Precog's IEM Reviews & Impressions


CanJam SoCal 2021 Day 2

Hey all, here are some CanJam Day 2 impressions. Probably can’t cover everything I heard, but hopefully this gives a good feel of what I was able to get through. Bear in mind that, especially with the headphones, show conditions in terms of noise level are not good. I dislike listening loudly and this can make it difficult for me to get an accurate assessment of a headphone’s performance. I also do not remember most of the specific DAC/Amps that I heard most of these headphones off of, so you can just consider them very, very rough impressions. No scores or anything of that nature of course.

64A Duo : Gave the 64 Duo another listen today. It’s actually better than I gave it credit for on first listen. The foam tips that I was using yesterday sort of blunted everything which is why I generally avoid them. The DD that the Duo is using is pretty reminiscent of the Tia Trio to my ears. In A/B with the 64A Nio, the Duo’s bass decays more quickly and is tighter despite the IEMs sporting about equal bass quantity. The Duo’s bass is not as wooly and thick for sure (this could be either a pro or con depending on one’s preferences).

Audeze LCD-5: From what I could tell, these headphones were the star of the show with a never-ending line for them all day. They’re OK I guess. Very good detail and technicalities obviously, but the tonality wasn’t really to my taste. It does remind me of the LCD-4 to some degree which I wasn’t too impressed by either. Regardless, I couldn’t really discern much because I didn’t recognize any of the test tracks available. Hint: More K-pop tracks next time pls.

DCA Stealth: The Stealth sports what I hear as a neutral to upper-midrange oriented tonal balance. The overall tonality here is actually quite good, especially for an closed-back headphone. Pretty much every other closed-back I’ve heard has undesirable tonality. However, my biggest criticism of the Stealth lies in its intangibles. It does not sound like it is able to resolve anything more nuanced than surface-level detail, and it’s dynamics are generally flat and boring. It also has the dry timbre that characterizes most planar headphones. Ultimately, while the Stealth definitely has its niche, one would have to index heavily for tonality for it to be a consideration in my eyes.

Focal Utopia: Pretty darn good. I’ve often heard this described as a Clear on steroids, and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. It’s more technical and does not have the sibilance issue that I associate with the Clear. I do not think this sounds quite as boxy either even if staging does not extend much further than the Clear. I’ve heard a lot of reports about metallic timbre with the Utopia. But perhaps by virtue of the Forge Tube amp that I was listening off of, this wasn’t really a big problem. While I observed some harshness in the treble, that was pretty much it. A remarkably good all-rounder and with Focal’s signature dynamic contrast.

HiFiMAN Susvara / Shangri-La Jr: Honestly, these sounded pretty similar to me tonally. That’s a good thing because there are quite honestly no tonal flaws to either of these headphones, at least to my ears. HiFiMAN can definitely tune. My overall impression of the Shangri-La Jr. was that it was somewhat vanilla as a whole, but that the Susvara was definitely impressive. It plays at the top for detail, resolution, and imaging. I thought the only aspect with which it fell short was in the dynamics department. But it’s not hard to see why the Susvara is often deemed one of the world’s best headphones - it makes very little mistakes.

Meze Empyrean: This has a very colored sound. It is quite warm and thick with good amounts of mid-bass, but it also sports some spice up top in the treble. The biggest problem with this headphone’s tuning is definitely a strange recession at 1.5kHz. Vocal overdubs on Taeyeon’s “Feel so Fine” and a lot of the female vocalists on Sawano Hiroyuki’s work sound really telephonic. I can see why this type of sound might appeal to some listeners, and this recession does benefit center image distinction to some extent, but I do feel that these tuning choices negatively impact the Empyrean’s ability to resolve detail. It generally sounds somewhat goopy for lack of a better word.

Meze Empyrean Elite: Definitely an improvement over the Empyrean in the technical department, at least in terms of note definition and control. The 1.5kHz dip is still present, but not quite to the same degree. I noticed this had a very “boxy” presentation wherein stuff that would normally token the sides of the stage was squeezed to the center. Funnily enough, Resolve tells me he had the opposite impression, so I’m not sure what could account for this. Anyways - a pretty decent headphone, just not remarkable for the hefty price.

