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A Brief Review of Thousand Sound TS853, Another Choice for a Hybrid Custom IEM: A Successor for the TS842

 

Introduction of Thousand Sound:

In case you have not heard of Thousand Sound (千音) before, a short introduction of them should be in order. 


They are a custom IEM manufacturer based in China.  Perhaps they might not be just as worldly known a manufacturer as are the others in Asia, say, Unique Melody and Rooth.  But their craftsmanship is absolutely no less impressive than those of the other competitors in the world.  So far my friends and I have ordered either re-shelled or custom IEMs several times over the last year, and they have never disappointed us in the least. 


Their product line includes the TS842, a dual driver hybrid custom IEM and the first hybrid custom IEM ever made.  When you google, there should come up some reviews of the TS842.  Although I have not yet tried one myself, the particular model seems to have received great feedbacks among some enthusiasts.  


They also have a unique re-shelling service.  They are one of the few custom IEM manufacturers who re-shell the Etymotic ER4.  



I have brief reviews of the re-shelled Etymotic ER4.  The reviews can be read at my blog here.  (For those who are not familiar with Japanese, my apologies that they are all in Japanese).


Returning to their newest hybrid custom IEM.  Back in the middle of May this year Thousand Sound (hereafter TS) first informed me that they were working on an upper-end hybrid model project.  As mentioned in the above, they already have their preceding hybrid model, TS842, which uses 2 drivers.  Later they told me that the model number for the current project is TS853.


About a month or so later TS emailed me that they were finally ready to take an order, and that the price is around $800 (Cable and shipping are NOT included.)  Then I immediately sent my ear impressions to them even before deciding the choice for the color of the shells.  The package of my ear impressions made it from Japan to TS in China in just 3 days.  Between the times of their receiving my ear impressions and of my receiving the TS853 it took about 5 weeks.



 



Accessories and the Cable: 

The TS853 comes in a plain small black clamshell and a cleaning tool.  Once again, the cable is not included unless you pay extra.  If you are expecting some cosmetically beautiful packaging, you will most likely not be as impressed with them as with other well-known brands.  As for myself, I could not care less about those beautiful packaging as long as the IEM is sufficiently packaged and protected against any damage.  Besides, once I open the packaging, I would just throw it away anyway.

 

Built Quality:

When it comes to the built quality, their acrylic customs are definitely awesome in terms of the look, no bubbles or defects.  





The finish of the shells is the top of the line.  So is the fit.  I have had no trouble whatsoever wearing them over really long periods of time.  Their IEMs are truly comfortable to an extent that I can easily fall asleep with them on my ears.  The seal or isolation is excellent as well.  The seal will stay intact even when I walk around.  Although I have not chosen clear shells myself this time, I have to say that the translucency or clarity of their clear shells are absolutely excellent.  If you choose their clear shells, you will not be regretted by your choice.  The only issue would be the variety of the colors for the shells.  Compared to other major custom IEM manufacturers, TS may not have just as many choices. 


Design – Pretty Unique Configuration of Drivers:

As the model number TS853 indicates, their 2nd hybrid custom IEM uses 5 drivers and, of course, one of them is a dynamic driver. It also comes with triple sound tubes, and a vent for the dynamic driver.  



At first, it appeared that there would be nothing particularly special or surprising about the configuration of the drivers, as there are already a couple of hybrid custom IEMs in the market.  But this appearance has turned out to be quite wrong.  The Thousand Sound TS853 has chosen a pretty unique configuration of the dynamic and balance armature drivers.


My early speculation was that since the TS853 uses 5 drivers as do the other 5 driver hybrid custom IEMs, TS would be using exactly the same configuration of the drivers as, say, Unique Melody Merlin: the Merlin uses 2 balanced armature drivers for each highs and mids, a single dynamic driver for lows.  Boy, I could not be more wrong.  What will make the TS853 the most unique unlike the rest lies exactly at the configuration of the drivers.  For each highs and mids, they use 1 balanced armature driver, which means that out of the 5 drivers, all the rest 3 are left for the lows, and this should be  particularly surprising, probably, to many of the IEM lovers.  For the lows, they have dedicated, not just 1 dynamic driver, but also 2 balanced armature drivers.  In a sense, you could say they have hybrided exclusively the bass range, instead of the whole range. 


