Reloop TURN5 turntable.

Can the TURN5 compete with other turntables I have reviewed in this budget range?
Join me as I give this deck from Reloop a whirl…

The TURN5’s user “interface” as you can see, is a no-fuss affair. Power, start/stop and speed controls are all clearly marked.
Many DJ’s will be all too familiar with the controls.

Disclaimer:
Henley Audio have kindly sent this turntable out to me for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.

The Reloop TURN5 retails at £650.00 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up by following this link:
https://www.henleyaudio.co.uk/products/TURN-5?DepartmentIds=1&BrandIds=12

Review equipment:
Reloop TURN5.
Ortofon 2M Red.
Audio Technica record weight.
Cyrus ONE.
Bowers & Wilkins DM601 / S3.
Sennheiser HD820.
Grado SR125e.
Custom Cans interconnects & headphone cables.
AF Audio mains & speaker cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Jean Michel Jarre – Les Chants Magnetiques. ( Magnetic Fields )
Jean Michel Jarre – Revolutions.
Jean Michel Jarre – Equinox. ( 180 gram )
Jean Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China.
Depeche Mode – Violator. ( 180 gram )
Pink Floyd – The Wall. ( 180 gram )
Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair.
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No.5.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 126910317_3311706015607879_745289645000357670_o.jpg

What’s in the box?:
1x Reloop TURN5 turntable.
1x Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge.
1x Mains cable.
1x Stereo RCA interconnect.
1x Tonearm counterweight.
1x Reloop head shell.
Documentation.

Spec:
Turntable Section:

  • Type: Direct Drive Manual Turntable System
  • Drive: Quartz driven upper-torque direct drive
  • Motor: 16 pole, 3 phase, brushless DC motor
  • Turntable Speeds: 3 speeds, fully manual (33 1/3, 45, 78 rpm)
  • Starting Torque: 4500 g/cm
  • Start-up time / rpm change: less than 0.2 sec.
  • Wow and flutter: 0.01% WRMS
  • S/N Ratio: More than 55 dB (DIN-B)
  • Brake system: electronic brake
  • Record weight: recommended 800g

Turntable Platter:

  • Material: aluminium die-cast
  • Diameter: 332 mm
  • Weight: About 1.8 kg (including rubber mat)

Tonearm Section:

  • Type: Universal Static Balanced S-Shaped
  • Effective Length: 230 mm
  • Overhang: 15 mm
  • Tracking Error Angle: Less than 3 degree
  • Offset Angle: 22°
  • Stylus Pressure: 0 – 4 g
  • Adjustable Tonearm Base (VTA): 0-6 mm
  • Applicable Cartridge Weight: 3.5~8.5 g (including headshell is 13~18 g)
  • Anti-Skating Range: 0 – 3 g
  • Effective tonearm mass: 20 g (incl. headshell)

Terminals:

  • 1x PHONO Out (gold-plated), 1x GND Earth Terminal

General:

  • Power supply: AC 115/230 V, 60/50 Hz (EU/US), AC 100 V, 50/60 Hz (JP)
  • Power Consumption: 9 W
  • Dimensions: 458 (W) x 368.3 (D) x 162.4 (H) mm
  • Weight: approx. 12.8 kg

Included Accessories:

  • Turntable Platter, Dust Cover, 2x Dustcover hinges, Balance Counter Weight, PHONO RCA Cable with earth lead, power cord, Rubber Mat, Instruction Manual, Ortofon 2M Red cartridge & headshell
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Setup and use:
The TURN5 is a relatively straight forward turntable to set up if you follow the correct instructions.
Once the tone arm is dialled in with the best VTA, tracking force, tracking angle and azimuth for your cartridge you’re pretty much set to go.
Hook the TURN5 up to your phono stage and now you can begin listening to your new turntable!
This turntable, once set up is very user friendly, with a no-fuss experience.

Build and finish:
Reloop have created a fine turntable with the TURN5.
The gloss finish is well done.
Adding to it’s glossy looks are the satin black tonearm and gold platter.
I think the gold is a nice touch which really pops against the black canvas that surrounds it.
The buttons and power switch all have a good solic click to them and I detect no wobble.
Around the back we have a neatly arrayed set of well made terminals.
Hooking this turntable up to your phono stage or amplifier is very straight forward.
I like that the lid is easily removed and it’s design, although not original, works.
At 12.8 kilograms It’s not a light weight turntable with a heavy weight metal construction and other unnamed materials, so be sure whatever surface you place it on can take the weight.
This in addition to the shock absorbing feet aid in isolating and reducing any unwanted vibrations and cutting down ambient noise.
All in all it’s a classy looking turntable.

Final thoughts:
At £650, the Reloop TURN5 is an affordable and more than decent stab at the hifi market.
I’ve used their DJ turntables in the past and was impressed with both their build quality and their performance.
This translates into their hifi turntables, or at least the TURN5.
It’s a robust deck with an exceptionally good adjustable tone arm.
Suited to all, if not many different genres of music and plays fast and lively.
Ok, it’s a bit of a fiddle to set up initially if it’s your first time setting up a tone arm like this, but once you’re past that point it’s a beauty of a turntable to use and look at.
The piano black finish looked great next to my Cyrus ONE which also has a polished piano black design.
Would I recommend the TURN5?
Yes I would. For £650 you could do far worse and if you’re coming over from DJ style turntables you’ll be in familiar territory.

Thanks to my readers who are the heart and soul of this blog.
Please remember to follow/subscribe, like and share.

Thank you to Simon and the team at Henley Audio for being patient with me and being so supportive as always.

And thank you to the sponsors of the blog, who help keep things ticking along.

Many thanks and stay safe folks!
Paul.

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Musician Audio Pegasus.

In my first review for Musician Audio I get to grips with the Pegasus DAC. Read on to find out more…

Disclaimer:
This is my unbiased view of the Musician Audio Pegasus.
Khai and the team at Musician Audio have kindly send this out for review.
Retail price at the time of this review is £863.11.

You can find the Pegasus and other Musician Audio products here in their distributor list:-
http://www.musician-audio.com/en/col.jsp?id=104

Review equipment and software:
Musician Audio Pegasus.
MacBook Pro Retina 2015.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
STAX SRM-700T.
STAX SR-009.
Cyrus ONE.
Bowers & Wilkins DM601 / S3.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.
Audiocrast USB cable.

All other cables supplied by AF Audio & Custom Cans.

Music:
A collection of high res & Redbook tracks that I use for demo purposes.
You can find the playlist here:-
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941

What’s in the box:
1x Musician Audio Pegasus DAC.
1x Mains cable.
Documentation.
Warranty card.

