The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

It’s better extended on both ends and more V-shaped than neutral. It’s also twice the cost. But it works for me and I find it consistently more enjoyable compared to its predecessor.

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KZ PR1


The KZ PR1 have been sent to me by Linsoul for me to try and share my opinions. As always with Linsoul, they have not made any specific requests and my review will aim to be as unbiased and sincere as possible, although you should always consider the fact that these IEMs have been sent free of charge.

Keeping up with my usual aim to not publish purchasing links on forums where I am only a guest, even if all my links are non-affiliate, you can find the PR1 via Linsoul by visiting the version of this review published on my blog (link at the end of this review).


Intro…

Until recently there were very few planar IEMs on the market, we had Audeze, Tin and not much more. Now there are no shortage of planar IEMs available, covering all kinds of price brackets. The PR1 is Kz’s entry into the planar battle, coming in at just over 65€ and using a newly developed 13.2mm driver that is different to the drivers used in many other sets.

So the question is, other than the price, does the PR1 provide anything that sets it apart from all the other planar models that are readily available?


Presentation…

The PR1 presentation is just another typical KZ package. A small white box covered with a transparent cover that reveals the IEMs inside.

The contents include the IEMs, the typical KZ cable, the typical KZ tips and the typical KZ user guide.

So, as far as presentation goes, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen many many times before from the brand.

I have always said that the presentation is the last thing on my list of worries and that I would much prefer the money to be spent on the IEMs themselves than a bunch of accessories that I may or may not (probably the latter) use.

Saying that, many other brands have got us used to decent packaging and contents, making the KZ presentations lack in comparison, giving us a cheap vibe when opening the package. Again, this is not an issue, as long as the IEMs provide an experience that matches the price point.


Build and aestetics…

I have to say that I like the industrial looks of the PR1. They use a combination of a clear resin interior shell with a gunmetal grey aluminum faceplate. There are grills on the front of the faceplate, with more ventilation areas along the top. Now, these IEMs are well vented but by no means are they as open as the faceplates would lead to believe. However, it does add a great aesthetic to them, in my opinion of course.

The comfort is the same as the majority of KZ models, which I find to be quite comfortable with no issues over longer periods of having them in my ears.

As far as the cable, well, not much I can say that hasn’t been said many times before. It’s not a fancy cable but it does its job and is much better than the cables that KZ used to include in yesteryears.


Sound…

As I have quite a few IEMs that are pending review, I have been measuring them in batches, meaning that for some models I have seen the measurements before listening to them. THe PR1 are one of these cases.

I am mentioning this because when I saw the graph, my first thoughts were “oh no!”. However, when I got around to listening to them (quite some time after graphing them), I was expecting something much worse than what I actually found (not to say that what I found was amazing).

Here is the graph in comparison to my personal preference target:


Those of you who follow my reviews and know my tastes will be able to spot exactly what I am referring to by looking at the graph. That 10dB over my preference is the subbass zone is one thing but the 6 to 8dB over my preferences in the midbass range was what worried me more.

So I was expecting overly present and bloated bass, stealing the spotlight from the rest of the frequencies, yet it is not quite as bad as I expected.

I have said before that I have no issues with excessive subbass (which is certainly the case here) as long as it is clean and doesn’t lose definition, and the KZ are actually not too bad in this realm.

Moving through the usual frequency categories and starting off with the subbass, yes there is a lot. In fact, listening to heavy subbass tracks, such as my usual subbass test track “Chameleon”, there is a heck of a lot of rumble. It is in fact too much rumble for my tastes. However, in tracks that have less subbass presence, the PR1 doesn’t force it on you and it keeps more or less out of the way of the other frequencies.

If you are someone looking for a planar experience with plenty of subbass rumble, then I think that the PR1 has you covered.

The midbass is a little more invasive but is still not as bad as I expected it to be when looking at the graph. I will say that the midbass is not out of control though, at least with the majority of music. It does bleed over a little into the lower mids, or at least it gives that impression due to the dip in the center of the mids, but is rather composed and is not terrible.

