Penon AudioAudiophile quality on a budget!
PROS: low price, high quality sound, premium removable cable, comfortable fit, nice accessories.
CONS: mmcx cable hard to disconnect.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’m sure many are familiar with a phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover. In audiophile world, the same is true for: don’t judge a product by its price. In today’s competitive market, some companies raise the price to be taken seriously. Fortunately, iBasso is not one of them, and instead they do the opposite. For example, in their latest IT01 single Dynamic Driver IEM release, besides pricing it around $100, they also included a premium removable pure copper cable and a nice alloy case.
After having the opportunity to review their different products in the last few years, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised because iBasso always practice what they preach with every release, delivering quality products at a reasonable price. I said the same about their DX200 DAP, CB12 cable, IT03 IEMs, and even CA01 and CA02 adapters. Now, let’s find out if the same holds true with IT01 IEMs, and if these sound as good as they look.
Budget or no budget, IT01 arrived in a premium packaging with a plain cover artwork that clearly spells out “Audiophile In-Ear Monitors”. The back of the sleeve has a detailed spec in 8 different languages, and adds highlights of the design describing the technology, cable, and the fit.
With an outer sleeve off, you will find a premium quality box with a magnetic flip cover, and all the goodies wedged securely inside of a foam cutout. Doesn’t look like they cut any corners in packaging, and it was still a satisfying unboxing experience.
Included with IT01, you will find 3 sets of S/M/L silicone eartips. While I usually tip roll to find the best fit and isolation, digging into my stash of dozens of eartips, with both IT01 and IT03, I went for the largest included stock pair as my best choice. The caps of these eartips, between the sets, do vary in springiness, allowing you to find the perfect one suited for the best seal and isolation, and the most secure fit. In addition, iBasso also included 2 pairs of foam eartips (S/M size), which I found to be more comfortable than Comply.
Also, included was a metal alloy round puck case. While this case is not as comfortable to carry in a pocket when compared to other small zippered cases, it’s very secure and can withstand some serious abuse. Plus, this round case is roomy enough to fit IT01 with its premium cable. My only advice, when you open it up – do it over some surface because thing can go flying everywhere once you pull the top off.
It’s very rare to see a premium detachable cable included with a “budget” IEM release. And when I say premium, I’m not talking about the looks, referring to so many budget cables on eBay or aliexpress which have a shiny look and junk low quality wires behind it. Here we are talking about a handmade 4-conductor loosely braided 4N-purity oxygen-free lightweight copper cable.
The termination is a standard single ended gold plated 3.5mm connector with a strain relief and a nice aluminum housing with iBasso Audio printed label. The braid is loose, making the cable more flexible. Y-splitter has a matching aluminum design, and so does a chin slider. Above y-splitter, cable is twisted, and closer to mmcx connectors you have a pre-shaped transparent flexible tubing piece forming an earhook for a secure over-the-ear fit which is a proper way of wearing IT01. Also, I found the cable has no microphonics.
MMCX connector is universal and housed inside of a translucent housing mold with a red/blue dot indicating Right/Left sides. The mating of the cable to the shell is very secure and snappy, but unfortunately pulling them apart is rather difficult. Not sure if it becomes looser after more disconnects, but ironically, I was fine with it since I found no need to cable roll. Just make sure if you do choose to disconnect the cable, always grip it by the connector housing and never pull on the cable.
I did mention above that I found no need to cable roll, but just in case if anybody is curious, I tried it with a few other cables.
Stock CU vs CB13 – very similar tonality of the sound. One of the differences I hear is in soundstage depth where CB13 makes sound more holographic, pushing it further out. Also, with the bass, CB13 pair-up lowers the quantity of sub-bass and mid-bass, making it closer to the low end of IT03. It refines the sound without affecting its tonality. For sure, if you find low end impact of IT01 to be a little too much for your taste, CB13 can fix that.
Stock CU vs ALO SPC – very similar soundstage expansion, maybe with ALO giving just a touch more depth. Bass extension and impact are very similar as well, and so does the treble – being spot on. But I hear mids being a little more forward with ALO cable.
I don’t have too many mmcx cables (a lot more 2pin cables), and in general, considering the price of IT01, it probably makes no sense to upgrade it with fancy cables costing 4x-5x times the price of IEM itself. I always encourage to cable roll with your existing cables, but in my opinion here iBasso carefully selected their own premium pure copper cable, used for finetuning of the IT01 sound. So, no need to go crazy with upgrades.
While being familiar with IT03 hybrid design (DD + 2BAs), some might assume that IT01 single DD design was a result of removing two BA drivers. Turns out, it was a brand-new design with an all new 5um ultra-thin multi-layered graphene diaphragm driver. These particular ultra-light and relatively stiff drivers are known for their fast speed and low distortion, to the point where it doesn’t even need any additional damped material, just a very strong magnet, picked by iBasso here with a magnetic flux density of nearly 1 tesla.
In addition, iBasso’s compact shell design has a dual cavity helmholtz resonators, responsible for its powerful bass. Closer examination of the shell also reveals two pinhole vents, on inner side of the shell and closer to the nozzle. While the shells are made from what appears to be acrylic material, the nozzle is all metal with a lip at the tip (to keep eartips from sliding) and a fine mesh covering the opening (to keep the wax away).
The design is available in red/blue – color coded for right and left sides, or in all black – a more classic look with a tinted black finish that has very little transparency. As I mentioned already, IT01 features mmcx connectors with a very tight and secure cable fit. The black shells I received have iBasso Audio IT01 printed on the faceplate, though the print is grayish and hard to see on the black background, creating a more stealth look.
The shells itself are more universal and compact in comparison to IT03 which I consider to be custom-universal due to their unique shape. In comparison, IT01 is smaller, lighter, and with a more ergonomic universal design to fit any ear.