Sunday, 27 October 2013

RHA MA-750i Review

RHA MA-750i Review

Thanks to RHA for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box, well it’s rather nice with its magnetic flap on the front.  Inside though when you actually get to the IEM's is where you begin to get impressed.  The 750 positively screams fancy and premium at you once you behold them.  Everything is metal; my god even the credit card shaped tip holder is metal!  The jack, on them is metal and extending out from it is a coiled spring to, I presume, prevent the end of the jack becoming a point of the cable being set to a sharp right angle and pulled.  It’s not something I’ve seen before outside a more normal rubber cable strain relief.  The mic is all metal too, makes it rather weighty, that weight doesn’t matter as you have to wear these over your ears.  Attached to the metal buds are a rubbery ear guide so you don’t get a choice in the matter.  That’s fine with me as I wear everything up anyway.  The cable too feels super premium to the touch.

Acoustically, these are rather detailed sounding.  What hits me most prominently is the treble, gosh there is plenty of it and it’s rather sprightly and enthusiastic.  Oooh this could be a one for the treble junkies out there.  Slapping of a little Strauss though and these seem much more calmly behaved.  Still they strike me as lightning fast for a big old dynamic, super duper fast.  I wonder what a little burn in shall do for them; see if it relaxes that treble a touch.

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

Lows:  This is real departure for RHA, the 750 sound very, very different from their other IEM’s and this is most noticeable in the lows.  They have shifted from a quantity priority to one of quality.  It’s like a breath of fresh air too.  These are not what I’d say light on the bass but compared with what you may expect it is.  The depth is rather excellent and it does seem to like to rise in power as it descends in frequency.  It really holds on there with a fair amount of tenacity.  Otherwise the bass seems very linear and ordered.  It’s very polite too, it’s neither a bastion of power and punch no overly soft and inflated.  Very, very in the middle stylistically.  It’s fairly good at doing either if you ask it to but it remains polite about it.  Even in tracks that are rather aggressive the bass here takes on a very accurate rendition but always feels like its soul just isn’t in it the way other RHA IEM’s do. It’s very technically proficient and accurate.

Quantity wise its just about spot on what it should be.  Big when you want big, small when you want small.  Its all so very unflavoured.  Very talented for a big dynamic and the extension is first rate.

Mids:  What is most noticeable here is the tonality and timbre of the mids is excellent.  Things such as strings and woodwinds are utterly outstanding.  Every tiny little inflection is in there and I don’t know if it’s due to their Steel and utterly non resonant enclosures that’s at work here, but it’s awesome.  If you slap on some high quality, very high quality tracks the clean crispness to a guitar being plucked is faultless.  Acoustic instruments are truly where the 750 shines bright.  It’s timbrally bang on and the detail levels are sufficient to be very convincing.  RHA isn’t a company whose products I’d normally think of as being so well suited to acoustic and symphonic listening but the 750 really is.  This is going for true audiophile timbrel perfection.  Vocals too are superb, they are full of breathy detail and sound so very natural.  Again its tone and timbre is just outstanding. 

Quantity wise they are really rather balanced.  With the foam tips anyway.  Perhaps are a tiny fraction behind the lows and highs but nothing to really worry about.  None of the huge V shaped signature from other RHA IEM’s.

Highs:  I’m really in two minds here.  My initial impressions were that the 750 is fantastically energetic up top and it is, if you don’t use the foam tips.  With the silicon tips I found it so wildly energetic up top.  Oh god it was so enthusiastic up there it was blinding me with its brightness.  The foam tips though, I don’t know if by design or happy coincidence but where they otherwise peek the foam tips neutralise it.  It’s well known that foam based tips often tame the highs and enhance the lows.  In my opinion they pair up stunningly well with the 750 (note, these seem to only come with the 750 too.)  With the foam tips in place, the highs became much more balanced and linear.  The quantity is much more tolerable if still a bit more than is customary my personal preference.  The quality is as with the mids, utterly excellent.  Once more the same timbrel and tonal flair comes to the fore and just shines.  Its just excellent.  Cymbals crash and impact with an absolutely spot on degree of edge and metallic sharpness.  The roll off and decay is superbly natural and the extension displayed while its doing all this has the height and flair that only a great dynamic driver can muster.

