Pros: + Great Build quality
+ Good & punchy Bass
+ Non-fatiguing Treble
+ Great Soundstage
+ Good Tuning & Timbre
Cons: - Mids could be better
- Details retrieval
TRI Starshine -The STAR performer from TRI
This was a loaner unit from a friend for the purpose of an honest review. Everything mentioned in this review are purely my own based on my experiences with the IEM.
I didn't get the full box and hence can only do a short review.
TRI Audio is the Premium brand and sister concern of KBear - who are known for their in-ear monitors in the budget category.
TRI has several IEMs such as TRI I3, Starsea, Starlight and maybe few more more. Today, we will be talking about TRI Starshine.
The Starshine is equipped with a hybrid quad-driver configuration featuring two Sonion EST drivers and two Knowles BA drivers.
TRI Starshine is is priced at $499.
Specifications are as below:
Connector: 0.78mm 2PIN
Frequency response range: 20-20kHz
Cable material: copper and silver-plated mixed braided cable
Drive unit: 2 electrostatic Drive+2BA
Design & Build Quality:
Looks are always subjective, but I think these are great-looking IEM, that’s both striking and ergonomic. Though Resin made, these look very nice & premium. The shape of the IEM is nice & very light-weight that and provides a comfortable fit for all listeners. In my experience with the Starshine, the IEMs achieved a good level of comfort. It's just great for long listening sessions.
The Stock Cable:
The cable really nice & durable and comes with inter-changeable connection adapters. Sound-wise also the cable seemed pretty decent.
really nothing to complain about here - all good.
Due to it's high impedance levels, this IEM requires quite a bit of amping to really shine. Amping here is mandatory to get a good performing sound.
Upgrade Cable: Following upgrade cables used to see how FH5S fares with different types of cables:
- CEMA Electro Acousti 6N OCC + OCC Silver plating 26AWG single crystal copper cable with balanced 2.5mm connector
- DUNU DUW-03 the cable that comes with DUNU SA6
Ear Tips: Final E series Black tips
The tracks I have used can be found from the below playlist that I have used and generally use for most reviews... Let's now talk about the quality of Sound....
Bass felt textured and punchy. These is good texture & air in the bass. While the Bass doesn't contain the details you would expect from a typical Dynamic Driver output... it is still good and not falling short too much really.
Midrange is a bit less pronounced due to the V-shaped sound of this IEM. Nevertheless, it's not like anything is missing. Mids have good with texture. Vocals sound natural.
However, detail retrieval in the mids section seemed somewhat lower.
Treble seems just great. textured and airy. No peaks found anywhere. its quite textured and detailed - I found the treble to be not fatiguing and enjoyable.
Soundstage is great for the price both in terms of width and depth. It is amongst the strengths of this IEM. Its better than many others in the same range for sure.
Imaging & Timbre:
Sense of direction is quite good and the sound is quite natural hence I would say that this IEM has good imaging & timbre for the price.
Timbre however is not the best traits and it has BA timbre.
TRI Starshine vs DUNU SA6 :
The DUNU SA6 comes with slightly higher price tag and is quite a performer. It is a great IEM and very balanced performance in all departments. Bass: The TRI Starshine has a punchier bass which I personally prefer while the DUNU SA6 comes with more detailed and textured Bass performance.
I much prefer Dynamic Driver based Bass which none of these two IEMs have. Mids: The DUNU SA6 has much better and textured mids. more detailed and vocals sound a tad but better. But the Starshine is just great too while falling behind the Sa6 here. Treble: I think in this department the Starshine has a soother Treble performance while the SA6 is just great with details and texture. Soundstage & Timbre: In terms of soundstage the TRI Starshine beats the SA6 quite handsomely both in terms of width and depth.The AS6 seems to have better imaging while Starshine seems to have equally good timbre.
TRI Starshine vs Unique Melody 3DT :
The Unique Melody 3DTcomes with 3 Dynamic Drivers and slightly lower price tag and tome is the best performer of the 3 IEMs.. Bass: The Unique Melody 3DT has great bass response with good amount of details air & texture. The punch & slam is also there. The Starshine despite a good performer loses out here. Mids: The Unique Melody 3DT has detailed textured Mids with good vocal performance. The Starshine is just a little bit behind in this department. Treble: I While neither of tehse 2 IEMs are as detailed as the SA6 - both of them have adequate details and air. The 3DT seemed a tad bit more textured and airy which I prefer. Soundstage & Timbre: In terms of soundstage the TRI Starshine beats the 3DT by a very narrow margin in terms of width. Depth is slightly better in the 3DT and the Timbre is also slightly better in the 3DT.
Having said all that - The TRI Starshine to me seemed like the amongst the best performing IEMs from TRI till date. It comes with comprehensive sound performance when amped properly and can easily beat the likes of similar hybrid IEMs like FiiO FH7 which falls into similar category and I have used quite a long time back but couldn't compare as I had sold it off. I think it's going to be great value for money for people who give more weightage to comfort and smoother sound performance.
