Next up in an ever growing line up of Meze Audio products, I review the Rai Solo. Read more to get my thoughts on this very cool looking IEM.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid or sponsored by Meze Audio for this review. The views in this publication are unbiased and my own. Alexandra and Meze Audio kindly sent these my way to review. The Rai Solo retail at $249 at the time of this review.
What’s in the box: 2x Meze Audio Rai Solo IEM. 1x 1.3m MMCX braided, silver plated copper cable. 1x Hard Case. 3 pairs of soft silicone ear tips S, M, L. 3 double flanged ear tips S, M, L. 2 deep insertion double flanged ear tips M, L.
Spec: Driver: 9.2mm UPM dynamic driver. Diaphragm thickness: 9µm. Impedance: 16 Ohm. SPL: 105±3dB at 1mW/1kHz. Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz. Distortion: <1% at 1mW/1kHz. Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm. Warranty period: 2 years.
Build and finish: You’ve gone and done it again Meze Audio! Meze have created an IEM that had I not known the price, would have guessed at being priced between $500 and $600. At the least. Premium craftsmanship is to be found throughout. The sintered steel shell has been lovingly designed, crafted and finished to the highest quality with colour coded machined nozzles to match with left and right being very clear between red and blue. These are an ergonomically designed IEM and it shows. Nothing was rushed here. The included cable is perfect. Stylish, lightweight yet sturdy with nearly zero microphonics, again I wish more headphone and IEM brands would take note and put as much time and effort into the cable as they do the main product. Meze Audio are one of the brands leading the way in creating premium cables to complement their products.
Comfort: Meze Audio have designed a lightweight ergonomic IEM that sits inside your ears and disappear. The silicone ear tips included are smooth and comfortable but with enough texture to help them stay put creating a good seal, offering good isolation. The included cable has a flexible sleeve covering the last few inches or so that go up around your ear and these help to hold the Solos firmly but comfortably in place. Glasses can be worn with no issues which is something that I sometimes struggle with with this style of IEM and cable. I found that after 3 hours of solid listening I experienced no discomfort or fatigue.
Sound: What we have here is an IEM that easily punches above its weight due to an impressive dynamic range and low impedance. Starting with a wide soundstage and great imaging the Solo put you right in front of the stage or behind the mixing desk. Instrument separation is excellent squeezing out every little detail, and remaining so in busier sections of music. Vocalists and instruments are clearly positioned creating an almost 3D image. Lows and mid bass are articulate and on point with great extension and presence. They have a controlled sound with form and plenty of reach into the lower frequencies. Mids and Mid highs are neutral and have an organic sound. Vocals come through beautifully with air and body without sounding exaggerated. The Solo have a fair amount of upper frequency sparkle which is immediate with detail and accuracy that I have rarely heard in an IEM at this price.
Summery: Amazing looks that are more akin to a $500 IEM. Ergonomic design which allows them to essentially disappear and be worn for extended periods. Sound performance that punches well above its weight with an extensive dynamic range. Great all-rounder that plays any genre with ease. Easy to drive due to low impedance. A 5 Star audiophile IEM!
I would recommend these to anyone after an affordable pair of IEMs that have a full bodied sound without sacrificing quality.
Thank you again to my readers for their ongoing support. Please remember too subscribe, like and share.
A big thank you to Alexandra and everyone at Meze Audio for their generosity and continued support of The Audiophile Cafe!
Continuing with this series of reviews, Big Fudge Vinyl’s inner record sleeves are up next…
Disclaimer: Big Fudge Vinyl have not paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this piece are my own. I’d like to thank Christian at Big Fudge Vinyl for kindly sending this package out to The Audiophile Cafe.
The Big Fudge Vinyl inner sleeves currently retail at $16.50 for a pack of 50. You can find this and other products on their website here:- https://bigfudgevinyl.com/
What’s in the box: 50x Big Fudge Vinyl 12″ paper inner sleeves.
Build and finish: This will be another short review as there’s only so much one can say about paper sleeves. They are well made and some thought has gone into their design. The exterior seams and rounded corners make insertion into the record cover easy with no frustrating folds, creases or catch-ups. So far I have noticed no dust or flakes from the paper as I have heard can happen with some paper sleeves. I’m experiencing zero static which is of course what we want. Static is the enemy!
Thoughts and summery: Perfect replacement inner sleeves to ensure the continued protection and care of your precious vinyl. At $16.50 for 50 sleeves, it’s another bargain and great investment from Big Fudge Vinyl. Big Fudge Vinyl also stock packs of 100 and have various sizes of inner sleeve for your every vinyl need.
