Author Archives: Ryan Soo

Lime Ears Pneuma Review – Thunderstruck

Pros –

Gorgeous and highly isolating design, PWAudio cable included, Practical bass boost, Resolving yet dynamic bass, Revealing yet natural midrange, Clean and well-separated presentation, Source agnostic

Cons –

Bass lacks some coherence at times, Breathy vocal presentation won’t suit all, Bulkier uni shells, Average technical performance in-class

Verdict –

Lime Ears new flagship provides a thoroughly engaging, insightful yet versatile listen with gorgeous artisan design and custom PWAudio cable on top.


Introduction –

Lime Ears is a Polish CIEM manufacturer who really made a name for themselves with their original flagship, the Aether. This in-ear was lauded for its gorgeous tonality, and Lime Ears have been subtly tweaking this formula ever since. Emil, the man who started the operation, also takes a unique approach to acoustic design due to his background designing studio monitors. In turn, he creates in-ears with perhaps different goals to many competitors. The Pneuma is their latest creation and the first hybrid from the company. Many similarities are to be found, the same uni shell, the same bass switch permitting some adjustment of the sound based on the Fletcher-Munson law. Lime Ears are also targeting a slightly different style of sound, that being more lively than the Aether models. The Pneuma is the new flagship in pricing but is marketed as an alternative to the Aether in turn.

The Pneuma is available for 1800 EUR, you can read more about it and purchase one for yourself on Lime Ear’s website.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Pawel and Emil from Lime Ears very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Pneuma for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Specifications –

  • Drivers: 1x DD Sub, 2x BA Mid-bass, 1x BA Mid, 1x BA Tweeter
  • Crossover: 4-way passive hybrid
  • Switchable Subwoofer Dynamic Driver

The Pitch –

Fletcher-Munson Law (FML)

Similar to past LE flagships, the Pneuma implements a bass-boost switch that increases the versatility of the sound. In particular, Lime Ears are addressing the FML, whereby, listeners perceive bass as being softer at lower volumes and louder at higher volumes relative to the rest of the sound. As such, low-volume listeners may prefer a slightly fuller sound with bass boost on while higher volume listeners may prefer the neutral setting. Of course, this also appeals to different sound preferences. With the introduction of a hybrid driver setup, the switch now controls the DD exclusively.

Passive hybrid crossover

The Pnuema designates driver duties in a different way than most IEMs. The DD exclusively handles sub-bass with 2x BA drivers also dedicated to the low-end, theoretically combining the agility of BA with the extension of a DD, even within the bass itself. We then observe 1x mid and 1x tweeter BA drivers. These drivers are united with a 4-way passive hybrid crossover.

Varibore

Each bore features a varying diameter to enhance the frequency range covered by the connected drivers. In this instance, we observe a 1mm bore for the low-end and 2mm bores of the mids and highs. In theory, this enables a tighter low end and lower resonances of high-frequencies enabling greater extension and resolution.

BAM (Backfire Acoustically-damped Membrane)

A new technology introduced by the company to control back-pressure from the dynamic driver and reduce resonances. It is inspired by bass-reflex enclosures of studio monitors, giving Emil finer control over impulse response. In addition, open-cell memory foam has been implemented to reduce resonances and provide the most controlled bass possible. It appears as well that the Pneuma is a fully-sealed monitor, so this is a very interesting DD implementation.

PW Audio Cable

The Pnuema comes with Peter Wong’s famous No.10 cable out of the box. Though I would not argue that the Pneuma, like all flagships, is a value-orientated product, this cable does sweeten the deal with excellent build quality from one of the greats in custom cables. The wiring material is confidential, and it has been outfit with custom Lime Ears chin slider. It retails for $259 SGD.

Behind the Design –

The Pneuma is the first new flagship following the original Aether in over 3 years and also the first hybrid design from the company. Emil was kind enough to walk me through the design process and future plans for the company moving forwards. I thank the team at Lime Ears for accommodating my curiosity especially during this difficult and busy year, Emil’s thoughts follow:

Does the Pneuma replace the Aether R?

