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Old 20-05-2012, 09:17 PM   #1
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Heir Audio 8.A Review

Hi everyone,

Finally, it’s finally here. After months of deliberating (with very few reviews available to make a decision), i made the decision to take a leap of faith based on the few good reviews. So this was how it went,

On 16 April, did up impressions and sent out via singpost
On 19 April, received Heir Audio’s payment confirmation and receipt of impressions
On 14 May, my 8.A came in at night 9 plus, through UPS.




It’s going to be a lengthy read, so lets dive right into it.

Built Quality
Now anyone who owns a custom at some point, would likely and probably feel like this about it,
“Oh, it’s a very nice built, minimal or no bubble, smooth surface and light. Good/Great fit and seal.. etc.”

With the Heir 8.A, this is how I felt.
“VERY nice built, no bubble, VERY smooth surface and incredibly SOLID. Yes, emphasis on the last part.
It’s not “heavy” solid, but the kind of solid that strikes your senses the moment it’s in your hands.
It just screams QUALITY.”

Best example I can give is putting a Samsung Galaxy SII in one hand and an Apple iPhone 4S in the other.
Both are good built but the iPhone immediately triggers a solid and premium feeling in your hands.

The next part is the mould, which is literally the impressions we sent to Heir for the Wizard to work his magic.
We have the comfort fit and musician’s fit. The former was chosen since I’m not too crazy about having extra long pipes going in. Then again, even with the comfort fit, the mould does extend a bit more (about 4 mm further for the left ear, 2 mm for the right) than my current experience with JH13pro customs. This extension allows the sound to be brought closer to you, and more accurately. And thanks to Heir’s amazing work, the extension worked well without getting my ears all sensitive over it.

The part that probably bothered me was the “height” of the canals made. This part I would have to place the culprit solely on the impressions made. Why so, because with my JH13pro, the impressions were made with a bit block no thicker than my index finger, while the 8.A was based on biting two fingers together. In doing so, it likely opened the ear canals wider than the norm, so when the impressions were made, and the customs subsequently, the canal portions do feel more substantial than my JH13pro. It’s not as bad as it seems, just that the ears can feel it’s gripping around something, and the 8.As doesn’t disappear after wearing sometime. There’s no pain or discomfort, it’s just that you feel the customs are there. Am probably spoilt by the amazing fit I’ve had with my JH13pro, where it just disappears after a short while.

So for anyone making customs, I say go with a bite arrangement that is more aligned to your daily habits. Unless you talk, eat or do anything that frequently requires your mouth to be opened wider, probably just a finger’s width bit block is sufficient, subject to individual’s preference of course.

That said, make no mistake, the Heir 8.A fitting and seal is near perfect.

The other built aspect which I’ve not seen much or read elsewhere would be the 2-pin socket where the cables go in. This is one area that may be a hit or miss. Because comparing my JH13pro sockets and the 8.A sockets, the sockets on 8.A may be slightly bigger. I don’t have measuring instruments but exchanging my whiplash TWAGs (old and new) between customs revealed this portion. The pins on the newer TWAG cables are too thin to be held by the 8.A, while they fit adequately in the JH13pro. My older TWAG cables are tight on JH13pro and adequately fitting on the 8.A. Moving ahead, am left with only one choice of TWAG for the 8.A, unless I get another to try out. End of it, not sure if it’s a matter of inconsistent socket size or thinner cable pins. This could pose an issue for some, more than others.

Sound Quality
Before going into the sound quality, I need to qualify the equipment used for this.

WAV files -> iBasso DX100 -> O2 amp -> TWAG silver cables -> Heir Audio 8.A

The configuration up to the cables, is probably the best I have currently to ensure nothing extra is added into the sound that reaches the 8.A. Lossless files (best available source I have) + Sabre ES9018 DAC (best DAC in a portable at the moment) + transparent amp (It’s an O2 amp, nuff said) + well burn-in cables (over 600 hours, “seasoned” well).

Also, need to get this out of the way. I’ve swapped out the 8.A’s original cables for the TWAGs, also because of the more than warm nature, the DX100 and 8.A, have together. The overly warm combo, didn’t really suite my taste. It’s really a matter of preference for some, more for some, less for others. Other than that, it really shouldn’t affect what the 8.A can deliver.

So that said, we should get everything out of the 8.A as it is meant to give.

To start off, the 8.A sound signature.
North of neutral, it has sufficient warmth without sounding overly so. At first hearing, it may appear dark sounding but this is not the case, the tone and pitch of vocals, a good indicator on the signature.

For anyone who’s used to very aggressive, fast, bright and prominent trebles, the Heir 8.A, may not catch your attention at first try. But give it a while, and you’d notice the warm, lush and in some ways, very fun and musical presentation to the sound. The mid-range and its extra present bass (quite a bit actually) come across very well controlled. What really stands out is the 8.A’s ability to fuse all the different instruments and vocal, into one performance without giving up on excellent separation and soundstage. Everything comes together nicely and oh so smoothly in the process.