The negative though is I found with the silicon tips, with a bright source, with badly mastered or bad bit rates the 750’s are not inclined to take prisoners.  These are not subtle when it comes to the highs and while detail levels are very good they are not delicate shimmering masters like the RE-272.  They are clear, clean, crisp but when fed carp will descend towards the brutally harsh rather than soft and fuzzy.

Soundstage:  Being a dynamic it’s pretty good.  The scale is good and it projects a grand sense of power availability.  Acoustically its very well integrated and coherent rather than offering much in way of clear instrument placement.  Things are more about distance than actually placing it anywhere in particular.

Fit:  Fine for me, still they have built in ear guides so you don’t get the option not to use them.  Not something I’m a fan of. Also the buds are rather sizeable so that could be an issue for some.  Still for me they were absolutely fine.  There was a little driver flex with the silicon tips I noticed, didn’t get with the foams.

Comfort:  Good, they are really heavy but since you wear over the ears the weight is meaningless.  If you pair it badly or have tip issues I could see it being uncomfortably bright.   For me no problems though.

Cable:  First impressions of the cable are WOW!  The thing visually is super premium, it’s huge and its texture in your hand is amazing.  However I found in use its weight and rubberyness dragged on my clothes and annoyed me.  Otherwise though the thing looks amazing the jack is just unbelievable, just unbelievable.  Have you ever seen a jack like it?!?!  The Y splitter and the mic too are just as insanely outstanding.

Build:  The buds are machined stainless steel.  Only time can really tell how things will stand up to use but these look and feel like they will outlive you!  Oh and they come with a 3 year warranty so your guaranteed they will at the very least get you 3 years of use.  I wouldn’t expect RHA will have to replace many of these.

Microphonics:  Not the best but not enough to be bothersome.  These do have a chin slider but if you wanted to use the mic would get in the way.  Obviously that’s only an issue for the mic’d version.

Phone Use:  Sadly the focus in Iphone type devices and the inclusion of a volume control means that my Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 did not work.  Well, they were fine for listening but neither the volume control worked no more importantly did the mic.  Sad face.  Of course there is always the non-mic’d version available for a slightly cheaper.

Amped/Unamped:  Actually these didn’t seem to mind much.  They didn’t need lots of power to be good but as I mentioned before, these don’t appreciate being fed rubbish.  I can see the warmer and softer sound of an Iphone pairing up nicely with these (they are mic’d after all so I’d assume that’s not a coincidence.)  My Galaxy Nexus drove them well enough too.  Adding impedance took a bit of the edge off the highs so that might be a good idea if your source is a bit edgy.  In general amping tightened up the bass and refined the highs as it rather frequently does.  Its worth doing if you’ve got but not sure it would be worth running out and buying an amp for them.  Still, adding impedance and amping did give them a rather nice boost especially in hardening up the bass.

Isolation:  For a dynamic it’s at the rather better end of the scale.  These I found to be fine to use on a bus and for normal day to day travels.  They are fairly closed.  Not Tub commuting levels of isolation but more than enough to make you road kill if you aren’t looking where you’re going.

Accessories:  10 pairs of tips, two of which are these foam tips I mentioned before.  They all come in a steel tip holder which looks quite wonderful.  Not that I think any will ever use it once they have selected the tip that works best for them.  You also get a “premium” carry case.  Personally I don’t really like it, it’s like those big Bose ones and is in my opinion oversized.

Value:  These are sitting at £90, the non mic’d version is about the £80 mark.  These on seeing I’d assumed would have been way more than that and listening to them only confirmed that thought.  While I’d argue these may not be the finest audio quality your money can get you, their wonderfully accurate timbre and the construction sway things hugely in their favour.  Oh and massive warranty period of 3 years.

Conclusion:  I’ve spend a fair amount of time with the MA-750i and im still a bit unsure as to what to make of them.  As my grandparents might have said, it’s a bit of a queer duck.  Its not really like any of the other RHA IEM’s I’ve heard.  Actually it’s not like anything that springs to mind.  Its cost directs me towards the RE-400 and at push the GR07 and given I just compared these two to thu DN-1000 logic would insist it too.  There is the rub, these are nothing like the DN-1000 in any way (well they are both metal and shiney) and these are not actually anything like the 400 or 7 either. 