Meze Rai Penta: For some reason, I get asked to review these a lot on YouTube. These have a weird signature that I suppose does harken to the Empyrean in some respects. It’s definitely pretty warm with a similar sub-1kHz shelf as the Empyrean. Bass is OK for a dynamic driver, perhaps slamming just a tad harder than the Helios in A/B, but clearly falling behind in terms of control. The midrange generally sounds off. The Penta also has mediocre treble extension and does not resolve much more than surface-level detail like its older, headphone brethren. Not impressed.

PhilPhone: The dark horse of the show for me beyond a doubt. The PhilPhone is a DIY headphone made by Zerousen, better known as Phil on various Discord channels. This was my first time hearing a biodynamic and, my, can this thing slam. It might just have some of the best bass that I’ve heard of a headphone with its terrific swing, texture, and bass tactility. I spent about an hour listening to this off of the “slam stack” (DC2 BHA1) and couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. The crazy thing about this headphone (or maybe by virtue of the DAC/AMPs in the stack itself) is that it does not distort no matter how much of a juicy bass shelf you add to it. And it’s not like this headphone is just all about bass either. It is beautifully dynamic with some of the best punch and contrast that I have heard. The overall tonality here is also generally good with but some spikes in the upper-treble being the main issue. I’m not really in the market for a headphone (and clearly, I don’t really care too much about them in general), but at $700, this is the first one on my list.


More thoughts on the DUNU Falcon Pro (aka this is probably my review, I just haven’t taken the photos yet)…

The Falcon Pro has three nozzles (Reference, Transparency, and Atmospheric Immersion) with which you can use to adjust the sound signature. In all cases, the Falcon Pro sports a mid-bass oriented curve and a mostly smooth treble response; the nozzles mainly affect the amount of midrange presence in the order of Atmospheric Immersion (least), Reference (middle), and Transparency (most). Personally, I found myself flip-flopping between the Reference and Transparency nozzles. I didn’t really care for the Atmospheric Immersion nozzle. The overall sound here is a warm, colored one that will appeal to listeners after a more musical presentation and that are willing to sacrifice sheer clarity.

Bass: If there’s one thing I could change about the Falcon Pro, it would definitely be the bass response: I simply do not jive with the mid-bass emphasis. Aside from the Falcon Pro failing to dig into the deepest of frequencies adequately, and bass notes coming off somewhat hollow, my critiques follow in the name of intangible performance. I feel that the Falcon Pro’s ability to render textural nuance on Dreamcatcher’s “Silent Night” is somewhat lacking, perhaps due to a conjunction between the poor bass extension and slightly quicker bass decay. I’ve actually talked to Tom of DUNU about how most of their IEMs follow this type of bass shelf. While I’ve come to respect that it’s a deliberate tuning decision on DUNU’s part, the bass response here is not my cup of tea both tonally and intangibly. Listeners desiring a more “fun” or “mainstream” bass response and that are willing to sacrifice rumble and clean bass lines, though, will probably find the Falcon Pro more up their alley.

Midrange: The midrange of the Falcon Pro is pretty alright. Again, I’ll focus on it within the context of the Reference and Transparency nozzles. The Reference nozzle is generally warmer and more subdued with a gentle pinna compensation and upper-midrange; the Transparency nozzle brings back up the upper-midrange for more note definition and, overall, a slightly leaner midrange presentation. I think the biggest concern here would be something of a recession at 1kHz. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have called it without a graph. But for instance, I do feel like some of the presence - perhaps the overtones - to Lee Brice’s voice on “Love Like Crazy” is missing, and this has the effect of making him sound somewhat husky. I have to wonder if this recession was intentional, as it does have the perceived effect of lending more “space” around vocals and mitigating congestion like on the venerable Sennheiser HD800S.

Treble: That aside, the treble of the Falcon Pro is the most mature part of its tuning. When you’re dealing with IEMs in this price range, I’ve found that - quite frankly - most of them suck at treble. And not even on a technical level; it’s rare to find IEMs at this price with good treble tuning alone! With the Reference nozzle, though, the Falcon Pro is impressively smooth, devoid of any egregious peaks or valleys, and perhaps only a tad less impressive in terms of sheer extension. Of course, it’s not perfect. It’s almost too smooth - perhaps “sweet” if I’m being kind - with this nozzle which makes me gravitate toward the Transparency. Treble is more defined on the Transparency nozzle; however, the percussive hits on SNSD’s “Into the New World” come across as noticeably more compressed due to a subsequent emphasis at roughly 5kHz. But I digress - this is a commendable treble response all things considered.