Listening to things like “No Sanctuary Here” from my test list, the focus is certainly on the lower end, pushing the midbass above the level I would like to find on this are but it is tolerable. I do find it tiring but it is not headache inducing like it is on other bass heavy models (to me of course).

The mids do suffer from a scoop between the 500Hz and 1kHz mark, meaning that V shaped recordings will be even more exaggerated, especially towards the lower notes. This is something that many people find enjoyable but it is not something that I favour personally.

The upper end of the mids does climb rather smoothly to the ear, however, the presence between 2.5kHz and 3kHz is not quite enough to balance out that low end. It is not terrible, again, I expected much worse judging by the graph, but it is still lacking some clarity and definition, with vocals taking a back seat on many tracks. Sting’s voice in “Walking On The Moon’’ seems quite distant (maybe on the moon? :wink: ), as does the guitar, with the bass becoming the lead instrument (which some bassists would be happy about).

Moving into the upper frequencies, the extension is decent, with a sensation of air that is maybe not as apparent due to that low end being overly present. Using the typical “Code Cool” sibilance test, the results aren’t bad although they are not perfect either.

As far as details go, again they aren’t bad but they are not overly impressive for a planar driver either. To be fair, even the S12 that I really enjoy is not exactly a detail monster and none of them come close to what I have come to expect from bigger planar drivers, but the PR1 is certainly acceptable detail wise for it’s price point. Again, the excessive bass works against the sensation of detail, which does improve slightly by EQ’ing the low end down.

Soundstage is not a strong point in my opinion either. I did expect more width from a set of IEMs that looks to be fairly open but I’m afraid it is around average or even slightly lower. Image placement is ok inside the space it has to work with but becomes difficult to appreciate when the track is bassy. For example, “Bubbles” has a constant low rumble that takes away from the clarity and definition, and “Bubbles” is not exactly a bassy track.


Regarding isolation, well to be honest it isn’t terrible. It is actually better than average in the lower ranges whilst falling slightly below average as we get to the higher frequencies. It would probably have been better if it was the opposite (so the bass could be tamed naturally in noisy environments) but I am not complaining.


Conclusion…

If it wasn’t for the excessive bass ranges, then I would have actually been pleasantly surprised by the PR1, coming in as one of the cheapest planar IEMs on the market. In fact, with some EQ, these can be made to sound rather good for the price. However, as it is, I do find that the low end is far too much the “center of attention”.

If you are a bass head and are looking for a budget set of planar IEMs, then I think the PR1 should definitely be something you try out. The performance is also not terrible, it maintains its composure fairly well with fast moving dance tracks and I can see a lot of people being able to have a party in their head with their favourite dance tracks.

However, if you are looking for something that is more of a balanced sound, then I feel that there are quite a few alternatives out there that are much better suited, both in the budget range and in the planar range, if that is what you are aiming for.

I can’t say that the PR1 is bad, in fact, if it had been released a year or so ago, before the planar boom, then it would have probably received a lot of praise. As it stands, there is a lot of competition going on in the planar IEM world and while the PR1 does have something that the others don’t (that 10dB of bass), in my personal tastes it is not high on my list of preferences.

As always, this review can also be found in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

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Tripowin Cencibel


The Tripowin Cencibel were sent to me by Linsoul for me to try them out and publish this review. Linsoul have not requested anything specific and I will try to remain as unbiased as possible in this review, although it is good to remember that these IEMs were sent to me free of charge.

You can find the Cencibel on the Linsoul website by visiting the version of this review published on my blog.

(as always, it is a non-affiliate link)


Intro…

I am going to start out by being honest and straight to the point.

Not long ago I reviewed the Tripowin Rhombus which were sent to me at the same time as the Cencibel that I am reviewing today. In case you didn’t read that review, basically I didn’t enjoy them. After finishing the Rhombus review, I moved on to the Cencibel, which I hadn’t yet listened to.