Head to head with the 7 these have a more pronounced bass response that’s thicker and heavier.  Vocals too feel more enclosed and less nuanced but given time the tonality shines through and feels so natural.  Highs, the 7 sounds so airy but gritty and the 750 with foam tips comparatively dark yet with a striking treble flair that scintillates and dances.  Without the foam tips rather too much if you ask me.

Comparing to the 400 the lows on the 750 seem so vastly scaled up and more powerful.  The mids, well the 400 has rather amazing mids and the 750 seems dulled in comparison.  The highs, the 400 suffers the same problem and the 7 in that it’s not as refined as I’d like.  Then of course it’s less eager than that of the 750.

When I head to head the 750 doesn’t come of besting them but when put together it has something.  That je ne sais quoi that puts everything together very nicely.  It all comes together and it works. The tonality and the fabulously metallic twang up top, the edge and timbre of plucked strings too are just superb.  I really think it’s that steel enclosure at work there.  Then of course that build quality.  I can’t help feeling these should cost much more than they do.  The build on these is just insane, just look at the jack on them.

So, physically these are amazing.  Acoustically, their timbre is outstanding and their acoustic balance very interesting.  The detail levels are very nice too with the highs being particularly talented.  This is a really impressive stab at a much more audiophile acoustic balance from RHA that manages, despite the spectacular build quality, come in at a price that undercuts its prime competition, that of the GR07.  I’m really not sure how they have accomplished it, for it to be built like it as, sound as good and be this cheap.  

RHA MA-750i Quick Review

RHA MA-750i Quick Review

Thanks to RHA for the sample.

Brief:  Timberal and tonal extraordinaire.

Price:  £90 or for no mic £80, in Americaland US$130 and US$120.

Specification:  Drivers 560.1 Dynamic, Frequency range 16-22,000Hz, Impedance 16ohms, Sensitivity 100db, Rated/max power 1/5mW, Weight 36g, Cable 1.35m, reinforced, OFC, Connections 3.5mm, gold plated.

Accessories:  6 pairs, dual density ear tips - S x2 / M x2 / L x2, 2 pairs, double flange ear tips - S x1 / M x1, 2 pairs, memory foam ear tips - universal fit, Stainless steel ear tip holder, Premium carry case, Clothing clip

Build Quality:  Quite unbelievably spectacular.  It’s a visual extravaganza and it feels as impressive as it looks.  3 year warranty too.

Isolation:  Pretty good for a dynamic.  They are relatively sealed so got driver flex with silicon tips, none with foam and foam helped isolate.  Fine for normal use, maybe not so much for a trip to New Zealand but sufficient to get you run over of course.

Comfort/Fit:  For me it was good.  Ear guides don’t always work for everyone but these are very soft and flexible.  The mic did catch on my clothes with annoyed a little but otherwise these were great for me. Note these cannot be worn down if that an issue for you.

Aesthetics:  Wow, just look at the things!

Sound:  They are a real departure from the V shaped sound of other RHA things.  These are aimed in a much more audiophile direction.  The bass it’s dialled down to only slight oversized.  The mids are much more free and prominent.  The highs, well they are very prominent with the silicon tips.  I found the foams provided the perfect amount of moderation.  The highs are still rather spectacular.  Clean with a perfectly metallic twang on impact and a sumptuously natural decay.  Tonality and timbre are both stand out features here.  Both are just excellent.  The treble abundance though and sharpness means don’t feed them rubbish or you shall be punished for it.  Conversely feed it well mastered and exquisite treble and you’ll be equally rewarded.  It yearns to be fed hi res acoustic tracks or tracks with excellent instrument separation; it wants everything to have its own tonal purity.  It’s not the most detailed driver but its low-end vigour, tonality and talented treble give it some highly impressive acoustic attributes.

Value:  They sound great, come with a huge warranty and they are built like a tank.  The build quality is stellar.  I really wouldn’t have been in the least surprised if these had cost twice what they do.

