Precog's IEM Reviews & Impressions
Jul 15, 2020 at 1:57 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1,646

Precogvision

Reviewer at Headphones.com
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Jan 21, 2020
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Location
California
Who am I?
I'm a college student based out of the US. Currently, I work for Headphones.com writing reviews. I mainly focus on IEMs, but I've slowly been branching my way out into headphones. While I don't have half the experience and knowledge that many people here do, I'll be doing my best to learn!

What will I post here?
First impressions, reviews, and more. I'll be doing my best to provide my honest thoughts as I find my way in this rabbit-hole of a hobby. That being said, there's no such thing as an "unbiased" review and I encourage you to read my thoughts below if you want a less conventional perspective.


Rants & "Philosophy"
#1 My Thoughts on Audio Reviews
#2 Terminology and Preferences
#3 On Value, Finding Satisfaction, and When Too Much is Too Much
#4 A Pragmatic Take on Listener Bias and Subjectivity
#5 Squiggles and the "Precog" Target
#6 How I Define Imaging (Audio Discourse version)
#7 Some thoughts on lossless SQ
#8 My Thoughts on Macro-Dynamics
#9 The Motive Behind My Reviews
#10 My Stance on Ear Tips
#11 Brief Thoughts on Individual HRTF and IEM Preference
#12 My Test Tracks
#13 Why I prefer IEMs to headphones

Directory of Reviews
64 Audio Flagship Shootout: Nio, U12t, Tia Trio, U18t, Tia Fourte
64 Audio Nio: Hybrid Dark Horse
64 Audio tia Fourte: The Dynamic Savant
64 Audio tia Trio: Flagship Enigma
64 Audio U6t: Predictably Satisfying
64 Audio U12t: The Consummate All-Rounder
64 Audio U18s: Yin to the Yang
Apple AirPods Pro
Astell&Kern SE180 vs. SE200: Go Big or Go Home
Audeze LCDi4: When Headphone Meets IEM
Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds: How Do They Actually Sound?
Campfire Andromeda 2020: A Refreshing Update
Campfire Ara: "Ara Ara" Indeed
Campfire Dorado & Vega 2020
Campfire Mammoth & Holocene: Chronological Clash
Campfire Solaris 2020: Eclipsed
DUNU DK-2001/3001
DUNU Luna
DUNU SA6: A New $550 Benchmark IEM?
DUNU Zen
iBasso DX300: It's a brick, but it sounds so good
Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator: The Best IEM You’ve Never Heard
Empire Ears Hero: Skewed Potential
Empire Ears Legend X SE Review: The Flex King
Empire Ears Odin: Laying Claim to the Throne
Empire Ears Valkyrie
Empire Ears Valkyrie MK.II: Vibrant & Valiant
Empire Ears Wraith: Flagship Fatality
Etymotic ER2XR
Etymotic ER3XR (brief comparison to ER2XR)
Etymotic EVO: A Complete Evolution?
Fearless Audio S8 Pro
Fearless Audio S8Z & Tequila
Flagship IEM Shootout: 64A U12t, qdc Anole VX, Sony IER-Z1R, Vision Ears VE8
Focal Clear: As Good As Everyone Says?
Kilobuck Shootout: What's the Best IEM $1000 Can Buy?
Massdrop Noble X: A Tribute
Moondrop Blessing 2: Mid-Fi Paradigm Shifter
Moondrop x Crinacle Dusk: A Worthy Sucessor
Moondrop KXXS
Moondrop S8: Kilobuck Solution
Moondrop SSR
Noble Audio Kaiser Encore
Noble Audio Sultan: Sultan of What?
Oriolus Traillii Review: The Caged Bird
Periodic Audio Ti and Be: Mediocrity x Garbage
Prisma Audio Azul: When Less is More
qdc Anole VX: All In A Name
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Audiophile Approved?
SeeAudio Yume: Yume Want To Hear This
Sennheiser IE900: A major step forward, but is it enough?
Sennheiser HD800S: The Critical Take
SoftEars RSV: Hard to Love, Harder to Hate
Sony IER-Z1R: Flagship Purgatory
Sony IER-Z1R: The Hybrid Behemoth
Sony IER-M9: The Kilobuck Benchmark
Sony MH755/750: Budget IEM Endgame
Symphonium Audio Helios: The Brightest Kilobuck Star
Tanchjim Darling: Dichotomy
Tanchjim Tanya & Hana 2021: The Comeback
Thieaudio Legacy 2: Precog's Take
Thieaudio Legacy 3
Thieaudio Legacy 4: Bright Ideas
Thieaudio Legacy 9
Thieaudio Monarch: Cut and Dry
Unique Melody MEST: Wonky Good Fun
Unique Melody MEST MK2: Still great, but...
Vision Ears Elysium
Vision Ears Erlkonig: Nothing But Vanilla
Vision Ears VE7
Vision Ears VE8

