A Headphones Reviews Blog
SWP (or in its full name, SWP-Shinwoo-Tech) is a South Korean earphones, speakers and microphones manufacturer founded in 1986. Until recently, the company has been solely an OEM manufacturer for some of the leading cellular-phone companies, such as Samsung, LG and Motorola, manufacturing some of their audio components. Recently, the company has moved out of “the backstage” and introduced their own IEMs brand, called “T-PEOS” (an acronym of “The Premium Earphones of Shinwoo”). Just after that, the company introduced the brand’s first products, including IEMs in several price-ranges; out of them, their current flagship, the H-100 has caught my eyes. It is a Hybrid IEM, based on a single BA driver and a single 8mm Dynamic driver per-earpiece. I had already tried a Hybrid IEM before, the Audiofly AF-78, which honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with, so I hoped that the H-100 could fix that and be a good sounding Hybrid.
Packaging- The packaging’s designer deserves an award for its un-regular special and fancy design; the outer packaging is a nice wooden-box which has a paper-sleeve on it with some info about the IEMs and a large photo of them. Under the cover we meet the IEMs themselves for the first time, placed inside a kind of a plastic cover, accompanied by three pairs of ear-tips next to them. Behind this cover the user can find a leaflet about the H-100 (which includes some very detailed information and even a picture of their FR graph), a warranty card and a compact carrying-case, with all of the other accessories in it, which I’ll talk on later. In summary, this packaging is absolutely one of the better and more creatively designed ones that I’ve seen while reviewing IEMs and headphones.
Accessories- SWP added one of the best accessories packs that I’ve ever seen packaged with an IEM. The included accessories are:
A compact carrying & storing case-
The included case is quite small, small enough to easily get into every pocket in your jeans. Although its size, it has enough space inside not only for the IEMs and the accessories (inside a small inner pocket), but also for a small MP3-player like the Sansa-Clip. In summary, the included case is very functional and useful.
Eight pairs of ear-tips-
the included ear-tips are similar to the Sony-hybrids imitations, but they seem to be of a better quality, and their shape is a bit different. There are 2 sets of tips, 4 pairs in each set; the first set is of tips with a piece of foam in their core, similar to Sony’s “isolation-tips”, while the other 4 pairs are the same, but lack the foam-piece. Both sets come in 4 sizes (the Extra-Small ones have a bright-blue colored-core, the Small ones have a green colored core, the Medium ones have a red core and the Large ones have a deep-blue colored core).
An important accessory which helps the user to keep their IEMs clean and save them from potential malfunctioning due to ear-wax entrance.
the included case has a small fabric-piece which the karabiner can be attached to. Then you can attach the case to your belt.
A string to tie the IEMs/the case-
this string can be used in order to tie the IEMs or the case to your neck, similar to how you tie glasses.
I was very happy with the variety of the included accessories, and also with their quite good quality. In my opinion, the company has included every needed accessory.
Building Quality & Design-
The H-100s are built of good quality materials; the earpieces themselves are made of a shiny-metal, which feels very strong and durable, but also makes the IEMs a bit heavier than most of the IEMs. There are some designing elements on the earphones’ body, in the form of small bumps and a circular metal-frame, which connects the H-100’s two earpiece parts. In its back side there’s a laser engraving of the company’s logo and a caption of the brand’s name. The sound-tubes, which are made of the same metal as the body, are protected by a small mesh in order to prevent from filth to enter into the drivers chamber.
The strain relief is quite flexible and seems to be quite durable, but it seems to be a little bit too short – a few more millimeters long strain reliefs would’ve not hurt. The H-100KR has a red-colored-cable which is divided to 2 parts: the part that’s before the Y-Split and the part that is after it. The product designer has made a pretty interesting choice – he chose to have the upper part of the cable coated with rubber, while the lower part of it cloth-coated and thicker. It seems to be a quite smart design, because due to it, the cable part which is closer to the user won’t bother him because of its weight, while the lower would still be protected from getting torn because of being caught in some objects, a thing which usually happens to the cable’s lower part. Both cable parts feel durable, flexible and not very stiff. The Y-Split is protected by a cylinder-shaped piece of metal, which continues the IEM’s metal-based design. The cord ends with a gold-plated 3.5mm plug, which is coated by a metal housing. In summary, the H-100’s design is quite standard and not too flashy. It’s important to mention that there are 4 models in the H-100 line, all of which are the same except of a few minor design differences and their colors; my own unit is the H-100KR. The building quality is great apart from the shape of the connector, which I would’ve preferred to be L-shaped instead of I shaped, due to the better ability of such shaped plugs to protect themselves from bending.
Comfort & Ergonomics-
The H-100 are quite comfortable for me personally, but I could see some people having some comfort problems, mainly due to the designing-elements that are on the IEM’s body, which might cause some discomfort when rubbing against the user’s ear. They’re designed to be worn with the cable down, but they can be easily worn with the cable up too. The earpieces aren’t the smallest that I’ve ever “met”, and that’s another thing which might cause people with smaller-ears to feel some discomfort. The supplied ear-tips are very comfortable and almost never felt. If you’re afraid of some comfort problems due to the designing-elements, you could just purchase one of the two models from the H-100R line, which do not have the said design-elements.
