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Fidue A83

Brief Review: Sony XBA-H3, Dunu DN-2000, Fidue A83, and T-Peos Altone200 triple-driver hybrids compared

When I began my exploration of the high-end in-ear headphone market about six years ago, it was dominated by IEMs using balanced armature (BA) drivers. Most of these used two or more balanced armatures per earpiece, along with a crossover circuit to help utilize each driver to its fullest potential (see here for a brief intro to earphone crossovers). Only a couple of manufacturers – Sennheiser, for instance – insisted on using dynamic drivers in their flagship products.

Long before that, an idea that balanced armature earphones have trouble providing good bass impact whereas dynamic drivers couldn’t match the clarity of BA setups was born. Even in those days there were both balanced armature earphones with plentiful bass and dynamic earphones that were flat and accurate, but they were more the exception than the rule, and so the generalization stuck.

AKG K3003 internal diagram
Exploded view of AKG K3003 earphones showing hybrid driver setup

Nearly a decade ago, Ultimate Ears decided that combining a dynamic driver and a balanced armature in one earphone was a good idea. This “hybrid” setup, consisting of a dynamic driver and at least one balanced armature, was seen as capable – at least in theory – to capitalize on the strengths of both technologies. The Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5EB was released in 2005, using a crossover to send the lower frequencies to a 13.5mm dynamic driver and the mids and treble to a balanced armature. “EB” stands for “Extended Bass”, and this first hybrid certainly did provide ear-quaking bass response.

The hybrid revival and current trend started years later with AKG’s flagship K3003 model, which became the first 3-way hybrid earphone at a rather hefty $1300 price. The K3003 was released in 2012 and combined a single dynamic driver at the rear of its cylindrical housing with a dual balanced armature (Knowles TWFK) unit mounted in the nozzle.

At least a dozen hybrid earphones have been released in the years since. The race was on to create a top-tier hybrid earphone without the massive price tag.

In addition to my original 2012 review of the AKG K3003, I’ve covered the Dunu DN-1000 triple-driver hybrid earphone, giving it a strong recommendation and including it in my 2014 IEM buyers guide earlier this year. Now, there is a new crop of hybrid IEMs, four of which get a spot in this write-up – the Sony XBA-H3, Fidue A83, T-Peos Altone200, and Dunu’s new DN-2000.

The Basics

The T-Peos Altone200 doesn’t quite have the presentation of the three more expensive models – the Dunu, Sony, and Fidue are all at the top of their game with luxurious packaging designed to cover their massive $250+ price tags. Based on the older H-100, which is as luxurious as anything else in its price range, it seems T-Peos simply chose to keep things basic with the Altone200 in order to deliver it to the consumer at the lowest possible price, which is fine by me.

The included accessories are likewise very impressive between the three pricier models and toned down to the bare essentials with the Altone200. Worth pointing out are the spare headset cable included with the Sony XBA-H3, the otter-box style carrying case of the A83, and the extremely extensive fit kit of the DN-2000.

The Dunu’s fit kit includes a ton of eartips, a set of eartip spacers (also present on the DN-1000 model), as well as brand new fittings installed using a retention arm on the side of the housing and designed to keep the earphones in the ear more securely. The eartip spacers position IEM housing farther out of the ear and have an effect on sound, similarly to what is normally accomplished with tip rolling. This allows dozens of different combinations for the fit and sound, a tinkerer’s dream.

The full accessory list for the earphones is as follows:

Sony XBA-H3: single-flange “Sony Hybrid” silicone tips (3 sizes), foam-stuffed Sony Hybrid silicone tips (4 sizes), stereo audio cable, headset cable with mic + 1-button remote, and zippered carrying case
Dunu DN-2000: Single-flange wide-channel (3 sizes), single-flange narrow-channel (3 sizes), and bi-flange (3 sizes) silicone tips, foam tips, eartip spacer set (6 pairs in 3 sizes), ear fins (2 pairs), ear stabilizers (2 pairs), shirt clip, ¼” adapter, airline adapter, cleaning cloth, pair of cable guides, crushproof metal carrying case, and integrated cable wrap
Fidue A83: single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange (2 sizes) silicone tips, foam tips, 6.3mm adapter, airline adapter, otterbox-style crush-resistant carrying case
Altone200: single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), foam tips, shirt clip, and zippered carrying pouch

The build quality is on a very high level between all of the earphones. Two of them – the Fidue A83 and Sony XBA-H3 – have user-replaceable cables (both with MMCX connectors), but all four are well-made. The detachable cables on the Sony and Fidue are interesting because both companies slightly modified the connectors to stop them from rotating – something I found annoying with early MMCX earphones such as the Shure SE535. Fidue does this using an extra pin on the outside of the plug, which results in the A83’s cable being incompatible with other MMCX earphones. Other manufacturers’ cables will still work on the A83, though. The XBA-H3 has its connector recessed into the housing but will still work with some aftermarket cables.

