Tuesday, December 2, 2008

[Review] Maximo iM-390

I was contacted by Andrew @ Maximo Product a few weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their current iMetal series IEM, the iM-390. Naturally I won't pass out any chance to review an IEM I never experienced before. For those of you who are not familiar with Maximo, their core business is making accessories for consumer-electronic products and IEM is just one of many things they made. Now there are quite a few companies like Maximo out there that manufacture/sell accessories including headphone under one generic brand. Generally speaking, serious headphone users (including me) tend to ignore those brand. The reason is simple: most of those companies know nothing about how to make a good sounding headphone. They treat headphone like cable or dock - as long as it works, it is good enough. They probably think that most consumers won't notice any difference anyway, and perhaps they are right. After all, those companies are in the accessories business, not the headphone business. It strikes me odd that Maximo is interested in getting a review of their product. Obviously Maximo have good confidence in their IEM and are willing to prove themselves to be more than just-another-accessories-maker.

[Specifications]
• Frequency response: 18Hz-22KHz
• Sensitivity (1KHz, 0.1V): > 100dB
• Maximum SPL output: >120dB

[Features]
• Lightweight aluminum alloy body
• High-fidelity 9mm neodymium drivers
• 3 pairs/sizes (L,M,S) of eartips
• Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug
• 2.5mm and air travel plug adapters
• 2-ft extension cable
• Premium carrying case
• Lifetime warranty

MSRP:US$39.99

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
The iM-390 comes in a hard plastic seal, not my favorite but it is typical of IEM of its price range. In it, you will find a treasure box of goodies. Besides the IEM, you will find three set of different sized single flange eartips, an small extension cable, one airplane adapter and one 2.5mm adapter and a hard carrying case. It is apparent that Maximo is paying a lot of attention to detail. The extension cable is really light and well made. Though it is a bit on the short side (I'll prefer it to be 3-ft instead), it is one of the best extension cable I have ever seen. What made it so great is its light weight and light build. It is barely noticeable when used. The other thing that worth noticing is the high quality hardcase. It resembles Shure's hardcase, except it is more refined. Instead of only having limited space for the IEM itself like the Shure's, Maximo's hardcase has extra space for putting the two adapters inside and it can still be closed with ease.

The earpiece itself are made entirely of aluminum alloy with the brand and L/R lasered on it. The downside is there isn't a stress relief on the earpeice. Instead there is a ball shaped extra metal piece to guide the cable. One extra interesting thing is the Y-splitting junction on the cable is much further down than normal IEM but no wire guide is included to allow the user to control the length. Though there are some very minor issue, I think the iM-390 is really good in overall build quality. iM-390 also comes with a lifetime warranty, which is rare in the headphone market in general.



The one thing I hope Maximo will include in their future IEM is the bi-flanges.



I like the jack/socket design on the cable of both iM-390 and (especially ) the extension cable. They are light and small and they don't get into the way like most other extensions do.

This is most definitely one of the best hard case I have seen for IEM. Maximo has done a well job here.










Sound Quality
I used my iriver clix2 in the all important sound quality check, mainly playing high quality ripped LAME MP3 or WMA VBR music. One thing that doesn't get mentioned in iM-390 spec is its impedance, which is around 16 ohms if my measurement is correct. The low impedance means it is fairly easy to drive and no amp is required. Noise isolation is about as typical as other IEM that utilized single flange eartips (i.e. CX300, EP-630, etc). It is adequate for daily use but probably not going to be enough in a really loud environment. Cable noise (microphonics) is also about typical of its kind, acceptable but nothing spectacular to comment about.

iM-390 spots a warmish, energetic sound with focuses on the mid and bass section. Treble is a bit roll off but there are still enough sparkles. It does not have a highly detail sound but should be enough to satisfy non-analytical listener. Mid is full and slightly forward sounding especially on the vocal section makes it good for most Pop and Rock music. Bass is strong and impactful without losing control or becomes over bloated. It should be enough even if you are a basshead. Soundstage is about average but with a sense of airiness in it. Overall, it is a musical sounding IEM that suits most common genre of music.


Conclusion
With a sound quality that are above most budget class IEM, good build quality, and an assortment of accessories (includes a great looking and functioning case) plus a lifetime warranty, I think it is hard for me not to recommend iM-390 to you. If you are looking for an basic model IEM for casual usage or thinking about a decent sounding IEM as a backup pair for your more expensive main portable rig, I think Maximo iM-390 is definitely worthy as an serious consideration.

Sum-up
*(see below)
Variation: N/A
Transducer: Single 9mm dynamic transducer
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 18Hz~ 22kHz | >100dB SPL
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.10m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold-plated straight style, Light build.
Eartips Used: Stock single flanges
Packaging: ★★★★ (good packaging, but nothing spectacular)
Build Quality: ★★★★☆ (very solid quality, but I would like to see a wire guide)
Accessories: ★★★★★ (A lot of goodies for the price)
Isolation: ★★★ (typical for IEM in similar design)
Microphonics: ★★★ (again, typical)
Comfort: ★★★★★ (single flanged IEM is usually quite comfortable)
Soundstage: ★★★ (average)
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (Warm, energetic, musical but doesn't have a lot of detail. Good vocal and bass response suitable for most genre of music. Very good for IEM in its price range.)
Value: ★★★★☆ (Solid build, great accessories, and decent sound make this IEM a real keeper)
Remark: Not many IEM in the sub-$50 category are capable of doing everything right. More than often they have some kind of major short coming that lower their overall value. I am happy to say iM-390 isn't one of those. I am quite impressed by the solid performance and value of iM-390, especially since it isn't from a dedicated audio brand. If you have only $40 to spend on IEM, this one should be in your list of consideration.

*see my multiple IEM review to understand how the rating system work.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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