It so happened that work brought me over to Los Angeles in Sunny Southern California, and so I could not miss the opportunity to attend my first CanJam.I arrived at around 11:45 and promptly went to pick up my press pass for Accessible Audio; there was simply no time to waste. I knew there were going to be too many IEMs and not enough time.
I saw many familiar faces such as Campfire Audio’s Ken Ball right next to the entrance. There were exciting new products from CFA to try, but I wanted to expand my perspectives and try something from a brand I’ve never tried before, so my first stop was…
Note: I tested all the below products with an Ipad Pro 12.9″
- This was my first time trying Advanced’s products, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was quite impressed by the M4 as they told me it was one of their first products. They mentioned that it is one of their biggest hits, and in my opinion rightfully so. It offers great value for money and I recommend it for a solid budget purchase.
- Form factor kind of like Yamaha EPH-100
- Full, well rounded and warm slightly V-shaped sound.
- Vocals are slightly recessed
- Impedance is a little high, not surprising of dynamic drivers but it’s still easily drivable by mobile devices.
- Even lower price point than the M4 at 25usd.
- Much muddier sound, especially in low frequencies.
- Loose impact.
- No sibilance, very warm sound.
- Stiff competition from ChiFi offerings.
- Comfortable shape.
Advanced Model 3
- Detachable MMCX cable for wired and Bluetooth wireless use.
- Prominent warm, V shaped sound.
- Bass goes quite deep. Overall solid but slightly boomy in subbass.
- Female vocals sound slightly nasal.
Advanced Model 3D
- Hybrid 1DD + 2BA design.
- Prototype stage, has replaceable tuning filter
- Much snappier mids than the Model 3
- Slight bass bleed but overall well balanced
- Nice metal housing
- Bass a little more solid impact than 1More Triple Driver.
- Vocals are a little recessed, low mids are a little muddy.
Advanced M5 1DD
- Quite a wide soundstage
- Nice airy vocals
- Very neutral sound
- Leans bright
- Good sense of height
Advanced M5 Hybrid
- Bass is more solid and highs and mids way more defined
- Slight sibilance
- Male vocals a little thin and distant
- Snare impact a little weak when song gets busy
- Good detail retrieval in the highs
Advanced M5 11 driver
- Bass is just north of neutral
- More detail oriented listening
- Quite a smooth sound
- Overall very neutral sound signature
- Can get a little congested at busier moments
- Mid to mid-high centric
- Sounds sort of like a balanced armature due to mid and high focused sound.
- Soundstage oriented
- Good build quality
- Rather thin sounding
- Disappointing, typical thin and unrefined single balanced armature sound that BAs get a bad rep for having.
Campfire Audio Comet
- Mid-centric sound, with really smooth mids.
- Not a lot of sub-bass, it sounds kind of distant, giving a slightly wide soundstage
- Not too metallic or unnatural sounding; Campfire Audio has somehow worked their magic again to make a smooth sounding balanced armature design
- Not an over ear design
- I tried to push it with some bass heavy music like trance and it was actually able to give some decent bass impact
- Great for vocals!
Campfire Audio Atlas
- Has some big, big, phat sounding bass
- The Atlas has taken the edge off the highs that were present in the Vega, that many people complained about as it was sibilant for some.
- Snares have a strong impact
- Overall a slightly darker sound than the Vega.
- In my opinion the bass is a little too much, slightly too bloated for my liking.
- Weighs more than the Comet slightly
Campfire Audio Cascade
- Only tried this briefly as I wanted to move on to try more IEMs but my experience is basically a more open sounding, headphone version of the Lyra 2 or the Vega!
- Has Campfire’s signature sound, tight bass with well extended highs.
- Really comfortable to wear
Meze Rai Penta
- Fun but very tight and solid bass. The mids are really nice, slightly warm but quite neutral with a nice fullness.
- Slightly forward mids but not too much.
- Overall quite balanced sound signature.
- Would compare it to the Acoustune HS1551 CU but with a tighter bass and slightly crisper mids
- Not a huge soundstage
- Bass goes deep but also fades decently quickly great bass texture
- Really comfortable fit, easy to drive. And cool design too!
- Super coherent. I can’t even tell it’s a hybrid
DUNU used to be a Chinese OEM manufacturer for other brands, until one day they thought – why don’t we make our own designs? They’ve slowly built up a following, although they’re still not very mainstream but I highly recommend their products. Their pricepoint may be higher than most cheap, budget “ChiFi” products you see around on the market, but they definitely give you your money’s worth in terms of build quality, sound, design, and packaging. And you know they’re not just ripping off a design from other brands. *cough KZ*
DUNU Falcon C
- 220USD – really competitive sound, design, and build quality for its price point, I give it a good value for money rating.
