Tag Archives: Earphone

Kinera Norn : Looks beautiful, sounds okay


Kinera, one the most prominent Chi-fi brands in the market has been making some excellent IEMs lately. They have been making plenty of waves. I hadn’t been able to get my hands on Kinera IEMs but thanks to a good friend of mine took me in his review tour.

The Norn I am reviewing here is priced at $449 at the time of writing. It pairs a 7mm dynamic driver with 4BA drivers. Even when Kinera has been tight lipped about the crossovers I think we have at least 2 here.

I am comparing it with DUNU EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite in this review.

Get one for yourself from here: https://hifigo.com/products/kinera-norn-1dd-4ba-iems


Even when I did not got the retail package because of the tour nature of the IEM, I would like to believe that the IEM ships with a good looking cardboard box with fancy designs on it and some promotion material on it with an interesting unboxing experience.

In addition to the earpieces and cable, I did receive a flap carry pouch, a pair of Final audio tip and couple of cable adapters for the 2.5mm cable.


I usually rant about cable but I find the Norn cable to be one of the most supple I have seen on a $500 IEM. It has the aesthetic too. It complements the IEM nicely. In technicality it is an 8 core high purity silver plated copper cable with 192 strands of 26awg SPC wires inside and PVC insulation on the outside. The cable slider looks elegant.

Thanks to the supple nature it barely has any microphonics to worry about and winding the cable is easy since it does not have any memory problem. It has metal jackets on the 3.5mm jack, Y splitter and 2pins giving it a more premium feel. The cable guides are supple and has no problem holding on to the ear and I didn’t have to adjust it every now and then.


To start things off, I like the fit of the Norn. It is comfortable and slightly smaller than both EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite. The all resin build is very confidence inspiring. Do not drop it on hard floors and these earpieces will survive. The main attraction of the Norn is its hand painted face plate. It is an eye candy for sure. It is one of the most beautiful looking IEMs for sure.

The nozzle is slghtly on the wider side and I am not sure if the Final tips as default are a wise decision since it has a T400 size tip. Thankfully the nozzle has nice depth giving it an aptly deep and secure fit. It has a nicely contoured body with a slightly aggressive wing on the inner side providing reasonable traction inside the ear. A small pressure releasing vent can be found on the side of the body.


Kinera Norn houses a single 7mm dynamic driver aided by 1.5 Tesla magnetic flux, Japan imported Daikoku pure copper coil and Titanium-plated composite high-poly fibre diaphragm material and it is paired with 4BA drivers. Out of these 4, 2 are custom Kinera drivers and the other two are Knowles drivers.

With all these thing inside, it has a V shaped signature with a voluminous lower end, pushed back mid range, and a bit elevated treble region. I love the way it presents a fun and musical side. It does have a bit of gloominess across the spectrum which restricts some dynamics and body.


Most impressive part of Norn is its exquisite lower end. The single 7mm dynamic driver delivers a fuller and rumbly lower end. Sub-bass extension is good but the body or volume at this region is not the best. Some BA IEMs like the Audiosense T800 and Fibae 3 are better with sub-bass but when it comes to mid bass body and rumble Norn is miles ahead. The impact is not hard or dry, it is more pleasing and on the softer side which makes it fairly satisfying. The day speed is not slow or anything but is not the fastest. This slight slowness lets the note precipitate better giving it nice body and weight. It has no upper mid hump or anything to talk about, it nicely blends into the lower mid region. All in all the Norn has very good control over the lower end.


Things get moody here. The transition from the single DD to the dual BA drivers is aptly consistent but the dip of energy is perceivable. The crossover region can be indentified without much problem. It doesn’t need a trained ear. Thankfully the lack of energy doesn’t translate into lack of transparency, details or relevance.