As for the dynamic drivers, they have selected a 8mm driver, the same driver with the one used for the TS842.  As for the balanced armature drivers, TS has not given me any specific part number, but told me that they are the same with those used for the JH13.  Specs on the TS853 that I have at the moment are as follows:


Impedance : 15 Ohm

Sensitivity: 118db (1mw)

Crossover: 3 way

 

Sound:

There is something that you should know before reading any further.  Although I have used IEMs for some time, I am just as newbie as it gets in terms of judging sound quality, and my review may not be worth that much to you all.  Having said that, I will just go ahead and write my impression about the sound of the TS853.


I will start with the lows as it could well be considered by many as the most crucial aspect for any hybrid IEM.  Since the TS853 is the first and only hybrid IEM for me, and I have no other hybrid IEM to compare with, the chances are that my review is way off the point, but I would take a wild guess here.  The TS 853 probably does not have as massive or deep bass as you might very well expect from a hybrid IEM.  If your preference is for heavy bass, there will be better choices out there.  Instead, the TS853 delivers powerful yet well-controlled bass.  It seems to me that TS has targeted their newest IEM for those who prefer a more natural sound over a bass heavy sound.  If that is their target, they have done an excellent job indeed.


While bass is “well-controlled” for a hybrid IEM, the TS853 does obviously have plentiful bass when compared with most, if not all, of the BA only IEMs.  However plentiful the bass may be, it hardly sounds bloated to me.  Honestly, I had expected over-powerful, a bit less clear bass from it before listening.  Contrary to the expectation, the bass is not just plentiful, but at the same time pretty detailed and clean.  I have the Sennheiser IE8 upgraded to 3 drivers by Unique Melody.  



In comparison with the upgraded IE8, the TS853 exceeds the IE8 in both the bass amount and quality, which I suspect has been achieved thanks to the unique configuration of the drivers, a single dynamic and dual BA driver(s) for the lows. The dynamic driver delivers the plentiful and rich bass while the 2 BA drivers deliver and maintain the details of the bass. 


Moving on to the mids and treble, I have found it pretty surprising but very pleasing that the two ranges are not as much recessed as I thought beforehand.  In fact, the mids and treble are no less forward than the bass, leading to very clean and detailed presentation.  Compared to my Etymotic ER4, re-shelled by Thousand Sound, the treble of TS853 will probably go behind, but the difference looks slight to me.  



Every time I listened to female jazz vocals or the strings, the TS853 delivers almost as detailed treble and mids as does the re-shelled ER4.


The soundstage of the TS853 deserves special mentioning as well.  Since I am not a user of over-ear headphones, I have no idea if the TS853 can match them in terms of soundstage.  But the TS853 could very well have one of the  widest soundstages for IEMs, if not the only widest. Its soundstage is probably not as precise as can be, but definitely has a large distance between front and back, and particularly between right and left.

 

Conclusion:

As mentioned in the above, Thousand Sound has indeed done a truly great job with the TS853, just as they did before with their previous model, the TS842.  If you want to take off your shoes, sit back, relax, and enjoy music with well-controlled bass, the TS853 is absolutely worth the try.  If you really love heavy bass, it would be wise to look into other models.


There is one other thing that I would like to mention here.  There have already been in the market quite a few hybrid IEMs, including universal ones, which use a single dynamic drivers and one or more balanced armatures.  Among those hybrids out there, I believe that many of you will agree with me on this, the Unique Melody Merlin has been the foremost.  Recently, things seem to have begun to change as some other new models, the Rooth LS-X5, the Aurisonics AS-2, and the AKG K3003 have come into the picture.   


Things would probably be going to change somewhat more radically.  Thousand Sound has released their newest model, the TS853, and shown another venue for hybrid IEMs.  We now have 2 lines of hybrid IEMs.  One is “strong” hybrid IEMs as in UM Merlin with a single dynamic driver dedicated for the lows.  The other is somewhat “mild” hybrid IEMs as in TS853 with a single dynamic driver and some BA driver(s) for the lows.  I must say that I really love the TS853, their newest “mild” hybrid custom IEM.  


Before closing, I would like to remind you all that at the time when I wrote the review, which is August 2012, Thousand Sound has only made 2 pairs of TS853, one of which I have with me.  This is not a sure thing, but I suspect that they might make some adjustment to the TS853 in the future.  If that is the case, the review here may not be of great help when you decide to get one for yourself.  In any case, I hope that my review of the TS853 will be some help to somebody in some way.


I would like to thank Thousand Sound for the TS853, their latest hybrid model. 

 

 

 

 

 

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