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VSonic VSD3S

Brief Review: VSonic VSD3S, Ostry KC06 & Havi B3 Pro I

There’s no set formula for determining what gets reviewed here on The Headphone List, but requests and recommendations from our readers are always considered. I get a lot of suggestions for IEM reviews – so many that I have to keep a running list – but it is always my hope to incorporate those I feel have the most potential into the queue.

In 2014, nothing has been requested as often and as vehemently as the VSonic VSD3S, Ostry KC06, and Havi B3 Pro I (maybe the Xiaomi Piston 2, but that’s already covered). The VSD3S is an obvious one, being VSonic’s first all-new release since the VSD1 and VSD1S models that I liked enough to include in the Earphone Buyer’s Guide. Ostry and Havi are two new(er) Chinese manufacturers that have been making quite a splash on Head-Fi. Since all three have similarly impressive performance and are priced around $60, it made sense to pit them against each other. All three turned out to be deserving of full reviews, which will be written up later on.

Ostry KC06

Basics: I’ve had the KC06 the longest of the three. The earphone first impressed me with its packaging, which is a rather cleverly assembled without appearing wasteful. Accessories include 6 sets of single-flange eartips (three with a wide inner bore, and three with a narrow one) as well as a shirt clip, set of cable guides, and an (inconveniently small) velvet pouch.

Ostry KC06
Ostry KC06

The earphone itself is metal and feels very solid. It utilizes a straight-barrel design with a short, wide driver chamber. To allow for a deeper fit, the strain relief exits the main housing at a tangent. I like the design and build of the earpieces, though I’m less enthusiastic about the cable, which has a shiny, slightly sticky sheath. The cable on the VSonic VSD3S, for example, while similar-looking, is actually thicker, smoother, more flexible, and has less tendency to tangle. The KC06 also lacks a sliding cinch above its small metal y-split and uses an I-shaped pug

Cable noise is minimal, and though designed for cable-down wear, the KC06 can be worn cable-up with the right eartips. The cable is somewhat resistant to over-the-ear routing but a set of earhooks is included make this more convenient.

Performance: The sound of the KC06 is on the whole balanced, but a little off-neutral. Bass is slightly enhanced overall, with mild sub-bass roll-off. Mids are quite forward, reminding me of the Fidue A63, though the KC06 is brighter and not as smooth. Thanks to strong upper midrange and treble presence, vocals are very intelligible. There is also plenty of sparkle, good top-end extension, and a soundstage that’s wide and airy.

The strength of the KC06 is definitely its mids, which are prominent and very clear. The sparkly treble that nonetheless does not exaggerate harshness or sibilance is very good, too, and the presentation is nice and open for an in-ear earphone. The bass has good impact but not the best depth, which gives it a less solid thump than, for instance, the VSonic VSD3S with its plentiful sub-bass. Compared to many higher-end IEMs, the KC06 also sounds a little lean and lacks soundstage depth and imaging ability. For the price, though, it’s very hard to fault.

One peculiarity of the KC06 is that it is an extremely sensitive earphone. This was likely done on purpose – after all, the ability to reach ear-splitting volumes with ease is definitely a plus when competing in the consumer market. However, this also means that static will be audible with sources that have a high noise floor, so those who are hiss-sensitive may be better off with a less efficient earphone. In addition, low volumes can be hard to dial in with some sources.

To start off, I compared the KC06 not only to the B3 Pro I and VSD3S, but also a few of my long-term benchmarks to see where it stands.

Havi B3 Pro I ($60)

The most striking thing about comparing the KC06 to the B3 Pro I is the difference in efficiency – the KC06 is significantly more sensitive than the average in-ear whereas the B3 – significantly less so. Combined, this creates an enormous difference in the general listening experience, with the KC06 reaching high volumes effortlessly and exposing hiss and background noise in the process and the B3 requiring a lot more juice to reach listening volume.

Other than that, the B3 Pro I has quite a few similarities to the KC06 – punchy bass, clean and prominent mids, and present – but not excessively sharp or edgy – treble. The KC06 sounds more colored – its midbass hump is more audible, and yet overall it is brighter. The B3 has tighter, less pronounced bass and generally sounds more lean and dry. It is also darker, with less sparkly and extended treble, though the two earphones are equally smooth overall. The extra upper treble helps the KC06 seem a little more airy and out-of-the-head, but the B3 has the more well-rounded presentation.

