MSRP: 239$ Driver Type: 10 mm dynamic driver with 2 balanced armature drivers Audio Frequency...

UPQ Q-Music QE80

Rating:
5/5,
  • MSRP: 239$
    Driver Type: 10 mm dynamic driver with 2 balanced armature drivers
    Audio Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
    Impedance: 11Ω
    Rated Input Power: 5 mW
    Maximum Input Power: 10 mW
    Sound Pressure Level: 106 dB
    Cable Length: 1.35 m

Recent Reviews

  1. HiFiChris
    Definitely one of the most enjoyable Hybrid In-Ears
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Apr 12, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - extremely enjoyable, bright yet very even + natural treble, price, sound, design, comfort, overall package, harmony
    Cons - basic amount of included accessories, cable lacks chin-slider
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    Preamble:

    Have you ever heard of “UPQ”? I for my part haven’t until not long ago I came across an in-ear of the company.
    But first things first: UPQ (http://upq.me/en/) is located in Japan and really new on the market, having established on July 1st 2015. Taking a look at their product portfolio (they are currently offering three in-ears, one pair of Bluetooth speakers, a designer keyboard, an LED light as well as a steadycam for smartphones), there is one thing that one will notice immediately: all products feature turquoise in their colour scheme, making the products unique and being a design feature that makes them gain a lot of memorability, setting them apart from the competition. UPQ’s exclusive international distributor is DMM.make, who has offices in Germany (for the European market), China, Japan, America and soon in India as well (http://make.dmm.com/global/en/about/%3Bjsessionid=8F935C9E5F9CA26574B31891A52550C6.web02).

    UPQ’s audio product I’m going to thoroughly test in this review is the hybrid in-ear called Q-music QE80, a triple-driver with three acoustic ways.
    So far so good – but how can we have trust that this new company also delivers good sound quality? The answer is quite simple and we can surely trust them, because both the QE50 as well as QE80 are produced as OEM products from the well-known and established brand Fidue under UPQ’s design specifications. Obviously, the QE80 is the A83’s fraternal twin, but with UPQ’s colour scheme, logos and a slightly different range of accessories. And the really interesting thing about the Q-music QE80 is that its price is set below A83’s, making it even more attractive than it already is because of its colour scheme.

    Before I go on, I want to give out a hearty thank to DMM.make for organising an evaluation sample of the in-ears free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased test and comparison.


    Technical Specifications:

    MSRP: $239
    Driver Type: 10 mm dynamic driver with 2 balanced armature drivers
    Audio Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
    Impedance: 11Ω
    Rated Input Power: 5 mW
    Maximum Input Power: 10 mW
    Sound Pressure Level: 106 dB
    Cable Length: 1.35 m


    About hybrid In-Ears:

    As you can read from the technical specifications, the UPQ Q-music QE80 is a little different from most In-Ears and doesn’t only use dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers, but combines both in one shell.

    Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.

    Higher-priced and professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering mids and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution and precision to the mids and highs – and that’s what the QE80 does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, speed and precision.


    Delivery Content:

    This paragraph could actually be summarised in a single sentence, as the amount of included accessories is reduced to a minimum.
    The stable white cardboard box with silver coloured UPQ logo on the lid is held together by a plastic slipcase that is translucent on the front and rear plus turquoise on the sides. Inside, it is bolstered by white foam that is rather averagely feeling and would be probably better suited as cushion inside of a chair.
    Besides a warranty card and the in-ears themselves, the included accessories contain of three pairs of dark silicone tips and an UPQ-branded carrying case that is the same as the one that comes with the Fidue A73.
     

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    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    The outer shell is made of silver coloured metal that has got UPQ logos and features a three-dimensional, scale-like pattern. The inner side of the shell made of high quality plastic, is turquoise coloured, which is a UPQ signature design feature, and is semi-transparent – one can see the two tiny BA drivers and the comparatively large dynamic woofer.

    The cable, whose 3.5 mm connector has got a turquoise ring as well, is made of four twisted single litzes and reminds me of the one that I got with my UERM. Every transition has got a really nice strain relief and the ear hooks have got the typical mouldable memory wire. Solely a cable cinch (chin-slider) is lacking.
    Besides this, the in-ears and the cable are equipped with coaxial MMCX connectors that are however not rotating but sit quite tightly and are rotation-locked due to their proprietary shape, which should minimise wear.

    All of this leaves a really good impression.
     

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    Comfort, Isolation:

    The in-ears’ shape is very ergonomic, hence they fit very nicely in my ears (not that I had problems with that anyway because of my large ears). Who gets a good fit and comfort with in-ears from Westone and Shure should also get just an about similarly good fit with the UPQ.

