Thursday, 27 January 2011

Maximo iMetal iM-590 Review

Maximo iMetal iM-590 Review

First Impressions: Ooooh how slick does the box look, très posh. This box has clearly been planned to take their apple esq named product to the shelves of an apple store. These things really really look the part packaging wise, in a shop these will certainly go down well. Opening them up and lot and lots of bits and bobs here and they all look and feel good quality. However I do want to moan about the extension cable, if you are going to include an extension cable then please make the cable attached to the IEM short. Maximo isn’t the only company I have seen this from but it just renders the extension useless to me and I much prefer modular IEMs. Everything looks pretty, the case is a bit silvery though isn’t it even though I live in the most liberal city on earth in the middle of the world’s greatest hippy fest, going out with that case is still going to be daring the questioning of one’s masculinity (actually wearing a sequin crop top wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in this city but you get my point.) Colour aside it’s just like the old style Shure cases, smacks of quality and useful too, I like it.

Hmm the tips are really strange and unusual on these, fit me fine on first go but just look weird. Hmm driver flex, I hate that but did right itself fairly quickly so no big deal. Ooh a little tag on them telling me they like a little burn in, oh I greatly approve. Sound alright but off to the burn in machine you go.

Source is 5Gipod via icon mobile or the icon mobile as a dac

Lows: The lows and bass on these are fine. It’s of a good and decent quality, nicely controlled fairly deep with enough punch there to satisfy most. It’s really pretty good in every way but it doesn’t stand out or distinguish itself in any way. Its good clean neutral bass, not too much, not too little. If your after some bass monsters look elsewhere but they certainly have no problem spiting it out if a song calls for it.

Mids: The mids are definitely happier with a male voice if a touch distant in comparison to the female voice. Mids at first sound good, clean and forward but after a while it becomes evident that there is an upper mid spike that on some tracks certain ladies really blast it out at you. A little Faith Hill there and ye gods woman calm down. She vocally just takes that upper mid spike and runs with it, she never sounds terrible but it certainly has me reaching for the volume control. Its rather a shame as it makes the mids feel a little compressed but otherwise pleasant enough. On male vocals the spike is missed and things are much more controlled and the mids are much more in balance with the lows and highs, Kristian Leontiou sounds just perfectly as he should with these. “Story Of My Life” is exactly the right song for these male voice and nothing too dramatic going on elsewhere. Calm vocals that’s what these want or else they may take a note and run with it.

Highs: Highs are quite reasonable in fact, fairly nicely done. Again I feel like they are fine, good but nothing spectacular going on here like the lows. I feel I ought to be saying more here but there just isn’t that much to say about them. They are nicely in balance and reasonably detailed and clear but nothing special. A fraction recessed compared to the mids and a fraction hard for my liking.

Soundstage: Again another area where they are pretty good but again nothing magical going on here. Definitely on the better than average side though.

Comfort: Hmm they gave me no problems but they did always feel present, I never really forgot they were in like I do with others, don’t get me wrong they never hurt or were actively uncomfortable in any way. I just was always aware of their presence that’s all. Possibly could be due to my choosing to wear these up rather than down which they were clearly designed to be worn as.

Fit: When I first put these in I though oh no, driver flex, crap. Thankfully they weren’t too hard to get them sitting so they were happy. It wasn’t perfect as driver flex annoys me big time but it wasn’t really a significant issue and after a few minutes they were in and sitting fine.

Cable: First impressions of the cable are “oooh quality” it’s braided and looks lovely. To those of us in the know think “I’ve seen this somewhere before” it so reminiscent of the cable the Klipsch custom series use but not quite as stiff. The cable really really looks the part but if you are wearing these down then you had better make use of the shirt clip and the neck slider thingy. Microphonics otherwise is a bit of a bugger. The cable really is pretty though, the silver Y-splitter and jacks look really very nice and I really like the slight angling of the jack. Aesthetically they are absolutely first class and being metal should be equally durable. On the whole I have to say I like the cable but I really would have liked it more if it had been modular like say Shure or Denon, a minor niggle though.

Unamped: Next to no difference whatever I used to drive them, run absolutely fine directly out of the ipod hp or the computer

Value: An RRP of us$60 but seems to be available for about us$50. Note that I couldn’t find anywhere in the UK with these for sale other than e-bay where one shop had them for us$60 or £36, pretty cheap but their postage charge is us$30 or £18!!!!! For us$60 yeah these are pretty reasonable, sound wise you can find better but these are aimed at apple users so aesthetics matter and these look great, they look very much a quality product and have a very good accessory bundle to go with them. Yes I’m not a fan of the colour of the very very metrosexual silver case but that is nothing more than a minor quibble. The sound quality too is perfectly good for the money and while I have no hesitation in saying I think the PL-50 is better the iM-590 has more than enough to keep it a worthy contender for your money. Compared to most things its likely to be sat next to in an apple store then for a similar price it’s going to be the better sounding id bet. What this will really really shine in is the gift market, the whole package looks great and it sounds good.

