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Impressions and Reviews

The Bass Cannon Showdown!

by SoundJedi 07 Jul 2022

Whenever I get iems that share a special feature, I imagine a fun contest. So when I found myself with the FiR Audio XE6, Hidition Violet and Empire Ears Legend Evo, I immediately thought: bass cannon showdown!

But I needed a fourth iem. I originally thought of the Legend X SE that is now offered in the “pre-owned” section. But it felt redundant with Evo already in the line-up. So I asked my semi retired bass-head friend and head-fier Skullar. He suggested the 64 Audio Fourte. It’s not necessarily known as a bass-first iem but it has what it takes. I needed a fourth iem, what better than a Fourte to round it up?

This showdown will again follow a play-off format. Five tracks, the first to three wins the match-up. But there is a twist.

The playlist is focused on bass. Each of the five tracks highlights a specific aspect of bass. Most of the songs here were suggested by another bass expert: my friend Sayed from Spiritland. So thanks to Skullar and Sayed for their contribution!

First, let’s introduce the contenders:

  • FiR Audio XE6: the Frontier series flagship. A stunning iem, both visually and sonically. Its kinetic bass is handled by a dynamic driver. 4 BAs take care of mids and lower treble and an open (!) EST handles the upper treble. Quite the configuration. The XE6 is fitted with the red Atom module. This module is the most open and least bassy of the 4 available options. 
  • Hidition Violet: hidition’s top dog has been one of my favorite iems for months. But I recently discovered the Epro horn shaped tips and they changed everything. They give me a perfect seal and allow the nozzle to go deeper inside the ear canal. The results have been spectacular, to the point where I started questioning my all BA showdown results. But that’s a different story. The thing to remember here is: you never really know your iem until you find the perfect tips for it. Top tip: choose the smallest size that gives you a perfect seal. If in doubt, try smaller and go for a deeper fit.
  • Empire Ears Legend Evo: the follow up to the hugely popular LX. Dual Weapon IX+ subwoofer for the lows, 5 BAs for the mids and highs and a Weapon X Bone Conduction driver. Fun fact: you can feel the bone conduction driver vibrate when you touch the faceplate with your index finger.
  • 64 Audio Tia Fourte: 64 Audio’s flagship. The sound signature has wowed many people over the years, for good reason. A dynamic driver handles bass and three BAs take care of the rest. Including the famous tia driver (open BA).

The playlist is as follows:

  • Paper Trails by Darkside: this excellent track tests bass control abilities. The vocals go very low and it’s easy to get a muddy or distorted result.
  • 2049 by Hans Zimmer: a relatively simple yet complex track. Fully instrumental with a sub bass that reaches deep. The sub bass is a necessary ingredient to the track’s theatrical quality. Without a good low end, it can sound dull. But give it some good rumble and it is spectacular.
  • Doin’ It Right by Daft Punk: there’s a lot going on here. Bass, vocals, details and staging all have to be on point to make it sound at its best.
  • Workaround Eight by Beatrice Dillon: a great track to test the famous sub bass “texture”. In simpler words, a combination of quantity, clarity, detail, speed and decay. Quite the challenge for our tiny transducers.
  • Longing by Yosi Horikawa: this track is all about punch. The bass line is very distinctive and will show how accurate and impactful bass is. If bass is slow, soft, muddy or bloated, you will hear it. But there’s also lots of background details here. It’s also a good track to test staging.

And while all the tracks have excellent bass lines, it won’t be the only thing tested here. In each matchup, two points will be allocated to bass performance and one point will be granted for overall performance. This includes tonality and other technical qualities.

That was quite a mouthful! On to the actual contest.

The first round matchups are as follows:

  • FiR XE6 vs Legend Evo
  • Hidition Violet vs 64 Audio Tia Fourte
  • Gear used: Cayin N8ii

And before we start, please remember: this is a purely fun exercise that focuses heavily on one aspect of the sound. My personal preferences also play into the results. It’s all quite subjective and you should always take any impressions with a grain of salt. This said, consistent observations are also good information.   

