Friday, 30 January 2015

HiFiMAN RE-300a and RE-300h Review

HiFiMAN RE-300a and RE-300h Review

Thanks to HiFiMAN for the samples.

First impressions:  The boxes are looking nicely professional, simple but pleasant.  Getting into the a one first, err does it really only come with 2 pairs of tips?  Yet it does have a shirt clip.  Seems an odd arrangement but hey ho.  They look quite nice, starting to look much more mainstream than say the slightly flimsy looking 400.  Nice wee mic too on them.

In the ears, well these are pretty warm for a HiFiMAN.  Hmm treble is quite dialled down, bass is dialled up.  Gosh this is like the total opposite of the old RE-0.  Whoo the bass is pretty lively stuff, gosh this is all so unexpected, oh my word it really is so different.  My god, could it be that HiFiMAN has made an IEM that could be thought a generalist?  Oh my they may have just shafted every other IEM maker at this price. No, maybe it’s that I’ve only tried them out of the E9 and it’s working magic on them.  God this is just so not and yet everything I expected all at once.  Sometime I really do wonder if HiFiMAN tune things with my preferences in mind.  It’s just spooky.  I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say I think this might be a rather glowing review.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  Given this is a HiFiMAN product there is a surprising amount of bass.  It’s really somewhat elevated.  Of course it’s not what I’d say is over bassy, it’s no bass cannon and I’d wager that some normal consumers would still find it a bit light.  It is sufficient that its going to make some purists unhappy.  It is clearly elevated above neutral, its clearly well above the 400 too.  Comparing it to the GR06 which is its natural rival, the bass here feels so much thicker and more weighty.  The 300 is far more of an enclosed affair and so it should sound much more closed.  It doesn’t have the open lithe nature of the 6 but your trade-off is that you get a much more robust low end.  It’s not quite as agile as I might hope but again it’s often the trade you make for weight.  If I’m honest though I’d stay away from really fast bass.  The 300 would much more enjoy a little Julie London or something similar.  Mellow and sumptuous is where its heart lies.  It’s rich and smooth with a dark chocolaty warmth to it.

If you do make it play fast thumpy bass it will do its best but its all about the solidity and richness, not agility.  If you force it, you will get a good hearty thump that feels over weighty and lumbering.  Then you remind yourself its price and then you really can’t complain.

Mids:  To continue with its rich mellow nature. The 300 is not like its siblings in having more detail than you can shake a stick at, the 300 knows it can’t show you everything so it paints a softer, warmer picture.  That same mellow, chocolaty richness that so loves to ooze and flow.  As you might expect, melodic vocals work exceedingly well.  Yes detail is gently obscured but it’s all a smooth expanse of vocals, rising and falling.  No harshness, like a gentle wave upon the ocean, peaks and troughs come and go smoothly, gently, carrying you along with it.  It’s beautiful. 

What it can’t do however is harshness or explicit detail.  Songs that want to be aggressive just aren’t quite.  Likewise detail that you know the 400 would show you, here it’s just not quite there.  The 300 is much more about painting the whole picture rather than expressing any particular fine point.

Highs:  Smooth once more.  That is exactly what they should have done too, the 400 is veering towards abrasiveness in the highs and the lower you go in price the less capable a driver gets.  For me the best thing to do, if you’re not very high end, is to gently mellow the highs and give a delicate rendition rather than sound like a grater.  The 300 does this ever so well.  Metallic twangs cut through and decay away, cymbals splash and shimmer too.  It’s all a smoothly delicate display of what the song has to offer and it’s presented with reasonable detail. It is superbly easy on the ear.  For some I realise it will be too genteel but for my somewhat treble sensitive ears this sound signature means I could with ease listen to them all day, every day.  It’s so kind to the ear and polite. 

If you do throw more energising stuff its way the 300 will become more lively but if you want abrasive metal it really wont please you.  The detail is good but it has no hard abrasive edge to it.

Soundstage:  Gently wide and enveloping.  You do still feel rather enclosed as closed IEM’s tend to do.  Still it feels wide and a reasonable sense of depth.  Just so long as you’re not hoping for a big airy expanse, this is not airy at all.  Instrument separation as okay, somewhat distinct but placement is a bit fuzzy.  It’s that soft focus filter at work again.  Vocals to tend to be pretty upfront and intimate.  Great for mellow and vocal centric stuff.

