2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Vision Ears Custom and Universal IEMs – Offical Thread
Hey all, I wanted to share some thoughts on an IEM I’ve been enjoying (yes, really haha) a lot lately. Not a full review, mainly just impressions.
The DUNU SA6 is the company’s foray into the full-BA side of things, sporting - as the IEM’s name might imply - six BA drivers. The physical design itself is terrific with recessed 2-pin connectors, an ergonomic shell, and of course, the unique stabilized wood faceplates. I really like the recessed connectors in particular, as it’s a critical stress point. The cable, while it’s not to my tastes aesthetically so much, also sports DUNU’s clever, swappable connectors.
Of course, there’s no shortage of pretty faces in the IEM world, so let’s get into the fun stuff: the actual sound. The SA6 utilizes two Sonion Acupass vented subwoofers. Generally, BAs are not vented, and the intangible benefits here are unmistakable: While transient attack seems to exhibit a slight blunting, the SA6 certainly slams harder and has more texturing than your run-of-the-mill BA IEM. Decay is still non-existent, but this is impressive. The midrange tonality is also on-point with something of a subtle bump at 4.5kHz which brings the upper-midrange forward. A tad bright at times, and likely in an effort to boost perceived resolution; however, no less a worthy means of doing so in my eyes. I think my main issue is actually with the SA6’s treble. Similar to the qdc Anole VX, the SA6 exhibits a strong dip from 5-7kHz; there’s something of an upward skew as a result with too much mid-treble energy for my preferences. Slap on a lack of presence in the utmost highest frequencies, and the SA6’s treble can run somewhat plasticky, artificial, and contributes to an overly “clinical” sound a times. Nonetheless, the tuning here is nothing short of very good, and even though the SA6 doesn’t hit my preferences super closely, it hasn’t stopped me from jamming to it a good deal the last several days.
Technicality-wise, the SA6 is a competent performer. It doesn’t make me go “wow” or anything of the sort, but resolution is fine, and in particular, macrodynamic contrast is fairly good. That said, it does seem to have the common issue in which it’s always riding “high” on decibel gradations, which made it seem a bit dry on first listen. The SA6 also seems to struggle with layering, especially in terms of positional cues; that is to say, there isn’t sufficient “air” between instruments and their placement on the stage.
But these are minor quibbles, and I could find many, many more faults with most every IEM in its price bracket. On the merit of its sound alone, the SA6 is impressive. As a whole? It’s probably one of the most solid IEMs in the $500 bracket, one that I would not hesitate to recommend. I think it presents a worthy step over the Moondrop B2, the de-facto king of the sub-$300 bracket. Of course, if you already have a B2, I’d also hold-off as the jump isn’t as significant as I’d like it to be, and they’re more so different flavors. I suppose that’s a testament to how good the B2 already is; we’ve been seeing a lot of very solid IEMs hitting the streets this past year - the SA6 is the latest.
Great writeup. I love the look of them just not the colour. On another note I loved your EE Hero review and having just bought them agree wholeheartedly with what you said. I think is shall replace them with the Odin.
Fearless Audio S8Z & Tequila Review: Duality of IEM
Fearless Audio is part of the “new” wave of Chi-Fi manufacturers that have popped up over the last couple years. Most of the manufacturers in this wave have gone one of two directions: either adapting existing target curves like the very successful manufacturer Moondrop, or churning out a plethora IEMs and hoping something sticks. Fearless Audio, however, seems to have fallen somewhere in the middle with a house tuning that their “S” lineup follows, and then a separate, more experimental lineup.
Unfortunately, none of their experimental tunings have enjoyed much success, and in this review I’ll be taking a look at the Tequila - their latest IEM - plus the S8Z, the most recent addition to the S8 series. The Tequila is the real wild-card, though. Will the Tequila fall into their house tuning lineup or their experimental lineup? And if it falls into the latter, could it be Fearless Audio’s first successful mad experiment?
Source and Driveability
Holy cow, these IEMs are sensitive. We’re not talking Campfire Andromeda levels, but they’re close. I might be more sensitive to it, but I hear minor hissing off of both my iBasso DX160 (volume ~8) and A&K SP1000M (volume ~30), so I’d consider picking up something to kill the sensitivity if that might be an issue. All critical listening was done using the stock cables, stock tips, and with lossless FLAC files. My genres of preference include the following: K-Pop/J-Pop, Country music, EDM, and instrumental scores.
