TGX Ear Serratus

Great Things from Small Beginnings.

PROS:  Lifelike timbre, excellent imaging, great for classical music, custom options, more versatile tuning than expected.

CONS:  To achieve their true performance, a high-powered source is required, notable lower treble lift, not universally versatile.


I would like to thank Jim of TGX Ear for providing me with the Serratus earbuds in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.


  • 300 Ohms
  • Blue Sapphire PET diaphragm
  • Pure silver cable
  • 3.5mm single ended or 4.4mm balanced termination
  • Price: $199



I have been an earbud enthusiast for several years now and I love the form factor. Despite the eternal struggle to get a secure fit, I use them on a daily basis. More than any other gear I have around. However, because “audiophile grade” earbuds are quite a niche over here in Europe, there are not that many opportunities to try out the more interesting ones. I have been lucky to receive a few earbuds to review, yet I always had the feeling I was not really hearing the full potential of the earbud form factor. All too often I heard people talk about earbuds sounding like headphones and none of those I had heard were quite delivering that sort of presentation. I suspected this was perhaps because the earbuds I reviewed were all low impedance for easy portable use. So, when Jim of TGX Ear got in touch and asked me if I was interested in reviewing a pair of his high impedance ‘Serratus’ earbuds, I was obviously very interested. When he indicated the Serratus were tuned for classical music, I felt the sudden urge to do a little happy dance.

Founded by Jim Park, TGX Ear is a fairly new brand with roots that are decades old. Jim is one of those people who has music and engineering running through his veins. It all started growing up in a home that was always filled with classical music. His mother was a piano teacher and so from an early age Jim was exposed to the constant sound of one of the three upright pianos in their home being subjected to various degrees of torture by his mother’s students. The wide range of talents visiting their home meant that Jim developed a trained ear for distinguishing between the skilled students and those who meant the piano tuner would be coming around again that week. Jim himself preferred the violin. He started playing the violin from a very early age and kept it up for nearly thirty years.

This is how Jim developed his ear for music quality. Of course, that meant a standard pair of headphones or earphones simply would not do and he started modifying those from an early age as well. He developed his engineering skills through trial and error over the years. From there it became pretty much inevitable that he would combine all his skills in the development of his own earbuds. TGX Ear was born.

I had come across a few pictures of Jim’s first earbuds on Head-fi, although I wasn’t aware that the Serratus were already the fourth model he developed. The Serratus have been such a step up that the previous three models were ready for retirement. At the time of writing, I believe there are already three more models: Tantalus (no.5), Alpha (no.6) and Ripples (no.7) being the latest. But that is a bit misleading because there are also different versions of various models such as the Bell Tantalus, which have a small bell-shaped shell and a very nice red version of the Serratus. Even then I feel I have barely scratched the surface, with various custom options popping up on the Head-fi forums and hints about a number of new models in the works. There have even been rumors about IEMs coming from TGX Ear, but Jim tells me he has not made a decision on that yet.

For now, if you like earbuds and especially if you have custom requests, TGX Ear is a great place to start looking.


The unboxing experience is as basic as you can get it. Just a small and practical case with inside the Serratus and a few accessories. Even there it is limited to just the foams, an instruction card on how to wear earbuds and a branded pin.

As far as I am concerned this is perfectly fine and all you need. There are some accessories that I can think of that would be a good addition, such as ear hooks or rubber surrounds for those who have fit issues. And in fact, when I mentioned this to Jim, he indicated that he would be including rubber surrounds with all his earbuds as standard. How about that for service!

Build quality and fit.

From what I understand the Serratus have a fairly standard plastic flathead earbud shell. That means you know what to expect if you are familiar with those. This immediately exposes my relative ignorance when it comes to earbuds, because this is the first time I have used earbuds with this type of shell and I was surprised by how well they fit (more on that in a bit). Beyond the fit, my experience with other plastic earbuds is still limited (shees, you’d think I built up more expertise than this by now), but the Serratus feel pretty much as I expected. Just simple plastic shells that are nice and light while still durable. Inside the lovely transparent shells are the brightly colored, 300 Ohms Blue Sapphire PET diaphragms with on the right side a small red detail to identify which side is which.

The pure silver cable feels quite premium and has a good suppleness to it. The termination is 4.4mm balanced (you can also opt for 3.5mm single ended) with a simple design for the plug.

As I explained, the fit was very good for me. Pretty much the most secure I have been able to achieve with earbuds. Still not perfect though and I found that especially the left side would tend to fall out if I was more active. My primary conclusion from this test being that my ears are very likely to be asymmetrically shaped and now my OCD is not happy with my ears at all. Jokes aside, the fit depends entirely on your ear shape and so my findings will not provide much for you to go on. Always best to see if you can try it for yourself. Or keep an eye out for accessories such as the rubber surrounds mentioned earlier or ear hooks, in case you are already aware of difficulties with fitting earbuds. Alternatively, there are of course the other shell options that TGX Ear can offer.



Usually this is only a short section where I merely mention the specific sources I used for the review in order for people to know how I got to my impressions. With the Serratus being 300 Ohms tiny little earbuds, I found it important to spend some time to explore the consequences of various sources on the performance of the Serratus.

From my little experiment, I can say that for optimal performance a powerful source is essential. Important here is to note is that this is separate from the volume level that can be achieved.

To test this I used a $3,000, TOTL DAP, the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch -aka “my precious”- and compared that to more powerful, less expensive sources. With the LPGT I get plenty of volume and the Serratus sound nice enough. However, despite the source being a TOTL DAP, the Serratus do not set themselves apart from other earbuds I have heard. When I switch to a powerful source such as the Shanling M8 (Turbo gain) or EarMen Angel (Gain+), that’s when the Serratus come alive and perform considerably better than I expected from such tiny little earbuds.

Jim explained that this has to do with maintaining the accuracy of the loud transient peaks and preserving dynamic range. This is consistent with what I hear, even though I can’t explain it in technical terms. When I listen with a powerful source the image is cleaner, more accurate, better separation, more air, a bigger stage, etc. Across the board the Serratus simply perform better. Even with a superb source such as the LPGT, the lack of power causes a fuzzier image that doesn’t feel as big as I know the Serratus are capable of creating.

Underpowered the Serratus still sound fun and engaging, but when powered properly they genuinely transform and perform at a much higher level. This means that when you consider buying the Serratus, you have to also consider the source you have available for them. If you do not yet have a powerful source, then these $199 earbuds can quickly become a lot more expensive because you have to add the cost of another source or they will end up underperforming for their price. If you already have a good quality desktop source, then the Serratus will offer outstanding value because you get their full potential without requiring any additional investment.

For this review I ended up relying primarily on the EarMen Angel because I felt a more neutral source paired better with the Serratus.


Page 2 – Sound analysis, Comparisons, and Conclusions.


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