01 June, 2016

FIIO X-1, Logitech/Ultimate Ears, AuGlamour R8 In-Ear Earphones

Image result for fiio x1 cnetReview: FIIO X-1, Part I
Review: Cheap Logitech/Ultimate Ears, AuGlamour R8 In-Ear Earphones
Heaphone Talk V

Many readers ask me why I review so few Chinese products. Well, in terms of the serious high-end, many questions about quality control, component authenticity and aesthetics remain. I also detest copy-cat items: I'd rather buy a real 47 Lab than a me-too (or worse, "improved") gain-clone (I don't like the name clone, period), you get the idea.

But the portability market (computers, cellphones, media players etc) is a different issue altogether. SM components can yield good sound but have much less value for counterfeiters, and we ourselves don't expect them to last very long. In this arena Chinese products are fiercely competitive - indeed they should be, and they are.

Head-Fi for Me?
Good question. I occasionally use headphones. But I certainly do not do it often. If one refers to reproduction of the live event, Head-Fi is inherently inferior and low-fi, period. The current Head-Fi scene is to me regrettable. These fellows rate DAC's and phonoamps and more based on what they hear in cans. AND, manufacturers cater to them just to sell things!

My Headphone Experience Lest you think I know nothing about headphones, read my Talk-Headphone articles, where you know exactly where I stand vis a vis headphones and the head-fi scene. And I haven't even posted my impressions of STAX!

BUT, this article is different. It is very basic, and I make use of only two very cheap In-Ear's.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you where I use the setup. Occasionally on a long bus trip, sometimes while cooking...

The Chinese company Fiio has been making head-waves for quite a while. Their products have received great reviews.

Bach: Suites for Solo Cello 1-6Built What more can you ask for USD 99? I actually adore the black rubber outer casing.

Ergonomics Definitely not the best, but certainly good enough.

Image result for beyer bach amandineFile Hiccups I haven't read about this in any review. Many classical sets have more than one CD. The X-1 gets thoroughly mixed up when it comes to multi-disc sets. The pictured 2-disc sets got jumbled together: instead of playing disc 1, track 2 of the violin set after its track 1, it plays instead disc 1, track 1 of the cello set, and so forth. You have to create albums on the computer to counter this. Manually file all the violin tracks into album "Bach Solo Violin Beyer" and do the same for the cello under "Bach Solo Cello Vogler" (names mine). Then "browse files" and hit the albums you have created.

Classical listeners have long known this. CAS has never been for them. A huge amount of editing is required to get where you want.

Logitech/Ultimate Ears (UE) In-Ears (right pic) While its pro offerings are well documented, Logitech/Ultimate Ears' cheap in-ears are orphans left in the wild. Mine are USD 20, similar to these.

Fit With the right earpieces, these simply insert into the ears with no fuss. They do not quite completely block outside sound but are well sealed off enough to hear the music even on trains and bus (I personally want a little outside sound to come through, for safety reasons).

AuGlamour R8 Some time ago, there was an official site, but it seemed to have been hacked and is defunct as of this writing. Read the head-fi article for info and pics. Mine is the black, supposedly more "neutral" version.

I dislike the name. "glamour" is feminine in French, hence "la glamour"; "au" is masculine and incorrect;  "a la glamour" would be more like it though still unidiomatic. This kind of thing is exactly what irks me about the Chinese products! Instead of a simple, plausible name, why be pretentious?

A friend recommended these for RMB200 (around USD 30) so I got a set not even knowing what it is. The packaging is luxurious but I dislike the looks of these phones because they are blatantly copies of their more expensive counterparts (including UE).

Fit With the complicated ear-loop and weight, these prove surprisingly difficult to fit. The "luxurious" metal weight, liked by some, is asinine to me, tiring in the long term. The seal is reasonably good, but for my left ear I could never get them to fit perfectly. I do find these a little too heavy for my taste. After listening for an hour, the outer skin of my ears get a little sore.

Sonic Impressions
  • FIIO X1 No complaint at all. Except for the unfriendly interface for classical listeners (which is universal), it does what I'd like it to do. Sound is good enough, as it reveals recording differences and seems rather neutral to me. In NYC I did try it briefly with my Audio-Technica AT-750 and Grado SR80 phones, and it drove them with aplomb. I have the equalization OFF, but they are interesting (the classical one has bass boost). Recommended.
  • UE No complaints either. These have a very comfortable fit and sound is airy and good enough for most material. I did use it to listen to a radio (RTHK4) broadcast of Bruckner Symphony No. 4. There it proved a little too lightweight. But these shall be my casual/go-to average use in-ears.
  • AuGlamour R8 These need some run-in. Initially they are rather dry. The R8 stands out for ONE thing - a deeper and more powerful bass. The midband however is a little forward and the treble somewhat sand-papery in quality. In general, these sound somewhat shut-in. For casual listening, I prefer the cheap UE's. However, the R8  lends more needed weight and dynamics to the same Bruckner broadcast mentioned above. After almost an hour of Bruckner, the skin of my ears were just a little tired from bearing those metal weights. Overall, jazz fans, like my friend, may take to these more than I (bass impact, upfront sound).
I am glad to have both.

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