Thursday, 25 February 2016

Obravo ERIB-2a Review

Obravo ERIB-2a Review

Thanks to the UK Loaner Tour for the loan.

First Impressions:  Erm what the, so there come with a case it seems, yet that’s gigantic.  Hmm I suppose if you’re to fit your dap in there too it might be of use but really???  I mean I know it’s no great bother to buy a case of eBay but for a premium product it’s a silly omission.  Okay and what is with the metal spike things????  I’m thinking maybe its little stands for the silicon tips to sit?  I realise I have a loaner set so I presume someone though to put them in little baggies instead but even so, if that’s what they are for what a stupid waste.  Maybe I’m missing something that really can’t be what they are for is it??? Maybe they are tools for aiding in the extraction of the buds?  Bugger me they aren’t wanting to come out are they?  Okay this case thing, I’m really not loving it at all, oh Jesus Christ you can’t even remove the foam insert, are you serious???  If this was mine I’d be cutting the elastic strap that’s fastening it to the case but as it’s a loaner, well I cant.  Seriously though who thought this was a good idea and then who approved it???

So I’d say were off to a bad start aren’t we?  In the ears and oh god, the attached cables means the cable strain relief is huge.  So I can wear down, which I hate, or wear them up and look utterly ridiculous.  Again I’m thinking who decided this and then who okayed it?  Get those strain reliefs sorted ASAP. 

Okay so eventually in the ears.  Sound wise, hmm.  They are alright.  I’m running off the little 1G Shuffle so while powerful for an itty bitty portable it’s not mains powered.  It’s pretty nice, reminding me of the RE-0 but with soundstage.  It’s pleasant, a little subdued and unaggressive.  Hmm I’d expected uber amazeballs treble and a bit in your face.  Hmm rather mellow actually, flavourless.  Most curious indeed.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  With their relatively highly open nature for an IEM you expect certain things.  Like an open headphone the eternal struggle between open verses closed and that battle continues here somewhat.  You get the lows, clean, articulate but they only go so far down before falling off a cliff.  I don’t mind that, I’m on the whole somewhat who sides with the open camp.  Here though, I was expecting planar super agility, lightning responsiveness and it just isn’t.  it’s not that it sucks but I look at the price tag and think, hey you had better be awesome and it just is not.  I can’t help constantly feeling that it’s as though I’m not quite supplying it enough power, that’s what it sounds like.  However I don’t think that is the issue, you see when playing out the Studio, a relatively cool, dry course its better.  It then feels more nimble and has a bit of an impact to it yet that price tag…….. sure it’s pretty reasonable but no matter how much I think diminishing returns this thing is £550. That’s US$765 and that’s even with the current absolutely terrible £/US$ exchange rate. 

It is nice, it’s really rather good in absolute terms but all the things i reach for as comparable are mostly sitting around the £100 mark.  Sure its good but that price tag just sticks in my craw.

Mids:  Nice.  Once more there is a certain expectation of lithe nimble agility that just isn’t there.  The mids are very nice, sweeping and mellow.  So much gentility it’s really very pleasant to listen to but it ever feels like there is a soft focus filter on.  Its rather odd as if you listen out you can detect lots and lots of detail but there is absolutely no immediacy to it.  I feel constantly there is something missing.  If your job is to listen to music all day every day and you need something that will be plainly accurate but very mild on the ear, these would work well.  However they are just so casually bland, so laidback they have no life to them.  Even with the Studio though they improve they still just sound so blandly mildly agreeable.  Pleasant and inoffensive.  I just cannot find any emotiveness in them.

Quantitatively they are over all rather flat, perhaps the most gentle of upside down U’s where the mids are a tiny touch ahead of the treble.  They are also somewhat more focused on the lower vocal ranges than the upper.  They can sound a little smooth and mellow.

Highs:  Bland.  If you listen hard there is actually a ton of detail but its sooooo mildly gentle about its display.  So laidback, so lacksidasicle it’s boring.  God damn it I want to slap them in face to wake them up a bit.  It’s all just so mildly pleasant and inoffensive.  They really remind me of Spendor speakers.  Technically good but so unexciting they manage to suck the life out of everything.  I’m no treble head but these are so mildly bland.  Hmm I should really go fish out the SE420’s as compare.  I should but I’m not sure I can bring myself to.  Okay I did, and the 420 is much more middy.  Lol, it actually all sounds rather more excitable and active too.  Okay so the 2a has much more refinement in the treble, similar in quantity but lots more finesse. 

Soundstage:  Okay here they begin to do better.  Their openness really makes them sound expansive.  There is a relative acoustic vista before you and then I spoil it by pulling out the IE8’s.  Yeah that price tag, ouchy.

Fit:  They are an annoyance.  They pretty much are designed so you have to wear them down, which I hate, or up with giant antenna sticking up.  Seriously did no one try wearing a pair of there over at oBravo?

