Saturday, 30 June 2012

Vsonic GR099 Quick Review

Vsonic GR099 Quick Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

Brief:  Vsonic kicks some ass in the bargain basement

Price:  £18

Specification:  Drivers: 10.5mm High performance CCAW Drive Units, Rated Impedance: 24Ω +/- 15%, Sensitivity: ≥103dB (@ 500Hz), Frequency Response: 20Hz—20,000Hz, Distortion: <2% @ 94dB (20μpa), Channel Imbalance: <3dB (@ 500Hz), Input: 10mW Max., Input: 30mW, Stereo Plug: 3.5mm 8μ 24K Gold Plated, Cable: 1.25M PET cable, 4X14 core 6N OFHC Copper palted wire +/- 5%

Accessories:  8 pairs of tips and a little baggy

Build Quality:  Rather nice.  Not a plush as the other offering for Vsonic but it would appear to be solidly constructed and to be of a decent quality.

Isolation:  So so, it’s pretty vented so it’s not the thing to buy for a flight to New Zealand.  Okay for normal use and with music going you won’t really notice any traffic or such.

Comfort/Fit:  Both very good.  I mostly wore them up and they were very comfortable and effortless to insert.

Aesthetics:  Nothing fancy but they look pleasant with the red strip on the cable and I particularly liked the red and blue accents on the buds.  Red for right and blue for left.  I very much like that.  Otherwise they are matte black plastic and pretty subtle.

Sound:  Warm, rich, bassy and a big fun.  For really cheap these sound really good.  I can only really fault them for having a bit of an upper range spike that occasionally jumps out a little.  It’s a minor quibble though.  On the whole these are very well behaved with slightly muted and rolled off treble.  Resolution is okay, good for the money.  Bass is very fun with a great sense of scale and fullness, rich round and warm.  Mids are a bit warm and thick but still most pleasant.  They are decently clear too.  Still these are mostly about the low end as that’s where they are most accomplished.  They sound excellent.

Value:  Very good, price is still a bit uncertain as they are pretty much unobobtainium but converting into £ I found them for £18.  At that price they beat everything I’ve heard at that price (that I can think of anyway, prices change randomly sometimes) but…… the GR06 isn’t all that much more money and its crazy good.  If you can, get it.  If not your still getting a good buy here.

Pro’s:   Thick, full bass, sound superb for an el cheapo.

Con’s:  Its sibling, the GR06, only costs a little more and is clearly better.

Vsonic GR99 Review

Vsonic GR99 Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample


First Impressions:  I like the packaging, it looks swish and right off you can see the assortment of different pretend Sony “hybrid” tips.  I count 7 different sizes.  8 if add in the ones that come on them.  The beds look a little on the large side but instantly they put their best foot forward, on the back one has a little blue ring and the other red!  If you don’t know Red always means left, rather than put a little L that you can’t see on them.  It’s a little thing but shows same thought as for me makes and very positive first impression.  The cable seems nice too, not really up to what I’m used to from Vsonic but then this is a cheaper product.

Having a quick listen and Vsonic are staying true to form.  I’ve pretty much loved everything ive heard from them, especially so at their given prices and I suspect this will be no different.  I am impressed but its burn in time.

Source 1G iPod Shuffle with and without a 75 ohm adapter added


Lows:  For something so cheap they are rather full and hearty.  They may not possess astonishing depth but I really couldn’t fault them at the price range they sit.  It can do a rich, deep and very full sounding low end.  It may be a touch soft, impact wise, but this you would expect, actually at this price you would expect it to be a lot softer and flabbier.  It stays pretty well composed and in line as it ought to.  It doesn’t really bleed up towards the mids in anyway even when provoked.  Quantity wise it isn’t the big and heavy bass that some might want, it may be full sounding but the lows don’t really dominate or push out much beyond the mids.  That isn’t to say when called upon in very bass heavy songs it doesn’t rise to the occasion, for rise it shall and smack you one.  In terms of sound signature it rather reminds me of its siblings, its like a thicker sounding GR06.  Those who like a thicker, fuller and softer sounding low end may actually prefer the 99.  Being thicker and heavier it doesn’t have the same fleet footed agility as the 6 but it’s still lively enough that it can bounce and have a good time.  Its additional air moving power is kinda fun. That power makes for some pretty impressive dynamic range too in the lows, it can happily rumble then roar if you want.  I like it.


Mids:  Rather good for something so cheap.  It is reasonably adept at most things being neither too rich and warm tinted so as to spoil more airy vocals.  Truth be told though it does prefer to give you a rich sound over a dry one.  It’s a warm sounding IEM so asking it to do dry and airy vocals and it means much of that will be lost.  Still I don’t expect those who buy this to be listening to that Krall woman, not that you can’t just I don’t see that type of music listener going for something this cheap.  This much prefers cheap bouncy pop so it can just roar and power things out at you.  It’s much more about fun and power than it is about delicate finesse.  Feed it some cheesy bouncy pop and the mids do an admirable job too.  The bass may over shadow things a bit in some pop stuff which is bass heavy anyway but the vocals still come through as well as you could really expect. 


