In this Shuoer Tape Pro review, I’m taking a look at the upgraded version of the original Shuoer Tape IEM. The Tape caused quite a sensation when it came out because at the time it was (at least to me) the most affordable known IEM with an electrostatic driver.
The upgraded Tape Pro claims to have an improved tuning and better tonal balance. In addition, it now comes with tunable bass filters which allow you to increase or attenuate the bass level. Curious to know more? Let’s dig in.
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.
Shuoer Tape Pro
Fun, engaging bass
Great included cable
Sturdy build quality
Upper midrange lift can be fatiguing
Moderate resolution and narrow soundstage
Package and Accessories
I was happy to see the Tape Pro packaging has been updated along with the IEM. Gone is the quirky red cylinder and in it’s place is a much classier teal coloured box. The box has a subtle pattern made up of little cassettes all over and the text is a light silver-grey colour.
On the front there’s just the model name in large text but over on the back of the box is a list of specifications, parts list, plus a frequency response graph. The storage case has been upgraded from the generic metal puck and the Tape Pro comes with the same leather one that was bundled with their Singer model. Here’s a full list of the box contents:
Shuoer Tape Pro earphones
Detachable 2-pin cable
Leather storage case
Low-frequency filter x2
Multiple silicone eartips
2.5mm balanced to 3.5mm unbalanced adapter
Spare nozzle covers x2
Build Quality and Design
Just like the original Tape, the Tape Pro is made from a high-quality aluminium using a 5-axis CNC process. They look and feel very sturdy and have a little heft but are still fairly lightweight. The faceplates have a shape and design that looks like an old cassette tape, hence the name.
One physical addition the Pro model has is tunable bass filters. These can be used to give the bass a mild increase and work reasonably well. There’s a small vent in the middle of the faceplate and at the top of the housing is the 2-pin socket.
In terms of comfort, I find the Tape Pro to be good for short listening sessions. However, after a while, the angled edges start to cause some discomfort and even become quite painful. Normally this can be remedied by taking a short break or readjusting the fit but I do hope to see the ergonomics improved in future models.
Noise isolation is pretty good, assuming you have a good seal with your selected eartips. The amount of external noise attenuated is about average for an IEM with small metal shells.
The included cable is a gorgeous silver-plated monocrystalline copper cable. It has a dual-tone silvery-grey colour and looks gorgeous. It handles really well too. It has minimal microphonics and drapes nicely.
At the top are the aluminium 2-pin connector housings and heat-shrink ear guides. The Y-split is a small cylinder that matches with the straight aluminium 2.5mm termination. Also included in the box is a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter which adds versatility. Overall, I think this is a fantastic stock cable and as good as any I’ve seen at this price point.
The Shuoer Tape Pro has admittedly been one of the more difficult IEMs for me to review. Why? Because at times, I have both hated and loved it and I don’t recall ever flip-flopping in my opinion over a product so many times before.
Let me try to explain in more detail. My first impressions out of the box were pretty good. Right away, I noticed the same upper midrange focus and dryness that the original model had. But the tonal balance was noticeably improved which had me in high hopes. I was also impressed by the quality and impact of the bass during this first listen.
A day or two later, I had my second listen. I was going into town and thought it would be a great opportunity to spend some time with the Tape Pro. Sitting on the train, I started thinking my (very) early impressions were way off. Suddenly these earphones sounded excessively dry, almost chalky (for lack of a better word) and that upper-midrange focus seemed more intense than before. And so it went the next time that I took them out. And the next time. I just wasn’t feeling them.
Eventually, I was about to get set up to record a damning video review but for some reason, I decided to unbox the iFi-Audio ZEN DAC first. Once that was done, I plugged it into my PC and of course, the Shuoer Tape Pro was sitting right there on my desktop. So I plugged the Tape Pro into the ZEN DAC and hit the play button in my MusicBee software. WTF? Suddenly the Tape Pro sounded warmer and more musical. And pretty good…
And so now it’s…?
