iBasso AM05

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed AM05 sound performance driven by DX160 and LPGT while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.  Even so I let it play for a few days before starting my critical sound analysis, I didn’t notice any changes in sound before and after this burn in period.

AM05 has a neutral revealing tuning with a slightly mid-forward signature and a transparent tonality.  The signature did vary a little bit depending on the pair up with various DAPs where in some cases it was more balanced, but overall, I found these IEMs to have a little more emphasis in upper mids, bringing more focus to vocals.

The sound is very clean and clear, with the level of detail retrieval being definitely above the average.  Not necessary too revealing or micro-detailed, but with a nice level of clarity.  The layering and separation of instruments and vocals is good, above average as well.  Not too much air between the layers, yet everything is nicely separated, not congested at all.  Also, the tuning is very coherent, with 5 drivers working together in unison.

The soundstage is wide, what I usually call an oval-shaped, spreading wider left to right where you have more width than depth.  Imaging is pretty good as well, no complaints here, every element of the sound recording has a convincing placement in space, with mids/vocals being a little closer, bringing you closer to the performer and giving the sound a little more intimacy.

Bass is quite neutral.  I do hear the low end extension, but there is not as much rumble.  The same with mid-bass, it has a faster punch and shorter decay, but the punch itself doesn’t have as much weight.  Bass is articulate, and its neutrality gives more room for mids/vocals to shine. Lower mids are neutral, with a slight dip around 1kHz which accentuate more 2kHz lift to give vocals more clarity.  Upper mids are more revealing, with plenty of clarity and details, not too smooth or too harsh.  Treble is well defined, moderately airy, and with a nice natural sparkle without too much crunch.

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Eartips selection.

Eartips selection is very important not only to find a good seal, but also because it will affect the tonality.  Based on the provided eartips, here is what I found.  Please keep in mind, I only use large size eartips and these impressions is relative to anatomy of my ear, thus YMMV.

  • Black silicone tips (narrow opening, slimmer outer cap shape) – the sound is a little harsh at the top.
  • White silicone tips (wider opening, softer cap) – relative to my ears the seal was poor, resulting in lack of bass.
  • Foam tips – their bore opening was a bit too wide, and they were sliding off AM05 nozzle. I didn’t find these to be very usable.
  • Grey silicone tips (wide opening, firmer cap) – I hear a little extra bass with a clear and well controlled top end.
  • Whirlwind tips (wide opening, firmer cap) – I hear a little extra bass with a clear and well controlled top end and a little extra sparkle at the top. These were my favorite eartips.

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Comparison.

This comparison was done using AM05 with a stock cable and DX160 and LPGT as sources, volume matched in every comparison.

AM05 vs iBasso IT04 – both have a wide soundstage expansion, but the imaging depth of IT04 makes the sound feel more holographic.  With bass, AM05 bass tuning is more neutral while IT04 has a stronger punch and a little more sub-bass rumble.  Mids is where you will hear more difference, with IT04 lower mids being leaner and upper mids/vocals being a little smoother, while AM05 mids/vocals being a little more forward and more neutral in comparison.  Treble is similar, perhaps with IT04 being a touch smoother. Of course, IT04 is iBasso’s current hybrid flagship, and its tuning relative to AM05 has higher resolution and better layering, while AM05 is more neutral and with mids being slightly more forward and more revealing.

AM05 vs iBasso IT01s – the soundstage width here is similar as well, but a different imaging with IT01s mids/vocals being place out of your head, while AM05 mids/vocals being placed closer to you, with a more intimate feeling.  The sound tuning is different as well, but I still wanted to include the comparison to make it easier when choosing between IT01s, IT04, and AM05.  With IT01s signature being noticeable more balanced, you will find more bass impact and more lift/sparkle in treble, while AM05 signature is more neutral, especially when it comes to bass, a more coherent tuning, and more forward presentation of mids.  Mids presentation has the biggest difference between these two iems, where IT01s tuning has less focus on mids and vocals, while AM05 is the opposite.

AM05 vs Cayin YB04 – the soundstage width here is very similar.  Both IEMs also have a tuning with a neutral tonality, but the sound signature has a variation.  AM05 has a signature with a slight mid-forward presentation, while YB04 signature is more balanced.  The bass is very similar and quite neutral in both IEMs, maybe with YB04 having a little stronger impact, but they are pretty close.  Mids/vocals are neutral, detailed, natural.  But AM05 has them positioned more forward, while YB04 is more balanced relative to bass and treble.  Treble also sounds very similar in both IEMs.

AM05 vs Westone UMPro 50 v2 – I figured comparison between these two 5BA IEMss might be of interest, though again, the tuning here is quite different, especially in mids.  AM05 soundstage is wider in this comparison, which is expected since UMPro series is designed for musicians, not consumers.  The tuning is quite different as well.  AM05 is more neutral, more transparent, less colored, with more revealing mids/vocals, while UMPro50 has a stronger bass impact, thicker, warmer, more laid back mids.  Treble has a similar extension and sparkle.  The difference in mids presentation and tuning is quite noticeable in this comparison.  If you care about clarity of vocals, AM05 is the way to go, but if you want more bass slam – UMPro50 will suite you better.

AM05 vs Campfire Audio Andromeda – This is another 5BA IEM comparison which I thought could be interesting to some.  I know these iems are not in the same category, but I had a few people asking me about it so here we go.  Andro soundstage expansion is a little wider, but the imaging has mids/vocals more out of your head creating a holographic space while AM05 presentation of mids/vocals brings you closer to the performer.  As expected, AM05 bass will sound neutral in comparison to more impact/rumble of Andro bass.  With mids, besides more forward presentation of AM05, the tonality also varies with Andro being smoother and more organic while AM05 being more revealing and more transparent (less colored).  With treble, Andro has more sparkle and airiness though its lower treble peaks could get a bit harsh depending on the recorded tracks, while AM05 is smoother in comparison.

IT01s, AM05, IT04

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Page 3 – Pair up, and Conclusion.

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