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2015-03-17
Heir Audio 10.A CIEM Review by Edd Harris

Heir Audio 10.A CIEM Review: The 10.A’s are one of the finest pairs of CIEMs that money can buy. The craftsmanship is very good even if more artistic approaches should become available, the audio quality is detailed, ever so slightly warm, and highly revealing, whilst the overall package is exceptionally thoughtful. Purchasing the 10.A’s will, undoubtedly, be one of the best audio purchases that you will ever make.


Preface:

Heir Audio is a Chinese boutique manufacture of high end balanced armature (BA) IEM and CIEM designs. With an extensive range that accommodates a whole plethora of budgets and sonic tastes, the 10.A currently stands as Heir Audio’s reference flagship model. Having said this, Heir Audio have confirmed that a new top-banana twelve BA design is in development, so if you’re looking for the ultimate then it’s best to head over to the Heir Audio website to check out the release date, or to keep an eye out for our forthcoming review. Regardless, the 10.A still packs serious heat, as you’ll read about within this review, but it does needs to be understood that it is currently only available as a custom so you will need to have your ear impressions taken and sent to Heir to produce your one of a kind. At $1399.00 a pair some may be questioning their prestige price-tag, but I can conform that they are certainly well positioned and won’t leave you with any regrets the moment that you hear their siren song.


Earlier we mentioned the inclusion of a VIP card within the 10.A package. Although, at first, this card seems a little odd, this item is unique to the 10.A CIEM package and includes an individual VIP number. Not only does this card list your unique serial number and 10.A ‘born date’, but it offers the purchaser a range of benefits including; a one time 20% discount off your next purchase, lifetime 10% off new orders, unparalleled exclusive customer services (Phone, E-Mail, and Skype), 10% off a repair or later refit, and free shipping twice. I haven’t quite seen this level of customer service with any product before, so I can only say that Heir Audio’s generosity is outstanding and can be of significant benefit - especially if you’re a repeat customer. On top of all of this, Heir Audio don’t just stop there, they offer a two year warranty with their IEMs and CIEMs so you can rock on knowing that you’re at least safe for that period.

Review Equipment, Fit, and Isolation:

Various lossless files from 44.1kHz 24bit to 192kHz 24bit, MacBook Air Mid 2013, Sonic Studio - Amarra, Channel D - Pure Music 2, iBasso DX90 (2.1.8 Lurkers Mod), Chord Electronics - Hugo, Aurender - Flow, Lynx - Hilo, iPhone 5s, and Comply - Custom Wraps.

 

Overall I have found the work of the craftsmanship very good and the Heir engineers have adequately judged the tolerances from my open mouth impressions. In use the seal remains consistent (moderately tight) without too much movement and, over time, the CIEMs do not need to be readjusted too much. My only complaint that is during open mouth vocal exercises I have found the seal to be a little loose, so to remedy this I have used the Comply Custom Wraps. Installing the Custom Wraps onto the CIEMs was a quick and painless process and has genuinely improved the bass articulation, presence, and imaging - more than I ever thought that they would. For this reason, when you purchase your 10.A CIEMs, I strongly advise that you purchase a pack of the Comply Custom Wraps as they make the CIEMs fit even tighter, whilst adding a luxurious comfort, and improve the sound quality. As a final note of this thought… if you intend to use the 10.A’s for live performance purposes, the 10.A isolation is perfect for this environment as it easily blocks out foldback monitor performance (critical if you’re the only one in the band with a pair of CIEMs) and, again, your individual CIEM foldback mix will be adequately isolated to judge your performance pre or post effect - whatever allows you to perform better.

 

Another key aspect of the 10.A design is how well they isolate the wearer from external ambient noise and vice versa. On the Heir Audio website they claim a -26dB external noise attenuation, and this is certainly noticeable when worn. In use I have found the external ambient noise rejection to be so good that I can moderately hear my heart beating when no music is being played. This is not only testament to the build quality and craftsmanship, but it also means that you are getting a more than adequate seal so you can be sure that you are listening to your music in the way that Heir intended. During external listening tests I found that I could enjoy my music to near-dangerous levels, and my assistant noticed that the leakage, in a silent room, was negligible. If you are one of those people that worries about whether fellow commuters can hear your music, or not, you really should not worry with the 10.A’s at all - the attenuation is significant. To put this into perspective, I was able listen to heavily compressed Pop music (Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear) on my iBasso DX90 with the gain setting marked at ‘High’ and the volume set at 216 without my assistant even noticing that music was being played back - incredible.

 

 

Sound Quality and Previous Flagship Micro-Comparison:

The Heir Audio 10.A’s are an outrageously exquisite pair of CIEM’s. Clearly the 10.A’s are some of the finest pairs of ear candy that we have ever come across and I can comfortably say that, without doubt, they easily rival speakers costing many times their value. I totally understand that you may already be screaming ‘Lay off the superlatives!’, but I cannot sing their praises enough - I’m hooked and I know that you would be too. One of the most impressive qualities of the 10.A’s is that, somehow, they are able to bring the very best out of any Genre, recording, and even pair beautifully with almost any source that you have available - although certain devices, such as the DX90 (2.1.8 Lurkers Mod), have a delightful synergy with the 10.A’s. However, if you compare the 10.A’d to the previous Heir flagship, the 8.0’s, the 10.A’s are leagues ahead in definition, treble extension, and imaging, whilst they lay off on the heavy warm rounded bass presence in favour for beautiful lush textured mids to compliment the mid-fast dynamic attack and sheer distortionless super high end definition.

