Anew is a relatively recent newcomer to the Chinese IEM scene. Until recently, they had only released a single model, the U1 which received a lot of praise among the community. In this review, I’m looking at their newest earphone the Anew X-One.
The X-One has 5 drivers per side (1DD + 4BA) plus a unique tuning system that utilizes interchangeable modules which allow you to adjust the tuning to suit your own preferences. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first but I can confidently say that this system and the earphones themselves have some serious merit. Let’s take a closer look.
Disclaimer:This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Tuning modules for sound customization
High-quality detachable cable
Instrument separation and soundstage
Detail, resolution and tonality
Shells are rather heavy
Package and Accessories
The Anew X-One comes in a fairly substantial white box with a white cardboard sleeve. On the front of the sleeve is an image of the earphone and the tuning modules and on the back is a list of specifications.
Inside the box is a hard carrying case seated in a white foam insert. The earphones and accessories are all located inside the carrying case. Here’s what you get in the box:
Anew X-One earphones
Detachable MMCX high-purity SPC cable
3 pairs of tuning modules
Tool for changing modules
Fabric carrying pouch
Plastic weather-sealed carrying case
4 pairs of silicone eartips
User manual/warranty card
Right off the bat, you’ll notice the X-One’s aluminium alloy shells feel really substantial in the hand. These feel a bit heavier than your average IEM, similar to the Shanling ME500 Platinum but I kinda like it that way.
The shells adopt the common pseudo-custom shape and have a smooth white finish. On top of each earpiece is a small vent with a mesh cover. You can see the attention to detail in the design here as each vent is colour-coded (blue for left and red for right).
On the centre of the faceplates is where you’ll find the tuning components. These components have an aluminium face with the Anew logo on the outside. On the other side are 8 pins which alter the crossover frequency and produce the different tuning configurations.
The components are really nicely implemented too: they click into place easily and feel very secure. I never felt any concern about them coming loose and being lost. Overall, the build quality is great and the X-One feels very durable.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
For my ears, the Anew X-One is very comfortable. The heavier shells have a habit of moving a bit in your ears so it’s really important to find the right eartips to get a secure fit. Having said that, with the right tips in place I can comfortably wear these earphones all day long.
Noise isolation is good and these shells block out a good amount of external noise making them great for commuting and other noisy environments.
The included cable is a braided silver-plated copper type and it’s gorgeous. It’s has a nice girth which makes it look and feel premium. Handling is excellent and there is no significant microphonics.
At the top of the cable are curved and colour-coded transparent plastic MMCX connector housings. The heat-shrink pre-formed ear guides are very subtle and work really well. Further down is a cylindrical aluminium Y-split with a matching aluminium chin slider.
The cable terminates in a straight aluminium 3.5mm jack with the Anew logo on one side. This is a really great cable and feels suitably premium for an IEM at this price point.
Gear used for testing includes the Sony NW ZX-300 and Shanling M5s as portable sources. In addition, I tested with my iPhone and the YLM portable Bluetooth amplifier review of that device coming soon). On the desktop, I plugged the X-One into the excellent Yulong Canary II DAC and fed it delicious FLAC files.
The general signature of the Anew X-One is mildly U-shaped with a fairly even tonal balance. There is a slight emphasis on the sub-bass and upper treble which gives it a wide, dynamic sound. It has excellent clarity and resolution wrapped in a musical package giving you the best of both worlds. Outstanding features of the X-One’s sound are its end to end extension, expansive soundstage and natural tone.
Of course, one of the most interesting features of the X-One is its unique tuning modules. These manipulate the crossover frequencies and each has its own unique twist on the default tuning. Like many earphone tuning systems, the changes made by the various modules are fairly minimal and only slightly tweak the default tuning. In fact, the difference between the black and blue modules is almost imperceptible, making the red module the most unique-sounding.
While I enjoyed all 3 modules, I kept going back to the red one because it sounded the most natural to me. It is slightly more relaxed in the presence region (4-6kHz) which can be a little fatiguing for me personally.