The stage is set, let’s go!

Round 1 - Fir Audio XE6 vs EE Legend Evo:

- Paper Trails: Evo starts and its bass doesn’t disappoint. It’s deep and thick with very good control. Vocals are a bit forward for my own tastes as Evo’s upper mids are clearly boosted. Staging is good with nice width. Detail retrieval is also satisfying.  Switching to XE6, everything gets immediately bigger: stage is wider, higher and deeper. The sound is airy, treble is crisp and more natural. There's a nice "zing" coming from the EST driver. XE6 has more mid bass but it is also well controlled. Vocals have more depth and sound thicker. Evo bass is more controlled here but the overall staging on XE6 is spectacular.

Result - Bass: Evo. Overall: XE6.

 XE6 1 – Evo 2

- 2049: XE6 starts strong. Very immersive sound. Everything sounds smooth and insightful. The rumble around 1’50 reaches deep. Switching to Evo, the stage gets smaller and the sound feels more “contained”. Sub bass reaches deep. Evo doesn’t have as much treble extension and the instruments don't sound as "natural" as XE6. XE6 just takes everything here with its more immersive stage, detailed sound and delicious rumble.  

Result - Bass: XE6, Overall: XE6

XE6 4 – Evo 2

- Doin' It Right: Once again, Evo vocals sound forward. Bass impact is very satisfying. It’s deep, impactful and well controlled. Treble is a touch edgy. Moving to XE6: vocals sound smoother. XE6 has more mid bass, which makes it sound slightly boomier. This actually makes it more impactful with this track.  Stage is bigger and details are crisp.

Result - Bass: XE6, Overall: XE6

 XE6 7 – Evo 2

- Workaround Eight: XE6 sound is once again crisp with very good bass control. Bass reaches deep and is thick but sounds precise and controlled at the same time. Staging is again exceptional (you will hear this a lot with XE6). Switching to Evo, the stage shrinks a little bit but bass control is noticeable. I get the feeling it reaches deeper. Evo bass feels a bit lighter and more agile here. This is likely because Evo is more sub bass focused whereas XE6 also has ample amounts of mid bass.  

Result - bass: Evo, overall: XE6

XE6 – 8, Evo - 4

- Longing: this track has a punchy and fast bass line.  With XE6, I get an impressive sense of space. Bass punch is very good. It feels visceral, and you want that here. Switching to Evo: staging is good but again a touch smaller. Bass feels leaner and softer. It doesn’t feel as impactful as XE6, which surprised me. I expected Evo to take the bass here but XE6 bass punch was just more violent and precise.

Result - Bass: XE6, overall: XE6

XE6 – 11, Evo – 4

Winner and moving to final round: FiR Audio XE6.


Round 1, second matchup -  Hidition Violet vs 64 Audio Tia Fourte

- Paper Trails: Violet sounds big. The sound is very detailed and crisp. Sub bass has very good body but is agile at the same time. Sub bass sounds accurate and clean. The vocals and treble are smooth.  Treble is very well extended. Very immersive overall with good 3d stage. Switching to Fourte: stage feels bigger, treble has more air. The tia driver is doing something here. Fourte has a bit more mid bass punch, which is nice. Treble sounds sweet here and the stage is very immersive. Sub bass doesn't reach as deep as Violet but bass is a bit thicker. Vocals have good depth and bass control is top notch. This is a very close one but one iem edges slightly ahead.  

Result - bass: Fourte, overall: Fourte

Violet 0 – Fourte 3

- 2049: Violet sub bass reaches deep and feels very visceral. The sound is smooth and airy. Very insightful and immersive. There's a lot going on here. Switching to Fourte: everything is bigger, sub bass also reaches deep. The sound is again very immersive and layering is exceptional. Staging is excellent but instruments don’t sound as natural as Violet. Close one again but…

 Result - bass: Fourte, overall: Fourte

Violet 0 - Fourte 6

- Doin' It right: Violet sounds accurate and detailed with very good staging. Fourte also has a good bass impact and stage is bigger but vocals sound a bit forward. Bass doesn't feel as accurate as Violet here. Violet bass is just snappier and vocals are overall nicer.

