Author Archives: Suman Sourav Meher

IKKO OH10 and OH1 review: Still have it

INTRODUCTION:

IKKO is one of those brands which exploded into the audiophile scene. They did not come up with a lot under their belt but has two very good IEMs with consumer oriented tunings. Both the OH10 and OH1 have done exceptionally well all across the world and is one of the hottest selling earphone in their price segments but of the two it’s the more premium OH10 which reigns supreme. IKKO seems calm about their strategies. They are not launching products left and right but are trying to time their launches. IKKO’s portfolio is not a very busy one, after the huge success of their IEMs they introduced a couple of DAC/Amps (and a refresh to the OH1, OH1S very recently) too.

Both the IEMs I have here have the exactly same driver configuration. Both have a single 10mm polymer composite titanium film dynamic drive paired with single Knowles 33518.

These IEMs were launched at $199 and $140 for OH10 and OH1 respectively but to make these IEMs more competent IKKO has reduced their prices. OH10 is $40 cheaper taking the price down to $159 while the OH1 can be bought for $100 from Drop. Both these IEMs do not have many color options. The OH10 comes in metal grey color with chrome finish on it while the OH1 gas a matte blue paint on it.

I have had a few good IEMs under $200, BQEYZ Spring 2, Summer and TRN BA8 and will bring the Campfire Audio Honeydew occasionally for comparisons.

Get one for yourself from these links:

https://audio46.com/blogs/headphones/ikko-oh10-obsidian-hybrid-iem-review

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

IKKO has implemented exactly same packaging for both the OH10 and OH1. They come in a colorful outer paper package with a cardboard box in it. These IEMs have an elegant yet simple unboxing experience. Upon opening the flap an envelope greets is. It has some product details and warranty details on it. Below that the ear pieces and a cufflink are stuffed inside a foam pad while the all leather carry pouch is placed aside it. Under the carry pouch 3 pair dark grey and 3 pair of smoke white tips with black flanges can be found.

HOW ARE THE CABLES:-

I am not a fan of this kind of cables being packed with IEMs over $100 but since this cable has its own aesthetical appeal due to use of metal parts in the 3.5mm jack, Y splitter and 2pins. Both the IEMs ship with the same 4 core OFC silver plated copper cable but have different color to them. The OH10 ships with black and the OH1 ships with a grey cable.

Both the cables have exactly same profile and feel to them. These cable are supple and do not have much memory to them. The braiding is slightly on the stiffer side but it doesn’t make the cable stiff. The 90 degree 3.5mm jack is convenient when gaming and the cable guides are very comfortable on the ear. I found the lack of cable slider to be a bit bothering since the cable up from Y splitter is thin and can tangle easily.

BUILD AND ERGONOMICS:-

Both the IEMs have exactly same design, the triangular back plate have similar dented pattern but different finishing and housing material. The OH10 has heavier body with titanium coating on the outside of a copper shell. There is platinum coating on the inside.

The cheaper OH1 has aerospace alloy hosing and is much lighter than the OH10 at just 6g.

Both the IEMs do not have a semi custom type shell. These nozzles are 5.7mm wide but are deep enough for a secure and stable fit. Protection on the 2.5mm socket give these earpieces an unique character. Both the IEMs have two pressure releasing vents, one can be found aside the 2pin socket while the other is near the nozzle’s base.

PAIRING WITH SOURCES:-

Both the IEMs have exactly same specifications too.

Impedance: 18 ohms.

Sensitivity: 106dB.

Frequency Response Range: 20Hz-40kHz.

Thanks to the highly sensitivity of 106db and source friendly impedance of 18ohm both these Ikko IEMs are very easy to drive from most of the mobile phones. But obviously providing these IEMs a bit of power yields better stage and details. No need to worry, it is very good with decent mid range mobile phones too.

The post IKKO OH10 and OH1 review: Still have it first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

DUNU Zen Review : Zentastic!!

INTRODUCTION:

DUNU, a brand all of us are aware of. They have been making some of the best IEMs in their respective price brackets for long. Black in 2012-13 they introduced DN-2000J which took the whole IEM by storm. That hybrid was the IEM to get. There on DUNU has been making some of the best hybrid earphones. Then they struck gold with their Studio line up. Studio SA6 has been loved by both consumers and reviewers. It is one of the best IEM for under $700 if not the Best. In the same year DUNU came up with their Eclipse series which comprises of single dynamic driver IEMs, led by the flagship Luna.

