I’ve written a combined Brand Spotlight review featuring both Face Red and Character because these are the first 2 IEMs from the recently launched brand THHiFi (BGVP’s sister company) and are very closely tuned with some differences here and there.
Summary – Both Face Red and Character are very well tuned, fun, slightly fuller and every so slightly brighter takes on the Harman target. Both have a bass boost below 250Hz, slightly fuller lower-midrange in the 250-400Hz region, a very nice forward midrange with around 11dB of pinna gain and very well balanced treble presentation that extends quite linearly till 20kHz following the Harman target treble slope to the T. Loosely, Character is slightly warmer of the two (though not too warm in isolation) and Face Red is a very slightly more V-shaped take on the Character.
Let’s dig in deeper…
Bass – They both use the same 9.2mm dynamic driver. Face Red has around 10dB of a bass shelf below 250Hz which boosts both the sub-bass and the mid-bass. Character has a similar bass shelf, but lower at around 9dB and one that boosts slightly less mid-bass than Face Red by around 1.5dB. Both have really good sub-bass rumble as well as authoritative punch and slam without overpowering the rest of the FR. This is exceptionally well done for this price range. Character is more neutral of the two while maintaining the quality of bass. Face Red on the other has stronger authority merely because of it having a stronger bass shelf. It also quicker and sharper transient response owing to it having more and better treble balance in the 5k-10kHz range, which is responsible for the the attack and presence.
Midrange – Both have a fuller lower-midrange in the 250-400Hz region, which adds some extra fullness and body to instruments and vocals. Face Red boosts this region ever so slightly more than Character but it isn’t as noticeable in an A/B because Face Red also has more treble in comparison. Both have really good forward upper-midrange presentation with around 11dB pinna gain. Unlike the Harman target or any of the Moondrop or Tanchjim IEMs, this is a twin peak dipped upper-midrange, which is quite reminiscent of the 64 Audio U12t style of tuning (see graph comparison below). This results in very good, forward instrument definition and really good tonality of instruments, though not quite as perfectly natural as the Kato or Hana 2021 because of the shift of the first peak to 2.3kHz instead of the more accurate 2.7kHz, which results in a very minor tonal shift. This might not be as perceivable outright unless you compare it to IEMs with a traditional pinna gain peak.
Treble – Both Face Red and Character have very good treble balance that follows the Harman curve very well. Even though the treble presentation is very well balanced that is neither warm nor sparkly, I can imagine people who like some extra W-shaped air and sizzle up top left wanting more. Regardless, the overall treble balance is quite well done and enables very good separation, clarity and detail retrieval for its price but do not expect hyper micro-detail retrieval because they both are tuned more neutrally in treble than boosted.
Technical Performance – What impressed me right off the bat in was punch and instrument realism in both IEMs. They have very good dynamics, left to right separation and detail retrieval for their asking price. Soundstage is on the average side overall, not too wide or deep, but much better than most IEMs around this price segment. You need to go to Moondrop Blessing2 to get better soundstage performance than these two.
Comparisons with Face Red.
Blessing2 is a 1DD+4BA IEM and a benchmark at its asking price of $319. Blessing2 is more reference-neutral with its bass presentation whereas Face Red boosts bass more in accordance with the Harman target, resulting in about 4dB more of bass quantity. As a result, Face Red has more rumble as well as much more punch in comparison. It actually sounds like a proper DD handling bass, unlike the Blessing2 which sounds leaner in comparison. They have a similar-ish lower-midrange and similarly forward upper-midrange but Face Red has slightly more pinna gain. Yet, it is Blessing2 that can come across a bit shouty but not the Face Red because its bass shelf balances out its pinna gain really well. Face Red is slightly brighter in lower-treble, they are similar in mid-treble and Blessing 2 has slightly more upper-treble. Blessing2 has a more open and airy soundstage because of a smaller bass-shelf and brighter upper-treble tuning whereas Face Red comes across more dynamic and punchy. Blessing2 has better detail retrieval and clarity, again owing to its tuning, but Face Red has fairly good technical performance while maintaining a more musical and dynamic sound signature.
