PENON SPHERE IEM Review

 

 

 

 

 

PENON Sphere IEM Review

 

Introduction:

PENON is a Hong Kong based Chinese company that has is own portable Hi-Fi products like Cables, Adaptors, Earbuds, etc.

The PENON Sphere is the first In-Ear Monitor of the company and features a Single Balanced Armature Driver and has resin housing in a form of a semi-custom shell.

PENON Official Website: https://penon-official.com/

 

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank PENON for providing me the Sphere IEM for review purposes. I am not affiliated with PENON beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product.

 

Price:

The actual price for the PENON Sphere IEM is 169,00 USD and can be purchased under the following link.

 

Package and Accessories:

My review unit came with an early retrial package which means that the final packaging will be a bit different.

My sample came with the following items/accessories;

  • 1 pair x PENON Sphere In-Ear Monitors
  • 1 pcs x 2-Pin 0,78mm Detachable Cable
  • 3 pairs x White Silicone ear tips
  • 3 pairs x Black Silicone ear tips
  • 1 pcs x Black Zipper Case

 

 

Design, Build Quality & Comfort:

The Sphere has a minimalistic and is made according to PENON with the concept of simplicity is beauty. The semi-custom resin shell is pretty small in its size compared to many other In-Ear Monitors in the market.

This small form factor and semi custom shape makes the PENON Sphere to a very comfortable to wear IEM for long listening periods.

On the front of the monitor right monitor shell is the SPHERE logo and on the left monitor is the PENON logo in glossy blue color.

At the inner surface of the monitor shell is the slightly angled sound nozzle with a single bore on the top.

O the top of the shell is the 2-Pin female connector that offers a tight connection.

The overall build quality is fine while the isolation is on a sufficient level for the use in noise environments like bus, train, subway, etc.

The PENON Sphere IEM comes with a detachable cable that has 0,78mm diameter 2-Pin male connectors.

The cable has a braided design and is made of a 4 core cooper wire, which has a black PVC coating.

The 0.78mm 2-pin male connectors on the cable have plastic housings with left and right markings and there is a heat shrink ear guide on each side.

There cable sports a black metal Y splitter with and a transparent plastic chin slider.

The 3.5mm TRS (3 pole) headphone jack has an L angled profile which I always prefer over a straight profiled jack.

 

 

Technical Specifications:
  • Driver Type                : Balanced Armature
  • Freq. Response          : 20Hz-20000Hz
  • Impedance                 : 6Ω@1kHz
  • Sensitivity                   : 118dB/1mW
  • Passive N. reduction  : 26dB
  • Earphone interface    : 2Pin 0.78mm
  • Plug                            : 3.5mm
  • Cable Length              : 1.2M

 

Drivability:

The PENON Sphere offers a pretty low impedance of 6 ohm and sensitivity of 118dB, which makes it to an pretty easy to drive IEM with relative weak sources like Smartphone’s, Tablets and smaller sized DAP’s.

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • IEM’s                          : Penon Sphere, Final Audio B2, Campfire Audio Comet
  • DAP/DAC/AMP         : FiiO M11 PRO, iBAsso DX160, iBAsso DX220, xDuuo XD10

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
  • Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • No Doubt – Hella Gut (Spotify)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Photek – The Hidden Camera (Spotify)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kbps)

  

 

The Sound:

PENON Sphere has a close to V shaped sound signature with a slightly warmer than neutral tonality. The bass is warm and entertaining, while the midrange is musical and the treble is smooth.

 

Bass:

The subbass performance of the PENON Sphere in terms of depth and extension is pretty good for an IEM with a single balanced armature driver. It sounds warm and entertaining.

Although the subbass is not as soft as dynamic drivers, the amount and intensity is quite good and I was able hear/feel the deep and powerful bass in tracks like Lorde’s “Royals”, Massive Attack’s “Angel” and Armin Van Buuren’s “Vini Vici”.

The midbass region of the Sphere shows a warm tonality, entertaining character and is effective like the subbass region. It hits strong when it called upon and shows a good slam effect. Instruments from the cross drums to the trumpets, from the bass guitars to the contrabass have good impact and fullness, which offers the listener a pleasant and entertaining moments.

The PENON Sphere is quite impressive in terms of bass speed. The bass hits strong and hard from a point close to the ear, while the speed is above average which makes it successful with tracks that have complex and fast passages.

 

Midrange:

The midrange of the PENON Sphere is slightly recessed due to the V shaped sound signature. The general tonality is warmer than neutral, soft and pretty lush.