Fit:  Well they look odd but I had no issues.  The first thing I did was swap them round and wore them up.  I’ve never been fussed about the left bud being in my right ear so I was quite happy.  Yes I know they look a bit of a funny shape, especially compared to the 400 but I had no issues even with them being rather sealed, zero driver flex or air pressure issues.

Comfort:  Again despite their weird shape they worked just fine in my ears.  Honestly they were just perfect, after 10 seconds in my ears they entirely disappeared.  I realise that can’t be the case for absolutely everyone but was perfect here.

Microphonics:  Wearing them down not much on the h version.  The a version with the attached mic did like to hit my collars and make a bit of noise.  Since I always advocate wearing up anyway, once I did that there was zero issue.  There is a chin slider though if you insist on wearing down.

Amped/Unamped:  Well first off, let’s assume that if you’re buying the a or i version then you want for use in a phone.  With that in mind then you probably won’t be using an amp because then you’d loose the mic use.  So the h, well out of lower power sources it got a bit lighter sounding.  The great solidity of the 300 was traded for a slightly more sprightly sound.  The bass particularly diminished in its authority.  That suited me fine but if you want all you can extract from the bottom end then maybe a little amping is what you want.  Personally I think I preferred the fractionally lighter sound out of a phone.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  Squarely on the upper side of what you tend to get for a dynamic.  Compared to its prime competitor, the GR06 this is very much rather more isolating.  To the point it’s nearing usability for the odd short flight or two.  Easily fine for normal day to day usage.  As ever not what I’d want for a daily Tube commute but remember, if using look where your going lest you get yourself run over.

Build Quality:  This is an area HiFiMAN hasn’t the best reputation in the world for but the 300 despite being its cheapest offering it’s actually not bad.  The little buds see nicely constructed and the cable seems alright too.  I means it’s no MA750 clearly but it’s alright.

Model Variations:  So the review is titled the a and h reviews.  Why you may ask or more likely you won’t.  You’ll just think, ah the a is the android one, the i is the apple one and the h is the no mic one, simples.  That is what I thought but I was wrong.  Do not ask me why for truly I do not know but there is more to it than that.  The i and a versions are the same essentially just with different controls.  The h though, you may see it’s the same price as the mid’ed ones which is unusual.  What HiFiMAN have done is upgrade the cable on the h to an “advanced OCC cable” and it would seem from their website and box that the frequency range is increased, though I’m told that’s not correct.  Now swapping back and forth I do hear a difference, how much is down to the complys being warm or cold I don’t know but the a one sounds a little less big in the bass and a tiny bit less twangy in the mids.  Honestly though I could be going mad but I do hear a bit of a difference.  I can only assume this comes from there being an impedance difference which should be the same but I’ve seen said that the h is 32 vs 16 for the a.  The difference is slight and while if forced I’d say the h is better, it’s a slight difference.  If you get the mic’ed one you aren’t missing out on much, frankly I’d expect it’ll be the mic’ed ones that most go for anyway.  The biggest difference is that the h cable is rather softer and more flexible.  The a one is a bit more ridged.

Phone Use:  Obviously I’m only talking about the a version here.  So I gave my sister a ring as I know she won’t be too annoyed at my ringing just to ask how I sound down the phone.  Well normally all is great but I was told that it was not.  Normally I wear things up and get no issues despite the mic sitting quite high but this time I was told differently.  I could be heard okay but I sounded like I was on speaker phone.  That distant, slightly echo’ey sound you get when someone is on speaker.  Wearing them down was a bit better but sadly not perfect.

Value:  Well yeah, it’s pretty good value.  For what is almost £32 you get a pretty damn excellent sound.  No mistake it’s a beautiful offering but I’m not sure what its aimed at.  Sure its bass levels are veering towards “consumer” levels so perhaps it’s to introduce the HiFiMAN brand to a more mainstream audience?  Its audio quality is nice for the money but it’s not in a class of its own like the 400 is.  I know I should be comparing it to things at its own price but I just keep thinking the 300 is US$50 but the 400 is only a tiny bit more at US$80.  If it was my cash, I would opt to go hungry for a few days and go for the 400 than buy the 300.

