Acho Reviews (by SenyorC) - "bits and bobs"

I have decided to create this thread here under miscellaneous for those times (such as today) when I have content that doesn’t really fall into any specific category, or is relevant to multiple categories.

I will obviously keep posting any reviews in their specific categories and threads but sometimes I post stuff on my blog (or YouTube for those who speak Spanish) that are not strictly reviews.

That is the case with what I am going to post next, which is not a review but more a random ramble about a bunch of stuff by Venture Electronics (although all of my reviews could probably be classed as random rambles :wink: )

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The Venture Electronics "ad"Venture


What I am about to share is by no means a review! It is more my personal ramblings about what I have experienced with a lot of Venture Electronics items that have been sent to me as part of a tour that Charly very kindly organized together with Venture Electronics. I have named this my Venture Electronics “ad”Venture.

This tour included quite a few items, as you will see in a moment, and were sent to me to try out for a week. There were no requests, not even to publish this, although “impressions are always appreciated” were the words used. Therefore, the following are just my personal opinions and ramblings, regarding the items I have been trying out.

Preamble…

I usually follow a specific format with reviews, however, as I just said, this is not a review. When I review something, I spend at least 4 or 5 days with it, using it almost exclusively, before sitting down and doing detailed listening and comparing it to other things. In this case, I have just been using the items as and when I felt like it, mostly at my desk at work, I haven’t sat down and done any specific detailed listening sessions or other tests. I obviously couldn’t spend 4 or 5 days with each of these exclusively.

So I suppose the best way to describe this would be “thinking out loud” about my discovery of these earbuds and other items. I say discovery because I really don’t have much experience with earbuds at all. I did review the RY4S (300 Ohms) quite some time ago (2020 I think), and I quite liked the experience. I also have the Vido somewhere, since around the same time, but never really spent any time with them. Other than those two models, my only experience with buds is from the 90’s, which are horrible memories of crappy sounding, uncomfortable plastic things stuck in my ears :grinning:

Anyway, I have already started rambling, so let me share, in the order that I tried them, what I have experienced with each of the Venture Electronics items over the week of “ad”Venture.

As this will basically follow the random order in which I tried things out, please forgive my jumping backwards and forwards without any logical order.

One last thing before moving on, as I am sort of out of my usual realm here, so those reading may not (are probably not) familiar with my personal tastes. While I listen to all kinds of music, depending on my mood and the day, my most listened to music is mainly acoustic guitar + vocals (mainly female) or other simple acoustic based music. I do have a specific test track list that I use for all my reviews (that includes all kinds of songs, from different genres, good and bad) but I haven’t used that list specifically with these buds.

So, finally, I’ll get on with it, starting out with things powered by the iFi Gryphon.


Asura 3.0…

These were the first earbuds I picked up out of the package. There was no specific reason for this, they were just the first case I opened. In fact, they don’t even have a name on them so I didn’t even know what I was listening to and had to look up the name after listening and making some notes.

The first thing I noticed with these is that I couldn’t get them to sit still in my ears at all. I know earbud fits are different to IEMs and that the sensation of insecurity is normal, but even typing would make these move around in my ears. I remember reading that VE earbuds are tuned without foams, so I decided to use the silicone rings that were included (no idea what the specific name is for these rings) and that solved the movement issue.

Once they had stopped moving, I found comfort to be pretty decent. Ok, they are not as comfortable as some of my most comfortable IEMs but it is normal that a new strange shape feels a little weird at first. Other than the feeling of having new shoes in my ears, I didn’t really experience any hot spots or similar.

Listening to a lot of acoustic music with these I found vocals to be very pleasant and forward, with natural sounding acoustic guitars and basses. Obviously coming from IEMs, the bass is noticeably reduced, yet that is not something that bothers me as I am not someone who loves overly present bass (even though I am actually a bass player), so I found most of the acoustic presentation to be smooth and very enjoyable.

Remember that these were the first ones that I tried and I have shared the experiences noted at the time of trying them out, meaning as we go on, there will be more “experience” as I tried more models.

In general, I found these earbuds to have a presentation that I really enjoy, especially in the vocal range, with a smooth presentation and no sense of harshness. This led to me spending at least 3 or 4 hours straight enjoying music.

did find the cable to be a little too chunky for my personal preference but as I do most of my listening sitting at a desk (while trying to get some work done), it wasn’t a major problem. I don’t think I would choose these buds, or rather the cable, for moving around at all.


Monk SM…

Let me say that I don’t actually know what the price of any of these buds are but it is my understanding that the Monk SM are the cheapest model out of all the ones included and to be honest, moving from the Asura 3.0 to the Monk SM (which was just the next one that I randomly picked) did present quite a reduction in performance, or rather, a reduction in enjoyment.

I found that the overall signature was quite a bit “thinner”, with some appearance of sibilance in certain tracks. The mids were a lot less smooth and “lush” than on the Asura 3.0. The bass was also not as well defined. It is not like the Asura 3.0 had a huge amount of bass but the Monk SM had noticeably less, losing some warmth to the lower end of guitars and, again, making everything sound thinner overall.

They are not a terrible presentation, they are just not for me.


Master…

Moving on to the Master, this brought immediate improvements over the Monk SM, in my opinion of course. The upper ranges were smoother again and the tonality of vocals and acoustic instruments were much more realistic again. Saying this, I did find that the upper mids were a bit more exaggerated on these than on the Asura 3.0, with upper ranges that I didn’t find quite as pleasant as on the Asura 3.0, with a slight hint of sibilance in some tracks that are more prone to it. I also found that the bass wasn’t quite as rounded as on the Asura 3.0.

I made a note here to do some back to back listening between the Master and the Asura 3.0 later.


Sun Dice…

These are buds with a different shaped shell, a bell shape I guess (sorry but I don’t know what each shell shape is actually called), which actually gave me most issues with fit, although once I found the correct placement, they were not uncomfortable. I also found that these were the ones that needed the dial turning up most on the Gryphon.

These were a set that reminded me much more of the Asura 3.0 as far as sound presentation. I actually found that these seemed to do a bit of a better job as far as details, yet I felt that the Asura 3.0 still has something special in comparison. I think that, although I found a comfortable fit, the placement wasn’t as perfect as it was with the Asura 3.0, giving the Asura the lead in the midbass and lower mids to some extent, adding a bit more warmth to vocals and body to acoustic guitars.

Due to this slight reduction in warmth, the Sun Dice seemed to add a little more focus to upper mid range and lower treble, again, not seeming quite as smooth as the Asura 3.0. but certainly not becoming shouty or overly sibilant. I really do feel that if these fit me a little better, that the sound would possibly be better (in my opinion of course) than the Asura 3.0 but I still made a note to try them more back to back later.


BIE…

Ok, these are not actually earbuds, they are IEMs, but as this is the story of my “ad”Venture week, I am going to include them here anyway.

I could probably go into far more detail here as I am used to reviewing IEMs but in this case I am going to keep it short and simple, mainly because I only spent a couple of hours with them. These were the only ones that I had a quick listen of my test track list with, as that is the list I usually use for evaluating IEMs.