VSonic VSD3S ($45)

The VSD3S fits right in between the VSD1S and the pricier GR07 Classic in VSonic’s lineup, and the KC06 likewise sounds better than the VSD1S but doesn’t quite stack up to the GR07. The most obvious difference between the slightly v-shaped VSD3S and the KC06 is the midrange presentation – there, the KC06 sounds stronger and clearer thanks to its more forward midrange and brighter overall sound. The KC06 has more of a mid-bass hump and some deep bass roll-off, whereas the VSD3S has a better bass depth and feels more solid and natural at the low end. Tonally, the VSD3S is a little warmer. Interestingly, while the KC06 is brighter and a little more sparkly, it is still less sibilance-prone than the VSD3S.

HiFiMan RE-400 ($99)

The HiFiMan RE-400 is a very balanced earphone with a mild midrange focus. Next to the KC06, it sounds a little dull, but also more accurate and neutral. Whereas the RE-400 is slightly flatter, tighter, and more extended at the low end, the KC06 has an audible mibass hump, though far from severe enough to really compromise bass quality. Both earphones have similarly forward mids, but the KC06 is brighter, which makes it sound even clearer and gives its vocals better intelligibility. The top end of the KC06 has more sparkle, but also tends to be less forgiving than the ultra-smooth RE-400. Overall, I found the KC06 to be a little colored-sounding next to the RE-400 but otherwise not far behind, especially considering the price gap.

Ultimate Ears 600 ($60)

The Ultimate Ears 600 is a balanced armature earphone with a smooth, mid-centric sound signature not too different from that of the RE-400. In short, the UE600 is flatter and more neutral overall compared to the KC06, with less impactful – albeit more extended – bass. The Ostry is more colored-sounding, with brighter treble and more mid-bass boost. The UE600 sounds more full-bodied and natural in the midrange and has smoother treble.

SQ score range: 8.3-8.6 (final score still TBD)

Current prices:
KC06 Silver: $58 from Amazon.com; $58 from ebay.com | $63 from lendmeurears.com; $69 from mp4nation.net
KC06 Gold: $65 from Amazon.com; $69 from mp4nation.net

VSonic VSD3S

Basics: It’s quite rare for an IEM manufacturer to score so many hits in a row, but VSonic has had at least one solid release every year since the 2010 launch of the GR07. The first of VSonic’s new VSD series of in-ears, the VSD1S, has also spent a year and counting as one of the top picks in my IEM Buyer’s Guide. VSonic earphones have always had functional if somewhat plain packaging, and the VSD3S is no exception. Accessories are remarkably similar to those of the Ostry KC06, down to the sub-par carrying pouch. The VSD3S comes with 4 pairs of silicone eartips (including one double-flange pair), 1 set of foam tips, a pair of cable guides, and the drawstring pouch.

VSonic VSD3S
VSonic VSD3S

The construction of the VSD3S is plastic, with rather handsome semi-translucent angular housings. The design is ergonomic, intended for over-the-ear wear, and similar in footprint to current-gen Westone earphones. The VSD3S foregoes the rotating nozzles of preceding GR04, GR06, GR07, and VSD1S in favor of a conventional fixed-nozzle design. Despite this, I found the earphones very comfortable and flush fitting. The new nozzles also keep tips in place better.

A major selling point of the VSD3S is the detachable cable, a feature rarely found on sub-$100 earphones. VSonic has tried this once before with the VC02 model, but the connectors on it weren’t particularly secure. Combined with a lack of availability of replacement cables, this made the feature more trouble than it was worth. Unfortunately VSonic chose a proprietary coaxial connector for the VSD3S rather than a standard 2-pin or MMCX plug, but at least the new connectors are secure. There have been some reports of malfunctioning connectors but this is supposed to be fixed at this point and replacement cables – the key to the success of any detachable-cable earphone – seem to be available.

As with the other over-the-ear VSonic models, cable noise is virtually nonexistent and noise isolation is pretty good – about on-par with the GR07.

Performance: The sound of the VSD3S is typical VSonic all the way through, falling smack in the middle between the VSD1S, which is bassier and more v-shaped, and the new GR07 Classic, which is flatter and more refined. The bass is slightly enhanced, but still tight and accurate enough to compete with almost anything in the price range. The VSD3S has a very good balance of midbass and subbass – its deep bass, for instance, is more robust and extended compared to the Ostry KC06 and Havi B3 Pro I. Midbass is less prominent than that of the VSD1S and KC06, though still a little more emphasized and less tight compared to the GR07.

