Softears Twilight Review and Impressions

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by shotgunshane, Nov 17, 2022.

  1. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Softears Twilight
    MSRP $930
    Purchased from Shenzhen Audio

    The Softears Twilight appears to be the lineup replacement for the more expensive, heavier, and now discontinued Turii. It contains an all new 10mm DLC domed single dynamic driver. While the housings retain the same shape as its predecessor, the weight of those same shells has been reduced by a claimed 60%; each housing now weighing a mere 6 grams each. Indeed, they feel light in the hand. Also like the Turii (and Moondrop Illumination) predecessors, the Twilight is significantly vented with 5 slotted front vents. As a result, isolation takes a hit and your significant other might be able to hear the music you are listening to in a very quiet environment.

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    The housings of Twilight are very distinctive. While I am sure some of the elongated, rectangular shape is in part due to achieving the proper rear cavity volumes, I can’t help but think it is also simply designed to look different, memorable and distinctive. I’ve never worn the Turii, but imagining the shells weighing 60% more, I am thankful of the weight reduction Twilight brings. Initially fit seemed a bit awkward but after a short time, I quickly became adjusted and fit is actually very decent, perhaps even comfortable (for the most part). The underside of the housing has a small round chamber (with the front vents) that actually contains the driver, and this is the part that fits into the concha, leaving the bulk of the housing the rear cavity) to rest a little further out.

    For the prices of Twilight, I was a bit underwhelmed with the accessories. Starting with the case, let’s just say I’m just not a fan of round cases. The leatherette case is too large for a pants pocket and yet the largish round shape doesn’t really provide much room inside. While Softears provides a divided pouch (similar to Campfire Audio pouches) to protect the housings, one only needs to look at the case Penon Audio provides to see how an individual housing protective and functional case can look.

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    Softears case on the left, Penon case on the right

    While the stock cable seems nice, it’s custom made for Softears by Liquid Links, I find it too heavy for mobile use with the 3.5mm extension. What’s that you ask? Yes you must use an extension on the cable for 3.5mm single ended use, as the cable only comes terminated in 4.4mm balanced. The extension, while only a few inches, adds a very surprising amount of weight to the bottom of the cable; the female adapter portion specifically. I know many in our niche community like to run everything balanced and I don’t eschew you that prerogative, a quick look at competitors in this price range shows models with extra cables (Campfire Audio) or modular cables with an interchangeable plugs (Dunu). For me, this is a serious disadvantage and I immediately needed to replace the stock cable for my usage. XINHS $20 cable to the rescue.

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    XINHS cable up top and Liquid Links stock cable and adapter below

    Tip selection is very good. Twilight comes with 3 different kinds of tips and full sets of each (S, M, L). You get standard silicone (a slightly stiffer variety), medium density foam and a Softears version of the SednaEarfit Xelastec tips. Also included are 2 extra sets of foam filters that rest inside the nozzle, similar to the Moondrop Illumination.


    Sound

    Twilight is a warm, moderate bass boosted signature that extends its boost into the upper bass and lower midrange regions. The midrange remains mostly neutral and treble is a bit reserved up top. While the upper bass is noticeably boosted, the upper midrange helps to strikes some balance of body and energy without sounding strident nor strained. This lends to an overall midrange that remains clear and detailed, if somewhat lacking in overall transparency. Even so, the bass itself has wonderful texture and palpable slam.

    Depending on tips, the warmth inherent in the Twilight tuning can be titled a little either way. For instance, with Final narrow bore tips, the signature takes on a warmer, even more upper bass tilted signature with a muted top end; with wider bore tips, like the JVC Spiral Dots, the Twilight opens up a bit more and helps to ameliorate the inherent warmth. The changes are slight but worth exploring for preference.

    While initial sparkle in the lower treble is present and seemingly balanced with the overall signature, decay is bit too muted and soft. Perhaps psychoacoustics is at play, from the overall warmth of the signature, leading to somewhat blunted transients and a timbre that is a bit lacking in realism and naturalness to my ears.

    Due to the warmth and softer nature of Twilight, it lends itself better towards acoustic and singer/songwriter styled music. The signature gives those performances a bit of an ethereal quality that tends to accentuate the intimate and emotional nature of those performances. Whereas guitar driven rock music sounds a step too reserved/sleepy; edges of notes are softened, lacking drive and attack. (This reminds me of how the Bottlehead Crack tube amp changed the character of the my Sennheiser HD600).


    Comparisons

    Vs Moondrop Illumination
    MSRP $799

    The Moondrop Illumination is the more reference of the two. I consider Illumination as the dynamic driver alternative to an Etymotic ER4XR signature. Twilight’s upper midrange is toned down slightly compare to Illumination and expands the overall bass presence and ambiance for a more colored and euphonic presentation.

    Twilight bass is bigger, richer, more palpable with better expressed texture. The Illumination is much more neutrally balanced but sounds lean in direct comparison. Twilight bass is boosted across the entire range compared to Illumination; while most of this is goodness, as mentioned with greater perceived richness, impact and rumble, it can add a bit too much reverberant boominess to acoustic guitar at times.

    Where the Twilight bass is overall more resolving and satisfying, the Illumination midrange is noticeable more transparent and resolving of low level detail and vocal nuance. Both male and female vocals are more expressive and energetic with Illumination. Much of this can be attributed to both a bit more presence in the 1.5k to 2k regions and the lower levels of the upper bass region of the Illumination frequency response. Rock anthem guitars have better crunch and bite with Illumination, compared to the weightier, more laid back Twilight.

