Sony IEM's - IER-M7, IER-M9, and the IER-Z1R

I’ve never tried the Burr Brown module (the T01). Mine came stock with the A01 (AK chip) and I later upgraded to the E01 (a sabre chip)…the E01 is by far my favorite.

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I have to agree with you @SleepyRhythms it’s a truly wonderful Dap. Likewise @jrockwell I really like the E01 module it’s fantastic. The A01 is also very good too but the extra clarity I feel I get from the E01 is more inline with my favoured sound.

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Pretty sure the E02 also just came out a little while ago. It’d be interesting to compare all these different modules.

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Yes it did. I haven’t heard it but there are plenty of positive reviews online. It’s not an easy task deciding which module to get.

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Seeing as we don’t have an official Z1R thread…I’ll post this here,does size matter? lol love both sets :smiley:

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Woow. :clap: :clap: :clap:

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When SONY wants to put on a show … they put on a show. Those are really sweet looking.

Mark Gosdin

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nice pic. how do you like the Z1R over the P1?

Ha a good question that and I’ll have to start by saying though it defies all logic but I have a harder time getting the P1’s to fit well compared to the Z1R’s…I listen pretty much exclusively at home and not otg to my sets, once I have a good fit with the P1’s I try not to move too much, where as the Sony’s give me no issues fit wise what so ever, although the supplied tips didn’t work for me and I resorted to one of my go to’s the CP145’s and job done and happy to listen to them for 4hr sessions no probs.
I’m not one to get into how various sets differ in their presentation but if their sound sigs were compared to swords then the Z1R would be a broad sword large in size and presentation, hand forged with love and detail, heavy hitting but surprising fast when needed.
The P1 would be a Rapier, fast, quick full of speed but when used correctly can hit hard lol.

Basically I use the Z1R (still pretty new to me ie honeymoon period) for serious listening, My daily drivers are Reecho & Peacock Spring 1’s, IT00’s and occasionally FH7’s…for more etherial listening ie Folk, female vocals, chamber music and chill out then I use my OG Andro’s and for D n’ B, Electronica, Dub Step etc then it’s the Vega’s all from a MacBook Pro > Amazon HD > iFi iDSD Micro silver, pretty happy with this set up tbh.

How ever if a lottery win was on the horizon??? then I could be tempted by a pair of MMR Thummim’s and Luxury Precision P6 :smile:

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The Sony IER-M9 originally came out at the MSRP of $1499 but has since dropped down to $999 in recent months. This puts in the shouting distance of other multi-BA IEMs like the Hidition Viento and the Moondrop S8. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to hear the S8 yet, but I was very excited to try the IER-M9 and see how it stacks against my custom Hidition Viento-B.

This unit was sent on loan to me by community member, tma6. Thanks!

Unboxing

The IER-M9 is a 5-Balanced Armature driver in-ear monitor that features a black magnesium housing with a carbon fabric looking decal in the front. The shell is very lightweight, surprisingly, and feels premium. It also is very comfortable in my ears and I had no issues wearing these for long periods of time due to the nice shell design, weight, and comfort. The cable is also wonderful to use.

In fact, the silk-braided cable is housed in a nice soft rubbery-sheath that is easy to move around, unwind, and doesn’t tangle easily. It terminates in an L-connector of both 3.5mm and 4.4mm varieties. Yes, there are two cables included in the box. The connectors of choice for the Sony IER-M9 is mmcx, it fits in a recessed opening on the M9 shell.

In addition to the cables, the M9 comes with 13 sets of tips to choose from, as well as a carry case, and a series of other accessories. The unboxing for the M9 is quite nice, though still lacks to the drawer box approach of the IER-Z1R.

Sound Impressions

The Sony IER-M9 was mostly paired directly with my Sony NW-ZX507 digital audio player for the majority of the time I used it for this review. I also did try it alongside the Topping A90/Schitt Bifrost 2 combination, and an iPhone 5S. The Sony-Sony pairing is a popular one in the community and I’ve seen a lot of impressions of the M9 paired with the 507, so I was excited to see how these aligned with my own thoughts.

