Sunday, 25 August 2013

HiFiMAN RE-600 Review

HiFiMAN RE-600 Review

Thanks to Head Direct for the sample.

First Impressions:  Well the box is a bit of a departure from the HiFiMAN stuff of old.  It’s much fancier looking but oddly the little case was outside of it.  I’m going to assume this is because it’s a review sample.  I have to confess I am a little bit giddy looking at the box.  I’ve heard just about all of HiFiMAN’s IEM offerings and without fail they have all been stunning. So this new flagship it’s just got to be good, I mean the 400 was fantastic and this must better than that! 

I’d normally now comment with my first impressions but little confession time, I forgot.  I don’t really think it’s my fault entirely as I found my “I’ll just have a quick 30 min listen” turned into a listened to them for the rest of the day.  I don’t really need to say these are good, you know that already, it’s a question of just how good they are and that’s going to take more than a 30 min listen to tell.  However it’s a reasonable statement to make at this point that these are one of the best IEM’s I’ve heard.

Source: FiiO E7/E9, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:  The lows off the bat remind me of the 262 most of previous HiFiMAN things, A/B’ing them reveals that to be technically true.  The 262 was the warmer, smoother, a touch bass boosted of the HiFiMAN’s and the 600 is even more boosted.  So purists you may want to have a little fit because this is not an improved 272, it’s very much the upgrade to the 262 though.  The bass is fun, seriously enjoyable stuff and tonally just that bit warm.  The quality of course is as you’d expect, flawless.  Though I do detect it isn’t as granite like as the uber fast 272.  Now I greatly prefer the 600’s presentation style. What’s more is the expansiveness of the 600’s low end that gives it the impression of scale that makes me think much more of the IE8 than of something more monitor like.  It feels huge, that impression of endless scale heading off into the distance.  It’s verging on the epic.

Rattling through the alphabet of A/B/c etc etc with some other things so far the UM3x, W4 IE8, RE-262 and they all fall short next to the 600.  The only bass of them that comes close in its vigour and scale is that of the IE8 but it feels so soft and woolly side by side.  The texture is so tactile and dynamic.  If feels more like that of a speaker than a little IEM driver and is vastly more sumptuous than any of the BA IEM’s there.  However when it comes to clarity and detail it smashes the IE8.  The depth is endless too and easily bests those others.  Its depth and fullness both far outstrip that of it sibling, the RE-400 too.

Looking back at my 262 review I asked Fang if we could have just the tiniest bit more bass and its that’s essentially what we have.  Tonally it’s got the same silky, chocolaty smoothness when you play smooth stuff.  When you play fast though, it really steps up and deals with the power and punch aspect in a way the 262 never did.  it’s so much more convincing.  Actually I’m really hard pressed to find anything wrong with it.  This could be essentially what I’d consider to be the perfect bass.

Mids:  Erm, well they are mesmerising.  These could be the finest mids I’ve ever heard.  It may sound like I’m being wishy washy but at this level the differences are not so much as anything being better than another but simply being different.  The one that stands out here for me is the W4, an IEM that is very monitor like.  I’ve commented previously that it’s a faultless IEM and it is and as I have A/B the two I find myself thinking that the W4 is indeed flawless in its vocal presentation.  The 600 therefore must be flawed if it different right?  Well that’s kinda true, its mids aren’t I believe a perfectly accurate representation much like those from the SE530 and the RE-262 that came before the 600.  They aren’t trying to be perfectly accurate but aim more a for a sound that aims to be perfectly beautiful. 

The vocals here are wondrous, they can do breathy, sumptuously smooth and flowing, every little intonation and inflection is there for your perusal and it is simply wondrous.  I love them. Such openness too.  Critically I can argue they, like the 262 and 530 are a little over liquid and over expressive than is perfectly true.  Things like the 252 and the W4 do that and what HiFiMAN have gone for here is a beauteously expressive and enchanting sound.  Its perhaps not as quite as liquid sounding as the 262 was but this only aids in the fantastically high level of detail here.  The perhaps seem a touch over dynamic in comparison to the level headed W4 and while I know deep down the additional exuberance exhibited here is not acoustically neutral.  Vocals are a little more narrow and a little more focused.

The only thing a can hold as a negative is if you push them they can veer towards getting shouty with certain vocals.  There a is a good degree of focus that the 262 and W4 allow for a greater width to the vocal range and stage but I’m going out of my way to pick faults.  Quantity wise overall though there is a fair amount here, it hovers around the same as the bass.  At times I think it a smidge more and others a touch less.

