The iBasso IT01s is the latest product to come from the company as it continues to build its reputation for producing top quality DAPs (Digital Audio Players) and IEMs (In-Ear Monitors). The IT01s has a single Diamond Like Coating (DLC), carbon nanotube diaphragm and high Tesla magnetic flux.
Don’t know what all that means? Nevermind, because all you have to do is put them in your ears and enjoy the music. Let me give you the low down on why this is the latest earphone to be given a place on our best IEMs list.
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.
Package and Accessories
Unboxing the IT01s starts with an icy blue-coloured sleeve. The sleeve has a kind of metallic pattern on it and is mostly bare except for the brand logo, model name and brief description on the front.
On the back are some of the features and the specifications listed in multiple languages, but you’ll need pretty good eyesight to read the small text there. The box under the sleeve is dark blue in colour and is bare apart from an embossed brand logo on the top.
When you open the magnetic flap you find the excellent metal carrying case, along with the monitors seated in a black foam insert. On the underside of the lid, there is a small envelope containing a quick start guide and warranty card.
Inside the case is the cable and sitting underneath it are a truckload of eartips. Let’s check the list of contents:
iBasso IT01s in-ear monitors
Detachable MMCX cable with 2.5mm female to 3.5mm male adapter
Metal carrying case
2 additional screw-in filters
8 additional rubber O rings
2 pairs of foam eartips (S, M)
10 pairs of silicone eartips
Now that’s what I call a well-rounded bundle. I love the metal carrying case (same as the one that came with the LZ A5 by the way) but what I got most excited about was the fact that there were actually eartips large enough for my ears. Thank you iBasso!
Build Quality and Design
The IT01s housings are made from a lightweight plastic with a glossy, reflective finish. The faceplates are plain except for the model number and brand on the side which are difficult to see unless you look closely.
On the inner side of the shells, there is a left or right marking at the base of the nozzle. Here is where you’ll also find two small vents; one next to the dynamic driver and the other near the base of the nozzle.
Speaking of the nozzles, these ones are a but unusual. First of all, they’re made of 304 Austenitic stainless steel which is non-magnetic so as not to interfere with the Tesla driver magnets. Secondly, the nozzle screens are removable so they can be easily cleaned or even replaced.
The driver has a “DLC” or Diamond Like Coating which promises benefits such as better transient response and improved treble range. By the way, the IT01s’ carbon nano-tube dome diaphragm is supposedly the thinnest in the world and this means it can be driven very easily with modest power requirements.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
With its deceptively simple housing design, the IT01s is an extremely comfortable IEM. Weighing just 8g without the cable the lightweight housings disappear in your ears and you’ll barely notice they’re there at all. I can easily wear these earphone for hours at a time.
Noise isolation is average for this type of earpiece, which is the same as saying it’s pretty good. It’s not outstanding as the housing material is quite thin but it’s still good nonetheless. Noise leak is minimal so you shouldn’t need to be concerned with disturbing others with your music.
Gear used for testing includes the Soundaware M2Pro or my Android phone with the Earstudio ES100 for use on the go. On the desktop, I played music from my PC using MusicBee and fed FLAC files to the FiiO K3 desktop DAC/Amp.
The iBasso IT01s has a nimble, balanced sound signature with very accurate timbre. It has excellent detail retrieval without needing to resort to any cheap treble boosting tricks. Having a single dynamic driver helps make the sound very cohesive and organic.
This has some of the tastiest bass I’ve heard in this price range. It’s agile, punchy and carries significant weight without sounding exaggerated or disproportionate relative to the midrange and treble.
Bass notes are loaded with texture; some aspects of it are like a balanced armature bass because of the fast transient response and nimbleness. At the same time though, it has that natural, earthy authority that dynamic drivers do so well.
The midrange have a neutral tuning with enough body to sound musical and rich. Note thickness and timbre are very accurate and the speed of the DLC driver enable it to maintain excellent resolution.
There is great clarity and vocal articulation. Male and female vocals are equally represented and both sound fantastic. It’s the natural tonality that is one of my favourite aspects of the IT01s’ midrange; in songs like Loreena McKennitt’s “Between The Shadows” this IEM reproduces the acoustic and string instruments with confidence and realism.
iBasso’s claims regarding the improved treble range must be true because to my ears, the IT01s has as good a treble as anything I’ve heard from a mid-tier IEM.
It has a fantastic extension and the note density is on point. High-hat and cymbal sheen is brilliant, as is the overall tonality. The treble sparkles and shines without ever becoming strident or harsh. For my personal preference at least, this is pretty much what I would consider an ideal treble.
The IT01s presents a fairly expansive soundstage with above average width and depth. It has very good resolution and layering – maybe not quite as good as some similarly priced hybrids or multi-driver units but it sounds more cohesive and natural as a result. Imaging is strong and it’s easy to pick out the position of various instruments and sounds within the stage space.
Advanced GT3 ($199)
The Advanced GT3 (review here) is undoubtedly brighter and edgier in the treble with frequent sibilance, particularly at higher volume. If there is another IEM in this price range that can compete with the IT01s’ bass it would be the GT3. Both of these IEMs share a similar amount of mid-bass but the GT3 has a shade more sub-bass.
The GT3 also has neutral midrange but the IT01s has more vibrancy in the upper mids, while the GT3 starts to get dominated by its sizzling treble. Treble on the GT3 is its weakest point and although it adds great clarity and detail it becomes quite fatiguing very quickly. Soundstage is wider and more stable on the IT01s.
Hifi Boy OS V3 ($159)
The OS V3 (review here) has a warmer tonality with added note thickness. It has a more pronounced bass and the sub-bass rumbles more readily. While it does have good bass texture, the OS V3 has a slower decay which adds to the overall warmth of the sound.
In the midrange, the OS V3 has thicker notes and added colour compared to the more neutral tuning of the IT01s. While the OS V3 mids are quite forward, they’re competing with a more enhanced bass, which makes the IT01s midrange stand out more in comparison.
The iBasso IT01s has an additional lower treble peak at 5kHz which increases vocal presence but the two IEMs are similarly matched in the upper treble. Because the OS V3 has more bass and forward midrange, its treble feels more laid back. The OS V3 has a little extra stage depth while the IT01s is more expansive overall.
Brainwavz B400 ($199)
B400 (review here) has a less expansive soundstage but it has excellent stability and well-defined boundaries. The imaging and layering of the B400 are simply outstanding and its sound is tuned more for pleasure than accuracy. It has better instrument separation but the tonal balance of the IT01s is more natural.
Being an all BA (balanced armature) earphone, the B400 doesn’t have the authority or extension in its sub-bass but it does have a punchy and forward mid and upper bass that carries over well into the lower midrange.
It is also more coloured and warmer in the midrange and is lusher compared to the IT01s’ tonally accurate sound. The B400 is more forgiving and laid back in general. Both have similar treble qualities but the B400 treble is pushed farther back and more relaxed.
Based on the praise received for the company’s previous products I was expecting the iBasso IT01s to be a solid earphone. It turned out to be better than I had anticipated. The balanced signature, technical proficiency and comfort all add up to make this a great product.
This proves once again that single dynamic drivers can still hang with the best earphones on a performance level. In fact, this is the third 1DD IEM to join our Best Universal IEMs list. If you’re looking for something around the $200 mark, this one should definitely be on your short list.