Pros: Vinyl-type sound with excellent technicalities.
Multiple good quality L-shaped plugs.
Excellent soft and malleable cable.
Exceptional bass, mids and treble quality.
Cons: Silvery fabric covered case, falls short of the ideal.
The Starshines are the most recent In Ear Monitors (IEM) produced by TRI, a sister brand of the KBEAR brand. The earlier models are the TRI I4s, the TRI I3s, the TRI Starlights, and the TRI Starseas.
Disclosure and Note
TRI kindly provided me with a review unit of the Starshines for which I am grateful. In this review, I provide my honest opinion of the TRI Starshines without limitation, nothing I say is given to anyone for approval. All views I express are my views. I am not influenced by anyone, and I am not paid to express any views positive or otherwise.
Form, Fit and Function
The Starshines come in a fairly reasonably sized package in which are: a 2.5mm cable , a hard silvery fabric case, a selection of tips, a cleaning brush, and, as an indication of TRI moving further upmarket, a set of adaptors, 3.5mm single ended, 3.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced, all of which adapt to a 2.5mm plug and all the plugs are angled at 90 degrees. The package I received did not come with a cleaning cloth as the publicity images show, if that matters to anyone reading this review.
The cable is an incredibly soft eight strand weave which is referred to as copper and silver plated mix. The cable feels soft and so malleable it feels more like a jute rope rather than a wire cable and it does not tangle easily.
All the plugs are well made with the 90 degree design which is both practical and effective. You can swap plugs with ease without having to change the cable. I see no difference in quality, practicality or versatility when compared to the Dunu cables with patented plug systems, a couple of which I have.
The TRI Starshines’ hard case is the TRI silvery fabric covered cases, used in the Starlights and Starseas which closes with a nice magnetic clamp. It is capacious enough to carry what you require to pop out the house with your earphones and earphone essentials. In my view, although a reasonable size, it could do with being a bit smaller. Yes, the silvery case does its job and is a good size but I much prefer the KBEAR brown leather case for looks size and feel.
The Starshines’ are a hybrid setup with two Balanced Armature (BA) drivers and dual Sonion Electrostatic (Est) drivers . The Sonion Est drivers are proven to deliver brilliant high frequencies.
There are two different types of Knowles BA drivers used in the TRI Starshines. The 29689 is tuned for mid frequencies, and the 22955 handles the low frequencies, a welcome surprise reproducing BA bass that are exceptionally rich and full!
The shells are made of medical resin. They are transparent below the face plates. The face plates themselves are not transparent and, like the Starseas, have swirls of colour of various shades of blue which merge into earthy brown and whites. The shells are light and feel smooth and seamless, and they are relatively average size compared to the I3 and the starlight shells. For me, they fit incredibly well with very good isolation. I have not seen a vent on either ear piece yet, which could be because they are not required given there is no Dynamic Driver (DD) in this setup. I heard very little sound intrusion with the sound off and while playing music. I have yet to use them in a windy setting, so I cannot comment on how they fare in the wind, but if I am right and there are indeed no vents, wind noise should be minimal.
The face plates patterns appear to be individual, each pattern being slightly different from the other, that means the pattern on your pair are unlikely to look the same as the next pair.
My setup for this review
I paired them with Samsung galaxy note 10 plus and Fiio M11, as my source, and for amplification variably, a Samsung dongle, Fiio BTR5, the HA FEE HA11 and the Littlebear B4X tube dac/amp, mostly balanced 2.5mm and on high gain. For the purposes of this review I used stock tips, mainly, the white tips.
The sound in short
In short if you do not want to read the whole review: They require a lot of power but they are beautifully tuned with the signature being analogue-like to my ears but that is not to mask technicalities. A notch up from the TRI I3 with detailed in highs, mids and beautifully textured weighty bass. Most importantly no details are lost anywhere in the frequency range. To my ears, timbral accuracy of instruments is up there with the best. Initialy I thought sound stage however, is decent but not expansive. However, on some tracks sound stage was huge. All I can say is that there is more to discover with the Starshines. If you love your vinyl-type sound signature, you are in for a treat with the TRI Starshines.
The sound in detail
The sensitivity of the Starshines is a heady 98 dB and impedance is specified as between 33 and 100 Ohm. It follows that these are not easy earphones to drive. I used the HAA FE HA11, which I thought that with 1mW of power (as it is advertised) or the Fiio M11 would pair well with the TRI Starshines.
As it turned out, to my ears, the synergy between the Fiio BTR5 and the TRI Starshines is such a joy. That wonderful analogue sound which is so elegantly reproduced by the TRI Starshines is so well amplified by the BTR5.
