These headphones have been with me for a few weeks now. At first I was very impressed. I wrote a positive review here on Massdrop which I took down after only a few hours. After listening to them some more I found some flaws that really troubled me. Then I figured it would be best to take some time with them and get to know them, as is always a best practice with new audio gear.
Some of the critical reviews below make some valid points. Then again, as the date stamps indicate, a lot of these reviews were written, like mine initially, within just days of these units shipping for the first time. None of us were taking the time to get to know these headphones. Ultimately the true test of audio equipment is the test of time.
So, after having these for a couple of weeks I decided to pick them up again, and finally "listen without prejudice". Here is what I'm finding.
In my opinion there are two ways people approach Massdrop and two ways to approach audio gear. Some look to make their dollars stretch as far as possible in a quest to get the best possible single system they can afford while operating on a budget. Others can be so accustomed to shopping for audio equipment they are looking for smart ways to keep costs from getting out of hand as they explore sound by building out a collection of interesting gear.
If that seems like a reasonable distinction to you, then I think it is possible to approach evaluating these according to the different demands of these two types of shoppers / buyers.
If you are looking to get a single "best" pair of headphones at this price and you want the best sound possible, then these might not be a fit. I write "might" because I don't think they should be discounted entirely. While there are definitely other headphones in the same price range here on Massdrop that are better "all round"ers, specifically the Mee Pinnacle P1, some of these headphones won't produce solid results unless you have gear optimized for supporting them.
On the other hand for a listener interested in, or perhaps previously accustomed to a forceful low end sound, these are very easy to drive, and would provide a tremendous leap in quality over usual suspect Beats headphones (in this price range). For those who have written critically about the bass emphasis of the Planamics It's worth considering a headphone in this range that is widely held in high regard is the Shure se215. That's another bass heavy headphone with a dark timbre. I think the Planamics are much tighter in their low end presentation and much much faster overall than the Shure se215.
For this reason I would say that just as the Shure se215s often get a good review as an entry level first "serious" IEM, I think the Planamics are worthy of consideration even if one is on a budget and can't afford more than one headphone.
In my opinion there *are* more accurate sounding headphones in this price range that I would recommend. BUT, if you are listening from a device, such as a phone, that isn't optimized for audio, and if solid deep low end is your preferred sound signature, I don't think these will leave you disappointed.
With that said, if you have a good audio source with a powerful amplifier, I'd recommend the Mee Pinnacle 1s over these in a heartbeat. Similarly, if you are looking for one headphone, and CAN potentially go a bit higher on cost, check out the Fiio FH5, or the BGVP DM6. There are definitely much more flexible IEMs out there that can compliment a broader palate of tastes and music styles if you are open to complimenting them with the right gear.
Now, for folks who are interested in having a collection of headphones, I think you might want to take some of the negative reviews here with a grain of salt. I think they all make valid points if they are written for people who are looking to get the most neutral transparent headphone possible. These are not neutral. They are colored.
Coloration in audio should not be a dirty word for people interested in having a collection of headphones. In fact, coloration is one of the key reasons to have a collection of headphones. While it is definitely highly desirable to identify a key reference sound and system, and then build out from there when building one's own collection, having different headphones to compliment different needs is not a bad thing.
In my opinion, this is a place where these headphones shine. In fact, this is also a place where they arguably represent tremendous bang for buck. As much as a reference sound is super desirable, and *should* come first in building out a system, sometimes it's rewarding to be able to scratch different itches.
While colored sound in headphones is sometimes dismissed in headphone circles as being a bit like resorting to an EQ, what makes owning a headphone collection so rewarding is that there is actually more to a headphone than just frequency response. There are other characteristics such as the speed of handling attacks and decays and transients.
Adjusting the EQ on Shure se215s will produce very different results than adjusting the EQ on the Planamics for example. This is because the se215s are dynamic and dynamic drivers are usually a bit less quick and responsive than planar drivers. The Planamics are tight and fast in their bass response, and they remain pretty sharp and fast across the spectrum.
At their price they are easy to afford as a non bloated, high quality "bass head" IEM for when the mood strikes.
In addition to their very welcome approach to emphasizing the low end, they also image extremely well. While not offering the widest of soundstages it is much wider than most (for an IEM). For headphone enthusiasts I would say that not until you get to something like a Sennheiser ie8 will you find a wider presentation. Indeed the Planamic is a very worthy headphone for consideration by fans of the venerable Sennheiser ie8.
The Sennheiser ie8 was a highly well regarded bass emphasized IEM. The Planamic is faster than the ie8, and the bass is tighter and more organic. With that said, the highs aren't as lush as the ie8, and the soundstage is narrower. But then, that's because it is a different headphone. While it is a bit darker than the ie8, I'm still glad to own both.
For headphone enthusiasts, I think the Planamic is an interesting cost effective very high quality bass head IEM. It is fast and dynamic and images well. It provides a pleasant listening experience even though it can be dark and intimate in it's presentation, and definitely lacks a sense of 'air' on top.
Alternately, for anyone trying to get a single pair of IEMs it is worthy of consideration IF one has a very strong predisposition for a bass forward sound signature and is planning to listen on a non music optimized device with a so so headphone amplifier, such as a consumer grade cell phone.
When taking these considerations into account, I think the Planamic is a solid performer at its price point.