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Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Week's Most Interesting

With the release of their latest, cheapest ever custom molded IEM, the UE4 Pro, I guess it does show that even the industry giant like Ultimate Ears can't be immune to recession after all. Consider that are other companies out there offering triple drive custom IEM for less than US$500 (as opposite to the near US$1K worth of UE10 Pro), it is no wonder why UE want to share a piece of the pie in the lower end market their have always managed to forget in the pass. Said to be the 'poor man's UE10 Pro'*, UE4 Pro is a dual drive custom IEM with a MSRP of US$399. (*by Jude, boss of

Transducer: Dual balanced armature
Sensitivity: 108db @ 1mw
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 15,000 Hz
Impedance: 17.5 ohms at 1 kHz noise
Isolation: -26dB input
Connector: 1/8″ (3.5mm) gold plated

Creative announced a new entry to their high end Aurvana headphone line a few days ago. The new Aurvana Air is a clip-on earbud that has a 'shape memory metal' ear hook. Somehow it reminds me of the Audio Technica clip-on earbud series - equally elegant and just as expensive. It will set you back US$200.

Transducer: 15.5mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 102dB/mW at 1kHz
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 22,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 ohms at 1 kHz
Cable: 1.2m OFC wire

DigiFi released their latest Kleer based Opera wireless IEM, the S2 and the S5. S2 is an upgrade of the old S1 / S1+ series, while S5 comes with a integrated adapter that will fit on iPod's dock connector and allow some remote control function. I didn't find a lot of detail about the new S2 and S5, but you can read the press release here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

[REVIEW³] CrossRoads MylarOne Quattro, Woody One, and Woody Two.

Here are a triple reviews of all three recently released new CrossRoads IEM, including the MylarOne Quattro, Woody One and Woody Two. I want to thank Uncle Wilson @ for providing the three review units to me freely.

Quattro - The Latest Generation of MylarOne

Driver: Single 7mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 95dB +/- 4 SPL @ 1 kHz
Impedance: 16Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 22 kHz
Cord: 1.25m
Rated Power: 2mW
Max Input Power: 10mW
Plug: Gold-Plated Stereo 3.5mm Mini-Plug

Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
Quattro's packaging is plain and simple, which is quite typical of CrossRoads' products. Inside, you'll find the IEM itself, a manual, 4 set of different sized single flange eartips (L, M, S, XS), 1 set of bi-flanges, an airplane adapter, a shirt clip which is already on the cable, and an useful pouch that you can put in all the accessories. There are also three pair of 'bass select ports' numbering 1, 2 and 3. The bass ports can be screwed into the back of the earpieces to control the bass response (more on these later).

There are always talks about CrossRoads' build quality issue. To be honest, I don't think CrossRoads has the best build quality in the market but neither do I find it to be the worst. My first generation MylarOne, which has seen some heavy use for the first year of purchase (*2 years ago), still working fine as it is. If you have to wrap the cable around your DAP or stuff it in your pocket or bag without a case or pouch, then perhaps you really need something with much stronger build. However, IEM in general need a bit more care and attention to last and as far as I can tell, MylarOne build quality has constantly been improved upon since the first gen. As for Quattro itself, I think it is safe for me to say that it is the best built MylarOne to date.

The cable used is really soft and can be a bit microphonics, but it is about average of all the IEM I have experienced before. The earpieces are cylinder shaped with a rather small diameter of 8mm. The anodized aluminum housing is rather good looking, to say the least. If you pick eartips that are a size smaller than your regular size, you can easily insert the earpieces deeper. For example, my usual eartips size is mid and so about half of the earpiece will stick out. If I change them to small, only 1/3 will stick out. Of course, whether you feel comfortable inserting the earpieces so deep is really up to you. I actually choose to use the bi-flange (which protrudes the most) because it gives a more neutral, spacious sound.

Sound Quality
As usual, I gave the Quattro a standard 50hrs minimum burn-in before the review (like I did with all IEM I reviewed). The sound pretty much settled down after 10 hours or so. As I said before, I end up using the bi-flange since it sounds best to me pairing with number 2 ports. However, I do find different ports sound best pairing with certain set of eartips. For port number 1 and 2, bi-flanges is usually my option. For port number 3, I prefer the deeper inserted mid and small sized eartips since both give a more solid mid~bass response. You'll have to find the best combo to fit your taste.