 

To put the 10.A’s in to perspective, I’d have to say that they exhibit a revealing, yet smooth, ever so slightly warm balanced character. The image is very wide and goes very deep to the point where you can draw attention to micro nuances within the micro details if you so choose. The super high trebles extend well beyond what is expected, but the lack of distortion makes this area very tangible so you can pump the 10.A’s up high, if you so wish, and never experience sibilance or premature listening fatigue, and likewise still maintain an excellent stereo image with superb layering. Essentially the 10.A’s exhibit a mildly fun, yet analytical, attitude in order to deliver a universally accepted performance that doesn’t intend to fit into any stereotypes or ostracise any specific genres. The 10.A’s certainly aren’t quite reference because they do have a mild U shaped frequency response… almost as if what we describe as ‘American’ sounding had a child with the ‘British’ sound - that’s the 10.A’s in a nutshell.

 

Despite the 10.A’s being energetic and emotive, if we come back to the stereo imaging, we should really discuss the separation and limits of each frequency boundary. If we begin at the sub-bass frequencies, it has to be said that they have a dryer stereo separation in comparison to the rest of frequency range. This is actually highly desirable as it acts as a solid central reference point for the range and positioning of the X-Axis, but the 10.A’s deliver a continuous tight biting stereo separation for the transience of the beat to be build upon… something that we shall discuss in the nest paragraph. In the general bass region the 10.A’s typically follow a similar path to that of the sub-bass frequencies, but instead they have a tiny bit wider, yet still central, positioning. I have found this modest area of breathing space to be highly desirably as, against the treble X-Axis extension, they naturally compliment each other and allow heavy bass instruments in orchestral / classical music, such as timpani’s and double-bass (harmonics), to come across with accurate grandeur and spatial awareness along the X and Y-Axis. As the bass frequencies progress into the low-midrange the stereo separation and depth exponentially expands to untethered boundaries - essentially the 10.A’s don’t appear to shackle the listener to any specific width and depth, so the listener only hears a sense of space as it was crafted by the mix-engineer. This is an outrageously difficult ideal to achieve when designing any form of transducer, or indeed transducer array, and it suggests to me that the 10.A’s have followed a lengthy tuning/matching process to achieve such harmony. With the right high resolution recordings, and equipment to match, you can expect to feel as if you are directly plugged into the intended spatial surroundings - the 10.A’s are pure bliss. As we progress from the mid-range into the high midrange, I have to say that nothing much changes apart from the fact that there is a slight dip in the frequency range, but still the same luscious, expansive, qualities that we previously discussed are applicable, just slightly lower on the Y-Axis. Having said this as we enter the low-high-range to mid-high-range the same expansive quality is evident and that highly praised spatial environment around the Y-Axis is restored. If we continue further on into the high-treble range it appears as if we’ve lost some of the depth resolution on the Y-Axis and X-Axis spatial separation, yet this feels entirely appropriate. The reason for why this feels entirely approbate is so that the articulation and central positioning of the bass groove can relate to the, often, rhythmic sizzle of supporting percussion. From this you don’t quite get a sibilant performance, but you do get an edgy presentation that screams definition. This slightly flatter image is quite fun to listen to, but this generally summarises the 10.A’s performance perfectly - they’re a multifaceted energetic CIEM that delivers a shockingly addictive performance that can relate to both audiophiles and the average consumer.

 

In terms of dynamic range, the 10.A’s are such a contrast rich pair that have the ability to nimbly navigate the range with sheer natural progression. In the high-mids to upper treble range the 10.A’s have an ever so slight edgy bite due to their moderately fast attack and slightly faster decay, yet the dynamic synergy between this specific area of the frequency spectrum is well judged and generally more than adequate to gel critical finer room reverb reflections into a coherent, well judged, convoluted transient window into the intended final mix environment. Coming down to the mid-midrange now, the 10.A dynamic range follows a flipped typology, in that they sport a mid-fast attack and a slightly slower decay. The resultant performance is perfect, to my ears, for a wide variety of genres and allows a myriad of multi layered vocal performances to have a sense of realism due to the sheer dynamic depth of field that’s exposed. With the 10.A’s the blacks are certainly as black as one could possibly hope for and likewise the finer white areas appear perfectly placed. This doesn’t solely come from the nimble acrobatics of the treble and midrange, but it also largely comes from the power and emotion expressed through the timing articulation of the bass frequencies… needless to say that this is, again, and area in which the 10.A’s excel at. In terms of the sub-bass frequencies the 10.A’s have a perfect moderately fast attack and moderately slow decay timing measurements coupled with a steady, distortionless, deeply low depth of field… and boy do they go low without ever loosing the reigns. The 10.A’s, slightly unnaturally, orchestrate the sub-bass frequencies in a regimented fashion in order to pull out the best of this region for your brain to translate it with gut wrenching emotion. With this said you shouldn’t confuse this statement for meaning that the sub-bass is too far forward, instead it is held in the right balanced measure - we’re not talking ultra artificial here, we’re talking about honest sub-bass slightly brought forward that is balanced against the expansive treble depth of field. With this said if we come up to the bass region, the attack here is slightly faster than the sub-bass and holds a moderate decay. Against the sub-bass and the midrange, the coherent transient nature of the bass allows melody supporting bass instrumentation to hold a rounded smoothness against an emotive pumping kick drum. Simply put, the 10.A’s never miss a beat and are so full of emotion that even the most serious audiophile will be rendered into submission.

