Softears - Discussion & Appreciation
Feb 1, 2021 at 2:50 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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While preparing my review, I have requested the product descriptions from Softears, so now I have more info to share. (Though to me, Softears is still kind of mysterious and there's a lot I could not figure out.) Anyway, I think it is worth updating the first post. The original post is hidden beneath a spoiler-tag below.

About the company

Softears was founded in late 2017, but the big reveal, namely two high-end flagships called "RS10" and "Cerberus" were only announced in 2018. These are two very different CIEM flagships.

I first noticed Softears on WeiBo or WeChat because the founder of MoonDrop was sharing their content and reveal. As confirmed by MoonDrop in the posts below, there is a relationship between the two companies.

At this point, I know nothing about the founder or owner of Softears. Is it funded by another party? Is there a lead designer? Is the founder an engineer that has a past in developing studio monitors? (The last one is a wild guess by me, based on a feeling I had while translating the product information.)
FYI, I learned to read, write and speak Mandarin. I worked for a Chinese company years ago and I lived there for a year. But my Chinese has become quite rusty and I have to use software to check if my written Chinese messages are correct. My username is misleading. When i joined Head-Fi, I was into Kung Fu movies - never thought I'd stick in the community for already 12 years... Sorry for my wallet.

Anyway, here are some bold guesses from me based on some product information and comments I picked up on WeiBo. I think the founder or CTO has a history in designing drivers. Cerberus hints at such a history. But this could also be in regards to loudspeakers - I sense there seems to be a lot of interest in studio speakers - maybe only based on education? @MOONDROP If you can link me up with the founder, I'd like to prepare some interview questions and share the Softears story.

Now, to their quickly growing yet still manageable product overview:

1. RS10 (REFERENCE SOUND 10)

I guess this is probably the big hitter and Softear's showcase design. A really popular IEM that is considered to be near-perfect in every way. Softears is not without competition, though. There are other Chinese high-end brands. But this one gets a lot of praise.
  • complex 5-way design with 10 BA drivers
  • linear-tuned frequency response with sub-bass boost
  • flat impedance
  • near-linear acoustic phase
  • available as custom or universal-fit
  • built-in pressure relief through passive speakers (not counted towards driver count)
  • quite power-hungry for an IEM
  • price around 2,000 - 2,200 USD

2. CERBERUS

Softears seems to know that not everybody is into "reference sound" and released the Cerberus at the same time. A fancy hybrid with 2 electrostatic tweeters for high frequencies, 4 exclusive BA for the midrange and a self-developed 10mm dynamic driver made of carbon fiber with paper dome.
  • 3-way hybrid design with 2EST+4BA+1DD
  • "powerful and rich" sounding
  • available as custom or universal-fit
  • built-in pressure relief (see RS10)
  • better pack out your high-end DAP for this power-hungry IEM
  • low impedance (5Ω)
  • price around 2,000 - 2,200 USD

3. TURII

"Twist your ears" is the slogan for this bold design. It's a single dynamic high-end universal IEM which is an incredible showcase. Magnetic flux is rated at 1.6T but the special part is that the magnet is isolated in a brass chamber and directs the force through a pole? (Do I even make sense?) The wild design of a twisted rectangular housing is because of a complex resonance absorbing chamber with 7 air vents. The product description hints at a history in loudspeaker design.
  • single high-end dynamic driver with PEEK suspension and DLC diaphragm
  • universal-fit
  • natural sound
  • separated magnetic coil with a flux of 1.6T
  • price around 1,300 - 1,500 USD
As I have this model for review, I can only say "hot damn"! Yes, it sounds incredibly natural! The tuning is neutral with a touch of warmth and an evenly elevated bass. The Turii sings. It sounds so liquid and highly detailed at the same time! Hands down, best single dynamic I have yet heard.

4. RSV (REFERENCE SOUND 5)

Drawing attention with solely unaffordable IEM is not easy. So Softears realized they could use a more competitively priced showcase model. It shares the design philosophy of the RS10 with one major difference: efficiency.
  • 3-way design with 5 BA
  • neutral tuning with an enhanced low-end
  • universal-fit (also available as custom-fit?)
  • linear-phase
  • high efficiency (8Ω, 125dB/1VRMS)
  • handmade with gold foil and carbon splitter faceplate
  • around 730 - 800 USD
I have this IEM in my ears right now, the tuning is exceptional. For an all-BA design, I would consider it near-perfect – the closets to my personal HRTF I have ever experienced. Coincidence? Or are Softears geniuses? They definitely have proven that they know what they are doing.

