Author Archives: Ryan Soo

Product Launch: Topping D10B Balanced DAC!

Topping have gathered a huge following lately for their objective-backed designs. The D10S was one of their most popular DACs, a well-performing model that was also one of the most affordable on the market. Its shortfall was its lack of balanced connectivity, but that changes now with the new D10B.

Topping’s latest entry-level DAC uses ESS’ ES9038Q2M chip and XMOS XU208 USB processor for huge decoding power up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256. Chiefly, the D10B trades the single-ended RCA outputs of the D10s for two balanced TRS outputs cross-compatible with XLR systems using adaptors (included).

The Topping D10B is now available for $139 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO!

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Soft Ears RSV Review – Mastering Versatility

Pros –

Flawless gloss finish, Comfortable and well-isolating design, Quality stock cable, Highly refined and versatile tuning, Excellent dynamics for a BA design, Jack of all trades master of many, Easy to drive

Cons –

Treble extension and sub-bass definition could be improved, Soundstage depth just above average in-class

Verdict –

The RSV is one of the most well-rounded and instantly likeable earphones I’ve tested, representing an excellent value proposition even at its elevated price tag.

Introduction –

Soft Ears are the luxury division of the now widely renowned Moondrop, seeking to offer a more refined experience at more premium price tiers. Their product portfolio is more focused and mostly high-end focused. This starts at their all-out co-flagships, the 10x BA driver RS10 reference monitor and their Tribrid Cerberus. Alternatively, the Turii offers a high-end single-DD configuration that has become more popularised in recent years. The RSV is their cheapest model if not a cheap earphone in isolation. The team spent 1 year honing it to perfection, aiming to offer a scaled back version of the RS10 experience with the same technologies and engineering on a simplified and easier to drive 5-BA platform. Compared to the flat out reference RS10, the RSV has been slightly reworked to provide a heavier emphasis on dynamics. Its engaging yet immaculately clean sound, ease of driving and more accessible price point makes it a great choice for audio enthusiasts.

The RSV comes in at $729.99 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit here.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank the team at Soft Ears very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the RSV, RS10 and Cerberus for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. I paid a slightly reduced cost for the earphones in return for honest evaluation and will attempt to be as objective as possible.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Drivers: 5x BA
  • Crossover: 6-Component, 3-way
  • Sensitivity: 125dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 40kHz
  • Socket: 0.78mm, 2-pin

Behind the Design –

Tuned Acoustics & Crossovers

The combination of electronic crossover and passive filters has enabled Soft Ears to achieve their desired note presentation in addition to their ideal frequency response. Using a 3rd order LRC filter for bass, impedance + low-pass for the midrange and film capacitors for the high-end, the company was able to achieve both whilst maintaining almost linear phase. This is aided by the 3D-printed shell and internal acoustics, leading to maximised extension, resolution and sharper imaging.

VDSF Tuning

Moondrop pioneered the VDSF tuning curve which is a combination of the diffuse field neutral and Harman Curves which have become industry standards as of late. Every model lies on a spectrum between both. The Moondrop sound has become hugely popular with users and critics alike due to its combination of timbral accuracy, balance and improved listenability over time compared to the vanilla Harman and DF Neutral curves. The RSV represents one of the most refined takes on it yet.

Unboxing –

The RSV has the most exclusive unboxing of the Soft Ears line-up with a large magnetic box that folds open to reveal the leather carrying case and accessories within a separate box. The case contains the earphones and cable. Each earpiece comes protected within a fabric pouch that prevent scratches during shipping. The accessories include 3 pairs of silicone tips in addition to 3 pairs of memory foam tips that offer a warmer, softer sound. In addition, a cleaning tool is provided alongside a metal Soft Ears card. Of note, the tips have an especially large bore size which can limit aftermarket pairings. The stock tips also have a seat promoting a more homogenous fit depth, likely in order to provide a more consistent sound between listeners. As there was such a heavy emphasis on tonality on this earphone, I decided to stick with the stock ear tips, of course, experiment for your preference if this is not to your liking.