Highs:  It’s peculiar.  I sit and swap the 600 and the 272 back and forth and yet I don’t find the 600 to be lacking.  Clearly the quantities deployed are rather different but the quality, the level of detail retrieval on them both is staggering.  Of course it’s wildly more apparent on the 272 which at times can feel blindingly bright, the 600 is considerably more subtle about it.  I feel like I want to say the treble is just as good as the 272 but I can’t quite bring myself to make that categorical statement.  For sure they are, if not the same, super close but that the 272 makes it sooooooo obvious.  The 600 is that much more relaxed and nonchalant about it all.  Honestly I think both of them are good enough that the limit of detail offered by them both is held back by the mastering.  Not to mention these while reasonably relaxed sounding may not have the brutally harsh revealing nature of the 272 but it’s no lover of carp.  You feed the 600 a poor source, poor bit rates, poor mastering and it while it may not stamp on your head with a stiletto its clarity makes these things readily noticeable.  Thankfully the super detail offered here is a little muted by its warmer sound signature so it’s not really what I call over revealing. 

Dynamics in my opinion always to treble better than BA things and the treble here is essentially as good as treble gets.  It was the one area that for me the 400 lacked compared to the old RE-0 but the 600 really has taken the best or both the 262 and 272.  Tonally its rather more 6 than 7 with its smoother gentility.  The treble feels serene and comfortable rather like that of the 262 but with a clarity boost.  I’m finding it hard to reference these in relation to things other than its elder siblings as when it comes to this level of sound quality there are so few high end quality dynamics.  Most things are BA and BA things do treble very differently, so quick, so edgy and they find the delicate natural shimmer of a cymbal impossible to get quite right.  Dynamics do this far better but other than HiFiMAN the only true high end dynamic I’m familiar with is the IE8 and it’s a radically different sort of sound than what we have here.  The treble is a little relaxed but has possibly the best natural decay I’ve heard on an IEM, yet can ping as clean and crisp as you like. 

If I was tuning the treble on an IEM this is probably how it would sound.

Soundstage:  One of the greatest qualities of the 252 was its endless distance.  The 600 has captured some of that.  It sound big, hearty and has that same sense of scale that the IE8 has.  Okay it’s not maybe as big as the IE8 but it’s a similar nature.  Its feels big, particularly orchestral works sound BIG.  It’s not perfect but given it’s a closed IEM I think it’s mightily impressive.  Of course instrument separation is good but not vast; these feel rather better integrated.  It’s a big and wide cavernous hall.

Comfort:  Unlike the previous generation of top end HiFiMAN’s these are much more typically shaped.  In fact these are rather similar physically to the 400’s and as such were great and I can see anyone having any bother with them.

Fit:  Great.  I found these to be far less fit fussy that the 252, 262 and 272 were.  They gave me a hint of air pressure in the ear but these don’t.  Granted early on I slapped on some Comply’s as I was going to be pulling these out with some regularity and I didn’t want to have to deal with the prospect.

Cable:  Well it’s rather more substantial than that found on the 400 but I found it to be a little solid.  Supposedly it’s all fancy Kevlar and whatever which I’m sure is great but…. I found it gave me the impression of being a bit stiff and wanting to kink.  Oddly the cable is also modular and normally that would bypass any issue but it has a rather unusual set up.  The cable is rather long and only has a very short add-on.  This is the reverse to what they did with the 272 so I assume they have a reason to.  The reason then the little extensions are there at all are because the IEM cable is terminated with a balanced connector. Since no one has a balanced 3.5mm source (okay a few do but it is proportionally very few) they add in connectors to fit the internals of a normal 3.5mm jack.

Microphonics:  Wearing them up you don’t really get any.  If you insist on wearing down you do a bit but it largely solved with the chin slider.

Amped/Unamed:  Rather surprisingly these really didn’t demand an amp.  Of course they improved with one but even just out of my phone they sounded good.  Imaging and layering suffered as did the dynamics but there is a reason people buy DAP’s rather than use their phone.  These are nothing like as power hungry as the old 262 was.  It practically needed its own little power station to be all it could be.  Of course what is more of an issue here is not so much the power but the quality of what you’re feeding it.  The detail level on offer is sufficient that if feed it carp then you will hear it.  While the difference between amping my phone and its little HP out wasn’t vast.  The difference between the phone and the Studio V 3rd Anv. was pretty vast.  If you going to buy these then they deserve to be hooked up to a more credible source than your phone.  Sure it’ll work and sound good but it’s a real waste of potential to take one of the best IEM’s in the world and hook it up to the US$2 HP out in your US$850 phone, it’s a spectacular waste, the RE-600 deserves far better.  Like buying a Ferrari and then running on the wheels and tyres for a Honda Jazz.