The cable quality on both the A83 and XBA-H3 is fantastic, with the stock cables being well-made, flexible, and very resistant to microphonics. The Dunu DN-2000, while lacking detachable cables, is still extremely solid, like all things Dunu. Both the DN-2000 and the T-Peos unit utilize more conventional TPE cables. The lightweight aluminum T-Peos, with its thinner cables and more generic hardware, once again comes out a hair behind the others, but with the price difference factored in it is impossible to fault. Happily, no driver flex is present on any of the units.

There is a fair bit of variation when it comes to noise isolation. It is highest with the Dunu DN-2000, followed closely by the Altone200 and then the A83. With its large size and fitment that keeps most of the earphone outside the ear, the XBA-H3 simply wasn’t designed to maximize noise isolation. Like Sony’s previous flagship, the MDR-EX1000, it is an IEM best-suited for home use.

With cable noise (microphonics), things are back to normal – the pricier Sony, Dunu, and Fidue models have none or almost none, whereas the Altone200 is a little more susceptible, but easily tamed with over-the-ear wear.

Comfort will vary widely depending on the fit of the eartips, the listener’s ear shape/size, and other factors. The Sony XBA-H3 may be big and bulky, but it is lightweight and very comfortable in the ear, utilizing a rather thick memory wire section that is both soft and flexible.

The DN-2000 is rather large for a straight-barrel earphone, and the heaviest of the bunch, but comes with the most ear fittings including 10 pairs of eartips, eartip spacers to take the housing further out of the ear, and two different types of rubber retainers designed to keep the earphones from falling out. Still, the DN-2000 would not be my first pick for smaller-sized ears.

The Altone200 also uses a straight-barrel housings but is more lightweight and has a slimmer profile, making it more comfortable. For listeners who are used to conventional straight-barrel earphones, the Altone200 is pretty much guaranteed to work. It has a very basic eartip selection that should nonetheless suffice for most.

The A83 is the only one of the four with an ergonomic-type housing design. It’s not a small earphone, but the shape manages the size pretty well, reminding me of the Sennheiser IE7. The A83 is worn over the ear and the cable has a memory wire section.

The Sound

Reference sources: HiFiMan HM-901 w/IEM card, OPPO HA-1
Other sources: Fiio E7, Cowon J3, LG Nexus 5

Sony XBA-H3 ($325)

Sony XBA-H3
Sony XBA-H3

Sony’s triple-driver hybrid stands out from the others by foregoing the use of a crossover circuit to split frequency ranges between the drivers. Instead, it uses a similar scheme to Sony’s Balanced Armature models, allowing the tuning of the drivers to act as a “natural” crossover of sorts. The 16mm dynamic driver pumps out the bass and a pair of armatures – one of them full-range and the other a specially designed “super tweeter” – handle the rest.

The XBA-H3 is the warmest of all the triple-driver hybrids I’ve tried, with bass that is deep and powerful. The low end towers over the midrange and at times causes slight veiling. The H3 has a very lush and full-bodied note presentation. It also sounds very coherent – perhaps due to the lack of crossovers. The treble, as presented by the super tweeter, is very smooth and refined without sounding overly dark – an impressive feat. The H3 is the most forgiving of the bunch, yet its top end is natural and well-extended. It is also quite spacious, with an open presentation that sounds very natural. Sensitivity is fairly low, however, and a higher input volume is required to reach listening levels.

Sony XBA-H3 vs Dunu DN-2000

The XBA-H3 is warmer, darker, and a little bassier in the conventional sense compared to the Dunu DN-2000. The DN-2000 has more deep bass, however, and its low end usually has more slam and rumble. The sub-bass emphasis of the DN-2000 is rather unusual, and the lack of matching strong mid-bass and overall fullness can give the impression of a mild disconnect between the bass and mids when compared to the hyper-coherent XBA-H3.

The clarity of the DN-2000 wins out by a bit, but it’s extremely impressive that the darker, smoother-sounding XBA-H3 keeps up as well as it does. The DN-2000 is more v-shaped overall and sounds brighter, with more treble sparkle. Remarkably, its treble quality is competitive with the XBA-H3 and quite high up there overall. It can be hotter than the XBA-H3, but only when necessary in order to stay accurate. The XBA-H3 has a more laid-back presentation than the DN-2000 but otherwise keeps up pretty well in terms of soundstage size.

Sony XBA-H3 vs Fidue A83

Compared to the XBA-H3, the Fidue A83 boasts a brighter tonal character and sound that’s more balanced overall. The XBA-H3 has more bass impact at the expense of more bass boom. The A83 is less mid-bassy and therefore both lighter and more controlled at the low end. The mids of the A83 are slightly clearer, but also thinner. The XBA-H3 has a more full-bodied sound but also sounds a little more veiled/muffled in the midrange. The Sony is smoother, too, while the A83 is brighter and less forgiving. Surprisingly, the A83 has a slightly more spacious presentation than the Sony unit, which is already very impressive in this regard.