Design –

As a huge car fanatic, the RSV invoked some primal instinct in me. From the sleek, smooth yet symmetrical styling to the gold foil inlay atop carbon fibre faceplates, the RSV advertises its sporty, high-performance nature. I am a huge fan of the combination of texture and simple yet flawlessly finished 3D printed piano black that oozes quality even in the absence of metal and its associated density in the hand. With its solid 3D-printed design, the RSV feels far more substantial than your average acrylic monitor. If I had one complaint, perhaps the nozzle could have a small ridge to help tips stay attached as those with wet wax may find themselves having to clean them frequently.   

Up top are 2-pin 0.78mm recessed connectors compatible with a wide range of aftermarket options. The stock cable leaves little to be desired, with a smooth matte jacket and very sturdy yet minimally cumbersome construction. The wires are a little springy though it is supple enough to coil without issue and microphonic noise isn’t exacerbated either. The pre-moulded ear guides are comfortable and the connectors complete the aesthetic with their clean matte black finish. Altogether a well-considered package, perhaps a modular or balanced termination could have been employed. Arguably, their use of the widely adopted 3.5mm standard is in line with the company’s intentions that this monitor should be enjoyed from almost any source.

Fit & Isolation –

This is a medium-sized earphone and its fit will be reminiscent to anyone familiar with faux-custom style monitors. It sits comfortably in the outer ear and its rounded design is devoid of features that may cause hotspot formation over time. It protrudes slightly, meaning they won’t be suitable for sleeping on, but the RSV isn’t especially bulky either. For my ears, they were comfortable for hours on end and I achieved a strong, consistent seal. Due to its fully sealed design and well-shaped body, the RSV is very stable and forms a great seal with its slightly deeper fit. Those sensitive to wearing pressure will have a similar experience here to other sealed in-ears that said. In addition, wind noise isn’t an issue and isolation is strong, great for commute and even travel, especially with foam tips installed. This also means the earphones don’t require huge bass emphasis to sound great in louder listening environments.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown & Source Pairings

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Product Launch: Sivga SV021 Premium Solid-Wood Headphones

We recently reviewing Sivga’s Phoenix open-back dynamic driver headphones where we were impressed by its gorgeous build and warm, natural tuning. The company is back with a brand new model sporting a similar solid-wood design alongside a more traditional padded headband and solid metal frame.

Perhaps most exciting is what’s inside. It features a 50mm dynamic driver on each side, with 3mm high-performance Nd-Fe-B magnets, specially developed copper-clad aluminium voice coil and a polycarbonate diaphragm. Sivga reason this setup provides a natural and smooth sound whilst remaining efficient and easy to drive.

The SC021 is now available for $179 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO!

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Product Launch: Aune X5s High-Resolution Desktop Music Player!

Aune Audio is a name that is highly regarded in the high-end audio space. The company just launched the new X5s 8th Anniversary Edition music player, the 4th generation of the X5 with a new Freescale 600M processor, a low-level hardware solution player framework. This enables the player to decode high-resolution audio signals up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 in addition to supporting key digital player clock input interface.

The 8th Anniversary X5s retails for $299 USD. You can read all about the X5s and purchase a unit for yourself on HiFiGO!

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Giveaway: Apos is Giving Away TWO xDuoo MT-602 Tube Amplifiers!

Apos Audio is proud to announce they are teaming up with xDuoo to giveaway not one, but TWO MT-602 Tube Class-A headphone amplifiers. The MT-602 provides a dual-tube setup and 6 times the output power of past xDuoo sources, allowing it to drive even the most difficult headphones.

Without further ado, you can see the details of entry linked here, the giveaway will be running until the 16th of August and the winners will be chosen the day after.

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Product Launch: Apos Introduces their Flow Custom Cables!

While IEM cable-rolling has is a common point of conversation, the same attention hasn’t been applied to headphones. This strikes as peculiar as many come with very basic cables that harden over time and leave much to be desired in terms of ergonomics as well. Apos Audio are seeking to address this with their new line of custom headphone cables featuring tons of termination options to suit models from all leading headphone brands.

Each unit is made by hand and features multi-layer shielding. They use OCC 6N pure copper wires and Neutrik professional-grade terminations rated for reliable operation over 1000+ mating cycles. The Flow cable features hard-wearing braided fabric sleeving available in red and black. Perhaps most importantly, Apos has priced these cables very frugally, starting at just $109 USD meaning you can get a quality cable for about the same cost as an OEM replacement.

