How is this market doing in this marginally stricter time? Ask again and I will tell you to chill, this market is livelier than ever. New brands are raising their heads and older brands are fighting to hold on to their fan base and Market share. We all have heard about Kinera and their sister brands, I was told that one of their friends have launched a couple of hybrid IEMs in the budget segment. At first I was confused, I thought this is a prototype name but to my surprise “Face Red” indeed is the name of this IEM. This their more expensive offering with a price tag of $189, housing a couple of BA and a single DD this IEM comes in only one color option, Silver/chrome body with a red engraved back plate.
This goes head on against the more popular Shuoer S12, Tri i3 pro and Fiio FH3 IEMs. Does this stands its ground? The short answer might surprise you but I will leave you hanging if you will read along or you will have to scroll down to sound quality or conclusion.
Get one from these links:
UNBOXING AND ACCESSORIES:
Oh my my.. wow!! This $200 IEM ships with a bamboo box!! Man this looks premium. Hmm, I went a bit ahead of things here, first of all we have the outer paper cover with good amount of information on it. I read it’s name on the cover and I was like this is a joke.. No way the name is “Face Red” but my oh my was I wrong.
Opening the box is a bit too easy.. Lift the cover and most of the accessories are there. It comes with 12 pair of silicon tips in wide and narrow bore designs in black and white colors. There is a small draw string pouch to carry some tips while the blue color carry case has the cable stuffed inside it. It’s of decent size and houses the IEM without much problem.
If you think about it, this is a big box. And I feel it does not need this much of space for sure since majority of the box is filled with foam.
Face Red ships with a good quality MMCX cable, this has to be of the better quality of most of the cables I have seen with recent IEMs but aesthetically and sound wise. This 4 core silver colored cable is actually SPC. It has 15 strands of OCC copper wires paired with 24 strands of SPC wires in each core.
I have seen brands prioritizing looks over SQ but this cable doesn’t feel like holding the IEM back since this IEM already sounds much better than others hybrid IEMs and easily goes head on against similarly priced planar and tribrid IEMs.
To my surprise this is one of the most supple cable I have used in a while. There is barely any memory issue with this IEM, same for microphonics, barely anything. This isn’t bouncy or springy either.
BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS:
First thing first, this is one of the best looking IEMs in this price range. I have had a few of my readers stating that this is a better looking U12T, I don’t deny that, this ribbed design on the side of the body also adds class to this IEM. This CNC made Chrome plated shell looks awesome and the red patches on the back plate adds more character to it. Yes, this back plate design is a bit unorthodox but nothing that feels odd. Just like most of the metal bodied IEMs Face Red too doesn’t have a semi custom type shell but it’s smaller and ergonomically designed curves makes this a comfortable IEM. The nozzle too is on the narrower side. Depth too isn’t very deep but I find this to be fairly stable and sturdy.
Underneath this strong and solid shell THhifi has used a 3D printed cavity to hold the drivers in place and this might save the IEM if dropped on hard floor. There is single vent just aside the MMCX socket.
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:
On the surface, this should be an easy to drive IEM with an impedance of just 10.5ohm and yes, this isn’t a hard to drive IEM but guess what? This IEM doesn’t get very loud easily. Even with this stipulation, Face Red is one of the best behaved hybrid IEMs I have come across in recent times. Driving it out of the Shanling UA3 is easy, it sounds excellent and even when driven out of mobile phones it doesn’t change a lot.
This IEM looks nice, does it sound equally good? If you didn’t skip to SQ, I have mentioned about this earlier. Face Red is one of those rare hybrid IEMs that sounds good with all type of music and can compete with any IEM without a lot of issues. A few days ago I remember telling one of my readers “This IEM costs 1/10th of the U12T but doesn’t sound half bad” and guess what, I think Face red has better dynamics and energy than the smoother kind of lush and lush sounding U12T.
Face Red uses a 9.2mm resin DD to produce very good quality lower end notes and has two separate BA drivers for the rest of the spectrum.
In the past few years I have tried a lot of IEMs in various price brackets with a lot of possible driver combinations but these newer generation of drivers are really good. Face Red has some of the best lower end on offer, it’s not the bassiest but has some of best balance of body, punch and decay. It’s well rounded with very good weight and punch. Thanks to its exceptionally good dynamics Face Red has excellent variations on offer. Let it be the softness of sub-bass or punchy mid-bass or harder upper bass, Face Red delivers all of these without any complications. There is no lack or texture or layers either, It’s all there and some more. Decay speed is adaptive as it can restrict and let the note go if the track demands it. It simply is the most complete IEM in this price.
What this IEM doesn’t do is pound the bass or else its simple outstanding.
This mids range too has all the goodness of a champion. Face Red has an excellent balance of transparency, tonality and timber, no other IEM in this price delivers a more delicate and satisfying balance than this. This isn’t exactly a W shaped IEM but there is a slight bit of hint to it. Vocals do take a bit more attention but unlike others it doesn’t suppress the instruments around it, they maintain excellent clarity and are highly vivid too. It’s strange but this IEM doesn’t have any rawness, sharp finishing or jittery feeling to it.
What I admired the most of about this IEM is its sonics. It’s very contrasty as the softer notes are very polite, subtle and soothing while the more forward notes are aptly transparent and energetic. The stage too is well expanded with an excellent hollow graphic projection. Upper mid too isn’t sharp, shouty or dull at all. In my eyes, this is a big step up from most of the IEMs in this price.
Same story.. Excellent tuning, it has little to no fatigue with excellent presence. It has very good energy and loveliness till the end of the spectrum. Yes, the extension is excellent but Face Red drops a little bit of energy at the upper treble region to keep things from getting sharp or spiky. What one definitely can experience is, it’s not as buttery as others. If the track has some flaws in the treble region, you will hear every bit of this transition or roughness, especially in the mid treble region. If there is percussion instrument on the foreground, all the hits and reverbs are crystal clear but the transients are slightly muted. This can be looked as an excellent character or the only downside of this excellent IEM.
Layering and separation are extraordinary too. It has very good amount of air between instruments.
STAGE AND IMAGING:
As mentioned earlier, Face Red has a well expanded 3D stage which isn’t lopsided. Instruments are slightly dense closer to the head but still have excellent placement adding to its imaging capabilities.
If I have to nitpick, I might say it doesn’t have a lot of frontal and down ward projection as most of the instruments are placed behind and above the ear.
This IEM is not supposed to deliver this much of goodness, not at this price for sure. You know what… This is such a beautiful sounding IEM in short all you need to do is take all the good terminologies , put it in your mind and that’s what Face Red is. This IEM doesn’t have a wrongly placed foot, all I can do is enjoy, it’s simply extravagant for just $200.
The whole spectrum is excellent, lows are wholesome, while mids and treble region are exceptionally tuned too. It has a well balanced signature with a slight bass tilt and delivers some of the best fatigue free resolution and details.
THhifi has my full respect for this IEM.