Details: Music-oriented earphone from Taiwanese OEM Earsquake
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $15)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.3’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down
Accessories (1/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes)
Build Quality (3/5) – Like the other Earsquake earphones, the SHA is plastic in construction but the build is fairly high-rent compared to the others. The metallic paint is especially impressive and the colorful earphones look wonderful in person. The nozzles are protected by a metal filter and proper strain reliefs are utilized on the housings. The cords differ by earphone color – the green and red models come with a slightly more rubbery cord than the Fish; the silver and black units have a meelec-style clear cord that is smoother and has less memory character
Isolation (3/5) – Surprisingly good for a vented dynamic
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Fairly low when worn cable-down, nonexistent when worn cable-up for green/red models; a bit better for the black/gray earphones
Comfort (4/5) – The housings are lightweight and very comfortable. They are a bit slimmer towards the front than those of the Fish and can be inserted fairly deeply, for example for sleeping, but still sound fine with a shallow seal
Sound (4.9/10) – Unlike the similarly-priced Fish, the SHA was designed for listening to music and music alone, and it shows. The overall sound of the SHA is balanced but quite forward and aggressive. As with the entry-level CRO, the SHA is a bit rough around the edges, but that’s part of its charm.
The bass of the SHA is tight and controlled but goes surprisingly deep when the track calls for it. The impact is not as full-bodied as that of the Meelec M9 or Sennheiser CX280 but it is quite accurate, well-layered, and natural-sounding, at least at reasonable listening volumes. Indeed, the sound of the SHA does begin to degrade at higher volumes, losing balance and clarity and becoming more hard-edged and fatiguing.
The mids are strong and fairly smooth, if a little dry. For the money, it’s a very good sound with plenty of clarity and detail – those who can’t handle the somewhat recessed midrange of the M9 will find a good budget set with the SHA. The treble is prominent and accurate but a little edgy. The dry mids and hard-edged treble together remind me of the Hippo VB though of course the Hippos are far more detailed and have much better dynamics. Top-end extension is average but the treble is very crisp and extremely satisfying in a budget set.
The presentation is spacious – next to the elago e3 or JVC Marshmallows, the SHA sound ‘big’ but not distant. Still, typical of a budget set, the SHA are not particularly resolving and imaging begins to break down somewhat when things get busy. I think part of the problem might be the limited dynamic range, which is hardly noticeable next to the other Earsquake earphones but shows really well next to the Meelec M9 or a pricier earphone.
Value (8.5/10) – The Earsquake SHA is a properly good earphone for the price. It is easy to use, with a compliant straight-barrel fit, solid isolation, and low microphonics. The hand-painted look works very well and the color schemes are quite welcome in the drab world of budget and mid-range earphones. And of course the sound is nothing to sneer at, either – the SHA is balanced and very direct. It may lack the detail and dynamic range of the Meelec M9 or other budget-minded head-fi favorites but it sounds very even-footed and true to source. Highly recommended for those limited to the very lowest price tier but still seeking the best possible audio experience!
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable, good isolation, low microphonics, good clarity, plenty of color options
Cons: Slightly dry sound, poor dynamic