Directory of Impressions
64 Audio Nio Revisted
64 Audio tia Fourte
64 Audio tia Trio
64 Audio U6t
64 Audio U12t Gets Roasted
AK SE180
AK SE200
Apple Lightning/USB-C to 3.5mm Dongle
Audeze LCDi4
Audio Lokahi
Audiosense AQ7
Audiosense DT200
BGVP DM8
BGVP NS9
Blon A8 Prometheus
Blon BL-03
Campfire Andromeda & Solaris 2020
Campfire Andromeda 2019
Campfire Andromeda 2020: Revisited
Campfire Ara
Campfire Dorado & Vega 2020
Campfire Holocene
Campfire Mammoth
Campfire Solaris OG
CanJam SoCal 2021 Headphone Impressions
CanJam SoCal 2021 IEM Impressions
Cayin Fantasy
Drop x JVC HA FDX1
Drop x JVC FWX1
DUNU EST112
DUNU Falcon Pro
DUNU SA3 & SA6
DUNU Zen
DUNU Zen Pro
EarFun Oluv Edition
Elysian Acoustic Labs Annihilator
Empire Ears ESR MK.II
Empire Ears Odin
Empire Ears Hero
Empire Ears Valkyrie and Wraith
Empire Ears Valkyrie MK.II
Etymotic EVO
Fearless Audio S8 Pro
Fearless Audio Tequila & S8Z
Final Audio A8000
Final Audio E500
Fiio FH3
Fiio FD3
Fiio FD5
Geekwold GK10 (defective unit)
GS Audio SE11
Hiby Crystal6
Hidition Viento
Hidition Violet
Hidition Waltz
HZSound Heart Mirror
iBasso DX300
iFi IEMatch+
Ikko Gems OH1S
Ikko OH10
JH Audio Layla Aion
Jomo Audio Trinity Brass
Kiwi Ears Orchestra
Mangird Tea
MMR Thummim & Homunculus
Moondrop Aria
Moondrop B2: Dusk
Moondrop Illumination
Moondrop Quarks
Moondrop S8
Moondrop Sparks
Moondrop SSP
Moondrop Variations
Noble Audio Kaiser Encore
Noble Audio Sultan
Oriolus Isabellae
Oriolus Traillii JP
Prisma Audio Azul
qdc Anole V14
SeeAudio Bravery
Sendy Aiva
Sennheiser HD 800 S
Sennheiser IE 300
Sennheiser IE800S
Sennheiser IE900
Sennheiser IE900 Further Thoughts
Sennheiser Store Round-Up July 2020
Shanling ME700 Lite
Shuoer Tape Pro
Shure KSE1500
Softears RSV
Sony IER-M9
Sony MDR-EX1000 (no filter)
Sony MDR-EX800ST
Sony WF-1000XM4
Symphonium Helios
Tanchjim Darling
Tanchjim Hana 2021
Tanchjim Oxygen
Tanchjim Prism
Tanchjim Tanya
Tansio Mirai Spark
Thieaudio Clairvoyance
Thieaudio Legacy 2
Thieaudio Legacy 3
Thieaudio Legacy 4
Thieaudio Voyager 3
Thieaudio Voyager 14
Thieaudio Monarch
Tin Audio T2 Evo
Tin Audio T5
Tripowin x HBB Mele
Unique Melody 3DT
Unique Melody MEST
Vision Ears Elysium/VE8
Vision Ears Erlkonig
Vision Ears EVE20
Vision Ears VE7
YanYin Aladdin
 
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Jul 15, 2020 at 10:26 AM Post #2 of 1,646

buonassi

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subbed here and to your youtube account.
I think these dedicated threads based on a particular subject's experiences are a good idea and go further helping the community select the IEM that is right for them. Over time a familiarity with the reviewer develops and becomes very helpful in understanding the IEM under test.
 
Jul 15, 2020 at 11:55 PM Post #3 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Just got the tour kit for the Empire Ears IEMs today. I'll put some more ear time on them over the course of the week and should have reviews ready to go by the time I send them off to the next participant. For now, here's some first impressions.

