In my direct experience BA8 is possibly the most capricious IEM I ever auditioned when it comes to source pairing. When it does not “like” the source, it reacts very badly.
I discovered this the hard way: first source I plugged it onto has been my Questyle QP1R. Even before hitting “play”, I was struck by a very significant hiss, of a quite loud consistency, independent from the device volume setting.
“Bad start”, I thought, “but let’s go on” and I hit play commencing my audition of my usual test tracks first. After no more than 10 minutes I was affected by some sort of dizzyness, bordering with nausea. Please note that this was not connected to any audibly odd sound coming from the IEM: the presentation is not the best in my life (much more on this below) but I heard way worse too.
So I thought it was me – it was late one evening – I just turned everything off and went to bed.
The day after I tried again. Same setup. This time I was not particularly tired or anything. Same result: in less than 10 minutes I got an headache, an a sort of nauseatic feeling. No this can’t be casual. Again of course I switched everything off and let my senses cool down for a good while.
Long story short:
- When plugged into Questyle QP1R, Auglamour GR1, Fiio X3-III, Fiio BTR5, and nano iDSD BL “direct” phone outs BA8 yields a very annoying base hiss, of different loudness depending on the source device. Trying to “ignore” the hiss and commencing an audition, at my usual un-harmful volumes of course, I get a headache in a timeframe varying from 5 to 20 minute max. Ouch!
- When plugged into iBasso T3, ifi nano iDSD BL “iEMatch” port, or if ZEN CAN phone outs the hiss is zero or extremely faint (T3).
When plugged onto hiss-generating sources, BA8 yields quite crappy output frankly. Low mids in particular sound recessed but most of all thin, hollow. Male vocals sound dull, I could hear better on 10$ drivers. Tenor saxes are pitiful. Trebles are totally invasive, not “shouty” per se, but so overwhelming as to kill any calibration vs mids and bass. I’m not a treble-head, surely, but I suspects even diehard treble-heads would not like it “so much”.
It’s all somehow a matter of amping. In my limited experience, at least. If in facts I plug QP1R’s Line Out into ZEN CAN, and let ZEN CAN bias BA8, the presentation improves to more than decent levels – I might even call that “good” – as I will describe in detail further below.
Even adopting an amp it likes, BA8’s output remains polarised by its trebles. Which bring two consequences along, one being a quick fatigue accumulation (much less dramatic than from “bad pairs” but still quite apparent), another being a quite objective “excess in the trebles”, a lack of presentation balance. This latter part might (might!) be the liking of so-called treble-heads, although I can’t tell for sure not partaking to that league.
Finally: depending on the source – the DAC source in this case – some simple, moderate EQing can help rebalance the presentation and reduce the fatigue effect at the same time.
Here’s a pair of schemes that you might want to use as a draft to reach your best liked compromise. Their purpose is taming treble without removing too much of their air, and adding some more nicer body to the mids.
Optionally and additionally, you might also want to push sub-bass up by 2 or 3 dB if you feel that missing, in which case you’ll have to correct pre-attenuation too of course.
|DAC||ifi nano iDSD BL|
or Questyle QP1R
|AMP||ifi ZEN CAN||ifi ZEN CAN|
|500 Hz||+1.2 dB||+1.2 dB|
|1 KHz||+1.2 dB||+1.2 dB|
|2 Khz||-3 dB||-1.2 dB|
|4 Khz||-4 dB||-1.2 dB|
|8 KHz||-1.5 dB||-0.5 dB|
|16 KHz||+1.2 dB||+0.5dB|
|Attenuation||-1.2 dB||-1.2 dB|
So much for this lengthy foreword, apart from a very last but important note: I got this pair of BA8 from my friends at TRN, entrusting me to an unbiased analysis and openhearted subjective evaluation, which is what I’m reporting here. You can purchase BA8 at TRN official store.
|Superb soundstage and good imaging||Extremely capricious about amp pairing|
|Airy, sparkly, detailed trebles||Thin mids|
|Fast detailed bass||Scarce bass elevation|
|Great build, fit and comfort||Seriously fatiguing|
|Messy separation on complex tracks|
Full Device Card
Sources: Questyle QP1R / Apogee Groove + Auglamour GR1 or iBasso T3 or ifi ZEN CAN / ifi nano iDSD BL / Fiio X3 mk-III / Fiio BTR5 – inverted Starline silicon tips – stock cable – lossless 16-24/44.1-192 FLAC tracks.
