Saturday, 29 November 2014



Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.

First Impressions: It’s a pretty little box.  Has a very tactile natural card feel to it too.  The buds once out the box are rather lovely.  It’s curious that they have ROCKJAW carved or lasered into the side, the font looks more casual but the cleanliness of the lines on the Arcana V2 seems far more mature.  The wood finish and the silvered metal offsets are very much more grown up.  Cable feels nice too.

Right so in the ears and it’s a very crisp clean sound here.  Bass is quite big yet it’s the treble that’s grabbing my attention.  Gosh these are rather W shaped and attention grabbing.  Very dynamic and forward in their presentation.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  Hard.  The bass here is not only of a rather large size but for this money seems very hard too.  Its potency is highly impressive but I have to confess it could have done with a bit of softenss.  My god its potency is immense.  It’s so wildly excitable that it loves to show off, it’s a like an energetic puppy that has grown, it’s still got the desire to hurl its self with abandon.  It’s a most joyous style to behold before you.  The bass has quite impeccably controlled notes, maybe little timbraly off but hey these cost £40.  Side by side the star in this range, the GR06, I can say that the bass here is better.  It’s got better control and simply can better keep control of an articulated note.  It’s a most impressive technical achievement.

However, this super hard and rather large, party time all the time bass is tiring.  It’s that same excitable puppy that you love so much at first but it wants to keep going and I found my ears wanted a little rest.  It’s so hard, so potent, so bombastic, so all the time. 

Mids:  The mids are a touch behind that bass and the treble, just a touch as its very much W shaped.  They are perfectly crystal clear too.  Everything is very open and very explicit to the point of at time feeling hyper detailed.  Everything, every nuance, every intonation are simply hurled at you with the all the passion and energy the Arcana’s can muster.  Woooo hooooooo party time!!!!!!!!  Anyone remember DJ Sammy’s “Boys of Summer” if you do that I think would be their theme song.  It’s not that don’t do a very pleasant slower vocal too but, they always feel like the want to crank the volume and start belting things out.  They just yearn to go faster in the most riotous and intensely captivating fashion.  It feels desperate to show off and please you.

Tonally vocals can lack a bit of width, they are rather focused and forward.  The detail levels are superb though and even best the GR06 in this regard.  So it’s very impressive technically.

Highs:  Dazzling.  They have the same very detailed and very up front style as found elsewhere.  They are scintillating and positively dazzling, dazzlingly bright and sparkly.  My god it sparkles, sparkles to the point of literally dazzling your ears.  There is such an abundance of energy from the Arcana’s.  While I can in no way question its detail levels, it’s fantastic at this price.  Just top notch and again I’d go so far as to say it beats the GR06.  The down side though is that it’s so enthusiastic that it’s exhausting.  Which a few hours in my ears and I find I’ve stopped caring at just how much detail these have to offer (and it’s a lot) that I have started track skipping until something desperately slow and genteel plays. 

Don’t get me wrong, the treble quality here is a jaw dropper but oh my, a little valium wouldn’t hurt.

Soundstage:  It’s alright, nothing special.  The instrument separation is as you might expect with a W shaped sound, very good.  Instruments are well separated and are easy to place out before and around you.  The size of the stage is fine, vocals tend to be a bit in your face and the rest feel near but surrounding you.  It’s a pretty enclosed dynamic. 

Fit:  Great.  They are quite sealed for a dynamic but even with the silicone tips I just stuck in and that was it, tiny bit of air pressure but only just.

Comfort:  Great.  Again these were a really easy one.  Slapped in ears, up or down and they seemed perfectly happy and were physically very comfortable to use for hours.

Microphonics:  Worn up, nothing.  Worn down, the lack of a neck synch gave me pause but the cable was super.  Pretty much no microphonics.  The braided the coved cable did its job well.

Phone use:  These somewhat unusually had the mic on the left rather than the right.  Not you cant swap the channels if you care.  On giving my sister a ring to test the mic I was assured I could be heard just fine and naturaly I heard her fine too, this was wearing up so the mic was rather high.  Nevertheless it would seem that they all worked as you would hope them to.  The play/pause/skip button worked just fine too with my Nexus 5.