 

Review Conclusion:

If, like me, you believe that the micro details are just as important as the macro’s, the 10.A’s will not disappoint. Their highly detailed and well crafted imaging is on par with speakers costing many times their price, and their oddly charming and transparent mild U-shaped frequency response is, no matter who you are or what genres you listen to, audiophile bliss. The 10.A’s are a dream to use and will have you hooked in seconds. The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the Heir Audio 10.A CIEMs with a full five star rating and the Editors Choice Award. Now rediscover your music collection…


2015-03-04
Video Review of 10.A
2014-12-16
Heir Audio 3.Ai S In-Ear Monitor Review – Universal Fit With Triple Balanced Armature Drivers

In Ear Monitors manufacturers have become very creative and artistic these past few years. A couple of years ago, Heir Audio introduced a line of in-ear monitor headphones featuring Burl Wood face plate which became very popular. It offered not only great looks and style but also great performance and value for money as well. Today we are going to take a look at the Heir Audio 3.Ai S in-ear monitor headphone, featuring triple balanced armature drivers. The 3.Ai S is basically tuned to be sonically fun, rather than analytical, and has a warm sound signature with great clarity and accuracy. This isn’t the company’s latest creation. Heir Audio recently released the Heir 10.A which is definitely geared towards for those who are looking for more. But for those who are just starting with Balanced Armature IEMs, and who are not yet ready to spend a thousand bucks or get a customized fit, the Heir Audio 3.Ai S is a good placed to start. Let’s get to know more about this IEM in my review below.


Heir Audio 3.Ai S Features and Specs

The Heir Audio 3.Ai S basically features 3 precision tuned balanced armature drivers. One driver dedicated for the low frequency, another one for the middle frequency and one for the high frequency. Basically, each frequency has its own driver. Its shell is made by hand, like all other Heir Audio custom IEMs, and features a Burl Wood face plate. Of course you may opt to change the design of the face plate, and the engraving as well.

The shell is actually not that big, making it a good fit for smaller ears as well. It has a dual bore design, meaning there are two holes on the nozzle of the shell. It has a good amount of noise isolation, at around -26dB and the headphone itself has an impedance of around 25 ohms. This means that it’s very easy to drive, amplifier is not required (but you may use if desired), and will work on any type of player or source.

I’ll discuss more of its features as we take a closer look at the Heir Audio 3.Ai S below.

Packaging and Closer Look



The Heir Audio 3.Ai S didn’t came with a fancy box. But the package was very secure and the casing was covered with a sleeve like the one you see above.



Above is the crush proof carrying case Heir Audio is using. It’s a very sturdy case and I’ve thrown the case several times to see how hard it is. I haven’t actually thrown them really high or really hard. Just a note, the lock is actually removable. So far it has survived my drop and throw test. I thought I damaged the lock while testing the strength of the case. Later I found out that the lock was not broken and it’s removable. Open the case and simply slide the lock upwards to remove it.



There is a layer of foam inside the carrying case that protects and cushions the IEM. Aside from the Heir Audio 3.Ai S, the package also includes rubber bands, a cleaning tool, and three different silicone tips in three different sizes (small, medium, large).



The Heir Audio 3.Ai S, like most of the company’s IEMs, uses the popular 2 pin connector. The included cable consists of four lines, two for each channel, and is braided neatly. The included cable is pretty much standard. If you want a better sounding cable or if you are looking for a particular sound signature or design, you can upgrade the cable with something better, like the Heir Audio Magnus 1.



Here’s a close up look on the shell of the 3.Ai S. By default, it has that nice Burl Wood faceplate. I’m not really sure if you can choose your own faceplate but you can certainly request for an engraving. On the rear portion, you will see a small crown with 3.S underneath. This basically tells what model is the IEM.

Heir Audio’s naming scheme is very easy to understand. 3.Ai S means it has 3 balanced armature drivers, and the 4.Ai S means that it has four and so on.



The first photo (on the left) shows you where the two pin connector goes in. Although there are no locks to secure the connection, the connector doesn’t come off easily. Just be sure to use a high quality connector a well, in case you are getting one from a third party cable manufacturer.

You can also see two holes on the nozzle of the shell. There is also a unique serial number engraved on the side of each pair, near the nozzle, for identification purposes. That serial number is unique to the purchaser so you can actually trace who the owner is in case it gets lost or stolen then sold in an online buy and sell site. Unfortunately the serial number is not clear from the photos above.



