Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays

Yet another good year for IEM user is coming close to its end. This year, we have seen more higher end models being released for both universal and custom IEM market, and in general, less low end rubbish models as well. Of course, not so great for keeping a budget :). We also see some really good sounding IEM coming from small, previously unknown Chinese IEM maker as well. I suspect this trend will continue and we will see / hear better IEM from China in the upcoming year as well. All and all, I'll call it a fruitful year. Hopefully you have enjoyed it as much as I do. Cheer.

Monday, December 22, 2014

December Update

I was pleasantly surprised by Zero Audio's DX200 'Carbo Tenore' when I finally got one and now the company has a new dual driver for us. The new ZH-DWX10, or simply known as 'Duoza', kind of has an odd design with an elongated housing. With current exchange rate, it should be around US$100 or so.

A new company called Zorloo released what they called a 'digital earphone' for Android smartphone. The 'Z:ero' is an IEM with a tiny USB DAC (*a Wolfson no less) and headphone amp built into the remote control, and as you would expect, connect to (and powered by) the smartphone via USB instead of 3.5mm headphone jack. The concept is definitely interesting (and somewhat similar to Apple's idea of headphone with Lightning connector), but might be flawed - as it will probably drain your smartphone battery as long as it is connected and you will have to throw the DAC / amp away when you run into cable problem (which is likely to happen to any IEM sometime down the line). Though given the projected price at only US$30, these issue might not be that big of a deal.

Last but not least, JH Audio introduces two new model to the Siren series: Layla and Angie. I'll let Jude do the talking:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

[Impression] Creative Sound Blaster E3 - Right Stuff for the Smart Age

Over the recent months, Creative Labs has been bursting out some pretty nice portable gears aiming from the basic casual user all the way up to serious audiophiles. Most importantly, they are pricing them in a way that almost makes all other major brands look greedy. Usually that’s the strategy reserved for new start-ups or lesser known companies, but I have no complaint. If anyway, I am glad to see Creative getting, well, creative again. Two of the major factors for any tech companies to success are innovation and addition of extra value to the user – that’s what Creative is doing now, finally coming out of the shadow of other big tech brands and remaking a name of their own in era of the smart devices.

E3-01.jpg

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Impression] FiiO X1 - A New Beginning

FiiO has been quite successful with their X series of high resolution digital audio player. So much so that perhaps even they themselves didn’t anticipate that the company will have to shift its focus away from their portable amp business in order to keep up with the DAP demand. But with Apple fading grip on the pure DAP market, a new niche of higher end DAP is born from music lovers seeking a better device to replace their aging iPod. Well, maybe ‘new’ isn’t the right word here - the higher end DAP niche has been around since Hifiman HM801’s invention late last decade, but now it is in a new era of growth and competition. The significant of X1 is not in its technology or sound quality, but rather being the first 24bit / 192kHz capable DAP that is priced just under US$100. Does the affordability mean HD music isn’t just an expensive audiophiles’ thing anymore but rather going mainstream? It is probably too early to say with just one DAP, but it certain is one of the sign that the music world is moving toward that direction – and FiiO is on the forefront trying to catch a piece of the action with their new X1.

X1-01.jpg

X1-02.jpg

Monday, November 10, 2014

New Wood

JVC is releasing a new woody called HA-FX1100 as the upgrade model over their current woody flagship, the FX850. They looks pretty much identical on the outside as well as the overall construction, except perhaps the use of a darker wood on FX1100's wooden casing and 6N OFC cable (as oppose to SPOFC on FX850). One thing that will be noticeable is the price - compared to the FX850 with its street price around US$300 or so, the new FX1100 is priced around US$500. That's quite a price jump. Not sure what kind of magic JVC is putting into the new model, but it will have to be really good.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Changing Lane

Also showing off in the 2014 Tokyo Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival is ibasso still-in-development IEM called 'Oriolus'. Detail is sketchy for now though it is reported to be a triple-BA + single dynamic hybrid design. No price or release date yet as rumors point out that ibasso isn't fully happy with the current prototype.