Spec:
Proprietary R2R + DSD Architecture
True balanced 24BIT R2R + 6BIT DSD (32 steps FIR Filters)
Low Noise Power Supply
FIFO Buffer
Digital Signal Processing via FPGA
DSD1024, PCM1536 Supports On USB & I2S Input (the audio source needs to be compatible with the native interface)
Proprietary USB Audio Solution via STM32F446 Advanced AMR Based MCU
Licensed Thesycon USB Driver For Windows Platform
Driverless On Mac & Linux
DSD:
DSD64-DoP On All Input
DSD1024 On USB & I2S Input
PCM:
24bits / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192KHz On All Input
1536kHz On USB & I2S Input
Sampling Mode: Non-Oversampling NOS / Oversampling OS
Digital Input:
Coaxial * 1 via RCA
Optical * 1
USB * 1
AES/EBU * 1
I2S via HDMI LVDS * 1
Analog Output:
RCA : 2.2Vrms
XLR : 3.55Vrms
Technical parameters:
Frequency Response: 10Hz~60KHz
THD+N: 0.002%
S/N Ratio: 123dB(A-weighted)
Dynamic Range: >120dB
AC Power Requirement: 110-240VAC, 50/60Hz (Worldwide Voltage)
Power Consumption: ≤20W
Dimension: 280 x 250x 50 mm
Package Dim: 375 x 330 x 115 mm
Package Content: DAC + AC power cable, No remote control.
Weight:3.9 Kg
Color: Silver / Black

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Build and finish:
The Pegasus in a word, is exceptional.
And I would expect nothing less at this price point.
Musician Audio sent me the silver version and it matches almost perfectly with the rest of my silver components, IE: the STAX SRM-700T & the Technics SL1200 MKII.
The finish is exquisite with a finely machined front panel and housing.
Beneath the DAC are four spiked aluminium feet with sorbothane or silicone inserts. Not only do they look cool, they sit the unit level and firmly in place.
Its aggressive looks make for a modern aesthetic, yet are subtle enough to remain classy!
One thing I vehemently dislike are overly bright, large and often garish LEDs.
Musician Audio have nothing to worry about in this regard as they have fitted small LED’s which are just bright enough to be seen. They don’t drown out the rest of the system and I really appreciated the use of orange LEDs. Along with the three subtle buttons in the centre, with firm, shallow clicks, Musician Audio have done a great job!


Complimenting its great looks and finish, the Pegasus is built extremely robustly.
During my time with it I had the STAX SRM-700T sat atop the Pegasus. The 700T is not lightweight in any way, however, the Pegasus had no issues with the added weight.
The rear panel is laid out well with the different segments for the input and output stages marked clearly. The RCA posts are heavy duty and fit the RCA plugs I used like a glove.
The XLR sockets are mounted securely and again fit like a glove with no wobble or give.
The same can be expected of the various digital inputs and the power inlet.

I must applaud the designers and engineers who created this DAC as it truly is a fabulous piece, oozing premium craftsmanship with lots of input flexibility!

Setup:

Installing the Pegasus into my system was straight forward.
As I am using a MacBook Pro I had no need to install any drivers or additional software.
Mac OS recognised the DAC immediately within the sound settings and Midi preferences.
Again, With Qobuz up and running, the app had no issue seeing the Pegasus.
Connecting to other devices either via coaxial or optical is easy.

Once you’re all hooked up, power the DAC up, select your input and you’re set.
Just about.
The Pegasus has a NOS button. No. this won’t give your car a boost.
In fact it enables you to turn oversampling on or off. No Over Sampling… NOS.

It is good to note that Musician Audio include windows drivers for anyone who requires them.

Sound:
The Pegasus presents itself with a wide, spacious soundstage with plenty of headroom.
Superb separation. Instrument separation is fabulous, even in busier pieces of music. I can still pick the performance apart.
Low end bass is plentiful. With a complimentary fast delivery and excellent definition.
Moving onto the midrange and we find a forward and crystal clear sound, paired with an airiness that brings a beautifully balanced and organic presentation of vocals and acoustic instruments.
Highs are tight, crisp and concise. Leaning toward a more neutral sound than I am used to but retaining a nice level of sparkle and speed.
I personally found it performs best after sitting powered up, warming up for a few hours.
Note that I listened 90% of the time with the NOS circuit off.
Though the short time I had it on, I noticed a slightly narrower, more focused soundstage with a wisp of roll off in the higher frequencies.

Final thoughts:
At £863.11, the Pegasus is a worthy investment.
It paired impressively well with the Cyrus ONE, bringing an excellent DAC solution to my system.
Paired with the STAX however, raised the bar, and then some.
I’ve used the more expensive Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance with The SRM-700S
which was a formidable system and one that inspired my decision to eventually invest in the Conductor and a STAX system at home.
If my mind was not already made up, the Pegasus would be a firm contender for that place in my system. The Conductor only wins in my case due to also being a pre-amp and headphone amplifier.
But this is not a complaint against the Pegasus, just simple personal requirements.
I may even be tempted at some point to grab one for my desktop STAX system in my office space once that is finished. I enjoyed it that much.
Would I recommend the Pegasus? Yes. If I were in a position to buy one right now, I wouldn’t feel any regret in spending £30 shy of £900 on this DAC.

Many thanks to my readers for their continuing support. You are all fabulous!

And a huge thanks to Zhai and Arthur for arranging this review sample and being patient with me.

Please remember to like, follow and subscribe if you enjoy my reviews, and of course, please share! every little helps the blog to grow through more views and exposure.

Many thanks,
Paul.

Sponsor:
Thanks to Silver Note Tone Arms for the unwavering support and being there from the very beginning! Thank you Mark! 🙂

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STAX SRM-700T Electrostatic Ear speaker Driver.

After reviewing the extremely impressive SRM-700S driver, STAX have sent me the SRM-700T to see how I like the tube variant of this driver.

Disclaimer:
STAX have not paid me to write this article.
Although The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by STAX, the views and thoughts in this publication are my own unbiased opinion.
Audrey and Kay have been most gracious, kind and patient with me and I would like to personally thank them both.

The STAX SRM-700T currently retails at $3,400 at the time of this article.

Follow this link for more.
https://staxaudio.com/driver/stax-srm-700t

Review equipment & software:
STAX SRM-700T.
STAX SR-009.
STAX SR-L300.
Musician Audio Pegasus.
MacBook Pro Retina 15″.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
KECES Audio ePhono.
KECES Audio ePower.
Technics SL1200 MKII.
Ortofon Quintet Red.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Interconnects and mains cables supplied by our sponsors AF Audio & Custom Cans.
USB cable is a Crime Audio Snotora in pure silver.

Music:

Vinyl:
Jean Michel Jarre – Les Chants Magnetiques. ( Magnetic Fields )
Jean Michel Jarre – Revolutions.
Jean Michel Jarre – Equinox. ( 180 gram )
Jean Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China.
Depeche Mode – Violator. ( 180 gram )
Pink Floyd – The Wall. ( 180 gram )
Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair.
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No.5.
Qobuz:
Mikaela Davis – Delivery. ( HI-RES / 48.0 kHz )
Lissie – Thank You To The Flowers. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Chris Rea – ERA 1. ( HI-RES / 96.0 kHz )
Fleetwood Mac – Audiophile Collection. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Mastodon – Once More Around The Sun. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Kylesa – Static Tensions ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
The Audiophile Cafe Demo playlist:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941 ( mixed file formats )

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 126910317_3311706015607879_745289645000357670_o.jpg

The Audiophile Cafe readers can receive 1 month’s free subscription to Studio, which allows you to listen to Qobuz’s entire music library in Hi-Res and CD quality. 
Please note: Existing Studio subscribers need to unsubscribe first before activating the gift. 
Please click on the following link for more:
https://try.qobuz.com/tqs_fr/?qbzs=society&qbzc=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE&utm_source=society&utm_medium=partner_page&utm_campaign=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE

What’s in the box:
1x STAX SRM-700T electrostatic ear speaker driver.
1x Mains cable.
1x Stereo RCA interconnect.
Documentation.