As for adding impedance, it didn’t do a great deal.  I’d still use though as it does make any source hiss go away giving you a much blacker background which makes the rest seem ever more impressive. So I’d say if you’ve bought one of these spend an extra US$10 and get one.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  It’s a sealed dynamic so about the new norm for that set up.  Vastly more than things like the IE8 but next to the W4, well no it’s not quite the same.  If you want maximum isolation BA IEM’s are forever to way to go.  It’s likely more than enough isolation for most uses and would easily be sufficient to get you killed in traffic.  Just if you want to for daily Tube or aircraft use then it wouldn’t be my first option.  Easily enough for most uses though.

Build Quality:  It’s notably a bit of a step up on the 400 and is probably the best build of any HiFiMAN IEM but hand on heart, it’s not an area where they excel as a company.

Accessories:  Well you get a few things.  I think 13 pairs of tips, 10 replacement filters, a cable wrap around thing, a balanced to normal 3.5mm adapter and a little case.  The little case is on in that it didn’t come inside the main box.  Why I have no idea, maybe it was an afterthought?  Its noting fancy but perfectly functional.  The wrap thing I’d suggest never using, I don’t like those things as I don’t believe a cable should be wrapped that tightly.

Value:  It depends how you look at it.  The RE-262 for a long time sat at US$150 which I felt made it far and away the best value IEM ever.  The 400 sits at US$99 and again its pretty staggering value.  Is the 600 four times better sounding?  Well of course not.  US$400 equates to £255 at present, that’s of course sans HMRC’s cut (because you’re going pay the tax even if it accidently slips by customs aren’t you) so that will bump to circa £302.  That’s before Royal Mail or Parcel Farces additional fees for not steeling it at customs.  That’s quite a lot of money for an earphone for most people and more than the vast majority of IEM’s cost.  That’s more than the IE80 at £180 and the SE535 at £270, only the W4 at £380 tops it and a few more esoteric things out there.  So yes it is expensive but you get what you pay for, it sounds tremendous.  Also, as this is top table stuff so you had better have a good source and high bitrate files to feed it too.

Conclusion:  The RE-600 is without a doubt a bit of a jaw dropper.  It sounds simply superb on every aspect but it’s not without an issue.  Its biggest issue is money.  Now I’m not saying that the 600 doesn’t deserve its price tag as it’s quite possibly the best sounding IEM I’ve ever heard and possibly my favourite one too.  It more than deserves its price tag.  Trouble is it’s a high price tag and justified as it may be I think it’s not an outright OMFG you must buy this right now IEM.  Yes it is excellent in every way but HiFiMAN’s own RE-400 is pretty damn awesome and it’s stupid cheap.  Again another cost issue was the RE-262 which has gone away but it was being sold at the nutty US$150 and it irks me a touch that it is so close acoustically yet the 600 cost so much more.  That’s a big jump you know.

Money aside though the 600 is magnificent.  It’s like they got the best aspect of the 252, 262 and 272 and rolled it all into one.  It’s got near 252 scale and sound staging, near 272 detail retrieval and all wedded to the silky sumptuousness that was the 262.  It’s got a truly beautiful acoustic nature that is flawless.  Not just flawless it’s fun!  It’s got the bass capability to kick it when it wants to, scale and grandeur in abundance and sooooooo perfectly controlled without sounding over tame.  The 272 was a little too hard, too quick but the 262 influence has balanced and boosted it.  The mids of course are, I want to use the word staggering again, they just are so beautiful.  The 262 had some of the very best mids ever and they are if anything even better here.  The tone is a hair on the warm side like the 262 and SE530 so I grant it’s not perfectly neutral.  Things like the 272 or ER4 do perfectly neutral mids and I find them all a little soulless.  The 600 has a natural beauty and it feels so realistically and passionately alive.  The treble too is bang on perfect.  Sure some like more but it’s as capable as you could ever hope for and the shimmer, oh it’s truly flawless.

The RE-600 may not be an out and out party IEM nor a mere technical perfectionist like the 252 was but something that aims for in the middle. Not too unlike the 262 which mas all about the musicality and simple beauty as exemplified by the like of the SE530.  The 600 transforms that organic, rich beauty and adds things.  It adds a rather more vigorously capable low end, adds in a scale to the proceedings and dials up the clarity level.  I mean the 262 really didn’t know to party but the 600 does.

In short, the 600 is just about the most perfect IEM I have heard.  Every aspect of it I have loved.  It’s not cheap, it’s not a paragon of balance and neutrality so for those things you may want to look elsewhere but for a little warm, little rich amazingly good sounding IEM and are willing to pay for it then I think this it.  

HiFiMAN RE-600 Quick Review

HiFiMAN RE-600 Quick Review

Thanks to Head Direct for the sample.

Brief:  HiFiMAN’s finest IEM to date.

