Brief: First offering from Lend Me UR ears’ new house brand

MSRP: $98 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $91 from lendmeurears.com; $98 from Amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 9Ω | Sens: 102 dB | Freq: 10-25k Hz | Cable: 4.3′ L-plug, detachable w/ 2mm DC plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down (preferred) or over-the-ear

Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Sony Hybrid-style silicone tips (3 sizes), short double-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), foam tips (1 pair), and spacious zippered case with detachable wrist strap
Build Quality (4/5) – Thanks in large part to their size and heft, the metal housings of the AD01 feel very solid. The cables are detachable, with replacements available via Lend Me UR ears’ website. The earpieces are sold separately as well – always a big plus with detachable-cable earphones in case one is lost or damaged. Cable quality is nice enough – the stock cable is internally twisted and then covered with a smooth sheath. A more premium upgrade cable is available as well
Isolation (3/5) – Good for an earphone of this type
Microphonics (4/5) – Easily tolerable even when worn cable-down
Comfort (3.5/5) – The AD01 is a large straight-barrel earphone and fits similarly to most others. The smooth housings help prevent sore spots but the housing size, together with the strain relief length and angle, is less than ideal for over-the-ear wear

Sound (8.7/10) – The AD01 is the first earphone from Singapore-based headphone shop Lend Me UR ears’ new house brand, Alpha & Delta. It is a dual dynamic driver earphone with an interesting sound tuning – a mild v-shape with a bass bias. As a result, it falls somewhere between V-shaped and warm-and-smooth on my sound-o-meter. This is a pretty versatile signature that makes the AD01 a strong alternative – and potential upgrade – to some of my favorite sub-$100 earphones; the now-defunct SteelSeries Flux, for instance.

The bass of the AD01 is moderately enhanced, with impact and quality similar to the popular Sony MH1C. Both of these earphones can be a touch boomy compared to higher-end, less bass-heavy sets, but the bass also gives them a warmth and richness that, when combined with good clarity, makes for a very likable listening experience. Compared to the rather bass-heavy RHA MA750, on the other hand, the AD01 is decidedly more balanced, with tighter bass and a slightly more neutral tonal character.

Despite its v-shaped sound signature, the AD01’s midrange is not thin-sounding or significantly recessed. In this way it reminds me of the JVC HA-FXT90, another mildly v-shaped dual dynamic that doesn’t sound very mid-recessed. The slightly boosted upper mids and lower treble give the AD01 an advantage in clarity over the Sony MH1C, which has similar bass quantity and warmth. Clarity is on-par or slightly better than with the pricier RHA MA750, though it is impressive that the MA750 can keep up at all considering its greater bass emphasis.

In addition to the midrange being more full-bodied and prominent than could be expected, the AD01 sets itself apart from more conventionally v-shaped earphones with treble that’s neither harsh nor sibilant under normal conditions. Sure, it is brighter and less smooth than the golden standard of the Sony MH1C and HiFiMan RE-400, but compared to other v-shaped sets, especially those in the sub-$100 range, the AD01 strikes a good balance between “lively” and “overbearing”. At the very least, treble quality won’t be a constant caveat with every mention as it is, for instance, with VSonic earphones.

The AD01’s presentation maintains a pretty good sense of depth and width, sounding dynamic and engaging. It’s good for the type of warmer, more bass-biased sound it delivers, but naturally not as out-of-the-head compared to brighter, more airy-sounding sets such as the Ostry KC06, VSonic GR07, and DUNU DN-2000.

Mini Comparisons

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear ($50)

With a warm, clear, and relatively smooth sound, the Flux immediately became one of my favorite sub-$100 in-ears when it was released in late 2012. However, its durability left something to be desired and it was discontinued two years later. The Alpha & Delta AD01 is the most suitable Flux replacement I’ve come across so far, though it places a bit more emphasis on its bass and treble for a more v-shaped sound. The extra bass results in a slightly more full-bodied sound, yet the AD01 is still clearer than the Flux on the whole.