Sony XBA-H3 manufacturer’s page | Sony XBA-H3 on Amazon.com

Dunu DN-2000 ($315)

12/27/2014: full review of the DN-2000 has been posted here.

Dunu DN-2000
Dunu DN-2000

Dunu and T-Peos both have one advantage over the others in this lineup – they have tested the water with previous hybrid earphone releases. I’m a big fan of the Dunu DN-1000 – it does what a hybrid earphone should, combining very robust bass with clear mids and treble. Happily, the DN-2000 improves on the formula, delivering a sound that is more spacious and unconstrained. It creates a wider, airier sonic image that makes the DN-1000 – itself no slouch in the soundstaging department – sound intimate and a touch congested. Part of the reason the DN-2000 is able to do this is a slight decrease in bass emphasis – its sound is more balanced than that of the lower-end model.

The DN-2000 is by no means lacking in bass, however, delivering good punch and excellent extension. The mids are more prominent than those of the DN-1000 and in better balance with the low end, giving the newer earphone even better clarity and intelligibility. The treble of the DN-2000 is nicely extended and just as sparkly as that of the DN-1000 but seems to be a touch more refined. There’s enough top-end presence to convey the energy of cymbals, but the new model is slightly more tolerant of harshness and sibilance due to smoother lower highs, teetering on the right side of what I would call “unforgiving”.

In the grand scheme of things, the DN-2000 is a winner, an earphone that can go toe to toe with any other in clarity while delivering deep, controlled bass and without going overboard in the treble region.

Dunu DN-2000 vs Fidue A83

The A83 and DN-2000 are quite close in both performance and sound signature when compared to the others tested here. They differ most in presentation, with the A83 having a more out-of-the-head sound and appearing a little more distant and diffuse. It is slightly more balanced than the DN-2000, with a less colored tonal character. The Fidue set is also a bit more coherent, likely because the bass is less emphasized, especially in the sub-bass region, and therefore “disconnects” less from the rest of the sound. While the mids of the A83 are not recessed, they are slightly lacking in the way of crispness. The A83 also tends to be a little more revealing of sibilance, falling between the DN-1000 and the smoother DN-2000 in this regard.

Dunu DN-2000 vs Altone200

The Altone200 is an impressive earphone, especially considering the much lower cost, but lacks in the way of refinement compared to both the DN-2000 and A83. The DN-2000 is a little warmer and more balanced than the Altone200, largely due to its fuller midrange. The more v-shaped Altone2000 has bass that seems more impactful and digs deeper. Bass rumble is more impressive with the T-Peos and stands out more next to its thinner, more recessed midrange. Clarity of the T-Peos unit is very impressive, augmented by the brighter treble. The DN-2000 can usually keep up with the Altone200 in clarity, but only barely. Up top, the T-Peos is a little hotter through the upper mids and lower treble while the DN-2000 is smoother and more forgiving.

Dunu DN-2000 manufacturer’s page | Dunu DN-2000 on Amazon.com | Dunu DN-2000 on ebay.com | Dunu DN-2000 on mp4nation.net | Dunu DN-2000 at CTC Audio

Fidue A83 ($349)

11/17/2014: full review of the A83 has been posted here.

Fidue A83
Fidue A83

Improving on the design – and the sound – of the dynamic-driver A81 model, the Fidue A83 is a balanced-sounding earphone with good bass impact. The A83 has a very unique presentation, with impressive width and depth and a somewhat diffuse sound. Aside from the warm and smooth XBA-H3, it is the least v-shaped of the hybrid earphones I’ve tried. To this end, it also benefited from a tip switch – the best results for me were with a pair of “short” double-flanges from Sennheiser.

In this configuration the A83 has mids that are not as thin as those of the DN-2000 and Altone200. Bass quantity is the lowest of the earphones tested here, though still above what I consider flat or “neutral”. The midrange lacks just a bit of crispness compared to the others. The top end carries good energy and strikes a fine balance between sounding revealing and harsh – it is more smooth than, for example, the Dunu DN-1000. The A83 is the best bet for those who are worried about the warmth and bloat of the XBA-H3 being excessive but don’t want the more v-shaped sound of the DN-2000, DN-1000, and Altone200.

T-Peos Altone200 vs Fidue A83

The T-Peos Altone200 is close to the significantly more expensive Fidue A83 in performance, but differs in sound signature. With more bass and brighter treble, it is more v-shaped than the A83. The bass of the Altone200 digs deeper and delivers more of both impact and rumble. I can see the more colored sound of the Altone200 being preferable with some genres (such as EDM), thanks in large part to the juicy bass. The A83 is lighter on sub-bass, which makes its mid-bass appear a little more prominent in comparison. It sounds warmer, closer to neutral, and a little more natural from a tonal standpoint. The mids of the A83 are not as recessed while the Altone200 definitely has a thinner and more withdrawn midrange. The clarity of the T-Peos is much more striking, due in part to the greater thickness of the Fidue’s midrange. The Altone200 tends to be more sibilant than the A83, though the Fidue set is by no means smoothed-over.