It has no problem with micro details and separation, the whole mid range enjoys very good clarity and transparency and even after delivering very good details it does not sound sharp or aggressive. It lacks a bit of body and weight with instruments. Norn does not have the added depth and extra weight of EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite, limiting its dynamics. It is on the dry and slightly less jolly side. Both male and female vocals sound crisp and clear with a natural tonality, it does not emulate an organic or warmer tonality like Fibae 4 or EST112. Texture and emotions portrayed by the Norn is slightly less engaging due to the thin body. It does like to keep things as neutral and colorless as possible. Norn has no problems with the upper mid energy, in fact it has a dip just before the treble region which keeps any kind of aggression at bay.

I have to mention that layering and separation is very good and does not lack much air in between instruments.


BA drivers used here have done their job. Even when Norn carries a bit of dryness and lack of body into the treble region it has much better notes height providing more relevance. All this can be attributed to more energy and it leads into better dynamics and a cleaner feel.

Norn has very good treble extension and maintains good energy till the end but does dip just after the mid treble region. It has very good details retrieval and doesn’t miss out on anything while keeping the timber neutral. Cymbals and pianos have very good transparency, don’t expect it to sound very organic or loaded with texture but manage to deliver reasonable engagement. Separation and layering is up to the mark with good air and space between instruments. The treble stage is well spread, assisted by good sonicality. If you like tingly instruments, Norn will not disappoint.


Norn’s stage size is more intimate even with balanced out. It does have very good height, nice depth but it’s the X-axis width which makes things more intimate. If you prefer a more closed in sound, it should be good. Most of the instruments are placed inside the head while some treble instruments have out of the head projection. There are no anomalies to worry about here since density of instrument distribution and is even without any hollow feeling.


VS EST112 and Shanling ME700 lite:


Norn is good for the price. If this is the only IEM you have, you won’t mind anything, it has the details and everything but once you switch to something more capable like DUNU EST112 or Shnaling ME700 lite things get tricky for Kinera Norn.

Norn has a good lower end and even though it lacks a bit of dynamics in the mid range its sonicality in the treble region is very good. It’s the mid range which needs work. The lack of notes body and dry feeling is not helping the experience. A bit more juice and fullness will make it loveable.

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IKKO OH10 and OH1 review: Still have it


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:



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.


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.


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.


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

Custom Art FIBAE 7: The Fair Lady – A Custom In-Ear Monitor Review

DISCLAIMER: Custom Art provided me with the FIBAE 7 in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Custom Art for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.

Custom Art is a Polish monitor maker unique for their upbringing in the online DIY community. Former monitor reviewer Piotr Granicki ventured into building in the early 2010s, eventually spawning a company renowned for their lush, musical sounds, their zany, off-the-wall designs and – last, but not least – their superb after sales service. Though home-brew was this company’s de facto brand earlier on, Piotr’s recent efforts in 3D-printing, custom-tuned drivers and FIBAE technology has undoubtedly elevated them a great deal. And, now, all that has culminated in their top-of-the-line in-ear: the FIBAE 7. Embodying the company ethos, the FIBAE 7 is the flagship for your buck; a shot at the top without the sky-high price tag.

Custom Art FIBAE 7

  • Driver count: Seven balanced-armature drivers
  • Impedance: 5.9Ω @1kHz (+-0.75Ω 10Hz-20kHz)
  • Sensitivity: 113dB @1kHz @0.1V
  • Key feature(s) (if any): FIBAE technology, top-firing drivers
  • Available form factor(s): Custom and universal acrylic in-ear monitors
  • Price: €1200
  • Website: www.thecustomart.com

Build and Accessories

The FIBAE 7 comes in Custom Art’s age-old packaging: A modest mini-shoebox with a familiar, yet practical accessory set. In it is Pelican’s heavy-duty 1010 case, a smaller zipper case, a cleaning tool and desiccant. Then, accompanying all that is the Hi leaflet, which is both a quick-start guide and a warranty card with your IEM’s serial number and manufacture date.

For all that mileage Piotr’s gained in technology, craftsmanship and sound, it’s frankly a tad disappointing to see Custom Art’s packaging continue to stagnate, especially for their newest flagship. I’d love nothing more than to see at least some branding on the cover; perhaps, a simple, debossed emblem or an engraving of some kind. And, extra accessories like a microfibre cloth would be greatly appreciated as well. Though sonics and build clearly rank above all else for Custom Art (and rightly so), the unboxing experience still has to have a place there as well. Hopefully, a revamp here is in their cards.

