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-   -   Review: Heir 3.Ai and 4.Ai (http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=70425)

Sorensiim 08-28-2012 12:03 PM

Review: Heir 3.Ai and 4.Ai
 
http://www.sorensiim.dk/stuff/forump...r/IMG_6726.jpg
Heir Audio recently launched their first two universal IEMS, the 3.Ai og 4.Ai. They are based on Heir’s custom 3.A and 4.A. As their names might imply, these IEMs have 3 and 4 BA drivers respectively. 3.A(i) is the “fun” musical model and 4.A(i) is the correct and analytical sibling. The Ai models are technically completely identical to the custom editions. Same drivers, same poured acryllic shell. The only difference is that where the 3.A and 4.A are full customs, their Ai brethren have a 6mm nozzle with accompanying silicone/rubber tips. This should mean that as long as you get a proper seal, the Ai should sound identical to its full custom counterpart. To my ears, full customs will always beat universals when it comes to comfort, but the resale value is higher on universals - and they allow you to share the experience with your friends. The Ai models are both made with “Deep Purple” shells, a very dark, almost black shade of purple. You can see the drivers inside them in sufficient lighting but they’re not exactly display cases for technophiles. Like the full customs, the Ai models feel extremely sturdy, thanks to their solid acryllic construction. Not flimsy and brittle like the thin plastic shelled competition - Westone, I’m looking at you. The broad stem might reduce the number of available aftermarket tips (I prefer Shure Olives for my universals) but it sure feels more robust than the thin stem of my FS Atrios. I’ve never broken an IEM stem myself, but I’ve seen it happen to others. The robust build and the removable/user replaceable cables should ensure that your Heir universals will last you a very long time - unless you lose them because they’re so tiny! Here’s a picture of them next to my customs:

http://www.sorensiim.dk/stuff/forump...r/IMG_6034.jpg

On both the 3.Ai and 4.Ai the faceplates are real wood inlays, made from amboyna burl. As usual with any product bearing the Heir logo, the craftmanship is absolutely stunning. The wood has an amazing structure and (naturally) a very organic look with no two Ai units looking exactly the same.

http://www.sorensiim.dk/stuff/forump...r/IMG_6735.jpg

To allow you to safely transport these little gems, you get an Otterbox case that holds the iems as well as the stock cable, a cleaning tool, a selection of tips and two Heir Audio rubber bands for your iDevice+amp portable rig. The 3.Ai and 4.Ai are available for pre-order from the Heir Audio website at $299 and $399 respectively. You can add the seriously nice Magnus 1 cable for an additional $110. The stock cable isn’t bad by any means, but the Magnus 1 with its 4 tinsel wire SPC conductors sounds great and is hands down the most flexible cable I have ever tried. Check out Project86’s review of it here. I use it on my 8.A and even after audiotioning the TWag V2, Toxic Cables Silver Poison and a slew of other cables, I’ll stick to the Magnus. It was a no-brainer upgrade for the 8.A (I even got one for my HD650’s as well!) but adding 25-30% to the total cost of the Ai’s to get a nicer cable might require a little more consideration. All my listening to the Ai’s for the purpose of this review was done with the stock cable.