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Many thanks. Paul.
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Custom Cans, providing the blog with custom cables for almost any requirement and keeping the signal path consistent between devices.
Grado have finally stepped into the True Wireless arena with the all new GT220. And what an entrance! Read on as I review the first pair of True Wireless IEMs to truly impress me…
Disclaimer: Rich and John at Grado kindly sent the GT220 True Wireless IEMs my way for review. I have not been paid or sponsored by Grado and the thoughts and views expressed in this publication are unbiased and my own.
The Grado GT220 True Wireless IEM retail at $259 at the time of this review.
Build and finish: I’ve owned my fair share of Grado products over the years and their attention to detail and craftsmanship has always brought joy to my audiophile heart. The GT220 are no different here. The IEMs and the case are well designed and have clearly been thought through thoroughly. Now there’s a tongue twister! I digress. The case is subtly stylish and robust. The IEMs sit inside the charging ports firmly and will not budge when one tries to shake them out of an upside down case. That’s the first test passed! They are lightweight and pocketable and the case is no bigger than others I have reviewed. Grado get 5 stars for including wireless charging. See it’s not difficult folks. This is a most welcome feature! USB Type-C is still available around the rear of the case, as we all know we can’t always access a wireless charger so kudos there. The lid is easy to open and stays shut when closed. I know you would think this would be an all too obvious feature, however I have struggled with other cases. The IEMs themselves are a thing of beauty. Again Grado have opted for a subtle yet stylish design in a smooth satin black and it works so well. The Grado logos are backlit and indicate various functions of the GT220, however they don’t remain lit when inserted so don’t worry about losing any battery life. I’ll get into more in the comfort section however I’ll add here that like the case, the GT220s are lightweight. Battery life so far is bang on the money. I got 6 and a bit hours out of the first listen. On my second charge now and I can confirm the 2 hour charge time.
Setup: Setup couldn’t be easier and Grado include a step by step guide in the instruction leaflet that a 5 year old could follow. Pairing took seconds and the connection is stable with no glitches or drop outs. Grado don’t have a control app for these IEMs and to be honest it really isn’t required. There is no active noise cancelling which is frustrating, however it’s not a deal breaker. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a True Wireless IEM. And as I will discuss in a moment they more than make up for the lack of ANC in other ways. This is not however all that much of an issue when you consider that the 220s can be individually synced allowing just one side to be worn when you need to be aware of your surroundings.
Comfort: The GT220 are one of the comfiest True Wireless IEMs I have had the pleasure to wear. I got a good fit with the included ear tips and they provide excellent isolation. They are lightweight as I mentioned before and this translates into being a very comfortable, non invasive experience. Giving my head a good shake to the point I nearly triggered a migraine, I can confirm they are shake proof. These IEMs aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. In fact against the 5 True Wireless IEMs I have used prior to the GT220s I have them currently level pegging for top position in the “Head-shake” test. So that’s another In-use test well and truly passed. I have been listening to these on and off for 6 hours today and I am not experiencing any discomfort or fatigue. Grado have utilised a touch pad approach with the GT220s and it is implemented well. The gestures work every time with no hick ups. I always prefer touch pads as you don’t get to experience having your ear stabbed with a pokey thing. Which is a thing. And I have had the misfortune of having to endure it. Thank you Grado for not subjecting users to needless pain when skipping tracks or activating their voice assistant of choice. More Kudos!
Sound: And here we come to the heart of the matter. I have tried so hard to find fault here to ensure my readers of an unbiased review. I will state for the record right now that so far, The GT220 are by far the best True Wireless IEM I have heard to date. The moment I opened Qobuz and started on my playlists I was taken back by the bass. Deep, Rich textured bass with an accuracy and impact I have not heard from a True Wireless to date. This applies to the various genres I threw at them. Midrange is smooth and neutral with plenty of detail and air right through to the high mids. Saxophone, Cello, Oboe and Trumpet are front and centre stage as are needle scratches and percussive pieces. The high frequency range is spot on in its accuracy and definition. There is a natural sparkle that is a delight to hear. Cymbal hits and crashes, Guitar solos, Harp and Violin all sound sublime. No EQ, No DSP, No tuning ports or cable swaps. They sound this good out of the box. I say this as almost every True Wireless IEM I have tried so far has needed EQ’ing or tweaking of some form to get them to sound right. The GT220’s need no such wizardry. The soundstage that the GT220 creates is big and spacious with headroom and depth to complement. Instrument separation is clear and concise even in busier parts of tracks. And the imaging… I thought I understood how imaging works in IEMs, wired or wireless. Obviously I was either wrong in my assumption or I hadn’t heard anything that so far created a good enough image for me to get it. Close your eyes and play your favourite live performance and you’ll soon understand. I felt like I was in the performance not listening from the outside. So ok, Grado decided to leave off the ANC, but great Scott they more than made up for it in the sound department!!! I must add here as they do have a built in mic that call quality is excellent and the few folk that I test called confirmed they could hear me clearly and with no muffle or too much background noise.