Fearless Audio has outdone themselves with the presentation. You’re presented with a sleek, but substantial package with a magnetic enclosure, and the following accessories inside:
- Microfiber cleaning cloth
- Faux leather carrying case
- An assortment of silicon tips
- Manual (it’s all written in Chinese, so I don’t know how useful that’ll be for most people)
Both the Tequila and S8Z feature a revised cable; the original was extremely heavy - I think it literally used lead for the hardware - and part of the reason why I sold my own Fearless S8P. The Tequila’s cable uses a more generic, plastic wrap, while the S8Z’s cable is more pliable and premium in feel. I had no issues with either cable.
Something that Fearless doesn’t slack on is the build quality of their IEMs. Both IEMs feature recessed, connector joints which are a critical stress point. The faceplates themselves are also nothing short of stunning; the gaps likewise seamless between where the plate and body meet. The Tequila is slightly larger with a less ergonomic design than the S8Z; my guess is that this is to facilitate the dynamic driver, although I had no issues with fit or comfort on both IEMs. The S8Z also seems to sport orange, plastic hardware inside to fill up some empty space in the shell and prevent components from coming loose - pretty sweet.
I think it makes most sense to cover these two IEMs separately given - if you’ve read the title of this review - how different they are. So first, the Tequila.
Frequency response measured off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered accurate.
…and well, the Tequila falls into that subset of experimental tunings I was talking about. As usual, I feel the need to disclaim that tonality is subjective; however, there are most certainly better tunings than others in terms of majority appeal. This is not one of them, and not by a long shot.
Frankly, I struggle to find words that sum up the Tequila’s overall sound signature, so let’s just start from the bottom. The Tequila utilizes a single DD for the lows, and while it unmistakably slams like a DD, what little texture is present is obscured by the overly blunted transient attack. Yep, this thing has next to zero macro-detail in the bass. Oh, and this is the best part of the Tequila by far. To this effect, the midrange is plain wonky. I hear surprisingly good detail to the lower-midrange; however, the upper-midrange is smothered due to a lack of adequate ear gain. Between this strange disjointedness and outright poor macro-detail like what the Tequila’s bass exhibits, I really think I’d prefer the latter. And then we get to the treble, the Tequila’s biggest problem…or at least that’s what I’d like to say. But the thing is, the Tequila basically has zero treble after 7kHz. It’s not like it’s laid back either, as what little treble the Tequila does have is stick impact, sibilant stick impact at that.
You might think that, hey, maybe the Tequila has some decent technical chops. Sure. The Tequila might be slightly above average in the sub-$100 bracket for resolving ability, but not much more to my ears. It falls within the realms of average - frankly, I’m inclined to say far below - for imaging performance too. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge an IEM’s technical performance by virtue of how poor the tuning is - or the tuning neutering technicalities - and I think this is a good example. But I digress. On the bright side, while I’m not much of a drinker, hey, I have the Tequila to listen to! It seems to aptly emulate what it’s like being inebriated; I think Fearless nailed the naming.
Thankfully, the S8Z is a departure from the Tequila in most every way. If I had to describe the S8Z’s overall sound signature it would go something like “neutral-aggressive”. This means linear bass, a balanced midrange, and unfortunately, some egregious treble. The S8Z exhibits strong lower-to-mid treble presence which, aside from being fatiguing, lends itself to a hollow, metallic smearing on instrument crashes. This is probably my biggest grip; otherwise, the tuning is darn solid on the S8Z, and I’m inclined to say it’s the most balanced of the Fearless S8 series.
Technicality-wise, the S8Z’s standout is no doubt its sheer resolving ability. Transient attack is quite snappy, as is decay, and the S8Z has no trouble scaling quicker tracks. Now, if that’s all there was to qualifying good technicalities, then the S8Z would probably be leading its price bracket. But it doesn’t stack up that nicely in practice, and I find myself in strong disagreement with the S8Z’s more latent intangibles - particularly the BA timbre. For those who might not be familiar with this term, BA IEMs are generally characterized by a sense of weightlessness or “plastickiness” to their notes. In turn come the issues with the compressed dynamic range, transient grain, and characteristically weak bass - all of which the S8Z suffers from, helped in no part by the metallic treble response.
Imaging is also not a strong point of the Fearless S8 series, with staging being more intimate and positional cues somewhere within the realm of average (which to be fair most IEMs are). While I wouldn’t go so far as to say the S8 layers poorly, there’s a certain crampedness to the presentation. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing though, as it seems to complement the more aggressive tuning. It stands that the S8Z’s a pretty good IEM, one that I think I would’ve enjoyed much more had it fallen in-line with my preferences closer.
