Heir Audio 10.A - Wisteria, Sorry I Mean Hysteria

May 11, 2015

Sonny Trigg

Heir Audio turned up in headphone scene around the same time as me and their climb to success was shockingly quick and the reasoning was clear. They were the first company to really push forward the level of customisation in a custom in-ear monitor (CIEM), yes companies prior to Heir had offered customisation but not on the level of Heir. It was also the first we saw of wooden faceplates in this product space, something that is now an offering from all the major brands and although it shouldn’t be, it is easy to forget that Heir are indeed the pioneer of wood. Even though their original product line consisted solely of custom products, I have now reviewed 3 models from Heir but never has one been made to custom fit my ear. Obviously the success wouldn’t have held if their products didn’t impress in terms of sonics and the original flagship, the 8 balanced armature (BA) 8.A, seemed to hit the spot with most buyers. That being said the 8.A started to age with it still being the flagship in late 2014 and Heir only bringing out new universals and lower end models. On top of that while I can see why people enjoy the overly warm, lush and thick sound of the 8.A (I have the universal version, the IEM 8.0), it isn’t a technical masterpiece or really up my preference street. Moving into 2015 I think it was clear a new flagship was needed, it surely had to have more balance and be technically better and obviously I wanted to finally check out a custom fit product from Heir. GIANT SPOILER ALERT: They have done all 3, welcome to the 10.A!

10 Precision Tuned BA Drivers:


Well that’s what Heir claim to be using in their brand new flagship, the 10.A. Using a 4 way crossover and a single twin driver for the lows, highs and curiously named ultra highs along with two individual twins for the midrange, there is a lot packed into Heirs beautiful custom made shells.

Talking about beautiful shells and you just have to look at mine for a sample, or any posted on the companies social media pages (they do them all, look up their Facebook or Instagram) and you will see what I mean. At the moment it seems like they are in love with using gold, throwing pure gold leaf as a faceplate and even floating in the shells. They also obviously use a plethora of different high quality woods, carbon fibre, metals and even PCB boards. Guess what, for me this was just too much, I had no clue what too choose, did I go for a classy gold design, something real simple and clean or even a unique crazy design. I got in such a state of excitement I ended up just telling them to make me something awesome and they delivered.

Heir went with a blue theme for my monitors, for the faceplate, a special blue carbon fibre and the shell, a translucent light blue. On top of that to get a bit of gold into the design, they engraved the Inearspace logo onto one faceplate. Now funnily enough the only customisation option of all that you have to pay for if your buying the 10.As is the engraving, which would be between $45-$85. Most faceplate designs come free including wood, carbon fibre, mirror and PCB and you only have to dig into your wallet if you want both channels to be different or something crazy such as wood and carbon fibre hybrid or woven grass on the faceplate. In fact as a laugh I recommend going on Heirs website and just having a play with all the options available, they are so vast, I just wish they had a JH Audio esque web designer to make visualising a design a bit easier.  Nothing beats actually seeing how different options compliment each other.

The actual quality is really top notch and everything just seems like it is done with a sense of artistry about it. The blue shell, a seemingly simple option is almost completely clear at some parts but then on the curves it is a much deeper blue, its gorgeous. Then you have the faceplate, which is carbon fibre, much like many other companies offer, but do they offer blue? Gold? Green? Or even patterned effects in it? Probably not! On top of that the shell is completely bubble free and our logo, not just engraved but in a rich gold. In something as subjectively appreciated as design, these are by far my best looking customs to date and are finished spot on.


As for cable this like the IEM 8.0 comes with Heir Magnus 1 cable, which you can read more about in the just mentioned earphones very own review but to save you the time, it a top level stock cable. You also get a new cable, one that comes with a remote and mic. The quality isn’t near as good as the Magnus but if you want the smart phone compatibility (they do one for both IOS and Android) then this is a great option, considering getting a stand CIEM phone cable is quite a rarity.