Bonus: Turboo

Softears Turboo is a 2-pin 0.78 connection high-end cable designed for the Turii. Of course it is compatible with other IEMs as well. Pure silver litz, swapable terminations (3.5mm, BAL-2.5mm, BAL-4.4mm).

To be honest, I don't know much about Softears myself. Their reach outside China is still limited. I know they are a very young company and the brand just entered the market late 2018. Apparently their founder was an influential reviewer himself. That could explain the connection that the company has to MoonDrop. Both companies are situated in Chengdu (or close to there) and some rumors say they share some of the R&D and resources. Somebody claimed Softears were the manufacturer. I have no official information about any of that, though. Just some fractured comments and rumors that I have picked up on WeiBo.

Softears has a highly appreciated flagship called RS10. RS is an abbreviation for "Reference Sound" and the number 10 indicates the BA driver count per side. From what I've been told, the RS10 hits the Harman-target on the head. Reviews suggest the RS10 is all kinds of awesome, though the warmer Cerberus, a 3-way design with a dynamic low-end, is easier to get into. Both custom in-ear-monitors are priced at around 13.000 CNY or the equivalent of 2.000 EUR. From my outside perspective it seems as if Softears managed to present themselves and be accepted as a high-end branch of the Chinese manufacturing community.

At the end of 2019 Softears reveiled the Turii, a high-end single dynamic universal at 9.000 CNY ~ 1.400 EUR. Very recently, they also released their fourth product, a more affordable RSV or RS5. ( I can't recall, but I think RSV is priced around ~ 800 EUR after import tax.) It features a lower driver count, but the same design philosophy and coherency as the RS10.

I have the Turii and RSV here right now and I am thoroughly impressed. I will be sharing more impressions, comparisons and measurements soon. Personally, I think the Turii needs to be mentioned alongside final A8000 and DUNU Luna. It's really all kinds of awesome for a single dynamic driver.
And in regards to the RSV I think the "Reference Sound" name is very suitable. That tuning is scarily accurate, IMO. Again, more on that later.

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Feb 1, 2021 at 5:02 PM Post #3 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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I've been jumping back and forth a bit between RSV and Turii. Personally, for my musical taste, the Turii provides a smoothness and lushness that really makes me drool - but it is so subtle that I'd definitely categorize it as neutral.

Anyway, I will start off with the RSV. This IEM is easier for me to rate as I've been a heavy multi-BA user for a very long time. Alongside the RSV I have 6 pairs of CIEM, including 64 Audio A18t and qdc Gemini. I am a huge fan of the InEar ProPhile 8 and 64 Audio U12t. For those that think the Campfire Andromeda is neutral, it will be probably more difficult to find common ground with my assessment.

_KE10312-Bearbeitet.jpg


The Softears RSV (or RS5 or Reference Sound 5) are - put in one word - transparent. Their tuning is basically flawless and almost non-existent. This is a true reference tuning! You could definitely mix with these or use them for production.

Case in point: Last year I have shared a target response that matches my subjective listening. I have taken the tia Fourté, A18t and Solaris and equalized them. When i was done matching them and would consider them to create equal loudness at my preferred listening volume, I measured them and averaged the responses. The original thread can be found here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/equalize-first-measure-second-share-your-results.930234/
There are definitely some points worth discussing, but in the end it's the sound that I would consider perfectly transparent - regardless of how music is produced.

Now behold, this is the RSV (purple) versus my personal target (green) from last year:
softears_rsv_vs_target.png

Of course frequency response isn't everything. But this is one hell of a start and definitely motivates me to deep-dive into the RSV some more! My first impressions, shared in a German forum, matched this target well. I wrote:
- very tight bass with weighty sub-bass
- crispy and clear midrange with a subtle tendency to shout but free from sharpness
- natural and transparent treble with natural shimmer
- fantastic imaging and layering

More to come.
 
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Feb 1, 2021 at 9:55 PM Post #5 of 384
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Both companies are situated in Chengdu (or close to there) and some rumors say they share some of the R&D and resources. Somebody claimed Softears were the manufacturer. I have no official information about any of that, though. Just some fractured comments and rumors that I have picked up on WeiBo.

So long words short, it's more like a relationship between nokia&vertu in old days.
We do share some R&D team and resources ( the midrange driver in S8 is from softears, sharing production line etc.)
While at same time, we make our separate decision of product design and promotions.