Comfort:  They were fine so long as I didn’t move.  They like to sit shallow which is unusual but I’m fine with that, it’s their wearing down that means they are constantly pulled on by the cable and that makes you constantly aware of them in your ears.  Not painful or anything but it was rather irritating.

Aesthetics:  Erm well usually I love bare metal but these, I mean they aren’t “ugly” but they really aren’t lookers.  The likes of the Finder X1 or T20 next to these and well, these are not in the same league.  Then there is the cable attachments to them, yeah these are not my favourites.

Microphonics:  Despite their shape I wore them up and it was fine.  Even wearing down there essentially none, probably due to the massive strain relief but wherever it is it works.

Amped/Unamped:  Weird.  Out of the big amps, they felt like there weren’t being driven properly, like there was some acoustic veil over them.  Then the Studio injected a tiny hint of life to them but then moving down to the phones they moved back to the veiled.   It would appear that actual power output just doesn’t matter a jot but what does is the relative warmth or coolness of the source.  Frankly I find that rather odd and I really expected that given their planar nature they would be power hungry beasts but that does not seem to be the case.  I mean the bass got a bit fuller with a big amp but that was really about it.  Very curious indeed.

Isolation:  So so.  They are very upfront in letting you know they are open IEM’s and naturally isolation suffers.  That isn’t a bad thing per say, it’s a choice.  It’s really not something I would choose to use out and about, I mean you could but with music playing you might be “that guy” on the bus blasting out tsch tsch tsch tsch to all those nearby.  Of course for you with music going you won’t hear stuff, like traffic, so you’ll still need to use your eyes when walking.  Just this maybe isn’t one for using in the Library unless you want everyone near you to hate you.

Cable:  It is removable so I hope that means someone will make a cable with loss ridiculously long strain reliefs.  Otherwise it’s a nice, woven cloth covered cable.  Oddly no neck synch but otherwise it’s a perfectly nice cable.

Accessories:  Well you get the box / case whatever thing.  That’s essentially useless, it is massive and has a gigantic foam insert (that you do appear to be able to cut out but as this is loaner, I’m not finding out.  You get a bunch of tips, a couple of ear guide things, and a 6.25mm to 3.5mm adapter that actually looks fantastic.  Then there is the weird metal things.  I think they are just so the tips can sit on in the case/box but with this being a loaner, the tips were all bagged and separate.  If they have some other purpose I’ll be buggered as to what it might be.  If however I’m right then seriously??????  What a ridiculous and pointless thing to include.  However I cannot for the life of me think what else they might be fore.

Value:  Erm, yeah but well, no. 

Conclusion:  So I think it’s pretty clear that the ERIB-2a and I have not gotten along super well.  I get the impression there is so much potential in them, or maybe that’s my wishful thinking?  They have a planar driver in them for god sake!!!  These should be able to sing and dance on the head of a pin, they should move like lightning and be spectacular.  They however at present are none of those things.  It’s like oBravo have gone out of their way not to do the V shaped drama and have so mellowed them that they are so listless as to be practically comatose.  Could it be that its due to my having the middle one, the aluminium one rather than the “warm” wood version or the “cold” ceramic version?  I’d love to hear them both and see if they have mare sparkle and life to them because they should.

It’s a sad thing really, I know that the driver in here is able to pull out top teir detail levels but it’s tuned to be so meek and bland.  Then that price tag, just no, I’m sorry but no.  I feel like a school teacher writing a report card, I know they can do so much better but they just aren’t trying.

So would I buy one?  Nope.  With their present price tag they need to be something special and they aren’t.  They may have great potential but as is, the 2a version I have is competent and capable for sure, it’s also in absolute terms got VERY high audio quality.  However so do others and they are a damn sight cheaper.  A nice effort for sure from oBravo but next time, must do better.

Obravo ERIB-2a Quick Review

Obravo ERIB-2a Quick Review

Thanks to the UK Loaner Tour for the loan.

Brief:  Itty bitty Planar magnetic / Dynamic hybrid IEM’s

Price:  £549 or about US$765 (that includes UK tax though)

Specifications:  Frequency Response: 20Hz~35KHz, Tweeter: 8mm Planar Magnetic Tweeter, Dynamic Driver: 10mm Neodymium Driver, Impedance: 16 ohm, Sensibility in dB: 102dB, Weight: 35g

Accessories:  Giant case thing, a 6.25mm to 3.5mm adapter, 2 pairs of ear guide things, 6 pairs of silicon tips and I think 3 pairs of Comply’s. 

Build Quality:  It seems rather good, the buds are all metal, the cable seems fine and they are replaceable with very large strain reliefs. 