As general blanket statement, I found the Sony IER-M9 to have a warm, enjoyable and extremely coherent signature with outstanding mid-range and and generally laid-back and almost boring sound signature. I use the term “boring”, not necessarily in a negative way. It’s just an inoffensive sound signature that doesn’t have any stand-out feature in its tonality/timbre that makes it either wrong, colored, or the like. I wouldn’t necessarily call the IER-M9 reference tuning, as I do find it a little warmer and a little dark, but not overly colored.

Let’s start a little differently this time that my normal reviews. I find the M9’s coherency outstanding. The multi-driver setup seems to be well designed and doesn’t show any disjointed sound across the board. Add to that the really strong resolution, and it seems like Sony knows a thing or two about how to make a good sounding cross-over setup and maximizing each driver’s potential.

In the same sense, this is the same experience I found with the Hidition Viento in both the universal and the custom versions. Like the M9, it also featured great coherency and good resolution despite having less drivers than other models which tout tons of drivers. More does not always mean better.

To go on further with the comparison to the Viento-B, I find that both share a lot of similarities. The M9 does have 1 additional BA driver, but both are priced similarly now, and have outstanding mid-ranges where everything just sounds accurate and reproduced well. They both do lack some of the resonance and natural decay that comes inherently sometimes with the use of a standard balanced armature driver, but that’s fine for their use cases.

Where I do find that they differ a little bit is in the tuning. The Viento is more reference neutral to me, and when compared to the IER-M9, the Viento has a more focused upper mid-range and even treble region, that may sound a little bright and lean compared to the M9. The M9’s additional warmer lower-midrange also adds more body to the sound, and one can’t really go wrong with either of these for a solid multi-BA setup under $1K. It’s more about picking your tonal preferences.

Okay, I skipped a bit from my normal routine, and now I not only spoiled how I feel about the M9, but also how I compared it to what I consider it’s biggest competitor in it’s price class. Let’s move forward with some music discussion.

I found the M9 to really go well with singer-songwriter type music. I listened to a lot of James Taylor with the M9, and really enjoyed how it presented the softer acoustic guitar songs of the famous musician. The bowed bass guitar on “Fire and Ice” has a nice amount of rumble can be pictured just slightly behind the rest of the instruments in this track, lying a little further back in the scene with its soft growl. The guitars are just over to the left of my hearing, and Taylor’s voice is dead center, perhaps a slight bit to the right. The effortless vocals are shown in all their greatness with the M9, and the warm body really helps give his tender vocals in this track some character.

I didn’t talk a lot about imaging characteristics a lot until just now, and I do think overall that the M9 excels in this area. It has a nice soundstage that isn’t exactly wide or super deep, but it’s a good playing field that’s above average width and in the upper tier in terms of depth. This allows instruments to sound well separated and it makes the M9 sound open and free of chaos in the most chaotic tracks like Daft Punk’s Contact.

The entire lead-up to the finale of this track sounds very detailed and intricate on the M9. The kick bass hits with some authority even if it does not have the slam and decay of typical dynamic driver like it’s older sibling, the IER-Z1R. The cymbal crashes sound accurate but not over-done and this constant beating can sometimes be fatiguing on many headphones and in-ears. Again, what is most impressive on the M9 is how effortless it handles the battlefield of this track, with instruments smashing in all directions as it leads to its final build-up and closure. There’s no muddiness, no meshing of sounds, and no blunted sounds. Everything comes in well-defined and clean.

My current addiction drug is Tingvall Trio, and specifically their “In Concert” live album. I’m finding myself craving the track, “Movie,” for it’s sweeping piano melodies, and constant snare drum attack, and heavy bass notes that keep everything gelled together. I normally enjoy this type of music with my Viento and Hifiman Arya, both more reference and neutral-bright signatures. But the added bass warmth of the IER-M9 does give the low end a little more body and power to it. The slightly darker treble helps give these types of songs a nice romantic-type sound approach that is easy to enjoy for long periods of time, while not losing any of the soundscape.