They'll extend their market to overseas soon, expect more info.
 
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https://www.moondroplab.com
Feb 2, 2021 at 12:24 AM Post #6 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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We do share some R&D team and resources ( the midrange driver in S8 is from softears, sharing production line etc.)
Thank you for joining the discussion!

Does “etc” include the Illumination? Some say the driver used is the same as Turii. (Although same driver does not necessarily mean same sound.)
 
Feb 2, 2021 at 12:41 AM Post #7 of 384
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Thank you for joining the discussion!

Does “etc” include the Illumination? Some say the driver used is the same as Turii. (Although same driver does not necessarily mean same sound.)
etc also includes some shared engineers and technical resources for example you mentioned turii/illumination, they are not exactly same driver(I'm not the one designed them, so I can't tell what's changed though), but the magnetic structure and the housings front panel(the side which points to your ear) are quite similar.
The cable used in chaconne is also used in RS10/Cerberus/illumination. Like I mentioned in the above post, they share a lot of common technologies, but have some distinction based on our design concept and marketing goal.
 
Moondrop Stay updated on Moondrop at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
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Feb 2, 2021 at 4:18 AM Post #9 of 384
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Does softears design and produce all their BAs in house?
some our BAs are designed by softears and moondrop engineers, (the midrange used by blessing2,s8,solis,RS10,Cerberus), and also the passive driver for Cerberus and RS10.
But we don't produce them ourselves, we commission these from another BA manufacturing company.
 
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Feb 2, 2021 at 4:46 PM Post #11 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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I'm coming back with some early impressions.

The RSV fits all kinds of ear tips, but the nozzle is rather broad and best uses tips with a diameter of 5 - 5.5mm.
The JVC Spiral Dots are really comfortable! However, they provide the highest treble quantity of all that I tried. Might be a tad too hot for some.
Also, the Radius Deep Fit are very comfortable and work really well on the RSV. The way the nozzle is designed, most tips will effectively be "deep fit", though. Treble is tamed slightly.
My preference right now is with the SpinFit CP155 and CP 500. They sound the best, so far. I will try and see if I can capture their effect on the coupler.

The Turii isn't uncomfortable at all. It's similar to Solaris as in that the bulk is mostly outside of the ear. The Turii is actually much smaller even. However, the design is slightly limiting on the fit. I also noticed that I prefer a shallow fit, which creates an exceptionally natural treble. The nozzle is thinner so
SpinFit CP240 are very comfortable, but they affect the treble in a way that doesn't sound harmonious to me.
Final E-tips wouldn't stick, they were the only tips that wanted to slide off.
Currently I am mostly listening with foamies. There are a bunch included but I had an open set of Comply T-400. The sound is noticeably darker, so I will experiment some more.

I mean - based on my last post - I really can't complain about the tuning of the RSV, right? And there is hardly any room for criticism. In the end, it's a very polished multi-BA that challenges the InEar StageDiver 5 for energy and ProPhile 8 for monitoring at the same time. I actually think the midrange is even slightly better tuned than with the 64 Audio U12t – overall RSV and U12t are fairly close. Technically, the U12t is far more impressive, of course. The tia treble extension and the Apex out-of-head placement are without competition, IMHO. But then again, you could probably get Turii and RSV both for the price of the U12t.

If I'd be in the market to grab an audiophile IEM that can do it all, right now, hands down, I think I might even go for the RSV. The level of sound polish is really that good! Until you switch to the Turii...

I've been switching back and forth between the two. I've been playing Classical, Jazz, Vocal, Electro and Rock. Every time, it's a win for the Turii! The Turii has an amazing soundstage and imaging quality. The RSV, too, is flawless. But the Turii goes beyond of placing instruments in the right position. It creates a huge room with amazing depth and air between the layers. And all of them sound lush and natural. The Turii has the better timbre. I don't grasp how that even makes sense. The graph of the Turii shows a stronger upper midrange yet it sounds softer.
The DUNU Luna was great, the Turii is better. So far, the final A8000 was my "audiophile" pick for when I really want to take in all the details a recording has to offer (even over A18t), but I think the Turii might just beat it and also have better tonality. It's no secret that the A8000 sounds a bit tinny and hollow, but that seemed to be "the price to pay" for the insane amount of details. Until now...? IEC 60318-4 below (click here to compare to other IEMs).

