Sunday, 11 December 2016

Accutone Gemini HD Earphone Review by mark2410

Accutone Gemini HD Earphone Review by mark2410

Thanks to Accutone for the sample.

First Impressions:  Hmm, I am still not loving Accutone’s strange naming system.  Looking at their website I’m not sure what these are supposed to have in common with the normal Gemini but whatever, these are the HD one.  Now I see in pic’s that they look fantastically pretty.  I mean damn they look bloody good don’t they!!!  Getting the things in my hand and whipping open the box and err, what.  Okay this is just weird, the shiny metal bits in the pics are covered in a layer of rubber.  Erm well that’s different.  I presume you’re just supposed to peal it off right?  Oh and there are some of the audio filters, erm where is the silver one?  Oh Accutone seriously???  So while you show silver filters, only silver filters on your website they don’t actually have silver filters.  Honestly Accutone you need to find whoever authorised your website, punch them repeatedly in the face then fire them and then all the marketing interns you turned the consumer audio division over too.  I mean why only show silver filters when you don’t do a silver filter????   I mean who thought that was a good idea and then who okayed it???  Seriously even a double face palm doesn’t come close to how much face palm is here.

So they came with the red filters on, giving those a try and hmm, bassy.  I’m not wild about this nor am I seeing that this is deserving to be called Clarity as you website states is their default tuning.  The manual however says the red is the bassy, so let’s nudge in the middle option, the err greenish yellow one.  Okay now that is much better, good god that is an improvement.  I’m still in a bad mood, that website needs to be killed with fire but these filters, ugly colour aside and actually pretty damn good.  Finally Accutone seems to be getting its audio on. 

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

Lows:  Good, well just skip the red filter I don’t want it manages to do but just skip it, it makes things so muddy that I can find no reasonable explanation for.  The bile coloured ones, now those are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.  Better that I’m looking at the price tag and thinking yep, I’d pay that.  Nooo, seriously, an Accutone that I’m liking, liking rather a lot.  Not only do the look super these actually have audio that’s as accordingly decent.  The bass it’s the biggest, nor is it the deepest but its super clean.  Its practically BA clean, hard, unyielding and lithe.  Now they do want a bit of power to be their best but when you de they toughen up like granite.  Weeeeeeeee!!!!  Firing up, well anything really and they are fantastic.  Yey!!!! I was beginning to think Accutone was a bust but turns out they’ve got some audio chops after all.  Super clean, hard unyielding and well sculpted bass.  Now I might like a smidge more but stay away from the red filter, it sucks.  The blue one, while super pretty it’s a bit light for me, tbh I suspect for anyone without out hearing loss issues. 

Quantity wise these are verging towards reference level, a tiny sliver over and they don’t quite have the extreme linearly as they go down like on an Ety but there are so much more eager to rise up when called upon and the have a wonderful degree of articulation when driven well.  So much agility for dynamic, like a Bernina sculpture its flows effortlessly yet retains a marble hardness beneath.  Wooo yey there are gorgeous sounding and playfully beautiful in their renditions.

Mids:  Fantastic.  That same quality as with the bass, so cleanly sculpted and finely detailed, it’s exquisitely beautiful.  Ahhh so pretty, so so much pretty.  Firing up Beverly Craven’s “Promise Me” and she is awe inspiring.  I’m a big fan of her vocal talents (even though her last couple albums weren’t so great) here she is on farm and the HD’s flow with such effortless melody and intonation in the vocals that its al just such a joy to listen to.  Honestly after the Pieces these are just so fantastically different, these can’t have been made by the same team.  Time and gain vocal heavy tracks would come on and their performance would be just so perfect.  Neither creamy nor dry they are just so damn well spot on!!!  Even stuff with mediocre vocals such as Reliant K’s “Lost Boy” I find I’m having a hard time not bursting into song.  They have that not quite definable awesomeness something that just captures the essence of vocal joy in abundance.  Every vocal just has some magical glaze upon it, everything sounds so wonderful, everything.  From Fiona Apple’s angry yet soft “Limp” to the tear inducing “Papa Can You Hear Me?” from Miss Streisand the HD’s do them all so wonderfully well I want more and more.

Quantity wise with the bass being not super heavy they may come across are being a bitty middy, bit mid centric which well maybe isn’t technically true but there are relatively middy to most things.  Vocals are so good, so well rendered while with such tonal brilliance that I have no complaints, the mids are so well done why not have lots of them.