Summery and recommendation: At $259 I would say it’s a choice between active noise cancelling or superior sound quality. If you want a pair of True Wireless IEMs that are as close to a far more expensive headphone with an astounding dynamic range then this is the one. Aside from the lack of ANC, Grado have knocked it out of the park and created what I would consider a great all rounder suiting most genres and a genuine audiophile True Wireless IEM. I hereby award The Grado GT220 The Audiophile Cafe 5 star rating and a massive thumbs up for releasing what I consider a game changer. If they have a model in the works with ANC you’ll be sure that I will ask to review a pair and let you know my thoughts as I predict they will be better again. Finally, I find myself asking would I swap my other TW IEMs for these if given the chance? In a heart beat!
I would like to thank John and Rich for allowing me this opportunity and will shortly be trying to sweet talk them into letting me keep these. I really don’t want to give them back!
Many thanks as always to my fantastic readers for your continuing support. Please be sure to subscribe, like and share. Thank you.
As part of a bulk delivery Big Fudge Audio sent out a pack of 50 of their outer sleeves. Are they worth it?
Disclaimer: Big Fudge Vinyl have not paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this piece are my own. I’d like to thank Christian at Big Fudge Vinyl for kindly sending this package out to The Audiophile Cafe.
The Big Fudge Vinyl outer sleeves currently retail at $15.95 for a pack of 50. You can find this and other products on their website here:- https://bigfudgevinyl.com/
What’s in the box: 50x 12″ 3 mil HDPP, Crystal Clear, Wrinkle-Free outer sleeves.
Build and finish: The Outer Sleeves have a robust and sturdy feel to them with no detectable sharp edges or blemishes.
Spec: High-density polypropylene. 3 mil. Crystal clear. Wrinkle free.
Thoughts and summery: The outer sleeves are well made and you can tell they’ve been through stringent quality control. They will easily fit a gatefold which is an added bonus. As Big Fudge state, the sleeves are clear and not cloudy at all so your record art is clear for all to see with the added bonus of being well protected! I also noticed zero static when handling them, before and after putting my record covers in them. $15.95 for a pack of 50 in my opinion is an absolute bargain. I’ve already covered my entire “rotation-stack” of records and still have a load of sleeves to go. At this rate I think I’ll be able to protect my entire collection for not much cost. Definitely a worthwhile investment. I’ll add here that Christian has been an utter gent and legend to deal with since I made contact. Very kind and helpful and usually replies to any queries pretty quickly. Big Fudge Vinyl are rapidly becoming a go-to brand for me due to the quality of products and the people who create them!
Thanks again to Christian and Big Fudge Vinyl for being fantastic to work with right from the get go.
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And thanks to my sponsors who make what I do that little bit easier.
Build and finish: The HIFIMAN Deva are a good looking headphone with a fantastic finish that oozes premium craftsmanship. They use the same headband design as the HE400i 2020 that I previously reviewed. I like this new design, It’s comfy, robust and has less moving parts. The ear pads are sumptuous and look amazing. I really like the silver and tan aesthetic. They look and feel like something from a higher price range. A single balanced headphone jack is used in combination with a 3.5mm stereo headphone cable which can easily be swapped out for a balanced cable or the bluetooth adaptor that is made specifically for this headset. The cable that comes with the Deva is a thick robust rubber sleeved affair with a good quality jack on either end. HIFIMAN knocked it out of the ballpark with the Deva. A very well made headphone indeed. The Deva pictured below is the wireless version. The black unit you see is the bluetooth adaptor.
Comfort: The HIFIMAN Deva Wired are an extremely comfy pair of headphones. The ear pads are really soft and luxurious on your ears. The headband is the same and sits nice and softly on your head. I wore these for a four hour session with zero discomfort or fatigue.
