05 April 2018

IT01 iBasso IEM Review

IT01 Review, Entry level IEM from iBasso with a single dynamic driver, IT01 priced at $99. the dynamic driver is in-house developed which has three unique feature: Dual Helmholtz Resonators, multi-layered graphene diaphragm and approaching 1 Tesla.

1 Tesla magnetic flux will improve the resolution, dynamic, and speed.
The dual Helmholtz resonators provide deep and powerful bass.
5um Multilayered graphene diagram will benefit IT01 with a low distortion resolution.

Specification
Driver:10.0mm Dynamic driver
Multi-layered graphene.
Frequency response:   10Hz-42kHz
Sensitivity:  108+/-2dB
Impedance:  16 Ohm
Noise Attenuation: -26dB
Rated power:  10mW
T.H.D.:  <1% (at 1kHz/1mW)
Plug size: 3.5 TRS gold plated
Cable length:  1.2m
Connection:  MMCX
Weight: 8.0g without cable

Unboxing.


The unboxing experience felt great. The white cover on the packaging with the dark blue box looks premium including the material selection.

When you open it up,  you’ll notice the warranty card and quick start guide on the upper lid of the box.  Quick start guide is full of great information especially if you are new to IEM: how to use the foam tip, how to insert the IEM, removal of cable.

The two drivers are nicely kept in a foam and displayed together with the case. When you open the case you’ll find the cooper braids cable. It’s a good looking cable especially at this price, maybe you’ll notice that the cable is a little bit lose. According to iBasso, it’s made that way because they tested quite a number of variation and this is the best setting.

iBasso IT01 uses 99.99% multicore star-shape four braids of high-purity copper wire, standard detachable MMCX interface.It can produce condensed and mellow low-frequency and structured high frequency, form a deep sense of space.

I’m quite surprised that iBasso provided 4 different type of tips: 1 foam tips (S/M) and 3 different type of silicon tips (each with S/M/L). I believe that iBasso understands the importance of a good seal.

The case is spacious, made from metal and there an extra rubber at the side. It’s easy to open and close and I’ve confidence every time I toss the case in my bag that it will protect my IT01.

Build.

The housing made from plastic in a triangle shape, although lack of the premium feel and a little bit big for a single drive, the housing is a little bit big for a single drive, sticking out from the ear a little bit but I still consider it comfortable but for those who like to sleep with their earphone, I think it will be uncomfortable using the IT01.  I appreciate the lightness, it's well made with no sharp corner or roughness.
The nozzles are metal, there’s a wax filter at the nozzle. Two small vents near the nozzles for a pressure relief when you insert it into your ear to avoid the driver flex (driver flex is when you put on your earphones in your ear and the air pressure pushes against the driver's diaphragm causing it to flex and make a crinkling noise) during my daily use I can hear the crinkling noise if I put a little bit too fast, you need to be gentle and slow when inserting it and make sure that you don’t cover the vent. It’s a debatable topic whether a drive flex can damage the earphone but so far I don’t have any issue with the unit and if you are gentle you wouldn't hear it.

With a wide range of selection of tips, I'm sure that you'll find one that can suit your ear. Tested all of them and personally the most comfortable for me is the wide bore tips (is short and with wider hole) and the foam tips (I was hoping that it comes with a bigger size and it will be perfect for me). Both tips give more sparkle to the highs. The Silicon tips are little bit thinner compared to other brands.  the quality control needs a little bit improvement, nothing spectacular about the tips.

The loose copper wire with MMCX connector is one of the best quality cables I've seen for IEM under $100. it's both pleasant to the eye and ear.

The cable left and right identified very clear with the letter R and L and with color coding, right is red and left is blue. there's a transparent plastic cover from the connector will help to create a shape on the ear, blend very well and it's almost invisible. One thing that perhaps could be improved is that the connector is very tight and I've difficulty every time I want to unplug it. on the other hand, it's secured.

The cable microphonic is barely heard when you are walking and rubbing against your clothes, I believe the lightness and lose cable are the contributing factor.

Sound.

For the review I'm using my iPhone X, it's easy to drive IT01 with an impedance of 16 Ohm.

The highs are too sharp and tonality heavily leaning towards the bright, that's my initial impression. After the recommended burning of 150 hours,  the sound did change, the highs are smoother and more refined bass is present.

Tonality is a U shaped, leaning towards elevated bass and treble. the voice could sound a little bit backward sometimes.

Lows

The bass sound pretty natural even though it’s slightly boosted. Listening to the XX - fantasy, starting from 1:22 It has a nice thump and rumble, it has a good impact on the sub bass. Listening to Axel F - Harold, The bass is quick to play and has a good decay that doesn’t linger too long.



Listening Some nights - Fun at 1:13, the range and note is defined well, from the mid to low bass. IT01 able to provide adequate bass whenever a song is demanding it.

Mids

Listening to Lucky - Jason Mraz and Colbie, the vocals are pretty natural and clarity but because of the clarity, the mids could sound thin and cold at times. Mids could sound a little bit backward in a song that already has recessed voice like Tightrope - Michelle Williams.



The balance is the Mids is good but can get lost when the song is busy with a lot of lows and highs.Too be fair IT01 still perform well in most of the song across genres.

Highs

The Highs are detailed and full of energy, since it's elevated, sometimes it can sound like tipping on the edge with too much sparkle, I can hear a hint of sibilance, some people with sensitive ear probably will hear this more. most noticeable witha song that hitting high tones such us Benni.


I can hear slight distortion while listening to Never Enough - Loren Allred at 2:11 and 2:24 but that's because the IT01 is pretty accurate in translating the source quality, to drive the IT01 to its potential you need to have a good and clean source.

Synths sound is clear and crisp, it's enjoyable to hear vanilla twilight - Owl City.  people that used to listen to very warm tonality may find the highs are too sharp, give it a little bit more time and you'll get used to it and appreciate the crisp.  Personally, I would like if the Highs could be toned down and smoother a little bit.

Spatial

Because of the highs, it sounds airy and has a wide soundstage.  the Separation is good across a different range of music, you can hear different kind of instrument pretty clear.



The spatial movement perform poorly where the sound need to travel from one side to the other, example like in a song vanilla twilight - owl city 0:47 synths mveoemtn from left to right is not that obvious.

Conclusion.

IT01 is like a ball, a ball full of energy, tonality sits between warm and bright, IT01 able to satisfy music that required power from the lows or the sparkle from the highs. it has a good impact in the lows and exciting feeling in the highs.  IT01 is a well rounded performer indeed.

IT01 doesn't sound intimate, could sounded recessed especially in a song that has a backward voice but overall it perform well across the genres. For me personally, I would like IT01 to have a smother and less aggressive highs.
I would not hesitate to recommend IT01 especially to a newcomer in IEM world. If you are upgrading from your earpods this will be certainly a big improvement. you'll hear a sound that you've never heard before, you'll also able to experiment with different sizes of tips and material.

Is $100 justify the price? certainly, you get more than what you pay for. IT01 performs well above it's asking price.

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