Saturday, 3 December 2016

1MORE Capsual Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones Review by mark2410

1MORE Capsual Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones Review by mark2410

Thanks to 1MORE for the review sample.

First Impressions:  Yeah yeah, don’t ask why they call them in ear headphones, they just do.  The box, well, 1More have put some serious effort into making same fancy ass boxes.  I know intellectually that box shouldn’t matter, it is not important but they do go somewhat to creating peoples first impressions of a product and the impression it gives is superb.  Such a fancy box.  Go have a look on YouTube and I’m sure there will be someone “reviewing” them which really just consists of them opening the box and saying yeah they sound great.  Still the box opening is impressive.  Now having had the Triple-Driver before it was crazy good and so I have high hopes for these.  The only thing I note is these are priced so closely to the Triple’s these will need to really do something special to get a recommendation over their siblings.

In the ears and, well no surprises that they are great.  The bass is a little more BA like than dynamic, it must be a smaller driver, nicely articulate but not so eager to get explosive.  The treble though I can hear it beginning to break up at the top.  Hmmm I’ll need to whip out the Triples to check but for the 10 quid difference in these and the Triples these are not coming off that well.  Not bad or anything but I’m not seeing quite why I’d suggest these over their siblings for the sake of a tenner?

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  Unusually presented.  They are a dynamic, they are but they are much more BA like in their presentation.  It’s not a huge dynamic driver so it’s not a big air mover and thus you get a rather more BA like even descent.  It’s quickly paced, its nimble and nicely articulated but…. well while it’s really good for a dynamic I’d be tempted to have used a BA instead inside them.  If you’re not going to let a big dynamic do what big dynamics doo well, why use a dynamic?  You know it’s actually a little funny.  If these had come out a couple years ago at this price I’d be going nuts how great it is but I just can’t quite get the Triple out of my head.  Ahh the capsule puts is such a good performance but the Triple best it and what’s worse, the Dual bests it (Dual review coming shortly.)  The capsule in raw audio terms while excellent on its own has made some compromises.  Apparently the capsule has been made with people in mind that need little things, little tiny earphones that can melt away under a helmet perhaps.  Now while they do that well, ditto for sleeping the fact is there has been an acoustic compromise.  It just hasn’t quite the skill of a good BA low driver and it hasn’t the presence of a good and good sized dynamic so its depth peters out a little early.  Not that it’s bad or anything but its siblings are so stunningly good the little capsule comes up a little short beside them.

Its overall quantity level is a tiny bit elevated but otherwise it’s a fairly natural level.  Nothing over boosted nor particularly attention stealing.

Mids:  Very good, I can’t quite tell which of the two drivers it is but I believe it’s the BA.  The vocals are a touch thin and focused.  They are also slightly slanted towards girly vocals than they are male.  There is a certain fullness and body they just don’t really have in the lower vocal depths.  It’s all so clean and nicely articulated.  I can’t help but feel bad for them, they are really very nice but with its siblings beside it it’s just not quite as wonderful as they are.  They both haunt had to make compromises to get into that teeny tiny body they have.  Yet I don’t even want to say if you ride a motorbike then great for you as I don’t think you should be using earphone and on the roads other than walking.  You won’t hear traffic and while I don’t care if you get yourself killed so much it’s those you’ll take with you.  Everything I play on here sounds great it is, no really it’s all great.  Really great sounding.  And then I pick up the Triple and the Capsule just falls that little bitty short.  I know I’m not being fair to it, I should be treating it on its own merits, I know that yet I can’t stop myself.  Yes if you must have something tiny and your budget can’t cope with a q-JAYS or an AAW Q then sure this is super small, and it sounds really good.

Highs:  Well, it’s the same story.  Its good, really it is really good…… but its siblings exist.  Now this and the Dual seem dangerously close acoustically and while I think the Dual is a little over edgy at times it seems to be the better resolving.  There is just something with the Capsule that they can sound broken up at times.  I’m not sure if it’s something everyone would notice but with the good amp out and with the lighter DAC in use you can hear its being a little brittle and scratchy up top.  For the money its not something I would normally have any issues with, treble is the bit that is really hard to get right and it’s why you get earphones that cost very much more than these.  Yet its siblings are soooooo closely priced and because they haven’t gone for a teeny tiny housing they haven’t had to compromise anything.  It is always an enjoyable rendition though, don’t mistake my pernickety nit picking as saying they are bad, for they most certainly are not.  They just aren’t quite as good as its siblings is all.

