Sunday, February 28, 2010

[REVIEW] Cresyn C222E, C230E, C260E, and C550H

Fist, I want to thank Mamear, Cresyn's European distributor based on Estonia for the samples. Cresyn has never been a big name in the Head-fi (except perhaps the sudden popular/disappear of C750E a few months ago), but they have make their name in the audio business as a solid OEM and consumer headphone manufacturer, especially in Eastern Asia. One thing which worth mentioning is that a few years ago, Cresyn decided to develop a higher-end headphone line under a new brand name 'Phiaton'. The new company mainly operates in the U.S.. Though with a few very interesting offering, they do not seems to get a lot of attention from the public eyes, certainly not much from Head-fi.

Spec
C222E (Petite Buddy) / C230E / C260E
Driver: 8.8mm Closed Dynamic
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Impedance:16 ohm
Sensitivity: 90dB/mW (C260E is 91dB/mW)

C550H
Driver: 40mm Opened Dynamic
Frequency Response: 10Hz - 21kHz
Impedance:40 ohm
Sensitivity: 106dB/mW

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
All models come in blister packaging. Though not my favorite kind of packing, it is understandable. After all, these are not audiophile targeted headphones. Average consumer will likely want a more conventional packaging. Anyway, they are definitely well packed - clean, simply and fairly accessible.

E222C, also known as the 'Petite Buddy' (yep, it is a weird name), is more or less an iPod Nano user targeted IEM. It comes in 7 colors variation to match the 7 colors of Nano 4 (and probably the same line of colors for the new Nano 5). Not much accessories to speak of, but it does come with 4 size of silicone single flange eartips (XS, S, M, L), which is a pair more of the typical (S, M, L) combination. The build quality is very decent. Through Cresyn is a Korean company, they do have their factory in China like almost everyone else. However, I can easily tell their headphone is very well made and a class above most of the Chinese manufacturers. It is not that it is functionally superior, but the attention to detail is what often set a company's products apart from the crowd. Like most of this type of IEM, fit is decent. Isolation is about average and microphonics is pretty decent.

C230E is the more popular and easier to find of all the Cresyn IEM. Packaging and build quality wise, it is similar to C222E but has a slightly better cable and over-the-ear style ear pieces. The ear pieces are very light and fit inside the ear comfortably. Unlike C222E, it only comes with 3 pair of eartips instead of 4. Isolation is about average and microphonics is not a problem due to the over-the-ear design.

C260E looks and feels a bit more expensive then the other two. Beside the three pair of eartips, it also have a shirt clip. The metal stem on the ear pieces seem very well finished. Fit is fairly comfortable. Isolation is slightly above average and microphonics is pretty decent as well. For all the Cresyn IEM, I really wise a small soft pouch can be included. it is not expensive and will really add point to the overall package.

Like all other Cresyn, C555H is very well made. In fact, it looks and feels sturdier than my Sennheiser PX200. Though Cresyn labels it as opened headphone, it is actually a closed portable similar to PX200. A soft pouch is included and nothing else. A hard case like that of PX200 will be nice but I figure the way C550H is folded probably isn't going to fit well inside a hard case. Like PX200, the head band has metal strip for reinforcement. The swing-able joins might look a weak point but they are all joined together by big metal knobs, which take the stress away from the plastic frame. Again, the attention to detail is simply excellent.

Sound Quality
As always, each model has roughly 50 hours of burn-in before any serious audition. For what it worth, I didn't detect any significant sonic change during or after the process.

C222E has a very conventional sound signature: warm, full, mid centric, sweet vocal, decent bass with enough detail not to sound dark or feel severe lack of treble and an average soundstage. It is the kind of sound a casual listener will like as there isn't too much or too little of anything in the mix. Considered it is intended to pair with the colder sounding Nano 4, the synergy is actually fairly good.

C230E shares largely the same sound as C222E, but more extended on both ends and not quite as mid centric. Treble is a little better but still far from being analytical, mid is a little sweet but overall closer to being neutral, bass is warm and boomy in the middle. Soundstage is average as well.

C260E is the more specious and balanced sounding of the batch. Treble is better extended and more refined than the others, capable of showing micro detail to some degree. Mid is neutral, decent and doesn't have the fullness like the others. Bass is not as boomy as C230E and has a decent volume, impact and control. Soundstage is by far its strongest point. It is specious with some TF10-like / less in-your-face type of performance.

C550H sounds a lot more like slightly warm sounding PX200, but better. Treble is decent though a little grainy. Mid is on the sweet side but tend to sound a little bit veil, much like the PX200. Bass is very decent with good impact and speed, but not quantitative wise a basshead headphone. Still, it is more than what PX200 can offer. Soundstage is pretty good for a closed headphone of its size, but not a strong point.