Let’s briefly, very briefly, go back to the Tequila. In my humble opinion, the Tequila does not offer performance comparable to many IEMs a tenth its asking price - I think that says enough about where I stand. The S8Z, however, is a competent performer. While it might no longer punch beyond its price point given the release of marketshakers like the DUNU SA6, Moondrop B2, and the Thieaudio twins, it’s still a very solid option relative to the market as a whole. Going forward, I hope that Fearless Audio recognizes that sticking to their house sound, or simply taking a more calculated approach to tuning, will ultimately reward not only them, but their customers in the long run. As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Great review @Precogvision. I really enjoyed reading it.
Moondrop S8 Review - Kilobuck Solution
Moondrop. Progenitor of the perplexing dynamic that is waifu and high-fidelity audio; one of the most distinguished Chi-Fi brands in the IEM world thanks to their calculated approach to tuning. It’s also no secret, however, that they seem to have met something of a plateau with their recent SSR/SSP and Illumination IEMs. So why not take a little trip back in time to the Solution S8? The S8 is an IEM that was on my radar almost a year ago, but quickly dropped off given the release of the smash-hit that was the Blessing 2. But it’s here now, and better late than never. In this review, I’ll be taking a look at if the S8 still has what it takes to play in the highly competitive, kilobuck bracket - though I’m sure you’ve already inferred my thoughts given the title of this review, so perhaps why would be more apt.
Source and Driveability
The S8 takes more power to drive than most BA IEMs, but you should have no trouble powering it off of mobile devices. In fact, I find this preferable as the S8 doesn’t exhibit hissing off of any of my sources, and most of my listening is done at lower volumes. All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX160 (volume ~18) and A&K SP1000M (volume ~45) with lossless FLAC files, stock tips, and the stock cable.
Like most Moondrop IEMs, you’re presented with a box featuring one of their waifu mascots. It’s okay if you don’t like anime. You can just toss the package; of course, you know what they say: No waifu, no laifu. But I digress, and anyways, the following accessories are included inside:
- Airplane adapter
- Soft-carry case
- Assortment of silicon tips
- Moondrop 2-pin 0.78mm cable
As usual, the cable is a bit of a letdown; aside from featuring a janky, plastic Y-splitter, there’s no choke to cinch where the cable separates. The S8 itself, though, is very, very nice. From the contoured acrylic shell, to the implementation of the faceplate, it all screams smooth, slick, and refined. Because the acrylic shell is see-through, you’re given a clear view of all the drivers and circuitry inside too! The S8 seems to capture the essence of the word “moondrop” perfectly. I also really enjoy the fit on the S8, and it seals superbly for my ears. As usual, your mileage might vary and all that. It’s also worth considering that because this IEM is not vented, pressure can build-up over prolonged periods of listening.
Frequency response measured off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered accurate.
Moondrop tunes many of their IEMs to what they call the VDSD target curve; this is essentially their take on the popular Harman target curve. For those who might not be familiar with it, the Harman target curve is an aggregate tuning that reflects the sound preferences of the majority of listeners. Because this is a majority curve, it does not reflect the minority; however, Moondrop has also taken some creative liberties here and there on the S8, and I think the result is pretty darn solid.
We can see from the frequency response graph the largely sub-bass oriented curve the S8 follows; it hits my preferences very closely sans knocking a couple dB off the Harman target. The biggest bottleneck here, then, is going to be the S8’s intangibles. Transient attack is quite snappy, but like most BA IEMs, the S8 expectedly struggles with reproducing bass texture and dynamic slam because, you know, there’s nigh zero decay.
Of course, when Moondrop IEMs (and the Harman target by extension) are in the picture, there’s one other thing that comes to mind: upper-mids. Upper-midrange presence generally has two key consequences. One is a thinner note weight, that is the perception of thickness (or lack thereof) to notes, and the other is greater perceived resolution. Indeed, the S8 presents very good macro detail here to my ears, albeit with the characteristically thin transients that most BA IEMs exhibit. Some might also find it borderline shouty, perhaps bright, on first listen. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the midrange has been done very solidly on the S8, and like most Moondrop IEMs, it flies particularly well with female-vocal tracks.
But where the S8 deviates heavily from the Harman target and Moondrop’s other IEMs is in the treble. The Harman target is generally characterized by a gentle slope off of 10kHz and the subsequent “air” frequencies. But on the contrary, it sounds like the S8 peaks right around the cusp of those air frequencies at ~8kHz (irrespective of the resonance peak shown on the graph) after which it slopes fairly linearly to 19kHz, perhaps with a minor peak somewhere in-between. I have to admit, this is a very interesting quality I’ve not heard before. It lends the S8 to a “floaty-bloaty” quality in which there’s a certain inflatedness to the decay of instruments, and yet said decay is quite smooth and well-extended. Stack on a minor, lower-treble peak at 6kHz, and this is most definitely a treble-head’s IEM. Tunings like this tend to be more divisive, and whether this is good or bad I think is better left to personal preference; admittedly I quite enjoy it.