Highs:  These simply don’t have the resolution to do highs properly and nothing near this price does.  So they do the right thing and trail off rather well.  It’s not entirely unlike the IE7 sound, what they do do they do pretty well.  They aren’t trying to emphasis the top end at all.  They do have a bit of a sony esq spike in there though and every now and again they can be a little hard edged on songs that just hit that same range.  Mostly its rather well behaved and as well as you could expect for this money.  Still you may have picked up on the fact I’m not exactly doing cartwheels about it.  It’s not really that it isn’t doing very well for something so cheap its rather good but the simple fact is its super cheap and I’m used to much better.


Soundstage:  Rather capable.  As I mentioned these do a very good sense of scale and power, a great big hearty low end to them.  These sound big, impressively big for an el cheapo.  Instrument separation is a bit more blurred but what do you want, the moon on a stick?

Fit:  Perfect for me.  Pushed in ears and that was me.

Comfort:  As with the fit these were just dandy.  Can’t promise you’ll be the same but I can’t see any reason why not.

Cable:  It’s not bad.  I do like its black and red look but it’s a little thin and while it’s not bad I think its siblings cables have spoilt me.  Should last pretty well though I’d think.

Microphonics:  Well, worn up I got none.  If you insist on wearing down you do a little.  There is no chin slider to help either. 


Accessories:  Well you do get a nice range of tips, I couldn’t fault that but on the case front…. Well you just get a little flimsy baggy thing.  I get these are cheap and the target market isn’t likely to use a case anyway but it’s a bit naff.  Of course at this price I guess a bettor case would make a cost difference so why include when if you really want one you can always hit up fleabay for something.

Isolation:  Just having a look at them will tell you these are not sealed.  They are pretty open and while I approve of open over venting issues it does mean they are not the greatest isolators in the world.  Still probably good for the gym or places where you don’t want to be utterly cut off from the world.  Would probably do fine for on a bus but not really plane worthy.


Value:  Both good and bad.  On their own, actually just ignoring one product, these are great value.  They are great sounding for something so cheap.  They can quite handily beat the Dunu Tridents particularly in scale and cost not far off them.  The problem is the GR06.  It’s not really that much more and is just stunning.  If you can’t spend 1 penny more then these are great value but there is no way I think I’d ever not suggest spending a fraction more and going with the GR06.


Conclusion:  Vsonic seem to be tuning things to make me like them I think.  So for everything I’ve heard from them I have basically loved.  This is no different.  Well maybe a little in that this I lave least but it’s still super good for so cheap.  The problem though is the crazy, insanely good GR06 as a relatively close price.  It means that while this does a superb job, particularly in the low end, I can’t help but compare the two in my head and the 99 falls short.  I really just am failing to take the 6 out of the equation.

The 99 is a fun, bouncy, bassy IEM with a fantastic general ability for its price that I’m not sure anyone other than treble heads would be unhappy with.  It’s a good looking product, I like the red stripe on the cable and the blue and red indicators and the buds.  It strikes me as a well thought out product (clearly not its name though) that aims at the el cheapo and of budget.  It succeeds at that wonderfully.  But, there is always a but, I hate to sound like a stuck record but it’s the GR06.  Unless you really desperately want a rather thick and rich sound the GR06 is so much better there no way I could tell anyone to buy the 99 unless they really can’t add the little extra.  The only really chance I see it having is that if history holds true then the price of products fall over time.  If the 99 comes down a little as I suspect it will then some distance will begin to open up with the 6 and then it will comfortably begin to wipe the floor with other el cheapos in a more stand out fashion.  As it stands so long as these come in al below the GR06 price I can’t think of anything that that can best them, for something that I believe will be coming in dirt cheap these are outstandingly good.  Much like everything else Vsonic have done so far, this year they are the ones that are setting the bar in the headphone market at every price point they have entered.

At present it’s a good value, good sounding, bassy, rich sounding IEM that’s quite a lot of fun to hear.  It’s not a precision IEM, it’s about having a good time with a full, warm sound that is a very popular sound.  I can’t see anyone buying it regretting doing so, so on the whole it’s a big thumbs up.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

DUNU Hawkeye (DN-18) Review

DUNU Hawkeye (DN-18) Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample


First Impressions:  Upon opening the box the first thing of note is the accessory bundle you get.  Not one but 2 cases!  Okay so one is a soft baggie thing that I personally never like but some do and they since you get a hard case too I can scarcely complain.  Dunu really know how to put together a good little bundle.  I see they still have the little cable tie built on to the cable.  I highly approve.  The beds themselves look much more silvery that I expected.  On the box they look pretty much black and in reality I’d say they look more akin to polished pewter.   It’s nice.

