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ISN NEO 5 review : Mastering the art

I would like to believe that most of us aware of Penon Audio. They are one of the most popular online sellers from China. They are home to some of the most popular brands but they started their own line of high quality cables back in 2018. When Penon arrived with their IEMs they were received with warmth. I still remember the Orb, its cohesive timber and tonality was addictive. Their ISN H40 and D10 were some of the most loved bass head IEMs. Soon after that Penon decided to jump into EST and flagship IEMs. They too were received well. I do remember trying the EST50 couple of years ago but that wasn’t that impressive sadly. Then Penon showed us their tuning capabilities with multi DD IEMs. In came the Serial. It was one of the best IEMs for texture, timber with cohesive decay and reverb. Very recently they launched the Quattro and that houses 4 DDs. I recently worked on their ISN Neo 3 and it was one of the most capable IEMs under $200. This time around, I have the ISN Neo 5. It has one more driver than the Neo 3.

Penon and ISN are not afraid of experimentation and the ISN NEO 3 is a good representation of it. It has 2 6mm DD paired with a 5.8mm Planar. Interesting isn’t it? Do we still get the usual Penon timber and cohesion? Priced at $200, available in orange shell, this is priced to intrigue and attract DD lovers mostly because of the fact that Penon has mastered the bass tuning.

I will compare this with ThieAudio Hype 2, ISN Neo 3 and LetShuoer S15. I don’t think this IEM tries to be accurate like Falcon Ultra or Simgot EA!000 so I will try not to include them in my comparisons.

Get one from here:

https://penonaudio.com/isn-audio-neo-5.html

For Indian Buyers:

UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES:

I know packaging doesn’t make a big difference but the Penon and ISN packaging looks a bit flimsy. Its a bit too glossy and isn’t exactly intriguing. They use this “Glossy Blue” box with most of their IEMs which doesn’t make any specific model standout.

Open the outer paper cover, take the lid off and we are presented with the IEM and case. The cable can be found inside the case while all the 9 pairs of tips, cable clip and cleaning tool are placed inside a paper box under the IEM. We get high quality accessories, the cable is very good, I like the signature ISN case too and the set of tips are very good too but somewhere down the line I think ISN Audio needs to change their packaging a bit or just not make it glossy at least.

Please feel free to have go at my unboxing video.

BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS:

There isn’t a lot of info about the build but they have used medical grade Resin shell. I love this semi transparent design and the purple shells with golden letters look eye catching. We get rounded edges which are comfortable inside the ear. Its semi custom shell with a small wing on the inner side of the shell provides very good grip, excellent stability and traction inside the ear. Another thing that helps is the light weight and size. It barely has any heft to it and thanks to it’s slightly smaller size it will fit most ears without any issues. There is little to no pressure on the ear and it’s longer than average nozzle helps with stability. We have a small vent on the shell to let the DD breathe.

CABLE:

We get the ISN SC4 cable with the Neo 5. It is a 4 core pure copper SPC cable with 63 wires inside each core. This is a good looking cable which complements the IEM aesthetically. It’s not the supplest or soft cable we can find at this price but this cable doesn’t have cable guides which add to the comfort. There is no microphonics to worry about. The 4.4mm jack, y splitter and 2pin jackets look nice.

Quality wise, I like this cable, it has very good sonics and provides one of the best bass body and punch. We get very good stage too, unless you have money to spend, this is very good stock cable for a bassy IEM.

PAIRING WITH SOURCES:

I tried a handful of sources with this and I didn’t have any issues with any of them. Neo 5 is loud and doesn’t need much power to extract the best out of it. I was able to drive it easily with lower mid range dongles like Hidizs S8 pro without a lot to be desired. I even used my mobile phone and it didn’t had any problems with that either. I believe it will pair exceptionally well with gaming console and Laptops too. Use an okay source and this IEM has no issues working around it. It doesn’t whine or screech but it can purr though, use a powerful source and there is a bit of floor noise.

SOUND QUALITY:

I had the Neo 3 a while ago and if you think the Neo 5 is similar, you are both wrong and right.

It has different set of drivers but similar tuning principal. Both cater to the bass lovers and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Penon has excelled with their DD bass and they put it to good use here. What I love about this IEM is the way they don’t go all out with the body and decay. Their control over bass notes is high quality.

We get a warmer presentation with fuller, calmer and well defined notes. The most impressive thing is the balance of the things, when a powerful bass, well balanced mid range, natural timber, aptly good treble and a big stage come together they deliver one of the most cohesive outputs.

I am using Hidizs DH80s, Hip DAC 3 as sources and stock tips for this review.

BASS:

I love the way this bass can be clean yet when it hits, notes are big and powerful. We get one of the best sub-bass extension and rumble with very good body and presence. I will like to give a bit of emphasis to the rumbles, it’s superb, not hard or over done and have some of the best definition and resolution. Mid bass is a bit more prominent, no mid bass hump to worry about. We get high quality layered delivery, texture and definition too. Thankfully the upper bass notes are not sacrificed for the sake of ever-present soft cushy bass notes, exhibiting excellent technicalities. When the track has sub-bass rumble and mid bass hits, Neo 5 puts one of biggest punches and weight behind them. The best thing is, notes are not just about the quantity but have higher quality too. Area of impact is big, so is the volume and the note move in every direction. This is a unique ability. Mostly bass notes move in one direction but this sends them both in and out while they grow vertically. Decay is a bit on the slower side, it’s as slow as the Serial but r get bigger body and juicier precipitation here. 