Spec:

  • 6SN7 achieves a highly transparent sound
  • Non-inductive winding resistors with the least inductance
  • High-definition film capacitors
  • Hand-selected matching FET
  • EMI shielded volume control
  • Volume control bypass switching
  • Switchable RCA and XLR inputs. RCA parallel out.
  • Features newly developed large-sized aluminium insulators, combined with new vibration-proof material plus high frictional coefficient.
  • Type: FET input + vacuum tube output hybrid DC amplification driver unit
  • Vacuum tube: 6SN7 x2
  • Frequency response: DC – 100 kHz (with SR-009S)
  • Gain: 60dB
  • Harmonic distortion: 0.01% or less (1 kHz / 100 V rms output)
  • Input impedance: 50 kΩ (RCA), 50 kΩx 2 (XLR)
  • Maximum output voltage: 340 V rms (1 kHz)
  • Bias voltage: PRO 580 V
  • Operating temperature / humidity: 0 to 35 degrees C / less than 90% (non condensing)
  • Input terminal: RCA x 1, XLR x 1
  • Output: RCA parallel output terminal
  • Power consumption: 54 W
  • Dimension: 240 W x 103 H x 393 D mm (maximum protruding portion included)
  • Weight: 5.7 kg
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Build and finish:
I’ve had 4 STAX electrostatic drivers come through The Audiophile Cafe now and the first thing that stands out is the quality control.
Each unit has been flawless in its build and high quality finish.
The SRM-700T is no different. The 700t is identical to the 700S in every way, aside from the domed vents on the roof for the 6SN7 tubes and the circuitry in relation to said tubes.
Everything that was so right about the SRM-700S can be found in the SRM-700T, from the silky smooth volume and balance knob, firm and solid switches, through to the solid, heavy, yet subtle, aesthetically pleasing front panel and luxurious finish.
The rear panel is a carbon copy. Same Balanced input and RCA stereo input, parallel RCA stereo output, input selector and volume control selector. And the same premium quality seen before is evident in this unit.

Like its solid state sibling STAX have made a point of making the markings and instructions on the unit easy to understand and follow.
I’m won’t open the unit up as I’m not qualified to do so, however you can see from the info and images on STAX’s website that they use only the highest quality parts and the final assembly is spot on.
STAX have knocked it out of the ballpark. Again.

Setup:
Thanks to the easy to understand rear panel and clearly marked front panel, the SRM-700T is a breeze to hook up.
Simply choose the way you want to hook up and if you want to control the volume with the unit itself or externally from a pre-amp or DAC that has volume control.
In my case, this time around I’m using a DAC that doesn’t have a pre-amp built in so I’ve set it up so I use the STAX SRM-700T’s onboard volume control.
Plug everything in, power up and you’re done.
Bear in mind, unlike the 700S, the 700T has a short warm up sequence. Indicated by an amber flashing power LED when you initially turn the driver on.

Sound:
The SRM-700T is quiet with an audibly silent signal.
The soundstage is spacious and has an astonishing level of headroom.
Isolation, phenomenal. Offering a tremendous image with super-sharp separation of instruments.
The SRM-700T presents a strong, large sound.
Bass hits with finesse and authority.
The 700T has a warmth to it, yet without sounding dark or muddy.
Low sweeping bass sounds sublime and the bass to mid bass frequencies are punchy & detailed.
The midrange lends itself to a smooth, airy presentation, offering a very organic sound.
Vocals, wind and string instruments are easy to listen to, however there is also a liveliness in the mix that balances things perfectly.
And then we have the high frequencies…
I’m one of those audiophiles that likes a fair amount of top end sparkle, and boy oh boy does the 700T deliver. It delivers a forward, crystal clear sound that doesn’t roll off, yet does this without going too far.
Not often does a ear speaker driver or headphone amplifier paired with the right ear speakers or headphones give me the same enjoyment I get when listening to a high end amp & pair of speakers sporting ribbon tweeters.
The 700T paired with the SR-009 manages exactly that. Paired with the SR-L300 it’s not far off, however, we do begin to notice the highs sounding a touch rolled off at the very top. But not by much.

Digital & analogue sources alike, the SRM-700T with the SR-009 envelope you in the most exotic listening experience.

I can’t quite believe there are more expensive drivers that claim to offer superiority over this level of product.

Final thoughts:
This was an interesting review. I have already reviewed the 700T’s sibling, the 700S.
I wondered what the Tubes on the output stage would bring to the table, and I was not disappointed!
STAX have been around for a long time and it shows. Their craftsmanship, attention to detail and final product is without a doubt some of the best home audio gear on the market.
Now I’m truly diving into the realm of electrostatic gear, it’s difficult to go back to regular headphones and in this case, lower end electrostatic drivers or ear speakers.
I didn’t think I would see myself writing that, but here we are.
$7,319 is a lot of money, ( includes the cost of an extension cable ) so this won’t be in every audiophiles sights.
However, If you have the funds and are pondering an electrostatic system, please do yourself a favour and take the plunge with the SRM-700T and SR-009.
You will not regret it. In my honest opinion, it’s worth every dollar!

Thanks:
A massive thanks to Kay and Audrey at STAX for being extremely patient with me and as always being the super-supportive people that they are.

Huge thanks to my readers! Without you none of this would be worth it.
Please remember too like, subscribe and share!

Sponsors:
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by a few brands and start-ups and today I’d like to thank Custom Cans and AFAudio for supplying all of the cables that connect all of the dots and allow me to take the connections out of the process.
Look out for some articles in the near future about both!

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Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro True Wireless IEM’s.

In my second review for Soundcore I have a listen to an impressive pair of budget True Wireless IEM’s…

Disclaimer:
Soundcore have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own.
I’d like to thank Lorna & Soundcore for kindly sending these True Wireless IEM’s out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.

They currently retail at £129.99 and you can find them by following this link:
https://uk.soundcore.com/products/A3951021

Review equipment and software:
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Spotify Premium.
Soundcore app.
Apple Airpods Pro*. ( For comparison )

* I compare to the Airpods Pro in this review as they are the best all-round true wireless IEM in my opinion with unmatched ANC.

Music:
Lum.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
For all your High Res music needs please take a look at our partner Qobuz and give it a try:
https://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/discover

Various playlists and genres on Spotify Premium.

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What’s in the box:
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro true wireless IEM’s.
Wireless/USB Type C charging case.
Assorted silicone ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:
Input 5 V 0.5 A
Rated output power 5 mW @ 1% THD
Battery capacity
55 mA x 2 (earbuds)
500 mA (charging case)
Charging time 2 hours
15-minute charge = 3-hour playtime
Playtime
(varies by volume level and content)
Up to 7 hours
(Total 26 hours with the charging case)
Playtime
(with ANC mode turned on)
Up to 6 hours
(Total 21 hours with the charging case)
Playtime
(with transparency mode turned on)
Up to 6.5 hours
(Total 23 hours with the charging case)
Talk time Up to 4 hours
(Total 14 hours with the charging case)
Driver size 11 mm
Frequency response 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance 16 Ω
Waterproof level
(The waterproof level may reduce
over time as a result of daily use)
IPX4
(The earbuds are not designed for swimming,
showering, or exposure to pool or ocean
water. Do not use in a sauna or steam room.
The charging case is not waterproof. )
Bluetooth version V 5.0
Bluetooth range 10 m / 33 ft

Battery life:
The batteries performed as expected. These are one of the longer lasting pair of TWS IEM’s I have currently.