Technicalities: For technical performance, “Uh-oh, this isn’t very resolving," was the first comment I made to myself when I heard the Falcon Pro. And yeah - more listening hasn’t really changed that opinion. I suspect that this is largely attributable to the warmer, mid-bassy tuning; furthermore, a limitation of the dynamic driver being used. The Falcon Pro simply isn’t going to trade blows against the likes of established single-DD heavy-hitters for clarity, and it’s a point of contention that some listeners will likely refuse to settle for.

Looking past this, however, I do find the Falcon Pro to be surprisingly competent for what I affectionately refer to as more “latent” intangibles. To start with, the Falcon Pro’s imaging is above average despite being far from pinpoint precise. By this, I am referring to the structural definition of the Falcon Pro’s staging. Notes actually sound big and the Falcon Pro has some semblance of soundstage height with the Reference nozzle. With the Transparency nozzle, I find the Falcon Pro’s layering improves slightly at the expense of some of this note size. In both instances, the Falcon Pro has commendable ambiance to its staging; in fact, I would say it beats out even much more expensive IEMs like DUNU’s own Zen and the Sennheiser IE900 for this metric!

The other instance with which the Falcon Pro makes its mark is dynamics. I don’t think its dynamic contrast is great - loud moments generally don’t come off as loud as they should and quiet moments don’t come off as quiet as they should - but for a general sense of physicality, the Falcon Pro is a very punchy IEM (at its price point, of course). On Taeyeon’s “Make Me Love You”, the bassline has that characteristic with which it feels like I’m being smacked by a wave at 0:52 and 2:01. Part of this feeling is ostensibly baked into the large amounts of mid-bass the Falcon Pro exhibits, and the Falcon Pro clearly falls behind its older brothers the Zen and Luna for dynamics, but the ECLIPSƎ driver technology is no joke.

Conclusion: Okay, so what’s the verdict on the Falcon Pro? Well, I have to admit that I wasn’t super hot on the Falcon Pro when I first heard it. I could tell the tuning was good, don’t get me wrong, but I felt that the general technical performance of the IEM leaned more milquetoast. Further, closer listening, however, has forced me to reevaluate my stance on the Falcon Pro slightly. Generally, I think this is a warm IEM done right, perhaps not unlike the Vision Ears VE7 that I praised recently. The difference? There’s no need to cash out an arm and a leg for the Falcon Pro. Stack on a plethora of great accessories, user-adjustable sound signature via nozzles, consistently good build quality, and I think DUNU has put together a solid package for the warm-heads that I would recommend pending some minor caveats.


Great write-up! @Precogvision


I read your " DUNU Zen Pro - First Impressions" and I really like how Dunu reached out to 4 experienced reviewers to get your feedback. If just more companies would try and listen to customers via reviewers, we might get rid of the total blanks among the new IEMs coming out.

But since you didn’t find the Pro to have “the special sauce”, which single DD under $1500 do you think is the best? (For all genres).


Hey all, I know I haven’t been very active here, which is mainly a combination of being bombarded with school work and not really having access to as much stuff as I did before. Anyways, I’m visiting home this weekend so I swung by MRS to catch up on some of the newer stuff that’s come out this last month. I have units on the way for most of these IEMs, just on the slow boat as usual so I figured I’d get down my thoughts so y’all don’t have to wait haha.

7Hz Timeless: I saw this a while ago and, probably like most people, I didn’t really care about it until Crin gave it a cursory ranking of 5/5 in his unboxing video. The general tonality of the Timeless is neutral with bass boost; however, I can’t say I’m particularly enamored by the tonality here. Yes, the Timeless is better in the tonal department than any planar I’ve heard to date, but that doesn’t mean it’s good tonality either. Noteweight on the Timeless generally skews toward the thinner side, almost like there’s too much upper-midrange, and there’s a similar phenomenon going on in the treble where the Timeless exhibits a strong peak at 7.5kHz. It’s fatiguing to hear despite the perceived detail it lends, and the general timbre of the Timeless is overly dry in tandem with its characteristically planar transients. By this, I mean that notes generally decay a millisecond faster than they should; there’s not sufficient “bloom” to notes. This is probably just a limitation of the driver type; however, timbre-heads really need to look elsewhere. I like the bass on this IEM, though, and it hits hard with remarkable control despite decaying a little quicker than I’d like.

