I purchased these IEMs from AliExpress several months ago.
I have never personally been a big fan of IEMs, always having issues with fit, seal, and comfort that kept me from getting the most out of the ones I had tried in the past. I was also always losing and breaking IEMs and so I never wanted to really put much thought or spend much time shopping for IEMs, and would normally opt for an on ear (or even over ear) headphone as a portable solution instead. Every once in awhile I would hear about and try whatever flavor-of-the-month IEM people were raving about and would usually stick to the cheaper IEMs and chinese clones that people were excited about. I started to see more faux-custom type shells and multiple driver and hybrid configurations coming out at lower and lower prices, but a lot of them came with very serious trade-offs. Generally the IEMs with satisfying dynamics and bass extension were also extremely muddy, dark and warm; more detailed IEMs tended to be overly bright, overly sharp and with uneven mids and treble that made them unpleasant to listen to. I tended to find that IEMs based on Balanced Armature drivers tended to be faster and more detailed, but lacking in body, impact and slam, while dynamic based IEMs tended to do the opposite. Not feeling as though I could really win this battle, but having a low entry cost, I would find myself going through pair after pair and it became kind of a hobby to just find something with an interesting driver configuration and a comfortable looking shell design to try. I usually favored dynamic or hybrid configurations and I tended to see either single or dual dynamic driver configurations or, for hybrids, I would normally see multiple BAs with a single DD until I came across the Super Audio IEM. While this IEM was far far out of the normal price category that I shopped in for IEMs (<$50), it was the first one I had encountered that had both a dual dynamic driver configuration as well as balanced armature drivers, in this case the Knowles 30017 which is a combination of two different BA drivers that have been packaged together with an internal crossover to be sold as a single unit, in a single hybrid IEM package. Not finding anything interesting in my normal price range, and finding that this was seemingly a new configuration that almost no other manufacturer had tried before, I was interested, so I went ahead and ordered a pair on sale for about $100 (these IEMs do not come with cables but use a standard MMCX interface), not really knowing what to expect. After doing some research I came to find just two other companies making IEMs in this configuration, Rose (Cappuccino, ~$300) and Unique Melody (Martian, ~$700), and so I was quite surprised to have found one that was potentially a clone for about half of the next option’s price and my anticipation mounted.
Build and Comfort
One of the things that attracted me to this IEM was the shape of its shell. Before this, I had ordered a pair of the KZ ZS3 to try, which fit me extremely well and had a shell reminiscent of the StageDriver SD2. I could always get a very comfortable fit and seal with the generic silicone tips that come with many of these chinese IEMs, and despite my issues with its sonic performance, the comfort, isolation and portability is really what inspired me to keep searching for an IEM that could have better performance in a similarly shaped shell. After receiving the Super Audio IEMs, I was extremely pleased to find that I had guessed correctly based off the pictures and the shell was shaped in a way that fit me similarly to those KZ ZS3 IEMs though it is a bigger shell to accommodate the additional drivers it houses. I purchased some generic MMCX cables with memory wire near the male MMCX plug (because these don’t come with any when you purchase them) so I could easily wrap the cable over my ears and create a hook-like shape with the memory wire. While your mileage may vary, these IEMs have been extremely comfortable for me, only requiring a shallow insertion into the ear, instead of the deeper insertion of other IEMs, and it has been very easy for me to find the correction position to get the right fit and seal with these IEMs which is so important for getting the best sound out of them. The shells are entirely plastic and seem to be pretty standard quality, I don’t see any issues, but I wouldn’t expect these to be super durable like a metal-shelled Campfire Audio IEM either.
It seems my risky purchase paid off. I was extremely skeptical but hopeful when these IEMs came in and hearing them for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. While this isn’t the most detailed or neutral IEM I’ve heard, it’s got a rather pleasant balance that’s pretty even overall with a noticeable bass boost and what seems like some kind of a bump in the upper midrange and low treble area. The IEM still seems to reproduce a satisfying amount of detail with its smooth and somewhat warm sound signature but still has an even treble balance that I don’t find especially recessed or uneven and is very smooth overall. I’ve used this IEM both out of my phone (a Nexus 6P) and my iBasso DX80 DAP. While I don’t know the output impedance of my phone, I would venture to guess that its output impedance is probably higher than that of the DX80, as the Super Audio IEM sounded thicker and warmer out of my phone compared to my DAP. While I can’t confirm that it’s an output impedance issue, my conclusion is that either the IEM is revealing enough to be able to pick out differences in sources or that it reacts fairly noticeably with different output impedances.