Amped/Unamped:  These did improve notably with a big amp.  They rather liked the greater control it afforded them but the bass also was more solid with the big amp.  Not that it wasn’t plenty hard and punchy even out of a phone.  On the whole, if I’m really honest, I think they are made with a phone in mind and the phones lesser driving abilities makes for a fractionally more tame beast.  The bass is less potent, the treble slows a fraction and the mids lose a bit of exuberance.  It’s still a very dynamic monster that will love to thrill you.  I would bet that with a thick, slow phone would pair up excellently with the Arcana. 
This trend continued if you add in additional impedance.  I found that with an extra 75 ohms that they tamed and refined considerably.  For me this was great but you’d lose the mic and button control.  However if you are buying the Arcana, it is because you want its dynamism so why would you want to tame it.

Isolation:  For a dynamic rather good.  I’d be happy using as a normal commuter IEM.  Probably not flight or Tube but still vastly sufficient to make you road kill if you don’t pay attention.

Build Quality:  I really like it.  It looks very well made and that braided covered cable feels nice too.  You could easily pass these of as something you paid considerably more for.

Accessories:  Well a little skimpy.  You get 3 pairs of tips and little baggy.  Granted you don’t actually need anything more but I’d be heading to fleabay for a little hard case I think.

Value:  Sound per £ its awesome.  The detail levels are I think the best I’ve met so far for this price.  That it actually beats the GR06 is no casual thing.  I don’t know if I would want to live with its excitably all the time, either way you get masses of audio quality for not a lot of money.  Given Christmas is nearing id suggest order a pair sooner rather than later, I would not be surprised if these sell out at lightning speed.

Conclusion:  I am a bit of an old fart when it comes to audio.  I like more sedate and smooth as a rule.  I like for things to a be a little nonchalant and relaxed, sure I’ll play that note but in my own time.  I like it when a note lingers just a bit and decays a way.  It makes for a nicely smooth and gentle on the ear presentation.  The Arcana V2 however is pretty much the antithesis of that.  It likes to take a note and hurl it about.  Its constantly is pulling at the leash, yearning to go faster.  It simply can’t stop itself from letting you know how eager and enthusiastic it is.  We have an out and out party time machine.  It is just that simple.

The down side to these acoustic choices is that it just isn’t one to sit still.  Gentle and lingering songs just want to go faster.  They just can’t convince me they truly want to labour over a gentle and languid note.  Still the detail levels are exemplary and will help you pick out everything.  In this regard it actually bests the longstanding GR06, which is a pretty serious achievement.  Nevertheless these are just so thrilling that that after a while the more airy and gentility of the 6 is looking pretty appealing.

If you want the wild, scintillating and wondrous cacophony to be found here then congratulations.  You will with the Arcana V2 an absolute gem of an IEM and for you once you get a little hard case you will have a fantastic little set up.  Something for the gym, something to get the blood pumping and to pull you ever onwards, the Arcana V2 will do a magnificent job of it. It’s a little rambunctious wonder of a thing, spectacular and lively by the bucket load.



Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.

Brief:  Wow. 

Price:  £40 or about US$63 but I couldn’t actually find in the US yet.

Specification:  Drivers: 8mm dynamic, Impedance: 16Ω, Sensitivity: 108+/-3db, Frequency response: 20 – 20000Hz, Cord Length: 1.2M, Jack type: Gold plated 3.5mm, MIC

Accessories:  3 pairs of tips and a little baggy

Build Quality:  Lovely.  Seem well put together and the braided the cover cable I always like.

Isolation:  Rather good for a dynamic.  Not quite up to a daily Tube commute but would do fine for most people in most environments.  Naturally easily enough to get yourself run over if you aren’t paying attention.

Comfort/Fit:  Great.  Worn up or down, was a stick in ears and I was done.  Little bit of air pressure but nothing to be concerned about.

Aesthetics:  I really like them visually.  Personally I’d like a more grown up font used on them but its tiny anyway.  The wood and silver finish rather appeals to me. Much pretty.

Sound:  Wow.  Intensely exuberant and vigorously dynamic.  It’s got a really W shaped sound and it just wants to run perpetually wild.  It does a have a bit of a slant to the bass so expect abundance.  I’ll confess it got tiring for my ears but Christ, this thing is good.  The detail levels are fantastic everywhere and my god, it’s all just so explicitly forward everywhere.  It’s not something I’d ever find myself relaxing to, it’s all just so incredibly engaging and wild.  Even taking it side by side with the Telefunken TH-120 the ArcanaV2 still out energises it, then it goes on the actually out detail the GR06.  The 6 has been long standing as the “best” of this sort of price and while it’s still probably the more generalist, the Arcana V2 really gives it’s a thorough kicking.  Sure it won’t be loved by all as it’s just too dynamic and attention seeking.  It demands you pay it attention when they are playing so you will never sit back and relax with them.  Is that really a big flaw?  Their wild nature being too engaging for use every single day is as close am I getting to there being a problem with the Arcana V2.  Yes it’s pretty bloody awesome.