The effect of the high sensitivity and low impedance is that you need to crank up the volume. The high volume (not quite loudness) gives the Starshines this massive and energetic sound.
I have to say that the TRI Starshines are so incredibly good with that analogue tuning, so much so that I get the same feeling I had as a child, when listening to my father’s jazz music, through those his big old speakers on Sundays. I just want to kick my slippers off and lie down on the sofa and just let Sunday slowly and gently fad into Monday.
The Starshines are neutral but they take the bias expressed by the music, so the effect is that a track with a heavy bass bias is rendered just like it was intended, the only exception is the added reverberation of the analogue tuning. What you need to consider is that these are extremely high resolution across the frequency range so the detail you get is so revealing of the best and worst in the recording. Any noise in the recording is revealed. Having said all that, I believe the Starshines are more forgiving of poor recordings than the Starlights are of poor recordings.
However, what struck me is the extent to which the treble extends on both ends of the frequency spectrum, bass and treble. The treble extends incredibly well and the bass no less so, while the mids appear to be substantial, lush and coseting, yet forward enough without taking over. These are just remarkable for their ability to give you high notes and incredibly low notes as the track requires but to my ears are not V-shaped.
The sound signature is what makes the difference, they are tuned to have that extra little reverberation which is laced across the top of the frequencies, so that what you hear is the unique analogue sound. To my ears the sound signature is absolutely fantastic.
Instrument separation, Imaging, Stage, and Timbre,
Often you hear the argument that it is rubbish to say earphones sound like full sized speakers, they are just not capable of giving you the perception of “volume and space” as full-sized speakers do. Well shut your eyes with the TRI Starshines in your ears and you will get the nearest you can to earphones sounding like full-sized speakers, to my ears.
The detail cleanliness and clarity further gives the listener the ability to focus on and follow a particular instrument and thus clearly identify and pick out instruments with ease. The perception of being able to locate specific instruments within an imaginary space is therefore further enhanced, but the sound stage did not initially, come across as vast, it appeared to be more intimate, not expansive. This is until I tried a few other tracks. They may have more to reveal.
Timbral accuracy is superb and it is amongst my top 3 earphones for reproducing the true sound of instruments. Further, to my ears, the TRI Starshines reproduce cymbals better than any earphones I have heard to date. Cymbals and high hats are reproduced to a T!
You may want to put on your monitors of choice and check out the music using the links.
The Knowles 22955 delivers the best BA bass I have ever heard, and even more so, its implementation in the Starshines is one of the best bass tuning I have ever heard regardless of the type of driver.
The speed of attack is on point, but the Knowles drivers as tuned here, matches the very best DD bass in the every respect. This is not a brutish thud or slam. We have all heard of an iron fist…..no, not on the Starshine, what you get is the velvet glove, softly delivered, but can be lethal and appears to be infinitely effective. The decay of the bass notes are also delightful without intruding on the mid frequencies.
The mid-bass is not tuned to slam aimlessly, it is tuned to reflect the subtleties of the recording, so with a good recording you get a rich, disciplined and mature bass. What surprises me most is that the timbre of the Knowles BA is as good as any DD bass can deliver, which is why it is on a par with the IMR Aten, which to my ears is the best DD bass I have heard, in bass qualities, such as dynamism (the ability to do soft, loud, hard and subtle bass without difficulty).
The sub-bass feels so satisfying (that betrays my preference for sub-bass) as you are transported to the recording venue and feel the resonance of the instruments as you would in a live setting, it is rich, full and enveloping. The Starshines’ sub-bass drills bass from the deepest darkest depths which the track you are listening to has to offer. Clearly I have not tried every earphone but it will come as no surprise to me if this is the best implementation of bass there is. I believe I am not alone in the view that one of the most exhilarating effects of sub-bass is that feeling that it sucks air away on some notes, the inverse of airiness of treble.
Scary Pockets - I’d rather go blind - Hauser - Albinoni - Aagio for strings - Zhao Cong - Moon Light on Spring River:
With thanks to fellow head-fier @Poganin, Moon Light on Spring River is a true sound check for sub-bass. Note the sub-bass at 0.56 seconds and 0.59 is inaudible on some earphones. Many earphones first register the sub-bass at 1 minute and 10 seconds. The sub-bass on the Starshines does not disappoint, you hear it all, while it is reproducing the very detailed highs and mids beautifully as well.
The Knowles BA renders the mid frequencies effortlessly, so that it is almost on a par, if not on a par with any planar driver for the richness of the mids. Whether you are listening to the piano, saxophones or guitars you get a full and well-rounded mid frequency. I simply cannot fault it, except to say, if you want forward, shouty mids look elsewhere. The mids here are tuned to carry the weight of the mid-bass without sound like an artefact of bass-bleed forcing is way into the mix.