Conclusion
Cresyn is a bit difficult to find on the international market actually, but on most places I do find to sell these models, the prices are pretty decent in related to their performance. I found C222E to be around $15 in Korea, C230E is sold on Amazon for $19, C260E is roughly $21 on some part of Europe, while C550H is about $55 on the same region. Giant killer they might not be, they are still well worth the money for the decent sound and build quality that rival most big brand name. Perhaps they will serve well as a lower end backup or simply gift for friends and family members who listen to music casually. These Cresyn are simply a decent step up from the stock and they won't break the bank.

This rating is for Cresyn C222E only and may change without notice. Please refer to the list for a complete listing. 


This rating is for Cresyn C230E only and may change without notice. Please refer to the list for a complete listing. 


This rating is for Cresyn C260E only and may change without notice. Please refer to the list for a complete listing.



A quick sum-up can be found here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Two years after initial announcement,  Vsonic finally has one of its flagship, the R04 Pro, ready for market (the other flagship, R07 Pro, is still as elusive as ever). Beside the fact that it is a dynamic IEM with a swing-able nozzle, there simply isn't much information about R04 Pro at this moment. It was estimated to be around US$75 two years ago, no words on how much it will be now. We will just have to wait and see.

For more close-up shots, check this out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

[Small Review] Hippo Epic & Safari

Sorry about the delay of review lately. I was quite busy the last two weeks as Chinese New Year is always the BIG thing in the house, not to mention it was especially busy for me this year. Anyway, I want to thanks Uncle Wilson @ Jaben.net for both of the samples. They are the lower entry headphones of the Hippo's line-up.

Spec
Hippo Epic
Driver: 10mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 96 +/- 4 dB/mW
Impedance: 16ohm
Frequency Response: 10Hz -20kHz
Noise Isolation 16dB
Connector; 3.5mm Gold Plated.

Hippo Safari
Driver: 30mm Dynamic
Sensitivity: 108 +/- 3 dB at 1kHz
Impedance: 32ohm +/- 15%
Frequency Response: 20Hz -20kHz
Connector; 3.5mm Gold Plated.

Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories

The orange and black theme is trademark of all Hippo headphone, but unlike the other Epic comes in a blister packaging.




Being the entry level of Hippo IEM, there isn't much accessories to speak of - just a soft pouch and the colorful sets of silicone eartips. Build quality wise, Epic is solid but nothing extraordinary. The earpieces are very common housing found on many other Chinese IEM, but the cable is fabric knitted and a little better than just typical rubbery type. Though having a better durability, fabric cable is also known to have more microphonics problem than rubber cable. If you are picky about microphonics, I would suggest a shirt clip to 'anchor' the cable so it won't rub against your clothing too much. Being a semi-opened IEM, isolation isn't a strong point of Epic.


Safari's packaging also in orange and black theme.




Safari was described as a 'fun' little headphone to have - it is not to say it is particularly fun sounding, but rather the headphone itself is more targeted toward casual listener instead of serious audiophiles. There is no accessories except for a shirt clip. Build quality is also solid. You might have noticed it looks a lot like Audio-Technica ONTO headphones. It is no doubt being inspired by ONTO. The transducer housing is almost identical, but the head band is different. Safari has a real 'band' instead of ONTO's seamless headband, which is more like a metal wire.


Safari (orange) and ONTO (lime green).

Sound Quality


Epic has a familiar sound signature as Hippo Boom - warm, mid and bass centric, and not very detail, except Epic is more mid forward, grainier and less refined on the vocal and treble region, plus it is less punchy on the bass department and lesser in soudnstage. Overall it is a more balanced sounding than Boom, but also a little  bit more edgy. The listed price is around US$48, which is a little more than Boom. I still prefer Boom smoother, bass oriented performance a little more, but it is close enough that I would call it a personal choice rather than clear cut winner / loser.


ONTO is showing sign of old age due to regular use.

I guess it is fair to compare Safari to ONTO when it comes to sound quality. After all, one is inspired by the other, not to mention they are priced quite closely (should be around US$25 or so locally in Singapore). Quality wise, they are close, but in completely different sound signature. The original ONTO is more detail oriented with decent treble to mid performance and a balanced to cold sound, while Safari is more mid to bass oriented with a warm sound. ONTO is more accurate on detail reproduction and Safari is much punchier on the bass and musical. In the end, neither are really that great sounding as far as portable headphones is concerned, but given their price point I don't think you can't really expect much more from them, especially if you consider KSC75, arguably one of the cheapest good sounding portable headphones you can buy in U.S., is a little over twice as expensive in this part of the world.

Conclusion
I think it goes without saying that both Epic and Safari isn't going to be the best sounding headphones in the market. They are however more of a decent products aiming toward the budget buyer / non-serious listener.