Pro’s:   Tone and timbre are excellent, build quality is epic. Strings shine.

Con’s:  Highs want to be too exuberant. Not forgiving of poor bitrates or mastering.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

DUNU DN-1000 Review

DUNU DN-1000 Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box looks just like many of the other Dunu’s I’ve seen so nothing interesting there.  It’s a nice box, nothing too fancy.  Inside I see for this higher end IEM they have gone back to the rather lovely metal case.  That I am most pleased with as its one if the very best cases you will ever encounter.  Visually the IEM's look just like one of the previous models, I can’t think just which one it is but these are silvery rather than dark.  it’s a touch blingy but still I think they look nice, I’m a bit of a sucker for silver so I may not be entirely impartial on that front.  I should note that the front of the box has a sticker with two options, “Gun Metal” and “Metallic” with the latter being ticked here.  So two colour variants?

First listen and I know that these are supposed to be a new range topper for Dunu.  It’s some multi driver BA / Dynamic combo, I can’t recall the exact specs and the box isn’t awash with detail.  Shoving them in my ear as I rush out the door and “ooooooh” thought I.  These are clearly rather good.  Very good.  I can’t even hint at acoustically where the crossovers are or what drivers doing what.  This is rather excellent.  it’s got a pretty nice balance too, no dramatic V shaped sound.  I am really rather liking these. In various ways they are reminding me of the GR07, sounding not only quality but seem to be hugely versatile and capable.  These are pretty awesome.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-60, 1G Ipod Shuffle.

Lows:  Now I’m not sure what the driver set up in in these as Dunu’s website is rather ambiguous about it.  I know there is a dynamic in there, so I’m assuming it’s the one doing the low end.  I honestly can’t tell what’s doing what, the integration its pretty damn excellent and the bass doesn’t do what the Cowon EH2 (I think twin of the Tpos H-100) which shows of its dynamic by whacking up the bass.  It was bass that you know instantly could never have come from any number of BA drivers.  This though, well it could be.  The quantity is rather elevated but that can be done with BA’s.  The depth though, that’s where it begins to shine as it’s got awesome depth for something of its price.  It just goes on and on!  This is the trait that reminded me of the GR07, its initially unassuming nature then when you invite it to go wild it does with aplomb.  Rip roaring; prolific, thunderous bass comes forth if you ask it to.  Great big smile inducing, playfully bouncy bass that not only is fun but so well behaved.  Sure it is a bit elevated but if you choose you can play with the little rings and dial it down but I wouldn’t bother.  It’s a real entertainer yet has plenty of civility and composure too.  Loving it!

The down side, if you look for one is that its maybe not perfectly even and its maybe not as granite like as you get from otherwise equally proficient BA drivers.  Additionally it hasn’t the air that the GR07 and RE-400 have makes take on a dark and slightly rich nature.  That means its not quite as lightning fast either but I wouldn’t let it concern you.  The overall message is, it is excellent.  A bit abundant but spectacularly entertaining.

Mids:  Great.  For being a “hybrid” BA/dynamic IEM I largely expected a pretty V shaped sound which means the mids tend to get a bit pushed back.  Sure the mids aren’t out in front in any way, they are just a bit behind the bass.  Quality wise they are excellent.  They do lean towards the cooler and dryer side vocally but they had zero issue with heavy and liquid vocals.  It’s just maybe they didn’t quite shine with the likes of Adele that more lush sounding IEM’s do.  They have an almost reticent quality to them, like they are a fraction shy and don’t want to come forward to take centre stage even when the vocals should be.  There is also somewhat of a darkness to them.  Detail levels on them are still great if maybe a bit behind the RE-400 and its much greater sense of light and air.

Slap on something with a little more vigour to it and these spring to life dramatically.  Scissor Sisters or indeed anything with some bounce to it sounds so vibrantly alive.  Vocals cut though any amount of musical extravaganza going on.  Clean and forthright.