Price:  US$400 so about £255 or £302 if HMRC spot it

Specification:  3.5mm mini plug, Mini adapter for regular earphone jack, Frequency Response: 15Hz-22KHz, Impedance: 16 Ohms, Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW, Weight: 0.48Oz (13.7g)

Accessories:  13 pairs of tips, 10 filters, balanced to normal adapter, cable wrappy thing and a little case.

Build Quality:  The best so far for HiFiMAN, the cable is supposedly all Kevlar coated and what not.  Still it’s a bit stiff for my liking.  The woven outer is nice to the touch but overall this doesn’t scream awesome build quality, its very ordinary visually.

Isolation:  For a dynamic very good.  Rather better than its predecessors too.  Still it’s not up there with the BA stuff but this I’d be relatively happy with a short flight.  Naturally more than enough for typical usage and to get yourself run over if you aren’t used to looking where you’re going.

Comfort/Fit:  Excellent.  This was one area where HiFiMAN had issues previously.  The 252 in particular was a nightmare for fit but the 600 has gone back to an old fashioned straight in the ear design.  Yey!  Just stuck in ears and that was it.

Aesthetics:  These in comparison to the 400 look fancy but compared to other things out there these look very pedestrian.  Not unattractive by any means but these don’t make me have much of an opinion on the matter.  They are glossy black.

Sound:  This is the bit where HiFiMAN stuff tends to shine and here is no different.  The 600 is possibly the best IEM I’ve ever heard.  It does everything exquisitely.  Everything thing on it is tremendously good.  The bass is spacious, offers scale and power yet fabulous clarity and agility.  It rather shows up what other high enders can do as this is a dynamic and that oft make bass more vigorous low down.  The quality is so outstanding and yet it can dial up enough to really power a bass line when its called for.  Then the mids, well they are like an improved 262 and they were about the best mids in existence already.  Here they are a little warm and a little liquid over perfectly neutral but by Christ they sound good.  They are so phenomenally enjoyable, even more enjoyable than they are technically proficient.  They are masterfully brilliant.  The highs too are staggeringly good.  They don’t appear in the abundance some may like but the clarity, detail and ability to that most difficult of things, produce a natural decay, is first rate.  Again of the high enders which are normally BA, it’s just not something a BA driver does well.  I’ve never thought a BA driver can ever truly do that shimmery decay of a cymbal perfectly in the way an excellent dynamic can.  It’s amazingly good stuff.  The downs now, the bass is rather bigger than neutral so purists may not be pleased but also it’s no IE8 to please bass heads.  The mids like all the best middy IEM’s out there are a bit over beautified and not strictly neutrally accurate.  The highs which may be stunningly good but haven’t the abundance some want and they are not so in your face apparent.  The 272 sounds immediately hyper detailed because it’s so much brighter.  Treble heads will crave greater abundance.

Other things, its soundscape is tremendous for an IEM. Its dynamic capabilities are outstanding.  Its detail levels are such that despite being a relatively friendly sound sig to poor recordings and sources are so high that if you feed it cack it will let you know.  So no 128k mp3’s!

Value:  Debateable.  Is any IEM really worth US$400?  Actually its biggest obstacle is its sibling the RE-400.  Side by side the 600 may smash it but the 400 is super good and super cheap.  Still if you want one of the best sounding IEM’s money can buy then arguably “value” doesn’t really matter anyway. 

Pro’s:   Sound quality, its practically perfection.

Con’s:  Rather flavoured and if you want this quality you have to pay for it.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Review

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:   the box is standard fair for DUNU, they are all essentially the same.  The insides too are fast becoming a standard with them.  The accessory bundle is a grand compendium of bits and bobs.  Shame no metal case that they used to do, still you get both a hard case and a baggy so it is the most minor of gripes.  Just it was the best case ever and it’s a shame not to see it more often.  Otherwise everything is just what you expect to see, the cable is the same we normally see as is the jack and Y splitter.  The buds too are the typical quality.  The build quality is some of the best you will see and has become a real hallmark of DUNU.

First listen and the bass is clearly what this IEM is going to be about.  Oh god there is an awful lot of bass going on here.  I can see it fast becoming tiring but it may tidy up a notch with a burn in.  still is a run through a couple of tracks the bass is quite magnificent, clearly too much for me but no flab to it at all.  Its rather tunefull too and manages not to interfere with anything else. Hmmm I think this one might just grow on me.