Number 1 ports are the bassiest by far. It basically turns the IEM into a semi-open design (number 1 ports have open vent ). There is more low end rumbling and more bass quantity. However, the trade off are 1) the mid bass can be slightly boomy at time. 2) they are slightly less isolating than the other two set of ports. The mid on number 1 ports is also the most forward, thus making its overall sound signature being the warmest of all three set of ports. Treble seems to be more immure to port selection, but in the case of number 1 ports, the finer detail tend to get flooded over by the stronger mid and bass. It also sounds more recessed in comparison to other ports.

Number 2 ports are the most balanced sounding of all. This is my personal favorite of all three set of ports as it has about the right amount of bass, mid, treble, airiness, and soundstage between the three.

Number 3 ports are the most bass light, analytical sound of all. Detail and upper vocal tend to get presented more forwarded and better but soundstage is the narrowest of all three set of ports even though it has the airiest presentation.

You can also use Quattro port-less if you don't mind the risk of exposing more of the inner wiring / transducer. It will gives you a sound between port #1 and 2. It is like port #2 with more mid, bass, and soundstage, but not to the warmness of port #1.

There is also a tiny bit of sibilance but not to a point of annoyance. It is actually totally acceptable if you are not listening on high volume. That is probably a side effect of how far the frequency response extended and presented. Quattro is the second pair of IEM that I ever heard that can tackle the 16~17kHz region without a quick roll off (the other one will be Head-Direct RE0), even though it does come short in comparison since RE0's treble is smoother and sibilance-free. Still, the performance is quite commendable by its own.

So how does Quattro compare to older generation of MylarOne than? I think it is pretty safe for me to say that I prefer the port #1 Quattro with bi-flanges over Bijou3. Port #3 Quattro (on mid single flanges) compares pretty well with X3 too. Though I still prefer X3 more upfront, Etymotic* like presentation, Quattro has an edge on treble extension and warmer, fuller mid~bass. (*Etymotic is known for cold analytical sound)

In sum, Quattro's sound signatures are on the warm, laid back side, perhaps even a bit dark at times despite the fact that its treble extends very far. This is probably because it doesn't have a very upfront upper mid~lower treble that commonly found on other IEM. It actually resembles Bijou3 sound signature in many ways but better on all count. It is not quite detail sounding, but should be adequate for none analytical listener. Due to the slightly low sensitivity, the volume might need to be turn up a bit more, but I don't find amping necessary at all. One thing that I noticed is the importance of finding the right match between bass select ports and eartips. That is basically the essence of Quattro's customizable sound.

[Addon] After the initial review, I decided to give Quattro a go on a more intensive burn-in. My normal burn-in method is just looping music of different genre on a volume slightly higher than my normal listening volume for 50 hrs. This time, I crack the volume all the way up to pretty much the level where if you listening to it for more than 10 minutes, you will probably get a headache. However, the volume was still kept in a level that is not enough to crackle or distort the sound. The whole burn-in takes about 7 hrs (basically my sleeping time), and when I gave it another listening, to my surprise, the vocal has already became a bit more upfront. To ensure I am not just listening to what I "hope" to listen, I give it another quick comparison with X3 (which had been used for comparison just yesterday) and confirm the result. The overall sound signature is still on the warm side but no longer dark or as laid back as before, which of course is a welcoming change. To those who haven't give it an intense burn-in, you might want to give it a go as well.

Though the idea of tunable IEM is by no mean originated from CrossRoads, I think they have successfully applied the principle and created a worthy IEM in its own right. Quattro might not be a giant killer or ground shaker per se, but it is still a solid entry level IEM and a good follow up of the MylarOne series IMO.


Woody One & Two - The Musical Duo

Spec (of both)
Driver: Single 10mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 105dB +/- 4 SPL @ 1 kHz
Impedance: 32Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency Response: 18Hz - 22 kHz
Cord: 1.30m
Rated Power: 2mW
Max Input Power: 10mW
Plug: Gold-Plated Stereo 3.5mm Mini-Plug

Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
Again, Woodies' packaging is as plain and simple as it can be, or perhaps even a bit dull - but don't let the look deceives you: Nothing inside is dull at all.

First thing you will notice about the package is its weight. Both Woody are a lot more heavier than you might expected. The weight comes almost entirely from the gorgeous wooden box included with each IEM. Inside the wooden box is the IEM itself and 4 set of different sized single flange eartips (L, M, S, XS) and a set of bi-flanges. Not as many accessories as Quattro perhaps, but I think Woodies are targeted at home listening as oppose to Quattro's need for versatility. The cables used are the slightly stiffer type, but the good news are microphonics is very low and they don't have much 'memory effect' so they won't get tangle up easily. The Y-splitter is actually quite nicely built, like those found on Westone ES cable. You will also find the marking of 'Woody X' here to indicate which version of Woody you have. Without the marking, you won't be able to tell them apart since they share identical outer appearance.