I haven't seen both of them sell being sold online, but if you are interested, you might want to drop an email /give a call to Jaben.net or check out their regional offices. They are expending their business to Malaysia and Indonesia (and maybe Portugal?) with new stores opening soon.


This ranking is for Hippo Epic only. Please visit the list  for a more completed overview.

A quick sum up can be found here.

[EDIT] The review has been updated to reflect the price. 24th Feb 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

JAYS' JOY


JAYS just announced 7 new products based on 3 new models. Confused? Don't be. Two of the new models, the a-JAYS and the t-JAYS, will both feature in 3 separately acoustically tuned style and accessories, which make up a total of 6 different products and shall be released with in the next few weeks or so. Their new flagship, the x-JAYS, is claimed by JAYS to be the world smallest quadro-armature IEM - and that is 4 transducers in each side. It will be released later at the 2nd quarter this year. Given that JAYS hasn't update the current flagship, the q-JAYS, for quite a while now, it will be interesting to see how JAYS' new offering is going to compete with other big boys.

The vague outline in the picture above should be one of the t-JAYS, and that is as far as what we know for now since JAYS has yet to release any spec or full image about their new models.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bonjour, Three-ways Triple Drivers!


The France based universal and custom IEM manufacturer EarSonics announced a new flagship model called SM3 with three balanced armature transducers in three-way crossover (much like UM3X and W3 from Westone). It will be released at later this month for €345 (or a little over US$470). Not much other detail at this moment.

Friday, February 5, 2010

[Impression] FiiO E7

First, I want to thank FiiO for the E7 sample, especially since they took the time to make it a one-off special edition.

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The full production will look the same, expect for a thicker plastic box.

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Spec
Output Power: 150mW (16Ω); 16mW (300Ω)
Headphone Impedance Range: 16 Ω ~ 300 Ω
SNR: ≥95dB (A weighted) on line-in; ≥100dB (A weighted) on USB-in
Distortion: < 0.009% (10mW)on line-in; < 0.008% (10mW) on USB-in
Frequency Range: 10Hz ~ 1000kHz
Power Supply: Internal 1050mAH rechargeable Li-ion battery
Recharging: USB 5V DC 400mA
Size: 96mm x 55mm x 15.5mm
Weight: 100g


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The inside: E7, silicone band for wrapping with DAP; a short 3.5mm-to-3.5mm interconnecting cable, about 5 inches end-to-end; a soft pouch; a heavy duty USB cable; a manual (not show).

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E7, from the headphone-out's end.

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From the USB / dock / AUX-in (line-in)'s end.

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Want to thank FiiO again for the special edition. Nothing is different from the standard edition except for the extra printing.

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The 4 buttons are very well made aluminum.


Build Quality and Accessories
Build quality is simply great - on par, if not better than, others good portable amp I have (3MOVE, iBassso T4/T3D, etc). The aluminum case is so well finished that it looks seamless on all the joins. While FiiO has always had a decent build quality on their product, E7 is simply another big step forward. The two tones OLED screen is, as expected, stunningly good to look at. It is sharp and bright. All mini jacks have metal sleeve, which also look great.

Size wise, E7 is slimmer than typical portable amp (i.e. Practical Device XM3/4/5) and about half the size and weight of 3MOVE (which is also a portable DAC amp like E7). Obviously it is not the size of an ultra-portable, but given all the features it has, I think making it any smaller will likely to be an unnecessary challenge that FiiO don't need to take on.

Accessories wise, you have the soft pouch for storage, a silicone band in case you want to warp it with a DAP, a heavy duty USB cable which is unusual (most USB cable of this type is really thin) and a manual. If there are anything missing, they will be 4 small stick-on rubber feet. The 4 hex screws protrude a little out from the back plate so they will serve as feet, but they will get scratched if you use them that way. You will be better off getting some stick-on rubber feet yourself if you don't want scratches.

Battery life is estimated to be about 80 hours on a single charge. It will take roughly 200 minutes (close to 3.5hrs) to fully charge an empty battery from USB port.


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From left: iBasso T3D, Linearossa W1, and E7.

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Meier Audio Corda 3MOVE and E7.

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E7 next to Sansa Fuze (left), Nationite s:flo2 (right), and iPod Nano4 (bottom).


Navigation
Navigation is fairly simple and straightforward. One press on the menu button goes into menu selection, and then you just go up and down and find the setting you want to change. In the setting, there are EQ (bass boost), USB charger, Sleep timer (auto off timer), Keylock (auto 'hold' function), Volume limiter, startup volume memory, and system info.

