Seekers vs. Tinkerers

You can judge IEMs/headphones on whether they sound good to you out of the box or also on their potential.

People from the former camp (seekers) might go down the path of finding the ones that perfectly match their preferences. IMO, the probability of this is so low that it seems futile to chase the perfect match. At best they might find something that is close to some of their preferences, but not others.

People from the latter camp (tinkeres) recognize they might not find the perfect match and are willing to put in the work to take advantage of potential. They do this either via EQ or modding. A prerequisite for this is potential. You might be able to fix tonality to some extent but you can’t fix things like technicalities, coherence, etc. if there isn’t a potential for it. Even tonality might not be fixable in some cases.

Some good example of tinkeres are james444 and the folks over at audioreview.org and a great example of an IEM being recognized for it’s potential is the JVC HA-FD01 which was modded by james444 and eventually resulted in the now legendary Drop+JVC HA-FDX1.

Of course there are many other dimensions along which to categories ourselves in the hobby but I think this is an interesting dichotomy to highlight.

So which are you, a seeker or a tinkerer? Are there better terms for these?

QKZ VK4 vs Sony MH755 (SBH56) – Measurements

So I took out the QKZ VK4 today to measure (using my DIY-tube rig) and I was pleasantly surprised to see why I remember liking them.

Note: The graphs don’t accurately represent what you might hear and are only representational. Improving them is an ongoing process.

TRV VX – Review

Specs

  • Driver unit: 1DD 6BA Hybrid with a proprietary active crossover circuit
    • 1 x customized 10mm dual-neodymium magnet dynamic driver
    • 3 x customized 30095 BAs for high-frequency
    • 3 x customized 50060 BAs for upper-mid-range
  • Impedance: 22Ω
  • Sensitivity: 107dB/mW
  • Frequency Response: 7Hz – 40000Hz
  • Connector type: 2 pin type-C 0.75mm with gold plated pins
  • Cable:
    • Material and Build:
      • OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper)
      • Plastic sheath
      • Braided 4-wire to braided 2 wire above y-spliter
      • Memory-wrap Earhooks
    • Termination: 3.5mm gold-plated straight plug
    • Length: 1.25m
  • Earpiece: 5-axis CNC Machined Aerospace-Grade Magnesium Alloy Housing
  • Weight: 28gms
  • Available Colors: Dark Green, Knight Black, Vibrant Blue (haven’t seen this color anywhere though)
  • In The Box: Earpiece, cable and 3 pairs of eartips (S/M/L)

Non-audio Aspects

  • Packaging and Accessories: The packaging and accessories are underwhelming given other IEMs in the same price range (like the KBEAR Diamond, for example) but I’m guessing that’s the price you pay for having more drivers. The cable is also very basic and apart from having a different plug and connectors, it feels exactly like the one that comes with Blon BL-03, with the stiff memory hooks that make it prone to tangling. The stock eartips are not bad and work well for me.
  • Earpiece Build and Design: Really good build quality and quite a looker (subjective).
  • Driver Flex: I rarely experience driver flex on the VX.
  • Cable Noise: The VX is designed to be worn over the ears so you don’t get any cable noise.
  • Comfort and Fit: The VX fits very well on my ears, is light and very comfortable (Note: This is very relative to your specific ear shape)
  • Isolation: Fits very snugly in my ears so isolation is good for me. With music on, I can barely hear what’s going on around me.
  • Efficiency: Easy to drive with most smartphones and doesn’t require an amp.

Review Setup

  • Chain: (Phone|Laptop) > Spotify Premium (Downloaded, Quality: Very High) > Meizu Hifi Pro DAC > IEM
  • TRV VX: Stock cable and eartips
  • Reference: Etymotic ER2XR with stock triple flange regular tips.

Tonality & Technicalities

Sound Signature

To me, it sounds like the bass is boosted but not as much as the upper-mids and treble, and the lower-mids are slightly recessed. It doesn’t sound as coherent as single-DD IEMs and the bass can sound disjoint from the rest of the range.

Bass

Bass is boosted but not too much and well extended. It’s fast and pretty linear with no sign of boominess or bass-bleed. While I prefer the sub-bass focus, it might not be a very natural presentation. Drums and bass guitars sound a little muted and the upper harmonic focus doesn’t lend itself to a very organic sound.

Mids

The lower-mids are slightly recessed while the upper-mids are substantially boosted and the midrange has a very forward and detailed presentation. The cut in the lower-mids makes instruments and vocals that have their fundamental in that area sound thin. The substantial boost in the upper-mids results in instruments like electric guitars sounding a little shrill/aggressive. On some tracks with female vocals, I really like/enjoy the wet presentation as it adds a visceral dimension to the voice.

Treble

Treble is boosted, aggressive, detailed and decently extended. The emphasis in this area coupled with the faster BA decay, can make instruments sound unnatural but also results in more clarity and detail. The treble boost makes certain instruments standout in the mix in an unnatural way, which can make some tracks interesting and not so much for others. It can be borderline siblant but I don’t think it crosses over to being siblant. Cymbal strikes are splashy and not as harmonically rich and resolving.

Soundstage, Seperation and Imaging

Soundstage is out-of-the-head both in width and depth with decent separation and imaging. However, the sense of space is not realistic. A performance in a theater doesn’t sound like it’s in a theater. I suspect this is because of the spikes in the treble region.

Summary

The TRN VX can be a fun/aggressive/analytical sounding IEM that trebleheads might enjoy. The upper-mids and treble boost will most likely be harsh and fatiguing, especially for people that are sensitive to that area. Those who enjoy the coherency of a single-DD may find the bass disjoint from the rest of the range.

Where to Buy

You can buy the TRN VX from the TRN Official Store.


Footnotes

TODO

  • TRN VX Measurement
  • Cross-referenced list of tracks and notes
  • “See Also” section with:

Biases I’m Aware Of

  • The TRN VX unit was sent to me by TRN for review.
  • I know KopiOkaya, the tuner of TRN VX.
  • I moslty own, listen to and prefer single-DD IEMs, and “believe” BAs don’t sound “natural/organic”.

Known Issues

  • Volume matching was done by ear.

Announcing the IEM Tracker

Against my better judgment and inspired by Ron Damon‘s post over at NBBA (No BS Budget Audiophile) Facebook group, I’ve created a tracker to track all new IEM releases in one place.

I’ll need all the help I can get. if you know of IEM launches that are missing in the tracker please submit an entry using the IEM Tracker Submission Form. You can also email me at soundchaser.org@gmail.com for questions, feedback and corrections.

ddHiFi TC35B USB type-C to 3.5mm Adapter Dongle DAC – First Look

ddHifi’s TC35B is a beautifully crafted dongle DAC. It’s housing is made of 316 stainless steel and it’s possibly as small as a dongle DAC can get.

You can buy the TC35B from ddhifi’s official Aliexpress Store.

Here are it’s published specifications:

  • USB CODEC: ALC5686

  • Output Power: 30mW@32Ω

  • THD+N: <-92dB; DNR: >110dB; SNR: >120dB

  • Drive Ability: 16~200Ω

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz

  • PCM Sampling Rate Supported Up to: 32bit/384kHz

  • Weight: 6g; Dimensions: 18.8*11.2*10.2mm (exclusive of Type-C plug)