Build and finish:
Soundcore, until now were an unknown entity to me in regards to what their quality is like.
Now I have these here I have to say I’m impressed at how good they are at their price.
I love the sliding door, it adds a uniqueness that my other TWS IEM’s don’t have.
The IEM’s stay in the case securely and even with a hard tap on the bottom of the case held upside down, the IEM’s don’t budge!
The wells for the ear tips fit almost every tip I tested. I had a little trouble with the largest of memory foam tips, but I don’t use them anyway so it’s not an issue. For me anyway.
The wireless charging works flawlessly as does the USB Type C.
I was sent the Titanium version and it’s a great colour combination.
The charging case itself has a stone-like finish which is hard wearing and doesn’t scratch easy.
The IEM’s are finished in a matt white and smooth titanium. It works nicely and it’s very easy to clean!
The charging case has three subtle white LED’s on the outside that indicate charge level.
All in all, Soundcore have designed and created a smart and clean looking pair of IEM’s which pack a lot of tech inside.
The finish on both the IEM’s and the case is perfect and fast becoming one of my favoured sets.

Setup, app and use:
Initial pairing with the IEM’s is quick and straight forward.
Be sure to install the Soundcore app as it will enhance your user experience ten fold.
Once you’re all set with the pairing and app, open the app and you will be able to ensure you have a perfect seal/fitment with the ear tips.
Within the app you can now map whatever controls you desire to the touch controls.
And we’re still not done…
You will also find the active noise cancelling controls and EQ.
Both of which are fully customisable.
Then we have HearID. This is an extremely useful function and I’ll let the user manual do the talking:
“HearID maps your personal hearing sensitivity at multiple frequencies and
analyses the results. It traces the EQ settings and creates a personalised sound
profile for you.”

And this is bang on the money, after setting this up I found it made a huge improvement over what is already a fabulous sounding pair of true wireless IEM’s.
The touch controls work every time.
All of this considered, If the Liberty Air 2 Pro were being scored off this section alone I’d give them a 10/10!
But we’re still not done!
Soundcore have also included a music streaming app within the Soundcore app itself from Lum. It’s pretty basic at this moment in time, but there’s a good varied selection of music to choose from. Once you begin using Lum, a little tab pops up within the Soundcore app which you can tap to quickly return to the Lum streamer.
Of course you aren’t stuck to using just Lum. Use whatever music streaming app you wish.
In my case I use Qobuz or Spotify, but for this review I’m sticking to Qobuz as I do in every other review. So far so good!

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Comfort:
I’ll get straight to the point, these are up there in my top three true wireless IEM’s for comfort along side the Grado GT220’s and the Apple Airpods Pro.
Once I found the right fit ( the Soundcore app makes this a lot easier ) the IEM’s stayed in place. As always I conducted the headache inducing “head shake test” and they wouldn’t budge. Which is something I often struggle with when using silicone tips, leading us too the tips…
The silicone tips provided with the Liberty Air 2 Pro are one of the smoothest, comfiest ear tips I’ve worn.
The IEM’s are impressively light weight considering their size, and despite the ( longer than the Airpods Pro ) long stems, they fit perfectly and don’t tip inwards as others have done.
They stay in my ear canal at the same position for however long I wear them.
I wore these for an almost three hour listening session with no discomfort, zero fatigue and as previously mentioned, no inward tipping.
To finish, The Liberty Air 2 Pro are one of the comfiest true wireless IEM’s I have worn up to this point.

Active noise cancelling / Mics:
The Active noise cancelling on the Liberty Air 2 Pro is in a word, phenomenal.
In factory form the Noise cancelling mode is on par with the Airpods Pro. Which many claim have the best ANC on the market.
The transparency mode is strong and unlike others I’ve reviewed has two different modes, “Fully Transparent” or “Vocal Mode”.
When in Vocal Mode the mics and software cut out almost all background noise apart from speech. And it works surprisingly well!
In Fully Transparent mode you can hear all ambient noise and they’re almost as good as the Airpods Pro.
You can, if you wish, turn noise cancelling and transparency modes off and switch to Normal Mode. I tried this and with the correct fitment, they work well in this mode.
I made the obligatory video and voice call tests and my voice came through clear and concise. On my end I was able to hear the person I called clearly with the noise cancelling on, cutting out all ambient background noise.

Sound:
And here we are, at the final and most important section. How do they sound?
Soundstage is fairly wide with decent depth and headroom, Separation is good, even in busier sections of music.
The low end on the Liberty Air 2 Pro is impressive, providing lots of punch, sweeping low with ease but without losing texture or clarity. I found this particularly enjoyable with Metal and EDM. They deliver the “Club” sound that I love when listening to EDM, something I search for in IEM’s, wired or wireless and often fail to find.
Mids are clear and airy, lending a smooth natural mid range.
High frequencies are handled with a finesse I haven’t yet heard in a sub £300 pair of true wireless IEM. Plenty of sparkle, detail and crispness.

Final thoughts:
The Liberty Air 2 Pro are an exceptional product, from their spotless finish, cool looks, comfort and ease of use to their impressive, feature packed firmware and software, superb active noise cancelling and microphones and long battery life.
They sound lively and precise, matching beautifully with any genre of music I threw at them with authority and clout.
I therefor can’t get my head around their low price!
I absolutely recommend the Liberty Air 2 Pro. Go! Buy a pair now!

Thanks:
Thank you to my readers for your patience and your support!
Please like, share, follow and subscribe.
Every time someone does this it helps the blog grow and gives me a perspective of what my readers like.

Sponsor:
Thank you to our sponsor Meze Audio for being a rock from the very beginning of The Audiophile Cafe! Meze Audio have provided the blog with many review items and ha

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Meze Audio 12 Classics V2 IEM.

Meze are at it again and have sent me yet another IEM to review. Read on my dear readers, read on…

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid by Meze Audio for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Alexandra and Meze Audio kindly sent this IEM my way to review.
The 12 Classic V2 IEM retails at €69 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up here:
https://mezeaudio.eu/products/meze-12-classics-v2

Review Equipment:
Periodic Audio Rhodium.
Audioquest Dragonfly Black.
Astell & Kern AK70.
iBasso DX80.
Meze Audio 12 Classic V2.

Music:
Michael Jackson: Dangerous.
ZZ Top: Audiophile Collection.
Depeche Mode: Violator.
Marantz High-End Audiophile demo SACD. ( FLAC file )
Various playlists on Qobuz Studio Premier.

What’s in the box:
Meze Audio 12 Classic V2.
Carry pouch.
Silicone ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:

  • Frequency response: 16Hz – 24KHz
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 101dB (+/- 3db)
  • Total harmonic distortion: < 0.5%
  • Noise attenuation: up to 26dB
  • Titanium coated 8mm mylar driver
  • 3.5mm gold-plated jack plug
  • 6N OFC cable, length: 1.2m
  • No mic & remote


Build and finish:
The 12 Classic V2 are a beautifully made IEM.
The packaging as always is well done and presented nicely.
From the real walnut housings to the copper-anodised aluminium and finished with braided cables, they punch well above their weight, looking and feeling like a more expensive model.
The silicone ear tips included are good quality as always.
Meze Audio include a carry case identical to the one I reviewed that came with the 11 Neo IEM’s and as expected is the same high quality.
This time Meze have left the inline mic out of the equation, which is something I prefer.

