Before you read this review, ask yourself this question. “Why do I like to listen to music they way I do?” In the world filled with audiophiles, music enthusiasts, and the general population; music has entertained us all. The sense of sound is an intriguing sense in a way that sound can evoke and inspire memories or feelings unlike any other. This reason is why I personally listen to music the way I do. Why I spend so much time, effort and money; Why I treat it as more than a hobby; Why I am always on the quest to please my ears. If you haven't found the answer to :“Why do I like to listen to music they way I do?” , I hope this review can inspire you to find this answer.
Previously in the Game of Tones, house Heir Audio had a beast with 8 drivers that caught my attention and persuaded me to shell out my earnings. Sunny a representative of Heir Audio notified me about a new creature with 10 drivers being created in Sichuan, land of the giant Pandas. When it came time to unleash the beast, Heir Audio declared a black Friday special discount which I could not turn down. Thus was the start of a majestic relationship between the 10 driver CIEM and I
Fit & Order
Heir Audio are one of the finest crafter in the CIEM market. They have a large collection of samples and options to choose from. Few can rival their beauty nor personalization. Another reason why I picked Heir Audio is their location. As I am in Beijing and they are in Chengdu the shipping became much easier. Time and costs were saved substantially as I had to ship it back due to fitting issues. I did not incur taxes as well. For folks who live in China who craves CIEM, this can be a major factor
When I received my 10.a the fit was unbalanced, and it had to be reshelled for the right fit. I think this is due to the ear impressions which were not properly made. After reshelling, the CIEM slips in like a glove. As this was my first CIEM, it took me 2 days to get used to it but, it really just disappears as you wear them.
I personally requested the design of my 10.a and Heir Audio molded it beyond the image I had in mind. Looking at it in person is truly a thing to behold. Many of my friends were gob-smacked by it and I even had a stranger walk up to me and ask what it is. The acrylic shell used is non-allergic and very well made. It looks like it could take a beating or two (I wouldn't beat it though) and will still look stunning.
The 10.a arrives in an otterbox with a gold plaque. A change from the aluminum plaque in earlier models. Inside you will find a cleaning kit, 6.3mm adapter, airplane jack adapter, an extra cable with microphone (white for android, black for iOS), and a VIP membership card. While not as luxurious as others, this VIP will prove to be more valuable. Heir Audio is a true pioneer in their after sales service and benefits.
If I am not mistaken, they were the first company which provide a ownership transfer service where one pays $99 to refit their second hand CIEM to a standard model and enjoys an extended 1 year warranty. With the 10.a they have provided a never before seen benefits with the VIP membership. The main benefits of becoming a VIP member are; 10% of all new orders; one time 20% discount after successful referral; Free shipping twice (Mainland China); and a few others
Heir Audio has breathed new air to the customer service aspect of this industry. This will encourage customers to be loyal and purchase future Heir Audio products. Considering how good their customer service is, I am inclined to say that they might have the best customer service I have ever encountered. Sunny always updates me with the process and replies me very fast. An added bonus for impatient people such as me.
Before I describe the lows, mids, and highs I have to declare how impressive the imaging is. The soundstage is MASSIVE, and the layering is great. One of the biggest quarrel about IEMs is that they have small soundstage but, 10.a absolutely destroys that image. I personally think that 10.a has the biggest soundstage of any IEM out there. The soundstage is on the same level on mid-fi headphones. This baby stretches my ear to an extent I wouldn't believe. The first time I heard it I was floored by how wide it is. Instruments are flying left and right with precision and detail. Airy Fidelity posted a review video on Youtube, describing that he feels that the 10.a feels like having a speaker playing around you and I completely agree with this statement. 10.a projects sound unlike any IEMs I have heard. Live and orchestra music utilizes this feature most. Listening to Adele's Live at The Royal Albert Hall is an absolute joy. In moments of magic, I could actually differentiate some of the voices in crowd as they sing along.
One of the strongest attribute of Heir's 8 driver model is their bass. When the bass slams, it feels as if a cranium is bashing your skull. Sometimes though, the bass gets in your way as it takes the spotlight from the mids and high. It is an addicting quality but, in the 10.a they have made it more “professional”. Fast and precise are the two words I would use to describe the bass. The IEM 8.0 is like Mike Tyson punching hard with authority. Comparatively the 10.a is like Muhammad Ali; Picking its shot, fast, agile with laser like precision. Listening to Armin's Intense sends me to ecstasy, the bass rumbles low to an extent that I have not heard before. Quality and not quantity is the name of the game here.