The Heir Audio 3.Ai S doesn’t have a very tiny footprint, but it is small enough to fit into most type of ears. The problem with some IEMs that have larger housing is people have difficulty fitting it in, specially if they have smaller ears. Also, since the connector is located above, it’s best to avoid using the IEM if it’s raining or if there is heavy moisture. A single drop of water that accidentally went in between the connector may ruin the IEM.

For a universal IEM, fit is very important. It would greatly affect the sound quality and your experience while using the IEM. Fortunately, size isn’t a problem with the Heir Audio 3.Ai S. But since they offered a limited silicone tips, you might need to buy additional tips or use your favorite one. In my case, the included medium tips with Blue highlight would fit my ears. But later I used another silicone tip, the one that came with the UE900s, since it provide a better fit and seal for me.

Testing and Sound Quality

I have been using the Heir Audio 3.Ai S for more than a month, almost two months to be exact. I started taking notes regarding its sound quality after a month, just to be sure that it has already reached its best performing state. Throughout the course of auditioning the 3.Ai S, I have been using several sources, like the Hidizs AP100, HIFIMAN HM-700, iPhone 5 and even my desktop PC. I used several DAC/AMPs like the Encore mDAC, iFi Nano iDSD and the Objective2+ODAC from JDS Labs. I also used the 3.Ai S and explored different types and genres of music; from heavy metal, pop, instrumental, vocal, etc, and to classical music.



If you haven’t tried any other IEM with more than one balanced armature driver, or you are used to earphones built with dynamic drivers (not the high end type) and around $100-ish and below, I’m sure you will be surprised and amazed with the sound quality of the 3.Ai S. You will experience your favorite music better and hear more sounds with better detail and clarity than before.

Basically, the Heir Audio 3.Ai S has a warm signature. It has a larger bass driver that gives rich and well defined bass. The bass is not actually punchy or boomy, but it will produce a good amount of impact specially if the music will try to force it out artificially. Bass sounds even better specially when produced naturally, like coming from a bass guitar, a Cello or a bass drum. It’s very much present but never dominant and doesn’t over power the higher frequencies. Bassheads might not be satisfied with this kind of sound signature. But for the rest of us, it will be enough.

Mids and highs are exceptionally clear and detailed, without over powering the bass as well. Each frequency simply compliments each other. And if you are looking for that sparkle, the 3.Ai S won’t disappoint you. Vocals are very nice to listen and I think this is one of the strong points of the 3.Ai S. The highs doesn’t seem to be extended too much, but there are some music where the TSS and TZZ sounds, or the sound of the cymbals may be a little bit harsh or near sibilant. However, this may be remedied if you use a better sounding cable, like the Magnus 1. In my case, I used the Linum 2Pin MUSIC cable from Estron.

When I compared the Heir Audio 3.Ai S with the Audio Technica ATH-IM02, the 3.Ai S is generally better sounding for me. It’s clearer and warmer than the ATH-IM02. The ATH-IM02 is basically geared towards being an analytical type of IEM, while the 3.Ai S is geared towards having a fun sound signature. When I compared the 3.Ai S with the Ultimate Ears 900S, which has four balanced armature drivers, the UE900S has the advantage when it comes to detail, layering and sound staging. But for me, the vocals don’t sound as good as the 3.Ai S and it’s a bit darker as well.

Price and Availability

The Heir Audio 3.Ai S has a retail price of $299 and comes with a 2 year warranty. In the US, there are third party online music stores selling the 3.Ai S, but I would recommend that you buy them directly from Heir Audio’s online store here. They also have an Heir Audio USA Shipping Center. For other countries check out their Contact page here. Buying the IEMs directly from the manufacturer is better since you get better support and you will have more options to choose from, including add-on accessories and customizations.

Heir Audio 3.Ai S Review: Conclusion

I find the Heir Audio 3.Ai S an impressive in-ear monitor, with a clear, detailed and warm sound signature. If this is your first time to invest into something better than your typical earphones or in-ear headphones, the 3.Ai S would be a really good place to start. This is a fun sounding IEM, with clarity being its forte. The bass is present, controlled, rich and not overwhelming. I think you can safely traverse from one genre to another, like what I did. But I personally enjoy the 3.Ai S with classical music, instrumental, acoustics, and vocals.

Build quality, overall I wouldn’t say that its shell is indestructible and can survive a fall or scratch proof. I haven’t tried dropping them as I take extra care handling IEMs. But, aside from being shiny and having an attractive Burl Wood faceplate, the shell itself feels solid and premium. Regarding the fit, the shell is neither too small nor too big, but you have to make sure you get that right seal and fit. Otherwise you might find its sound lacking in bass or too sibilant, or probably muffled as well.

Considering its price, looks, build quality and sonic performance, I say the Heir Audio 3.Ai S is a sure winner in its category and price range. If you have the extra money, I would recommend you go for the custom fit version, 3.A S. They are basically the same, but custom fits are always better than universal ones, since you get that perfect fit and seal. This is a highly recommend IEM specially if your budget is just around the $300 mark. For me the Heir Audio 3.Ai S deserves The PC Enthusiast’s highly recommended award without a doubt.


If you haven’t tried any other IEM with more than one balanced armature driver, or you are used to earphones built with dynamic drivers (not the high end type) and around $100-ish and below, I’m sure you will be surprised and amazed with the sound quality of the 3.Ai S. You will experience your favorite music better and hear more sounds with better detail and clarity than before.

