Monday, January 26, 2009

Last Week... Not Much.

Really, not much happened at all, not that you should expect anything major at this point of time just after CES. There were some minor news, but I won't bother telling them to you just for posting sake. I do, however, get something I really want last week - a new digital audio player, the Sandisk Sansa Fuze 8GB. It is meant to replace my aging iriver clix2 8GB which I have enjoyed over the last 1.5 yrs. Fuze might not be as sleek looking nor has the smooth interface and top notch AMOLED screen as clix2, but it does has great sound quality and an SDHC expension slot (which already occupied by a 8GB SDHC card, effectively doubling the player's capacity). No need to say, I am quite happy with the new player and it will be part of my main portable rig from now on.

Some comparison pictures for you guys and girls:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

[Review] LEAR Le01

Sorry to all for the delay on this review, I am quite busy for the last few weeks.

Here is a review of another Made-in-China IEM, the LEAR Le01. I was first contacted by a fellow member on another forum (GodLuvSxS @ – I’ll take the chance here to thank him) asking if I would be interested in reviewing this IEM. If you haven't heard of an IEM company called LEAR before, don't worry - I didn't too until a week ago. In short, LEAR is a new startup and Le01 is their very first IEM attempt. They are so new, they didn't even have a website yet. As far as the end users' concern, LEAR are still trying to improve the Le01 even as it has already been released into the market, so don't worry if you received a slightly different Le01 than mine (i.e. I read on another HK forum, the next batch of Le01 will have Y-cord instead J-cord because of users' feedback, so more improvement might be implemented)

Here is the listed spec:
Driver units: 10.7mm Dynamic
Rated impedance: 20 ohm
Sensitivity: 112dB
Frequency: 10Hz to 26kHz
Distortion: <=1%94dB (20u pa) Channel balance : <=2% (at 500Hz) Rated input power: 10mW Maximum output power: 40mW Plug size: 3.5mm mini-plug Cord length: 1.3m O.F.C Eartips: 3 pairs single flange silicone tips (Large, mid, small) 1 shirt clip
Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
You can see from the picture above that the packaging of Le01 is actually quite nice. It has a very classy look to it. Inside, you will find the earpieces and the rest of the eartips sit in a piece of green dense foam. Underneath the foam, you will find the cable, a shirt clip and a user manual in English in a piece of soft sponge. I was a bit disappointed to see no case or pouch of any kind. I think even a cheap soft pouch can really enhance the overall package. The good thing is, they did include the shirt clip - as the cable they used are quite microphonics. The earpieces are made out of plastic. To improve the look, LEAR coats the outer facing part (white) of the earpieces with a clear coating. It is quite slick to touch and added a bit of scratch-proof to the 'LEAR' and 'L/R' marking. On the downside, it also makes the earpiece slightly harder to hold on to (which means not as easy to remove when you are wearing them). The earpiece design is basically a look-alike with many others Chinese made IEM though it is slightly slimmer, no much to really comment about. The included single flange eartips are thicker and spongier than you typical single flange. They tend to fit harder but mud up the bass a bit. In comparison, I find the bi-flange sounding most neutral and spacious soundstage wise. Unfortunately, the bi-flange doesn’t really isolate that well.

The overall build quality is quite good as LEAR is paying a bit of attention to the finer detail and finishing, however, I do see places that can use some improvement.

Sound Quality
Fresh out of the box, Le01’s bass is a bit overwhelming while treble is a bit lacking. It will take at least a good 3 days of burn-in to calm down the bass and bring out the detail. I’ll recommend for a full 100 hrs of burn-in before any serious auditioning. After burn-in, the overall fun sounding signature will still persist but more balanced and controlled than before. Bass hits quite strong but there are more mid bass than deep bass. Mid is quite full which in term makes the overall sound signature warm. Treble starts rolling off early but there is still enough detail and sparkle left. On the good side, it doesn’t have any sign of harshness at all. It does, however, makes it sounds a bit dark (just a bit). Soundstage wise, the warm and slightly dark presentation do limit the sense of space. In all, it is a fun and warm sounding IEM with good bass and a lay back signature. It kind of resembles UM2 sonic characters with slightly lesser detail and bigger bass. For those who don’t mind EQ, a bit of treble boost goes a long way.