Sound: Fast paced, accurate planar magnetics with good dynamic range and a spacious sound stage. Low frequencies are tight and have good presence if a little lacking in the lower end. It’s there but in a subtle manner but well defined. Midrange is flat and neutral. Lots of detail and air but not too forward. The highs are fast, crisp and precise. Live performances shine through with lots of depth and superb imaging. Classical and Jazz are a delight to listen to on the Deva. Vocals come through with an organic neutrality that make these a very soothing listen. I’d say they are forgiving and almost a good all rounder. Although I found EDM and heavy rock/metal a touch unsuited to the Deva. Everything else they managed with ease. Switching to the Eufonica tube amplifier I found the Deva sounded a lot warmer in the lower end, with a smoother midrange and softer highs. The AK70 had no problems powering these from its single ended headphone out. At 18ohms that’s going to be obvious anyway. $219 is a really good price and friendly on your wallet. They’re a truly classy pair of planar magnetics that sound as good as they look. Who would I recommend them to? Anyone wanting to get into planar magnetics at a low price point. Someone who’s looking for a planar magnetic with flexibility in connection options. Or even if you want to add something a little different to an existing headphone collection. It’s going to be a struggle to send these back. I’ve grown quite fond of them.
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Sponsors: The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Airpulse. Supporting the blog and helping me to bring better content to my readers.
Build and finish: The HIFIMAN HE400 have long been a favourite planar magnetic. However I was never that keen on the build quality and over time they have shown their age. They still sound amazing but they’ve definitely seen better days when it comes down to construction. The HE400i 2020 version is of a far better finish and they feel more robust. The 3.5mm connectors installed in the cups are a welcome change to the screw in connector first used in the original HE400 and offer the ability to swap out different cables with greater ease than before. One noticeable improvement that jumps at me are the forks and how they work with the new headband. The clicks are solid and click firmly into place and the forks no longer have a screw in the centre, instead favouring a one-piece design. Good call! I like the charcoal black satin finish. It works well with these headphones and gives them a subtle yet premium quality. HIFIMAN have provided a very decent cable with the HE400i 2020s which is well made and nicely sleeved in black. If more headphone companies did this the headphone world would be a far happier place. At 35ohms they are easy to drive from a desktop, portable or even built in amplifier.
Comfort: HIFIMAN have made a comfortable headphone here and the new headband design is a welcome change and improvement. The ear pads are no different to what I have experienced on the original HE400 model and this is a good thing. Those pads are still going strong now and as comfy as ever. The pads on this 2020 model are then by default onto a winning streak. I found I could wear the HE400i 2020 for hours of listening with no discomfort and no fatigue.
Sound: The HE400i 2020 use the same drivers as the original version and it shows with the same premium sound quality as before. However I do notice a slight change in soundstage and the upper frequency range. Whether this is because my HE400 “Originals” are older now and far more broken in than this pair or whether they have been tuned slightly differently I don’t know, but I love what they have done here. The soundstage is wide and has some depth to it. Separation is excellent and instruments are easily distinguishable from one another, even in noisier parts of some tracks. Bass extension is here in bucket loads and with good definition. Also managing to sweep low without any distortion or lack of detail. The HE400i 2020 has a smooth forward midrange and upper midrange that works very well with vocals, and acoustics lending a “Jazz-club” feel to the sound. High frequencies are detailed and fast paced. A little rolled off. However not as rolled off as the original HE400 model, so when I compare the two versions I found the HE400i 2020 to have a better dynamic range over the originals. At $169 I have to recommend these as a very well rounded and exiting headphone to listen to which would be great for someone who wants to try their first planar magnetic, or maybe it’s your first proper pair of headphones? Either way you can’t go wrong!
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Sponsors: The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Silver Note Tonearms, supporting the blog and helping me to bring better content.
As I listen to more vinyl as part of my audiophile journey and also as a reviewer I am beginning to explore what’s out there in the cleaning product market. Let’s begin with a very affordable kit and see if it’s worth it…
Disclaimer: Big Fudge Vinyl have not paid or sponsored me for this review. This is an unbiased review of an item I purchased myself. The views and opinions in this piece are my own.
The Big Fudge Vinyl Cleaning Kit currently retails at $22.95. You can find it and other products on their website here: https://bigfudgevinyl.com/
Review Equipment: Technics SL1200 MKII turntable. Ortofon Quintet Red MC cartridge. Various records. Big Fudge Vinyl Cleaning Kit.
What’s in the box: 1x 50ml alcohol-free cleaning spray. 1x antistatic velvet brush. 1x all purpose brush. 1x stylus brush. 1x carry pouch.
Build and finish: Big Fudge Vinyl have made a good quality product here with a great finish. The velvet brush has been finished and engraved really well. The rest of the kit is pretty simple but again very well made. The pouch is a nice touch allowing me to keep the kit all in one place.
Ease of use: The kit is quite straight forward to use and Big Fudge Vinyl have an instructional video on the product webpage that shows very clearly how to use the kit.