But here I have their Zen. Launched late last year, Zen is the 2nd IEM in the Eclipse series. Zen does have a fancy story behind it but drops the flagship beryllium driver in favor of a Magnesium-Aluminum alloy dome with nano-porous amorphous carbon coated driver with a fully independent suspension system. It comes in only one color scheme, black, and is priced at $700.

Get one from these links:

https://www.dunu-topsound.com/product-page/zen

It faces fierce competition from other single Dynamic driver IEMs like Shozy Blackhole, Moondrop Illumination and Cayin Fantasy, all I have is Blackhole and will pit Zen against the IMR Mia and Fibae 4 too.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

DUNU has upped the packaging and unboxing game. SA6 gave a straight forward unboxing experience, Zen has a more elegant more expressive package. To match the Color of the IEM the whole packaging is Black with golden letters. This time around the earpieces are stuffed in foam and the cable is placed just aside it. The switch pins (all 3, none is pre-attached to the cable) and 6 pair of tips can be found under them. Of these 6 pairs 3 are of smoked black tips and the other 3 pairs are Sony tips. A set of smoked white tips, cable clip, cleaning tool, tips carry pouch and an airline adapter can be found in the carry case placed inside a paper box aside the tips set.

If you want to, you can watch my unboxing video here:

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

Most of the Chinese brands have been shipping their earphones with good cables these days, both aesthetically and functionally. DUNU Zen borrows the SA6’s DUW-03 cable. It is one of the best stock cable with IEMs under $1000. This is a classy looking 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper cable with patented dunu quick-switch modular plug system. The 8 core cable looks strong and can withstand some abuse. It has a skin friendly layer of TPU on each core which is fairly supple but is bouncy and a bit on the stiffer side, it does not generate a lot of microphonics but is slightly on the higher side compared to other cables. The biggest USP of this cable are the additional quick-switch plugs and unlike the cheaper models. Both 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced plugs come out of the box. It is a very functional and good quality stock cable which is ready to be used with a variety of sources.

BUILD AND FIT:-

On DUNU Zen’s official page, one can find a handful of slides exhibiting the design concept but if you pay a bit more attention the design language is much more similar to the past models from DK line up and Luna. Yes, it has changes but the off-body MMCX connector and the dome type shell have enough resemblance. There are changes, which is mostly at the back plate design. According to DUNU the inner body had wavelet design but it’s the Back plate which gives it distinction. That conical plate with pressure relieving vent gives Zen its unique identity. It does not have a semi custom type design but the small form factor gives it a secure and comfortable feel. Aptly long nozzle and plays a role too. The nozzle is very wide and can accommodate T400 size tips with ease.

Built with 316 Stainless Steel, Zen is heavy, considering its size it is really heavy at 21g. It is an IEM built like a tank and can take a lot of abuse.

The post DUNU Zen Review : Zentastic!! first appeared on The Headphone List.

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Product Launch : Copplinn Alula

Copplinn Sound and Engineered is a relatively new brand with a couple of IEMs under their belt. Copplinn is very confident about the Alula. It houses a single Liquid Silicone Driver which has a thickness of just 0.1mm. According to Copplinn it delivers Best Woofer and Full-Band Sound Quality with an IPX8 protection. Copplinn has decided to equip their IEMs with hand crafted wooden housings and the Alula comes with 3 different type of wood. Alula with Walnut and Cherry wood shells is priced at $250 while the Olive wood demands a premium of $100.

Alula incorporates patent pending Frequency Filter System along with 3.5 and 13.5 kHz resonance blocking technology for the best possible sound output. Interestingly Copplinn’s wood usage is not restricted to the IEM’s shell, these IEMs ship with excellent looking wooden carry cases too. Accompanying the Alula along with the wooden carry case is a pure copper MMCX cable.

Get one for yourself from this link:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/926345296/copplinn-alula-cheery?ref=shop_home_active_1

Specification

Body:

  • Titanium Nozzle
  • Heat process Sweet Cherry Wood housing

Driver:

Cable:

  • %99.9 Pure Copper 4 channel cable 
  • 2.5, 3.5, 4.4 mm connectors options
  • Rechangeable mmcx
  • Silver wiring and soldering interior mechanics
  • All connectors and Y-split made with chrome plated

Technology:

  • Frequency Filtering System patenting by Copplinn
  • 3.5 and 13.5 kHz resonance blocking
  • Custom sound design options
  • Absorb harsh and redundant frequencies

Accessories:

  • Copplinn Leather Case
  • Leather Organizer 
  • S,M,L size eartips
  • Solid Walnut Wooden Box
  • Collar Clip

Read more about the IEM here:

https://www.copplinn.com/

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Empire Ears Hero Review : Bass to the forth with details in heart

INTRODUCTION:-

I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t heard about the Empire Ears. They make some of the best IEMs one can buy. Few years ago I reviewed their Bravado and it is an IEM I still fee is excellent for a bassy and caller sound signature. They have launched a lot of IEMs since then. Recently they came up with two hybrid earphones. Empire Ears Odin ($3399) is the flagship while the HERO I am working on is the lower high end IEM (Some can say its upper mid range IEM but anything over $1000 has to be labeled high as far as I am concerned). It houses one 9mm W9+ sub-woofer and 3 BA drivers in a 4-Way synX Crossover Network.