Fidue A83 manufacturer’s page | Fidue A83 on ebay.com

T-Peos Altone200 ($145)

T-Peos Altone200
T-Peos Altone200

T-Peos’ new model is by far the most reasonably-priced triple-driver hybrid on the market. This can be seen in the rather more modest packaging and accessories compared even to the $200 Dunu DN-1000, but not in the sound. The tuning of the Altone200 reminds me of the T-Peos H-100, which had the same emphasis on bass and clarity with a bright, v-shaped signature. The H-100 arguably went a little too far with that tuning, and the Altone200 can be viewed as a more refined, better-balanced upgrade to it.

The signature is still v-shaped, but the bass is excellent in both quantity and quality. The midrange is a little thin and withdrawn, but not with the same severity as that of the H-100. Clarity and detail are impossible to fault, keeping up with any other universal monitor I’ve tried recently. The Dunu DN-1000, for instance, has a more full-bodied midrange but the Altone200 sounds clearer.

At the top, the Altone200 picks up some steam and tends to run on the bright side. The lower treble can be a little hot and unforgiving. The stock tips didn’t do much to help, but switing to Comply foamies helped a little. I still think the Altone200 sounds best at low-moderate volumes, though, as this tends to dampen the v-shaped sound but makes even more impressive the clarity, bass prowess, and overall intelligibility of the earphones. The presentation of the Altone200 is typical of a v-shaped earphone, but again better than most, with excellent width and good depth to its soundstage and a good amount of air.

The T-Peos Altone200 can currently only be ordered via email on Head-Fi here.

Wrap-up

The latest crop of triple-driver hybrid earphones reveals a welcome trend – better and cheaper. The Dunu DN-2000, for example, gives the AKG K3003 a run for its money at 1/4 the price, and the Altone200 brings triple-driver hybrid earphones to the $150-and-under price bracket.

The challenges and goals, so far as I can tell, are: 1. coherency between the different drivers; 2. leveraging the bass of the dynamic driver without having it overwhelm the mids and highs; and 3. extracting the expected clarity and detail from the balanced armatures without losing note thickness and resorting to excessive brightness. The XBA-H3, for example, does a great job of 1. but lags behind the others when it comes to 2. With these criteria, my favorite is the Dunu DN-2000, followed by the Fidue A83. Both of these deliver reasonably balanced, clear sound with bass impact that easily beats most reference-class BA setups without muddying up the sound.

The Sony XBA-H3 has a very unique sound signature and is more of a consumer-oriented earphone. It provides a warm, smooth sound but impresses most with its treble quality. It doesn’t leverage the potential for clarity the way the Dunu or T-Peos sets do, possibly because it lacks a crossover circuit, but competes well with smoother-sounding multi-BA setups like the Westone 40 and EarSonics SM3. It is also the only one here with headset functionality.

The Altone200 from T-Peos is the most reasonably-priced triple-driver hybrid on the market, and definitely a bargain for the performance offered. With clarity and detail resolution on par with the $1300 K3003, the Altone200 is going to be a reference point for future generations of triple-driver hybrids.

Look for full reviews of all four earphones in the coming months.

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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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144 Responses

  1. Hey joker!,
    Just wanna say thanks to your advise regarding the Sony H3’s..
    I did not actually heard the XBA H3, but I heard and bought the A3..
    You were right, that was the sound signature that I was looking for!

    Thank Joker!

  2. The Rockets is the only thing I can think to recommend – there’s just not that many IEMs out there that share a HiFiMan type of sound.

    I’ve compared the RE-400 to the RE-600 here: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/hifiman-re-400-waterline-and-re-600-songbird-dynamic-ear-monitors and this topic has also been discussed quite a bit in the comments of the RE-400 review, with some feedback from other users thrown in as well: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/hifiman-re-400-waterline/

  3. thanx for the reply

    in india its hard to find Aurisonics Rockets in market,
    i like re400, but as an upgrade from re 400 , i need little more bass above from re400 and soundstage…
    how do u compare re 400 vs re 600 in terms of sound quality, i.e. bass, treble, soundstage, subbase, vocal, sibilince etc?
    any similiar to re400 in market with little subbass and bass, as re 400 lacks a just little of it?

    thank you

  4. I don’t consider the RE-600 to be an upgrade from the RE-400 for sound – they’re slightly different from each other and the RE-600 can be a good sidegrade/alternative, especially for those who don’t quite love the RE-400, but otherwise I’d suggest either picking up an RE-400 or trying something else. The best upgrade to the RE-400 I’ve tried around the RE-600’s price is the Aurisonics Rockets. It’s not a 100% sound signature match for the RE-400 but it shares a lot of similar traits and is about as close as you can get to a better RE-400. The Rockets are also a significant upgrade in build quality from all HiFiMan IEMs.

