Ok, I shall preface this by saying I have never been into IEMs and for the longest time I've avoided them like the plague because of many comfort issues. I also may have had a bad streak of trying many that just sounded too bright for my taste. So you can consider this review from a perspective of someone getting into IEMs and may have had doubts before. Also, in my haste, I really didn't have time to plug them into my various thinga-ma-bobs.. I just jacked them straight into my RME ADI-2's IEM jack. But I will probably edit this once I get a chance to plug them into my Monolith Liquid Platinum, the THX 789 and eventually my travel-buddy the FiiO Q5 (looking into upgrading to the Q5S to get that yummy LDAC (CSR8675 chip) and the upgraded DAC (AK44933 chip). But here goes my initial impressions:
Wowza.. I love how these feel in my ear. Granted, I am cheating here.. not using the stock tips. I had ordered the variety SmartCore pack from Comply ahead of time and they had been sitting in my drawer waiting for this moment. I must say, I am REALLY glad that I bought them because the stock tips just don't do it for me. I suppose I am one of those that have odd shaped canals where everything hurts.. well, except for the Comply tips. They are comfy, they are secure in my ear, I can bob around without any worry.. and surprisingly, no microphonics from the cable which is made of this very interesting smooth yet supple vinyl material. It does not grab on clothes and doesn't cause any noise. I do have a longer balanced Linsoul 2.5mm > MMCX but I have not tried it on yet.
Another big plus is the fact that the head of the headphone ACTUALLY ROTATES.. That blew my mind.. they designed the unit in a way that the driver sits inside the pot while the piece attached to the tip is completely free to move around. That means you can wear these with the cables tucked behind your ears or simply dangling downward... I've never seen a headphone that can do that. That may be the biggest comfort point for me. I absolutely love it.
I started with the white tips, and was instantly blown away by the detail and soundstage. Granted, I tend to favor a bit more bass, but I knew getting into it that I have the blue tips in my back pocket to try once I've given them a good listen. Not going to lie, this morning I woke up with a funky vibe, so I spent it all listening to Instrumental Funk.. Funk, Inc., The Haggis Horns, The Filthy Six, Lettuce, The Olympians.. the list goes on. Guitars sounded creamy, the brass just shined, absolutely no fatigue. Cymbals and drums were present, granted.. not as punchy as I wanted them at first but that immediately changed the moment I swapped to the blue tips. Bass is tight, punchy, pronounced, and my face is grinning. I cannot say anything about the 3rd tip but I will update when I get a chance to listen to it. In case you're wondering about the source.. it was a mix of Tidal FLAC/MQA and offline FLAC I had stored on my mac coming through Audirvana.
2nd day, I tried Electronic this time. I am still floored by how Doppel - Melt sounded.. I had sound coming at me from every direction. That track is also one of the most meticulously produced that I haven't really been able to find anything that can compare to it. I remember listening to that track on my HD800s and while I don't get the massive soundstage they provide, the low-end makes for a very fun listening experience. I was rather impressed. A sub-$300 IEM can bring about quite a lot of detail compared to a +$1000 pair of open cans. Not that you should ever compare the two as they are rather apples to oranges but just in terms of clarity, openness and detail.. they give you a ton for your buck.
I got to try balanced > MMCX but unfortunately the only thing I currently have that takes 2.5mm balanced is my Q5 and no matter how good BT aptX is, it just isn't anywhere close to being directly jacked. I hear a lot of swimminess in the highs due to the compression. Q5S is arriving tomorrow but I may not be able to test it until I'm back from vacation. I did notice better channel separation on balanced vs. the regular 3.5mm but I need my 2.5mm to XLR adapter to arrive before I can test with the THX 789.
I don't know what else to say, these are just absolutely fun to listen to.. And have completely dwarfed all my chi-fi headphones that I used to muck around with. Which was really what I was hoping would happen. I know you get what you pay for, but I have always been and will probably remain as a sit down and listen to loudspeakers kind of guy but I wanted to something decent to carry with me when I'm out and about and this more than fills that gap.
Ok.. so looks like they swapped the rings in production.. The "blue" that I like is the review unit's green, and vice versa. Also, the Comply SmartCore tips add a whole lot of low-end when compared to the SpiralDot+ tips that came with them. Comply + Green Ring nozzle was so bassy I felt my head was going to pop. So, ultimately, it is the blue + comply that give me the best experience overall. Although, green + spiraldot+ is almost the same amount of low-end as the blue + comply but with the highs being a tad more recessed. I think the green + comply is the perfect blend of both worlds. I get punchy bass without sacrificing detail and clarity. The white ring nozzles are.. interesting? I feel like if you're listening to classical/violins/acoustic they would probably give you the most airy-ness and soundstage but they were quite fatiguing to my ears with little to no low-end.
To break it down:
White - Super treble-y, sparkly, bright almost to a fault
Blue - Very V-shaped, super fun to listen to, can be bright at times depending on the track but a pair of Comply tips will tame the high-end just a tad bit more that you eliminate any extra brightness
Green - Very bass-y. So much rumble, so much thump.. I can imagine it being the basshead default. But you do lose a tad bit of the high-end. They do sound very good with the SpiralDot+ that come in the box. Just not comfortable in my years.
These things are tanks, metal on metal on metal. Snapping tips in and out feels solid, the connectors are nice. There's nothing cheap about them. Granted when you buy a P1 and get a massive box with faux leather and all that presentation.. you don't get any of that here. And perhaps I kind of like that.. The emphasis is on the headphones themselves, not the fancy packaging. So I appreciate that all of the money went towards the thing that matters!
I took a leap of faith and got these. I generally like to test things before I buy them but this was impossible for me in this case.. Finding FD01's where I live would be a challenge and I am not versed with all the loaner programs out there. I can't say that these will be earth shattering for everyone. Some of you already have fancy $500+ and $1000+ IEMs that would probably have a more distinct sound signature, these more than do the job and I am very happy with them. They were worth the money and then some. Definitely a keeper and I think it will be a while before I find a pair that can replace those for me. Remember, sound is subjective, it's also a very personal experience. Like my old lady says "One man's meat is another man's poison" or if you're into french idioms.. "À chacun son goût".
I want to plug these into my Phono and pop a few records in to get a sense of what they sound like via a full analog/tube setup as I tend to get a much warmer and wider soundstage than I do on the solid state counterpart. (Not by eons, but discernible enough to warrant a try) just for the hell of it :)
Would recommend to a friend.