Since term “flagship” has several definitions (being the most expensive, most technically advanced and or most up-to-date construction), Pneuma checks all these boxes. So yes, from this standpoint it is higher model than Aether R. We have spend a lot of time and energy in this obviously difficult year to come up with something new both in terms driver selection, tuning technology, shell design and cable selection.
I’d say that Aether R is not the youngest construction on the market and I felt that it is time for him to give some space to some younger siblings. I try to make pretty contemporary sounding monitors and I’d be hesitant to call Aether R obsolete (what would we say about about tape recorders or tube compressors used on our favorite recordings, not to mention vintage guitars, amps and mics) but maybe we can say that it received some younger company in our portfolio.

What challenges are involved with designing a hybrid? Why hasn’t LE used a hybrid design before?

I was discouraged by several hybrid constructions I have listened to years ago where there seemed to be hardly any coherence between drivers of different types. It seemed like you have bunch of drivers and every of them is playing a different song. But it started to change gradually and I think that one of the turning points was listening to Elysium by Vision Ears. It sounded beautiful and coherent, even with such an extraordinary driver setup. It was clear evidence that dynamic driver could be implemented in way that really serves whole construction. I also noticed that industry came to the point where there is such variety of dynamic drivers that it would be possible to find some that suit my ideas.

The discouragement was gone and it helped to overcome my laziness. Balanced Armature drivers are much more similar in character to one another, and that makes them much more predictable. You can do a lot of designing through measurements since the changes you see on the measurements are close to the changes you will hear. Dynamic Drivers are another beast. You have different diameters, diaphragm geometries, diaphragm materials. There is much bigger variety in character between them and in way they blend with Balanced Armatures. So you have to do a lot of prototyping and listening. Like much more than in BA-only constructions (if you want to get it right).

It’s proper to listen to drivers alone, the same drivers in conjunction with one BA, two BAs and so on. It creates need for dozens of listening sessions. But thankfully, each listening session gives some experience (even when the driver tested will never make to any final construction). There is no doubt that this experiences will fuel incoming designs one way or another.

The bass driver setup is quite different on the Pneuma from existing designs (using 2xBA for mid-bass), why was this chosen?

Technically, the bass 2xBA driver handles range from about 100Hz to about 1000Hz. So it covers the bass and lower mids. And since Titanium-diaphragm DD (which is naturally on the warmer and slower side) was used for sub bass I felt it needed to be accompanied by highly-textured BA driver. Double drivers have smaller, faster-moving diaphragms and since there are two of them, their effective surface is pretty big. So by using double BA we can get pretty fast and textured bass and mids. Maintain the weight and body of the sound while being pretty accurate as in replicating body of many instruments and vocals.

Many companies mention that the most difficult part of designing an earphone is knowing when to stop! What are some things Lime Ears would like to work on in future?

Oh, this actually is the best part. You can’t really stop! I see earphone design as an evolution – an infinite process breeding different species being in relationship to each other, being part of bigger of ecosystem including driver manufacturers, cable manufacturers, DAC/DAP designers and naturally listeners.

Or it’s like some sort of saga. With another constructions being simply another chapters that evolve from previous ones and give beginning to next ones. The difficult art would be to make each design some sort of closed chapter. So the reader feels that they went through certain part of the story that is now complete.

But then another chapter is awaiting. And even when the novel is over, there is still plenty of room for another volumes.

That being said, we’re working on several projects and will be happy to share them in the future. 🙂

What are your thoughts on new driver types such as Estats?

I really, really like well implemented Estats. Their technical capabilities of expanding space and super-high end of the spectrum are wonderful. It’s great to observe all these new technologies emerging: Estat, planar magnetic, different types of DD, MEMS, you name it. Engineers are trying to push the boundaries of audio reproduction (which is not an easy thing and happens rather by evolution than revolution). But yeah big steps in this evolution are clearly noticeable and I would point Estats as one of them. I’m really happy to fiddle around with several new technologies and, when right time comes, I’d be happy to show the results it to the world of audio enthusiasts!

Next Page: Unboxing, Design & Fit

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Giveaway: SMSL SU-9!

Following the recent Topping A90 giveaway, Apos Audio are happy to announce that they are hosting a new giveaway of the SMSL SU-9 balanced DAC! The SU-9 retails for $429 USD and is the 5th best-measuring DAC (SINAD) on amirm’s Audio Science Review portfolio.

