Review of the HiSoundAudio Crystal – Small size, with a Big sound

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Pros: Small size, mids, highs
Cons: Microphonics, no cable management, lows, sibilance

Packaging & Accessories: 7.5/10
Build Quality: 8/10
Design & Look: 9/10
Microphonics (higher ratings means lower cable noise): 6/10
Isolation: 7/10
Comfort: 9/10
Audio Quality: 8/10
Value: 8.5/10
My final Rating: 8/10

Purchase Date: May 2012
Purchase Price: £70

First of all, I would like to thank Jack, at HiSoundAudio for sending me out the Crystal for review.
The Crystal, is a very small earphone, that reminds me of some sorts of the Klipsch Image X10 and the Etymotic earphone range. In other words, small earphones that are very concealed within your ear canal.
After hearing the X10 and the HF2’s briefly, I didn’t have many expectations for the Crystal – that however quickly changed, when I put the Crystal in my ears for the first time.

Crystal - Contents

Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)

To find my initial impressions and my unboxing – Click here

Packaging:
The packaging is very simple – it basically is like opening an iPod box, if not it, very similar to the actual iPod box. I felt the packaging was nice, and different in some respects, from your average earphone package. There isn’t really much to say here about the packaging, apart from showing you the way it looks like.

Crystal - Box

Accessories:
The accessories, that were provided were decent, and actually quite good. I really liked the amount of tips that were provided, although would have liked a pouch to be provided. I compared them quite often to the EX500/510’s and felt that the Sony’s provided a nice overall package.

Crystal - Accessories

Overall first impressions:
My overall impressions of the earphones, were positive. I quite liked the array of tips provided, but yet was a little disappointed not to find any sort of pouch or carrying case for the earphones. Especially at their price of £70, it would have been nice to get a little pouch.

 

Build Quality

The build quality of the Crystal is very sturdy. The wire seems to be made out of a very strong material, one that I would expect to see in an army wire – put simply. It seems like it really is built to last, especially the wire. Due to its very small housing, and size there isn’t much to say about the actual build quality of the housing and the earphones themselves, however it should be noted that I wouldn’t worry about these – they feel sturdy, strong, and built to last. The only few points I had about the build quality were the lack of a Y splitter to put the earphones together, the fact that the earphones got tangled quite a few times, and didn’t untangle easily. Another thing to point out was about the built quality of these was the straight jack – I personally would have preferred a L shaped jack, but this is all about personal preference at the end of the day. I should also mention the jack is gold plated, and a 3.5mm jack.

Crystal - Wire & Jack

Finally, the biggest let down in build quality was the apparent microphonics that I could hear whilst walking – this was quickly rectified, by using the Crystal over-the-ear, although not as comfortable or convenient, it was an easy and very good solution to the problem.

 

Now the overall look, comfort and isolation

Look:
Personally I love the look of these, they are absolutely minuscule, and surprised me on how they look, and more so, how they sound. I particularly like the finish HiSoundAudio applied to the Crystal. On the bottom side of the Crystal’s housing, you can see in italics a word, which I couldn’t quite make up – at first I thought it was “crystal” but with the lack of the letter “y”, I can’t quite tell what the word is. Regardless, it looks very nice and almost reminds me of a signature.

Crystal - Side View

At the top of the housing, we have a left and right indicator, and with it the name “Crystal” written above the indicators. Again attention to detail, and brilliantly pulled off.

Crystal - Top View

Isolation:
The isolation at first seemed quite good, but when I put it to the test (using the metro), I could hear ambient noise, quite a bit. I felt that using foam tips, like the Comply Tx-400’s complemented the isolation of these quite well, and meant the isolation had improved – simply down to the fact that the tip “expanded” in your ear, whereas the silicone one didn’t.

Crystal - In-Ear

Finally the comfort:
I had no problems, comfort wise. They went in snugly, with the stock tips provided. I felt that these earphones went into your ear canal and sort of disappeared from view. I thus found these quite comfortable, the only thing that I had noticed was that sometimes I was getting a little driver flex, which basically means that I had to re-adjust my ear pierce. Due to their very small size, I sometimes had a little trouble with that – although again, this is my ear canals, and thus this can vary between different people.

Crystal - In-Ear

Sound Quality

The sound quality of the Crystal really surprised me. How an earphone this small could produce such a big sound! Really shocked me to say the least! The only real complaint I had about these was their sibilance – out-the-box, they were quite sibilant, and it reminded me a little of the C710’s and the EX700’s – that said it wasn’t really troublesome, but worth nothing that they aren’t for those who are a little sensitive to sibilance. I did find the sibilance to go away after burn-in, and in fact it was pretty much the only thing that changed after burn-in – which is a first for me, earphone wise. These are the first earphones (being dynamic drivers) to not change much, sound quality wise after burn-in. What I heard out-the-box is pretty much what I got after hours of burn-in, although as stated just before, sibilance reduced a little)

Crystal - Earphones

Lows:
The lows weren’t very strong – I felt the bass was a little rolled off, and more so didn’t really have much impact – that said, I wasn’t expecting much bass from minute earphones like these. These did perform good for their size, it has to be said, but of course, if you are a basshead or like a pounding bass line, then these will certainly not deliver in this department.

Mids/highs: 
Both mids and highs are actually surprisingly accurate and very pleasant. When I compared the Crystal to the EX510’s I felt the EX510’s had a chunk of mids missing from them, and also didn’t have that little sparkle (which some might not like, as it leads to sibilance) in the highs. I felt the mids and highs were the strong point of the Crystal, and felt that these paired well with the ZO2, for that additional low-end boost. These of course aren’t perfect, but are very good for their price range in this department. In fact, if people are looking for a more mid-centric earphone, at this price range, I would not hesitate in recommending these over the EX510’s & EX500’s (considering the latter 2 were my favourite earphones at this price range)

Soundstage:
The soundstage wasn’t really wide or big – here is where I felt the EX510/EX500’s had a better and wider soundstage. I think it was mainly due to the room the EX500 and 510’s have in comparison to the tiny HiSoundAudio Crystal. Thus these felt a little closed in, but you can understand that due to the size of the earphones, and their driver within them, that their soundstage wouldn’t be wide or great – nothing that surprised me really, I expected this as soon as I had the earphones in my hands, and saw their small size.

Crystal - Mini-Size

Sound Quality Ratings
Lows: 6/10
Mids: 8.5/10
Highs: 9/10
Soundstage: 6/10

Conclusions and final thoughts

Overall, the HiSoundAudio Crystal are an excellent, but yet little sibilant sounding pair of earphones. They are great for travel, and having discrete earphones, one that you could sleep on too, whilst enjoying your music. The price point that these have come in however are a little higher than what I would value them at, seeing as the EX510’s brand-new are £40, these are in-between the C710’s and the EX510’s price tag. I feel that they should be priced more around the £50 price tag mark, as depending on taste, the EX510’s might be a better option for some people, but as said before, if you are looking for mids and highs, these would be definitely be a recommendation from me, over the EX510’s.

Hope you enjoyed my review!
TotallydubbedHD

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