Another addition worth mentioning is the Arete aftermarket cable that this FIBAE 7 comes with. It’s an OCC copper cable made by Null Audio in Singapore, and it features far superior hardware to the Plastics One cables that Custom Art CIEMs usually ship with. It comes with a velcro cable tie for very easy tidying-up as well. And, you can also get it with a balanced termination at check-out or with a microphone, even, if that’s what you want. So, I personally feel it’s a very sensible add-on for Custom Art’s top-of-the-line. And, at €99 purchased separately, it adds even more value to its overall package too.

Thankfully, though, when it comes to the in-ear’s build quality, Custom Art have only continued to top themselves. Every piece I receive from them boasts a new level of polish, and the same is true for the FIBAE 7 I have here. Taking cues from a design I found in CanalWorks’ catalog, I opted for a fairly complex scheme, which the Custom Art team pulled off to a T.

It’s a multi-colour theme, and it features two instances of a gradient as well; a technique Custom Art have recently begun to popularise. First is a colour gradient down the faceplates, shifting from red and blue to the grey of the shells. Then, it’s a particle gradient that transitions from smaller, finer bits of mica to larger, denser pieces of gold flake. Sat at the in-ear’s topmost layer are engravings on either side; the minuscule FIBAE text on that left IEM coming out particularly impressive. And, to finish is buffing and lacquer for a flawlessly smooth, bubble-free surface throughout this entire earphone. Bravo.

3D-Printing and Fit

As mentioned, Custom Art have made the big leap of incorporating 3D-printing into their production line, which brings a fair number of changes. They now no longer need physical, silicone ear impressions to make your custom IEMs. You can send them a digital scan of your impressions instead, which, on its own, cuts the costs of shipping the moulds to Poland, as well as the week or two it takes to get there. If you don’t have scans yet, all you have to do is send Custom Art a set of silicone moulds, which they’ll convert to a digital file for you. You may then use these as a substitute for physical moulds for any future purchase; whether it’s from Custom Art or any other IEM brand that’ll accept them, of which there’re tons. 

With the 3D-printing process also comes changes in fit. Compared to, say, my Harmony 8.2, these fit smoother with even amounts of pressure throughout. There aren’t any hotspots, which helps them vanish in the ear a lot more. One thing I’d note is my units were trimmed pretty low-profile. The faceplates don’t stick out much from the ear, if at all. An advantage is the in-ear is more likely to stay secure. But, at the same time, they’re also cumbersome to remove. You have to dig into your ear, almost, to get a grip and pull them out. If you tend to take your IEMs in and out often, you may wanna ask for a taller shell when placing your order. Comfort-wise, though, that low profile doesn’t bother at all; not even when I’m using thicker upgrade cables. So, all in all, it’s a nicely comfy IEM to wear, and it’ll also stay secure no matter what you’re doing.

FIBAE Technology

FIBAE is short for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone, and it has become Custom Art’s spotlight innovation. First introduced with the FIBAE 1 and the FIBAE 2, what this technology ultimately aims to do is preserve this in-ear monitor’s tonal balance no matter the source it’s connected to. So, essentially, whether you’re listening to the FIBAE in-ear through your laptop or a dedicated DAP, the frequency response should remain the same. This is especially crucial if you plan to use these on mixing consoles, monitor mixers, etc., where the output impedances can vary wildly from one to the other.

However, that does not mean you won’t hear any differences between the laptop and player either. Although FIBAE tech leaves the frequency response intact, the earphone will scale based on whatever data’s fed into it. A more resolving DAC is capable of rendering clearer spatial cues, deeper backgrounds, etc. So, although it won’t bridge the gap between more capable and less capable sources per se, this tech will allow the user to judge those differences in a clearer manner. And, whatever source you choose to use at the end of the day, you will always be guaranteed the sound Custom Art intended.

