EARSTUDIO HE100 REVIEW :
- Clear, accurate and near neutral sound
- Sharp imaging
- Delicate, innoffensive treble
- Light bass lacking in weight
- Soft attack
- Thin timbre
- Cheap plastic mic
- So-so cable that create microphonic
NO BS (SERIOUS AUDIOPHILE) RECOMMENDED!!
RADSONE EARSTUDIO have taken audiophile world by storm with their widely acclaimed ES100 Bluetooth receiver DAC-AMP that still is the very best ultra portable DAC-AMP on the market today. Since then, I have high admiration for this company that tend to do things differently.
When I read they were lauching a first earphones, I know it will not be similar to other in term of sound approach, but still, I was worry that as a smartphone company without any experience in iem, they play an audio game they do not have experience with.
Perhaps this explain why they collaborate with Korean earphones company SONICAST to achieve the level of sound quality they aim. After trying 20 different earphones under 200$, they fall in love with high definittion dynamic drivers of Sonicast Dirac earphones and use this very iem as the base for a differently tuned Earstudio iem that use a special 3 layers diaphragm dynamic drivers. The sound tuning they choose was one that will pair beautifully with the Radsone ES100 high quality sound delivering,wich is clear, vivid, neutral and detailed.
The goal of Earstudio was to create a balanced, neutral and revealing iem that do not have particular emphasis peaks in any range so clarity of imaging can be considered as ‘’high definition’’.
To my ears, there no other iem on the market that have the special sound rendering of HE100, wich destabilize me at first and impress me later. For a first iem, this is a very mature sounding one that isn’t aimed for basshead but real serious audiophile.
Priced around 80$, even if construction will not impress you, I think the cohesive, articulate, clear yet innoffensive sound HE100 deliver will sure do.
Let’s see why in this review.
DISCLAIMER: I participate to Earstudio Giveaway contest here on headfi and be among lucky winners, so, in exchange, even if i’m not obligate to review the HE100, I feel its my duty to share my honnest impressions.
- Product Type: Canal Type In-Ear Headphones
- Driver Type: Dynamic
- Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW
- Frequency Response: 10-40,000 Hz
- Impedance: 27 Ohm
ACCESSORIES, CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN :
UNBOXING is well presented, but not particularly generous in term of accessories. We have the minimal wich is 3 pairs of silicone eartips, a cable clip and an little carrying pouch. More eartips would have been very appreciated.
CONSTRUCTION is neither impressive or disapointing. Pretty common housing design wich numerous iem use but for 100$ I would have expect a full metal construction instead of part metal part plastic. As well, the cable is just okay, but the mic is really cheap looking and I don’t expect long durability with such ridiculous plastic material…this is the type of mic with one buton we will expect from a 5$ iem. I’m not a big fan of mic, but if there music control buton on it, I can find it a purpose, unfortunaly there none with this cable. I would prefer a non-mic version of HE100, or even better a MMCX version so we can use balanced cable with it to pair with our Radsone ES100.
DESIGN isn’t the best as said, the mic cable is not really needed because if the HE100 are thinked to pair with ES100, well, we already have a mic on it. As well, the housing is design to be wear cable down but will create a high level of cable microphonic, so, to avoid this you ahve no choice but wear it over ear…wich do not feel very appropriate with the cable that tend to not stay in place. If whole cable was made with same nylon material, it would create less microphonic and be more maleable for wearing it around the ears.
ISOLATION is average but do not create lot of sound leakage due to closed back design.
DRIVEABILITY is a little capricious at 27ohm of impendance and 103db sensitivity, but it do not need crazy amping, any DAP or DAC-AMP like the Radsone ES100 will do well.
OVERALL SOUND IMPRESSIONS was rather mitiged at first, as I find the HE100 mostly energic in upper region, the bass was too thin and mid range too linear for me. More I listen to it, more I get accustomed to the sound and discover to appreciate and understand it. Most of time I tend to like neutral sound, but i’m a thick timbre kinda guy, I like it meaty and textured, and when it can keep some level of transperent i’m very happy, the HE100 are very transperent, near diaphanous, but keep very impressive texture in timbre and an accurate tonality. This type of sound sure affect bass response and I think it can be explain by this very unique type of triple diaphragm drivers, my instinctive theory being that the back one is for bass, wich explain why it say in the back and feel tamed. But as you will understand, this first impression isn’t what the whole sound portrait offer.
SOUNDSTAGE is very wide and out of your head, it surround you and have a little hall like feel, everything is there tallnest, deepnest and widnest.
IMAGING is a fascinating mix transparent layers from low to mid and spacial accurary from upper mids to highs. Yep, where in a special kind of holographic presentation only this type of unique DD can offer.
BASS is a little recessed, sitting in the back of mids and highs with a disruptive softed but accurate clarity and texture, this is as if you put porous transparent layers above the bass that can still breath lively. This transparent layers do no cut completely the rumble or air lower bass can share, it just…keep it in background. Its gentle but full bodied bass, and I can even enjoy it with some electronic, I find it imprevisible to some extend, but well control and quite impressive. Mid bass hit is weighty, softed by mid-highs layers, and do not interfer with clarity. This is an introduction of how the HE100 is uniquely tuned.
