In this section of my review, I will go over how various earphones and headphones pair up and how they sound with N8ii. I used P+ and Class AB and Middle Gain in each pair up, and will note Volume level (V#), and compare SS vs Tube. These are brief notes to give you a basic idea.
Pair up with Headphones.
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (V66) – This pair is a perfect example of demonstrating the power of P+ boost when dealing with demanding headphones such as these 470ohm open back cans. Regardless of setting, the soundstage expansion is super wide open and 3D holographic even though I only have and use 3.5mm SE cable with these. Sound signature is very balanced, and tonality is natural and revealing. Not bright or brittle, but revealing, natural, and micro-detailed, something I don’t usually say when describing R70x; don’t think I ever used “micro-detailed” in any other R70x pair up descriptions. The bass performance is excellent, with a deep sub-bass rumble and a slightly laidback mid-bass punch. The weight of the bass in this pair up is in sub-bass, and a bit slower attack of mid-bass make the bass more natural and fuller. Mids have a natural body, clear, detailed, layered, with a perfect balance of musicality and micro-detail level of technicality. Treble is clear and detailed, and airy, with a little extra sparkle. When switching from P to P+, it literally expands the dynamics of the sound, like inflating a ball, where the sound’s vertical dynamics expands, layering improves, soundstage perception improves, and overall sound becomes more energetic and exciting. Switching to Tube adds a little texture to the mids, a nice finishing touch.
MEZE Audio Empyrean (V44) – I hear a very wide-open soundstage with an excellent holographic imaging. Sound signature is balanced, and tonality is rather natural, transparent, revealing, not as colored as in a number of other pair ups. Bass has a deep extension with excellent textured rumble and a good mid-bass punch. Again, more weight is shifted toward the deep sub-bass while mid-bass is rounded, giving the overall bass a more laidback presentation. Lower mids have good amount of body, a little warmer, while upper mids have more focus here, bringing more attention to the vocals and extracting more micro-details. Great layering of the sound in mids, not every source can bring this out in Empyrean. Treble is clear and detailed, has a little extra crunch but nothing harsh or splashy. Good airy extension. P+ improves the dynamics, very noticeable “boost” where after hearing it you can’t go back to P. Tubes or no Tubes, it still sounds great, and I’m still undecided. I feel like SS gives mids a more even tuning and faster speed which I did enjoy more.
Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (V39) – Another great pair up with an excellent soundstage expansion in all 3 direction and 3D holographic imaging. This was another example where P+ is necessary to scale up the sound dynamics and the soundstage expansion to its highest level. The sound is balanced W-shaped with a velvety deep sub-bass rumble, more rounded mid-bass punch. The overall weight of the bass leans more toward sub-bass. Lower mids were north of neutral, with a good amount of body and natural warmth, giving upper mids more clarity, transparency, and micro-details. Vocals came out clear, detailed, even a little brighter. There is a bit of a contrast between warmer deeper bass and brighter more revealing upper mids. Treble also has plenty of clarity, details, and natural sparkle, good airy extension. Well, I’m sure some would expect me to say that I preferred Tubes output in this pair up, but it turned out that it was the opposite. I actually preferred Solid State output. Tubes made lower mids a bit thicker to my ears, creating a bigger contract between lower and upper mids. Turning Tubes off evened out the tonality in mids, noticeable, especially with vocals. The point here, experiment with different settings.
I actually enjoyed all 3 pairs up, and as I already mentioned, found P+ to be the absolutely necessity here.
Pair up with IEMs.
Oriolus Traillii w/Chiron (V34) – Wide open soundstage with 3D imaging. Sound signature is perfectly balanced, overall tonality is natural and a bit more revealing. Bass goes deep, with both elevated rumble and stronger mid-bass impact. Mids are natural in tonality, with plenty of body in lower mids and organic detailed tonality in upper mids, quite resolving and revealing. Treble is clear and detailed, has extra sparkle and crunch in mid treble. SS gives Traillii a little brighter tonality in mids, while Tubes give more weight to low end, more body to the lower mids, and make upper mids a little smoother and even a bit warmer. I preferred Tubes mode with Traillii.
