Comparisons and source pairing:
The Carbo Tenore from Zero Audio was itself quite the hyped IEM a few years back, and it still holds up as a balanced, natural-sounding single-dynamic driver IEM – particularly as it’s currently less than $50 on Amazon. The Carbo Tenore sounds immediately less detailed when compared alongside the Tape, with Radiohead’s ‘Ill Wind‘ sounding altogether gentler, while the Tape delivers more shimmer coupled with a much larger sense of space. Midbass on the Carbo Tenore is more pronounced, leading to an overall warmer signature but it doesn’t maintain the extension nor control of the Tape.
The Tin HiFi T2 has a greater overall tilt to its upper register compared to the Tape, due to a more recessed sub-bass. The T2’s treble feels grainy and uneven compared to the tape, as it’s dominated by a peak in the presence region that doesn’t continue to extend into the ‘air’ department.
The new HE100 from Earstudio (currently $89 on Amazon), makers of the ES100 Bluetooth receiver/DAC/amp is an interesting comparison to the Tape. The HE100 can’t match the Tape for treble extension nor detail, but it does have a far more linear and natural sound that’s lusher and relaxing compared to the hyper-detail and energy of the Tape. ‘Legend Has It‘ by Run the Jewels has a nice, pleasant, rounded boom to the bass on the HE100, but the Tape delivers bass in a way that’s felt.
Thankfully the ‘Low-Voltage Electrostatic Driver’ Tape operates without the need for a dedicated energiser. In fact, it’s a breeze to power and will get very loud (very quickly) on your smartphone – Run the Jewels became ‘too loud’ at around 60% on my Samsung S9+. Switching-over to the same track on the Chord Mojo, and the Tape’s bass response improved markedly in terms of control and layering. The Mojo also gave the Tape an overall richer and denser tone compared to the more thin, brittle sound from the Samsung.
The Tape sounded excellent from the Earstudio ES100, giving-up perhaps a whisker of bass texture compared to the Mojo. But the sheer convenience of the Es100 made it a far more usable portable proposition, and I found myself reaching for the Tape + Es100 combo most often for my commute.
Well, consider me pleasantly surprised by the Shuoer Tape. From Shuoer’s online marketing materials, the toy-like packaging/ accessories, goofy design, and of course – the $129 price tag – I certainly wasn’t expecting to experience the refined, detailed and powerful sound that they deliver. Shuoer might not have put their R&D budget into a luxury product experience in terms of accessories and overall presentation, but they have managed to strike gold in terms of sound quality – and as a result it hits way above its price-tag. So Shuoer must be doing something right – I hope to see more ‘Low-voltage electrostatic driver’ IEMs in the market in the future, as this one sounds bloody great.
So if this sound signature sounds like your cup of tea, make sure to find yourself some good-fitting tips, a decent after-market MMCX cable, some well-recorded source material, and you’ll have yourself a genuinely excellent daily driver, with some change back from $150.