Quantity wise they are rather naturally balanced.  The treble isn’t very pronounced and especially in treble relaxed tracks they can be quite subdued.  It’s only when you fire up some bright splashy treble that you really notice them come to the fore.  So not really one for treble heads, it’s only a light, faint little diminishing of treble.

Soundstage:  These maybe by their shape. The dynamic I thing being a little pushed back that these sound a little bit bigger than you would normally find in a BA only affair. Not that they are vast they do have a good degree of sideways space and I good bit of distance.  Not so much the roundly enveloping sound stage as it lacks a bit of depth but its width is great.  Nicely open too.

Fit:  Well the fit may be somewhat intended to be worn down but if you flick them round they can be worn up just fine.  That’s what I did and they worked great, no issues at all to speak of.

Comfort:  Great.  The things are really small and you can completely forget you’re wearing the things after a minute or two.  Tiny and weigh hardly anything.  So you can wear them all day long without any issues.  I’m also told you can wear them under a motor bike helmet perfectly comfortably too.  Though I’m going on record as saying I do not advise you to do that.  If you’re riding a bike you should not be using any earphones.  Now if you want ones for sleeping in, that’s different.  These would work great and you can stick them and in put your head down with no problems at all.  I slept with them to test them, no issues here.

Microphonics:  If you wear them down you do, you get quite a bit actually too.  Plus there is no chin slider either so I’d say wear them up.  Wearing up you don’t really get any unless you go out of your way to tap the cable. 

Aesthetics:  Well this in one issue that while its siblings may sound better, these look waaaaaaaaay nicer.  Now the Triple does come in a silver that looks fab but the black and gold then the white and gold of the Dual, yeah the Capsules are considerably better looking.  Yeah visually there isn’t much competition these look rather good don’t they.

Build Quality:  Well they would appear to be first rate.  Without ripping them to tiny bit or borrowing a time machine they seem good.  They look really very good and put together.

Cable:  It’s nice.  I’m not generally wild about weave coated ones but it seems good. Nicely flexible and the jack and Y splitter are metal so there isn’t anything I can fault with it.

Isolation:  They may be hybrid but they almost isolate like an all BA.  Not quite BA levels but damn close.  So easily fine for on a bus, out and about walking and they might just do you for flights and Tube commutes too.  Naturally that means you will not, even with no music going, notice traffic so if you’re going to do that go get a donor card first.

Accessories:  Well.  To me it seems like these have been made to be about the looks and such crowd.  You see while the Dual and Triple get a nice little hard case these for some reason get a little pleather baggy.  I mean it’s a niceish baggy but yeah, can I have the hard case please?  Otherwise you get 4 pairs of silicone tips and a little rubber sheath thing for the buds, not sure why you’d use them but they are kinda cool.

Phone Use:  I fired up the phone and gave a call out, I was told I was audible but that I sounded like I was underwater.  A little strange but conversing was easy enough so who know what the cause of that was.  The control buttons all worked fine too.  Yep the play/pause etc etc button and the volume up and down controls worked fine on my Nexus 5 too.  Nice.

Amped/Unamped:  Now in terms of needing outright power to be their best, well no they didn’t really need gobs of power.  They sounded good out of anything but….. they were not the loudest things ever.  I noticed it on the phones that the volume dial was going up a little higher than normal.  Not that I couldn’t make them go louder than I’d ever want with even the phones they still wanted a little more juice than most.  Yet weirdly like I say they didn’t especially need tons of power to sound good.  Of course the better amps sounded better but the gulf wasn’t vast.  A  little bit strange they behaved this way but whatever.

Value:  On their own merits yes they are really nice value.  Really good audio quality for a really competitive price.  But….. its siblings.  Unless you need something with tiny buds or just can’t abide its sibling’s looks then I cannot see many situations where I’d say save the tenner and take these over the Triples.  Yes they are good value and you get your money’s worth but the Triples are better.  I do like the Capsules but I just don’t know why you’d pick them unless you need something really tiny that you can sleep with in your ears.