softears_turii.png
 
Feb 4, 2021 at 8:35 AM Post #13 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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Comparison time!

softears_rsv_vs_hafdx1.png
RSV vs HA-FXD1

This is the JVC/Drop with the green filters. A very popular IEM, that I did not get into. I shared in the respective thread that I found vocals to sound bright and shrill. The two IEM share a lot in terms of tuning, but the RSV gets the midrange right and sounds far better balanced.

softears_rsv_vs_andromeda.png
RSV vs Andromeda (S)

The dotted line is the original Andromeda. I prefer the stainless steel limited edition (straight line). Overall, I am not the biggest fan of the Andromeda and in a discussion about why I think it isn't neutral or natural-sounding, I got banned from another audiophile forum led by jug ears that tend to hear glare in DACs.

softears_rsv_vs_gemini.png
RSV vs Gemini

This is a CIEM! But I think I got the measurement right and the 10-12 kHz peak is definitely there, which was my only con in the review. I really like Gemini's midrange. I guess I really ought to get it upgraded to the VX. For now, again, RSV sounds better balanced and more homogenous. (Dotted line is with activated bass boost.)

softears_rsv_vs_pp8.png
RSV vs ProPhile 8

The ProPhile 8 is one of the most neutral sounding IEM yet. The default version (also goes by the name 8L) is shown as a dotted line, straight line is with activated switches (or 8VS). RSV's sub-bass has the quantity as 8VS but has the midrange of 8L. The treble is tamed on the RSV which I believe will be appreciated by many.

softears_rsv_vs_sd5.png
RSV vs StageDiver 5

The SD5 has more bass, more mids and more treble. It's really the most prominent tuning of a w-curve. It looks bad on paper, but it actually works and sounds great with high dynamics. RSV is more conservative and flatter, kinda boring in comparison. But after a while SD5 becomes very fatiguing, the RSV don't.

softears_turii_vs_solaris.png
Turii vs Solaris

This is the "OG" Solaris; the real deal with gold faceplate. Most fans will agree that the best part of the Solaris is the bass from the dynamic driver. The Turii has the same bass tuning. Turii's treble is a lot more natural sounding.

softears_turii_vs_luna.png
Turii vs Luna

In my review I described the Luna as having a sort of enhancing filter on vocals. Turii is just overall more balanced, IMO. The bass goes deeper and the higher mids sound more open. Yet I could imagine these two IEM work well together without having to pick a favorite.

softears_turii_vs_a8000.png
Turii vs A8000

The dotted line is the original A8000. The blue straight line is my A8000 after modification as suggested in my review and how I prefer it. Turii sounds less forced, smoother and more open.
 
Feb 5, 2021 at 3:12 AM Post #15 of 384

HuoYuanJia

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Interesting comparisons, do you intend to compare to the moondrop illumination as well?
To be honest, I really haven't planned to do so. I'll be writing a full review on the Turii and I probably will not be putting in the energy to do the same for a product that might be quite similar. If I should get my hands on the Illumination, I could throw in a comparison, though.

I also use an IEC 60318-4, same in-ear coupler as Crinacle. You can view his measurement of the Illumination here: https://crinacle.com/graphs/iems/moondrop-illumination/
Differences I notice:
- Turii has ~2 dB more bass, but that can also be tip-dependent or in regards to measurement. Of course 2dB is also within driver variation and no problem if L+R are matched. But it could just as well be a design choice.
- The upper mids/vocal presence peaks quite a bit higher on the Illumination, ~8 dB over bass or ~12 dB over 1 kHz. Turii will be softer, in comparison it's just ~5 dB over bass or 10dB rise compared to 1 kHz.
- Maybe a little bit flatter bass curve and extension on Turii?
- My curve of Turii shows a lot more air and better high frequency extension. But I would not put too much weight on that, Crinacle's curves all fall quite steep in the treble whereas I use psychoacoustic smoothing.

So going by that, I will assume the Blessing is brighter and more in accordance to near-field neutral tuning. Turii might sound warmer or - how many put it - musical. If there will be technical differences apart from that, I really can't tell.

Ultimately, despite the similarities, I do not think that Turii or Illumination will fight for the same customers. Personally, I do not want an anime girl on my flagship IEM in a cardboard box. I also do not fancy the gold housing at all. Softears' presentation, to me, is more professional. The Turii looks quite mature in the black CNC metal body.
I'm really not a fan of marrying IEM off to anime.
 
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