Shozy Form 1.1 IEM Review




Before I get straight into this review, I would like to just point out that I’ve tried a few Shozy earphones in the past and I’ve yet to even come out of those experiences even lukewarm excited about them. Nothing I’ve tried has impressed me. Their last set that I had some significant time on and reviewed was the Shozy V33, which I really, really did not understand it’s tuning, nor did I think it was technically capable.

So, when Lillian, from Linsoul, reached out and asked if I was interested in trying the newest Shozy In-Ear, I was skeptical and not totally convinced. She sent me a link to a new page her team was making for the Shozy with the information regarding the new IEM, called Form 1.1, and it started to look a little more promising. The IEM is a dual-driver hybrid, and features a balanced armature to handle the mids and treble and also a dynamic driver to handle the bass and lower mids. What makes this IEM a little more unique is that this dynamic is a driver coated with a thin layer of beryllium. This type of driver design is also the centerpiece of my recent ZMF Verité headphone acquisition, and one I am quite fond of.

Beryllium drivers have recently made some appearances in a few headphones and IEMs – namely the Focal Utopia, the French company’s flagship headphone, and the previously mentioned ZMF flagship. While the Utopia driver is fully beryllium-based, the Verité, like the Shozy Form 1.1, is a Be-coated PEN driver, which allows it to share many of the similar properties of the former – that is, great resolution, quick, agile speed, and dynamics at a lower cost.

Release Date & Pricing Info

At this point, my curiosity piqued. And a couple days later, the Shozy Form 1.1 package arrived at my door. Now, I had to keep the information regarding its launch date and price a secret, but I am now able to disclose that this product will be available on Friday, September 27th (2019) as a pre-order special on Drop.com for $59.99. This will be approximately $15 below the regular price of $75. This product will also be available on Linsoul.com but not at the special drop exclusive price.

As per usual, if you do not have a current Drop (Massdrop) account already, you can use this referral link to save $10 off your first order: https://www.massdrop.com/?referer=3XCGPL

Here's the direct link to the product: https://drop.com/buy/shozy-form-1-1-iem?referer=3XCGPL




The Package

Shozy’s Form 1.1 comes in a small box that opens up with a flip top. Inside the box is a polyurethane-coated zipper case that contains the Form 1.1 IEM, the cable and a series of tips. The cable included is very nice. I really like how it’s designed – it has a braided cloth covering the copper wires and each channel is braided over each other and reminds me of a miniature Paracord-style over-ear headphone cable. The 3.5mm connector and splitter have a mirrored chrome look with black carbon fabric pattern, and the 2-pin connectors are also chrome colored. The cable is very soft and useable and overall a very nice touch to this package.

The shell design itself is a small and lightweight resin shell that fits relatively comfortably into my ears. The default tips are an interesting silicone tip that feels like foam. I really thought they were pretty cool. I ended up using the largest one of these provided, while I normally wear small tips on most IEMs. Using the large ones, I did get some occasional pressure point pains, and switching to the medium tips were very comfortable, but the bass response was tamed noticeably when I wore those.

Sources & Stuff


I played the Shozy Form 1.1 through a few different sources for this review. My primary unit is the Hiby R5 audio player, as well as running it through the iBasso DX220 and my desktop RME ADI-2 DAC. The RME DAC has a built-in EQ which I’ll go over a little later in this review. All of these sources had an abundance of headroom to power the Form 1.1. It’s not as sensitive as some of my all-BA IEMs, but it doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of power like the Tin Hifi P1 did, for example.

Quick and Nimble Speed


Putting the Form 1.1 on, I was met with a surprisingly detailed, nimble and articulate sound immediately. I actually didn’t know how much they cost when I first tried them on. I only knew their product information and that they’d be under $99. Even at $99, the level of detail retrieval was impressive right away.

Listening a little more, I quickly realized that they had a few small shortcomings. One was that I felt the treble was a little too elevated and gave it a false sense of resolution. The second was that I felt the sound stage was a little narrower than I normally would prefer. I’ll address these two things a little more in a second.