Startup volume memory is for the E7 to retain the last volume setting. If it is not turned on, E7 will reset its volume to 10/60 during next startup. I was told the firmware is upgradeable only via a special cable. My assumption is FiiO uses the dock to update firmware so basically it means at this point it is not user upgradeable. In any case, beside some small typo in the menu, the firmware seems to run very smoothly and there really isn't any real reason to update the firmware. Hopefully by the time E7 is finally released, the typo should be corrected. The keylock, or auto hold, can be set between 20 and 60 seconds, which is a bit too long in my opinion. I would like the minimum to be 10s. Once the keylock is engaged, you will need to press the menu button for a few second to unlock. When it is locked, the screen will be turned off as well. If you don't set the key lock, the screen will remain on all the time.


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Startup screen. Sorry for the blurry picture as my camera was a hard time focusing on the bright OLED screen.

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E7, connected to Nano4's line-out via a FiiO LOD.


SQ
First, let's talk about the line-in and headphone-out. While on early on FiiO has decide to keep the same chip set as E5 on the E7, the decision has been made in the last minute to switch from the original OPA2338UA to the better performing AD8692 by ADI. I was also told that all the coupling caps are Elna Purecap for audio instead of the less desirable tantalum caps.

When fed by iPod nano4 line-out, in comparison, E7 (no bass boost) is more neutral sounding than E5, just a tad colder than E1. E7 has a softer bass impact, but a better treble performance. It actually feel a little thin and grainy compared to the warmer, more musical sound signature of original E5 amp section because of the extra fine detail E7 has. It also has a better depth in soundstage but not particularly wide. Once switch to Bass Boost Lv1 however, E7 starts to sound warmer and acquire a better width in soundstage, while still retaining most of its crispy detail. This works fairly well with analytical IEM like RE0, while BB Lv0 sounds better with warm sounding IEM like Sherwood SE-777. Overall, I will say E7 is definitely better sounding than E5 (more) and E1 (less). In fact, I will say E7 amp section performance is getting very close to that of iBasso T4 and Linearossa W1.

Now, how about the DAC? E7 use PCM2706 as its USB receiver, but the actually decoding is done by Wolfson WM8740, which is pretty well known for having a good sound. I don't have any other DAC amp of E7 price range to compare it with (well, there is only one other DAC amp in this price range anyway), and compare it to the more expensive 3MOVE is pretty unfair since 3MOVE do have a really good amp section. But my unscientific listening does suggest to me that the DAC section is really well, better than the PCM270x-only solution used by 3MOVE or Go-Vibe USB DAC. I would have love to listen to the line-out but FiiO has decided they won't have a dedicated 3.5mm output for line-out. Instead, they prefer a dock solution (which hopefully we will see a separate cradle for it). I think it goes without saying that E7 sound much better when fed by the DAC than by Nano4.

EQ
I think the bass boost function deserves some further explanation. On Lv0, bass boost is off and the general sound signature is on the cold, analytical side. On Lv3, it is very warm, with the treble slightly roll off. In fact, it is a bit like the bass boost on E5 (signature wise), but E7 does it in a more gentle way. The actual bass boost on Lv3 isn't massive, but it does give a much warmer and fuller bottom. Lv1 and Lv2 fill in the gap between the two, with Lv1 as the warmer Lv0 and Lv2 as the more analytical Lv3. I think the whole bass boost function works more like a general EQ giving different sound signature, which I prefer over just a simple bass boost.


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The FiiO family: E1, E3, E5, E7, and FiiO L1

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FiiO amp with Travagan's Colors, iBasso, T3D/T4, Go-Vibe Derringer, and Linearossa W1.


Conclusion
It has been a long road of making and waiting, but finally E7 has come to live. It is almost every bit it was set out to be and FiiO has done a great job to achieve its goal of making a budget portable DAC amp with a fantastic value. I think It will be the new standard of the industry, to say the least, when it comes to measuring price/performance ratio of any portable DAC amp. The estimated price is around US$80.

The only question left is: when will TI deliver those overdue chips to FiiO so the full production can begin?

P/S: A small note about line-out: You might have noticed on the early spec that a 3.5mm line-out jack was planned, yet it is not seen on the amp itself. the line-out has been moved to the dock connector. I asked James @ FiiO and their concern is that people connecting their headphone to the line-out to "try it out" which could possibly damage their headphone and even worst, their hearing. They have many non-audiophiles customers so the decision is made not to risk any chance. There could be a cradle (with line-out jack) released later if enough interest has been shown, or else the line-out will be left to the upcoming E9.

Small update: After roughly 100 hours of burn-in, I give E7 another listening against T4 and W1 using RE252. I can't say in 100% certainty but it does feel the soundstage is opened up by a tiny bit. Still not quite as good as T4 or W1 but it is better than before as background detail is easier to notice in comparison. The overall presentation seems less grainy and edgy than before. On previous listening, I preferred T4 just a little bit over E7, but now I think the line is really blurring.

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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