Details: Diminutive earbud-style IEM from Yamaha’s new EPH line
Current Price: $20 from amazon.com (MSRP: $29.95)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 17 Ω | Sens: 103 dB | Freq: 20-21k Hz | Cable: 4’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (1/5) – Single flange silicone tips (3 sizes)
Build Quality (2.5/5) – The housings are made completely out of plastic and, except for the nozzles, look like conventional earbuds. The rubberized cabling is fairly sturdy but prone to tangling. However, though the 3.5mm L-plug is downright excellent, a hard plastic stem takes the place of a proper strain relief on housing entry
Isolation (2.5/5) – Like the higher-end EPH-50, the EPH-20 is a shallow-insertion earphone and is also vented. Isolation is rather average with the stock tips and a bit better with aftermarket biflanges
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Some cable noise is present and the EPH-20 cannot be worn over-the-ear, exacerbating the problem
Comfort (4.5/5) – The strength of the EPH-20 is their absolutely tiny size – they are dwarfed by my stock Sansa earbuds and weigh absolutely nothing. The angled-nozzle design is ergonomically perfect and really puts the straight-nozzle Yuin OK1 to shame. The only issue with the EPH-20 is that the hard plastic stem of the earphones is square in cross section and has sharp corners, which means I cannot sleep on my side in these without serious discomfort
Sound (3.5/10) – The sound of the EPH-20 is quite typical for a budget dynamic IEM. The earphone has a low-end bias, extending into the sub-30Hz regions of bass and sacrificing overall range at the top. The bass is full and warm, a bit muddy at times but overall rather pleasant. It intrudes a good amount on the lower midrange, making the IEMs sound rather warm and a bit veiled. The slightly recessed midrange doesn’t help and the earphones don’t have the clarity of the similarly-priced JVC HA-FX67. There is also a small amount of grain/scratchiness toward the upper mids, giving these a grungy texture. On the upside, unlike the JVCs, the Yamahas never sound harsh or sibilant while maintaining the same level of treble presence and detail. Despite the lack of brightness, the treble of the EPH-20 stands out over the midrange and isn’t drowned out by the bass. The soundstage is average in size but surprisingly airy. Separation and positioning could certainly be better but for $18 retail I didn’t expect much of either. The overall signature is smooth and a bit boomy, dark but not excessively so, and generally quite listenable.
Value (6/10) – The Yamaha EPH-20 is another sub-$20 IEM that is quite passable in terms of sound, very easy to use, reasonably well-built, and extremely light and comfortable. No, these won’t displace the Soundmagic PL30s and Meelec M9s as my favorite sub-$20 earphones, but as a product that is readily available all over the web, comes in a variety of color options (I happen to think they look excellent in “red berry brown”), and produces a mainstream, bass-heavy sound without much sacrifice in other areas, the little Yamahas make a good introduction into the world of IEMs.
Pros: Very lightweight and comfortable, user-friendly, inoffensive sound
Cons: Plasticky build