Highs:  Hmm.  Well tbh I almost forget about the highs with the mids being so nice as they are the treble is, well it’s a bit behind the treble and with it by smidge a good dynamic it’s rather refined.  It’s not edgy, in your face detail and the more power you throw at them the better behaved and refined the treble becomes.  However I really had trouble playing things with heavy treble.  The mids were so well done that I constantly found I was skipping any track that wasn’t heavily vocal.  Making myself fire up “Cave In” and even well amped there is some treble detail loss.  These are more about the pleasing ear friendly shimmer than they are about the sharp edge of a treble note.  Super great for me and its being not too reduced in abundance this style is more easy on my treble sensitive ears.  There is a reason why I love treble as displayed by a good dynamic and these here, are a very good dynamic.

So despite it’s not hard edgy bight they are stupid agile on the bass and glorious in the mids so even fast treble centric songs like “Cave In” They can fire everything with spades of alacrity and never does it even hint at breaking up the treble and getting scratchy.  Super behaviour, exactly how it ought to be done.

Soundstage:  They are pretty good.  They do a nicely rounding sensation, not gobs of distance yet I don’t mind.  They are a pleasing encompassing rendition side to side and a little bit fore and back depth.  The can do volume really well but scale and grandeur not so much.  Vocals can be a little upfront and in wile not right up in your face, they are right in front of you.

Fit:  Good.  The Comply’s on and in the ears they went.  No issues.  Not very deep sitting but no bother.

Comfort:  Like the fit, fine.  I could wear up or down fine and despite their slightly sharp edged enclosure it was fine and I could wear for several hours at time with no problems.

Microphonics:  No chin slider but even wearing down they didn’t really have any.  Wearing up there was none at all, even deliberately hitting the cable.  Yey!

Aesthetics:  Well I’m still a little bit bitter about there not being a silver filter, because let’s face it the pics with it all in silver look awesome.  Though it does mean I can pick the filter based on sound and not feel like I must use the silver for aesthetic reasons.  Though I’d be lying if I said I like the bile coloured filter.  The rod and especially the blue look lush though, that blue, soooooo pretty.  The rest of the things in silver and white and they do look pretty damn good.  Well once you peel off that weird rubber coating, that’s just weird.

Cable:  It’s alright.  Tbh I wasn’t super loving it nor hating it or really having any feelings about it. Its fine, it’s not interesting.

Isolation:  They are dynamics and well they aren’t super high isolators.  A little bit of a shame as they are fine for out and about but pushing towards not so much for a bus.  I mean I would use them on a bus but they aren’t super great for it.  Flights and Tube, na I don’t think so.  Naturally they will be more than to get your accidently run over because you didn’t hear traffic.  Eyes people.

Accessories:  Hmm.  Yeah they still have the Accutone case that they don’t really fit in.  They will go if you shove them in but frankly I’m not pleased with that case.  The tips selection is strangely Spartan, no silicones.  However about the filters, they really need to take a life out of Trinity’s book and get those little metal tubes to keep them in.  Seriously though what’s with the no silicone tips?  I mean I’m fine with the Comply’s but it’s strange.

Phone Use:  Great.  Accutone have a background in headsets and it shows, again I was told they sounded particularly good and that was even wearing them up.  So if you’re on the phone a lot, bonus.

Amped/Unamped:  Well you don’t really ever “need” to amp things but these definitely responded well to amping.  Very well and if you buy a pair then you really ought to amp them.  Throw power at these little baby’s and they will take it all and spit it back out at you with oodles of audio loveliness.  Seriously, if you only ever run them out of your phone you will be missing out and the wonderfully midrange rendition that these are capable off.  Yes they will still sound good but not all they can be.

Value:  Yey!!! They aren’t the cheapest things ever but they really come to life and so deserve their US$130 price tag.  I’m not saying you can’t beat them and there aren’t other things better, especially if you want a lot of bass but I’m super pleased with these and their mid-range talents.

Conclusion:  Well I had been about convinced that Accutone had lost the plot, the Pieces and the Taurus, well they, let’s just maybe pretend they don’t exist shall we.  These, now I’ve no idea what the normal Gemini are like but these are cracking little wonders.  Get that bile filter on them and the balance is fabulous and the mids are sublime.  Sooooo scrummy that I just wanted more and more of it.  Every vocal on them got a dusting of audio crack.  So tonally pure, so clean and effortless.  Squeeee, just all so good!!!  Literally every vocal on them sounded good, even completely crap vocals.  Excellent stuff

Down side wise, well just silly little things, like the no silver filter, that case that’s too thin.  The weird rubber coating on the buds.  The lack of any reasonable way to store the other filters.  Frankly the only things it does wrong are things you can completely ignore and tbh, “accidently” losing the red filters isn’t something I’d shed a tear over.  Quite what they do to muddy everything so badly just to increase the bass, go buy a bass boosting amp if you want more bass.  Hell even EQ’ing more bass in would be better than that filter.