  5. I owned re400 since two years, but now they have weared and now i want an upgrade from RE-400, i love the re400 the most, do i go for re600 or stick to new re400 , any of your suggestion for an upgrade…

  6. I’ve only tried the XBA-H3 and XBA-Z5 out of all of Sony’s hybrids. The Z5 is hugely expensive and has more bass than the H3 – too much for my liking – so while it’s the same ballpark I almost always recommend the H3 over it.

  7. Hi I have tried the XBA-A3. Though only briefly, I think I like its sound and presentation. Is this different from the XBA-H3? Do you think there are other notable “Sony XBA” IEM’s that could be had at a cheaper price but still at the same ballpark in terms of sound?

  8. Thanks so much! Im picking up the Dunus used on headfi and Ill let you know how the go 🙂

    Atrio update: they’re completely dead. I think the cable broke inside the insulation at the strain relief 🙁 2 years of good service though!

  9. Out of those the DUNU would probably be best simply for being the closest to the rumble and bass depth of the Atrio, and the best overall sound quality if you’re okay with a v-shaped sound signature. It’s not something that I would call an Atrio upgrade and it will take you some time to get used to its significantly brighter sound, though. From that perspective a “safer” choice would be something like a Yamaha EPH-100, but the DN-1000 is a better earphone if you can get past the sizable tuning difference between it and your Atrio.

  10. Well I dragged my feet and now my Atrios are dead on one side (RIP buddies) and Im panicking to replace them. Im still intrigued by the Altones ($75) but now Ive also found really good deals on the GR07 BE ($55) and DUNU-1000 ($100). Of course I wanted to get your thoughts on these before going for any of them. My main concerns are: “fun” sound (alot of indie electronic & EDM listening), a fair bit of detail (classical music) but also not feeling “empty” coming from my current set (so much rumble!). As always, thanks so much for all your hard work!

  11. I believe the Altone200 is discontinued and rather difficult to find now. Something that might factor into your decision.

    Sound-wise the DN-2000 is the one I would recommend anyway – it’s a nice compromise between “fun” and “accurate”, and doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses. The Altone200 is farther from “accurate” and while it has great clarity, it may not sound entirely natural if you don’t like your Jazz with hyped-up bass and treble. The downsides are the DUNU’s higher cost and its large size – I have medium-sized ears and I’m fine with it, but the Altone200 definitely feels lighter in in the ear and is more likely to fit smaller ears as well.

    There is one other compromise between the sound of the DUNU (sort of) and the light weight / comfort of the Altone that I’ve come across since I wrote this review, but it comes with about a $50 premium: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/

  12. Joker,
    Thanks for the insightful review. I am currently on the market for my first IEMs (or any quality headphones for that matter); I’ve been searching all over the market the past few weeks and was hoping you could give me some advice. Out of the headphones you reviewed here, I am most interested in the Altone200 and DN-2000.

    Let me tell you what I’m after:
    Budget: <$300
    Use: Primarily at work (sitting at desk) and occasionally while walking or for amateur music development
    Comfort: High priority, comfort for prolonged use. Main reason I'm going for earbuds over cans
    Durability: Pretty important, will be moving from work to home daily but won't be used for strenuous exercise
    Isolation: Also pretty important. Not expecting noise cancelling but looking for as much isolation as possible
    Sound: As these are my first pricier set of headphones, I don't have set preferences on EQ curve so instead I'll tell you how I intend to you them. 99% of use will be music. I listen to A LOT of jazz and then a little of classical, rock, latin, indie, hiphop, etc. I wouldn't describe myself as a huge basshead; I listen to almost no EDM, the closest I get is chillwave (think Gramatik). Clarity and accuracy sound great but honestly I probably want something a little "fun" considering I'm mainly using these for casual music listening.

    Looking for recommendations between the Altone200, DN-2000, and anything else out on the market! I appreciate any advice; feel free to prod me for more of my preferences if it will help you make a rec.

  13. Hm, so you don’t see either RE-600s or Music Ones being a substantial upgrade in sound…

    Thing is that I love the signature and form factor of the RE-400 so everything that will stay within these safe lines (both in terms of sound character and comfort) should be worth considering anyway. Having said that, even a really marginal upgrade might worth a try.

    Both RE-600 and Music one IEMs are at least as good in comfort and, to be honest, I’m seriously tempted to try that customart’s cable which you say is very smooth, light and flexible. Lightweight IEMs with good quality cables (thin, lightweight, smooth and tangle resistant) are my soft spot.

    Thank you very much for your suggestions. I will check Customart’s ordering procedure.