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Comfort:
The 12 Classic V2 fit comfortably in my ear canals and are light weight so don’t fall out or feel like they could easily be yanked out.
The silicone tips are very smooth and comfy.
Isolation/passive noise cancelling is really good with the correct fit.
I wore these for a 3 and a half our session without feeling any discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Soundstage is more focused than it is wide or spacious. It has depth and separation is precise.
Bass: Full bodied low end with plenty of bounce, but a touch backed off on the lower frequencies.
Mids: The 12 Classic V2’s have a very forward and emphasised airy midrange which lends itself too vocals, and acoustic music.
Highs: Rolled off at the higher end but crisp and detailed with good definition.



Final thoughts:
The 12 Classic V2’s are a great looking IEM without a doubt.
The combination of real walnut and the copper-anodised aluminium is a fabulous pairing.
The finish on them is flawless and a testament to Meze’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The sound signature is one I’m not used to, with heightened mids and rolled off higher frequencies with a more mid-bass emphasised lower end.
However this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact I found them to perform particularly well with acoustic and vocals. I found they were best suited to classical, guitar and vocal-centric music.
They are good for EDM and other electronic music, however the bass doesn’t quite have that low end punch that I personally prefer.
For €69 however, I can’t complain. I was surprised at the low price when I looked them up pre-review.
Would I recommend them? Absolutely. Just bear in mind they have a very forward midrange and the low end is more mid-bass centric.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and please don’t forget to like, follow, subscribe and share.

Sponsor & Partner:

The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by a number of brands, and this time around we have AFAudio, our latest sponsor. Thanks to Andrew for offering to sponsor the blog, I appreciate the support!

And of course, supplying The Audiophile Cafe with a vast selection of high res music is our partner, Qobuz.
Qobuz support the blog with a Qobuz Studio Premier account which has become an invaluable tool over the past few years. Thank you David and team for the ongoing support!

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Cyrus ONE.

Earlier this year I decided to purchase a new integrated amplifier, and it was high time I began my journey with Cyrus. Read on as I get stuck in with the Cyrus ONE…

Disclaimer:
This review is not sponsored or paid for by Cyrus.
I purchased this brand new Cyrus ONE myself.
The views in this review are my own unbiased and honest opinion.
The Cyrus ONE retails at £799 and can be bought from Cyrus at the following link:
https://www.cyrusaudio.com/shop/cyrus-one/

Review equipment and software:
Cyrus ONE.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO. ( Ortofon 2M Red )
Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3.
Klipsch RP-500M.
Sennheiser HD600.
Grado SR125e.
Apple MacBook Air running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Apple iPhone XS Max running the Cyrus ONE app.
Apple TV 4K running Apple Music.
& a few live concerts I have in my movies library.

AF Audio & Custom Cans cables throughout the entire system.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Various new and old albums on vinyl.
Qobuz streamed over Bluetooth.
Live concerts via Apple TV 4K over Bluetooth/Airplay.

What’s in the box:
Cyrus ONE integrated amplifier.
Remote Control.
Mains Cable.
Documentation.

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Spec:
Power consumption: Maximum 750W.
Safety Compliance: CE.
EMC (230V): CE.
EMC (115V): FCC.
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 220 x 86.5 x 390 mm.
Weight: 5.72kg.
Material: Non-ferrous chassis.
Input Sensitivity: (50W/8Ω) 200mV.
Input Impedance: 10kΩ.
Frequency Response: (-3dB) 6Hz > 50kHz.
Signal to Noise Ratio: (A-WTD) 85dBA.
Power Output: (2 channels driven) .6Ω 110W.
THD+N: (Pre-Amp) 1kHz <0.006%.
THD+N: (1kHz, 25W) 6Ω <0.012% (both channels driven).
Bluetooth specification:
Bluetooth version: V4.1.
aptXTM: supported for compatible sources.

Build and finish:
This is my first product from Cyrus so I’ve not experienced their gear up close and personal until now.
If I were to sum the Cyrus ONE up in no more than 5 words, I would go with Classic, Flexible, Powerful, Smart and Precise.
The ONE is a piece of art. It’s subtle styling and layout is something that will look great in any room, in any system. It’s built very well and is pretty robust. It has a really cool classic aesthetic to it and wouldn’t look out of place with an older system from the 80’s.
My one complaint: the plastic bezel, as fabulous as it looks has a flaw…
There is a lip that fits over the metal housing of the amp. That lip has the slightest gap between it and the metal. I believe in shipping some pressure has been put on top of the unit resulting in a hairline crack in the centre of the top of the bezel, from front to rear.
Luckily it’s not noticeable as it’s so thin. I don’t know if this is a problem others have had but it’s an annoyance, if a small one.
Otherwise it’s a thing of beauty.
It’s packed with features and offers a good amount of flexibility in regards to how you can use it. Class D Integrated amplifier, pre amp, Power amplifier ( using the AV input ) or dedicated class A/B headphone amplifier. Cyrus have you covered on all fronts.
And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve included a bluetooth channel along with an accompanying control app.
The ONE, packs a wallop. I’ve so far used it with the Klipsch RP-500M my Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3’s and my old Acoustic Energy AE100i’s.
In each pairing, the ONE powered these speakers flawlessly and without breaking a sweat!
A “smart” feature is SID or system impedance detection . When you power the Cyrus ONE up, it runs through a calibration of the amplifier first. It detects the impedance of the speakers you have connected and optimises the output impedance accordingly.
I’ll get to precision a little later in the sound section.

Setup and ease of use:
The Cyrus ONE is very straight forward to set up and use.
But it’s also very versatile.
Use it as an integrated amplifier, pre amplifier, power amplifier, or headphone amplifier.
And the Cyrus ONE performs perfectly in each configuration.
Remote control is a breeze either with the included physical remote or via the Cyrus ONE app, available either on iOS or Android.
The remote and the app are both simple and easy to understand and use.
One feature I love is the ability to dim the LED’s on the front panel. I really wish more brands would consider this, as some install LED bulbs that are way too bright and work against the aesthetics of an over all system.
Your choice of inputs is from Bluetooth, through 3 line level inputs to an onboard MM phono stage. So you have plenty of options for hook up.
There is also a pre-out, allowing you to use the ONE as a pre amplifier.
My only gripe is the missing line level output. I would have really appreciated the ability to run a line out to my STAX system instead of using the ONE as a pre amp in that regard.
Bluetooth pairing is really easy and the connection is strong and stable once paired.

Sound:
Over speakers:
Powering my Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3’s the Cyrus ONE doesn’t break a sweat, it performs with authority. With bottom end clout, midrange smoothness and clean crisp highs it packs a wallop in all the right places.
Of the amplifiers I have so far tried with these speakers, this is by far the best pairing.
On a side note, I also reviewed a pair of Klipsch RP-500M recently, using this amplifier as the power source and it did not disappoint!
I was dabbling with the idea of running a subwoofer with my speakers, however since buying and using the Cyrus ONE that idea has melted into the background.
With my B&W’s positioned correctly the Cyrus ONE provides enough power and low end grunt to the point where bass presentation is a joy. Mids and highs are airy and fill the room with clarity, speed and sparkle.