Conclusion:  Ahh.  I feel bad for them.  Well not really but you know what I mean, they have so much going for them.  They honestly have so many great qualities but…. the Triples are only a tiny bit more and beat them in almost every regard.  Looks and size aside which for me aren’t the best reasons to pick an earphone I just cannot for the life of me see me ever saying to anyone take these over the Triples.  Seriously I’d sooner tell you to skip a meal or two and get the Triples over these.  Not that there is anything wrong with them, it’s just the Trebles are that bit better all over the place.

Now the Capsules on their own merits are a great little IEM.  There is nothing it does badly, in any regard it’s a good solid option with some pretty capable acoustic chops.  There isn’t anything it screws up.  Acoustically it is really nice and really capable.  It’s pretty to look at.  It’s really super comfy to wear all day long.  It is really nothing but positive things I can say about it.  It’s a good choice and I’m sure that anyone who buys one or gets one as a Christmas present will be thrilled with them.  Honestly I don’t see anyone being unhappy getting the Capsule.

So would I / should you buy one?  Me, no.  In a heartbeat I’d take the Triples. No question.  You? Well if your reading this your probably a bit of an audio buff so likely for you, you’ll likely go with the Triples too.  However if you want a gift for someone, where its looks matter and its tiny proportions matter too, then sure why not.  The capsule is a good sounding, quality product and I really cannot envisage any one being presented with a pair and being disappointed by them.

1MORE Capsual Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones Quick Review by mark2410

1MORE Capsual Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones Quick Review by mark2410

Thanks to 1MORE for the review sample.

Brief:  The really pretty sister, of Claudia Schiffer.

Price:  £90 or US$90

Specifications: Type: In-Ear, Color: Black, Nominal Impedance: 16 Ω, Sensitivity: 100±3 dB /1mW, Driver Unit: Balanced Armature Driver+ Dynamic Driver, Weight: 14g, Frequency Range: 20-40,000Hz, Plug: 3.5 mm, Rated Power: 5mW, Length: 1.25m, Wire Material: Enameled Copper Wire.

Accessories:  4 pairs of tips, “silicone extension sleeve for larger ear sizes,” pleather baggy thing.

Build Quality:  I can’t fault anything they appear to be great.  Cable seems nice.

Isolation:  Very good.  It may be a hybrid but they isolate almost as well as an all BA design.  Easily fine for on a bus or out and about. Tube and flights should be okay too probably.  That does mean that you won’t hear traffic even with no music playing so do remember to use your eyes near traffic.

Comfort/Fit:  Great on both counts, tiny things and they fit me just great. Happy to wear all day.

Aesthetics:  Rather nice.  Ignoring my brief these are actually the best looking 1More.   So diminutive and they just melt away, like them lots.

Sound:  Now this is where the brief comes into play.  The capsules are great, really they are really good.  Their problem is that while they are great, the only a tiny fraction more expensive Triples are better.  Not just a tiny bit better but they are noticeably better.  Hands down better.  Unless you really care about their looks and the size differences I just can’t see any occasion where I’d tell someone to buy the Capsules over the Triples.  Not that I think anyone would be upset to receive a pair on Christmas morning, the Capsules on the own are really good.  I myself very much like them and have enjoyed every minute I’ve spent with them.  But I enjoyed the Triples more.  Flavoured to be a relatively flavour lacking IEM, the bass is almost BA in its attributes and style.  Lithe and agile and diminishing in depth.  The mids are grand and the treble is good, accurate but can be a tiny bit gritty before going into its decline.  All things I’d forgive at its price no problem yet….. Its siblings I just can’t quite keep out of my mind.  It’s a nice overall acoustic balance being rather naturalistic and easy going.  All in all a very pleasant affair that I’d be fine with using every day.

Value:  Very good.  However the Triples are better.

Pro’s:  Sound great. Great balance.  Super small.

Con’s:  Its Siblings exist.

Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEM Earphone Review by mark2410

Massdrop x Noble X Universal IEM Earphone Review by mark2410

Thanks to Massdrop for the loaner.

