Make: Perfect Seal
Model: SportBud Silver
Base Price: $250
Country of Manufacture: USA
There are plenty of new custom in-ear monitor (CIEM) companies forming around the world, and Perfect Seal is one of them. The founder, Mike Martinez is an industry veteran, having worked on some of the early CIEMs in the late 1990 such as Future Sonics and Sensaphonics as well as some now defunct companies. Prior to creating Perfect Seal, his sole focus has been running a company that makes the ear pieces for hearing aids. But, his passion for CIEMs got him back in the game with Perfect Seal being the CIEM branch of his company.
He created and tuned the entire Perfect Seal lineup, which is relatively extensive with pro models, sports models, and hybrids. He has the capability to manufacture in both acrylic and silicone, and uses soft canals for his acrylic CIEMs just like Westone. Mike has sent me several models in the lineup for audition and think they offer strong value for their points. Falling in the middle of the SportBud lineup, the SportBud Silver uses the Sonion AcuPass dual balanced armature driver used in several other CIEMs. The SportBud Silver has the lowest cost of the AcuPass offerings; can it live up to the driver of more expensive options?
HOW TO ORDER & OPTIONS
The Perfect Seal SportBud Silver can be ordered from the Perfect Seal website by going to the order now form by clicking on the Start Order Now button at the bottom of the Ear Buds for Music page. Perfect Seal requires that a message is sent with what you would like to purchase, and the process will go from there.
Options: On the product page, there are sections for faceplates and swatches. Other options can be inquired about via the contact form or email.
Warranty: 1 year
The SportBud Silver uses a Sonion AcuPass driver in an acrylic shell with soft canals and a single sound tube. Soft canals are heat activated and after wearing them for some time, they conform better within the ear canal forming a better seal during movement compared with typical acrylic canals. The shell can be made in canal only size or full shell and there are plenty of cable options, including a rotating cable that allows over-the-ear and cable down wear styles, and soon a detachable version should be available.
The SportBud Silver comes with a case that is unlike any I have seen before, with a vertical configuration and a water-tight seal. A cleaning tool is also included. The case can fit my Clip+ that I use for my workouts as well as the SportBud Silver with ease. Other than that, the accessories are standard. 5/10
I have used the SportBud Silver at the gym for a while and like the canal only size since it makes the CIEM inconspicuous. Using full-shelled CIEMs at the gym brings looks and stares while the canal only SportBud Silver doesn’t. Perfect Seal sent me a second model based on the rotating connector, and both sound very good. However, the rotating connector version has a larger profile, which Mike said came about due to the rotating portion of the design. That version sticks out more, but still less than the original cable-down SportBud Silver.
The cable on my units is permanent, so quality is extremely important, and the cable doesn’t disappoint. It is a somewhat rubbery cable, but has very good ergonomics as it doesn’t stick to itself like some rubbery cables can and is silent when worn cable down. Perfect Seal offers options for the cable exit setup, as it can exit from one side, have a rotating strain relief for wearing over-ear or cable down, and a MMCX detachable version is available, although the last two version require a larger shell. The plug, Y-split, and cable cinch are made from molded plastic. The cable has a good thickness below the Y-split, but isn’t the thickest above, so durability will depend greatly on use for the permanent cable versions. 6/10
FIT & FINISH
The Perfect Seal SportBud Silver fit & finish is good, with a slightly above average outer shell finish compared with lower-cost CIEMs. The interior looks clean both in wiring and internal shell debris. The soft canals are perfectly integrated with the rest of the shell. 7/10
The canal-only shell provides average isolation that is about on par with a standard hollow acrylic full shell. 5/10
Disclaimer: This review is based solely on comparative listening with similarly priced and/or configured competitors to rate performance. The product will be presented with strengths and weaknesses, sound signature characteristics, and technical characteristic performance. Even if performance is great, but the product has a weakness, it will be described and may make the product sound worse than the true user experience, depending on perspective. The ultimate goal of the review is to take a critical look at the product and not make a sales pitch so you the reader can make an informed decision without hype, although some products are very good and warrant high praise. I believe gear should be selected based on the sound signature you want and/or the specific use, not solely on technical performance or unsubstantiated hype. Here are some quick references for more information: My review technique, Thoughts on reading a review, Custom IEM information
The SportBud Silver received 100+ hours of burn in as is customary before I do my serious listening. The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: Minerva Mi-Performer Pro, Minerva Mi-Artist Pro, Custom Art Music One, InEarz IE-P250, Perfect Seal Fusion 11, Alclair Reference, EarSonics SM3, and MEElectronics M6. Specific detailed comparisons can be found on page 2.
Bass: The bass is tuned as most workout earphones are, with plenty of bass, providing both pumping bass and warmth that will let you feel the deep bass to get you going. Bass quantity is not going to compare with most dynamic driver earphones, but the level of detail and precision will be higher at a similar price point. Note sustainment is impressive for a dual BA driver CIEM, with similar performance to other Sonion AcuPass driver CIEMs, and the canal only version doesn’t lose anything compared with a full shell. Those concerned about bass performance of a dual BA driver CIEM should be pleased by the SportBud Silver.
Midrange: The midrange is forward, but not too forward, with nice presentation depth for a 3D effect with quality music. Many of my pop workout tracks are void of presentation depth, but the SportBud Silver still offers a clean, clear, and dynamic sound. While clarity is good, there is a deficit between many higher priced CIEMs such as the Alclair Reference and Fusion 11. Overall, there is enough instrument separation, detail, and clarity to result in sound that is quite impressive at the price point.
Treble: The treble quantity is well matched with the midrange offering good performance that can reveal poor quality tracks and present a good amount of detail, but it doesn’t resolve too much to destroy the experience. Note decay is quite acceptable given the price range resulting in a relatively natural sound that still has a slight bite. A bit of a bump in the upper midrange/lower treble increases the perceived level of detail while. While the treble isn’t all that bright, the extension is good as is the overall performance.
Presentation: The forward presentation helps balance out the frequency spectrum, allowing the enhanced bass and treble bump to sound balanced with the midrange. The soundstage size doesn’t sound as large as the projection due to the presentation perspective, but the spatial qualities are good due to accurate proportions and nice imaging. Notes are slightly on the thicker side, but still relatively neutral and yet punchy, which is a relatively unusual combination that comes about in part due to the presentation. Transparency and coherence are good for the price and about average for the Sonion AcuPass driver CIEMs I have tested. The overall presentation is well put together for an involving sound that can envelop the listener with high quality tracks.
Volume performance: The SportBud Silver performs its best at low to moderate volumes. At very low volumes the bass loses a bit of impact, which is typical for a BA driver when combined with the human loudness curves. At higher volumes, the midrange becomes congested and the notes lose the control they have at moderate volumes due to the enhanced bass, performing closer to a lower-cost dynamic driver IEM.
Sound Summary: The SportBud Silver is a workout CIEM that provides plenty of bass and ample treble that is balanced with the midrange due to the forward presentation perspective. While not presenting with the largest soundstage size, the SportBud Silver has the ability to recreate a 3D soundstage with excellent proportions and good imaging for a realistic effect. Detail levels are relatively high and notes are punchy overall, while being a bit on the thicker side for an experience that is engaging and involving. The sound signature works well for working out as it has characteristics that can help your music keep you motivated.