Earbuds/Flathead Discussion

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Fiio has released their newest budget flathead, the FF1. Looks to be msrp of $29.99 but dropped it on Aliexpress on their official store for $17.99 for a limited number of sales. It has a 2 pin removable cable.
    https://a.aliexpress.com/_mL00Tm6
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2023
  2. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    Thanks for the heads up @shotgunshane
    Really want "SBS" but can't till I return to work so I grabbed a pair of the FF1.
     
  3. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    If anyone has been wanting to try any high-end Chinese earbuds, now is the time on Aliexpress. Coupon code US40 is $40 off $200, plus this is a big sale week. If your cart, across all stores, is $200 (after other sale discounts but before tax), you can take an extra $40 off.
     
  4. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    What are you going to order @shotgunshane?
     
  5. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Yincrow RW-3000
     
  6. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    im going to order $200 of shoelaces
     
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  7. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    Anyone else, and I would think you are joking, but given your custom tag and contributions to the sneakerhead thread...
     
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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2023
  8. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    The funny thing is I forgot about the thread here and my collection has continued to grow. I definitely have a sack of shoelaces that's filled with tons of Aliexpress bulk buys :sail:
     
  9. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Would anyone be interested in a little earbud loaner tour? I could send around these 3 earbuds together:
    Dunu Alpha 3, Fiio FF1 and the Blur aPs one-off from the page before. If 3 or 4 (or more) will sign up, I’ll post an official loaner thread.
     
  10. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    I'd be interested. I've just ordered a Fiio FF5 and could offer some comparisons w/that and the other buds in the tour.
     
  11. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Yes, please - that'd be awesome.
     
  12. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Dunu Alpha 3
    MSRP $79.99

    IMG_0826.jpeg

    The Alpha 3 has a unique all metal design. It’s feel substantial and a bit heavy, however I didn’t really feel the weight when wearing them. The top of the art deco-ish metal stem has a large functioning bass vent. The cable is a twisted design with nice metal accents and a functioning chin slider. I’m not sure why many don’t supply a chin slider on flathead cables but I vastly prefer having one. Even though the Alpha 3’s cable feels and looks more premium than average, it is a bit of a gummy feeling and retains way too much memory. Seems to be a house cable trait for Dunu. In this regard, I greatly prefer the softer and more pliable XINHS cables that come on TGXear flatheads.

    Since the driver is a smaller 14.2mm LCP, the housings are noticeably smaller than the typical MX500 shells, and a snug fit is pretty easy to obtain. I also found the Alpha 3 less susceptible to fit issues overall; it’s pretty much sounds the same no matter which way I turned them. This greatly reduces fit nervosa that can be easy to get overwhelmed by when first learning to fit flatheads.

    The Alpha 3 is pretty forward sounding with a W type signature. There’s not a lot of sub bass rumble (useful down to about 45hz) but plenty of mid bass punch. The mid bass punch is fairly strong and dense foams can create too much bass presence for my ears. The midrange has a bump in the middle midrange around 1k or so, then dip around 2k and back to an elevation peaking around 5k. This makes the midrange forward and energetic but also oddly veiled. The veil is most noticeable with female vocals. The lower treble peak at 5k can sound a bit steely and sharp, while also accentuating some vocal sibilants. Cymbals and rides sound metallic and a bit unnatural, though rock guitars have good bite and heft. Resolution, layering and imaging are just average when compared to the other flatheads I’ve auditioned.

    I think the Alpha 3 is a signature that can wow at first and then become a bit grating with more time, especially with the combined veil and steely sharpness. Thicker foams do tame the 5k sharpness but then the signature becomes dark and bassy, if that’s your thing. Overall I’m impressed with the Dunu build and aesthetics. It was a flathead I really wanted to like, as It gets a lot of love in the Discord spaces, but for me it’s ultimately a bit of a let down. Thanks to @M3NTAL for the SBAF loaner donation!
     
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  13. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Fiio FF1
    MSRP: $29.99

    IMG_0827.jpeg

    The FF1 is Fiio’s new budget flathead. Continuing what seems like a trend in larger portable audio companies using smaller earbud drivers, the FF1 uses a beryllium plated 14.2mm driver. The FF1 is a good looking earphone but unfortunately the cool looking vents on the back of the housing are fake. The real vent is on top of the housings where the stem meets it. Besides the budget price, the big selling point of the FF1 was the use of a 2 pin removable cable. While the pins are standard .78mm pins, the overmold plastic over the pins is a different shape than typical 2 pin cables (oval instead of rectangular). This means you cannot use just any aftermarket cable, unless you are able to trim the overmolded plastic to fit. In other words, it’s a proprietary cable. Seems weird on a budget flathead. Supposedly Fiio will be releasing replacement cables later this year in both 3.5mm and 4.4mm termination. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming removable cable FF3S uses is this proprietary 2 pin shape or sticks with the universal MMCX connector the current flagship FF5 uses. The FF1 cable also features a cloth covering below the Y split and a mic on the right side.