Over headphones:
To keep things realistic and within the price range of this amplifier I decided to use two of my go-to headphones that are under the retail price of the Cyrus ONE.
Both open backed headphones, the Sennheiser HD600’s and Grado SR125e’s are a staple part of my headphone inventory and see a lot of use.
The Cyrus ONE drives both pairs easily, with power and precision.
I found the amplifier to be pretty neutral and didn’t “colour” the sound of either pair of headphones.
I have read good things about the headphone amp section of the ONE but wasn’t expecting it to be on par with, if not better in some cases, than some of my dedicated headphone amplifiers!

Phono stage:
The built in phono stage is a good one. Clean, quiet output which is balanced well with the rest of the Cyrus ONE’s input stage.
I tend not to use onboard phono stages, however this one is good enough that I use it regularly with my Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO, freeing my KECES Audio ePhono up for an extra tonearm or turntable.

Final thoughts:
This is the first time I’ve spent over £300 on an integrated amplifier, so at first I was a touch nervous at shedding £799 on the Cyrus ONE.
However, since spending time with this integrated amplifier I have been more than impressed with it. It’s been a worthwhile investment and as a reviewer it offers me a lot of flexibility in regards to how I can use it.
For £799 I have a phenomenal Integrated amp in it’s own right. But it’s also a fabulous power amplifier, pre amplifier and headphone amplifier.
The bluetooth connectivity is the icing on the cake for me.
If you’re in the market for a versatile, powerful amplifier that ticks a lot of boxes for under £1000, I can’t recommend the Cyrus ONE highly enough!
If you want to put more your budget up a few notches, You also have the option of the Cyrus ONE HD, and their latest offering, the Cyrus ONE CAST. Each have built in DACs and the CAST also has more flexibility again being compatible with Alexa etc.

Thank you for reading this review and as always, please like, subscribe and share 🙂

Many thanks, Paul.

Partner:
The Audiophile Cafe is partnered with Qobuz.

Origin Live Gravity One Record “Weight/Clamp.”

An interesting record “weight/clamp” from Origin Live with a hefty price tag. But is it worth it’s asking price? Read on to find out more…

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid or sponsored for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased, honest and my own.
Origin Live have been kind enough to send this item out for review.
The “Gravity One” currently retails for £195.

You can grab one from Origin Live here:
https://www.originlive.com/shop/origin-live-record-weight.html

Review equipment:
Origin Live “Gravity One”
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO. ( Ortofon 2M Red )
Technics SL1200 MKII. ( Ortofon Quintet Red )
KECES Audio ePhone and ePhono power.
Cyrus ONE.
Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3.
Airpulse ST200 stands filled with Atacama “Atabytes”
STAX SRM-700T.
STAX SR-009 Signature Edition.
AF Audio & Custom Cans interconnects.
AF Audio speaker cables and filter.
AF Audio mains cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners ( x2 )
Various accessories and tweaks.

Music:
Various vinyl.
Some 180gram, some older, lighter pressings.

What’s in the box:
Origin Live “Gravity One”

Spec:
Origin Live don’t have any information about materials or parts used on their website, aside from the following:
Dimensions:
80mm diameter x 25mm height
Weight: 67 grams
Fits over spindles between 8.5mm to 23mm height (where height is measured between top of record and very top of spindle)

Instead they state the following in their “Main Description”:

“At last a Record clamp which works as it should.

Record clamps or weights serve 2 purposes

a) They flatten warped records on the platter – thus giving your cartridge an easier ride and enabling it to maintain the same VTA (angle to the record).

b) They change the way your records sound by damping their vibration.

Most clamps flatten records successfully but have very mixed results on sound quality. As a generalisation, most they tend to enhance the bass whilst dulling down the upper midband. There is also a perceived slowing down of the sound and the decay of notes suffer.

For 25 years or so we’ve tested record clamp designs (both ours and 3rd parties) and never come across a clamp which was worthwhile to use. Then one year we were sharing a room at the indulgence show with the importer of Shun Mook and he introduced us to their record clamp. To my astonishment this actually worked and enhanced everything in the music with no downside. The only problem was that it cost £2000.

This experience got me thinking and after some interesting design experiences with previously untested materials we though it worth trying again. Strangely enough just as we came up with this idea my friend Tony Sharman started talking to us about a record clamp he designed for his own personal system. Anyone who knows Tony knows that he’s a no nonsense kind of guy and one of the more experienced in the industry. My interest was aroused and we duly arranged a date for him to come down and demonstrate his clamp.

As I’m sure you can guess this was an ah-ah moment and his design coincided almost exactly with our own thinking but he had refined things and gave us some helpful tips to speed up the design.”

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Build and finish:
So where do we start? I can take a look online and at the Gravity One itself to see what I can glean from it’s construction.
Indeed we have a very lightweight “puck”, I say puck because this is most certainly NOT a weight, it isn’t a clamp either. It doesn’t work or act in the same way as a clamp.
Going off of the Gravity Ones design and the way it works I would call it an anti-vibration “puck” maybe?
The shell is constructed from a light weight plastic of some kind.
Internally the Gravity One isn’t solid. When we flip it upside down we find some very light weight wood, what appear to be acrylic screws and a small acrylic or delrin base. All of which, have movement. As a whole unit the Gravity One weighs in at just 67 grams.
The Gravity One is made well. and the finish is good. The design is subtle and basic which for some will be a welcome aesthetic. Those looking for a funky looking weight/clamp or “eye turner” will not find one here.
Personally I find the design pleasing and it’s neither a great thing or a bad thing.

Sound:
I have been using a few weights for a while now so to begin, I went back to listening to my vinyl “weightless” for a few months before listening with the Gravity One. Cleansing my pallet if you will.

So what did I hear?

I heard a slight improvement, with the most noticeable being bass performance and presentation.
Bass is more impactful and textured. It’s richer and sounds more refined.
Mids are softer and airier, but allowing vocals to sound more organic.
Highs are more articulate, faster paced and with improved sparkle.
I also noticed quieter sections of music sounding, well… quieter. bringing out more detail from the background.
I noticed this across both the EVO and the 1200 MKII, However I found the differences more pronounced when using the Gravity One with the EVO. So much so that it has become a permanent fixture in the EVO’s retinue of accessories and upgrades.

Thoughts and recommendation:
Ok, let’s cut straight through it all and ask, Is it worth £195 though?
I’ll be honest, as I always am and say I think that’s subjective.
We all have our own tastes and preferences, some of us hear big differences from the slightest of tweaks to our systems while some of us hear little to no difference from bigger, far more extensive tweaks.
As someone who is in his 40’s and in the midst of their hifi journey, I’m still building my system. I’m still swapping things in and out, making little and big tweaks as I go.
I’m still learning!
As I’ve stated above, I did hear some improvement in sound, most notably, the bass performance.
I do use it every time I power on the EVO and dig out some vinyl, like I said, it’s now a go to upgrade.
Is it something I would go out and buy? Yes, however reluctantly. It’s a lot of money for what it is.
Would I recommend it?
I’d recommend when the pandemic and lockdown rules allow, to go and demo one first if possible.
Maybe see if it’s possible to borrow one from a friend? Or if like myself you’re a reviewer, most certainly go that route first.
All of this being said, Origin Live say “We are so pleased with the results that it’s a no brainer to offer this as an upgrade for all other decks. As with so many of our products this carries our guarantee of satisfaction or your money back.
So if you’ve got £195 to blow and you’re looking to squeeze some more detail and performance from your turntable, give it a whirl.