The 8.A mid-range is very engaging.
Reminds me of the kind of mid-range I’ve heard from Shure’s SRH-840, Audeze LCD2 rev2 and Beyerdynamic T1, it’s really that good. Instruments such as guitars, flutes, and vocals sound extra engaging, having a new found life in them. And this is without sacrificing clarity and details. Yes, all those details and still can sound musical and warm. This is worth mention as it is difficult to achieve details, clarity and warmth musicality in the same hardware.

The Heir 8.A vocals presents themselves a little more forward that my other CIEM, the JH13pro. Also, regarding vocals seemed to be recessed on some records, however, after running through over 20 + albums for this review, I can safely conclude any recessed nature are probably due to the recording itself is inherently recessed. And this also applies to the 8.A’s soundstage, some records (Paramore Final Riot) to show their range while less so for other rock tracks (some of Journey’s tracks). With the best (and recordings with proper sound staging applied) Instruments were literally playing left and right, and some near centre.

Referring to some of my wav files such as Taylor Swift’s Debut, tracks such as Tim McGraw, Teardrops on my Guitar, Outside, and practically the whole album just sounds great and fun. With the 8.A, Swift’s vocals got that extra smoothness and character that really makes her already great album, shine. Fearless and Speak Now albums, while not the best recordings, also received enhancements in the vocals, making them more enjoyable. Other wav files such as Alison Krauss, Essentials album and The Corrs’Forgiven, Not Forgotten album, showcase vocals, instruments and presentation, all come together strongly, the best qualities from 8.A are very evident here.

For records such as live concerts and classical, the added warmth may mask that quieter ambience and sense of space you get in live concert recordings. It is a small trade-off but still enjoyable nonetheless.


The 8.A Treble Play
I’m amazed at how Heir managed to balance the amount of treble and its extension that can be had. It’s not aggressive like the JH13pro or too bright that it becomes irritating, but it’s also not too little that you’ll be wanting more. On all records I’ve played, the treble comes across as just the right amount at the right time. Compliment the rest of the musical presentation effortlessly. Very balanced and natural, probably the most I’ve enjoyed in a while. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

The 8.A bass will definitely make you happy.
Quite a bit actually, and if you’re not a bass-head or like your bass on the lighter side, then perhaps Heir’s 6.A or Jerry Harvey’s JH13pro, will suite your taste more. On the 8.A, it brings out even the slightest of bass presence in recordings and makes those more apparent bass, sound fuller. Despite the slight “growl-like“ signature to the bass, the quantity and quality are all there. Definitely makes your records more “danceable” or at least, gets you toe tapping.

On records, the Pet Shop Boys, Discography album, track such as What have I done to deserve this, had both male and female vocals meld, overlap and flow in a very clear, yet complimenting way. Something I’ve not heard on any of my other gears, such as JH13pro, GM 8.35D and Sony MDR-7506. And then you have the bass complimenting all that. Nothing muddy, all sounds great together. Could be a nice display of how good is the 8.A’s 4-way crossover works. Also with Journey’s Greatest Hits, the album came alive with the 8.A. With the forward and lush presentation, vocals sounded full of emotion and capture the energy and feeling of being in a Journey concert.


Comparison with JH Audio JH13pro
Well, I love my JH13pro. I still do. And I think the synergy between the JH13pro and the iBasso DX100, is the better combo. Why? Because of the neutral nature of JH13pro, the atmospheric and natural ambience of recordings, especially live recordings are clearly heard and to some extent, felt. Something that is covered by the warmth of the 8.A. The JH13pro is still exciting and engaging to my ears, but next to the 8.A, it sounds thinner and not as smooth or fun. All the albums I’ve listened on my JH13pro are still just as enjoyable. The 8.A on the other hand, lets me have that extra Omph in my music, especially when I need a little pick me up after a rough day at work.

I love my JH13pro and I love the 8.A as much. Which is better, depends largely on what I’m listening to at the moment and the mood I’m in. Would I give any of them up? Nope. They both deserve a spot on my gear list, for what they can offer.

Conclusion
In my opinion, the Heir Audio 8.A is the perfect headphone replacement for those who are on the go, and wanting headphone quality sound and bass. It compromises little in the area that high-end headphones can offer. The warm, lush and smooth sound signature, coupled with the amazing coherent presentation, makes it a very easy choice on anyone’s list, looking for an excellent all-rounder earpiece.