The bass response on the Form 1.1 has a bump to it and it’s got sub-bass that is present and a punch to it that is weighty, feeling more like a ported-sub than a sealed-sub. What separates this IEM from others in this price class in this area is the quality of the bass response. The dynamic driver decays faster than most normal drivers do, and that projects a cleaner bass response that still sounds like a dynamic (and not a BA), which gives the bass response more detail, more texture, and more definition.

I don’t know if I’ve really experienced that in an IEM in this price, so that’s why I was pretty impressed quickly. The stock bass tuning is warm, and provides the midrange a nice rich sound. Vocals in the mid-range sound natural, but as we move up to the upper-mids and lower treble, the female vocal range does seem a little stretched at times. Guitar plucks sound extremely detailed for an IEM of this price point and even more so. Each pull of the string has a nice resonating quality to it that feels lively and real.

The brighter treble response adds some remnants of sibilance and edgy artifacts occasionally. This type of response in IEMs can vary from ear to ear and some may find it sensitive and others not. For me, I am, or at least have become more sensitive to it if it’s within a certain peak range (approximately 8kHz). This IEM peaks at around 7.3kHz, and that’s why sometimes I find the harsh peaks painful and sometimes I do not.

At worst, it’s a little ear jolt of spiky edginess. At best, it’s a little annoying and may cause some longer-term fatiguing listening. And that’s a little unfortunate for me, personally, as I find this IEM tuned pretty well outside this big peak in this 7-8kHz range.

This type of boost, however, does provide a little more detail to push forward, so recording quality and mastering can affect sound quality. I don’t typically like to judge a headphone by this, because I typically review a headphone as something that can be used in many situations, and if it can’t then I try to give my idea of where they work best and don’t work in. The Form 1.1 isn’t the best for poor recordings, at least with not some help from equalization (see below).

So back to my original thoughts: Tonality.

My first negative was that I thought the treble was a little overexaggerated, and I’ve tried to explain it a little bit already. And normally in a lot of IEM reviews, I don’t always bother going in-depth regarding equalizer usage. I’m not against it either. I have the RME ADI-2 DAC specifically so I can do hardware-based equalizer for a number of headphones at once. But for my review sets, I only tend to spend time on this topic if I feel like there’s a small deficiency in a capable headphone that has potential, and I feel like this one is in that category.

I took my IEC-711 coupler measurements and threw it into Room EQ Wizard and worked out a Parametric Equalizer (PEQ) setting that was close to my ideal frequency response curve and set up the RME ADI-2 DAC with this setting and turned on some music. For reference and for your possible enjoyment, my PEQ setting as of the time of writing this is:


Peak: 200 Hz Gain: -3.0dB Q-Factor: 0.5
Peak: 7.3 kHz Gain: -3.5dB Q-Factor: 5.0
Peak: 7.5 kHz Gain: -5.0dB Q-Factor: 2.0


With most songs, flipping the EQ on, helped reduce the brightness just a smidgen, and enough to tame the treble for longer term enjoyment. I played around with it until I found a good balance of keeping that treble sizzle contained but without losing the sparkle it creates.

Equalizer Predicted Frequency Response: Light Blue is the Filtered Response and Dark Blue is the Original Response

Not all songs behaved though. I still struggled with Elton John’s classic 1970’s music. Perhaps it’s the recording and mastering or it’s just Elton John’s vocals back then, but the Shozy Form 1.1 presented occasional sharpness in his music.

But not all was bad. In fact, for the most part, I found that with or even without the EQ settings, a lot of rock music and country music excelled in this IEM. Obviously for my preference, I found turning the EQ on and providing a more neutral bass response, while still maintaining elevated subbass, and reducing the treble peak at 7-8kHz improved my satisfaction with this IEM significantly.

The ability of the drivers to project very intricate qualities was impressive. I’m really surprised by what I heard. Obviously, this IEM does better with more laidback music and not something very treble-centric, and that’s why I find these working really well with organic rock and country music, jazz, and classical. I don’t find this does as well with some other genres, because it can be fatiguing.