My immediate thought was that the budget ZEN DAC must have a very warm, thick tonality. So I plugged in my Superlux HD672 headphones to verify. Nope. The HD672 were still as detailed and transparent as ever. I decided to try the Tape Pro with some other sources again. Again, I found that they sounded consistently okay across various sources and music genres.
Now, I am not a believer in physical burn-in: I think psychoacoustics plays a much larger role. Besides, my out of the box impressions were good and then I decided later that the sound was bad (before doing another 180°. This goes in the opposite direction of the popular so-called burn-in effect where something sounds bad initially but then suddenly comes alive after 150-300 hours (lol). So what actually happened? I suspect it has a lot to do with the music you’re listening to and to a lesser extent, the source. Songs with a lot of upper-midrange action (like a lot of rock songs with electric guitars) tend to sound glaring. I’m just telling it how it is.
Where does that leave us? You’re probably feeling as confused as I am by this point. I’m not going to claim the Tape Pro are the most amazing end-game, top of their price bracket champions etc. But I will say it’s a competent earphone at this price regardless. That upper-midrange focus is still not going to work for everyone. But overall, I have to at the very least, say that this is a pretty decent IEM.
I apologize for the monologue. It’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. So, with all that said, it’s time for me to break down the sound into those common 3 bands and see if we can summarize what these earphones actually sound like.
The bass is the first thing that stood out to me when I first listened to the Tape Pro. It’s punchy, fast, and delivers with impact. This is no surprise: the bass was arguably the best aspect of the original Tape too.
The bass has good extension and a deep reach. Sub-bass notes in Hidden Orchestra’s “Wingbeats Source V: Drums” sound dope as hell. Although the control is excellent, the bass causes the Pro to rumble in my ears with unapologetic authority. After switching on the iFi ZEN DAC’s bass boost, I feel like I need to embrace it or soil my pants. In other words: it hits hard!
Switching the tuning filters on the Tape Pro yields a bigger, fatter bass, especially in the sub-bass which seemed to hit even harder than before. However, changing the filters is an arduous, time consuming exercise and one that may test your patience and your eyesight (those screws are tiny).
How the midrange sounds depends to some degree on the type of music you’re listening to. If it’s music with lots of stuff going on in the upper midrange, things can get a bit harsh. For example, “Exegesis” by Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster brings on some heavy listening fatigue for my ears and I found myself turning the volume way down in order to cope with it.
On the other hand, songs such as Solar Fields’ “Majestic Feeling” sound great, at least to my ears on the Tape Pro. The overall resolution is good, the transients fast but still, the tonal balance can take some getting used to.
The Shuoer Tape Pro puts most of the emphasis on its lower treble. This is good in the sense that the upper midrange really doesn’t need any additional lift as it’s already thrust so far forward. On the other hand, the treble extension is lacking and there’s little in the way of sparkle and airiness.
The upside is that the upper treble is not harsh nor fatiguing but it also means that it sounds somewhat cramped and muted. I would prefer to see less emphasis on the lower treble and a more even spread in the upper register.
The soundstage is quite narrow but has reasonable depth. Stage positioning is fairly forward and intimate, despite the midrange being moderately recessed. Instrument separation is mediocre as the upper-midrange glare tends to blend the higher frequencies together. Imaging is also fairly limited for the same reason.
The Shuoer Tape Pro is an IEM that improves on the original model but not enough to make it truly compelling. I think there are more feasible options around the same price point and ones that ultimately would be a safer bet for the average consumer. The addition of an electrostatic driver just doesn’t carry the weight that it did a year ago without great sound to back it up.
Despite that, the Tape Pro shows potential and further future iterations might prove to be something special. I really appreciate the updated packaging, carrying case and fantastic cable. If you’re looking for something truly unique and innovative, you could give this a go and you just might love what you get. It depends a lot on the type of music you listen to as well. But for the most part, I would steer clear of this one for now.