One of the well known names in the audiophile world, InEar monitoring has a vast range of audio products under their belt. They have adaptive InEar monitoring systems for musicians and broadcasting purposes, linear hearing protection systems for musicians and lovers of music, selective hearing protection for professional applications and individual communication systems. They use some of the best technology like digital ear impressions, special CAD software and 3D manufacturing systems and all the products are assembled by hand.
For us, mere mortals they have dedicated range of universal earphones. Starting with InEar one earphone at 50 Euros for beginners, they have the ProPhile 8 at 1499 Euros for most demanding audiophiles. For the rest of us in between who prefer better value for money they have StageDiver series of earphones starting at 299 Euros for StageDiver SD1/s to StageDiver SD5/s priced at 1039 Euros.
The SD5 I am reviewing here is equipped with the Mahogany wood housing, their special series of wooden housings (which costs extra 299 Euros over the base price). The SD5 uses a 3 way system of 5 BA drivers in each ear piece. The exact driver configuration is not revealed by InEar.
In their words:-
“Five perfectly matched drivers per ear create an incredibly wide frequency response in our StageDiver 5, with rich bass, powerful midrange and clear, crisp highs. The SD5 remains neutral and gives perfect control to every musician on stage and in the studio. Owing to the richness of details provided, the StageDiver 5 sound experience is ultimately addictive.”
I have another German earphone from Hoerluchs, the HL4410 and a few other earphones in its price rang to compare with the SD5.
You can get one for yourself from these links:-
WHAT YOU GET OUT OF THE BOX:-
When you pay a sum of 1039 Euros you expect premium accessories. The list of accessories with the SD5 is not exactly premium. Their website says it comes with a hard case but my unit had no hard case, instead it came with a round leather case, aptly spacious but is not as durable as the hard case. But then again carrying the hard case around is not practical.
You get only 4 pairs of tips. Interestingly there are a couple of wipes provided inside the accessories box to clean the IEM. There is a quarter inch adapter and cleaning cloth along with some documentation rounding up all the accessories. What I would have liked is a few pairs of foam tips.
Another thing that needs to go is the stock cable.
HOW IS THE CABLE :-
Priced at 1039 Euros, the SD5 lands itself is the premium category. Some brands like Shozy and even Empire Ears have stock premium cables shipping with their earphones. Empire Ears and Unique Melody have options for cable termination too, where one can choose from 3.5mm or 2.5mm termination.
What the InEar ships with is a common cable shared between many brands like Lime ears, Custom Art and some Chinese manufacturers. It is not a bad cable. It is not bouncy, has little microphonics and has no memory either. But it adds nothing to the value or premiumness of the earphone. I am sure InEar can do better.
Switching the cable to something like Penon OS849 brings a big difference to the sound quality. I would love InEar to ship their premium earphones with something which compliments them.
HOW IS THE BUILD QUALITY:-
Since I have started reviewing I have seen plenty of material used for earphone shells, Titanium, steel, military grade material, carbon fiber face plates, plastic, resin and wood.
The shozy Zero and even the Indian brand Signature Acoustics use wood in their C-12 series of earphones. What I have not worked on previously is an earphone with wooden semi-custom shell. There are many layers of wood used in the shell to achieve this type of ergonomics shell design.
InEar has plenty of wood variety with them.
In their words:-
“The StageDiver series can be manufactured with a complete wooden housing. While quality and technology remain consistent at the highest level, the SD models now also impress with their innovative look and feel.
The following selection of real wood housings provides special aesthetics: mahogany, olive, walnut, pear and ebony. Be curious about the variety of exotic hard wood that we offer in our portfolio in the future.”
Mind you even when my unit has Mahogany wood shells, the wooden shell itself costs 299 Euros more than anthracite silver (color name) SD5. Both the Wooden and stock SD5s versions have exactly same design to them so one needs not to worry about fitting while choosing either. On both the versions the nozzle is made of hard plastic.
I cannot tell about the stock version with polycarbonate body but my Mahogany wood version feels very premium and solid. It gives more confidence than earphones made with resin or plastic body.
The lacquer that goes from the shell to the nozzle could have had better integration on this mahogany unit.
HOW DOES IT FEELS INSIDE THE EAR :-
The SD5 in either of its shell material is one of the best earphones when it comes to ergonomics. Earphones like Andromeda can get uncomfortable, TE-5B, Rai-penta and UM Mirage are not that capable ergonomically. And if you have a small ear, what you can do is opt for the SD5s with smaller hosing but with exactly same sound.
The semi-custom type build gives a very secure fit inside the ear. The wing on the inner side of the shell provides very good traction and keeps the earpiece in its place while eliminating movement. It fits very well inside the ear. One of my audiophile friends had a go at the SD5 and was very impressed with the fitment of it.
The nozzle of the SD5 is fairly small compared to the body and is of smaller diameter too. The shorter length of the nozzle is not a problem as the design of the shell seals outside noise perfectly while giving a very secure feel. The seal of the SD5 is better than Nocturnal Eden and even the UM Mirage. One can easily fit Comply T-200 tips on the SD5 to get better isolation.