Le01 is a pair of pretty easy going IEM. For its price (roughly US$40~$50), I think it performs quite well sonically. Personally, I’ll like to see a longer Y-cord on it instead of the J-cord. A pouch or case of some kind is welcomed too. If isolation isn’t top of the list of consideration, I think Le01 is a really good choice for casual listener, especially if you are a basshead.

For a quick sum up, you can read this.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Week's Most Interesting

One week after CES and I thought we will be quiet for a while - wrong! This week Westone officially announced the latest addition (and best yet) to their custom IEM offering with the new ES3X. For a company that took almost two years to finalize their top universal IEM (Westone 3 that is), Westone certainly surprised people with this custom IEM as it only takes them a few short months from pre-production to final production. No doubt that they have included the knowledge and experience they learned from developing Westone 3 into the new custom.

Westone ES3X, the best Westone custom IEM to date. It has three transducers on each side splitting in three ways. Save up some money before you even look into the detail of it cause the one thing we can be certain is, it won't be cheap.
  • Driver unit: Three balanced armature drivers with a passive three-way crossover
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~18 kHz
  • Impedance: 56 ohm
  • Sensitivity: 124dB / 1 mW
  • Plug: 3.5mm
  • Cable length: ~50 inches.
S1 Audio's BUDBUD, one really weird earbud concept that I missed last week during CES. In short, it is two earbuds built into one cable with selectable switch to activate one or both sets (for sharing, as told). Why do any one want to design such an earbud? I guess the answer is, becasue we can. No price yet.
  • Driver unit: 13mm
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~20 kHz
  • Impedance: 24 ohm
  • Plug: 3.5mm ( 3-pole)
  • '1 to 2' user switch, dual volume controls

Monday, January 12, 2009

Last Week's Most Interesting [CES edition]

Like predicted, many earphone makers are holding back their product launch for this year Consumer Electronic Show. Since most of them are just being showed off by the manufacturers instead of a real product release, I think I'll skip the actual spec for now and do a more in-depth report once they are ready for the actual market. Here is a bird eyes' view of all the interesting earphone news I found over the Internet:

Griffin Technology is known for their iPod accessories. Here is their latest offer and an upgrade to their old earbuds series, the TuneBuds Fit.

Acoustibuds is an adapter that change your open style earbud into a semi-open design. It probably will block out some noise but don't expect a lot. Generally speaking, this type of adapter usually do more harm than good, I am not sure how well this one will actually do.

UE is luanching two new IEM for their series, the 170 and the 220. Strange enough that I can't find any of the series on their website any more. Seems like the new owner is changing things a bit. Oh well, is the low end of UE line-up, so don't expect too much.

Shure is also launch its own low-end IEM model, the SE115. It is said to be an upgrade of its current low-end SE110. Instead of the balanced armature transducer used in SE110, Shure decided to give the new IEM a dynamic transducer for better bass kick - I won't blame them since many of their low-end model buyers are probably not looking for accuracy but rather more 'fun' sound and head banging action.

Altec lansing is launching a whole new series debuted the BackBeat, including the one in the picture called 906, a bluetooth IEM that can be used with either bluetooth enable devices or with the bluetooth adapter. The new series looks pretty good, hopefully they'll sound just as good.

Koss has a new IEM to show us, the CC-01. The most interesting bit about this IEM is the adjustable eartips. By turning the metal knob on the back of the earpiece, the eartips will change its size accountingly and you'll get a 'custom' fit with just one set of eartips.

There are still two more headphones I like to tell you about: Maximo iM590 and Koss KDE/250. I didn't find good pictures on both on the Internet but I did find a thread you can read about them (over here). I had have an opportunity to demo the iM590 sample few months back and I can tell you that it is an very good sounding IEM of its class, so those of you who are looking for an entry class IEM should at least take a look of it once it launches. The other Koss offering, the KDE/250 is a dual drives clip-on - Yes, you are reading it right, it is a two-ways clip-on, with one 20mm transducer for the bass and one 13mm transducer for the mid and treble. The expected MSRP isn't cheap (US$250), but I think Koss might have something real special this time. Fingers crossed.

