The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

This is the first Final Audio IEM I have tried so I can’t comment on the others. As I tried to explain, I don’t dislike the E500, it just isn’t something that clicks with me.

If I spent some time with EQ, I would probably like it more but my use case for them doesn’t really include a means of EQing.

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I was happy to read your impressions of one of my favorites. I think you explained well.

Something that sounds like the Finals do can be polarizing. On Head-Fi, in the budget IEM threads, you will often see them described as warm, thick, muddy, slow, and dark. For context, these are usually terms used by folks used to the offerings of the able IEM tuners of Shenzhen, for brands such as KZ and the like.

I enjoy those too, but I just happen to enjoy tuning of the Finals a bit more. If I wanted to trigger fans of KZ, I might describe those IEMs as grainy, shouty, and piercing. But I won’t do any such thing ;).

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Ha ha! That reminds me of the man who sent his friend a birthday card and wrote " I was going to send you some money but I sealed the envelope before I could enclose the cash!"

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Tanchjim Tanya

As usual, this review is also available in Spanish on my blog and YouTube, links at the end of this post.

The Tanchjim Tanya has been sent to me free of charge by HifiGo in exchange for this review. They have not requested anything other than to include links to the product in this review published on my blog and, as always, my opinions will be as unbiased and sincere as possible, but it is always good to consider that it hasn’t cost me anything to try out these IEMs.

The Tanchjim Tanya, at the time of publishing this review, is available on HifiGo for 18€. You can find a link to it by visiting the version of this review published on my blog here.

Intro…

The Tanya is a very recent release from Tanchjim, announced around a month ago, and is a set of IEMs that feature a single 7mm micro dynamic driver. It is available both with and without a microphone, the set I have being without the mic.

I recently reviewed the Final Audio E500 which is an IEM that has a very similar format to the Tanya, you can view my review of it here: Review - Final Audio E500. In the review I explained why I always like to have a set of IEMs of this style, as they are something I use when travelling and when wanting to listen to musicin bed. The Tanchjim Tanya comes in at a cheaper price than the E500 and, in my opinion, is something that works for me more than the E500 does.

Presentation…

The Tanya arrive in a grey box inside a white cardboard sleeve that shows an image of the IEM and the make/model. On the back, they list the specifications in English & Chinese.

Inside the box we find the IEMs, with their attached cable, along with various sets of silicone tips, user manual & warranty card, replacement filters and a small velvet storage bag. This is actually quite a lot of content for the price that these IEMs come in at.

Build and aesthetics…

As mentioned, these are small IEMs with a fixed cable, which insert quite deeply into the ears. In a size format, they are slightly larger than the Hifiman RE series but shorter than the Final E500. This allows them to protrude less from the ears and makes them more comfortable to wear when lying down on your side than the E500. They are very similar in comfort to the Hifiman RE series.

As far as build, they are nicely built, with a metal covering to the small shell (at least I believe it is metal). On the back of the shell there is what looks to be an air vent. At first I thought that these IEMs were open back, judging by the size of the vent, however, covering this vent does not seem to change the sound at all, so that leads me to believe that it is just for aesthetics and that the only ventilation is from the small hole on the bottom of the nozzle.

The cable is attached as I already mentioned but I don’t have any issues with the quality of the cable. It doesn’t tangle easily but is also not too rigid as to become a nuisance. It also doesn’t present the microphonics that other options do.

The included tips are also fairly decent. I find them to be comfortable and the sound to be decent with them so I haven’t had to go off on a search of which tips work. For my sound evaluations I have used the stock tips.

Sound…

As far as sound, the Tanya seems to fix the things I didn’t like about the E500, without breaking anything else. In the review of the E500, I did some comparisons to the RE600s which I said wasn’t a fair comparison and it isn’t fair to compare the Tanya to the RE600s either, at least in price, but I can say that the Tanya does not feel like a huge step down from the RE600s like the E500 did. There are still moments of clarity and detail that I find superior on the RE600s but I have had no issue using and enjoying the Tanya for my general use of this kind of IEMs.