The impression I got from the BIE is that it is a very punchy IEM with quite an elevation in the lower ranges. I don’t find the to be extremely detailed or defined, although they are not bad, they are sort of an “ok” set of IEMs that I don’t hate but haven’t really fallen in love with either.

Measurements of these IEMs can be found (with all my IEM FR measurements) on achoreviews.squig.link and isolation measurements can also be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation


Monk…

I have to say that I didn’t even realize that these buds were even in the bag until I was looking to try out the dongles (up next) and found them in the zipper compartment.

These are the only buds that I didn’t have to use the silicone rings with, mainly due to how light both the buds and cable are. They are also the only ones that had a single ended connector on the cable.

I’m afraid that I have to say that these are the ones that I enjoyed the least. I did move back to acoustic music with these (after using my test track for the BIE) and I found the sound of instruments to be quite bland, lacking body and definition in the case of guitars etc. Vocals, while not as “full” and pleasant as with other models, are still well presented and are quite upfront in comparison to the instruments, however, I still find tonality to be a little off, at least in comparison to what I find natural.

Judging by the build and cable, sound etc., my guess would be that these are the cheapest of the bunch (again, I have no idea what any of these cost). I can’t say I hate them, the open and airy soundstage is still pleasant, yet I don’t think they are something that I could spend long sessions listening to.


Megatron…

Until now I have been using the Gryphon for all of my listening with the buds, mainly because it is what I always use for IEM reviews and it is a device that I really like.

However, in the collection of VE stuff, there were also a couple of dongle DACs included and the Megatron, a “trans”portable DAC/Amp that is approximately the size of the Gryphon and a little bit lighter.

The Megatron has an internal battery with a USB-C port for charging on the back, along with a USB-C data port, a line out and a switch to choose between DAC or DAC/Amp. On the frontit sports a 3.5mm unbalanced output, along with both a 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced output.

As with the earbuds, I have absolutely no idea of the specs or the price of the Megatron (again, this is not a review, more of a diary of experiences), so I really don’t know what it is competing against, so this is just my opinion on how I found it to perform. As far as functionality, there are no bells and whistles, so these are just my opinions on performance.

The first issue I had was getting the Megatron to work with Windows. I tried on two separate PCs (both running Windows 10) and I could not get it to work correctly. The device was detected but alternated between static or a very distorted sound. In the end, I gave up and just used the Megatron connected to my phone or DAP, working without issue on both.

I must say that as far as use case, I do wish that the Megatron had some kind of volume control on the unit. Yes, I can control the volume both on my phone and on my DAP but I would much rather be able to send a direct signal to the unit and control there.

But anyway, the first thing I did was plug the Asura 3.0 into it, as they were the buds that left me wanting to experience them more the most. While the performance is good, I feel that the Gryphon paired better, seeming to drive them better. With the Megatron, I got the sensation that things were just a little brighter and a little harsher in comparison. I did some non-scientific back and forth tests between the two and personally preferred the Gryphon much more.

I decided to test the Megatron with stuff that I know much more, such as the S12 and the Vulkan (amongst a few others) and I kept coming away with the same feeling, the Megatron just seems harsher. In fact, the Megatron reminded me quite a bit of the S9 Pro as far as sound.

I also tried a few headphones with the Megatron and more of the same. While it performed and drove most of the fairly well, it was just a little too bright and harsh on ocasions.

(NOTE: Please see the end of this “diary” when I finally find out prices of all these things!)


Abigail & Avani…

The Abigail and Avani are dongle style DACs similar to something like the Apple Dongle. I thought, due to the style, that the fairest comparison would be with the Apple Dongle itself. As I only had a week to spend with all these things and was interested in getting to spend more time with a few of the earbuds, I honestly didn’t spend too much time with the dongles.

Basically I grabbed a couple of sets of IEMs that I know well and did a quick comparison of the 3 connected to my phone using UAPP.

Any of the 3 will work and perform well enough to power the majority of IEMs without issue. I got the feeling that the Abigail was slightly more forwards in the upper mids while the Avani was slightly smoother and warmer in the bass. This could totally be my mind making things up and me thinking I hear them, I don’t think for one minute that I would be able to tell them apart in a blind test, at least not after the brief testing I did of them.

I am not sure how they perform with some of the more power hungry earbuds, as I honestly didn’t spend the time to test and also didn’t have a 3.5mm to 4.4mm adapter on hand, but in general they perform well enough.

It is hard to recommend a dongle DAC over the Apple at 10€ one unless the dongle is doing something special and to be totally honest, I didn’t find that they did anything special but they didn’t do anything wrong either.


So… back to earbuds and some further testing

As I said, all of my previous listening experiences were limited to the Gryphon (except the brief experience of the Asura 3.0 with the Megatron) so I decided I wanted to see what these buds would do with other sources. It’s not that the Gryphon had any real issues powering them, especially as I am someone who listens at fairly low levels, but sometimes things just “come alive” with a specific source.

I had already decided that the Asura 3.0, the Master and the Sun Dice were the three earbuds that interested me the most (even though the fit on the Sun Dice wasn’t great), so those are the three that I started to spend more time with on different sources.

Some people will probably think that the sources I am going to mention are totally overkill and that may be true, however, I am someone who does 90% of their listening at a desk and, as I live somewhere that hits over 40ºC every day for months, I find over ear headphones to be an experience that I prefer to avoid during summer. This usually leaves me with IEMs but in this case, earbuds offer an experience that gives a speaker like presentation without closing me off from the rest of the world (there are times that someone will come into my office and give me a heart attack as I didn’t hear/see them come in :slight_smile: ).

This time I will mention all three of the buds at the same time under the source, as that is how I used them.

With Hifiman EF400…

This Amp/DAC has quickly become a favourite of mine lately, giving a wonderful presentation to a lot of my headphones, so I was very interested to see how it paired with earbuds.

I started off with the Asura 3.0 as these were the ones that had left me wanting to try them out more. Immediately with the EF400 I found that I preferred them to when I was powering them with the Gryphon. There seemed to be more separation, a little more detail and an overall increase in performance from the earbuds.

Next up were the Master and I have to say that the EF400 seemed to exaggerate more the upper mids on the Master. I already noticed on the Gryphon that the upper mids and treble were a little more a bit too forwards and with the EF400 this was even more apparent. It worked well for some tracks but in general, I didn’t find the result very enjoyable after coming from the Asura in this case.

The last set that I tried on the EF400 set up (due mostly to time but also due to these three being “selected” during the Gryphon phase) were the Sun Dice. It’s such a shame that I can’t get them to stay still in my ears (especially the left) as, when I hold them in place, I think that they would probably be superior to the Asura 3.0 in performance and presentation. With the EF400 I found them to be a great combination but I had to literally sit completely still and hold them in place (not pushing them in to increase bass, jst lightly keeping them from moving).

With Feliks Audio Echo Mk2…

Here the Asura 3.0 did seem to lose a little of the soundstage separation that they had with the EF400, yet the slight reduction in openness (which is still a very open soundstage) came with much richer vocals and midrange. I spent quite a few hours of simple listening with the Echo + Asura combination, enjoying track after track of vocal focused acoustic music. I would be very happy to spend all day listening to this set up. This is still not a set up that I would chose for all genres of music, but for the main part of the music I chose to listen to, this is a great combo!