- Nice grippy braided cable
- I used Spinfits for testing
- Massive sound with solid bass and slightly brighter mid highs . Great snappiness in mid highs as well.
- Not a super phat subbass but really nice impact
- Vocals not the most forward, neutral positioning.-Really comfortable fit
- Slightly bright female vocals
- A little bassier and warmer than falcon
- Overall fuller sound than the Falcon-C, and vocals are more fleshed out.
- But less lively in mid highs
- Highs are nicely extended, edging on sibilance at certain moments though.
- Very coherent for a hybrid design
FiiO FH5 prototype
- Hybrid 1dd 3ba
- Incredibly coherent
- Gentle bass and overall smooth and non aggressive sound
- Pretty smooth and laid back and good for long listening sessions.
- Slight roll off in highs for extra smoothness
- Good amount of detail retrieval in lows and mids
- 200USD – I’m confident this is going to be a huge hit when it comes out.
- Rather large form factor; won’t fit everyone.
FiiO F9 pro
- Tested with Comply foam tips
- Bass goes low but not very strong solid impact
- Vocals sound a little distant
- Decent soundstage and high extension
- A little grainy but good for price
- Slight sibilance
- Maybe a little too laidback mids
I was super impressed by the new X Series; they are not lying when they say the bass is simply physical. Those W9 subwoofers (dynamic drivers) in the X Series line are no joke. They promised the bass and they definitely brought it, but somehow the tuning is so perfect that it still has an audiophile quality to it and not just pure bass head muddiness. Please try them for yourself; words aren’t enough to describe the feeling.
Empire Ears Bravado
- Very warm bass, with a lot of separation from mids and highs
- Very physical feeling bass
- Amazing sound for just 2 drivers
- That subbass…
- Decent soundstage
- Vocals not the most well resolved but still decent
- Slight dip in low mids
- I have to reiterate. This is really amazing for 2 drivers design. The price is high but I haven’t tried any other dual driver hybrids that sound anything like this.
Empire Ears Vantage
- So much sense of air in the lows
- More well resolved than the Bravado in terms of bridging the lows and mids.
- Better vocals
Empire Ears Nemesis
- Still has that signature X Series slammin’ bass
- Much more defined highs than the previous IEMs.
- Nice warm mids, and non sibilant highs.
Empire Ears Legend X
- Vocals more forward and really really intimate and lively
- Great soundstage
- That bass…my god.
- Female vocals didnt seem as nice as male vocals though
- Nice detail up top and mids
- Nice discreet porting for DD
Empire Ears Phantom
- Much tighter BA bass than X series
- Still a very full low end
- Very warm sound
- Vocals are well resolved.
- Well, everything is well resolved. The Phatnom just has a dry, rather clinical tone
Jerry Harvey Audio Lola
- Adjustable bass tuning
- Bass at the highest tuning gets pretty boomy, but at the low and middle tuning the bass generally stays in the background
- Mids are definitely very well resolved and have natural timbre
- Highs are pretty smooth, decently extended
- Very coherent sound. You would be hard pressed to tell that it’s a hybrid design.
- Overall dry, clinical tone with neutral sound signature
- Slightest bass boost
- Laidback, and ideal for long listening sessions
- Smooth, slightly rolled off highs.
- More V-Shaped than the B400 for sure
- Warmer, more fun sound.
- Hybrid 1DD+4BA design
- A little distant sounding with a wide soundstage kind of effect
- Warm but gentle low end with a subbass focus. Doesn’t have a big impact, but can bring the bass when needed.
- Crisp highs, but sometimes gets a little harsh.
- Mids are a little recessed and distant sounding, but at the same time the EM5 isn’t really V-shaped.
- Decent seperation
- Vocals are quite airy rather than full sounding; probably a dip in low mids.
- Hybrid 1DD+3BA (?? This wasn’t on display but I was given it to demo, so I’m not sure about the specifications).
- Much bassier than the EM5
- But overall grainier, less well resolved sound
- Rather dark sound signature
Simgot EN700 Bass
- Slightly grainy, but warm comfortable sound
- Generally well resolved
- Bassy but not that boomy
Simgot EN700 Pro
- Much less grainy sounding than the EN700 Bass, overall much higher resolution
- Rolled off towards highs
- Basically same sound signature as the EN700 Bass, just better.
- Really nice, smooth, well resolved mids and vocals.
- Slightly high impedance, needs a bit more volume to reach the levels I’m used to
- Not a huge subbass
- Great upper mids and smooth, gentle highs
- Snare impact is not super snappy and impactful, however. Recommend for vocal tracks, not so much for rock.
