Details: HDSS earphone from Blue Ever Blue, the new earphone division of the BioLinks brand
MSRP: $49.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $55 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 92 dB | Freq: 22-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Sony hybrids, stock single flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (2/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3/5) – The machined aluminum housings are lightweight, sturdy, and not bad to look at. The nozzles are protected by metal mesh filters and the housings generally feel well-made. Sadly, things go downhill from there as the generic, rubbery cable and minimal strain reliefs inspire little confidence
Isolation (2.5/5) – About average for vented, straight-barrel earphone
Microphonics (3/5) – Slightly worse than average and not helped by the lack of a cable cinch and shirt clip; tolerable with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (4.5/5) – The tapered housings of the 886B are lightweight and comfortable. The earphone does not require a deep seal to sound good and the cables are soft and flexible. The stock tips are quite decent as well
Sound (6.1/10) – The 886B, like all Blue Ever Blue earphones, utilizes ETL technology to absorb the energy of reflected waves in the driver chamber, preventing resonance and distortion. Or at least, that’s what theory dictates. The technology was originally used in speaker cabinets and its application to portable audio is fairly new. It is difficult to say, therefore, what the exact effect of ETL implementation is on the Blue Ever Blue earphones – much as with manufacturer claims of resonance being affected by choice of housing materials, the effect of ETL would need to be tested against a proper control to verify the manufacturer’s lofty claims.
Regardless of the technology’s mode of action and end goals, there is little doubt that for an entry-level product, the 866B sounds quite good. I don’t know about the claims of “smooth, layered sound” and “pure tone”, but the earphone is fairly neutral and quite enjoyable, if not technically flawless. The bass is probably its weakest point for me – it’s got good depth and impact but lacks a bit of definition and can overpower the rest of the range. The ability of the bass to step forward and crowd out the (prominent) midrange of the earphones despite the 866B not being a bass monster can be slightly off-putting at first but the balance works most of the time. It really is only in direct comparisons with some of the better earphones in the price range that the 866B starts losing ground in low-end clarity and control.
The 866B performs more consistently in the midrange, which is prominent and slightly full. There is a mild thickness of note and the clarity and detail still lag behind competing sets such as the Soundmagic E30 but one the whole the mids are quite realistic for the price. The tone of the earphones is very slightly on the dark side of neutral and doesn’t seem to suffer from the bass boost. The treble is, for the most part, inoffensive, with a very slight bit of roughness and a small amount of presence missing at the very top. It’s not as crisp as that of the MEElec CX21, but it’s not wooly or overly soft, either.
The presentation is a bit less impressive than the midrange and treble performance but still quite good. The slight thickness of the 866B causes it sound a little congested and the earphone lacks the wide-open feel of the Soundmagic E30. Layering is good but the size of the stage is average, with the presentation leaning towards intimacy. The dynamics of the earphone lagging behind the competition from Soundmagic and Brainwavz don’t help matters much. With a leaner-sounding earphone, the presentation of the 866B would likely work much better. As is, it just comes across sounding slightly ‘concentrated’ and lacking a bit of refinement compared to the real heavy-hitters in the price range.
Value (7/10) – The Blue Ever Blue 866B performs well enough for the asking price and offers a very user-friendly, if basic, design. Several years ago the 866B would have scored very highly as an overall package but lovers of budget IEMs have been spoiled not just by the ridiculous performance offered by some of today’s earphones, but also by the build quality and overall attention to detail, which are being taken further still by the likes of Dunu. The entire earphone seems to be as much a proof of concept as a finished product and while I do appreciate the claims made by the HDSS standard, for the purposes of this review the technology is only worth as much as the end result. The sound of the earphone is cohesive and enjoyable for an entry-level product but there are options that sound just as good without the generic construction and barebones accessory pack.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable; nice midrange and treble
Cons: Mediocre cabling; could be tighter at the low end