With the Master and I have to say that the Echo Mk2 made a huge difference to those upper mids and occasional treble spikes. They still appeared a little too “hot” on some tracks but in general the Echo tamed those upper ranges a little, making for a much more pleasant listen with the Master. I still prefer the Asura 3.0 with this combination but the gap is reduced a fair bit with the tube amp in play.

Finally the Sun Dice. I have to stress again what a shame it is that the fit doesn’t work for me as I really like the Echo + Sun Dice combo but alas, we all have different ears.


Discovering prices…

So, I went through all of this “ad”Venture without a clue as to what any of the prices (or specs) were. So after all of the impressions above, I sat down (well, I was actually already sitting) and strarted searching for info.

As far as the earbuds, I wasn’t too surprised at the results, although I was surprised to find that the Asura 3.0 was half the price of the Sun Dice ($150 vs $300). As I couldn’t really get the most out of the Sun Dice, I suppose it is not really fair for me to comment but I must say that the Asura 3.0 at half the price seems like a very good deal!

The Master ($100) is still a decent deal, as it does work very well with a lot of tracks but personally I would opt for the Asura 3.0 for the difference in price. The Monk (which I believe, after looking online, is the Monk plus) and the MOnk SM have very similar preces, both below $20, which I feel is a very good price. I was not overly excited with them but as a first step into the earbuds world, I don’t think anyone can complain at their performance for that price.

I was surprised to find that the BIE (the IEMs) were around $25 which I feel is a very reasonable price for them. They didn’t wow me and would not be IEMs that I personally would choose, but at that price, they are a reasonable buy. They are just up against some very tough competition from other well known brands in that price segment.

The two dongles, Avani and Abigail, I discovered were not available without some kind of bud or IEM bundle, however, bundled with buds for less than $20 is again a very reasonable price. As I said earlier in this ramble, I find it very difficult to recommend dongles over the Apple version unless they are doing something special, yet, at this price, they are more than capable dongles that come in at a very cheap price and are great value.

The price of the Megatron is probably the one that surprised me the most. When testing it out, I was expecting a price in the multiple hundreds of dollars, yet it is listed at $50. At this price, I really can’t bring myself to fault it. Yes, it is a long way from something like the Gryphon that I usually use, yet it is around 16% of the price. I certainly expected the price to be much higher!


Conclusion of the “ad”Venture…

I did warn at the beginning of this wall of text that this was going to be a long ramble, bouncing back and forth, without any real structure, and I didn’t lie! If anyone read all of this, then you were obviously very bored :wink:

As someone with very little experience with earbuds, zero experience with Venture Electronics products, and a very limited amount of time to spend with all this stuff, I feel that this was really the only way to share my experiences. It is not something I plan on making a habit of :grin:

So, after a week of “ad”Venture, my conclusions are that, while I don’t enjoy earbuds for every genre of music, nor for every situation, they do work very well for one of my main situations, that is sitting at my desk listening to music while working. As I said, I do listen to all kinds of music (depending on my mood and the day) but a great part of my music is vocal and acoustic instrument focused. Earbuds work very well for that.

They also work very well for the current summer time where I find that wearing headphones is like having two wet sponges strapped to my head, not a nice sensation. Earbuds give a very nice and open presentation, without blocking off the outside world, while still keeping music private.

As far as the earbuds I have tried this week, my favourites have been the Asura 3.0 by far. They are a set that I would really like to spend more time with to get to know them better. I always say in my reviews that I like to use something exclusively for at least 4 or 5 days before starting to come to conclusions and sharing detailed opinions, as that time frame can change my opinion of something dramatically for better or for worse. I obviously didn’t get that much time with the Asura, so my opinions are brief and possibly do not match what I would feel after a more extended time frame, but they are what they are.

It’s also a shame that the Sun Dice didn’t fit me correctly as I feel it would have been a strong contender to the Asura 3.0 but I can’t change my anatomy (without involving a surgeon at least!). The Master I also found pretty good but quite a way behind the Asura for my preferences, at least after the short testing periods I have had with them.

The Megatron I thing is probably the best “bang for buck” in the whole package. Not because I feel it is the best portable DAC/Amp ever, but because I feel it offers a lot for the price it sits at. I don’t have any need for something like the Megatron due to what I already have but it would make a good alternative to always have at work or similar and not have to worry about it breaking the bank if it grew legs and disappeared.

All in all it has been an interesting week. I certainly wouldn’t want to do this every week, I much prefer my more laid back routine of spending more time with a single option, but it was still a lot of fun. It has been a but like visiting an earbud trade show, just with far less noise and the possibility of listening to music I know.

Anyway, I guess that is enough rambling as I am now approaching 5000 words, my teachers would have been proud, if it wasn’t for the lack of coherency :grin:

So, thanks for reading, no matter how much of this you skipped!!

(I will leave non-affiliate links to all of the products mentioned in the version published on my blog. As always, you can also find this in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews))

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About time you made a thread like this year!

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Have a heart. He’s been on vacation. He’s had six beers.

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Stoked to follow along on this thread! :beers:

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I for one hope that @SenyorC wears clothing when showing his bits and bobs.

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Ranking 2022 - What I liked the most (and least) this year


Seeing that we are now in December and 2022 is coming to an end, I wanted to follow my tradition of doing a quick (or not so quick) recap of the things that I have been lucky enough (sometimes more than others) to try out during this year.

As you may or may not know, depending on how long you have spent reading or watching my reviews, I am not someone who makes lists and ranks them. It is not because I have anything against lists, I completely understand their use and the effort that goes into them, I just feel that “better” or “best” is such a subjective term in this audio and headphone world, that there can be a million lists and none of them would be 100% right or wrong.

All I can do is comment on how much I like or have enjoyed something personally. There are tons of things that I really enjoy but others will hate, and vice versa. And that is where I am going to break my own rule and make a list… with a ranking!

Before anyone thinks that I am going to put things into tiers and assign a letter (the typical S, A, B, etc.) to them, that is not what this list is about. All I am going to do is take a look at what I have reviewed this year and rank them based on how much I have personally enjoyed said item.

While there has been a variety of things that I have tried this year, such as DACs, DAPs, Amps and headphones, there is no denying that IEMs have been a huge amount of my content. In fact, there really isn’t enough content outside of IEMs that is worth ranking. So, before getting on to the ranking list (which will be of IEMs), let me just mention, briefly, the other categories.


As far as headphones go, the two that jump out at me from those that I have reviewed would be the Hifiman Edition XS and the Koss KPH40. It is no secret that I am a fan of Hifiman headphones and the Edition XS is a great set of Hifiman planars at a great price. The Koss KPH40 is in a completely different league but it is the set of headphones that I have most used this year. It lives on my desk in the office, connected permanently to the Modi 3+ & Atom setup, where it gets used for countless conference calls and easy listening in between.


DAPs haven’t seen much attention on the channel, with the Tempotec V6 being the only one to actually get reviewed. I found it to be a great sounding device but am not a fan of Android based DAPs. While not a DAP, the NEO Stream does fall into the music playback category and it is another iFi product that I really enjoyed.