Kato is a 1DD IEM and my personal benchmark at $190. Kato is based on Moondrop’s VDSF target which takes inspiration from the Harman target but has a lower bass shelf than it. Face Red has stronger punch and rumble because of a bigger bass shelf than Kato by around 4dB. Kato has very slightly fuller instrument body because of fuller 250-400Hz. Face Red has a more forward upper-midrange than Kato and stronger instrument definition as a result. Face Red has slightly more lower-treble whereas Kato has a bit more mid-treble and upper-treble. Kato has slightly more natural tonality and timbre owing to a more traditional and accurate pinna gain peak, while the Face Red has slightly better instrument realism. Kato has a very slightly leaner signature and soundstage presentation because of lesser bass quantity while Face Red has more dynamic punch and better layering and detail retrieval.
DH3 too is a 1DD+2BA hybrid. Face Red has a bigger bass shelf compared to DH3 and more rumble as well as punch as a result. They have a similar lower-midrange presentation but Face Red has a more forward upper-midrange. Because of this Face Red has stronger instrument definition and even stronger imaging. Face Red has better and more linear treble balance than DH3, which has a major dip around 7kHz and then a 9kHz peak. That prominent 9kHz peak tends DH3 a leaner presentation and the overall balance results in a cleaner soundstage. Face Red in comparison has a fuller sounding soundstage but with better imaging as well as layering and detail retrieval. Overall, Face Red comes across punchier, more dynamic with a better balanced and refined sound signature whereas the DH3, a slightly leaner and colder signature in comparison.
Comparisons with Character.
Tanchjim New Hana 2021
Hana 2021 is a 1DD and another benchmark IEM of mine around the $150 mark. Both have a similar bass shelf of around 9dB, with the Hana 2021 extending slightly better till 20Hz. Hana 2021 has a bit more mid-bass and is slightly fuller in the 250-500Hz region. Character is more neutral and cleaner in the lower-midrange. Both have a forward upper-midrange presentation but Hana 2021 is a bit more natural in the region because Character has very slight recession around 3kHz. This leads Hana 2021 a slightly different tonality than the Character. Hana 2021 has a dip in lower-treble but is brighter in mid-treble. Character has better treble balance between lower-treble to mid-treble. Hana 2021 has a 13kHz peak that adds some sizzle up top giving a perception of better air and extension whereas Character has a very neutral upper-treble response, in line with the Harman target. Hana 2021 has a slight warm tinge to instruments with some sizzle on top whereas Character sounds cleaner overall. Character has a bigger soundstage which is deeper as well as a bit wider. It also has slightly better layering and left to right separation.
Starsea is a hybrid with 1DD + 2BA. Starsea has around 9dB of bass shelf too but one that boosts and not as much mid-bass as Character. It is slightly fuller sounding in the 250-500Hz of lower-midrange than Character but has a prominent peak around 9kHz which adds a leaner character to Starsea’s signature. Character has more even lower-treble in comparison. Character has a more defined forward upper-midrange which results in stronger instrument definition. Starsea has a dip in the 4-5kHz region which takes a bit away from stick attack in drums and spank in acoustics. Character has stronger instrument realism as well as better depth layering. It is also more dynamic and punchy sounding of the two because of its overall balance, especially the stronger mid-bass punch.
I’m very impressed with both Face Red and Character, especially considering they are the first products from a newly established company – THHiFi. Sure they have BGVP’s manufacturing capability and years worth of R&D experience backing them but these are very well tuned products for their asking price. What helps them even more are the comfortable fit, a nice cable and a really good set of accessories. They definitely give Moondrop Kato and Tanchjim Hana a run for their money and will now serve as co-benchmark IEMs along with them for me. If you’re in the market looking for IEMs in the sub-$200 price bracket, definitely give these two a shot!
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs – iBasso DX240 & DX170 | Hiby R5 Gen 2 | Lotoo PAW6000
- 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.