Aug 2, 2010 at 10:16 PM
Portables Reviewerus Prolificus
- Mar 2, 2009
- Reaction score
Portables Reviewerus Prolificus
- Mar 2, 2009
ECCI (formerly known as Cyclone), the earphone division of Chinese amp manufacturer Storm, has been mentioned here at head-fi most often in relation to the excellent but now-defunct PR1 Pro and PR2 in-ears. Their first two ECCI-branded earphones, the PR100 and PR200, went largely unnoticed despite being extremely capable budget sets due to the somewhat bland sound that disappointed fans of the older Cyclone-branded models. Now aiming to win listeners over with a bit more flavor to their sound, ECCI has released the PR300, designed around re-tuned drivers and all-new housings.
Packaging & Accessories
Like all of the old ECCI and Cyclone models, the PR300 ships in a thin cardboard box barely large enough to enclose the shrink-wrapped hard case. Inside the case are the earphones themselves, a generic shirt clip, and six sets of single flange tips. As with the PR100 and PR200 models, ECCI went ahead and included both wide-bore (UE-style) and narrow-bore (Shure-style) silicone eartips as there are minor differences in sound and fit between them.
-3 sets (S/M/L) narrow-tube single-flange silicone tips
-3 sets (S/M/L) wide-tube single-flange silicone tips
-Large clamshell carrying case
Appearance & Build Quality
The all-new housings are rather handsome in all of their slate gray metallic glory. They are made of an extremely light metal and are about half as heavy as the metal shells of the PR100/PR200. Consequently the PR300 does feel less solid than the cheaper models but still more than holds its own against similarly-priced offerings from other manufacturers. The metal nozzles of the PR300 are much shorter than those of the PR100/PR200 so the trick of pulling a double-flange tip deep onto the nozzle for extra isolation won’t work. The sound tubes are protected by the same fine mesh filters as on the older earphones.
The cable, on the other hand, is a definite downgrade from the excellent silver cord used by the PR100/PR200. It is thinner, more rubbery, and far more prone to tangling. In addition, the sliding cord cinch is missing completely. On the upside, the PR300 does feature larger and more flexible strain reliefs on either end of the cable. All in all the build of the earphones should definitely hold up if they are taken care of properly but just doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ effect as the rock-solid construction of the ECCI’s two cheaper models.
Fit & Comfort
In a word: excellent. As mentioned above, the housings of the PR300 are extremely light. They are also quite small and tapered towards the rear. Wearing them either cord-up or cord-down is extremely comfortable and the soft and thin cord conforms easily in either configuration. The only thing I miss is the extra-long nozzles of the PR100/PR200 as they allowed for a deeper fit but at this point that’s a perversion – the PR300 fits fine and sounds great with a shallow seal.
Isolation & Microphonics
Isolation is average at best as the PR300s are shallow-fitting and vented at the rear for increased airflow. Aftermarket bi-flange tips can be used to increase noise suppression slightly but it will still only just reach the levels offered by the PR100/PR200. In addition, due to the rear vent, wind noise can be an issue in extremely windy conditions.
Microphonics are average – not bothersome when worn over-the-ear but quite annoying otherwise. The included shirt clip helps.
Driver Diameter: 9mm
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Frequency Range: 20~22000Hz
Distortion: <= 1%
Stereo Separation: <= 3%
Rated Power: 10mW
Max. Power: 40mW
Plug: 3.5mm I-plug, gold-plated
Cord length: 1.3 meters
All on-the-go listening was done straight from an unamped Sansa Fuze using a selection of tracks in 192-320kbps mp3 format featuring a variety of genres including different subgenres of Rock & Metal, Pop, Acoustic, Blues, Jazz, and Electronica. Benefits of a portable amp are deduced from running the earphones through a 5x gain mini3 connected to the Fuze via a vampire-wire LOD. All critical listening is done via an optical-fed iBasso D10 with stock opamps using a significantly wider selection of tracks in FLAC and Windows Media lossless formats.
The two previous models released by ECCI – the PR100 and PR200 (reviewed here) – were balanced and capable all-rounders – mid-centric if anything. As such, they were a bit bland and boring despite the slight bass boost and strong midrange presence. In a nutshell, the PR300 is a slightly V-Shaped version of the PR100/PR200 sound with a bit more clarity and air thrown in. As such, the new model reminds me of the company’s former glory, finally delivering some of the spark that made the PR1 Pro so endearing to me.
The bass of the PR300 is tight and punchy – not particularly powerful but very accurate and quite impactful. Extension is good and bass body/fullness is typical of the better dynamics in the price range. The midrange is free of bass bleed and quite smooth and pleasant overall. The older ECCI earphones had mids that were thick and somewhat buttery. The PR300 sounds much more airy and resolved without becoming thin or dry a-la RE0/Hippo VB. The improved clarity and detail of the PR300 bring them much closer to the best-in-class category that the PR1 Pro so gracefully occupied, putting them on level with the likes of the ViSang R02 and Brainwavz M1. The treble of the new ECCI earphones is quite accurate and sounds much livelier than that of the PR100/PR200. Top-end roll-off is reduced and the listener is faced with plenty of sparkle. Those who find treble tiring in large quantities may want to give these a pass but for the average listener the PR300 provides a good alternative to the similarly-sparkly Brainwavz M1, which is slightly more mid-forward and boasts better extension on either end but has even more vigorous treble response. In terms of presentation, the PR300 mimics the reasonably-sized soundstages of the PR100/PR200 models. The improved sense of air, however, helps the PR300 image better than the older models do. The presentation isn’t perfect and doesn’t quite give the same overall sense of space as the similarly-priced Brainwavz M1 and ViSang R02 but it is very good for the asking price.
The ECCI PR300 is the company’s latest and most convincing attempt at offering hi-fi sound for lo-fi money. Those who have heard the PR100 or PR200 will find the general signature of the PR300 quite familiar but should note improved treble response and better all-around clarity and resolution. While the new housings are not quite as impressive to the touch and the eye as the shiny shells of the older ECCI models, they are smaller, lighter, and tapered towards the rear, offering a more compliant and unobtrusive fit. All things considered, the PR300 is a noteworthy entry in the increasingly crowded and amazingly competitive <$100 price bracket, offering even more capable sound than the lower-end models with none of the blandness. Highly recommended for those in search of a balanced IEM with a bit of bass punch and energetic treble.