In the land of DACs and amps, I have been very lucky to review some excellent devices this year. Being totally honest, I have enjoyed all of them! Each one has had its own flavour and I could honestly live with any of them. Saying that, if I had to pick my favourites, then I would obviously go with the iFi Gryphon for my portable set up (although the Go Blu does see quite a bit of use also, especially when travelling). I also like the Aune B2 but the Gryphon has become my main device for listening away from my home system but also for testing and reviewing IEMs.

As far as desktop amps and/or DACs… The Questyle CMA15 is an excellent piece of equipment, yet I have really fallen in love with the Hifiman EF400 and the Feliks Audio Echo Mk2. Both of these are great on their own, yet combining the two, I have a desktop set up that I enjoy immensely, pairing well with almost every headphone I have in my possession.

So, with those out of the way, now let’s get to the list, my ranking of IEMs that I have reviewed (so far) in 2022.

Disclaimer: I will start from my oldest review of the year and place them on the ranking list as I move through the year, commenting on what I remember sticking out about said IEMs as I go along (remember, some of these IEMs I reviewed almost a year ago and probably haven’t listened to since, so its also a test on how much they have stuck in my brain :grin: ). This means that it is going to be quite a long journey, so if you just want to see the finished list, jump to the end of the entry and I will leave the full list.

One last thing, I will make each IEM a clickable link that allows you to go to the full review of the IEM should you wish to read it. I apologize to the forum members as the links will take you to the reviews published on my blog. I would usually link to the reviews published here on the forum but it’s a lot of links and this list took me long enough already!

And now… IEMs 2022, the Acho Reviews ranking…

Reecho SG03 - This was the first IEM that I reviewed in 2022 and I can’t say I was a fan. The bass was excessive and the overall V shaped tuning just wasn’t for me. However, as this is the first IEM, it gets to spend (a short amount of) time in first place.

NF Audio NM2 - This set of IEMs had decent technical performance and was quite balanced, even if the midbass was a little too much, yet the comfort didn’t work great for me. It certainly placed itself above the SG03 though.

Reecho SG01 - The SG01 was something that I found very similar to the NF Audio NM2 and I also enjoyed, although, again, the midbass was a little too much and there was also a bit too much in the 3kHz range for me. I would place this just below the NM2 but way above the SG03.

Dunu Titan S - The first set of Dunu IEMs that I reviewed and I thoroughly enjoyed them. It isn’t a set of IEMs that is necessarily the best at anything in particular but is a set that I have used quite a bit for general listening. They also have a very original look and go straight to the top of the list for now.

CCA CRA - I remember the title of this review being “what if the best KZ are not KZ?” and I think that is a good description. The tuning of these IEMs is nothing like my personal preference yet they have really good bass and I have really enjoyed these IEMs. I would still highly reccomend these for someone looking for an elevated and good bass at a very cheap price. I can’t bring myself to place them above the Titan S on the list, as I prefer the tuning of the Titan, but they can slide in just below them.

Tripowin Leá - This was a bit of a strange experience. While listening at low volume levels, I enjoyed the Leá, yet as soon as I turned them up even slightly, I found that they got harsh very quickly. At low levels, they may deserve more, but in general, I have to place them below the SG01.

Koss KEB90 - Bass, bass and more bass. I think these are probably still the IEMs with the most bass that I have graphed. Added to that, they also have a rather large peak right on the 5kHz mark. Saying this, I didn’t hate them as much as I would have thought judging by the graph, but they are still not something that Ihave returned to since reviewing them. I’m actually going to place these below the SG03 but it would be a hard decision between them.

Effect Audio Axiom - This set of IEMs had so many good things going for it, yet the sound (as far as tuning goes) wasn’t one of them, at least in my opinion and with the supplied modules. The alternative modules supposedly make these IEMs sound much better but I haven’t had chance to try them out. Also, they are the most expensive set of IEMs I have reviewed. However, price is not a factor on this list, I am not evaluating price to performance, just my enjoyment of the IEMs, and these are going to slot in between the CRA and the NM2.

Tipsy TTROMSO Pine Stone Sea - I found these to be quite a relaxed listen. They are not high on the detail scale and have too much in the bass range but are enjoyable for long BGM sessions, so I am going to drop these in above the Axiom.

Tanchjim Ola - The Ola are certainly lean on the bass side of things. Personally I find them tolerable in this aspect, although I too would like some extra down in the lower ranges, I found myself using XBass with these quite a lot which did improve the overall experience. I’m going to place these between the NM2 and the SG01 (using them with XBass).

7Hz Timeless - While I only got to spend a brief time with these, they were impressive and I really enjoyed them. They were the first planar IEMs that I tested from this new wave of planars and easily go to the top of the list in its current form.

7Hz Eternal - Another 7Hz set that I only spent a brief period with but with the opposite result to the Timeless. I really didn’t enjoy my brief time with the Eternal and these place low on the list, in fact, I am going to drop them to the bottom, not because I feel they are the worst (like “best”, “worst” is very subjective) but as far as enjoyment goes, these are the only set of IEMs so far that I didn’t make it through a full day with as I just couldn’t get to grips with the sound.

Fiio x Crinacle FHE: Eclipse - Although brief, the time I spent with these was very pleasurable and I was surprised when I found out the price, thinking it was very reasonable at the time. These are going on the list above the CCA CRA. I find the CRA has better bass but the Eclipse is a much more pleasant all rounder.

SeeAudio x Crinacle Yume Midnight - I spent a brief time with these following the Eclipse and while I didn’t really have any complaints, I preferred the Eclipse (which is also cheaper, although that is not a consideration for this list). I am going to place them just below the Eclipse on the list.

Unique Melody Mest Mk2 - The last of the series of mini reviews and the Mest Mk2 was the best by a large margin. It was the better performer of anything that I have on the list so far, however, I did expect something more from it. That is why expectation biases are never good! So, while from a “better” point of view, it would need to go to the top, yet from an enjoyment point of view, I am going to leave the Timeless in the top spot with the Mest Mk2 just behind (yes, blasphemy, I know!)

Ikko Opal OH02 - The Opal is a set of IEMs that aims to be different from the majority. I found the upper ranges (mids especially) to be very pleasant yet the lower ranges (midbass especially) could be impressive or irritating, depending on music choice. This is going to place below Ola on the current list as the Ola does need the XBass but is more consistent across genres.

Letshuoer S12 - I have praised these IEMs a lot and I still do. I got to try these side by side with the Timeless and found that the differences were minimal but that the S12 just suited me better. These became my daily driver for a long time and they are still one of my frequent choices for those times when I just want to relax and listen to music away from whatever I am testing and reviewing at the time. There is no doubt that these get first place in the current standings.

Moondrop Chu - These are probably the most hyped IEMs in the extreme budget category this year and I agree that they are a very good set for the price. Unfortunately they have a 5kHz peak that is something that I am very sensitive to, but they also come with tips that I have used on many other sets which gives them bonus points, so they go on the list above the NM2.

Tin Hifi T1S - These I found to be basically the T1+ in another format, a very “safe” tuning that didn’t really excel in anything and had too much in the midbass for my liking. They get a spot on the list just above the Leá.