Still, the Timeless’ biggest strength would lie in its technical performance. It definitely sounds like a planar should in a good way. Notes are crisp - hell, more crisp than they have any right to be for $220 - and dynamics on the front of macro-contrast are strong. Imaging is really only the department with which the Timeless lacks. While localization is slightly above average, the general staging and ambiance of the Timeless sit somewhere within the realm of average. It stands that layering suffers as a result. So what are my concluding thoughts after demoing this IEM for about an hour? First, I definitely think it has a place in the $200 bracket, as it is probably the most technical IEM I’ve heard for the price. Second, props to 7Hz for making the world’s first competent planar IEM. But third, I also don’t find myself completely sold on it, and there’s a nagging feeling that it’s a tad unrefined.

Moondrop Kato: Moondrop’s proclaimed successor to the Moondrop KXXS. I haven’t shilled that IEM in a while, but I hope it’s no secret that the Moondrop KXXS is one of my favorite single DDs (my first real IEM at that) so I had high expectations for the Kato. Let’s see. It’s definitely a slight technical improvement all-round while maintaining the general tonality of the KXXS. Slightly better resolution, bass slam, imaging, etc. The Kato’s treble doesn’t sound particularly more extended; however, it’s eschewed the 13kHz peak of its predecessor for a less hazy response. So it’s better than the KXXS; that was to be expected. Now how does the Kato stack up against its closest competitor, the Tanchjim Hana 2021? Well, I’m not a fan of the Kato’s dynamics. They sound sluggish, as is typical of most DD IEMs of this price caliber, but most notably they lack aplomb - they sound slightly soft - in the macro-contrast department relative to the Hana 2021. Generally I get the impression that the Hana 2021 uses a slightly higher-quality driver; outside of this, I could see it going either way even if I prefer the stronger sub-bass focus of the Hana 2021.

Nicehck TopGuy: I got the review unit for this about a month ago and simply couldn’t find the motivation to take it with me back to college. Why? Well, when you look at the FR of this IEM, it actually tracks scarily close to the dreaded Shuoer Tape Pro. I think that about says it all, but to be fair, I don’t think the TopGuy’s that bad. It’s just really mediocre. The mid-bass is trash and the sub-bass rolls-off audibly, it’s got what sounds like a weird, immeasurable dip the upper-midrange that makes everything sound veiled and slightly edgy, and the treble sounds like it has all sorts of tonal imbalances. Now, I feel like the imaging on this set is not bad at least in terms of diffusion; however, notes are blunted and there is nothing else remarkable (scratch that, acceptable for $250) about the TopGuy’s technical performance. This thing needs to go back to the drawing board if it’s being touted as a flagship IEM because it’s not even playing in the $50 category for sound quality to be perfectly frank.

HarmonicDyne Poseidon: LOL. Sorry, these are not good. They sound like they roll-off under 100Hz; there’s no sub-bass at all to this headphone. Seriously, if you think the Sennheiser open-backs are bad for bass extension, this is way worse. This headphone also has an upper-midrange recession right around 3-4kHz which isn’t doing resolution any favors. Now, I think treble would be OK if it weren’t for the contrast of this recession to 5kHz which doesn’t seem to work as well with headphones. The Poseidon’s treble sounds overly sharp in the initial impact of percussive hits whereas, as I alluded to just above, the midrange sounds plain hazy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still nothing really outright offensive about the Poseidon’s tonality, but it’s sooo far from sounding good. This is basically the textbook example of what mediocrity sounds like.


Perhaps the Sennheiser IE900. But the upper-midrange tonality on it is not good and the stock tips are very finicky haha.


Fantastic job @Precogvision… very thorough as always.