Isolation:  So so.  They are rather open backed so isolation suffers but then you get a nice airy soundstage so swings vs roundabouts.  It’s not really great for on a bus or out and about but with music on you’ll be fine.  However you’ll really want to use these somewhere more quiet and where you won’t disturb others.  You probably won’t notice traffic creeping up behind you so remember to use your eyes when using.

Aesthetics:  These in my eyes aren’t particular lookers.  That giant strain relief on the cable near the buds doesn’t look super either.

Sound:  Highly gently pleasant.  The sound is nice, mellow and soft and so unhurried.  You can just melt away into its gentle detail.  They are pretty wide ranging, the bass boing full and for something open reaches nicely low.  It’s also rather cleanly articulate.  The treble too is all very proficient and unaggressive.  Mids are nice, a little on the warm, lower frequency focused.  No spikes nor shouts, the exact opposite of sibilant.  It’s all, err, very pleasant.  However there is something about them, they for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on they feel slightly veiled.  They are detailed but it’s so gently presented it could sail right by you without your noticing, noticing that were was even anything there to begin with.  I am not normally one for wanting more edge, aggressiveness or brutality but…. these are just so laid back as to be near comatose.  They haven’t any life nor soul, I want them to wake the hell up.  Even pairing with the relatively crisp Studio they are still just so benign.  Don’t get me wrong they aren’t “bad” just so tepid. 
Acoustically they are technically good, competent, detailed, on paper they are highly accomplished they just aren’t very exciting.

Value:  Erm these are frighteningly expensive, not bad sounding but that’s some serious wallet ouch.

Pro’s:  Super inoffensive acoustically.  Nicely open sounding

Con’s:  Tepid.  Seriously wallet ouchy price tag.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Brainwavz Omega Review

Brainwavz Omega Review

Thanks to Brainwavz for the sample.

First Impressions:  Ah another plastic box, hmm is this a cost thing?  The Omega for sure is right at the cheapest end of the market.  The thing is just US$15 and that’s delivered globally.  So cheap cheap cheap cheap.   Inside the pack I’m a little surprised to see a pair of Comply’s given the cost I can only assume Brainwavz have got some cracking deal with them.  I also notice, sadly, there is no little case.  I can’t complain given how cheap they are and I’d rather see them skip a case than include one, making people pay for a thing they may not use.  (Normally I would say everyone should use a case but at this price I accept many users wont.)  The buds are rather nice, metal.  Though I’m really not taken with the “Red & Blue” colouring.  The red isn’t very red and the blue isn’t very blue.  Its marron bits and a midnight/navy blue cable.  It’s not that it’s ugly just a little misleading, especially that “red” it’s just not a colour I would ever refer to as “red.”

So in the ears and the first thing to note is the bass.  Oh it’s big, seriously big.  Not exactly a shocker given its price but it’s so very much more than my ears have been exposed to recently.  Oh my it’s shifting a fair old chunk of air.  I can feel it squishing my face and sinuses.  Hmm it and I may not be the best of friends.  Anyway to the burn machine with you.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  Abundant.  I know I used them with the included pair of Comply’s (which it was nice to see included at this price given the damn things are like US$5 a pair.  I assume Brainwavz get a pretty decent volume discount though.  Anyway, bass, yep it’s big.  It varies from a bit over big to you’re beginning to get on my nerves big.  It’s also not the most linear as we go.  There are certain notes where the bass will leap out and rip your head off if you’re not careful.  The audio snob in me tuts but actually…… on the whole its rather fun.  I mean it’s an earphone that costs US$15 delivered, I’m not expecting some linear Ety like masterpiece.  It’s a big bottomed girl who likes to party and so she got a little tipsy and maybe over does the bottom shaking a bit.  While you can make them do things a little more mellow, the bass does have rich warmth to it.  Sure it does have a bit of a rise and then falls off, softening as it goes but again, that price tag.  You know the bass can’t be perfect but it really does have a good old try.

Quantitatively, there is a notable mid/bass boundary elevation and it rises up as it goes down.  To a big, big heap of the stuff.  Then in the further reaches its starts to flab a little bit all over the place.  If you try and star them towards less soft sources your benefit.  It does want to turn into a bit of a warm melted puddle if you feed them so.

BTW, firing up The Beautiful South’s “Your Father And I” holy crap!!!!!!  The bass roars out you.  Its bass line and their bass peak co-inside and I can’t tell if “weeee, this is fun” or oh my god my poor fragile little ears.  Beastly.

Mids:  Warmly rich, nicely so.  The mid/bass region tends to dominate slightly and vocals have a rather flavoured tone.  Lots of warmth and richness, smooth, kinda melty chocolaty.  If you’re after air and spaciousness then sorry.  They don’t sound bad but they haven’t the tonality to do airy or cool and likewise the detail.  They do give some level of vocal nuance but they are rather flavoured, richly flavoured and I’m sure more chocolatey type comparisons are going to creep in.  Still you get the idea, its thick, heavy and slow moving but you don’t mind.  As they say, it’s not a bug it’s a feature. 