Upon first listen, I immediately discovered some parts of the tuning that resembled the Rhombus, which I have to say was not the best way to start off. As I said in my Rhombus review, I would much rather review items that I like. The reason is that I spend at least 4 or 5 days using each set almost exclusively and I would much rather spend that time listening to a set that I enjoy rather than something I don’t.

I am saying this because I really didn’t feel like spending another week listening to something I didn’t enjoy, so I moved on to something else and didn’t come back to the Cencibel until this week. So at least I was starting with a reset attitude, rather than coming at it in a negative way. I think that is fair both to the brand and to my ears.


Presentation…

The external presentation of the Cencibel is similar to that of the Rhombus, although a little smaller. A simple black box in a sleeve with nothing but the Tripowin logo on the cover and the only mention of the model being on the sticker of the bar code.

However, upon opening the box, we find a large case that is the size of the box. The storage/transport case is of the semirigid style, big enough to store the IEMs and plenty of accessories (although there aren’t many included) with the Tripowin name also on the cover. I have no idea why the Cencibel gets a nice case for 50€ where the 80€ Rhombus only gets a drawstring bag but I am not complaining.

Inside the case we find the exact same contents that were included in the case of the Rhombus. That is: the IEMs, the cable, 6 sets of silicone tips (of two different types) and the user manual.

I didn’t complain about the contents of the previous Tripowin model so I certainly can’t complain here as we get a nice case thrown in for 30€ less.


Build and aesthetics…

In this case, the Cencibel are constructed of resin with a more simplistic shape. The faceplates sport a kind of marble effect in silver and grey over the black background of the sheels, with Tripowin written on the left IEM also in silver.

The shells are relatively small an of a generic shape that should work well for most people, myself included. They don’t cause any discomfort over longer sessions and are generally pretty comfortable.

The included cable is exactly the same as the one included with the Rhombus, as are the tips, which is a simple black cable with black metal hardware that is nothing fancy but does the job.

In general the aesthetics are fine, as is the build and comfort of these IEMs.


Sound…

So, I said that these IEMs had some aspects that reminded me of the Rhombus, so here is the graph comparing the two models against my usual preference curve.


You can clearly see that, while not identical, there are a lot of similarities. Unfortunately the changes are not necessarily for the best.

Starting with the lower notes, the subbass is also very reminiscent of the subbass on the Rhombus, quite a way above my usual target. Once again, I get a similar feeling with this as I did in my previous Tripowin review, the subbass is there and is a decent performer, when the subbass is not accompanied by other frequencies in the higher mids range.

Again, with “Chameleon”, in parts of the track where the subbass is dominant, the Cencibel does a decent job of providing rumble while still keeping it relatively clean. However, once the track gets busier in other areas, the subbass seems to fade away.

The sensation is that it suffers in exactly the same way that the previous set I reviewed did, and in this case, the higher mids (which I will get to) are even more dominant. One positive thing is that this is a single dynamic driver set, which avoids the sound being taken hostage by the BA on the Rhombus.

The midbass is again a similar affair. It is a long way from providing what I would say is a “nice low end” on things like acoustic guitars. The guitars still have a bit of a hollow sensation and are missing body in their presentation.

In the mids, we find that scoop again, which is even more pronounced on this set although the differences are minimal. It is dipped enough to make the mids suffer. This again makes female vocals, such as Alison Kraus in “Down To The River To Pray”, sound fragile and lacking smoothness to her lower notes.

As we get into the upper mids, we have a peak at around 2.5kHz which is around 3dB more than on the Rhombus, and then another peak just below 5kHz, which is just as exaggerated.

We need to remember that I am quite sensitive to the 5kHz region, it is where the peaks most annoy me and the Cencibel manages to boost the frequency (by a lot) almost dead on the mark. This is obviously something that is going to irritate me much more than someone who does not suffer from the same allergy to this mark, so take that into consideration.