 Result - bass: Violet, overall: Violet

Violet 3 – Fourte 6

- Workaround Eight: Violet sub bass is agile yet has nice decay and impact. Superb articulation here, very smooth and accurate. A wow moment from Hidition’s flagship. Fourte sounds thicker and surprisingly more intimate. Fourte bass sounds a bit less accurate. Violet bass is just cleaner here.

Result - bass: Violet, overall: Violet

Violet 6 – Fourte 6

We are tied after 4 songs. The winner of the final track takes this round!

- Longing: Violet sounds very smooth. Bass has a nice punch. It’s clean and impactful. A real joy.  Staging is immersive and has good depth. Good 3d impression here. Bass is like taking a punch in the face. Violet bass is viol-ent here. Treble is also smooth, detailed and airy. Tough act to follow!

Switching to Fourte: I can immediately feel more mid bass. Bass also feels slower and less accurate. Details are very good and staging is impressive. But it feels like there is a slight "veil" here compared to Violet. The bass punch is not as clean and visceral. Very special performance from Violet on this track.

Result - bass: Violet, overall: Violet

Violet 9 – Fourte 6

Winner and advancing to final round: Hidition Violet


Final Round: FiR Audio XE6 vs Hidition Violet:

- Paper Trails: XE6 starts strong. Big stage and excellent detail retrieval. Bass is thick but controlled. Vocals are deep and layered. Treble is clear and crisp. Switching to Violet: the sound is airy. Treble is smooth. Staging is excellent but still a step behind XE6. The focus on sub bass is clearer here. Violet sub bas reaches deeper on this track. The voice is leaner but feels more "accurate". Very close one again.  

Result - bass: Violet, overall: Violet

XE6 0 – Violet 3

- 2049: XE6 sound is very immersive. The background instruments are clear. Bass feels very visceral. You can feel the DD moving air. Switching to Violet, the sub bass focus is more evident, but bass is overall not as big as XE6. Violet has excellent clarity but XE6 feels overall punchier and more immersive here.

Result - bass: XE6, overall: XE6

XE6 3 – Violet 3

- Doin' It Right: Violet sounds excellent. Vocals are clear and have nice depth. Bass is accurate. Staging is very good and the sound is detailed. Switching to XE6, the impact is immediate. XE6 comes in strong and the extra thickness works wonders. The sound is crisp, vocals have more depth and height. Just wonderful.

Result - bass: XE6, Overall: XE6

XE6 6 – Violet 3

- Workaround Eight: Again, XE6 starts strong. The sound is crisp and detailed. Separation and layering are top notch. Spatial positioning is exceptional, unlike any other iem I have heard. Bass is thick yet it is precise and well controlled. Switching to Violet, the sound is a bit more intimate. Separation and staging are very good but not quite on XE6 level. Violet bass is faster and reaches deep, but I can’t not give this one to XE6.

 Result - bass: XE6 overall: XE6

XE6 9 – Violet 3

- Longing: XE6 shines again. Details, space, stage, impact, thickness. It all works. WIth Violet, bass sounds crisp. There’s a delightful combination of speed, decay and impact. Staging is very good but still a step behind XE6. Violet bass impact is so clean here. It sounds pure. It’s like having a subwoofer in your ears. It’s a tough one but…

Result bass: draw, overall: XE6

XE6 11 – Violet 4

Winner: FiR Audio XE6!

And we have our champion! All 4 iems in this showdown have shown exceptional abilities. They would make any bass-head and most audiophiles happy. XE6 just wows with its big bass combined with excellent treble and class – leading staging. It is not easy to achieve all those things at the same time. It’s also what makes the XE6 such an exceptional iem.


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