Softears RS10 and Cerberus

Sound Analysis – Cerberus

Cerberus is a warm take on the VDSF target with a softer and much warmer treble response compared to RS10. Besides that, it has a very nice linear sub-bass shelf with a smaller Q factor, which does boosts 6-7dBs of sub-bass but less of the mid-bass compared to the Harman/VDSF target, along with less upper-midrange forwardness with pinna gain of 8dB compared to 10dB of VDSF and Harman Target. Cerberus has very well done sub-bass to upper-midrange tuning but the treble region, especially the 5k-15kHz region, is tuned a couple of decibels warmer than what would’ve been perfect balance in my opinion. Where other high end TOTL IEMs boost treble, upper-treble in case of 64 Audio IEMs, to create an immediately wowing signature, Softears decided to go the other way and create a mostly well tuned IEM but with much smoother treble. Cerberus’ upper-treble is still fairly neutral in comparison to lower and mid-treble. Nevertheless, Cerberus is not really that dark sounding IEM but is much warmer than RS10 and even warmer than the RSV. What I personally dig the most is the style of sub-bass shelf and 8dB pinna gain. I personally EQ in a bit of treble to make it sound closer to how I like it. With around 3-4dBs of treble added in at 8kHz and 16kHz in a simple graphic EQ, Cerberus starts turning into quite an impressive IEM. But frankly, in my opinion, $2100 IEMs should not require any EQ and should sound magical right off the bat. With that said, if Softears can tune in a bit more treble while keeping the rest of it the same, even the 8dB upper-midrange pinna gain, I can definitely see Cerberus 2.0 being an exceptional IEM.

Bass – Cerberus unlike the RS10, has a dynamic driver for bass duties and it is tuned really well! It has a 6-7dB sub-bass shelf with a smaller Q factor, which majorly boosts bass below 62Hz and hardly much in the 62-125Hz band. This tuning keeps the mid-bass mostly neutral but makes the sub-bass rumble. As a result of mid-bass not being boosted or being upfront, Cerberus is able to present the bass very cleanly, with a very clean sounding centre image. It is fairly tight with good low end rumble and extension. Plus the dynamic driver has a very dynamic and natural sounding timbre which works very well with the overall tuning. The thing Cerberus lacks in the bass department is precise, sharp attack owing to warmer treble response which takes it away from accurate transient presentation. EQing in a bit of treble starts making it sound closer to how I like it.

Midrange – It has a very clean and linear lower-midrange presentation and a forward upper-midrange presentation with 8dB pinna gain, which makes it sounds warmer than RS10 and other IEMs like S8 and RSV that have 10dB pinna gain. Instruments and vocals still have a nice forward presentation but aren’t as forward as they are in RS10 and have a slightly warmer tinge as well as a slightly fuller instrument body, where are mostly because of the warmer treble response.

Treble – The treble is where Cerberus breaks away most from VDSF Target and restricts it from being an exceptional IEM it could’ve been, in my opinion. The 5k-15kHz is south of neutral and that adds a warmer tone and tinge to the whole presentation. This region is also responsible for attack and definition, so it feels like Cerberus lacks clarity when listening to music at lower volume levels. It sounds a bit better at louder levels but still remains a much warmer than neutral sounding signature. The air region post 16kHz is still fairly neutral and actually extends well till 20kHz but Cerberus isn’t an airy sounding IEM like the U12t. Now this warmer tuning may make it or break it for different people. It does make for an easy and laid back listen and I am not against using EQ for a specific thing if the rest of the IEM is extremely well tuned but in my opinion, $2100 is a lot of money and an IEM costing so much shouldn’t require EQ at all and should sound magical right off the bat. Still, as I said before, a few dBs at 4kHz, 8kHz and 16kHz of a Graphic EQ will have Cerberus sounding great, maybe even special.

Technical Performance – Cerberus actually has a good soundstage with a very clean centre image for its warm tuning, which I really dig. It has good resolution and very good separation between instruments width and depth wise but lacks the energy and wowing factor to make all of this stand out, which makes its performance fall behind against the strong competition it is pitched against in its high-end price segment.

Softears Cerberus + Case

Comparisons.