Wrap-Up

I’ve said a lot of praising remarks to the IER-M9 and the question to be asked is, where does it rank and will you buy it?

The second question is a quick, “no.” And it’s not because I don’t like it. I do like it, but I don’t find it different enough than what I own now to make it a purchase. I already have the Hidition Viento-B, and its tuned closer to my neutral preference target, and I prefer a little more air, and a little more upper-mid range than what the IER-M9 provides, but in many ways, I could go either set, as a stand-alone multi-BA IEM to use .

As far as the first question, I think the M9 stands on and near the top of the IEM playing field. It’s not the best multi-BA IEM, as I still believe that title goes to either the qdc Anole VX or the 64 Audio U12t, but it’s that small tier below where the Hidition Viento and Vision Ears VE8 reside for me.

At $1000, I think this is a nice buy that comes with a great accessory package and a great build. It has a few minor flaws, that are more preference things than anything else, but that’s typical in this price category where preferences matter more. Good work Sony.

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@Precogvision review of the IER-M9 does it live up to his initial first impression?

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Feel’s like I’m resurrecting an old thread but here’s my review of the Sony M7. I’m not sure how well it sells nowadays compared to its brethren but I think it’s still worth a look at.

Introduction

In 2018, Sony updated their flagship line of in-ear monitors with the release of the IER-M7, M9, and Z1R. The M9 gained almost unanimous praise as an excellent IEM best suited as a stage monitor. The Z1R was a little more controversial with its exorbitant price tag, antagonistic fit, and uncompromising sound. For the few that could make it work, the Z1R seemed to be endgame. But today I want to talk about the overlooked, youngest brother of the line-up, the IER-M7.

On the surface, the M7 looks very similar to the M9. It has almost exactly the same shell design and boasts four of Sony’s in-house balanced armatures instead of five. It also comes with the same extremely generous set of accessories: 13 pairs of Sony tips, two cables, and a hard carrying case. The cable isn’t exactly the prettiest but it does the job splendidly with little cable noise and no cable memory whatsoever. Fit, comfort, and isolation was equally great for me. You can tell that these IEMs were truly made for stage use.

The biggest difference between them is the fact that the M7 shells are made out of a light plastic while the M9 is crafted from magnesium. Well that and the carbon fiber faceplate on the M9. Truth be told, when I had the chance to hold them side by side, I can’t help but be disappointed that Sony sacrificed that slice of premium on the M7. Maybe there’s was an actual engineering decision here but at an MSRP of $500 I would expect something a little more substantial.

Sound

Though the M7 is marketed as a “stage” or “studio” IEM, I didn’t find it sterile or boring. It has an overall warm neutral tuning that’s on the bassy side with laid back vocals. It plays nicely with the vast majority of music I threw at it. However, I was able to hear the difference in driver engagement during different parts of a track where the crossovers get employed. Sony’s BAs seem to have a distinct sound to them and the transitions aren’t always seamless. Alone, the mid drivers have a sense of clarity that really jumps out at you until the bass drivers kick in to add their own flavor to complete the M7’s sound. Interestingly enough, when I demo’d the M7 next to the M9 a year ago, I found the M7 to be borderline dark. But listening to it again for this review, I didn’t have that impression at all. While not the ideal tuning for me, it’s plenty enjoyable.

Bass

The low end BAs are probably the most interesting drivers in the M7 (and M9). For those who don’t know, Sony’s BAs are designed completely differently from others in the industry and have a unique firing mechanism. I don’t know the exact details but suffice it to say it can clearly be heard in the bass of the M7. If you didn’t know it was a BA, it could almost pass for a dynamic driver. I’d say it’s about 70% of the way to a good DD and preferable to a lot of bad ones. There’s a decent amount of rumble in the subbass and the M7 leans towards being boomy rather than punchy which is uncharacteristic of BA IEMs. Fortunately, the clarity in the midbass isn’t too negatively affected and the BA speed is mostly still there. Overall, the bass is elevated and bleeds into the mids. My nitpick with the bass is that it needs more of a defined leading edge. Right now, the notes in the bass sound rounded off which makes it a little soft and contributes to the boominess. It can also get a little muddy at times when there’s too much going on due to a relative lack of definition. Of course, the better the recording/mastering, the better the M7 will perform.