The Hero comes in both universal and custom fit versions and both the versions start at $1349. It doesn’t have any other color scheme for the universal fit and one has to be contained with the black smoke marble type face plate which in itself looks classy.

In their words:

“Hero (Universal)

Hero is relentless, fierce and unapologetic – a renunciation of rules, preconceptions and everything that’s expected from it. It represents a tour de force of Empire’s expertise and craftsmanship, elevating musicality presentation to a level non-existent in its tier. With DNA sourced directly from Legend X and Zeus XIV, Hero reveres our past to emulate flagship levels of performance without the flagship admission.”

It faces plenty of competition from IEMs like a various brands but I will compare it with the Unique Melody Mirage, Vision Ears VE6XC and Nocturnal Eden.

Get one from these links:

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:-

The first thing I noticed about the hero box is the heft. It has a very interesting packaging. Most of the time the IEM and all the accessories are placed in a single compartment but the Hero comes in a layered box. Lifting the upper lid exhibits the IEM and the cable but all other accessories are placed in a sliding compartment under it.

When you pay $1349 you get a 4 core Alpha cable made in collaboration with effect audio. A heavy all metal “Pandora Case”, 5 pair of Final type E tips in 5 sizes can be found at the bottom compartment. A cleaning cloth and cleaning tool can be found inside the carry case.

Here is my unboxing video:

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

Empire Ears have been shipping their IEMs with excellent cables long before this trend caught up. They have Effect Audio as their partner in crime. Hero ships with Alpha IV cable, in their words:

“At Empire Ears we believe that an extraordinary IEM requires an extraordinary cable. We’re proud to introduce Alpha-IV (A4); a premium handcrafted 4 core cable comprised of a proprietary 26AWG UPOCC Litz Copper with multi-size stranding. The advantage of multi-sized stranded design within the same encapsulations enables A4 to achieve distinct highs and details due to the signal transmission speed in thinner cable strands, while the thicker size cable strands deliver smoother bass and mids.”

One can choose 2.5mm, 3.5mm or 4.4mm terminations while placing the order. I do not see a lot of differences with the last gen cable. This cable too has the similar kind of memory problem. It is not the supplest cable but one has to keep in mind that litz cables are a bit stiff. Thankfully the 4 core cable is not heavy but the 3.5mm jack is on the heavier side though. The cable splitter is small and do not add weight to the cable while the cable/chin slider is very small and functional. Cable guides are easy on the ear and have a secure feel to them.

BUILD AND ERGONOMIC:-

I have been working a handful of IEMs in various forms but the Empire Ears Hero has one of the best fit. The Hero is made out of acrylic with layers of resin on it. It is sturdy and strong, nothing to complain about the build but might not survive a fall on solid surfaces from a 3ft+ height. Yes, it’s not the strongest material on the market but it’s fairly light weight and doesn’t feel heavy inside the ears making it more pleasing.

It incorporates a 3 bore design and has a cute looking bass vents at the side of the shell.

The best thing about these is the slightly longer nozzle, making the IEM get a bit deeper into the ear giving a very secure fit. The nozzle has a bit of lip which lets the tip sit without slipping out. Kudos to the final E type tips too, they have excellent grip inside the ear. Compared to some other IEMs this can feel a bit bigger than needed but the size is not problematic. It has a small wing type design to provide some stability.

The post Empire Ears Hero Review : Bass to the forth with details in heart first appeared on The Headphone List.

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Fiio FD5 review : The budget flagship

INTRODUCTION:-

I dont think there is anyone who hasnt heard about Fiio, if not used a product Fiio. They are one of the biggest household names in the audiophile market. They make some of the most popular products in their respective price range and has been making some of the most interesting consumer products for the last few years. All kind of audiophile products can be found under their name. They started with speakers, small amps and then DAPs. Their X5 was one of the best audio players on the market at that time. They started adding earphones to their inventory. Fiio F1 and F3 were mildly successful but then they came up with their Hybrid F9 pro IEM which was one of the most successful IEM back then. Since then they have ventured into various price brackets and very recently launched the Fiio FD5, their single dynamic driver flagship.

