IEM 10.0 vs 10.A
Now along the way I have reviewed some custom earphones via their universal demo (which was not a retail product), in the case of IEM 8.0 (and upcoming UM Maestro article) reviewed universals that are available as customs and then some customs that are also sold as universals (JH Audio Roxanne) therefore for me this is very interesting. Comparing the universal version of the same earphone to the custom model. Obviously the results will in no way reflect other brands but with two pairs of earphones that have identical drivers and crossovers, just different fit methods, the sound quality should not show up too many differences, IF any! Now I do know from talking to Vibro Labs that some companies make slight adjustments to crossover to sway the universal and custom variation to sound the same, preempting the seal changes, they do just that with their 4 driver Aria. As for in our current case of ten drivers I am not to sure but looking at the measurements it is possible.
I do think the two monitors sound different. They have similar traits but on a whole, I think they actually have different signatures. Now without doubt the biggest area of difference is in the bass frequencies. In feel, texture, impact and extension. There are a couple of scenarios that spring to mind for why this may be. In my mind and from what I have been told again and again by CIEM manufacturers is that a custom monitor gives the perfect seal, surely giving you the best bass response, the range that relies most on seal. My first thought would then be that Heir have made some adjustments in the tuning to compensate for the universals inferior seal and have gone a bit overboard, giving more bass too the 10.0. The other one is that silicone tips actually give the better bass response from the type of seal they give, the one that almost vacuums into your ears, in comparison to the more natural one a custom gives. I feel the latter is almost certainly wrong.
To get a gist for the sound I have in mind of the original 10.A lets take an extract from that review. “…they actually comes across as quite a clear mid forward earphone. The midrange is always in the spotlight, with a snappy bass on one side and an energetic treble on the other.” I have already clarified that the bass was different with the universal and that would be in terms of it having more. Most noticeable is the sub bass, where the custom rolls off a little but the universal gains in emphasis. Not only does this give a more obvious impression of air movement but adds considerable weight. Obviously as the bass has differences this will impact the entire sound scope, leaving the 10.0 sounding thicker throughout and a little woolier in the midrange. The now warmer midrange does seem to be less forward than with the 10.A. The treble being much further on in the frequency response seems to maintain the life of the 10.A though as is detailed and energetic, in a well rendered manner. While the extra sub-bass does make the cheaper universal fit the more extended end to end earphone, it is surprising how much it does impact the sound. The 0 is more musical than the A but doesn’t seem to have he delicacy or detailing at times. Interestingly if someone read my 10.A review and told me they wanted that, the 10.0 may not be my first recommendation, yes it’s a safe bet as they are very similar but they are certainly not the same.
I would actually say that this model has a more likeable sound signature. It is not as cold, or cold at all for that matter but is still much more balanced than the old 8.0, which was understandably too dark and warm for a lot of people. While it is without doubt this has some boosting in the bass, because most emphasis lays deeper, these still are incredibly balanced. Big and dynamic sounding, but balanced. When Josh first listened to them he was like they have bass but they are still just so linear. I agree with him but the linear he is referring too is just how nothing is out of place, no nooks or crannies, just smooth through out, obviously they are also pretty flat in the usual sense after 250Hz or so as well.
I did want to talk a little more about the bass before we move onto measurements because up until now I have made it out to be big in the bass, but that was only comparative to the 10.A. In reality it is still a nimble and controlled bass that has pretty decent extension for an all armature design, if not near the level of Jupiter. It is textured very well and also can explode if needed but in reality it is still a very balanced bass response.
All in all this is a very coherent and well put together earphone. It shows signs of musicality and also of a technically great earphone with detail and clarity to boot. Oddly it is a small departure to the 10.A but what it does differently changes it into something different that is a real top universal model without doubt.
Still a Rare Luxury
While a lot of the new breed, high driver count universal models sounds great, few of them nail the package as well as Heir with the IEM 10.0. Campfire Audio spring to mind with Jupiter, which actually is much better built than this but surely not as good looking or small. This actually is a “universal fit” model whereas JH Audio’s Layla is too busy being a behemoth in size to properly fit everyones ears. While my big ear readers should not worry about size and just want a sound that suits them if you have smaller ears and have found some earphones to be just too big then this could be a top tier for you! It sounds darn delicious too.
With the better resale of a universal, cheaper start cost, thicker and more musical sound and less production time, this really does have a deliberate and solid place in the Heir Audio line up and think it is once again another great model by the team in China.
Turn the Page for Measurements