Tonally, the VSD3S is similar to other VSonics – a bit warm thanks to the mild bass enhancement, but still quite close to neutral. It also maintains the mildly v-shaped sound of the GR07 and others, with less forward mids compared to the KC06 and Havi B3 Pro I. Treble is strong, providing good energy and crispness. As usual, it sounds very natural with the exception of a bit of sibilance, especially at high volumes. The presentation is quite good for in-ear in this price range, but lacks some depth compared to higher-end sets and misses out on some of the sheer expanse of the clearer, flatter GR07.

Havi B3 Pro I ($60)

The VSD3S has an advantage in efficiency over the B3, though not nearly to the same extent as the KC06. Its sound is more v-shaped overall, making the B3 Pro seem mid-centric in comparison. The VSD3S has more bass, especially deep bass, whereas the B3 misses out on the rumble and more solid “thump” of the VSonic unit. In the midrange, the B3 has more presence but also sounds a little thinner. The more forward mids make vocals sound more intelligible compared to the slightly more mid-recessed VSonic. The VSD3S has stronger treble presence but also sounds more sibilant next to the fairly smooth Havi. Overall, the single-driver VSonic set appears to have better bandwidth, and while the B3 has a nicely open and spacious sound with good imaging, it can’t quite match the dynamics of the VSD3S.

VSonic VSD1S ($45)

The “lower-end” VSD1S is pretty much the same price at the VSD3S at the time of this writing, but aside from a little more bass doesn’t have much going for it in this comparison. The VSD3S is clearer overall and tighter at the low end, with less of a midbass hump and more focus on deep bass. The midrange of the VSD1S is a little more recessed, making it slightly muddier and more muffled than the VSD3S. The VSD3S sounds a little fuller, more neutral, and more natural as a result. Outside of the bass and midrange, these two don’t differ much, but the tighter bass and superior mids of the VSD3S are quite convincing.

VSonic GR07 Classic ($99)

The GR07 Classic is to the VSD3S what the VSD3S is to the VSD1S. Both provide that quintessential VSonic signature but the GR07 boasts a clearer, more neutral sound with tighter bass. Bass quantity lags behind the VSD3S, but the GR07 Classic has less midbass and simply more refined lows overall. The midrange of the VSD3S is a little muddier and more muffled, whereas the GR07 sounds more natural.

Ultimate Ears 600 ($60)

Ultimate Ears’ BA-based UE600 sounds a little mid-focused overall, making it an interesting contrast to the VSD3S. The VSonic unit is more v-shaped and has significantly more bass (and better deep bass) than the UE600. The midrange of the VSD3S is a lot less forward, and less clear as well. The UE600 sounds very mid-centric in comparison and has much smoother treble. The VSD3S is more sibilant but also has a more natural and dynamic presentation. The forward mids of the UE600 make it sound a little flat in comparison, keeping the soundstage quite forward and not very deep.

SQ score range: 8.4-8.7 (final score still TBD)

Current prices
$45 – 60 from Amazon.com; $40 – 50 from lendmeurears.com;

Havi B3 Pro I

Basics: The B3 Pro I from Havi has the appearance of a more pro-oriented product compared to the Ostry and VSonic units, from the rugged-looking cable down to the way it is packaged. There are two stages to the earphone’s accessory kit – accessories found inside the acrylic box with the earphones, and those that Havi includes on the side. I’m not surprised that Havi had to add more accessories because all you get in the box are 3 pairs of single-flange silicone tips – slim pickings for a $60+ IEM. The additional accessories that shipped on the side include 3 sizes of double-flange tips, 3 more pairs of single-flange eartips in a different style, and a pair of foam tips, as well as a cleaning cloth, soft pouch, and clamshell carrying case.

Havi B3 Pro I
Havi B3 Pro I

The B3 uses an over-the-ear design with a plastic build. The faceplates of the earphones are flat and oddly-shaped but the part that goes in the ear is quite ergonomic, making the B3 Pro I just as comfortable as the VSD3S. The nozzles are properly angled and while there are no cable guides included, there is a cable cinch to help fix the cord in place.

The cord itself seems pretty standard – a little stiff and probably somewhat microphonic if not for the cable-up wear style. Below the y-split, the cable is flat, made up of the four leads placed side by side. The blocky 3.5mm L-plug seems quite durable, yet still works with most smartphone cases. Isolation is about on-par with the VSD3S – certainly decent enough for a dynamic-driver set.