So would I / should you buy one?  Yep.  Yep.  Well for you, you have to like a reasonably middy signature, not vast bass and not hard brutal treble.  If you want a V shaped beast then these wont suit you but otherwise I can’t think of any other reason why you shouldn’t.  These are a fabulous showing from Accutone and shows that they can spit out some damn fine audio quality.  Though can I just suggest, maybe change the bile coloured filter to just a plain silver one?  Yeah seriously my biggest complaint is the filter is an ugly colour.  Love the sound from these little beauties.

Accutone Gemini HD Earphone Quick Review by mark2410

Accutone Gemini HD Earphone Quick Review by mark2410

Thanks to Accutone for the sample.

Brief:  Mids to die for.

Price:  US$129 which is about £102

Specifications:  Err, an 8mm Beryllium driver and impedance is 20 Ohms.

Accessories:  So you get 2 pairs of Comply’s and no silicone tips.  3 pairs of tuning filters and a case that is too thin to fit the things without shoving them in. 

Isolation:  Alright, not super great but fine for out and about and just enough for bus use.  Flight and Tube not so much.  Still you’ll need to remember and use your eyes near traffic or get yourself killed.

Comfort/Fit:  Good, absolutely zero issues on either front, wearing up or down despite their angular edged outer.  Happy to wear them for hours and hours at a time.  Nice.

Sound:  Well prior to this my experiences with Accutone had not be stellar.  Then these came in with the red filters.  Sigh.  They were not great.  Then I changed to the bile coloured filters and suddenly they were a completely different product.  Not just did they no longer suck, they were actually good, very good, damn fine good in fact.  The mids in particular become outstanding.  I don’t know where they were hiding, maybe I’m having a stroke, god knows.  The bass is super clean for a dynamic and really shines when amped, its death isn’t super linear but in the more typical bass things its sooo clean and sculpted. No mid bass hump, though not it’ll be bass light for more mainstream folks but try to resist using the red filter, EQ or bass boosting amp it instead.  Then the treble is nicely refined, little bit more inclined to the shimmer and it doesn’t really ever give a hard edgy bight which is super fine with me.  Though if you want brutality or details hurled at you this won’t do that.  It’s got a sublime tonality and the mid-range being slightly prominent are so sumptuously flowing.  Top marks for the vocals, I don’t know what they did but they are so beautifully rendered, rich and yet not creamed and thickened, such grace to them.  Just fantastically good and ear pleasing vocals on these.  Love them.

Value:  Well they aren’t unbeatable but the mids are just so gorgeous that I’d have not a seconds hesitation in slapping down a hundred quid for them.

Pro’s:  Mids to die for.  So graceful and clean.  Delicately beautiful.

Con’s:  The “green” filter is more bile coloured.  The red filter sounds sucky.

1MORE Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones (E0323) Review by mark2410

1MORE Dual-Driver In-Ear Headphones (E0323) Review by mark2410

Thanks to 1MORE UK for the review sample.

First Impressions:  This is the second things I’ve had from 1More and this is the next rung down from the Triple-Driver I had before.  It was nothing short of brilliance and was one of the stars of Canjam London this year, its quality to cost ratio had to be scaring a lot of makers out there.  So this, well it’s got some serious living up to do.  The box, well aside from being unable to slide off the band thing, so I had to rip it which I don’t like doing, then opening up the flap, is nice.  I had forgotten how nice a box 1MORE put together on the Triple.  This is a seriously impressive start. It isn’t quite as fancy as the Triple but come on. They really have the presentation thing down cold.  Hmm I’m not sure I’m wild about their colouring scheme though.  It would appear that the Triple, Dual and a single driver version all utilise the same housing and they are differentiated by the colour scheme.  The Triple had the black and gold thing, these are white and gold.  I’m not sure I love it, it’s a little bit feminine, bit girly looking.  Not that such things bother me, I’d wear a neon pink earphone covered in rhinestones if it sounded great still, this wouldn’t be my visual top choice.  Mind you there is something such about the cable.  The white with the tight cloth weave on it, there is something almost silvery about it.

In the ears and well, god damn it they are good.  I say damn it because the better things are the more time they take to review, the more things you need to listen to, to really grasp the most intricate of nuances and details.  These are going to certainly require my pulling out their big brothers and some A/B’ing but right now I can say with confidence.  These are sweary word good.  The anly real question is looks aside why would you pick these over their Triple driver siblings?

