I analyzed WH2 sound performance paired up with Hiby’s own R3 Pro and R6 2020 sources as well as my aging Galaxy S9 smartphone 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”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. I let WH2 play for about 3 days in a loop to condition its dynamic driver before I started analyzing the sound. I used CP1025 eartips in my analysis and made sure LDAC codec was selected.
WH2 has a mildly U-shaped signature with a little extra emphasis on deep rounded bass and crisp airy treble extension. Actually, the signature is borderline W-shaped, but due to that extra emphasis on bass and treble, the perception of mids is slightly recessed. Tonality is natural, leaning more toward the revealing side due to the level of clarity and the amount of detail retrieval.
Bass is deep, textured, not overwhelming, but with a good extension, solid weight, tastefully elevated, yet still well controlled without spilling into mids. Lower mids are close to neutral and upper mids are clear (thanks to well emphasized 3kHz peak), natural, detailed, layered and nicely separated. Treble is crisp and airy (12kHz peak does the job), but not harsh or sibilant (nothing overemphasized in 6k-8kHz region). It does have extra energy in upper treble and can get a bit zingy with poorly recorded tracks. But at the same time, this extra sparkle is what gives the sound its hi-fi resolving shine.
The soundstage reaches holographic level when switching to LDAC, it literally scales up the performance when you switch the codec which improves technical performance, from soundstage to vertical dynamics expansion. And with such 3D holographic soundstage expansion and good layering and separation of the sounds, you can also appreciate the imaging which has accurate position of instruments and vocals in 3D space.
I would consider the tuning to be more on a fun side, rather than safe and generic. It works with all music genres, either if you are listening to EDM or classical and everything else in-between, great for watching movies with deep sound effects, or just listening to your favorite vlogs or podcasts without compromising the clarity of the vocals. And overall, it does make you feel like you are listening to hi-fi sound rather than generic pair of wireless earphones.
The selection of eartips is crucial to any universal in-ear monitors and will affect the sound, especially the bass impact which depends on the seal. TWS will be no different, except here you also want to be sure earpieces stay secure in your ears as you move around. Due to a large opening of my earcanals, I usually go for the largest size eartips to get a better seal, but with TWS seems like medium size can also work. Also, please keep in mind, eartips impressions are subjective and based on anatomy of my ears.
I started with my usual selection of IEM eartips, but quickly had to stop that effort. Most of these eartips made it impossible for WH2 to fit inside the charging case with a lid closed, pushing them out, away from the charging contacts. As a result, I had to take eartips size/design into consideration. WH2 stock silicone eartips reminded me of ePro tips. They are really good, but stock large tips created a bit of a suction pressure in my earcanal, while medium size stock eartips were less secure and relaxed the seal which caused the bass to attenuate down.
After further tip-rolling, I found SpinFit CP1025 to give me the best fit and isolation. While SpinFit lists these for AirPods Pro with additional adapter, they worked perfectly by itself with WH2. I do usually use L size eartips, but found their medium size to be more comfortable here. CP1025 fit was somewhere between stock large and medium tips, and it provided the bass impact equivalent to large stock tips. Also, CP1025 still allowed me to place WH2 inside the charging case and close it down without a problem. As already mentioned, not all aftermarket eartips allow that.
Here is how I hear WH2 compares to some other TWS earphones.
WH2 vs Apple Airpods Pro – right away I found the soundstage to be very similar between these two. Furthermore, APP has a more neutral balanced tuning with an even tonality across the entire frequency range, just a little more focus on vocals, but the overall sound is clean, clear, and less fatigue during extended listening sessions. In contrast, WH2 has a mildly u-shaped fun tuning where you hear a deeper, beefier and more textured well-controlled analog bass and more airy sparkle in treble which helps with layering and separation of the sound. As a result, APP has a safer tuning with a smoother and more laidback sound while WH2 has more hi-fi fun tuning with a layered exciting sound.
WH2 vs WH3 – the soundstage expansion of WH2 is more holographic in comparison to more intimate sound of WH3. WH3 soundstage width is above average, not as wide as WH2. When it comes to the sound, WH3 is smoother, more organic, and also more balanced, reminding me more of Airpods Pro. In comparison, WH2 has a more fun mildly u-shaped tuning, still closer to balanced, with a deeper and more articulate bass and crisper airy treble. WH2 mids/vocals are less colored, with a good layering and separation. In terms of technical performance, I also hear a better retrieval of details in WH2.
WH2 vs Hifiman TWS800 – right away you will notice a difference in soundstage width, with WH2 having a noticeably wider spread, while both having the same soundstage depth/height. Tonality and signature are quite different as well. TWS800 is smoother, warmer, less resolving, and more laidback in comparison to WH2 being more detailed, more revealing, more layered with a deeper and more articulate bass, better layered detailed mids, and crisper and airier treble. TWS800 has a clear smooth sound, while WH2 is more layered, micro detailed, and with a deeper bass and more energetic treble extension.