By this I mean that I am (almost) always going to find tunings that have a big peak in this range to be uncomfortable. There are some sets that have quite a bit of presence in the 5kHz region but are surrounded by more presence in the adjacent regions, which seems to smooth the sound over a little for me. I’m afraid that the Cencibel doesn’t do that, it is just a big peak right in the uncomfort zone.

Now, I do understand that this will not affect other people in the same way, as I have said many times before, listening to music is such a subjective experience that there are as many “tastes” as there are “flavours”. However, just take into consideration that the difference between the 700Hz mark and the 5kHz mark (or even the 2.5kHz mark) is around 16dB. That is a rather big difference.

Up in the higher ranges, we have even more of the same story, with extension that isn’t bad but is not too smooth, creating what I feel is a false sensation of detail and air. I would say that the details on the Cencibel are not as good as they are on the Rhombus (speaking strictly of detail retrieval and not how the details sound), but they are acceptable.

Sound stage is around average, with image placement about the same. You can appreciate binaural recording such as “La Luna” but it is not an easy task to isolate and follow the sounds of a Yosi Horikawa recording such as “Bubbles”.


Finally, isolation is also similar to the Rhombus. Its not the best but is is on the higher side of average.


Conclusion…

I guess I won’t be reviewing any more Tripowin models in the near future :wink:

Seriously though, I really expected a lot more from these two Tripowin models. The Leá was something that was not spectacular but was enjoyable (at lower volumes) yet the Cencibel and the Rhombus just seem to hit almost every frequency that I find irritating.

I will say the same thing about these as I did in my closing words of the Rhombus, I am sure there are people out there that will enjoy this sound signature, unfortunately I am not one of them.

All I can say is that I am extremely grateful to Linsoul for not getting upset when I post my negative opinions on something they sent me, at least they haven’t done so far…

As always, this review is also available in Spanish, both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

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I’m just going to share that though I have a bunch of IEMs that are way more expensive (Moondrop Kato, Thieaudio Monarch MkII, several Ety’s), which ones come off the shelf for bedtime or dog-walking listening? The Dunu Titan S. I adore them. Hell if anyone made other more expensive ones that were tuned the same way, so if I had “more of that, only better” I’d buy 'em in a heartbeat. Yes, I keep the Monarch’s by my desk so I listen to them when I need isolation or don’t want to bug someone with my Folkvangr/HD800s. But when I’m actually mobile I could use a whole bunch of “better” iems, but the Titans are the ones I just can’t stop listening to. Won’t even describe the sound, just the behavior. $70 on headphones.com ($10 cheaper than Amazon), I’m not shilling promise.

And @resolve did some nice impressions above:

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I have only had a brief listen to them so far, so I reserve my right to change my opinion, but the Dunu Kima may just be that something extra.

A little more in the subbass but very reminiscent of the Titan S with improvements overall (I say this as a fan of the Titan S).

Again, brief first impressions, so they may change after spending more time with them.

The best thing is that they aren’t even much more expensive than the Titan.

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The couple of reviews I read seem promising, but I just hope Dunu sells a version in a less cringey package

I very much doubt they will release it with a different packaging but that is a question for @SebastienChiu

Personally, as long as it is the packaging and not the IEM that is cringey, then I don’t really care as I only see the packaging once :wink:

1 Like

No, we will not. Thanks for the feedback.

HZSound Heart Mirror Pro


The HZSound Heart Mirror Pro have been sent to me by KeepHiFi in exchange for the publication of this review. They have not requested anything specific and I will follow my usual procedure of aiming to be a unbiased and sincere as possible, although it is always good to remember that these IEMs have not actually cost me anything.

You can find the link to the Heart Mirror Pro via KeepHiFi by visiting the version of this review published on my blog (link at the end of this post).

As always, it is a non-affiliate link, therefore I do not receive anything by you clicking or even purchasing via the link.