Just remember, this does not want to lend itself to mellow so it’s not the ideal generalist for eclectic musical tastes.  It’s not for “chillin’” it is there to engage you and captivate you whether you’re in the mood for that or not.

Value:  Just buy a pair and a I dare you think they’re not awesome.

Pro’s:   Wow!  Stunning, jaw dropping detail for the money.  Madly exuberant.

Con’s:  It really isn’t one to sit still and chill.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Final Audio Adagio III Review

Final Audio Adagio III Review

Thanks to Hifiheadphones for the sample.

First Impressions:  Well the box seems a fairly minimal affair.  I know for Final Audio this a fairly low end offering but you know to some people this is a lot for earphones.  I’m more than a touch disappointed that there is no case, not even a little baggy.  I know it’s easily cured with ebay but still.  It’s all quite Spartan, 3 pairs of tips and that’s your lot.  Unimpressed with this cable too.

So in the ears and kaboom!  Oh god they have a gone for a bit of a bass centric sound here haven’t they.  Dear god this may be one to skip putting a pair of complys on.  Holy crap this is a lot of bass.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  Holy **** there is a lot of bass here.  Jesus wept, this is pushing towards oppressive.  Lol okay this is just mental.  The quality of the bass is far above what I’d expect for this crazy ass mountain of it.  For its epic vastness it incredibly taut and textured.  Oh my god there is just so much of it!!! Its pushing at comedy levels of bass.  It’s of sufficient proportions that I can feel it compressing my skull and kicking my sinuses.  Oh god make it stop, make it stop!!!  To say these are not to my taste is a bit of an understatement.  The bass is colossal.  Skull smashing colossal.

It quality is nothing short of incredible for this quantity.  Oh and its exceedingly deep too.  Normally the more you get the softer and more flabby it gets but here its way more solid and articulated than I would have expected.  Still the take away feature is, there are mountains and mountains of bass.  You throw it some big bassed pop track and it will cave your skull in.

Mids:  Actually vocals are quite good.  Fractionally warm tonally but pleasantly so.  However it doesn’t greatly matter because next to that mountainous bass the mids are more concerned with cutting through and that they do quite well. Vocals are clear, well-articulated and cleanly audible.  They are as good as I would hope for its price.  The level of detail is good but you have to battle with that bass pounding away.  Next to it the mids are playing a clear second fiddle.  It’s a shame really as they are quite nice.  A little dull and smooth perhaps but very nice.

Highs:  There isn’t a whole heap going on up at the top.  These are rather easy on the ear treble wise. Delicate and somewhat recessed.  I would say it could be doing with dialled up but given the bass I couldn’t take abundant and edgy treble too.  As such then they are very relaxed about things.  Its clean enough to let you know whats going on but I think it has been tuned with a “consumer” audience in mind.  The same people that want this much bass are probably not using the best bit rates or the best quality tracks.  So these are going to be ever so forgiving to badly mastered or low bit rate mp3’s.  The Adagio 3 will be very forgiving to such music.

Soundstage:  Very good.  Final Audio seems to have some talent for making things sound large and grandiose.  The 3 here does just that and sounds very largely scaled.  Even if the mids are a bit recessed they feel like they have loads of room to move about in.  This gives very non-symphonic music a taste of that vastness.  It’s very well done and very pleasing to behold.

Comfort:  Grand.  They are light as a feather and gave not a hint of issue.

Fit:  Great.  They weren’t really shaped for wearing up but they still worked fine and easily.

Cable:  Erm, it feels very thin and a bit cheap.  What I’d expect from something under a tenner.  Maybe it is tough and will last for years but I can’t say I’m wow’ed by it.

Amped/Unamped:  These aren’t super likely to get an amp in the real word and it’s sure as hell not one that needs a little bass boosting amp, that’s for sure.  When playing with the phone there were the usual differences.  Actually there was more than I expected.  The bass softened and the mids especially seemed to lose clarity.  It’s not something I would expect to be amped so it’s a shame there is a noticeable difference but really, if you’re buying this it’s because you want all the bass, and it’s still all there.  Just a bit more flabby that’s all.

