The comparison was done using 5×5 with a stock cable, AZLA Sedna eartips, LPGT as a source, and volume matched in every comparison. In this test I tried to compare 5×5 to a handful of other IEMs that fit Every Day Carry category, within similar price range, and not too far off in tuning.
5×5 vs Campfire Audio Andromeda ‘20 and Solaris ’20 – 5×5 bass is somewhere between Andro and Solaris, having a bit stronger punch and more textured deeper rumble than Andro, while Solaris has a little stronger bass with more rumble and more punch (relative to 5×5). Mids are very close in quality and quantity relative to Andro, and with a little fuller body than Solaris. 5×5 treble is closer to Andro, having a similar natural sparkle, but it also not too far off from Solaris. 5×5 soundstage is a little bit wider than Andro/Solaris, and also 5×5 is dead silent with most of the sources, while Andro/Solaris due to their higher sensitivity do exhibit their infamous hissing.
5×5 vs Westone W60 – 5×5 soundstage is wider in this comparison. W60 bass goes deeper with more sub-bass rumble and a little stronger mid-bass punch, while 5×5 has a little less rumble and overall bass being less elevated. W60 mids are thicker, warmer, more colored, while 5×5 has more transparent (less colored) mids/vocals with better retrieval of details. Also, W60 treble is smoother and with less sparkle, while 5×5 treble has more sparkle and airiness.
5×5 vs Meze Audio RAI Penta – Here the soundstage expansion sounds very similar, especially with width being matched between these two. Bass has deeper rumble and more impact in Penta while 5×5 has leaner sub-bass and a bit less mid-bass. Mids are thicker in Penta, having a fuller body and warmer tonality. In comparison, 5×5 mids sound as natural, but less colored, more detailed and with better layering and separation. Furthermore, 5×5 treble has more sparkle while Penta is smoother.
In each of these pair ups, I was using 5×5 stock cable with either 4.4mm or 3.5mm adapter, and haven’t noticed any hissing. I don’t know the spec of 5×5, but I do know they didn’t implement LID or a similar tech which makes the tuning independent of source output impedance. What I found interesting, while using two different 4.4mm adapters, the treble response was different where DDHifi 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter (probably slightly higher impedance) gave treble a little smoother and more natural tonality while using custom PWA adapter (lower impedance) gave treble a brighter tonality with more sparkle. Thus, I personally preferred to use DDHifi adapter in all balanced 4.4mm pair ups.
A&K SP2000 SS – wide soundstage expansion, balanced signature with above neutral bass, moderate amount of sub-bass rumble, fast punchy mid-bass, clear detailed and slightly more forward mids, and crisp extended treble.
Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT – wide soundstage expansion, balanced signature with a little more sub-bass rumble, fast punchy mid-bass, clear detailed and slightly more forward mids, crisp treble with a little more sparkle which is still non-fatigue and quite natural.
Hiby R6 (10ohm OI) – signature is similar to LPGT, just technically not as resolving and the sound is not as layered. I was especially interested in pair up with this original non-Pro R6 due to its high 10ohm output impedance. But to my surprise, using 5×5 with 4.4mm DDHifi adapter and LPGT yielded a similar signature as connecting 5×5 directly without adapter to 2.5mm headphone output of R6. Of course, technical performance was different, but the signature didn’t change.
Hiby R8 (turbo mode) – wide soundstage expansion, balanced signature with deeper sub-bass and a little more mid-bass impact, clear detailed and more natural mids/vocals, and natural and crisp treble with a very good extension.
Cayin N3Pro (Tube, UL) – wide soundstage, clear detailed sound, but the sound signature is a little more mid-forward. I was a bit surprised since I thought a tube output might balance out the signature, but mids were more forward in here. Wasn’t too crazy about this pair up.
Cayin N6ii (E02) – wide soundstage expansion, balanced signature with deeper sub-bass and stronger mid-bass impact, natural detailed mids, and natural crisp treble with a good extension.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – Of course, it wouldn’t be a true EDC without testing it with my smartphone which I carry every day. This was actually a rather good pair up. Maybe not as wide when it comes to soundstage and smoother in comparison to some other higher end DAPs, but the sound had a perfectly balanced signature, deep articulate bass, natural detailed mids/vocals, and natural crisp treble without any harshness.
Out of different pair ups, I really enjoyed N6ii w/E02, R8, LPGT, and also my aging Galaxy S9 smartphone.
The term Every Day Carry was on my mind throughout the entire time of 5×5 testing, and it did influence the way how I approached the review. I found this latest hybrid release from FIR Audio to have a clean detailed natural sound that works great with any genre of music and a balanced signature without any extremes of hard hitting or bloated bass or “overcooked” crisp treble. Plus, its aluminum shells are compact and durable, giving you peace of mind while handling them indoors or outdoors, as well as ATOM pressure release system that helps with non-fatigue listening during extended sessions. Maybe Every Day Carry will have a different meaning to other people, but for me personally 5×5 surprisingly Exceeded expectations for a Premium IEM under $1k.