Mids

The mids of the M7 are warm and laid back. Those that enjoy a lusher tone that’s less forward will likely enjoy the M7’s tuning. Personally, I’d prefer more upper mids to drive the energy of vocals and electric guitars. For acoustic instruments, the balance in the mids has a very clear, welcoming tone that performs excellently in unplugged-type setlists. As mentioned previously, on its own, the mid BAs have an engaging quality to it. But when the track goes from a mid-focused acoustic passage to bringing in booming drums, there is a sense of disconnect as the bass BAs kick in and dilutes the singular clarity of the mids. The laid back nature of the upper mids means vocals are never harsh or fatiguing to listen to, nor is there any issue with sibilance. I think the M7 does a good job in toeing the line between being too relaxed and having just enough vocal presence to prevent it from sounding buried.

Highs

The treble of the M7 definitely takes a backseat in the overall sound signature. It dips quite rapidly starting at the lower treble which partially mutes the attack of the hats and cymbals. Treble is present but kept to a minimum to avoid listener fatigue. That said, I didn’t feel like it was overly dark and thought that there was a surprising amount of treble extension and presence where it mattered. I was actually pretty surprised looking at the graphs after listening as I didn’t expect that large of a scoop past the upper mids. Personally, I would have liked just a bit more presence in the treble to bring forth the shine from the hats/cymbals and give the upper harmonics of vocals more breathing space. Overall, I thought the treble of the M7 was tastefully done for what they were going for. The timbre isn’t perfect but there are no glaring weaknesses here.

Presentation

The biggest highlight for me was the soundstage and imaging. The M7 has large soundstage that feels natural to me and solid imaging ability to go along with it. The relaxed upper mids does lend to the illusion of a more open space though I wish there was a bit more treble to give clarity and balance out the occasional muddiness from the bass. Instrument separation is quite decent for the most part and resolution is a clear step up from the <$200 class of IEMs, as expected.

The presentation of the M7 works pretty well for me. Its stage, resolution, and tonal balance comes together well enough in a way that’s enjoyable and easy to listen to but it isn’t always a seamless experience. I can’t shake the feeling that the M7 is the glued together pieces of something greater. That the M7 is a sort of first draft of an idealized entity. Of course, I’m being facetious here. That something is the M9 and the sound quality improvement is fairly striking if you ever have the chance to hear them side by side.

Should You Buy It?

At its MSRP of $500, it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow for me personally. On one hand, I quite enjoyed my time with the M7 and I found myself reaching for them again and again for this review even though I had other IEMs in line for ear time. But on the other hand, Sony’s choice to seemingly cheap out on the build quality irks me (though kudos for the plentiful accessory set) and the M7’s “almost there but not quite” feeling does stick in the back of my mind. This is exacerbated by the “mid-fi desert” as I like to call it, where IEMs at this price range have to fight cheaper mid-fi IEMs like the Moondrop Blessing 2 in that ever present price/performance arms race or against used entry level hi-fi IEMs. It’s a tough spot to be in especially when new entrants to the scene like the DUNU SA6 shake up the already select few mid-fi models. I don’t think I can fully recommend the Sony IER-M7 at its asking price. But if you ever manage to find a used one in good condition for about $250-300 or cheaper, I’d say its compromises are palatable and sound quality thoroughly enjoyable. It’ll serve as a nice stopgap until you make the plunge into endgame.

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Great review @Fc-Construct. I’ve never tried Sony Iem’s. I would love to try their IER-Z1R Iem.