Sony Custom

The big news over the last two days in the IEM world is that Sony has decided to do custom IEM. The sub-brand will call 'Just ear' and at at least for now, three different standard models / tunings ('monitor', 'club sound' and 'listening') will be available where there is also mentioning of user customizable tuning for additional fee. Price is set around USD$2000 to $2500 for standard tuning and another USD$500 for customized sound. Not sure whether Sony will bring it out of Japan or not, the release date is set before the end of the year.

It is great that Sony decided to push further into the IEM world, and the build quality seems to be great. However, consider that the company has yet to even make an universal IEM that can compete in the top-of-the-line level (*I have heard as high as XBA-H2/3 and they are not that much of a looker IMO), I would certainly doubt Sony's ability to tune a TOTL custom with premier price tag. There is just not enough to inspire confidence.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More, continues...

 
More news from Japan - JVC is introducing a new line of micro dynamic transducer based on titanium diaphragm and we will see them on the new Twin System based FXT100 and FXT200. Judging from the model number, they should be upgrade over the aging FXT90. FXT200 also comes with a limited edition (picture above) with gold color housing and silver plated OFC cable, and a bit more pricy as well. The regular version should run you about USD$100 and USD$150 respectively. Add about USD$20 for the limited edition.

Beside the upgrade FXT models, the new driver will also be featured in the new single driver based FXH line with three model: FXH10, 20 and 30, for about USD$45, 52 and 70 each.

The UK company Rock Jaw is introducing a new model called Kommand. It is one BA and one dynamic based hybrid with ear-clip and user-tunable nozzle system. Price should be under USD$200.

As a Chinese company, Fidue might not be that well known as a consumer brand on the international market. But they are known among head-fi community for making really high quality universal IEM. Their new model is called A71 with dual dynamic design and incidentally, one of them is a titanium driver as well. Price will be just around USD$100.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More News from Japan

With the arrival of the 2014 autumn Tokyo Headphone Festival, DUNU is announcing two more IEM models - the dynamic transducer based Titan 1 with titanium diaphragm and DN-2000J, a re-tuned and shrink down version of the original DN-2000, which seems to be more of a special model for the Japanese market. No price was mentioned. Also on the announcement is the Alpha 1 - an hybrid one BA + one dynamic earbud - yes, earbud, not IEM, and likely the first of its kind.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

News fron Japan

Audio Technica just had a press release in Japan introducing new models. Among them, the new CKB series, which are mainly budget priced single balanced armature transducer based IEM: ATH-CKB70 (top - USD$85 est.) and ATH-CKB50 (bottom - USD$42 est.). As typically Japanese, they also introduces a few more red color "limited edition" of older models, which really just no worth looking unless you just happen to need IEM in that particular color.

We mentioned that Sony had introducing the XBA-Z5 as their new flagship in IFA2014, but it seems they are not quite done yet - the XBA-100 (picture above), which I assume is an updated model on the existing XBA-10, will feature a single BA driver with  new tech developed for Z5's driver and priced around USD$100. Sony also upgrades all the XBA-H series with the new driver technology and now they are called the XBA-A series. They will be priced pretty close (but slightly more expensive) to the current XBA-H series.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Back to Zero


Brainwavz has released a new model called S0, as a step-down of the current S5. It will be priced at half the price as well, at US$50.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

3-in-1

EarSonics is releasing a new universal IEM model called the Velvet under its 'premium signature' series. It has a switch on the earpiece allowing the listener to tune for three different sound signatures. No much detail at this point but do prepare to pay USD$800 for a pair.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Impression] Comply Custom Wraps

Comply foam tip should need no introduction at this point, as it has become a norm for many brand name IEM to include a pair of them. But what we are talking here is something new – or should I say something old that has been put to new use - Comply has been selling a special foam wraps called the ‘Soft Wraps’ for custom hearing aid for a while now. The idea is that, by sticking a piece of soft foam strip to wrap around / near the nozzle of the custom hearing aid, it will ensure a tighter fit. This is especially useful since custom mold – as much as it is custom fitted to the person, it is still mostly a handmade product that subjects to tiny imperfection. Sometime it is just a tiny bit loose that isn’t worth sending back for refitting. Other time it is caused by weight change and aging that alter the shape of the ear canal just a bit too much. Essentially, the Soft Wraps is a foam tip for the custom hearing aid. Now, Comply has adapted the same concept for custom IEM as well, calling it the ‘Custom Wraps’.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