Now the fit is actually a little bit fiddly with these. When I got them the right piece popped in like normal, no problems there but the left caused me a little more trouble. Now with ten drivers a channel, these are obviously a little on the bigger side but that being said, I don’t see myself having near small ears. However I think the trouble was just down to how these are designed. Comparing them to my Hidition Viento-R, they are a little deeper in profile, in fact they do match the 12 driver JH Roxanne there but they are also obviously more present in the cymba and have a little notch that fits under the crux of the helix. Funnily this is just like the ACS Encore and is just a different method of fitting a CIEM where you have to get the body of the monitor under the crux before you press it into your ear. In all my CIEM experience they have all fitted the same way until recently with the Heir and ACS, how odd. Now this method once fitted, is VERY secure and also comfortable, however it does take some technique to fit right and can become frustrating at first. Especially when you just want to pop them in quickly. I will add these were fairly deep fitting as well and the end of the canal portion was actually thicker than usual, not that I felt that in anyway. Isolation was standard brilliance from an acrylic custom.


Sounding Blue:


Obviously I made a little spoiler to the sound early but this is a clear departure to pretty much any Heir product I have ever heard (minus the Tzar models) and like the colour of these, if you were editing them in Adobe Lightroom and adjusted the temperature, they would be more blue than the Heir 8.0s warm orange. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration as these aren’t exactly defined as cold, they actually comes across as quite a clear mid forward earphone. The midrange is always in the spotlight, with a snappy bass on one side and an energetic treble on the other. Even though they sound completely different to the 8.0 one thing I do find to be very similar is just how musical, engaging and rhythmical they are. That in itself is a huge compliment with most earphones of a similar very balanced tuning end up being sterile and boring.


Coming off last weeks disappointing boxing match I have to describe the bass of these to be very featherweight. Quick on its feet with a slightly padded right hook but still without doubt knows how to throw a punch. At least that’s what my first thoughts of the bass were. Then I played around with some different sources, I moved from my standard rig of PWAK120-B to Vorzuge Pure to the Lotoo Paw Gold, then to the Bakoon HPA-01 with either of the two sources line outs. While the character of the midrange and treble always seemed to keep pretty similar, with the standard influences of the source gear obviously taking effect, the bass was always almost dramatically different, in weight, texture, depth, decay, it really was shocking. The explanation of this is likely quite simple and that is the impedance and/or phase plots of the 10 drivers won’t be quite linear enough, meaning they will be really sensitive to different output impedances among other things. So what does this mean? Well mainly it means I have a hard time describing the bass because source becomes such a huge factor. It also means you will have to be careful with what you pair with and get some different capabilities out of these. That being said the first way I heard it, off my modded AK120 and Vorzuge rig seems to be the most recurring and standard way the bass comes across and I really like it. Yes it’s a little bit lean but its super fast, is a bit quick on the decay but coupled with some half decent extension, doing a little better than the UERM but not quite keeping up with the Hidition Viento-R, it is pretty satisfying. While texture may not be as groovy as say the Custom Art Harmony 8 Pro, its dryer with such as crisp and isolated impact and honestly, it hits the spot for me, although I can see it not delivering for those expecting a warm or thumping sound.

As I mentioned this sounding different with other sources though it would be rude not to dig a little deeper and report my findings. Well the must crazy difference was off the Bakoon HPA-01M and more specifically from the current output. It was one of those moments where you do a double take, and I even checked I was listening to the Heirs and not the warm and bassy ACS Encores. The bass was thicker, weightier, it wasn’t quite heavyweight but we were easily into welterweight territory. What was even crazier though was the decay that comes with it; we have a warmer timbre and a funkier but less precise sound. You also got some dirty sub bass, much more so than with anything else. Now an obvious and quick a/b was with the Bakoon’s voltage out, seated right next to the current one that decided to make the bass go hulk on me. Instantly it was much leaner, not quite as much as of the first rig, it was a little creamy in comparison but again wasn’t quite as focussed with impact, we lost that crazy extension as well that the current mode mustered up. Finally we had the Lotoo and this was surely my least favourite of the bunch, it seemed not only a bit weak, lacking aggression in the punch but seemed to be less tight at the same time, bundled with the worst extension as well, this wasn’t for me. Again as I said, the main description in the previous paragraph was the most common finding of the bass, with me getting a less refined version of that sound with most DAPs I have scattered around and even my smart phone.


