Shuoer Singer Review: A Reminder of How Far We've Come

Introduction: 


Within the last few years, there has been a glut of new Chinese IEM makers eager to have a piece of the budget pie. Unfortunately, early attempts at making good budget IEMs were not always met with great success. Brands such as KZ have become notorious for overly hyped but ultimately disappointing IEMs. This has led to a general perception of "ChiFi": cheap Chinese audio products that compromise sound quality for the price. 

In recent times, however, ChiFi has made a strong comeback against this sentiment. Starting with (or at least popularized by) the Tin Audio T2, new manufacturers have begun making well built (QC aside), competently tuned IEMs that have effectively decimated the budget market for Western IEMs. Just within the last 6 months, I've reviewed the KZ ZSX, BLON BL-03, Guideray Gr-I, TRN v90, Tin Audio T4, MoonDrop Starfield, and most recently, the WG T-one. For the price, the performance of these IEMs, each from a different company, range from being either simply good to truly great. 

One such new company is Shuoer, of the recent Shuoer Tape fame. Today, this review focuses on the Shuoer Singer, a new $75 IEM that features a DD and an electrostatic driver. Full disclaimer: I was sent the Shuoer Singer from Linsoul as a review unit in exchange for my honest opinions. 


The Singer:


As with the Tape, the Shuoer Singer utilizes an "electrostatic" driver in a hybrid set-up. The exact details of this electrostatic driver are not clear. I won't make any assumptions as to what the technology truly is but suffice it to say it is unlikely to be an electrostatic driver as seen in the Shure KSE series or the Stax headphones as it doesn't require a specialized energizer. 

The Singer uses a small bullet-shaped shell with white text on a blue body. The white text prints a short marketing paragraph that unfortunately sullies the otherwise handsome blue shell. Interestingly enough, the Singer comes with a 2-pin 2.5mm braided cable and a short 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter. Accessories wise, the Singer also comes with 2 sets of foam tips and 2 sets of standard silicons (S, M, L), a black carrying case, and 2 sets of tuning filters.

For this review, I used the silver-threaded tuning filters. I briefly tried the blue-threaded filters but found that they made the Singer sound significantly worse. The Singer becomes seemingly bassier, more bloated, and sounds more smeared out. Interestingly enough, they measure almost identically on a frequency response graph (courtesy of antdroid). My guess is that the tuning filter somehow affects the decay of the driver to turn the sound into a smeary mess. At any rate, I can't explain it via the FR graph so to quote WhatHiFi on why things sound different: "Because, dear readers, we can assure you they do."




Overall Sound Signature: 


The Shuoer Singer is lively with a thunderous bass response and a focus on vocal clarity. It has a boomy low end, a large recession in the mids, a peak for vocal forwardness, and another steep recession in the treble. It's like the tuning of a night club. For some songs, this tuning seems to work decently well, especially on slow, ballad-like songs. 


Bass:

The Shuoer Singer is very bassy. It has a visceral feeling of sheer quantity. It rumbles and slams at every turn and feels quite lively overall. In general, the bass is boomy when it comes to the kick and toms of the drums. During busy sections, this boominess can obscure the bass guitar as it gets lost in between the drums. In the same vein, the drums sometimes mask themselves as they bleed into one another due to a lack of note definition. Surprisingly, timbre in the low end remains fairly realistic even if it is boomy. Despite the significant amount of bass in the Singer, it doesn't actually sound like pure mud. The DD driver feels strangely quick even through the boominess.


Mids:

With the amount of bass in the Singer, the bass obviously bleeds into the mids. The majority of instruments become colored by the large elevation in the lower mids, taking on a much warmer tint to them. The more subtle nuances of a lot of instruments are lost behind the thundering drums. You can hear other instruments on top of the drums but they are without any tonal complexity. There is a large dip in the middle of the mid-range causing instruments that rely on harmonics in that range to become recessed. That said, the Singer does do vocals fairly well. The Singer compensates for the large bass bleed into the lower mids through a significant amount of energy in the 3-4kHz region to force vocal clarity through. The result is that vocals sound slightly warm while not being too forward. It's a roundabout way of resolving the hole Shuoer dug for themselves, but it seems to work well enough here. The combination of the Singer's lower mids that mask many different instruments' tone and the upper mids boost makes many instruments sound shallow. Notes feel superficially played. The best example is the acoustic guitar where, during busy songs, I don't hear the richness of the guitar's body but only the upper harmonics of the strummed strings.



Treble:

After giving everything it's got for the bass on the vocals, the Singer seems to give up here. While the Singer is not a dark IEM, treble is quite recessed with a steep decline following the upper mids. The hugely boosted 4kHz region bleeds partially into the lower treble and gives a bit of energy here. But otherwise, the treble is quite dead. Hats and cymbals sound cheap and one-dimensional on the attack. They completely give up on the shimmer and splash. Chime-like instruments feel lazy without brilliance. I expected the treble to be where the electrostatic driver makes its appearance but perhaps that was sacrificed for the vocals instead. At least there's no sibilance, harshness, nor peakiness.


Soundstage and Imaging:

In terms of soundstage, the width is about average for IEMs but there is a bit of height and depth added. Imaging is vague but it does use up the given soundstage to give a sense of instrument placement beyond the standard left, right, center.


Resolution and Separation:

Resolution is competitive for its price point with modern standards. Nothing outstanding but nothing to complain about. Separation is less than ideal as the lower mids mask a lot of note definition.


Should you buy it?:

No, not really. At $75, the Singer is in a highly competitive market spot. The Singer doesn't do much in terms of technical ability to exalt itself against similarly priced or cheaper IEMs. Instead, it offers distinct vocals against a booming bassy backdrop that isn't completely muddy. If that's exactly what you're looking for, the Singer might be the ticket. Otherwise, I don't think the Singer has the sound quality to be competitive. Ironically, many of the new ChiFi IEMs that have come out recently or are coming out are quite competently tuned with much more balance than the Singer. To me, the Singer acts as a contrast that reminds us how far we've come in ChiFi sound quality. While earlier ChiFi "tuning" was synonymous with bass bloated messes and peaky treble, the Singer improves upon this formula by suppressing the treble, forcing vocals forward, and managing to prevent a fully muddied low end. While I didn't hate the Singer and actually came to somewhat enjoy its tuning over time, I cannot seriously recommend it.

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