Source: FiiO E7/E9, Hisoundaudio Studio 3rd Anv., 1G Ipod shuffle

Lows:  This is probably the most important section.  Make no mistake about the Landmine, the name is appropriate in that its low end will blow you away.  Hands up I’ll confess the bass is more than I would like it to be, I’m not a fan of bass heavy things but many people are and this is aimed at they more than I.  Another confession I fear must be made in that when encountering large bass I’m inclined to smoother and softer bass lines.  I find lots of bass being driven violently at you with scale and punch to be rather tiring on my little ears.  However many love tons of bass, tons of power, tons of punch and here we have it all on a silver platter.  Trying fast moving bass as is found with The Dresden Dolls or the Scissor Sisters, the 23 just does it.  It never feels like its struggling to keep up with what’s going on and at the same time it can do the inverse with equal aptitude.  The smooth and slow “Union Street” album from Erasure never sounds hurried or that it’s struggling to move the air low down.  It’s rare to find something that feels so content to do either low end rendition and with this level of articulation.

Quantity wise I feel it’s a bit humpy.  The middle of the bass range peeks and declines as it moves toward the mid/bass cusp.  It does likewise decline as it reaches down low but more gradually.  The depth is good but not too linear as frankly I think if it did it would become wildly oppressive.  It trails off as it ought to with a human hearing curve mostly but I found its depth to be highly impressive.  Honestly I’d have rather it trailed off much more rapidly like as would be found in something open.

Mids:  A tad recessed behind that big old bass but then that’s how it works.  Quantity wise you really can’t fail to find it lacking a bit as that really is a lot of bass.  Still it’s perfectly clear and I’d say more or less in line with the highs.  It’s actually a really rather nice mid-range.  I’d have really expected to be hearing much more obfuscation of vocals because there is so much bass but even Heather Small’s delicate vocals come through rather cleanly.  Still if its light and airy vocals you’re after this isn’t it.  Tonally they are much more towards the heavy and rich side.  It hides a lot of sins that way and is probably intentionally tuned so.  This is an IEM made for the likes of pop “artists” that specialise in joviality rather than singing talent. Not that there is anything wrong in having a good time and enjoying some bounce and energy.  These while perfectly competent vocally are not what I’d pick up if you’re a big Nora or Tori listener. 

That said, vocals are beautiful sounding on them.  Lush and detailed both in equal measure but I wanted more of it.  I found I wanted to turn them up to get more of the gorgeous mids and then some bass line would kick in.  By kick in I mean by kicking you in the guts.

Highs:  Quantity wise there is about the same as there are mids.  Plenty enough to know what’s going on but still behind that big bottom end.  Clarity wise they are very nice.  They are not what you would call forward or crisp at all but every so often I would notice that I’m picking out some subtitle and delicate shimmer in the background.  There really is quite a lot going on in there if you choose to look past the more obvious bass.  Still it’s not the most apparent about this detail.  If you want to notice it you shall have to look for it as it’s very casually rendered and lack the sharpened edge so often used to capture attention and allude to more detail than they have.  These have the detail but they make very little song and dance about it.  You could think of it as a rather sweet high end, softened and very unaggressive.  It’s possible this may go down more favourably in the Far East than the West with its smoothness.  Frankly I find this sort of treble much more eminently listenable particularly if you are using a source that may lack in the upper end.  Likewise if you aren’t supplying high bit rate files the first thing to suffer in the highs and for most mainstream consumers I feel it’s the right way to tune the highs.  It will be forgiving of dross and will offer the more intimate details of a track if you supply it well.

Soundstage:  Instrument placement is fairly broad but not greatly defined.  The stage feels fairly vague too, broadly outlined before me and reasonably sized but uneventful.  Good width, height not so much.

Fit:  Great.  For a bassy sealed dynamic I’d have expected some driver flex of air pressure issues but there was none.  Shoved in ears and that was it.

Comfort:  Great.  Sealed dynamics can often irritate but not a jot of bother here. 

Cable:  DUNU seem to use the same cable, jack and Y splitter for all their IEM’s.  It’s a good thing too because they are great.  It also still has its little cable tie do dah that I love.  You really can’t fault anything here.

Accessories:  DUNU put together the best access bundle out there.  It’s really that simple.  You get a hard case, a leathery baggy, a plane adapter, a 6.25 to 3.5mm jack, a shirt clip, I count 10 pairs of tips, a chin slider and that fab little cable tie.  You really could not possibly ask for more.

Microphonics:  The usual.  Wear up you get none.  If you insist on wearing down you do get some but there is the chin slider and the shirt clip so you can largely remove the issue.  Or just wear them up.

Amped/Unamped:  It responded reasonably well.   But as is the case with some I felt it rather benefited from adding additional impedance.  You got a nice bump in high end refinement and a cleaning up of the bass, with I felt fractionally bumped down the bass quantity.  So for me that was just win all round.  Otherwise the difference between amping and not isn’t worth hugely being fussed about.  Sure it’s a bump but unless you’re going to add impedance too then the bump from the two makes it rather more worth the bother.  In that case I think it’s worth doing.  It like many single dynamics rather liked having impedance added and I’d say if you have a pair, spend the US$10 and get an ER4 impedance adapter.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  It’s a dynamic but it’s pretty well sealed so you could happily get away with this for normal everyday uses.  Not one I’d go with for Tube commutes or long distance flights but you could do worse.  Of course its effortlessly enough to get yourself run over if your new to IEM’s and aren’t used to properly looking where you’re going.