You can peruse their current selection and treat yourself to a cable on Apos Audio!

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Product Launch: xDuoo TA-26 Tube Amp!

xDuoo has been on a roll with their affordable high-output tube amps, the TA-26 being their latest addition. The TA-26 is an all-analogue amplifier with a focus on simplicity and delivering a classic tube sound. This is topped off with chrome guard rails, aluminium grills and a sleek, retro aesthetic.

In addition, the TA-26 offers preamplifier functionality to enhance its versatility. Tube rolling is available to tailor the sound to listener preference. It offers 500mW of output power and comes stock with 6N8P and 6N5P tubes.

The TA-26 retails for $319 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to one on Apos Audio!

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Nostalgia Audio Benbulbin Review – Origin Story

Pros –

Fantastic stock cable, Excellent fit and isolation, Well-balanced, Super tight and defined bass with tasteful sub-bass boost, Refined treble, Highly transparent tone throughout, Very sharp imaging, Great separation

Cons –

Deep fit may be uncomfortable for some, Thinner midrange makes them a little track sensitive, Tip/fit depth sensitive

Verdict –

With its exceptionally solid fit, class-leading cable and balanced sound that doesn’t sacrifice bass extension and power, Nostalgia Audio have created one of the most versatile IEMs in its price class.

Introduction –

Nostalgia Audio are a new kid on the block but that doesn’t mean they lack experience or talent. The company is situated in Hong Kong and is the passion project of 3 passionate audio enthusiasts and professional – Adrian, Artanis and Bernie. The company serves as a response to the increasing inflation seen in the audiophile market. They do so by leveraging the scale of multiple larger companies for each component; coordinating to achieve a high-quality product at a reasonable price that may not otherwise be possible for a smaller company. While the company began with custom cables, the Benbulbin is their first IEM – and an ambitious one at that. This is a high-end 5-driver hybrid earphone featuring an 11mm Ti-coated DD for the bass, 2x mid BA and 2x BA tweeters. This is woven together with a 3-way crossover and 3-bore design alongside Polish 3D-printed shells with wooden faceplates.

The Benbulbin retails for $899 USD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit here

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Bernie and Adrian from Nostalgia Audio very much their quick communication and for reaching out and providing me with the Benbulbin 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.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Drivers: 1x Ti-Coated DD, 2x Mid BA, 2x High BA
  • Crossover: 3-way, 3 Bore
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 19kHz
  • Impedance: 11 Ohms
  • Isolation: -26dB

Behind the Design

Tuned Drivers

The Benbulbin targets a neutral/reference sound by implementing a 5-hybrid driver setup. Bass is covered by a titanium coated DD. Titanium has the highest strength to weight of any metal, meaning a very light yet strong diaphragm can be achieved. While not as stiff as Beryllium, Titanium coated drivers bring real benefits to transient response, lower distortion and higher overall detail retrieval. 

3D Printed Shell

Nostalgia Audio utilise Polish 3D printed shells to achieve not only a high level of aesthetic quality, but also to permit a better ergonomic experience. In addition, the granular changes permit by 3D printing have enabled the company to modify the acoustics surrounding each driver to optimise the frequency response.

Custom Cable

Also included is Nostalgia Audio’s own Prelude custom cable. These are hand crafted in Japan and implement a 4-wire square braid with 26AWG high-purity silver plated copper conductors. It assumes a Type 4 Litz design featuring a damping core to reduce vibrations, reduce resistance and reduce skin and proximity effect relative to non-Litz wires. The Prelude retails for approx. $150 USD, adding value to the overall package.

Unboxing –

Where usually I am accustomed to a relatively sparse unboxing from newer brands, the Benbulbin provided a surprisingly complete and comprehensive unboxing experience. I would say this is indicative that this is a serious venture for the company given there must have been a fair amount of outlay to realise this. Removing the satin outer sleeve reveals a large hard box. Inside are laser cut inlets for the earphones, case and tips. The earphones ship with a lovely green leather magnetic case that complements the faceplate design. As far as ear tips go, the Benbulbin comes with 3 pairs of generic silicone tips with an additional box of Azla Xelastec tips and Dekoni washable foam tips. A cleaning tool is also provided in order to maintain performance over time. Overall, a pleasing and comprehensive selection. Arguably, Final E tips would have better complemented the Benbulbin’s brighter sound signature though the Xelastec tips do offer a unique sound and reliable fit.