From the first go, the 3.Ai reminded me of the sound from my 8.A customs - A slightly warm presentation with solid bass. Right out of the box the treble was a bit harsh, but this has now calmed down after some hours of playing, even though it is more aggresive than the treble from the 8.A. With the 3.Ai playing rap, dancehall or electro it’s hard not to grin ear-to-ear. There’s a slightly boosted bass that doesn’t murk up the midrange and the presentation is as dark as my FS Atrios. The Atrios go deeper but the 3.Ai is a much better headphone for all-round usage while the Atrios are more comfortable with the bass-heavy electronic genres. The 3.Ai has more of an “up front” presentation, dragging you into the music unlike the laid back Atrios. The lively sound from the 3.Ai makes them an excellent choice for rock and electro. The fact that the look amazing and are VERY compact is just a bonus. Rammstein’s song “Waidmanns Heil” (Huntsman’s salute) starts out with a Parforce horn, followed by fast drums and then Till Lindemann’s instantly recognizable vocals. All of these are easy to tell apart while it all comes together in a very musical presentation. My go-to track for testing the bass, “Chameleon” by TrentemÝller flows effortlessly from the 3.Ai, creating a beautiful, intricate soundscape on top of a thumping, deep foundation of constantly changing bass. The little details in the track are never lost or overpowered by the bass and the 3.Ai just gets it all right. The Atrio has (a bit) more bass but the 3.Ai offers a vastly more complex soundscape with layer upon layer of sound. Above And Beyond’s album “Group Therapy” is also very enjoyable on the 3.Ai. Vocals are allowed to soar while the keyboards flow and the bass is pumping beneath it all but stays in its place. Jumping to the FS Atrios I get more weight to the bass, but then the midrange and treble suddenly takes the back seat and the bass steals the focus. The 3.Ai has a far more balanced presentation, with only a slightly boosted bass that still stays where it should, never overpowering the midrange and treble.

I often find myself coming back to Rammstein when I’m listening to the 3.Ai. The combination of deep, punchy drums and the crystal clear treble works extremely well with their tanzmetal (Dance metal). Especially “Wiener Blut” (Vienna Blood) with its deep, thunderous drums and shredding guitar riffs, the all-encompassing keyboard setting the mood and building the soundscape around the characteristic voice of Till Lindemann, is a pleasure with the 3.Ai. Much to the amusement of my co-workers, air-drumming usually ensues. A complete change of genre to Dawn Langstroth leaves me wanting for her vocals to be a bit more forward in the mix, but everything still sounds good. The 3.Ai can be described as a fun (but never too fun) all-round IEM especially suited to rock and electro. Sadly, I no longer have the Westone 3 for a direct comparison but I remember it as being duller than this. Good, but less lively and sparkly. If I were to compare the 3.Ai with a full-sized headphone it would be the Ultrasone Pro 2900: Good bass and sparkly highs while retaining the mids. If we start comparing build quality, look and feel, the 3.Ai just leaves the competition in the dust.

http://www.sorensiim.dk/stuff/forump...r/IMG_6732.jpg

Heir Audio 4.Ai is the balanced “correct” IEM and the universal version of the 4.A custom IEM. Two BA drivers for the bass, one for the midrange and one for the treble might lead you to believe that this is a bass heavy IEM, but that is not the case at all. The bass doesn’t go as deep as the 3.Ai or my 8.A. The 4.Ai is ruler flat and accurate but achieves this without ever being dull or boring. Their presentation is very involving, making it almost impossible to use them just for blocking out noise - they demand your attention, but manages to do so without ever becoming too aggresive or intrusive. How The Wizard achieves this insanely difficult balance has baffle me since the first moment I heard the 4.Ai. In exchange for your undivided attention the 4.Ai rewards you with gobs and gobs of details throughout the audible spectrum that combine to give you a great sense of the individual placement of the instruments. On tracks with well-recorded vocals you can get the sense of really being there in the studio with the singer. On the album “Film Music by John Williams” by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra I’m able to pinpoint the location of the individual (groups of) instruments in the concert hall, easily distinguish the strings from the woodwinds and enjoy the brass horns while the kettle drums lays down the foundation. (Phantom Menace, Duel of the Fates). All these details are served for me on a silver platter, the 4.Ai pulls me into the music as opposed to my 8.A that has a similar level of detail and resolution but requires that I listen for it myself. With the 8.A I can listen to Hans Zimmer’s excellent soundtrack to The Last Samurai as a sonic backdrop to my work whereas the 4.Ai leaves me no choice but to let myself be carried away by the arrangement of strings and woodwinds, work be damned.

