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Saturday, April 9, 2011

[REVIEW] Sunrise Xcape v2 and Xcited

First, I'll like to thanks Sunrise for the samples. The original Xcape is one of the best sounding IEM in the sub-$100 I have ever listened to, but for some reason it was pulled from the market suddenly and replaced almost at an instant with a new model simply known as the Xcape v2. Beside v2, Sunrise also develop another IEM using the same housing called ‘B’ (which could be known as ‘Xcited’ see note 1). If all goes well, it should be in market pretty soon. Now, let’s see how they measure up to their predecessor

Note 1: The final name hasn’t been decided yet. The name 'Xcited' may be used by ‘B’ or another IEM in development.

A is Xcape v2, while B is, well, 'B'. They do look identical.

Impedance: 32ohm
Sensitivity: 115 ± 3 dB
Cable length: 1.2m
Frequency range: 20-24000Hz

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality

As far as I know, the packaging and accessories of Xcape v2 is pretty much the same as the original Xcape. In such case, I won’t want to write about the same stuff twice. If you are interested, please read my previous review of the original Xcape for more detail.

Original Xcape (top) and Xcape v2 (bottom)

The very obvious difference between the two Xcape models is of course the change in outer design and basic build quality. I have had the original Xcape for over half a year now and have yet to have any issue regarding build quality. The Xcape v2 (as well as ‘B’, which uses the same housing and design) is said to be even better in build quality, where a denser alloy is used for the new housing as well as a new cable that is better at resisting mechanical stress. The inclusion of metal shell on both the stereo plug and Y-splitter are said to be serve both an aesthetical and stress resisting purposes, though I would like to see proper strain relief as well. Isolation is about average, microphonics is decently low.

Cable and plug for the original Xcape (top) and Xcape v2 (bottom)

Overall the new Xcape v2 does look classier and better build then the original Xcape. The only complain I have is the lack of chin slider which was included in the original Xcape. It doesn’t mean much when you are wearing the IEM straight down, but it could still be very useful for holding the cable down when it is over-the-ear. The same conclusion applies to ‘B’ as well.

Sound Quality
As usual, both IEM have been given 100 hours of burn-in before the review, as suggested by the manufacturer. The original Xcape has a sound signature that is largely neutral with a slight warmness radiated from the central upper mid. It is an almost analytical-like presentation with a small hint of musicality. It is a sound clearly tuned toward audiophiles and judging from most of the response in Head-fi, it did quite well for what it was meant to do. Though it is well received in the West, the same can’t be said for places closer to home – the Asian market. As I was told, the original Xcape is only so-so in sale figure on the East. In hope of capturing a larger audience, Sunrise went ahead and retuned the original Xcape to the Xcape v2 with what they believe to be a more ‘main stream’ sound. At the same time, they co-developed the Xcited with a different sound signature with what they think to be better suited for the oversea market.

The overall sound signature of Xcape v2 is warm and smooth with a sense of thickness. Bass is quick and impactful with a very decent quantity, but lacks just a tad of depth on the lower end. Mid is slightly further away but not being recessed, full and resonating which gives a sense of thickness and makes the mid sounding a tad lazy and veil. Though extends decently, treble is overly smooth and lacks sparkles, steering the overall presentation slightly toward being dark. Soundstage is decent but limited by the thick mid and smooth treble, where air is lacking. When compared to the original Xcape, no doubt the v2 sounds just a tad boring. This really reminds me of the same feeling I got when I compared SE530 to 10. It is a sound that doesn’t offend, but at the same time doesn’t excite. At the end, it exchanged some of the technicality of the original Xcape for a bit more quantity at the bass and mid. While still a decent sounding IEM in its own right, those who are looking for the original Xcape-like quality might feel disappointed at the new Xcape v2, even though the two do share the same name.

The overall sound signature of ‘B’, or ‘Xcited’ is as the name suggested, exciting and lively with a neutral to slight u-shaped presentation. Bass shows very decent impact and body but not quantitatively large in any measure. Some of the deepest of sub-bass is missing but overall still enjoyable, just not near enough for basshead to be happy. Mid is sweet and textured but not upfront, giving a sense of space while not sounding recessed. Treble extends far but slightly edgy on the upper vocal / lower treble which can be sound slightly sibilant with bright music. The very top is slight smoothed out and lacks the extra crispiness though still a cut above the average. Soundstage is above average with good layers and air. All in all, ‘B’ really compares well with RE-ZERO. They both shared a mild u-shaped, lively presentation but RE-ZERO is more upfront with intimate vocal while ‘B’ is trying to be more neutral and spacious.

As I was told, the Xcape v2 indeed is better received in the East than the original Xcape. However it is also clear that Sunrise that they can’t win it all with just one model. They have informed me that the Xcape v2 will be phased out from the West and replaced by the upcoming ‘B’ as well as a new Xcape model called the ‘Impressive Edition’. Hopefully all this changes will make it less confusing for the consumer. As far as Xcape v2 is concerned, this review might come a little late for this short-living model. But on the other hand, it is a good thing to know we can still keep our hope up when the new Sunrise IEM hit the market in near future. As for pricing, ‘B’ is likely to be the same as the current Xcape v2 (around $80) or slightly cheaper, which again might make it almost as good value as the original Xcape. We shall see.

For numeric ranking, check out the list.

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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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