It houses a 12mm Beryllium coated dynamic driver which uses N52 magnet with 1.5 Tesla of magnetic flux which is tuned to for less distortion and accurate sound production. FD5 follows the market trend and ships with a lot of accessories which includes switchable plugs and interchangeable nozzles. That’s not it, it too has an open back design for an expanded stage. It ships with only chrome paintjob and has a retail price of $319 or 28990 INR.

It faces competition from a lot other earphones, UM 3DT, BGVP DM8 and Audiosense T800 are a few of them.

Get one for yourself from these links:

Indians will have to wait a bit but these authorized sellers will have them once the Covid situation is under control.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:-

Fiio FD5 gives an interesting unboxing experience. It ships with a huge retail box. The first thing that greets us is the IEM and beautiful looking HB5 carry case. The cable is placed under the earphone in a paper compartment and all the tips (inserted in foam) are placed under it. Few more accessories like the extra plugs, a pair of narrow bore nozzles, a cleaning tool and Final Audio MMCX removal tool are placed in a paper box under the carry case.

Watch the detailed unboxing:

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

I am big supporter of good quality cables with all IEMs. Even when the cable is not the best sounding one, it should be complimenting the looks of the IEM at least. If the IEM is priced over $100, aesthetics matters. Fiio used to ship their IEMs with average cables when they started bit have been providing very good cables with all of their earphones. The specialty of this cable is its swappable plug arrangement. Unscrew it from the metal jacket, pull the plug out and insert the desired termination in to the notch lined up with the groove.

It is an 8 strand monocrystalline silver plated copper cable. It utilizes Litz Type 2 structure with 19cores in each strand with a diameter of 24awg. Unlike the BGVP cable this Fiio cable is not very supple and has some memory to it. This tightly braided cable with a bit of stiffness can induce some amount of Microphonics but it’s not bad. Compared to competition Fiio cable feels premium and compliments the chrome colored FD5 aesthetically.

The cable guides are supple and hold the ears securely without being uncomfortable or loose. The cable splitter is minimal in size and weight. The cable slider or chin slider is slightly on the tighter side. The straight jack is heavy due to the mechanism inside it but feels solid to the hand. The MMCX connectors fit tightly in the socket.

BUILD AND FIT :-

FD5 has a lot going for it here. Fiio says it has “A unique timeless industrial design”. In their words:

“The FD5 is designed for comfort and stunning looks. The curves are inspired by majestic mountains and waterfalls. It also effectively reduces unwanted sound reflections.”

Fiio FD5 has stainless steel housing with chrome finishing, indeed, it looks stunning. The 3D embossed face plate gives it more character. Fiio says this face plate helps in reducing harmonic distortion and the curved cylindrical inner body reduces resonance and produces more accurate sound.

All this things aside I like the nozzle design. It is not shallow and has a lip which helps with better tracking with the tips. The body is not a lot ergonomically designed but has the curve at the right places to feel fairly comfortable even for longer hours.

The internals have a few interesting features too. First of all the driver opening is not aligned with the nozzle. It is off centered and Fiio says it helps with phase reduction and more accurate imaging. The semi open “Volcanic Field” design also helps with distortion reduction by relieving the air pressure. Even after all this it still have a small pressure releasing vent at front.

Sound quality on next page…

The post Fiio FD5 review : The budget flagship first appeared on The Headphone List.

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Unique Melody 3DT : Unique for sure

I don’t think there are many who are not aware of Unique Melody. It is one of the oldest and one of the most desirable Brands. They were one of the first brands to come up with planar IEMs, the ME1. Unique Melody used to cater to heavy rollers. Maven and Mentor are their flagship IEMs which most of the average buyers can only dream of. Thankfully UM has introduced some mid budget IEMs recently. Their MEST Mini can be call as a mid budget IEM but the recently released UM 3DTerminator 3DT is more affordable with a fairly unique configuration.

3DT houses 3 dynamic drivers in total, all of them are dynamic drivers. It has two 7mm compound diaphragm dynamic drivers for the bass (which is kind of strange, some IEMS dont even have two BA for bass in this price) and one 10mm CNT dynamic driver for mids and highs. Priced at $399 officially (retails for $319 now) It comes with a unique wood and resin compound shell giving each unit its unique design.

It faces tough competition from similarly priced IEMs likes BGVP DM8, DK-2001, Fiio FD5 and a lot many.