With the brief (and possible unfair) comparisons out of the way, let’s get on with how the Tanya sounds and performs.

In the subbass, the 7mm dynamic driver does a very good job of presenting rumble where needed. Listening to “Chameleon” by Trentemoller, where the subbass comes in around the 0:31 mark, the Tanya give enough rumble to make even bass heads happy, or at least I think it would as I am not much of a bass head myself. This track is actually a very good way to test if IEMs/headphones can deal with all those low frequencies without falling apart and the Tanya actually holds up pretty well. Yes, the rumbling can be a little overpowering and present a bit of a “wall of sound” in those lowest frequencies but that is the track more than overly boosted subbass. If we move to a track like “No Sanctuary Here”, where the lowest notes are clearer and more defined than in the previous tracks, again the subbass can come across as a little strong and is a bit more than I would personally request, but they do a good job for the size of the driver with so much bass.

In the general bass frequencies, things are a lot cleaner if there isn’t as much boost in the lowest ranges of the track. “Sun Is Shining” does sound a lot cleaner than the previous two tracks while still being a track with plenty of bass, just slightly higher in the frequency range. On tracks that use real bass guitars instead of electronic instruments, such as “Black Muse” by Prince, the bass guitar does come across as slightly too boosted in the mix to be considered natural, the same happens with the bass guitar of “Smooth Operator” by Sade. This is not terrible and is not usually too overpowering but will not be something that fits the tone for those looking for neutrality and a natural bass sound.

The transition to the mids depends on the amount of bass we are pushing to the low end. The more we make it work in the lowest ranges, the more difficult it becomes for the Tanya to make the clean transition into the lower mids, sometimes coming across as a little muddy if we are pushing too much bass.

The mids in general are nice and smooth, with voices presenting a nice tonality and being very clean and detailed (again, depending on how much we push the low end). For example, the track “Way Down Deep” by Jennifer Warnes has some rather large hits in the low end while the mid range is quite simple, this song can come across as a little recessed in the mids. However, a song like “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” by Paul Simon does not have such a large presence in the lowest registers, this makes the vocals and other instruments move more into focus and the result is quite pleasant. The bass of this track is located mainly in the lower midrange, with a few climbs, and this is very easily defined in the background.

Moving up to the top of the midrange and lower treble areas, there is enough of a climb in presence to keep vocals present but without them becoming overly harsh or nasal. A track that I find good to test the harshness of vocals is “Don’t You Worry Child” by Beth, as her voice can become harsh very easily. The Tanya does a decent job of keeping her harshness in check and makes the song quite listenable.

Sibilance is also well controlled, with my usual “Code Cool” test track being presented in a way that is not too sibilant but is also not overly reduced. There is a slight hint of sibilance on a few of the lyrics by Patricia Barber but they are not too uncomfortable.

There is the typical high frequency roll off found in (almost) all single dynamic driver IEMs, where more air and extension would be a plus but there is at least enough presence in the highs to not make the whole sound signature seem dark.

The speed and dynamics are a little lacking, as is to be expected of a single dynamic driver that is only 7mm, especially when the lower regions are working hard. There is only so much we can expect from a set up like this in the price bracket that it sits in and I think they do well enough to be considered more than adequate but they are certainly not amazing detail monsters and they can get congested when we push those lower ranges past their comfort zone.

The width of the soundstage is actually rather good in comparison to so many other budget IEM offerings, it is not a huge soundstage but it is above average in this regard. Placement of images is also decent, it is not pinpoint accuracy but is decent nonetheless. The problem comes when trying to locate smaller details in the background, these are more difficult to place but this ties more into the dynamics and lack of background details when a busy track is being played.

Conclusion…

As I mentioned at the beginning, I recently reviewed the Final E500 and the Tanchjim Tanya is a similar set up at a very similar price (actually a little cheaper). My personal preference between the two is easily the Tanya, of that I have no doubt. The Tanya is still not perfect, it has many things that can be improved on, but again we need to consider the price, the size of these IEMs and how much we can actually expect from something like this.

Yes, the driver does struggle when we push it too far, and the limits are lower than on other options, but when the driver is not overworked, I find it to have much more clarity and better sound (to my ears) than the Final E500.