TRI Meteor - These are a set that I enjoyed for general listening, with a tuning that is not really my preference but is still something I enjoyed. While I wouldn’t pick these as a set for a music listening session, where I am focusing on the music, I did enjoy them for BGM while focusing on other things. I’m actually going to place these above the NM2.

CCA CRA+ - These are a follow up from the CRA and place the focus more on the midbass than on the subbass, due to the roll off in the low end. As far as performance goes, they are on a par with each other, although I feel that the CRA+ has better upper mids. Saying that, I prefer the bass on the CRA (even if they are both quite a way from my usual preferences). I am going to say the CRA have the edge over the CRA+ for my enjoyment.

Dunu Vulkan - The most beautiful set of IEMs that have been across my desk. I find the treble to be a little hot on occasions but I still enjoy them and use them for certain genres when I am in the mood. There is also no denying that the make for some great photos, which adds to the enjoyment. While I am sure that many will disagree with me (which is why I keep saing “best” is subjective), these are going to go between the Timeless and the Mest Mk2.

TRN TA1 Max - With a sound signature that I am not a fan off, these IEMs were destined to not be high on my enjoyment scale, however, they do perform pretty well for those who are into the tuning. Personally, I am dropping these on the list between the T1S and the Leá.

Tangzu Shimin Li - The second part of the trilogy was not as impressive as the first part. Although these are an extreme budget set of IEMs, there is a lack of detail and performance is just not that great. I said that price is not a factor on this list, so they get placed below the T1S.

Seek Real Audio Airship - These IEMs really surprised me and I enjoyed (and still enjoy) them very much. Added to the overall sound and performance, I find them to be extremely comfortable and they are small enough to be packed almost anywhere. On my enjoyment ranking, these are going to go above the Vulkan, not because they are better IEMs than the Vulkan or the Mest Mk2, but because I have enjoyed them for many hours.

Blon Fat Girl - There were so many things I disliked about this IEM that it is just going to drop to the bottom of the list.

7Hz x Crinacle: Salnotes Dioko - This set of planar IEMs proved that a good set could be produced for a lot less than other available models at the time. I am a fan of the tuning and while it does fall a little behind on details and performance in comparison to other planars, I find this to be a very decent set of IEMs. Grabs itself a spot above the Titan S

7Hz Salnotes Zero - This is an outstanding set of extreme budget IEMs. While price is not a factor, these are still a very good set of IEMs that I got a lot of enjoyment out of listening to. They may not be my thing as far as aesthetics but they still deserve to go on the list above the CRA.

KBEAR Little Q - These have gained a permanent spot in my tech pouch. A set that is there for “emergencies” (as if forgetting ot breaking a set of IEMs can be considered an emergency) and they are a set that I will use for general media consumption while laying in a hotel bed etc. They are not high on my list for music listening but they have still given me plenty of hours of enjoyment, so they earned themselves a spot just below the CRA duo.

Sennheiser IE600 - Probably the best IEMs I have heard this year and by far the most comfortable. I enjoyed these IEMs a lot, even if they are way north of my bass preferences, and have no doubt about putting them in the top spot.

Letshuoer D13 - Amazing bass quality without feeling the need to boost it, with an overall tuning that I find very enjoyable. Another set that I still grab now and again, especially for that dynamic driver bass, even if the details are not their strong point. These are going to grab themselves a spot between the Mest Mk2 and the Titan S.

KZ AS16 Pro - While there is nothing really wrong with these IEMs, I just find that they lack life for most of my preferred music. While I have heard sets with amazing bass from BA’s, this set is one of those that reminds me of why I am generally not a huge fan of BA bass. Again, nothing inherently wrong with them per se, but on an enjoyment ranking, and the fact that Ialso find them uncomfortable, they drop below the Leá.

Tanchjim Zero - Decent performance but with a very forward tuning. Not much warmth to be found here. While the form factor works well to compete with the Little Q, the tuning not so much for general media consumption (such as movies, etc.). Therefore, while performance is probably much higher than the Little Q, for enjoyment they place quite a lot lower, just below the Ola from the same brand.

TRI x HBB KAI - This was the first HBB collaboration that I tried and I must say they impressed me. They are not my preferred sound signature but they are good performers and work well for a lot of genres of music. I enjoyed the time I spent reviewing them and I have grabbed them a few times since. I’m going to place these between the D13 and the Dioko.

Meze Audio Advar - Excellent in so many ways but the upper ranges just made a lot of music a bit too harsh for me. While the bass is above my preferences, the performance and clarity make it a non-issue and in general, these are a great set of IEMs, except for that brightness up top. They are also very comfortable IEMs and they deserve, based on enjoyment, a spot just below the Timeless.

Blon Z200 - Not a set of IEMs that I enjoyed very much, they get relegated to a spot between the TA1 Max and the Leá.

TRN ST5 - These are a set that I feel could be improved in many ways but I still enjoyed them, even though I would not pick them as a set for me personally. I am going to place these on the list above the T1S but below the SG01.

Tin Hifi T3 Buds - These are the only TWS that Ihave reviewed this year and I am not someone who really uses TWS. There is some background hiss to the IEMs that can be annoying and they have a bit too much of a boost in the upper mids, which leaves them placing between the Meteor the NM2.

Tripowin Rhombus - I did not enjoy these IEMs, finding the BA driver harsh and too much of a focus on the upper mids (even if they have plenty of bass on paper). These go on the list below the Eternal.

Tin Hifi T2 DLC - A nice surprise from Tin and a worthy successor of the original T2. I think these are the best tuning I have heard from Tin so far and they place quite high on the list between the D13 and the KAI.

TRI i One - These are a set that I can like or hate, depending on the song. They seem to react differently to each track and while they can be impressive at times, it takes away from the enjoyment as I can’t just relax and listen to music. I am going to put these on the list below the TRI Meteor.

KZ PR1 - These have far too much bass for my tastes. The performance is ok and they would be a lot more fun (for me) if they didn’t have that overwhelming low end. As it stands, they slip in between the TA1 Max and the Shimin Li.

Tripowin Cencibel - These suffer from the same issues as the Tripowin Rhombus, just with no BA to blame. However, they did come with a nice case which I have repurposed for the iFi Gryphon, so that puts them above the Rhombus on the list.

Dunu Talos - These are in a very close battle with the S12 for being my favourite planar IEMs. I swapped tips on both sets and while the Talos is more detailed, the S12 are more relaxed. Depending on the day, I will prefer one or the other. However, as the Talos is much better looking (in my opinion of course), they are going to steal the second place from the S12.

HZSound Heart Mirror Pro - A set that I have enjoyed using, both during the review and for some general listening since then. They are not spectacular in any way but they are a solid performer in every way, so they are going to place just above the D13 on the list.


So, with all of that, the final standing of the list of IEMs that I have reviewed in 2022, at least so far, based solely on my personal enjoyment and nothing more, is as follows.