Value:  Since I could only find two prices for these, US$85 (£57) or €79 those will have to be the prices I go with.  So the euro place prices it as £68 in Sterling and that’s range with some stiff competition.  DUNU’s are always solid buys as the build is great and the bundle is untouchable.  Sound per £ though and I see ClieOS as awarded them a Sonic Diamond.  That puts them in the same category as the RE-0 and while I think they are excellent I’m not sure I’d grant them quite such praise.  Sure it’s good and for a big bass beast it’s very detailed and the bundle is flawless.  Maybe it’s just that I’m more a RE-400 sort of person?  Of course they do pair up well, are great sounding, having great build quality and having a fantastic bundle of bits.

Conclusion:  I still have mixed feeling about these.  While I recognise that they are highly accomplished I find that there is too much bass.  It’s ever present and so forceful.  God it’s got some oomph behind it!  Of course its target market will love it for that.  It’s very accomplished technically and I really can in no way fault it in any way save for its quantity.  Christ it’s a lot and it’s really tiring my delicate little ears out.  Its relentlessness and inexhaustible power just keeps on going and going like a roller coaster you’ve been trapped on for hours.  Fun at first but now I just want it to stop and let me have a little break.  However as my sister recently declared the Hephaes (DN-16’s) she appropriated from me were no longer doing it for her and she would like something new, might I have something bassier she could steal?  (She did also mention they got a trip round the inside of the washing machine.)  Clearly there is a demand out there for more bass than you shake a big pointy stick at!

If you think that might be you then these are seriously capable bass cannons.  The bass is not only top class the rest of the spectrum is too just in the low ends perpetual shadow.  For me it didn’t work as I wanted to crank it up to hear the vocals and highs then the bass would appear and punch me in the gut.  It’s that sort of powerful, will smack you bass.  Listening to Placebo’s “Johnny and Mary” and the bass is so potent it’s frustrating.  I don’t care how masterfully tuneful the bass here is, it’s in my face all the time.

Okay so it’s pretty apparent I don’t love these.  The bass that’s what it’s all about.  If you like a great big truck load of bass then this has some of the best around.  Lots and lots of relentless, remorseless bass, thundering forth and dancing as nimbly as though on the head of a pin.  It’s really good stuff that many a company would be proud to have produced.  The rest of the spectrum is also very accomplished but much more lacking presence.  The physical quality of the IEM is first class as are all DUNU’s.  All in all it’s a really excellent little IEM DUNU have made here.

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Quick Review

DUNU DN-23 Landmine Quick Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

Brief:  An awe inspiring bass cannon.

Price:  US$85 or €79 (£68)

Specification:  Type HQ (10mm), Sound pressure level 120+-2dB, Impedance 16 ohms, Frequency response 16 Hz - 22 KHz, Noise Attenuation 26dB, Weight 28g, Plug Size 3.5mm Gold-plated, Cord Length 1.2 m

Accessories:  Everything.  A hard case, a soft baggy, a bunch of tips, 6.25 to 3.5 mm jack, aircraft adapter, shirt clip, and of course the greatly useful built in cable tie.

Build Quality:  Nothing short of excellent.  DUNU have about the best build quality you’ll see anywhere.

Isolation:  Rather good for a dynamic.  It’s sealed so you block out enough for most day to day things, not really quite up to daily Tube commutes or trips to New Zealand.  As ever easily enough to get you run over if our not looking where you’re going.

Comfort/Fit:  Great, no issues what so ever despite it being a sealed dynamic.

Aesthetics:  The finish on them is superb, that high lustre, burnished near black outer looks good.  It’s probably more subtle than some would like but it’s, in my opinion, first rate.  I also greatly like the red and blue accents on the buds.  In short they tick the boxes of everything I like visually in an IEM.

Sound:  BASS!!!!!!! I could really leave that as the full review and I don’t think it would be overly remise to do so.  The bass is entirely what the DN-23 is about.  It’s of an excellent quality being both highly impactful and full bodied enough to do essentially any bass style you should ask of it.  Fast punchy dancy pop or smooth, rich, sombre jazz it can do with equal effortlessness, but it’s still a bass cannon.  There is a lot of bass.  Lots and lots and then lots more on top and it never really goes away.  The mids and highs are very competent.  The mids are rich and flowing, the highs detailed, sweet and delicate.  I could say much praise worth about the highs but it’s all about the bass.  Just so much bass, so much power!  I haven’t the slightest fear that there are not loads of people that want just this sort of bass.  It is awesome. 