Get one from these links:

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

3DT comes in a small and tidy retail box with a simple packaging. It does not have any trickiness to it, leading to a fairly simple unboxing experience. First accessory that greets us is the ever so common UM zipper carry case, its an Italian PU leather case made by Dignis, it is of semi hard type, fairly spacious but isn’t crush proof. It looks funky nevertheless. The IEM and cables are placed inside the case. All the accessories are placed inside a paper box placed under the case. There is 3 pair of silicone tips in S/M/L sizes. A UM warranty card and cleaning cloth are the only extra articles out of the box.

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

I am one of those who believe a good IEM should ship with a equally good cable. The 3DT ships with a decent quality cable out of the box. It uses a 4 core silver plated oxygen free copper cable. This cable has a nice feel to it, there are no unnecessary layers of rubber on it hence it’s not bouncy. It’s fairly supple but the thinner 2core cables coming out of the y splitter are slightly prone to tangling. There is no microphonics to worry about though. The straight 3.5mm gold plated jack has a nice metal finish to it and is reinforced with some stress reliever. Some might feel the wire inserted cable guides are a bit difficult to handle but once set its easier to put on. The heat shrunk Y splitter is the smallest cable splitter I have seen on any earphone till date, helping the cable shed unnecessary weight. Putting on the 2pin jack is easier thanks to the low resistance of the socket.

BUILD AND ERGONOMIC:-

Build quality of the 3DT looks good and unique at the same time. The shell made with resin fused wood looks excellent and the fully wooden one has a different kind of charm. It has a mildly semi custom type body which sits inside the ear comfortably. The shell has a few layers of resin on it and feels solid to the hand. The overall build quality is very good. I will not like to drop it on solid floor though.

Nozzle of the 3DT is on the wider side, compatible with t400 size tips. It does not have a really deep fit but is deep enough to give a secure feeling. The shell is larger than most of the IEMs and might not fit the smallest of ears. The smallish wing design on the inner shell provides good traction inside the ear. It has a vent at the top of the face plate for the twin 7mm dynamic drivers.

The post Unique Melody 3DT : Unique for sure first appeared on The Headphone List.

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Shanling UA1 USB DAC/Amp review

Known for their wide range of Digital Audio Players, I do not feel the need to introduce Shanling to my audiophile friends, we have seen Shanling evolve from a decent Chi-fi Brand to a Global brand with a lot of products under their portfolio. For those who aren’t very familiar with the brand, Shnaling has been in the consumer audio market for the last 5 years. Initially they were making some of the best DAPs in the budget segment.

Initially they struggled a bit with QC (M3s, back in 2017) of one of their products but from there they haven’t looked back. Now, Shanling makes some of the best and most popular DAPs and even though they were a bit late, jumped into the USB audio market with the Shanling UA1. Priced at just $60 it is an entry level DAC/Amp with plenty of power and enough mass appeal.

Get one for yourself from these links:

For Indians: https://www.headphonezone.in/products/shanling-ua1

USA: https://audio46.com/products/shanling-ua1-portable-usb-c-adapter

Asia: https://www.linsoul.com/products/shanling-ua1

TECH TALK:

Adapting same ESS Sabre ES9218P Hi-Fi chip

Hi-Res Aidio Certified Dongle, support up to PCM 32/384 and DSD256

Compatible with Android, Windows and MacOs

Comes with a USB-C female to USB-A male adapter

FREQUENCY RANGE20Hz~50KHz (-0.5dB)
THD+N0.001% @32ohm (A-Weighting)
OUTPUT POWER[email protected] ([email protected])
DYNAMIC RANGE119dB @32ohm (A-Weighting)
SIGNAL-TO-NOISE119dB @32ohm (A-Weighting)
CHANNEL SEPERATION77dB @ 32ohm
OUTPUT IMPEDANCE<0.5 ohm
DIMESIONS39 X 15 X 9mm body /
77mm Cable
WEIGHT8.3g

IN THE BOX

BOX CONTENTS1. Shanling UA1
2. USB-C To USB A Adapter
3. User Guide

For those who are not aware of all these jargon, let me simplify a few things for you.

If you are using a headphone/earphone with 32ohm, UA1 can deliver power of 80 mW or 1.6v. The only down side is the 77DB channel separation, which is still very good for a $60 dongle.

PACKAGING A ACCESSORIES:-

UA1 comes in a small tidy box. There isn’t anything special here, along with the UA1 a type-c to type A adapter can be found inside, what can you expect from a entry level USB dongle.