In comparison to the Hifiman RE600s, which is the IEM of this style that I usually use when wanting something which is tiny and disappears in the ear, then the Tanya is just as comfortable, seems just as well built and is available for a less than 20€ whereas the RE600s retail price is closer to 200€ (even though you can get them discounted quite often). Yes, the RE600s is more detailed and also matches my tuning preference more, but, as I said in my E500 review, it is by no means a fair comparison.

I have no issues using the Tanya for my late night listening in bed, or for watching movies. In fact, the explosions in movies can be quite a surprise when you are not used to the sound of the Tanya.

I am leaving on another business trip in a few days and this time I will be taking the Tanya with me instead of the RE, as I did with the E500, so I will put it through the real life circumstances that I actually use these kinds of IEMs for. On my recent trip, the E500 was sufficient, I am sure that the Tanya will prove to be more than sufficient.

All in all, the Tanya is a set of IEMs that I can see pleasing a lot of people if they are looking for a budget set of IEMs with this style of build and sound signature.

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Thanks - I always enjoy your reviews.

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Great review @SenyorC.

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Not quite IEMs as they’re TWS instead but Resolve did a shooutout of some of Amazon’s best-selling TWS vs some more traditional audiophile-tuned TWS like the Moondrop Sparks and the Earfun tuned by Oluv from Oluv’s Gadgets

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I entered a photo competition for KBEAR on Head Fi and won a pair of Neon single BA IEMs. I have been testing them and here is my opinion of them:

KBEAR Neon
The KBEAR Neon is the latest model from the company and is the successor to the F1. Like the earlier model, it is a single BA design. The F1 employed a 32257 type in different versions including Bellsing. The Neon uses a Knowles ED 29869 BA as found in the TRI Starsea.

The Neon comes in similar packaging to the Lark with a colour sleeve showing Chinese characters within a Neon-effect border within which is written " KBEAR Neon". Also featured are “The vocals hit the soul” and “Single BA in-ear Hi-fi earphones” in Chinese and English. The reverse has a list of specifications. Removing the cover reveals a square black box with a gold KBEAR logo. Inside you will see the IEMs sitting in a foam cut-out and two black boxes with gold writing, one long box containing the accessories and another containing the case. The contents include:

  • KBEAR Neon IEMs
  • 2-pin silver plated cable
  • 4 pairs of grey silicone tips (S, 2 x M, L)
  • 1 pair of white silicone tips (S,M,L)
  • Carrying case
  • User guide

The carrying case is finished in a grey textured material with a white KBEAR logo and has a zip closure. The presentation and accessories are excellent for the price and put companies like KZ to shame.

The Neon is a “bullet” style IEM. It has a transparent body through which the components can be seen and is available in three colourways, red/blue, black and purple. The nozzle is fairly long and there is a decorative silver ring with KBEAR branding just below the nozzle. The 2-pin socket is on the rear of the body and protrudes to accept a hooded connector. There are red and blue dots on the underside indicating the channel and polarity.

The cable is silver plated copper with hooded connectors, a straight silver coloured metal 3.5mm plug and metal Y-split with a ring chin slider. It is worn cable down and is very comfortable with little cable noise.

The Neon was tested principally using an Xduoo X20 DAP but a CD player and smartphone were also employed. The stock cable and medium tips were used which resulted in an excellent fit, isolation and seal. A burn in period of 100 hours was used to settle down the components.

First Impressions
The Neon displayed a largely neutral profile with a conservative sub-bass presence but with good speed and resolution. Mid bass through to upper mids were flat with a moderate rise into the treble which possessed good detail and clarity. There was a dip in the upper frequencies after which the level recovered and supplied some sparkle and air. Transient response was quick and agile. Staging was well above average with good separation and layering.

Bass
As may be expected from a single BA, there was a relative reduction in the bass level but there was still a good sense of weight and depth although there was a roll-off in the sub-bass region. Mid bass had good impact and speed whilst maintaining rhythmic integrity, and did not bleed into the midrange.

