Xears TD-III Blackwood v2

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Xears TD-III V2 400x300.jpg
Reviewed Mar 2011 / updated Aug 2011

Details: Latest revision of one of Xears’ flagship in-ears
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: 42€)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: N/A | Sens: 124 dB | Freq: 6-28k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock bi-flanges, stock foamies, generic single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange silicone tips, foamhybrid tips, and padded carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The TD-III is a wooden take on the Xears’ Turbine-inspired TD100/TD100-II design. As with the other Xears models the nozzles are made of metal and the black finish on the wooden part has a hand-painted feel to it. The strain relief is a bit too hard for my liking but should do the job. The current TD-III revision (v2) comes with a nylon-sheathed j-cord, much like the pricier N3i model. It feels sturdier and carries less noise than the old plastic cord but tends to tangle more. One thing that bothers me about the TD-III is the driver flex, which is similar or perhaps a bit greater than that of the old TD100 (The discontinued TD-III v1 came with a smooth, memory-free plastic-sheathed cable in a standard y-cord configuration)

Isolation (3.5/5) – Quite good, especially with the included bi-flange tips
Microphonics (4/5) – Surprisingly low for a cloth cable and helped further by the j-cord configuration

Comfort (4/5) – The fit is similar to that of the Monster Turbine earphones with straight-barrel housings rounded at the front for comfort. The TD-III shells have a weight advantage while Turbines come with nicer eartips. The j-cord may be annoying for some users and tends to make over-the-ear wear a bit of a hassle

Sound (7.6/10) – From memory, the new TD-III sounds quite similar to the Xears TD100 – the now-discontinued metal model I fell in love with back in August of 2010. Like the TD100, the TD-III has deep, full-bodied, and very impactful bass. The overall bass quantity of the TD-III is just a touch ahead of the Thinksound TS02 and Skullcandy Holua. Texture and detail are on-par with the (noticeably dryer-sounding) TS02 – an impressive feat for an earphone that sounds as smooth as the TD-III does. The attack and decay times are on-par with the Thinksounds as well – enjoyable even on fast-paced electronic tracks but still conducive to a slight thickness of note and faintly ‘lingering’ bass. Like the TD100, the TD-III will be a bit too bass-heavy for some but, as with the Monster Turbine, I really don’t find the quality of its bass offensive in the least.

There is a touch of bass bleed but nothing too bad – the Skullcandy Holua fares far worse and even the significantly leaner-sounding Woodees Blues don’t exactly shame the TD-III when it comes to resolution and control. The mids are warm, slightly forward, and extremely lush and sweet. Detail is good but the thickness does reduce the clarity ever so slightly compared to more analytical sets such as the RE0. The treble is, for the most part, very smooth and easily competes with the Woodees Blues in clarity and detail. Compared to the Woodees, the TD-III is a tiny bit less sparkly but still has very good treble presence. Like the midrange, the treble is a bit thick and lacks the air of some of the more analytical earphones. It is far from dull, however, and manages to keep my attention quite easily when necessary.

When it comes to presentation, the TD-III, like the TD100, manages to impress yet again. Soundstage width and depth are very good – easily the best among all of the reasonably-priced woodies I’ve heard – and instrumental separation is quite decent for a mid-range dynamic. The earphone is capable of delivering an excellent sense of distance but leans slightly towards intimacy. As a result, the musical experience provided by the TD-III is spacious but cohesive. The characteristic note thickness of the TD-III makes it more musical and satisfying but reduces air slightly. Imaging is still good, however, and the overall tone of the earphone is not made darker because of it. All in all, for an earphone with the bass power of the TD-III, the overall sound is surprisingly well-balanced and enjoyable. It is colored and exciting and I quite like it despite all of my analytical biases.

Value (9/10) – Right out of the box the TD-III annoys with moderate driver flex and perhaps offers up more bass power than I would like. Its accessory pack and general build quality don’t shame the competition, either, but it has one ace up its sleeve – the sound. A year or so ago, the sound quality of the TD-III would have been so completely out of place in its price bracket that the competition would be rendered irrelevant. Even today, the TD-III sets itself apart from the competing Woodees and Thinksound models by offering better top-to-bottom extension, a more spacious soundstage, and seductively liquid mids. For those who prioritize sound quality by a large margin as I do, the TD-III is easily the reasonably-priced wooden IEM to buy.

Pros: Very capable all-rounder with a bass-happy sound sig
Cons:
 J-cord may be an issue for some; moderate driver flex, not gift-able for lack of packaging


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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