Isolation & Microphonics-
A not very deep insertion and a small venting hole in the earphones’ back cause the isolation of outside noise to be nothing more than decent. It’s possible to improve it a bit by using the included “isolation-tips”, though the differences aren’t that big. I’d say that this isolation level would be enough for walking in the street, but not enough for when being in a bus full of passengers. The microphonics level is about average, but it could’ve been less. As I always recommend, if you want to reduce the microphonics to a smaller level, wear the earphones with the cable up.
Sound Quality- Before I started my critical listening, I gave the H-100s about 100 hours of burn-in. There were a few quite minor changes, mostly in the lower range
My gear for this review was my 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is loaded with mostly iTunes Store M4A files and 320 KBPS files. I also used my GoVibe Mini-Box portable amplifier with it, but only for the minority of the time.
The H-100 has a U-Shaped, warm and “fun” sound-signature. A “U-Shaped” sound-signature is a more mild case of a V-Shaped signature. It means that there’s a small emphasis on the treble and on the bass, while the mids are a bit recessed.
Now, we’ll move on for a more detailed description of every one of the sound’s parts:
Bass- the low frequencies aren’t too emphasized, but they have enough presence in order to make the sound “fun”. It’s easy to hear that the H-100’s bass extends very well, and has a great “full” body. Besides that, the H-100’s bass is very clear, one of the clearest that I’ve heard in its price-range. Its speed is good for a dynamic driver, but it cannot really win against the speed of a bass from a typical BA driver.
Mids- As I already said, the mids are a little less emphasized than the bass and the treble, but they do not miss the qualities that make a midrange to be a good quality one. They’re quite detailed, but their clarity is only about decent. When looking at the Frequency-Response Graph of the H-100s, one can see a peak in the higher-mids and a recession in the lower-mids. Both things can be heard when listening to the H-100s, but they’re less dramatic than I thought that they would’ve been based on the FR graph; female voices sound a bit stronger and more aggressive due to the peak, while low male voices sound a bit less strong due to the slight recession. The timbre sounds natural and decently realistic – not as good as the GR07’s timbre, but it still sounds quite good, honestly.
Treble- The high frequencies that the BA driver produces are great – not too aggressive, strong or bright, but also not weak or powerless. There’s a lot of detailing and a decent sparkle, which might be a bit too much for people who have very sensitive ears, as reported on Head-Fi. If this happens to you, you can do one of these two steps: 1. buy Comply foam tips, which usually relax the sparkle a bit. 2. Insert the IEMs to a smaller depth in your ear, as the H-100s are quite insertion-depth dependant. I was highly impressed by how clean and clear the treble is for the price – it can without doubt compete against $200 IEMs such as the DBA-02 MKII in this department. As for sibilance, it is almost non-existent.
Sound-Staging and Instruments Separation- The soundstage is decent in its size, but nothing more than that –this isn’t a department where the H-100 does something special. On the other hand, the instrument separation is good; there’s a noticeable space between each instrument and their placement is easy to identify.
Amplifying- although the H-100’s low impedance (only 32 ohms), I felt that I needed to increase my regular listening volume – I also felt that they needed to some more power in order to realize their full potential. I’ll recommend using these with an amp (nothing too expensive is required, a FiiO E6 or a GoVibe Mini-Box would do the job) in order to have the IEMs to unleash their full capabilities. The most major changes in the sound were in the dynamics (which were quite improved), the midrange (which became a bit more emphasized) and the sound-stage (which improved in its width and height). Still these differences aren’t that huge, meaning that using the H-100s with an amplifier won’t make them a totally different IEM. With that being said, it is possible to enjoy the H-100s a lot without an amp either.
My conclusions after hearing the H-100 are that it is one of the better IEMs in the sub-$200 market; their bang-for-the-value is really good. With a price of around $150, we have here a great competition for the usually recommended earphones in this price range, like the VSonic GR07, Fischer Audio DBA-02 MKII & the TDK BA200. I’d recommend the H-100s to people that like a warm and “fun” feeling sound, and listen to genres which usually need such a sound-signature (such as Hip-Hop, Pop, EDM, Dubstep, etc), but also wouldn’t compromise on the detailing and clarity of the sound. It seems that SWP has managed to make a quite well-working crossover between the BA driver and the dynamic driver, a thing which I was disappointed with when reviewing the Audiofly AF-78s (another hybrid), which had a quite bad one; the H-100s sound a lot better than the AF-78s.
If you’re looking for a set of IEMs with a supreme isolation, please look elsewhere, because the mediocre isolation is one of the most noticeable disadvantages of these earphones.
Where to Buy? The H-100s have a price of $150-$170. They can be bought straight from the manufacturer (you have to contact SWP through their website, the payment is through PayPal), or from various eBay stores. It’s important to note that the manufacturer sells them for cheaper than eBay ($150), so it’s worth buying straight from SWP. You can also purchase them from TopDog Headphones for GBP 99.
* I’d like to thank Shinwoo for the review unit.