The question should be, Would I still need to look for a headphone that offers all that headroom, bass and details, after having the 8.A? Was looking out for the Sennheiser HD650 or HD700 or Shure’s SRH1840. Not sure if it’s necessary after the 8.A.
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Old 20-05-2012, 09:38 PM   #2
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how would u compare it to hd650?
sound wise
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Old 20-05-2012, 09:58 PM   #3
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really nice write up. thanks bro!
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Old 20-05-2012, 10:04 PM   #4
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Nice review
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Old 20-05-2012, 10:23 PM   #5
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Nice review, I always like to read custom review... but never own them ...

The poison is surely building up slowly ... there is a reason why I haven't audition any custom
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Old 20-05-2012, 10:40 PM   #6
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how would u compare it to hd650?
sound wise
hi nekatrall,
the HD650 still has a more neutral tone and less smooth in the mid-range, compared to the Heir 8.A. the mid-range and smoothness can be improved to match with the proper amp. the HD650 is lighter on the bass and sub-bass un-amped as well but shares a bit of the musicality. that said, take nothing away from the HD650, since with the proper set-up, it scales significantly better than the 8.A.

Just based on pairing with a DAP on the go, the 8.A definitely one up over the HD650, for the out of box SQ and ease of carrying around.


really nice write up. thanks bro!
Nice review
Glad you guys liked it.


Nice review, I always like to read custom review... but never own them ...

The poison is surely building up slowly ... there is a reason why I haven't audition any custom
Dun keep poison in too long, else the day come and end up spending BIG on one purchase alone
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Old 21-05-2012, 12:13 AM   #7
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Nice and detailed review! Thumbs up!
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Old 21-05-2012, 12:15 AM   #8
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Great review kenz. Will have to wait for mine to return as I've sent it back for refitting. Regarding the impression taking, I'm crossing my fingers and hope that it would turn out fine as my mouth was open quite a bit more than what you mentioned. Will report back when they arrive and for now back to my trusty SE535 and HD650.

Thumps up to kenz.
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Old 21-05-2012, 12:21 AM   #9
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txs kenz
all in all non portable headphone and ciem are still 2 diff leagues
well i miss my iems still cos i commute more then staying at home to enjoy my headphones
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Old 27-05-2012, 01:55 AM   #10
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yep. non portable headphones are a whole other league, though the current generation of CIEMs are no slouch themselves.

Having auditioned the JH Audio, Unique Melody and owning the JH13pro and now Heir Audio's finest, 8.A, can say my preference goes to JH Audio and Heir Audio, for the quality production and excellent sound signature and presentation. Also, i feel that CIEMs biggest drawback against headphones are in the soundstage more than anything else.

If we take soundstage out of the equation, both my JH13pro and Heir 8.A, outperforms headphones in the under $1k category, other than their flagships (Beyer T1, Senn HD800, etc). And the gems like Senn HD650, will outperform these CIEMs with decent amps (and more decent price tags).

the challenge is really getting the combo that offers the best synergies across the chain. something even seasoned listeners grapple today.
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Old 27-05-2012, 02:03 AM   #11
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With the recent passing of the legendary Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, i went and pull out their album for a listen.

Maybe it was for the moment, but running the Bee Gees, Ultimate Collection, through the Heir 8.A and the iBasso DX100, brought a smile to my face almost immediately. Somehow, hearing the Bee Gees with this set up, reminded me of the many years ago, when i heard the Bee Gees for the very first time. It was magical, really a "money can't buy this feeling" experience. This never happened in the years i've listened to them on my JH13pro.
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Old 27-05-2012, 06:56 AM   #12
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hehe jh13 lack the fun in the bass dept
btw how much did u spend on the 8a?
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Old 27-05-2012, 10:05 AM   #13
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yep. non portable headphones are a whole other league, though the current generation of CIEMs are no slouch themselves.

Having auditioned the JH Audio, Unique Melody and owning the JH13pro and now Heir Audio's finest, 8.A, can say my preference goes to JH Audio and Heir Audio, for the quality production and excellent sound signature and presentation. Also, i feel that CIEMs biggest drawback against headphones are in the soundstage more than anything else.

If we take soundstage out of the equation, both my JH13pro and Heir 8.A, outperforms headphones in the under $1k category, other than their flagships (Beyer T1, Senn HD800, etc). And the gems like Senn HD650, will outperform these CIEMs with decent amps (and more decent price tags).

the challenge is really getting the combo that offers the best synergies across the chain. something even seasoned listeners grapple today.
i'm pretty curious when you say outperform here. in this context, what does outperform mean here?
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Old 27-05-2012, 03:20 PM   #14
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hehe jh13 lack the fun in the bass dept
btw how much did u spend on the 8a?
Rounding them off,
Heir 8.A ($1,450) + Impressions + Singpost ($80) + GST ($115) = SGD$1,645.