First Impressions:  Now my experience previously with Noble have been a bit limited.  I heard some back at Canjam London and I wasn’t exactly blown away with them.  In my brief notes I did more than once suggest I may not be getting a great fit.  So with these from the peeps at Massdrop, at such a slashed price I’m a little bit anxious.  Might they be brilliant for that price or might I find that I wasn’t having fit issues, that Noble’s and I just aren’t meant for each other?  Anyway the package eventually arrived after the ever helpful people at Fedex proved that while getting things halfway round the world isn’t an issue but actually showing up rather than just claiming you have, yet mysteriously didn’t leave a card, was.  Hmm yeah funny how when a company claims they tried to deliver and you weren’t in, when you were, somehow it’s the one time they don’t leave a card.  Funny that isn’t it Fedex?  Once I had them in my hand, with their little plastic case.  Hmm a pretty looking little case but on opening it up it’s all a little snug in there no?  Must grab that crazy xDuoo metal thing I was playing with the other week.  The shells that Noble are using are for cost reasons ones they already have developed, so while only 2 drivers in there they are really big IEM’s.  Tbh I’m fine with that, I mean there is nothing wrong with the shells so why waste money on something so trivial.  Though a bigger case might have been nice, maybe.  Ahh well it’s not like you can’t buy ones.  Still they are pretty nice looking things.  Nothing magical but nice.

Finding some foamy tips that were on my desk and then in the ears.  Hmm.  Well these aren’t bass monsters that’s for sure, though I have been using one lately.  Nice mid-range, something granular in there, and the extension on both ends seems a little diminutive.  Nice, clean vocally something not quite Shure like but yet Shure is flashing up in my brain.  Lots of clarity and pith, got a little punchy heart in there somewhere too.  Treble is rather polite in the upper ranges but upper mids are nicely pronounced.  I can see much Tori Amos and Susan Wong in my near future.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear. 

Lows:  Interesting.  They are pretty clean, it’s actually a little bit of fresh air to get some good old fashioned BA bass on the go from all these hybrids these days.  BA’s I know don’t please everyone with their lesser amount of air movement but I’ve always been a little bit of a fan.  It’s all so clean and unencumbered.  It feel like it could move so much faster than a flabby slow dynamic.  Of course some dynamics are great but they never quite have the same limitlessly fast agility of a good BA.  There is a politeness and accuracy to them I find so pleasing.  It may have become a little unfashionable of late with dynamic BA hybrids being all the rage but I like it.  No softening no yielding.  It is precisely the amount it means to be when it means to be with the pace it means to have.  In my favourite sort of vocal fests, such as Des’ree’s “Proud to be a Dread” the bass line is an accompaniment.  Her vocals, and her rather fun lyrics are supposed to be the star of the show and the bass produced here ensures that.  I know that many will want more, mostly more in quantity but more aggression and more bombast too.  These are about being gently and politely accurate for the most part.  Now if you do want to push them, throw in some bass heavy stuff it is a little more inclined to punch than it is to sustain a vigorous low.  It’ll give a hearty little thump but it’s not where it’s at its best.

These are about moderate, pleasing and accurate bass that doesn’t ever want to command the centre stage position.  It’s much more happy when its low piano notes or a low cello than it is with synthetic overblown lows.

Mids:  This is where they do their best.  Rather a moderately mid centric sound too.  Not entirely so but with the polite bass and the upper treble tamed the mids really have the most space in which to really explore matters and show off.  They can swoop and soar with a grand degree of skill.  They are really most excellent.  Flicking back and forth with a few things they do come across as having a better breadth to them than other mid focused things like the SE530.  Still for all their accomplishments there don’t quite have that gloriously buttery creamy Shure hyper fluidity.  These sound the more realistic and I know the Shure’s are over done but damn they are good.  These are the on paper, more realistic and thus I feel like I can’t fault them for it.  They aren’t just captivating me the way I like best and loosing myself into them.  Detail wise they again, I can’t really fault them.  They aren’t the most detailed ever, they are a tiny bit glossed over in their presentation but they would be easily capable enough to be used as monitors for vocals.  Listening to “Papa Can You Hear Me” several times I’m very happy saying that the mids are of a superb quality.  Not the most mesmerising mids, nor the most beautifully fluid but at their US$250 price tag I have no complaints and the de have a better sense of breadth than the likes of the SE530 can muster.