BUILD AND DESIGN:

UA1 doesn’t have anything fancy to its build quality. At just 8.3g it is a lot easier to carry around. The main body has a unique rhombus like shape with rounded edges giving it more ergonomically shape to hold. The body and type C jack are made out of metal giving it a sturdy feel to the hand. Thankfully the connector cable is externally covered with nylon braiding serves as a layer of protection from any mishaps.

CONNECTIVITY:-

UA1 works flawlessly with mobile phones and unlike some of the complicated USB dongles in the market it works without any hick ups with the desktop too. Just plug and play. No software required.

DRIVING POWER:-

UA1 is an entry level dongle and does exceptionally well with 99% of IEMs. It has no problem handling multi BA or multi DD or even hybrid IEMs. 160mw is more than enough for most IEM. Single DD with higher sensitivity like KBear Believe is driven without any problem either.

Being an entry level dongle it do not qualify to be used with headphones but it does not do badly either. It drives my Fischer M12s effortlessly. Headphones like HD6xx and HD58x too can be driven up to acceptable levels but the lack of power is unable to deliver desirable stage expansion. Driving non demanding headphones like HD598 and Emperior is much easier.

SOUND QUALITY:-

The UA1 excels at this. It does not introduce any coloration but a bit more dynamism can be seen across the spectrum. It simply do not have any preference or favors for a particular part of the spectrum but if the IEM sounds a bit cramped, the UA1 can help with uncompressing.
Bass:-

The lower end feels a bit tighter than it is with mobile phones. That’s because the added power provides much better control which restricts the IEM from getting muddier or interfering with the lower mids. It still has excellent bass extension and rumble to enjoy. A bit tighter notes result into better texture and details as notes do not overlap even with bassy IEMs. Do not expect the UA1 to boost the lower end volume and you are good to go.

Mid Range and Treble:-

What amazes me is the UA1’s ability to keep the whole spectrum clean and tidy. It does not have any tendencies to cramp or overlap notes which help with excellent transparency and details. I do not find a single flaw with the UA1’s mid range. It has the exact notes depth and body which I expect from the IEM. Let it be vocals or instruments the UA1 is able to extract the best out of the IEM. The only added attribute is its extra bit of liveliness which gives it a more tingly and crispy feel. It perfectly showcases the background and foreground abilities of the IEM which a mobile phones struggle with.

Treble region has class leading amount of transparency and extension. There is no lack of energy or sparkle. I love the way it maintains agility and keeps up with high speed tracks. Yes, those who are super sensitive to spark might find UA1 a bit aggressive but if you do not mind a bit of aggression, it is simply outstanding.

COMPARISON:-

Compared to the similarly equipped LG G7 the UA1 has more dynamism and liveliness. G7 is good with power too but does lack with a bit of density. G7 do not have the notes depth and finishing energy of the UA1. UA1 has better transparency too.

Both share similar dynamism but the sonicality of UA1 is much superior. As an audio source the UA1 is a better sounding option at a much cheaper price point and can be used with all the modern day mobile phones without 3.5mm jack.

CONCLUSION:-

UA1 is excellent as an entry level DAC/amp. There is no 2nd thought about it. It is the best dongle for under $60. Those who do not want to break the bank and want to have a small and durable DAC/amp at their exposal for a multipurpose use need not to look beyond the UA1.

The post Shanling UA1 USB DAC/Amp review first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

LXear Maze 4 review : Nothing confusing about it

LX-ear, does not sound very familiar to most of us but things are about to change. They are a CIEM brand from Romania who have had a whole array of BA based earphones starting with single BA IEMs such as Jupiter and Moon, maxing out with their 7BA flagship Saturn.

We barely are aware of them but our beloved @Deezel have already worked with them and here I am, reviewing Maze 4, their latest Custom made IEM. It starts at 499 Euros (with basic customization) and can go way up if opted for heavy customization. It houses 4 BA (2 for bass, 1 for mid and one for highs) drivers and uses a tubeless design which eliminates any resonance. They assure that once the ear impressions are received (with other formalities done) the IEMs are built within 7 days.

In their words:

“The new MAZE4 model is our first tubeless model, thus eliminating the unpleasant resonances of models that use acoustic tubes. Using 3D Printing technology, and advanced equipment, we managed to create an affordable in-ear monitor capable of satisfying even the most demanding artists and audiophiles.”

It faces tough competition from IEMs like Fibae 3, Fibae 4, DUNU SA6, and a lot many IEMs. I will compare it with SA6 and Fibae 4.