Basically, the Heir Audio 3.Ai S has a warm signature. It has a larger bass driver that gives rich and well defined bass. The bass is not actually punchy or boomy, but it will produce a good amount of impact specially if the music will try to force it out artificially. Bass sounds even better specially when produced naturally, like coming from a bass guitar, a Cello or a bass drum. It’s very much present but never dominant and doesn’t over power the higher frequencies. Bassheads might not be satisfied with this kind of sound signature. But for the rest of us, it will be enough.

Mids and highs are exceptionally clear and detailed, without over powering the bass as well. Each frequency simply compliments each other. And if you are looking for that sparkle, the 3.Ai S won’t disappoint you. Vocals are very nice to listen and I think this is one of the strong points of the 3.Ai S. The highs doesn’t seem to be extended too much, but there are some music where the TSS and TZZ sounds, or the sound of the cymbals may be a little bit harsh or near sibilant. However, this may be remedied if you use a better sounding cable, like the Magnus 1. In my case, I used the Linum 2Pin MUSIC cable from Estron.

When I compared the Heir Audio 3.Ai S with the Audio Technica ATH-IM02, the 3.Ai S is generally better sounding for me. It’s clearer and warmer than the ATH-IM02. The ATH-IM02 is basically geared towards being an analytical type of IEM, while the 3.Ai S is geared towards having a fun sound signature. When I compared the 3.Ai S with the Ultimate Ears 900S, which has four balanced armature drivers, the UE900S has the advantage when it comes to detail, layering and sound staging. But for me, the vocals don’t sound as good as the 3.Ai S and it’s a bit darker as well.

Price and Availability

The Heir Audio 3.Ai S has a retail price of $299 and comes with a 2 year warranty. In the US, there are third party online music stores selling the 3.Ai S, but I would recommend that you buy them directly from Heir Audio’s online store here. They also have an Heir Audio USA Shipping Center. For other countries check out their Contact page here. Buying the IEMs directly from the manufacturer is better since you get better support and you will have more options to choose from, including add-on accessories and customizations.

Heir Audio 3.Ai S Review: Conclusion

I find the Heir Audio 3.Ai S an impressive in-ear monitor, with a clear, detailed and warm sound signature. If this is your first time to invest into something better than your typical earphones or in-ear headphones, the 3.Ai S would be a really good place to start. This is a fun sounding IEM, with clarity being its forte. The bass is present, controlled, rich and not overwhelming. I think you can safely traverse from one genre to another, like what I did. But I personally enjoy the 3.Ai S with classical music, instrumental, acoustics, and vocals.

Build quality, overall I wouldn’t say that its shell is indestructible and can survive a fall or scratch proof. I haven’t tried dropping them as I take extra care handling IEMs. But, aside from being shiny and having an attractive Burl Wood faceplate, the shell itself feels solid and premium. Regarding the fit, the shell is neither too small nor too big, but you have to make sure you get that right seal and fit. Otherwise you might find its sound lacking in bass or too sibilant, or probably muffled as well.

Considering its price, looks, build quality and sonic performance, I say the Heir Audio 3.Ai S is a sure winner in its category and price range. If you have the extra money, I would recommend you go for the custom fit version, 3.A S. They are basically the same, but custom fits are always better than universal ones, since you get that perfect fit and seal. This is a highly recommend IEM specially if your budget is just around the $300 mark. For me the Heir Audio 3.Ai S deserves The PC Enthusiast’s highly recommended award without a doubt.


http://thepcenthusiast.com/heir-audio-3-ai-s-in-ear-monitor-review/




2014-11-26
Heir Audio IEM 8.0 Review by Edd Harris

TL;DR:

Heir Audio 8.0 IEM Review: As Heir Audio’s flagship IEM the natural warm dark sonic signature may, at first, appear odd. However, this unique IEM delivers a multifaceted experience that is so effortlessly enjoyed for hours upon end. The fit and function of this in ear monitor is superb, and the craftsmanship invested within the rosewood design is beyond stunning.

Review Preface:

Springing into life back in 2011 it wasn’t too long before boutique China based IEM and CIEM manufacturer, Heir Audio, gained serious notoriety on the various, well respected, Internet forums for their class leading sonic performance and exceptionally beautiful exotic wood faceplates. Now, after a whirlwind few years, humble Heir Audio have successfully built up a competitive catalogue of designs to suit all tastes and budgets. In order to remain competitive a almost every design can be ordered as a custom or universal with, of course, the exception being the recently released CIEM flagship; the 10.A. However, today we have the universal fit ‘8.0’ within our mitts and we intend to precision analyse this powerful IEM to uncover exactly what makes it a solid hit.



What Makes an Heir Audio 8.0 IEM:

Just as the product name suggests, each individual 8.0 shell harbours eight individual balanced armatures (BA’s) with a frequency footprint that is controlled by a series of internal passive crossovers. Just as a note for those whom may not be clued in, balanced armatures operate on a completely different principle to conventional dynamic drivers and, although they sport a much more complex design than traditional dynamics, it is their miniaturised footprint that allows for multi-driver in-ear-monitors to exist. Theoretically segmenting each frequency boundary across a bank of smaller drivers will result in a cleaner clearer signal and Heir Audio have chosen to split 20Hz -20kHz into four sections. This means that the 8.0’s utilise two drivers to cater for each frequency boundary, but the details of this, and the components, shall be discussed later on within this review.

