From first listen, the 10mm titanium membrane dynamic driver BASIC’s are clearly not as linear and balanced as the hybrid New Primacy’s. On the contrary, they were far more neutral than the thicker, warmer SE215’s but also a little more v-shaped than the more midrange focussed Westone UM 10 Pro’s. As stated in the introduction, the BASIC rather sits in between with a full low-end combined with a clear midrange and relatively crisp high-end. While the mild bass boost will be no surprise to many, the midrange and high frequency tuning of the BASIC are impressive at this price point. So what we have here are three earphones at roughly the same price, each utilizing different driver technologies; The BASIC representing the “basic” dynamic driver, the SE215 employing a micro-driver and the UM 10 Pro sticking to a single balanced armature unit. Of note, I will add little comparisons to the New Primacy in this review for buyers looking to upgrade, I feel that the NP is the logical step up.
The BASIC is like a Primacy for the masses, so where the New Primacy and Primacy were quite neutral earphones, the BASIC is rather a slightly v-shaped one with a particular emphasis on bass. The midrange is clear all the way through and perhaps more full-bodied like the New Primacy while the treble response is crisp if slightly rolled-off at the top. Bass is a bit uneven for my tastes but is well considered for the price and target audience, evidently, the same consumers looking into earphones like the SE215.
By comparison, the Shure SE215’s have a notably more forward lower midrange, a darker treble response and also have more of a mid/upper bass focus, granting them with a warmer sound. The slightly more expensive UM 10 Pro’s ($180) were more neutral than either to my ears with a leaner, more linear bass response though they maintained perhaps a slightly darker midrange tone. They had a similar treble tone to the BASIC’s, with both being much more extended than the SE215 which was the darkest of the bunch.
Tip Selection –
The Hybrids are quite a staple in the tip rolling community for good reason. They were immediately a little more comfortable than the stock tips while maintaining a similar level of seal and isolation. They are usually quite a warm tip though here I feel that they actually clear up the midrange a little. The stock tips provide a slightly brighter high-end and also a tighter bass response while the Hybrids have more sub-bass slam, a little more midrange clarity and are slightly more relaxed in the highs. In the end, I did prefer the stock tips since they were already comfortable enough already and I prefer a brighter sound.
The TS200’s, in particular, are more transparent than the regular T200’s but still impact the sound. Isolation is considerably improved as expected and, being a foam tip, fitment was superb. If you have fit difficulties with the stock tips, these should alleviate those issues. Bass is slightly looser and the high end received similar withdrawal as with the Sony Hybrids. I wouldn’t use them for daily usage but they are fantastic during any sort of long travel. I don’t feel that the vent on the BASICs is limiting isolation in any way though the SE215’s and Westones do still isolate slightly more when they too are equipped with foams.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
Meze 11 Neo – Oriveti BASIC
The BASICs have a commendable soundstage for the price. They are ovular in presentation, focussing more on width over depth at the cost of a somewhat diffuse centre image. Soundstage space is great at this price, clearly superior to the other sealed units I have on hand, the Shure SE215 ($150), Westone Um 10 Pro ($190)/Alpha ($180) and Klipsch X10 ($120). They are also a little better than the Meze 11 Neo’s and 12 Classics, both earphones that did soundstage particularly well at $80 and $100 respectively. Separation is also one of the best I’ve heard around this price due to the BASICs clear, open midrange tuning and wide presentation. Vocals and instruments are given plenty of breathing room but the low-end can get a bit overwhelmed at times due to their slightly muddy sub-bass tuning. The more forward SE215’s did sound a little overbearing in the upper-bass/lower midrange and also quite blunted in the high-end, compromising any form of separation. Imaging was above average but not as outstanding as I had hoped for. Listening to The Cure’s “Close to Me” revealed somewhat ambiguous placement of vocal and atmospheric effects. The similarly priced Westone’s and Shure’s both image slightly better, the Westone’s in particular, with better placement and a stronger centre image (though I’m sure their more intimate sound contributes to such placement precision).
Soundstage is always a fine balanced between space and precision, very rarely does a headphone do both well. Personally, I would take the larger space and separation of the BASIC over the presentation of the Shure’s and Westone’s, but I can definitely see some users preferring a more intimate presentation with more accurate imaging.
The BASIC’s are very easy to drive with great sensitivity (108+-3dB/mW, 1000Hz) and a low, but not overly picky impedance of 16 ohms. They are very slightly less sensitive than the Shures and are appreciably more sensitive than the UM 10 Pro. I wouldn’t say that they are particularly sensitive to hiss, they pick up a small amount from my Oppo HA-2 and iPod Nano 7G but none from my HTC 10 or iPod Touch 6G. By comparison, the Klipsch X10’s and New Primacy’s generate a clearly audible hiss on the HA-2.
They don’t scale awfully well with a better source (though the 10 is already a very good source for iems), but they do get a little benefit from my HA-2. As always, soundstage space improves slightly and the low end sounds a little more articulate. They also aren’t too source dependent, sounding similar from all of the sources I have on hand. They are clearly intended for portable smartphone usage and have been designed for such. With great sensitivity, they do not require any form of amplification to reach dangerous volumes and, using a single dynamic driver, they have minimal swing with different output impedances.