Performance: While the Ostry KC06 and VSonic VSD3S are both single-driver designs, the B3 Pro I utilizes a pair of 6mm dynamic drivers in each earpiece. You would expect plenty of bandwidth and a warmer, more bass-heavy sound, but the B3 is surprisingly lean and no less focused on its midrange than the Ostry KC06. It’s also quite inefficient – most so than any earphone I compared it to – and can be underpowered. The difference is not quite night and day, but a proper amp or source (I used a full-size OPPO HA-1 amp/DAC in my comparisons to make sure the B3 Pro was getting enough power) will bring out a fuller, less treble-tilted sound with more effortless imaging. With a poor source, the B3 Pro I tends to sound brighter and more compressed, both in soundstage and dynamics.

HiFiMan RE-400 ($99)

The HiFiMan RE-400 provides a flatter and more balanced sound than even a well-amped Havi B3 but suffers from a slightly more forward, less out-of-the-head soundstage. It boasts slightly better bass depth and a thicker, fuller sound but still has a cleaner, sharper note presentation. Overall, I think the RE-400 is a hair clearer, but the Havi is thinner, more forward in the midrange, and slightly brighter thanks to greater upper midrange and lower treble presence. This often makes vocals seem more intelligible, which is impressive considering the RE-400’s reputation for clarity and vocal performance. The RE-400 is smoother through the treble but the Havi, surprisingly, does not seem prone to harshness or sibilance. The B3 is more spacious overall.

SteelSeries Flux ($50)

One of the big drawbacks of the Flux as a consumer-grade earphone is its low sensitivity, but the Havi definitely has it beat there, requiring even more power to reach listening volumes. The overall signature of the Flux is balanced, with a bit of added bass and very mild midrange recession. Its bass is noticeably deeper than that of the B3 Pro I. The mids of the Flux are less forward, making vocals sound a little more muffled compared to the Havi unit. The Flux is a little more full-bodied and smoother through the treble, making it a bit more forgiving of treble artifacts. However, I still found myself preferring the brighter and clearer B3 most of the time.

SQ score range: 8.3-8.6 (final score still TBD)

Current prices: $58 from lendmeurears.com$64 from Amazon.com

 

Conclusion

Seeing such capable and well-designed earphones coming from relatively little-known brands (plus VSonic, of course) is a testament to the market moving in a more competitive (and more value-driven) direction still, as it has been for the past couple of years. Testing three earphones head to head is never a simple task, and the excellent performance of these three didn’t make it any easier.

Despite its lowest as-tested price, I personally preferred the sound of the VSD3S. Two things sealed the deal – the awesome bass and it being pretty much straight step forward from the VSD1S, which has been one of my sub-$50 benchmarks all year. The Ostry and Havi are extremely close to the VSD3S and each other in capability and value but the more extended and lively treble is where the KC06 (barely) won me over, though I liked the tighter bass and better imaging of the B3 Pro I.

All three also had downsides, albeit ones totally forgivable for the price – the VSonic unit suffers from occasional sibilance and less forward mids; the B3 Pro I requires power and has a slightly thin note presentation; and the KC06 could use better depth and imaging.

Look for full reviews of all three units in the months ahead!

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

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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203 Responses

  1. Curious if you think the Soundmagics are an upgrade to the Havi after you’ve spent some time with them.

    The Heaven II is a little edgy in the treble compared to the B3, but more benign than, say, a VSonic or a DUNU DN-1000. It’s right where I want it for most listeners – those who aren’t overly sensitive to harshness, of course. There’s a similarly-priced BA earphone that generally sounds similar but gives up some of the treble energy of the Heaven II for smoothness and loses some clarity as a result, so I generally don’t recommend it as often. That’s the Phiaton MS100BA.

  2. Thanks. I looked up Fidue A65’s frequency response graph and you’re right, it doesn’t seem to be what I’m aiming for.

    I’ve decided to be adventurous and go with the SoundMagic instead for the mic (E80S/E80C) – because even if that doesn’t work out sound-wise, at least I’d have a decent headset I can use for calls.

    For future reference though, does the Final Audio Heaven II get harsh at all? There aren’t many detailed reviews but it looks promising in terms of compatibility with my preference.

  3. The A65 is more on the warm and smooth side compared to the Havi, so coming from the B3 it might leave you a little wanting in terms of clarity and detail, which the Havi does quite well. Unless you found the B3 lacking in some specific area, I’d only move towards a more balanced and resolving sound – otherwise it’s safer to just stick with the Havi.