Still cheaper than the JH13pro which was about SGD$1.8k.


i'm pretty curious when you say outperform here. in this context, what does outperform mean here?
Understand this part is subjective. For me, mentioning outperform, is really how well and how much the phones deliver in an apple for apple comparison.

JH13pro and Heir 8.A without amp / with amp, versus headphones without / with amp.

Take the phones as they are unamped, how does your music get represented? For me, the JH13pro and 8.A CIEMs, out of the box, delivers say 75% accuracy and presentation in the music and vocals as they were intended. For headphones, delivery goes anywhere from 55% to 75%, depending on which headphone is tried.

Throw in a decent DAC and AMP, and both scale up to a certain degree. Some more than others. But some headphones such as GM 8.35D, Sony MDR7506 and ATH-ES10, their scaling up reduces significantly, regardless the amp or DAC added to the equation. For exceptional headphones such as Senn HD600 and HD650 especially, they just seem to keep getting better with better amp n DAC, thrown at it. The JH13pro and 8.A, behaves similar to HD600 and HD650. Both just gets better with better add-on equipment, but for soundstage, the HD600/650, still surpass the CIEMs.

On accuracy, how close the music and vocals are reproduced. Some like it tuned or "colored" in a specific way, some like myself prefer unaltered and as close to original reproduction. This is different from "warm" or "dark" sounding.
JH13 pro is accurate and neutral, it doesn't add anything extra to the original sound of the recording.
Heir 8.A is accurate and warm, delivers about 95% accuracy of JH13pro but a more engaging and fun sound, without altering how the original sound is like. In this area, i do feel the JH13pro and 8.A, does it better than the HD600/HD650. The later has a more colored sound. Although this colored sound does reduces fatigue over long hours of listening, it's still "altered" over the original sound.

Some headphones do present accurately (ie. Beyer T1, T5p, T70, T70p) just as well but only after adding dac and amps, to bring out the best from those headphones.

Then again, by virtue of price (as biased as it may sound), the JH13pro and 8.A CIEMs should deliver better performance over most headphones, with exception of soundstage since it is the main strength headphones have over CIEMs.

Hope this helps.
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Old 27-05-2012, 04:36 PM   #15
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Rounding them off,
Heir 8.A ($1,450) + Impressions + Singpost ($80) + GST ($115) = SGD$1,645.

Still cheaper than the JH13pro which was about SGD$1.8k.




Understand this part is subjective. For me, mentioning outperform, is really how well and how much the phones deliver in an apple for apple comparison.

JH13pro and Heir 8.A without amp / with amp, versus headphones without / with amp.

Take the phones as they are unamped, how does your music get represented? For me, the JH13pro and 8.A CIEMs, out of the box, delivers say 75% accuracy and presentation in the music and vocals as they were intended. For headphones, delivery goes anywhere from 55% to 75%, depending on which headphone is tried.

Throw in a decent DAC and AMP, and both scale up to a certain degree. Some more than others. But some headphones such as GM 8.35D, Sony MDR7506 and ATH-ES10, their scaling up reduces significantly, regardless the amp or DAC added to the equation. For exceptional headphones such as Senn HD600 and HD650 especially, they just seem to keep getting better with better amp n DAC, thrown at it. The JH13pro and 8.A, behaves similar to HD600 and HD650. Both just gets better with better add-on equipment, but for soundstage, the HD600/650, still surpass the CIEMs.

On accuracy, how close the music and vocals are reproduced. Some like it tuned or "colored" in a specific way, some like myself prefer unaltered and as close to original reproduction. This is different from "warm" or "dark" sounding.
JH13 pro is accurate and neutral, it doesn't add anything extra to the original sound of the recording.
Heir 8.A is accurate and warm, delivers about 95% accuracy of JH13pro but a more engaging and fun sound, without altering how the original sound is like. In this area, i do feel the JH13pro and 8.A, does it better than the HD600/HD650. The later has a more colored sound. Although this colored sound does reduces fatigue over long hours of listening, it's still "altered" over the original sound.

Some headphones do present accurately (ie. Beyer T1, T5p, T70, T70p) just as well but only after adding dac and amps, to bring out the best from those headphones.

Then again, by virtue of price (as biased as it may sound), the JH13pro and 8.A CIEMs should deliver better performance over most headphones, with exception of soundstage since it is the main strength headphones have over CIEMs.

Hope this helps.
i see.. thanks for the detailed explanation. i'm trying to veer towards a ground where neutrality is. not that i enjoy neutral sounding headphones but it could be a place to start. to know the kind of sound i prefer.

in this case it's probably the JH13 or 6.A. the reviews of the 8.A have been really good and my ears are dying to hear them but unfortunately i might get HD25-1 ii > 8.A. i'm comparing price:performance ratio here.

nonetheless, i'll lay my hands on the 8.A one day, some day.
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