  14. The Music One has some advantages over the RE-400 but they’re not far apart in performance. It’s a great upgrade if you also want the custom fit and noise isolation it provides – otherwise it may not carry its price on sound alone, coming from the rather similar RE-400.

    And yes, that’s how getting them would work. Average_joe described the process of getting CIEMs in more depth here: https://theheadphonelist.com/musicians-in-ear-monitors-buyers-guide/#Country

  15. Right, so the RE-600 would still be an upgrade over the RE-400 even if it’d be a marginal one…

    I saw that you also considered the Customart Music One an upgrade over the RE-400 at some point.
    Do you still think they would make a viable upgrade?

    I’m tempted by their supposedly great comfort factor, lightweightness and flexible cable but I’m a completely noob in the custom world. I’ve never had CIEM.

    Do I have to send my ear impressions and then receive the IEM? And what if there is a problem with the fit? My right ear canal is a very tricky one.

    PS: I’ve sold the Altones so the next step might be in the corner 🙂

  16. I find the bass quality of the RE-400 adequate. If I could change one thing it would be its quality. Not to say is bad but I’d have preferred a slightly tighter bass. It’s quite loose and slow in certain passages. BTW, these needed over 50 hours to reveal their qualities. They also benefit from a very deep insertion. There are times they remind me of my beloved HD598. It’s like having full-sized speakers in your ears. I can’t understand some people who found the RE-400 unimpressive. They most probably insert them shallowly and when these sit on the outer ear they are indeed unimpressive.

    I’m not familiar with any of those IEMs you mentioned, so I’ll try to do a good read. The Stagedivers seem to be priced well over my normal budget. Same goes to the Audioflys. The Rockets you mention are not that expensive. They seem like a good option but they are sports IEMs, aren’t they?

    I would also wanted to know if you’ve ever had a chance to try the RE-600. I’m aware there are people who prefer the RE-400 over the more expensive RE-600s, nevertheless, I’d be interested to collect many different inputs as I’m very satisfied with the comfort factor of my RE-400 which -obliviously- will remain the same with the RE-600.

    Cheers and thank you very much. I will never get tired of thanking you for the great job you accomplish.

  17. There are a few things I’ve tagged as good TDK BA200 upgrades, but they start moving in a slightly warmer/darker direction from the RE-400 (but of course aren’t anywhere near as different as the Altones). Sets such as the Sony MDR-7550 and StageDiver SD-2.

    There’s a few more IEMs with great potential on my review horizon – the AudioFly AF180, for example, and the Aurisonics Rockets. Time will tell if these might be a viable alternative.

  18. I’m afraid I’ll have trouble selling them unless I lower their price to a rediculous level…

    They cost me over $200 (£150), if you take into account the import costs, and I doubt I will get them to sell over £100. That’s a shame as it’s a really good headphone even, truth to be told, not so popular to the average consumer. So, unless there is someone who follows you or has an avid interest in head-fi in general, I doubt they will even know what the’re having in front of their eyes..

    I’m in my mid-30’s so I thought that my ear sensitivity would have settled a bit, wrong assumption.
    As an asperger adult, I continue to be very sensitive to sharp/harsh sounds.

    The next step is going to be a natural-true to life sounding choice. I know that you consider the TDKs an upgrade over the RE400 but I haven’t found any other option in your recommendations that levels the performance while retaining the specific sound signature. If I’ve missed anything in your ”list”, please give me a shout! 🙂

  19. Thanks for following up!

    Sorry it didn’t work out with the Altones – this is about what I expected as the “worst case” scenario based on your previous posts. It could have gone slightly better, but these two sound sigs are so totally different that this was always a possibility.

    On the upside, an experience like this really helps you out the next time you want to upgrade, and hopefully you won’t lose too much re-selling the T-Peos.

  20. Hello Joker,

    Having lived with Altones for a month now, I thought I’ll come back and give you my impressions as promised.

    These have nothing to do with the RE-400 and, unfortunately, I find myself returning to the smoothness and delicateness of the RE-400…

    That lower treble emphasis of the Altones is very tiring to my ears – fact. I thought that I wasn’t that treble sensitive but it seems I am after all. I’m also listening to a lot of 80’s music (arena rock, heavy metal, pop) and these tend to sound very sibilant and ear-piercing with such recordings while they are overall unforgiving with older stuff (and especially remastered tapes for some reason).

    All in all, I have put my Altones on sale on ebay. I had to do this with heavy heart but I find myself liking the RE-400 much more. It’s music after all -isn’t it?- and nothing can beat my RE-400 when it somes to sheer misical enjoyment. I can listen to them for hours. There might be some compromise in transparency and detail when I switch from the Altones to the RE-400 but I prefer the second over the Altones in every other factor.

    Grabbing the opportunity, I want to assure you that your reviews are by far the most accurate compared to those by others. At least, these are my findings and it seems we hear certain things in a similar way. You were right about the ubeatable smoothness of the RE-400 and you were also right about the detail of Altones and the fact that these 2 are so damn different beasts.