Aroma Jewel w/FT (V34) – The soundstage is wide open and expanded in all 3 directions with holographic imaging. Sound signature is balanced as well, while tonality is more neutral with a slightly more mid-forward revealing presentation of the sound. Bass goes deep, with a textured sub-bass rumble and a punchy mid-bass; the bass is tight and articulate. Lower mids are leaner which gives upper mids more transparency, less coloring, making them more revealing but not too bright. Treble is crisp and detailed, not splashy or harsh. Jewel does have a little extra resolution in treble, but it still keeps sound natural. Also, as expected, switching to Tubes gives mids smoother and more natural tonality which I preferred in this pair up.
EE Odin (V29) – For those who are interested, there is definitely no hissing in this pair up. Pitch black background with zero hissing in any gain. I was curious to try P/P+ setting, and quickly realized that P+ is a must have here, adding more weight, more impact, deeper rumble, and still keeping the bass tight and articulate. Mids are leaner, more revealing, layered, micro-detailed, but not bright and not too forward, the overall sound signature is still well balanced. Treble is crisp, clear, detailed, more revealing and yet, still well controlled and without any sign of splashiness. The soundstage is also big, expanded, holographic. Improvement in bass with P+ was impressive. Not a huge difference switching to Tubes, but it does take a bit of an edge of the brightness.
FiR Audio XE6 (V31) – A huge holographic soundstage expansion. A mildly U-shaped signature with a powerful speaker like analog bass, thanks to XE6 kinetic bass drivers, natural revealing mids and vocals which are a bit recessed, and crisp detailed treble. The XE6 kinetic bass truly benefits here from P+ setting which gives it more energy and improves articulation. Also, zero hiss, regardless of the gain or power mode setting. Tubes modes didn’t make a big difference here since XE6 tuning is warmer and smoother to begin with. But still, because of XE6 tonality, this was a perfect pair up to bring out more details and sound transparency using Solid State instead of Tubes.
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (V22) – Since this is Campfire Audio iem, the first question will be, does it hiss? The background is pitch black, and I don’t hear any hiss at all. The soundstage is big, with an overall sound being holographic and quite expanded. Also, the sound sig is balanced, while the tonality is brighter and more revealing. Bass has a good sub-bass rumble with a fast well controlled punch. Bass doesn’t have a lot of weight, but it is for sure above neutral and unmistakably DD quality. Mids are revealing, colder in tonality even when Tubes are switched on. Surprisingly, I don’t hear any sibilance in lower treble. It is still very energetic, but the treble is not too elevated and not that fatigue. I did enjoy switching to Tubes mode, just to take an edge of its colder tonality. But the biggest improvement here was switching to P so I can enable Class A mode, and that added more body to the tuning, making it a bit more natural.
UM Mest MKII (V31) – Big holographic soundstage expansion in this pair up. Typical of Mest MKII, I found U-shaped sound signature with a deep analog quality dynamic bass where I hear more emphasis on sub-bass rumble which adds extra weight to the low end. Lower mids are neutral, giving more transparency to the sound, making upper mids more revealing and colder in tonality. Treble is bright, crisp, airy. Going between SS and Tubes helps to bring up mids a little more forward (with Tubes) by adding more body to the lower mids and slightly boosting the presence of upper mids. Doesn’t change much the treble, it is still a bit hot. I was OK with this pair up, though not very thrilled.
VE EXT (V38) – EXT does need a bit of a power boost, so I started with high gain, but quickly switched back to Medium since in high gain the upper mids and lower treble were a bit too hot. Soundstage is very big in this pair up, expanding wide and deep, along with 3D holographic imaging. Sound sig is slightly U-shaped with a bit extra emphasis on bass and treble. Bass is quite powerful in this pair up, going deep with elevated rumble and hitting hard with a very strong punch. Mids have a good balance of lower mids natural body and upper mids clarity, resolution, and details. But mids are a bit reserved and not as forward as I found EXT in some other pair ups. Treble is crisp and airy, clear and detailed. Switching to Tubes only took a bit of an edge from the brightness. I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up because I felt like mids/vocals lost some of its natural tonality and were slightly recessed.
Overall, I enjoyed pair up with most of my IEMs and was very pleased with the amount of finetuning options offered by N8ii to find a perfect pair up synergy. But to my surprise, Mest MKII treble was a bit hot and VE EXT lost some of its natural magic in mids. But Traillii, Jewel, Odin, and XE6 were shinning in this pair up.