Quantitatively this means that while the bass isn’t really that far behind where most if the bass lays but its warm characteristics make it not the most obvious. It’s not terribly forthright and thus the bass can somewhat overshadow vocals.  I don’t think that’s a problem for its likely users but for me…… I’d have liked more mids.  Maybe a little bit cooler tonally for vocals too, give them some space to breathe.

Highs:  Staying with that warmly rich, smooth tonality from elsewhere and it sensibly continues.  Yey for smooth treble.  Detail levels are pretty nice in absolute terms but you won’t be using these in any analytical sense.  They are reasonably detailed for the money, nicely so but it’s not thrown at you with any aggression.  I’m absolutely good with that.  It also means that if you pair it with say, not the best source’s in the world and maybe not the best recorded music, nor the best mastered and then playing at a mediocre bitrate, you’ll still be fine.  The edges, bighty jaggy edges are all very mellowed and smoothed.  It does what it can to cut through the bass and remain audible but the Omega’s not too big on the treble. 

Soundstage:  There isn’t all that much in terms of distance, creamy warm stuff tends be more drawn in and intimate.  As is this. In terms of scale and power, there is a lot of scope for power.  Waaaaaaaay lots of power if you throw power at them.  That big old bass will given the chance shake a filling loose.

Fit:  Good.  In they went and that was me done.  They were pretty much at home worn up or down too, nothing fancy or unexpected.

Comfort:  Great, no bother.  Worn down the cable tugs at your ears which is why I always wear up.  Though with prolonged use the bass movement got a little ear tiring.

Aesthetics:  I do not know.  So they come in black, white, or “red and blue” so I instantly thought, oh right bud red, left bud blue, right?  Err no.  They are “red” bits of plastic on the buds, “red” jack and “red” Y splitter.  I say “red” because it’s really not, its marron.   Not that marron is a bad colour it’s just when I see it it’s not a colour I’d ever describe to anyone as red.  Then the “blue” well that’s the cable.  Now it is a blue but it’s a very subdued, dark navy blue.  It’s not that I don’t like it or anything but when I read blue this is not anything close to the colour I pictured in my head.  I do actually like the curiosity of the colour contrasts but seriously, look at a pic before you select them.  If you read “red and blue” it’s not what you’d think.

Microphonics:  It’s the same old story really.  If you chose to wear them up you get some, if you wear up you don’t.  In fairness it’s pretty slight worn down and the chin slider can cure that.

Amped/Unamped:  Well yeah there was a difference, with a big am was better but its not needed.  Odds are these will never see any kind of amp even a little FiiO and they have been made with that in mind.   Just maybe source wis you want to aim for something clean and cold.  Even then there wasn’t a wild variation in play from the phones laying about here.

Phone Use:  Well with the Lumia 735 it all worked, even the volume controls worked which while unexpected was nice. On the moto G, sadly no.  Why I have no idea, play/pause/skip worked but no volume.  However over on the P8 they worked and as a little bonus the P8 managed to push the treble rather more upfront.  While I liked the acoustic balance more it did a little show up that IEM’s at this price aren’t going to have the most refined treble in the world.  So it gave with one hand and took with the other but hey such is life.  As for the Iphone, well I presume it works fine, I didn’t test it.  That’s because the jack wouldn’t fit into the hole in the case I use has for the hp out. 

Isolation: It’s okay for a dynamic.  Having the Comply’s did help a little to get a fuller seal so they were really rather usable for most uses.  You know the story, fine for on a bus, out and about but not probably really what you want for a flight or Tube commute.  In a pinch its better than nothing, it’s no BA.  As ever yes it’s enough to block out typical traffic sounds so you need to remember how your eyes work and use them, or get a donor card.

Cable:  Colour aside, because I’m still not sure about the blue, in so much as I didn’t even notice at first it wasn’t black.  It’s fine.  While for the money I’m absolutely fine with it, the jay and Y-splitter both feel very solid if not super fancy.  It doesn’t feel like a Christmas cracker prize but you know next to the Piston 3 and the AM-12 it’s just not as nice as they are.

Accessories:  You get a mixed bag, I am all in favour of the Comply’s because cost aside (grumble grumble grumble) they are very nice to see at this price.  Sure silicon’s are fine but on the whole, foamy tips are hard to go back from.  A little case might have been nice but you know adding a case is going to add a 33% price jump so better that it should be up to the consumer.  However, I hope places suggest a case alongside as a bundle because things in cases live longer lives, it’s that simple.  You do however get a little Velcro cable tidy thing which you could sort of use but will anyone?  Oh and a shirt clip because, err, does anyone use them?