    My next IEM -if I decide to try something else any soon- it will be a smooth and natural sounding one. I know it’s very difficult to upgrade from the RE-400 unless you are willing to spend a lot of money, so, I’d better settle with the lovely Hifimans for a good while!

    Thanks for all.

  21. The Altone200 is a much brighter earphone and also has a more mid-bass oriented low end. It’s a very good IEM, especially for things like detail and clarity while still having good bass punch, but not a great match for the Atrio sound signature, which is deep bass-oriented and darker on the whole.

  22. So I followed your recommendation a few years ago and got myself a set of the Atrio MG7’s and have been absolutely loving them! Alas, they are starting to fall apart a bit and Id like to replace them but FutureSonics has disappeared 🙁 Anyway, Ive kinda stumbled across the Altone200’s as a possible replacement and just wanted to hear how you thought they compare. I love the substantial yet tight bass of the atrios and dont think I could leave that behind (EDM is one of my favorite genres atm). I would like to have a fair amount of detail as well though, as I do listen to quite a bit of classical. Would love to hear your thoughts and thanks as always for great reviews!

  23. Yes, I’ve just learned of the new Altone 150/250/350 range recently as well.

    Hope the 200s fit the bill for you!

  24. The Altones were ordered and are on the way. I’m looking forward to trying them!

    I must have gotten one of the very last pairs out there, as they are officially discontinued and there won’t be any further re-stocking. I believe only CTC Audio still have a few pairs available for anyone interested. No other retailer worldwide, nor T-Peos themselves have any of these available anymore.

    As you say, this was my point from the very start – to get an IEM vastly different to the RE400, yet equally enjoyable and technically proficient. I think I made the right choice.

    And of course, I’ll come back with my thoughts comparing the RE400 with Altone200.
    This should be a very interesting clash indeed! I’ll do it with pleasure.

  25. I’d be curious as to your final thoughts, and I think others in the same situation would be, too. The Altone is just such a unique IEM, especially side by side with an RE-400.

  26. I think I’ve made up my mind and I’ll go with the Altones. Thanks a bunch for that.

    My aim is to get another IEM aside the RE400, which sounds different (preferably close to the beloved TF10 which I don’t have anymore) yet equaly enjoyable as the RE400.

    The Fidue is pricey annd also I wouldn’t want to get such a big over-the-ear shell at this point.

    The B2, SE215 will go.

    I would keep the B2 which are excellent IEMs, especially for listening to classical and complexed music, but I fear they will die on my hands very soon if I use them daily outdoors. They are of such poor build quality. That jack is the flimsiest I’ve seen to date in an IEM. Ok, perhaps, another Brainwavz I tried in teh past (Beta) had such a poor quality jack…

    I think you helped me to make the best choice and thanks once again!

  27. The Altones have a more pronounced mid-bass hump than the DN-2000, which leads to even more impact. The DN-2000 is definitely closer in impact to the Altone than it is to the B2, but there’s still a sizable gap there. Treble emphasis is more similar but IMO the Altone starts to gain steam lower down (in the upper midrange vs the lower treble) compared to the B2 and DN-2000, which results in a brighter overall voicing. I am not sure if you will like this better than the somewhat metallic/tizzy treble of the B2 (which is what you’re calling “artificial”, and I can’t disagree) but I personally don’t. None of them are anywhere near as smooth and delicate as the RE-400.

    I agree with your final assessment – the Altone200 is safer in terms of fit and comfort, and considering your issues with the B2’s treble, which will still be valid with the DN-2000 to a lesser degree, it would seem that the Altone may be a viable alternative for sound. However, I personally doubt it – it’s just so extremely different to the RE-400 and even the TF10.

    With that said, it’s such an excellent value at <$200 that I can't think of a better alternative for the money. The Fidue A83 is better in some ways but pricier and has a slightly less crisp sound than you're used to with the B2. The FLC Technology FLC8 (review coming soon) is excellent but is more like the DN-2000 in base sound signature (though it can be adjusted slightly from there via the tuning system) and is even more expensive. And my favorite top-tier BAs with this sort of sound (e.g. StageDiver 2, AudioFly AF180), while smoother and more natural sounding in terms of treble, will not have the bass power of the Altone or even DN-2000.

  28. Thank you so much! That was really helpful!

    I thought that the Altones were like a B2 with an added subwoofer. If the DN-2000 is a B2 with an added subwoofer, how much more aggressive are the Altones in comparison? I find the B2 quite aggresive in the treble but I don’t have any issues with fatigue or treble sensitiveness.