IMG_1800.JPG


IMG_5358.JPG


Empire Ears Valkyrie (top)
Powerful, sub-bass centric low-end. No shortage of rumble and extension, that's for sure. Coherency suffers somewhat between bass and the rest of the frequency response; maybe it's because it's a tribrid, or maybe it's just because it's so crazy pronounced. As a result of the V-shaped frequency response, the midrange is also rather thin. No issues with the treble response, but I'll have to listen some more. Very energetic timbre and presentation, yet still seems technically competent. Not bad at all, and I'm liking it so far.

Empire Ears Wraith (bottom)
...ooof. Reeks of BA timbre, an obfuscated midrange, and most of all...there's no treble. Apparently these were tuned around a higher-power source (which I don't have access to), but let's be real: It's an IEM and so much of its function is predicated on portability. You're better off just getting a headphone than listening to the Wraith out of a dedicated, desktop setup. And that's if it even significantly improves the sound because there's much slack to be picked up here. Oh right, and before I forget - it's only $3500. I'll put more ear time on these, but seriously, I think something just went wrong when they tuned this thing.
 
Jul 18, 2020 at 4:03 PM Post #4 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Moondrop [Brand Overview]

Moondrop. Progenitor of the perplexing dynamic that is waifu and high-fidelity audio; one of the most distinguished Chi-Fi brands in the IEM world thanks to their calculated approach to tuning. It's no secret that this is one of my favorite brands, although it does feel like they've hit something of a plateau recently.

SSR [3/10]

Diffuse-field inspired tuning. Bass is mid-bass emphasized. The midrange is excessively lean with an overt emphasis on the upper-midrange (thanks to no less than 13dB of ear gain). Although graphs don't necessarily capture it, treble is somewhat hollow, perhaps due to the strong contrast with the upper-midrange. Not a fan of the SSR's tuning at all, however, it stands that the SSR is pretty technical for its price bracket. It's snappier, quicker than the Starfield in the transients, layers better, and the bass doesn't exhibit that characteristic pillowy-ness. It has its niche.

KXXS [5/10]

Warm, highly-pleasing tonal balance. Bass is about equal parts sub-bass and mid-bass with a certain pillowy-ness to transient attack and dynamic slam. The midrange is Harman-inspired with a peak at around 4.5kHz which some might find bright upon first listen. Treble is smooth, more rolled, with a peak at around 12kHz which lends decay to a pleasant haziness. Technical performance is more middling, albeit solid for the price bracket. Again, transient attack is soft, but I adore the overall coherency of this IEM and the way it straddles that line so neatly for my preferences. The Aria, KXXS, KXXX, Starfield, whatever. They all sound nigh identical (although you do get slighted with the waifu packaging on the Starfield), and the KXXS is one of the best all-rounders money can buy under $200.

Blessing 2 [6/10]

Neutral-bright tuning, a well-tuned IEM from top-to-bottom. Highly technical for the price point with slightly out-of-head imaging and above average positional incisiveness. Suffers from a coherency standpoint. Bass is unnaturally dry for a dynamic driver, and the midrange and treble exhibit grain in moderation. Notes are a tad too lean for my tastes on the B2, and in tandem with the BA timbre, negative impacts my listening time on it. An excellent IEM and the de-facto $300 recommendation, just not really my thing nowadays.

Blessing 2: Dusk [7/10]

Fixes a lot of my issues with the original B2. Bass is considerably more sub-bass oriented, sloping out perfectly at 200hZ and the upper-midrange has been pulled down a couple dB. The Dusk is a warmer, thicker IEM by comparison. Independently, I'd classify it as neutral with bass boost. Intangibles are similar to the B2, so the nigh one-note bass and imaging chops are retained. BA timbre has been cleaned up some, particularly in the treble, although the original B2 has an edge in macrodynamic contrast and imaging. Words don't capture how well the Dusk has been tuned, and if the B2 was the de-facto $300 recommendation then the Dusk is almost unfairly good.

Illumination [4/10]

Well, here’s a doozy, and not the good kind. The Illumination’s tonality is pretty alright if not too upper-midrange oriented for my tastes. But the Illumination’s technicalities are lacking. And I mean really lacking for $800. Basic macro-detail sounds smeared with instruments colliding, mushing into one another like there’s no tomorrow. There’s something wonky about the imaging too with which it sounds like soundstage depth is being compressed. Moondrop’s own SSR giving the Illumination a run for its money in the technical department at a mere 1/20th the cost is, uh, not pretty. Sure, the Illumination's got some pretty nice timbre but so do any of Moondrop's other 1DD IEMs. Pass.