First listen and I’m not exactly wow’d by them.  They have a very large but very heavy sound to them.  The treble is pretty subdued and the bass is a bit powerful.  Hmmm not exactly my sort of sound, it just feels too weighty.  Fingers crossed they will open up a bit with burn in although I’m sure many would appreciate the weighty powerful sound on them.


Source: 1G Ipod Shuffle and HiFiMAN HM-601

Lows:  Nice.  They have a good sense of scale and depth, the depth is nicely linear too.  Having spent some time with their near twins the Craters the bass here is much more linearly low.  IMO it’s the much better for it, here it can go and do some seriously low rumble without sounding like its struggling.   Sure it’s not the tightest and punchiest bass that ever there was but it’s very enjoyable.  It feels much more natural.  Sure it’s a bit elevated beyond what it should in terms of quantity.  The bass is always noticeable and does stand out more than it really should be.  It’s not obtrusive but if I was a big classical listener it would be enough to get on my nerves, it just seems out of place a touch.  Perhaps that’s because it does like to be a bit softish and a bit expansive.  It’s a big warm, full bass that gives the impression it would like nothing more than to run amok and take over the place.  It never does it but I can’t help but think that it’s always thinking about doing so.  That rumble down below feels so ominous like there is something large and terrifying down there, in the darkness, waiting. 

It’s kinda fun.


Mids:  Well they are rather a touch pushed back.  While the Crater has a quite a W shaped sound so does the Hawkey, the difference is that here it’s a much shallower W.  I think the mids are a bit behind that bass.  Of course many songs have particularly pronounced lows to drown out just how the “singer” can’t actually sing.  Still I like mids and I’d like these to stand a bit more clear of that bass but…. In terms of clarity they are good.  The mids clearly aren’t getting lost anywhere and aren’t bothered by any midbass bleed.  Texturally they are a little bit on the warm and fluid side but they aren’t particularly so.  Tonally they do lean a little to the lower, warmer vocals than to higher noted girly vocals.  Not ill suited to boyband type stuff.  Girl vocals can sound a bit more powerful and masculine than they strictly should be but it’s to be expected with the bass power here.  Of course it’s all just fine for normal pop music.


Highs:  The work of that W shaped sound is evident here.  It really works too.  Now let’s not think that there are treble monsters and are going to offer up ety levels of detail, they won’t, but they do a fine job.  What’s even nicer is that they do a nice job of getting that hint of an edge and nice shimmery decay without being hard on the ear and decaying like someone put a wet sponge on the cymbals.  Even in treble heavy stuff it holds up really well.  Enough crash and sparkle without the abrasion.  It’s good enough to let you know what’s going without being so revealing as to show up the faults of poor mastering or that you’re not using lossless.  I realise some may like more crispness up top but I think it’s far better to do it this way than to emphasise your own short comings.  Stuff at this price bracket cannot render highs perfectly.  Better to be a little soft focus and look pretty than display every line and wrinkle.

I like it but in terms of quantity the highs are about the same as the mids, maybe a touch behind.  Clearly behind the bass.  They still stand out clearly thanks the the W shape but if you want gobs of treble, this isn’t the one for you.


Soundstage:  These have a powerful sound, but they don’t have the same expansive scale that the Craters do.  As these are supposed to be properly closed that’s not really a surprise.  Still they do have scale and power.  They just don’t do distance so well.  Instrument separation is pretty decent too but nothing magical.

Comfort:  Pretty good.  Same as the Crater really.  They are a bit weighty if you wear them down but up was fine.  Not something to wear deep due to their size though.

Fit:  I actually got on better with these than the Crater for venting.  Don’t ask me why as I have no clue.  These are supposed to be closed and they open yet I had loss trouble getting these to sit just perfectly.  Not that it was totally effortless.  These take a min or two to get seated and then balance themselves.  It wasn’t terrible bit it would annoy me if I had to pull them out of my ears every few minutes.


Cable:  Like its twin, it’s rather good.  I think I liked the old Dunu cable better but it seems sturdy, is flexible and that cable tie is great.  The cable is a bit rubbery feeling, it’s weird. 

Build Quality:  I cannot fault Dunu here.  They look great, they appear to be superbly finished and given they are metal id expect them to stand the test of time.  Of course I don’t plan to hit them with a hammer to find out but they really do look sturdy enough to stand up to some real abuse.  The Y splitter and jacks look really sturdy too.

Microphonics:  Some if you insist on wearing down but you do get a shin slider to deal with it.  Or you could just wear them up.

Isolation:   For a dynamic it’s quite good.  Easily enough for your normal day to day activities.  As I often say it’s easily enough to make you road kill if you aren’t used to looking where you are going as you will not hear that bus behind you.  Should be okay for a short flight too, not really for a long one but I guess would be better than nothing.


Accessories:  Dunu is probably the king of accessories.  Still here I have a little complaint.  How come here the case is a black material, hard case?  Now normally this case would be getting high praise from me, its vastly better than what you mostly see elsewhere.  However the Craters got a truly stunning metal one so why don’t these?  So it’s not any less functional and some may prefer this more pocket able case but why does one get one and not the other?  Okay I’m just being petty.  The case here by any other standard is excellent.  Also you get a soft baggy, a shed load of tips, a shirt clip, a 3.5 to 6mm jack, I think a plane adapter, oh and a cleaning cloth!  I think that’s it; there really is a lot in there.