Jonn Serrie’s “Le Tresor” was a good example. Its deep sub-bass foundation was hinted at rather than fully realised but there was good definition, texture and speed. Some of the atmosphere was lost but what remained was very clean and musical, freeing up the mid bass, allowing the piece to breathe and showcasing the overlaying acoustic guitar solo very effectively.

The deep pedal notes of the organ in Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor” possessed good texture and there was a sense of weight but the extension was just a little shy, robbing the piece of its impressive foundation. The timbre of the basses and cellos in the version by the Guildhall String Ensemble was believable with admirable clarity and detail and the piece retained its cohesion even though some of the impact was lost in the lower frequencies.

Mids
Arguably the star of the show, the Neon’s midrange was neutral and accurate with good timbre for a BA. There was a moderate rise in the upper region which added some clarity and soundstage, layering and imaging were all very good.

“A Chloris” by Venezuelan composer Reynaldo Hahn is a beautiful duet for cello and piano in the style of Bach. In the performance by Julian Lloyd Webber and John Lenehan, the Neon gave a very good account of itself with excellent clarity. The timbre of the instruments was generally natural and lifelike with only the higher notes of the cello having a sharper “BA” tonality. The atmosphere and ambience of the performance was faithfully reproduced.

Rosanne Cash’s sensitive recording of “This has happened before” demonstrated the superb vocal abilities of the Neon. The reverb on her voice, acoustic guitar, Dobro and steel guitars were all convincingly portrayed, and combined nicely to produce an emotional performance worthy of the phrase “The vocals hit the soul”. This was ideal material for the Neon.

Treble
The Neon’s treble was generally clean and well defined with good detail. There was a notable dip in the upper region before recovering in the extreme HF. This resulted in some variation of timbre but there was still a decent sense of sparkle and “air”.

“Many Chinas” from the superb “Vapor Drawings” by Mark Isham begins with bright and detailed percussive elements on each side of the stereo image displaying excellent width. The Neon reproduced these very clearly with precise detail. When the bass, trumpet and keyboards joined in, the whole piece gelled together very well with excellent separation producing a satisfying musicality.

Pachelbel’s famous “Canon in D major” can surely not have had a more elegantly paced presentation than that by the J. F. Paillard Orchestra on Erato. The slower tempo revealed so much more of the counterpoint and throughout the piece, the harpsichord continuo was clearly audible and the violin solo placed centre stage displayed excellent timbre.

Soundstage
Along with the mids, the soundstage was perhaps the best feature of the Neon, being expansive in all three dimensions and exhibiting good separation and layering with imaging also being above average.

“Walking in Space”, by Amin Bhatia from “The Interstellar Suite”, features binaural effects depicting an EVA or spacewalk. It starts with a representation of an airlock being activated and the astronaut beginning his activity, which is then followed by a cinematic musical theme on synthesisers. A huge stage was created by the Neon with the sound effects displaying accurate positioning and delicate sequenced electronic details moving across the image. The whole effect was spacious and very captivating.

The superb series of classical pieces by the Minnesota Orchestra on the Reference Recordings label always display an impressive soundstage. Ravel’s dynamic “Alborada del Gracioso” is no exception. Eiji Oue’s interpretation is full of drama, orchestral colour and impact and the Neon revelled in the piece with a convincing spread of the orchestra and a believable sense of the hall ambience, forming a solid three-dimensional image which was wonderfully entertaining. The positioning of the concertante instruments was precise and there was a very natural perspective. With just a little more depth and power, it would have been nigh-on perfect.

Conclusion
The Neon improves on its predecessor, the F1, in every way. It has a more extended bass (though still somewhat light), the midrange is clearer and more defined where the F1 was occasionally veiled (this will depend on the BA), and the treble is more extended. Soundstage is much more impressive. The Knowles unit is more refined and linear, and the presentation , fit and cable are also superior. The team at KBEAR and TRI certainly know something about tuning. If the dip in the upper treble could be fixed and a little more extension in the bass could be added, this would be a giant-killer! As it stands, the Neon is still a very good IEM at the price and eminently recommendable.






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