S8 [7/10]

Harman-inspired tuning. Knocks a couple dB off the Harman sub-bass shelf and, importantly, kills post-4kHz a tad, a welcome deviation from the Harman target. The midrange is still upper-midrange oriented, wonderfully balanced, and the midrange to end midranges for female vocal stuff in the kilobuck bracket. Where the S8 deviates strongly from the Harman target is in the treble. It's a very airy IEM and sports excellent extension with something of a peak at around 8kHz and then a linear skew to around 18kHz or so. Highly technical with excellent detail retrieval and positional chops. Suffers on the dynamic side of things: Not bad bass, but still BA, and general macrodynamic compression. Moondrop S8: the kilobuck solution.

Solis [5/10]

As usual, a very competent tuning from Moondrop. But not very impressive otherwise, and the Solis is just pretty OK. It's transients and timbre are very characteristic of a BA monitor - almost zero weight. I think Howard himself has said that he does not approve of the Solis.

Quarks [3/10]

Skews more diffuse-field tuned like the SSR. Treble is pretty iffy on this set and quite dull. Technicalities follow in the same vein; they're a good cry from the SSR. Not sure if I'd recommend this, but sure, decent enough for $13. Spaceship is tuned pretty similarly to this, just slightly better. Maybe swing for that or the Tanya.
 
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Jul 18, 2020 at 4:17 PM Post #5 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Campfire Audio [Brand Overview]

Okay, so who doesn't know of this brand? Based out of Portland, OR, Campfire Audio made waves with their original Andromeda IEM which remains a respectable kilobuck IEM to this day. Their IEMs are known for crazy low sensitivities and hissing off any source you probably own. And...yeah, that's kind of their claim to fame. Oh, there's the Solaris too.

Andromeda 2020 [7/10]

The Andromeda 2020 follows a neutral-warm, more relaxed tuning. The tuning nails my preferences a good deal; the only real issue I would point out is the contrast between the more bloated lower-midrange and dipped upper-midrange. This probably also isn’t the IEM to buy if you’re looking for good dynamics. Outside of this, the Andromeda 2020 is a highly technical monitor; it’s one of the few, truly holographic IEMs and with ample layering chops to boot. Treble is fairly smooth and superbly extended; indeed, this might be one of the most well-extended IEMs I’ve heard. I’m critical, but not unfair: This is my favorite kilobuck IEM, and you won’t hear me saying the Andromeda 2020 is anything short of excellent.

Ara [2/10]

The Ara is Campfire’s interpretation of a neutral-reference tuned monitor. As for whether they’ve succeeded, well, I’m not so sure about that. There are small issues here and there throughout the Ara’s tuning like the precipitate 1.5kHz ear gain, humpty-dumpty upper-midrange, and borderline sibilant treble. I’m also not a fan of this IEM’s macrodynamic ability, the Ara sounds downwards compressed in a disconcerting manner. It’s still highly resolving, a small step ahead of the Andromeda 2020, although I do think you lose some of the Andromeda 2020’s stellar imaging chops. This IEM seems to have been tuned to appeal to a different demographic than my younger ears, and needless to say I’ll be the first to admit that the Ara has its niche.

Dorado 2020 [2/10]

Mud, bloat, and ridiculous amounts of mid-treble.

Solaris 2020 [5/10]

The Solaris 2020 is a more V-shaped IEM, sporting good amounts of mid-bass and lively, well-extended treble. Again, there are some tuning quirks - mainly the bloated, sibilant upper-midrange - although they’re not dealbreaking like the Ara’s are to my ears. Imaging is holographic and the Solaris 2020 has very good soundstage height, more than the Andromeda 2020, although the Andromeda 2020 definitely layers better and is more coherent. Overall, the Solaris 2020 possesses a bodied, warm, colored sound. Yeah, it’s kind of messy, but if you like this type of presentation, I don’t think you’ll find many IEMs out there that are comparable.

Vega 2020 [2/10]

More mud, more bloat, and darker than the Dorado 2020.
 
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Jul 21, 2020 at 12:40 AM Post #6 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Tour kit for VE8 and Elysium arrived today. Here's my first impressions! Take them with a grain of salt, I've only had a few hours with them so far.