Thank you as always to all of my readers for your ongoing support!

Many thanks, Paul.

Sponsor:
Thank you to Jason and Custom Cans for the support, help and cables!
Always a pleasure.

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New Branding and an update.

Hello and welcome cafe goers.

Come in, grab your favourite beverage and pull up a chair.
I hope you’re all well and keeping safe. this past year and a half has been testing for so so many of us across the globe hasn’t it?!!

Finally, The Audiophile Cafe has branding! I’m working with a young lady by the name of Becca and she’s been doing a fantastic job of designing logo’s, banners and awards for the blog and across our social media outlets.

You may have already seen a sneak peak at this new branding on Facebook and Instagram.



The plan eventually is to have branding available for use on merchandise. Watch this space as they say!

I must apologise for the inconsistency in reviews being published.
Put simply: I’m eeking out the products I have in currently. Getting items in has been somewhat difficult over the past months which I believe are in part due to the pandemic, lockdowns, but also brexit.
There is a constant flow, it’s just a little slow at the moment.
In light of this, as I said, I’m eeking out what I do have, in order to have something to publish for you each month.
Let’s hope this doesn’t continue for much longer and I am able to increase the frequency of reviews each month!

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors and partners for helping me through these past months. Without their help and support there would have been far less content.

In no particular order, our sponsors are:

AF Audio.
STAX Headphones.
Custom Cans.
Silver Note Tone arms.
Airpulse.
Meze Audio.
Qobuz.

And of course it goes without saying, a big thank you to every brand and distributor that has supplied the blog with items to review and in some cases keep over the past year and a half!

The Community!

Some of my readers may not be aware that we have a growing community on Facebook under the same name which is nearing the 1000 membership count, along with a dedicated page and a trade hub.
If you haven’t already, please feel free to take a look by following the links below.
Come, pop your head in and say hi 🙂

Just make sure you read and agree to the group rules first!

We also have a Twitter and Instagram, which I’ll also leave below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophilecafe
https://www.facebook.com/TheAudiophileCafe
https://www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophilecafetradehub

https://twitter.com/Paul81981747
( this one may get a little political at times. )

https://www.instagram.com/the_audiophile_cafe/
( Sneak peaks at upcoming reviews and other interests )

Ads…

You will have noticed that I now have a few ads inserted into each of my reviews.
I’d like to make a little kick back from what I do, however, I don’t believe in making readers pay for a subscription so this is why I have it set out this way.
Eventually I hope to upgrade from premium to a business account so I can start charging for ads more selectively, meaning they’ll be better targeted at our hobby, instead of ads for random products.
I hope that you all understand and support me in this.

Thank you for taking the time to have a red of this little update.
And if you’d like to see more pieces like this as well as the reviews and articles, please leave a comment and let me know 🙂

All my very best, take care. Until next time… Paul.

KBEAR KS1 Budget IEM.

KBEAR send me their KS1 IEM for review. Let’s see what this little belter is capable of…

Disclaimer:
KBEAR have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own.
I’d like to thank Vivian & KBEAR for kindly sending these IEM’s out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.

The KBEAR KS1 currently retail at £15.62!
You can find them and other products here:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002184896879.html?spm=a2g0o.detail.1000023.2.6d4b6738rMmmhL

Review equipment:
KBEAR KS1 IEM.
Astell & Kern AK70.

Music:
Various FLAC files.

What’s in the box:
KBEAR KS1 IEM’s.
3.5mm stereo cable.
Spare ear tips. S,M & L.

Specs:
Brand: KBEAR
Model: KS1
Interface: 2PIN 0.78mm(TFZ)
Frequency response: 20-20kHz
Sensitivity: 109dB
Impedance: 16ohm
Earphone material: 10mm High polymer PET diaphragm
Color: black, white
Cable material: 4 core 4N pure copper cable
Plug type: 3.5mm L-type gold-plated plug
Driver Unit: Dual Magnetic Circuit Single Dynamic driver, dual cavity

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Build and finish:
“You get what you pay for” is a phrase we’ve all used before and one we hear a lot. So what really can we expect from an IEM that costs only £15.62???
I was not expecting an IEM that looks and feels more like something in the £50 to £80 price point.
The box they come in is just a plain “No frills” cardboard box with the branding printed on the exterior.
Inside you’ll find the IEM’s, Cable and spare ear tips. No pouch or case here, no cleaning tool.
Just the bear basics. But then you really can’t expect anything more at this price.
Once unboxed we’re greeted with a fairly standard but nice looking pair of IEM’s. And if we take another look we’ll notice a pair of aluminium ear stems. Interesting.
Then we come to the cable. Again, fairly standard and nothing that stands out like other aesthetically pleasing cables, however, it’s very well made, with a good quality plug one end, and a decent pair of two-pin connectors on the other.
The Y-Splitter is encased in a robust plastic.
The version I was sent has the in-line mic and this is something I’m not so sure about. The casing and button appear to be cheaply made and I worry this could be a weak link in an otherwise pretty strong chain. If I didn’t have other cables that would fit these, this would be a major concern!
However, all said and done, for £15.62 you’re getting a very decent IEM that appears to have been through some good quality control.

Comfort:
The KS1’s are designed to ergonomically fit your ear and they do this surprisingly well.
The ear stems fit comfortably and don’t extend too far into your ear canal.
KBEAR provide some silicone ear tips which are up to the job and fit without any trouble.
Passive noise cancelling is pretty good which is going to be handy if you intend to use these with a phone. ( If your phone even has a headphone/mic jack at all. )
The cable provides flexible coverings over your ears which help to shape them and hold them in place.
I was able to wear the KS1’s for a good hour and a half without any discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Bass: The KS1 carry a lot of weight in the bass department with tight, low sweeping delivery.
Mids: Midrange frequencies are a little withdrawn, lending to a v-shaped curve in the over all sound.
Highs: High end is crisp and fast paced, but rolled off at the very high end of the frequency range. We still hear the v-shape here but you can tell the very high end could use a little lift.
If your device has EQ this shouldn’t be an issue.

Soundstage here is somewhere between medium too wide with some depth to it.
Instrument separation is good but gets muddled in busier pieces of music.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
They’re £15.62. But they perform more akin to a £50 up pair of IEM’s.
They’re relatively comfy, built well and are a great solution if you’re after some hard hitting IEM’s with some detail and clarity.
If these are qualities you’re looking for and you’re on a mega-tight budget, you could do far, far worse! So put those cheap “checkout” in ears down that you spotted whilst putting your shopping through the till and give these a look.

Sponsor:
Thank you to our sponsor Meze Audio!

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Soundcore Life Q30 ANC Wireless Headphones by Anker.