Each earpiece is made up of a wooden barrel (obviously!) with both end sealed with (what I believe to be) aluminum. One side of the aluminum plate has the nozzle with the 10mm transducer behind it. The housing itself is quite large and the nozzle isn't very long - so if you have a very small outer ear (*ear canal opening), you might not be able to get a good fit easily (the base of the nozzle measured 13mm in diameter). I switch to bi-flanges very early on for both the easier fit and the extra airiness / soundstage. Isolation is about average, not strong nor lacking. The overall build quality seems quite good, but obviously the wooded housing won't take up the same abuse that a full metal or plastic housing can endure. I think 'handle with care' is the key here. For home use, it shouldn't be any problem at all.

The other two in the picture are UE's 10 Pro (blue) and JAYS' q-JAYS (white).
Sound Quality
Like Quattro, I gave both Woodies a 50 hrs burn-in before auditioning. To make sure they are not as difficult to burn-in as Quattro, I also gave both an extra 5 hours of intensive burn-in. Clarity seems to improve slightly during the first 10 hrs or so but their overall tone remain relatively stable throughout the whole burn-in process.

The first thing that needs to be clarified: despite the model name might suggest, there is no 'better' between the two Woodies. Each of them has its own sound signature and as far as I concern, it is more about which fits into your taste rather than any actual difference in sound quality that distinguishes one from being better from the other.

Woody One sounds very warm with a mid / bass focus. Bass is big, deep, and slightly wet with a moderate attacking speed. Compare to Atrio, it is also capable of tackling the very low end of 15Hz but still able to deliver more in quantity. It does come short overall in comparison as Atrio's bass response is more refined, but it does retain enough control to not sound boomy or muddy. Mid is full and upfront which tend to sound best with male vocal but not as well on female vocal. Its upper mid and especially the treble are flatter in comparison which means that it sounds smoother without a lot of upper end sparkle and detail. The good news is of course there isn't any sibilance to speak of. Soundstage is slightly better than average and not as good as Woody Two. Overall, Woody One sound signature is very warm with big deep bass, full, upfront mid and a smooth upper end. Those who prefer a warm sound with a big lower end and a smooth upper end will like it.

Woody Two sounds warm yet still pretty well balanced at all frequency. Bass goes pretty deep as well but not as much as Woody One nor has the pronounced rumbling quantity. It does has a better sense of control in speed and attack. Mid is well balanced with a more upfront upper vocal (which is what makes female vocal sweet to listen). Treble is well extended with good highlight and sparkle which give great detail close to the point of being analytical. Soundstage is quite good and have a sense of airiness. Sibilance is minimum at worst and only very brief during the brightest passage. Overall, Woody Two sound signature is on the warm side yet still well balanced without any obvious flaw. Those who like a balanced sound will like it.

Both Woodies might not be as versatile as Quattro, but they do offer more in what they have. If SQ is the only concern, I certain prefer both over Quattro (and a whole lot of IEM in that matter). I am not sure whether it is because of the use of wooden/metal housing or any other reason, but both woodies seem to have a distinct lushness in their sound that set them apart from other IEM eventhough one might consider the sound to be colored. Regardless, I am a believer now: just give me more wood!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last Week Most Interesting

It seems tunable IEM is getting more and more popular these days. CrossRoads, which known for its budget orientated IEM, has came out with its own version of tunable IEM called 'Quattro'. As always, will be the one selling it and apparently the first stock just come in this morning. No much detail at this point except that the IEM comes with three set of 'Tuning Plate' which allow customization to different frequency response (mostly on bass). Here are a few pictures you can look at.

Hit this link for more detail over at

[UPDATE] These just in: CrossRoads Woody 1 and 2. Again, no detail yet.

I totally forgot to post this up last week, but late is better than never, so here it is: the UE700, latest offering from Ultimate Ears which is now a Logitech company. It is a tiny dual drive IEM that is as small as the q-JAYS. Judging from the naming and pricing (MSRP US$230), it seems to be marketed as a model between the current 5 and lineup. I won't bother you with the spec, but you can read its review at iLounge here.

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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