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Sony IER-Z1R Review: The Hybrid Behemoth

I. Introduction

Sony’s hybrid flagship IEM that clocks in at $1700 is something special. If you’ve spent any amount of time in some key audiophile communities, you’ll know of the praise and adoration that the Sony IER-Z1R invokes. And I should know; I’m one of its staunch proponents. I had the opportunity to hear it on loan roughly a year ago, and in the brief time I had it - a mere three days - it shot straight to the top of my personal tier list, where it’s remained since.

But a year is a long time. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to hear dozens more IEMs, some very good ones. It’s also no secret that my stance on the hobby has matured, or simply become more critical. And believe me, I’ve even received a number of comments that I’m too harsh! Nonetheless, I’ve been itching to find out for some time now: How would the IER-Z1R fare under the scrutiny of my standards in today’s context? Let’s take a look.

This unit was provided for review by Alan (@Netforce) of Headphones.com. Thank you! As usual, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

II. Source & Driveability

All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX160, A&K SP1000M, and iFi Micro iDSD Black Label with lossless FLAC files. I used the stock cable and the stock tips. The IER-Z1R is a more difficult IEM to drive; however, I had no trouble powering it off of my iPhone with - heresy, I know - the Apple dongle. Hissing was a non-issue expectedly.

III. The Tangibles

Normally, I don’t particularly care for packaging because at the end of the day, let’s be honest: After I pry out my shiny toy, it’s going straight to the closet to collect dust. But Sony has outdone themselves here, and as such, they deserve praise. This is how you do presentation and make your customer feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

The following accessories are included:

  • 3.5mm and 4.4mm MMCX cables
  • Sony Hybrid Silicon tips (ss/s/ms/m/ml/l/ll)
  • Triple-comfort tips (ss/s/ms/m/ml/l)
  • Case with storage bib and shirt clip

Expectedly, all of the accessories are of very high quality. I love that Sony has opted to include separate cables to cover the most common terminations. And there’s so, so many tips - you’ll find something that works for you. I will say that the storage bib is pretty useless (or at least I’ve never seen anyone who’s actually used it or could figure out how it works).

The IER-Z1R is constructed of zirconium which is an interesting design decision. To be blunt: It is hefty and large to the point of which many ears will struggle to achieve an optimal insertion depth, much less comfortable listening experience. You’ve been warned. Of course, like most of the Sony stuff, the IER-Z1R’s build inspires a sense of robustness and quality you don’t get with a lot of other IEMs. The shells are emblazoned with a perlage finish, a decorative finish often used in watchmaking.

IV. Sound Analysis

Measurement taken off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at roughly 8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate.

The IER-Z1R follows something of a mild-V shaped tuning. Bass is strongly emphasized; however, largely relegated to the sub-bass regions. You already know this IEM rumbles. The midrange of the IER-Z1R exhibits a more scooped lower-midrange contrasted to a rise from 1-4kHz that dips in-between. You can expect said contrast to correspond to thinner notes; generally, these sorts of dips to frequency response are also used to impart a sense of spaciousness. Treble exhibits a bump at around 6kHz in the lower-treble, lending some energy to balance out the low-end; post-6kHz frequencies are relatively smooth. Make no mistake that this is far from being a neutral IEM. But if you listen to a lot of J-Pop/K-Pop (yes, the IER-Z1R flies best with this stuff) or enjoy the Sony house sound, then you’ll likely vibe with the IER-Z1R.

The “Meh”.

What a way to start a review, you’re probably thinking. But you already know this is one of my favorite IEMs; I’m no dirty shill, so I say what better way to kick this off?

The IER-Z1R’s midrange is polarizing; a testament to the fallibility of aural memory, it doesn’t sound as good as I recall. There is an audible dip from 2-3kHz which lends female vocals to huskiness. At the same time, however, the upper-midrange does lean more forward than the lower-midrange. There is some uncanny valley here, perhaps edginess, and it is particularly noticeable coming off the likes of the 64 Audio U12t and the Campfire Andro 2020 which are more smooth going through these regions. I also stand by my original sentiment about the IER-Z1R’s male vocal performance: Not bad, but by no means exceptional; this wouldn’t be my first choice with the likes of country music.

