Penon Audio Sphere


US$169.

Smooth, fast, fairly even and lots of space.

























PENON Sphere 
Balanced Armature 
2Pin 0.78mm HiFi Audiophile In-ear Earphone IEMs
Description
In 2019, Penon released the SPHERE IEM.
PENON SPHERE is made with the concept of simplicity is beauty. It uses a simple resin housing and logo, and uses Balanced Armature, it has excellent sound signature, Very Balanced. Quick Bass, Smooth Vocals and Airy Treble.
Specification
Driver: Balanced Armature
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20000Hz
Impedance:6Ω@1kHz
Sensitivity:118dB/1mW
Passive noise reduction: 26dB
Earphone interface: 2Pin 0.78mm
Plug:3.5mm
Cable Length: 1.2M
Package
SPHERE IEM
6 pairs of silicone eartips













The Penon Audio Sphere comes with a standard cable, tips and a basic carry case.

The sound is clear and defined.
The bass is fast and decays promptly.
It has a slight v shape which veers towards an evenness at times.

Treble is present and full of energy. Can become hot at times.

The vocals are just slightly orward and smooth.

Sound stage is above average and has a decent width.

The Sphere is an entry level earphone that would match well with smartphone or low to mid level dap.

For a single BA earphone it performs very well and is largely coherent overall.

I did not do any cable rolling and kept to the stock elements.

It has a natural sound mixed with dynamism.

Quite a pleasant casual listenable earphone with an easy fit.








Thank you to Penon for sending Head pie the Sphere.




https://penonaudio.com/isn-audio-h40.html?search=H40

ISN Audio H40 3BA+1 Dynamic Driver Hybrid MMCX HiFi Audiophile IEMS 
Description
ISN H40, 4 drivers hybrid earphone, Custom 1 Balanced Armature and composite 2 Balanced Armature and 9.2mm dynamic driver.
Earphone housing is resin.
MMCX connector design, Improve the playability
Sound signature : 
The low frequency is quick with a good dive. 
The middle frequency is at the forefront with more resolution. 
The high frequency is crispy and there is a good sense of air. 
The soundstage gives a surround sound.
Specification
Brand:ISN Audio
Model: H40
Driver:3 Balanaced Armature + 1 Dynamic driver
Dynamic driver : 9.2mm
3 Balanaced Armature: Custom 1 BA for middle Frequency + composite 2BA for high frequency
Impedance : 22 Ω @1khz
Sensitivity : 105 ± 3dB @1khz
Frequency response : 20-20kHz
Connector: MMCX
Plug: 3.5mm
Cable length: 1.2M
Package
ISN H40 earphone
Price US$195.00















The H40 by ISN Audio is a punchy and exciting IEM.

Sporting 3 Balanced Armatures and 1 Dynamic Driver it enters into the endgame fray of the battle of the hybrids.

It offers a variety of cable choices as pictured earlier above.

The mids seem to be the main event of this earphone, approaching a w sound signature with a raised middle.
Neither of the far ends of bass and treble are shy, but it certainly is the mids which are prominent.

The vocals sit within the music at most floating a tad above, certainly not forward.

I would sensibly pair this with a smartphone or mid fi dap at most.
It is fairly coherent as a hybrid but a totl dap would certainly reveal any shortcomings which would not be apparent with a more suitably matched dap.
By shortcomings i am not referring to anything lacking or specific but as general rule of thumb to pair earphones and daps well.

Whilst a totl earphone might play well with a basic dap or phone, a basic earphone rarely scales up suitably.

For two hundred dollars you a well done hybrid that is by and large coherent, but dont expect a CA Solaris.

It has a quite decently large soundstage. Wide with good depth and a mid height.

Has punchiness for days, but is smooth and forgiving also. Almost seems to have an analog signature at times.

I did not find it a tiring earphone (Sound and fit) and expect most people could listen to it comfortably for a long length of time.

It is also a great looking earphone from the shells to the beautifully braided cable.
The shells stick out a bit - but i did not find this interfered with comfort or fit at all.

It has a slight warmth to the sound so a more neutral dap might be a good pairing. Imho.

I used exclusively stock tips and cable. One may benefit from some tip rolling.
There is a decent enough selection of tips to either bring out the mids, or a more airy treble focus and the foams to focus a bit more on t he low end. These are small tweaks however and the general signature is maintained mostly.

Tips:
Clear slicone/ green stem - more low end and mids.

Dark/ red stem - more low end.

Clear/ green stem - more balanced overall, less dynamic.

Overall it is fairly smooth and enveloping, it has enough sound stage and imaging to please,  fairly controlled, decent body and density.
Not for people looking for a treble or airy focussed iem.

A pleasant hybrid with enough subtle tuning options available from tip rolling.