I’ve owned the AKG K271 mk II (twice!) and while they are neutral and good with strings, they are neither immersive or exiting. At the risk of offending K271 mk II fans I’ll even go as far as calling them rather dull. I thought this was the price one had to pay for neutrality, but the 4.Ai has proved me wrong. They’ll do fine with bassy music as well, but I find them lacking a bit of weight behind the punches compared to the 3.Ai, the Atrio and my 8.A. On the track “Take The Power Back” by Rage Against The Machine the drum hits should feel like a roundhouse kick but on the 4.Ai they’re more like regular punches. The sound is there (and spot on) but I find the physical sense of impact to be a bit lacking. You do, however, get every single riff from the guitars, the cymbals have the real “ring” to them and Zach De La Rocha sounds exactly as angry as opressed as only he can. Don’t get me wrong, the 4.Ai aren’t bass light as the ATH-W1000 or the aforementioned AKG’s, I would just have liked some more weight behind the bass. The great level of detail and the fast drivers makes the 4.Ai a great choice for a very, very wide range of music, but their presentation also means that poorly recorded albums will be less enjoyable. I have a 24/96 vinyl rip of the album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” by Simon and Garfunkel (1966) and it’s a nice listen on my 8.A where I only hear the noise and cracking if I deliberately listen for it. With the 4.Ai I almost see the vinyl turning and the needle skipping over the scracthed up old record. Instruments and voices still sound great, but for vintage recordings the 4.Ai would not be my first choice. Going forward 20 years to Paul Simon’s solo album “Graceland” the technical quality is far, far better and it is impossible not to enjoy with the 4.Ai. If you like Paul Simon, that is. The same goes for female vocals - Rebecca Pidgeon, Louise Rogers, Norah Jones and my rocksteady go-to girl for testing gear: Dolores O’Riordan as the voice of The Cranberries. Their song “No Need To Argue” from the album bearing the same name is beautifully haunting and an absolute pleasure on the 4.Ai.

http://www.sorensiim.dk/stuff/forump...r/IMG_6718.jpg

Conclusion: I wouldn’t want to be running Westone, Shure or Etymotic right now. Off course they won’t come falling down like a house of cards just because a newcomer launches a set of universals, but the 3.Ai wipes the floor with just about any other “fun” IEM and does that at only $299. Compare that to the (sort of dull) Westone 3 costing only $20 less on Amazon, with an inferior build, non-removable cables and no Otterbox case. I know which I’d prefer just from the sound, the accessories, superior build and great looks are just a bonus. As for the 4.Ai I believe them to be the best universal you can buy at the moment. At $399 they match the detail levels and clarity of my $1100+ 8.A’s and beat the hell out of just about anything else. A friend of mine described them as disturbingly close to his JH13 and the best universals he had ever heard. I haven’t had the pleasure of the JH13 but I sure do agree with the last part of his statement.

Disclaimer: This review has also been posted on Head-fi.org. The Heir 4.Ai are my own, the 3.Ai was kindly lent to me by Heir Audio for this review. But they won't be going back as my friend bought them after trying them.

WalkGood 08-28-2012 06:28 PM

When I first saw heir IEMs in 12/11, I found them to be the most attractive IEMs on the market, especially if you appreciate custom work. That said, I havenít had the chance to try them out yet and doubt Iíll see them around till I attend another meet but Iíll take your word for it that they sound great. Thanks for sharing the pictures Ö

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 619937)
Ö The stock cable isnít bad by any means, but the Magnus 1 with its 4 tinsel wire SPC conductors sounds great Ö

While I am not sure what you are trying to relay by this, I donít think anyone here believes that special cables make any difference in sound quality on such short cable runs like IEMs or headphones. This is definitely not headfi where they bury the truth to favor advertising dollars. Unless you have some sort of proof by testing (even ABX), but itís doubtful they make any difference other than possibly looking better. Can you clarify your statement as I may have misunderstood it?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 619937)
Ö after audiotioning the TWag V2, Toxic Cables Silver Poison and a slew of other cables, Iíll stick to the Magnus. It was a no-brainer upgrade for the 8.A (I even got one for my HD650ís as well!) Ö

These cables are nothing but snake oil & a huge rip off IMHO (twag $300+ for IEM cables, toxic hd650 cables £84.95). While I have also tested various cables side by side on hd650s, I wouldn't put any weight in them ... pure bull, confirmation bias until someone shows some scientific proof. BTW my hd650s sound great with their $22.90 stock cables ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

Sorensiim 08-29-2012 01:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WalkGood (Post 619962)
When I first saw heir IEMs in 12/11, I found them to be the most attractive IEMs on the market, especially if you appreciate custom work. That said, I havenít had the chance to try them out yet and doubt Iíll see them around till I attend another meet but Iíll take your word for it that they sound great. Thanks for sharing the pictures Ö

You're welcome.