Awesome if you want a magnificent bass beast.  Less so if you don’t really want the bass overshadowing the rest.  It’s a bit of a shame as the rest of the sound spectrum is very competent particularly the highs, them I really liked.  It’s a very flavourful sound you’re getting here and as long as you’re happy with that flavour you’re on to a winner here.

Value:  Great bundle as always. Superb build too.  Sound is great but highly bass centric so great if you want that, if you want more balance then it’s not really the IEM for you.

Pro’s:   Bass, bass and bass.  Sweet and delicate highs.

Con’s:  See Pro’s.  Its sound sig is highly flavoured.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

BLOX BI3 Review

BLOX BI3 Review

Thanks to BLOX for the sample.

First Impressions:  Aww no case in the box, that’s a shame.  Still I recognise that cable, it’s just like the ones MEElec stuff used to have.  I liked it back then and I still like it, not only is it a visually appealing cable it feels super sturdy.  Actually that Y splitter looks familiar too.  hmm I’m thinking the same OEM is at work for these and the MEElec stuff.  It bodes well for the cable durability.  I suppose that doesn’t matter though as the cable is removable, you break it you can stick in a new one.  Not sure where as of yet you can buy a new one mind.  I like removable cables, not that I’ve ever really killed a cable bar one.  (Klipsch Custom 3, which will be no surprise to anyone who has owed one, worst cable ever.)  Still I realise I’m more careful than most and I’m not exactly using the same IEM day in day out.  Visually they look a bit weird, it reminds me of the old UE Fi range.  You know the Super Fi 3, the 5 and the TF10.  These are rather smaller but that same basic shape.

First listen and the first think I notice is the bass.  Previous BLOX things I’ve heard were buds and so the lower bass doesn’t exist.  It certainly does here.  There is actually rather a lot and I’m in my head thinking SE215 and Hisoundaudio Crystals are going to be the things to compare it to.  Bassy, dynamic, and seem to isolate really well with no driver flex or air pressure issues.  Gosh these are really good sounding, their site says 40USD but I think I want that confirmed, it’s that price is right the GR06 is in for a fight.

Source:  FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio 3rd anv., 1G Ipod shuffle, Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:   Lots and lots of bass here.  Maybe even a bit towards too much as a direct AB with the GR06 makes them sound near needle thin.  Still I like the bass.  It’s got silly good depth on it for something so cheap and hearing a double bass being plucked sounds so solid and low.  Maybe it is a touch softer than it ought to be but come on, you do abundance and a more aggressive punch then it gets wearing on the ears.  At this price you’re always trading one aspect for another to some extent but I think BLOX have really got it going well.  Pop is lively and bouncy with bass lines powerfully and deep yet relatively sprightly.  It’s make you smile kinda bass and in most pop music it feels rock solid.  Slap on a little orchestral rock and the bass feels grand and symphonic in scale, it’s as though there is same great chasm of bass laying forever in reserve, the potency is near tangible like it’s just about to tear your arm off.  I’m liking it, it’s so full of life.  All this yet it never feels oppressively bassy, nor does it feel like the bass is interjecting itself is places it shouldn’t.  Sure it’s more abundant than it should be but I find I really could not care less.  Its tonality, timbre and tangibility are superb for this price.  Super fun and excellent quality.

Mids:  Once you have let your ears and brain attune themselves the mids are rather nice.  A bit liquid, bit warm and the bass doesn’t interfere too much with them.  However should you A/B them with say the GR06 they seem hugely recessed.  That big old beastly bass does in fact dominate things a bit and the mids tend to be pushed back somewhat.  Dido for instance was rather meh.  Delicate vocal nuances are just not really all that they could be.  Still you slap on some of the Aguilera woman and they jump rather more where they ought to be.  The often shouty nature of much pop compliments the BI3’s super well.  Just with tons of bass.  Mids aside from being a few levels lower than the bass are nice tonally.  Don’t really do a lot in the way of air and delicacy but like I said these are made for pop not for the likes of Nora.  These are made to party.  One word of warning, these on a few songs did start edging towards sibilance, not a big issue but does need to be mentioned.

Highs:  Again when your ears are used to them the highs sound just fine.  They are of course rather more in step with the mids than the mammoth bass.  It’s gone for a more inoffensive highs rather than something crispy and ear sizzling.  Again I think the peeps at BLOX have looked at the charts and set out to make on IEM for it.  You don’t need crystal clear, ultra revealing etc etc.  you wouldn’t get it at this price anyway so take the best you can and making sound great, so what if that’s not strictly spot on accurate?  Make no mistake these sound great.  There may not be spades of treble energy but they have great detail and sand the edges off the ever so well mastered stuff we listen to.  Fun is really the order of the day.  Extension isn’t super but again this isn’t a monitor, it’s a party beast.