    Something like a Final Audio Heaven II would be a bit of an upgrade in resolution, etc – it’s a flatter earphone and one of the best ones I’ve tried under $100. Not sure about the E80 – I’ve only tried it briefly and didn’t get a good read on the sound signature.

  4. Hi Joker, I got the Havi B3 Pro I (helped by your recommendation!) a while ago and liked it a lot. Now that it’s died, I’m thinking if I should get another pair or look around for something else. Are there similar earphones around the same price level that you would recommend? Primary concern would be sound signature, and cable durability to a lesser extent.

    At the moment the ones I’m most curious about are Fidue A65 (slightly worried that the wide barrel might not fit) and SoundMagic E80, though not sure if you have tried the latter.

  5. Just came across the headphone list website and am very happy to have done so.

    Unless I’ve missed it, I have not found any mention of the Advanced Model 3 which is supposedly a contender for “best buy” lists in the under $100 category. Do you have any thoughts on the Model 3?

    TIA

  6. hi there, just got my vsd3s delivered. And my first impression is , THEY ARE GREATTTTT…. I was afraid about bass quantity, but they sound crystal clear with plenty of bass. Really happy with the purchase. I must say they are clear update from sony MH1c.

  7. Apologies for the duplication. There was an error when I submitted my comment. So wasn’t sure if it was posted.

    Thank you.

  8. Reposting my answer from elsewhere on the site for completeness:

    In terms of sound, what you want is the GR07 Classic. However, I can’t say that it is better-built than the VSD3 because they come from the same company. The closest alternative I usually recommend for GR07-like sound is the Philips Fidelio S2, but that’s both hard to find under $100 and not necessarily more durable than the VSonics either.

    Which brings us to the 1MORE Triple drivers – these have a *slightly* warmer and more consumer-friendly sound than the more reference VSonic and Philips, but they are a very good value and seem well made. They haven’t been on the market too long so it’s hard to say what we’ll see 20 months out in terms of durability, but I think they’re a good compromise for getting some of the best sound under $100 with the potential for better longevity.

  9. Hi Joker.

    Big fan of your work. Love your detailed reviews. Bought the vsd3s upon reading your review and wasn’t disappointed even a bit. Thoroughly enjoyed the sound quality.

    I like the way the sub-bass and the extension of highs which sparkle making the music exciting.

    I don’t abuse my gear but I don’t handle them that carefully either. So, after serving me for 20 months faithfully, the vsd3s is nearing it’s end. I’d be very grateful if you could suggest a good near replacement if not an upgrade.
    I’m happy with the sound signature and quality but am seeking better build quality.
    My budget is under a $100.

    Thanks in advance.

  10. I have several VSD3s and VSD3S, but the newest ones I have are from when they dropped the detachable cable and made them all fixed. I haven’t tried any new ones since then.

  11. I appreciate the review a lot! Just curious, have you heard the new update to the vsd3s? They improved the build quality and (based off of descriptions) I think they slightly improved the soundstage as well as made the mids slightly more forward (based on a combination of what they claim to have changed and what I speculate from reading reviews of the older vsd3s). I might be able to get my hands on an older pair of vsd3s’s in hopes to give them a short comparison. I find them comparable to the smoother and bassier Monster tributes if memory serves me well (my pair broke a couple years back). I think the vsd’s sound a little more analytical with a some of the bass energy being shifted to the treble here.
    Also, usually not a big believer in a/bing burning in but the bass on these seem to have tightened up a bit over time and the treble seems to have become slightly less sibilant.

  12. Thank you so much Joker for taking out time from your busy schedule to reply me.
    Which one would you recommend – Shure se215 or shure se215 limited edition?
    Thanks!

  13. Shure SE215 – would be my #1 choice by far – punchy bass, good isolation, durable, designed for secure fit
    Ostry KC06A – not a good option – isolation is average at best and durability is not ideal for gym use
    Hifiman RE 00 – Same, HiFiMan IEMs are not something I would recomend for the gym as they are not known for durability
    ATH CKX9IS Sonic Boom – Not familiar with this model but the CKX5iS I do have is not as good as the SE215 and has the typical Audio-Technica sound with more bright/harsh treble
    RHA S500i – brighter-sounding earphone with a somewhat more generic/less secure design than SE215. Not as good a fit as the SE215 for what you’re asking.
    Jays a-jay five – not familiar with these

  14. Hey Joker,
    Please recommend me my next earphones.

    I listen to all kinds of music esp pop, metal, rock, etc with streaming apps.
    Punchy bass (should not be muddy and should not destroy mids)
    Cancellation and isolation
    Treble should not be pinching at high volumes.
    Fitting is most important as most of the pairs I own tend to fall out easily.
    Gym and running purpose.
    Sturdy build with L connector and tangle free cables.
    Microphone is not a requirement.