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The single DD is highly praised; I have yet no found one without one where there is not a “But…” sentence at the end.
They seem to have big flaws as well, so I have so far not found one worthty of my $ :confused:

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Good to see, you didn’t board this:


Take back everything you said about the Timeless. It’s the best. :slight_smile: (**its the best budget-ish iem on the market i think)

I actually like it a lot, but I can see how some people may think it is a tad bright at times and I’m sure fit/tips/insertion depth play a big role with it too. Its one of the IEMs that fit me pretty well surprisingly, and I’m able to get deep insertion, and so the peak doesn’t seem to bother me as much. I did notice it was bright with some other tips Ive tried, and surprisingly the stock tips worked best for me. I tried my typical spinfit and azla tips with no luck with this iem.


I’ve had the Timeless for a few days. I would put the treble in a similar category as the better Hifiman treble I’ve heard, namely elevated but very smooth and natural sounding, just very forward sounding.

The forwardness isn’t fatiguing to me, but if I listen to a movie or TV show, dialog sounds overly breathy and environmental sounds push their way to the foreground in a distracting way. It’s very detailed and revealing, but not my cup of tea.

Just like with Hifiman, I can see lovers of classical and other busy or fast music appreciating this.


I don’t have it here anymore, but in a way the Timeless reminds me of the ThieAudio Legacy 4, but without the harshness and with much more air.

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I’m not an IEM guy at all… I’ve tried all the audio tiers IEMs and they failed miserably and this was at the TOTL price level.

But a competent set of $200 planar IEMs that have decent technical performance and slam. yes please! For me if I want stage I’ll listen to cans or better yet towers. I’m buying the 7hz hype train…

Just wondering if something like the Ifi Go Blu is going to be a good match with it?

I’m going to give the 7hz a shot and from what I’ve heard about them is they are somewhat power hungry and will scale with better/more powerful sources. I have no idea of the specs of the GoBlue… but something to be aware of.

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250mw in 32 ohms via balanced. Think that is enough for 7hz?

Softears RS10 Impressions

I won’t devote too much writing to the background of this IEM, but SoftEars is basically the partner to Moondrop (or something along those lines). They have their own lineup, and the RS10 is their 10BA halo model that clocks in at $2000. As far as I understand it, the RS10 is intended to be a neutral-reference monitor. I don’t use my IEMs in a professional capacity, though, so I’ll just be taking a more subjective stab at what I think of it.

The first thing that strikes my ears when I hear the RS10 is grit . For the uninitiated, while dynamic drivers tend to have an elongated, smooth taper to decay, BAs tend to decay a lot quicker. This presents itself (to my ears at least) with successive, abrupt tapers in decay and a slight raspiness to notes. Some listeners might associate this quality with detail. But there’s no way around it; the RS10 is excessively gritty to my ears. This is especially true within the context of the RS10’s upper-midrange which sports an aggressive rise that tracks very closely to the Harman 2019 IEM target. To quote someone else who’s heard the RS10: “The signature probably doesn’t work with your library though. It’d make K-Pop sound horrible”. Well, I can confirm that it’s not horrible , but it’s certainly somewhat off-putting. Now, perhaps this might favor music that has been mastered better - I also find it more palpable when it comes to the flat lower-mids of the RS10 - but I fundamentally dislike grain to my sound, so moving on.

Bass on the RS10 is interesting. It’s largely sub-bass focused and certainly clean, but the intangibles of the RS10’s bass are what stand out to me. I want to say it’s articulated with a little more wetness, perhaps softness, contrasted to what is otherwise a fairly dry and crisp sound signature moving upwards. It does come across as a minor coherency issue despite it being a desirable characteristic (akin to what IEMs like the 64A U12t and Dunu SA6 exhibit) to have from a BA low-end. Perhaps it’s just my imagination, though, and a result of the more segmented shelf.

We’ve already talked about my issues with the RS10’s midrange, and likewise, I don’t think the treble response is as refined as it could be. In general, the most obvious point of comparison would be the Moondrop S8 because the RS10 is touted as being an “improved” S8. I disagree at least in terms of their treble responses, hence the quotations. The RS10 has more mid-treble (think ~8kHz) than the Moondrop S8, yet it’s neither as extended (the RS10 takes an audible nosedive after 15kHz), nor has it been done as tastefully as the S8. To the point of the latter, there’s more of a Moondrop Blessing 2 thing going on where - again - there’s too much grit to even stuff like shakers, which is a funny thing to say. I mean, it’s certainly less abrasive than the B2’s treble, but I unquestionably prefer the more airy, slightly less sparkly S8’s treble to this.

