iBasso Audio is a company known mostly for their highly regarded Digital Audio Players (DAPs) and in-ear monitors. Not too long ago they entered the headphone segment with their SR1 model. Recently they released an updated version aptly named the iBasso SR2. The SR2 has an open back design, bio-cellulose driver and Tesla magnetic flux technology. As interesting as that all sounds, we want to get down to how these perform, so let’s go.
Official website: http://ibasso.com/
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.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Extra set of earpads included
- Gorgeous, high-quality detachable cable
- Build quality
- Smooth, transparent sound
- Nothing of note
Package and Accessories
The iBasso SR2 comes in a super classy-looking glossy silver and grey box. On the front, there’s an image of the headphones and over on the back is another image, along with a list of specifications and a description of the headphones.
Inside is a smaller box containing some additional accessories and a lovely rigid carrying/storage case for the headphones. Here’s what you get in the box:
- iBasso SR2 headphones
- Detachable, braided 3.5mm cable
- 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
- 1 pair of additional earpads with larger perforation
- Storage case
- Quick-start guide/warranty card
Design, Build & Comfort
The SR2 headphones are built around a black spring steel frame with a suspended leather headband. They are fairly lightweight, coming in at 395 g (without Cable) but feel sturdy in the hands. Furthermore, there is no creaking or rattling noises while handling or wearing the headphones.
The headband is quite wide and has subtle branding embossed onto the top surface. On the underside of the headband is a suede-like material that spreads any pressure evenly on the top of your head. The yokes are a wide arch shape and attach to the frame via a swivel.
The earcups have a silver-coloured ring around a black mesh grill housing. It gives the headphones an understated yet modern and premium appearance. On the lower front of the outer ring of the earcups are the 3.5mm cable connector sockets. Attached to the earcups are the large, stout perforated earpads. The earpads are thick and delightfully soft. Even my largish ears fit easily without touching the sides or the driver covers.
Clamping force is fairly light and that plus the plushness of the earpads keeps any pressure on your ears to a minimum. Likewise, the wide headband distributes pressure evenly on top of your head. Overall, these are a very comfortable headphone with outstanding build quality.
The included cable is a 4-strand copper-silver alloy type with smooth transparent insulation. At the top are the 3.5mm connectors and I love the way iBasso has made them really short (about 1cm in length) and colour-coded. These connectors snap easily but firmly into place with a very satisfying click.
Further down is a small cylindrical aluminium Y-split and the cable terminates in a matching straight 3.5mm plug. The included 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter screws on seamlessly and completes the overall premium aesthetic.
In terms of handling, this cable performs beautifully. The braid is loose enough to make the cable very supple while still being meticulously uniform in appearance. It drapes gracefully making it easy to forget there’s a cable there at all. Moreover, this is one of the quietest headphone cables I’ve ever used and has practically zero microphonics.
Gear used for testing:
- PC -> Topping DX7 Pro (USB)
- iBasso DX120
- Soundaware M2Pro -> Earmen TR-Amp
Since this was my first time hearing a full-sized headphone from iBasso I had no idea what to expect. But as soon as I started listening, I heard similar qualities and characteristics of iBasso’s IEM house sound: and that is a good thing. Those attributes include a full-bodied bass, a slightly warm and musical yet transparent midrange and crisp, detailed high frequencies all bundled into a balanced presentation.
The SR2’s low end leans a little more on the mid-bass than the sub-bass, producing a solid but tidy bass. It’s quite a fast bass that is fairly neutral in weight and note size but has excellent, deep extension. Although there is plenty of punch and sufficient impact, bassheads may find it reserved in terms of sheer quantity.
Bass notes have a clean leading edge and fast decay, lending warmth to the midrange without adding any excess thickness. This is a very well-controlled bass that doesn’t exhibit any bloat or excess. It’s thick enough to drive music but overall sounds clean and precise.
Mids on the SR2 are close to neutral with a hint of warmth added for smoothness and naturalness. What strikes me about the SR2 midrange is its natural timbre. There is sufficient warmth and richness in the lower mids to give them body while at the same time, preserving excellent clarity and transparency.
