The iBasso SR1 is well-balanced between warmth and clarity. I want to call it V-Shaped, except the mids are not lost in the mix, though they take a subtle step back. They are fun headphones, and anything but neutral. They take liberties to make sure you have a good time, and do so in a way that sounds more or less honest.
The treble is heightened and possesses a slight brightness to it. Thankfully, it is delicately done, adding sweetness rather than coldness. This also helps to maintain body in the high notes, staying away from thin or brittle, which can happen when the wrong frequencies are spiked. With the SR1, you don’t get an outrageous amount of air, but more than sufficient. Details sparkle through, demanding you notice them, but not fixate on them, like sunlight shimmering off a fish’s scales as it swims by.
Vocals are vibrant, rounded, and lush. Somehow, without taking a forward position, they stand out as the showstopper. Like the treble, there is a sweet, romantic quality. Warm tones and harmonics give the vocals such fullness and beauty. Yet for all this, there is no veil. Indeed, they sound naked and clear, fully exposed, and perfectly articulate. I tested this with Melissa Menago’s LITTLE CRIMES album. She sounds lush on every headphone, and may come off fussy on very warm cans. With the SR1, the artist comes through in remarkable resolution.
As do the instruments. While the seductive warmth brings more resonance and body than is strictly natural, that sparkly, sweet treble adds bite and crunch to electric guitars, and clean distinction between the elements of each instrument. Pianos sound deep, rich, and organic. Violins cry out, full and sharp. And drums joyfully cut through everything, but never pain the ears.
Moderate bassheads will love how the SR1 handles the low-end. It’s not excessive, but it is north of neutral, make no mistake. There seems to be a lower mids, upper bass hump which is responsible for the overall warmth of these monitors. You can always feel it, even when there are no bass instruments present. A regular guitar sounds fuller, richer, with a pleasant bloom. Then, when the real lows kick in, the SR1 rocks with the best of them. The bass response is not sluggish, either. It has decent speed, amazing depth, and renders tone and texture marvelously. Also, I’ve never heard it distort, even on the big bass grooves of Billie Eilish’s BURY A FRIEND. Of course, Xanny distorts, but that’s on purpose, so it doesn’t count. Thought my drivers had blown on that one!
Soundstage is rather large and open, structured mostly like a cube, though I’d say it’s a little wider than it is tall. Imaging is great, giving you clear positions all throughout the stage. Separation is clean and precise, yet musically coherent. Those warm notes are like the sinews, holding it all together, and making it function as one. Resolution is high. Very high. Not the best I’ve ever heard, but absolutely not a weakness. In fact, I don’t know these headphones have a weakness. In every category I can think of, the SR1 performs beyond expectations.
I happen to have two other headphones on-hand within the same price range, and they each make great comparisons to iBasso’s offering.
The HIFIMAN Sundara ($500, Review HERE) is an awe-inspiring example of what can be accomplished today at this price-point. If you seek a more neutral, reference oriented signature, look no further. It is the very definition of neutral. No frequency stands above another. Despite what amateur graphs you may dig up on the net, Sundara is the real deal. I’ve never heard a flatter headphone. And that’s not usually my cup of tea. But Sundara, with its laid-back yet shockingly high-res presentation, really jives with me.
SendyAudio Aiva ($599, Review HERE) is much like Sundara, only less relaxed, with brighter treble. The bass, also, doesn’t quite feel as wholesome. In truth, there is a subtle artificiality to the whole character. At least that’s how I, in my pretension, hear it. But some will love it, as details jump out at you, and there’s altogether more energy. It may come off as clearer, and better resolved, but that’s more of an impression due to the tuning, rather than absolute truth. Either way, they are excellent performers, and if this suites your preference, they are hard to beat. Oh, and of course, they are dead gorgeous.