I am always looking for the one ear bud to define them all. My personal journey has taken me from the early 90's ear buds to present day. I've gone through so many from cheap stuff to over $300 Moondrop Chaconne ear buds. And each time, I've come back to Earth with the Yincrow X6.
They are $10 and they sound great with a nice tonal balance and good timbre. They do lack a bit of resolution but do the trick. But alas, I keep looking for the next best thing every few months. My latest journey accumulated a few more mediocre to bad IEMs including the hyped up and special collaboration bud called the Ear Buds Anonymous, which was tuned by community members from Facebook's Ear Buds Anonymous group and Penon Audio.
It sounds like mud.
That said, I am not reviewing that set today -- nope. Today I will be taking a look at the $130-150 Smabat ST-10s Gold Edition. The price fluctuates on this set based on sales and other promos, but I purchased these for about $140 on Amazon.com a few months back.
The ST-10s series from Smabat has removable mmcx connectors, which allows for cable swapping, and a design meant to be worn with cables over-the-ear instead of the traditional cables down. The metal housing is lightweight and feels well-built and attractive. The cable that came with this unit is finely braided with gold and silver colored sheathing that matches the gold-tinted metal housing.
In addition to the cable, the ST-10s comes with a set of foam and silicone driver coverings, and a fabric carrying pouch.
The ST-10s Gold is a special 150 Ohm version of the ST-10 which itself is an evolution of Smabat's ear bud designs from the recent past. One of the unique features of Smabat's line of ear buds is their "maze" chamber which enhances bass performance in both quality and quantity, which is typically something that traditional ear buds lack.
In actual use, I found the bass quality and quantity on the ST-10s to be quite good for ear buds. It's not as full and deep as a good set of In-Ear Monitors (IEMs), but more than enough for most all music, and similar to that of an open-back headphone.
The ST-10s has a nice open soundstage and good resolution, and a sound that does remind me more of an open-back headphone than it does an IEM, which is generally how I feel of traditional ear buds -- a cross-over and middle ground from the portable IEM and the larger headphones.
Where the ST-10s does have some trouble is the upper mid-range, which I feel is overly exaggerated and needs to be toned down a bit. There's just too much of a sharp emphasis in the 1-3KHz region of the frequency response that some music comes off too aggressive and forward. Outside of this problematic area, I find the ST-10s Gold to sound extremely pleasant and close to a nicely tuned headphone.
All is not loss though. For some music, this emphasis isn't too bad, for others, particularly female vocals and guitar music, it can be a bit much for my ears. I worked on perfecting an EQ that I makes this a better all-arounder, while improving the subbass performance to reach deeper, and I found a nice happy medium in the settings below:
Even without EQ, I do appreciate the sound quality and general tonality of the ST-10S Gold, however with the small changes in EQ, I am very happy with using this set. I have been using them quite a bit lately, more so than my IEMs and on-par with my over-ear headphones. While the Yincrow X6 really does not require any EQ at all to sound more correct to me, the technical performance of the ST10S is on another level.