The mids are slightly forward with a hint of of warmth, just a hint. I've always lean towards the warm side of the audio world and 10.a has found the right balance with the warmth. Vocals sound crystal clear and sang with a gusto. Numerous of times I've tried IEMs with great clarity but lacks “soul”. I felt no emotion, it felt as if a machine was singing. I'm pleased to say that 10.a does not have this problem. Tonally there is nothing wrong with the mids, and the soul of the singer are ever present. On one occasion, I was sitting with my eyes closed in the crowded subway of Beijing (only Beijingers would know how crowded it gets) and was listening to Ella and Louis' Moonlight in Vermont and the way the 10.a “sang” made me forget where I was. The tender voice of Ella is a thing of rarity. My imagination ran to a cabin somewhere in Vermont in the midst of a cold winter night.
Heir Audio's biggest change was it's treble. In IEM 8.0, treble was smooth and it did not extend too high. They have resolved this issue and 10.a's treble extends high without getting too hot or fatiguing. Rock is the genre I listen to least cause, treble more often gets too hot, and due to this instruments get mixed and jumbled up. All 10 drivers works hard to prevent this from happening. Treble always remains pleasant and detailed without bleeding into the mids or lows.
The 10.a made listening old music new. What do I mean by this? All of us has albums and records in our collection which contains a lot of memories. As time progresses and we grow older we tend to forget about most of the music we listen to when we were in school. Plugging 10.a to my Calyx and playing it shuffle made me listen to Simple Plan's Welcome to My Life. Memories of my middle school days overflows my brain and I think to myself: “I've never noticed that the guitar strums this way, or the drums beating like this.”
If I were to portray the 10.a, it would be like eating at a fine dinning restaurant. The chef has designated the menu with an experience in mind. Each course is served with perfect balance and with the next dish in mind. While not a food, the 10.a exactly does just that. Not too much of this or too little of that. Everything sounds and feels as harmonious as it should be.
Sources and Amp
The IEM 8.0 needed an amp or a good source to perform. Heir Audio somehow made the 10.a easier to drive. I have no clue how they could make a 10 driver model this easy to drive with almost no hiss and a black background. IEMs with many drivers, especially 10 would usually be more sensitive. Yet the 10.a has improved this issue from their previous flasgship. 10.a could perform admirally from my Note 3. Sure my Calyx M is superior but, I could happily spend a day with my Note 3.
DX50 + Rendition 1
This set-up is a pleasant set up with surprisingly wide soundstage. Although mids and highs sound great through the set up but, I found the bass lacking. When the bass hits, I felt that it was loose compared to my other set-ups. Interestingly I enjoyed this particular set up more than a lone AK120 II.
Pairing it with the AK left me disappointed. That gorgeous massive soundstage is reduced alarmingly. Amping it with the Rendition 1 helped but, with it's not worth its price tag if you were to pair it with 10.a. The “soul” which is important to me is nowhere to be found more often than not. Although it is analytical, I find myself listening to AK the least among all.
Now this is the magical pairing that the 10.a deserves. As I mentioned before I tend to lean to the warmer side and the Calyx M provides the 10.a what my other set-ups can't. The analog signature of the Calyx M adds a touch of warmth which I love. Vocals sounds blissful while the lows and highs also gets an added improvement. What came as a surprise to me was how far the Calyx M is ahead of the AK120 II. The AK was always a few notches bellow the Calyx. Even speed and detail retrieval is superior with the Calyx. I thought that it would be a close fight between the Calyx and AK but, this is more like Real Madrid vs. Basel than vs. Barcelona
Like Nathan mentioned in his review of the Calyx M, adding an amplifier just gets in the way of your enjoyment. I preferred pairing the 10.a with a lone Calyx M than with an amp. This pairing will bring out the tenderness is voices that has it. The tonality of he 10.a is a match made for “Kings”
First of all I would like to congratulate Sunny and the Heir Audio team for the marvelous job they did with the 10.a. In the beginning of the review I asked of all you, “Why do I like to listen to music they way I do?” For me it was feelings and memories, that's probably the reason why I bend towards the warmer side of things. Yet as I progress in this audiophile world, I demanded my set-ups to also excel sonic wise. To have the most minute of details appear effortlessly without compensation.
Heir Audio has struck gold with the 10.a Pairing it with the Calyx M made things much more awesome. At $1399 the 10.a is priced a few hundred bucks lower than the competition. From the looks of it they have not only beat the competition with the price but, also probably have them beat with the sound. Sure the packaging is not as nice as others but, their innovative customer service will prove to be more useful than a fancy box.
In the ultra competitive “Game of Tones” many houses tries to claim to be the rightful King. Heir Audio's new Heir the 10.a is certainly a strong candidate for the throne of Audioteros. Their 10 driver creature is a thing to behold and other houses should fear it. I too am a king....well, king of my quarters at least. I consider the 10.a to be a fit for me and therefore I can verify that Heir Audio's 10.a is “Fit For A King.”