The post Custom Art FIBAE 7: The Fair Lady – A Custom In-Ear Monitor Review first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Vision Ears EVE20: Thunderbolt and Lightning – An In-Ear Monitor Review

DISCLAIMER: Vision Ears provided me with the EVE20 in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Vision Ears for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.

Vision Ears produce some of the most coveted in-ear monitors in the industry, desired equally for their superlative build, their evocative aesthetics, their lavish packaging and their precise, yet musical tunings. Recently, they’ve taken the world by storm with the release of their flagship ELYSIUM and Erlkonig. And, they’ve shown no signs of stopping since. In 2020, Vision Ears started the EVE initiative: A series of limited-edition monitors that’ll be refreshed with a new entry every year. We previewed its debutant back in April. And, now, here’s the full review of Vision Ears’ EVE20: A firecracker with finesse.

Vision Ears EVE20

  • Driver count: Six balanced-armature drivers
  • Impedance: 25Ω @ 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 120.5dB @ 1mW @ 1kHz
  • Key feature(s) (if any): N/A
  • Available form factor(s): Universal acrylic IEMs
  • Price: €1300
  • Website: www.vision-ears.de

About EVE

The idea behind Exclusive Vision Ears is annual concept pieces that Vision Ears will release in limited quantities. These are completely separate from their mainstay monitors, and will essentially be their avenue for experimentation; irrespective of any pre-determined price hierarchies, driver configs or house sounds. Following this 6-driver EVE20 could be a 2-driver EVE21, for example. And, despite the EVE20’s pretty modest look, Vision Ears also plan to “explore the boundaries of visual design” with the program as well, which – if you’re familiar with their repertoire – is very, very exciting news to hear. All in all, it looks to be a project filled with potential, that’ll hopefully bring some welcome unpredictability to the market today.

Packaging and Accessories

As per usual, Vision Ears have decked out the EVE20’s packaging with a ton of different nuances and textures. You’ve got the matte-grey outermost sleeve topped with a web of gloss-black lines cutting through it; a great show of contrast. And, topping it off is an EVE emblem in metallic-purple. The box inside is wrapped in a weaved, carbon-fibre-inspired material, which is then finished with more accents of purple on top and along its sides. This box folds opens with a magnetic latch, which only further boosts that clean, classy aesthetic. Presentation is A+ from VE yet again. Now, let us take a look inside.

Lifting the lid open, you’ll find the EVE20 in its puck case, embedded in foam. And, next to it is an envelope, which houses the IEM’s signed warranty card, a pretty substantial instruction manual and a letter congratulating you for your purchase. Also in this envelope is a microfibre cloth and three sets of replacement mesh filters. The latter’s packaging also acts as a guide – illustrations and all – for replacing the mesh filters, which I think is a keen touch. Returning to the box, below this envelope, you’ll get a cleaning tool, a 1/4” adapter and VE’s cleaning spray; all embedded in foam too. As far as accessory sets go, I have zero complaints. Again, presentation is VE’s game to play, and I’m glad to see they haven’t slipped an inch.

Again, you’ll find the EVE20’s tucked away in its round, metal case. And, you’ll find a pack of SpinFit tips in small, medium and large sizes there as well. As with their other monitors, VE have attached a velcro cable tie to this EVE20’s stock cable; an inclusion that I feel needs to be more common in the industry. Next, you get a small dry pack for moisture too. Lastly, this case is a similar metal puck to the ones brands like Empire, Jomo or JH Audio pack with their in-ears. It isn’t the most exclusive or lavish case in the world, but it’s still quality nonetheless. I’m not ruling out something fancier with the EVE21.

Build and Wearing Comfort

Vision Ears have gone with a pretty modest, yet brave look for the EVE20. Its design is made-up solely of two translucent colours; no fancy swirls, foils, glitters or woods. But, the two colours they’ve chosen are rather unconventional: A vibrant wine-red and a light olive-green. It’s a combination that screams the word “apple” to me, and I personally love the blend, especially with its metal emblems inlaid on top. Obviously, however, looks are very subjective, so your mileage may vary.