Soundstage & Imaging

Now, back to the other negative – the soundstage. I found the Shozy had a narrow soundstage right away. I felt that music was being played well within my ears, and it was narrow like what I’d hear from an Etymotics IEM. Music had width to it, but trapped inside my head, and there was never a sense of depth or verticality. Psychoacoustics is a real thing for me, and I use certain songs, like Tool’s “The Pot” as a way to hear music coming from left and right, above and below, and in front or behind me. The introduction is enough to hear that type of imaging to me on my headphones, and even IEMs like my qdc Anole VX can separate the instruments into that type of 3D space within my mind. The Shozy Form 1.1 failed that test.

There’s definitely a sense of left and right panning, but not as wide and dynamic as I would expect and some small sense of forward sounds (or a phantom center channel) but not nearly as defined as some other IEMs. With my EQ activated, some of this sense actually started to come back. And to be clear, in the song “The Pot”, the faint echoes give me some forward and depth, while at around 16 seconds in, the drum beat starts to kick in and pans around each channel above and below you (on the VX and some of my headphones).

That’s not to say that the Form 1.1 is extremely narrow. It’s just not up to my normal listening standards. I didn’t find them as congested and closed-in as the recent Tin Hifi P1 planar IEM nor as the Shozy Hibiki IEM. Those were extremely narrow and everything just came at you all at once and imaging became a bit of a disaster to wade through. The Form 1.1 manages to separate instruments decently, but lacks a large space to put all of them in as some others would. Still, I don’t find this too problematic at all.



Comparisons




GuideRay GR-I


The GuideRay GR-I and the Shozy Form 1.1 share some similarities. They both measure similarly, however the Shozy Form 1.1 is noticeably elevated in the higher frequency band. This is definitely audible, as the GR-I was pushing the border of harshness for me, but rarely crossed it. With the Form 1.1, in it’s stock form, it did become harsh with some music and caused some fatiguing. That said, the Form 1.1’s resolution of detail was a marked jump from the GR-I, and it’s bass driver has a more noticeable rumble with defined layers, where the GR-I lacked this level of detail.



Tin Hifi P1


In a battle of two detail monsters, the Tin P1 Planar might edge out the Shozy in resolution, but only by slightly. I found the P1 to very extremely narrow and closed-in and this caused a lot of issues for me in terms of proper imaging and just a feeling of chaos in busy selections. Both have accentuated highs but the P1 felt more piercing than the Form 1.1 does. The Form 1.1 has a more elevated bass with a lot more punch, and those who felt the P1 lacked in this region should be happy with the Form 1.1’s bass performance, along with a similar level of resolution and speed.



Moondrop Kanas Pro


The Kanas Pro, like I’ve mentioned several times in the past, is one of my favorite IEMs of any price. The fit on it is still more comfortable to me than the Form 1.1. I also like the way it looks overall and it has a sensible sound signature that is clean and smooth. The Form 1.1 may actually out-resolve the Moondrop Kanas Pro in every area, but also is a little brighter and has bigger rumble and punchiness.


KZ ZSX


The KZ ZSX is a warm balanced tuning that lacks the definition that the Form 1.1 has. I find the ZSX to have more flabby bass response, but at the same time, the lower mid-range is warm and rich and the treble is tamed down and well controlled from harshness, which I can’t always say with the Form 1.1.



Conclusions/Wrap-Up


I came into the beginning of this process extremely skeptical I’d like a Shozy in-ear product, but have come out of this rather impressed. The Form 1.1’s new driver does it’s job and gives the bass and lower midrange a fast, punchy, and very good definition, that is unmatched in the In-Ears I’ve heard in this price point. I do advise that the treble is rather sharp and can be harsh and fatiguing, depending on each individual’s sensitivity and their preferences in music.

I was able to come out this review with a parametric equalizer setting that works well for my needs: taming the treble beast and putting it down to a level that I can handle, while still keeping the spicy sizzle of cymbal crashes, and airy sparkle present but controlled.  With this EQ, this becomes my favorite budget IEM I’ve heard and it can compete with much more pricey earphones that I’ve heard. Without the EQ, it’s still got a lot of promise to it, especially if you can handle more brightness than I can. The detail quality won me over on this one.




Shozy Product Info at Linsoul: https://www.linsoul.com/pages/shozy-form-1-1


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