Thick & Thin
I will talk about the RE2000 first. It sounds epic. Really epic. I wasn’t messing around when I said I need to enjoy an earphone to write about it. I won’t be giving a minute of my time to listen to something I don’t want to. I WANT TO LISTEN TO THESE. I can happily say they injected a little passion back into this hobby for me, downloading new tunes, revisiting old, comparing to my other current favorites like aforementioned ProPhile8 and SB-7. It feels like the old days.
I want to get straight into the expansive presentation of these. It is really wide and instruments have incredible spatial precision. It doesn’t seem to be as deep as the PP8 but regardless it has so much more width and space between percussion that it sounds a lot bigger and is way more “out of head”. It isn’t just all about width either with a clear and focussed centre image glueing everything together in the middle for a soundstage that is realistic as well as large. Very few IEMs create an experience like this in terms of sheer airy expansion.
Assessing the actual sound signature and I think we just about have a mild V shape. The bass is oh so juicy and we keep thickness into the lower midrange, with a slight disservice to a shy(er) presence range. We get a little bit of extra energy with some sparkle in the treble to complete a full and cohesive sound. Even the areas we see least of we have a lot, just not quite as much as in the bass. Putting all the quantities and frequency response aside and we have a very refined and clear sound. It doesn’t have the SB-7s somewhat extreme and overkill resolution but is an earphone that actually seems to play on something as benchmarked as the HD800s’s level and that is me really singing high praise. When it comes to technicalities these are without fault, but then again I guess that should be expected with quite the asking price, but I think these are better than just that.
The bass is incredible, there would definitely have been a day where I would have said these are a little too boosted in the mid-bass at the price but right now I am addicted to the quality. The speed and punch makes for such ample quantity to sound almost linear and not distracting in the slightest. Even the PP8 that probably has less gain, sounds heavier because it can’t match the finesse. Its like Mohammed Ali of bass responses, nimble yet thunderous on impact. I find comparing them in bass response to the SB-7 futile, they are very lacking in that area so these come off as bass cannons, not much learned.
Even though I have called these V shaped the mids are just so creamy and smooth. Leaning to the lower midrange ever so slightly they come across as a tad warm, but nothing extreme as far as I am hearing. Just a little rich. Just the right amount of thickness as well, everything is in proportion. The timbre although probably quite different just gives me flashbacks to some of the best dynamics of the past, products like the legendary Sony MDR-EX1000. Even dated products like that just have a tonality to instruments that is so much more natural than either the thin or loose sound balanced armatures can have, regardless of the driver count. This is not something you can emulate. Even with a slight upper midrange recession the range is captivating and correct and like I have said about this earphone previously, flawless.
The treble may complete a V (just) but it is certainly not as favored as the low end. 5kHz mounts a little sparkle and that gives a fun ring to notes and extension is great. I would potentially say that the treble doesn’t quite have the same realism as midrange and bass, but we are splitting hairs if that is the case. It doesn’t have that analytical flare like Campfire’s Andromeda or the SB-7, but then you never have that risk of getting cut.
The sound tuning of these is explicitly not to my usual taste. I normally would strive for neutrality in a flagship product and while technically these are as good as it gets, they do have colouration, no one can deny that. But they just work for me, they are music and maybe I have found that in my break from reviewing, perfection comes in music and not a flat frequency curve? Maybe I am just going mad!
Coming off the RE2000, the RE800 sounds thin. That isn’t actually the case but they have quite a tonality shift throughout the frequencies. They are also slightly easier to drive. The biggest differences would be more polite bass and a brighter treble. The bass still extends and is still of a higher calibre but does without the boosting. It is weird that the cheaper model for once is the more “reference” tuned while the flagship would be more “fun”. Inverted commas to take the comments with the salt intended. The bass is not as obvious, especially under 75Hz but the mid-bass can still play its hand but with a slightly spongier impact. Without the mid-bass bloom the midrange is not as warm and instead favors higher mids which build into a very in-your-face 7kHz peak. A peak that with some tips will leave a bit of sibilance.
Even though the upper midrange is more plentiful, it doesn’t do so with the composure of the RE2000, instead we have excess energy and heaps of clarity. In the past I was all for that, hell it’s not as if I am having problems listening to these anyway, especially with their superior comfort. I may be wrong here but listening to these I get whiffs of both the positives from RE600 & RE272. The RE600 was perhaps too conserved and sheltered sounding while the RE272 sometime got hot with to much adrenaline, this is the middle ground and it is a delicious effect. I find no offense in the treble, it certainly has a lot going on but I have heard less sanitary replications at higher price points and those earphones have still been praised on all merits. Certain people will find issue though so be aware if you’re particularly sensitive in this area.
While right now I just want to get go back to the RE2000, they are similar enough – and while currently I just prefer their presentation, I do think in the long run the 800 could end up as my favorite with better balance & sublime comfort. I know most of what I said about the RE800s has been how these differ from the RE2000 because tonally they are tuned very differently, but technically you can tell they are cut from the same cloth. The RE800 isn’t as wide but still sounds big and instrument operation is stellar. You still have amazing speed, refinement and liquid coherency across the ranges.
I don’t think the prices of these are justified, nor do I think there is great value in any earphone this price. I find I end up traveling with cheaper earphones these days because I am less worried about what if they get broken or lost and I have enough that still sound fabulous. But what I am more happy about is that the RE2000 proudly wears its cost while just supporting one dynamic driver. Nothing has changed in terms of driver count since their original cheap RE-2. Yes, they have developed and pushed the technology and made advances in both sound and design but they aren’t trying to trick you into thinking you need more. In fact they are spending a lot of time bringing down the hype and rubbish a lot of manufactures are telling you. I can conclude based on my experience with the RE800 and RE2000 that one driver can indeed paint the whole picture as well as anything else out there.
The RE2000 is without doubt in my top three favourite universal IEMs, the other two being the PP8 and Campfire Andromeda. But while in terms of sound I may prefer the RE2000, the Campfire is built a billion times better, with a fancy cable and bag and the PP8 is leagues ahead in comfort.
I am all for prioritising sound but if you are listening for hours on end comfort is going to be the definitive factor. I also have my hesitations about how these will hold up in the future, they even look a bit tacky in my macro images, is it wrong that if I was picking these or the Andromeda’s based solely on aesthetics it would not even be a close competition. I am not even going to finalise with whether or not I think these are a good value purchase, just that I am besotted by their sound.
The RE800 is a weird one. Cheaper. More Analytical. Comfier. If anything it certainly seems like the easy recommendation. But then can I bring myself to recommend a $599 earphone that doesn’t even have a strain relief, let alone removable cables? You get a warranty but I don’t want to be waiting a few weeks every few months to get the very ordinary cable replaced. Maybe I am cynical and it will last forever but I have my doubts. Beyond that they are worth their weight in SILVER.