And we haven’t even gotten to the S8’s bread-and-butter: technicalities. It excels in this metric, carrying over a lot - and then some - of what made its younger sibling the Moondrop Blessing 2 great. Whereas the B2 exhibited minor image diffusal (certainly above average for its price), the S8’s staging feels a good deal more sonic-wall free; I hear a greater sense of physicality between instruments and their sharp, precise positioning. The S8’s resolving capability is also nothing short of astounding for the price. Transient attack exhibits excellent speed, and from the quicker tracks I threw at it like Tiffany’s “I Just Wanna Dance” to more nuanced tracks like Tom Day’s “Where Were We,” the S8 never congested. One could certainly make the argument that the S8 is pumping out detail simply by virtue of its strong upper-midrange presence and lower-treble peak; however, this is no less a worthy means of achieving resolution in my eyes. Furthermore, the S8 has the resolving capability to back it up.
What do I mean by this? I often make a distinction between resolution and detail retrieval, which are subsets of overall resolving capability. Resolution is simply the clarity with which a note is articulated, and it’s generally a consequence of quicker transient attack or more upper-midrange and treble presence. This can often lend itself to the perception of detail; however, I would not necessarily consider an IEM with good resolution to be entirely resolving either. To this end, detail retrieval is sometimes referred to as “internal” or “true” detail, and it’s indicative of an IEM’s ability to bring the smallest of details to the forefront of the sound. While this certainly still has some overlap with frequency response, I tend to think of it more as an intangible property, one that’s much more difficult to achieve. Like so, I’d wager even the S8’s detail retrieval is comparable with many of the best in the kilobuck bracket.
On the flip side of the coin, there are little things here and there that prevent the S8 from claiming coveted top-tier status. Imaging is still not holographic to my ears, and disappointingly so given the copious amounts of pseudo-air the S8 exhibits up top. I also hear minor macrodynamic compression, and in particular, I’m led to question the S8’s microdynamic ability on tracks like Sawano Hiroyuki’s “Cage” where the S8 smears over the small shift in the snare drum hit at 0:35 that should echo considerably more throughout the stage, as well as the nuance of the hits at 3:15 onwards. Nonetheless, these are trifles, and I freely admit that if you told me there was another IEM that could match the S8 for technicalities at this price point, you’d be falling on deaf ears.
Blessing 2 / Blessing 2: Dusk - $320 / $330
I know - there’s no shortage of listeners that’ll attest to the B2 trading blows with its older brother, the S8. But I have to say, I just don’t think the B2 is comparable. Often the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is where the B2 stumbles hard. The lackluster DD bass, the minor 6Hz peak which exacerbates the rather thin note weight, and the plasticky, gritty treble, all impress the notion of a less than coherent IEM. You’ll note that these are mostly intangible flaws; I’d posit the B2 is tuned just as well - perhaps even better - as the S8 for those who enjoy less bass and a more linear treble response. Synergy on a more intimate level, however, tends to be the distinction between a “very good” IEM and an “excellent” IEM, descriptors with which the B2 and S8 fall into respectively to my ears.
But what happens if you put the tuning of the B2 into even more capable hands? Enter the Blessing 2: Dusk. The Dusk is a Moondrop collaboration with popular IEM reviewer Crinacle. It fixes some of the aforementioned issues with a thicker, more sub-bass heavy sound. While the S8 still holds a solid technical edge, the tonal balance on the Dusk is nothing short of exceptional. Likewise, whereas the B2 fell somewhat short by comparison, I really do think the Dusk deserves to be in the same conversation as the S8. Go for the Dusk if you enjoy heavy, DD bass and a thicker midrange, and go for the S8 if you enjoy a leaner sound that prioritizes treble and technicalities.
Campfire Andromeda 2020 - $1099
The Andromeda 2020 is one of my favorite kilobuck IEMs. From it’s terrific holographic imaging to its spacious layering chops, it has that special sauce with which I can’t help but find the S8 lacking, despite the S8 trading blows technically. Their tonal balances are also quite different. The Andromeda 2020’s biggest issue lies in its midrange presentation; there is a fundamental disconnect between the thicker lower-midrange and the dipped upper-midrange. This lends the lower-midrange to a bloaty characteristic which I can’t say I’m a fan of, and the S8’s midrange is leaner, more balanced by comparison. Both IEMs exhibit characteristically poor BA bass, but conversely, very good treble extension. I wouldn’t feel comfortable confidently recommending one over the other, as they both do so much right and so little wrong. Maybe go for the Andromeda 2020 if you want ever-so-slightly better technical chops (mainly the holographic imaging), and go for the S8 if you want to save some money.