Thank you to Penon Audio for sending Head pie the H40.






Campfire Audio new releases Solaris 2020, Andromeda 2020 and Ara round up coming soon. Where i stitch the various impressions i have posted and add some summary.  In brief:

Andromeda 2020:
it seems like safest choice and has an ability to be an all rounder. More of a warm, smoother w sound than the V3, with good detailing and retains that Andro treble.

Solaris 2020:
If you want more low end and love that holographic sound stage, more mids than the OG...and the smaller shell of course.

Ara:
More a reference or studio sound. Technical and articulate. Enough low end to please still.

still.

​The overall sense of the latest CA releases is one of maturity and competency. They are all very coherent and excellently tuned.

I think it comes down to an individuals sonic preference with this latest release.


____________________________



Ara vs Andromeda MW10 (June 4th).

I received the Andromeda MW10 back yesterday.

So here is a quick summary from some shuffling back and forth.

Stock cables:
Ara - smokey litz
MW10 - Superlitz

Ara: More treble extension. More refined. Detailed. Excellent imaging and separation. More reference.
Seems wider.

MW10: More lower mids and bass. Vocals more forward. More a wall of sound effect. More linear.

To the listener the Ara might appear more refined or a MW10 ‘developed’. It has been said that the Ara is a mid way point between the Gold and the MW10.

oh well i will have to get out the Gold again sometime...

They are close.
Very close. The above is from very picky listening






Head-fier and DIY modder extraordinaire Whitigir (of iBasso Amp8EX fame) gave me a summary of his current impressions and opinions of the iBasso DX220 Max.

(Ongoing piece)

Sunday June 14th.

Max sound signature

All of these comparisonS and observations were done on low gain and at 150/150 DAC volume with HD800S.  In my opinion, I recommend that setting for the best soundstage and performance.

Clean, fast, dry and some harshness and grain.

The soundstage of width/depth/vertical is the best of any stock Ibasso player yet.  It would sweep the floor with many different stock players.  The soundstage is slightly better than SP2K or up to the same tier, but I give it credit for having better density and meatiness.  However, when compared to the DMP-Z1, the other device that has independent batteries for both the DAC and the amplifier, this vastness of stage are not up to par.  When the comparison were done, the DMP would show its superiority in another tier by showing better cleanliness, great staging





When compared to 1A or 1Z, the Max is vastly superior in its airiness, transient speed, power output, separation and soundstage presentation

Liquidity whilst doing burn in is improving, but for the majority of it when compared to other modified devices such as Dx220EX and Amp8EX, it is still a little lacking and not very satisfying at present.

Vocals are great, especially with female and breathy artists, but not throat, so male vocals are somewhat inaccurate in their portrayal, but none the less, very good presentations.  
String instruments also suffer some of this inaccuracy, Together with the dryness, and neutral signatures, some passages of the music just don’t connect too well as there may appear to be “voids” here and there, mainly the lower sub bass and the upper mid spectrums, and so the Max is a little boring just in my opinion.  



Despite all the “cons or negativities” about the Max, the sound signature of the Max is tuned to follow to the best of the iBasso house sound. 
It is neither the Amp1 MKII sharply detailed with airiness, nor the blooming sub-bass of Amp8, but it is with the separation, soundstage, smoothness of the edges textures of Amp8 and the airiness of the Amp1 MKII. Therefore, if you like the signature of Ibasso house sound, you would love the DX220 Max. 

The background is good and not great.  It is good when compared to other portable players, but when pitted against the DMP and the SP2K, the background of the later 2 shows its greatness.  Especially when speaking of individually packaged batteries with dedicated power rails into the analog sections which are separated and away from the DAC....which can not stand against the SP2K in this level of blackness, I am a little disappointed.

What surprised me the most is that the Max when compared to its little modified EX brother, the DX228EX, the soundstage of the Max is clearly a couple notches ahead, which also makes senses since the SP2K is also 1 notch ahead.  However, neither the SP2K nor the Max is better at density and timbre thickness.  I would rate it so that the density turned out to be DX228EX > Max > SP2K, and whereas the soundstage is Max > SP2K > DX228EX.  
*Please do notice that the DX228EX I mention here is the EX application on both devices of the DX228 (which consists of Dx220 and Amp8).



After analyzing the sound signature in the mean while thinking of a way to open up the Max.  It took me a little while to get around to opening up the back of the MAX and taking out the main boards.  It is much better than your typical smartphones glue and so on, but it is still one heck of a hassle.  Luckily the back glass is very thick and beefy.

After opening up the Max, it has confirmed several findings from the listening sessions:

1/ Main DAC is purely stock DX220.

2/ Different tuning for the Amp8Max VS regular Amp8.