  1. Sennheiser IE600

  2. Dunu Talos

  3. Letshuoer S12

  4. 7Hz Timeless

  5. Meze Audio Advar

  6. Seek Real Audio Airship

  7. Dunu Vulkan

  8. Unique Melody Mest Mk2

  9. HZSound Heart Mirror Pro

  10. Letshuoer D13

  11. Tin Hifi T2 DLC

  12. TRI x HBB KAI

  13. 7Hz x Crinacle: Salnotes Dioko

  14. Dunu Titan S

  15. Fiio x Crinacle FHE: Eclipse

  16. SeeAudio x Crinacle Yume Midnight

  17. 7Hz Salnotes Zero

  18. CCA CRA

  19. CCA CRA+

  20. KBEAR Little Q

  21. Tipsy TTROMSO Pine Stone Sea

  22. Effect Audio Axiom

  23. Moondrop Chu

  24. TRI Meteor

  25. TRI i One

  26. Tin Hifi T3 Buds

  27. NF Audio NM2

  28. Tanchjim Ola

  29. Tanchjim Zero

  30. Ikko Opal OH02

  31. Reecho SG01

  32. TRN ST5

  33. Tin Hifi T1S

  34. Tangzu Shimin Li

  35. KZ PR1

  36. TRN TA1 Max

  37. Blon Z200

  38. Tripowin Leá

  39. KZ AS16 Pro

  40. Reecho SG03

  41. Koss KEB90

  42. 7Hz Eternal

  43. Tripowin Cencibel

  44. Tripowin Rhombus

  45. Blon Fat Girl

I am going to say this one last time, so as to avoid confusion about this ranking. This is not a list of “best to worst” IEMs, there are IEMs that are “better” in many ways than those placed above them on the list, yet I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of them as I did with other sets.

I think that the most “unfair” are probably those that I did a mini review of, as I only spent around a day or two with each of them. Many times I will find that a set of IEMs grows on me after a few days, or I grow to dislike it on occasions also, so it is possible that these would have ranked differently had I spent more time with them.

And I think that I should wrap it up here, as this has turned into probably the longest post I have made. But it has been fun looking at all the stuff I have reviewed this year. There are still a few more to come but for now, here is my first (and probably last :wink: ) ranking list of IEMs.

By the way, I would love to hear what changes you would make to the list. Remember that no list is wrong as long as it is viewed from the perspective of the person who creates it.

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Viking Weave Cables & Do Cables Matter?


While the following is actually a review, or at least opinions, of Viking Weave cables, the video that I published on this subject actually turned into a ramble about cables and the infamous question of “Do cables matter?”

I am not going to go into the same depth on my opinions as I did in the video but I do want to basically do a brief recap on the subject before getting to the actual point here. So, if you want to skip my ramblings about my opinions on cables and jump to the Viking Weave cables, just scroll down :wink:


Do cables matter?

In short, yes.

Now, let me start by pointing out that this is not aimed at starting a debate, nor am I interested in arguing the subject with anyone. The TLDR of this is “Do whatever makes you happy!”.

Cables can certainly make a difference, the specs of a cable can determine whether the sound of the earphones in question are affected or not. Impedance matters. Yet, when two cables are of a low enough impedance to not affect the earphones in question, then there is no reason that there should be a sound difference between the two.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t hear a difference!

The brain is, in my opinion, the most important factor in the music and audio world. Our minds are capable of making us hear things that are not there. No matter how unbiased we feel we are, everyone has a bias (consciously or not) that can affect the way we perceive sound (or an infinite amount of other things that interact with our senses). Yes, it is possible that we hear a copper cable to be “warmer”, for example, and just because the science behind it proves there is no difference at all in the signal, we still hear the difference.

That is not a bad thing, far from it! At the end of the day, listening to music, no matter how deep we try to dive into the science behind it, is a completely subjective experience. People have different tastes and also different experiences and no matter how crazy we feel others may be for liking something we hate, or hearing something we don’t, the only important thing is that each of us finds what we like and enjoy it, it doesn’t matter if science (or other people) says we are wrong, it is about enjoyment. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, Reggaeton wouldn’t exist :wink:

Ok, so getting past the subjective differences we hear between different models of cables (again, when two cables are of the same specs), there are a few more things that matter in the world of cables.


Build quality of the cable is obviously an important factor. The cable used, the quality of the connectors and hardware, the quality of the soldering etc. These are all things that are going to make a cable objectively better. Good materials and good quality control will make for a cable that is going to last a lot longer.

However, the above does not need to be expensive. Connectors, for example, can range from a few Euros for Neutrik up to a lot of Euros for more exclusive brands. I have used Neutrik connectors over the past couple of decades for many things, from full theatre installs to short patch leads at home, from live events to studios, from places where the get plugged in and forgotten about for years, to places where they are plugged and unplugged dozens of times a day. Neutrik makes some pretty good connectors at a decent price, so why would we spend more on other more exclusive brands? Well, although science might say otherwise, we can route our answer back to the subjective part above or to the subjective part that comes up next… aesthetics.

While there are people who really don’t care about aesthetics, the truth is that the vast majority of us do. We all have our own tastes in looks and aesthetics (which is a great thing, otherwise most of us would be single :wink: ) and these can also affect our other senses without us even noticing. When we pick something up that is aesthetically pleasing to us, we automatically look for positive things, when something is the opposite, we automatically look for negative things. Although it is not always the case that we do find positive experiences in pretty things, or vice versa, it does (subconsciously) affect the way we approach them. The same goes for price. If we think that something is way overpriced, our brain will automatically try to zone in on the faults rather than the virtues.

The last thing I am going to mention, which could probably be classed as the most important of all from a science point of view but we probably account for the least, is the way cables are braided or twisted. The construction of the cable, or the way the cores are relative to each other, actually serves to help protect the signal from interference. Looking at it from an exaggerated point of view, the cable is like an antenna, picking up interference along the way. Specific ways of twisting or braiding the cores of the cable can help to reject the interference and help keep noise out of our final sound. Again, this (along with impedance and length) is probably the most important part about cables from a scientific point of view, yet is something that is rarely considered when purchasing a new cable.

So… should I buy cable X?

Well, that depends totally on you and what makes you happy. As I just explained, if the specs of the cable are good and the build & hardware of the cable are good, then buy what makes you happy.

If you feel that your choice of a silver cable has revealed more detail, or that your copper cable gave you that extra bit of warmth you were looking for, then great! You have found a cable that enhances your listening experience and that is the best result you can obtain, no matter what anyone else says on the subject.


Viking Weave Cables…

Finally I am getting to the actual subject of this (sort of) review, Viking Weave Cables.

I met the guys behind Viking Weave in Munich earlier this year and had a great evening with them, discussing cables (amongst many other non related things). Apart from being great guys, I found that they were very down to earth and sincere about what (and what not) to expect from their cables. They were quite open to my opinions (about cables not actually making a sonic difference if they are of a good spec) and explained to me how they can actually use things like impedance to make changes in specific cases (as in, certain specs will interact in a specific way, with certain headphones). However, above all, they were proud of the craftsmanship and they have every right to be!

They didn’t try to convince me that this cable would create “insert magical sound properties here" but they did stand their ground on the subject of their quality, especially in relation to price. They very kindly offered to send me a couple of cables for me to try out and to share my opinion with them on what I thought. They didn’t actually request that I post a review or anything but I am more than happy (as always) to post my honest opinions on what I have found.

The two cables that they sent me are those pictured above. Now, if I am not mistaken (which is quite possible!), the one on the left is the Berkano and the other is a custom version that they put together and is not actually for sale. They have a few models, starting from around 100€ (depending on the exchange rate) for the basic model all the way up to custom models that they will make for you if you request them.