    I have shortlisted :
    Shure SE215
    Ostry KC06A
    Hifiman RE 00
    ATH CKX9IS Sonic Boom
    RHA S500i
    Jays a-jay five

    I already own
    Brainwavz S1, Sennheiser CX 3.0, Jaybird X2, Sennheiser cx 275s, MI Piston 1,2, 3

    Thanks in advance!

  15. Hmm.. interesting question. The Flux is sort of a middle ground between the RE-00 (assuming it sounds similar to the old RE0/RE-ZERO) and the VSonics.

    I would personally go in the HiFiMan direction – you’ll miss the extra bass punch, which is more similar between the Steelseries and the VSonics, but you’ll also have smoother treble and better overall accuracy with the HiFiMan set. Coming from the fairly smooth Flux, the VSonics will be a little on the bright and harsh side of things, which could be a problem.

  16. I previously had the Steelseries Flux and loved the sound and comfort. However those died and I am looking at VSD3 and the new Hifiman RE-00 from Massdrop. (Great promo on the Vsonic and Massdrop has a great intro price).

    Which of those would be a better match for me? Or do you have another suggestion for me?

    Thanks and I have definitely made purchases based on your awesome reviews. Thanks for running such a great site.

  17. Hello Sir,
    I have all the three earphones and I have almost the same things to say as you have said. However, I would rate vsd3s the lowest based on my sound preference. I think vsd3s is technically inferior (less transparent) to Ostry and Havi. It’s also a lot more sibilant than Ostry. Yet Ostry is the brightest and most musical among the bunch.
    Waiting for full review, I’d surprised to see higher rating for vsd3s than Ostry n Havi..

  18. Yes, that’s the beauty of it – Nexus 5 with Lollipop allows audio out via USB and has all the features you could want (except maybe SD card slot). No need for an iPod, even though I still have a 5G Touch sitting around somewhere.

  19. oh and the other reason i admire the ipod touch 6gen: it has wifi (and many of other daps dont’)…so is great for streaming (which i’m trialing via spotify and tidal)…will be interesting to see what trends move forward into the future: will streaming continue to grow and offer better high res audio steams (yet i read the margins aren’t there for the big guns) alongside people who rip their music: will apple offer better res itunes to compete….who knows….then you hear about mqa and dsd…yet most of this isn’t mainstream by any measure yet.

  20. wow, your comment on using your smartphone and a dac is great to hear….i’m of that nature, too…but prob i have is my lg nexus phone 5 phones doesn’t have a usb out…unless this new (lollipop) update allows the charger imput to become a usb out.

    to be frank, and i don’t wish to diverge, but i do wish that apple had kept in the game with a more ‘audio pro’ dap to take on the AK and Fiios of the worl: you just look at their ipod touch gen 6….fab userfriendly features…light…small footprint…you dont feel like you’re carrying aroung something heavy. i even see some people on headfi using that gizmo, hooked up to a iFi micros dsd and running some onkyo hf data converter software on it.

    thanks for all your help…looking forward to your soon to be released/updated list of recommended iems.

  21. I haven’t read the article in full but that makes sense. I actually don’t much care how “audiophile” my phone is because I can just use an external DAC. The result is something that’s no bulkier than the average hi-res DAP, modular (meaning the DAC/amp can always be removed) and much more functional, with a better interface to boot. I haven’t really been interested in audiophile DAPs ever since my Nexus got the Lollipop update that enabled audio out via USB in all apps.

    My main portable setup is a smartphone and an OPPO HA-2.

  22. sorry should have added to my last post: on smartphones becoming more audiophile, the LG V10 should be interesting..

  23. That’s the same review mentioned in the other post I linked about the XBA-H1.

    Under $500 I’d get this: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/ . It’s such a versatile earphone that even if it doesn’t have the perfect tuning for Jazz/Blues (I’d normally prefer something a little smoother) on balance it’s still better than the alternatives. Plus you get a compact and very lightweight form factor (I personally couldn’t get comfortable with the SE846 – too large).