Quote:

Originally Posted by WalkGood (Post 619962)
While I am not sure what you are trying to relay by this, I donít think anyone here believes that special cables make any difference in sound quality on such short cable runs like IEMs or headphones. This is definitely not headfi where they bury the truth to favor advertising dollars. Unless you have some sort of proof by testing (even ABX), but itís doubtful they make any difference other than possibly looking better. Can you clarify your statement as I may have misunderstood it?

These cables are nothing but snake oil & a huge rip off IMHO (twag $300+ for IEM cables, toxic hd650 cables £84.95). While I have also tested various cables side by side on hd650s, I wouldn't put any weight in them ... pure bull, confirmation bias until someone shows some scientific proof. BTW my hd650s sound great with their $22.90 stock cables ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

For the two weeks of listening I did prior to writing this review, I used the stock cable. I tried them with the Magnus 1 cable I got with my 8.A and being silver-plated copper (SPC) it does make a small difference to the sound. Subtle, but I'd be happy to do a blind test. I have also sampled pure silver cables and they make a slightly bigger sonic difference. I've never heard two copper cables sound any different from eachother, but there IS an audible difference between copper, spc and silver.

My HD650's are doing great with their stock cables as well, but will be getting the Magnus cable as it's ridiculously flexible and I like that.

WalkGood 08-29-2012 06:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620004)
For the two weeks of listening I did prior to writing this review, I used the stock cable. I tried them with the Magnus 1 cable I got with my 8.A and being silver-plated copper (SPC) it does make a small difference to the sound. Subtle, but I'd be happy to do a blind test.

Without a real ABX test this means nothing, it can be placebo as much as a subtle difference that you state. You can also easily test voltages, currents, resistances ... real world testing could save you loads of cash Ö

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620004)
I have also sampled pure silver cables and they make a slightly bigger sonic difference. I've never heard two copper cables sound any different from eachother, but there IS an audible difference between copper, spc and silver.

Again where is your proof in this claim? Have you done any real world testing? This is just what those snake oil companies want you to believe, audiophool bullshit! On the other hand, I can quote you definitive studies that there is no difference in a ridiculously short cable run, which Iím sure youíve seen and if not let me know, either I or one of our numerous members would be glad to point them out (BTW thereís plenty of threads here with links to them).

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620004)
My HD650's are doing great with their stock cables as well, but will be getting the Magnus cable as it's ridiculously flexible and I like that.

I canít say anything about flexibility as Iíve not seen the Magnus but Iím sure at their price it better look better, be more flexible and offer other traits that the stock cables can not. That said I have absolutely no issues with the stock cable, flexibility or other wise. In fact I think Sennheiser did an excellent job on them and wish other companies followed their lead, especially when it comes to designing a streamlined non intrusive Y-splitter.

Sorensiim 08-29-2012 06:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WalkGood (Post 620012)
Without a real ABX test this means nothing...


Again where is your proof in this claim?...

It's a subjective review, stating my personal opinions. I wanted to post it here as well, but I see that my opinions aren't welcome. Don't worry, I won't trouble you anymore.

IDvsEGO 08-29-2012 07:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620013)
It's a subjective review, stating my personal opinions. I wanted to post it here as well, but I see that my opinions aren't welcome. Don't worry, I won't trouble you anymore.

lol...dude, don't get bent out of shape because someone has an opinion that is different than yours. That's life man. He didn't tell you to get the F out or anything. He just said he didn't agree with your evaluation of cables. Even on headfi that is a hot topic. You cant act like this is the first time someone has said that expensive cables don't make a difference. I have been doing audio in some form or another for 20ish years and it has always been a debate. Even among people that say they make a difference, most say that it is a poor cost/benefit ratio. You have a good review going on here on a product that appeals to a small number of us. Me personally I have always wanted a pair of customs but am not ready to commit to the refitting etc since I am fairly young. a high end set of universals like this is a tempting thing. a bit out of my price range at this point but still bookmarked for future.