Quantity wise while the X’s could be called middy they are only a bit so.  They are not really all that middy but its more that they don’t do the V shaped boosted bass and treble that is so commonly found.  Thus these will be relatively middy to most listeners more typical fare.  These are tuned for proper grownups who want a properly balanced product that allows them to hear everything and net just dazzling treble and thumping bass.

Treble:  I’ve really already told you, the treble is not all that pronounced.  The detail levels are very good as you would expect from an item at this sort of quality level.  The things is it’s done properly and the treble from their BA drivers are sculpted in such a way as they don’t linearly ascend and then do what BA’s do.  Get edgy and hard.  Here they are in a gently decay before rolling off more quickly.  These are proper monitor tuning so that you could listen to them all day long and not suffer from listening fatigue.  For me the level is just about perfect and along with its rather good details levels I feel are just about spot on.  Now if you are perhaps a little more err, mature, and your hearing range in perhaps no longer quite what it once was then you may find that the subtlety of the treble isn’t what you need.  It’s overall soft and easy, much more about delicate refinement than it is about hurling detail at you.  These are very gentle, easy going, easy on the ear.

Quantity wise this presentation is going to mean that if you slap on very treble heavy stuff, things that will normally ravage your ears will be tamed.  It will be mollified to more gentle style.  Not quite scotch by a roaring fine mellow but they certainly are more at home with more gentle pieces than with dazzelfests.

Soundstage:  For being a BA they are unusually well sized.  Maybe it’s that big enclosure they sit in at work?  Either way they sound very atypically big for a BA based IEM.  They sound big, well distanced, spacious and with a nice amount of air too.  It’s a bit uncommon for a BA but whatever they have done to make it happen, it works and give a very pleasing soundscape.

Fit:  Super easy.  Now I don’t know why I had issues with the previous Nobles, maybe it was just that I needed foamy tips?  When I tried these I went to foamy ones right away and then I had no issues at all.  Easy, shove in and done.  The only thing of note is that they sit relatively shallow, what with their very large housings so you have to go to big tips and they do sit a little shallow for my tastes.  Still with the ear hooks they were plenty stable enough.

Comfort:  Great.  Like I say they sat shallow but otherwise perfect.  Physically they were great and their acoustic balance meant they went ever aurally fatiguing either.  So I could and did wear them for hours and hours with no issues at all.

Cable:  So this cable is some new, fancy something special cable from Noble.  Well so I’m told but as I don’t have any Nobles in my stable of IEM’s I don’t have any to compare to.  lol, yeah so it’s something special apparently.  Now it is a pretty nice cable. The ear guides work fine and they are removable.  The cable is a thin braided affair and it’s very flexible in use.  I look and it’s reminding me of something but I can’t quite think what.  Anyway, cable it’s nice.  The Y splitter and jack and fine too, nothing super special but eminently functional.

Microphonics:  In normal usage I didn’t really get any.  There is a chin slider there too if you have issues but unless I tapped the cable with my fingers then I never got any in use.  Being the shape that they are you really have to wear them up and if you wear things up they are normally pretty good.  I think it’s probably helped by the guides being pretty short.

Isolation:  Very good.  They aren’t the very best because the do sit a bit shallow but they are BA based and sealed.  So while they are a bit so so as Balance Armature IEM’s go they are better than pretty much every dynamic in existence.  If iso matters to you this is the sort of thing you want over a hybrid that has to be open for the dynamic.  These will do for bus, out and about and while not my ideal choice for Tube or flight’s they would do just fine.  That of course means that if you are using, even with no music playing liable to get yourself run over if you’re near traffic and not making use of your eyes. 

Aesthetics:  Hmm. Nice. I rather like the blue colour of the outer and the Noble patterned outer is pleasant.  Nothing I’d say is super gorgeous or anything but nothing about it is visually offensive either.  Nice but nothing special.

Build Quality:  Noble have a rather good reputation when it comes to construction.  Nothing really about these has given me cause to question that but neither was I blown away.  It’s a quality, expensive product so you expect it to be well made don’t you.  It is.