IMG_0300.JPG


Elysium
Some interesting things going on with this one; the decision to swap the DD/BA seems a bit questionable. Not sure why they didn't just plug 2DDs in like Sony did with the IER-Z1R, but hey, it is what it is. So nothing special about the low-end; it's decidedly BA and lacks a lot of that thump I enjoy with a DD. Certainly passable, probably even good for BA. I do see what some of the midrange hype is about. A little thicker, further back, and easy to get drawn into, but not for me I think: It comes off a wee bit fuzzy A/B-ing with the VE8. Treble is pretty elevated and seems like a proper EST implementation. To be fair, after hearing the EE Wraith, my bar isn't exactly high here. Timbre has a slightly warm, hazy quality to it. I don't mind a little coloration like with the U12t's midrange, it keeps things musical. But to go back to the Elysium's fuzzy midrange, the coloration seems more like a double-edged sword and is pushing it. And holy cow, this IEM takes a lot to power! I'm guessing its because of those ESTs. Anyways, don't get me wrong - this is a really solid IEM, I'm just assessing it according to its $2700 price tag.

IMG_6243.JPG


VE8
While it's got some warmth to the timbre, it's not the hazy kind - just feels like BA. Leans somewhere around neutral with bass boost. Same bass quantity as Elysium, but of a different quality. Seems a bit faster with less decay. Some part, I think the mid-bass, also feels a little hollow, so I'm not sure which one I prefer between the VE8 and Elysium here. More in-your-face midrange that reminds me a lot of the Fearless Audio S8 Pro, but leans towards smooth. Slight roll-off to the treble. Honestly, I'm no treble-head, so it takes a while for me to assess; I didn't even notice until Tork mentioned it. And luckily, if it affects technical performance, it's of little concern. Terrific resolution/detail retrieval on the VE8 and quite the fast IEM - it probably trades punches with the U12t in this respect. While I don't think it quite has the layering/staging chops to match, I'll have to A/B more. The VE8 definitely seems to be a step up over the Elysium in terms of pure technical performance, but comes off as less "musical".

I can already tell that both of these are very solid IEMs, particularly the VE8, and you can bet they're going to be getting a lot of ear time this week.
 
Jul 21, 2020 at 8:46 PM Post #7 of 1,646

Precogvision

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My Stance on Audio Reviewing

Just wanted to quickly address my writing style and reviewing mindset here for posterity. I'm sure some have noticed that my reviews are somewhat harsh, maybe caustic even, and I have a tendency to lay out the cons pretty bluntly.

As a newcomer to the hobby not even a year ago, I remember feverishly researching what IEM to purchase first. But there were a couple things that struck me as odd about the plethora of reviews I read, namely:
  1. First, they were in English - my native language - yet I literally could not understand most of them.
  2. The vast majority of reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
Let's address the first point. While my lack of familiarity can partly be attributed to my noob-ness, as I've grown more well-versed in the hobby, my concerns have likewise become more grounded. Many - not all - reviews in this hobby are plagued with a plethora superlatives, metaphors, and fluff. To this effect, more often than not, it feels like I'm reading a novel or hype piece. On one hand, I totally understand reviewers wanting to provide an adequate description of what they're hearing. Yet, it becomes an issue when there's more fluff than substance, when I can't come away with a shred of substantial information. Frankly, the number of reviews I've read where the reviewer breaks down in tears, has an auditory orgasm, or [insert absurd, equivalent superlative] is alarmingly high. So let's be honest - if you enjoy reading reviews like this, you're better suited picking up the latest, spicy adult novel. Kind of kidding, but also kind of not.

If readers cannot understand your review because of all the fancy lingo and fluff you have, that's plain negligence. So even as my audio vocabulary expands, I'm going to try and keep my reviews more to-the-point. I'm not here to waste my readers' time. That said, I don't mind a little embellishment; there's a way to keeping a flow, keeping things interesting. This is the balance that I'm trying to strike in my reviews.

To the second point, there are a number of reasons why the majority of reviews are positive. I'll refrain from going in-depth; however, it's rooted in a conflict-of-interest.
  • If someone is sent a review sample, then they have an incentive to give a positive review for future samples.
  • Conversely, if someone purchases a product with their own money, they may embellish so as to uplift their personal ownership.
I could list more examples, but I think you get my point. And to this effect, something like "objective reviewing" is an oxymoron: From inception, any and every review is biased to some extent. But positive reviews never seem to be a point of contention! It's always the negative reviews that get a bad rap. This is disappointing because negative reviews are critical to establishing balance - let me explain.

