New tech is exciting, right? It’s the reason we want the latest smartphone, the latest computer and sometimes, the newest earphones; well we always want the newest earphones regardless! So for you cutting edge guys and gals, in today’s review, I’m testing the Shuoer Tape, a unique entry-level in-ear monitor with one dynamic driver plus one electrostatic driver.
In case you don’t know, an electret has a membrane suspended between 2 perforated metal plates, minimizing sound loss and distortion, among other things. It’s an exhilarating time now that we’re seeing these new drivers available even in entry-level iems.
Shuoer Electronics is a Chinese manufacturing company based in Guangdong, China. The company was founded in 2016 and its aim is to provide innovation and value with the use of science, product research and strict quality control.
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 Review
Solid metal construction
Build quality and comfort
Dynamic, detailed sound
Not the most coherent sound
Package and Accessories
Similar to the Shuoer H27, the Tape comes in a red and white cylindrical box with a piano pattern around the bottom. Inside, the earphones are seated in a white foam insert and the rest of the accessories are beneath that. Let’s break down the box contents:
Shuoer Tape earphones
Detachable MMCX cable
6 pairs of silicone eartips
Metal carrying case
Build Quality and Design
CNC crafted aluminium is what the Shuoer Tape’s shells are made of and the build quality feels really good. In case you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s due to the shells being designed to look like the cassette tapes of days gone by. They look pretty cool (in my opinion) and I think you could run over them with a bus and they would be fine. Yes, they seem to be very robust.
The nozzles are also metal and have a proper lip for securing eartips plus a protective metal mesh covering the opening. There is one small vent near the base of the nozzle. There appears to be a large vent on the faceplates but as far as I can tell, it is for aesthetic purposes only and doesn’t actually let any air through.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
Despite looking a bit chunky and awkward, the Tape earphones are very comfortable. The inner side of the shells has rounded surfaces with no sharp edges and I can wear these all day long without any discomfort.
Noise isolation is good and I’d even say a bit above average. When you have these in your ears they block out a good deal of external noise and when there’s music playing it’s unlikely you’ll hear much else at all.
The stock round-braided 4-core copper cable has a nice girth and sturdy construction. It looks and feels quite premium, although it is a tad stiff. Gunmetal MMCX connector housings at the top are followed by some supple heat-shrink ear guides. The Y-split is a matching gunmetal grey and there is also a transparent plastic chin slider.
The cable terminates in a gunmetal grey straight 3.5mm plug with Shuoer branding and knurling. Overall it feels and looks significantly better than a lot of generic iem cables, even in the $100+ segment.
Gear used for testing includes the Shanling M5s and iBasso DX120 as portable sources. On the desktop, I used the FiiO K3.
One of the best things about the Shuoer Tape is that they’re easy to drive and work just fine straight from my Android smartphone. Having said that, I find the bass sounds more controlled when using a better source.
The Tape has a lively, dynamic sound with powerful bass, great midrange clarity and a detailed but easygoing treble. Instrument separation is great but can deteriorate on bassy tracks as the dynamic driver on these iems really packs a punch. They have a large soundstage and impressive level of micro-details retrieval.
Tape’s bass is boosted well above neutral and can deliver some serious impact. The 10mm dynamic driver came to kick butt and chew bubblegum and it appears to be all out of gum. With its well-defined attack and natural decay, the tape’s bass adds weight and warmth to the presentation.
In most cases, I find the bass really enjoyable; the control is there and the texture is pretty good too. However, on certain tracks, it does sometimes feel a little exuberant. Songs like “Tokyo Rose” by Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster sound excellent with a good tonal balance, detail and punch. In others like “Ready To Die” by The Notorious B.I.G the bass really comes out to play and has ample muscle for this old-skool hip-hop classic with near-basshead levels of rumble and authority.
The midrange is clear and articulated with an upper midrange boost around 3-4kHz. Due to the forwardness of the bass, the midrange can sound recessed on some recordings. Male vocals are rendered nicely and female vocals are quite vibrant with good clarity throughout.
The peak at 3-4kHz makes percussion instruments snappy and adds vocal presence. It’s fairly well done even if it does skirt the line with sibilance and occasionally sounds a bit tenuous. It’s here that the Tape can show some harshness, especially at a higher volume. A bit of reduction in the upper midrange with EQ takes some of the edge off and produces a more natural tone at the cost of some detail.
Instrument size is fairly small with fast transients and good separation. There’s plenty of life in the mids though and Sade’s sultry voice is done justice by the Tape in “King Of Sorrow“, which is rendered in rich detail.
An unremarkable treble is often a good one and that is the case for the Shuoer Tape. The extension is very good, giving the Tape an airy top end. It’s a detailed, crisp presentation and the treble timbre is quite accurate. There’s enough of a lift to maintain clarity but it’s not a bright treble, so there is no harshness or fatigue here.
It’s a treble that sits behind the bass and upper mids but it has sufficient energy there to counterbalance the weight of the bass. It’s light, crisp, detailed and a good way to compliment the bass and mids.
The soundstage is wider than it is deep and occupies a fairly large space, more like a small hall than a room. Vocals have a neutral position with instruments occupying the area in front and to the sides of them. It’s not a particularly deep stage but it never feels narrow. Instrument separation is good with average layering, spreading out left to right rather than creating a vivid 3D image.
Tin HiFi P1
The P1 (review here) has a planar driver that excels in layering and natural tonality. It has significantly less bass than the Tape, especially in the sub-bass area which was the most common criticism from the people that bought it. The Tape has an abundance of both sub and mid-bass, possibly even too much for some listeners but it can bring an earth-shaking sub-bass rumble while the P1 only emits a light tone.
Where the P1 shines is its outstanding resolution. It’s able to separate instruments and dissect music through transient speed and layering while maintaining natural note size. The Tape relies on a heightened upper midrange for its detail which thins out the midrange and gives it a brighter tone.
The P1 has a more mid-centric sound compared to the more dynamic and contrasted presentation of the Tape. It has a warmer and more upfront midrange and the Tape goes for more of a traditional V-shaped response. Both of these iems have an inoffensive and light treble and neither is particularly bright or fatiguing.
P1’s imaging and instrument separation are superb. It has superior layering and depth but the P1 has a smaller, warmer and more intimate stage. The Tape, on the other hand, has a larger and much wider stage but less precise imaging.
In terms of fit, both iems are quite small and comfortable. However, the Tape has far better noise isolation, making it more suitable for commuting and noisy environments. Both have metal shells and great build quality.
There has been a flood of earphones with electrostatic drivers this year but this is the first time I’ve seen one at an entry-level price. Not only is it surprising to see this tech at this price point already but it was unexpected to hear it implemented so well.
The Shuoer Tape has an exciting sound with a wow factor and interesting new technology. It is sure to please budding audiophiles with its dynamic and energetic presentation. However, seasoned listeners might find a slight lack of coherency between the fullness of the bass driver and the lean brightness of the upper midrange. Still, it is a great earphone and for $129 it’s pretty outstanding. If you’re looking for something that’s lively and detailed with a punchy bass then put the Shuoer Tape on your list.