Summary and conclusion: I’ve been using this kit now for a few months and it’s made a great addition to my “box of audio tools” It does a fantastic job of cleaning records and the stylus and you can hear the difference. I wouldn’t use it for a deep clean, that’s what Big Fudge Vinyls other kit is for but we’ll get into that in another review that is coming up. I would recommend this to be used when you’re pulling a few records out to play which need a little touch up. The stylus brush is very soft and works well, removing any light build up of dust on the stylus. I also try to use this kit when I am putting my “rotation” stack of records back into storage, giving them a little pre-storage clean. For $22.95 you really can’t go wrong, consider it a cheap investment that will pay for itself x number of times over in no time at all.
Thank you to my readers and followers for your continuing support! Paul.
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by a small group of sponsors and partners, helping me to bring better content to the blog and you the reader.
Thanks to Custom Cans and Jason for sponsoring the blog and for the ongoing support!
What’s in the box: 2x RHA TrueConnect 2 IEMs. 1x RHA TrueConnect 2 charging case 2xS, 3xM, 2xL silicone tips. 1x stainless steel ear tip holder. 1x USB type C charging cable.
Build and finish: RHA have yet again proven they can make a premium quality product at a great price. I have the space-grey or “Carbon Black” version which matches my iPad Pro and Galaxy Note perfectly. The charging case is better built than many of the competition on the market. It is robust and I sense would easily survive a drop on the floor or having something dropped on it. Other cases do not fill me with the same confidence. USB type C is the connector of choice here and it is welcome. Although as I state in other True Wireless reviews, the lack of wireless charging is disappointing. I hope the next iteration has wireless charging built in. The old upside down shaky shaky test was carried out and the TrueConnect 2s hold up really well here. They will not fall out of the charging case no matter how hard you try! There is ample room in the case to accommodate various shapes and sizes of ear tip while not impeding on the charge pins which is a welcome feature where other brands fail. Pocket compatibility is good, although the case is a little larger than some, it still fits in my inside pocket of my jeans or a shirt pocket with ease. Despite its size it is lightweight and at no time will it try to separate you from your jeans, skirt, shorts or otherwise. Three subtle white LEDs provide you with battery charge indication triggered with opening of the case for a quick glance. The IEMs themselves are a clean minimal design with a stem on each. The stem is short, thin and unobtrusive. And of course the head shake test was also carried out and they show no sign of wanting to go anywhere. So have no fear, the TrueConnect 2 won’t be launching themselves out of your ear canals whilst you’re out on a jog. While we’re mentioning outdoor activities, RHA have built a robust IEM that is good for all weather conditions! From RHA – “From endurance running to monsoon season, the TrueConnect performs. IP55-level rain, dust and sweat protection combines with our 3-year warranty for reliable durability.” Which is a big improvement over the TrueConnects IPX5 rating. I will note that the TrueConnect 2 look no different from the first version, the TrueConnect. However, aside from the change in IP rating RHA have made a lot of improvements with the TrueConnect 2.
Setup: Pairing the TrueConnect 2s is very straightforward. Take them out of the case, switch to pairing mode by touching the touch pad on the left or right IEM for five seconds and see them appear in your devices bluetooth list. Click pair and you’re done. There is no app to be had here, however I feel RHA don’t need to supply one as these do not have active noise cancelling and they don’t require any tweaking. It keeps things simple and uncomplicated.
Comfort: They are light and very comfortable in the ears. RHA have built touch surfaces into the body of the TrueConnect 2 which is an improvement on the previous versions buttons and a good design decision. I haven’t found a true wireless IEM yet with physical buttons that doesn’t hurt when pressing them. Touch surfaces are the way forward as not only are they far more comfortable, they also give the body a more seamless look. Far better in my opinion. I was able to wear the TrueConnect 2s for hours with no discomfort or fatigue. Definitely one of my favourites in the comfort department!
Sound: Straight out of the stable the TrueConnect 2 make it apparent that they are extremely good at passive noise cancelling, but without shutting the outside world out entirely. RHA have created a focused soundstage akin to a studio environment. Imaging is almost flawless and at a level I would expect from a more expensive true wireless IEM. Instrument separation gets a touch clouded on more exiting passages of tracks, however not by any large margin. Bass is well extended with both low and mid bass being present and articulate. The midrange presence is forward but not aggressively so with vocals and wind instruments sounding natural and airy. Highs are ever so slightly rolled off at the higher frequency range. However they are well paced, detailed and crisp. All of this working in tandem, creating a well balanced and full bodied sound signature.