    While neither are very airy up top, Illumination does have better sparkle and realism with cymbal crashes. This seems due to both slightly more presence in the Illumination frequency response but also due to the more neutrally balanced bass. Illumination just sounds brighter than treble frequency response alone suggests. You can hear more of the treble decay, which provides a more realistic timbre.

    This also translate to a slightly more open feel to Illumination. Its presentation is noticeably wider left to right with more precise placement of the instruments therein. While Twilight sounds more intimate overall, it does present a bit more height and greater sense of depth in comparison.


    Vs Moondrop Kato
    MSRP $189

    Moondrop Kato is just a great all rounder. There isn’t really anything it does wrong. Yes you may yearn for more technical performance here and there, and this is why I chose it for comparison: What does the large price difference get you in the more premium Softears single dynamic?

    Kato bass is more titled towards deep bass. While it has plenty of rumble, compared to Twilight its bass seems leaner, with less impact. Where Twilight is boosted as whole across the bass spectrum, Kato greater tilt makes it seem softer, maybe a bit pillowy in comparison. Twilight bass is tighter, better textured with greater overall focus and tactility. The difference is significant.

    Vocals on Twilight have greater weight and richness. Both male and female are more full bodied than on Kato. While Kato has an edge on overall midrange clarity and a better balance between body and energy, Twilight is simply much more nuanced and resolving. This balance across the midrange gives Kato a better sense of crunch and edge to rock guitars, albeit again a less nuanced and resolving approach. At the end of the day, this better clarity and balance that Kate possesses does not equal better transparency into the details.

    Kato has slightly better treble sparkle with cymbal crashes but is also less articulate, less refined in its approach. Busy cymbal work comes across hazier with the Kato in comparison. Both Kato and Twilight are similarly proportioned, in that no one dimension stands out more so than the other, however Twilight comes across as noticeably larger overall and more upfront. Twilight puts you right at the stage, whereas Kato puts you a few rows back.


    Sound Revisited
    -EQ-


    This review took a while to write, as the stock Twilight tuning just isn’t in my wheel house, particularly as mostly a guitar driven rock listener. However the technical performance kept me coming back for more.

    As it happens, I recently purchases a Qudelix 5k bluetooth dongle, as I have been wanting to explore the associated Qudelix app that receives regular praise for its functionality and ease of use. Then I stumbled on the fantastic EQ feature on Crinacle’s IEM graph comparison chart. His tool greatly simplifies EQ to a target (some features are behind the paywall, like using other targets besides his IEF target). The 5k, used in this regard, has been well worth the very modest investment.

    To end a long journey quickly, EQ has transformed Twilight into a much better performer for me. I’ve cleaned up the bass (gone is the upper bass/lower midrange excessive warmth), added a pinch of fun (a very mild bump in sub bass frequencies), and reduced my personal treble resonance peak. The results are fantastic. Now my anthem rock guitars soar and the midrange resolution is set free to truly shine, while the wonderful inherent bass texture and quality is maintained. The 5K’s features have breathed new life into Twilight.

    Twilight_EQ.png
     
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    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  2. MrSheep

    MrSheep Rando

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    Great review, i guess we still have to wait for „perfect” single DD IEM. IE900 / IE600 are underwhelming (i don’t like V-shaped tuning) and Twilight seems to have too much midbass and blunted treble (930$ for this doesn’t feel right). I will stick with my Sony MDR-EX1000 for now (they also are far from perfect, but at least they have terrific bass and great soundstage size / imaging).
     
  3. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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    I know it's been a while since you got your ears on the Fiio FD7 but can you tell the technical performance delta between those two single DDs? mainly in terms of resolution and transients.
    The FD7 can be bought for $550 these days and maybe a bigger sale this BF. I want an upgrade path to my beloved FD5 and Dunu single DDs seem to be too sensitive for dongles and a bit intense for relaxed listening, IE600 seem too V for EQ.
     
  4. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Dunu Zen Pro with a warmish source to calm some of that intensity sounds pretty darned good to my ears. I don't get hiss with the RU6 dongle (I do with my Vali 2+). Prefer the DZP with the somewhat mellower sounding SE output over the higher powered 4.4 output of the RU6. The smoother, denser mids of the Hiby RS2 do an even better job with DZP and using 4.4 PO they are dead silent. An excellent pairing for my preferences.
     
  5. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Yeah it’s been a while since I heard the FD7, and to be honest, I really didn’t care for the Fiio tuning. It was a combination of excessive upper bass warmth and uneven treble that straddled between too laid back and too zingy.

    I find the Twilight tuning much more agreeable. While also warmer than I’d like, I don’t have any issues up top at all. It has better clarity, while still being a fairly easy going signature. Definitely not as forward and attention grabbing as the Dunu Zens.

    That being said, going from memory, I’d have to say resolution and transients are probably pretty similar. I need to compare directly to say much more.

    There were discounts to be had on Twilight during the recent 11/11 sales; perhaps there will be some again for Black Friday. Although nowhere near as cheap, by a long shot, as you’re finding for the FD7. I do think the Softears is awfully pricey, all things considered.
     
  6. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    I have the Twilight as well as the Turii Ti (the flagship) on hand right now and from memory I prefer the Zen Pro to both. I'll eventually have these (as well as other IEMs-- currently the Effect-Elysian Gaea) on tour in the US if anyone here has a Head Fi account and would like to participate.
     
  7. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Interesting. The Turii TI had a little bit of hype train going over on HF. Appreciate the loaner offer, but from what I gather the Turii isolate like crap. I'd prefer earbuds to poorly isolating IEMs, especially given the usual price differences.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2022

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