Amped/Unamped:  Meh, some changes but really nothing to get worked up about.  Of course things improve but nothing that your going to go out of your way to get.  Same with adding impedance.  A slight improvement but hardly worth bothering with.


Value:  Since I don’t know exactly what these are coming to the UK at.  I only found one place on fleabay with insane postage. So I’m going to guess about £50.  There id say these aren’t stunners but they are certainly very good sounding.  Not only do they sound good they have a very consumer appealing sound signature.  In particularly they have a rambunctious low end and are pretty easy to drive too.  Combine that with the excellent accessories package and this becomes extremely appealing.  If you like me and have multiple earphones this doesn’t acoustically stand out like some others do but if you’re only going to have one this offers a great all round bundle.  Both acoustically and in bits and pieces.  I think these make for a very appealing and very good value buy.


Conclusion:  These certainly grew on me, also these certainly worked better than their twins.  Now that was a surprise as I expected I would like the open, and supposedly more mid centric Craters than the close and bassier Hawkey’s.  Just goes to show that things on paper sometimes really don’t hold true.  Like that I had more issue with venting with the “open” ones.  Actually I think that open/closed nature of these two is the key to why I liked these more.  The bass here isn’t straining to go down crazy low.  It does it ever so nonchalantly, so casually, oh so effortlessly.  Deep it goes too, a little unnaturally deep actually but who’s going to have a problem with that?  Okay so if you’re a Double Bass player then it may drive you a bit mad but hands up who’s a professional Double Bass player here.  What no one?  There’s a shocker. 

I think if you’re looking for a closed IEM for nothing more than typical pop.  By that I mean “popular” i.e. the kind of stuff you see in the charts then you’ll probably love the bass on these.  I’m not normally drown to sealed dynamics as I often get venting issues but here I didn’t really seem too much.  That means they can go low and they can roar.  They have a good bit of slam to them too but at this quantity you don’t want too hard hitting and these don’t.  It’s walking a fine line and I think it does a very impressive job of it.  It has depth, scale, power, just the right amount of slam, a hint of expansion and bloom that all mixes together to be pretty close to perfect.  Well for that sort of music anyway.

The mids and highs are both goodly adequate too but they are nothing more than well placed runners up.  If there is one aspect that makes you buy these it’s that bass and of course the accessory bundle.  The mids and highs are there and done skilfully enough to not look out of place.  It’s a very good all round package Dunu have here.  Nothing in particular is going to set the word on fire but nothing really lets in down in anyway either.  If you’re going to only have one IEM then you could do a hell of a lot worse than this!  I’ve really enjoyed these.

DUNU Hawkey (DN-18) Quick Review

DUNU Hawkey (DN-18) Quick Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

Brief:  Dunu make a pretty great W shaped generalist

Price:  I think circa £50

Specification:  Dynamic Driver 10mm, SPL 100 +- 2dB, Impedance 16 Ohms, Frequency Response 20Hz ~22KHz, Noise Attenuation 26dB, Weight 20g, Plug size 3.5mm, Cord Length 1.2m

Accessories:  8 pairs of tips, 2 cases, a cleaning cloth, a 3.5mm to 6.25mm jack, an airplane adapter, a shirt clip and the attached cable tie.

Build Quality:  Superb.  Metal blobs of solidness that look most sturdy.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  Oddly they are rated the same as their open twins however I found these to be slightly better.  Very good for normal uses and making you road pancake if you’re not careful.  Not really the one for visiting New Zealand though.

Comfort/Fit:  Comfort was pretty good and fit was fine too.   A touch of an issue with venting (they are closed dynamics so what do you expect) but nothing major.  It took a min or so of seating them just right and a sec to let them settle and balance out.  Not one I’d really want if I had to pull them out every few minutes though.

Aesthetics:  I really like the colour of them.  In the official photos from Dunu they look like a shiny black but they are more of a pewter colour.  Dark silvery shiny.  It looks better IRL than it does in a photo. 

Sound:  Similar to their twins but these do it better.  They have a quite a W shaped sound with somewhat of a slant to the low end.  The low end is where they are most skilled.  They can do, more or less, anything you could want from them.  They have very good depth, and can really roar down low without struggling.  They can do power too and have enough slam to be bouncy and fun yet given the scale not so hard that they hurt.  They have enough softness to allow for that scale, like being hit with a wall of water rather than a wall.  You get the impact, you get that sense of power but you aren’t put in hospital.  Be sure you want that sort of bass though, it’s not one that likes to go away so critical or classical listeners probably want to look elsewhere.  Mids and highs are both rather good too, not great, but pretty good.  Both a touch on the warmer, softer side with little in the way of crispness or hard edge.  Its softer on the ear that way but still it has enough detail to let you know exactly what’s going on, just gently presented.  It’s a really great pairing with most pop music.  Bassy, powerful, yet everything comes though clearly and can do pretty much anything you ask of it.