Sony IER-M9 - $1000
Here’s another difficult comparison to make. On paper, the IER-M9 is probably the better IEM. From its tuning to its intangible performance, it’s an incredibly safe IEM. Too safe for my preferences, in fact, and the more I listened to it, the more boring it got. But credit where credit is due, the IER-M9 circumvents a lot of the issues that plague both the S8 and the Andromeda 2020. Its bass response exhibits some decent density and texture at the expense of minor bloat, and the timbre is a good deal more weighty than your typical BA IEM. In this reviewer’s opinion, the IER-M9 is the safest IEM you can buy for a grand, and if you enjoy a warmer, more relaxed tuning that maintains a high degree of technical chops, this could be the ticket.
As much as I enjoy weebing out over Moondrop’s waifus, I’ll be the first to admit that the sound is what I’m ultimately here for. And the S8 delivers. This is an IEM that comfortably trades blows with the best in the kilobuck bracket, not to mention an IEM that also undercuts said best IEMs by a couple hundred dollars. This is the kilobuck solution, and while it might not hit every listener’s preferences (after all, no IEM will), it’s an IEM I think should at least be on every discerning listener’s shortlist. And in a lot of respects, at least for me, the S8 captures the essence of Moondrop in their heyday; it’s this same essence with which I hope Moondrop is able to continue endowing upon their future IEMs.
- Aimer - Hakuchuumu
- David Nail - Let It Rain
- Dreamcatcher - Silent Night
- Illenium & Excision - Gold
- Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
- Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
- Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
- Sabai - Million Days
- Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
- Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
- Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
- Tom Day - Where Were We
I love reading your reviews. Your EE Hero was spot on in my opinion. This sounds like a great iem punching above its weight.
Thank you for this review. One thing is reading a review and deciding to buy an IEM, another is to read it AFTER you bought the IEM. Then you have a better way of understanding it, at least that is my take, as I am not that adept in the audiofile vocabulary or to use it to descibe my own experience.
I got the S8 2 months ago and it has been my daily driver ever since.
I can only agree with your review in everyway and find it the best IEM I have tried so far. I was curious to see if 8 BA’s alone could give me the sound I like, but oh yes, they could. If I need the bass to shine, I can go to my Polaris 2, but I do prefer the mids and the treble to be the heroes in my music, so the S8 is really up my alley.
One thing your reveiw made me wonder, is if an Andromeda 2020 is worth buying, now when I have the S8?
Thanks for another great review and thanks for the section where you explain your take on resolution and detail retrieval, that helped a lot
A post was merged into an existing topic: Vision Ears Custom and Universal IEMs – Offical Thread
2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Thieaudio In-Ear Monitors
6 posts were merged into an existing topic: Vision Ears Custom and Universal IEMs – Offical Thread
For about an hour I have been listening to one of the “wildest” in-ears ever with a big smile .
It’s such a mixture of perfection & completely out of control , which is so fascinating that you don’t even want to take these small, heavy monsters out of your ears.
Knowing that you don’t always have to spend thousands of bucks to have fun, I strongly recommend the IKKO Audio OH-10 for everyone who likes bass , lots of bass , who has no frequency curve fetish and who has no general problems with In-ears, because these plugs are relatively heavy.
Assuming all of this, fun is the determining factor that you can calculate with when you get involved in a music session with them.
I am 100% behind your statement.
IKKO OH-10 is such a gem and one all fans of IEMs should try out. They are among the favorites in my collection both re sound and build. They are heavy in both aspects.
And for the price I see them as a “must-have” IEM.
Just getting through my backlog of reviews. Haven’t had a chance to write a review like this in quite a while.
For today’s review, I’m going to be looking at the Shuoer Tape Pro. It’s Shuoer’s follow up to their popular Shuoer Tape that I reviewed a while back and thought was fairly decent. At $130 IEM, the Tape Pro costs exactly the same as the regular Tape does, and I believe uses a similar “composite electrostatic dynamic driver”. Please note that this is not a true estat driver as it does not require a specialized amp to power it. Technical trifles aside, how does it sound? While Antdroid released a rather unfavorable review of these recently, having heard the Shuoer Tape, I do have some expectations that comes with the Pro moniker.
Disclaimer: I received the Shuoer Tape Pro as a review unit from Linsoul in exchange for this honest review. I am not or will be compensated in any other way.
What’s in the Box?
In an unusual turn of events, the first thing you’re greeted with in the box is… a Shuoer product catalogue. At least the booklet is rather high quality. Moving on is the IEMs themselves and a small plastic case with a number of goodies. In it is a spare set of tuning filters and nozzles, a cleaning brush, and a set of S, M, and L tips. Below the foam compartment lies the included hard carrying case with the cable, a tuning tool, and another set of tips.The cable is a straight jack 2-pin 2.5 mm cable and they do include a 3.5 mm L-shaped adapter. The cable itself is of OK quality. It tangles easily, there’s cable noise, and is rather hard to touch. But at least it does feel rather sturdy.
The build of the IEMs is a full metal shell that looks identical to the regular Tapes. There’s a vent in the middle of the shell. It does feel a little thicker than the original Tapes and has a monstrous 7 mm removable nozzle. I’m not entirely sure why the nozzle is removable as it doesn’t affect tuning. It’s just a feature that’s there. Despite the insane nozzle size, I don’t find the Tape Pros painfully uncomfortable. The fit is shallow but it does seal reasonable well and stays in place. Isolation is subpar due to the shallow fit and large vent(s) on the back. The sharper edges of the shell can get a little uncomfortable at times. I guess this just goes to show that beyond nozzle size, the actual shape of the IEM matters quite a bit too as the Tape Pros use that popular Shure-style over the ear design.
As alluded to previously, one of the ways the Shuoer Tape Pro distinguishes itself is through its tuning filters. It comes with these blue and silver tuning filters that you swap on the back. Here’s Shuoer’s guide to installing them with the tuning tool.
You basically unscrew the filters and swap their places. The back filter (i.e. closer to the 2-pin jack) is the important one as it acts as a tuning port to the second vent. The front filter doesn’t actually need to be there; it just screws in for convenience and aesthetics. My Shuoer Tape Pro set came with the blue filter installed in the back despite the image saying that the stock tuning is with the silver. I can confirm that the blue is the bassier of the two.
To describe the sound of the Shuoer Tape Pro, imagine witnessing a trainwreck. You see the train coming. You see the obstacle in its path. Right now it’s chugging along just fine but deep down you know that something very, very wrong is going to happen. That is the Shuoer Tape Pro. When I listened to it for the first time, I opened with rock track starring a vocally driven opening. Immediately, the vocals felt off. Not enough that it was unlistenable but enough to fill me with a sense of dread for the next passage of the song. And sure enough, as soon as the drums kicked in, the Tape Pros turns into a messy trainwreck.
There are a number of problems with the Tape Pro on the blue filter. The first is that there’s pretty only two instruments. It’s vocals and everything else. The Tape Pro is so vocal forward that it completely isolates the vocals from all other instruments. Yet it doesn’t even do vocals well. Female vocals are shouty and hollow with little upper harmonics. Male vocals have a smothered veil on them despite being so forward. The second problem is the bass quality. It’s probably among the worst I’ve ever heard, topped only by cheap dollar store IEMs and headphones. It’s muddy, bloated, incoherent, sloppy, and every other negative adjective you can throw in there. There’s just no definition at all. It’s like Shrek’s bubbling swamp, where each bubble represents a nondescript drum beat somewhere. I don’t say this lightly: With the blue filter, the Tape Pro is close to unlistenable for a lot of music. Only on slower paced tracks is the driver able to keep up.
Thankfully, the silver filter is much, much better. Despite measuring pretty much identically on the frequency response, it adds a much needed level of definition to the notes, partly salvaging the Tape Pro. At least the different instruments can be heard now instead of being just a smear. But it’s still quite poor overall. The bass is still muddy and low resolution. It still sounds boomy and bloated. There’s still very little dynamics and sense of impact. But at least it’s not wholly incoherent and I can look past it to begin enjoying music.
Aside from the bass, the mids and treble are pretty scuffed too. I already mentioned the vocals but the rest of the mids have a distinctly off tonality due to the Tape Pro’s midrange suckout and absolute Mount Everest for upper mids. The timbre of pretty much every instrument is wrong by some extent. The treble is completely muted and lifeless. After the 4 kHz mark where the upper mids generally ends, there’s just a cliff where the treble drops off and never recovers. If there was any less upper mids, I’d call these IEMs dark.
On the technicalities portion, the resolution is pretty much low budget tier on the silver filter. Forget about the blue. The only saving grace for this IEM is its large horizontal soundstage. Like its predecessor the Shuoer Tape, the vents on the shell does give it a wide stage. But otherwise it has absolutely zero height or depth. There is also pretty much no imaging beyond the 3 blob left, right, center.
Should You Buy It?