Incoherency also plagues the IER-Z1R. I didn’t hear it the first time; nonetheless, my second listen and confirmation from trusted ears inclines me to say it exists. This is most apparent within the context of the IER-Z1R’s bass and treble contrasted to the midrange. Yes, the IER-Z1R has the best bass that I have heard. But no, it’s not perfect. There is a certain compression to it, not unlike the Moondrop B2’s bass, with which it sounds like it’s always on full-tilt (make no mistake they sound very different otherwise). In general, the IER-Z1R is also not the fastest IEM. The bass and treble skew slower in decay whereas the midrange BA takes on a slightly grainy texture, thus exacerbating a difference of timbre. This is distinct from the Sony IER-M9 which, ironically, also uses Sony’s proprietary BA drivers; the IER-Z1R sounds more dense, downwards-sloping in the midrange transients.

And if I get real picky - you know I do - the way the IER-Z1R rides dynamic swings isn’t exactly top-tier. While we’re not talking IER-M9 levels of limp, the IER-Z1R’s dynamics are not as weighty and nuanced as the U12t’s. Something else that might not be readily apparent is the IER-Z1R’s detail retrieval. In isolation, sure, it’s good. But it’s actually not so great compared to a lot of the other IEMs that I would qualify as top-tier. The IER-Z1R only gets away with this, to a large extent, thanks to its tuning. The upper-midrange contrast and lower-treble tilt inherently boost the perception of resolution.

And The Great.

Oh, and there’s a lot of it. So what’s the first thing that struck my ears when I put on the IER-Z1R again? You know, aside from the fact that they’re as chonky and frigid on the ears as ever?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the bass, but the IER-Z1R’s imaging. The IER-Z1R has the unprecedented ability to shape the walls of the stage, particularly in terms of height. This is something I don’t talk about often because, well, most IEMs simply don’t have it! Sure, the U12t beats it out in terms of center image distinction, and Sony’s own IER-M9 leads it in positional incisiveness. But there is nothing, and I mean nothing - at least that I’ve heard - that matches the IER-Z1R for its cathedral-like, larger-than-life presentation. In tandem with the oh-so-natural bass and treble decay, there is a sense of realism to the IER-Z1R’s imaging that cannot quite be captured in words; it excels at engagement factor and establishing the listener in the mix.

And of course, the bass. My thoughts on the IER-Z1R’s bass probably aren’t too surprising; nonetheless, allow me to hammer home the notion: The IER-Z1R is my zenith of bass in portable fidelity. Decay, rumble, and texture, it has them all in spades. Feed it something like Everglow’s “DUN DUN,” and holy moly, the sense of sheer physicality being pushed to the drops is unparalleled; indeed, the IER-Z1R has the elusive transient density I write to no end about other IEMs lacking. But the best part? It’s nearly devoid of bloat too, hammering away at the quick, successive bassline of something like Tiffany’s “I Just Wanna Dance” with decided ease. Now, it’s still not as clean and nuanced as some BA IEMs I’ve heard - much less a planar - but unless you’re really bass-shy, something tells me you’re not going to mind.

I don’t think I gave the treble response enough credit last time, and I’m rearing for another go. The IER-Z1R sports a slight tilt to impact at around 5-6kHz, followed by a linear run through the crash and air regions. The timbre of the IER-Z1R’s treble is exceptional, and here, the dynamic driver being used really does shine. Transient attack with snaps and leading percussive hits is incredibly crisp, dry, and incisive. And can we talk about the reverb? Treble reverb noticeably sounds like it has broken the “walls” of the stage, lending to the IER-Z1R’s unabashedly wide staging. Stack on extension that soars to a mind-boggling 100kHz according to Sony’s specs, and indeed, it would not be an overstatement to say that the IER-Z1R’s treble sets a precedent for IEMs rivaled only by its bass response.