Regarding the a, i and h variations.  Well they all cost the same.  The i and a versions you get a mic for phone use which I know will matter for many.  That the h version is not identical but without mic is most unusual.  While the sound differences are slight the cable is a much nicer feel and more flexible.  Unless you really want that mic it take the nicer cable one.

Conclusion:  Earlier I said these were nothing like what I expected but everything I hoped for.  That is essentially true in the sense that these are tuned nothing like I expected.  These are much more bassy and rich than anything I’ve seen from HiFiMAN.  To date they have always gone for quite audiophile tuning and they have tended to aim at the higher end.  No one who ever heard the RE-0 could ever criticise it for it detail retrieval.  It is unmatched still in its ability to extract detail and yet be so insanely cheap.  The RE-400 while not quite as amazing as the 0 still blows everything at its price out of the water.  There may be aspects HiFiMAN fall down on but audio quality per currency unit it surpasses all.  The RE-300 then, well it’s different.

The 300 is very cheap at only US$50 and it does something unusual.  When I reviewed the 400 I did criticize its slight grittiness in the highs that the 0 didn’t.  It’s a basic fact that when you go down the range that the first thing to go is the highs.  It’s just the hardest thing to nail and if it gets brittle and broken it is the most brutal on the ear, in a way neither the mids nor bass are.   So the wise thing to do is accept that fact and dial down the highs, let them gently and smoothly roll away and blend into the background.  Let them be a gentle framing sound that doesn’t dominate.  Aim for a richer, smoother more mellow sound and let the treble highlight what and where it needs to.  This is just what the 300 does.

The 300 is quite wonderfully lovely.  It still pulls up a good amount of detail but more importantly everything is so effortlessly well integrated.  Music flows into creation and around your ears in a way that few others ever manage.  The bass while rather elevated, after a short time feels so serenely smooth and effortless.  If you make it play fast or slow it remains ever effortless even when thundering out bass.  It’s so organically flowing and enveloping.  It even does a very decent showing of more bassy pop music.  Its bass is too heavy and that slows it a bit but for the price its coming it at, how many will consider that a problem. 

For the money the RE-300 is nice but there is the RE-400 which on an entire other planet.  The 300 is very closed, deeply rich and molten chocolaty smooth.  It’s a rather flavoured sound which is unusual for the brand.  For their play at the cusp of consumerism these would be a deeply dark attractor for those venturing into its chocolaty depths, showing them what a brand like HiFiMAN can do.  It’s lovely and its bassy and I’m sure consumers will love it.  Those of a more audiophile bent however, the 400 offers just so spectacularly much more for very little extra money.

HiFiMAN RE-300a and RE-300h Quick Review

HiFiMAN RE-300a and RE-300h Quick Review

Thanks to HiFiMAN for the samples.

Brief:  HiFiMAN do a new low ender.

Price:  US$50 or about £32

Specification:  See here for the h

Accessories:  Two pairs of tips, a shirt clip and 10 replacement filters. Both tips are very nice but odd you only get 2 pairs.

Build Quality:  Not bad at all. HiFiMAN don’t have the best rep but these feel pretty nice, nothing special though.

Isolation:  For a dynamic it’s quite a bit at the upper end of expectations, not one for regular Tube commutes but would be just fine for the occasional short flight and normal, day to day use.  Easily more than enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking of course.

Comfort/Fit:  Despite being a bit of a weird shape the fit was effortlessly easy and the comfort was perfect.  They really fit my ears perfectly.

Aesthetics:  Not bad.  I like their unusual shape but mostly they are small and non-descript.

Sound:  Very rich, bordering on very bassy, very smooth.  The bass is big, deep and hearty.  Something of a surprise for the brand as they are usually very audiophile aimed at.  Here though these are making the best of the lower quality innards and have gone for a rolled off upper with a great emphasis on the bass.  The highs are the first thing to go wrong so this acoustic style is a very practical one and it makes the most of their abilities.  It’s also one that the consumer end of the market will approve of.  The bass is highly abundant and its rather closed nature makes it very powerful.  A little too powerful.  The mids are rich and creamy, a bit of thickness but very pleasant on the ear.  The highs are limited and rolled off but offer a delicate sparkle when called upon.  Make no mistake though this is bass centric with a healthy amount of mids.  A warm, rich and deeply chocolaty aural experience.  It’s nice but like rich abundance of chocolate, it has me yearning for something lighter.  I would expect it to be popular with Apple or B&W enthusiasts.  Smooth and highly pleasant on the ear.