I believe one of the main issues people have with "negative" reviews is that said individuals are emotionally invested, attached to the product in question. A lot of people read reviews for validation, and I know because I've been guilty of this myself. People simply don't want to know that something they own is flawed. And if this is the case, then reviews are not for you. A reviewer's primary obligation is to prospective buyers, not to the current owners, of a product. But even for owners, I'd posit that "negative" reviews are critical to enhancing the audiophile journey. Nothing in life is ever perfect, and that's a fact. Negative reviews allow us to be open to potential flaws, and if you can't come to terms with them, then perhaps said product just wasn't for you in the first place. In the latter instance, the negative review allows you to let go and move on to something better.

With this in mind, let's talk about why I've instead decided to take a more critical, balanced approach. First, it establishes trust with you, the reader. If I hype everything as audio's next big thing, there's a major problem. Not only is it boring and downright repetitive - for you and me both - but if everything is special then nothing can be special. There needs to be a baseline, a standard which is adhered to. Second, my highlighting the downsides of a product plays into your favor. In this type of hobby, so much comes down to preference. If all a reviewer knows how to do is hand out praise, then you're missing half the story. You can't as effectively calibrate your expectations of a product as you would with someone who cites the cons too. Even if they have the exact opposite preferences of you. And finally, I'd like to believe most people are smart enough to read critically. The line between "review" and - oh lord, I'm going to say it - shilling is a fine one. But people will catch on if all you do is hype everything under the sun.

Wow, I wrote more than I thought I was going to. Anyways, remember that at the end of the day it's a hobby! There's going to be ups and downs with everything, but that's just how it is. I'm sure some individuals will take this post the wrong way, and what can I really say? It's an opinion, nothing more. You're free to have your own, and if you respect mine, I'll respect yours.

thx for coming to my TedTalk
 
Last edited:
Jul 22, 2020 at 10:06 AM Post #8 of 1,646

RikudouGoku

Headphoneus Supremus
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May 24, 2019
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Sweden
My Stance on Audio Reviewing

Just wanted to quickly address my writing style and reviewing mindset here for posterity. I'm sure some have noticed that my reviews are somewhat harsh, maybe caustic even, and I have a tendency to lay out the cons pretty bluntly.

As a newcomer to the hobby not even a year ago, I remember feverishly researching what IEM to purchase first. But there were a couple things that struck me as odd about the plethora of reviews I read, namely:
  1. First, they were in English - my native language - yet I literally could not understand most of them.
  2. The vast majority of reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
Let's address the first point. While my lack of familiarity can partly be attributed to my noob-ness, as I've grown more well-versed in the hobby, my concerns have likewise become more grounded. Many - not all - reviews in this hobby are plagued with a plethora superlatives, metaphors, and fluff. To this effect, more often than not, it feels like I'm reading a novel or hype piece. On one hand, I totally understand reviewers wanting to provide an adequate description of what they're hearing. Yet, it becomes an issue when there's more fluff than substance, when I can't come away with a shred of substantial information. Frankly, the number of reviews I've read where the reviewer breaks down in tears, has an auditory orgasm, or [insert absurd, equivalent superlative] is alarmingly high. So let's be honest - if you enjoy reading reviews like this, you're better suited picking up the latest, spicy adult novel. Kind of kidding, but also kind of not.

If readers cannot understand your review because of all the fancy lingo and fluff you have, that's plain negligence. So even as my audio vocabulary expands, I'm going to try and keep my reviews more to-the-point. I'm not here to waste my readers' time. That said, I don't mind a little embellishment; there's a way to keeping a flow, keeping things interesting. This is the balance that I'm trying to strike in my reviews.

To the second point, there are a number of reasons why the majority of reviews are positive. I'll refrain from going in-depth; however, it's rooted in a conflict-of-interest.
  • If someone is sent a review sample, then they have an incentive to give a positive review for future samples.
  • Conversely, if someone purchases a product with their own money, they may embellish so as to uplift their personal ownership.
I could list more examples, but I think you get my point. And to this effect, something like "objective reviewing" is an oxymoron: From inception, any and every review is biased to some extent. But positive reviews never seem to be a point of contention! It's always the negative reviews that get a bad rap. This is disappointing because negative reviews are critical to establishing balance - let me explain.

I believe one of the main issues people have with "negative" reviews is that said individuals are emotionally invested, attached to the product in question. A lot of people read reviews for validation, and I know because I've been guilty of this myself. People simply don't want to know that something they own is flawed. And if this is the case, then reviews are not for you. A reviewer's primary obligation is to prospective buyers, not to the current owners, of a product. But even for owners, I'd posit that "negative" reviews are critical to enhancing the audiophile journey. Nothing in life is ever perfect, and that's a fact. Negative reviews allow us to be open to potential flaws, and if you can't come to terms with them, then perhaps said product just wasn't for you in the first place. In the latter instance, the negative review allows you to let go and move on to something better.