MID RANGE is extremely transparent, slighlty dry in timbre, have great levely of clarity that benifit an accurate imaging that lack attack energy to gain in excitment. Its very flat, without notable mid region being shadowed, neither upper mids peak that would create sibilance. To fully enjoy this flat and soft midrange I need lot of ‘’brain burn in’’ wich at they end is rewarding for mature critical listening. Again, the HE100 offer a unique mid range tuning that impress by how gently articulate and revealing it is, its innoffensive yet very rewarding in transparence. The vocal have centered presentation that do not veil other sound layers, its a little thin in body and would not impress by singer proximity, but it isn’t what I would call recessed, just, well, flat and accurate. Audiophile target kinda mids.
TREBLE is delicate, quite natural and crisp. You will not struggle finding micro details wich will be well layered in spaciality. Percussions have good brilliance but not alot of decay, again, its a little thin and have hint of metallic tonalities to it, strangely, this help to give more presence to the highs. HE100 have an analytical approach to everything from 50hz to about 12khz, and after the treble is more polished wich give a mix of coldness and softed brightness to the sound, at they end, due to the delicate treble approach and excellent cohesion of sound, musicality is light and naturaly transparent.
SUB BASS : 7/10
MID BASS : 7.5/10
MID RANGE : 8.5/10
TREBLE : 8.5/10
TIMBRE : 7.5/10
ATTACK_DECAY : 7/10
SOUNDSTAGE : 8/10
IMAGING : 9/10
VS AUDIOSENSE T300 (100$) :
At first, i was thinking the HE100 sound darker and more congested, but that was just an illusion, in fact they sound clearer and less congested than the T300. SOUNDSTAGE of T300 is a little wider and more out of your head will the HE100 win in deepnest. IMAGING is perhaps more lively and holographic with the T300, but lack the precision of whole frequencies range of HE100 wich benifit for instrument placement accuracy. BASS is thicker, weightier and more punchy with the T300, as well its warmer, less accurate and do not dig as deep as the HE100 wich sound dryier but clearer and more controled. MID RANGE is again thicker and fuller sounding, with a smoother timbre for the T300 but more upper mids emphasis, here the HE100 is more refined, balanced and accurate but less exciting in attack and weight, anyway, you got more details in mid range with the HE100 because of a more stable tuning. TREBLE is more sparkly but less balanced with the T300, percussions can be a little splashy even if they sound fuller than more delicate and brilliant highs of HE100, wich make the T300 more agressive on top.
All in all, we have extremely different iem here, T300 sound more muscular in attack and timbre, having a more fun and energic sound while the HE100 is the opposite, with more retained attack and bass, clearer mid range and more neutral and flat than beefy W shape sound of T300.
VS AKOUSTYX RE-210 (120$) :
Akoustyx use a Knowles Balanced armature, tough its a single full range one while HE100 have special dynamic driver.
SOUNDSTAGE is this time more wide and deep with HE100, with a sens of airyness the more intimate RE-210 lack. IMAGING benifit from this spacious sound as well as tamed attack with the HE100, offering clearer positioning but lacking is physical separation as if we look at a wall of sound instead of being in the middle like the RE-210. BASS is faster, tigher and way more weighty and punchy with the RE-210, but it lack buttom line extension of the HE100 wich do not warm lower mid range as the RE-210 do. For a reference targeted iem, RE-210 is notably more bassy than HE100. MID RANGE is clearer and leaner with HE100, again, its thinner in timbre and softer in attack but deliver wider definition and better accuracy, wich make the HE100 more a reference sounding iem that the RE-210. TREBLE is more emphased and foward with RE-210, but it do not have lore of decays and sparkle and sound harsher on top than the more delicate and relaxed HE100, wich in they end deliver a more detailed sound and easier to perceive high range even if more recessed.
All in all, if your searching for a reference sound, skip the RE-210 and take the HE100, but if you want lively, punchy and agressive sound with weighty attack, the RE-210 will sound less boringly flat perhaps to your ears.
The Earstudio HE100 is a very impressive first attempt from an audio company that have a very precise vision about how music should sound, it’s clearly targeted for audiophile and tuned by audiophile too.
While HE100 might not be the most exciting sounding iem in term of bass and attack, it choose instead a mature reference tuning that offer high level of clarity, sharp imaging and very well balanced delicate sound. Level of transparency is as much impressive as the cohesive articulation of flat lows, mids and highs, offering a neutral tuning rarely find in sub-100$ price range.
Sure, construction could be improved, and a HE100 with detachable cable would be very welcome, but nonetheless, I think Earstudio have do a good job to deliver a very capable earphones that hit above its price point in term of sound quality. Audiophile that are tired of unbalanced, too bassy or too trebly sounding iem should give a look at the HE100, because for once high resolution mean something.
Oh the iem I’d like to combo with my ES100. But not a bright star like I dreamt of..
I give a quite high note for sound alone. I think HE100 will impress mature audiophile that search for reference sound, i can find some similarity with Final Audio E2000 wich is rather neutral as well, but have thicker timbre and less treble extension and inferior imaging. HE100 is a breathe of fresh air in sub-100$ iem world, remind me a little the Oriolus Finschi as well. It really crawl under my skin with the time, but im addict to thick timbre and attack so yeah I find them a little boring.