Summary: The RHA TrueConnect 2 true wireless IEM are a fantastic pair of “TW” IEMs. They demonstrate craftsmanship, finish, features and audio quality of higher priced items. RHA have designed a fantastic all rounder that is suited well to various genres, The TrueConnect 2 aren’t picky and are very forgiving. You will struggle to find a better true wireless set at this price point. I have no difficulty in recommending these and give them a solid 5 stars.
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I would like to thank Lorna and RHA for sending these out for review and for their patience. As always, a pleasure to work with!
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Silver Note Tonearms, supporting the blog and helping me to bring better content.
What’s in the box: 2x HIFIMAN TWS600 IEMs. 8x ear-tips. 1x charging and carry case. 1x USB type C charging cable.
Battery life: The battery life is bang on the money here at 5 and a half hours of play time plus 33 hours of charge in the case. Charge time is as HIFIMAN state.
Build and finish: The case is very well made and feels robust. It has a rubber base which I find useful when sitting them down somewhere. USB type C is a great addition, however yet again wireless charging is not to be found here. It really surprises me that more True Wireless IEMs, especially in the higher end are still being rolled out without wireless charging. One of the greatest flaws is the magnetic hold on the IEMs inside the case. I carry out the upside down shaky shaky test as most reviewers do and alas the TWS600s fall out at a mere flick of the wrist. I asked my son to gently nudge my elbow when opening them upside down and they fell out every time. I would not want to accidentally open these upside down on public transport, out and about or in the dark! You will also find that any ear tip you decide to use apart from the smaller tips will not allow the IEMs to sit in the case properly and as such will not charge. The charge LEDs are inside the case so you can have a glance at what the battery state is, however there are no indicators on the outside of the case. The design is ok if you’re a gamer with a “torn” design on the face of the TWS600s through which the LEDs shine. They have a good profile and don’t stick out of the ears too far and are quite light weight compared to other TWs I have reviewed. The case is pocketable but it’s not one of the smaller cases on the market.
Setup: Bluetooth pairing was straight forward and the connection once paired is stable with no drop offs. They do sport a very good connection range, in fact I would go as far to say it’s the best so far against other True Wireless IEMs that I have tested, by a lot. App: HIFIMAN have an app that is available on iOS & Android, however I could not get it to see or recognise the TWS600. I tried numerous times on both operating systems with no success. The app also has a built in player, but it redirects from streaming services you already use which seems rather pointless in my opinion. HIFIMAN really need to get their app developers on to this so the TWS600 is seen by the app and thus enable finer control over the IEMs and if required, any firmware updates.
Comfort: HIFIMAN have made a lightweight pair of True Wireless IEMs that stay in your ear canals with ease. They withstood the head shake and bump test with flying colours so I would definitely rate them as a go to sports in ear. All of the ear tips are easy to fit and feel comfortable in the ear. Unfortunately the TWS600s have physical buttons on each side to control media controls and voice assistant. They work well but do not add up to a nice experience when pushed in. I have sensitive ears as it is and if I use the controls more than the absolute minimum my ears are left sore and uncomfortable. I hope in their next iteration of True Wireless IEMs, HIFIMAN swap this out for touch controls instead.
Sound: After burning the TWS600s in for 12 hours re HIFIMANs advise I found they opened up in the soundstage department. The soundstage is one of the widest I’ve experienced so far in a True Wireless. The sound is extremely spacious and is amazing when listening to live recordings or big band music. I would say that the sound signature of these IEMs is one that is very neutral with emphasis in the upper mid to high frequencies. With the midrange being aggressively forward and the highs having lots of sparkle and speed. Bass is very recessed making these IEMs not suited to electronic, dance or urban music. With a lot of eq tweaking you can bring the bass into play, however it sounds processed and lacks accuracy. To sum up the TWS600, They are fantastic at reproducing vocals and acoustic music. Classic guitar or orchestral suites sound amazing and very clear. However they are not for bass heads or fans of any form of EDM or urban music.
Summary: I believe that HIFIMAN have created an IEM with great potential. Have the IEMs sit securely in the case with room for larger ear tips, tune them for a fuller bodied sound signature with better bass extension and ease off the mids and highs a touch and you would be onto a winner in my eyes. Maybe have a look at making a True Wireless with similar drivers to the RE400 with a working app with the ability to create custom EQ presets. And please swap those buttons out for touch controls. The case itself is a really nice design and the IEMs although sporting that gamer style, do look rather cool. ( Good job I’m a gamer. ) At $199 I find them lacking in a few areas but if you’re looking for a very neutral spacious sounding IEM then these may well be for you.