Amped/Unamped:  Well, they want power.  No no, they want all of the power.  They want all of the power and then even more power.  They were easily at their best when running out of the Solo Ultra Linear.  Even the FiiO E7/E9 combo wasn’t cutting it with them.  I don’t know why as it wasn’t a volume issue as even the phones could drive them plenty loud, yet they couldn’t eek the best audio quality out of them.  Colder also helped clean them up, so the Studio worked better than the big HM650 but I was really a little surprised.  They really don’t need power to get loud, they actually were really easy to drive loud, very very easy yet they didn’t perform at their best unless hooked up to the big Solo.  Not something you see often, I mean the big amp usually does give the best audio quality which is why it’s there after all but even jumping down to the E7/E9 combo and they were noticeably not as great.  All the while they were super easy to drive to stupid loud.  I don’t know exactly what the root of this was, maybe it’s an impedance thing, the E9 I think has some additional impedance in its output so maybe that was it?  I really don’t know.  So my suggestion would be do amp them, amp them well and if possible make it a cooler, dryer amp to make the best of them.

Value:  Well once you’re in this level of quality value starts to go a little bit out the window.  I mean the audio difference in quality between something at US$250 and US$500 is really rather small.  Diminishing returns begins to kick in hard once you get past about £100 so value starts to have less meaning.  Now they are listed as having an RRP of US$500 but as I understand these are a special, design made my Noble for Massdrop so I don’t know if they will ever be sold at $500.  Now I know also that these have been made with audio quality in mind specifically and to do it cheaply.  So things like the housing, fora dual BA, yeah it’s huge.  It doesn’t need to be but as Noble pointed out this is a design they have tested and know works so why waste money redesigning a new one when a major concern is cost?  You don’t, it’s stupid to waste money on things like that.  This is aimed at Headfi peeps, hard core audio fans that care about the audio and the cost, things like looks and housing size just aren’t important.  My sort of people.  So to my peeps I answer are these good value?  Well yes.  You’ll get a proper quality product with high levels of detail and an excellent balance.  It’s not to say you can’t find things more to your tastes especially if you want something flavoured but there are very evenly handed and with a hair middy presentation with moderate extensions on either end.  It’s a highly grown up product at a not quite so grown up price.

Conclusion:  These are good, very good.  I like them very much and yet I don’t love them.  Having been playing with the SE530 and the SE420 these are more like the 420 in the character.  The 530 is a hyper middy, hyper liquidy over done but gorgeous sounding mid-range.  These are more like the everything on paper, more realistic 420.    These do last better on the bottom end and they have a much more expansive soundstage than the 420 making these the much more enjoyable.  There are enjoyable, the 420 is a bland and boring as things get at times.  These are more grand more spacious and that bottom does have a little more grunt in it.  It’s also quite notable what that bit of space can do too.  There is a more live, airy something to everything.

Down side wise, well the housing rather big sound that could be a problem for some.  Its real potential down side is that it’s not exciting.  I can see some coming to a product like the X and they see US$20 earphones and think oh, well its RRP is US$500 so it must have all of da everything.  It doesn’t.  It is not bombastic in the bass, it is not scintillating in the treble.  It’s a comfortable, highly capable and mostly evenly balanced product.  It hasn’t got bags of drama inside it, it’s going to be too boring for some.  It is a grown up, monitor like, easy going detailed and lacking in flavour.

So would I / should you buy one?  Me, yes.  This sort of sound signature is very much me.  Great mids with neither extreme bass nor extreme treble.  It’s so easy and gentle on the ear.  Plenty of detail but it hasn’t some overcompensating issue where it feels it must hurl it at your face.  I hate that, attention seeking, screaming hyperactive child.  I like things more like this.  Clean, simple, elegant, confident in its own abilities where you may casually take or leave whatever detail level you wish.  Something soothing and easy on the ear.  Something where Barbara can belt out songs to her dead father.  “Papa Can You Hear Me” is the perfect song for these.  Such acoustic simplicity, scale, purity, delicate, gently beautiful.  There is a soul, a joy, a sadness, a passion lurking just beneath their mild mannered sensibilities.  Something aching yet deep yet somehow light and airy all at once.