In this review, I’m checking out the Whizzer HE03AL in-ear monitor. The HE03AL is a hybrid triple-driver earphone with 1 dynamic driver and a dual balanced armature.
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.
- Solid build quality
- Ergonomics and fit
- Natural, musical tuning
- Good detail retrieval
- Narrow soundstage
- Imaging could be improved
- List item
- Driver config: 10mm dynamic driver + Knowles TWFK 30017 dual balanced armature
- Impedance: 30Ω
- Frequency response: 20Hz-40kHz
- Sensitivity: 113dB/mW
Packaging & Accessories
The HE03AL packaging is pretty sleek. It’s a matte black box with a glossy black outer sleeve. On the front of the sleeve is a render of an earpiece with some subtle patterns. On the back is a list of specifications and an exploded diagram. Here’s what’s inside the box:
- Whizzer HE03AL earphones
- Detachable 5N silver-plated copper cable with 2-pin connectors
- Faux leather carrying case
- 3x pairs of black “soundstage” silicone eartips
- 3x pairs of white “reference” silicone eartips
- Quick start guide & warranty card
Known for their elaborate, distinctive designs, Whizzer has gone for something more low-key with the HE03AL. The CNC crafted aluminium magnesium alloy shells have an understated polished metal finish. On the right faceplate is a Whizzer logo while the left faceplate sports AI13 lettering.
Nice attention to detail is shown by the small coloured dots near the 2-pin sockets denoting the left and right sides. There are 2 vents on each shell, one behind the 2-pin socket and another near the base of the nozzle. The nozzle holds eartips securely and has a protective mesh cover. The overall build quality is excellent.
So how about the fit? HE03AL shells are shaped similarly to the previous HE01 model and that’s a good thing. They’re small, lightweight and disappear in your ears so the comfort level is great, at least for my ears. Noise isolation is pretty good so these would be a good companion for a bus ride, noisy office or shopping mall etc.
Included with the HE01AI is a 5N silver-plated copper cable. It has a transparent, smooth sheath that is resistant to tangling and handles well. The 2-pin connector housings are transparent plastic while the Y-split and chin slider are aluminium. The straight 3.5mm plug is aluminium with some nice knurling on the end for added grip. Strain relief from top to bottom is good too.
Gear used for testing includes:
- PC -> Topping D10 Balanced -> xDuoo MT-602
- Soundaware M2Pro
The Whizzer HE03AL’s sound signature is warm and musical. It has a weighted bass response, organic mids and a laid back treble. This is the kind of sound you can listen to all day without tiring. It’s engaging and emotive in its presentation. There are definitely signs that this earphone’s sound was designed with the Whizzer HE01 as a reference. The HE03AL is easy to drive and works fine straight out of a phone or low-powered source.
The HE03AL’s bass is elevated with similar levels of both sub and mid-bass. Leading edges are slightly softened for realism and have ample punch. There’s plenty of sub-bass rumble but it’s well-controlled and doesn’t smother the midrange. Listening to Sundial Aeon’s “Elemental”, the sub-bass rumble starting at 0:17 is visceral and shakes with authority.
When the kick drum starts, the HE03AL’s 10mm dynamic driver slams with a meaty impact and is guaranteed to get your head nodding. This is a bass tuned for fun but it doesn’t compromise on control and overall tonal balance.
Firing up RAAHiiM’s “Peak (Fed Up)” the HE03AL’s midrange is clear but laced with organic warmth. This makes for a detailed, articulate performance and one that’s brimming with emotion. Moving on to “Thing Called Love” by Kevin Ross and the rhythm is confident and soulful. The tone is full-bodied and natural, resulting in a musical character.
There’s no oversharpening yet at the same time, the midrange remains clean and uncluttered. Vocals and instruments are slightly rounded but never so much as to sound coloured or veiled. It’s an emotive, smooth presentation that lends itself perfectly to extended listening sessions.
The Whizzer’s treble is a touch on the softer side, largely as a result of the significant lower treble dip. However, thanks to an upper-treble lift and good extension, the HE03AL still sounds airy and spacious. Furthermore, the treble timbre is on point, and the detail retrieval is above par too.
It might not be the most forward or precise treble but the benefit is a non-fatiguing treble that doesn’t sound harsh or brittle. The downside is a narrower soundstage and less definition. There are no signs of sibilance for which I’m particularly grateful.
Songs like Wang Wen’s “Break the Cars” with its fervent electric guitars and crash cymbals (6:22-8:22) are not a problem with this IEM. I can listen to that without shedding tears or skipping the track to flee from the cacophonous assault on my ears.
The soundstage has an elliptical shape and good depth but it’s quite narrow in terms of width. Vocals and the centre image are positioned neutrally. Imaging is decent with pretty good layering but feels slightly constrained by the narrow stage. Instrument separation, however, is good so it doesn’t feel congested.
NF Audio NM2+(US$169)
The NM2+ is a single dynamic driver IEM. It has a brighter, more contrasted sound signature than the HE03AL. It has a slight focus on the mid-bass and less on the sub-bass. NM2+ bass notes have a cleaner leading edge and faster attack speed.
In the midrange, the NM2+ is a little more forward across the board, but in particular the upper mids. As a result, vocals really pop on the NF Audio but it also has a tendency to be shouty. On the other hand, the HE03AL is smoother and less contrasted.
The trend continues in the treble with the NM2+ being crisper and more forward. This gives it more precise imaging but again, it’s not a sound for anyone sensitive to treble or brightness. NM2+ soundstage is wider and larger in general with faster transients and blacker air in between instruments.
IKKO OH10 ($189)
The IKKO OH10 is a hybrid dual-driver IEM with 1DD+1BA. It has a warmer, more laid back sound compared to the Whizzer. The OH10 has a very thick and powerful sub-bass with a lighter mid-bass. The fall-off from the bass to the lower midrange is more exaggerated on the IKKO which gives it slightly more contrast compared to the HE03AL.
Vocals and instruments are more recessed on the OH10 resulting in greater dynamics but a less intimate presentation compared to the Whizzer. It also means the OH10’s treble has a little more room to breathe and come slightly more forward. The result is a wider and larger soundstage on the IKKO but imaging is comparable on both models. The HE03AL has more clarity.
The Whizzer HE03AL follows hot on the heels of the previous HE01 model. It inherits a similar sound signature but this time comes with metal shells and slightly improved resolution. It has excellent build quality and is an engaging, musical-sounding IEM. Although it’s a strong performer, the jump in price pits it against a lot more competition. But for anyone who loves the HE01 sound and wants to take things up a notch, the HE03AL would be a good candidate.