    The FF1 signature is warm and bassy. While the FF1 is small like the Dunu Alpha 3, it doesn’t quite have the same simple fit as the Dunu. This means the FF1 does change sound a good bit with fit, basically becoming very bassy with a tight and snug fit. The bass is mostly dominated by upper bass, producing a warm, soft and pillowy bass. While it does have usable extension to 40hz or so, there’s not a lot of punch and tactility. It noticeably lacks texture compared to something like the Alpha 3, but then that is 3x the price. While warm and pillowy, it is still a pleasant bass presence with a looser fit.

    The midrange is a bit more normal with a standard ear gain around 3k and a lower treble peak around 6k. Vocals are on the thicker side, if a bit dull and subdued overall. While warm, clarity is still decent. The lower treble peak can be sharp at times with donuts but is mostly benign with full foams. Middle and upper treble is subdued and laid back. I did have to roll foams quite a bit to find the right balance. The included bass foams are too dark and bloaty and the donuts are too sharp for my ears. Some lower density full foams I ordered from Aliexpress (supposedly same foams on Serratus) provide the best balance and clarity for me.

    The FF1 certainly doesn’t sound bad but also doesn’t really do anything special either. There’s nothing in its technical performance to really spend any words on. It’s pleasant, warm and bassy; these are the best descriptors I can give. $30 seem a bit pricey for the sound quality here. For instance the Yincrow X6 has an overall more engaging signature but it’s build is nowhere near as nice, however it’s only $12. I was able to pick up the FF1 for an introductory price of $18 and that feels closer to an adequate price, especially since it doesn’t even include a case. I’m not sure if Fiio has really produced a gateway into their higher tier offerings or not, as I’m not really compelled to pay to climb the ladder due to my perceived sonic value of the FF1 at MSRP.
     
  14. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    TGXears Serratus
    https://www.tgxear.com/
    MSRP $199

    IMG_0828.jpeg

    The TGXears Serratus was my gateway into high-end earbuds. I picked it up in the Head-Fi classifieds and it opened my eyes and ears to what was possible in a flathead configuration. As of writing this post, it’s my favorite flathead.

    The Serratus, along with most TGXears flatheads, is an MX500 shell, which comes with its typical learning curve for best fit. The fixed cable on Serratus reminds me of something by XINHS. It’s soft, flexible and very pliable with very little memory. It doesn’t have a chin slider, so I stretched a clear o-ring over the plug and y-split. The driver is a 300 ohm PET driver that is on the harder side to drive. Serratus comes terminated in 4.4mm and typical use a DDHifi 4.4 to 2.5mm adapter on my Quedelix 5k to drive them.

    The Serratus has garnered heaps of praise from many flathead aficionados. Most reviews are fairly glowing; and then there have been some, in the deeper recesses of Discord, who become angry at the appreciation the Serratus receives. See, the driver used in the Serratus is supposedly a fairly cheap one. While cheap, it is reportedly (notoriously?) hard to to tune and considered not a good buy for DIY. All of this is second hand info and I have no inside info as to its veracity. Those angry about the success of Serratus have blinded themselves into tying value strictly to BOM (bill of materials). Never-mind it is brilliantly tuned. Brilliantly.

    The Serratus has a fairly neutral sounding tonality with a slight U shape signature. I don’t consider the midrange recessed but the frequency response does feature a slight deep/sub and treble emphasis. Bass is strong to 60hz with useful extension to 40hz. The midrange has excellent clarity and transparency with a typical ear gain peak at 3k. There’s is a lower treble peak between 5~6k, typical in most flatheads, but overall the Serratus lower and middle treble is fuller with better presence and less rolloff than more typical flatheads. This lends the Serratus a better sense of air and bite with quicker transients and very good note definition. Instrument timbre is excellent as well.

    The Serratus has excellent technical performance. Its stage is the widest I’ve heard in flatheads and brought back memories of when I first heard how wide the original Andromeda was versus most in-ears. Serratus also has very good depth, imaging and layering. It is simply leagues better than other flatheads I’ve owned over the $100 mark. Rock guitars soar; they have good bite and attack. Vocals, both male and female, are neutral with plenty of energy. There’s no veil, no congestion, no dullness. I’m engaged, very engaged.