So while if you hunt you can get better audio quality for the money, this is close and comes with a kickass package so it definitely represents very good value for money.

Isolation: For a dynamic it’s rather good, enough to block out most outside noise you would rather not be hearing. It’s not a Shure but it’s certainly good enough to block out traffic or commuters or for you not to be pissing of co workers with your secret passion for Lady Gaga and her waxing lyrical about desiring to ride on a “disco stick,” whatever one of those may be.

Final conclusion: On the whole I like these, they aren’t special and magical but they are a good solid quality item. Acoustically they are good but nothing that makes me go “ooooh” everything is adequately good if a little to dynamic and shouty in the upper mids at times which while that may bother me a little it is not a massive problem. The highs are fine too but they like a lot of things get a little uncontrolled and harsh at volume and when things really get going in a song. It’s nothing terrible it just makes you turn down the volume a bit.

Overall sound wise they are good, not great but definitely good maybe even pushing towards very good. These would represent a good solid choice, certainly a vast jump up from the likes of iBuds or other bundled bits of junk you get with dap’s.

What makes these really stand out to me is the accessory bundle and their looks, they really do look nice. I especially like the inclusion of a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter if it’s of use to you then it’s a godsend, really the 595 (the 590 but has a microphone on it) is the version that’s going to sell I think and its inclusion will be most welcome to those who listen to music on their 2.5mm jacked mobiles. Edit: the mic version is actually called the iP-HS5, and the forth coming mic and remote control version will be the iP-595.

All in all these are a nice, good value bundle with a pleasant, fairly balanced slightly bright sound.

Beta Brainwavz Review

Beta Brainwavz Review

Right, review time.

The box arrives, yey.

First impression. Argh ye gods, the light the blindingly bright light. The letter accompanying these did say they need a burn in and so off they go to the white/pink/brown noise generator. Otherwise known as my old ibook.

Roughly 120 hours later (letter said 100 should be sufficient) it’s time to put these back in my ears and see that they have become. Bass monsters these are not, if you’re a bass head you can stop reading now these are not for you and never will be. In their default state without the extra little filters they have and unamped these things are bright. I mean oh my god they are bright, after a few hours of listening over the course of a couple of days the filters had to go on and they have stayed on ever since. I did briefly try the Betas with my icon mobile, even more super bright so that combo lasted a few minutes never to be seen again.

Tip experimentation leads me to the big bi-flange that came with them. It gave me a great fit and comfortable. The other weird straight rubber tips were comfortable but I never felt they gave me a very snug seal but tips as always are very personal. What works for me might for no one else and vice versa, but no problems at all on that front.

Amp experimentation, you know I actually prefer the E3 with these. Bass boosts and tones down the brightness in the highs in a way the E5 doesn’t. So while normally id ways say the E5 is better in this case I felt the E3 was a nicer match. Of course to deal with the ungodly amounts of hiss it puts out a shure variable attenuator was added to the mix to snuff out that hiss and provide volume control.

Lows: Well unamped they are almost nonexistent I felt. Okay that’s not entirely true they are there but they are so far behind the mids and highs they at first remind me of a 2.1 speaker set up with the sub switched off. No once we throw the magical little FiiO into the mix the bass appears. There is still not a lot of it but it’s there and it’s very tight and deep. For something so cheap it really is very etymotic like bass but even less abundant. Given a little time your ears do get used to it and you know what, the bass is really nice. I might like a little more but it’s very nicely controlled and what I love most about it is its so very very deep and smoothly controlled. Well done you engineers, just a shame it’s so shy.

Mids. Mids are relatively nice, fantastic clarity and detail but if I’m honest too focused, forward and bright. Male voices tend to be better and less in your face in the way that some female vocals do. When Streisand sings softly the Betas convey her voice beautifully but when she starts belting it out and hitting certain notes I find myself grabbing the volume control. Too forward, too bright, too in my face. On softer vocals these really do a wonderful job once you get used to just how forward and focused they are. For what these cost the mids are on the whole very nice just not something I can stick on loud and rock out to.

Highs: Well if I’m honest I’m rather treble sensitive and with these I found myself using the E3 over the E5 for the sole reason that it rather murders the highs. These things have lots and lots of treble. Now for me it’s just too much treble, it makes these just too bright for my tastes so I added the little filter to tone it down and the FiiO to tone it down more and I still find them very bright. However it’s not that treble is badly done actually it’s really not bad at all. Yes it’s not perfect but these not an expensive product. The treble is sharp and crisp. Too much so for me but I cannot in anyway fault its level of detail which is rather good. It feels like it’s trying to be etymotic like in its treble, hard, cold and crisp and I find it all rather fatiguing after any more than a couple of hours.

Soundstage: You know the sound stage I feel is really rather nice. With a little time and brain burn in they really feel as though they fill out. They never feel utterly immersive but they really do give very nice sense of distance and depth. This can vary a lot with the song but just on black and white the high hat and that shaking thingy are rendered very nice indeed and sound like they are in the distance but still sound nice and clear.

Comfort: Absolutely zero problems on that front. Stick in, listen to that’s it really. As with most IEM’s I prefer to wear up and over my ears which they let me do fine. As I said before I do find them a bit fatiguing but physically they are perfectly fine.

Fit: Again much like the comfort they were absolutely fine. As always this will be dependent on how you get on with the tips but you get a nice selection and they are the nice standard sennheiser size. So anything that fits them should fit on these no problem. For me, the big bi-flange they came with was fine and just shove in my ears and that’s that, no fiddling about to get anything just right.

Cable: The cable is fine, nothing special and never managed to annoy me in anyway. So while it’s no denon “magic cable” its no sony or klipsch “aarrggghh I want to bludgeon the man who picked this cable to death” cable. I do rather like the jack on it though, as a nice 45 degree angle, this I greatly approve of so well done Brainwavz (the alpha has it too.)

Unamped: Well, frankly I wasn’t hugely keen on them unamped. For me they were just a bit too bass light and while with a decent DAP this can be EQ’ed away I have an ipod. Like millions of others in fact and as we all know the ipod EQ is the most awful useless piece of crap in the history of the universe so I don’t use it. Seeing as this is available for an extra us$10 to come with a FiiOE5 I say get it with the amp. Really really strongly say get it with the FiiO, bass is so vastly improved by it.

Value: Well yes if you like this sort of sound then these represent great bang for buck. Now I know etymotic don’t make anything dynamic or in the price range, or really even very close to this price range but if these had been handed to me and I was told they were by etmotic for a new price point below the ER6i (which I haven’t heard btw, I only have the ER4P) then I wouldn’t question it for a second. These things (with the FiiO E5) at present I see are us$34.50 delivered anywhere, now that’s bloody cheap if you ask me, I mean that’s like £20.

Oh and also I really like how the nozzles on them are made of metal, should be very durable and a nice surprise. For this price I was expecting just all plastic.

Final Conclusion: These feel like they have set out to emulate etymotic, but with a little less bass. They have that same sound signature but not quite the same level of clarity and detail. Though for the money the detail and clarity I think is really impressive, really very impressive. However if I’m honest the sound signature wasn’t really for me, too bass light which is a shame as the bass is lovely and deep on them and just otherwise too forward and bright. If you are looking for a very clean, bright, focused, crisp, forward sounding IEM on a tight budget then this really has got to figure in your candidates, it really is that ety sound but on the cheap.

Radiopaq Pops Review

Radiopaq Pops review

First impressions: for the first 2 min or so I thought there is something wrong here but then music appeared. Astonishingly impressive music too but playing about with them on the bus going home i just found it next to impossible to get them into that fit sweet spot where the music worked. It felt like the drivers were super sensitive to pressure and their fit just utterly muffled the sound. I was deeply deeply unimpressed. Once i got home it was time to play with the tips and i found that slicing the tips just a little let the air pressure equalise when putting them in. This made getting that fit right sooooo much easier and when you get the fit just right god these things came alive. I was so astonishingly impressed i had to send them to soozieq to have a listen for a couple of days just o have someone to go OMG about them with.

Thankfully tips wise ive discovered that shure E2c tips fit on the radiopaqs perfectly, particularly the orange foamies which the wonders of ebay provided me with. While still not perfect the orange foamies go along way to fixing the fit sensitivity they have.