Design and Fit –

The Benbulbin is a curious earphone to look at, undoubtedly handsome with a colourful artistic flair imbued by its stained wooden faceplates that offer a unique pattern for each set. This is delightfully contrasted by a piano black acrylic complexion enabled by the Polish 3D-printing process. Relative to class-leaders in this regard, the Benbulbin does have a few rough joins around the faceplate and some undulations that signify this is a hand-finished product. Nonetheless, nothing harms the fit or comfort in any way, just don’t expect machine perfect precision with the finish.

Up top, the earphone employs 0.78mm 2-pin connectors. The cable is sensational, among the best I’ve seen included with any IEM. It is one of the most compliant cables I’ve felt with absolutely zero memory and minimal microphonic noise. The smooth, transparent jacket coils easily for storage and is highly tangle resistant. It has robust yet case-friendly metal connectors backed up by high-purity SPC conductors in a Type 4 Litz geometry. The pre-moulded ear guides are also well-shaped and very comfortable, forming a very strong first impression regarding fit and finish throughout. I would be glad had I paid retail for this cable, the quality is excellent.

Fit & Isolation –

While the shells are shapely, they are also large and elongated. As the height and length of the earphones is not too large, they don’t form hotspots with the outer ear albeit they do protrude quite a bit as a result of their depth. The elongated nozzles and narrow profile mean the earphones provide an especially deep fit and I found sizing down tips here to provide the best experience. Prioritising a deep fit, Nostalgia Audio are able to create a more consistent sound amongst various listeners if at the cost of some comfort relative to a shallower fitting design.

Accordingly, they never quite disappear in the ear, though I did find the nozzle to be well-shaped and nicely angled. In turn, the Benbulbin provided me with a consistent seal and a very stable, locked-in fit. Driver flex also isn’t apparent and wearing pressure is reduced to a large extent by the vented design. The strong seal and deep fit rewards with very strong passive noise isolation and an exceptionally locked-in fit. Despite the presence of faceplate port, there is minimal wind noise and isolation is easily sufficient for commute and even air travel.

Next Page: Sound & Source Pairings

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Product Launch: Moondrop Variations 2EST + 2BA + DD IEM!

Moondrop is a name on everyone’s mind, producing winner after winner. The Blessing 2 was perhaps one of their most famous models, that offered an excellent mix between refined, Harman-inspired tonality and a resolving 5-driver hybrid setup. The new variations seek to build atop this foundation. From the outset, we see a Blessing inspired shell design, now with smoke acrylic shell as opposed to transparent. In addition, the faceplate design has been revised with a new geometric pattern and sand-blasted finish.

But it’s what’s inside that’s really exciting, the Variations uses a Sonion’s high-performance EST tweeter system complemented by two custom Soft Ears BA drivers for the midrange and a 10mm LCP dynamic driver woofer. These drivers have been tuned according to the company’s popular VDSF tuning curve and 3D-printed acoustics promise near full frequency phase coherence. A 6N high-purity crystal copper cable completes the experience.

Perhaps most surprising is the price point, at $520 USD, the Variations undercuts the vast majority of earphones with such a comprehensive driver setup. This is shaping up to be another strong entry into the Moondrop lineup! You can read more about the Variations and treat yourself to a unit on Apos Audio (affiliate) and HiFiGO!

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Product Launch: Shanling X Moondrop X Tanchjim Limited Edition M3X!

Shanling has partnered with Tanchjim and Moondrop to provide a limited edition version of their new M3X DAP. The companies have joined forces to re-tune the M3X in order to achieve better pairings with Moondrop and Tanchjim earphones.

Though using the same components, the companies tease a warmer and better-controlled output with a darker background as compared to the vanilla M3X. In addition, a unique white leather case is included to match the new clean silver design with an anime-inspired rear-glass panel.

The M3X LE is available in limited quantities, with only 500 units available for international sale. It retails for $430 USD with shipments beginning mid-June. You can read more about the M3X Collab and treat yourself to a unit here!

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