Value:  Since I’m guessing price I can’t be certain but its pretty damn good.  It’s pretty great sounding, not the best mind, but the package it has is fab.  If you are only to have one IEM and you like popular modern music, you don’t need ruler flat sound, then these are a great all round package.

Pro’s:   Great bass, sound good, stunning package

Con’s:  Bass can be omnipresent, not the best clarity, highs a little rounded off.

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Quick Review

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Quick Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

Brief:  Dunu go for a W shaped generalist.

Price:  I believe circa £50

Specification:  Dynamic Driver 10mm, SPL 102 +- 2dB, Impedance 16 Ohms, Frequency Response 16Hz ~22KHz, Noise Attenuation 26dB, Weight 20g, Plug size 3.5mm, Cord Length 1.2m

Accessories:  8 pairs of tips, 2 cases, a cleaning cloth, a 3.5mm to 6.25mm jack, an airplane adapter, a shirt clip and the attached cable tie.

Build Quality:  Superb.  Metal blobs of solidness that look most sturdy.

Isolation:  Rather decent for a dynamic.  Easily enough for normal out and about activities and certainly enough to make you road kill it you aren’t paying attention.  You won’t hear traffic.  Maybe not quite enough for use on a long flight though.

Comfort/Fit:  Comfort was fine once they were in but I did have some issue with venting or the lack thereof.  I had thought these were open but my ears tell me closed and I did have to play about with the tips to get one just right.  Once I did it was fine but prior to that it was impossible to get them sitting just right to make them sound their best.  Given the tip selection you should be okay.

Aesthetics:  Very pretty.  The box photo has these looking black but they are actually more like a shiny pewter.  More of a dark silver than it is black and I think they are most attractive.  Of course these things are somewhat subjective.

Sound:  Competent rather than great.  They do shine in terms of soundstage and instrument separation more than they did anywhere else.  The lows were good but nothing stunning, they did reach rather low but it felt like they were tuned to output most at the lowest notes and much less higher up.  It felt like a small sub working to the max.  Then there was a bit of a gap and the mids appeared.  The mids are very focused but not exactly what I’d call forward.  It felt more like a W shaped sound with a bit of a gap between the lows, mids and highs.  The highs were reasonable butt at few times felt a bit hard and didn’t extend terribly well.  They were on the whole reasonable but nothing great given the competition.  Still the soundstage and instrument separation were very, very good.

Value:  On sound alone they are so so but the whole package is great.  The accessory bundle and in particular that metal case is stunning.  It’s a fantastic all round package here as usual from Dunu.

Pro’s:   Great bundle, Solid construction, Look pretty, that metal case

Con’s:  A bit of venting trouble, sound is only competent for the money.

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Review

DUNU Crater (DN-17) Review

Thanks to Frogbeats for the sample

First Impressions: These look very much like their siblings, the DN-18 Hawkeye’s. That’s because I think they are, they appear to be open and closed versions of the same thing, these being the open ones. The only other notable difference I see in the fantastic bundle is the case. The hard case on the 18 was a matte black affair and the one here is a very nice looking metal one. Looking at it and I instantly think of the supposedly titanium case of the TF10. I don’t for an instant really think this is titanium as they would be screaming it from the rooftops if it were. It is undoubtedly one of the very best cases I’ve ever seen with any IEM. Dunu really do offer a great value bundle of bits and pieces.

Having a listen to them, coming right from the Hawkeye’s they are very noticeably lighter in the low end. Again though they don’t seem to have the best clarity or openness so I’m hoping they will improve with a bit of burn in. it’s not an unpleasant sound just a touch slow and subdued.

Source HiFiMAN HM-601 and Ipod Shuffle 1G

Lows: Powerful and deep when you get them sitting just right. I had issues seating them but the bass is good and clean though it does seem to elevate as it goes down, its eq’d to do as low as it can with punch and power but less in the way of mid/bass. On paper that should be good I suppose but what it actually feels like is as though there is a little baby sub that’s been cranked up full. It’s doing its best to pump out as much deep low air as it can and it’s not exactly got the best definition around. It is trying its damnedest and feels like its stretching the limits of what it can do. Its not terrible but it feels like the very bottom appears out of nowhere and is somewhat detached from the rest of the spectrum. In some songs this works quite well but mostly it feels like a mismatched sub and satellite speaker system with a gap between where they crossover. The lower end of vocals lack a touch of fullness that the mid/bass range usually supplies too. In term of quantity its quite reasonable so long as your happy with how its distributed. Its reasonably bassy but lighter than most of the Dunu’s I’ve heard. The bass is a little more than it strictly ought to be but it’s a good level.