WH2 vs Final EVA 2020 – these are quite different in tuning as well. Soundstage of EVA is actually pretty wide/deep, but the signature is L-shaped with a strong dominating emphasis on bass impact while the rest of mids and treble being smooth and natural and less resolving. In contrast, WH2 bass is tighter and more articulate, mids are as natural but with a better layering and separation, and treble has more sparkle and air, definitely better extension. As a side note, I’m not a big fan of a physical control button on EVA TWS.
WH2 vs Shanling MTW100 – very different sound and technical performance between these TWS earphones. Right away you will notice soundstage being narrower in MTW100 which gives the sound a more intimate feeling in comparison to nearly holographic soundstage of WH2. The signature of MTW100 is more neutral and balanced, smoother and with less resolving tuning. In comparison, WH2 bass is way ahead in quality and quantity with deeper rumble, tighter mid-bass punch, and overall better articulation. Mids in WH2 have better layering and separation, and noticeably better retrieval of details. And the same goes for treble with WH2 being more extended and airier. MTW100 sounds more lo-fi in comparison to hi-fi WH2.
WH2 vs iBasso CF01 w/IT00 – while CF01 is TWS adapter paired up with another set of iBasso iems (IT00) in this example, this comparison has more similarities than others. WH2 soundstage is a little wider, while both have the same depth and height. They also have a similar bass extension and impact, though WH2 bass sounds a little tighter. Mids are very similar, being detailed, layered, and still natural in tonality. Treble is where I hear the biggest difference with CF01/IT00 being smoother while WH2 being more energetic with crisp airy well-defined sparkle.
I’m sure some might be questioning if they need another TWS to add to their collection. If you are used to commercial basshead tuning or want a deeper v-shaped fun sound with pounding bass and bright treble, these are not it. For the fans of AirPods Pro, I think WH3 will be more of your taste if you prefer neutral bass, more forward mids, and smoother treble. If you are a fan of WF-1000XM3, going by memory from a year ago, you might find WH2 as an upgrade in sound tuning, and finally you will have LDAC compatible TWS. I hear rumors that XM4 is about to be released and Sony might finally have LDAC. But for now, at the moment I’m writing this review, looks like Hiby got to the finish line first and at a fraction of the price.
When it comes to wireless earphones and headphones, and especially TWS, many could forget that it doesn’t matter what DAC or amp your source has. None of this matter because your source will digitally encode and transmit the sound and TWS earphones will decode and drive the transducer inside the shell. Here, what important is the codec being used and protocols being supported. In theory, everything should work the same.
And speaking of codecs, while testing with various sources, I found the switch from AAC to LDAC to result in no change in tonality or sound signature, but I do hear a change in soundstage expansion and dynamics. When testing with Hiby R3 Pro and selecting AAC (the next down from LDAC since aptX is not supported in WH2), I hear the soundstage to be wide and the vertical dynamics to have good expansion. But once you switch to LDAC, soundstage becomes wider and more holographic, and vertical dynamics of the sound expand where I also hear a better layering and separation, making AAC sound compressed in comparison.
Another interesting observation, while using Hiby’s R3 Pro which supports every wireless codec under the sun, I tested while switching between LDAC and UAT 1.2M/900k on R3 Pro and was not able to hear any difference in sound quality
And in a few other tests:
Galaxy S9 (LDAC) vs Hiby R8 (LDAC) – Both use BT5.0 and both were set to LDAC. And again, the sound was identical, I couldn’t hear any difference here with WH2.
Galaxy S9 (LDAC) vs SP2000 SS – Here, Galaxy uses BT5.0 while SP2k has BT4.2 (and no LDAC support). I found S9 to have a noticeably better (wider) soundstage expansion and a more 3D holographic imaging. Also, I hear a little better sound dynamics paired with my S9 while SP2k (assuming AAC connection since WH2 doesn’t support aptX HD) sounds a little more compressed in comparison.
I went into this review with expectations of testing another set of TWS earpieces that had only the advantage of being the first to support LDAC. At the end of this review, I came out with a discovery of TWS earpieces that have not only the tech advantage but also an impressive audiophile quality tuning. As far as their basic TWS functionality goes, WH2 earpieces are very compact and lightweight, have a decent battery life, quality mic for taking calls, and customizable touch controls. They are great for playing music, listening to podcasts, watching movies, or keeping you motivated during workout. But these are not your average TWS earpieces with just a basic functionality and commercial quality tuning.
LDAC is definitely a buzzword in today’s wireless audiophile world, but when it comes to WH2 it is not just a marketing gimmick. You can switch between BT codecs as you playing the music and hear for yourself the improvement in sound LDAC brings to the table. But the implementation of LDAC alone is useless without a proper sound tuning to begin with. And this is where WH2 (single DD I tested) shines while delivering audiophile quality tuning with a deep well controlled and slightly elevated bass, clear detailed mids/vocals, and natural revealing airy treble. LDAC refines this tuning with a more holographic soundstage and expanded dynamics of layered sound.
WH2 should be available to pre-order on Kickstarter any day now, just just went LIVE. Probably a good idea to keep checking for the latest updates on Hiby page. The MSRP for DD model is $149 and for dual BA model $169. But I’m sure KS introduction price for either WH2 versions will be lower (already confirmed around $100 early bird price as I just saw it on their KS page… updated on 6/15/21).