Value:  Super-duper stupid good.  Granted I can’t say these are leaps and bound “better” than the Piston 3 or AM-12 but that you can get something, for US$15 (about £10) not only bought but posted to you, anywhere on earth pretty much is crazy.  How do they even post it for that?  Even if it was just an empty box how can you send it halfway round the planet for that much yet the postage company has somehow made a profit and presumably Brainwavz are making something on it too???  Not only that but they are listenable, I could and have sat listening to them for hours reasonably happily.  I have much better stuff nearby but these are actually not bad.  I can use them and not want to kill myself which is frankly rather mad given their cost.  While I’d be hesitant for these to ever be my first choice to anyone they are in value terms outstanding. 

Conclusion:  You get the idea, it’s becoming all too common, awesome things coming out of China for stupid cheap.  Brainwavz have consistently put out product after product that represents superb value for money.  The Omega bares its lineage on its sleeve.  Is it the most wow earth shattering moistest bestest sound EVAR!!!!!!!! No, of course it’s not.  What it is a brand that has steadily kicked and hammed the value ratio in the consumers favour.  The sound quality for the tiny, tiny cost you get something that is not just usable but that crazy audio people could use it and be okay with it.  Don’t underestimate how huge that is, that you can get something for the price of youthful bottle of wine, something that sounds reasonable enough even audio snobs can cope with it. That is huge!!!!

The Omega, while not perfect makes practically all the sensible moves audio wise and really never falls down anywhere.  So it maybe doesn’t excel, unless you’re a bit of a basshead, anywhere either but it takes a capable stab at it.  The bass can be a bit over powering for me, it’s a bit of a hump and it moves to much air at times…… yeah its target demographics are just gonna hate that I’m sure.  I really can’t find anything to fault them with beyond tiny weird things like, that red is not red, its marron.  Which is a weird colour option anyway, weird I think I like it but weird nevertheless.

So should you buy one, hmmm well I am fortunate enough to live in a country that is so rich that state benefits qualify a recipient to be in the top ten percent of the world in income levels.  In the “West” + Japan + Anzacland et al we are rich and we forget just how amazingly rich and well off we are.  We can say US$15 is nothing but remember that (2008 figures so a bit old) that 80% of the world population live on less than US$10 per day.  In a society where we on average earn maybe 20 times that the relative wealth levels mean to some a US$15 earphone is like a rich worlder buying maybe a US$300 earphone. It’s a purchase that you would put some though into.  The Omega is I think aimed at those people and I find it highly commendable that people are working to bring reasonable, decent audio quality to the other 5 and a half billion people on the planet.

Brainwavz Omega Quick Review

Brainwavz Omega Quick Review

Thanks to Brainwavz for the sample.

Brief:  Brainwavz  make something even cheaper!

Price:  US$15 or about £10

Specifications:  Drivers: Dynamic, 6 mm, Rated Impedance: 16 Ohms, Frequency Range: 20 Hz ~ 20kHz, Sensitivity: 98 dB at 1 mW, Rated Input Power: 3 mW, Cable: 1.2 m Y-Cord, Copper, Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold plated

Accessories:  3 sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L), 1 set of Comply™ Foam Tips S-400, 1 Shirt Clip, Velcro Cable Tie

Build Quality:  For the money it’s very nice.

Isolation:  It’s alright.  About average for a dynamic so you’ll be fine for most uses.  Say on a bus, out and about walking but not really for plane or Tube commutes.  As always, it’s still more than enough to not hear a bus creep up behind you so do use your eyes people.

Comfort/Fit:  Good on both counts, no issues at all worn up or down.

Aesthetics:  Well I’m really not sold on the “red and blue” mostly because it’s not really red and blue.  However they look fine, the metal bits of the buds are nice but overall they look a bit plasticky, fine but not particularly lookers.

Sound:  Bass heavy, rather more bass than I would want but for their target user I’m sure they are fine.  They are rich, warm, smooth with a heavy mid/bassy mound.  I have no doubts normal users will be very happy with it.  Mids are pretty warm and smooth too.  They are a bit thick for me, bit weighty and they don’t really do air or breathy.  The treble it’s nice, soft, polite and adequately detailed.  So it all may sound so far that it’s a bit so so right?  Then you look at their price tag.  These are free with a packet of cornflakes cheap.  They are absurdly cheap, I don’t understand how the US$15 price tag even covers their global postage never mind covering anything else.  The Piston 3 and AM-12 were also stupid cheap but they I suspected were being sold at a loss to promote the parant phone brands.  These, I don’t know how they manage it but they are simply amazing for the money.  

They have a big, rich crowd pleasing tonality, big hearty bass and worm smooth mids.  The highs, well they are highly forgiving shall we say to the sorts of mainstream music they will encounter and the sort of bit rates many users might use.  They are exactly what suits this end of the market and its good to see a product with a price tag that has such potential user reach to actually still sound reasonably good.  Kudos to Brainwavz for managing it.