Mids: Dunu has gone for a more mid range sound here and it’s not exactly what they have got. They have it seems dialled down the bass, especially the mid/bass range to make some space around the mids. The mids don’t actually stand forward, they have just had the space next to them cleared away. They haven’t much in the way of flavour either. They feel somewhat narrow and focused and lack the dynamic range I want. They also don’t have the creamy liquindess ar open dryness or a good halfway stance. Meh. They aren’t bad but they just don’t move me in any way, its boring, no soul. I can’t actually say there is anything thing they do obviously wrong but there just feels no life to things. Vocals are just uninspiring here. Strings do fair a bit better though.

Highs: These have a bit of a spike in the lower treble range that on occasion means they jump out a little. They also aren’t too shy about being a bit brittle and are detailed enough to make it noticeable. Cymbals smashing have a bit of grit to them and decay much too quickly. Actually at times I found it somewhat hard on the ear. Odd given its not a hugely treble abundant IEM either. I just cannot seem to find the love for the Crater. Its not bad in any way but it’s not capturing my attention or doing anything in particular hugely well. What is weirder is that it’s not got the best extension on it either. Meh.

Soundstage: Here actually the Crater begins to shine a bit. I cannot deny it has a grand old sense of scale going on. Big concert hall type of sound and the sound separation is very impressive for something that’s not so expensive. It makes for a very interesting sound scape. Lots of distance and scale.

Comfort: Was fine for me. The buds are a little weighty if you wear them down but then just don’t wear them down. They are a little large though so that could be an issue if you try to wear them too deeply.

Fit: Well I thought there were supposed to be open but I don’t think they are all. I had a bunch of bother getting these to sit just so and sound their best. Or maybe I didn’t and that’s why I haven’t loved them much? I did feel that some foam tips might have helped but I couldn’t find any complys in my tip bin that would fit them. Still I found a tip that I think worked okay.

Cable: It’s rather good. It’s not as nice as the one of the Hephaes but it’s still good. The jack is nice and the Y splitter with chin slider can’t be faulted.

Build Quality: If looks mean anything then these are about as good as it gets. Of course only time can really tell but they are solid little blobs of metal. They feel super solid and well put together. It is without question a top notch package.

Microphonics: None if you wear up, not too much if you wear down. The addition of a chin slider means you can largely eliminate that as in issue if you like.

Isolation: Pretty good for a dynamic. Not quite up to BA standards but easily more than enough to get you turned into road kill. Its maybe not the sort of thing that I really want for a long flight but for normal day to day uses then it’s just fine.

Accessories: Here Dunu truly shines. They have just one of the best all round packages you can get. The inclusion of not one but two cases is unheard of elsewhere and the metal case here is outstanding. That something so cheap comes with such a case shames many other manufacturers. It is a stunning package that no one close to this sort of money comes close to.

Amped/Unamped: Well I’m not sure if I noticed really much of any difference. What was weirder is that adding my usual 75 ohm impedance adapter didn’t improve them but actually made them more dull. Go figure.

Value: Well I don’t know, I don’t what these are going to cost so I’ll just have to make an educated guess. These will likely be as a package great value. On sound alone maybe less so. Still you just can’t beat the overall package and that metal case.

Conclusion: The time I have spent with the Craters I must admit they have grown on me. I even found an album they suit rather well (Erasure, Union Street and listen to it before you judge me) but anything that got too complex just seemed to overly tax it. I think it will really depend just on what price it comes in at before it can really be judged. The thing is it will sit in a horrifying crowded and competitive market. A few years ago it would be having its praises sung but now, well its good sure but it’s not wow’ing me. It is perfectly capable and competent. It does have a few traits where it shines such as its concert hall like vastness with some very good instrument separation. If these aspects appeal big time for you then you’ll likely like. For me those traits may give an interesting presentation but I care more about resolution and technical abilities. Here it’s just so so. It doesn’t actually really do anything badly or wrong but it just cant steel my attention. I never find myself getting lost in the music or wanting to burst into song.

Dunu have a habit of making a solid sounding IEM that I have found to be ultimately uninspiring. They are good solid, competent sounding IEM’s and the Crater fits that mould well. It can do more or less everything you want and are reasonably good at. It’s like a silver Ford Mondeo. Sure it gets the job done and some may say rather well but it just can’t grab your attention like a hooker red Alfa 147. Sure the Alpha break down, bits fall off, and savage you when it comes to insuring the thing but it stirs the soul. The Mondeo I suspect wont.