Isolation:  For a dynamic its unusually good.  It’s semi-sealed with its Balancing Air Movement, whatever that is.  Normally sealed and isolating IEM’s give a ton of driver flex and air pressure issues, where the pressure makes your hearing / driver combo muffled.  Not any of that here at all.  Not sure how they did it but they have.

Build Quality:  The buds seem pretty good. The cable as mentioned, err it’s a bit naff.  The jack is tiny but seems sold mind so maybe it’s just that the cable is so thin we think flimsy when it may last for all the ages, time can only tell.

Accessories:  Pretty disappointing.  You get 3 pairs of tips.  For the price id have liked a little case or something.  Oh well.

Value:  Well do you want all of the bass that ever there was in the whole universe ever?  If you do then step right up.  Otherwise I feel Final Audio is trading a bit on their long established audio credentials.

Conclusion:  I don’t know how I feel about these.  Cable and no case aside there is much to like acoustically but then that bass.  Oh Jesus you just can’t get around that BIG heap of the stuff.  These playing a little Julie London and they do sound genuinely lovely.  The vocals are sultry and well detailed; the double bass plucking away is a bit more prominent than it ought to be but no biggy.  Then something radically different comes on.  Scissor Sisters “Keep Your Shoes On” and oh god.  Oh god I think my nose and ears are bleeding.

The other aural aspect I found myself rather being impressed with is the soundstaging.  Two for two, Final Audio’s BAM thing seems to offer are very grand semblance of scale to their IEM’s.  The Adagio III sounds vastly grand in a way that is very impressive.  It has really good stab at a convincing emulation of being played back by a real speaker in front of you.

What the Adagio III fundamentally boils down to is the bass.  It is colossal and for its size very hard.  If you want that and some good mids then great.  If you don’t want a mountain range of bass to pound you senseless then it’s just not for you.  All other considerations just do not matter.  While I’m not sure if this places the Adagio III in good stead or not, unquestionably its one I think bass heads ought to pay attention to.  Its scale and its aggression would find it some admirers I am positively sure of.  For little old me however, no.  I just cannot deal with this much bass no matter how nice the mids, that wall of bass is so insurmountable.   The bass literally feels like its pressurising my sinuses, it’s just nuts, you’ll either run fleeing from the bass here, or you’ll absolutely fall in love with the Adagio III’s.

Final Audio Adagio III Quick Review

Final Audio Adagio III Quick Review

Thanks to Hifiheadphones for the sample.

Brief:  Oh god, oh dear god, so much bass!!!!!

Price:  £59 In the US they seem to vary wildly

Specification:  Earphone Type: Intraaural (in the ear), Driver Unit: Dynamic Driver, Driver Size: 8mm, Sound Pressure Level: 100dB, Impedance: 16 ohm, Housing Material: ABS Cable Length: 1.2m, Weight: 10g

Accessories:  3 pairs of silicone tips.

Build Quality:  Buds look nicely constructed but cable feels very thin.

Isolation:  Rather a lot for a dynamic.  It would easily do for normal use and you could get by the odd flight or two with them.  Just remember to watch where you are going with them in or be prepared to get run over.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good.  They weigh nothing and fit my ears effortlessly.

Aesthetics:  Not bad, they come with a variety of different colour options so get a bit of choice.  Otherwise pleasantly quiet visually.

Sound:  BASS.  Then some more bass, then another helping of bass and then lastly, another dollop of bass.  While I am not adverse to some good quality bass I am a bit adverse to this quantity of bass.  Literally, my sinuses felt like they were being kicked.  I have crap sinuses btw.  Quality wise, it’s rather good, it is articulate and grippy. The mids are a bit over warm but nice detail levels the treble is pretty reasonable, just a hint subdued.  None of that matters though, these are all about the bass and you buy or don’t buy these on that basis alone.  It’s monstrously epic.  It’s got a ton of power behind it and a sense of scale that seems without limit.  Its soundstaging is very impressive but it serves just to give the bass more space to pound you from.  Seriously, my sinuses feel like they have just been violated.  For me, well I’m not a fan.  For you?  I know some people who would positively wet themselves with excitement for this much bass coming their way.  If you think that might be you, give them a go and you’ll likely be as pleased as punch with their prolific and endless low end output.

Value:  Clearly you pay a bit for the name but if you want the soundstage and that bass, you are getting something a bit out of the ordinary.

Pro’s:   Oh my god, sooooo much bass!!!!!  Huge sounding.

Con’s:  Oh dear god the bass practically assaults you.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Brainwavz S0 Review

Brainwavz S0 Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.