You can enter the giveaway here and see amirm’s review here. The winner will be chosen by random on Dec 1st. Best of luck to all entrants!

Specs:

  • MQA decoding: Yes
  • DAC: Flagship ES9038PRO DAC
  • Highest Bitrate Support: 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512
  • Bluetooth Codecs: LDAC, APTX/ HD, SBC, AAC, 24-bit/192kHz
  • Display: 1.9” LCD display
  • Remote control: Yes
  • Inputs: USB/optical/coax/bluetooth
  • Outputs: RCA/XLR
  • THD+N: 0.00009% 
  • DNR
    • XLR: 130dB
    • RCA: 123dB
  • SNR: 130dB
  • Output impedance
    • XLR: 207Ω
    • RCA: 142Ω
  • Sound color settings: Rich1, Rich2, Rich3, Tube1, Tube2, Tube3, Crystal1, Crystal2, Crystal3
  • Brightness control: 1-6 levels
  • DSD filters: 47kHz cutoff, 50kHz cutoff, 60kHz cutoff, 70kHz cutoff
  • PCM filters: fast linear, slow linear, fast minimum, slow minimum, fast hybrid, apodizing, brickwall 

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Deal Alert: Biggest Sale Of The Year at HiFiGO Celebrating 11.11

In celebration of 11.11 HiFiGO are hosting their largest sale to date with huge discounts for 24 hours! Recieve savings of up to 35% on leading brands such as Fiio, Moondrop, Topping, iBasso, Kinera, SMSL, Audiosense and more. See discounted products below and more on HiFiGO:

FiiO:-

Everyone has been eyeing some or the other product from FiiO to grab from the past few months. Well, who to blame they have genuinely released some awesome products this past year including their flagship M15 Digital audio player, BTR5 Bluetooth DAC Dongle, FH3/FD1 IEMs, and many more. Now is your offer to buy these at awesome prices from our store during the 11.11 sale. Here are the deals available during the sale:-

FiiO M15: RP(Regular Price): 1349.99$ DP(Deal Price): 1309.49$.

FiiO M11 Pro: RP: 679.99$ DP: 638.26$.

FiiO M3 Pro: RP: 99.99$ DP: 75.99$.

FiiO BTR5: RP: 119.99$ DP: 109.99$.

FiiO FH3: RP: 149.99$ DP: 137.95$.

Moondrop:-

Moondrop is the leading manufacturers of high-quality in-ear monitors in the market. We know you have been waiting for discounts on the highly acclaimed Blessing 2, their flagships Solis, S8, A8, and other IEMs. We assure you won’t get disappointed in the crazy deals on these amazing IEMs.

Moondrop S8: RP: 699.99$ DP: 604.99$.

Moondrop Blessing 2: RP: 319.99$ DP: 279.99$.

Moondrop A8: RP: 667$ DP: 579.33$.

Moondrop KXXS: RP: 189.99$ DP: 168.49$.

Moondrop Starfield: RP: 109.99$ DP: 98.49$.

Aune:-

Aune offers some amazing DAC’s for your desktop systems. We are offering you amazing deals on their flagship Aune s8 Desktop DAC system. You can also grab their highly acclaimed Aune X8 Desktop DAC at never before prices!!

Aune S8: RP: 998$ DP: 908$.

Aune X8: RP: 299.99$ DP: 259.99$.

Aune BU1: RP: 299.99$ DP: 259.99$.

Kinera:-

We love the beautiful sounding IEMs from Kinera. They check all the boxes in our IEM requirements list, brilliant looks, high-resolution clarity, professional tuning,  high-quality cable, high brand value, and much more. Recently their Freya got the lifestyle VGP 2021 award while they released an all-new color for their highly acclaimed IEM, Kinera Nanna. Grab these amazing IEMs before the deal expires!!!

Kinera Freya: RP: 249.99$ DP: 208.54$.

Kinera Nanna: RP: 899$ DP: 764.15$.

Kinera Odin: RP: 799$ DP: 616$.

Kinera Baldr: RP: 1399$ DP: 1199.14$.

Kinera YH623: RP: 69$ DP: 57.96$.

Kinera IDUN: RP: 139$ DP:116.41$.