I think this leads me to conclude that the Crater is a good, solid , middle of the pack IEM. It’s not great but its decent and it does offer that superb package. That case and accessory bundle is second to none. I think if I wasn’t me, if I was the sort of person who only had one IEM. Didn’t have a giant plastic tub of tips. Didn’t have a huge range of cases at my disposal. Then the Crater would be a rather good proposition. It offers everything you could want or need. It gives a classy look with what would appear to be superbly solid construction. Its isolation is pretty decent for day to day use too. There isn’t anywhere it falls down. Sure you can get better sound elsewhere but then you have to make compromises elsewhere. Dunu have gone for a bit of an all-rounder package and it’s a rather good stab it.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Hisoundaudio RoCoo BA Review

Hisoundaudio RoCoo BA Review

Thanks to Hisoundaudio for the sample

First Impressions: The box is nothing special clearly which a touch disappointing for a premium product but its not important. Opening things up and there it is, it’s like the Studio had a baby. They look so similar just smaller, given the Studio was gorgeous this can only be a plus point. The RoCoo BA (hmm I feel an urge to say something about the naming, something ranty and negative) is clearly a pretty, pretty little thing. It’s so pretty looking at it in my hand makes me smile and my parents certainly seem to think it looks great. (have been convalescing at my parents) they have made me show it to every relative that has popped by. My mother seemed particularly pleased by it flashing up “Bye Bye” on turning it off.

Giving it a little listen and its clear to me that this is likely to be a rather positive review. I don’t have the Studio V to compare it to as it was but a loaner but this aurally reminds me of it quite a bit. First thoughts are it sounds as good as it looks.

Screen: It has as best I can tell the exact same screen as was found on the Studio. It is a tiny little OLED screen that while lovely is small and monochromatic. That means no fancy touchscreen controls, no photo viewing, no web browsing and no video watching. It’s functional and pretty but rather basic.

Battery life: The battery life is stated at >10 hours. Which seems an odd way to do it but I’d buy its more like 12. It never came close to not lasting a day but given the Studio had such crazy huge battery life it’s a bit of a shame this didn’t have similar.

UI: If you have had the Studio then you will be familiar with things. The UI is, erm shall we say eccentric? It’s weird and is just plain awkward to use but you sort of get used to it. For me just now it seems to want to play all the songs on it in alphabetical order. I know this can be changed but navigating the menu system feels like navigating a maze. I don’t understand it and have more than once turned it off by accident trying to get into the menu. Ah ha, got it set to random, yey me! Much like on the Studio the UI is rather poor but it doesn’t make me feel frustrated or bring much annoyance. On paper it ought to be but for some reason it’s not.

In The Hand: I love it. However I’m not quite so sure I love it in the pocket quite so much as much like its sibling the thing is so stark and severe I cannot see it playing well with anything else that you may want to put in a pocket. I warn thee now, put this and your fancy touchscreen smartphone in the same pocket and be prepared to be buying a new phone. It’s a slab of steel in both feel, mass and severity. Should you get one in your hand you’ll understand what I mean. This thing is solid, sharp edged and I fear liable to take no prisoners if you introduce any other gadgets to it. It will cut them like a knife wielding crazy person.

The other aspect of this of course is that unless you’re insanely rough with things I cannot see you managing to break it, short of hitting it with a sledge hammer.

Format Support: Hisoundaudio say MP3, WMA, WAV, Flac, AAC, OGG. Since I am lazy I’m not testing them and will take them at their word. What’s most important here I think is FLAC, that’s probably the one you want.

The Manual. It would appear to be a manual for the Studio RoCoo and AMP3 all in one. I say appear because it mentions all three but given I can’t read Chinese I have no clue what most of it’s really about. The odd word here and there is in English but mostly it’s all Chinese. Then at the back there is a section in English but it doesn’t seem to quite match the Chinese bit as there is nothing about firmware that I see photos of in the Chinese bit. Okay so it isn’t that big a deal as how many of us actually ever look at the manual but that’s beside the point.

Sound Quality: This is far and away the most important section of this review and I’m pleased to say it sounds great. It is just beautiful to hear and I think it may be my second favourite DAP I’ve heard (the Studio V is top) but it may not be to everyone’s tastes. I know many like a warm thick sound as can be found on Sony DAP’s and HiFiMAN stuff and if anything this is a touch bright. It did make me wonder as it’s the BA model, it’s specifically intended for use with Balanced Armature IEM’s yet I personally found myself preferring it when paired with warmer things. Most BA IEM’s are bright rather than rich, think DBA-02, ER4, q-JAYS etc etc and when using them I found they could get a little too happy up top. It began to get a little over enthusiastic at hurling treble detail at you in the middleling treble frequencies yet lacked a bit (as BA stuff will) at the very top end. Ironically the few warm BA things, SE530 and Klipsch Custom 3 both sounded fantastic. They are both mid centric with a hearty low end and a relatively tame top. A sound that is far more often found in dynamic IEM’s. Indeed the RoCoo BA paired up extremely well with Hisoundaudio’s own Crystals and the Sennheiser IE7 which are both dynamics. Maybe it’s my own personal preferences shining through but I found the IE7 and the IE8 to be fabulously suited with their prodigious low end skils and delicate shimmery skill up top. When paired with most BA stuff I found the RoCoo BA to be a touch light in the low end and unflatteringly hard in the middle treble.