Intro…

Back in 2021, HZSound released the Heart Mirror, a set of budget IEMs that received quite a lot of praise from the IEM community. Personally I ever got to hear the Heart Mirror, not because I wasn’t interested but it’s impossible to get to try all of the models that are released!

Fast forward to far more recently and KeepHifi reached out to see if I was interested in trying out the Heart Mirror Pro, the follow up from the company which does come in at a higher price point (around 80 euros) but also offers upgrades from the original, at least that is what is advertised.

I obviously can’t go into comparisons with the original as I haven’t heard it, but I was more than happy to try out the new Pro version and share my opinions on this set which, while not in the extreme budget category, is still something that can be considered a relatively cheap IEM.


Presentation…

The box is a dark blue one, with a sketch of the IEMs on the front and information on the rear. It is not something that draws attention to itself but doesn’t look overly cheap either.

Upon opening the box, we find the IEMs sitting with their cable attached in the upper half of the interior, with card showing the HZSound logo covering the lower half. Removing this card, beneath it we find the user manual and the storage case.

Inside the case we get a second cable, this one with an inline microphone (terminated in a 4 pole, 3.5mm), 8 sets of tips (in various different sizes and types, including foam), a carabiner and the two additional connectors for the modular cable (more on that below).

In general, the presentation is more than adequate and the contents are very pleasing for a set of IEMs in this price range.


Build and Aesthetics…

I actually expected a mirror finish on the IEMs like the original model but I was actually pleasantly surprised to receive them in black. Not that I have anything against the mirrored finish but it does lend itself to becoming a fingerprint magnet (some black finishes do also, but not in this case). Looking closely at the finish, there is actually some grey (silver?) speckle to it, which is a nice touch, along with the HZSound logo in a dark bronze colour.

The IEMs are not very large, in fact, they are on the smaller side of things, and I find them to be rather comfortable. If they were any larger, the triangluar shape at the bottom may have been a problem but that is not the case. They are completely made of metal and seem to be well assembled and I can’t spot anything that I would say is a going to be a problem over time as far as durability (but, as always, only time will tell).

The included cable is rather thin and a little rubbery but is not bad and a a very positive thing is that it comes with a modular connection system, including 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm connectors. While it may not be on the level with some of the other (more expensive) modular systems, it works well and it is very nice to see it included. They also opt for standard 2 pin connectors at the IEM end, so I have no complaints here either.

The included case is also a very nice one. It is quite spacious (enough to hold the IEMs, some accessories and even something like the Go Blu) without it being overly bulky. I don’t carry it in my pocket but it doesn’t take up to much room in my small sling bag that I carry (yes, I’m a bag guy :wink:).

In general, I have to say that I am quite happy with the overall quality of the IEMs and accessories for their price point.


Sound…

Let’s start with the usual look at a graph comparing the Heart Mirror Pro with my usual preference target curve.


Starting off with the subbass, we can see on the graph that it is north of my usual preferences, however, as it is kept clean and well detailed, it does not become overpowering. In fact, if I hadn’t have looked at the graph, I would have guessed that this has less subbass than it actually does. It is not missing subbass, “Chameleon” has plenty of rumble, but at the same time, it is not a set that I would class as a bass head set.

The midbass is also a little elevated for my personal preferences but again, it doesn’t become over powering nor does it become the center of attention. I have said in the past that if something is tuned higher than I prefer in the bass range but still manages to keep it clean and detailed, chances are that I am going to enjoy it. The Heart Mirror Pro is one of those sets.

It is true that the low end of the guitar in “Crazy” does have a little too much in the midbass area, which sort of gives it a bit of a boomy effect to said guitar, yet, as the mid range is well balanced (I’ll get there in a moment), it gives an overall clean and detail effect to the track in general, making for a very pleasant listen.

The additional midbass manages to decrease before hitting the lower mids, avoiding things becoming muddy in the bottom of the mids, something that is appreciated as it counteracts that midbass boost and makes things seem a lot cleaner.