LZ:-

Have you heard of the latest flagship IEM from LZ?? The LZ A7. It is a premium pair of in-ear monitors housing seven hybrid drivers on each side. The pair offers tons of adjustments with sound tuning filters and a two-way sound profile switch. We are offering discounts on this gem of a pair during the double 11.11 sale.

LZ A7: RP: 338$ DP: 287.30$.

iBasso:-

We know you have been waiting for a deal on the iBasso DX160 digital audio player. It is one of the best Android Hi-res players under the 500$ price segment. It is equipped with dual Cirrus Logics DAC chips, CS43198, and a super crisp 1080p display. Along with the DX160 we are offering discounts on the latest DC03 USB DAC and IT00 IEMs. You can also grab the latest black DC03 during the sale.

iBasso DX160: RP: 399.99$ DP: 359.99$.

iBasso DC03: RP: 59.99$ DP: 54.00$.

iBasso IT00: RP: 79$ DP:69$.

Topping:-

Topping offers one of the best desktop audio solutions in the industry at attractive prices. The flagship A90 Amp and D90 DAC is one of the finest desktop stacks that one can make with an open budget. While they also offer budget-friendly stacks like the E30+L30. We are offering crazy deals on their amazing products including the Topping D50s, A50s, DX3 Pro, DX7 Pro, NX4, A90, D90, and more.

Topping D90: RP: 699.99$ DP: 604.99$.

Topping D90(MQA): RP: 799.99$ DP: 693.99$.

Topping A90: RP: 499.99$ DP:432.99$.

Topping D50s: RP:249.99$ DP: 219.49$.

Topping DX7 Pro: RP: 599.99$ DP: 521.99$.

Topping A50s: RP: 199.99$ DP: 177.99$.

Topping L30: RP: 139.99$ DP: 120.99$.

Topping E30: RP: 129.99$ DP: 117.49$.

SMSL:-

When we look for DAC/AMPs in a desktop chain, SMSL offers some amazing products at very attractive prices. Their products like the SMSL SP200 is one of the best amplifiers in its price segment with a transparent, clean amplification. The SMSL M200/M500/M400 offers quality audio signal decoding with their premium class leading chipset configurations.

SMSL SP200: RP: 265.99$ DP: 234.69$.

SMSL M200: RP: 279.99$ DP: 255.99$.

SMSL M500: RP: 399.99$ DP: 349.99$.

SMSL M400: RP: 809.99$ DP: 737.99$.

SMSL DP5: RP: 599.99$ DP: 521.99$.

Shozy:-

Shozy has been releasing some amazing pairs of in-ear monitors lately. Their last pair, the Shozy Rouge grabbed a lot of praise from the community for its different looks and smooth sound output. We are offering discounts on their highly acclaimed Form 1.4, Form 1.1 IEMs too!! Check out the deals below.

Shozy Rouge: RP: 179$ DP: 149$.

Shozy Form 1.4: RP: 199$ DP: 166.66$.

Shozy Form 1.1: RP: 74.99$ DP: 67.99$.

xDuoo:-

xDuoo has a wide range of products across various portable and desktop categories. They are leading manufacturers of portable DAC/AMPs with well-known products like the XD-05, Link, and more. Their xDuoo XD-05 is a super powerful portable DAC/AMP solution that holds humongous power to drive the demanding cans with ease. The latest xDuoo XP-2 Pro Bluetooth & USB DAC is also coming at an attractive deal during this sale. So keep your eyes glued and wallets ready!!!

xDuoo XD-05 Plus: RP: 260$ DP: 221.20$.

xDuoo TA-20: RP: 366.90$ DP: 315.53$.

xDuoo XP-2 Pro: RP: 140$ DP: 119$.

xDuoo Link 2: RP: 99$ DP: 85.08$.

Shanling:-

Shanling is a leading brand when it comes to high-fidelity audio equipment. They have a wide range of products including digital audio players, Bluetooth DAC dongles, in-ear monitors, and more. Their M6 is a feature-rich Hi-res player with a natural, detailed sound quality output. It is actually one of the best android digital players in the market under its price segment. We are offering attractive deals on Shanling products, check out the entire product list below:-

Shanling UP2: RP: 79.99$ DP: 67.15$.