3/ LCD touch screen is directly staying on top of the boards with a clearance of approximately 2mm clearance, without shielding in between.  Which explains the background which can not be said to be as dark as the DMP or SP2K

So, there are ways to improve the MAX, and given the price tag together with the dedicated power rails, the MAX deserves the best of the modifications.  The plan is to execute:

1/. Applying EX modifications to the main unit which is carried from the DX228EX packages.  The main unit improves the separations, airiness, timbres density.  Especially the density of timbre as one of the main goal, but with the added bonuses of soundstage and airiness which is already excellent on the MAX ? Oh please!! I am a soundstage addict.

2/. Taking advantage of the dedicated powerful power rails from the new independent batteries packs, the buffer OpAmps are upgraded to improve linearity.  This together with the density improvements from the main units, the MAX will have a much better fluidity and musicality while sacrificing none of the others highlights.

3/. Applying shielding material which is grounded to the chassis on top of the screen to mitigate the radiations from the generated interferences.  Also applying TDK noise and EMI absorbent sheets to the battery packs to mitigate noises from the batteries with the Copper foils and grounded to the chassis frame to dissipate the noises .  All materials are Copper foils...it would have been great to have the Metal chassis layering to separate the screen away from the mainboard.

4/. Upgrading the Power Supplies interconnect wires from OFC into Pure Silver or Gold-plated Silver to achieve further improvements to take advantages of the dedicated power supplies.  Bus connections remains stock 

5/. Main AmpMax needs to be tuned for deeper sub-bass and density which is following closely to the EX package with some tweaks to aim toward these goals.  Power smoothing bicap is now 470uf and 330uf with TK capacitors, and output caps are still Silmic II.

The result is a much blacker background, improved soundstage sound field presentations, deeper and authoritative sub bass, more body and textures toward the mid bass, improved fluidity and density overall, mid spectrum accuracies are improved, especially string instruments and male vocal by improved inner density across the ranges.  Better back ground blackness, graininess and harshness are now much more comfortably controlled


 Thank you Whitigir for your contribution and thoughts. - Head pie


Paul of iBasso wrote on Head fi:
“ I want to clear up any confusion on the screen. When it is off, there is no current flowing and it is totally off, not just pixels. We also did measurements with it on or off and there is no change. Also please note from the measurements, how low the noise floor of the DX220Max is. 

Please, Enjoy the music and stay safe out there.”



More to come ? I hope so...

Wednesday June 24th

With the release of MAX, a product from Ibasso line up, which has taken the flagship DX220 and pushed it further. It consists of all the favorite features from Ibasso flagship platform, including an upgraded Amp8 and Amp7 architectures. Then topping it off with independent charging circuitries, individual batteries packs, pure and direct voltage without being converted/regulated/bucked up/down voltages feeding the Amplification stages

Still fit well in the palm

I have the pleasure to have gotten a MAX to play with, and when I am enjoying it immensely. I always play my favorite albums.

One of the main reason why I love Ibasso so much is that it has a huge Supporting community together with Ibasso being so enthusiastic and friendly toward the modifications community, firmware and hardware alike.

Coming from my own experiences and tinkering with EX modifications, incoming MAX-EX or simply calling it MAXEX



Continued...

Before we begin with MAXEX, let me just rephrase some questions and answers from my point of views regarding MAX

1/ Do you have to Modify your MAX ? 
No, you do not have to. No one is forcing you to do anything

2/ What about the performances of Stock MAX ? 

It is Extremely good, as good as at $1899 pricing, I can not find anything to outperform it Stock to Stock, and that includes WM1Z/SP2K, with both devices easily 1.5-2X the prices. That is no easy feast

3/ Why do you Modify your MAX ?

Well, because everyone has a different point of views, personal preferences, experiences, and point of references. I will have to Emphasize the word “Personal Preferences”, and because of that, it is the reason why I publish my modifications and BOM (Bills of Materials), where to buy, so you can follow it and perform it yourself, hence I am a fan of DIY projects. If you are technically inclined, and understand your own preferences very well, then you should be able to modify your own, or tweak your own tuning. If that is the case, please don’t be shy, post it up and share with us all.

An additional point of references is that I use Sony DMP-Z1 as the point of references and tuning, also coming from my personal experiences with tinkering about stuff as well

Moooaarrr!!!!


During the time I am modifying the device, I am very surprised to see the quality of the boards And the rest of the components. It is very good

The back is a thick Corning Glass, and you will need to have proper tools to take it off. Similar to how you would work on it from repairing smartphones screens, only that this is easier

Disclaimers: You are assuming all risks and responsibilities for your own device. Tampering with your device will void the warranty by any manufacturers standards, and I can not be held responsible for whatever damages your device

So, here we go. The primary reasons to modify the MAX for me is simply to get more “meat” :wink:. There are 2 parts that I am going to do

A/ Hardware tunings and upgrades
B/ Heat dissipation

Within the part [A/] we will have 2 parts: Main and Amp. The main is following Dx220 Main EX, and so the pictures is borrowed from @EggofSound . My thanks to you!