    Akin to most high-end, professional and expensive in-ears, the QE80 is supposed to be worn with the cables over the ears, which only offers benefits, wherefore I am wearing about all of my in-ears that way, even the ones that are actually intended to be worn straight down.
    I know many people don’t like the memory wire, but I actually like it much and generally never have issues with memory wire at all as long as it isn’t too short, and QE80’s has just the right length.

    Despite the lack of a cable cinch, comfort is very good (at least for me). Microphonics are as low as nothing.

    Despite two little vents (one front and one rear vent for the dynamic woofer), isolation is pretty decent, but only in the treble region – middle and low frequencies aren’t much blocked out.


    Sound:

    My main source devices for listening were my iBasso DX90 and FiiO X3, but I also used the iBasso DX80, LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100, HiFiMe 9018d (mainly for listening to the sine sweeps) and my music-playback-optimised iPhone 4 from time to time.
    The main music was stored in 16 Bit/44.1 kHz FLAC format (rips of my CDs), but I also used some copyright-free 320 kBps MP3 files and Hi-Res FLAC plus DSD files that I bought (solely for the better mastering and not for the claimed superiority of this file type, as I don’t believe in that and ABX tests I made few years ago didn’t show any difference anyway).
    Although I am no burn-in guy, I burnt the in-ears in with noise and sine sweeps for at least 50 hours before even starting to listen casually, just in case.
    For listening, I used the largest included silicone tips.

    Tonality:

    QE80’s tonal character could be best described as “v-shaped with focussed midbass, lower root and upper treble”.

    In comparison to a strictly flat monitor like the Etymotic ER-4S, the UPQ’s bass is emphasised by about 6 dB, but, typically for the dynamic woofer, appears slightly weightier.
    From about 500 Hz down, the lows start rising, forming the climax somewhat below 200 Hz. This level is then kept upright and flat down to 40 Hz. From there on, in the real sub-bass, the level decreases a little. The transition from the bass into the root/fundamental tone is quite smooth and even, but the lower root has still some fullness to it, adding a certain warmth and weight to the lows, but less than the dual-driver Fidue A73 which has more lower plus middle root level, sounding more full-bodied than the UPQ.
    Listening to sine sweeps, I can hear that the midrange level increases evenly from 1 to 3 kHz, which causes brighter vocals and overtones to gain a slight edge towards brightness, but still to sound surprisingly tonally correct in my ears, without drifting away to being out of balance. Yes, mids sound still very correct in my ears, and certainly not as bright and thin as the DUNU DN-2000J’s mids.
    From 3 to 4.3 kHz, level drops, and here (at 4.3 kHz) is the dip’s lowest point, and exactly this dip is responsible for the mids to keep their tonal balance without shifting to thinness or brightness (as the DN-2000J is somewhat emphasised in the middle treble and doesn’t compensate the lower/upper treble with a dip in the middle highs, its mids and vocals sound somewhat too bright in my ears – which is the only flaw that it has, as the rest is fabulous). From there on, level increases again and forms an even, broad-banded emphasis that is located above ground-line between 7 and 10 kHz. Looking past 10 kHz, super treble extension is still quite good up to 14 kHz.
    In my book, the treble is made extremely well – the emphasis in the upper highs is not too strong and solely makes a subjectively perceived perfect, straight to the point compensation to balance out the lows, without sounding harsh, metallic, peaky or really unnatural. From the overall balance, this is one of the best made treble emphasises I have come across.

    The dynamic Woofer’s emphasis guarantees for just enough rumble and fundament in the lows, the mids are extremely well tuned and don’t sound distant, thin or bloodless despite the rather v-shaped character. The treble is, just as described, very well made and sounds mostly natural – some more expensive in-ears with emphasised treble don’t even achieve this evenness and naturalness the QE80 has, despite its upper treble elevation.
    Honestly speaking, what Benny Tan, Fidue’s sound engineer has created here in terms of tonal tuning and balancing the frequency bands out is a masterpiece of tuning, and it is nice to see this knowledge being packed into the QE80.

    Resolution:

    The QE80 doesn’t show any real flaws here at all either: it sounds vivid, crisp and detailed, with a homogenous detail distribution.
    For a dynamic driver, the bass is quite well made and sounds quite controlled, though its decay is more on the slower and softer side, but without being too slow (for example, fast double-bass punches are still distinguishable as such, without sounding too muddy), and therefore it shares similarities to the Fidue A73’s lows, but adds more speed, control and a somewhat faster attack. As a result, the in-ears generate a really nice and “tactile”, natural bass body with some “magic” that heads into the DUNU DN-2000J’s direction, however without reaching its speed and control with really fast music.
    Sure, the dynamic woofer inside the QE80 won’t ever reach a better closed-back BA woofer’s speed and precision, but let’s face it, hybrid in-ears don’t even try to mimic that, they focus on other values like naturalness, smoothness and bass body, and I can tell you that, the QE80 does this job extremely well. I like what I’m hearing and for the moments when I rather want to reach for a balanced fun in-ear that values bass body over absolute speed and attack, the UPQ is what I’m reaching for.