Shanling MW200: RP:119$ DP: 101.10$.

Shanling UP4: RP: 99$ DP: 89.10$.

Shanling Q1: RP: 139$ DP: 101.10$.

Shanling M6: RP: 499$ DP: 449.10$.

Shanling M0: RP: 109$ DP: 89.38$.

Shanling M2X: RP: 219$ DP: 186.15$.

Audiosense:-

We all know Audiosense makes some amazing pairs of in-ear monitors with elegant looks and immersive and lively sound output. They have a huge range of in-ear monitors across various price segments. Famous products include the Audiosense T800, a perfectly crafted pair with eight Knowles BA units on each side. You can grab these at never before prices during the 11.11 sale.

Audiosense T800: RP: 298$ DP: 268.20$.

Audiosense DT200: RP: 149$ DP: 134.10$.

Audiosense AQ3: RP: 179$ DP: 146.78$.

Audiosense AQ7: RP: 498$ DP: 448.20$.

Hidizs:-

Hidizs AP80 Pro is one of the best Hi-res players under the 200$ price segment. It offers a high-quality audio experience with a professional dual DAC setup and a balanced 2.5mm headphone out port. Not only Hi-res players, but they also manufacture very good sounding IEMs including the Mermaid MS1 and more. Check out the deals on Hidizs products below.

Hidizs AP80: RP: 139$ DP: 109.81$.

Hidizs AP80 Pro: RP: 169$ DP: 152.99$.

Hidizs Mermaid MS1: RP: 98.69$ DP: 79.23$.

Hidizs MS1 Rainbow: RP: 65$ DP: 49.40$.

Hifiman:-

Hifiman manufactures some amazing pair of headphones. They have the flagship model Hifiman Arya, mid-level monster Hifiman Ananda, and the latest Hifiman Deva that can also be used wirelessly. Check out the crazy deals on Hifiman Headphones below.

Hifiman Ananda: RP: 799$ DP: 699.99$.

Hifiman Deva: RP: 299.99$ DP: 269.99$.

Hifiman Arya: RP: 1599$ DP:  1399$.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Product Launch: SMSL SH-9 THX AAA-888 Balanced Headphone Amp & Gustard X-16 Balanced DAC

It’s an exciting time to be shopping for a new headphone amplifier or DAC setup in tome for the upcoming holidays! Following the SU-9, SMSL are proud to announce the SH-9 amplifier to play complement. On the DAC side, Gustard follow up on their successful A18 with the X16, now featuring the latest dual ESS Sabre ES9068S DAC chips, the new flagship (succeeding the 9038 line) for the company with native MQA rendering. Let’s take a first look.

SMSL SH-9

The SH-9 arrives two years after the SH-8 before it. It aims to fix issues with its predecessor and further improve performance in a small, desktop-friendly footprint. Those familiar with the SU-9 that we recently reviewed here, will find a similarly modern design here with similar dimensions for stacking and high-res colour screen enabling smart GUI front and centre. It remains a balanced amplifier design, utilising the renowned AAA-888 amp chips, the most exceptionally measuring and sophisticated design from THX yet. Though independent measurements of the SH-9 are yet to surface as of the post date of this article, earlier designs such as the SMSL SP200 with the same chip have offered reference-grade performance in measurements and a healthy step up from the immensely popular THX-789. It also appears SMSL know how to implement this chip well as the SH-9 looks to offer slightly higher measurable performance at the same price point in addition to offering a more modern design and interface. Expect a review on THL in the coming week!

The SH-9 launches at $289.99 USD. For purchase and specifications, please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate). Apos Audio are also including both the SU-9 and SH-9 in a bundle on their ensemble program at a discounted price here.

Gustard X-16 DAC

Gustard is a relatively new name in audio, but have certainly garnered a cult following for their cost-effective implementations of flagship hardware. In particular, their previous model, the A18, was one of the best measuring DACs of all times, implementing AKM’s AK4499 chipset. The X16 is their latest model using two of ESS’ latest flagship DAC chips, the ES9068S. In turn, it offers native MQA rendering and seeks to offer summit-fi performance at a mid-range price. Initial independent measurements suggest this may indeed be the case, as the DAC currently holds the 2nd place on Amirm’s DAC SINAD list with the highest place being occupied by a substantially pricier model. It bundles this performance with an OLED display and modern GUI in addition to BT 5.0 support and wide connectivity options.

