Friday, March 26, 2010

Ever more solid: Audio Technica ATH-CKS90

Audio-Technica introduced a new model of their Solid Bass series, the ATH-CKS90, to the market. It will has a slightly larger transducer then the previous ATH-CKS70 (13mm vs. 12.5mm) and a redesigned 'double chamber' (the rounded section where the logo is) which AT claims to give even better (SOLID-er?) bass response. MSRP is estimated to be US$135, which is quite a jump from the US$97 (MSRP) CKS70. A red limited edition and one with active noise cancellation will also be available. CKS90 should hit the market by end of next month.

On a side note, I will be reviewing the CKS70 in near future.

Reinvented: Westone UM2 and UM3X.

So it seems Shure is not the only company that has the idea of adding an removable cable to their existing products. Westone just announced their own version of the UM2 and UM3X with removable cable. According to Westone, these IEM share the same spec and sound as their original version, and will be offered alongside for customer to choose from. No price yet.

UM3X
UM2

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FiiO E7 on DX?!

Yes, the yet-to-go-into-full-production E7 was spotted on DealExtreme.com for a little over $81. While DX has been selling FiiO's products for a while now, I am not fully sure how they manage to secure enough E7 for sale. Last I checked, FiiO is still waiting for parts and the estimated time for full production run is mid April. The pre-production batch (including the one I have reviewed) are meant for review purposes. Maybe FiiO is selling the left-over (so to speak) to DX? I will check with FiiO tomorrow and hopefully we can clear out any doubt.

[UPDATE] Got words from FiiO. The E7 that DX is selling are indeed part of the pre-production sample batch. Somehow DX is able to get their hand on a very limited number of them that are supposed to be sample for the sale agents (or maybe it is the sale agents that give their sample to DX for sale?). In any case, those are not the final production run so buy it at your own risk.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revealed: Brainwavz M2

MP4Nation.net just announced on Head-fi a new model to their Brainwavz line, the M2. I actually have been secretly beta testing this little gem for the last few weeks and it is a joy to listen. I have reviewed the previous two Brainwavz models before, and I will review M2 as well when it hits the market by late April. Estimated price is around US$60 but there will be a pre-order on early April with discounted price. Do check out MP4Nation.net regularly if you are interested.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Creative Aurvana In-Ear2


Creative just announced their second IEM model under the Aurvana brand, the In-Ear2. Still a single balanced armature transducer based design like the aging Aurvana In-Ear, the In-Ear2 spots a more modern look and what seems like an open-back design. While it is claimed that the grill helps to improve bass response, it is unclear whether that will affect the overall isolation. The MSRP is around $110, which is a little high in todays' market but not out of line compared to other big brand names.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Facelift: Shure SE535 and SE425

So here are what will be the upcoming SE535 and SE425 from Shure. They are basically the same models as the current SE530 and SE420, but with detachable cable. I am a little disappointed back in CES2010 when Shure didn't announce any actual upgrade to the aging SE series, but the new detachable cable design is definitely a step in the right direction as the top end Shure models (especially the SE530) has been plagued by random cracking cable even since it was released back in 2007. Though Shure had reformulated the cable in 2008, the damage has been done. It is a nice (though a bit late) effort for Shure to patch things up. The new SE425 and SE535 do look great, but I am still wishing for a new Shure top-end model as well. Keep up the good job, Shure!

[UPDATE] It seems there is some difference sonic wise on the new SE425 / SE535, but more of a 'tuning' instead of an 'upgrade'.



Friday, March 12, 2010

Beware: Fake FiiO

I guess there is nothing too low-end that a cloner won't target - I got news from FiiO that they has received reports that there are fake E5 in the market now. While there are manufacturers trying to copy FiiO success by mimicking the design of FiiO products, they have always branded the products with different name. However, this time we actually see copycat trying to sell their own low quality clone into the market as the real E5. The cloner use cheaper parts in their version, and needless to say, doesn't sound as good as the real E5. IF you are looking for an E5, do try to buy it from a reliable source.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

[REVIEW] AKG K319

First, I would like to thank the local AKG dealer Event One Sdn Bhd for the K319 review sample.




Back before 2005 when Yuin still yet to reach Head-fi, the international earbuds scene sure looked like a desert. Sony hadn't really done anything major since E888, Panasonic already dropped its high-end earbuds line entirely, Sennheiser didn't paid much attention on this part of the market, Audio Technica was just too expensive outside of Japan. With IEM market still yet to mature, the portable world was in its own little 'dark age'. However, we have seen a good comeback for earbuds in recent years with the emergent of high-end portable headphones market, partially thanks to the rapid IEM development. After the success of once unknown Yuin's PK series, two important things happened: First, people realize even earbuds can be 'Hi-Fi' as well. Second, manufacturers, both big and small, start to take notice on the potentiality of high-end, "high-priced" earbuds market. Perhaps we might have entered a new golden age for earbuds, or at least that's my personal hope. Regardless, here is little something about AKG current flagship earbud, the K319.