With that out of the way as we get better consistency, yes source gear will affect the mids and high frequencies but no more than the normal difference you would expect with any other headphones, the bass was just a little more drastic and surprising.


With that in mind the midrange to me was very fresh, an odd term I know but that’s how I found it. It is balanced with no obvious favour to any certain areas (although it does have some obvious and clear body in the upper mids), which is something that should be cleared up for those who saw the 4.Ai measurements. It also done an amazing job of making me connected to and at one with the music, something Josh normally goes on about a lot more than me. You just feel so close to the happenings, you’re at the front row of the gig and as you can imagine, your loving every single minute of what goes on. The midrange really is phenomenal; a sweet timbre that is rich and just makes everything sound grand and natural at the same time. Its breath-taking and making me slightly lost for words, if you can believe that.  On top of the fact that I love it, it is extremely good in all technical areas, it is as refined as they come, everything is painted on a black background with amazing space and separation and the levels of clarity are just incredible. Like the bass these are also quick on decay and they just adds to that incredible focussed sound and while this is a quite lean sound, it is never anaemic or something you see as negative, it is something you just accept because of what it lets these achieve. That quick decay does however give these as overall dynamic sound with good bite.


The treble is probably the worst area in terms of absolute technical level and at the same time by no means bad. I say that because it is just ever so slightly sometimes border lining aggressive and is also a little bit grainy as well. It comes off of the upper mids quite keen and gets straight down to business; it is here where we are just a touch hot. For what I look for in treble, I often use the Hidition as a benchmark, detailed, smooth, bodied and still a little north of neutral. This has a lot of those qualities but seems just a bit wispier, with a touch more splash to it. Obviously it is crystal clear and obviously it extends to the end of the world and back. Strangely it isn’t in the much higher frequencies I find these a touch aggressive; at 10 kHz they have a much more sensible presence, less than say the Hidition’s.


Now from my finding in the bass and expectation that impedance and/or phase curves aren’t the flattest, I find a incredible and tight coherency between everything with these, it is one of the reasons these are so great why they are so punctual and why I keep saying the word crisp to describe them. For everything to be well spaced it is always good if there is err… space…. While once again I find myself saying that an earphone I am reviewing doesn’t have the completely huge space that the JH Siren Series has, I do find this to be the closest so far, getting turned down right at the border. But what it can do much better than the Sirens is image, everything is so much more precise and while they have the width, this adds some depth to the mix to leave you pretty darn amazed.


It’s not the smoothest earphone, there is some grain here and there, and sometimes it even has some rough edges but this thing combines musicality, forwardness, detail and coherency to make what is easily one of my favourite experiences in an earphone to this date, without doubt and expect it do be going toe to toe with absolutely everyone in our upcoming flagship round up.

A Rare Luxury:


Looking at these shiny blue earphones, they look like some rich fancy, jewellery. They don’t come cheap but for some people, a pretty enough product warrants that. But this is one of the rare few that nails every category, from comfort, to build, all the way to the sweet, sweet sound its reproduces and for that reason, it is a great buy and whole hearted recommendation from myself. And before I go, yes I did fall completely head over heels with these and yes I have an emotional connection with this that I don’t have with any other monitor, perhaps.

We need your suggestions!

Dear Heir Audio supporters,

We are planning to release universal model of 10.A-IEM 10.0 and we need your suggestions!

Please feel free to let us know any of your ideas about the price, design etc. or any expectation for it. You can send your suggestion to my mail: sunny@micro-dsp.com

Thank you and best regards.

                                                                                                                             Heir Audio

                                                                                                                             May 5, 2015

Wish the IT show success!
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.


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…

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