64 Audio U12t – I actually like Cerberus’ neutral and tasteful bass shelf quite a lot, probably more than U12t’s more boosted bass but U12t’s bigger bass boost with more sub-bass, mid-bass and upper-bass slams it in fun factor, punch and rumble. Cerberus and U12t actually have a very similar, easy to listen to and enjoyable midrange presentation with 8dB pinna gain but U12t peaks and dips in the 1-5kHz region whereas Cerberus has a more traditional mountain style peak in accordance with the VDSF target. U12t is more neutral and brighter in lower-treble and much airier in upper-treble owing its 64 Audio’s famous tia treble tuning. Comparing the stock tuning, U12t has better technical performance, be it clarity, resolution, soundstage, imaging or separation across the board. Cerberus’ technical performance shines better once you EQ in a bit of treble. 

Lime Ears Pneuma – Pneuma is a more fun, V-shaped IEM compared to Cerberus. Pneuma has a bigger bass boost which boosts the sub-bass, mid-bass as well as the upper-bass. As Pneuma is tuned to be a fun IEM, it has more punch, rumble and also sharper attack. Even though Cerberus has better bass tuning when it comes to neutrality, it looses out in transient presentation against Pneuma because of its warmer tuning. Pneuma has slightly fuller sounding lower-midrange presentation in the 250-500Hz whereas Cerberus is more accurate and neutral in the range. Both have a similar forward upper-midrange presentation but Pneuma has stronger instrument definition whereas Cerberus is slightly more musical. Pneuma is more neutral but also brighter in overall treble tuning compared to Cerberus, which makes it sound better balanced as well as sound more impressive right off the bat in an A/B comparison. A lot of Pneuma’s better technical performance is because it has better balance. Even though Pneuma has better clarity and soundstage, Cerberus has a cleaner centre image and better separation between left and right panned instruments because of its more tasteful and neutral bass and lower-midrange tuning.

Conclusion.

Softears RS10 is a very good reference monitor tuned with cool tech developed with good extensive R&D, like passive drivers, complex 5-way crossover, custom spec drivers and flat impedance design. The best part is that RS10 has excellent, ultra clear shells so that you can see all the tech richness inside. It has spectacular build and finish but most importantly, has very good tuning, tonality of instruments and technical performance. It faces tough competition from 64 Audio’s U12t at the same price point but stands its ground with a more accurate and neutral tuning whereas U12t has a slightly more fun and musical take on a reference signature, in my opinion. Cerberus on the other hand exudes excellent craftsmanship too with highly attractive black and gold shells but misses out on being an exceptional IEM by just one thing – recession in the 5k-15kHz of the treble region which makes it a much warmer tuned set than RS10. If only Softears had tuned in a bit more treble, Cerberus would’ve been an excellent complementing set to RS10 and a major player in this price segment. Nevertheless, Softears has definitely shown that they mean business with these IEMs, particularly RSV and RS10, both of which are now in my top 10 favourite IEMs. Definitely give ’em a shot if you’re looking for well done neutral/reference IEMs in their price segments.


Gear used for testing and review.

  • DAPs – HiBy R6 2020 | iBasso DX160
  • Laptop – Apple Macbook Pro 15″
  • Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro

Artists I like and listen to.

  • Rock – Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Switchfoot, Imagine Dragons, Daughtry, Green Day, MuteMath, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews Band, Vertical Horizon, Our Lady Peace, Lifehouse, Fall Out Boy, Breaking Benjamin, Muse, ACDC, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Biffy Clyro, I Am Giant, Normandie, Paramore, Slash & Guns N Roses, 3 Doors Down.
  • Pop Rock – John Mayer, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, James Bay, Hunter Hayes, Niall Horan, Keith Urban, The Bros Landreth, Bryan Adams,
  • Progressive Rock/Metal – Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Karnivool, Tool, Dead Letter Circus, Periphery, Lamb of God.
  • Pop/Soft Rock – Ed Sheeran, Adele, Taylor Swift, OneRepublic, The Script, Gavin James, Magic Man, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Oasis, Panic! At the Disco, TwentyOne Pilots
  • EDM – Chainsmokers, Zedd

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