X-One’s bass is rich, full-bodied and ready to rock. It has a medium attack and decay speed which gives it a solid, weighted impact but one that is still well-controlled. It’s not the most textured bass, instead opting for a natural smoothness over absolute speed.
With proper amplification, the X-One can give your skull a pounding in a truly satisfying manner. Hooked up to the Yin Lv Mei B2 amplifier, the deep, rumbling notes of Bersarin Quartet’s “Oktober” left me with a grin on my face.
There’s a surprising amount of detail in the midrange, thanks largely to the deft treble tuning. The midrange is rendered with excellent clarity and body being just slightly on the leaner side for increased resolution.
Vocals have good articulation and note size. This carries over to acoustic guitars as well which sound clean and textured. In Oh Hiroshima’s “Simulacra”, the electric guitars have a good amount of crunch and clarity. They sound nice and clean on the X-One but still gritty enough. This effect is heightened by the above average soundstage and airiness that creates layers in the midrange.
The X-One has a lively, airy and detailed treble. It’s a very detailed treble but one that doesn’t have any sibilance. While it is precise, it also has a sweetness to it that makes it non-fatiguing to listen to. The extension is excellent, giving the overall sound an openness and transparency.
It’s here (particularly 7-8kHz) that gives the mids get their clarity and detail. The X-One treble cuts through the bass notes without being too bright and strikes a perfect balance with the weighted low end. This light and detailed treble is showcased nicely in the percussion in Fourplay’s “Silverado” which sounds clean and crisp on the X-One.
The soundstage is an area where the Anew X-One really shines. It has above average dimensions, outstanding depth and layering. Excellent instrument separation means there’s plenty of clean air between stage elements, painting a holographic 3D image. Sounds often reach outside of the headspace but at the same time, the X-One maintains excellent note density. Imaging is precise, giving you pinpoint cues to instrument and sound positions within the space created.
Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition ($289)
The Shanling ME500 PE (review HERE) is a hybrid triple-driver IEM with 1 dyanamic driver and 2 balanced armature drivers. It also has great end to end extension like the X-One, reaching deep into the sub-bass and trailing off with airiness in the upper treble.
ME500 PE has slightly less sub-bass emphasis but has added bass texture and a faster decay. Mid-bass is punchier but has less overall impact than the X-One. ME500 PE’s midrange is more forward in comparison to the X-One but has less body in the lower mids. Vocals are more intimate on the ME500 PE but smoother on the X-One.
In the high frequencies, the ME500 PE treble is more forward and has extra definition. This gives it slightly more detail, in particular, micro-detail retrieval but at the same time, it has a brighter overall tonality. X-one has better treble extension with more air. Both IEMs have a larger than average soundstage with the X-One being slightly stronger in imaging.
DUNU DK-2001 ($299)
The DUNU DK-2001 (review HERE) is a quad-driver IEM with 1 dynamic and 3 balanced armature drivers. It has less sub-bass emphasis but a snappier mid-bass punch compared to the X-One. DK-2001 bass attack and decay is faster with less impact.
DK-2001 lower midrange has more body and fullness while X-One has more fullness in its bass. The DUNU’s mids are more forward, especially around the upper mids from 2-3kHz. This brings vocals, particularly female vocals to the forefront and gives them extra bite.
The treble is less pronounced due to the forwardness of the mids and more diffuse than the X-One. The X-One has better treble extension making it airier enhancing soundstage dimensions, which are larger than the DK-2001’s.
The Anew X-One turned out to be a real surprise. It’s built like a tank and has a unique tuning system that lets you change the default tuning. Regardless of which module you choose, the X-One will sound great, making it even more appealing.
Despite there being some serious contenders around the same price, I feel that the X-One can confidently take its place among the best in this category. If you like the idea of customized tuning, solid bass, clear mids and great treble all wrapped in an exceptional soundstage then the Anew X-One deserves your attention.