Hardware
MaxEX


You will need

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T543B107K010TE150

3x of those

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T543B227K6AHW35

2X of those

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T520A226M10ANE080

2X of those

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T520A107M006AT

4x of those

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T527I476M06ATE200

4x of those

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Rubycon/10ZLG100MEFC63X7?qs=T3oQrply3y9/QyWNcdIfTA==

2X

This is done similarly to the portable little brother Dx220, with the exception of 2 extra electrolytic capacitors. Please be sure to have battery clearances (picture shown the E-CAPs being upgraded before the rest due to progressing, I recommend to do it all at once)






The AmpMax will receive the Upgraded and improved buffering stages together with a different tuning to bring about the characteristics that in my own opinions and experiences are to be good. This buffer is upgraded for the amp-out parts only


It will improve 2 sections that I observed

Linearity which results in thinner timbres density, also the sub bass is too fast and fall down on it faces.

You will need

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/584-LT6203XS8PBF

2X

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/80-T543B107K010TE150

8x

https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Elna/RFS-10V470ME35?qs=/ha2pyFaduhr6IZ36xIzc1lr8hMSeC0PLnuOibKLJ/8264tYSkWq1b9mUTm6it%2B%2B

4x

https://www.hificollective.co.uk/catalog/330uf-16v-toshin-jovial.html

3x

https://www.hificollective.co.uk/catalog/neotech-gp-oag-26-gold-plated-silver-wire.html

1m


Small Tantalum caps are removed like Amp8EX at green lines

Purple lines are New Buffers for Amp Out



Blue wires are Power supplies and will be upgraded by Silver Goldplated wires with 2 wires per terminals. Please check continuity and make sure to have not messed up polarity


Black wires are Bus for charging, batteries informations to be displayed in the system. It will remain the same





To further improve the pitch black background.
Noises are radiated from the screen and directed back into the main board throughout, using copper foils with conductive adhesive and make sure to have a good grounding onto the chassis to shunt the interferences. Clear electrical tape on top for safety insulation


Batteries packs will also need TDK sheets to applied on in order to absorb strays noises, and shielded over with copper foils which is grounded to the chassis back plate, following with clear insulation tapes. The Black batteries body doesnt allow me to take clear picture, but it is underneath the copper foils


https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/810-IFM10M25BB300200

1 sheet






Heat dissipation

The next steps are to properly dissipate the heat generated from the DAC Chips ES9028Pros and the main CPU chip. I noticed while I was working on the Dx220EX, and also from collective firmwares inputs, the Dx220 Rockchip is capable, but because it gets hot, so it got the firmware to downclock it and make it slower. So helping to dissipate the heat will help, and possibly support the future more aggressive firmwares.



I used the thermal sheets 1000W/m-K After the applications, heats are being distributed toward the main big Chassis more even throughout 



https://www.digikey.com/products/en?keywords=P14473-nd



These sheets were cuts carefully (it is easily damaged) with insulation on top of the components on the board to prevent “short” Kapton tapes would do. I used the one that comes with the main boards.
Please be careful that these sheets Remnants are conductive, make sure you don’t leave any debris around







The Line out are using dual DAC at all time and if using it as Single Ended toward SE Line input For SE amplifiers, the MAX is unique and will allow that to be possible due to an extra differential stage

This will also confirm a few questions that people have been asking about the Dual DAC being implemented inside the MAX/220. Is the dual DAC active at all time ? The answer is Yes, only the Amp module are using differential stages to output SE or stay true to the balanced architectures

So that also means that in order to fully enjoy your DAP, Balanced is the best way to go on MAX/220 as it stay true to the Original designs without extra conversions.

The Line Out can only be effected by the DAC volumes and won’t be effected by analog volumes



I would say that I achieved the primary goals and some more: Definitely better tonal body density or Meats, some very nice sub-bass too

The overall presentation is just like DX220EX and Amp8EX but is on a higher level with more controls, separations, imagines, staging. The scale of performances is the same scale up as moving from DX220 Stock and Amp8 stock Into DX220EX and Amp8EX




Please note that MAX is very good, the AMP section is hugely improved Amp7 and Amp8 all in one with upgraded capacitors and designs architecture together with the improved power rails from it independent batteries, and it isn’t necessary to modify the AMPMAX. But definitely the main DAC would need it

Then again, we all have very different point of views, experiences and preferences