HiFiMAN is a quintessentially audiophile brand and this therefore is a radical departure in sound signatures.  As such it may be a great way for normal people to be introduced to the brand but if you’re a lover of the brand already you may be in for a big surprise with this one.

Value:  Pretty good if you want an abundance of warmth and bass.

Pro’s:   Exceedingly enveloping chocolaty warmth.  Bass.

Con’s:  Overly rich. Overly warm. Overly bassy.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Brainwavz M1 Quick Review

Brainwavz M1 Quick Review

Thanks to mp4nation back in the day for the sample.

Brief:  Old but still at the top its field.

Price:  US$44.50 or about £29

Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 10.7mm,Rated Impedance: 32ohms Closed Dynamic, Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 20 ~ 20000Hz, Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 94dB, Channel balance: =< 3dB (at 1000Hz), Rated input power: 10mW, Maximum input power: 40mW, Plug: 3.5 mm 45-degree gold plated, Cable length: 1.3 meters Y cord (CU/Ag) PUR, 1 year warranty, Dimensions (Packaging): 160 x 135 x 38mm, Net Weight: 10g, Gross Weight: 132g

Accessories:  1 x Comply foam tips, 3 x Pairs of ear tips (S/M/L), 1 x Shirt clip, 1 x Hard carrying case, 1 x Instruction manual, 1 x Warranty card

Build Quality:  Pretty good.  Given its been out for ages I’ve not heard of mass deaths so clearly its got some longevity to it.  In fairness, I’ve hardly use up my set since I wrote my old review so I may not be the best judge.

Isolation:  Fair.  It’s a dynamic and so its fine for normal use, out or on a bus but if your regular flyer, not so much.  Still easily enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking though.

Comfort/Fit:  Excellent.  Shove in and that was that, up or down.

Aesthetics:  Meh.  They aren’t offensive but they aren’t pretty either.

Sound:  Excellent.  My original review was posted in July 2010.  Yes that’s four and a half years ago which is practically forever.  At the time they were just US$40 and so they have ever so slightly gone up, you do get a much better bundle today.  Sound wise they were pretty much as good as could be had for the money and that hasn’t changed.  Sure they are slightly more “neutral” than is common for the price, the bass is pretty tame and the mids too.  The treble is rather forthright.  However unless you are after heaps of bass there just really isn’t and thing as mature, grown up and clean as the M1.  The bass though is outrageously nimble when driven well.  Sophie Ellis-Bextors “China Heart” is so rip-roaringly agile and vigorous.  Its detail levels are killer and it resolves like a mofo.  Its mids are a bit over focused and dry but vastly detailed.  The treble is scintillating for the price, it’s quite abundant too so no bad bit rates or it will scratch your ears out.  It’s not forgiving.

Its only real flaw of any sort is it needs power to be its best.  Out of my weedy Nexus 5 it’s a little reticent and boring.  Bass goes a bit punchy and it lacks the greatest depth, same with upper end extension.  However feed it well and it’s just wonderfully good sounding.  They have stood up to the last 4 and half years incredibly well.  Still this is an IEM squarely aimed at Head-Fi, it pushes every audiophile button it can, normal consumers may find it bass lacking and a bit bright but if you want a bit of sonic purity, its truly first rate.

Value:  Probably the best audio quality US$45 can buy you today.

Pro’s:   Sound quality is wonderful.   Neutral sound signature.

Con’s:  Bass light for some.  Unforgiving treble.  Wants power.

Saturday, 24 January 2015



Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.

First Impressions:  The box is a rather pleasant affair, nice sturdy card magnetically closed.  On opening that and lifting the lid you can see them in the flesh.  Hmm the buds just look dark more than anything else, I know they are wood but while attractive they just don’t scream dead tree like most wood IEM’s do.  Actually they are really quite pretty things.  I’m really not convinced that the fabulous looking over ear guide thing is going to be good mind.  Its looks great but it’s not looking much in the way of practical.  Hmm.

So in the ears they go and my word they are sprightly little buggers.  I haven’t changed the filter’s so they are the silver ones which are the bright ones maybe?  I think I hope so anyway, much lively, much sprightly and much bighty too.  Ooh I think these may not be the filters I opt to live with long term.  Anyway, burny in time and see if that does anything.

Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5, 1G Ipod Shuffle.

Lows:  Having figured out the filters, gold is the open and trebly one. Silver the closed, so V shaped and black is the open and highs muted so is the flatter one.  It’ll surprise no one that the one I liked best was the black one.  Open bass vs closed bass is always a trade-off, open its more nimble and svelte whereas closed is more punchy and can go deeper.  Strictly neither is “better” than the other but I like that bit more open and better articulated low end.  With the blacks on the bass is controlled, very large and has a relative hint of softness to it.  Comparing to the similarly priced DN-1000 the Kommand is flabbier and rather bigger.  While its quantity is rather much I do like it stylistically more than the 1000.  The bass can roll and ooze in a way the 1000 cant with its rock like hardness and agility.  The Kommand is the eminently more relaxed and pleasurable on the ear, The Beautiful South’s “Your Father And I” is a grin inducing, giggly mass of rumbling thunder.  Swapping to the silvers and the bass doesn’t feel particularly more extended but its really does harden up.  If you want harder more punchy impacts then it’s the filter for you but on “Your Father And I” with its tons of bass, the combination of the quantity produced by the Kommand and its new found solidity I felt was too much.  If you’re going to have tons and tons then a little softness is a kindness to my little ears.    How much I hear you ask?  Well slapping the IE8’s in my ears and the silver tipped Kommands quite easily matches if not exceeds them in bass quantity.  Yes, there is sweary word loads of it.

Mids:  Silver tips in and the mids you might think should be at the bottom of a great V shape but not so much.  Yes the hard and massive bass is quite ahead of them and the rather bighty treble is ahead too but the mids really cut through.  They are somewhat W shaped so mids are a little bit narrow in focus but they are quite well articulated.  Tonally they are a bit on the dry and airy side, only a little though so creamy vocals still sound nice, still they are more inclined to a more breathy and dry artist.  Listening to the likes of Adel and I keep wanting to shout at her to stand up.  She sounds like she’s slumped in a chair, singing well but just not really standing up and giving it her all.

Swapping to the black filters and I am much happier.  She’s gotten up off her back side and begins to really sing out, you can really feel her pain and misery.  It’s a vastly more prominent and emotive rendition.  I’m really impressed for a dual driver being so vocally explicit and nuanced.  Sure it could do with a bit more breadth and depth but hey its only £120.  They are rather more “natural” feeling over the 1000’s though.  It’s an almost Shure like sense of better than real lifeness.

Highs:  Here I really again preferred the black filters.  They have a filter inside them to tame the high end and I’m most glad of it.  The BA in here is clearly an excellent little driver and in the last year or so it seems BA drivers have gotten much better at produce a nicely extended high end, having a more natural feel to them.  This really has a good stab at it.  When there is some pleasantly detailed treble the metallic edge is a hint gentle and they have a great decay to it. The filter does roll it off a bit fast and the edge is a bit artificial, as with all BA’s but its quantity is just about right.  Lots of detail, good abundance and not ear brutalising.  Shimmery and relaxed.

The silver tips.  Well them I like rather less.  The highs themselves are still quite excellent but it makes the BA’s inability to reach the highest highs more noticeable and it introduced a bit of a peak in the lower treble area.  Actually a pair of comply’s aid a little here.

Soundstage:  Rather large.  It’s scaled very well if a little ill-defined about where things are coming from.  They feel like a decent sized room with the sound coming at you from all directions.  Distance is a bit lacking.  Actually I rather like its full bodied and enveloping presentation.  Instrument separation is a bit middling but the payoff tis that it sounds very nicely integrated.  A warm, darkened, good size room that just happens to have a full sized orchestra in there.  I know I should want more distance but it’s quite darkly delicious.

Fit:  I did eventually get them working great for me.  However, I can’t lie, that F-ing ear guide I really could have done without.  Sure its looks funky but I ended up rotating and squeezing the thing until I had it siting so that I could wear the Kommands up.  Once I got it worked out it was a little awkward to get on my ears but once there they actually were rather good.  Still if I had to pull these out every few min that ear guide would really, really get on my ****.

Comfort:  Comfort was actually always pretty good.  Sure the ear guide got in the way of actually getting them on my ears but otherwise the buds are a nice and normal shape.  I defaulted to a pair of comply’s and they sat shallow.  With the ear guides no weight was on the ear tips so it was very comfy to wear all day long.  However I make no promises that ear guide will be as non-invasive for every ear as it was for mine.