[SPEC]
Frequency range: 16Hz -23kHz
Impedance: 32ohm
Sensitivity: 128dB SPL/V
Color: Dark Charcoal
Headphones weight without cable: 5g
Max. input power: 15mW
Cable: 0.5m + 0.5m(extension), 99.99% OFC
Gold plated mini plug
In-line volume control


K319 (left) and K311 (right). Notice that K319 is actually a little smaller in size.

Build Quality, Accessories and Comfort
Having own K311, the lower end of the same series, I know build quality will not be an issue here. The only thing to look for, or perhaps the only issue left to discuss, is the design.


First, there is the in-line volume control. Many people dislike the idea of in-line volume control, but I don't find it to be too troublesome as long as it is well designed. I actually like a good design volume control, such as the one on Sennheiser MX90vc - light, functional, and elegant. The one on K319 is a little bulky in size, but still pretty light and decent looking.


Two parts cable is very much a double edged sword. I figure AKG thought people might like a two parts cable if they hang their iPod on the chest or use a Bluetooth receiver, which of course are all valid reasons (and perhaps Sennheiser has the same thought when they designed MX760?). I guess the average audiophile hate two part cable as much as in-line volume control for the same reason, because they have no use of it and the design add unwanted weight to the cable. Which of course make little sense when many of them (perhaps me included) like thick interconnecting or power cable and big knob on our amp. Yes, we are biased that way. All things aside, the mini plug / jack are actually pretty small and light (enough) compared to that of MX760 or SE530, so I have no complaint about them. The combined cable length is on the short side, which will be a problem if you are a tall person.


As the flagship, K319 does come with a good selection of accessories. You will get a very well made hard case, airline adapter, 2.5mm stereo plug adapter, a pair of foam pad and the user manual.


The hard case has small pouches for the accessories, which is a good plus.

It is a bit strength about the earpiece but I also see a little elegant in the design. Being the flagship, K319 actually look less fleshy and have more class in the color combination. The distinct styling means there is no mistaking that you are wearing an AKG earbuds on the street, that is if you are walking on the Head-fi street. As you can see in one of the pictures above, K319 is a little smaller than K311 actually. While I can have decent fit with K311, it isn't quite as easy to get it into a good position. With K311, a little off alignment means a little loss on detail, which isn't much to begin with (thus I don't use any foam on K311 for the same reason). The smaller size K319 is in fact a lot easier to get a good fit and a good sound. Though the extra 'pieces' on the cable are a little annoying, but they are not 'tangling' around either.

Overall, I like K319's design, but would personally prefer to keep only one of either the volume control or the two part cable. However, they are not enough of a deterrent to stop me from enjoying K319's sound.



Sound Quality
The earbuds has been given a 50hrs burn-in period to audition. I listen to it with and without foam and at the end I choice to use donut foam pad of my own supply (regular earbuds foam pad with a hole in the front). Without foam, K319 has more sparkle and micro detail but also a little cold, more to the analytical side. With foam, it sounds a little warm and has a better bass body but there isn't enough detail. With donut foam pad, you get the best of both worlds: It retains most of the micro detail and still have some warmness that benefits the bass. It is more balanced sounding this way.

Overall, K319 sounds just a tiny bit warm from being balanced and has a very decent mid / lower-mid performance, especially on the male vocal or even deep female vocal. However, it is balanced enough on both end that I won't refer it to be mid centric. Treble has a respectable extension to almost 17kHz in a fairly smooth fashion (compared to the more edgy MX760). Bass rolls off a bit more significant below 80Hz also in a fairly smooth fashion and disappear under 30Hz. K319's bass is not quite as punchy or fast as MX760 and not quite have the bass body of MX90vc. It is not bass light, but neither is it a strong point - 'adequate' is perhaps how I would describe it. Soundstage is very good, better than MX90vc but not quite as far reach as MX760 (which is a little artificial and not quite as natural as PK1). It has decent air, but not quite the width to compete with the best out there.

So K319 isn't turn out to be a giant killer, but it is no slouch either. It certainly isn't dwarfed in front of Sennheiser last two generations of flagship earbuds.


Sennheiser MX760, MX90vc, CrossRoads HR1, HR2, Yuin PK1 and K319 under one roof.

Conclusion
AKG K319 might not be the best sounding earbuds in the market, but it holds its ground well against its competitors and has nothing to be ashamed of. Great build, decent design, good selection of accessories, can be found in various places for just under US$100, a sound worthy of being called flagship, plus a two years warranty* - I would say that is a pretty good deal.

*Not sure about U.S. and Canada, which have a different warranty terms apparently.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Black in Simplicity

Following the announcement last months, JAYS finally reveals the three a-JAYS models to the world. All of them will feature a pair of 8.6mm dynamic transducers, but differently tuned. a-JAYS One will be the lowest of the three models while a-JAYS Three will be the best sounding of them all. As you can see, they are all using 'flat cable' which is said to be less prone to tangle. Beside the cable, they will have slightly different accessories and finish on the earpieces. No detail on price yet, but given that they are the new entry models of current JAYS' line-up, my guess is they won't likely to break your bank. In any case, a-JAYS will hit the store next month. [UPDATE] The price will be US$40, US$50, and US$60 for the three models

While JAYS has been known for build quality and great styling, I must say a-JAYS is definitely a step-up in design. Great job, JAYS!

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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