The X-16 is available for $499.99 USD. For purchase and specifications please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate).

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Ultimate Ears Now Available on Apos Audio

Apos Audio is proud to announce they are now an authorised reseller for Ultimate Ears! If you’ve dabbled in the audio hobby in the past few years, you’d certainly have heard of the Californian company. They’ve had some sensational hits like the UE Reference and UE18+ that remain staple recommendations today. As always, Apos are offering an extended 2-year warranty, free returns and a 30-day lowest price guarantee.

You can browse Apos Audio’s UE collection here and read an excerpt about the company below:

Ultimate Ears has a legendary origin story. Founded in California during the mid-90s by the husband-and-wife team of Jerry and Mindy Harvey, Jerry Harvey was working as the principal sound engineer for Van Halen. Harvey was tasked with creating an earpiece for Alex Van Halen that would filter out unwanted stage noise during live performances and instead concentrate on the desired sounds that the drummer wanted (and needed) in order to play with the band. That initial creation for Van Halen spread by word-of-mouth and eventually became a line of bespoke In-Ear Monitors that would grace the ears of Paul McCartney to Coldplay, or The Rolling Stones to Faith Hill. 

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Deal Alert: Darkvoice 336SE Tube Headphone Amp Hits Lowest Price Ever!

The Darkvoice 336SE is an affordable tube amplifier designed to provide clear sound and amplification. It has enough power for high impedance headphones and hot-swappable tube slots to adjust the sound to listener preference. Apos are currently running a sale of the Darkvoice, at just $259.99 USD, making it the cheapest price this AMP has been available for online!

You can read more about the 336SE and treat yourself to one on Apos Audio (affiliate)

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 300 x 152 x 280 mm
  • Impedance: 32 ~ 600 Ohms
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB
  • Power handling capacity: 1 W
  • Distortion: < 2%
  • Output: 1/4 in (6.3 mm) stereo jack, RCA jack for pre-amp
  • Input: RCA jack

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Giveaway: Topping A90!

To celebrate the holiday season, Apos Audio is giving away a Topping A90. This is Topping’s current flagship amplifier retailing for $499 USD, and the 2nd best-measuring AMP (SNR) on amirm’s Audio Science Review portfolio.

You can enter the giveaway here and see amirm’s review here. Best of luck to all entrants!

Specs :

  • Outputs: 4pin XLR, 4.4mm Balanced, 6.35mm Single Ended ports
  • NFCA Modules (Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier
  • Ultra-Low Noise of 0.2uV
  • Dynamic Range of 145dB
  • Can drive sensitive IEMs to power demanding headphones
  • Pre-Amp Functionality
  • Amp and Pre-Amp performance numbers provided in the images

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Deal Alert: Topping D70 Hits Lowest Price for Apos Audio Sale

Topping’s high-end DAC, the D70, features dual AK4497 DAC chips and full balanced support. Audio Science Review ranks it as one of the best measuring DACs on the market especially when it comes to noise floor and dynamic range. Apos Audio is currently hosting a sale that brings the price from $499.99 down to $419.99, the lowest price recorded online yet!

You can read more about the D70 and treat yourself to one on Apos Audio (affiliate).

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Hifiman DEVA Review – Ode to Progress

Pros – 

Premium design, Well-balanced presentation, Natural midrange voicing, Good imaging, Great BT implementation, Strong value

Cons – 

Cheaper build and feel, Sponge earpads aren’t as comfortable as memory foam

Verdict –

The DEVA’s versatility makes it an easy recommendation, best suiting those looking for wireless convenience for their TV or PC setup without compromising musical performance.


Introduction –

Hifiman is a staple in the audiophile industry, renowned for their high-performance yet cost-effective headphones. Their planar headphones are perhaps most lauded and are wide and frequent recommendations by both users and critics. Having experienced many of their old and new models, I would say that Hifiman’s headphones, in general, carry quite balanced and appealing tonalities. This becomes most exciting when filtered down to a lower asking price and the new DEVA usurps the Sundara as the cheapest headphone in their line-up. It also brings a slightly revised design alongside wireless connectivity from an included Bluetooth module. The DEVA promises the Hifiman sound beloved by so many at a lower price with the added convenience of dual wired/wireless input.

