Disclaimer: The Hibiki Universal IEM was sent me from Shozy free of charge. Neither AAW or Shozy are affiliated with Headfonia. Hibiki goes for 60$ in the market.
I also shot an unboxing video of Hibiki for Watch It Wednesday here.
The Hibiki is the first Shozy product we review on Headfonia, so it would be proper to give some information about the brand, before digging into this little monitor.
Shozy is a brand from Hong Kong, mostly producing portable DACs/Amplifiers together with Digital Audio Players. I don’t know how all the people started to have knowledge about Shozy, but in my case I heard their name with their Alien & Alien+ DAPs. Shozy’s offerings stand out with distinctive design language, especially audio players. They offer very good build quality with their products at the same time.
Here at Shozy we share the same passion for music as customers.
Shozy started to produce In Ear Monitors lately and they’re climbing up quite well. The start up was with the Zero & Star IEMs, and now they continue with this Hibiki model. In the mean time there’s an upcoming model as well, which is called Star II. This update, -based on the original model with some Etymotic ER4 style of tuning- looks very cool and promising too.
Only when I was starting to write this review, I found out that Hibiki is an elite whiskey brand from Japan. My knowledge sucks I guess. But hey, now I know! As a lover of whiskey, I wonder how it tastes but maybe Nathan can send me a bottle. Who knows?
Hibiki is a result of cooperation between Shozy and Advanced AcousticWerkes. As far as I can see AAW gave support for the cable and the sound tuning. So make no mistake, this 60$ IEM is no slouch. It consists a 10mm high-efficiency dynamic driver, copper internal wiring, 26AWG 4-braided high-purity copper cable with in-line controls and a microphone. It is designed for daily usage as you can see from the inclusion of those.
As a sidenote: The mic works great.
DESIGN & BUILD
The most satisfying factor of Hibiki is the premium look. It doesn’t look like its price level, it looks like one of those higher level IEMs instead. When you take the earpieces in your hand they feel very nice with the carbon plate and soft smooth inner part.
This is not only my impression either. When I participated in a local audiophile meeting, people who saw the Hibiki were impressed by the looks as well. When I told them the MSRP, the reaction was: “wow I expected higher”. Hibiki looks like a mid to high level monitor indeed. The recessed sockets, carbon face plates and silver frame; all of those generate a polished and classy appearance. The classic audiophile cable also supports that image so the reactions weren’t a surprise to me.
The fit is very good but kind of weird because the nozzle angle is not very familiar to me. The inserting position makes a big difference. When I push the nozzle part inside like I do with all IEMs, there is an opening left in my ear canals so there is no isolation. When I insert it in a different angle though, it fits very nice. And when it fits nice it provides a fairly good isolation but don’t expect it to be like a custom monitor of course.
It sticks out quite a bit from your ears but not too dramatic. In the end this monitor is very comfortable to use in daily life and for critical listening. I recommend to use silicone tips instead of foams because of the fact that it has a dynamic driver. You will lose some bass response like usually with foam tips as well as treble sparkle. And this IEM is not aggressive in sound so I don’t think you’ll ever have a need to tame down any frequency range.
This has been an impressive IEM for me right from the start. Especially for its open sound stage and good level of technical achievement. And all that just for 60$. Fabulous. Overall, Hibiki is a balanced monitor with a warmish character. Frequency wise it’s generally flat and nothing is dominating the sound, except a little boosted mids (and that can actually be ideal depending on your taste). It in general has good dynamics with an addition of an impressive sound stage and separation for the price. Let’s get into a little more detail now.
Lows sound spacious and that famous “air” with dynamic drivers is there with the Hibiki. To make things clear I should say it’s not a boomy bass either. For a 60$ IEM this is pretty impressive and the absence of midbass hump makes it even better. That way the bass comes quite separated from other frequencies to create a clear sound. There’s an impressive quality overall in the bass department so be ready to be impressed here.
Quantity-wise it’s not boomy as I referred but it does sound pretty punchy when needed, but don’t expect a huge slam. It’s a soft kind of bass, not hitting hard but still satisfying for the price. That type of true bass response is what you’re looking for in a true sounding IEM. Decay is also quite nice with that 10mm dynamic driver and it doesn’t have a slow recovery either. Those are all good points for Hibiki, using the driver type very much to its advantage. If you’re looking for a bassy IEM though, you should pass this one on as it’s not tuned to be a bass-head IEM. Instead, it’s an audiophile kind of bass.