Reviewed June 2011
Details: Sole universal IEM from Kozee Sound Solutions
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $24.99)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: N/A | Sens: N/A | Freq: N/A | Cable: 4′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrids
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (1.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips and microfiber carrying pouch
Build Quality (2/5) – The housings of the E100 are made completely out of plastic with a metal mesh filter used in the nozzle and a metal grille at the front of the earphones. The cable is a fairly generic plastic-sheathed affair. It has no memory and is quite easy to live with. Strain relief is fine at the earphone end but far too stiff at the plug end
Isolation (1/5) – The E100 is incapable of sealing due to the front-facing earbud-style grille. Isolation is very low as a result
Microphonics (3.5/5) – The cable is relatively quiet and the consistent lack of a good acoustic seal with the E100 means that bone conduction is reasonably low. However, the earphones are difficult to wear cord-up and lack a cable cinch
Comfort (3.5/5) – The E100 uses a half in-ear design with a form factor very similar in size and shape to the Hippo 10. However, it only comes with one size of eartips which will pose a problem for some users
Sound (0.5/10) – The horror! I am not usually swayed by emotion when it comes to reviewing earphones but remaining positive while using the E100 is has proven difficult. Most of the problems stem from a fundamental flaw in the design of the earphone; namely – the fact that the front of the IEM has fully functional earbud-like grilles. Functionally, the E100 is just an earbud with a nozzle but, unlike proper half in-ear designs, the housing is not sealed at the front. The result is tragic – the E100 is guaranteed never to achieve an acoustic seal with the listener’s ear.
With a design oversight of this magnitude, the Kozee E100 probably was not a stellar-sounding earphone to start with. However, the fact that it never seals means that all of the issues that normally stem from poor fit hold true for the E100 all of the time. Its sound is tinny, harsh, and rolled off on both ends. It sounds worse than most stock earbuds. I could probably declare this review finished at this point but the E100 is a truly fascinating insight into the importance of an acoustic seal. There is no deep bass and what little mid- and upper bass there is sounds hollow and lacks body and weight – basically, the same as with any other IEM used without a seal. Cranking up the volume does bring up the bass but listening fatigue settles in very quickly as the mids and highs are brought up as well.
The midrange is relatively clear and crisp but tends to be grainy and unrefined. The treble is harsh and rolled off at the top. Worse still, the lack of a seal affects the presentation of the earphones negatively or, in this particular case, mortally. Because of its design, the E100 lacks the ability to image. There is no single, cohesive soundstage. Those who are unfamiliar with higher-end earphones may consider this sort of presentation normal but the H2O Audio Flex, which is pretty much the cheapest earphone I own, shows that some modicum of a cohesive, three-dimensional presentation can be delivered at almost any price point. Really, the sound of the E100 is difficult to justify on any level.
Value (1/10) – In stark contrast to the Infinity X1 customs, the E100 is a definite miss for Kozee. I almost feel that with its sizable design flaw, the E100 shouldn’t be rated alongside proper in-ears. Though the pricier E300 earbud shows that Kozee can make a decent universal earphone, the only positive thing I can say about the E100 is that Kozee has obviously been paying far, far more attention to the sound of their customs.
Pros: Comfortable half in-ear form factor; fairly low cable noise
Cons: Flawed design results in poor sound quality