First Impressions:  The bundle as first meets the eye looks great.  A good looking and functional case, an array of tips, a shirt clip and a little Velcro cable tie.    For a product of this price range it’s good to see such a comprehensive package.  Though I find myself thinking what’s with everyone doing black and red things these days?  Not that I hate the black and red combo, just seems to be everywhere.  Another thought is what’s with the name S0.  Presumably its going to share a sound signature with the S5?  Positionally sometimes I’m really never sure where products are meant to be in relation to each other.

Anyway, in the ears they go with the complys slapped on.  Bass is certainly a plenty here.  My ears have pretty much just come from the senn Momentums and the bass seems to sit at a similar realm.  i.e. it is massive.  Another thing, I know I’ve only been listening for a handful of minutes but am I liking these more than I liked the S5?  That can’t be right surely.  Hmm, burn in time I think.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  BIG.  Not quite all of “da bass” but rest assured there is way more than enough to go around.  Is it my imagination or are they almost identical in quantity as the S5?  Hmm they feel remarkably close to the 5 in terms of size and tone.  These are a bit slower and the lower registers a bit softer, with a tiny bit of flab.  Though given their price I’m rather happier with these.  I can’t say these are to my acoustic tastes as the bass here is certainly very big and very hearty.  It’s a big mound of sold slab kinda bass.  The more I look at it in a technical fashion the more fault I pick with it but it’s not trying to be an audiophile sort of thing.  The bass here as a big thumpy, ass shakin Beyonce kinda bass.  Its big, its dark, it likes to shake its bottom end and while you know that it should be firmer and finely articulated you don’t especially mind.  Either this aural style works for you or it doesn’t, it’s not refined, it’s not particularly grown up or controlled, it’s an IEM that has a great big ass and it likes to hurl it about the place with great vigour.  Its likes to thump and party.

Mids:  They in a technical, blah blah blah whatever. These are no PL-50’s.  Mids are are not unlike the bass, not wildly refined but full of vim and partytasticness.  Think the likes of Miss Gaga or the wailing style of Miss Aguilera.  The woman likes to go with an undisciplined and casual style that cuts right thorough nicely here.  She is a singer who needs to wail out vocals and that it seems is what the S0 has her in mind too.  The faintest nuances of whoever aren’t to be found here but the energy and spirit are.  Like the bass you can tell the S0 likes to throw itself into a note with zero inhibition. 

Quantity wise it’s a bit bellow that big bass but still quite notable in volume.  A touch lacking in detail but cuts through every song with ease.

Highs:  In quality terms the highs aren’t too bad.  They are pretty reduced in quantity though, the bass is whats up front then the mids in the middle and the highs taking up last place.  This makes the big hefty bass stand out more without the treble ravaging you.  It also leads itself to the treble come across as more refined and delicate.  It’s about offering presence and air than it is about ever taking a dominant acoustic role.  Even on Owl City and their treble abundant tracks, they won’t really take over.  That big old bass likes to get in there and as such the treble just doesn’t wow or impress.  Please do keep in mind it’s not trying to impress you, the treble here is a musical accompaniment that serves to fan out the bass and vocals.

Soundstage:  Being a dynamic it’s pretty good.  A good sense of scale here. The instrument placement and separation are a rather more diffuse but this isn’t an IEM for picking out where the strings section was sitting.  It’s about being in a club with the songs thumping their way to you.

Fit:  Great.  Stuck in ears and that was that, worn up or down both were just fine.

Comfort:  Great also, I went straight to the complys and were perfectly comfy in my ears for hours and hours at a time.

Microphonics:  Wear them down and you get some, the lack of a neck synch means you can’t control it with ease.  Wear up and the issue pretty much is solved.

N.B.  I have just had it pointed out it actually does have a neck synch.  the design of its just happens to melt into the rest of the Y splitter so much that i never realised it was there!!!

Amped/Unamped:  This isn’t likely to get an amp in real life and its fine that it doesn’t really want one either.  Sure with more power things gain more solidity, especially the bass, but overall it’s not something to worry about.  Though out of little phone, the bass did lose a bit of that playful oomph at the very bottom.

Isolation:  Reasonable for a dynamic.  Once you have music playing not much should bother you but it’s not one I’d be looking to for a long flight or Tube every day.  Its isolation is mostly fine for normal use and still likely more than enough to make you road kill if you don’t pay attention.

