiful.

The imaginary space is larger than average, it is harmoniously and proportionally lined up both in width and in depth. RSV works especially well in working out the depth of the "soundstage".


A separate topic is RSV's ability to squeeze the maximum out of any genre. Headphones do an excellent job with everything: classical music, instrumental, jazz, new wave, rock and various brutal genres.

Also worth noting is the amazing smoothness, information content and lack of joints in the sound of RSV.


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The blow is quite powerful, going to the very bottom. The bass is thick, tight, measured and well controlled. Here there is precise massive cotton, and relief, and "tasty" warm color, and good speed characteristics. The lower register harmoniously cooperate with the mid-frequency range, without overlapping it in any way, but only competently filling it with depth and living weighty substance. They beautifully and unobtrusively create a light velvety background and add mass to the overall sound.
This manner resembles the work of a dynamic radiator, with a dense, embossed and rounded sound: thus, a "warm tube".


Mids are smooth, natural, rich in timbre and texture. Here, any musical image is clearly tangible. The manner in which the midrange is presented is both thick and delicate. It is extremely detailed and naturalistic. Every timbre, every vibration of a voice or string is transmitted accurately and deeply. It is organic, well balanced, smooth and comfortable. Vocal parts and strings sound natural, rich, pure and melodious, and musical images are drawn large and multifaceted. It perfectly combines power, multiplied by emotions, and dry monitoring, drive and academic manners.


The high frequencies are clear and concise. Their quantity, as well as the quality of working off, do not cause any complaints to me personally. The register is transmitted quite cleanly and clearly, without sharpness and distortion.

It is unobtrusive, precise and as correct as possible, with good articulation, delivered in a light, graceful and comfortable manner. There is no abundance of "air" or refined after-sounds, but there is a correct working out of small nuances, without excessive aggression and annoying moments. Highs harmoniously contribute to the common cause of the entire frequency range, without whims and arbitrariness.


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Conclusion

Softears RSV is a model that can charm and, in some places, beat on the spot. She, like the best representatives of the aristocracy, is modest, but not simple-minded, has a sense of tact and a delicate innate taste. And the ability to combine in oneself both the monitor and the "musical" manner is simply mesmerizing.

These IEMs have amazing looks, good build quality, good ergonomics, rich package and great sound. Once again I would like to praise the Softears engineers for the work done and sincerely wish the company a speedy and widespread recognition in the audiophile's world. And directly RSV, in my opinion, deserve the closest attention from lovers of high-quality sound.

Well, about the price. The RSV has a suggested retail price of $ 729. Considering all the indisputable advantages of Softears RSV: sound, rich package, build quality, design and ergonomics - I find this price quite adequate. Well, on my own behalf, in the end, I will add that these IEMs will definitely not disappoint you.


And as an afterword, I will allow myself my lyrical summary about Softears headphones, they deserve it, believe me.
RS10 - is an intellectual musician with a conservatory education, a daring careerist and a womanizer, in search of the perfect sound, straightforward, honest and ambitious. Very cool and expensive model - not for everyone.
RSV - is an experienced musician or sound engineer, bohemian, self-confident, sedate, well-versed in his business, who knows the "taste of wine". A professional who has found his own sound and knows how to recognize and enjoy all its nuances. An affordable model that will appeal to many - from demanding audiophiles to gourmet music lovers.
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morndewey
morndewey
You write well. Nice
chichaphile
chichaphile
Nice Review 💝 are they have vent for pressure relief?
HansBarbarossa
HansBarbarossa
@chichaphile Thank you very much. No, RSC don't have vent.

HuoYuanJia

Previously known as Ultrazino
Member of the Trade: HEDD Audio
A New Reference In Its Class
Pros: + possibly best-tuned 3-way/all-BA configuration yet
+ has the looks to match the performance
+ decent resolution that punches above the 1k€ mark
Cons: - fully sealed enclosure can create ear pressure
Full review and measurements, as published February 15th, 2021, are available on my blog.

Verdict​

What a jaw-dropping surprise! The Softears RSV is in its own right the most impressive IEM release I have experienced in years. As far as fully sealed all-BA universal IEM designs go, I think Softears pretty much hit the limit cap and ticked as many boxes as possible. The RSV is a well-built, very comfortable, and beautiful universal IEM with flawless execution in regards to tight and dynamic sound that is suitable for monitoring and enjoyment. Though not related in any kind, this is a true “ProPhile” by merging audiophile qualities with professional demands.

I am not saying that there can’t be any more improvements – because there can! In detail, the RSV doesn’t have the texture quality of other high-end BA designs or some of that amazing high frequency sparkle found in the reference class. Most of all, I am missing a pressure relief system that creates just overall more space to match the sharp separation and layering. But let’s not forget that the RSV is the little brother of the RS10, which promises to deliver on all of that. What kind of beast must Softears have created at three times the costs!?

Make no mistake, the Softears RSV is not a “Chi-Fi” earphone that tries to pack as many drivers into the housing as possible. It also does not blindly follow the Harman-target. There is just so much polish and sense for audio re-creation put at show here that it’s impossible the RSV turns out to be a one-hit wonder. (Saying that, I am also hinting at the upcoming Turii review.) Especially considering the price of 800 € or less, the value proposition is fantastic. Long story short, the Softears RSV is an incredible offering for any serious audiophile that appreciates IEM! Even if the InEar ProPhile 8 or Etymotice ER4 XR were not to your satisfaction, give this one a shot anyway.

F700
F700
redrol
redrol
Heck yes!!!! Love the review and I agree so so much.
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