    So you see, screw BOM- The Serratus is f'ing brilliant! Jim (@tgx78), the man behind TGXears, is a masterful tuner in my estimation. Value is not in the sum of the parts but in the totality of the pleasure the whole brings. Now that I’ve heard Serratus, I want to hear all his flatheads.


    Fit Guide:
    IMG_0795.jpeg
     
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  15. Failed Engineer

    Failed Engineer Friend

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    My audiologist recently suggested to me to stop listening to my custom shell JH13s because I produce too much wax in my right ear and it's contributing to deep impaction and temporary hearing loss that requires too many visits for washing. So i'm going to give them up forever and would like to replace it with a flathead. What should I buy? Lets say I'd want a HD580 in earbud form. No budget.
     
  16. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    @Failed Engineer
    I’d recommend picking up a really cheap MX500 style Flathead first, so see if you can get used to fitting them. The MX500 shell is one of the largest, so if you can fit it ok, you most likely can fit any others just fine.

    So cheap MX500 choices are Yincrow X6 ($12) or a Vido ($5~$8).
     
  17. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    There is a thread about ear wax. I posted about what helped for me (post #23):
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...removal-the-best-mod.13468/page-2#post-408895
     
  18. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    TGXear Sunniva
    https://www.tgxear.com/
    MSRP $350

    IMG_0829.jpeg

    Sunniva, for a short time, was the latest TGXear flagship (since superseded by Desolation Sound). With the introduction of Sunniva, TGXear has moved towards use of custom drivers for newer models. Sunniva’s is a custom 180Ω beryllium PVD driver with N52 magnet. While Sunniva is housed in the standard MX500 shell, it sports a cool looking metal faceplate. The cable is a 7N OCC silver cable with resin plug and y-split. The resin has a random mix of purple, blue and red coloring. It’s looks really nice, is soft and pliable with little memory. If I had to nitpick, it is a little heavier than I prefer (Serratus cable is lighter). It doesn’t have a chin slider, so I stretched a clear o-ring over the plug and y-split. The Sunniva came with donut foam installed and I haven’t been compelled to try anything else.

    Some have called Sunniva a neutral with bass boost signature but I hear it more of a slight downward sloping signature. Bass is strong to 50hz with useful extension to 40hz. Mid bass impact is rich and palpable. While a bit more than my preferences, the texture is superb and by far the best bass texture I’ve heard in a flathead. This mid bass boost, lends the signature a slight but pleasant warmth. If you get a tighter, more snug fit than I do with MX500, you may get more warmth than I describe. There is a very small dip around 1.5k that subdues female vocal energy a little but adds a bit of heft and weight to male vocals. Ear gain peak around 3k is modest and followed with a standard treble peak between 5k~6k.

    With its downward tilted tonality, focus on bass textures and longer decays, Sunniva has less width than Serratus but its more intimate vocals and staging has a greater sense of depth within the stage. The intimate, richer vocals of Sunniva bring more focus to vocal resolution and nuance, whereas the faster transients and precision of the Serratus treble lends it a more focused image with more precise treble resolution. Sunniva’s richer, more palpable bass first signature is a great compliment to the more neutral and spacious Serratus.

    But Jim (@tgx78) didn’t stop there. If you find the bass simply too much for you, he supplies bass reduction filters in the kit. These are very simple to insert and remove yourself, and are reported to reduce bass overall by 3 to 4 db. With the filters installed, Sunniva becomes much more neutral, however, now I felt compelled to foam roll. After trying the low density Serratus full foams, I feel like I’ve found an excellent match. With the donuts and bass reduction filters, I felt I lost a little too much body, removing what makes the Sunniva special; but with the the low density full foams I get some of that body back, while still preserving the excellent bass texturing. With the full foams, I also get a bit of tightening in the treble decays, which I felt enhanced treble resolution. I really think the addition of this filter kit can really help everyone find something special in Sunniva. Well done TGXear.

    Now to hear the newest flagship… Desolation Sound.

    IMG_0830.jpeg
     
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  19. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Bummer!!!
    Do you have the JH13 FP or V2? I almost pulled my FP out this morning for work. The artwork is the same as my avatar here. I was thinking they would respond well to EQ with how much overhead they have with all the drivers.
     
  20. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    I took over the first post in the thread, so we could track impressions/reviews by models. Sometimes it's tuff to find impressions of specific models, so hopefully this will help.

    Music4mhell, the original thread starter, had the second post reserved with nothing in it, so I moved his original content there.

    Let me know if I missed any significant impressions worth indexing.

     
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