Microphonics:  Pretty much none.  Worn up or down they never seemed to transmit much noise up the cable.  Braided cables tend to be good for that but it does seem a shame there is no chin slider anyway.

Phone Use:  Gave it a bash and all seemed good.  I heard them fine they heard me fine.  The play / pause / skip track button worked fine too.

Accessories:  You get a bunch of ear tips, the 3 filters, a shirt clip and a little felt baggy.  Now I can see why a baggy, because those ear guide would make them a bugger to get in a hard case but colour me disappointed.  £120 IEM’s deserve better.

Amped/Unamped:  The Kommands have, I believe, been made with phones in mind.  An attached mic is often a bit of a giveaway.  As such I was pleased to hear than even out of my Nexus 5 it still sounded great.  There were no significant sound alterations between it and much better sources in any tonal sense.  The one area where things did alter notably was that with my preference for the more sedate black tips, that with the phone they did tame a bit.  It was a bit less sprightly and dynamic.  If you pair that up with very relaxed music it all was a bit dull.  Though if you paired it up with much more rambunctious stuff, which is probably the sort of stuff anyone using a phone would be playing anyway, then it was rather well suited.  Of course if you wanted more vigour then you can use one of the other two more lively tips.  Still the fact is once you get to this quality level, it’s probable that the phone becomes the weak link in your audio experience.  It’s not that it’ll suck but if you want to stretch the Kommands legs then it is time to think about an amp or a proper DAP.

Isolation:  Meh.  Even with the sealed silver tips that the Kommand sits rather shallow in the ear combined with the fact that it’s a dynamic means it’s not a high isolation IEM.  Of course if you’re coming from earbuds then you’ll marvel at how much of the outside world it blocks out but……. If you’re coming from sealed BA, deeper seated IEM then you’ll be rather less chuffed.  It is enough for out and about or on a bus but you’ll probably want to not spend a lot of time listen to quiet, delicate classical pieces.  As for Tube or flights, well it’ll be better than nothing or ear buds but its wouldn’t be my first choice.

Value:  Hmm.  Well they have filters and I don’t love filters.  Mostly I always think you’ll only ever use one of them and so add unnecessary cost.  Then there’s that ear guide, while it looks very B&O I just see additional wasted cost.    However, they do look pretty awesome and those filters do mean you are more likely to find a sound that works for you if you’re a bit new to spending £120 on earphones.  On paper these are not the “best” you can get for your money.  So I guess by that definition I can’t really say these are super mega good value.  However at this price as I think about where its competition is and I’m constantly drawn to the IE7.  Never an IEM that was ever thought as awesome value nor exciting but it’s still one of my all-time personal favourites.  I love it as much today as when I got it several years ago.  The Kommand I can easily see slipping into that same long term endearment.  I know I could live contentedly if it was my only IEM for the next 5 years.

N.B. I currently see them retailing elsewhere for just £99.  That quite substantially bumps their value proposition.  I’d be tempted to jump on that in case that price doesn’t last.

Conclusion:   You know it turns out I really like the Kommand.  At first yeah sure I acknowledged it was good and capable but on paper I don’t hear it doing anything that places it on a technically superior level to the DN-1000 and actually I’d have to hand it to the Dunu that it is “better.”  In technical abilities its more close to the 900 which is cheaper.  Then what about the GR07 or the MA750?  God, as I A/B these with the 750 I can’t really say “yep the Kommands are clearly a technically superior IEM.”  I just can’t and as its £40 more I feel that I should be able to do that and do it with some ease.  Sure if I listen carefully I can concede that the bass is better and I can pluck out the mids are too somewhat superior but it’s a closer run thing than it should be.  So you’d be forgiven for thinking I think poorly of the Kommand.  You’d be very wrong however.  Soooooooooooooo very wrong.

