Details: First mid-range IEM from Hi-Fi DAP manufacturer HiSound
MSRP: $69 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $69 from ebay.com / $69 from mp4nation.net / $90 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 13-23k Hz | Cable: 3.8’ I-plug (L-plug on newer revisions)
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges; trimmed MEElec triple-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (2.5/5) – Assorted single-flange (3 sizes), Hybrid-style single-flange (3 sizes), and triple-flange (3 sizes) silicone eartips; shirt clip (note: hard clamshell carrying case is included by frogbeats)
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The Crystal may look like a miniature Nuforce NE-6 but it is quite well-constructed, with a 2-piece aluminum shell, rear-mounted strain reliefs, and a sturdy, internally-braided cable a-la ViSang. There is no cable cinch and the cable is terminated with an I-plug but on the whole these really feel like they will go the distance
Isolation (4/5) – Very good, especially with some longer aftermarket tips such as trimmed MEElec triple-flanges
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Not bad when worn cable-down; very low otherwise
Comfort (4.5/5) – The Crystal is one of the smallest straight-barrel dynamic-driver IEMs I’ve come across, rivaling the MEElec M11+, and is extremely easy to fit. The eartip selection is much more modest than with the MEEs and there’s no cable cinch but it is still easy to wear both cable-up and cable-down and remains comfortable for hours on end
Sound (8/10) – In some ways the sound of the Crystal reminds me of my first experience with the brand well over a year ago in the form of the PAA-1 earbuds. I liked the smooth and warm sound provided by the PAA-1, and I like the Crystal even better. The low end of the Crystal is emphasized but well-controlled, falling a bit above the Sunrise Xcape IE on the bass spectrum. There is no lack of presence but the Crystal is no bass cannon – competitors such as the Sennheiser IE6 and Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE easily offer up more slam at the expense of sounding bloated and boomy next to the Crystal. While very punchy, the Crystal manages to strike a good balance between impact and control. The 7mm dynamic drivers used by the Crystal are quick and there is no bass bleed, yet most listeners should be pleased with the bass punch and weight the tiny earphone can deliver.
The midrange of the Crystal is recessed slightly next to the low end but not so much as to throw off the overall balance. It is warm and textured in moderation, with the overall refinement near but not quite at the top among earphones in its price range. The Crystal is no RE-ZERO when it comes to clarity and microdetail, either, but it performs better than most. Similarly, though smooth and pleasant, the sound is not quite as liquid as with the Xcape IE or Fischer Audio Tandem. Clearly it is not for those in search of an extremely crisp and analytical listening experience, nor will it please listeners in search of the most lush and seductive sound available. As a middle ground between the two, however, it works rather well.
The treble is reasonably crisp and prominent but usually remains smooth and ends up being a bit laid-back at the very top. There is a touch of grain but it is not particularly harsh or unpleasant. That said, it will reveal sibilance present in tracks, unlike the far more forgiving Xcape IE and Fischer Tandem. The presentation is not huge but it is nicely laid out with good separation and decent but not quite pinpoint-accurate positioning. In terms of size, the soundstage is not as large as with the VSonic GR07 or Sony EX600, nor is the sonic space as well-rounded as it is with the Xcape IE, but it competes well with the likes of the Shure SE215 and Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE. The presentation is certainly more than good enough for the asking price but I wouldn’t recommend them on its strength alone. Rather, it is as an overall package that the sound of the Crystal makes sense – friendly towards both the mainstream listener and the audiophile with ample warmth and good overall balance but no overblown bass or analytical edge.
Value (9/10) – The HiSoundAudio Crystal is an impressive mid-level in-ear from a company that clearly focuses on more than just sound quality. Simply put, the earphones boast one of the best form factors among all dynamic-driver IEMs, offering excellent ergonomics, high levels of noise isolation, and a well thought-out construction. The performance, too, is nothing to be ashamed of, competing very well with consumer favorites such as the Shure SE215. It is possible to find something that sounds slightly better than the Crystal, especially with a particular sound signature in mind, but as an all-rounder this tiny in-ear is one of the better ones I’ve come across.
Pros: Small, lightweight, and comfortable; good isolation; very well-built; good overall sound quality