Build Time and Shipping:

As the 8.0 is an universal model it does not have to undergo quite the same building procedure as their custom models, but it’s sheer electrical complexity does still take some serious engineering. From confirmation to completion the 8.0’s took a full three weeks with shipping adding another two weeks on top. Heir Audio does ship their products via EMS’ International Priority Mail which is fully insured and we were supplied with a tracking code to keep an eye on proceedings. If you are a UK customer then the package will pass into Parcel Forces’ hands where you will have to pay the relevant import duty and handling charge. If you cannot wait the length of time that it takes to build the IEM then you can pay for a rush order. At $280.00 this is costly considering that it only knocks down the build time to a maximum of seven days and currently there is no option to pay for a faster means of shipping, it is fixed at $55.00 for the fourteen days so it appears to be all very trivial.

US Estimated Landing Cost:

The base cost of the 8.0 IEM is $999.00 USD and with shipping at $55.00 this figure arrives at: $1054.00. For a product of this type the customs fee is $51.65, so you can expect to have a total landed cost of $1160.65 without any processing fees.

UK Estimated Landing Cost:

The cost of the 8.0 IEM in GDP is approximately £638.95 and the shipping converts to £35.18. For this product type the Import Duty and Sales Tax comes to £150.80 making the total landing cost: £824.01. If you include the Parcel Force standard fee of £13.50 then the completed cost is: £837.51.

Unboxing, Features, Build Quality, and Fit:

Initially arriving in an outer box that is adorned with plastic documents enclosed wallets and a wedge of shipping documentation, it takes a strong and sharp knife the get in and reveal the thick soft foam protecting your ears care package. Once inside you’re drawn to the beautiful red foil embossed sleeve which slips off to reveal an 17cm x 11cm x 4cm Heir Audio branded Otter style box, which appears to be larger than what most other ‘mainstream’ IEM/CIEM manufacturers currently provide. The brilliance of this carry case is that it is virtually uncrushable and is built to take a huge beating. Typically these boxes can be run over with a car and still survive, but some of the other features include the ability to be locked with a padlock, which is not included, and an ‘O Ring’ gasket to make this box and its contents weather resistant -not water resistant!


Inside of the case are all the components needed to get you stared and to maintain your in ear monitors including; the 8.0 IEM’s with Magnus Cable pre-attahed, a pair of rubber Heir Audio DAP straps, three sizes of hard red ear-tips, three sizes of blue softer ear-tips, three pairs of double flange ear-tips, an IEM cleaning brush with ear wax hook, and finally, as IEM’s contain sensitive humidity sensitive components, a small pack of desiccant. All accessories appear to equal the quality of those currently included by other competitors.

As standard the Heir’s 8.0 IEM’s include the upgraded, and highly regarded detachable, 1.4m Magnus 1 cable. On its own this cable is worth $110.00 and starkly contrasts the current universal 92pin (dual prong) standard. Whilst there are a plethora of premium aftermarket cables available, the Magnus 1 stacks up well against the competitors and provides a solid, yet flexible, connection. During our thorough energetic ‘stage use’ tests we found that the Magnus 1 cable effectively inhibited microphonics from effecting the output to any notable degree, and its strength was demonstrated by passing rigorous blunt force scuffing tests. By casting an eye over the entire cable structure I would expect this cable to provide many hundreds of hours of active service, but in order to arrive at this conclusion I would like to explain the cable construction and the materials used.

Typically cables begin with a plastic 3.5mm jack, however the Magnus 1 utilises a bomb proof 90° gold plated Neutrik gun metal socket. Inside this socket is a plastic strain relief mechanism which is finally finished with an outer flexible rubber gasket for reliability. Carrying a balanced signal, the 1.4m length cable sports a quad twist braided construction, over the typical tri-braid design, where the internal core conductor is an Oxygen-Free Electronic (OFE C10100) copper cable of at least 99.99% purity with a pure silver coating. In comparison to the stock cables, previously mentioned, the Magnus 1 cable has much more silver content in order to preserve the clarity and brilliance of the signal with minimal distortion to effect the very delicate balanced armatures. Surrounding the core conductor is a layer of PTFE before being protected with, literally bulletproof, braided kevlar and a final aesthetic layer of black nylon. Typically IEM/CIEM cables are made with a nylon protection layer, but kevlar is far superior where it is able to survive a static load test of 1000kg and a dynamic load of 200kg. As the cable comes to the Y-Splitter it surprisingly does not use any plastic housing, instead the cable is split and secured with heat shrink but I cannot see this being too much of an issue, and just beyond this is some small tubing on the cable in order to stop the driver housings from smashing into each other when worn out of the ears. As we move up to the 92pin dual prong there is traditional translucent tubing with a flexible wire to comfortably guide the cable down behind the ear and stop the IEMs from being ripped out of the ear. Notably the pin construction has an, larger than most, metal housing rather than an cheap plastic design. Although Heir Audio do not currently support recessed 92pin sockets the socket has an 3mm gap to allow for recessed socket use, presumably when used with other brands, but this goes down into two very solid gold plated pins and snugly fits into the socket without bending or feeling soft.