With this in mind, let's talk about why I've instead decided to take a more critical, balanced approach. First, it establishes trust with you, the reader. If I hype everything as audio's next big thing, there's a major problem. Not only is it boring and downright repetitive - for you and me both - but if everything is special then nothing can be special. There needs to be a baseline, a standard which is adhered to. Second, my highlighting the downsides of a product plays into your favor. In this type of hobby, so much comes down to preference. If all a reviewer knows how to do is hand out praise, then you're missing half the story. You can't as effectively calibrate your expectations of a product as you would with someone who cites the cons too. Even if they have the exact opposite preferences of you. And finally, I'd like to believe most people are smart enough to read critically. The line between "review" and - oh lord, I'm going to say it - shilling is a fine one. But people will catch on if all you do is hype everything under the sun.

Wow, I wrote more than I thought I was going to. Anyways, remember that at the end of the day it's a hobby! There's going to be ups and downs with everything, but that's just how it is. I'm sure some individuals will take this post the wrong way, and what can I really say? It's an opinion, nothing more. You're free to have your own, and if you respect mine, I'll respect yours.

thx for coming to my TedTalk
Respect dude! Keep up the good work :clap:
 
Jul 22, 2020 at 12:48 PM Post #9 of 1,646

buonassi

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The bottom line is that we all have different HRTFs, gain/impedance factors with our hearing anatomy.

Next, add that we also have preferences and don't like 'balanced' sound even within our HRTF limits.

Then add the cherry on top - we use different tips, sources, volume levels, etc.

Reviews are, therefore, only one more point of opinion on whether or not you're going to like something or not.

I like reading impressions from folks who are wholly disconnected from well known review sites. Like Aminus, Crin, Toranku, etc. The fact that you and @RikudouGoku have added to that offering is fantastic.
 
Jul 23, 2020 at 4:37 PM Post #10 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Thieaudio [Brand Overview]

Thieaudio is a sub-brand of Linsoul, and they've made waves this past year by pumping out no shortage of IEMs. While this might seem like your typical Chi-Fi brand, they've made great strides with their Monarch and Clairvoyance IEMs which take a more calculated approach to tuning.

Legacy 3 [3/10]
U-shaped tuning that harkens of the 64A U12t's response. Falls flat intangibly and in the timbre department due to a good deal of treble roll-off.

Legacy 4 [4/10]
Mildly V-shaped tuning with an emphasis on technicalities thanks to a 2-3kHz upper-midrange plateau and good amounts of lower-to-mid treble. Bass has highly pleasing tactility for a sub-$200 IEM. Two settings, other setting brings forward the midrange, adding some more warmth to the sound. A tad too bright for my tastes.

Legacy 5 [4/10]
A more milquetoast take on the L4's tuning that subsequently lacks technical performance.

Legacy 9 [5/10]
Warm, V-shaped oriented signature with good amounts of sub-bass and treble sparkle. Pleasing tonality, but is pretty average across the board when it comes to technical performance.

Monarch [6/10]
The best IEM in Thieaudio's line-up and one of the most well rounded tribrids on the market today. Strong, sub-bass emphasis going down past 100hZ, although bass is lacking in dynamic slam and has something of a plasticky-ness to transient behavior. Lean and mean midrange with a rise to the upper-midrange that shoves macro-detail in the listener's face. Treble is present, relatively smooth, if not lacking in those final octaves of extension. A solid technical performer, although seems lacking in more latent intangibles like coherency, detail retrieval, and imaging.

Voyager 3 [2/10]
Has one usable setting (01) that returns the upper-midrange.

Voyager 14 [5/10]
01 & 11 settings are the only useable settings with this IEM. 01 is my favorite, it leans more reference-y. The bass on the V14 is surprisingly good for a BA set and sports some decent texture. Moving into the midrange, this texture becomes even more pronounced. There is a distinctive graininess to the upper-midrange registers in tandem with the strong lift; while this is largely a subjective preference, I don’t like it.Treble-wise, the V14 is pretty alright. It’s got the QDC recession to the lower-treble. Kills some impact; however, it prevents sibilance. Extension is solid and it’s relatively smooth.

Technicalities, again, seem to be a case of “it’s pretty alright”. Imaging certainly isn’t three-blob, although it’s decidedly compressed vertically and a good way off holographic. Soundstage width seems to be the V14's jam similar to the Monarch. Detail is good enough to trade blows with most of the kilobuck players; a step ahead of the venerable Moondrop B2. I would largely point out a lack of dynamic range; the V14 sounds overly flat and dry as is characteristic of most BA IEMs.
 
