The IEM market has seen radical changes in recent times, with the number of BA drivers and price rising to new levels. With the ever-changing environment, more and more companies have joined in the fray to battle in the “Game of Tones”. Heir Audio is just one of the few ‘houses’ to compete for the throne. They make CIEMs and universal IEMs, the IEM 8.0 is their flagship universal model. Equipped with 8 drivers, the IEM 8.0 also looks the part. Crafted with the finest Siamese Rose Wood and finished with the color “Black Smoke”, IEM 8.0 is the most beautiful universal IEM I have seen. So, is IEM 8.0 truly “Fit For a King”?
IEM 8.0 is bigger than any universal that I have seen. When my eyes first gazed upon it, I wondered whether it was too big but, I was proven wrong. The large size of the IEM in fact helps isolate noise as it covers more than just the canal of the ears. Surprisingly IEM 8.0 is one of the most comfortable IEMs that I have used.
Choosing the right pair of tips is essential to awaken the beast. I spent 1 week trying all the tips at an extended period of time, comparing the different sound qualities that each tip produces. Usually I use medium sized tips but, it wasn’t the case this time around. I felt that the large size dual-flange tip produced the best sound with the most isolation. One issue is that, the large sized tip frequently gets stuck inside my ear canal when I take my IEM off directly. In fact, I have already lost 1 of the tip due to this. Thankfully Sunny has sent me new tips. (New pair of L size double-flange has fixed this issue)
Figuring out the best method of insertion is another key factor. I cannot stress enough that for IEM 8.0 to shine, they need to be well placed in and on your ear. I felt that twisting them deeper and deciding how deep they should be depends on your personal preference based on comfort and sound.
After several tries, I tried the Sugru tip mod and found this to be the best tip of all. Bass became tighter and the isolation improved noticeably.
The Head-Fi community is mostly divided into 2 factions. The first faction prefers a more natural sound with high level of clarity and plenty of air. The second faction prefers a darker signature which has a lush and engaging sound. I fall into the second faction and the IEM 8.0 excels to my preference
IEM 8.0 is highly engaging, once you start to plug them into your ears and play your music, the fun begins. Besides the dark tonality, it is very musical. Music sounds so rich and creamy through these earphones. There are 3 things that I feel are the strongest points of it; percussion instruments; drums; and female vocalists.
In the audiophile world we associate bass with fun. Out of all the differences between headphones and IEMs, I feel that bass is the one presented with the biggest difference. With headphones, the bass surrounds you, while in IEMs the bass is ‘in’ you. I have never been satisfied with the bass from IEMs until this. When I played Benny Benassi’s Electroman, the lower-end of the spectrum just rumbles into another dimension. Everything sounded like it was ready to explode yet, the remains in perfect control. The bass is well rounded, the volume is just right, it sounds and feels playful. It does not overwhelm you and destroys the rest of the music but, it elevates. There are minute details on the low-end which many headphones/earphones cannot pick up but, the IEM 8.0 picks it effortlessly.
The midrange is best described as fine ‘butter’; creamy, smooth, lush and engaging. Vocals and more particularly female vocals are divine. I could feel somehow feel Adele’s emotions when I let IEM 8.0 do its job. There is no dryness to be found, and everything sounds ‘lubricated’. Every genre that I throw at it, it performs everything exceedingly, and has an extremely likable sound. IEM 8.0 focuses on the low and mid and this is the key to its appeal.
The treble continues the smoothness of the mid, as things never get too hot. EDM and more specifically trance, is a great genre to listen to with the IEM 8.0 the treble is present but, does not get too harsh. Due to being low and mid centric people might think the treble might take the backseat, and it is true to some extent but, when the treble takes center stage it performs like a true flagship.
Being an IEM, we cannot expect it to perform to the levels of headphones in terms of sound staging. It has a wider than average sound stage but, it extends quite deep. Layering and depth definitely outshines it width. Despite the lack of width the separation between left and right is top notch and in my opinion even beats headphones as you can really differentiate left and right.
The IEM 8.0 needs a proper DAP or amp to perform, I tried 3 desktop amps and Heir Audio’s own Rendition 1.
I didn’t enjoy the IEM 8.0 with the Eximus, vocals sounded too dry and was not up to the other amps. Though out of all the amps, Eximus proves to be the quitest.
Leben CS300XS with Jupiter Caps Using Mullard EL84 NOS 1975 and GE 5751
Out of the entire amp I tired, Leben had the most hisses. Considering this is a tube amp it is understandable. The hiss is quite evident and only disappears when listening to extreme loud volumes. Except for the hiss the IEM 8.0 sounded the best from this amp and the vocals really shine.
La Figaro 339 with Tung-Sol 5998 and RCA 5693
There is also a hiss with this amp but, noticeably quitter from the Leben. The hiss fades when music is played. While Leben sounded the best, the hiss made it unbearable to listen to. Therefore keeping everything in mind, La Figaro 339 is the best amp in my arsenal for IEM 8.0, vocals are sweet and everything just falls into place. In my opinion, IEM 8.0 pairs excellently with tube amps.
Heir Audio also produces a portable amp which in my opinion is a great pairing with the IEM 8.0. The amp itself has a neutral sound with a no nonsense design. There are no toggles or any fancy features on the Rendition 1. What you get is a portable amp with blissful sound and a mind boggling battery life.
My current portable set up is DX50>Rendition 1>IEM 8.0 and I do most of my listening while in a public commute, and I charge my DX50 twice and sometimes thrice a week. With the same usage the Rendition 1 is able to last the week without any fuss. This for me is the biggest feature of Rendition 1. There are many portable amps which sound great at the same price range, some are even smaller but, the usually do not last long. Ranging from 8-12 hours at most, yet Heir Audio claims Rendition 1 can last over 30 hours. I am not sure how long it lasts but, it sure is long.
It has a black background but, it still has a small hiss when the IEM 8.0 is plugged in. This amp has sufficient power to drive most earphones and headphones but, do not have too much power to drive demanding headphones. One thing to note, is that it pairs surprisingly well with Sennheiser HD-25.
Heir Audio has certainly crafted an IEM of the highest quality. Not only does it sound good but, it quite possibly is the most beautiful universal IEM out there. If you are in the market for an IEM and you can afford it, you should consider IEM 8.0 as one of the top contenders for your money. This IEM is a musical and engages you to lose yourself in the music. It needs an amp to shine bright but, if not it still does ‘wow’ the heck out of you. So how does “house Heir Audio” fair in the “Game of Tones”; it is “Fit For a King”