Pros: Spacious soundstage. Neutral sound signature well suited to classical, opera and classical guitar. Great delivery of vocals. Superb battery life. Stable and far reaching connection. Stylish case and a cool gamer style design. USB type C charging.
Cons: Uncomfortable due to physical buttons. Fatiguing due to specific sound signature ( To my hearing anyway. ) Lack of bass. Aggressive midrange. No wireless charging. Case does not hold the IEMs in place securely. No external charge indicator.
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Thank you to the blogs newest sponsor Meze Audio who have been with The Audiophile Cafe from the beginning.
In my first review for Airpulse I get to experience these active speakers designed by the legendary Phil Jones.
Disclaimer: This review is sponsored by Airpulse. This is my unbiased view on the A200 active speaker system. Audrey, Kay & Airpulse have been very kind and gifted me this set of monitors. The A200 is originally priced at £878 but it is on discount now for a limited time only at £699 The Airpulse ST200 matching stands were purchased by myself at a discount and normally retail at £109.99. The stands are filled with Atacama “Atabites” which can be found on Amazon.
Readers can enjoy 40% off when they use code: A200FORU
Review equipment and software: Airpulse A200 active speaker system. Airpulse ST200 matching stands. Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance balanced DAC. iPad Pro 2019 10.5″. Qobuz Studio Premier. Technics SL-1200 MK2 turntable. Ortofon Quintet Red MC & Nagaoka MP10 MM cartridges. KECES Audio ePhono MM/MC balanced phono stage. KECES Audio ePhono Power low noise linear power supply. Van-Damme & EDGE Analogue cables & interconnects. Not pictured in this review: iBasso DX80 and Apple TV 4K were used to test the coaxial and optical channels.
A200: 1x Active speaker. 1x Passive speaker. 1x IR remote. 1x RCA to RCA audio cable. (1.5M / 5ft） 1x 5-pin din speaker cable by TRANSPARENT cable. (5M / 16ft) 1x Toslink cable (1.5M / 5ft) 1x RCA to 3.5mm jack plug. 1x Instruction manual.
ST200: 2x Bottom plates. 2x Stands. 2x Top plates. 1x Pack of mounting hardware and tool. 1x Alignment template for rubber feet. 10x Rubber feet. 1x Pair of white cotton gloves. 1x Instruction manual.
Airpulse haven’t skimped here. Each speaker comes in its own cloth sack which in turn is in another bag. The peripherals all come neatly packaged in a separate box. Everything is neatly and securely enveloped in polystyrene then boxed up. That box then gets packed inside another box. The ST200 matching stands come in the same style of packaging and include all the required hardware, tools and an alignment template for the rubber feet.. Airpulse have included a pair of white cotton gloves to ensure careful handling of the stands and speakers.
Specification: Power Output: L/R Ribbon Tweeter: 10W+10W L/R Mid-Range: 55W + 55W Signal-Noise Ratio dB(A): ≥90dB(A) Input Interface: AUX, Balance Input, Optical, Coaxial, Bluetooth Input Sensitivity:- Balance Input: 1300±50mV Aux Input: 550±50mV Bluetooth Input: 500±50mFFs Optical Input: 350±50mFFs Coaxial Input: 350±50mFFs Noise Level: ≤25dB(A) Frequency Response: 46Hz~20KHz Tweeter: Phase Correction Horn Loaded Ribbon Tweeter Mid-Woofer: 5.5″ Aluminium Cone Neo Power Mid-Woofer Cabinet Size (WxHxD): 203 x 355 x 295 (mm) Net Weight: 19 Kg (42 Pounds ) / Set
Build Quality: Airpulse have pulled out all the stops. From the inside out these speakers exude cutting edge technology, fine tuning, robust build quality and a premium fit & finish to round it all off. The same can be said for the matching stands. The finish of the A200 is a high gloss cherry wood veneer over a 25mm rigid MDF housing with a satin black finish on the front bezels, which contrasts the cherry veneer really well. The stands are equally refined and match the speakers perfectly. When the speakers are either on their provided feet or *secured to the stands they are a hefty pair weighing in at 19kg. Include the stands without being filled and they aren’t going anywhere. Fill the stands if you buy them, with Atabites or sand and you will not be disappointed. I loaded mine with Atabites and it has well and truly anchored them to my floor. *The stands and speakers are securely attached with included bolts which thread up into where the A200 feet were attached using the existing threads. There are small gaskets that sit between where the feet were and the top plates of the ST200 stands. TRANSPARENT Audio provide the A200s with their internal wiring and the included 5 pin DIN cable that connects both speakers. These are audiophile grade cables which are robustly made with the speaker cable being a decent copper/coffee finish and sporting 5 meters of length allowing for optimal positioning. The remote is a plastic and simple device but it works well and up to this point seems sturdy enough.
