These are cool litle buds. I think a 3 or 3.5 stars is fitting though.
I do some amateur (and some pro-ish) work in sound engineering, as a musician and music arranger. I'm not so much of an audiophile, but I do love to compare the sound of different gear and I like some crisp, clear audio as the arranger or engineer intended. Hopefully that gives a little bit of weight in my review.
- Fit is great, they didn't move around at all once placed in my ears. The sound was consistent even when I jiggled them around or tried to press them a bit further. The slight bend really helps with this, and the stock buds actually feel really good in my small ears.
- Sound is quite good;
The bass is actually *pretty danged nice* on these little guys, especially for the price. Nice and punchy, could be a bit more for the bass heads but for general listening it's plenty, and with a lot of detail.
Some will find that they are indeed lacking in the mid range and seem to have a sliiiight dip somewhere at the top of the mids (maybe) that makes the highs sound a bit mechanical. For some genres this may be a detractor, but for others that are mid-range heavy (like my collection of old jazz) they give a sort of nice sheen to that sound.
They are quite bright in my opinion, a very clear sound that might push on being too bright for most modern music - but definitely a good enough sound for pleasure listening, as long as they're supported by a dose of good EQ. Very detailed sound as well in my opinion.
Not quite sure what causes the following, but I'd say in general the sound gets "better" the further panned it is from the center of the field. Take from that what you will, it seems to gain a bit of depth/richness to the tone, an effect I've noticed on a lot of the cheaper in-ears.
- The soundstage/seperation is quite great in my opinion, I really felt distance and seperation between each individual instrument, and you actually start to get a bit of that sense of things starting to surround you a little bit as they're are panned in the aural space. Let me say, I finally heard the piano on "Godchild" from Miles Davis' Birt of the Cool album. With an instrument that quite in the mix, it's nice to finally hear clearly what's happening there.
- Build quality of the buds/in-ear part of the earphones is good, very solid, sturdy, probably could take a beating. This would be contrasted by...
- PLENTY of drive, as is typical with most in-ears since tey sit so close to the ear drum. They get definitely loud enough, no distortion from what I can tell at max volumes with my iPhone output (obviously not with the bud in my ear). I have yet to test them on my audio interface which can amplify to many times more than my iPhone's headphone jack.
- the cable, which is a flat sort of cheap plastic thing. It's no where near as bad as what you'd get on, for example, airline earbuds, but it's by and far nothing premium. In this regard, I'm sure Hifiman and MD must've scaled back quality to make room for things like better-quality drivers.
- Middle of the highs and the very highs can sound a bit cold and mechanical. People have been saying they sound a bit 'tinny' - I can agree with this.. high pitched transients can sometimes have that veeerry slight "ring" to them that makes the highs sound a bit cheap. Mids are underplayed a bit too much in my opinion for most modern mixes, and this is only exaggerated on lesser-quality mixes.
- Now this right here is the near-dealbreaker; the first device I tested these on was my phone. I played 1 track (a .wav file in an app), and then went to just play back a voice recording from someone else's phone when for some reason, the earphones FREAKED out and started screeching white noise at max volume. I'm assuming it had something to do with the mic/playback button, but my iPhone's headphone jack wouldn't output sound again until I rebooted it. Needless to say, I won't be using these with my iPhone. It's a 16gb anyway so not like I have any space for music, haha.
At the price, when it comes to sound quality, you can *just about not* beat these for $10. Anything else in or below the price range would pale a bit in comparison from my experience. I'll be using them for monitoring and tracking during home studio sessions. I unfortunately have to knock them down a star from the 4 stars I would've given because of that little happening with the noise.
My reference tracks:
- My own mix of a demo I did
- 57th Street Mambo : Bobby Sanabria
- Atchafalaya - Snarky Puppy
- Museum of Idiots - They Might Be Giants
- Joy Spring - Clifford Brown
- Dusty Grooves - FNKD
Sorry for all the jazz and brass-heavy stuff. Not really an electronic music guy myself, nor do I listen to too much of the stuff that comes on the radio. However I think these are great for jazz like I mentioned.
Anyway take from this what you will. I'll admit I'm probably not going to grab another pair because I have the strange gut feeling that something better at a couple more bucks will come along and replace these as my primary tracking drivers. We'll see about that :)