Details: Half in-ear IEM from Pioneer boasting a ‘flex nozzle’ design
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: 89.99)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 5-24k Hz | Cable: 3.3’ I-plug + 1.6’ L-plug extension
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes), 1.6’ extension cable, and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The metal inner housings of the CLX50s are similar to conventional earbuds. A rigid silicone sleeve with a plastic nozzle makes them into IEMs with some success. The silicone part can be rotated and reshaped slightly for a more comfortable fit but has some limitations – angling it too much can cause it to slip off the earphone and there’s a vent hole that can be obscured, leading to muffled bass response and high end roll-off. In addition, changing tips can sometimes forcibly remove the entire silicone sleeve from the earphones. On the upside, the thick cable is rubberized to reduce tangling and terminated with a standard 3.5mm I-plug, though it does carry some annoying memory character
Isolation (2/5) – Not bad for a half in-ear design when a proper seal is achieved
Microphonics (4/5) – Quite low in the thick and rubbery cable but hard to avoid completely as the CLX50 cannot be worn over-the-ear
Comfort (2.5/5) – Though the CLX50 boasts a ‘flex-nozzle’ design, getting a good seal with it can be unreasonably difficult, especially with the stock tips. The odd disk-shaped silicone bulge near the nozzle is angled incorrectly for my ears and the housings themselves are far too large and heavy. The Phiaton PS210, which is similar in size and weight, is far more ergonomic and the Yamaha EPH-50 is a featherweight in comparison
Sound (6.7/10) – Pioneer claims that the 13mm dynamic driver and silicone in-ear adapter of the CLX50 were designed to provide the type of bass response that isn’t usually attributed to conventional earbuds. The biggest iss Microphonics ue with basimg alt=s, however, is that a proper seal is required to hear it and for the life of me I couldn’t make the CLX50 work with the stock tips. Large Sony hybrids, large bi-flanges, or foam tips were required for me to get any sort of bass out of them. With a proper seal, bass quantity was somewhere between the heavy-handed Yamaha EPH50 and light and agile Phiaton PS210s – deep and rumbly, yet controlled and accurate. I wouldn’t call the CLX50s bass monsters but they do have a very nice full-bodied punch to them – quite enough to please the moderate basshead. Nonetheless, it is a realistic sort of bass that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, which is how I like it.
The midrange is quite clean and almost completely free of interference from the low end. It lacks a bit of emphasis but is generally smooth and competent. The 13mm drivers are quick and detail is surprisingly good, as is the clarity. Tonally the Pioneers are slightly bright despite the deep and powerful low end. The mids are sweet and work especially well for female vocals, which are given just the right amount of edginess and polish by the CLX50. The treble, too, is clear and very detailed. There’s plenty of sparkle but I doubt anyone would find the CLX50 fatiguing – there’s just so much clarity and resolution that the sparkle sounds well-appropriated. With a mediocre seal they can be a bit piercing but not using stock tips fixes that for me. Top-end extension is good – a bit better than the laid-back ViSang R03 but not quite up there with the Hippo VB or Head-Direct RE0.
Perhaps some psychology is in play here but I really hear a resemblance in presentation between the CLX50 and the Phiaton PS210, which shares the half in-ear form factor. Both are quite wide-sounding and have decent soundstage depth. Both position instruments surprisingly well and sound quite airy. The CLX50 even seems to separate instruments out a bit better than the PS210 does, though the Phiatons still present performances I’m familiar with in a more convincing way. On the whole, the CLX50 really is a competitive earphone for the asking price – all it is missing compared to the much pricier PS210 is a bit of ambience and a chunk of refinement.
Value (6/10) – Though the sound quality of the CLX50 is well above average for the current asking price, I simply cannot recommend them due to the design. Plain and simple, the ergonomics of the CLX50 will either be a complete hit or complete miss, based on the individual. My ears, which are usually quite compliant when it comes to new and unfamiliar earphones, rebelled unequivocally against the CLX50. Aside from the fit, the CLX50 is a very usable earphone – well built and not very microphonic. For those who have the ability to return the earphones and are willing to take a chance on the fit, the CLX50 may be worth a shot but my pair is definitely going back to Pioneer.
Pros: Full-bodied bass, sparkly and atmospheric sound, decent build
Cons: Hit-or-miss fit, odd cable lengths