So after I bought the momentums, I realised that I needed some IEM's to replace my Sennheiser IE6's. They're working OK but the case has cracked on both buds and even though I've glued them back, they're a bit long in the tooth now.
Plus, they have great bass but the mids and treble seem a tad recessed with some tracks. This, along with the fact that I'd only ever had dynamic driver headphones before (diaphragm type speaker) meant that I wanted to try some balanced armatures for a change.
So enter Hoomv again with it's 40% discount making (rrp £180, cheaper on amazon at £120 for the "normal cabled" version (the iPhone cable version XBA-2iP is cheaper still) but beaten by HMV at £108 in the blue cross sale....and you're looking at a decent enough discount to entice me .
I think Ace Ventura delivered these to the shop as the box was a bit ..erm .. .worse for ware:
Having said that, I had previously picked a nicer looking box but the buds had a cosmetic manufacturing defect on them (it looked like some glue had dried on the outer case of the left bud and "corroded" the metallic sheen off).. .these were the exchange pair I got.
Anyways, I'm not listening to the box so didn't mind the condition as long as the goods inside weren't tarnished, which they weren't .
You get a nice smart "semi-hardened" case along with a plethora of different sized earbuds including ones with foam in them for a firmer fit.
As you can see from the piccies, first thing I did was pack those away and get out my comply foam eartips (never leave home without them)!
Fit 'n' Finish
I think these look lovely, definitely better than the IE6's which appear cheap and plasticky in comparison:
You're meant to be able to wear these either looped over the ear or dangling down classic style. However, unlike the IE6's these have an assymetrical y-cord so I found a better fit to be straight down with the right wire looped around your neck.
The cord itself is oval in cross section and meant to be one of those "tangle free" jobbies but overall it feels flimsier than the more robust IE6 cord.
Overall I'd give the metallic finish of these a big thumbs up - they look understated but classy as hell:
For the Sound, I'll be comparing with the IE6's (as that's the only other IEM I have to hand).
BA vs DD?
For those that don't know, balanced armatures are the same tech used in hearing aids and result in far smaller drivers than the traditional diaphragm "dynamic driver" type speakers. This means you can cram more drivers into a smaller space, resulting in multi-driver earphones.
Sometimes, the manufacturer will have, say, 1 unit for treble, one for midrange and one for bass in a triple unit. Or one for mid and treble, one for bass in a dual unit.
Sony have gone for 1 full-range with an extra bass driver for a bit of lower frequency extension.
Reading reviews of these on the web, they have remarkably even and neutral balance across the frequencies with the inevitable drop-off in treble above 10kHz (the next model up, the XBA-3, attempts to address this by adding a dedicated tweeter unit as well).
The IE6 dynamic driver OTOH is a single full-range diaphragm.
So, back to the XBA-2's:
Treble- Sound is remarkable open and "clean" sounding. Definitely not recessed and not lacking either. However, if driven loud and hard with, say, dance or dubstep, I detect a bit of splashiness thrown in. This was only "cured" by turning the volume down a tad.
After a lot of experimenting, I figured out that it was merely my source music...320kbps MP3. Switching to 192kbps AAC only showed a slight improvement.
Switching to FLAC showed a MASSIVE improvement. Everything smoothed out and sounded much better.
Basically, it appears these IEM's will reveal any discrepancies in the source - bad compression in, nasty sound out. If you want to listen to the majority of iTunes downloaded music I'd probably give these a miss. Anything converted at a significantly higher bitrate sounds much better.
Midrange- Nice clear vocals but I think the IE6's have more weight to the midrange than these do.
Bass- If you listen to these after immediately having tried the IE6's, they sound thin and anaemic....but after a few minutes, you really can hear nice deep bass.
It appears missing at first because it's not at all flabby and bloated and doesn't overwhelm the other frequencies. Nice and tight (to coin a phrase) is what these are.
However, I MUCH prefer heavy bass music like Skrillex on the IE6's which have an abundance of head-shaking bass c.f. these. These aren't bad, with the bass being fast and tuneful, but they're outclassed for certain music genres by the dynamic driver senny's.
If you really want to hear what these can do, try the "Light Up (The World) (Benny Page Extended Edit)" track by Yasmin. Lovely .
Would I get these again? Well, at the price, I think they're good headphones. Plus, the fact that it's pay day soon may have swayed me along with the fact that I needed new IEM's and was looking for BA's.
I also agree with the online testers which said they're remarkably neutral and open sounding. Having said that, they'll ruthlessly reveal poorly compressed source music and I found listening to the actual CD or a lossless digital version really improved things so YMMV.
I also think they're stereotypical Balanced Armatures that sound clearer and more open at the sacrifice of less bass impact than Dynamic Drivers.
If you like BA's, I think these are a decent entry level pair to buy...
...or put another way, I'm glad I got them as when my IE6's do finally crack themselves into oblivion, I won't have to go hunting high and low for replacements.