Sorensiim 08-29-2012 07:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IDvsEGO (Post 620014)
lol...dude, don't get bent out of shape because someone has an opinion that is different than yours.

I actually share his opinion: Most aftermarket cables offer no audible difference and are way overpriced. However, from an extensive review of two sets of IEMs he flies off the handle and starts demanding "proof for my claims" about a cable that I shortly mention but didn't use for the review. Nice way for a mod to appreciate users posting content. :rolleyes:

WalkGood 08-29-2012 08:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620013)
It's a subjective review, stating my personal opinions.

That’s fine and by you making this claim no one has the right to question your opinion or maybe teach you something … interesting.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620013)
I wanted to post it here as well, but I see that my opinions aren't welcome. Don't worry, I won't trouble you anymore.

I have not question you posting your review here in the slightest. Where did you read that you are not welcome here?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620013)
Don't worry, I won't trouble you anymore.

This is your prerogative …

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620016)
I actually share his opinion: Most aftermarket cables offer no audible difference and are way overpriced.

Then why claim otherwise?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620016)
However, from an extensive review of two sets of IEMs he flies off the handle

Please show me where I fly off the handle? Because I prefer to see or hear about facts you state I’m “off the handle,” lol.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620016)
… and starts demanding "proof for my claims" about a cable that I shortly mention but didn't use for the review.

Shortly mentioned? I’ll list your words not mine and these are verbatim quotes:
  • "The stock cable isn’t bad by any means, but the Magnus 1 with its 4 tinsel wire SPC conductors sounds great"
  • "after audiotioning (correct spelling is auditioning) the TWag V2, Toxic Cables Silver Poison and a slew of other cables, I’ll stick to the Magnus. It was a no-brainer upgrade for the 8.A (I even got one for my HD650’s as well!)" …
  • "silver-plated copper (SPC) it does make a small difference to the sound …"

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sorensiim (Post 620016)
Nice way for a mod to appreciate users posting content. :rolleyes:

Mod or no mod you expect someone not to question far fetched claims about overpriced cables. While I appreciate user reviews that are subjective or not, I do have the right to question methods used to make various claims about cables. As you have the right here to question my reviews or others, unlike at headfi where they delete and ban those that question $300.00 plus cables.

BTW, I use silver to make my cables and I don’t go around stating that they sound any better than anyone else’s and I spent less than $10.00 on great looking cable that I’ll probably never use up.

Furthermore I do like Heir IEMs very much and would love to own a pair myself but at this time I have more important things to spend my money on as I have a family to support ...

bennyboy 09-21-2012 11:00 AM

Those wooden iems sure do look purdy.

But we're not women, are we? I mean, nice looking iems are fine, but they're not earrings or shoes. We put 'em in our ears cos we want to listen to music on our own, not to get a snog on the dancefloor or approving comments from friends.

So enough already with the bling, and the upgrade cables that do zero for the sound and are clearly a huge value-add for Heir ($110 dollars extra? Do me a favour, they saw you coming mate).

No, the lowdown should cover looks and durability briefly but concentrate on sound. And your review is a nice one, with lots of meaty compliments, which makes me wonder how these stack up against their competitors other than the Westone 3 you mention.

Have you tried them against SE535, RE272, SM3, ER4S, etc?

Funny how us blokes like our techy letters and numbers aint it?

epithetless 09-21-2012 01:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bennyboy (Post 621930)
Those wooden iems sure do look purdy.

But we're not women, are we? I mean, nice looking iems are fine, but they're not earrings or shoes. We put 'em in our ears cos we want to listen to music on our own, not to get a snog on the dancefloor or approving comments from friends.

Yes, there is only one type of man and all women are the same. :rolleyes:

bennyboy 09-21-2012 01:17 PM

Amen.

epithetless 09-21-2012 03:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bennyboy (Post 621947)
Amen.

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http://www.anchoredbygrace.com/smile...n_rolleyes.gif

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