Value:  Crazy.  So cheap I genuinely don’t know how they manage it.

Pro’s:  Sound quality for the money is crazy.  Big, hearty populist bass.

Con’s:  Bass could dial it down for my tastes.  Whats with that “red,” its marron, not red!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Echobox Finder X1 Review

Echobox Finder X1 Review

Thanks to Echobox for the sample.

First Impressions:  Is it me or are earphones all getting more and more pretty?  I realise I’m a sucker for bare metal and their bare titanium with their inverse trumpet back end, they are VERY much to my tastes.  Not that being pretty is important to me, I mean I love the gigantic monster that is the R3 but with things getting so competitive pretty doesn’t hurt.   These are attractive little beasts.  Seriously though, little may not be apt to capture just how tiny the buggers are.  It’s like the q-JAYS and MA-750 got drunk one night and got a present 9 months later.  Their unusual shape however means that despite being stupidly small they can fit in whatever sized driver.  I don’t see its spec other than it can go from 15Hz to 32kHz and that wasn’t a typo, 32 not 22.  I mean 22 is beyond what most humans can hear but 32 is just crazy.

So in the ears and I do notice that they have on the “white” filters.  The manual says they come with the “black” filters on.  With black the bass, white the flat and red the treble ones.  A typo in the manual or did they put on the wrong filters?  I mean they probably should come with the middle ones anyway but I can see I’ll be heading to the bass ones fairly quickly.  These are reminding me VERY much of the Panasonic HJE-900 Cubic Zirconia things.  They were utterly non-resonant and unyielding acoustically and so are these.  The titanium is relentless and unyieldingly ridged.

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

Lows:  When things come with filters for altering the sound I always expect that the bass one will be the one for me.  You see I’m not a bass head by any stretch but I am on the treble sensitive side.  There are no surprises here, the bass filter is easily the one for me.  Though I shall note that while it’s called the bass filter, you still don’t get mountains of the stuff.  I’ll grant that was a little unexpected, it’s a nice amount but I can see there still being those out there that will be hitting that bass boost button.  I even caught myself doing it from time to time.  It’s just so clean.  It’s highly sculpted but it’s so reticent to explode all over the place, so clean cut, so polished, I find it a little flavourless.  It’s beautify cold and clean bass, so little give or bloom to it.  So granite like in its utter rigidity.  It reminds so much of the HJE-900 though it had rather more bass, to the point its utter lack of give got oppressive.  The X1 never really come across as skill punching like the panny did.  I know that if there was more I’d be claiming that it’s fun but gets super ear tiring.  Lol yes I realise I’m never totally happy with everything.

Tonally, the X1 is all about the unforgiving and unyielding nature of its construction.  Just like the panny, its housing, in this case titanium, has no give whatsoever to it.  There is a cold savagery to it, it’ll spit out just exactly what it’s been told to with all the subtly of a chainsaw.  It’ll smash through anything in its way, it’ll sand no edges, soften no brashness, gloss over no flaw.  The cold hard brutality of the source is set out.  No more no less and with no sentimentality.  All of this I’m not sure I love in pop but in well recorded classical works, the cold and emotionless bass is so cleanly rendered it is magnificent.  Linn’s Christmas giveaway recordings, which are super well recorded, are absolutely exquisite.  This level of bass precision is wondrous.  It is a paragon of a completely detached acoustic emulation.  Strings are perfect. 

Depth too is first rate, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, organ works that little driver and it clings on, with the same vicious tightness.  There is no give, no softening, no casual relaxation.  It takes that low note on like a crocodile with a wildebeest in its jaws, there is no escaping, no forgiveness, no loosening acoustically of that note.  If you are huge on organ music you may be onto a winner here.  The opening of Also Saprach Zarathustra is just ridiculous.

Mids:  To continue where the bass left off.  Strings are absolutely perfection.  It’s all so coldly analytical.  In some ways they out Ety the ER4.  It has that same cold, clean explicitness but the dynamics on the X1 are far better.  Well “better” I really mean as the ER4 can do wonders but it needs a power station to shift it, also the highly sealed and closed in nature of the ER4 means the X1 feels far more spectacularly open and airy.  Strings are absolutely in their element on the X1, all the cleanliness of the CK10 and more but with gobs of air, so clean, so much space to move dynamically in that you really need the best quality recordings to show them off at their best.  Vocals suffer I think a little from this very emotionally detached style.  They are clean and articulate but they have a faint coldness to them.  There has been striped an element of the natural human warmth.  Clean, loads of detail, soooo much detail to examine in high detail.  Still that smooth gently natural nature is a little lacking.  Nora sounds like she is just singing the words but isn’t feeling the words.  Beautiful articulation of course but it’s a little too bright, to cold and too unfeeling. 