Setup: I initially thought setup may be a little complicated but it was soon apparent that this would not be so. Although you can use the input/volume knob at the rear of the powered unit, I have barely touched it due to the remote working really well and doing everything that the selector knob does. Next to the volume/selector you will find the bass and treble controls. I found these to not make a vast change in sound, rather a subtle tweak in the low and high frequencies. The A200s have 5 inputs altogether. Bluetooth, balanced, AUX ( single ended ), coax and optical. At the time of this review I had the Burson DAC connected via the balanced input, The phono stage on the single ended channel, Apple TV 4K via optical and I tried the iBasso DX80 player with the coaxial input. An iPad Pro was paired to the A200s over the bluetooth connection. Pairing over bluetooth is very easy. You only need to select the bluetooth input and your source device will pick it up straight way. The handshake is fast and once paired the connection is stable. I would like to add here that I noticed no difference between the bluetooth signal when compared with either the coaxial or optical.
Sound: I’ve heard and read some reviewers label these as dark sounding or that there isn’t a lot of sub bass. I would call them neither dark nor lacking in the low frequency department. In the first few days the low end sounded restricted and my first impression was I may not enjoy these as much as I had hoped, luckily after just a week of breaking them in the bass has evolved into something far more pleasing to my ears. If there was an option to buy a sub to compliment these speakers, I wouldn’t want it. The bass they produce now is one that is extended and accurate with a lot of punch and low end grunt. They hit the lowest tones really well, even when punishing them with the hardest of techno tracks. Sub bass is present and they sweep sublimely low. I have experienced zero distortion across the board on any of the sources. In my opinion a sub would be an overkill addition to a pair of monitors that fill my living room with tight, at times jaw dropping bass that lends itself to most genres. The mids that the A200 produce have officially broken me. I’m well known for not enjoying a lot of midrange and if I use EQ I tend to use a V shape. Heavy on the bass and highs, easy on the mids. When I say these have broken me I mean it in the most complimentary sense. What I hear is a smooth rich tapestry of vocals, strings and woodwind that resolves my music collection in a manner with which I am not accustomed. Paired with a soundstage that fills my listening space I have found a new fondness for midrange, realising if it’s done right, it can sound sublime. Airpulse have got this dialled in just right. The high frequencies produced by the horn loaded ribbon tweeters are simply beautiful. They are resolute in their delivery. Razor sharp precision complements an airy full bodied high end that does not miss a note.
Airpulse have created an active speaker with a super quiet background, a soundstage that is spacious, full of depth and headroom that commands respect. Separation is phenomenal and makes live concerts especially enjoyable to listen to.
Hugh Masekela’s “The Coal Train” on Qobuz in Redbook quality hits like a freight train and I can almost imagine him on stage meters away from me . Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here both on vinyl were both newly discovered for me with sounds being heard that I realise I had missed in the past. It would be remiss of me to not listen to some form of electronic music in this review. Juan Atkins “Track Ten” from the Back To Basics Ep hits hard and with the heft and fast pace that Techno truly deserves. Orbital, Aphex Twin, LFO and Kevin Saunderson have all been played hard and loud and the A200s just keep giving. I don’t know where this idea of being too dark sounding comes from. The A200s in my experience are dynamic and full bodied with a good balance across the frequency range.
Summary and recommendation: Airpulse have created a weapon. The A200 hits like a freight train with pin point accuracy and depth that will fill your listening space with great ease. I am using these in a “Hifi” environment, yet as a DJ I am very tempted to eventually get another pair, maybe their bigger brother the A300 as I feel they would be ideal as a near field monitor in a DJ studio/system. They’re not the cheapest pair of active speakers especially if bought with the stands and adding filling material into the over all cost. Do I think they are worth the £878 price tag? Yes. I’ve used lot of monitors over the years, in the studio, in the clubs and at home and I can’t think of one pair I would swap out for these. The power delivery, build and sound quality are justification alone, The premium finish that make them a pleasure to have in the living room just emphasis this. The ST200 stands are a steal coming in below £200. The A200 are a great all rounder and would fit right in whether in your listening room or studio. With the added bonus of not requiring a sub to fill in the gaps, bluetooth connectivity and the convenience of a remote control they really are a worthwhile investment.
Thank you to all of my readers for your continued support. Please remember to follow, like, subscribe and share. And a huge thank you to Audrey and Kay for arranging this for me and the blog.
All my very best. Hoping you are all safe and well. Paul.
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