    Each one Balanced Armature driver take control over the mids and treble and guarantee for a high minute detail retrieval in these areas, with really nice and delicate vocal details – singers’ fine variances and nuances can be perceived really well. Thereafter starts the treble which sounds wonderfully even, without sharp peaks or edges, despite greater presence of the upper treble. Everything is very harmonious, mostly natural and with a very well resolving upper range.

    Soundstage:

    Soundstage reproduction is also something where the QE80 is mostly convincing. The presented imaginary room appears quite large and spacious, with a nice, consistent and authentically appearing expansion in terms of width, height and depth. In its character, the soundstage heads into the easy-going, borderless direction of the UERM, InEar StageDiver SD-2 and DUNU DN-2000J, however without quite reaching the razor-sharp imaging precision and instrument placement of the DUNU, UE or FLC8s.
    Variable closeness and vastness are really nicely reproduced, with vocals that can come very close if needed and when present on the recording. For perfection, just a bit more focus and precision for the instrument placement would be needed.

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    On a personal side-note: I thoroughly love these in-ears. They offer really nice PRAT and let you dive into the music, forget your surroundings and make you just groove along with the rhythm. Like a more refined version of the Fidue A73, the UPQ Q-music QE80, the OEM version of Fidue’s A83 for UPQ, takes all of A73’s advantages and boosts them to at least one higher level, with less warmth and more sparkle. Out of the five hybrid IEMs I currently have on hand, the QE80 really is my subjectively favourite model of the bunch. Does it mean that it is also objectively superior to them? Not necessarily – the (more expensive) FLC8s for example offers the higher overall resolution, speed and separation, the (once again more expensive) DN-2000J for example puts even more “magic” into the bass by combining really good speed with a gorgeously tactile body plus generates a somewhat more precise soundstage, and the Primacy sounds unexciting and smooth in a really good way. Still, the QE80 is my favourite IEM of the hybrid bunch and combines good spaciousness with a smooth and non-annoying and well refined v-shape plus a really nice bass body that is at the same time very controlled.
    But let’s get back to the more objective site again:

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    In Comparison with other hybrid In-Ears:
     
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    Fidue A73:
    Both in-ears have more similarities than differences, however they do sound different in their overall presentation, with the triple-driver QE80 being above the dual-driver A73 in all categories by at least one class.
    Bass quantity in the sub-, mid- and upper bass is identical, however the A73 has got more lower plus middle root, hence appearing more full-bodied, weightier and warmer than the UPQ in the lows.
    In the mids, the QE80 sounds brighter towards the upper mids/lower highs, but without appearing coloured. While the QE80 follows more a perfectly balanced v-shape, the A73 is more of the warm and dark kind of v-shape.
    The QE80 sounds more detailed and more precise in every single aspect, along with having the superior bass speed.
    The soundstage formed by the QE80 is somewhat larger, but especially offers the better depth with more precise layering and instrument placement.
    Undeniable victory of the QE80.

    Oriveti Primacy:
    Primacy’s lows extend deeper without roll-off. Additionally, it has less fundamental warmth and therefore less perceived fullness and weightiness. The QE80’s midrange interpretation is somewhat brighter than Primacy’s, however both in-ears sound equally correct for me in this area. The Primacy shows less treble presence, while sounding equally even, realistic and smooth.
    Primacy’s bass is somewhat more arid and faster; the QE80 has more body and appears less controlled with fast music. Still, I would give a slight edge towards the QE80 in terms of bass details, however that is a close decision. In the mids, it also reveals fine variances slightly better than the Primacy and appears a bit more differentiated in the treble (even when adjusting levels with an EQ).
    QE80’s soundstage is larger, with more precisely placed instruments – Primacy’s is just average here.
    The decision which is objectively better is no easy one here, but the QE80 is the overall winner, although the Primacy has the quicker and better controlled lows – the UPQ just reveals somewhat more details in the mids and has got the higher quality soundstage.