  24. thanks, joker…i appreciate your imput: it’s a bit dizzying out there, the number of good iems hitting the market, with more and more each quarter.

    so for under $500 what would be your go to iems (even a few listed) that is great for rock, jazz, blues….are balanced, punchy, detail, ‘transparent’? i only mentioned the shure 846 as so many people seem to drool over them: like it’s only when you spend near to $1k that you truly get killer sound (reference) quality.

    btw: i got the xba h1 based on this review:
    http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-200-in-ear-headphones/

  25. I don’t usually recommend IEMs priced that high because it’s difficult to demonstrate a strong value proposition over less expensive models (in most cases, not always). I can usually find a lower-priced alternative to recommend that will do the job for the vast majority of listeners, which is what goes in the buyer’s guides. They are not all-encompassing, of course, and I still recommend higher-priced IEMs on a 1-time basis when the occasion calls for it.

    There should be a new buyer’s guide going up today or tomorrow that has some higher-priced stuff in there, but depending on what type of sound you want spending more may not always be the answer.

    I have not heard any good feedback on the XBA-H1 – the few times THL readers have commented about them has all been negative – see the latest comment here from yesterday, for example: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma750-ma750i/ . Can’t say anything with certainty since I haven’t tried them myself, but it may be easier/less expensive to upgrade than you think.

  26. btw, my current iem is the sony xba h1
    just want to try something different and a major step up.
    got mine for a song: $70…good reviews, but they’re my
    first exposure to iems.

  27. joker:
    love your reviews…we’re certainly in a great age of portable quality music
    question: have you done any reviews showcasing your top 3 iems, in the price
    points of under $250, then $500, and $1000?

    i have seen reviews showing under $300, but not in such larger scales.

    the shure 846, for instance,
    looks most compelling, but forking out 1k makes me hesitant…and i wish
    to stay around the 1k mark, given or take a few hundred….seeking a well balanced
    iem for rock, blues, jazz, and some classical….you know has all the check boxes:
    detailed, balanced, musical, transparent etc….

  28. In this case I still think the Havi is the better option. Vsonics tend to have a more energetic and exciting sound, but for vocals and better imaging the Havi will work best.

  29. Oh I have also stumbled upon the VSonic Vsd5 in lendmeurears ebay shop.
    The price of the Vsd5 and Havi is just $4 difference.

    Any ideas how both of these compare to one another for my preference?

    Also, the god* above is a typo. It should have been good.

  30. Thanks for the fast reply LjokerL!

    I shall get the B3 Pro 1 then. They will also be god for vocals too right?

    Thank-you

  31. Not sure about the Carbo Tenore but the RE-400 and B3 Pro I will both work quite well for what you want. I would lean towards the B3 Pro I not only for being less expensive, but also more spacious – the RE-400 is great at many things but soundstage size is not one of its strong suits – I’d say all three of the IEMs in this review do a better job of that. The B3 is the most balanced, however, so I think that’s the one you want.

  32. Greetings,

    I’ve recently stumbled upon this website when deciding to buy a pair of new IEM’s. I am currently considering the following:

    Hifiman RE-400
    Havi B3 Pro-1
    Zero Audio Carbo Ternore

    What I mainly listen to is Jazz, Piano pieces (Jazz, Chill, New Age), Ochestral, Vocal.
    (From Buddah Bar to Antonio Carlos Jobim to Lisa Ono to Ryuuichi Sakamoto to Chie Ayado)
    I DO NOT listen to any EDM, or Techno, basically, I am not a bass head.
    My budget would be $100 (max) but preferably I would like to keep it as low as possible($60) and I will be willing to consider any other IEM besides the 3 mentioned.

    I mainly prefer airy sound/wider sound stage where I can “feel” where each instrument is or I “feel” that the person is performing in front of me.
    I know this may be a tall order given my budget, but which would you recommend for me?

    Thank-you for taking the time to read and reply to my comment.
    Cheers~!

  33. Glad you’re enjoying the VSD3S so far! It’s a great earphone for the price.

    Unfortunately I’m really not the person to ask about EQing – since I don’t really EQ my headphones, there are many far more knowledgeable than I on the subject, like for instance Joe Bloggs on Head-Fi: http://www.head-fi.org/t/615417/how-to-equalize-your-headphones-advanced-tutorial-in-progress

    Regarding your experience with EQing so far – it is in line with what I would expect and part of the reason I consider sound to be a very holistic thing – all aspects of a headphone’s sound are based on a complex combination of its few basic technical characteristics and all are interconnected. Yes, you can drop the treble to make things smoother but you’ll also lose clarity. Yes you can lower the mids and highs to increase relative bass quantity, but the clarity will again be reduced.