Packaging: the box looks great but is a bit of a bugger to get open for the first time, when you buy them you will see what i mean. A little bit of clear plastic holding other bits of clear plastic together means you cant see how to open them. Also i did kinda feel it a bit stingy that there is no little case or bag for them. Its not a big deal but given the springyness of the cable a little baggy would be rather helpful, but again its no big deal

Source is a 5G ipod line out via and icon mobile amp. Will also test via just hp out on ipod too

(btw if these things have any burn in required I can’t say i noticed any)

Lows: the lows are big fat and abundant. Im not really a bass lover and i cant say i love the bass on these, its a bit loose, there is too much for me and its just a bit too flabby. Then i remember these are meant for pop, people want some big fat ass bass on them and they do it very well, frightengly well for £60 which is something i keep forgetting. These are not IE8 competition really but that’s the comparison i keep jumping to in my head. The IE8 does everything better, no question but they cost like £200 so they had bloody well better. The bass on the pops is so strange, its so huge and abundant but it never feels like its bleeding in to the mids or taking over anything. In fact it never feels like its dominating anything even though its so huge, if you like a big fat wedge of bass then you will like these.

Mids: the mids are on the whole quite clear and forward but there is a few songs where the vocals seem to be far more distant most often on male quite low vocals. Its very clear the sound signature on there is a W and if the vocals fit outside then they fade away a little. Again its not really a big problem or anything. The mids just work so much better on things a little higher which shockingly is what you likely to find in pop music. Really oddly they don’t seem to like Vanessa Carlton terribly much, usually vocally she stands out above the music but on the pops she doesn’t. Not that she sounds bad in fact the vocals all sound good on the pops, really good for £60. If you like some girly pop then these do them really very well, oh girly boy bands come out well on them too.

Highs. Hmm got to say if you get the fit perfect then the highs are great but usually an acceptable fit means the highs are just rather good. Most of the time thy feel slightly veiled but for the cost they are great. With their sound sig i keep comparing them in my head to the IE8 and they just always come up lacking but they cost 4 times as much. They highs are good and detailed but never overwhelming, a very nice crispness to them. Very nicely in line with the mids and lows.

Soundstage: well there isn’t the illusion of music coming from all around you but they certainly give a huge sound, they sound vast and abundant but don’t give very much in the way of airiness or space but they give a huge wall of sound that can be really really fun.

Comfort: comfort is great, the things are rather small and have no problem disappearing right inside my ears. Nice and small, zero issue on the comfort front. Well other than i think these can be a bit tiring to listen to all day, the sound is so huge on them after about 4 or 5 hours my ears feel as if they need a break. Not really a problem or anything but still could bother some.

Fit: well this is where my only really complaint with the pops is. The fit is so sensitive, the drivers demand that the pressure on them is just so and with the stock tips i found it a total bugger to get them just right. Now the issue is largely solved with the shure orange foamies but its still not perfect which a huge shame. I can easily see normal people (ie non head-fi’ers) buying these trying them on and just getting this horribly muffled mess. At first i thought they had to be broken they just sounded so crappy. How this issue wasn’t picked up in pre release i really have no idea as its a huge problem i think. Now in all fairness soozieq didn’t seem to have this problem and yes ive mostly fixed it but be warned. If you get them and they sound crap then you really have to play around with the tips and do try some orange foamies, really i think radiopaq need to bundle them with them, or i guess complys could work too but i haven’t tried them.

Cable: cables fine, a bit stiff but nothing too bad, i really wish they had included a little neck tie slider thingy. Then it might have been possible to wear them over the ear and pull them tight to hold them in place. With the cable being a bit stiff you just have to wear them down. Micrphonics isn’t terrible or anything but id have been happier if i could wear them up.

Isolation: great with the stock tips that i hate and not so much with the orange foamies, think about senn cx300 level of isolation. Okay but nothing to write home about but fine for on bus use.

Unamped: well i find they really don’t seem to care if they are amped or not, yes they do improve amped most in the highs but thats prob more to the ipods line out being better than its hp out, no great night and day difference like say there is with the C751. If your using an unamped rig then these will do you fine, given most of their buyers will be using an ipod hp out they go rather nicely together. In fact now using the hp out i cant say i really notice any difference. I can if i A B A B them but really nothing major.

Value: oh hell yeah, these things are great value so long as would want the kind of sound they deliver. If you want neutral and balanced go look somewhere else. If you want something that’s erm well, errr suited to pop music then these rock. Big thumping bitch ass bass, good clear mids that come through great, Katie Perry yes you can indeed sing. Highs that offer some great clarity and detail but aren’t too sharp on the senses. If you like to listen the latest Now 407 or whatever number they are now up to then these go so well with that kind of music. They give a really fun and alive sound, definitely not for critical listening but if you want something that will make you bounce then they do it really fantastically well for £60. Every complaint i have about them isn’t really anything so major that you wouldn’t buy them, the tips is a problem yes but a fixable one everything else just pails into insignificance.

Final Conclusion: If you want something kinda cheap and a big spade load of fun then these could be just what you are looking for.


Events are accelerating my getting around to starting a blog. So here goes, wish me well.