Brief: The pricier of two in-ear earphones from Florida-based Popclik
MSRP: $29.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $30 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 95 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug w/mic & 1-button remote
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges; Comply T400
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear (preferred)
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and zippered carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The first thing I noticed about the Evolo is the excellent size-to-heft ratio of the metal earpieces – they are just weighty enough to feel solid, yet still very unobtrusive in the ear, and wouldn’t be out of place on a pricier earphone. The narrow flat cable holds a single-button remote and terminated with a nice L-shaped plug. There is a bit of driver flex, however, and the cable doesn’t have a cinch
Isolation (3/5) – Good, very much usable outside and while commuting
Microphonics (4/5) – The flat cable is relatively low in microphonics and doesn’t bounce around too much. Wearing the Evolo over-the-ear makes cable noise a non-issue
Comfort (4/5) – The housings of the Evolo are lightweight, compact, and have smooth, rounded edges. For a straight-barrel, “bullet”-shaped earphone, this is about as ergonomic as it gets
Sound (7.4/10) – In the past year I’ve passed on reviewing most of the new earphones I’ve come across in the $30-and-under bracket simply because they don’t measure up in performance. I understand why, too – first, those shopping for an earphone in this price range likely won’t be audio enthusiasts. Second, every sub-$30 earphone boasts the same claims of “great bass” and/or “clear sound” regardless of actual performance. Combined with customers who simply don’t know good sound from “good” sound, this makes tuning earphones for better sound quality than the other guys a no-win proposition for manufacturers. To compete for shelf space against mainstream, high-volume products from the likes of Philips, Sony, and JVC, it makes more sense to focus on “tangible” things like packaging, features, and design, as well as various marketable gimmicks – Swarovski crystals, zipper cables, wooden housings, and so on.
The two earphones I’ve tried from Popclik, the Evolo and the String, do come in rather expensive-looking packaging and boast nice, well thought-out designs, but also don’t neglect performance, following a consumer-friendly “v-shaped” sound tuning that emphasizes the bass and treble. The Evolo is the more balanced of the two, but its bass quantity is still plentiful. It falls short of the Nuforce NE-600X, my basshead recommendation in this price range, but is greater compared to the Philips SHE3580, one of my typical recommendations for “v-shaped” sound. The bass of the Philips set is a little more linear and detailed while the Evolo has more of a conventional mid-bass emphasis. It’s a little light on texture, but not too bad, and easily recommendable as a more impactful alternative to the Philips.
The Evolo is on the whole more v-shaped than the SHE3580, as well as the warmer, more full-bodied Xiaomi Piston 2 and the newer, more balanced Piston 3. Midrange presence and clarity are not a strong suit but are sufficiently good for the price. Treble energy is good as well – similar to the SHE3580 in being energetic, but not excessive. The Evolo is not very tolerant of harshness, but I prefer this type of approach over the dull, rolled-off treble delivered by many other enhanced-bass sets in this price range. The presentation is alright as well – a little more forward and less spacious compared to the more balanced Piston 3, but pretty good compared to other in-ears with similar levels of bass boost.
Popclik String ($25)
The String and Evolo are similarly-priced and arguably differ more in form factor and design than they do in sound, with the Evolo being metal-shelled and outfitted with a flat cable and L-shaped plug, and the String being plastic with a conventional cable, angled nozzles, and an I-plug.
Both earphones follow v-shaped sound signatures, with elevated bass and treble providing a lively, energetic sort of sound. The pricier Evolo is a little more balanced on the whole, trading off some of the String’s extra bass for a flatter, marginally less v-shaped sound. The String offers stronger and slightly deeper bass, warmer tone, and more full-bodied sound. It has a bit more treble energy as well, but its highs are less forgiving and a touch more sibilance-prone. The brighter sound helps the String sound clearer than the Evolo despite the slightly more recessed mids, and the overall presentation is more dynamic and engaging. All in all, the combination of greater clarity and more bass offered by the String is very impressive, but the two Popclik earphones are close enough in performance that the design differences between them can be the deciding factor, and the Evolo certainly has the more refined design.
The S0 and Evolo are remarkably similar IEMs, from the size, shape, and fit of their housings to the metal construction and flat cables, right down to the flatter sound each earphone offers compared to its siblings (the S1 and S5 in the case of the S0, and the String in the case of the Evolo).
When compared to the S0, the Evolo follows a more v-shaped sound tuning with the bass quantity being the biggest difference. The Popclik unit offers significantly deeper and more powerful bass, making the Brainwavz sound a little gutless in comparison – not a huge surprise as bass really isn’t the S0’s strong suit. However, the Evolo also becomes muffled and congested more easily on bass-heavy tracks, giving the S0 a small edge in clarity.
Value (8/10) – Though based in Florida, Popclik was until recently focused largely on the Latin America market, which does not enjoy the variety of IEM options we have in the US, for marketing and sales. That may seem like a great excuse for mediocrity, but the performance and design of the Popclik IEMs are anything but.
The Evolo offers a conventionally “v-shaped” sound signature that offends with neither excessive bass emphasis nor overly bright and harsh treble. The design is quite handsome, too, and the overall package is much more refined than I expect to see at this price, from the fancy box to the compact and comfortable metal housings and two-tone flat cable. All in all, it is priced very well for a metal-shelled IEM with headset functionality and good sound.
Pros: Nice, giftable packaging; solid performance for the price; comfortable earpiece design
Cons: Mild driver flex; sound of less expensive String model has more “wow” factor