The DEVA is available for $299 USD or $219 without the Bluemini module. You can read more about the DEVA and treat yourself to a pair on Hifiman’s website here.

Specifications –

DEVA

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz

Impedance: 18ohms

Sensitivity: 93.5dB

Weight: 360g (+15g with Bluemini)

Bluemini

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz

Output power: 230mW

THD: <0.1%/1KHz

SNR: 95dB

Battery Life: 7-10hrs (depending on volume and codec)

Weight: 25g

The Pitch –

Bluemini BT Module

The DEVA much like the Ananda revision released last year offers wireless connectivity. However, unlike that model, the headphone itself doesn’t contain any additional circuitry, rather a separate module does the heavy lifting. This is to be taken as a bonus as it permits a completely unadulterated wired experience should users want to extract maximum performance from the headphones with a larger dedicated source. The module itself is also very promising with huge codec support including LDAC, Apt-X HD, Apt-X and AAC. Apt-X low latency is the only notable omission, though source compatibility is limited on this one and regular Apt-X has low enough latency to service videos and movies.

Neo Diaphragm (NsD)

Hifiman’s headphones all employ planar magnetic drivers (PMD) that offer a cleaner transient response than traditional dynamic drivers. Their large surface area combined with more uniform force distribution permits a more physical bass response and sharper imaging. PMD’s also offer lower distortion as they are less susceptible to modal break up. Hifiman take this one step further with NsD that was first introduced with the Sundara if memory serves me correctly. It comprises of a “supernano” diaphragm that is 80% thinner than prior designs equating to an even sharper transient response and increased detail retrieval. Though I am unable to confirm whether this is the same driver as the Sundara, many similarities are to be observed. Further comparisons will follow my sound analysis.

Unboxing – 

DSC08452 (1)

The DEVA has a similar unboxing to the Sundara which is quite rewarding for the consumer. An internal tray slides out from the outer sleeve showcasing the headphones in a satin fabric inlet. There’s a cutout containing the Bluemini module, a 1/4″ adapter, 3.5mm audio cable alongside a type-C USB cable. Overall, a simple yet effective setup for the headphone’s intended uses.

Design & Build –

The DEVA resembles its closest sibling, the Sundara, most while introducing a distinctly different aesthetic with its revised headband design and colour scheme. The colour choice is clean and very appealing to my eyes, a tasteful tanned leather combined with metal-esque satin silver frame. That said, though appearing premium, the construction has obviously been subject to some cost-cutting, being entirely plastic in nature. It’s also a bulkier headphone overall, the Sundara feeling noticeably more premium with its sleeker metal build in the hand. Nonetheless, this does not feel like an explicitly poorly built headphone, with convincing solidity and even joins and finish across all components forming a coherent and well-realised product.

DSC08462

The headband design is also markedly different, a thick and heavily padded unit as opposed to the suspension band on Hifiman’s other models. This is in order to accommodate a single-entry input for the Bluemini module, necessitating wiring running from left to right. In wearing, it provides a relatively low-profile fit, conforming well to my head shape, though those with wider temples may have issue as a result. Still, the consensus appears to suggest this is a comfortable headphone for many. Though heavily padded, I still found the suspension headband on the Sundara to spread the weight of the headphones more evenly which will be something to consider if you plan on using the headphones all day long.

DSC08456

Both the included Type-C and audio cables are pleasant braided units and a nice step up from previous Hifiman accessories. That said, they are still very stiff with a lot of memory, meaning they retain kinks and bends in addition to carrying more microphonic noise than usual. Still, the cable otherwise demonstrates good construction, the fabric jacket is nice as are the metal terminations albeit lacking strain relief of any kind. A nice QOL feature are the split colour jacks, silver for the source and black for the headphone side which makes orientation a bit easier. Altogether, it’s evident that this is a cheaper headphone than the Sundara and Ananda, but it is not a cheap headphone in isolation; and it’s good to see that Hifiman are starting to set higher standards with their build quality.