    DUNU DN-2000J:
    The DUNU sounds closer to neutral and flatter, with a much lesser quantity v-shape, more or less similar to HD 800’s tonality. The QE80 has got more fundamental warmth and is also generally thicker sounding in the lows. The DUNU’s mids sound thinner and brighter, which is mainly because of the middle treble being somewhat emphasised as well, kind of lacking a compensative dip somewhere in the upper frequencies, in contrast to the (somewhat more v-shaped sounding) UPQ or the (also balanced) HD 800. In my ears, this is the DN-2000J’s only weakness, but also makes it appear at the border of tolerance at times, especially in the middle treble around 5 kHz, where I am more sensitive and usually prefer a flat instead of elevated level. Hence, I find the QE80 to be better tuned in the lower middle treble and midrange, along with having more natural sounding mids, however both in-ears are about on-par in terms of midrange resolution.
    The DUNU’s bass is just magical – it is really really fast for a dynamic woofer, very controlled, however still nicely tactile and distinguishable. The QE80 doesn’t reach the DN-2000J’s bass quality, sounding somewhat slower and less controlled with really fast music. In the midrange, detail retrieval is about similar, but the DUNU slightly wins in the treble, sporting slightly more details, though the QE80 is smoother up there and more even.
    Soundstage width is about comparable, but the DN-2000J has got the deeper extension. Where the DUNU also wins are things like instrument separation, displaying emptiness, placement precision and layering.
    Because of the more precise instrument placement as well as the faster bass while still having a beautiful body and because of the overall somewhat higher level of details, the DUNU wins objectively, although the QE80 is smoother plus more even in the treble and has the tonally more correct mids in my ears.

    FLC Technology FLC8s:
    Without any doubt, the FLC8s is the more versatile IEM with its theoretically possible 36 different tonal tunings, but will always have less fundamental warmth than the QE80.
    The FLC, of which I think is overall very slightly better than the DUNU, also surpasses the UPQ. The FLC8s has got the faster and more arid lows than the QE80, which on the other hand puts out the nicer bass body (this however goes at the expense of speed). When it is about resolution, the FLC is somewhat better as well, even in the midrange.
    Solely QE80’s upper treble sounds a bit more natural and realistic as it is more broad-banded.
    The FLC’s soundstage is slightly wider, with about identical depth. In terms of spatial precision, the in-ear with 36 faces wins as well.
    Victory (however not a big one) of the FLC8s in every aspect expect for upper treble naturalness.

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    Overall, objectively seen, on the technical side, I see the QE80 somewhere between the Primacy and DN-2000J.


    Conclusion:

    Both objectively and subjectively, the QE80 comes extremely close to what I consider as perfection for a hybrid IEM, offering refined fun with a well-controlled and layered bass with excellent body, well-made mids and emphasised but relatively even/smooth and not artificially sounding treble along with a nice spatial presentation, creating a good in-ear for the hours when bit more fun with less critical listening away from stationary use is desired.
    Any sonic flaws? Hmm, no big ones that I can think of. Maybe a very slightly sharper instrument placement and more arid bass would be cool, but that’s all.
    I can find a product objectively excellent, but that doesn’t automatically mean that it also makes it into the list of products I personally thoroughly love – the QE80 manages to achieve both things.
    Okay, there is some little criticism I have written down in the phase of my paper notes – a cable cinch (chin slider) would be desirable, and the number of included accessories can be told in a single sentence, plus the internal looks of the retail packaging doesn’t really give you the premium appearance other products deliver – but the price and sound really make up for the average amount of accessories, lack of a cable cinch and below-average internal design of the packaging, making UPQ’s Q-music QE80 a highly recommendable hybrid in-ear and offering really excellent value for the money.

    Build quality? Check.
    Comfort and microphonics? Check.
    Tonal tuning (mainly midrange)? Check.
    Resolution, accuracy, bass speed + control and soundstage? Check.

    Simply put, this is a 5-out-of-5-stars product.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. HiFiChris
      @twister6 
       
      "can you use any mmcx based cables with this version[?]" -> nope, the socket is recessed and "mushroom"-shaped (http://cdn.head-fi.org/2/26/26425e62_IMG_1227.jpeg) and its counterpart has got the fitting "mushroom" shape which seems like a good improvement over the original A83 design but one of course loses the ability to use the vast majority of aftermarket cables.
       
      "can you use the included mmcx cable with any mmcx based IEMs/CIEMs?" -> yes, that should work.
       
      The FB version w/ that flexible balanced adapter looks pretty cool.
      HiFiChris, Apr 13, 2016
    3. CoiL
      Been keeping UPQ under trigger for a while but haven`t seen reliable reviews yet. This is first one for me. 
      I`m really interested in trying QE50 since it should be same as A73 which I have read a lot about and really want to have.
      Now I know I can trust this brand and go for QE50 when I get the money. Thanks a lot for the review!
      CoiL, Apr 13, 2016
    4. HiFiChris
      @CoiL
       
      You're welcome. :)
       
      Yeah, it was a really good decision by UPQ to get Fidue as OEM firm for those, especially as the pricing is even more attractive (similar to FiiO x DUNU for the EX1). Imho they make really good and enjoyable IEMs.
      HiFiChris, Apr 13, 2016

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