Sunrise Audio Xcited Review
Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample
First Impressions: Well it’s been a long time coming, I’ve waited a while to hear this (its sibling too, the Xcape Impressive Edition) since the headphone world had a hissy fit at the Xcape becoming the Xcape v2. If you’re unfamiliar with it, in short they changed the sound significantly and people didn’t realise they bought it. It all stemmed from a big hoo haa about sound signatures and their differing popularity in the East and the West. Turns out that the West prefers a cleaner, lighter sound and the East a more Sony esq, thicker, warmer sound. I’m telling you this because its why we have the Xcited. Sunrise wanted something to appeal to those wishing a clean and crisp sound.
Visually there is nothing terribly note worthy about the Xcited’s, the buds are a very pretty silver though. The case is rather nice too. Listening to them though is where these come alive; I can tell right off these are step up on the old Xcape. Their names however are giving me a head ache.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Lows: The low end here is all about the clean and articulate. It has a nice even balance between the ability to hold a low note and the force behind a quick hitting punch. It’s not going to do either in the quantity that some will want given peoples proclivity for massive amounts of over inflated bass but what’s here is close to exactly what amount there should be. Listening to Shakira’s “Something” the low end holds itself with great composure. It’s very well mannered and polite and suits the song well, in fact it really suits anything that isn’t bass centric or at least where the bass isn’t supposed to be overwhelming. It’s funny I realise its technically extremely proficient but it’s not the most dramatic low end ever and it may be a touch on the too polite, too composed too evenly handed. It’s like driving along a motorway, as opposed to taking the old and winding road that runs parallel. The motorway is technically superior in every way but sometimes the less controlled option is a little more fun.
Mids: Rather lice the low end these are all about the clean and articulate, faultless really. Once more I find myself not being wowed by the drama but I am quietly impressed by the technical ability of them. Everything sounds very, very good and so perfectly composed. These still just aren’t exciting me or making me fall in love with them like I may want but I cannot actually find anything they fail to do. They are arguably faultless for their price but I find myself yearning for more drama, more emotion, perhaps any drama or emotion. It’s actually quite reminiscent to me of Spendor speakers, all technical skill but not really pulling at the heart strings.
Tonally they sit bang in the middle; neither dry nor liquid, cold nor warm etc etc. They are just so middlingly middle. I cannot really fault anything they do (trust me that’s actually a huge compliment) but I can’t seem to provoke an emotive response with them either.
Highs: For the money extremely impressive in their technical ability. Stuff in this kinda price range has no right to be this good. A few years ago it would have cost vastly more but the flood of things from the Far East has meant sound quality has rocketed while price has plummeted. The result is that the treble clarity here is fantastic, while not the best in the class it’s still a bit of a stunner. Its clean and crisp edgy treble stands out well, if I’m honest a little too well in very treble happy songs, otherwise it’s very close to spot on. I might prefer a touch less forwardness and a little more gentility but part of that is I’m using an arguably brighter and edgy source and I’m a touch treble sensitive. The treble is a touch out in front from the mids and the bass, just a smidgen though; on the whole it’s pretty evenly balanced. Assuming your fine with the quantity then there is nothing more you can ask for, certainly not as this price.
Soundstage: Very good. They have a grand sense of space and air and the instrument separation is impressively good too. It’s quite noticeable on well recorded stuff but on things less so well done things get a little mushed up together.
Comfort: Absolutely fine for my ears. Naturally YMMV but I could have them in my ears all day long and have nothing to complain about.
Fit: Absolutely fine too. I actually expected to have a little bother with venting or the lack there of but no. I don’t really know what Sunrise did as they didn’t strike me as being super open but whatever it was I approve. I could just stick them in my ears and that was that, perfect fit every time.
Cable: Very nice. Nothing I’d say you’re going to write home about but it’s perfectly functional, looks nice, feels sturdy as do the Y splitter and the plug. It’s all very nice.
Microphonics: Well it largely depends on how you wear them, up you get none, down you will get plenty. A lack of a chin slider ensures that but you do get a shirt clip to help with the issue.
Amped/Unamped: Given the price these go for (as opposed to the quality) they aren’t really all that likely to see big grown up amps in the wild. Still if you do they do get noticeably better. Not different planet, omg you must buy an amp sort of difference but enough that you’ll benefit if and when you get one. Actually where you’ll benefit most is using the line out into the amp as that usually cleans up big time the treble and with these being a touch treble happy any clean up there will be most noticeable. I’m particularly thinking about my Ipod 5G, its headphone out has awful treble, its line out is vastly better in that front.
Isolation: Given that they gave me no venting issues I expected they would be much more open and accordingly isolate much less. They don’t. I don’t know how they did it but they did. Still, these aren’t Ety challengers so you may not buy a pair for that flight to the Antipodes but it’s still enough for normal use. Fine for on the bus etc and probably enough to get you run over by that same bus because you didn’t hear it behind you.
Build Quality: Very good. Nothing here that’s OMG wow amazing but everything is nicely put together and both look and feels very solid. I should expect them to survive very successfully out and about.
Accessories: As I have already mentioned there is the shirt clip and the case, along with the obligatory variety of tips. So nothing amazing but I would like to praise the case, it’s changed since my last pair of Sunrise’s and I greatly approve. It looks great and feels very nice in the hand. Cases are wonderful things and these are a nice example.
Value: Crazy good. There isn’t any way you could actually argue anything else. Now these aren’t the be all and end all of everything but they do everything very well. That I can presently see these for sale for £44.50 is a little mad. A handful of years ago you could have easily tripled that and they would have still been a bargain. There is simply no way anyone can say these aren’t fantastic value for money.
Conclusion: As I sit listening to these and swap over to the Brainwavz M3 (its prime competition if you ask me) and I look at what I’ve written about them both I find myself a little confused. I really loved the M3 and all it could do and comparing them the Xcited sounds so very much bigger and more expansive. Its lows sound more enveloping and its highs sizzle and shine so much more. Its mids sound fuller too. However I find the in theory bigger and usually more dramatic sounding Xcited to not be capturing my attention. Is it that in comparison its mids tend to sit a touch behind where the M3 tend to sit that bit forward. I think for me personally the M3 is clearly what I prefer but that’s really down to personal preference rather than anything being really that much better than the other. The M3 is but it’s also proportionally quite a chunk more costly too. It’s funny really; a few of years ago either could have come to the market and at this price been so head and shoulders above everything else. Now there are so many truly excellent IEM’s out there and this is one of them.
What differentiates it a little is that the Xcape feels so much larger sounding and is more capable at portraying distance. Things like the M3 or PL-50 are far more close in and intimate. Listening to Susan Wongs “I Wish You Love” the Xcited really fill out the stage and give the impression that the instruments are physically separate and all around you but the M3 brings everything so much more upfront and close to you. For me and that song I think intimate works better but frankly it’s not like it sounds bad, just not what I want. It’s like wanting an Earl Gray and getting a Black Coffee. I may like them both but they are not the same.
I feel I’ve been a little hard on the Xcited as it’s not playing to what I love but I cannot deny it is excellent at what it does. It can turn its hand to anything and do it well so long as you like a large sound field and crispy highs.