    This is even true when switching from one IEM to another. There’s no such thing as “an Etymotic ER4S with more bass but everything else the same” (even though lots of people ask) – there’s simply bound to be other differences.

  34. Hi Joker

    I’m a bit of a detail nut. I own a pair of vsd3s (fixed cable) for a couple of months now and am impressed with the detail. Thank you for helping me make the right decision, I love them. I listen to all kinds of music but mostly classical and blues.

    We all are aware that vsonics are somewhat sibilant and sometimes too bright. I am trying to EQ my pair and having a hard time doing so. I referred to your work from http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/VSonicVSD3S.pdf and used SineGen, but failed miserably. I understand if I EQ down the treble, I would be losing on the clarity, how do I find the sweet spot between sibilance and clarity? Also, I was told to EQ down and not up, having troubles dealing with that. This is how my current EQ looks like (I am using Equalizer APO):
    [Frequencies]
    Frequency5=100
    Frequency6=700
    Frequency9=4000
    Frequency10=5750
    Frequency11=10000
    Frequency12=14000
    Frequency13=20000
    [Qualities]
    All Qualities=1.41
    [Gains]
    Gain5=-0.5
    Gain6=1
    Gain9=1
    Gain10=-1.5
    Gain11=-4
    Gain12=-3
    Gain13=-3

    My idea is to have a flatter and more natural sound (somewhat real thing), what are your thoughts/suggestions.
    How would you EQ your pair to sound more natural? Thank you in advance.

    Thank you, for the effort you have put into this site.

    P.S. Sorry for grammatical mistakes, if any – English is not my first language

  35. Yeah it’s about the same level of thickness as the HF5 so you should be OK in that regard. You can actually get more impact out of the B3 than the HF5 given enough power/headroom – they are quite a bit harder to drive than the Etys.

  36. Hi Joker, could you please compare the bass of the Havi Pro vs the Etymotic HF5? I’m reading a lot on head-fi and from your review how the bass of the Havi’s are on the leaner side. I have and like the HF5 but the bass on those is about as lean as I’d go.

    Thanks!

  37. Glad you like the S2!

    An S2 with lots of isolation will be pretty tough – first off, the shallow seal does help with that open presentation. And second, for that much isolation you also want to go BA, which means the deep, slightly enhanced bass of the S2 will be a reach. For a balance of all those characteristics and without a huge pricetag, I would say Ortofon e-Q5 (it’ll still have less bass than the S2, but compared to strictly flat BA earphones it does pretty well).

    A promising newer model is the Aurisonics Rockets, but I still need to spend more time with that. My full review of it should come out next month on InnerFidelity.

    And if you really want to take your isolation up into top-tier territory, you’ll probably have to go custom – an Alclair Reference, for example, will give you that bit of extra bass punch and depth and of course good isolation.

  38. hello Joker, thank you for your suggestion,
    I bought a pair of Fidelio S2 at a nice price and I’m happy I did. They sound wide open from top to bottom. No harshness on treble, deep bass and I can really tell all instruments. I realy like them.
    No problem with the seal.
    Something playing like the S2 with much more isolation?
    Thank you again.

  39. I don’t have any of the latest-generation Fiio amps, so I can’t be sure how the perform. I do have an older E07k, though, and I’m very happy with it for the price. Any of them should be fine for the B3, really. It’s not that demanding – just needs a little juice.

  40. Hi joker! I just recently purchased a pre-owned Havi B3 Pro 1 knowing that I need an amp for it. What are the amps that you can suggest? Something below $100 like the Fiio E12?

  41. I haven’t had any issues with my VSonics except the VC02 – the detachable cables on those are a little loose now. For the VSD3/VSD3S, I recommend getting the newer fixed-cable version rather than the older detachable ones. For the SE215, the detachable cables are actually an asset and an extra layer of protection against malfunctions, so I would consider the Shures more durable overall.

    The SE215 and VSD3S can both be in the ear while laying down. Not sure they’ll be super comfortable as they’re not exactly small, but they should work for short periods of time, For something ideal for laying on your side you would need a smaller balanced armature earphone like the Soundmagic PL50, Westone W10, or SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro.

    P.S. VSonics only sound better if you consider more neutral/accurate sound the ideal, as I do. The SE215 is better if you prefer a warmer, smoother sound with more bass.

  42. I would like to know about the general build quality of the vsonic. The earphone I buy will be the only one I have. The schure 215 seem to be very durable but the vsonic seems to be much better sound. I saw somewhere that the with the shur you can lie on your side on a pillow. Are there any other ones in this price range that can do that?

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