I have to say that I find vocals, especially female vocals such as Daniela Andrade in the track “Crazy” that I just mentioned, to have just the right amount of presence and warmth in their lower ranges, making most of the acoustic music Iisten to very enjoyable.

There is a little bit too much warmth for me to class the timbre of things like the acoustic guitar in “All Your Love (Turned Into Passion)” as correct, yet just because something may not be exactly what I consider correct, it doesn’t mean that it is bad. If I was wanting to focus on dissecting and equalizing music, then I wouldn’t suggest the Heart Mirror Pro in these ranges for that, but for enjoying the music, I have to say that I have had no problem in doing so with these IEMs.

Moving up to the higher part of the mids, I have to say that I am impressed with the tuning of the Heart Mirror Pro. It is almost a perfect replica of my personal preference, with a smooth climb that stays smooth and present from the 2kHz to 4.5kHz, starting to ramp down just before the 5kHz mark. I really couldn’t ask for a better tuning for my taste in this upper mids.

This works for the vocal centered tracks that I listen to, as it brings the voices forewards without them being overly present, harsh or nasal. As an example from my test tracks, “Seven Nation Army” by Zella Day, which is a track that can be very harsh on so many sets, is just right on the Heart Mirror Pro. I have heard it slightly less harsh on other sets but that is because they are actually taming it down. I feel that these, the Heart Mirror Pro, are giving the real presence of her voice, just on the verge of the harshness, as her voice actually is.

As we move into the higher ranges the extension is fairly good. I wouldn’t say it is the most extended, airy or open of IEMs in the treble ranges but it certainly doesn’t suffer from a pronounce roll off like so many other single DD sets. I wouldn’t say it is going to win any prizes in this range but it’s certainly not bad.

Using “Code Cool” as my usual judge of sibilance, I feel that HZSound has also done a good job here, with Patricia Barber being just on the verge of sibilance, which is were I feel that she should be when a set is nicely balanced in these ranges. She could maybe be toned down just slightly but I don’t think it is a reason for complaint.

Detail is not bad but is not excellent either. I find that the details that are more “up front” are easily identified and quite impressive but the smaller background details (such as reverbs etc.) do fade away fairly quickly. A good example of this would be the intro of “All Your Love (Turned Into Passion)”, where the initial strikes on the body of the guitar are impressive yet the room reverb does fade away quickly, leaving an impression of things being a little too tame (when compared to other sets that are better at this specific task).

In the soundstage category, I would say that they are around average, maybe on the higher side of the middle ground. There is a decent amount of soundstage but they are still very much IEMs. Image placement is decent but I do feel that things like “Strange Fruit” could do with a little more space between layers in the more complex parts of the track.


The isolation is a little above average, meaning that they should be fine for use in places with normal extenal noise yet they will suffer with things like the low frequency rumbling of engines on a plane or train etc.


Conclusion…

The Heart Mirror Pro is a set of IEMs that I have enjoyed listening to and have no issues using as a daily general listening set. I don’t feel that they are ground breaking in any specific way, yet they are a solid performer in all of the categories. I could mention various areas where I think they could be improved but I don’t have any complaints about anything specific with them at all.

The lows may be a little elevated for my personal tastes but they are not irritating and the upper mids I find to be very well done indeed. The detail retrieval may not be the best for those small nuances happening in the background but the overall detail of music is by no means bad and I don’t feel that those small elements are something to really focus on unless you are specifically looking to analyze the track.

The build is good, the included accessories are very good in the price range and in general, I just feel that the Heart Mirror Pro are a good set of IEMs for the 80€ price range. I certainly cannot complain about their performance.


So as to not break tradition, this review is also available in Spanish both on my blog (www.achoreviews.com) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/achoreviews)

All FR measurements of IEMs can be viewed and compared on achoreviews.squig.link

All isolation measurements of IEMs can be found on achoreviews.squig.link/isolation

4 Likes