Xears TD100

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Reviewed Aug 2010

 

Details: Current flagship of the Xears earphone line from Playaz
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: est $60)

Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: N/A | Sens: 124 dB | Freq: 6-28k Hz | Cord: 4.2’ I-plug j-cord

Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Sennheiser short bi-flanges, generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and tri-flange silicone tips, foamhybrid tips (2 pairs), and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The metal shells are quite obviously modeled after the Monster Turbines. The construction is quite good but the Xears don’t feel quite as solid as the Monsters. Mild driver flex is present as well
Isolation (3.5/5) – For some reason Turbine-style housings just work well for me when it comes to isolation, the TD100 being no exception. Aside from the mediocre stock tips, the isolation is nearly on par with the Turbine Pros
Microphonics (4/5) – Quite low but the j-cord is a two-edged sword – it reduces cable travel and therefore microphonics but at the same time makes the earphones more difficult to wear over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – Very similar to Monster Turbines. The straight-barrel housings are average in size and rounded at the front. Unfortunately the stock tips are rather poor. In addition, the j-cord may be annoying for some

Sound (7.5/10) – The TD100, along with several other Xears/Playaz earphones, has a cult following here at Head-Fi, and after several weeks with it I can see why. It is an extremely lush and sweet-sounding earphone. Those in search of analytical sound should quite clearly look elsewhere but as an alternative to the similarly-colored Fischer Audio Eterna or ViSang R03, the TD100 holds its own very well. Its bass is deep and full-bodied and plentifully impactful. The low end can match the ViSang R03 in quantity but runs closer to the subbass-heavy Hippo VB in extension. Despite the copious grunt, however, the low end of the TD100 carries lots of detail and very good resolution. Individual notes never run together and bass bloat/bleed are almost completely absent. The bass heft of the TD100 will surely be excessive for some, but from a technical standpoint it is very well-done.

The midrange is warmed up by the weighty low end and sounds lush and full. It is slightly forward but not as forward as the mids of the ViSang R03. Detail is quite good but the TD100 has a certain thickness to it that causes clarity to lag slightly behind the R03 and Hippo VB. It still sounds a bit less veiled than my rev2 Eterna; however, the Eterna is ‘handicapped’ by a larger soundstage and is generally a more distant-sounding earphone than the somewhat intimate TD100. The treble of the TD100 is smooth but relatively clear and detailed, though it won’t keep up with the Hippo VB, Brainwavz M1, or ECCI PR300 in crispness. It is laid back but not quite enough so to be called recessed. 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. All in all, for an earphone with the bass power of the TD100, the overall sound is surprisingly well-balanced and enjoyable. It is colored and exciting and I rather like it despite all of my analytical biases.

When it comes to presentation, the TD100 again performs above expectations. The soundstage has good width and depth and instrumental separation is quite decent for a mid-range dynamic. The earphone is also capable of delivering an excellent sense of distance but leans slightly towards intimacy. The fact that the notes it produces are usually a little thick makes it more musical and satisfying but reduces air. Tonally, the TD100 is not a dark earphone, nor does it sound ‘stuffy’ like certain bass-heavy competitors, but I wouldn’t call it bright, either. As far as fun-sounding earphones go, the presentation of the TD100 is just right.

Value (8.5/10) – At its usual ~$60 retail price point, the TD100 is a stellar deal. The earphone is rather handsome and well-designed, though the budget-oriented nature shows through in the j-cord setup, driver flex, and poor quality of stock tips. More important, however, is that the sound quality of the Xears earphones far exceeds the asking price, putting them on-level with some of the absolute best IEMs I’ve heard in the <$100 bracket – the ViSang R03, Fischer Audio Eterna, and Hippo VB. The sound signature of the TD100 sounds like a cross of the VB and R03 – deep and powerful bass, smooth and slightly forward mids, and competent but neither overly edgy not completely sunk treble. It is true that the R03, Eterna, and VB feel like higher-tier products all things considered, but in terms of absolute audio enjoyment the TD100 holds its own very easily.

Pros: Very capable performance, comfortable with aftermarket tips
Cons: J-cord may be bothersome, mild driver flex, stock tips are rather poor

 


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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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