New Kids On The Block: First Harmonic Kills It With Their First Pair of Earphones, The IEB6+MIC
First Harmonic is a new brand, started by acclaimed audio-engineers Aaron Fournier and Mike Tunney, the same individuals who brought us niche audio company Thinksound.
High-fidelity sound doesn’t have to mean a high price tag — Aaron Fournier
And I have to say, after coming from a year of using the Macaw GT100s, it certainly does not. The IEB6 is probably half the size of the GT100s, while still managing to sound almost as good, for a lower price. The IEB6 has a specially crafted 5.5mm driver. While this may initially turn some people off, it really shouldn’t if you are looking for accurate sound-especially for as little as $49. These earphones can also frequently be found on Amazon for $29.
The IEB6+MIC is a headphone that can compete with the more expensive metal headphones in terms of audio quality while keeping it small and comfortable for those who listen for long periods of time.
Sure, I take all marketing material sent out by companies with a grain of salt, but in this case, First Harmonic really wasn’t exaggerating by much. Not only are these earphones tiny but they provide substantially higher levels of clarity and overall instrumental separation than some of the competing earbuds of this price-range, and even edge-out earbuds that are $10-$20 more expensive. First Harmonic also includes many different sizes of rubber earbuds to maximize the chances of you finding the right fit.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review.
Now, into the meat and bones of it. How specifically do these earphones perform?
Highs are present, and importantly, not tinny, bright, or overblown. The harsh “s” sound that is common at this price range in vocals is completely absent, even at higher volumes.
Mids are, as with many earphones slightly recessed. In songs that are not particularity complex, such as Experience (acoustic) by Trapt and 45 by Shinedown, there is no distortion, and every instrument is present. Separation is good in these songs. However, the mids mildly muddle together in the very busy choruses.
Update: most of the mids have filled-out after a 75 hour burn-in period. They can still get muddied together, but do so very rarely.
Lows (not to be confused with bass) are not very accurate; the lack of which is generally my biggest complaint with earphones of this price range. No One Knows by Queens Of The Stone Age, Iodine by Icon For Hire, The Electric Dream by Mord Fustand, and Teenagers by My Chemical Romance felt a little surfacey and hollow.
Bass is, as one would expect from a 5.5mm driver, not jaw-breakingly powerful. However, it does come out well every once and a while, making a good showing in songs such as 4AM (Adam K & Soha Remix) by Kaskade, Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, 101 South by Two Fingers, Monster (DotEXE Remix) by Nightcore, and Lights (Bassnectar Remix) by Ellie Goulding.
Sound Isolation is very good, despite the lack of active noise cancellation. It completely blocks out the sound of my noisy mechanical keyboard, and even the angry cries of the individuals around me. A noisy cabin of an airplane should also not pose any issues, and I will update this review at a later date with the actual results of my test.
Sound Staging is decent. Not too good, and not bad. While it is reasonably wide, the stage is shallow, with almost no depth. This falls in line with what I would expect from a 5.5mm driver.
Sound Type: Flat, with mild upper-bias
Overall, no major problems for a $49 pair of earphones. If I had to be nit-picky, I would have preferred a slightly stronger bass presence, and would have recessed the highs by a very small amount. A general feeling that I get from the IEB6 is that the sound is raw. The guitars try to rip your face off, and the high-hats are their sidekicks, helping get the job done. While such a jagged and intense, sound signature may put some off, it has it’s own charm. Hard rock and dubstep are two genres which sound much better through these IEMs.
Update: I have received word that the highs on the IEB6+Mic need a burn-in time of around 72 hours to be fully developed. I will update this review with my findings after I have completed the recommended burn-in session.
Comfort is reasonable. Not terrible, but not outstanding either. The large number of earbuds is nice but they are mediocre, with no Comply eartips included. These earbuds irritate my ears after a while, even after trying on several different sizes. However, this only occurs on extended periods of listening, such as those that last longer than three hours.
Sadly, laying on my side was not possible while wearing these earphones. They pressed inwards and were generally uncomfortable.
Walking with the IEB6 was completely fine, with out any slippage what so ever. The annoying thud that can occur in earphone cables when walking is present, but very minor and hard to notice at medium to high volumes.
The IEB6 are exceptionally portable. The very thin profile of the drivers and their housing, combined with the thin, but not frail, wiring has made if very easy for me to just toss these in my pocket and not worry about them. Fear not skinny-jean wearers, the IEB6 will treat your pockets well. There is also an included carrying pouch if you are concerned with particulates or are in an otherwise unfriendly area for earphones, such as the beach.
These earphones appear to be very durable. If you drop them, they won’t incur much damage, as they are very light and constructed of aluminum. If you drop something on them, you should still be fine. Shoving them in your pocket or backpack, while something I never recommend for any pair of earphones, should not be too damaging for the IEB6 as they have a pretty good stress relief system in place.
There’s not much to say about the microphone here. It is compatible with both Android and IOS devices, and has a pause/play button. The sound quality of the microphone is passable, but don’t expect to be recording anything high definition on it.
These are some good earphones for $49. I would recommend them instantly. But for $29? They are an even better deal. I think that I would be hard pressed to find a similarly priced pair of earphones that would come anywhere near these in terms of audio and construction quality. Good job First Harmonic, these are earphones worth buying.
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