Highs:  Smooth, delicately shimmering.  A radical departure from the sound of a few years ago where every up and comer in the IEM world went for bright and scintillating treble, the kind of treble that hurls detail towards your delicate little ears.  Now some love that sound but for me it gets massively tiring after a little while.  These though, the detail level is clearly excellent.  They have one of the better and more natural decay profiles of cymbals and high hats.  They don’t have the crispness to the edge of an initial impact that some adore but I greatly prefer this style.  Ever so faintly softened to take the brutality out of things.  Then you encounter the decay which is something BA drivers find so hard to nail and these are one of the better attempts at it.  It’s not quite at the level of the best dynamics but it’s a close to make me not care, its not like the GR07 or RE-400 are either.  It is excellent and deals perfectly with rather treble happy tunes like those of Owl City.  All the detail and decay you want with none of the abrasiveness.  The extension is superb for a BA, its genuinely excellent full stop.

Still I recognise that some may prefer the treble to be more aggressive and more pronounced, it just isn’t.  It does however jump a bit forward if you use looser sealing tips such as the biflannge ones at the expense of the low-end power.

Soundstage:  Very good.  Scale and power these with ease.  Instrument placement is a rather more fuzzy and the level of instrument separation could be better too.  These are more focused on big but very well integrated sound which is no doubt wise given their multi driver nature.

Fit:  Well these would suggest that with differing rings to adjust where the tip sits, correspondingly this alters how for you can stick them in your ears.  I must confess I went straight to the included Comply’s and I found there to be little difference.  They were problem free though, a case of shove in ears and that was that.

Comfort:  These are a little heavy so I’d suggest wearing them up.  That’s what I did and comfort was just fine. Not sure if I had been doing what the manual suggests and using the rings and then shoving in until the corner of them is in contact with my ear I’d feel quite the same way.

Microphonics:  The usual story, wear up and you don’t really get any.  If you insist on down there is a chin slider to assist you.

Amped/Unamped:  You get a fairly reasonable bump in amping, enough that I’d say use an amp if you’ve got one but not so much that I’d say you need one.  Oddly though for something with a multi driver set up adding an extra 75 ohms didn’t really change anything dramatically.  Vocals seemed to step forward a bit and the bass tightened up but nothing wildly different.  Still if you’ve got an adapter to hand you might want to give it a try.  On the whole, the DN-1000 seemed very happy being driven out of every source I tried.

Isolation: For a dynamic it would be very good but for a BA it’s not really.  Fine for normal, sat on a bus type things but you probably wouldn’t opt for this for a daily Tube commute or a long flight.  Sure it would do and easily enough to get you run over but compared with a multi BA only IEM it falls behind.  Mind you its rather better than the GR07.

Value:  At present I can find it going for £125, so what else sits around there?  The obvious one is the GR07.  Realistically that what the DN-1000’s competition is and while I’d be hesitant to say the DN-1000 is categorically “better” mostly its different but this is easily every bit as good sounding and has much more refined treble.  If you actually want better than this you’re looking at a hell of a lot more money. So I’d argue its every bit as excellent value as is its sound quality.  It’s a fantastic blend of quality and entertainment.  That’s without taking into account the case, tips and other bits and bobs you get, Dunu put together still one of the best packages around.

Conclusion:  So right of the bat I’m telling you this is no RE-400.  This isn’t a lets be all about the sonic purity and then injecting a hint of fun to the mix.  This is much more like the GR07 and the way it’s tuned.  Take something tremendously entertaining and enjoyable then ramp up the quality levels.  This is all about you enjoying yourself.  The bass in particular is all about party time and loves nothing more than when you throw on some quick paced bouncy pop.  It loves to hurl itself around the place or serve some unnervingly low rumble.  Its especially noticeable on tracks with very low lows, the sort of lows that the producer probably assumed peoples speakers and earphones wouldn’t be able to spit out with any great volume so they have massively dialled it up.  These will pump it out at stupid levels, like the GR07 did but these are more sealed so the effect is even greater.