Considering the substantial design of the Magnus 1 the cable only weighs a total of 18.4g and feels very comfortable to wear. Quickly the cable warms up to body temperature and provides the soft flexibility needed to feel like you are wearing nothing. In use the cable design appears to not put too much strain on the driver housings and, more crucially, your ears. Another positive point is that the cable coils well to a small size and manages to stay in its position without any memory effect whatsoever, so there will be minimal frustration during coiling and uncoiling.

Now moving on to the shells and faceplates, I have to say that the finish and build quality of the 8.0’s is second to none and, as for the exotic wood faceplates, they are beyond stunning. From the published photographs I knew that the 8.0’s would look great, but seeing them in the flesh is breathtaking and shows that two dimensional images can really do them no justice.

Across the Heir Audio IEM range the shell colour and faceplate option is fixed. Likewise there is a small Heir Audio logo engraved in gold at the ends of the shells with an individual serial number laser engraved onto the inner shell. To be helpful Heir have colour coded the serial numbers so you can easily determine which is left and which is right, yet the inherent design means that when you come to place them in your ears each shell will only fit in one ear so the small thought it somewhat vetoed.

Other fixed design options further present themselves with the use a smoke black shell and an Siamese Rosewood faceplate. The combination of colours works well and the entire item has been hand polished to create a premium glossy look to best bring out the the delicate grain of the veneer. To add a touch of individuality Heir craftsman have matched and angled two individual veneer cuts so that they appear continuous over both the right and left faceplates. In the process Heir have created an individual product, and one that screams both style and sophistication. Something else that I have noticed is that during the different times of the day the organic faceplates develop a different hue depending on the ambient light. There really is nothing like natural materials! With this said, it is unfortunate that you cannot choose the shell colour and faceplate from a list of options, even fixed, at the checkout. Considering this further it seems a little strange because, unlike some other IEM manufacturers, the shells are not mass produced via injection moulding. If Heir could offer a pick your own colour then this would probably suit more individual tastes. However, in the short term, I would have probably picked a clear acrylic so I could marvel at the inner workings, but in the long-term I love these 8.0’s for their understated class. They are beautiful.

Just as the faceplate materials are important to Heir Audio, so are the materials that go into making their shells. For this they use a special medical grade acrylic that is imported Germany, which is then poured into moulds to create a distinctive ergonomic shape that comfortably nestles within the concha (outer ear). The shape then develops with a long 7mm nozzle that is offset at a slight angle to comfortably travel past the tragus and rest deep within the external auditory canal. In order to clamp the ear tips Heir flare the nozzle as it goes towards the end. Thankfully this technique works well and I’ve never had an issue with them getting lost both on and off the ear, but the overall ergonomic shape of the nozzle considerably helps to make the 8.0’s very comfortable during extended periods of listening with a very nice seal. Anecdotally, some other IEM/CIEM manufacturers feature a larger nozzle bore and smaller nozzle length but sadly, due to my small ears, I have found this configuration to be uncomfortable and not rest deep enough into the inner ear, so I send a big gold star to Heir Audio for their unique design. Possibly one small reservation regarding the nozzle is that it has an open ended ti-bore construction with large open canels. This is not an issue whatsoever with fit, but if there was a small wire mesh inserted here then that might help to filter out large particles from travelling deep and potentially blocking them.

Finally, as a note, I would like share my finding that, when worn, the 8.0’s don’t appear to protrude far from the outer ear structure and another important fact is that Heir Audio shells do not cater for a reassessed socket design but, with all facts considered, the entire structure feels very comfortable to the outer ear.


Configuration:

The Heir Audio 8.0 IEM’s use a total of eight balanced armatures with crossovers tuned to the following: 2x BA’s for low frequency production, 2x for medium frequency production, 2x for high frequency production, and 2x for ultra high frequency production. In the process Heir Audio only use the finest materials within their circuits including; US handmade Knowles Drivers, Vishay Inter resistors, AVX capacitors, and OxiCap capacitors.

Burn-In Considerations:

When ‘burning-in’ new IEM/CIEMs please note that a 60 hour procedure conducted over a three week period, at moderate volume, will highlight the sonic developments. Please beware that cranking up the volume too soon can have an impact on the accuracy and longevity of the BA’s when they are meant to be ‘settling’ in.

Sound Quality:

Having monitored the 8.0’s over a standard 60 hour burn-in, I observed a significant transformation. Initially the 8.0’s exhibited an overwhelmingly dark sonic footprint and slightly cramped soundstage with tight transient detailing, however this quickly subsided to reveal a truly lovable character which is something that we discuss shortly. In the meantime I would like to note that this IEM has an incredible ability to be very continuous across a wide variety of source components. To put this into perspective, the 8.0 exhibited an remarkably similar output when using an iPhone 5s against the Chord Electronics Hugo.