Order one from here:

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

Just like most of the CIEM brand LX-ear Maze 4 doesn’t ship with a fancy retail box. All the extra bits are placed inside a transport box, with zipper, made of TPU, it is customizable with your favorite logo or model name. A run of the mill kind of cable ships along with a cleaning cloth, cleaning tool, quarter inch adapter and a dehumidifier wraps up the list of accessories.

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

In the days where brands are getting more and more cautious about the aesthetics of their stock cable it was shocking to see an IEM with a price tag of 499 Euros shipped with a cable which used to ship with $10 iems back in 2016-17. It is a 4 strand 19×0.5mm OFC wire, I would not have paid much attention if the cable was on par with what DUNU ships with their cheaper SA3 or even the DM-480 but this cable not only looks cheap it doesn’t feel premium to the hand (They do have option for Linum cable, for a premium though).

Thankfully this cable doesn’t sound bad, it sounds very similar to the DUNU SA3 cable. Swapping the stock cable with Penon Orbit pays dividends. Orbit brings bigger stage, better separation and layering with better dynamics.

BUILD AND FIT :-

As mentioned earlier Maze 4 made with 3D printing technology. With use of advanced equipment they manage to keep accuracy within 100 microns to the mold provided. Earpieces are coated with hypoallergenic clear coat. Maze 4 can be ordered with 3 or more layers of colors and textures if preferred (charged separately). Custom art work, custom logo on carry case and fancy face plates can be opted for a bit more cash. A rushed build within 3 days sets the buyer back by 100 euros. LXear 3D anti-wax and sweat system reduces the risk of clogging of the acoustic tube, making it easier to maintain. LX-ear is fairly vocal about the recessed two pin socket advertising it being more safe and ergonomical than other options. It does save the connectors from dust nevertheless.

There is no question about fitting, it’s a CIEM after all and it fits me like a glove. Isolation is top notch too, it barely lets much ambient noise in.

P.S. black shell highlights dust particles and in humid conditions it becomes a finger print magnet.

A dust magnet..

The post LXear Maze 4 review : Nothing confusing about it first appeared on The Headphone List.

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DUNU SA6 review : Make way for the mid range king

DUNU as a brand has been making some excellent earphones since their inception. Their DN-1000 and DN2000/J in 2012-13 were the IEMs to get and were considered some of the best earphones one can buy. They were succeeded by the DK-2002 and 3001. The 3001 was excellent when it comes to sound. In the mean time Titan series were the flag bearer at the lower mid range. They held back for few years and have been introducing earphones in every bracket since last couple of years.

They tried a single BA earphone back in 2013/14 but it was not much popular and DUNU concentrated on hybrid and dynamic driver earphones. But later last year they came up with an all BA “STUDIO” lineup with SA3 (3BA) and SA6 (6BA) earphones with semi custom shells. Both saw a change in ergonomics compared to DUNU’s mainstream design language.

SA6 leads this series with 6BA drivers per earpiece. Priced at $549 it comes in 3 color choices for back plates, Red, Blue and Yellow but the smoked shells is unchanged. Unlike any other DUNU earphone SA6 houses a tuning switch (we will talk about this later). It faces tough competition from plenty of BA based earphones in this price range like Fibae 3, BGVP DM8, UM mini MEST and TSMR 5 pro.

Get one for yourself from these places:

https://penonaudio.com/dunu-studio-sa6.html

https://www.dunu-topsound.com/product-page/studio-sa6

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-

DUNU SA6 comes in a small and tidy retail box with a simple packaging. It does not have any trickiness to it leading into a fairly simple unboxing experience. The paper cover has an appealing color scheme, maybe DUNU tried to give it a similar color scheme as the earphones back plate. First accessory that greets us is the zipper carry case, it is of semi hard type (I wonder what happened to the hard cases DUNU used to provide). The IEM and cables are placed inside this case. All the accessories are placed inside a paper box placed under the case. There are 3 set of of silicone tips in S/M/L sizes (Blue core smoked body, white core transparent body and all blue) but it is hard to distinguish their bore sizes. Two additional quick-switch plugs, cleaning tool, quarter inch adapter and couple of documents end the list of things out of the box.

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

Most of the Chinese brands have been shipping their earphones with good cables these days, both aesthetically and functionally. DUNU SA6 takes it even further with an excellent stock cable. SA6 ships with a classy looking 8 Core, High-Purity, Monocrystalline, Silver-Plated Copper cable with patented dunu quick-switch modular plug system. The 8 core cable looks strong and can withstand some abuse. It has a skin friendly layer of TPU on each core which is fairly supple but is bouncy and a bit on the stiffer side, it does not generate a lot of microphonics but is slightly on the higher side compared to other cables. The biggest USP of this cable are the additional quick-switch plugs and unlike the cheaper models. Both 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced plugs come out of the box.