Build Quality:  Nice.  We are starting to get into a more budget price range and the package is a good one. The flat cable isn’t a thing I love but people do like them flat and it feels study.  The buds feel nicely solid and looks all well put together.

Accessories:  Excellent.  So it’s what, 8 pairs of tips plus a pair of complys, the shirt clip and that rather lovely case.  Oh and the wee cable wrap strap thing but I don’t see it listed anywhere.  Still, is a great wee bundle.

Value:  The sound quality is pretty reasonable if a style that’s not really me.  So I don’t know if I would pick them but as a bundle goes, Brainwavz are getting pretty good at this.  Plenty of tips to pick from and that rather lovely black and red case.US$50 is what, just over £31.  That’s not a lot really for a nice bundle that all together feels more costly than it really is.  So like most of Brainwavz offerings, it’s a pretty great value proposition.

Conclusion:  Do I love these? No I don’t.  These are tuned rather like their siblings, the S5 but these I feel are much more of a good value offering.  The S5 and 0 with their big ass shaking, party style is a style option.  It’s popular with what I’d call the “Style” demographic.  They want great big bass and they want the thing to look cool too.  It’s a valid choice if that’s what you like.  The S5 tried that at a price point where it’s coming up against some truly fantastic technical stuff and at that price point it couldn’t quite keep up.  The S0 though is a different proposition.  It has that same style but it’s not trying to keep up with some of the best, its competition is in a range where everything is compromised.  Like the PL-50, its mids are insanely good but for most they would likely hate its measly bass output.  The S0 then realises it can’t be everything and doesn’t try.

When you stop trying to excel everywhere you can do what you do, be good where you’re good and just get on with it.  The S0 like to roar away in the low end and blast out a poppy, bouncy vocal line.  The highs, well they are like a sprinkling of a glitter over things.  Not really part of something substantial but that little hint of sparkle.  It plain and upfront about what it can give you.  If you like this, then great.  If you want a detailed monitor then look elsewhere.  It really is all just that simple, it’s so honest about where its abilities lie that I cannot fault it for things it doesn’t claim to be.  Brainwavz have aimed the S0 at being a crowd pleaser and it nails it.

So I don’t love the S0, its big hearty bass it’s a bit much for me all the time.  The S0, I feel, is the acoustic equivalent of a hamburger.  Its good, hearty and utterly without pretence or pretention.  It is what it is, it does what it does.  It makes for a great big bassed choice that’s easy on the ear and vocally clear.  It is a great and solid option that’s perfect for a general listener.

Brainwavz S0 Quick Review

Brainwavz S0 Quick Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.

Brief:  The S5 has a baby brother

Price:  US$50 or £31

Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 9mm, Rated Impedance: 16ohms Closed Dynamic, Sensitivity: 100dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 18Hz ~ 18kHz, Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 100dB, Channel balance: =< 1dB (at 1000Hz), Rated input power: 10mW, Maximum input power: 40mW, Plug: 3.5 mm, gold plated., Cable length: 1.3 meters Y cord, Copped OFC, 1 year warranty, Dimensions (Packaging): 160 x 135 x 38mm, Net Weight: 10g,   Gross Weight: 140g

Accessories:  1 x Comply foam S-400 tips,  6 x Silicone tips, 1 x Bi-Flange tips, 1 x Tri-Flange tips, 1 x Shirt Clip, 1 x Earphone carrying case, 1 x Instruction manual

Build Quality:  Rather nice.  Look and feels well put together.

Isolation:  Yeah it’s pretty reasonable.  Sufficient for day to day stuff, but not what I’d pick for a flight or Tube commute.  As always more than enough to get you run over.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good.   Even wearing these up there was no issues and were comfy to use for hours.

Aesthetics:  They look fine.  Like the S5 they are just black and I’ll confess, if they are all metal then why paint them black, I’d much rather see the metal.  Mostly they are uneventful visually.

Sound:  These are little versions of the S5.  The bass is big lively and gets a notable amount of air moving.  These, though are much more in line with I expect for their price range.  There are aimed clearly at a consumer style crowed and as such cater that way.  The bass is heavy, it’s not all that lithe but it doesn’t care.  It’s a had good few drinks, it’s gonna shake that ass and to hell with what anyone else thinks.  It unabashedly brazen that it wants to just get down and enjoy itself.  The mids aren’t amazing but they suit pop.  Clear enough, slightly warming and like to slightly gloss over how good or bad the artist really is.  Its likes to belt out a vocal with some enthusiasm rather than with nuance.  The highs are also a bit of a let’s not worry about the details sorta thing.  They get on and toss on a handful of glitter to show a little sparkle.  The running theme is let’s have a good time and not worry about the little details.  It’s not unlike the S5 again but here it’s I feel a more playful and comparable offering for its price range.  It isn’t something I’d say is sonically pure, it the sort of thing that would suit the gym.  You’re not trying to hear any specific aspects, you just want the whole and presented in bouncy lively fashion.   This makes it a goodly solid option.