Massdrop x Noble Luxe
- Well resolved sound, not grainy sounding for a budget priced offering
- Powerful bass, with good rumble but not a lot of bass bleed
- Lots of air
- Vocals slightly recessed
- Weakest point probably would be the upper mids and seperation, but overall a really solid single dynamic driver choice
- Good sense of positioning as well
- Above average detail retrieval
- 4 Balanced armature design
- Slightly above average soundstage
- Nice, detailed vocals
- Very well balanced sound that leans warm
- Good amount of air in bass, and also sounds very natural akin to dynamic driver bass but slightly cleaner
- Highly recommend this!
Massdrop x NuForce EDC
- A little dark sounding
- Low and low-mid focused sound
- Smooth and rolled off up top
- Solid purchase!
Massdrop x MeeAudio Pinnacle PX
- Spacious sound, a little distant sounding
- Lows sound like they come from afar
- Moderate detail retrieval
- Quite a fun, lively sound, slightly V shaped.
- Slightly high impedance, will need to raise volume a little more.
Massdrop x Noble X
- Most detail oriented sound out of the Massdrop IEMs
- Not a very strong bass, but very clean and tight
- Moderate soundstage
- Very clean, crisp, snappy sound
All tested with foam tips!
64 Audio Tia Trio
- Really nice, powerful bass with good amounts of detail and texture, and goes really deep into subbass territory, while having a wide soundstage effect.
- Highs are a little harsh at certain moments with louder cymbals, but overall very detailed and very crisp
- Average to wide soundstage
- Male vocals are slightly thin
- Snare impact is crisp but not the most powerful
- Fun, lively sound ideal for live recordings!
64 Audio A12t
- Cleaner bass than the Trio, but still very substantial and good sense of air
- Goes very deep
- Much smoother in high frequencies than Trio with no hint of harshness
- Mids are better resolved
- Very well balanced sound
64 Audio Tia Fourte
- Most spacious out of the 4 IEMs here, and very detailed mid-highs
- Very realistic, spacious sounding bass
- Also ideal for live recordings like the Trio
64 Audio A18t
- Very well resolved, and extremely balanced
- Honestly hard to find any fualts
- Slightly tighter bass than the A12t
- Great timbre in every frequency
- Nothing really stands out from the other frequencies
Final audio E2000
- Single micro dynamic driver
- Natural sounding with slight vocal boost
- Substantial amounts of low end, slightly less than something like the Noble Luxe but still very ample.
- Good highs, decent extension but rolled off slightly
- Nice airy vocals
Final audio E3000
- A little darker and subdued than the Final Audio E2000
- Slightly lower mid frequency focused
- Fatter subbass
- Highs more rolled off
- One of my favourites from the show!
- 5 balanced armature design
- Chunky, very well textured bass that somehow finds a sweet balance between big dynamic driver bass that’s sometimes too boomy, and clean balanced armature bass that’s sometimes too clinical.
- Really well resolved low-mids to mids
- Highs are slightly rolled off
Overall, I was very impressed by most of the things I tried. The average level of quality in audio companies is getting higher and higher, competition is stiffer than ever- and this is all great news for consumers and audiophiles such as myself. We’re in a time when we can get high quality audio products for prices more affordable than ever, and for the folks who want the best of the best there are high end, pricier options for those who are willing to shell out that amount of money as well.
My top picks from CanJam SoCal 2018 are the following:
Empire Ears X Series Nemesis – more well rounded than the Bravado and Vantage, but more affordable than the Legend X which only has smaller, incremental improvements in my opinion. The bass in the X Series is just something different, guys. You have to try it for yourself.
Meze Audio Rai Penta – simply lovely mids and a well balanced tuning encased in a beautiful and ergonomic package. I’m really looking forward to this release.
FiiO FH5 – Really impressed by the sound from this nice hybrid. So smooth and well resolved, and most importantly, very affordable.
DUNU Falcon C – another very affordable product from w Chinese company, I highly recommend this to anyone who doesn’t want to shell out too much for good audio.
64 Audio tia trio – while the A12t, A18t, and tia fourte are technically better in terms of resolution, I enjoyed the tia trio as it had a more unique and fun sound with a little more oomph in the bass department.
Earsonics ES5 – I was pleasantly surprised by this 5 BA IEM. It has a darkish sound but really nice and solid, chunky yet detailed bass and mids that just make you want to keep listening
Massdrop X Noble Luxe – I was curious what a budget dynamic driver offering from Noble audio would be like; after all, they have always been known for very high end balanced armature designs like the K10 and the Katana. Pleased to say that the Noble Luxe is a great, affordable product, and that the folks over at Massdrop have pretty good taste.