Classical however shines, it’s like you can pinch to zoom and just expand any piece to fill your whole field of view.  All of the detail, all that bright, hyper explicit with every single note painstakingly carved from a block of steel before you.  Coldly flawless.  Nana Mouskouri’s Ave Maria sounds achingly ethereal.  You know it wouldn’t have hurt to have more mids, they are just that tad pushed back for me.

Highs:  Here the first thing I’m going to say is that if you are like me, rather treble sensitive, these may not be the IEM for you.  Even with the bass filters in the treble was pushing at the upper range of my tolerance.  The extension I think is in part to blame for this.  I know the spec sheets of things often say silly numbers, these claim they extend to 35kHz.  I can well believe that.  I realise my ears can’t go that far, last time they were tested I could hear up to the 23kHz cut off they said their equip was calibrated for.  So I don’t know where these go to, but holy Christ they do like to be explicit up top.  Wow that’s some seriously spectacular treble going on.  It too spectacular and too dazzling.  A big part of why the ER4 sound so dull beside these is that the treble extension is just stupid here, just silly bugger levels of dazzle.

So quantitatively these even on the bass filters are a pretty bright IEM, I can’t imagine many users will be running to the treble filter unless they have some upper range hearing loss.  The detail extraction level maybe insane, everything so hyper over explicit and hurled at you it can be dazzling nightmare of blinding brilliance and savagery.  The middle or “neutral” filter is a bit better, yet still, bugger me that’s a lot of treble.  More tolerable but, with my Studio V and its relatively hard, bighty, treble they made for an explosively brilliant combination.  It makes an incredible first impression but oh my god does it wear me out fast.

Fragile and delicate the treble can be, like the finest crystal but likewise it can be an explosive shower of shards of that same crystal.  Tiny slivers of the sharpest slivers slicing edges ever so lightly cutting into you.  Beautiful and brilliant.  I find that even with the bass tips I yearn for a treble reducing button sometimes and my ears gravitating to softest of tracks, like that of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow, What A Wonderful World.” So breathy, so delicately beautiful and so beautifully rendered.  So gentle on the ear.

Soundstage:  All that airy upper end action gives the impression of much open, airy, space for the music to breathe in.  However it’s not actually that big, the distances involved are never great, things like stay up close and present.  The mids are a little distant, pushed back from that “assertive” upper end that makes sure you can see everything that’s going on.  It’s very upfront and not in least bit shy.  The bass is a little more like the mid range, a bit more distance, yet power when called upon but it is that of a large room.

Comfort:  Great.  No issues for me in any way, though if you insist on wearing down you do get them tugging at your ears.  No physical issues for me.

Fit:  They are a nice standard, round shape so no issues here.  Getting in was no bother at all, however….. their trumpet like shape meant there isn’t much to grip on trying to pull them out.  The angle they make contact with your finger too encourages your fingers to just slide right off them.  It was no trouble for extended use but if you’re pulling them out every 5 minutes that would quickly begin to get on my nerves.

Aesthetics:  Looks are a highly subjective however I, as a rule, always like bare metal.  The aluminium C751, the steel T20, and here we have the titanium X1.  Each as much a visual statement as they are acoustic.  Their clean, simplistic lines and tone, that darkened, almost pewter like silvery subtlety is sublime.  I mean these aren’t going to appeal to those who think the Monster Turbine Pro Gold’s were classy but in my humble opinion, these are one of the best lookers out there.  I find their bare titanium to have a certain elegance and casual simplicity that perfectly squares with my own aesthetic values.

Microphonics:  None.  Wearing up there was none at all, even trying to hit the cable.  Wearing down, you usually get some but practically nothing here.  Pair that with the cable synch and there really is none at all.  Could it be due to the lack of a cable strain relief at the buds?

Amped/Unamped:  Do these need an amp?  No.  Do they want one?  Well yeah, they kinda do.  Don’t get me wrong out of the little 1G shuffle they rocked and out of the Lumia 735 they similarly did very well.  Still with their hyper hurl “all of da details!!!!!!” in your face presentation they want to give them the power to do that with all the refinement having more power can muster.  I don’t doubt that when the Explorer comes along there will be a fair degree of synergy at work. 

One curious thing to note is if you have an Ety 75 ohm adapter laying around, give it a go.  Seriously, it’s been a good while since I’ve fund something that was so marked an improvement.  The extra impedance took the 735 or the Shuffle and propelled them well towards having an amp.  Crazy but whoa, the treble difference especially was a great big dose of refinement, I’m gonna say right now if you buy a Finder X1 spend the extra 10 bucks and grab an Ety like adapter off eBay.  It’ll be the best upgrade you’ll get spending a tenner.