I didn’t really notice it at first, sure stuff sounds nice on them, stuff sounds nice on lots of things.  You listen for a while and you find them nice and easy on the ear but you’re not really thinking much about it.  It’s just there doing its thing, it not jumping up and demanding you pay it attention like some needy hyperactive child.  The Kommand simply gets on with the job.  Then one day you stop and realise, my god these actually sound wonderful.  They sound calmly and nonchalantly wonderful.  Granted I spend most of the time with the calmer black tips, the others did go more “listen, listen oooh listen to this bit, see how good I am, see aren’t I good??????”  you know what I mean.  We’ve all heard an IEM that is a little attention seeking, the ones that make such striking first impressions they dazzle you.  The black filtered Kommands are happy to sit back and just play.  They play everything in such a pleasing fashion I find I’m no longer skipping tracks.  I am listening to each and every one and loosing myself in all of them.

I could listen to these every day.  Their oddly darkly symphonic staging, their bountiful yet darkly rich low end.  Their curiously creamy and fluidic vocals.  Their refined and delicately forgiving upper end.  I can see it becoming one of my long term all time personal favourites.  Even with those ear guides (please Rockjaw if you want to do a version without them, that would please me greatly.)  There is just something so darkly sumptuous about them.  So smooth on the ear with such an enveloping aural envelope that makes you feel so safe and comfortable.  Sure the other tips brighten up and have more energy but I can’t stop myself going back to the blacks.  With them in I find I rather adore the sound of the Kommand’s.  it’s not wow’ing or dazzling me but I just can’t help but adore them.  I know it’s early in the year but for me on a personal preference level the Kommands I really feel are going to be the benchmark to beat.  I just cannot stop myself from loving each and every track on them!!!



Thanks to ROCK JAW for the sample.

Brief:  Effortlessly grand with ear guides.

Price:  £120 or about US$180   N.B. currently going for just £99 somewhere

Specification:  Drivers: Balanced armature + 8mm dynamic, 3x Interchangeable tuning filters, Impedance: 16Ω, Sensitivity: 110+/-3db, Frequency response: 20 – 20000Hz, Cord Length: 1.2M, MIC with pause/play button – (iOS & Android compatible), Jack type: Gold plated 3.5mm

Accessories:  3 pairs of tips, 3 pairs of sound tuning filters, a shirt clip and a little baggy for keeping it together.  Pretty disappointed with the baggy.

Build Quality:  Very nice.  A combination of ebony surrounding the IEM and the rest being metal it feels premium and it looks premium too.

Isolation:  Meh. They sit shallow, the have a dynamic in them and 2 of the 3 filters have additional venting.  You’ll get by for normal out and about or on a bus use but you’ll be steering away from quiet classical pieces.  Not one you’ll want for Tube commutes or flights.  With music on though, still enough to obscure that car that’s about to hit you.
Comfort/Fit:  Err, well the ear guide just got in my way but with some fiddling I got it positioned so I could wear them up and fitting me well.  Once done comfort was great.  A bit awkward getting on and off but fine once set.  I’d have greatly preferred no ear guide.

Aesthetics:  They look pretty great.  Wood and metal scream fancy yet reserved. Tre posh.

Sound:  Adorable.  Yes you can alter the sound signature with the filters.  The silver is the closed and no high filter so its bass is more hard and punchily aggressive.  The gold is open and no high filter so, its bass is just like the blacks and its highs like the silver.  Both their treble is light and sprightly, being a BA it’s a hint over crisp and its extension trails off quite sharply once you get very high.  Still for a BA it’s got a good level of delicate refinement.  Mids tend to be a little over shadowed on the golds and by highs and bass on the silvers.  On the black though, they are more prominent and are lovely.  The bass is a hint soft and sumptuous, the highs are gently tamed and the mids become more noticeably creamy and flowing.  It’s not an attention grabber but I found it grew on me without me barely noticing and finding that I actually love it.  It’s just so effortlessly easy on the ear I was happily spending the whole day with it and finding myself reluctant to remove them.  It’s a beautifully organic and warmly natural feeling IEM and you could absolutely forget there is a crossover in them.  It’s all so beautifully and smoothly integrated.  I know on paper it’s not “better” than its competitors but I find I am enjoying this much more than its on paper attributes would suggest.  Tonally it pushes all of my buttons, I just love it.

Value:  Well it’s a bit costly, I’m sure you’re paying for its fancy construction, the filters and that ear guide.  So on paper others are “better” value.  However you do get a more probably sound sig match with the filters of your not 100% sure what sound is you.
N.B. I’ve just found them going for £100 to which I say, oh hell yes!

Pro’s:   Adorably sumptuous.  Look impressively premium.

Con’s:  The stupid ear guides.