IFA2014 Part 2

Sony has announced a lot of stuffs in IFA this year. Among them, the new XBA-Z5. It has a dual-BA + 1 dynamic configuration similar to the XBA-H3, but comes with newly developed transducers. To be honest, I am quite disappointed by the whole XBA-H1/H2/H3 series when I had a chance to demo them last years - finding them tuned in a very eccentric way and might not even consider an upgrade over the older models. While I really like the higher end full sized headphones Sony has made over the recent years (especially the MDR-1 series), their IEM remains far away from perfection. Let hopes the new Z5 can do better. No price has been mentioned yet.

Friday, August 29, 2014

IFA 2014

Here comes the IFA in a few days and we are already getting some press release.

Sennheiser is released 4 new models within the CX line, namely CX1.00, CX2.00, CX3.00 and CX5.00 (shown in picture above). Yes, the naming scheme is rather odd, and no, no price has been mentioned.


RHA is released a new flagship called the T10i, with single dynamic transducer and 3 pair of customizable nozzles with different tuning. Price is around USD$250.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

[Impression] iFi nano iDSD and iCAN with a splash of iPurifer

iFi Audio has gained a great success over its Micro line of small sized desktop gears, and now it is pushing into the portable world with the Nano series. The nano iDSD is USB DAC that not only works with PC, but also has OTG support for the iDevice with OS7 (via camera connection kit / CCK) and Android that have USB Audio Class driver built-in (*for older Android that doesn’t have the driver, there is still a chance that USB Audio Player PRO will work). The nano iCAN on the other hand is a pure portable amp, but infused with the magical XBass and 3D Holographic Sound we have seen on the micro iCAN. Both are retailed under US$200.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

[Impression] Creative Sound Blaster E1 – Stick of All Trade

With desktop PC sale declining and mobile devices on the rise, thumb drive sized USB DAC has become the quick fix for poor sound quality that is all too common in portable computer and smart devices. Creative’s answer to that demand is the new Sound Blaster E1 – a multipurpose USB DAC + headphone amp + mic that boosted with quite a few impressive features.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

[REVIEW] T-PEOS Altone 200 – Heck of a Bargain

The Korean company really needs no introduction at this point. They have proven themselves as a capable IEM maker with a series of top of the line hybrid as well as some good sound yet budget friendly dynamic IEM. The new Altone 200 is the continuation of the company’s hybrid line of IEM, with a never-heard-of price point nonetheless. The best part? You are not getting lesser of SQ just because you are paying a cheap price.

AT200-01.jpg

Friday, July 4, 2014

Another

T-PEOS has another flagship ready for preorder. This time, it is the Altone2000, featuring a 3 ways hybrid configuration with dual BA and one dynamic. It is surprisingly affordable at only US$125 right now and US$145 after the promotion.


Brainwavz too has a new IEM, the S5, with a single dynamic transducer. Price at around US$100

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Replacement

T-PEOS is introducing a new single BA + dynamic hybrid model, the H-100 II, to replace the original H-100. They are currently starting a pre-sale event over at Head-fi. Priced around US$92 with shipping included. If it is as good as the original H-100, then it should be quite a bargain.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

[Impression] S.M.S.L. sAp-4s and sAp-7

If you ever searched eBay trying to hunt down a desktop or portable headphone amp, chance are you already come across the brand ‘S.M.S.L.’ - a Chinese brand that has pumped out quite a few headphone amps over the years. Their Chinese name is actually quite interesting – “two wood three forest” (don’t ask me why as I don’t know either). The two models we are going to look at belong to their portable line-up.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

[REVIEW] T-PEOS H-100J and RICH200

The Korea based T-PEOS surprised the IEM world with their hybrid IEM a few years ago and still continues to push for more innovative design. As the name suggested, the H-100J is related to T-PEOS’s original flagship hybrid, the T-100. However, the T-100J isn’t meant to be a continuance but rather a rebalance, in order to appeal to those who do not like the V-shaped sound of the original T-100. The RICH200 on the other hand does meant to be a step up from the company’s first dynamic model D-200, but keeping the same high value-for-money factor.





Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Phase to Phase

The new CKR series from Audio Technica has actually been announced a few weeks ago, but they only just hit the street in Japan. The lower end of the series (ATH-CKR7) isn't that interesting, but the higher end models (ATH-CKR9 / -CKR10) features what AT called 'Dual Phase' dynamic drivers. Basically it is a dual dynamic driver setup in opposite phase and direction (if they are in the same direction, they would have cancelled each other. But instead they are enhancing each other in the current setup). It is a rather unconventional design, to say the least. CKR9 will be around US$260 and CKR10 will be around $350.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Silver is the New Gold

In celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary, Ortofon is releasing a new IEM, the e-Q8. It features the same design as the e-Q7, but comes with a new moving armature driver with pure silver coil, pretty much the first of its kind. MSRP is around US$400.

Friday, April 18, 2014

[REVIEW] beyerdynamic DX 160 iE

Almost a year ago, I reviewed the XP series (XP1, XP2 and XP3) from beyerdynamic, which is sold only in Asia. The company has since introduced a few higher end models, including the DX 160 iE that is going to be reviewed here. Priced at about US$120, is it going to sound double as good as the half-priced XP series?



Sunday, April 6, 2014

[REVIEW] Brainwavz Delta, R1 and R3

Well, Brainwavz is a brand that really doesn’t need much introduction. It started much like a side project for mp4nation.net to introduce hidden jewels among Chinese IEM to the oversea market and now it transforms into a full-fledged production line of its own. The Delta (US$22.50), R1 (US$44.50) and R3 (US$129.50) are part of their current offering.








Wednesday, April 2, 2014

[Impression] miniwatt n4

The Hong Kong based company miniwatt has quite an interesting history as they have the tendency to focus on one product at a time. I actually won their first product a few years ago in a contest, and it was the tiny tube based speaker amp called S1. The n4 under review here however has nothing to do with tube anymore, but a DAC + headphone-amp aiming toward the PC audiophiles.

n4-01.jpg

Sunday, March 9, 2014

[Impression] Edifier H850

When it comes to Edifier, they are best known for their desktop PC speaker range and acquiring the prestigious electrostatic headphone company Stax. But just because they now own Stax doesn’t mean they are going to negate their own headphone production line. The current top-of-the-line H850 can be found online for just under US$60. Okay, maybe not quite the Stax level of headphone solely judging by the price, it still swings out quite a heavy punch in the feather weight class.



Friday, February 7, 2014

T-PEOS New Flagship

T-PEOS just announced the H-300, which feature the same dual BA + single dynamic configuration as the H-200, but said to have 'covered flaw of H-200 and strengthened bass more'. You can pre-order it right now for US$270 shipped, linky.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

JVC Woodies

JVC just introduced three new models of their renowned 'Wood' series of IEM. The HA-FX850, FX750 and FX650, respectively feature 11mm. 10mm, and 8.5mm of 'Wood Dome' dynamic transducer and priced around US$400, US$300 and US$200. They will all hit the market before the end of February, but most likely limited to Japan.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Westone ES60

Not like we didn't see this coming: ES60, 6 drivers in 3 ways configuration, soft nozzle with hard acrylic shell and an US$1300 price tag.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fostex

While the brand Fostex might not ring much of a bell outside of the Audiophiles' world, its parent company Foster Japan is however one of the major OEM companies behind many big brand name headphones for the last few decades. They have been pushing for their own brand of full size headphones in recent years with very positive response and now it seems they are gearing up for the in-ear market as well. The just announced TE-05 marks the company's first serious IEM under the Fostex brand. It will be a single dynamic with removable cable, which seems to use the dreadful MMXC connector. Price will be around US$150. The impedance and sensitivity don't look to be very high so it might need a decently powerful source to drive it well.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Westone W50 / W60

Westone has announced two new entries to the W line-up at CES2014: the 5 drivers W50 and the 6 drivers W60, both in 3-ways configuration and priced at US$750 and US$999 respectively. I guess this is Westone's response to Shure SE846, by almost knocking at the $1K door. One would wonder if it will be better just to get a custom IEM with that kind of money.

[UPDATE] Westone follow up with more new products announcements: The US$350 single driver custom AC10, US$480 dual drivers custom AC20 and a new universal IEM in the ADV series, the US$180 'Beta'.

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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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