Air between instruments and vocals is clean and uncluttered, allowing details to shine through. However, the mids are still presented in more of a musical rather than an analytical manner. There is plenty of emotion and engagement, from the richness of male vocals and string instruments to the moderately bright energy of pianos and textured crunch of electric guitars.
Listening to Gazpacho’s “Hell Freezes Over II”, the vocals are articulate yet liquid while the impact of the kick drums can be clearly felt with every hit. The guitars sound pristine and are positioned behind the central vocal image on the stage. The SR2 does a fine job of dissecting each separate element of the song and rendering them with a warm, light touch.
Similar to some of the iBasso IEMs (IT01s, IT00), the SR2 treble is moderate in quantity and has a light, airy character. In quantity, it’s on the level of the bass and treble, rounding up the overall balanced signature.
There are some warmth and softness to the treble. So while it does reveal a considerate amount of detail, it isn’t the most precise but leans more towards musicality and a non-fatiguing presentation.
True to its open-back nature, the iBasso SR2 has an expansive soundstage. Sounds reach wide and deep past the headspace in a rounded space. The stage position is pushed back but vocals are brought slightly forward and note density is well maintained. Imaging and positioning are above average for an open-back phone.
Hifiman Sundara ($349)
The Hifiman Sundara has a more linear presentation compared to the SR2 which is more vibrant and slightly more energetic. This comes from a slightly greater treble extension and a touch more sub-bass emphasis.
Sundara’s midrange is denser, giving it more fullness and directness compared to the SR2 which has a lighter presentation. While I feel the SR2 reveals more micro-details, the Sundara’s resolution and instrument separation are superior.
Soundstage dimensions are similar on both headphones, with the SR2 being a touch wider due to its more elevated treble. In terms of driveability, the iBasso SR2 is less demanding and works better with lower-powered sources. When it comes to comfort, I would still put the Sundara ever so slightly ahead despite it having thinner earpads but in all honesty, both headphones are among the most comfortable in my collection.
SIVGA Phoenix ($255)
The SIVGA Phoenix is another open-back dynamic driver headphone. Compared to the SR2, the Phoenix has a richer, warmer presentation. Phoenix’s bass notes are more rounded and not as textured as the SR2, There’s more sub-bass quantity on the Phoenix but it isn’t as layered or well-defined compared to the SR2.
Midrange on the Phoenix has more body and thicker notes. Vocals and instruments are syrupy smooth. SR2’s mids, on the other hand, have more clarity, better instrument separation and more articulate vocals.
High frequencies on the Phoenix are more laid back and not as airy as the SR2. It’s almost as if both headphones are skewed at opposite ends: the SIVGA leans more towards the bass with upfront vocals, while the SR2 has a tighter bass, cooler mids and a more forward, lively treble.
The soundstage on Phoenix is not as large as the SR2’s but it’s more stable and the centre image is denser. But due to the SIVGA’s rounded notes, the air between sounds is warmer and thicker. Both headphones have excellent build quality and both are very comfortable with the SR2 has a slight overall edge.
Listening to the iBasso SR2, it’s hard to believe that this is only the second full-size headphone iBasso has developed. There is a level of maturity in the physical design and audio quality that suggests the company is leaning into this new segment with gusto and earnest intent.
It’s extremely well built, comfortable and sounds great. Furthermore, it comes with a solid accessories bundle and a superlative stock cable. Simply put: if you’re shopping for a full-size headphone, make sure the SR2 is on your list of candidates.
- Earpiece Design Over-Ear (Circumaural), Open-Back
- Earpiece Connection / Wearing Style Wired
- Diaphragm Bio-Cellulose
- Impedance 24 Ohms
- Active Noise Cancellation No
- Foldable No
- Frequency Response 3 Hz to 40 kHz
- Sensitivity 108 dB/mW
- Maximum Power Handling 50 mW
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) 1%
- Connector Plating Gold
- Adapter (Included) 1/4″
- Cable Design Braided
- Cable Length 5.91′ / 1.8 m
- Weight 13.9 oz / 395 g (without Cable)