Penon Audio is well known among Head-Fiers and respected for their high standard of service and fast worldwide shipping. Well, now they have their own branded earbuds as well. It’s called the Penon BS1 Experience Version and it comes in a box (^_^). Let’s check it out.
The BS1 Experience Version currently retails for $39 and can be purchased from Penon Audio.
This product was provided for the purpose of an honest review. I’m not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions here are my own.
Good, sturdy build
Fantastic quality cable
Not the most precise imaging
Driver: 15.4mm dynamic driver
Frequency response: 15Hz-25KHz
Cable length: 1.2m
Packaging and accessories
The BS1 comes in a little blue box with Penon’s logo in the top corner. The box is magnetically sealed and super easy to open. Inside is a little carry case which holds all the goodies inside. Let’s take a look at the contents:
5 pars of foam eartips
I also received a pair of silicone ear-hooks and the Penon complimentary Velcro cable tie that never fails to come in handy. So that’s all there is to it. It’s simple but satisfying and has everything you need.
Build, comfort and isolation
What first caught my attention was the fantastic cable so I’m going to start with that. It’s like something you would expect with a more expensive product. I kid you not, this is better than what you find on a lot of IEMs that cost well over $100. It’s an SPC affair with clear plastic tubing and is supple, smooth and downright gorgeous. At the top where it attaches to the shells, there is a good strain relief. Down further is a small rubber chin slider that sits above the metal Y-split. The cable terminates in a straight, metal gold-plated plug that again has a good strain relief and is adorned with the Penon logo.
The main body of the housing is shaped like a lampshade and made of metal with a plastic front. There are no sharp edges or visible seams so as far as earbuds go I found them quite comfortable. The provided foams are very pliable and easy to put on or remove. Having different colours is appreciated as the tiny white dot denoting the right earbud is very difficult to see so the foams are great for determining left and right, assuming you have a different coloured cover on each one.
There’s really not much more to say about the build – it’s an earbud after all but I will say the build quality seems excellent overall. They’re lightweight with rounded edges and feel very durable.
I find the BS1 pretty comfortable as far as earbuds go. They stay in place easily enough with or without the foam covers. Isolation is almost non-existent which one usually expects with earbuds so be prepared for the external noises to come in at will. If isolation is important to you then you should be looking at in-ear monitors..
Gear used for testing:
Acoustic Research AR-M20
Foobar2000 > Topping DX7
The BS1 has a very balanced sound, with a little warmth thrown in and slightly mid-centric to my ears. There’s some extra mid-bass and a smooth high end. It’s a very clean sound compared to other earbuds I’ve heard (admittedly that’s not many) yet smooth without any roughness or artificial tonality. There’s a slight emphasis on the upper mids/lower treble that provides some energy in place of the laid back upper treble.
Bass is fairly light but maintains a good amount of punch and is well textured. The amount of bass is greatly determined by the fit that you get – similar to how good a seal you get with earphone eartips. Pop these in loosely and the bass fades away and the midrange gains clarity. Wedge them in securely and the bass comes out to play but this often results in a muddy overall sound. But I digress. I have a hard time getting a fit with earbuds so they’re generally sitting pretty loosely in my ears. Sub-bass is there and doesn’t roll-off too early but again (I have to keep going back to this I’m afraid) if you’ve got a loose fit both mid and sub-bass will take a backseat. Having said that if you can find that sweet spot the bass is quite satisfying.
In the midrange is where the focus of the sound lies. It’s warm, rich and forward with great tonality and realism. Things can get a little congested during busy segments, resulting in a loss of separation and detail. In Ludovico Einaudi’s “Andare” the piano and violin sound organic and natural, something that can often reveal a poorly tuned earphone but the BS1 handles both with confidence. Vocals sound good too with that added warmth in the lower mids bringing male voices to life and the slight emphasis in the lower treble giving a vibrancy to female voices like Anneke van Giersbergen in “The Moment” from The Diary.
Treble plays a smaller role in the BS1’s sound but still has enough presence to create some excitement and provide some spice. The lower treble has more prominence than the upper registers which fade into the distance but don’t show signs of any heavy roll-off. The upside of this is that things don’t get harsh or fatiguing up top and it allows you to enjoy the richness of the mids and snappy bass.
A wide soundstage is one of the staples of earbuds and in the BS1 it’s no different. They are more than capable of giving you an out of the headspace experience but it comes at the cost of lower than average imaging. There’s plenty of width there but not a great deal of depth. With the BS1’s expansive openness music takes on part of your environment and makes you feel as if it’s floating through the air but it’s not easy to tell exactly which direction separate elements are coming from except for left and right.
Penon BS1 Conclusion
The BS1 earbuds come across as rather mature sounding with their smooth, refined tuning – light, crisp bass, forward midrange and a playful treble make for an entertaining experience that emulates some of the more expensive offerings. Build quality is top-notch and other brands should take note of the spectacularly good cable. At $39 this one is a must for fans of budget earbuds to get their hands on.