V. Select Comparisons

64 Audio U12t - $2000

Ah yes, a battle of the giants: How does the IER-Z1R fare against what many would consider to be the most well-rounded IEM on the market, the 64 Audio U12t? Once upon a time, I would have said that my preferences skew toward the IER-Z1R, but now I’m not so sure. It’s important to understand that these are two very different beasts:

  • The U12t has some of the best BA bass out there, but the IER-Z1R eclipses it in the timbre, slam, and decay departments. Both follow a largely sub-bass oriented shelf.
  • Whereas the IER-Z1R contrasts a leaner lower-midrange with elevated upper-mids, the U12t strays in the opposite direction with dead-balanced midrange notes. The IER-Z1R is leaner, more forward in its midrange presentation, then.
  • The IER-Z1R most closely favors the lower-treble region; it’s more aggressive. The U12t skews towards the upper-harmonics (think ~15kHz) which means listeners will find it anywhere from more laidback to somewhat tizzy.

Intangibly, the U12t does not have the IER-Z1R’s grand, cathedral-like imaging. Staging is more compressed vertically; the U12t specializes in positional cues and center image distinction - that is, soundstage depth. And whereas the IER-Z1R leads dense and unrelenting in its transient attack, the U12t strays in the opposite direction with a pleasant softness. Indeed, some might find the U12t’s presentation too mellow; however, note that it resolves better than the IER-Z1R in terms of detail retrieval. The U12t’s dynamic range is also one of the best in IEMs, period.

Go for the U12t if you want what is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the safest and most well-rounded IEM on the market. On the other hand, go for the IER-Z1R if you’re looking for a more exciting, aggressive presentation that sacrifices some midrange balance.

VI. The Verdict

Ultimately, most anything is bound by context. The IER-Z1R is not perfect as I have made abundantly clear. But it unmistakably remains a top-tier IEM within the context of the hybrid IEMs that I have heard to date. In fact, I would go so far as to say it would be my hybrid IEM of choice if not for the contentious fit.

In this vein, I am compelled to recognize that the IER-Z1R is not the safest IEM. The midrange tuning is not as balanced as it could be, and your unique ear anatomy will likely influence your purchase decision. I would highly recommend demoing the IER-Z1R for a few hours first just to make sure your ears are deemed worthy. But if you’re looking for an IEM that takes top marks in the categories of bass, treble, and imaging - when most flagships can’t even claim one of these - then this just might be the IEM for you.

VII. Reference Tracks

  • Aimer - Hakuchuumu
  • David Nail - Let It Rain
  • Everglow - DUN DUN
  • Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
  • Illenium - Broken Ones
  • Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
  • Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
  • Sabai - Million Days
  • Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
  • Steve Jablonsky - Arrival To Earth
  • Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
  • Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
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Fantastic review! Were you able to hear the odin? I want to hear how you compare that to these two.

Yup, I’ve heard the Odin - review here. I can do a quick comparison with the Z1R, though.

The Odin’s tuning is actually pretty similar - generally, at least - up until the treble. The biggest difference is that it doesn’t dip from 2-3kHz and female vocals are much fuller. I prefer the Odin here. Treble on the Odin is very smooth; maybe a little too smooth. It doesn’t extend quite as far and transient attack is generally softer compared to the Z1R here. So, Odin hits closer to neutral whereas I’d say the Z1R leans more V-shaped as a result.

In terms of technicalities, Odin is more resolving, coherent, and sports better positional cues. At the same time, though, it doesn’t match the Z1R’s terrific imaging chops and staging. Both of them have some degree of macrodynamic compression, but the Z1R comes off as more dynamic in my book.

On paper, I’m going to say Odin is more well-rounded. But there are certain qualities the Z1R sports which the Odin, and other IEMs, just don’t have.

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20 characters of Thanks!

Great review as always @Precogvision.

Does the ZR1 blow the Thieaudio Monarch out of the water? My ZR1 is coming on Thursday and I was thinking about cancelling it and getting the Monarch. Any thoughts?

You only live once.

Monarch sounds dynamically compressed compared to Z1R.

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