No. Absolutely not. At $130 this is a travesty. I’m frankly shocked that Shuoer decided the Tape Pros were good enough to be let out of the factory, let along as a successor to the Tapes. The blue filter Tape Pros is the worst sounding IEM I’ve heard in recent memory. The silver filter is better but its a bit of a stretch to call it acceptable. Even the Kinera Freya that I reviewed a while back wasn’t this poor. It’s a real shame because clearly the person tuning this had put some thought in designing the filters. I wish the Shuoer engineers good luck with their next design but I’m not holding my breath. Of the three Shuoer IEMs I’ve tried to date, they all share a very similar V-shaped tuning. And of the three, only one was decent: the Shuoer Tapes. With the <$150 IEM market being so fiercely competitive, Shuoer has a long road ahead of them.
They are good looking iem’s. Very distinctive.
I haven’t posted in this forum for a while, but with my study already settled, I think I should make a return :p.
Since a lot of people tend to discuss chifi nowadays, I think I will start by introducing an IEM from my country: AYA Siren.
These IEM the latest works of AYA Studio. They are known in the Vietnamese Community but since they didn’t release anything for the global market, no one knows about them comparing to brands like ItsFit or Soranik.
I got the AYA Siren several days before my departure to Japan, and while it didn’t leave me impressed, I do think the brand itself has the potential to grow.
- Driver: 4BA + 2EST
- Price: ~ 650$
- Purchase link: https://ayaworkshop.com/the-siren/
The AYA Siren was kindly provided by AYA Audio
There will be a tour of the Siren available, but I think it is limited to the SG audience for now
Build and Accessories:
- 3 pairs of wide bore tips (S/M/L)
- 1 pairs of silicon tips
- Hard case
- Unbalanced 3.5mm 2-pin 0.78mm cable
- Warranty & Company cards
- The IEM itself
For 650$ one would expect a more plentiful unboxing experience but since this is AYA first time, they have poured some effort into the presentation, so I will give it a pass.
Nothing much to say about the hard case, as usual, it is quite durable, the lock is snappy so I don’t think there will be any issue in the long run. It’s quite big though so for someone who usually has an intensive amount of pockets like me, it is not really ideal. The IEM pouch is a nice touch, I have known a bit that folks in my country do like this type of pouch with their exposure to Campfire Audio for a while now, but I digress. The cable is thin, but hard enough so that it doesn’t get tangled. All of the connectors and the Y-splitter are built with black-metal enclosing.
Though, one problem to note is the lack of chin-sliders. This problem usually isn’t big enough to address but due to the nature of the AYA Siren shell + light cable and Y-splitter, the over-ear part of the cable doesn’t stay on top of my ears most of the time. I often use the chin-slider for such cable for this sole reason but the lacking of that does make me irritated a bit.
The AYA Siren follows a pseudo-custom design with black shell, the faceplate follows a seashell-styled faceplate with the company logo and name on each side of the IEM. It sealed quite well into my ears with average isolation. Overall outside of the issue with the cable like I stated above, nothing that I would consider as a big problem with the Siren comfort.
This does remind me of the ThieAudio Monarch a bit honestly, due to the faceplate design.
The AYA Siren sound signature can be described as “Neutral warm”. It is tuned towards a niches audience though I find it quite pleasing to hear overall.
First and foremost, the bass:
Bass is as good as a typical BA bass gets
This is one of the first things I noticed about the Siren’s bass upon my initial listening session with this pair of IEM. And, I think saying Siren’s bass is “as good as a typical BA” summed up what I wanted to say quite well to the IEM enthusiasts that could happen to stumble upon this article.
Though for the ones who are still clueless, I would describe the Siren’s bass as fast, but limpy and lacks articulations in the sub-bass region. In short, it is just there for the sake of existence which didn’t impress me much.
The midrange of the Siren as far as I can tell, is fine. It has some coloration going on which can be explained by the 800Hz lower shelf boost but doesn’t sound excessively warm unlike IEM like Kinera Freya which I reviewed recently. This combining with the ~12dB boost does favor female vocalists but can be seen as a bit shouty to some ears. Though I think, the drop off right after ~2700Hz seem to affect high pitched anime vocals like Nanahira (ななひら) but still okay in the zone of vocalists like Aitsuki Nakuru (藍月なくる) or Nayuta (なゆた).
Treble on the Siren is a hit or miss. I think one of the good thing about it is that the EST driver on the Siren does produce noticeable air. Though, the more I listen to the Siren, the odder I feel about it. There is a “zing” that can be clearly heard with percussions but it is not to the point of offensive like the Tin Hifi P1. This combining with the warmth from the lower midrange does make instruments like Guitar sounds nice. But, it sounds so uneven somehow!
I am not sure how to write this session after few days of thinking honestly, at best I can try to describe is that there is a sense of “hollowness” in terms of energy distribution in some instruments/songs. Noticeably with Cymbal, Speedcore/
Ear rape music genre s listeners might notice this also.
