Details: Deep-insertion dynamic-driver IEM from Xears
MSRP: €79.90 (est. $108) (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: €30 (est $41) from ebay.de
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 10-25k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug J-cord
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges, sony hybrids
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) silicone tips, bi-flange silicone tips, and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The XR120PRO II features black-and-silver metal housings with metal mesh nozzle screens and adequate strain relief on housing entry. The j-cord is rubbery and a bit stiff. Moderate driver flex is present
Isolation (3.5/5) – Slightly above that of the TD-III and quite good overall
Microphonics (4/5) – Not bad due to the j-cord setup
Comfort (3.5/5) – The XR120 is a straight-barrel earphone with elongated nozzles and tapered housings. It likes smaller tips and deep insertion but is generally quite comfortable. The j-cord may be annoying for some
Sound (7.7/10) – The XR120 is the first Xears earphone I’ve heard that places no emphasis on the lower half of the frequency spectrum. Instead, its bass is tight, quick, and controlled. There is no mid-bass hump and the low end rolls off gently below 50Hz – those in search of bass depth and rumble will definitely be better off with one of the other Xears earphones. Mediocre extension aside, the accuracy and detail of the XR120’s low end are very difficult to fault. The note presentation is leaner than with the other Xears earphones but on the whole the bass is still more visceral than that of higher-end analytical earphones such as the RE-ZERO or Etymotic MC5. There really is a bit of a two-faced nature to the XR120’s bass – it is able to alternate between powerful and subdued depending on the track, balancing fun and accuracy in a single earphone.
The midrange is crisp and clear, beating out the similarly-priced Maximo iM-590 and all of the other Xears models I’ve tried. The mids are balanced well with the rest of the spectrum and exhibit rather neutral tonality – the XR120 is warmer than the new Sunrise Xcited but cooler than the HiFiMan RE-ZERO. Microdetail and resolution lag very slightly behind models like the RE-ZERO, Xcited, and CC51 but for a cheaper earphone the XR120 is extremely competitive on both counts. One thing it does well is discriminate between background and foreground detail – many of the cheaper analytical earphones can push detail on the listener indiscriminately but only a few have the ability to create nuanced and convincing sound approaching the level of higher-end sets like the RE0 and Brainwavz M3.
The treble of the XR120 is clear and sparkly. While not as effortless or extended as the RE0, the XR120 lacks neither treble quantity nor quality and is clearly more extended at the top than the other Xears models. Again breaking from the mold set by its siblings, the XR120 is quite unforgiving of harshness and sibilance on tracks but stops short of being overly edgy. Transparency and refinement are not top-tier but they are impressive considering the price and contribute to the XR120’s lively yet accurate sound. The presentation, similarly, is well-rounded and convincing. While there is definitely more width than height or depth to the presentation of the XR120, the tubular nature of the soundstage is not nearly as pronounced as it is with the Sunrise Xcited. Instrument separation is quite good but the XR120 doesn’t keep up with the layering and imaging of something like the RE-ZERO. Clearly the more three-dimensional earphone, the RE-ZERO has the upper hand when it comes to soundstaging but the XR120 still fares better in width and airiness.
Value (8.5/10) – Great sound at the expense of packaging, accessories, and sometimes build quality is what I’ve come to expect from Xears earphones. With the XR120PRO II, however, the disparity between performance and presentation is greater than ever. The host of potential caveats this time around is fairly long – the earphones are j-corded, prone to driver flex, and require a deep seal – but the sonic performance is on par with the very best I’ve heard at the price point. I wouldn’t gift the XR120 to a non-audiophile but those who are willing to live with the minor quirks may just be very, very pleasantly surprised with the sound quality.
Pros: Clear, detailed, and enjoyable sound; balanced without sounding dull
Cons: J-cord may be bothersome; moderate driver flex; deep bass roll-off; likes deep insertion