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

Lows:  Well the plain and simple fact of the matter is these are outstanding.  If I hadn’t played with the Triple’s previously I would be screaming form the roof tops as to just how superb these are.  They are stunningly good, the tuning on them is just fantastically good.  These are so good there really isn’t the words to quite say how well done these are.  They are so tuneful, so playful, so marvellous, so vigorous, so adeptly polite, so versatile!!!!!  Good god these are such fantastic generalists I think we can safely say the GR07 is no longer the king of the generalists for the price.  The things is though, while these are by any measure stunners, their siblings, the Triples, are just as good in the bass.  The may be technically over heavy but the way human hearing works they don’t sound especially so and the tonality, good god that chap they brought in to tune things knows his stuff.  Now for HeadFi it is a bit over heavy so purists may tur up their noses a bit, these are more bassy than they should be, they are no question.  However they are so well done.  They are just so well articulated that despite the boosting, even on very bass heavy tracks it’s near impeccably behaved. 

As faults go, there really is none to speak of.  A truly superb showing.

Mids:  Ahhh now here we just start to get a sliver of differentiation from the Triple, it’s not huge, it really is not at all huge.  Running them both out of my phone I can barely spot the difference at first.  More drivers does not always men better.  And the mids are just not so detailed and difficulty that you can focus in on something as spot the change.  The Duals are F*ing bloody good.  Bouncing from the fat blond girl to Barbara Streisand and they effortlessly change, in an instant, good god they can do anything you ask of them and do it stupidly well.  When you’re trying to find faults and trying to track skip, this is so distracting.  I keep hitting tracks that are so enjoyable that this is eating waaaay more time than I want it to.  They are just so bloody good.

Tonally they are practically perfect.  I could say that on occasion they can be a tiny sliver warmed, slightly buttery too.  So the most breathy vocals aren’t quite as breathy and dry as they could be but I’m looking for problems.  If you just listen you would never notice anything wrong.  They are near tonally perfect.  In quantity too they are a hair behind the slightly big bass but they are so unencumbered by the bass.  There are flawless, really they are just excellent.  Anything that came on them was just food for the soul and I find I’m adoring them in a way that’s crazy for 80 quid.

Highs:  Ah ha!! I’ve found where they differentiate form the Triple.  Okay now its not a big change, seriously its soooo not a big change but if you keep your ear pealed and listen from a good source, and with a wall mastered trebly track and playing at good bit rates you can tell.  Yes you can tell that these don’t do quite as well as the Triple.  However they are as close as near damn it to be almost inseparable.  The Triple is just that fraction more noticeable and more detailed.  It can resolve that tiny bit more detail but when running off my phone I really don’t feel like I would notice in use.  These are superb, outstandingly excellent audio quality.  They do like to have a bit more power than the Triples though, when amped well they are super close but on the Lumia which is brighter than the Nexus 5 you can see more a opening between them.  The little BA driver in them is working its little socks off and the two of them in the Triple have an accordingly easier time of it.  Still, its freakishly good performance. 

In terms of quantity they are very near the bass / mid line, just a hair behind the bass and matching the mids.  They are though not the most edgy treble for a BA.  So they aren’t as instantly in your face with details in the way some BA’s like to do as to bump up the perceptibility of the detail retrieval.  Still they quality if you listen to them driven well is so good.  Big name venders should be looking at 1MORE and be worried.

Soundstage:  Good.  A nicely sized room, power and scale they can do with ease.  Distance not quite so well and they aren’t super with the forward and back distance.  Instrument separation though is really quite good, and at the same time is pretty well integrated.  There is little to fault them on.

Fit:  Great.  I could wear them up or down as I felt like with no bother at all.  I mostly wore up and with the foam tips on it was great.  In they went and that was it, job done.

Comfort:  Excellent.  While I’m not wild about their size and shape once they were in my ears I never noticed them.  They aren’t the most deep sitting so for IEM’s there are a little shallow but I only find that an issue if you wear down.  Wearing down I feel like things are going to get pulled out of my ears, up I never have that issue.

Microphonics:  Well there is no chin slider so if you wear them down, you do a bit.  The cable is pretty good though.  Now wearing up which can look a bit off with their shape but it removed the issue.  Seems odd that they would miss out on a chin slider given the attention to detail they otherwise have.

Aesthetics:   Hmmm.  Yeah I’m not wild oubt the shape of the things but that isn’t really the issue.  The thing is, these are white and an almost rose gold colour.  Now I’d happily wear hot pink earphones if they sound great (which these do) so I don’t really care, much.  Still, come on, these look super girly.  I mean yeah, but no, no that colour I just can’t see many males going for it. 