All in all a good stock cable which is ready to be used with a variety of sources.

BUILD AND FIT :-

DUNU has been using metal housings for their premium earphones but the SA lineup has gone with a semi custom resin shell which gives it a nice and sturdy still a very ergonomically feel inside the ear. The ergonomically designed wing provides nice traction inside the ear. Ergonomically it is fairly comfortable but can get a bit difficult to keep inside the ear after a few hours. The resin shell is strong enough. It will not survive drops on marble or concrete floors though. Aesthetical highlight of the SA6 is its stabilized wooden back plate. It’s precisely cut and dyed separately giving each plate its unique pattern and color.

Thanks to the resin shell SA6 are very light and stays inside the ear without any problem. The shell is made with hand-poured uv acrylic resin from Germany using 3D printing technology. The shell is not as big as DM7 or even the SA3 and will fit most ears without much problem. There is a single pressure releasing vent for the lower end drivers.

Even though it has a three bore design the nozzle is not very wide and one can fit t200 to t400 size tips easily. Tips out of the box are good but a wide bore tips do give it more flavor. Sound isolation is very good with stock tips. It blocks out a lot of ambient noise.

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Little Dot CU-Cen – The Torch bearer

Little Dot, a chi-fi brand which is mostly associated with desktop DAC/Amps has come up with a whole line-up of earphones ranging from $88 to $720 named after Runic alphabets. The entry level, straight barrel, CU-Rad ships with a single dynamic driver and non-detachable cable is sensibly priced at $85. The CU-Wyn has a single BA paired with a dynamic driver is priced at $120. The 2nd in command CU-Cen houses a similar setup as the Wyn but has has a customized BA driver paired with a 8mm coaxial dynamic driver and comes which terminates with balanced 3.5mm socket and all the popular portable adapters. Cen is priced at $530. The most expensive CU-Kis houses two 10mm dynamic driver which are accompanied by two BA drivers, surprisingly the Kis has a smaller shell than the Rad. Kis is the most expensive IEM from Little Dot and is priced at $720.

The CU-Cen faces a lot of competition in its price range. There are a lot of IEMs in the $400-600 region fighting for supremacy. I will compare the Cen with the Jomo Pantheon P3, Fibae 3 and the DK-2001.

Get one for yourself from here:

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:-

This is one discipline where the Cen is 2nd to none. It comes with lots and lots of accessories. First thing that catches our attention are the set of carry cases. Cen ships with a round shaped metal case and a more spacious rectangular plastic carry case. Both are capable of handling plenty of abuse without giving in.

I am not sure how they are packed officially but I assume the IEM along with the cable are placed inside the metal carry case and the plastic case houses a lot of tips, 3 pair of foam tips, 3 pair of Sony type tips and 4 pair of narrow bore tips along with the additional 4.4mm, 2.5mm, 3.5mm single ended adapters and a cable clip.

BUILD AND COMFORT:-

The whole Little Dot IEM lineup except the Wyn has metal housings. The CU-Cen has aviation grade aluminum body which gives it a bit of heft and feels a lot sturdier than acrylic shell IEMs. Just like most of the metal shell IEMs the Cen too doesn’t have a semi custom type body as it adopts a contoured but still a dome type over the ear design. It feels a bit less stable inside the ear than the more ergonomically designed CU-Kis as the slightly shallower nozzle is restrained by the sudden rise in circumference of the shell. The angled nozzle makes the Cen gain a bit more traction inside the ear. Cen has 3 vents, I don’t know why. It has only two drivers inside..

The raised 2pin socket looks a bit quirky but is compatible with KZ and TRN cable without any problem. With these limitations, is the Cen one of the most comfortable IEM inside the ear? NO, but it is fairly comfortable for few hours.

HOW IS THE CABLE:-

CU-Cen ships with a decent looking silver plated 6N OCC copper cable. Unlike some European brands this stock cable compliments the IEM both sonically and aesthetically. The cable has a bit of memory problem, it does hold shape a bit but is neither bouncy nor microphonic. Another feature of the cable is the lack of cable guides, for a change there is nothing to press on the ear. The 3.5mm jack, 2pin jacks and cable splitter barely have any stress reliever.

The most remarkable feature of the package are the extra 4.4mm, 2.5mm and 3.5mm single ended adapters giving the Cen the freedom of compatibility with most of the popular portable sockets.

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