Teddy Swims - I can’t make you love me - Santana - While my guitar gently weeps - Peter White - Caravan of dreams - Treble
There is no doubt that the Sonion tweeters are highly accomplished speakers and their implementation by TRI is a true testament to the person or persons who tune these.
Just fantastic. The detail retrieval across the frequencies are superb, and that is reflected beautifully in the treble.
High notes are just a joy to listen to, and as stated above, there is no hint, to my ears, of strain or sibilance. In fact, it is best described by the TRI marketing team, as exquisite. To my ears, these are of the highest quality.
Check out the cymbals on the Scot Hamilton track, “The Shadow of your smile”, from the album, Ballad for Audiophiles. The notes of the piano and the cymbals decay so beautifully and almost indefinitely.
Schidler’s List OST - Scott Hamilton - The shadow of your smile - [for Cymbals] - Cafe del Mar - XIV - Viva Cuba Musica -
Note: Remember, YouTube recordings are not always of the highest quality.
Comparisons to TRI products
I have to say, I am impressed by the range of products. Where do the Starshines fit in the TRI range of products?
I recently went back to listening to the I3s and if I did not have them, I would buy them today, they are still very good today. As previously stated, the sound of the Stashines is analogue, thus reminiscent of the I3s. However, the technicalities are well above the I3. The balance between sub-bass and mid-bass is much more considered and well tuned. Where the TRI I3s have a bias towards sub-bass, in my view, the Starshines have a better balance which means for those who felt that the TRI I3s’ sub-bass was excessive for them, the Starshines will not disappoint. The mid-bass just complements the sub-bass, rather than being dominated by the sub-bass. Do not get me wrong the Starshines have highly potent bass, which is more proportionately distributed to my ears.
The mid frequency on the Starshines is so well tuned that they will give any planer driver a run for their money. There are truly lush, and make any voice, male or female sound full and rich. Musical instruments are rendered beautifully and realistically. Here again an upgrade on the TRI I3s.
Highs, which are often said to lack extension on the I3s is clearly extended, clean and detailed with the Sonion electrostatic drivers, as you would expect from Sonion drivers, they sound like there is nothing missing and are not strained. Just wonderful. The I3s do sound stage better than the Starshines, in my view.
Starseas and Starlights
Well the Starseas and Starlights are bunched together here because they are tuned to be brighter sets which are more analytical than the analogue tuning of the Starshines. I believe the TRI Starseas are so beautifully tuned, they far exceed their price category in quality both for details and clarity, they are simply technically exceptional.
While the Starlights are the jewels in the crown, resolution, resolution, resolution. I am yet to be persuaded that there is anything in any of the three “Stars” which is better value for money. The resolution and clarity of the Starshines are on a par with their siblings, in as far as an analogue tuning allows. Obviously, with the analogue-like tuning the emphasis will be on harmonic representation of your music rather than analytics.
Comparisons to other products
Meze Rai Solo
Arguably, the Rai Solos have been on the market for a while and have had some accolades in that time. unfortunately, when compared to the TRI Starshines, the lack of resolution, the highs which just fall short and the lows which drop off at the mid-bass, but above all, do the Rai Solos do not have the dynamic range and texture of the Starshines. Forgive me the pun, but the Starshines far outshine the Meze Rai Solos to my ears.
To my ears one of the most beautifully crafted earphones in terms of sonics available. Yes, better than the more costly sibling, Opus Mia, to my ears, and compared to the Starshines, the Aten are just slightly outshone by the Starshines. They both do bass like no other. Here I am talking about bass definition and quality, so that what was recorded with the cello is textured and they both pick up and represent the cello differently from the double bass, so that you hear the instruments as if you were in the room of the recording.
The kick drum reverb is so visceral that it digs down to the darkest depths of your music.…..at the same time the delicate reverb of the cymbals ring on almost endlessly.
That is how beautifully, they both deliver the highs with great detail and clarity It is at the mid frequency that the Starshines pull away from the Aten, even though the Aten is exceptional at rendering beautifully lush mids, to my ears the Atens are just eclipsed by the Starshines in the mid frequencies and of course, cymbals.
The current TRI range, the I4s, the I3s, the Starseas, Starlights and Starshines, places TRI in the rarefied upper echelons of TOTL earphone manufacturers and ought not to be taken for granted simply by virtue of price. These TRI products bring the high-end sound to the market at a lower price, without compromise on sound quality.
Enjoy your music!
Do bear with me, I know there are those who prefer not to refer to the earphones in the plural, in effect, Starshine(s). If you happen to find my habit irritating, do bear with me. I just cannot refer to shoes as shoe when I mean a pair of shoes, in the same way I see earphones as a pair, hence my reference to them in the plural.
Some might say, but they are bridged by a cable, and I refer you to spectacles, which are also bridged. I only say this here so you understand my view. Ok, enough of this, I want to read your comments on this review, good or bad, I intend to learn from it.