Tag Archives: Earphones

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

The post Soft Ears RSV Review – Mastering Versatility first appeared on The Headphone List.

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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

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

The post Nostalgia Audio Benbulbin Review – Origin Story first appeared on The Headphone List.

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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

DUNU Zen Review : Zentastic!!


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:


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.


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:


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.


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.

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


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:


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:


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.


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.

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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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Product Launch: Kinera Nanna 2.0 Pro

The Nanna was one of Kinera’s most popular products, a high-end tribrid IEM featuring Sonion’s 2nd generation electrostatic super tweeter system that was well-received and reviewed. Kinera then updated the earphone’s tuning with the 2.0 release and are now introducing the 2.0 Pro variant which seeks to further refined the Nanna experience.

While we cannot confirm without testing the earphone, on paper, the 2.0 Pro provides the same driver setup as before with one 7mm dynamic driver paired with one BA mid-driver and two Sonion EST tweeters. It has the same 60ohm impedance and 110dB sensitivity suggesting a very similar, if not identical choice of drivers.

What Kinera have confirmed is a new design, sporting the hand-painted shells from the Mount Nanna variant. As always, Kinera have done a stunning job here, and this adds a level of personalisation with each unit bearing a different pattern. The packaging and accessory have been revised with a new, wider ear tip selection.

Included are Final Audio E-tips, Custom RS-B4S and foam tips in addition to Custom JH-FY-009-B tips. The tips are custom colour matched to the housings, a nice touch. In addition, a new SPC 6N OCC balanced cable has been introduced. The cable is terminated with a balanced 4.4mm connector though 2.5 and 3.5mm adaptors are included in addition.

These revisions come with a $40 price bump, now retailing for $949 USD at the time of writing. The Nanna 2.0 Pro is available from HiFiGO with units ready to ship from today!

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Final Audio A3000 & A4000 Review – Aberrant

Pros –

Class-leading soundstage space and separation, Agile transient response, Fast and defined bass, Strong definition, Comfortable design, Very easy to drive

Cons –

Brightness is something to consider (especially A4000), Below average isolation, Cable may be prone to splitting

Verdict –

Final Audio’s latest earphones offer unique qualities you won’t find recreated by competitors but also tonalities that differ from the majority. So long as this is to your preference, there is much to like about their detail retrieval and ability to play with space and clarity like few around this price point and well beyond.

Introduction –

Final Audio are a rather profound audio company in that their focus lies not only on audio but also how it is perceived by listeners. In turn, their designs can be highly experimental, and all carry a purpose that works towards the company’s end goals. Each product generation signifies the pursuit of a certain quality and these learnings are then passed down to future, often more affordable models. In turn, the company exists in a state of flux and you can never tell where they’ll take things next. Enter the A3000 and A4000, that bear striking resemblance to the stunning A8000 and B-series that came before. These models undertake an intriguing shift, with a design based upon the differences in listening conditions between audio experts and regular consumers during daily use. Final have invested in offshore manufacturing for a new custom 6mm dynamic driver to slash the price whilst retaining the same quality we’ve come to love from the company.

The A3000 and A4000 come in at $140 and $160 respectively. You can read more about them and treat yourself to a set on hifiheapdhones.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Final Audio and hifiheadphones very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the A3000 and A4000 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 –

Behind the Design –

f-Core DU Driver

Image credits: Final Audio

Final designed custom 6mm dynamic drivers from the ground up for the new A-series earphones. Tuning was conducted according to the parameters found most impactful on sound quality established from designing the flagship A8000. This includes material selection, with a brass enclosure that increases rigidity and mass for reduced resonances in addition to offering better electromagnetic shielding. To tune the time-response, Final have implemented an ultra-thin 30-micron CCAW diaphragm on both units and have even reduced the amount of adhesive used to further enhance transient response. They have also introduced a new diaphragm production technique that permits tighter tolerances between each unit. The A3000 was designed to deliver a natural sound with a more robust low-end while the A4000 targets an immersive soundstage with sharp imaging.

Unboxing –

Final Audio always provide a great unboxing experience and a well curated accessory set, a mantra that is also embodied with the new A-series earphones. Both come within a clean white box with the case and ear tips inside within a protective foam inlet. The earphones are protected within the included carrying case, it is identical to those included with the E-series earphones, with a matte silicone construction. I love how thoughtful the case design it, the earphones coil neatly inside which prevents kinking of the cable and the flexible lid secures the earphones, so they don’t jostle and scratch each other during transit. As before, Final include 5 pairs of their renowned E-tips with flexible sound tube that aid a strong seal in addition to ear hooks as the cable has no pre-moulded ear guides nor memory wire. The tips have a nice plastic case which keeps them organised. As the earphones now use a 2-pin cable, the MMCX assist tool is not included.

Design –

Both earphones have identical designs, varying only in colour scheme – black for the A3000 and a dark navy for the A4000. The shell design is very reminiscent of the B-series and A8000 with a trapezoidal shape that is visually distinct yet also designed to be congruent with the natural folds of the outer ear. However, here, Final have employed an ABS over metal construction leading to a substantially lighter housing. Alongside the price drop, tolerances are noticeably worse than the A8000 though not in a way that would substantially impact longevity nor with sharp edges that would affect comfort. A soft-touch finish with aggressive texture gives a pleasing, tactile in-hand feel.

The cables on both earphones are identical to that included on the E4000 though with 0.78mm 2-pin connectors. As the connectors are both recessed and keyed, aftermarket support will be limited. It isn’t the most robust design, but the OFC cable is of good quality overall. It has essentially zero memory and microphonic noise transmission alongside boasting a very smooth and supple feel. This means the cable stays put well once routed over the ear despite the lack of ear guides and it is highly comfortable during daily wear. The right-angle plug is case-friendly and well-relieved though the cable below the y-split may be prone to splitting due to its design.

Fit & Isolation –

The A3000 and A4000 both provides a very comfortable fit. In fact, I found it slightly more so than the A8000 due to the lighter weight which puts less pressure on the features of the outer ear. Don’t let the angular design fool you, the inner face is rounded and elegantly shaped. In turn, I was able to wear these earphones for hours on end without hotspot formation. They also have a very open feel and minimal wearing pressure due to the obvious venting of the housing. Similarly, there is no driver flex and the fit depth is medium to shallow depending on your choice of ear tip size. Given that both earphones have a brighter top-end, I found a deeper fit to yield the most natural and balanced sound. That said, the design is accommodating of different fit depths should you want to size up tips and go for a brighter presentation. Isolation does suffer due to the vented design, being below average. They are just sufficient for daily use and commute but are not a strong choice for travel and frequent use in loud environments.

Next Page: A3000 Sound Breakdown

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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…

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