In my first review for Soundcore by Anker, we have the surprisingly impressive Life Q30…

Disclaimer:
Neither Soundcore or Anker have paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own.
I’d like to thank Lorna & Soundcore for kindly sending these headphones out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.

The Life Q30 currently retail at £79.99
You can find them and other products here:

https://uk.soundcore.com/products/a3028011?37369766084768&variant=37369766084768&utm_source=kelkoo&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_content=kelkoo&from=kelkoo&gclid=Cj0KCQjw4v2EBhCtARIsACan3nx4AV4sBwcuOdJDnychfMkW27Ikxof97EC0mpIW-x-zvIERDupChCgaApd7EALw_wcB

Review equipment and software:
Soundcore Life Q30.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Soundcore app.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Spotify Premium.

Music:
Qobuz Studio Premier.
For all your High Res music needs please take a look at our partner Qobuz and give it a try:
https://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/discover

Various playlists and genres on Spotify Premium.

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What’s in the box:
Soundcore Life Q30 wireless headphones.
USB Type cable.
Stereo 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable.
Hard travel case.
Documentation.

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Specs:

  • Upgraded Noise Cancellation with Multiple Modes
  • Hi-Res Certified Audio with Remarkable Clarity and Detail
  • Clear Calls via Built-In Microphones
  • Extended 40-Hour Playtime
  • 5-Minute Charge = 4-Hour Playtime
  • Lighter Build and More Comfortable Fit
  • Customizable EQ with Soundcore App
  • Transparency Mode
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Driver (Full Range): 2 × 40mm
  • Frequency Response: 16Hz – 40kHz
  • Range: 15 m / 49.21 ft

Build and finish:
Soundcore have created a good solid headphone that is on par with brands such as Sennheiser and Bose. For a relatively new player on the scene they’ve designed a capable and competitive product here. The plastic used is high quality and I don’t hear or feel any noticeable creaking when I wear them.
Zero sharp edges or burs could be found anywhere, so it’s safe to say Soundcore’s quality control is on point.
The power and control buttons are firm and have a nice positive click. They’re also clearly marked and easy to read, which was something lacking on a more expensive pair of wireless Sennheiser headphones I reviewed last year. Kudos where kudos are due!
The USB type C port is well situated, is a nice solid fit and has no wobble.
The same can be said for the 3.5mm wired audio port.
The touch pad on the right cup is brilliant and works every time.
A very positive addition is the hard travel case. Something sorely missing from every headphone I’ve reviewed to date with the exception of Meze Audio.
Bear in mind these are by far the cheapest headphones I’ve reviewed to date. Other brands could learn a thing or two from Soundcore and Meze Audio in this respect!
My only complaints about the Q30 are the ear and head pads, and the lack of water resistance.
The ear and head pads are a funny thing. On the downside they feel flimsy and not very robust. However they are extremely comfortable and the headband has robust but buttery smooth positioning with the slightest but secure click.
As for the water resistance, They’re a £79.99 wireless headphone with ANC. And they pack a lot in to a very affordable package. I just can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been too far of a push to include water resistance?
The battery power and charge time stated are so far true after 3 full charges and listening sessions.
And finally, the folding mechanism is flawless, easy to utilise, allowing the Q30’s to be placed in the hard case easily. And they don’t feel like they’re going to break any moment like I’ve seen with other similarly priced headphones.
One thing though Soundcore…
Please, next time you design a hard travel case, Please sew the internal accessory pocket/pouch in the right way up.

Setup, software and ease of use:
Pairing the Life Q30 with my phone was easy peasy. And installing and connecting the Soundcore app was straight forward.
Once the Soundcore app is installed you have a lot of features available including ANC settings and an eight band EQ.
The addition of fully functional EQ is brilliant and something I wish the likes of B&O and Sennheiser would embrace and include for their end users.
The app is frequently kept up to date through software updates as is the firmware on the Q30’s.
As mentioned before, the controls on the headphones are clearly marked and positioned in a way that is easy and intuitive to use.
The control to switch between ANC modes is incorporated via the touch control built into the right ear cup.
Bixby activates every time by voice. No button presses or touches required here.
After some time with some products that have lacked the use of additional software, this has been a welcome change here at The Audiophile Cafe HQ.

Comfort:
The Life Q30’s surprised me. It’s no lie. When I initially unboxed them and noted the “flimsy” ear and head pads, I didn’t expect much from these headphones by the way of comfort.
I was wrong. VERY wrong!
Ok, so I just recently reviewed the STAX SR-L300 and am in the midst of reviewing some Sennheiser HD820S’s. It’s going to be pretty obvious that the Q30’s aren’t in the same league as these high end ear speakers and headphones, however, what I imagined would be a massive degradation in comfort, was in fact only a minor step back.
They’re closer fitting due to their size and the clamping force of the Q30 is quite strong. But they’re extremely comfortable. So much so I put them on par with the Meze Audio Classic 99’s and the Beyerdynamic T70p.
I was able to wear these for hours at a time with no discomfort or fatigue.

Sound, voice and ANC:
Alright, they’re built really well with minor complaints, they’re good to go in the comfort department and they’ve got the software and functionality down to a T.
But do they have what it takes in the audio realm?

ANC and voice:
The active noise cancelling works very well. Easily switchable modes with one touch, and impressive noise cancelling. The transparency mode is good. It’s not as good as the Airpods Pro, currently my go to ANC based device, but it’s still good. Good enough for me to use these headphones more and more as a daily beater when I’m out and about with my Samsung phone.
After several phone and video calls it’s safe to say the mic works as well as you would expect. The reports are in that my voice, as annoying as it can be, comes through crystal clear and without any harshness or sounding muffled.

Sound: ( EQ set to zero across all frequencies. )
The Life Q30 have a focused soundstage.
Imaging is good and I would liken the overall image akin to being sat in a studio or listening room.
Bass is full bodied and forward, if a little loose.
The Q30 reach deep frequencies with ease and don’t distort when doing so.
Mids are neutral, clear and detailed.
And the highs are crisp and airy, however they’re a touch rolled off at the top end.

All of this being said, with some tweaks in the EQ, The bass can be tightened up quite noticeably and the highs can be lifted by cranking up the higher frequencies.

With these tweaks in place the Q30 are a pleasure to listen to and easily on par with the Sennheiser HD450 BT.

Extra content:
Anker USB Type C fast charge plug:
I must mention quickly that Soundcore were kind enough to include the Anker fast charge plug with the Q30’s and I used it to charge the headphones throughout this review.
It works as expected. Doesn’t get overly hot and does what it says on the tin.
I hope soon, they design a charger with retractable pins as other brands are doing. This would be a very welcome improvement in the next iteration.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
For £79.99, I can’t not recommend these. When considering how I feel they’re on par with and in some cases better than a £159 more expensive offering from Sennheiser…
There’s not one argument I can pit against them.
ANC, Robust design, full bodied lively sound, full EQ customisation, extremely comfortable and did I mention they were on sale on Amazon for £59.99???
Go get a pair already and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share. 😉

All my thanks to you all. All my best. Paul.

Sponsors:
Thank you again to my sponsors who make everything so much easier and help me to provide better and continuous content.

This publications sponsor is our newest sponsor.
I’d like to thank and welcome AFAudio onboard. Andrew makes superb cables and accessories.
He’s also an exceptionally decent and kind chap to talk with.

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