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Jul 25, 2020 at 3:52 PM Post #11 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Someone was kind enough to lend me their Sony IER-M9 for a couple days! This isn’t a full write-up and just some brief impressions as such.

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For some context, the IER-Z1R is one of my favorite IEMs; Sony struck gold with whatever they did to achieve such coherency in a hybrid. And in a similar vein, Sony's really done something special with the M9's timbre. Coming off the VE8, it feels distinctly different - in a good way. Both run neutral-warm and are colored, but the M9's mostly devoid of that plasticky feeling, those BA artifacts. So much so that I could almost see it being mistaken for DD. The bass clearly benefits from whatever they've done too. It's leagues ahead of most BA responses with some actual weight behind it minus a slight bloat. Not quite a substitute, and far from being a Z1R, but it's good. The midrange is passable enough; I do hear the occasional sibilance or screechiness on some tracks. Rare, but when it comes out, it's very obvious. As for the treble, I like it! It works rather well with the M9, and I wonder why Vision Ears couldn't do the same with the VE8 which rolls off. This is what I wanted the VE8 to be, but it just wasn’t.

In terms of intangibles, the interesting thing to me is that the M9 isn't fast. Like the Z1R, it seems to lean toward the slower side. Speed and technical ability generally go hand-in-hand, but this is one of the exceptions. It's certainly not lacking anything when it comes to imaging or layering capability.

My main criticism of the M9 is the lack of depth. In particular, it often feels like vocals struggle to diffuse from the head-stage, and they're sort of just left floating there. Neither in your face, nor pushed back enough to make it feel like the vocalist is truly in front of you. In tandem with the more laidback tonality, the M9 lacks some of that elusive engagement factor that lures you in, establishes you inside of the music.

Overall, though, this is a very safe IEM and probably my top pick if I had $1000. And unlike the Z1R? The M9 was designed for human ears. This one's definitely worth your money.

Score: 8/10 (Excellent)
 
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Jul 26, 2020 at 3:28 PM Post #13 of 1,646

RSC08

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Keep'em coming. Will be reading some of your reviews later today.
 
Jul 27, 2020 at 8:31 PM Post #15 of 1,646

Precogvision

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Vision Ears [Brand Overview]

Vision Ears is a brand based out of Germany. Their house sound is a warmer one that prioritizes smoothness and ease of listening above all else. Generally, this type of sound favors male vocalists. These guys definitely know how to tune, although you're going to have to shell out quite a bit for one of their IEMs.

Elysium [6/10]

The only VE IEM with actual treble extension, and the first proper implementation of the Sonion electret drivers. Nonetheless, the decision to have a BA token the low-end and a DD the midrange was a perplexing one to me, and I never really saw the trade-off. Particularly in the midrange, all I hear is blunted, smeared transient attack. I can't help but feel that VE's signature smoothness is lacking on the Elysium and not just because of the treble. Coherency issues aside, the Elysium is a competent performer both tonally and technically. The quotation that came to mind, though, when I first reviewed the Elysium is "Pioneers get slaughtered, and the settlers prosper". For better or for worse, we've already seen this happen as more manufacturers have figured out how to implement the electret drivers properly.

Erlkonig [6/10]

Vision Ear's 13BA, $4500 IEM made out of actual silver. The Erlkonig sports an adjustable tuning switch; unfortunately, the first two settings are pretty much unusable for my preferences because what little treble the Erlkonig has is inundated and bass transient attack takes on a noticeable level of blunting. Settings 3 and 4 are more balanced. The Erlkonig is highly resolving with good amounts of staging chops, but stumbles on the micro-dynamic side of things in the midrange where transient attack takes on something of a dull, in-limbo quality.

EVE20 [4/10]

Uninspired, V-shaped signature sporting VE's signature treble roll-off. A baby VE8 with even worse value proposition.

VE8 [7/10]

Vision Ear's claim to fame and the warm IEM of warm IEMs. The VE8's got fairly average BA bass, but really shines in the lower-midrange, and indeed, this might be the best IEM for male vocalists there is. Unfortunately, the midrange is marred by a precipitous peak at 6kHz which lends to sibilance. Treble exhibits an intentional roll-off past 10kHZ lending the VE8 to a very smooth listen. Perhaps most surprisingly, the VE8 is a highly technical IEM, particularly when it comes to sheer detail retrieval and micro-dynamics. Staging is average, dynamics are fairly average from memory.
 
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