Value:  As always it’s a great wee bundle.  Loads of tips, a nice case and solid IEM that is reasonably priced.

Pro’s:   Solid.  Inoffensive yet potent sound signature. A crowd pleaser.

Con’s:  Detail retrieval isn’t really a priority here.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Final Audio Heaven IV Review

Final Audio Heaven IV Review

Thanks to Hifiheadphones for the loan.

First Impressions:  Box, it looks like a normal box.  Open the box and holy mother of Christ!!!  Before you is the most amazing looking IEM case I’ve ever beheld.  I’ll suspect it may not be the world’s most practical but my god would you just look at the thing!!!! Just wow, simply wow.

Venturing inside the case there are the IEM’s and they too look quite exquisite.  If you are vain then this could be the set up for you, these are the best looking IEM’s I’ve seen in ages.  Slapping them in my ears, they feel very open and detailed.  Rather light in the low end and somewhat ER4 like up top I think.  Lots of detail but perhaps erring towards the gritty.  Its a very light and lovely sound.  I think this may be an audiophile pleaser but not so much a “mainstream” consumer crowd pleaser.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  For quite some time what I was hearing was simply not matching up with what I was reading from others about these.  Over and over I was reading that the bass was great, of reasonable fullness too and I was not hearing it all.  It turns out that I was letting these sit rather more shallow than others.  Once you get them shoved in good and deep the bass begins to make itself known.  If you put it up against mainstream dynamics the quantity is rather lacking.  However for me the natural competition for the IV is the ER4 and side by side the IV feels massive and deeply scaled.  RAAAAARRRR.  It really is dependent on getting a very deep fit, or was for me.  Then its lower end comes to life and reminds me of the “moving armature” IEM’s.  Some halfway house between a BA and a dynamic.  You get a hint of the scale and vigour dynamics are capable but retaining most of the lighting speed and solidity of BA’s.  I’m not sure if it’s enough to please everyone and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

It texture is pretty good.  Its quantity is fairly sized.  Still I find for me it’s not got the best aspects of either and while many speak exceedingly highly of it, it’s just not doing it for me.  If I was only to have one IEM then maybe I’d appreciate its versatility more but I have lots so…..

Mids:  Things here are rather more to my liking.  While BA’s can sound mesmerizingly clear they forego a little fullness and can sound slightly unnatural.  They can strip out any vocal richness and a certain naturalness to its timbre.  The IV’s retain a bit of this organic quality that while sacrificing a little clarity giving it a lovely “natural” quality.  Its gently smooth, the faintest hint of additional warmth to offer a relatively silky vocal reproduction.  Still my ear tells me it’s so close to the achingly detailed and nuanced ER4.  I cannot help but feel they are falling into the same trap as the EB-50 did.  Trying to be a bit of both worlds and just not quite nailing it.  Where I felt they did nail it was with Regina Spektor’s vocals.  She sounded epically glorious on them.  Enough nuance yet with a healthy dose of her ethereally bizarre vocal dynamism.  She was thrilling and captivating to hear.  Then, foolishly I put the q-JAYS in my ears.  The Heavens felt so slow beside them, slow and inarticulate.  Still they did have that slightly more natural quality to them so I’m reluctant to say the q’s are “better” but… well I personally would be picking the little baby JAYS every time.

I can’t help recalling the e-Q7 and their “moving armature” tech.  Essentially a BA plugged to something bigger and edging itself towards the abilities of a dynamic.  Sadly while many seem wildly enamoured with the Heaven IV’s presentation, every time compare it, it just feels like a halfway measure.  Yes it’s good but a proper BA can do vocals better.  Great width, great scale and convincingly accurate, but a proper BA has greater articulation and clarity.

