I’ve been using iBasso’s excellent digital audio players for quite a while now, and was more recently acquainted with their over-ear headphones through the SR2. However, until now, I knew virtually nothing about their IEMs. iBasso was the DAP company that also made a couple headphones and IEMs. The IT07 is their latest flagship IEM, and after spending a few days with it, I might have to rebrand iBasso in my head as the IEM company that also makes some nice DAPs.
The Build and Design
Not content to simply provide IEMs, iBasso also provides a puzzle for you to solve with their packaging. When you open the case, the IEMs and some alternate screen filters for the tip of the nozzle are right in front of you, but everything else is a mystery. It’s not really that much of a mystery, but it did take me a minute. There’s an easy to miss box which rests snugly in the lid, that contains the cable, manual and the eartips. The box also opens on both sides, so you might miss out on either the eartips or the cable if you only open one side.
The included accessories are all quite nice, and the cable has a similar premium quality to that of the iBasso SR2. Best of all, the cable is actually a 2.5mm balanced cable with a matching, removable 3.5mm adapter. The cable has one of the best MMCX connectors I’ve used. It’s not too hard to connect or disconnect, and it has a bit of stiffness that prevents it from swiveling unless you want it to. The filter screens mostly affect the delivery of the bass. The gold filter provides a small cut on the low end, the black filter opens the low end up a little, and the silver (what’s on by default) is in between.
The IT07 itself is lightweight and comfortable with a beautiful blue resin design which at once evokes seashells and the ocean. As a design choice, I could do without the silver text across the face of the IEMs as I feel it only detracts from an otherwise striking design. While I wasn’t sure about the specific ergonomics of the shell, it proved to be quite comfortable with a tight fit. Internally it’s a 7 driver hybrid design.
I had zero knowledge or expectations coming into my review of the DT07. I haven’t heard any of iBasso’s previous models, and due to the somewhat puzzle-box-like nature of the packaging, I didn’t even find the frequency response graph until I was already a few hours in. First off, the tuning is quite neutral and transparent. The resolution is excellent for the price range, as is the detail and air. The bass is fairly linear with excellent sub-bass extension. The amount of impact you get for the amount of total bass feels a little low for a hybrid design, but they generally provide a good physical response when it counts.
The soundstage is medium sized and the imaging is mostly mix dependent. On songs with more creative mixes, the positioning is quite clear. Often things like sound effects or spoken voices are clearly positioned, while the specific players don’t come off as clearly defined unless you’re listening to something like later Beatles records, where the engineers put a lot of care into defining positions in the stereo mix.
The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” falls into the category of songs with a well constructed stereo image which the DT07 deftly delivers. The opening synthesizers pulse back and forth through your head, and as the piano and drums enter, the arrangement of the stage becomes clear. In addition to being clearly arranged on the stage, the DT07 does a great job of unpacking the layers to provide a crisp, clear listening experience. Underneath it all, Keith Moon’s energetic drum work provides a steady and satisfying thumps with palpable impact throughout the track.
Billie Eilish’s “Therefore I Am” gives the bass and subbass quite the workout. The DT07 demonstrates excellent dynamics between the waves of subbass synth on the chorus, the delicate melodic bassline, and the steady thumping bass during verse. The vocals are so clear and personal that I almost worry for a moment that Billie Eilish is disinterestedly singing directly to me as she repeats “I’m not your friend or anything... you think that you’re the man.” While I was fully aware that we weren’t friends, it’s now making me question whether or not I am actually “the man.”
On “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, the DT07 demonstrates incredible detail as everything from fret noise to small artifacts on the vocal reverb are there for the careful listener to pick out. The nature of 80s synth pop, with a mix of electronic and live instruments arranged in cascading layers, provides a great demonstration of the balanced nature of the DT07, as each layer builds, nothing is lost, and everything feels like it’s placed “just right” with no one aspect overpowering another.
While I was in the middle of this review, I had the privilege of receiving a review copy of Dream Theater’s upcoming concert DVD “Distant Memories - Live in London.” The DT07 proved to be a great companion for listening to Dream Theater’s brand of technical, yet melodic progressive metal. It has a balanced, transparent delivery from the low rumble of the drum and bass attack, to the keyboard and guitar wizardry on constant display. At the same time, transparency doesn’t mean that it just provides a sterile rendering of the original audio, it also delivers the energy, dynamics, and emotion of a performance which includes everything from quiet acoustic moments to full on blast-beat heavy metal breakdowns.
To test the DT07, I used the Chord Mojo and Astell&Kern SE200 as my primary sources. I also listened a bit directly plugged into my Macbook Pro, as well as with the iBasso DX160. The SE200 provided absolute crystalline clarity through everything I could throw at it. The Mojo provided just a touch of warmth and character to an otherwise neutral delivery. The DX160 lagged behind the others a bit, and the soundstage felt a little more cramped by comparison. There were no issues with noise or hiss with any of the sources using balanced and unbalanced connections.
Comparison: Campfire Audio Andromeda, Meze Rai Penta
To really get a solid comparison of similarly tuned IEMs, I went up a couple hundred dollars to the Campfire Andromeda and Meze Rai Penta. Both being priced at $1099, the Andromeda is a 5 driver balanced armature IEM and the Rai Penta is a 5 driver hybrid design with 4 balanced armature and 1 dynamic driver. By comparison, the $899 IT07 is a 7 driver hybrid, with 6 balanced armature and 1 dynamic driver. Visually, they all have a touch of their own thing, Andromeda has an angular industrial look, the IT07 is soft and smooth, and Rai Penta has the smoother lines of the IT07, but with the metallic finish of the Andromeda.
In terms of comfortability, all three are quite comfortable, with the IT07 and Rai Penta being a little bit lighter, and Rai Penta having the smallest footprint. Other aspects of the design and packaging are also quite similar, as all three include a high quality cable and carrying case.
In terms of sound signature, overall, Andromeda stands out with its more defined mid-bass and tight punch, while the IT07 and Rai Penta have a more linear, neutral delivery. While my initial evaluation of the Rai Penta was that it had a bit more subbass extension than the Andromeda, that IT07 has a clear advantage there with the best subbass extension of the three. In terms of mids and highs, the IT07 and Rai Penta both have more volume and thickness in the mids, while the Andromeda’s are slightly recessed. The IT07 really demonstrates its value here as having perhaps the best midrange clarity and detail of the three.
In the soundstage and imaging categories, the IT07 gets left behind a little. Both Andromeda and Rai Penta provide a little more air in the highs, and a better sense of space and imaging. The IT07 isn’t far behind, but it’s not quite up to the same level of performance. My big takeaway from the comparison is the level of value which the IT07 offers. While the Rai Penta and Andromeda overall provide stronger technical performance, the IT07 isn’t far behind – even exceeding the more expensive IEMs in some categories.
The Bottom Line
For me, the IT07 came as a complete surprise. It simply kicks butt all over the place. At $899, it’s also a strong value as it very clearly punches above its weight class into the $1000+ range. In short, the iBasso IT07 impresses with a neutral, transparent signature, excellent sound quality, and a great price to performance ratio.