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Shuoer S12 review : The one to beat

INTRODUCTION:

I have no issues is admitting that the Chinese IEM makers are dominating the market. They have been offering bang for bucks stuff at very good prices. Even though Shuoer has some expensive stuff under their belt they do make lower end IEMs too. Their Tape got them the critical recognition and the EJ07M is making waves as of now. But a few months ago Shuoer introduced their first planar IEM, S12 and it not only is smaller than the competitors it is cheaper too. I know, this is not the latest IEM from Shuoer but this still is the most popular and talked about IEM from them as of now. Loaded with serious potential thanks to its 14.8mm planar driver this IEM is priced at $149 and goes head on against Moondrop Kato, 7hz Timeless, Tri i3 pro and I will compare it with another similarly priced IEM, THhifi Face Red.

S12 ships in two color schemes, Grey and Silver and while placing the order, one can opt for 3.5mm or 4.4mm terminations.

You can get one from these links:

I will like to thank Nuria for co-operating for this review.

ACCESSORIES AND UNBOXING:

Unlike most Shuoer is shipping this IEM with a reasonably smaller package. The first thing that greets us are the earpieces and a small case with foam tips stuffed in foam. Underneath are some documentations and the rest of the accessories are placed inside the black carry case. S12 ships with two sets of rubber tips in S/M/L sizes. There is cleaning tool too.

HOW IS THE CABLE:

S12 ships with a good looking, strong cable which can withstand good amount of stress. Unlike most this is a dual core cable with 128 silver plated copper strands. Thanks to the thicker cores this cable barely tangles but that also make it slightly less supple and memory prone. It does not hold shape but changing its shape is not easy. There isn’t much microphonics to worry about but it’s not the most silent cable, thankfully this isn’t a bouncy either.

All the connectors used are of good quality and the cable slider is fairly easy to work with. I have no issues with the cable guides either. All in all, this is a good cable.

BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS:

Shuoer has never made a semi custom shell and this IEM is no exception either. S12 has a nicely curvy design but doesn’t have any wing structure to provide more traction inside the ear. Still then, S12 is very comfortable inside the ear, unlike the Timeless which is bigger and oddly shaped while the S12 easily fits inside my ear. S12’s nozzle is of average size and one can easily fit T400 size tips without any issues. Yes, this nozzle isnt exactly deep but is deep enough to provide good stability and balance inside the ear. This shell has two air vents for the driver to breathe.

Build with 5-axis CNC process S12 is very sturdy and solid to the hand. I am not sure if they have implemented any driver protection structure inside the shell but I don’t think this driver will be affected even if dropped on solid floor.

SOUND QUALITY:

This is my first Shuoer IEM and I now I know why people like this IEM a lot. S12 is a very capable IEM with plenty of character to it. This planar based IEM delivers a satisfying sound. The bass is tight, mids are marginally in the V, treble is clean, clear and sparkly. I cannot say that it doesn’t have any coloration but its colors are in the right places. It isn’t overly warm or bright or oddly energized in the wrong places.

I have used stock off white tips and Micro Signature for this review.

MATCHING WITH SOURCES:

Source matching is a vital thing for an IEM equipped planar drivers. Even though the impedance level is at 16ohm it enjoys good amount of power. Planar drivers can handle good amount of power and they open up with powerful sources. I do not want to say that this IEM doesn’t sound good with USB dongles but it does lack a bit of dynamics and sonics with entry level dongles like Shanling UA3 but when paired with Micro Sig S12 delivers bigger stage and a more holographic imaging making the whole experience richer.

Yes, it does well with weaker sources but to unleash its full potential using a good source is prescribed.

Another point to keep I mind is the energetic presentation. This is an aggressive and often sharp sounding source, if you do not like sharpness pairing it with warmer and thicker sources in advised.

BASS:

What I really like about the S12 is its control over the lower end notes. It has the body, slam and punch but it does not get out of control. It has to be one of the tighter and cleaner sounding lower end. Its competitor Tri i3 pro has slightly lesser body and a bit more sub-bass rumble.