    At first, when I got the B2, I couldn’t hear any bass and I was severely disapointed. It was then that I changed to shure olives and the bass now is definitely there and rather adequate in the most part of the music I listen to (Rock/Jazz/Symphonic). I would say that now with the olives fitted they somehow remind me of the TF10. The sound has changed for the better. That’s for sure. The problem is that I still find the upper-mid and the treble of them sounding rather ”artificial” if you know what I mean. The cymbals don’t sound natural but there’s a decay (maybe a half-second one) in every hit that makes them sound ”’digital”, not so ”musical”. This is my main complaint about the B2 and the biggest difference in comparison with the RE400.

    From what you say, the safer option for me (something lying between the RE400 and the TF10) would be the DN-2000 but I’m a bit reluctant opting for them due to comfort issues that some have come accross. The Altone200 on the other hand is certainly smaller and lighter and most probably a lot more comfortable.

    I’m on the fence now between the Altone200 and the DN-2000. What would you suggest taking into account all the above?

    Thanks so much for all the work you have put out in here. It’s fantastic having the most successful universal IEMs of the market all gathered in a place that one can compare and decide what suits them better.

  29. Alternative, sure, but not a direct upgrade. The Altone200 is way more aggressive with its v-shaped tuning than the TF10. The bass is more emphasized and so are the highs, so it’s both brighter and more intrusive at the bottom end compared to the more neutral (relatively speaking) and natural TF10. Not sure how the H300/H350 compare but the DN-2000 is definitely more neutral than the Altone and sounds more like a B2 with an added subwoofer, though it still has that bright top end of the B2. The RE-400 is rather smooth and laid-back at the top compared to all of these, so it doesn’t really “fit in” with the Altone200 and B2 and DN-2000 too well. And the TF10 is somewhere inbetween.

  30. Hello again Joker.

    Do you believe the Altone200 would make a good alternative/upgrade for someone who loved the sound of the TF 10?
    Considering getting them when they become available again…. Any idea on the newer T-Peos models such as H300 or H350?
    Any other alternatives in general that approach the TF10 signature?

    I currently have the Brainwavz B2 which I’d like them a bit more bassy and not so ”artificial” sounding as well as a pair of the very musical RE400 which I really love.

    Oh, I almost forgot I also have a SE215 and plan to get rid of it as I find it very bassy, muffled and congested.

    Thanks for all your help!

    George

  31. Been using the DN2000 for a week. I can say these are better compared to my IE8. They seem to have greater attack and as you mention aggressive, energetic and nice punch in bass. Thank you for the recommendation and keep up the good work.

  32. That’s a tough one. The sound sig of the H3 is a better match for what you seem to be after but objectively I can’t say it’s better than the DT1350. If only the Sonys had slightly tighter bass…

    I guess if it were me and I set aside my preference for IEMs over headphones, I would go for the DT1350.

  33. Hi joker , I know its not appropriate to compare Iem with on ear headphones but i am now stuck with two option.1.Sony xba H3 2.Beyerdynamic dt 1350. You have rated both of them as very high.So based on sound quality(I prefer warm,full bodied with spacious with plenty of details) which one do you prefer.Will appreciate your recommendation.

  34. I tend to prefer the DN-2000 and it’s the one I’d get if you can afford it. Just tends to be a little more balanced and refined. With the DN-2000 you’ll get good bass depth and punch but you won’t get the mid-bass quantity of the IE8, or the smooth, almost laid-back highs. The DUNUs are more aggressive and energetic, but not quite to the level of the Altone200.

  35. Hi joker,

    Unsure which one to purchase either Altone200 or DN2000. I mainly listen to Techno and House music. My current IE8 are broken and want to upgrade from this. I have the DT990 (250ohms) and loving the SQ.

  36. DN-2000 is about on-par with the SM64, just has a different (more v/u-shaped sound). Altone200 is not quite there IMO. So that makes the DN-2000 a 9.3, Altone200 maybe a 9.0 or 9.1 – not sure yet.

  37. Hey joker.
    How would you rate (not range) DN2000 and Altone 200 on a scale of 10 in sound quality? Would they match anyhow with SM64 in sq? Thanks.

  38. Thanks for clearing that up. This was because I got a nice discount for the H3s at about $200, but I think I’ll keep looking. Would you have any suggestions as to what I’m looking for, $200-300 range? Another point of reference is I really like how the RE-400s handle vocals, but wish it had more bass quantity. As always, thanks for your help.

  39. The H3 is not the answer – it’s on the warm side and the bass can overshadow the midrange a bit. Out of this lineup, the DN-2000 has the clearest vocals, but it’s still a little v-shaped and tends to put bass and treble ahead of the mdirange, but on the whole I just don’t think hybrid IEMs are the way to go for what you want. Never tried the IM03 but it wouldn’t be difficult for it to beat the H3 for what you want.

  40. Great reviews as always. I have the DN-1000 which I find to have excellent bass and treble but recessed mids and vocals. Looking for something that keeps the bass but has clear, prominent vocals. Do you think the H3 fits the bill? I listen to rock mostly. Also have you tried the ATH-IM03? I heard the IM series does a great job at vocals. Thanks for your time.

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