Build Quality:  Well like pretty much everything about them, I can’t fault anything.  They are metal buds, the Y splitter and jack are metal, the cable is a cloth weave thing, it’s all visually impeccable.  There really isn’t anything that I can question in their build, they are flawless little buggers.

Cable:  Visually it’s super pretty but it’s a tiny bit kinky.  It’s not so kinky that it’s a problem but once or twice when unravelling I’ve seen a kink or two and had to stop to unravel the cable properly.  Can you tell I’m reaching for complaints?

Isolation:  So so.  They are not bad or anything and with their being hybrids they aren’t usually bad or anything for things with a dynamic in them. They are about whit is typical but then you add that up with their sitting relatively shallow.  They are fine for most uses, out and about, on a bus.  Even the odd flight or Tube trip you’d survive.  Naturally what you may not survive is crossing roads if you fail to use your eyes properly, you won’t hear traffic.

Accessories:  So mostly good, okay mostly good but I’m not super totally pleased.  You see, they have a nice case that’s usable, some silicone tips, a nice shirt clip and an aircraft adapter.  Yet no foamy tips, seriously stuff the aircraft adapter and shirt clip if needs be.  Not that the silicone tips where bad or anything but with such a lovely packaging it surprised me there wasn’t a pair.

Phone Use:  The buttons worked fine and I was told that I was clear on the other end.  That was with me wearing them up too sat hi mic up nearer my ear so that’s good.

Amped/Unamped:  Ahh just like their siblings, the Triple, these you do want to amp if you can.  There is no question they respond very well to having power thrown at them.  That little BA doing the mids and treble by itself needs that power even more than the Triple does.  Okay, okay, so they don’t exactly “need” to be amped but they are of a quality level where you see the natural benefits from it but that the drivers in them are capable.  They need given power to really perform at their best and when you go from a well amped source to your phone, well they just have a spark of life sucked out of them.  They will perform well and beat most things at their price but I know there is more in them.  Like a layer of mist having creeped in and hiding things from me.  They want power, they want a lot of it and they are good enough to really reward you if you use a proper output for them.  By proper I mean not your phone.  Your phone will make them sound good but not all they can be.

Value:  Well if I’d never heard the Triple id be saying woooooo shut up and take my money!!!  The trouble is I have the Triples here and while there may not be a vast gulf in their performances, there isn’t a vast gulf in their price either.  I mean if your budget is ultra-strict these are great value, absolutely no question of that, you more than get your money’s worth.  But…… I just don’t know when I might ever say, save the 20 quid difference and get the Dual over the Triple.  Unless you really want their white and gold colouring I just can’t see me ever saying get these to anyone.  The Triple is soooooo near, just 20 quid more and while many may barely notice the improvements the Triple offers over the excellent Dual’s it still makes me pause.  Yes the Dual’s are on their own merits excellent audio quality for you money, they really are. (But buy the Triple instead.)

Conclusion:  Well these are little stunners, they absolutely are stunning, no question about that.  However…… if I had played with these before the Triple I could more or less leave that statement on its own but I have played with the Triple.  The fact is while they are acoustically very similar (both stunning) that I would 99.9 times out a hundred always say get the Triple instead.  Unless that 20 quid difference is crucial to you then just trust me and take the Triple.  If you don’t you’ll always wish you had even if you couldn’t tell them apart acoustically.  The only reason I can realistically ever see taking the Dual’s is because you love their colouring.  That’s it, while they sonically stunning the only reason to buy them is because you think they are more pretty.

In terms of negatives, well there isn’t any per say.  If we forget the Triples for a moment, there is nothing that the Duals aren’t superb at, except maybe isolation.  They aren’t the most high isolating things ever but they would easy do most people for most uses.  There really isn’t any down side.  Well they look rather girly if that counts.  That really is about as bad as I can find to say about them, they look girly and an all BA thing can isolate better.  It’s hardly a damning list is it?

So would I / should you buy one?  Me? If the triples dint exist, yes in a heartbeat.  You?  Well if you’re a girl and you think these look more pretty than the Triple then sure, absolutely and you will utterly adore them to bit.  Otherwise, I’m always going to say take the tiny bit more wallet pain and get the triples.  While they may be cracking things on their own it’s impossible to view them out of context from the Triple and the Triple just pips them sonically.  A stunningly and mightily significant dual driver hybrid from 1More that will likely and undeservingly fall into obscurity, ever so faintly outshone by its superior sibling.