Headphones That Seem Too Good To be True - A Discussion

Lately I’ve been finding headphones that seem like they are built to the teeth, but the prices just don’t reflect the hardware. I want to discuss what headphones you all have found that make you feel the same and hopefully someone, somewhere, can tell you whether or not the headphones live up to the marketing.

I recently found a few sets of headphones that just seem too good to be true and I’m struggling to find opinions on them. First, the Shuoer Tape Electrostatic Driver IEM. A $130 electrostatic driver?! Anyone have any experience with these? If they are the real deal, I don’t understand how they aren’t constantly out of stock. To further stoke the fire, the TRN V80 seems too good to be true to. $35 dollars for a mixed quad driver headphone? HOW? Finally, A $150 planar magnetic headphone from Tin. Excuse me… ahem… WAT?

edit; I just saw Taron’s thread titled, “Punching above their price” and I’d like to direct anyone looking in this thread to that thread. It’s got a solid foundation of great answers and address’s the same thing.

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I think @antdroid or @Titienne or some of the other IEM forum members can speak on these…pretty sure at least one of them has been reviewed by them. =)

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@Fc-Construct reviewed them recently and posted it here: https://www.antdroid.net/2020/02/shuoer-tape-review.html

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Thank you! I just read the review and I’m honestly more curious about them now. Seem like an interesting sound signature that fits a lot of what I like. I am a little concerned with how thin the mids are, but I’m interested none the less. What do you think?

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I havent heard them so I can’t comment. I will say, as a reviewer of chi-fi iems – most of them are overhyped. This one is possibly one of them. @Fc-Construct or @toranku may be able to give you a better opinion. Or @Brause or @AudioFool @darmanastartes perhaps, if they’ve tried it.

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Most of the new electrostats are a bit too hot for my tastes and the Tape falls into that category. They have good low end, very recessed mids (kiss of death for me) and then a lot of top end, but crosses the line between sparkle and sizzle and never looks back. Too hot and too recessed to be a good listen for me.

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Thank you for the info!

Technically these estat IEMs are actually electret drivers, not the same kind of electrostatic as say STAX. See this article for a good comparison.

I don’t know how much electret drivers cost, but given that one can get electret microphone capsules for pennies, I imagine that drivers of the same principle don’t have to be expensive.

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Venturing out of the IEM field but still within the planar/ELS realm is something that may not strike most people as “too good to be true”: the seemingly unassuming Hifiman Sundara. Sure they are no $45 ELS IEM miracles but unlike the latter they are not legend and by golly do they ever deliver. I purchssed my first pair at the launch price of $500 CDN (for some reason they were also $500 USD in the US). I know my headphones, Been collecting for decades and toting the modest box home wasn’t expecting that much of what would be found inside, truth be told I was expecting a variation on the HE560 which to me would have been a nice if not shocking experience, a routine, modest embellishment of a well-liked item costing less but performing slightly better than the predecessors(s).

People who were not that familiar with Hifiman were expecting a new rendition of the HE400i but I knew that wouldn’t be the case, they were a tad bit too expensive to fit the bill plus the “new and improved” 400i was already known to be the soon-to-appear 400s as those who follow the industry already knew. At $500 it wouldn’t be be a 400 series. So I was slightly curious when I opened the box, didn’t know what the expect since you couldn’t see the product the way it was wrapped, and I had not read any review prior.

Snip. Oh!

I immediately recognized the new headband Hifiman had started to use of their high-end models. Good start! The remainder of the cans was suited to the headband: matte metal headband, matte metal cups, matte metal yokes, delightful metal grilles with a light sheen to them. Real leather suspended head strap. The only plastic in sight were the silverish grey covers that hid the (rather stiff) click-stop adjustment mechanism. They were built like tanks, never seen anything like it at that price point. They were almost identical to the higher-end HE6 SE with the sheen and matte reversed, and thinner cups.

The cable was a Y-shaped and somewhat short affair wrapped in a rubber tube with standard miniplugs for each cup and a standard miniplug with the customary 6,35mm full-size connector at the other end, allowing for use with third-party cabling options if need be. Lack of a recess on the cups jacks were the only visible concession to cost-saving construction trade-off, the rest was almost as perfect as the $2K HE6 SE.

Once broken in the sound was as good as the looks. No need to elaborate as there is already a thread for the Sandara on the forum, I just wrote this because the Sundara is a near-miracolous value that I strongly believe fully belongs here even if it doesn’t promise earth-shattering performance for 40 bucks. What it promises it generally delivers. Sure it has its quirks, (those damn strident unbroken mids almost drove me nuts) but none so serious as to threaten its status as too good to be true, It’s a damn good can that shares many traits wit the Focal Clear, at 1/3 the price, worth mentioning imho.

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Thanks for the tag @antdroid!

The Tape isnt actually a electrostatic nor an electret driver. It’s a magnetostatic driver that is also found in the noble M3 and itsfit Fusion. False marketing on Shuoer’s part.

The Tape is a v-shaped earphone that is bassier than it is bright. The lower mid fundamentals at 500-1000hz are heavily recessed. Its vocals are rendered shouty and shrill (but not thin). It is an average v-shaped earphone since it also doesn’t do staging/separation that spectacularly.

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Re: Tin Audio P1, it is an actual planar driver. I’ve heard about its driver and how to achieve its bass and midrange response by burning the paper found on its back vent.

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I forgot to comment – the Tin Hifi P1 is a planar and I think it’s the best tuned --out of the box-- planar but it still has it’s fair share of issues. I wrote a review of it here: https://www.antdroid.net/2019/06/tin-hifi-p1-planar-iem-extended.html

While my opinion is closer in-line with Crinacle’s, other reviewers seem to love it. So YMMV. I found it just ok, and you can do better with a standard dynamic or BA IEM for same price or less.

For planar in the same ballpark price, the Audeze iSine 10/LX can be had for the same price nowadays, and with Cipher cable, it sounds a lot better, as long as you can get good fit. EQ also works well with this earphone – whereas with the TIn P1, I was able to correct some of the issues I found with it with EQ, i couldn’t totally save it from it’s treble hotness and extremely small soundstage.

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Mitchell & Johnson GL2 hybrid electrostatz. I bought them for $70 from Massdrop and that’s a fair price. But their original retail price was absurd for sound and build quality.

$70 is 4 times less than the Monoprice EST, are the MJ THAT cheap? I’m guessing that when you say $70 is a fair price the SQ must be somewhere between atrocious and horrible?

They were that cheap because they were a failed marketing gimmick “ hybrid electrostatz”, not real. So they sold their remaining inventory on Massdrop. The SQ is better than anything I’ve had at $70 range , better detail retrieval than beats, and I preferred them over my fostex mahogany. They had really good mids.

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@boxster233 Didn’t know that, thanks. The only similar bargain I know of is that you can get real EST’s for $80 from the former Soviet Union. They sound quite good actually, but flimsy built including faux vinyl ear pads make it a tough sell here, not to mention most are 30±year-old surplus units that may or may not survive the flight. But many tweakers are fond of them because they have relatively good quality magnetic systems and the amp is included. Decent ear pads for them must be DIY glue-on projects.