Despite my tonality issues with the RS10, there can be no doubt that it is a strong technical performer, likely eclipsing even the aforementioned Moondrop S8. This is especially apparent in terms of raw micro-detail where the RS10 is seemingly able to better convey textural nuance to trailing consonances and vocals. Admittedly, though, I don’t find the RS10 particularly engaging for dynamics. Comparison with other heavy-hitters establishes that the RS10 falls on the shorter end of the stick; for example, I find that the Symphonium Helios sports both better macro and micro-dynamics in A/B. Music just sounds more vibrant on the Helios. Imaging on the RS10 is also somewhat of a paradox. While the RS10 doesn’t have the most open staging, there is a certain appeal wherein everything on the stage sounds like it’s within an arm’s reach. In essence, things sound big and upfront, yet seemingly not congested.

The bottom line? I think the RS10 is definitely a good IEM; however, I would be remiss to start pulling the punches when we’re talking TOTL prices. This holds especially true when the Moondrop S8 - at roughly a third of the cost - is easily trading blows. The way I see it, then, the RS10 is a slightly more detailed Moondrop S8, but without some of the tasteful refinement that the S8 sports. Now, if you’re after that gritty-reference sound then this might be the best rendition of that I’ve heard so far, but it’s still overpriced and a long shot off what I would consider worthy of the “best-in-the-world” status this type of pricing should command.

Score: 6/10

All critical listening was done off the 4.4mm jack of my iBasso DX300 and with Azla SednaEarfits. It’s worth putting it out there that the RS10 takes a considerable amount of power to drive. It’s also a fairly large IEM (sticks out a bit) and I found that the pressure-relief wasn’t really that great despite the placeholder BA for relieving listener stress that is advertised. Or at least I can more easily “pop” my ears to alleviate pressure with my CIEMs and they’re just as isolating.


Nice write-up @Precogvision

It’s amazing how many “TOLT” kilobuck earphones exist in the market that are getting beat by sub $1000 offerings; and seemingly none of them can beat 64 Audio’s offerings. The market is far too saturated, and I fear things won’t improve much.


Fearless Audio Barcelona, Provence, & Shangri-La Impressions

I was going to write about these yesterday, but got distracted with some other stuff.

Let’s kick things off with the Barcelona, the 1DD/1BA offering. Bloated bass shelf and horrible amounts of compressed stick impact. Now, it’d be fine if it just sounded generic, but the Barcelona literally has no air. It sounds like it rolls off before 10kHz; I think even some of KZ’s stuff has better extension than this. Not worth talking about this IEM further. Moving to the Provence, this is arguably the most palpable of these three offerings, at least in the sense that the tuning isn’t a straight mess. It’s definitely got more treble presence than the Barcelona - I’d say mostly mid-treble, but it does seem to have more air too - and a slight technical edge as a result. The real problem with the Provence and the Barcelona is that they sound dampened as all hell. Furthermore, they barely have surface level detail and they have no soundstage. Fearless Audio’s IEMs have always had the second problem, but at least their IEMs like the S8 series were relatively resolving.

And then we have the Shangri-La, a cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for”. The Shangri-La, at least, is decently resolving and more reminiscent of the technical sound that I associate with Fearless Audio. The problem: this has been achieved in the worst way possible. Massive amounts of 3-5kHz, a disgusting upwards-skewed transition between midrange and treble that makes singers sound like they’re constantly in head-voice, and the cherry on top is the ridiculous amounts of lower and mid-treble. In essence, the Shangri-La is painfully bright and shouty. As an aside, I believe all three of these IEMs use the same dynamic driver. The Shangri-La, interestingly, noticeably has better definition and bounce here than it’s peers, but I still don’t like the bass on it very much. It sounds boomy and sort of dominates the stage too much.

Quite honestly, I’m bored of hearing stuff like the Tequila and now this stuff; even the S8Z was not very good in my opinion. It’s even more unfortunate given that the build quality on these is good, and I liked how Fearless Audio used to be a forerunner in the Chi-Fi race. But it’s time to stop throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Scores: 3/10 for all of them


A very positive review @Precogvision , I’ll order 2 of each :smiley: