HEAD-PIE EXCLUSIVE 

LOTOO PAW Touch, first impressions 
– Mimouille

 

1. Introduction

As some of you may know, I am quite the Lotoo fanboy, as I think the Lotoo Paw Gold is one of the best DAPs out there, if not the best for my tastes and usage. So when I heard they were developing a new touch DAP, needless to say I was jumpy like a 5-year old who just ate all of his Halloween loot. I tried to contact Michael Xiao to get more information, but he left the company, so I tried other avenues. When I learned there was a press conference to announce the DAP in Beijing, I thought jackpot, but it was only for the press, and already full, and apparently Head pie is not press (are you going to let them say that Damon!).

After harassing their guys on Taoabo, I finally got the WeChat of the marketing guy, who suggested I come to their office (which is on the other side of town, you guys can thank me for spending 200 RMB of taxi for the cause). I was welcomed at the Infomedia office (the company behind Lotoo) by Wang Lin and Hang Xu, both from marketing, the latter being an engineer and quite knowledgeable on the technical aspects.



According to him the philosophy behind the Lotoo Paw Gold was to be a reference player, inherited from their background in sound recording (Infomedia is the OEM for NAGRA). They had no background in the music industry per say. 
They realized this meant the player was, in their opinion, more suited to classical music than to more modern genres. Based on this, they tried to develop a new player, still close to their “reference” house sound, but more “musical”. As you will see in my impressions, I would not qualify the sound of both players as they do, but that was their goal. 
This also means that both players will continue to be co-TOTL, it is not one replacing the other.

The Lotoo Paw Touch will be out in China at the end of May / beginning of June at the price of 
17 999 RMB (2850$ roughly) and international price is not yet know, but I did (strongly) suggest that staying under 3k would be a good idea…).

2. Build and ergonomics:

I have to say I have always loved the build of the Paw Gold, and the Touch is also very impressive. The design is simple and functional: they are not trying to copy A&K or other similar players out there. They are going for robustness and ease of use, with a more neutral look than the Paw Gold (black instead of bling, even though the volume wheel remains gold). The finish seems excellent, all in black metal, with metal buttons that feel durable and responsive, and are well placed. The player is larger than the Paw Gold, but quite smaller than the WM1Z, and very handy (although thicker than most DAPs).










The player has a single ended 3.5mm jack and and balanced 4.4mm jack, as well as a USB-C port for transfer and charging. The player will come with a nice black leather case (the one I saw was already good, but the production version will be better).


3. UI and functionality:

The player has lightning speed startup. It turns on in two seconds, and is immediately ready to operate, and that is after I put in a new card (with only 1.5g of music, let us see later how it behaves with 200g). 

You can see the video here:


In terms of functionalities, the UI is super-fast and convenient. It sometimes crashes, but this will be solved in the production version, and these crashes are solved in 2 seconds by rebooting. It happened maybe three times in two hours of testing. 

You can see just how reactive it is here on basic functions. At this stage, the UI doesn’t recognize embedded album art, but will in a future FW update.


You can access several features through the play screen. Otherwise there are several useful settings, like the possibility to change the 4.4mm from headphone out to Line Out. Both 3.5 and 4.4 have low and high gain settings.






Other key points: 
The player will support USB DAC function in a future firmware updates
Two-way blue tooth will be supported as well, for Bluetooth earphones for instance, using LDAC
WIFI features will be added, included FW update, but it is almost sure that streaming through Tidal and Spotify will NOT be implemented. There are two key reasons for that :
o It is not very popular or even well known in China, the product manager heard about it two month ago at a show for the first time. QQ Music should be possible
o The UI is their own development, does not use Android or Linux, so implementation of third party apps is very difficult
Transfer speed through USB C is very fast (UHS-II, up to 300mb/s)


4. Sound Impressions:

Preliminary note: the Lotoo Paw Touch I have tried is not a final production version. The tuning is supposedly final, but there will be some further improvements on gain and noise floor, mostly on the 3.5 single ended side. 
PLEASE TAKE ALL OF THESE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT, I HAD ONLY 90 minutes OF LISTENING SESSIONS WITH THE TOUCH.

I wanted to compare mostly on the SE5u, because it is hard to compare if you change too many parameters, but I also brought and tested more briefly the VE8 (for noise, as it is much more sensitive) and synergy, and IE800s for control and synergy. All listening is done with Redbook or high resolution FLAC.

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on SE5 Ultimate, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:



My WM1Z is on the latest firmware 2.0, so it has a balanced sound, closer to neutrality than it did at first, but still with warm tonality, full mids and smooth sound overall.

Here are some points :
The Lotoo Paw Touch seems to have deeper bass rumble, the bass has more echo with the stage
The mids are warmer on the WM1Z
The Touch is faster, with shorter attack and decay, suited to fast music
It can more easily sound harsh than the WM1Z, as it is still thinner and more reference sounding despite bass body, so it will be less forgiving
Female vocals are equally transparent, a bit more engaging on the WM1Z 
The stage seems equally wide and airy more or less, but it feels as if the Touch has a denser presentation more front to back layout than the more “stereo” on the WM1Z
Cords have more visceral texture, sound more raw on the LT (more realistic as a consequence), smoother on the WM1Z
Highs don’t seem peaky, I tested my ear torturing tracks, but it is clearly not the smoothest player out there. Lotoo’s idea of natural and musical is not the same as Sony’s
On high gain sound increments on volume are quite large,  but you don’t have enough control (even though the SE5U needs a lot of juice. And was at 60-65 /100 on high gain)

This first impression is good, but not incredible, the player sounds great, but the synergy with the SE5U is capricious, it needs really good mastering. My feeling is that the synergy will be better with smoother, warmer IEMs.

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on VE8 Ultimate, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:


The player is quite silent as far as I could tell on the VE8, which is a good sign as the VE8 is a hiss fest with noisy sources (QP2R for instance)
The synergy is MUCH better than with the SE5U, the pairing sounds actually wonderful, maybe the best I have heard the VE8 sound. You get the raw resolution of the Lotoo Paw Gold with more space and air

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. WM1Z on IE800s, 4.4mm balanced jack, high gain:

The player seems to have the necessary power and control to drive the IE800s cleanly
The synergy is not as good as with the WM1Z, as the IE800s have a raw quality to the sound, and so does the touch, so raw + raw = sushi indigestion. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounds good, but could be fatiguing in the long run

Lotoo Paw Touch vs. Lotoo Paw Gold on SE5u, single ended jack, low then high gain:


On low gain single ended, need to crank the volume 90/100 but you get  nice control over volume
The sound is close to that of the LPG (the amplification section is the same) but with more width and air, which is at the expense of the some of the raw, deep sound of the LPG
Presentation is a bit different, the vocal tonality is different as well, but honestly, my ears were starting to get tired at that point to say more precisely. Overall,  it is obvious that there are differences, but you can tell both players have the same creator


5. Conclusion:

I was very impressed by the Lotoo Touch on build and functionality. The player feels great and is very easy to use. How Infomedia was able to develop their own UI from scratch and make it so efficient from the start is mind boggling.

At first, I was expecting SO MUCH from the sound, that I felt slightly disappointed. Then I remembered that I didn’t like the Lotoo Paw Gold the first two times, and it is now one of favorite pieces of gear. This comparison showed me the importance of synergy at this level. 

If I look at what I compared today:
Best pairing for SE5U might still be LPG
For IE800s it certainly still is the WM1Z 
But with the VE8, the Lotoo Paw Touched had the perfect balance and really shined


All in all, this is a very promising player that stands up to the best sounding players in the market. It will certainly prove to be a great all-rounder for people who want a top performing touch DAP, with a quite reference sound. I am wondering if I will buy it at least for the VE8, and maybe for the Hyla Nerva X (should pair super well)

6. Bonus: 

Lotoo Paw Gold vs. Lotoo Paw Gold 2017 (Lotoo Paw Gold 2 in Japan)


I was curious to compare my first version Lotoo Paw Gold (right) with the new Lotoo Paw 2017 (left). The differences in sound are supposed to be minimal, mostly on the noise floor. The casing has a different, prettier color (in my opinion of course). The PCB is supposed to be new and improved, but measured performance is apparently the same.

Comparing for a few minutes on my VE8 and SE5U, I could not hear any significant difference on low gain with the volume matched. 

I still want the new one because it is prettier and I am vain.








Specifications:

Body:

- Dimensions: 119mm x 68.6mm x 21mm
- Weight: 275g

Screen:
- Touchscreen
- Size: 3.77" IPS Display
- Resolution: 800 x 480
- Gorilla Glass (Std 5)
- DLC Coating for Added Strength
- AF (Anti-Fingerprint) Coating

Battery:
- Playback Time: 10+ Hrs
- Capacity: 5500 mAH

USB: 
- USB-C with upto USB 3.1 protocol
- USB DAC Functionality
- USB Charging

Wireless:
- Bluetooth 4.1 with LDAC support
- WiFi b/g/n (Purpose Still Unknown)

Memory:
- SD Card
- Support Upto 2TB UHS II

Software:
- Lotoo OS (Not Android or Linux)
- PMEQ II with 5 Filters Per Setting
- ATE

Audio:
- DAC Chip: AKM 4497EQ
- Support upto PCM 768kHz and DSD512
- Headphone Out - 4.4mm Balanced& 3.5mm Single Ended
- Line Out - 4.4mm
- Output Power: 500 mW per Channel at 32 Ohms

4.4mm Balanced Headphone Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.008/-0.34 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00015%
- SNR: 127 dB
- Channel Separation: -126 dB
- Dynamic Range: 127 dB
- High Gain: +14.4 dBu
- Low Gain: -10 dBu

4.4mm Line Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.008/-0.34 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00015%
- SNR: 127 dB
- Channel Separation: -126 dB
- Dynamic Range: 127 dB
- Gain: +14.4 dBu

3.5mm Singel Ended Headphone Out:
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 kHz (+0.006/-0.38 dB)
- THD+N: 0.00045%
- SNR: 123 dB
- Channel Separation: Unknown
- Dynamic Range: 123 dB
- High Gain: +16 dBu
- Low Gain: -9 dBu





Opus#2, Campfire Audio Andromeda, Vega and Comet. Kinera Seed. Opus#1S

64 Audio were kind enough to provide the U18Tzar and tia Forte for a Head-fi tour. 
Hence the well worn look of the boxes. Well loved.

64 Audio U18 Tzar & tia Fourte
 - Ngoshawk


Life at the top is good, twice as good.

Pros – Superb detail. Stellar layering. Incredible overall sound. A bit better bass (to me) on the Tzar. Stunning sound.

Cons – Only a few tips included. Cable while sounding wonderful, looks quite average. For this price some might like some customization. Nitpicking really, nothing wrong

A combined review of the 64Audio tia Fourté and the U18 Tzar. Stunning is an insult.

64Audio tia Fourté & U18 Tzar

With Resolve. A transitive verb, obsolete : dissolve, melt

Followed by resolution. To cause resolution of (a pathological state):

a: to deal with successfully : clear up (resolve doubts, resolve a dispute)

b: to find an answer to

c: to make clear or understandable

My emotional image of what a TOTL IEM should sound like has been resolved. Completely. Fully. Entirely. Wholly. Followed by the resolution that what I DO hear is so close to perfect that I do not fathom how we could go higher. Completely. Fully. Entirely. Wholly.

The two 64Audio models are the best IEM’s (let alone headphones…) I have ever had the honor of hearing…period. This will come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to Head-Fi or theheadphonelist.com over the last year+. While the Fourté’s brethren the A18 placed third in the shootout, I will never be able to discern what would concert in making not one but TWO others better. My ears cannot handle it. I do not have good enough hearing to discern the differences between 1st & 3rd. That said, I CAN hear the difference between the DITA Dream (luckily also on hand), and my Unique Melody Maestro V2’s. Maybe discern the difference is a poor choice of words…decide WHAT or WHY 1st & 2nd are better would be closer to the truth. And truth is in the eye of the beholder.

My son, Pinky & I had a mini-meet a couple of weeks ago. In conversing beforehand, he asked what he should bring for me to hear. The emoji I sent back, was that smary sideways smirking look, which said really??!! That said, I did politely ask for the Fourté, knowing he had recently picked up a pair and was smitten like a teenager looking at his first, well….never mind about that image. Strike that, please. Pinky cordially obliged, bringing many other fine wares to peruse. He wanted to try my Maestro’s, having only had a brief listen in the company of Lawrance at a meet in St. Louis. I was more than happy to return the favor. Many other listening devices were on hand, including his Cayin N5ii (which he held away from me in a death grip), the iBasso DX200 he had on hand, as well as my personal Shanling’s, both M3S and M5. A cornucopia of listen bliss was had, and this only heightened my anticipation regarding the 64 products. I will admit that we like a slightly different signature, so the devices were tailored differently than I would. That said, he did point out that the Opus#2 (which I held in death grip) was not running any EQ settings.


The pair was magnificent. Stunning is a hyperbole used quite a bit for audio products. Stunning does not begin to describe the nirvanic sound piercing my ears. An intoxication of the type, where I almost had my son drive home…almost. He refused giving ME that smarmy look, because we were in the Prius. So, I had to sober up on “lesser” gear. Which I will add was damn fine listening.

Fast forward to the day. I was only able to listen briefly to assure the tour peeps, that all was well and good, and copacetic in 64-land. It was. My first full day is actually today. And I am not disappointed. Driven through my M5, this is Zenith material. I cannot stress this enough. This is not hype. This is Lamborghini Veneno territory of IEM’s. At this point in time, there are only 1-2 competitors with which to compete (in my mind…). Maybe a better comparison of the top three would be the first episode of The Grand Tour, where Clarkson, Hammond & May finally do get the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder together in that epic Hypercar shootout. Throw in the Lamborghini and you have that foursome and you could easily label the four I have as those above. My goodness we do.

Another positive from that mini-meet was a search in earnest by me for a wonderful Opus#2. Hearing that wonderful device made me a believer and gave me the push to dive in and find my own…it is in route as I scribble. The pair will be back together very soon. So, as luck would have it, I have four wonderful units with which to listen for a short time. Even the few days together allowed me appreciation of company’s vision regarding their TOTL IEM. A joy it is to participate.



Gear compared:

64Audio U18 Tzar

64Audio tia Fourté

DITA Dream (with Van Den Hul Truth cable)

Unique Melody Maestro V2

Shanling M5/iBasso PB3

Opus#2

Songs used:

Pretty irrelevant, since as usual I’m late to the party and everyone has pretty much described what sounds good or what they used with this critter. I did listen to a variety, trying to cover many genres. Needless to say, they ALL sounded good.

THE Day:


Ever since my feeble mind deciphered that I would in fact have an overlap with the 64Audio pair & the DITA Dream, I was hamster-wheel-like ciphering that I could include my Maestro V2 and do a four-way shootout! Well, not really, but more a dedicated listen for an extended period of time, as I was off on Holiday for the day. Halfway through, and I have drawn some stark (to me, but no one else on the planet most likely…) conclusions. So here it goes…


The tia Fourté is good. Damn good. Really, REALLY good. So good in fact, that any further superlatives would be drooling on the case (in hopes of not on the IEM itself) and pretty much pointless. But dear reader, that is not the point. The point for me anyway will be to try and describe the differences in how I hear the four. If I can portray the diffs, then imagine what a competent person could do…



I was able to give a dedicated listen to the Fourté for several hours. I wanted an uninterrupted session, since that would probably be the only time I could. The airiness with which sound is presented is otherworldly. There is a reason the Fourté had the best resolution of this group. It is incredible. An interesting history of the usage of Audio Resolution can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-resolution_audio
To me resolution is sheer definition. To have something so precise and perfect that everything is in place. No mistakes, no misplacements, no errors whatsoever…and this to me is a very strong point, one that cannot be underrepresented. That said, showing overly-detailed response can be antithesis of what some want. Here, it is the perfect melding of sound signature, imaging, sound stage (almost, Maestro V2 is marginally better), timbre and any other audio terms you would like to throw in. Only in separation does the Maestro beat this vaunted unit. And to my tired ears, it really is a push.

I would consider the Fourté on the same level as a Hypercar such as the Porsche 918 Spyder. It may not be the fastest, nor handle the best, but it is the quintessential melding of all to form the package, which does what you want, when you want. The Tzar to me has better bass sound, and slightly better control of that bass. If I had to make one change to the Fourté, that would be it. In fact at this current moment listening to Bob Marley, on the Tzar, I prefer that signature to the Fourté. The Tzar is an incredible critter, in it’s own right. Consider the Tzar the Veneno of the group.


I lush superlatives on the 64 Audio pair almost to the point of love. Well…yes, because there is nothing I have heard IEM-wise that is better. Some come close, but to me this IS my pinnacle so far (a point I mentioned in not only my Pinnacle P1 review but also Vibro Labs Aria reviews, eons ago…). I have heard nothing better than these two. @Faithguy19 warned me that I had better get the DITA Dream listening done early, because once I heard the 64Audio’s, they would not come out of my ears. He is absolutely-almost correct. What good would that do me, if I did not compare to what others I had worthy of inclusion? So he is correct, you do not want to take the 64’s out, at all, ever; but must in order to bring/restore your sanity and depth of perspective. Especially when you have other fine wares in hand.

As stated above, the Tzar’s are wonderful on their own. Many on the tour thread extoll the virtue of the Fourté, but neglect the Tzar. Recently on a Facebook thread, someone posted how he was awaiting the arrival of his Tzar. I will have to go back and congratulate him on an extraordinary purchase, well because it IS. In fact the longer I go, the more I appreciate their tuning, and prefer them to the Fourté.

Wait….wait a bloody minute! Did this loser just state he actually prefers the Tzar to the Fourté??!! Blasphemous! Plagarous! Ridiculous!!! Incredulous!!! Hippopotomous!!! Well, yes, I did. I did in fact say that. Taking the Tzar out of my moldy ears, I replace them with the Fourté, and hope to explain. As incredible sounding as the tia’s are, they are too bass shy in quality to me. That does not mean the bass, which is there is poor sounding, far from it. Rich, engulfing and crystalline clear it is. But there just isn’t enough of it for my tastes. I have moved to where I prefer not to EQ anything, and if I had the Fourté, I’m afraid I would have to do that. And yes, I have sufficient amperage in modular units, that would allow for that “deficiency.” From the first moment I put the U18T into my ear, I fell in love. Not the love I feel for my Maestro, no that is pure unadulterated love. A love, which could best be described as longing. Like that perfect vacation where you KNEW right away, you would come and retire once the time is up on your occupation. A place you dream about, which guides you towards that destination. A place you think of often, and will attain eventually. Much like Lake Superior and my soul. A place I hold so dear to my center, that it drives me. This is how I feel about the Tzar, as I listen to Dave Matthews Gravedigger. Then of course I put the Fourté back in, and while the sound is that crystalline clear of a -30 degree Fahrenheit day, cloudless and snow gleaming, it lacks that feel. That finished touch of when the snow and wind and vivid possibilities come about during the storm. That is the Tzar.


If the Tzar is that wonderful and possibly life-threatening Superior winter storm; the Fourté is the crystalline clear afterwards, where everything is perfect. Not a sound, but simply beauty in that silence. And, the Maestro is the lifelong companion I would want along for that ride. Warm, inviting, excellent of tone and separation, it is a vivid reminder of what one can have for less than ½ the price of the others. Not a compromise at all, but the companion you cherish wisely. And I do.


The layering of the Fourté is beyond repose. It is exemplary as you can separate each layer of music and tone completely. The same can be said for the Tzar, but with a bit of a darker tone. One as stated I prefer. This would be that perfect Dagwood sandwich, well thought out, but ultimately for our consumption and well worth the thought.



The build of the 64 products is exemplary (as it should be…). Presented in a fairly plain container, they took the approach of the product matters more than the container. I would concur. Included is a humidor-like container with which to display the critter. My only qualm here is that the cable is wrapped around a split “post, “ rather tightly. While it works, I would almost spend for a Pelican, and throw in the desiccant. Included tips are few with three of foam (REALLY nice ones and silicon), plus most at this purchase would use their preferred tip, hopefully after trying out many. I did use the foam Comply-like tip because that is my tip of choice. Matching the sound I prefer, a darker warmer sound, the foams provided me with that outlet.


Not much has been said regarding the Dream. All focus has been upon the 64 pair for this aspect, but I will add that the Dream with the Truth cable is well worthy of inclusion into this quartet. A wonderfully Germanic-type build is the stellar star platform on which a very, very good IEM is built. Bass of rumbling quality, surprising to be honest, the DITA would be that McLaren P1 crashing the above party. Somewhat raw to drive (ask Hammond…), but worth its entry in gold. With a bass note driving very good resolution, separation and imaging, I do liken the Dream to a Panzer tank. Built to withstand the enemie’s ultimate charge, it can be defeated. You simply need find it’s weak point. Not easy to drive, and a bit thin of sound compared to the other three, it is good in its own right. Mid range detail is superb to me. Tying together with the exuberant bass, the Dream can be that expensive pair you throw into the gym bag. It is built that well. And while I appreciate the addition of a $499 cable, designed by VanDenHul, it is a PITA to coil and keep straight. Unforgiving and constantly coiling that is enough for me to dump it in favor of other special cables.

Held of its own, and after adjusting away from the 64 products, the Dream comes into its own. That polite thinner sound can draw you in because of the details presented. With excellent to me treble sound, hearing that guitar pluck of David Gilmour makes the Dream sing. Faltering a bit on the piano staccato, it is still all well and good. This is the morning coffee pair, as you look over Lake Superior on a summer’s day before the wind has picked up. Enjoying that solitude is most definitely not to be missed. But for the rest, you will need to finish over on my Dream review. This one is for the 64’s.

I find the SPC cables a conundrum for both of the 64’s. Plain, simple eminently coilable they just work. And you know I like things that just work. It is a testament that sometimes a simple item just proceeds, without getting in the way.


Once I figured out how to run Tidal on the Opus, I listened to both the Tzar and Fourté for the evening exclusively on Tidal. I must say, that the combination of the Opus#2 and Tzar was stunning. A level of detail I had not fully understood came about and right knocked me back. This was a very good combination, with excellent detail retrieval, separation and imaging. I would state that the soundstage did suffer a smidge, but I have never been one to quibble regarding soundstage.

I then put the Fourté in, and was taken aback even further. That superb level of detail became even more crystal clear. Verbiage of song I had not heard from Tidal became almost second-nature. Precise, sharp, crystalline-clear and full the Fourté simply excelled in this format. I will say that on a couple of Dave Matthew’s songs, the overall sound became a bit thin, but I blame the limitations of Tidal, even though it is of high quality (I have a paid subscription for this purpose alone). I do believe this exact combination is the one Tidal was looking for when they gave us the paid subscriptions….now only if they would stay in business…

Finale:

It has been two days since the pair left our humble area. I had all but forgotten about them, only realizing that I need finish this review whilst I listen to the next project…and I do reminisce about that sound. I can still (imagine) remember the level of detail in which the Fourté took me in completely. To me, the defining point of an exemplary unit, that detail allows all, completely to be heard the way the musician intended. Every note, every fault, every nuance heard, and laid naked the way composer meant. I vividly recall the bass, which drove me to like the Tzar more. A bass, which I rate up as some of the best quality/quantity ratio I have heard. I was enthralled when I heard it, and am still.

If people did not demand products of this cost, then they probably would not be manufactured. Kind of like that Hypercar foursome mentioned above. If demand did not warrant, then they might only be engineers dreams….wait, who am I kidding?!