What isn’t subjective, though, is how cleanly VE’s team have executed this design. Both colours are perfectly transparent, allowing you a pristine view at this in-ear’s tidily-arranged internals. Symmetry between the left and right sides are about as close as they could possibly be. The whole piece – from faceplate to nozzle – is contoured gorgeously; marble-smooth all around with neither a jagged edge nor an odd bump. And, its faceplates are fused perfectly to the shells as well; not a single glue mark in sight. Finally, kudos to VE for machining a groove on the nozzle to keep tips in place. It’s a feature I’ve always found odd to omit, and I’m glad to see this extra measure. I won’t have to dig tips out of my ears after each listen.

Fit-wise, the EVE20’s have a fairly unique shape. Rather than the shorter, wider silhouette that multi-armature universals tend to have, these in-ears are quite thin and tall. As a result, they can sit pretty low-profile in the ear; almost like a CIEM would. But, I feel you’ll only be able to take full advantage of this shape if you have naturally-tall canals. I personally have a taller canal in my left ear, so it fits brilliantly there. Whereas, on my right ear, I feel light pressure pushing on the top of my canal, so I have to push them out a tad, such that the top of the monitor hangs out. It does not affect isolation or the security of the fit at all. So, even if you do have shorter canals, you’d probably be able to finagle them into a comfortable position. Still, though, those with smaller or shorter canals should keep that in mind if they’re concerned about comfort.

The advantage to this taller design is that the IEM locks into your ear very securely. So, that extra concha bump I usually ask for from universals isn’t needed here. And, this is an easier design to store away as well, due to the smaller footprint.

The post Vision Ears EVE20: Thunderbolt and Lightning – An In-Ear Monitor Review first appeared on The Headphone List.

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Fiio FD5 review : The budget flagship


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.


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:


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.


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.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Moondrop Aria Review – Reimagined

Pros –

Strong balance and linearity, Outstanding midrange timbre, Impressive metal build, Wide soundstage, Well-detailed

Cons –

Bass could still be tighter, Average noise isolation

Verdict –

Moondrop’s latest earphone appends complaints with their former design whilst retaining benchmark level tonal refinement at a substantial price cut.

Introduction –

Like many, my first introduction to Moondrop was the Starfield, an earphone that combined their Harman-based VDSF target tuning with a CNT dynamic driver at an affordable price. While I found the earphone to impress in both its build quality and the refinement of its tonality, I did find myself wanting when it came to technical performance. The Aria is the latest offering in Moondrop’s single-DD arsenal, promising to build upon the same foundation of the Starfield. It implements a smart all-black colour scheme and revised driver and surrounding acoustics in order to realise this. Furthermore, the Aria comes at a substantial discount. Of note, some sources refer to this model as the Aria 2 as Moondrop have previously released a single-DD Aria. For the sake of consistency, I will refer to this model simply as the Aria during this review.

You can read more about the Aria and treat yourself to a set on HiFiGO and Apos Audio.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Nappoler from HiFiGO very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Aria 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 –

  • Driver: LCP 10mm Dynamic Driver
  • Socket: 0.78mm 2-pin
  • Sensitivity: 122dB
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 36kHz

Behind the Design –

Revised Driver and Acoustics

The Aria takes the brass inner cavity and CCAW voice coil of the Starfield and adds stronger N52 Neodymium magnets in addition to a revised LCP (liquid crystal polymer) diaphragm. A newly designed phase waveguide aids treble response and minimises distortion. Moondrop achieve their desired frequency response via implementation of a composite sound cavity, multiple acoustic dampers and numerous tuning ports.

HRTF Frequency Response

The Aria’s frequency response is compliant with Head-related transfer function and room response function. This enables the earphone to provide accurate imaging and localisation. Moondrop’s target curve is a derivative of the diffuse-field neutral and Harman curves – more specifically, compared to Harman-target earphones, Moondrop have toned down the upper-midrange and slightly bumped up the lower-treble. As with the Starfield, I find this to create a very pleasant tonality with a natural-timbre that is increasingly common but not nearly a given in this price range.