Post burn-in, the exposition of the 8.0’s is still surprisingly dark sounding for an apparent flagship IEM, but the way in which it presents these characteristics is rather unique and beautiful. You could, perhaps, objectify the 8.0 as a comfortable chair; ridiculously satisfying and very understated. Under this term it goes without saying that the 8.0 is not quite the concise detail rich monster that you might have expected and it doesn’t require any any thought to listen to, it just aims to give you an clear concise luxurious organic stage with none of the typical ‘look at me’ bravado. It simply is ‘that’ IEM that you go to for hours of pleasurable listening with no questions asked. You never feel audibly violated, and you never feel exhausted. The 8.0 is faithful and it is luxurious. It is, undoubtably, one of the most natural IEM’s that I have come across in its own outstanding way. I do have one minor caveat, that is you do get an iota of coldness despite the thick and full tonal characteristic. This is a common issue across BA based IEM’s, so I will discount it because it does take some guided thought to notice. Otherwise this is a beautifully musical IEM.

Beginning with the bass frequencies, the 8.0 appears to extend very deep, and it does so with slight pronunciation. This characteristic is unique in that it doesn’t merge, per se, into the low mids and create a confusing wash of indistinguishable tones. Instead you have a bass presence which is full and well defined. The bass attack and transient response is good, it just doesn't have super fast attack and decay on rhythmic instruments which would otherwise fatigue the ear. With this said, fast rhythmic elements are presented alongside slow elements which never cross boundaries and both carry a very solid full force weight behind them. Trying to describe the presence of these frequencies is difficult without misrepresenting the timing, but I have never felt anything other than admiration for how well the bass frequencies are carried. Furthermore the staging of bass frequencies appears, once again, average. The instrumentation is well placed and not stuck in the central domain, it does have some width to it that becomes noticed with the relevant instrumentation; ie. tom-tom hits.

Now onto the midrange frequencies… It is apparent that the low mids are forward in the same way that the bass is. This is no problem because, once again, it brings out the fullness of the rhythmic instruments and perfectly compliments the higher melodic structures. It is faster than, perhaps, the bass range, and has a slight dip within the central midrange where the overall tonal descriptive would be creamy and lush. However, my only reservation would be the slight thinning in the mid to high midrange although, with this said, lead guitars still come across in an agreeable sort of way along with male and female vocals cutting the mix well. In terms of the transient response the low midrange is, again, similar to the bass attack and decay which drastically contrasts the snappier, much higher, high-midrange response. This difference in presentation beautifully pedestals vocal tones and helps to define the spoken, and performed, word amongst complex instrumentation; in particular distorted electric guitar. Furthermore I could not detect any tight frequency bunching throughout the midrange, likewise it was free of distortion and all tonal characteristics came across clear, defined, slightly warm, without any muddiness whatsoever. With this said we can move onto the midrange soundstage and the 8.0’s have a very organic presence about them with no far thrown frequencies. To put this into perspective it’s best to describe the 8.0’s as having a natural venue stage presence with no overly limited vertical and horizontal spatial awareness. The stage on average feels great and the distinctions between instrument placement are very clear and distinct. I do have to say that very occasionally I feel as if the 8.0’s iron over some of the micro details that you would normally experience with a more analytical IEM, but otherwise the midrange is very fun, forgivable, and certainly not stuffed with air.

As we now focus on the treble frequency spectrum it has to be said that, post burn in, the 8.0 extends well and has excellent focus. You can’t say that the treble is bright, it is just there in the right doses. In fact the transient response in this area is much sharper than the bass or low midrange performance, yet the 8.0 never ever becomes sibilant and it manages to vertically position itself a little behind the aforementioned frequencies. In terms of the lateral dimensions, the 8.0’s presentation extends further afield than the low or midrange ever does. Thankfully, before the crystalline clarity gets ridiculous, Heir have tapered the super high frequency extension so that it doesn’t impact on the luscious low and low midrange, thus favouring the darker sound signature. This probably sounds confusing but, don’t get me wrong, the multifaceted nature of this IEM is magical by never making any instrumentation indistinct. Purely the sound signature is there for taste because you can hear every single layer, macro and micro. Simply put, the 8.0 makes no sacrifices, it is what it is; a work of art.

In use the Heir 8.0’s have a very low, whisper quiet, distortion free noise floor. Most notably micro details are accurately presented amongst vast patches of stereoscopic silence. In particular the use of thin ultra high frequency instrumentation cuts through a sparse soundstage with a sort of rounded elegance. Considering that this is, typically, a very cramped bandwidth area the Heir 8.0 decodes the layers with silky elegance and never allows for anything to feel too tight, sharp, and bunched up.

Although the Heir Audio 8.0 IEM performs admirably across a broad range of genres, I have discovered that they have a particular fondness for rock and acoustic genres. The 8.0’s just have a stage presence that pedestals these genres and creates an outrageously enjoyable experience that can can extend for hours at a time without any qualms.

Conclusion:

The Heir Audio 8.0 is the epitome of relaxation and brings an highly comfortable musical experience to the ears without demanding any active attention from the listener. Granted the 8.0 IEMs hang firmly towards the dark side, but they offer a multifaceted performance that manages to retain all of the original detail. Overall The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the Heir Audio 8.0 IEM’s with four and a half stars and, of course, our Outstanding award.

Edd Harris




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