It is BECAUSE of those impassioned engineers that we can give ourselves that luxury. Those darn engineers and their deep-thinking cranials gave rise to some of the most sought after and vaunted automobiles ever. The same can be said of the 64’s. And I for one am thankful for that memory. Think of where we would be had Enzo Ferrari not envisioned his marque. The world just might be a whole lot more boring places to live. I for one am glad that we can cherish and embrace the Enzo’s of this world.

I thank @64Audio for this incredible honor, and the faith they have shown the Head-Fi groupies. And, without @Barra managing these tours (he be a busy boy!!), it would not be possible.






Morning coffee and kids set up. iBasso DX200, Bluetooth to iFi iOne, Spdif/ coaxial to Onkyo CR-N765 and D-112EXT speakers plus Onkyo sub woofer T300-B





Straight in. iBasso DX200, Spdif/ coaxial to Onkyo CR-N765 and D-112EXT speakers plus Onkyo sub woofer T300-B







The HiFi Boy OS V3 was brought to my attention thanks to a friend who knew what I liked in an IEM and I was surprised that his recommendation is for a company that's new to the world of audio, "HiFi boy is a high-end hifi audio brand launched by China Chengdu Fallante Technology Co., Ltd." from the About page on their website with the OS V3 as their first shot at making a mark in the audio world. Barring any superhero insignia references, lets see if this is HiFi Boy's Symbol of Hope.


My HiFi Boy OS V3 was bought from the Penon website ($159 USD or Php 8,276) and is the Blue and Red version (there is a Black one available too.) There was a nice little Penon velcro cable wrap added to the package, a nice little touch (considering, you'll read why later on) while the vacuum sealed box taunted me with the goodies held inside.


The cardboard sleeves have some branding and images of the stuff inside. Sliding the sleeve off reveals a hard matte box with the HiFi Boy branding and a sticker stating the specs of the IEM.

Specs (from Penon):
Drivers: 2 Balanced Armature & 1 Dynamic Driver
(Ultra-high frequency Balanced Armature + high frequency Balanced Armature + 7mm strong magnetic composite diaphragm Dynamic Driver )
Impedance: 19 Ohm
Sensitivity: 109 dB
Frequency response 20Hz-20KHz
Cable Length: 1.2 m
Plug: 3.5mm rhodium-plated
Wire: 5N OFC silver-plated cable
Connector: 2pin 0.78mm


Inner box contains an airplane audio plug, a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter and the branded semi-hard pouch which olds the OS V3. Let me just say that the airline plug isn't on the top of my list of accessories while the adapter was alright and the case is similar to most China audio cases included in cheaper products.


As advertised on Penon (but not in the packaging), the case contains a generous amount of tips! 3 pairs of red and blue cored silicone tips (s/m/l), 1 pair of small wide bore white tips, 1 pair medium wide bore blue tips, 2 pairs of white/ and blue double flanged tips (m/l) and lastly 2 pairs of foam tips (s/m). It also has a user guide (that I didn't read through, I'm a rebel like that) and of course, the precious ones.


As I mentioned earlier, that Penon wire wrap is going to be useful coz that yellow one doesn't do the cable or the IEM any justice, it's there for the sole purpose of holding the wires till you can rip it off and forget about it. Another is that the plug is supposed to be Rhodium, but looks like it's Gold to me. Not really a big thing for me, it just needs to be straightened out.


The IEM is made of semi clear resin and hand made, shaped into a universal custom shell that fits extremely well in my ears (and the few other ears I've since lent this to) that looks like it took cues from Ibasso. These are some beautifully crafted shells, I cannot feel the seams and they feel solid in my hand and ears. At the back, there is one vent hole for each IEM to aid in (I'm assuming) creating bass and avoid that in-ear pressure problem on some designs.


Though I haven't seen any bubbles in the shell itself, on the nozzle which has 2 channels, there are a few small ones. Being normally covered by ear tips, I don't think it's a deal breaker. The tip lip is good sized enough to keep most tips I've used to stay in place, And that cable is definitely one of the better one's I've used at least in wearing them as they do not try to unroll off my right ear (which is why I like mmcx connectors) which aside from looking good, it feels sturdy and yet soft.