Unboxing –

Leveraging their huge success, the cheaper Aria provides a far more prestigious unboxing experience than the pricier starfield before it. An outer sleeve slides off to reveal a magnetic rubberised hard box with foil print. Inside are the earphones within a foam inlet with the zipper carrying case identical to that included with the Starfield just below. The case contains a 2-pin fabric-sheathed braided cable in addition to a whopping 6 pairs of silicone ear tips. What we do miss relative to the Starfield are the tweezers and replacement mesh nozzle covers. Overall, while the accessory set is almost identical to the Starfield, the experience has been elevated by a large degree.

Design –

The Aria is almost identical to the Starfield with a very similar two-piece metal chassis and identical inner half retaining the same in-ear feel between the two. As before, the housings have a nice heft and density alongside impressive tolerances and finish with a palpable seem but rounded edges and corners. The Aria actually appears to have stepped up tolerances slightly from the Starfield, and employs a new flat faceplate design in addition to introducing a more tactile matte finish. In addition, where the Starfield’s painted finish garnered complaints of chipping, the new matte complexion is promised to be harder wearing. Overall, the Aria looks smart with its subtle gold accents and the metal construction rewards with excellent in-hand feel.

The cable has also been revised relative to the Starfield though retains the same 0.78mm 2-pin interface with wide aftermarket support. As opposed to the Litz braided cable that came before, the Aria has a fabric sheathed cable that is only braided below the y-split. It feels a little light and flimsy above the y-split compared to the prior design but is soft and flexible with minimal microphonic noise transmission. The y-split is low-profile and the right-angle plug is both case-friendly and well-relieved. While the cable has some memory, and I do personally prefer the more supple Litz wire, it isn’t too prone to tangling, has a great aesthetic and is easy to live with day to day.

Fit & Isolation –

Given that the portion of the housing that contacts the ear is identical, the fit experience very much mirrors that of the Starfield and models that came before such as the KXXS. This is not a bad thing, for these earphones are all shapely and comfortable to wear. The nozzles are tapered with a nice angle that positions the housing neutrally in the ear to minimise hotspots. The housings are thin so the fit is reasonably low-profile. They’re not ideal to sleep on but are certainly sleek and unassuming in addition to being relatively resistant to wind noise when worn outdoors. There is no driver flex due to their more open-feel with minimal wearing pressure and a shallower fit depth. This is also likely due to the obvious venting which means isolation is below average and not ideal for listening in noisy areas. They do suffice for general commute but I would investigate fully-sealed options for frequent travellers.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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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.

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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.


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 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.

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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.

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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.


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.


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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The Mythical Strangeness Within – A Review of the MMR Homunculus

Metal Magic Research provided Momunculus free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.

Homunculus sells for $1,699

When Joseph Mou told me about this new company he was building, Metal Magic Research, and this strange IEM with an even stranger name, I found myself gripped by a savage need to know more.

Shortly thereafter, Homunculus arrived at my door.

From my understanding, everything MMR makes will be metal-housed, and Homunculus is no different. They take their metalwork seriously, too. The build quality is top shelf, making for a handsome finished product. I’m not a huge fan of the fit, however. While they stay in place well enough, they do tend to get uncomfortable after an hour or two. If you have large Western ears, the sharp rim makes contact with your ear, and over time, that becomes a hot spot which can become painful.

The cable is from Eletech, a newer company which came out of the gate with a slew of extremely high quality cables that easily compete with the best the industry has to offer. Furthermore, the internal wiring of Homunculus is also an Eletech conductor. This is an area most companies overlook. Whether it makes any audible difference or not, I can’t say, but it is a nice tough you don’t see very often.

Homunculus is a 3-way hybrid IEM: dual Electrostats, one vented Balanced Armature, and a “Bespoke” 9.7mm Foster Dynamic Driver. MMR’s website isn’t the most coherent, but if I had to guess, the eStats are for high frequencies, the BA is for mids, and the DD is for bass. Though, it’s possible there’s some serious crossover. Hell, it’s just as possible that all drivers are attempting to cover all ranges. But if I had to guess, well, I gave you my guess already.

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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.

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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.


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.


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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