Original Review: EXS X10 earphone in Review - 55 dolla make you holla
With all my bagging on Korean devices, I am surprised at how much the EXS X10 rocks my socks off. Actually, there is a lot more to go ‘wow’ about than just sound. This ~55$ earphone performs well and should handle bumps better than a lot of mid-tier upgrade earphones. While I won’t ask you to go out and abuse an EXS, I will suggest that if you are on a budget and looking for a great earphone, the X10 is pretty darn good.
Noise Isolation: 26 dB
Cable: 1,2 metres
Speaker: Siren type balanced armature
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
Fit and Package
EXS have done it right: pack in a nice carrying case and enough silicon and most customers will be giddy. Inside are 8 ear pieces and a faux felt carrying case which hides everything well with room to spare in nifty felt pockets. There are no extension chords or airline adapters, but I’m not worried.
The X10 is a wide-mouthed iem that can fill ear canals pretty quickly. Fortunately, both large ear canals and small should feel comfortable thanks to the great selection of tapered ear pieces. I feel most comfortable with the medium sized flanges which block out a lot of noise and slide right in. Each earphone is pretty light and thanks to a flexible outer arm and narrow body, is pretty easy to situate in the ear.
Build Quality and Cable
There is no reason to expect quality build from a semi-budget earphone, but EXS must have put something in my Cool-aid because, I am pleasantly surprised. Firstly, its main cable is similar to the semi-soft stuff found in old Sleek Audio earphones. Sure, it’s more robust, but it is largely free from the most horrid of touch noise and doesn’t bounce around too much. The upper portion resembles Sony’s EX series’ soft and malleable outer sleeve. That is the good news. The bad news is that this cable WILL crystallise and the upper portion may split apart. However, with careful treatment, it could last a long time.
While devoid of real strain reliefs, the plug portion is housed in a thick, pliable right-ish angle rubber sleeve which can take a good beating. If the cable is anchored well within, the plug should last a long time despite offering minimum protection against acute bending. Out of the earphone unit, the Sony-esque cable flows into the y-split without passing any external anchors nor neck cinch. The X10 is a gymnast; its earphone arms are flexible and reach ~1 cm at a right angle from the earphone. This portion isn’t a strain relief, but it holds the earphones securely for insertion and removal. Don’t expect it to take a lot of beating or to protect the cable, but it is a good design for the price.
The X10 is based on Siren balanced armature technology, first debuted in the s-Jays. Fans of those earphones know them as thick and fun sounding. For the most part, the same can be said of the X10. It is one of the most fun earphones I have heard in its price range. But of course there is a trade off: Upper frequency knockup. It isn’t bad, but as the frequency rises, so does this feeling that everything isn’t right. Not that that really matters – your money will be well-served with these somewhat harsh sounding earphones.
Enough with the overview, let’s get onto the music!
Since the X10 is a gritty earphone, I find it especially fun with rock, pop; in general, music with a dose of rebellion does great with the X10.
The Killers Hot FussLet’s get to the meat – the X10 is a pretty mature earphone for its price range – a scary place riddled with overblown bass and bloom. The X10’s low notes are pretty even keel and even the midrange stays within a stout framework. That said, low notes go low, steady and smooth. As frequencies start to rise, so too does the X10’s temperature.
This band do pop/rock better than most, but never forget what a bass guitar is for. Lots of gritty instruments and voices to muck up headphones.
Daftpunk – Alive 2007
Live, bassy, and lots of cheering – this album pumps that live feel better than a lot of big-venue show. Lots going on to confuse mud-friendly equipment. I missed the concert, fortunately, this live album rocks.
U2 – Rattle and Hum
Diverse and edgy, U2 refined their sketchy definition with this quizzical album. Blues and rock knock together in studio and live sections. Is a great album for the X10.
Madeleine Peyroux – Careless Love
Not as lungy as Diana Krall, Peyroux’s sometimes higher, sometimes throaty voice goes ‘live’ behind the X10 for a more intimate listening experience than regular earphones. The downside? It ain’t a live album!
The X10 is a shimmery, upward-peaking earphone with lots of energy. This abundance of upward energy isn’t bad, nor sibilant, but it’s not buttery smooth. Think brusque overtones, hard guitars, and edgy vocals. Anything in the upper mids to high trebles is affected. When it works, it works well, but when a genre doesn’t fit that presentation, the X10 can be harsh.
Vocals are fun. Instruments are fun, and so too are the deep places. The X10 does a decent job of separating things, especially low notes and instruments from vocals. But considering that this earphone is based on Siren technology, I expected a bit less treble prominence and more bass. What I got is a pretty flat low frequency range with smooth mids to follow. For the most part, the X10 is exemplary in its neutral approach from the living room to the basement. Bass guitars and computers are thick and rumble and for the most part, vocals are good; sometimes, they are enticing; but sometimes they are wane and shrill. In case you are wondering, extension is quite good.
Treble extension and detail are good, but there is this somewhat tinny sheen on everything. It isn’t s show stopper; hardly – the sheen livens things up. Rap, studio work, trance – it all sounds as if you were at the scene. Sounds good? It is and isn’t. If the ‘scene’ is a recording studio, it will sound like the club or a small venue concert. If it is a large show, it will be the hugest of concert halls
As long as you don’t always choose the tightest studio productions, the X10 is good. Its bass and midrange are impressively flat and smooth. And its presentation of spacial details is quite good with ample space. So far so good. But at times, treble borders on shrill and sucks a certain amount of richness from music.
The X10 is a definite upgrade to stock earphones and voices itself pretty well. It can be reasonably driven from most decent DAPs. As long as your DAP is an iPod touch 2G and ^, an iPhone 3G or greater, a Sansa Fuze or Clip, Sony 600-1000 series, it won’t suffer bass roll off, and there isn’t too much to be gained with a headphone amp. The X10 is a great earphone for naked listening and a pleasure to have around.
Out and About
Pretty good. The X10’s cable makes noise, but not an overt amount – it is nothing like Monster’s or Sennheiser’s CX series. Its length is great for pocket use, but may be too short for some purses. It can be worn over the ear for reduced microphonic noises, but the earphone arms might cause fit issues. The earphone is built pretty well, but I wouldn’t suggest it for running or working out; the cable eventually will harden and crack, or stretched from an inopportunely dropped dumbbell. At the end of the day, it fits nicely back in its protective case whose many pockets which would embarrass a Territorial Army operative. At least while getting ratted out by the TA, you could enjoy relative isolation from all the shouting; with the right fit, the X10 isolates pretty well, but don’t believe that 26 decibel bullocks. It is closer to 15-20 decibels at best.
EXS are one of the largest OEM earphone producers in the world. Chances are that some better-known companies just pay a subscription to paste their labels onto EXS’ handiwork. The X10 is a good enough product that it deserves to be copied. It is made well for its price, comes with an army of fit pieces and a great case. For 55$, it is pretty damn good. Chinks in EXS’s armour are burrowed completely in its sound which can at times be harsh. With the proviso that its highs can be shrill, the X10 is an upgrade to almost any pack-in earphone and a good number of ‘upgrade’ earphones.