Soundstage:  These sound alright for stage setting but the aspect the really shine at is giving a sense of scale and power.  They are closed so airy not so much but that scale, that scale is impressive.  They feel so vast in scale with that crazy low end response.  Instrument placement is alright too, bit linear and not much height but perfectly reasonable.

Fit:  So by now you’ve seen a pic of these.  You know that these ore going to cause at least someone a problem but I can safely say I had none.  Granted I had no bother with the TF10 and I know many did but that’s what these remind me of.  Now the ear hook memory wire didn’t fit my ears well so it didn’t really support themselves well but that was the extent of my issues.  Tbh I hate memory wires, I can’t think of an IEM that they have ever made things better fitting for me.  So even with the big giant tips I used and the weird angle these sat at still were effortless to get in.  However I’d expect someone out there will have trouble.

Comfort:  So often fit and comfort go together and let’s face it these things are a weird shape.  They look like they should be uncomfortable but were actually completely fine.  I was a bit surprised but I had zero bother and was perfectly happy wearing these things all day long.

Cable:  Lovely.  Braided silvery with a transparent plastic sheath over it.  Just like the old MEElec ones.  Should last a while.  Oh and plus, its replaceable!

Build:  Well the cable looks great and it is replaceable  too.  The buds though, they look like they have a joint in them.  Frankly I don’t know what that join is and I didn’t want to force things.  I’ve got to confess it looks a bit janky.  Still the true test of build needs time so unless someone wants to lend me a time machine it’s all guess work.

Microphonics: None.  You can’t wear them down.

Amped/Unamped:  These liked getting amped.  I felt these were a bit on the quiet side compare to others and so needed to be driven a bit harder.  Then stepping up to an amp with some oomph really let them open up.  What helped even more though was adding impedance.  Even just with the Galaxy Nexus powering things they sounded just awesome with an extra 75 ohms.  Mind you it did want to then be played with the volume on the phone at max.  So my suggestion is get a little amp if you’re adding impedance.  Super fun and the highs massively clean up.

Isolation:  Really not bad at all.  It’s a big sealed dynamic so fine for on a bus, out and about etc etc.  For the Tube or flying it really wouldn’t be my first choice.  I mean it easily beats buds but still.  As always with ease enough to turn you into a road stain if you don’t look where you’re going with them in.c

Accessories:  This would be the point where I can’t actually remember what they came with.  I see a little bag of tips I can’t place so I’m going to say these come with 4 pairs of tips.  Of course they have a shirt clip attached to them also.  Oops for being less certain about this.

Value:  BLOX’s website says US$40 so that would be £26.07 which even at the suck exchange rate makes these uberbargains.  Okay adding in postage its US$47 or £30.63. Sure they are too bassy but otherwise just stunningly good.

Conclusion:  Buy a pair. 

Okay, okay I’ll say a bit more.  These as I may have mentioned are way too bassy.  These are aimed at an audience that wants a metric F ton of bass and BLOX have dished it up.  Still I’ve been listening to these for hours now and my brain/ears have largely tuned that out and these are just fantastic.  The detail they give for their price is superb.  Their tonality is a joy to hear and their detail retrieval is superb for such a sound signature.  Sure to be their best you need throw impedance at them and hook them up to a power station but should you have them then your be suitably rewarded.  Acoustically this is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while and enjoyed.  I really have had so much fun playing with them despite their bass levels.

I really don’t know what BLOX are up to with their drivers as they clearly are masterpieces and at stupid prices.  I’m still not sure what to make of that US$40 price tag.  I keep feeling it’s a mistake.  Granted you have to add 7 for postage but even still. I think I’ve enjoyed these more than the GR06.  I’m not sure I’ll use these as much as I do the 6 as it’s my “popping to supermarket” IEM.  Something that sits there and I can just grab with having to fuss about and they don’t totally block out everything.  The shape of the BI3 is a bit weird and those ear guides don’t make for fitting in a pocket nicely.  The shape is just stupid.  Well its inconvenient when not in my ears anyway.  But it’s the sound!

The sound quality here is just excellent for the price.  They are in my opinion the equals of the GR06, at a lower price just with a rather different sound signature.  The 6 is more natural and the BI3 is rather more party orientated.  The bass in particular is rather boosted but that’s hardly a detractor for many out there.  As it stands if you want something bassy right now I don’t believe there is a better sounding IEM at this price, its just superb value and I’d suggest if you’re interested get in quick.  I’d bet the price of the BI3 will start to rise as supply is snapped up.