Lows: Quality over quantity. It felt rather like they had be tuned to be quite BA like in nature. Tight, quick, punchy but lacking a great sense of scale or vigour. In the richest and warmest of songs it just never enveloped with the lusciousness that it really ought to have unless you paired it with a very warm IEM. It’s much more a clean clinical bass than it is expressive or heart felt. Of course if you pair it something very rich and warm then it counterbalances that beautifully. It’s not without reason I loved the IE7 with this.

Mids: Wonderfully smooth and detailed. Some of the most neutral mids I think I’ve heard. I really cannot call them liquid but I can’t really call the dry either, very much finely balanced in the middle. I would that they were a touch more open as they were with the Studio which is of course rather more expensive. They add so little in the way of colouration in the mids that it really depends on what you pair them with. Go for something cold and dry and that’s what you’ll get, something thick and warm and they’ll give you that too. Lol I find myself lacking much to say about them while at the same time getting lost in Adels voice. I don’t seem to be quite able to put my finger on it yet there is something about the sound of these that defies description. On paper my head can’t come up with anything other than these are middleing and non flavoured yet I find myself repeatedly getting lost in the music. Perhaps it’s that they are just allowing the IE7’s mids to just shine right through on their own? Either way it’s working.

Highs: I did comment earlier that they have a bit of a spike in the middle of the treble that doesn’t always play so well with brighter BA stuff. It’s not exactly offensive but when paired with its lack of abundance down low it can feel that this is a slightly bright DAP and when mated to bright IEM like the q-JAYS or DBA-02 I found it rather much. My ears are fairly treble sensitive and I yearned for something more gentle. The SE530 was sufficiently so and made for a beautiful sound but where I though it really began to shine was with the top end Senns. Both the IE7 and IE8 are notoriously warm and have a thick bottom end. The 7 has a quite subdued treble and the 8 has among the best, shimmery and shiny treble around. They both sounded fabulous with the RoCoo BA allowing it to really show off what it could do up top and its extension that I’ve found only dynamics can really do. The extension was just great and the detail with which it could convey things was beautiful.

Overall the sound to some extend wanted to defy description as it was generally pretty flavourless and toneless. Aside from the light low end and a bit of over exuberance up top it didn’t do much in the way of adding to the flavour of things. It would happily let your chosen headphone do that though and so I did. I found that the BA is tuned to sound like a BA and so pairing it with the same pushed things too much in the same direction for me. I did however love it with warmer things and indeed has been one of the most enjoyable DAP’s to listen to.

What if anything it was adding was a grand dash of alacrity to all of its actions. Music felt faster, more enthusiastic, more bouncy and more WAAAAA!!!! It’s really not the most laid back DAP that ever there was such as you find on the Sony and HiFiMAN DAP’s. Tonally its much more akin the Cowon “house sound” just taken up a few levels.

Value: At present I can see it on ebay for £165 (I’m sure more places will add it soon though) and that places it pretty much bang in the middle between the Cowon i10 I just reviewed and its sibling the Studio V. Its sound quality is pretty much in the middle too. I really wish I had the Studio here still so I could compare it as I can’t help feeling if it was my money I’d say screw it and spend the extra to get it. I loved that thing while the RoCoo is beautiful and I’d be happy to live with it long term I don’t find myself being terribly enthused by it. It’s something I could see me using every day and being very happy with it but it isn’t stirring the soul in the same way the studio did. Basically I’m thinking if you can, take the Studio V, that’s what I’d do but if you can’t you won’t be disappointed with this.

Conclusion: This is a middling product. I don’t mean that in a its meh, only so good, I mean that it isn’t the top of the range and when you have already heard arguably the best then it makes it had to not compare the two and one inevitably falls short. If it was my own hard earned cash at stake I would find the extra pennies and get the Studio V. It was just better in every way, not by much but enough. That said the RoCoo BA is fantastic and I have greatly enjoyed playing with it. I may have fond it works better with more dynamics rather that BA things as it’s a touch brightish but it’s such a minor quibble. The BA makes noise thats so positive and abundant with enormous enthusiasm. It has such an alive sound to it! Give it a little bash with something like Owl City “Tidal Wave” and it positively explodes at you. The rhythm, bounce and energy is the acoustic equivalent of a Red Bull. It takes the music and just adds such pace that, okay maybe doesn’t best suit slow Jazz but I couldn’t care. It’s so much fun to hear.

For me this is the second Hisoundaudio DAP I’ve heard and I really like what they are doing. I’m even willing to forgive the UI which is somewhat quirky. I can ignore the “chinglish” manual. What I cant though is the P version, I haven’t heard it so I’m not prepared to say this is the bee’s knees when it may be even better and its main competition, the Studio V. The Studio is just better and baring needing the smaller RoCoo I’m not sure I’d ever pick it over the stunning Studio V. This gets you a lot of the way there and I could live very happily with it but the Studio isn’t a million miles away in price, you do get what you pay for with these two. That said I really love the little RoCoo BA, it super pretty, and sounds fab. It’s a wonderfully fun and playful DAP that so long as you don’t pair it with bright and crispy IEM’s will serve up a grand old time.