The price of a custom model is obviously going to depend on what you actually request but the most expensive of their “normal” models is around 500€. This might sound like a lot of money to some people but in comparison to other manufacturers that have models costing multiple thousands of euros, it is actually a reasonable price.

The cables use their own custom hardware and connectors and I have to say that the workmanship and attention to detail is nothing short of spectacular. I have been using both models with my (ever growing) collection of Hifiman headphones and I have really fallen for both their looks and the comfort. The custom version they sent me has the thicker fabric wrapped cores up until the split, making it a very sturdy cable, but the change to the softer cores after the split makes it very comfortable.


In the video version of this review I compared their cables to various other cables I have. An extremely cheap model by Openheart, a few of the stock cables that Hifiman include and the cables that I make myself. On a sound level, the only one I can honestly say I can immediately notice a difference with is the Openheart cable. This is because the cable has an impedance imbalance between the two channels and makes it quite obvious that one channel is different to the other.

In comparison to the other cables, I can’t say that I would be able to pick out the sound in a blind test, yet, as mentioned in the first part of this wall of text, I subjectively prefer the Viking Weave Cables. The fact that I like their comfort and aesthetics immediately puts me in a more positive mindset when comparing them to something like the “blood transfusion tube” that Hifiman included with things like the HE1000se.

The cables that I make myself (using Canare, Neutrik and Rean) is something that I find very handy as I use the modular system, allowing me to swap terminations at both ends and lengths very easily, depending on my needs at the time. However, there is no way that I would pick up my own cables over those sent to me by Viking Weave. There is just no comparison!

All I can say is that they get a 10/10 from me for build, aesthetics, price and of course sound, as everything sounds great with them!


Conclusion…

If you are considering a nice cable, then I think that Viking Weave Cables (https://vikingweavecables.com/) are certainly worth taking into consideration.

The guys behind them are not a large company looking to sell cables at prices that are as high as they can, they are two people who love audio and want to offer the best quality they can for a price that is as reduced as they can. Just looking at the amount of work that goes into their cables, I feel that their prices are very fair.

They are also great guys to talk to and I am sure they will be more than happy to accommodate any requests you may have for custom options. They are active on quite a few headphone forums but the best option I think would be to reach out to them via their website above.

Just as a reminder as I end this long post (my plan was for it to be shorter than the video but I guess I failed :grin: ), I am in no way affiliated with Viking Weave Cables, even if I sound like a salesman, it is just that I have maximum respect for those who try their hardest to make quality products without losing touch on reality along the way!

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I’m having trouble linking the discussion, but @Lou_Ford made some replies from August 18th and forward in the Take Me To School thread where he discusses cables and points to some tech papers on the Iconoclast Cables site.
https://www.iconoclastcable.com/story/index.htm
The difficulty is testing my ears on this engineered cable without emptying my wallet, but the papers there are much more convincing for the case that there is some reason that cable weave can make a difference.

I will buy some lottery tickets. Should I win I will buy some of their cable to test, and to had out to @Lou_Ford and you to report on. Sadly I think it’s just speaker and not headphone.

Iconoclast offer a 30-day trial with no restocking fees, plus a 100% trade value on something more expensive for the first 90 days, and 75% trade value for the rest of a year.

See Returns and Exchanges -- Iconoclast Cable

So your wallet is only temporarily emptied, assuming you can make a decision about cables in a month. :grin:

But, yeah, interconnects and speaker cables, not headphone cables from Iconoclast. Since headphone impedances vary so widely, I could see an argument for different cable designs depending on the 'phones.

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Still more than I typically spend on patch cords or wires interconnects or speaker cables.

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Ditto. I have this thing about not spending more on wire than on electronics or transducers. And since my current desktop DAC is about $80…

BJC is probably all I’ll ever need for cables.

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My answer to “Do Cables Matter?” has evolved over time. Basically it goes like this, “Mostly No, but Occasionally Yes” or “They do, but not in the ways that you might think they do”. I can buy into the weave or materials impacting impedance and the interactions of the Headphones & the Cables. I can’t buy into the bafflegab that often is put out to justify the cost of cables.

So, I’m a skeptic.

But I am happy with the cables I’ve bought for my HiFiMan headphones and I agree on the IV Tubes that were included with them being less than ideal.

Mark Gosdin

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Economy of response - first I’ll agree with @mgosdin about evolving over time. (sort of an oxymoron)

I think we do come from the generation that had patch cords and wires. And that does make it hard to spend more on wire than electronics. I’d thought about upgrading the power cord for my 1968 Sansui AU-919, when I had it board level restored, but the restorer pointed out that the wire inside the case was not particularly upgradable, and that the appearance of a fat modern removable power cord would hurt the resale value.

While you have a $80 DAC (shoulda left a note for Santa’s Elves) I consider most of my equipment solidly upper middle tier (for here) which means a heck of a lot better than most people ever listen to. It’s probably into that realm where if there are real cable differences, it could resolve them. My ears, though aging, are getting better trained. I’d happily trade some of that training for 30 years younger.

It’s with the regular speaker audio that I hear the most difference. You’ve always pointed to interesting alternatives - like the Debra/Swarm subwoofer solution or some of those truly beautiful speakers I should consider. I’m a sucker for good esthetics aesthetics (spellcheck likes both) in speaker design. (On a side ramble the Harbeth has the advantage of my wife having heard and liking it, but that DeVille is both a local PA product and beautiful) And you are shameless in tempting others to spend their money.

I’m quite tempted to try the Iconoclast from my amp to my office speakers, but that would tempt me to try different interconnects, and the SOURCE for my office is set for convenience rather than purity. Qobuz or Apple Lossless from iPad over BT5 (no visible wires!) to an iFi Zen Blue V2 to the Sansui.

I just don’t crank it that much to justify running wires (or I’m lazy and would want to hide the wires, which means a 15+ foot run, or putting the iPad over near the cabinet instead of right at hand. It’s worse at home. I run almost 20 ft of Cardas 11.5 gauge litz cables from my amp to my speakers. Put that length into the Iconoclast price calculator and I just choke.

And @SenyorC, I looked at that Viking website and I saw no $$ signs, just those £ symbols. On this side of the pond there’s Hart Audio Cables and Blue Jeans Cable (that helps produce the fancy Iconoclast, but that’s hardly their main business) that both try and give good quality at a fair price.

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Don’t want to hijack @SenyorC’s thread any further, so just a couple things here that actually relate to cables.

I agree and think this makes sense. Lamp cord Speaker cables have a tougher job than interconnects or headphone cables – they’re delivering considerably higher currents into far more reactive loads.

Yeah, especially with the Gen2, that would be a major ouch! The devilry in this is that the longer the cable, the greater potential to degrade the sound, and therefore the more important (potentially) the design and construction. This is also an argument in favor of the long interconnect (balanced) and short speaker cable approach. And that, in turn, is an argument for monoblock power amps.

One thing always leads to another. That’s (hopefully) part of the fun of this hobby.

