Wednesday, February 25, 2015

LH Labs Verb Review



LH Labs recently sent me a pair of the new Verb earbuds that are currently being offered through their Geek Wave campaign (On Indiegogo) for review.  LH Labs actually has two versions of their earbuds coming to market.  The first version, known as Geek IEM on the campaign (Verb), is the version I was sent –which is unbalanced.  The second version is fully balanced and is called Geek IEM-X ($69 perk price).  Those earbuds should be coming out a few weeks after the Verb starts shipping here shortly.

The Verb is more of a “mainstream” set of buds, meaning the tuning is more U shaped.  If you sniff around on the various audiophile websites and forums, you’ll see that a lot of people that consider themselves audiophiles prefer a flat tuning.  In fact, I’ve seen the U / V shape tuning referred to as “Kiddie Tuning”.  

If you’re a “mainstream” listener and don’t know what all of that means – don’t worry about it.  All you need to know is that these earbuds will perform like the ones that came with your phone…on steroids.  If on the other hand, you are an audiophile and prefer a flat tuning - these earbuds are not for you.  Not to worry though, the Geek IEM-X will be fully balanced and have that “Big Boy” flat tuning which you desire. 



The Technical Details

Speaker Diameter: 4mm
Magnet Type: Neodymium
Frequency Response: 20-40 kHz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Max Input Power: 450mW
Cable Type: Enhanced TPE
Cable Length: 1.3m
Plug Type: 3.5mm Gold Plated
Microphone Type: Lapel inline electret

Earbud height: 20mm
Earbud Width: 9.8mm
Earbud Depth: (With soft tip) 23mm


What Comes In The Box

Earbuds and a bag with Silicone ear tips in two additional sizes (One larger and one smaller).


Additional Features

In-Line Mic for phones.  (Works with my Note 4 just fine) 


Claims By LH Labs

  • Quality of Sound: Rigid metal earbud enclosure for fast driver response, which causes the sound to be more like real life. (You don’t lose part of the sound to vibrating plastic)

  • Bass Feature: Earbud enclosure is ported for extended bass frequencies.




First Impressions



When I received the earbuds, the first thing I noticed was the nice packaging that they came in.  The box is very sturdy and uses magnets to keep itself closed.  The buds are packed very nicely in a thick piece of foam with a plastic cover - it definitely gives you the warm-and-fuzzies that your buds were well protected during their travels.


Feel

The earbuds feel very comfortable in the ear.  After prolonged listening, I never had to take them out because my ears were fatigued or irritated.  Using the tips that came on the buds was no problem for me and I achieved a good seal around the ear with no problem.  I never had to replace the tips with the larger or smaller extras that came with the earbuds.


Looks




I received a red pair and they are very sharp looking.   Although looks don't add to the sound experience, this was icing on the cake for me.


Albums Used To Test

Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out (DSD (Single Rate) 2.8MHz/64fs Download)
Chuck Mangione Feels So Good (AAC 44.1 kHz 256 kbps)
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass various songs (AAC 44.1 kHz 256 kbps)
Jim Croce Photographs & Memories (AAC 44.1 kHz 256 kbps)
Jellyfish Spilt Milk (AIFF 16 bit/44.1 1411 kbps)
Sir Mix-A-Lot Swass (AAC 44.1 kHz 256 kbps)
Daft Punk TRON: Legacy (AAC 44.1 KHz 256 kbps)
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer Pictures At An Exhibition (AAC 44.1 KHz 256 kbps)
Howard Jones Engage (AIFF 16 bit/44.1 1411 kbps)
Malibu (Roger Manning, Jr.) Robo-Sapiens (AAC 44.1 kHz 256 kbps)


Music Source /DAC Used For The Test

iTunes/Geek Perfect & Geek OUT 450 USB DAC.


Results

The first thing that I did was let the earbuds sit on my desk for about 10 hours of burn-time to break them in a little.  When I finally put these buds in my ears, the first thing I noticed was the clarity and accuracy of the Verbs.  The first bit of music I test drove on these was Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.  I really wanted to see how they would handle this incredibly crisp recording at a pretty high sample rate (DSD 64).  The Geek Out already made the album sound ridiculous, but when I added the earbuds to the mix, it took the music to a whole new level.  The music was crisp, clear, and clean.  Every instrument sounded so natural.  Every piece of the drum kit sounded unique and didn’t mush together.  Even the ping of the drumstick on the ride cymbal could be picked out of the music.  The detail of the bass string being plucked jumped out as well– it was just fantastic.  Overall, the earbuds had amazing detail, a very accurate low end that had actual form to it, and highs that were clear, yet not harsh or too intense.