The Flux still has an advantage in overall balance/accuracy and maintains slightly tighter bass. However, its upper mids and treble, despite being less prominent, are a bit grainier compared to the smoother AD01. The AD01 is also quite a bit more efficient.

HiFiMan RE-400 ($79)

The RE-400 and AD01 fall on different sides of “neutral” in sound – the RE-400 is focused on the midrange while the AD01 is somewhat v-shaped, with boosted highs and lows. The AD01 has quite a bit more low-end power than the RE-400. Its bass is more boomy and intrusive, and the overall sound is warmer. The stronger highs of the AD01 are a little more metallic but at times can seem a touch clearer compared to the more laid-back, smooth, and dull RE-400.

The RE-400 has tighter bass, less full-bodied mids, and more neutral overall tone. Surprisingly, though, despite its brighter tone and thinner note presentation, it is not significantly clearer than the AD01. On the whole, while the RE-400 may offer a more refined and smooth sound, these two earphones are similar enough in performance and so different in sound tuning that each makes the other sound quite “off” in an A:B comparison.

VSonic VSD3S ($50)

Thanks to VSonic’s accelerating product release cycle as of late, the VSD3S is just one of several latest-gen, sub-GR07 models in the company’s lineup. However, to date it rates among my favorite sub-$50 IEMs. The AD01 offers a warmer, smoother, more full-bodied sound compared to the brighter VSD3S. Clarity is generally similar between the two earphones but on tracks with more bass the slightly more controlled low end of the VSD3S pays dividends. The VSD3S is more sibilant, however, and on the whole appears to be a touch more v-shaped. This is also mirrored in its slightly wider presentation, which puts more distance between listener and performance than does the more intimate AD01.

VSonic GR07 Classic ($99)

The GR07, in one form or another, has been around for nearly five years now and remains the IEM to match for admittance to the high-end IEM caste. At first listen, the GR07 compares to the AD01 just as the VSD3S does – the AD01 is again the warmer, bassier, and fuller-sounding earphone. It is smoother and less sibilance-prone than the brighter GR07, but also more intimate and not as out-of-the-head in terms of presentation.

Where the difference come in are the little details – the GR07 is just that little bit more balanced, poised, and refined than the VSD3S, which really shows when comparing both of the VSonics to a highly capable set like the AD01. The bass boost of the AD01 – and the slight boominess that comes with it – is much more noticeable when pitting the AD01 against the more balanced GR07 than against the VSD3S. The bass of the GR07 is tighter and more controlled. Clarity is better, too, though the difference is natural considering the AD01’s higher bass quantity – in fact, for such an impactful earphone the AD01 keeps up surprisingly well here.

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear ($99)

Sennheiser’s latest and greatest factors into any conversation where v-shaped ~$100 earphones are involved. It is a great example of the breed, combining deep and powerful bass with a slightly withdrawn midrange and crisp treble for a textbook example of a v-shaped sound profile. The AD01 is slightly warmer than the Momentum and remains more full-bodied and rich through the midrange. The bass of the AD01 is a little boomier while the Momentum’s is tighter, but otherwise the Alpha & Delta unit tends to be a little clearer. This surprised me as I was expecting the thinner-sounding Momentum to pull ahead here, but the more recessed mids don’t do it any favors. The Momentum does have a slightly wider presentation while the bassier and more upfront AD01 has slightly better depth.

Value (9/10) – The first earphone from Lend Me UR ears’ Alpha & Delta brand offers a desirable sound tuning and very strong performance at a mid-tier price point. The mildly v-shaped sound delivers good bass punch and warm tone while avoiding most of the caveats of inexpensive v-shaped earphones. Additional perks include replaceable cables and a nice accessory kit. In many ways it reminds me of a 1st-gen HiFiMan release – not in sound tuning, but in the way that the sound and a few other selling points make an earphone that’s a bit rough around the edges recommendable over many established brands.

Pros: Very impressive warm, slightly v-shaped sound; solid construction with replaceable cables
Cons: Bulky and not particularly sleek; L/R markings can be hard to see in low light