This probably an effort to keep the Siren staying true to its “musical” trait while preventing it to be entirely underwhelming. I somewhat appreciate the effort of the tuner to not entirely kill off this range but still, it’s a bit weird.
Technical wise, this is where the problem somewhat begins. Noticeably with Soundstage and Imaging, the Siren struggles. There are still some senses of left and right in the visual cues, but on busy tracks, instruments repeatedly overlap onto each other, notes sound soft on the edge, giving these instruments little room for breathing. The Siren does have decent detailing capabilities but fall short with the likes of the ER4 which is my usual standard in terms of detail retrieval.
As one of their supposingly “first” exposure to the western market, the AYA Siren debut by stating the company tuning style quite clear. But as much as I can see this sound signature works inside our country, the game they are about to enter is different.
Only time will tell how the Siren would be received, and more importantly, how AYA will decide from here on. Though, I am optimistic.
You hit the spot
Their appearance stands for the inner values:
—The sound is clear, the spatiality is large and the bass is heavy.—
The OH-10 would be absolutely my choice.
And that, although I also have the Andromeda Gold, but they are "far too innocent" in comparison .
This might be a strange question to ask but I’m quite new to IEMs.
Could it be that my ear-canal doesn’t allow me to hear bass when using IEMs? With over-ear headphones I often experience the opposite. Tuning to the 2018 Harman target curves generally results in too much bass to my linking. But with IEMs I hardly hear any bass at all.
After quite some time ignoring IEMs I have plugged my One+ Bullets wireless 2 (these are the only IEMs I still own) into my ears and started playing with different eartip sizes. Changing from S up to L hardly improved anything. I got a tiny bit more extension.
Then I used Wavelet to boost the lower frequencies by 6dB. That improved things marginally.
I played a bit with the positon of the IEM in my ears and at some point things improved a bit more but I could not keep the IEM in that positon without holding it there.
I have to admit I haven’t tried many IEMs but that’s because none that I tried had any bass at all. I never understood why anyone would want to listen to music like that.
Is this a common thing? Did I just listen to the wrong IEMs? Are there typed that have different geometry so they fit in the ear in a different way?
I’ve got a pair of Tin T2 plus on the way. They should sound quite neutral from what I read. So I hope those will change idea about IEMs.
I’d recommend getting a variety of tips, of different types and sizes, and experimenting a bit further.
I say this because I’ve got quite large ear canals and have found it very hard to get a proper seal with IEMs, especially shallow-fitting ones. Without a good seal, the first thing to disappear is the bass, and what you’re left with is a tinny sound.
It’s also worth noting that individual IEMs have different kinds of fit. Some, with longer nozzles, require a deep fit. In my case, I have a pair of the Massdrop Plus IEMs, which require a deep fit. For these IEMs, I use foam tips, the Comply ones typically, and I have to squeeze them for a few seconds before inserting the compressed tips into my ears. I then hold the IEM shell in place while the foam expands and creates a good seal. I can tell when the proper seal has been achieved because I experience a sensation like that of submerging myself under water - the seal isolates you from outside sounds, which become quieter and muffled, and this isolation produces a slightly closed-in, if not claustrophobic sensation. For my Massdrop Plus, and with my ear anatomy, I can’t use silicone or other kinds of tips effectively. It has to be the foam ones.
For shallow-fitting IEMs, the opposite is the case: I can’t use foam tips and instead rely on silicone tips. But it’s essential to experiment in order to find the right kinds of tips, of the right size, that work well for you. At CanJam this past February, I auditioned 14 different high-end IEMs, and I tried each of them with three or four different tips. Of the 14, I had no success whatsoever in getting a proper seal with 10 of them, and all ten sounded too thin, lean, and tinny.
I was about to give up on getting a decent pair of IEMs because of this. But then I discovered the various Azla Sedna tips and ever since, I’ve not had a problem getting a good seal with shallow-fitting IEMs. The Azla Sedna tips can be pricey, though, and I also picked up a pair of cheap, generic silicone tips from Penon Audio that I’d seen someone recommend, and these also worked well for me. In both cases, the Azla Sedna and the Penon, the tips worked because they were wide enough for my ear canals.
So, tl;dr - it’s worth getting a wide range of tips, of varying sizes, and taking the time to experiment with them. You may find differences in your preferences for tips according to whether you have shallow- or deep-fitting IEMs, and, if after experimenting a good amount with different tips and not getting the kind of bass response you’d like (or expect to hear), then the problem might have something to do with your ear’s anatomy. Some people just don’t get on with IEMs.
Edit: one last point. The investment in a bunch of tips is worthwhile over the long run, even if it’s a bit pricey at first, since a tip that works for one IEM may not for another, and having a good collection of tips could help you out in the years to come if you get different IEMs.