Fit & Comfort –

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Despite employing a plastic construction, the DEVA remains quite hefty at 360g or 385g with the Bluemini module – making it around 15g heavier than the Sundara. I found that they would still produce a mild hotspot at the top of my head after a few hours while the Sundara would remain comfortable all day long. Meanwhile, we observe a similar earpad construction; cloth on the inner surface and pleather on the internal and external faces. The lush memory foam padding of the Sundara has been replaced with simple sponge here, however, as the hangers now articulate, I still found the DEVA to conform well to my head shape. Still, the DEVA simply doesn’t feel as planted on the head as the Sundara so fit stability is reduced. Though remains sufficient for stationary listening if easily tipped when out and about. In isolation, the DEVA is a comfortable headphone, but it is a noticeably less premium experience compared side by side with the Sundara.

Bluemini Module –

I’m actually quite enthusiastic about the Bluemini, it isn’t compact but is far from as large as it could’ve been. The case is a simple matte plastic but with convincing texture and finish. It feels light but purposefully so, likely to minimise asymmetry of the headphone’s weight when installed. You do notice the additional 15g but it wasn’t even something that caused discomfort nor required me to stop using them. It interfaces via a 4-prong TRRS 3.5mm plug and there’s an indent on the face of the headphone that provides a guiding groove to ensure the connection is stable and reliable. The ability to remove the adapter is a generational step up from the Ananda BT as it permits unimpeded wired use too. The Bluemini is a streamlined wireless experience but also a non-frills one so don’t expect great app support, eQ, etc.

Connectivity

The bottom contains the main controls, one power/MFB and one for pairing in addition to a Type-C connector that both enables charging of the device in addition to firmware updates and USB-DAC functionality. It also houses an LED that denotes connection and battery status. My main qualm is with this indicator LED, it’s very bright and flashes constantly when connected, I’m hoping a firmware update can address this in future. The adapter has very wide BT codec support (LDAC, Apt-X HD, Apt-X, AAC and SBC), essentially as good as you could ask for in 2020. Pairing is intuitive and it reconnects to previously paired devices in just a few seconds. Wireless range is also good but not the best I’ve experienced.

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I was able to traverse within the same room while maintaining a rock-solid connection, but leaving the room quickly saw the sound become intermittent. They do reconnect quickly, but again, work best with line of sight to the transmitter as with all wireless devices. Those with a home-theatre setup or larger living room may want to position the transmitter in front of the screen while those at any size PC setup will likely have no issues. Latency was also perfectly usable, with just very slight lip sync when watching videos, one of the lesser affected BT implementations I’ve come across likely due to the wide codex support. I don’t personally see a lot of users buying these for commute but know there is a market for that. Of course, there is no passive isolation, but the connection was strong enough not to drop on the train or in the CBD where there’s substantially more interference than home environments.

Battery Life

When connected over BT, Hifiman quote 7-10hrs of runtime depending on volume, and I was receiving a good 8.5hrs consistently on 25% volume and found maximum volume surprisingly generous. In USB-DAC mode, the runtime curiously drops to a quoted 4-5hrs due to the higher maximum volume. Considering the sensitivity of these headphones, necessitating a dedicated amplifier when wired, these are both very good results and very usable for the headphone’s intended purposes – think, a few hours of wireless use with a TV setup or PC. I’ll be detailing my sound impressions of the module below.

Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Product Launch: Shozy Black Hole Single DD Flagship!

We’ve been long-time fans of Shozy on THL, having covered their products from the company’s inception. They’ve delivered impressive performance time and again in addition to catering towards unique niches such as with their screen-less DAPs. The Black Hole supersedes the Pola range as their new in-ear flagship. It does so with a single dynamic driver setup as has become commonplace with competitors from Moondrop, Final and Dunu, just to name a few.

The Black Hole has been co-engineered with KOOK electro-acoustic engineering labs from the USA. The team spent 2 years tuning and optimising the acoustics, finally landing on a stunning semi-open design. At the front, we observe multiple circular mechanical damping devices to control standing waves and lower distortion. The internal acoustics have also been optimised to tailor the signature of the driver to their specifications. This is certainly an intriguing approach to the in-ear form factor!

The Black Hole retails for $799 USD and can be ordered from HiFiGO here.

Original Resource is The Headphone List