MIDS:

If we move beyond bass it’s not like Neo 5 is rendered incapable or lacking. It has very good clarity and definition across the mid and treble region. It’s a bit V shaped but that’s it. There is barely enough dipression to label it lacking. Me likey, a lot really. While I was listening to “Breaking Benjamin – Tourniquet” the vocals are very well defined without any anomalies with tonality or timber. Female vocals too sound very good and accurate. Both have very good texture and definition. Above everything else, it’s the cohesive reverb and decay giving it a theatre like feeling impresses me the most. I love the way it doesn’t reduce the energy of instruments around the vocals. Ahh, what a relief. Instruments have nice definition and clarity to them. Their finishing definition are very good with nice energy upto giving them a lively and engaging presentation. They are not blunt but the bite it enough to grab attention and not induce discomfort. Yes, the most subtle of details aren’t as transparent as the Falcon Ultra but this IEM so engaging that I didn’t feel like there is anything missing. We get very good contrast of back and foreground instruments. There is barely any upper mid peaks or sharpness to worry about.

HIGHS:

Man.. I know I know that one just can’t forget the treble and I am so critical about this that I have slammed a handful of IEMs for being dark but guess what, this is an IEM that has so much going for it that I will not hold any grudges if it doesn’t nail the treble. And yet, it nearly nails the treble, much better than other bass focused IEMs. It’s not thin or sharp, it’s aptly lively, agile and a bit on the calmer smoother side. It’s not about the quantity or quality but the technically sound behavior that impresses me, yet the quality is very good. We get good layering and separation with decent air better instruments. Yes, layering and separation is better at lower treble and gradually goes south as we move higher in spectrum. Same is true for energy, we get very good extension but upper treble is not as forward or transparent. I do not mind the lack of excellence here, this IEM is already excellent everywhere else.

STAGE AND IMAGING:

One thing that sets Neo 5 apart from the competition is the stage and imaging. This stage is much bigger than the competition and brings in soothing transient effects and very good air between instruments. We get a well rounded stage with very good height width and above average Z-axis presence. Neo 5 has an excellent stereo effect. Most of the vocals generate inside the head and end out of it. Bass notes hit and move to in every direction, giving a unique kind of experience. Some mid range and most of treble notes find themselves placed totally out of the head.

Sonics as I mentioned earlier are very good with excellent reverbs and transient effects. Yes, the contrast and separation of back and foreground instruments isn’t the best but it’s not a deal breaker.

COMPARISON:

VS ISN Neo 3:

No need to say that Neo 5 is a much more improved IEM than the Neo 3. It has bigger stage, much better extension at both ends and is a proper bass head IEM. Neo 5 has bigger and better quality bass, better tonality and timber, more air between instruments and a smoother, calmer presentation, improved layering and separation, better contrast between back and foreground instruments and sonic abilities too.

Please have a go at my Comparison video.

VS Thieaudio Hype 2:

This too is a high quality hybrid IEM but we get one less driver albeit with a different set-up. It’s dual ba dual DD sound interesting but it’s not a bass head IEM. What is has is extra depth and rumble than Falcon Ultra but the Neo 5 already is a level ahead. What Hype 2 does better is tighter mid bass and slightly better dynamics.

Mid range is a bit cleaner with slightly better transparency and finishing energy with the Hype 2. Vocals tonality of Neo 5 is more cohesive and pleasing with slightly fuller body and better texture. Hype 2 is a bit more accurate with slightly more attack. Highs are very much similar too with similar extension but Hype 2 has slightly more lively, airy and agile notes. Stage is bigger and more evenly distributed with the Neo 5 but the Hype 2 has better back and foreground contrast.

VS LetShuoer S15:

CONCLUSION:

Wow!! This is one of the most satisfying IEMs under $300 I have worked on in a while. It’s not a serious sounding IEM but it’s jolly and giggly while performing above average with everything I threw at it and it nails the bass and nearly excels with vocals too. If I compare it against $1000 IEMs like Symphonium Crimson and Soundz Flame it can beat the crap out of most of them when it comes to bass, vocal timber and tonality. Stage too is a lot more open with excellent sonics. Highs aren’t the best but its still is airy and open with very good extension and good clarity.

If you are a bass head and want something with very good vocals, good details, smooth and warm tonality without any aggression, no need to look beyond the ISN Neo 5.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Suman Sourav Meher

Suman Sourav Meher

My humble audiophile journey started in 2010, when I was in college, where I fell in love with the elements, nuances, and variations of this mesmerizing world. The ability of tiny earphones to recreate amazing sounds made my bad days tolerable and good days better! Now I am a full-time audiophile with a preference for musical tracks, especially vocals and engaging ones. I must admit I am addicted, but not to drugs or alcohol, but to earphones. Come join me as I share my experiences, bad or good, and let’s have some fun!

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