Details: Dynamic-driver earphone from Spider Cable promising realistic audio reproduction for acoustic and vocal tracks
MSRP: $89.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $78 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 18Ω | Sens: 107 dB | Freq: 5-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9’ I-plug with mic & 3-button remote
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange silicone tips, shirt clip, demo CD, hard clamshell carrying case, and carabiner
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The large housings of the realvoice are made of plastic, though molding quality is quite good. The cable is plasticky and average in thickness. It has a bit of memory and is outfitted with a metal-shelled 3.5mm I-plug, cable cinch, and y-split
Isolation (2.5/5) – The realvoice is a shallow-insertion, vented earphone. Isolation is average
Microphonics (4/5) – Slightly bothersome when worn cable-down; not an issue otherwise
Comfort (3.5/5) – The earphones are similar in design to the Sony XB40EX and work best with a shallow fitment. The plastic housings make the realvoice lighter than the Sonys and the longer nozzle allows them to stay comfortable longer. Worn cable-down they can still come loose on occasion but cable-up with the cord kept in place by the sliding cinch works for me. The large spine of the earphones also makes them easy to insert and remove in a hurry but may make over-the-ear wear tricky for those with smaller ears
Sound (7.8/10) – As the name implies, the realvoice was tuned to correctly reproduce vocal elements in music. In the pursuit of realistic vocal reproduction, Spider Cable created a well-balanced and lively-sounding earphone that works across a variety of genres. The low end of the realvoice is punchy and reasonably controlled. The bass is boosted but the earphones are hardly bass-heavy – overall quantity falls below the Xears TD-III but above the Xcape IE. The Shure SE215 has similar bass quantity overall but its low end sounds slightly more dominant due to the laid-back treble and flatter midrange. Bass depth is good and the presentation strikes a respectable balance between speed and presence. Any more speed and the realvoice would begin to sound lean; any less and it would approach the more lingering note presentation of bass monsters such as the Xears TD-III and Beyerdynamic DTX 101. Is it as clean or resolving as some of the more analytical earphones once things get busy? Not quite, but it doesn’t get washed out, either.
Meant to be the focal point of the sound signature, the midrange of the realvoice is clear and surprisingly neutral in tone. It is strong but does not dominate the sound signature, taking a step back compared to mid-forward sets such as the TD-III and Brainwavz M2. There is a bit of warmth but it is far from overbearing – the Shure SE215 and Xcape IE both sound warmer than the realvoice. Midrange clarity is quite good – the realvoice is not the most detailed earphone in its price range but it manages to maintain good resolution throughout without sounding dry or grainy. The mids have a slight downward tilt, losing a bit of emphasis towards the top. The mild lower midrange emphasis gives the vocal presentation some fullness – the earphone had to have been tuned this way by design and makes few passes at absolute accuracy. For the types of acoustic and vocal-based music in which the realvoice is said to excel, however, the balance works well enough. The smoothness in the midrange and at the bottom end doesn’t hurt, either.
The treble carries some sparkle and has good extension at the top, putting it on par with the similarly-priced Shure and Sunrise sets. Compared to the more laid-back SE215, the realvoice sounds crisp and lively at the top. At very high volumes it can get slightly fatiguing due to its mildly peaky nature but during regular listening the earphones remain reasonably smooth and inoffensive. Because the realvoice is not the most transparent earphone, it also tends to be fairly forgiving of mediocre rips and recordings and performs consistently across sources.
The presentation of the earphones matches up well with their sound signature. The soundstage is well-rounded but gives up some positioning precision to the Shure SE215. The SE215 also boasts a slightly wider space but yields a bit of depth and height to the realvoice. Tonally, the realvoice is a touch darker than the HiFiMan RE-ZERO and Sunrise Xcited but brighter than the SE215, Xcape IE, and Xears TD-III. Worth noting is that the well-rounded nature of the realvoice makes it very well-suited for movies and general use. I like to have a universal earphone in my laptop bag and the realvoice has been a great companion over the past few weeks.
Value (8/10) – Spider Cable’s very first attempt at tuning an in-ear earphone, the Realvoice is an impressive all-around performer. Its balanced-yet-lively signature positions its sound quality fairly close to the best sets in the price bracket and the vertical-driver design yields surprisingly decent ergonomics and user-friendliness. The form factor is still far from ideal for active use and the passive noise isolation is average but on the whole there’s not much wrong with the realvoice as an alternative to the established segment leaders. It may not be the most impressive set from a technical standpoint but it provides a very enjoyable listen for not very much money.
Pros: Solid all-around performance, inline mic & 3-button remote standard
Cons: Large housings can be unwieldy