Nice review. There are a number of boutique headphone cable companies who use similar good quality components like OCC copper and silver wire and upmarket connectors, and also make the cables exceptionally pretty: Viking Weave in the UK, Forza in Europe, Arctic, Double Helix, Norne and PlusSound in the US (and I’ve almost certainly missed a few).

I’d suggest that if people are in the market for a fancy headphone cable, it would cheaper, and nicer to the planet, to pick a company in the same country, given that the materials are so similar.

I have listened to a lot of headphone cables over the last couple of years (although still a drop in the ocean of what’s available), and have noticed differences, and I think the important thing is to treat cables as another link in your audio chain. Find something that meets your preferences within your budget. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better, it could just mean they used more expensive materials. I’ve tried multi-thousand dollar headphone cables, and preferred less expensive ones, and I bet others would have the opposite reaction. And if you can’t tell the difference, that’s even better because you don’t have to fall down that rabbit hole.

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This is in the living room. My better half wins that argument with one word. “No.”

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Happy 2023!! The 6 (+1) IEMs I use the most…


Happy 2023!!

I thought I would start off this year with something that I have planned on doing for quite some time and have never actually gotten around to doing, taking a look at the IEMs that I most use for pleasure.

I have mentioned in the past that I have a case that holds 6 sets of IEMs that live on my desk and it is where I store the IEMs that I grab when I want to listen to music and am not focused on testing whatever it is that I am planning on reviewing at the time. A lot of these IEMs (all?) were mentioned in my 2022 round up but are not necessarily those that ranked the highest. They are sets that match different moods and genres that I may feel like listening to on the day.

There is also one bonus set that doesn’t live in the case (although it used to) and is permanently in my bag, connected to the MW200. These are the IEMs that I use for travelling (through airports etc.) or whenever I need TWS (although they aren’t really TWS, it is a set up that I actually prefer to TWS for the commodity).

It would have been great if I had done this at the beginning of 2022 as we could compare what has changed over the year (I remember that there was a bigger presence of Moondrop at the start of 2022). There have been quite a few that have found a space in the case over the year and have left again at a later date due to me finding I grab a different set more often.

So, without further ado, let’s get on with this first post of 2023!

6+1 IEMs that I choose for pleasure…

I am actually going to start with the bonus set, the one that doesn’t live in the case but in my bag for wireless use…

Moondrop Blessing 2: Dusk

These were in the case for a very long time and I found that I wasn’t actually using them much, they sort of took a back seat to other things. I then decided to remove them from the case yet, just as I was going to do so, I decided to take them with me on a trip (as the only IEMs I had with me).

This trip reminded me of just how much I enjoy the Dusk. For easy listening, especially with modern pop etc., they are an excellent set of IEMs. They also work very well with the MW200 and paired with the CP155 tips, they have literally become a very comfortable and great sounding set of IEMs for being out and about.

The thing that I like about paring them with the MW200 is that I can just remove them and dangle them around my neck when I need to pay attention to my surroundings, without having to worry about storing the in a case (TWS) or having a cable to deal with (Go Blu + IEMs). They may not be the best isolating IEMs in the world (although the isolation measurement on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation can’t be trusted due to the bad seal of the CP155 on the measurement rig) but they isolate plenty for places like airports and the bass is present enough to not have to worry about missing out.

Letshuoer S12

So, moving on to the ones in the case, in no particular order (i.e: not better to worse or anything similar), we have the Letshuoer S12.

These were my main choice for a daily driver for many many months and still get a lot of use. They basically compete with the Talos (also in the case) for the ones that I grab when I want to just listen to music. I find the S12 are a little more relaxed than the Talos, with slightly less detail but excellent for things like rock and other genres that have a good presence of electric guitars, basses, etc.

Dunu Vulkan

Although these IEMs are not my first choice, they have a bit of a unique sound signature that is different enough to stand out but at the same time not be totally bizarre. There is a little bit of extra hotness in the 3kHz mark which I find (along with a bit of extra “sizzle” in the upper ranges) brings some “light” to some of the darker recordings. I find myself choosing these now and again for a lot of the older “underground” recordings from my youth, where the bass is already elevated enough but can be a little dull in the higher regions, the Vulkan help bring some life to vocals etc. in these recordings.

I also have to say that they are still the best looking IEMs that I have had in my possession and are a set that I love having on hand as a “showpiece”.

Dunu Talos

As I already mentioned, these compete with the S12 for general listening purposes, although I find that I gravitate more towards the Talos when I want to focus more on the music than just have BGM. I find these have better detail presence than the Letshuoer option and I really enjoy them for live recordings where I can appreciate everything that is happening around, and not just in, the music.

These usually are one of my first picks when grabbing a set of IEMs to sit down and specifically listen to music in a situation that is away from my main home set up (where I much prefer over ear alternatives).

Letshuoer D13

This set of IEMs has great bass that is not exaggerated. While the CCA CRA had a spot in my case for a while and were my go to set for EDM and other “physically activating” music, I find that the bass on the D13 is actually more to my taste. It is very present and performs great, yet it doesn’t overdo it in the lower regions.

These are a set that I find myself grabbing on Friday afternoons when I need to make it through the last 4 or 5 hours of my work week.

Sennheiser IE600

As I mentioned in my “favourites of 2022” list (which you can find here), these are the set of IEMs that I have most liked in 2022. While there is far more bass in the tuning than I would ever choose, the cleanliness and detail of these IEMs takes away any sensation of things being bloated or too elevated in those lower ranges.

I find they have great timbre and the performance of the single dynamic driver is excellent. They are also the most comfortable IEMs I have had the pleasure of wearing and they are something I would choose without a doubt for long listening sessions, even when in front of my main system at home.

During the hot months of the year (which is most of them where I live), I find wearing over ear headphones to be very uncomfortable and I have absolutely no problems sitting down and just enjoying the IE600.

When connected to my main set up, I do find myself dropping the lows and tweaking the upper mids just a little with EQ, which makes them sound absolutely amazing, yet even without EQ, these are still a very very good set of IEMs.

Dunu Kima

This has been the last set to take up a space in the case, replacing the Airship in that spot. While these are not the “most” anything in any category, they are a very solid all rounder that I found I wanted to spend more time with than my usual 1 week of listening and testing. This was enough to grab them a spot, at least for now.

These are probably the ones that least have a spot guaranteed long term, in fact, there are a couple of other models I have that could maybe replace them but, for now, they are getting some play time and I do enjoy them.


Conclusion…

This is by no means a “the best IEMs I have” collection, it is just those that get the most use, at present. Looking at this, it seems that I am a declared fan of Dunu (3 out of 6 spots) and Letshuoer (2 out of 6 spots), leaving only Sennheiser to grab a place out of the 6 (although there is no doubt that it is the main spot).

It will be interesting to see how things evolve so I thought it would be fun to share this and maybe even mention when a set of IEMs steals a place from the current selection.

For now, I am going to keep it short.

Thank you all for the time you have spent reading or watching my reviews throughout 2022 and I sincerely wish you all the very best for 2023!

And as things progress throughout this year, please remember the most important part in all of this, it is about enjoying the music. Just because something new and shiny comes along and people (such as me) praise it, it doesn’t make what you already have sound any worse. Good sound is good sound, sit back and enjoy it!!

Happy New Year!!

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