You can see the workmanship that went into this as well as the parts used, the semi clear case makes it look all the more interesting. The logo on the face is embeded in clear plastic (or acrylic) which protects it from being rubbed off.


I tested the OS V3 after 185 hours of use with different DAPs and a phone, volume matched to 80db using a 1khz sound file and a sound meter. (Songs used will be listed below.)

Bass, when I first tried it on the WM1a, the sub-bass hit me like a truck! It was strong if a bit sloppy/splashy, with a lot of bass quantity that drove me from mild mannered balanced audiophile to raging basshead. After being burned in, the bass hits deep and more precise though that feeling of a wide slam is not as strong as before, it gives a nice satisfying rumble with detail and faster decay. On a more neutral DAP (I borrowed FACE Review's R6) the bass hits, well and good, just not as strongly felt vs my warmer Sony. No matter what DAP you use, the bass will be very fun, and ever present in any track that has a hint of bass that flows into the mids very well.

Mids, are on a more balanced profile vs the bass, it presents good clarity and detail retrieval. Vocals aren't thick but there is a touch of warmth that adds to the liveliness of the voices you hear, with females like Sarah McLachlan and Norah Jones taking your attention away from day to day life. Male vocals aren't in last place with the OS V3, as the lower mids help guys like Ed Sheeran and M. Shadows sing to you with a smile or gritted teeth (whatever floats your boat).

Highs, though not the crispiest, it has a good amount of sparkle and air with smoothness and detail you can jive to. The highs extend a fair bit but you wont hear any harsh crashes or sibilance. Music like AC/DC (A Long Way to the Top) will show you how much dad's music still rocks on these IEMs.


Soundstage and clarity on the OS V3 is pretty good, as the separation of instruments, voices and sounds lead to a more spacious experience with moderate depth. Positioning is accurate via the virtual haircut app and the songs I've played through it.


It's been awhile since I felt this excited about an IEM (or headgear for that matter), as this made me realize I haven't really outgrown my love for good bass. Almost any song I played through it felt good to listen to, and listen I did, for hours on end as I tried to find any glaring problem with it, to date, I can't really say anything bad about it. 80's music felt right at home, rock makes me want to bang my head, jazz soothes my nerves, pop and dance makes me want to sway, heck even classical music sounds good here (may lack the air and brightness some fans desire for it though).

Overall, the box is a bit average, the accessories are well and good, but these IEMs are the biggest surprise as I feel that it's great value for money, great sound and great looks. In my opinion, this is best paired with a neutral sounding player to lend a more organic feel to the music. This is definitely a great start for HiFi Boy.

Pros:
Great Bass, good mids and highs, good detail, clarity and soundstage, and can be used to listen to a variety of genres.

Cons:
Can definitely benefit from better packaging (The Kinera Seed packaging looks good in this regard) specially at this price range.

PS - I may add more thoughts on the OS V3 in the coming days, provided my new upgrade balanced cables arrive.

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Test Tracks:
A Different Way - Lauv
A Foggy Day - Van Morrison
A Question of Lust - Depeche Mode (Live 1988)
Alive - Pearl Jam
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
Cheap Thrills - Sia
Come Away With Me - Norah Jones
Come Round Soon - Sara Bareilles
Country Road - James Taylor
Deeply Disturbed - Infected Mushroom
Discover Tokyo - Shuta Hasunuma
Do what you have to do - Sarah McLachlan
Dream a Little Dream of Me - Ella Fitzgerald
Get Lucky - Daft Punk
Hail to the King - Avenged Sevenfold
Ignorance - Paramore
Is This Love - Bob Marley
It's a Long Way To the Top - AC/DC
Lithium - Nirvana
My Curse - Killswitch Engage
One Day - Matishyahu
Photograph - Ed Sheeran
Pull Me Under - Dream Factory
Send My Love - Adele
September - Earth Wind and Fire
So Far Away - Martin Garrix
Staying Alive - Bee Gees 
Sugar - Maroon 5
Sunday Morning - No Doubt
The Day The World Went Away - Nine Inch Nails
Way Down Deep - Jennifer Warnes

*For this I also tried classical music playlists on Spotify.