Isolation:  Yeah they were fine.  Towards the upper end of what you get with dynamics these days.  So that means easily fine for most use cases.  You know, walking out and about, on a bus, etc etc.  Not exactly what I’d want for a flight or Tube commute but you know, you could scrape by if it’s what you’ve got.  Oh and naturally it’s easily enough for you not to notice the bus that’s 10 feet away from turning you into a road stain.  Eyes people, do remember to use them.

Cable:  It would appear to be some slightly translucent grey sheath, covering what appears to be some twisted cable.  It’s a tiny bit stiff but on the whole seems great.  It’s got negligible friction so it doesn’t catch on your clothing (I’m looking at you RHA) so despite being relatively thin it all seems to be of the highest quality.  Oh and is seems highly tangle resistant which is super nice.

Build Quality:  Well, the things are made from titanium.  Short of them being made from crystalline carbon I’m not really sure what you could do make them more indestructible housings?  The jack too would appear to be titanium.  The cable I can’t really tell what it’s made of if feels premium.  The only place actually where I have any reason to pause is at the buds.  They don’t seem to have an external cable strain relief, with the buds not easy to grasp shape I found I did, several times, pull them from my ears using the cable.  That is something I always strongly advise against.  They do specify they have an internal strain relief so given how well built everything else is I’m willing to give Echobox the benefit of the doubt on this one, only time can tell if it’ll become an issue.

Accessories:  You get a reasonable bunch of bits.  5 pairs of tips, three pairs of filters and a rather nice case.  The case is maybe touch big for them but better that than too small.  Oh and you get three pair of Comply’s too, which is rather unusual but always welcome.

Value:  They are scheduled to retail at US$200, so if you jumped on their recent Indiegogo offers, they were going for as low as US$80 which is pretty crazy.  So US$200 is just now £140, casting my eyes to the things I pulled out for comparing them to, the ER4 sat around that price didn’t it, with the reference filter on I felt they were Ety besting and they are now going for US$300 it seems.  The CK10 you just can’t get anymore.  Their real competition is the RHA T20 at £180 or US$240.  Arguably at this audio quality level US$40 is just not particularly a material difference.  I love them both and I think both are so deserving of your money, both are insanely built too.  I want to throw them in a box together and shout fight!!!  Mind you the Finder is not only the cheaper its also made from titanium…… so yeah, they are well worth the wallet beating you’ll take.

Conclusion:  Argh, sometimes there things that you can just rattle out the review of nice an easy.  Somethings are more complicated than that.  This is one of the latter.  You see, I’m not inclined to like filters for a start.  They are just a pain in the bum for reviewing as you have to do three times as much work (okay not exactly but you know what I mean) and there is going to be 1 that works best for you. The others not so much.  So what do you take as the judgment point?  Do I go with the crazy lunatic treble, so filled with detail but can feel like a crystal decanter exploding in my face?  To the like of those who loved the DBA-02 treble, they will gush and drool over the treble filter.  I can see merits to that sound style and praise it accordingly even if it is absolutely not for me personally.  Filters, though they complicate things.

With the black, the bassy filter or what really should be termed, the one with a filter in it to tame the treble.  For me, no question whatsoever was the one I’d take every time, honestly it’s the one I’d expect most to use too, frankly I could bin the other two and I’d never miss them.  The treble is the “hot potato” on the Finder X1, it’s so very highly skilled, my god its ER4 maybe even CK10 besting but bugger me it’s not relaxed.  The bass filter does it best to dial down the quantity to more tolerable levels, the quality remains but that uber insanely pin crisp edge is lost.  Like sucking on a lime wedge, it’s so tart and sharp and mouth drawing yet there is something that makes you want to do it again. See, stupid filters and their clouding the picture.

Sound quality, for a first outing Echobox would seem to have hit a bit of a belter.  I should confess that I really wasn’t originally very interested in the Finder, it’s their upcoming Explorer X1 DAP I really want to grab one of but they have a winner on their hands I think.  Though I’d scrap the treble filter, and create a new much more bassy filter so the current bassy one becomes the middle one and the current reference becomes the new treble one.  I do feel it could do with a bit of an overall shift in the bass direction but I suppose its nothing a bass boost button can’t fill in for those who want massive bass.

So, would I buy one?  Oh yes and it’s a pretty easy yes too.  I know it’s only February but so far this is the one that I can see being the years benchmark IEM.  It’s got everything really, great looks, great (if not insane) construction, comes with a good bundle and it sounds fantastic.  Sure a little softness wouldn’t kill it.  Its only real flaw is that it can be a unforgiving but I’ve got warm DAP’s and most of my music is stuff of good quality so it’s not a massive issue for me.  Plus keep in mind this is a first product too, I hope to see more things from Echobox and I expect those things to be amazing as the Finder X1 is.  As of now they are my company to watch this year.