Alternatively moving to slow tracks the bass then changes and becomes utterly content to labour and ooze out a languid low note.  Of course the rest of the range takes more prominence.  Nora prattling on about elections sounds so closed and the background has a real darkness to it.  The notes cleanly cut through but there is a lack of air and space that you get from dryer or more open dynamics.  Neither is strictly “better” but I think most might go for the RE-400 here.  Where these and their darker feel is very positive is in the high end.  Audiophiles with high res files will be the ones to notice when highs are breaking up and getting brittle, for me brittle highs just kill.  The highs here in that regard are spectacular.  They are se very, very refined for this price range.  It’s something I’ve moaned about on both the RE-400 and the GR07 and these have the best quality of the three.  I know some like things a bit gritty up top but I don’t.  Assuming it is a BA driver doing it its one of the best I’ve encountered.

Changing to looser sealing tips and lightening them up which does make a notable difference (the idea behind the little rings) I’d bet everyone will do what I did, pic the one you like best and run with it.  For me it’s the low end that’s the star and the Comply’s show it off best.

In short, I’m not sure the DN-1000 is so much an audiophile IEM, it’s not tuned that way.  It is freaking awesome though.  Sure it really wants to party and the bass is a bit big but it’s so vigorously alive and dynamically vibrant.  It’s the sort of IEM that makes you want to keep listening, you find yourself walking slower somewhere because you don’t want to arrive and have to remove them.  The kind of IEM that has writhing and dancing in your chair as you try to write something!  You know this would for an awesome Christmas present, you know just saying.  Short of the RE-600 I think this is the IEM I’ve enjoyed most so far this year.

DUNU DN-1000 Quick Review

DUNU DN-1000 Quick Review

Thanks to DUNU for the sample.

Brief:  Taking names and kicking arse!

Price:  £125 so that’s about US$200

Specification:  Type: Dynamic (10mm) Balanced Armature, SPL:98+-2dB, Impedance 10 ohms, Frequency Response: 16Hz – 22KHz, Noise Attenuation: 26dB, Weight: 26g, Plug Size: 3.5mm, Cord Length: 1.2m.

Accessories:  Metal case, leathery baggy, 6.25 to 3.5mm adapter, aeroplane adapter, shirt clip, 3 types of acoustic rings, 4 of each type, 4 pairs of Comply tips, 3 pairs of clear silicon tips, 1 pair of bi flange tips, 3 pairs of thin grey silicon tips, a pair of ear guides and last of all a cleaning cloth.  Assuming you don’t count the chin slider and the attached cable tie.

Build Quality:  Excellent.  They are metal, weighty and frankly Dunu have probably the best build quality of any of the Chinese IEM makers.

Isolation:  Reasonably good, better than most dynamics ever are but not so great in comparison to most BA things.  Tolerable for the odd flight but not for a daily Tube commute.  Of course more than enough to get you run over.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good.  They are a bit heavy but wearing over the ear solves that otherwise, a shove in ear and done.  There are plenty of tips to assist in the matter.

Aesthetics:  A touch on the blingy, the silver is rather gleaming but silver is certainly much more tasteful than gold is.  Note they are more silver than the gunmetal they seem to look in photos but I think these may come in Gunmetal also.

Sound:  Awesome.  The bass is a little dominant but the quality is superb.  Deep, oh so deep, dark and rich.  The mid’s are a touch reticent but the detail is very good and the clearly cut through any amount of music.  The highs are superbly refined for a BA driver.  Maybe a little relaxed for some but they do a fantastic smooth and natural decay.  They don’t have the sharp edge many others do around this price, which some love of course.  It lends to an overall slightly dark feeling to the DN-1000 but the dynamics are spectacular.  Throw on something lively and they are astonishingly vivacious party machines.  Vigour and authority in the lows is epic but they never drown out the rest of the spectrum.  It’s a cacophony of aural drama!  Loving these little things!!!  Sure if you want slow and sombre they will do as you command and do it very well too.  The only downer I’d say is these aren’t very open or airy but that hardly a damming statement is it.  Of course these aren’t the most sonically neutral IEM in the world either.

Value:  Awesome.  These should be a real worry for the GR07 as you get a cracking bundle and they sound so kick ass.

Pro’s:   Awesome.  Bass is thunderously capable. Highs are highly refined.

Con’s:  Its not a high isolator, bass isnt very neutral, mids could do with more air.