S12 has decent extension but lacks some sub-bass rumble, it still is better than what Fiio FD5 coffered but the Face Red and Senfer MT300 do better. The mid bass is fairly voluminous, moves good amount of air and has a slightly bigger area of impact, providing S12 with the required amount of body and fullness. The notes have good weight as the decay speed is nicely paced, its neither slow nor fast delivering a nice impact which can be heavy and light depending upon the track. It has good amount of texture which is better than Tri i3 pro and slightly inferior to the THhifi Face Red. Upper treble is nicely energized and nicely blends into the lower mids. Dynamics is the only point where the S12 is marginally lacking, Both i3 Pro and Face Red are capable of hitting more diverse and accurate frequencies with better delivery of softer and harder notes.

MIDS:

One of the minor issues I find in this IEM is its slightly W shaped sound signature which pushes the mid range, especially the instruments around vocals back. A projection like this would not have been a problem but some of the instruments in this region don’t have enough room and the lack of height robs it off of some subtlety and uniformity. Both male and female vocals though are very clear and fairly accurate. There are some instances of sibilance with neutral sources. Male vocals are not very throaty but female vocals are closer to reality and accurate. The downside is the slight lack of texture and body which is available with the THhifi Face Red. Another down side is its dynamics, it’s kind of monotonous and unable to place notes softly which affects its sonic abilities.

The main attraction of the mid range are the instruments, they have cohesion of their own. If you like instrumental tracks and space music this IEM can easily captivate your mind with its energy and grippy nature. It does try to make the notes sound tall and energetic but thanks to its precision it delivers high quality resolution and details. It has a bit of on the face kind of attack, it bites, love bites, some may like it, some might not. The upside is the cleanliness at the base of the notes. 

TREBLE:

The treble region is the strongest point of this IEM. It doesn’t miss a single note or detail. It has very good sense of space and air in the whole spectrum. It is slightly more energetic than most of the IEMs in this price range. The Akoustyx R220 is leader of this game but the S12 has better sense of space and more contrast. Layering is slightly average for the class but separation is top notch with plenty of air between instruments. The biggest plus here is the cleaner and exceptional definition of instruments. The S12 simply has some of the best air and separation. There is no overlapping at the base of the notes either. It performs admirably in the sonic front too. Its cue placement is very clean and precise. For formalities, treble extension is top notch, it does much better than what the 7hz Timeless and is on par with BGVP DM8.

STAGE AND IMAGING:

Another pro of S12 is its stage. It is one of the biggest but the stage doesn’t feels evenly dense though. There are regions with more dense instruments, especially in the mid range which can feel a bit odd. One might say that’s okay for the price but guess what, a hybrid IEM named Face Red From THhifi does much better in this department. This stage has good height, very good width and depth. Another positive is it has a well developed 3D stage which has very good projection is every direction.

Most of the vocals, nearly 80% of it, starts and end inside the ear while most of the instruments are placed out of the head. The out of head feel is on par with its competition. The dynamic feel of this stage is very good, it doesn’t feel limited to a boundary. It can extend if the track has it.

COMPARISONS:

 vs Tri i3 pro and THhifi Face Red:

CONCLUSION:

I won’t waste much of your time here, let le make it short and to the point, this is one of the best IEM under $200, yes, this kind of take the sharpness and definition to the limit but that helps it to deliver exceptional transparency and details with very good definition for this price. Make no mistakes, this is a fun loving IEM and it delivers on that front. It has the thumpy feel, the mid range is respectable and the treble is superb if it’s not bothering you. Stage and other attributes are very good too with their own niggles, I do not have many issues with this IEM.

S12 sounds like a IEM from a higher price bracket if paired well, fit isn’t an issue either and the set of accessories are very good too.

If you are looking for a well developed IEM with plenty of details and transparency, you are not going wrong with the Shuoer S12.

D13 review and coming soon, enjoy your music, cheers!!

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ABOUT AUTHOR

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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