The lower midrange of the PENON Sphere is not as pronounced like the upper midrange and shows an average depth. Male vocals have a good level of transparency and clarity, while they are slightly less detailed and pronounced than female vocals. They are no negative situations like harshness, muddiness or mixings. Female vocals on the other hand are airy, musical, transparent and detailed due to the well pronounced upper midrange, especially for an IEM with a single full range balanced armature drive.

It is possible to hear emotions such as sadness, enthusiasm and softness in the vocals. The Female vocal performance of the PENON Sphere in terms of detail and extension above average and there are no remarkable negative conditions like sibilance or over-sharpness.

The upper midrange is more pronounced and shows better extension than the lower midrange. This makes female vocals more detailed, musical and transparent compared to male vocals, without to show any remarkable sibilance or harshness. The clarity and transparency level of female vocals is well above average.

The PENON Sphere shows a slightly warmer than neutral instrument tonality, which is lively and clean at the same time. The instruments are pretty natural in its presentation, not too thick or too thin. The pianos are a bit bright, pronounced and vibrant; a bit soft in the lower midrange and fairly emphasized and brighter towards the upper midrange.

Instruments like acoustic guitars are a bit warmish, fairly transparent and musical, which makes especially Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album very pleasant to listen to. Other Instruments like Violins a tad bright and soft without to be ear-pricing in moments of ascension.

 

Upper Midrange and Treble:

The PENON Sphere has a good upper midrange emphasis with a fairly transparent and close to neutral tonality. This tuning makes the Sphere to an airy and quite detailed IEM for its price range.

The Sphere shows a good performance in terms detail and control when instruments do play in higher distortions of upper midrange transitions. The upper midranges are in general controlled and smooth, without to show any remarkable harshness or over-brightness.

The PENON Sphere has a pronounced and linear lower treble character, with a slightly bright but musical tonality.

I didn’t have heard any negative situations like harshness and lose of control and the general performance in terms of extension, quantity and detail is on and good level.

The emphasis in the treble region is generally in the lower and middle treble region. The treble decreases towards the upper treble, while the airiness is on a sufficient level.

Instruments like hi-hats in Metal music are accented and it is possible to count the hits. Crash drums and ride cymbals are showing a quite controlled and fast extension. There are no mixings when the piano accelerating in Jazz music, the hits is clear and distinct.

 

Soundstage:

PENON Sphere is pretty successful in terms separation and positioning of instruments and vocals. The soundstage shows a good width and height, while the depth is on an average level.

 

 

Comparisons:

PENON Sphere versus Campfire Audio Comet:

The Campfire Audio Comet sounds warmer and softer compared to the PENON Sphere IEM.  The Comet has the upper hand for subbass and midbass quantity, while the Sphere is superior in terms of speed, control and tightness.  The PENON Sphere shows a better performance when it comes to midrange clarity and detail retrieval. The Comet sounds more emotional with male vocals, while the Sphere is more suitable for female vocals. The upper midrange of the PENON Sphere is stronger pronounced and the treble has better extension. The Comet sounds warmer, slightly rolled-off and softer in these regions. The soundstage of the PENON Sphere shows better width and level of airiness. The Comet has slightly better depth.

 

PENON Sphere versus Final Audio B2:

The PENON Sphere has a more neutral and brighter tonality compared to the Final Audio B2 that sounds warmer and softer. The subbass of the B2 has less depth compared to the Sphere IEM, while the B2 has more midbass intensity compared to the Sphere which is more linear in this area. The PENON Sphere is superior in terms of bass speed and control. The midrange of the Final Audio B2 sounds more emotional compared to the PENON Sphere that shows a higher level of clarity and vividness. The treble range of the Sphere is more pronounced and detailed than those of the B2 that sounds a bit muddy in this area. The soundstage of the PENON Sphere shows is superior in terms of width and airiness. The Final Audio B2 has a slightly advantage for soundstage depth.

 

Conclusion:

The PENON Sphere is a very good example that the number of Balanced Armature drivers is not always the key for a good sound performance; on the contrary the most important factor is the tuning. The Sphere sounds very mature and well rounded for an In-Ear Monitor with a Single BA at this price range and fits also perfectly to my ears with is relative small form factor.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Bass Speed, Control, Tightness
  • + Upper Midrange Detail & Clarity
  • + Treble extension and Control
  • + Perfect Fit
  • + Price to Performance Ratio
  • – The cable could be better

 

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