A Little More Detail…


Bass Response

I rather enjoyed the Bass response that the earbuds produced.  Whether it was an acoustic upright bass, a TR808, or an analog synth – the Verbs handled them all very well.  If you’re into deep booming bass that leaks all over the place, these might not be for you.  But, if you prefer bass that’s tight, stays in it’s place, and has pitch and form – you will love these.  Even when listening to something with a ton of sub bass like Howard Jones’ new Engage album, these earbuds reproduced everything with no problems at all.

I began the bass test with some tunes that are analog drum machine heavy.  There’s not much out there that displays the TR808 quite like that old Miami bass and old school rap from the 80s and 90s.  So I dialed up Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse On Broadway” (Yes, the 808 kick drum does in fact make the girlies get dumb) to hear what these buds could do.  Usually when you hear 808s the bass can be overpowering and bleed into other frequencies if the buds/phones can’t handle it - which is why I chose this song to test how well the Verb earbuds would respond.  What I found was that they accurately reproduced that distinctive, beautiful “bounce” that the 808 produces.  It was crisp, tight and everything that you would want it to be.  My only critique is that the sound could’ve use a tiny bit of low end.

Moving on from the kick drum test, I then used some electronic music to see how the buds would perform.  Daft Punk’s “End of Line” off of the TRON: Legacy soundtrack was up first.  Once again the earbuds performed well with this song.  Not only was the reproduction of the song spacious, but the bass response was fantastic as well and the Verbs followed the music superbly. 

The same went for Malibu’s (AKA Roger Manning Jr.) album Robo Sapiens.  Manning is known for his cornucopia of analog synths and thankfully isn’t shy about using them all over this album.  What I found is that the earbuds track all of the sequenced bass lines extremely well while still being able to reproduce the mids and highs of the other synths that are layered over the bass lines. 

I could go on and get lost in the nitty-gritty, but I think you get the picture.  Overall, these earbuds handle bass very well whether you are listening to jazz, funk, electronic, rock, or pop.


Mids/Highs

Being that these earbuds have a “U-shaped” response, the mids are going to be a bit more recessed than the highs and bass.  With that being said, the highs were never piercing and I didn’t notice any peaks or spikes that were distracting in any way.  Once again, I tried to put these buds through the ringer by running a bunch of different genres of music through them.

Whether it was the high notes of Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn, the upper registers of Emerson’s Moog modular on “The Old Castle”, or the brush strokes on the snare from Time Out, the highs were very crisp and defined.  The buds never felt too tinny or metallic, which I personally don’t care for. 


Negatives

The only real gripe I have with the Verb earbuds is that when the cable is bumped or touched it produces some distracting noise.  I noticed it if I turned my head and the cable hit my collar or if the cable was bumped anywhere near or above the silver cylinder where the left and right cables join to become one.

I also wouldn’t have minded a little more mid range.  When you have the highs and lows punched up certain songs can sound a little thin, and slightly cold – but by no means does it kill the experience on the whole…it’s really me splitting hairs here.


Recommendation

Verb earbuds are listed at $39 right now on the Indiegogo campaign and for that price – it’s a NO BRAINER.  Seriously, you can get some crappy apple earbuds for $29 from their online store or get these right now for $39 – you’d have to be NUTS not to buy these right now if you need a set of earbuds.  Click HERE to check them out.   

Once the campaign ends and these babies shoot up to their MSRP of $159 then I still would recommend that you give these a listen because they will, without a doubt, go up against the popular Beats or Sony XBA-H1s (Heck the Sony’s don’t even have a remote or a mic to use with your phone).  At that point I know it becomes a listener’s preference, but with the accuracy, the tight bass response, the fantastic soundstage, and clarity of these earbuds – you can’t go wrong at this price either. 

I thought I was ruined when I stared listening to DSD music through my previous headphones.  Now, with the addition of the Verb earbud – I’m completely ruined.  I’m glad that I ordered two sets (One for the wife too) of these puppies at the smoking price of $39 – these are Soli Lama approved!



Thanks for reading.



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5 comments:

  1. To bad they are tuned for kiddies. Guess I'll have to give them away.
    The impression was they were HiFi IEM's not toys.
    I feel ripped off.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I must admit, when they were first advertised, I thought they were supposed to be neutral, too. I don't feel ripped of, but certainly disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can understand how you feel, but it's not my job to blast them for anything like that - I just review the final product.

    They sent me earbuds, explained that they were more "mainstream" and had a U-shape tuning and I reviewed them as that. For what they are, they are fantastic. For $39 you absolutely can not beat them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you feel ripped off by 39.00 set of headphones that puts out music like these do then you're crazy! I can't stop listening to the Ottmar Liebert Up Close (binaural dummy head recording) album on repeat due to the clarity and 3D sound of the buds. These are a steal for sub hundred dollar in-ear buds especially with all the over-priced crap on the market these days. Soli Lama I would highly recommend this album to be in your "tester" albums.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
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