CES is really fun, isn't it? :D

[UPDATE] Here is a good picture of Maximo iM-590. This will be one IEM worth looking into for Q1, 2009.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Last Week's Most Interesting

Well, I want to point out the DigiFi Opera S1 isn't really a 'new' news. It has been around the U.S. market for 2 months now but little attention was paid to it. However, a recent post on Engadget suddenly stir up quite an interest on this wireless IEM and before you know it, it is out of stock EVERYWHERE! There are actually two versions of the Opera wireless IEM, the S1 and S1+. S1+ is said to have a better SQ than S1, but there isn't much to go on as it is (DigiFi is an Korean company, and unfortunately its site seems outdated and worst of all, not in English). Opera S1 / S1+ utilize Kleer wireless technology for transmission. Music is transmitted in uncompressed format so no sound deterioration occurs during the process. The technology seems promising but so far it is slow to pick up by the industry - and some of the few who did pick it up offer it at such a high price, most consumer would probably just settle for lesser technology like bluetooth. This most likely explains why Opera S1/S1+ sold out that fast - because DigiFi priced them just right. MSRP US$110 (S1) / US$130 (S1+).
  • Driver unit: 13.5mm dynamic transducer
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~20 kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ohm
  • Sensitivity: 98dB / 1 mW
  • Plug: 3.5mm
  • Cable length: Wireless
  • Range: 25m (indoor)
  • Operation time: 9~10hours (recharged in 2~3hours)
  • One transmitter can pair up to four receivers (earpieces) at the same time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The List

Scroll ↕ for Ranking. Scroll ↔ for Sound Signature.

See The List as an independent page, click this [LINK]

This list is based upon the reviewer's personal assessment and opinion, and may change or update without any notice. Given the list hasn't been updated for awhile as well as the rapid change of IEM market, do note that you might not want to pay too much attention to the actual rating number but more to the relative position of each IEM in the list. 
Bewared, simple numeric ranking is fundamentally flawed as all detail are ignored. As the reader you must understand that sound signature is as important as the sound quality. You will be better off with an IEM of lesser sound quality but fits your taste than an IEM of higher quality but you don't enjoy. Remember, music is for enjoyment and headphone is no more than a instrument to fulfill that goal. An cheap instrument that does what you ask worth a lot more than an expensive instrument that sits on the shelf.  Never takes this ranking as it is, there are reasons why these IEM are ranked in such order and you might not agree with those reasoning. So please do your own research as well as read into my past reviews to determine which IEM suits you best. There is no guarantee that my opinion is more reliable than your own.

* Value ranking of 4.85 and over is designated the Sonic Diamond Award™ for outstanding price / performance ratio after considering all aspects of the IEM, including SQ, design, fit, customer service, availability, etc.

Last Update: Feb. 25th, 2015.

Disclaimer: All trademarks and logos in the website belong to their respective owners. Beside getting free review samples, I don't work for or get paid by anyone to write anything on this website, or anywhere else in that matter. Also, free review samples are never sold for any financial gain. I do buy gears and review them, but for simplicity you (the reader) should always assume what I review is free sample in nature (and thus comes with all the bias). The website does have Google Ads and Amazon Associates enabled (which I have no direct control over their content) - though I don't write review for a living, nor does the ads generates enough money to cover my breakfast (in fact, not even one breakfast per week). Listening to music and playing with audio gears are purely hobby for me. In short, I am just an audiophiles who happens to have his own blog. Not a journalist who happens to be an audiophile. Oh, and excuse my writing as I am not a native English speaker and can't afford a proofreader. Also, just because I don't write in a negative tone doesn't mean I don't write down the negative aspect of a gear. Please read them carefully. Last but not least, please note that this site uses cookies to track visitors' number and page view.

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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