Bass is somewhat exaggerated here but in general remains clear and fairly well separated despite the aformentioned boost and has good extension, reaching down low and delivering a very satisfying sense of rumble reminiscent of full-sized headphones. I find this IEM gives a very satisfying sense of dynamics and slam in the bass, hitting you with good weight in both the initial impact and the sustain of string bass, bass guitars, drums, and synthesizers. Also despite the boost, I never felt as though the bass obscured the mids or that there was an especially abrupt transition between the bass and mids. Sometimes a narrower bass hump can cause the lower-mids to seem somewhat recessed, but I don’t find that to be the case at all here. This bass boost is quite tasteful despite obviously coloring the music.
The mids on this IEM seem to be tilted a bit warm, but with additional presence in the top end of the mids to balance it out a bit overall and make it sound somewhat forward overall. The mids don’t feel recessed or uneven on this IEM despite this. Vocals have good clarity and dynamics, giving a great sense of breathiness and throatiness that adds a sense of realism. I do find the vocals can sound slightly thick and are not as detailed as open-back staples like the Sennheiser HD6x0 headphones, but I feel they compete with and best many full size headphones in the sub-$200 category for their tonal balance, clarity and dynamics in the mid-range. Instruments are mostly believable and the bump in the upper mids gives acoustic guitars a bit of a boost, making them very full, engaging and impactful. I initially expected that like most hybrids, that the dynamic drivers would be used for bass and the BA drivers would be used for everything else, but the body and dynamics of the mids seem to suggest that they’ve only used the BA units for treble in this IEM and I applaud this. The midrange is an area I feel always suffers from the use of BAs in hybrid configurations, and usually makes the crossover point very noticeable, making the IEM sound less coherent. I find some IEMs get over this coherence issue by damping the dynamic driver to the point where it simply sounds as thin as the other drivers which is a choice I also dislike.
Treble balance overall seems good in this IEM and seems to be the area handled entirely by the BA drivers. Treble has very good clarity and dynamics, giving cymbal hits and horns/brass a great sense of presence and impact. Overall balance of the treble also seems good here, with no obvious peaks or other features that would make the treble sound especially artificial or overly sharp. Overall I find this area well controlled and the crossover point that transitions between the dynamic drivers and the BA drivers doesn’t seem especially obvious or easy to pinpoint, lending this IEM a sense of coherence than can be elusive for many hybrid designs.
Imaging and soundstage on this IEM is surprisingly well done, giving a sense of staging that while not being exactly out-of-your-head is also not concentrated in the center of your heads like many IEMs can sound. I find the soundstage size and image competes with some of the better full-sized closed back headphones in the <$300 range. Separation and detail are fairly good on this IEM, again, I feel they compete with many headphones in that entry or slightly above entry-level category of headphones.
For a complete shot in the dark from a no-name Chinese manufacturer, this IEM has really surprised and impressed me and has become my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for headphones in the <$200 price range that are also looking for isolation. With a sound that reminds me more of a full sized on-ear or over ear headphone than a typical IEM, a comfortable fit, and the portability and drivability of a typical IEM, I find the Super Audio IEM to be a very practical and extremely competitive option in it’s price range and a great value overall. Having compared to more premium IEMs like the FLC8S (which I also picked up and will be reviewing at some point in the future), I actually prefer this Super Audio IEM. What little it gives up in detail it more than makes up for with tonal balance and dynamics that I find more engaging to listen to. Overall, I didn’t expect to be as satisfied or impressed with this IEM as I have been, and having used it regularly for about 3 months at this point, that feeling hasn’t faded for me, which I also find impressive and surprising. I’ll be very interested to see what else they do with this design and if they choose to take it and refine it further. It’s regrettable that the product doesn’t really have a proper product name or any marketing, because I think it does deserve the attention for the space it’s in and for how it performs for its price.