Highs:  Erm, well a bit so so.  It’s not that there is anything particularly wrong with the treble but it’s a tad ill refined.  When songs start getting fast paced the driver, trying to do reasonable bass just can’t do everything at once.  The first place issues become noticeable is always in the highs.  Normally they are pretty clean with a tiny bit of an edge going on.  It’s a little bit laid back, it tends to let the mids have centre stage and the highs will gently and accurately play away.  Detail levels are quite good and likely to be cleaner and crisper than most dynamics but, well these are expensive and its competition is excellent.  The ER4 just feels so much more aggressively pin sharp and things like the IE8 or 272 can shimmer and sparkle circles round the Heaven IV. 

Soundstage:  I must grant the Heaven’s some kudos here.  When you A/B there with the ER4 these sound stupendously vast and the Ety’s like a tiny needle point of sound.  As a BA IEM goes these are exceedingly large and grand in their presentation.  Even when doing something intimate sounding it still sounds like it’s in a vast hall with some real space to breathe.  Simply put, for a BA the breadth and width here is vast.  Instrument placement is slightly diffuse but in that great sound scape its of minimal consequence.

Fit:  I tend not to love flat cables for wearing up, as is how I prefer to wear things, here it was fine.  Worn up or down there gave no issues and was a case of, shove in and done.  They did sound best when shoved in a bit far though.

Comfort:  Good.  These did sound better when shove in deep but their large bore meant that wasn’t wildly comfortable for many hours of use.  Then if you let them sit more shallow they were perfect for comfort but its aural talents were diminished. 

Microphonics:  Worn up, more or less none. Worn down it was quite annoying, this was not helped by no chin slider.

Amped/Unamped:  They were rather easy to drive and as such worked just fine out of my phone.  They did get more noticeably mid focused and the bass in particular lost some authority.  Its move to a slightly more light but punchy sound as though the current just wasn’t there to really make it rumble.  It wasn’t a huge change but it was noticeable.  So if these are you daily driver I would have a wee look at getting an amp.
Isolation:  Really rather good.  It’s a little on the weak side for a BA but easily bests most dynamics out there.  I’d be fine using these on a long flight or on the Tube.  As ever, more than sufficient, even with no music playing to get you run over if you don’t look where you’re going.

Build Quality:  First class all the way.  The true test is using them every day for two years but from where I sit they look and feel great.

Accessories: you get a bunch of tips, two types of them.  Then you get the most “look at meeeeeeeee!!!!!!!” case I have ever seen.  It is arguably a beautiful thing but so attention grabbing its erring on the side of pretentious.  It just screams look, I bought very expensive earphones don’t you know, yes they were expensive, pretty and cost a lot of money.  I have better earphones than you, just look at how shiny they and their ”luxury” case is.

Value:  Erm.  How important is pretty to you?  Acoustically these just don’t cut it value wise for me.  They are expensive and I know that for that money I can get things that sound better.  I have no issue buying things that don’t look impressive and come from some Chinese company normal people have never heard of.  The Heaven IV’s are not bad sounding but you are clearly paying for them being so pretty and whatnot.  As an all-round package I could see why some would be very happy with them, no doubt they would make a gorgeous looking Christmas gift for someone. 

Conclusion:  If these were a song it would be Nora Jones, “Wish I Could.”  It’s got very little happening acoustically, its breathy and laboured.  Its soft and lingering strings.  It’s a lovely little serene scene laid out before and around you.  Is it lovely?  Why yes good sir it is, mightily lovely and pretty on the ear. I cannot though help but notice they are very highly spoken of elsewhere and so clearly many do love what they have to offer.  In certain circumstances their mids are pretty fantastic and for lingering ballads they are gorgeous but…

You know, all of the problems I have with the IV is down to its price.  I just can’t really bring myself to place a great value on the looks of something because for me, an IEM’s aesthetic value is merely incidental.  It’s a bonus if something is pretty but I don’t actually care how it looks.  I mean for god sake I’ve worn TF10’s in public.  So the IV’s when I take them solely on their musical talents they just fall short.  They haven’t the versatility I want in a generalist (like the DN-1000) and they haven’t got any particular stand out point of excellence (like the ER4) so as I swither back and forth I find that for me they just don’t wow me. 

So, what about you, should you buy one.  Let’s assume pretty matters because these do look lovely, and let’s face it, that case looks just wow!  If you were perhaps buying a pair of earphones for a lady friend and you wanted something to make a visual statement then these will make a tremendous impression.  They simply scream I am a premium object that getting someone an RE-400 cannot hope to achieve.  The Heaven IV’s have a lovely ethereal sound for soft Jazz or Bossa Nova and visually they look transcendent, if those aspects are what you want then they make a fine choice.