|Tonality||Very treble-predominant V-shape. Timbre is sharply bright, quite clear and definitely lean.|
|Sub-Bass||Quite extended, could be even better. Modest elevation, very good speed.|
|Mid Bass||Pure and well executed BA-midbass: fast, tight, relatively punchy. More elevated than sub-bass but not particularly (and not enough in my own books) authoritative. Dry and unbleeding both towards the left and the right (the mids)|
|Mids||The worst part of the show, mids are very unbalanced towards their high section. |
Low mids are depressed, lean-ish, quite disappointing apart when sourcing from higher end DACs like Apogee Groove delivering a sensibly fuller mirange.
High mids are oppositely (too) forward, articulated, quite bodied, shiny. They are not shouty and get some minimal shrilling from pairing with nano iDSD BL as a DAC, none from QP1R or Groove – which sounds almost like a miracle, considering their strong (read excessive) elevation.
|Male Vocals||Behind, thin, even hollow depending on DAC, and untextured. Probably the worst I ever auditioned.|
|Female Vocals||Forward – possibly even too much. Relative calibration apart, inherent quality is good: bodied, articulated and textured enough, although primarily on the soprano registers, less well on the lowest tones. Considering their elevation it’s surprising how they suceed in staying away from sibilance at almost all times.|
|Highs||Airy, detailed, sparkly and crisp although not fully extended into the last octave. Material details do come through very very well; spatiality is good or great, depending on DAC quality. Similarly to high mids, they are too elevated in quantity.|
This is the section where source pairing differences come out at maximum evidence. Using lower end DACs e.g. Fiio X3 trebles get unpleasantly ear-piercing, and badly and rapidly fatiguing. QP1R and partially nano iDSD BL do smooth treble harshness a bit. Best DAC pair is once again Groove: high mids and trebles keep coming out “too loud” but their short term fatigueness is largely attenutated. Guitars are much better. Details are still many, and inoffesive as before, general airyness is less pervasive.
|Soundstage||Very nice, wide and deep, definitely around my head. Spectacular.|
|Imaging||Very nice, barred when instrument / layering separation limitations come in the way|
|Details||Bass details are nice in quantity and quality, just lacking a bit in elevation/loudness, but depending on the track they are too often literally overwhelmed by treble prepondereance and invasiveness. |
Treble details would be, actually they are, per se, great – too bad that they come at such an high price in terms of fatigue. I can’t bear BA8 on treble-filled tracks (e.g. bebop or modal jazz music) for longer than 30-40 minutes, even when paired to its most “sympatethic” source. YMMV a lot.
|Instrument separation||Normally quite nice… until a crowded track comes in, the worst so if including many etherogenous tonality instruments. Quite some mess is heard in those cases.|
|Driveability||Seemingly extremely easy, quite tricky in facts. In spite of a declared 100dB sensitivity BA8 proves very sensitive and a very annoying hiss comes out from many sources.|
|Build||Convincingly sturdy full-aluminum body. The aesthetic finish also seems not particularly prone to chipping. Nice one.|
|Fit||Very good for me. The shape is quite compatible with my concha and sits very well into my outer ear construct.|
|Comfort||Very good for me. The shape is quite compatible with my concha and sits very well into my outer ear construct.|
|Isolation||Very very good due to near perfect fit, and lack of vents.|
|Cable||Stock one is not bad build-quality wise. Considering treble dominance I tried swapping a furtherly warm one namely a pure copper cable but BA8 does not appear as sensitive as other drivers.|
|Housing||CNC-milled “aerospace”-grade aluminum, with multilayer ceramic coating finish|
|Driver(s)||8 Knowles Balanced Armature drivers: 3 x customised 30095 for high frequencies, 2 x 29689 + 2 x 50060 for the mid range, and 1 x 22955 for low frequencies|
|Cable||4 core OCC copper, braided, 3.5mm single ended termination|
|Package & accessories||1 sets of S / M / L silicone tips, metal carry pouch|
|MSRP at this post time||$ 134,80 ( $109,80 street price )|