The low end was where the New Primacy especially impressed me and I’m glad that performance has mostly translated over to the BASIC. The BASIC possess a boosted but very engaging bass response with fantastic sub-bass extension that is very uncommon from an in-ear, especially one that costs $150. I generally do prefer the sub-bass presentation of dynamics over other driver types. For instance, neither the single BA UM 10 Pro or micro-driver SE215 were able to reproduce sub-bass nearly as well as the BASIC. I hate to generalise, but sub-bass is a general weakness of those technologies with only very expensive products such as the ie800 and SE846 (both employing proprietary technologies) achieving such rumble and slam.
That is not to say that every Dynamic driver earphone has a great bass response, the vast majority of consumer earphones have huge tuning issues resulting in considerable quality loss, the BASICs simply capitalise on this strength with a hearty sub-bass boost that is just shy of muddiness but still provides dollops of slam and rumble. They have a punchy mid-bass response and a little dip in the upper-bass that prevents the sound from becoming too thick or bloated. Despite the moderate sub-bass emphasis, the BASICs have quite a textured bass response overall, not nearly as textured as the much tighter New Primacy, but much more so than the bloat prone SE215. When listening to The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Soul to Squeeze”, the BASIC reproduced the bassline with convincing texture and weight where the SE215 glossed over these finer nuances and bass drums lacked convincing slam. The UM 10 Pro sounded a little more textured and tight but at the cost of extension and bass body; which is superior will really depend more on your personal preferences here. Booting up Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and the BASIC did a good job avoiding the bass drone that affected the SE215 while providing more insight into the lower bass notes that the UM 10 Pro significantly rolled off.
While they are ultimately a little unevenly tuned in the grand scheme of things, the BASIC is a really nice performer in this price class. They carry a considerable sub and, to a lesser extent lower-bass boost, but also present notes with nice resolution and texture. For those curious, the New Primacy has considerably less sub-bass but maintains similar extension with much more texture. They are far more linear and articulate and bass sounds better integrated into the rest of the sound.
The midrange on the BASICs is on the darker side, but female vocals remain clear and retain a nice sense of clarity. The midrange is slightly recessed compared to the overall bass response, but with quite a clear tone, vocals never become overshadowed even on tracks that already have a recessed vocal line. Lower mids, in particular, are natural and quite clean on the BASICs, matching the UM 10 Pro. The SE215’s sounded a bit over-forward in the lower midrange and also granular while the BASICs sounded more balanced and considerably smoother. Female vocals on the Basic also have a nice sense of clarity and midrange details are well present if not aggressively forward. That being said, I do feel that their upper midrange is focussed more on smoothness than clarity. This becomes clear during comparison to the UM 10 Pro which also has a really nice midrange presentation for the price. The Westone’s are more balanced than the more upper midrange recessed BASICs and SE215’s, making them a really great choice for any kind of vocals, especially female vocals that these darker earphones tend to draw attention from. While the Westones do have the least end to end extension, the midrange performance does do a lot to redeem them and vocals have the most clarity and detail, they simply produce a very pleasant midrange. The BASICs are, once again, smoother than the Westone’s and gloss over a little extra detail as a result, female vocals also have less clarity than the UM 10 Pro with a less apparent sense of layering (I suspect the more precise imaging of the Um 10 Pro is helping here too).
So the BASIC is a strong performer in the midrange but not necessarily class-leading. They are quite clean sounding and also have a nice sense of clarity. The Westone’s do hold an overall performance advantage, especially within the upper midrange, but depending on individual preference, some may prefer the smoother, more laid-back Oriveti’s. If you are prone to brightness, the smooth BASICs are a really nice option while retaining plenty of detail and enough clarity to avoid sounding dull. As expected, the New Primacy holds a considerable performance advantage here too, with a more balanced midrange that has a lot more upper midrange presence and clarity. Despite that, vocals are more full-bodied with a lot more layering and separation between each instrument/voice. Imaging is also a lot more accurate which contributes to more three-dimensional sound. Details are also far more present on the New Primacy without sounding forward and aggressive, it is a very refined sound that I have grown to greatly appreciate.
Treble performance is also really impressive when compared to these similarly priced models. When listening to Elton’s John’s “Honky Chateau”, the BASIC was easily my favourite presentation between the SE215 and UM 10 Pro, both in tonality and quality. Extension immediately stood out within this price range; while it does roll off at the top, it did so to a lesser extent than the UM 10 Pro and SE215. High-hats were a little recessed but still maintained texture and detail while cymbals had nice body and shimmer. Treble detail and resolution are all impressive on the BASIC and quantity is very well judged; they are definitely not overly forward despite being so aggressively detailed but avoid sounding closed-off too. Lower treble is slightly emphasised and has nice separation from the slightly recessed upper midrange with higher notes gently decreasing in emphasis as the frequencies get higher. This translates to a treble response that is pretty neutral in quantity overall while retaining crispness and body.
The Um 10 Pro’s were darker and more laid-back in the highs, cymbals sounded more recessed than the BASIC and higher notes were regularly glazed over, sounding a little woolly. The SE215’s sounded quite blunted in the high end with most truncated sounding high-frequency presentation in this trio. Cymbals sounded distant and dull, lacking a lot of shimmer and texture while higher notes were often absent altogether. Furthermore, the BASICs are actually a less fatiguing listen than the SE215’s due to their more balanced midrange and textured bass performance, they sound less aggressive and smoother in general. Comparison to the New Primacy reveals similar findings as before, a more linear, detailed and extended treble response. This contributes to their more open sound and sense of detail/micro-detail. The New Primacy is naturally a great step up from the BASIC as naming scheme wouls suggest. It does have similar sound qualities, such as an emphasis on bass texture, midrange smoothness and lower treble, but it is ultimately an evolution of that sound.