Yamaha’s EPH-RS01 in-ear earphones are lightweight, portable and sporty. They also come with an in-line level and call answer controller, and are both iOS and Android compatible. But what do they sound like?
Yamaha’s EPH-RS01 in-ear earphones are designed to offer a lightweight, convenient solution for mobile phone users – and especially those users likely to use them while jogging or working out.
They qualify as so-called ‘sport’ earphones by virtue of being moisture resistant, and offering a mounting system that should keep them secure and comfortable, even when exercising outdoors or in a gym
They’re also mean to work seamlessly with Android an iOS mobile phones (except the latest iPhones that do without minijack connections). A in-line volume control and pause/play button makes the Yamaha perfect for use as a hands-free solution, too.
AT FACE VALUE
As earphones go, the Yamahas are attractive in an understated, unobtrusive kind of way. The test unit came with beige-coloured earpieces and a blue cable, which is a welcome departure from the usual white or black norm. There’s also a blue/green option.
The cable has a simple but effective organiser to prevent tangling, and the earpieces are elongated, which makes them inserting in your ears a little easier.
Yamaha have also devised a clever ‘ear cuff’ system to keep the earpieces in place while working out. The ear cuff clips to the top of your ear, and the cable is then run through the cuff and behind the wearer’s ear, keeping the earpiece securely inserted in the ear.
It sounds like a strange and slightly awkward arrangement, but it works quite well in practice, although it takes a bit of experimentation to find just the right position for the ear cuff. That also goes for the earpiece itself.
The earphones come with a choice of four, different-sized silicone earpiece tips, ranging from extra small to large. It’s worth spending a bit of time trying out the different tips until you find ones that fit snugly.
The latter is important, because loose earpieces tend to work their way out of the ear canal, while a good fit is also important to achieve decent bass response.
The cable is tangle resistant and less to friction-based noise than some other in-ears I’ve tried, while the overall execution speaks of quality, which is vital, given the level of wear and tear earphones are typically subjected to.
UNDER THE COVERS
There’s more to these Yamaha in-ears than meets the eye, however. As so-called sport earphones, they are splash and moisture resistant – great for users keen on using them while jogging or working out.
For that reason, the earpieces feature a special coating that repels liquids like sweat or water, preventing moisture from damaging the drive units. Clever.
The in-line volume control not only has a slider-type level controller, but also an integrated microphone, and a single button that allows for pause/play, fast forward/ reverse and call answer/end functions. With an iOS device, you can even summon Siri …
The 8mm drivers feature powerful Neodymium drivers, while the diaphragm has a tangential edge to optimise dome excursion for the sake of accuracy and low distortion, as well as improved low-frequency performance.
I primarily used the Yamaha earphones in conjunction with my iPhone 5SE to be able to use the phone-specific functions. However, to evaluate sound quality, I linked the EPJ-RS01s to my Astell & Kern AK Jnr digital audio player, which is loaded with a selection of high-res FLAC-encoded music.
It took a bit of time to determine a comfortable position for the earpieces, and I settled for the largest eartips, which provided a solid seal without having to push the earpieces uncomfortably deep into my ear canals.
I tried the ear cuff system, and it worked well enough, but as I’m not exactly the world’s most active sports person, it wasn’t necessary to use the ear cuffs to keep the earpieces in securely.
As I’ve mentioned, getting the earpieces to fit properly is the key to good sound – and that’s true of the Yamahas, too. But once the earpieces were snugly ensconced in my ears, the sonic representation was smooth and clear, with good midrange representation and excellent detail rendition.
Initially, I felt that the bass response could have been a little weightier, but as the earphones settled in, the low frequency presence improved, suggesting that they benefit from some running in.
The trebles never sounded biting or aggressive, but the Yamaha’s didn’t have to resort to attenuating them either, allowing for a nicely balanced, smoothly rendered tonal signature. Detail retrieval and presentation was excellent, adding to the wide-open appeal of the delivery.
Stereo imaging was nicely focused, accompanied by the strong sense of lateral dimension typical of earphones. The sound picture featured decent height too, and the earphones also allowed for plenty of air and space, encouraging close listener involvement.
The live performance of Roger Waters’ The Wall sounded powerful and energetic, with the Yamahas accurately capturing the ambience of the venue and the enthusiasm of the crowd, as well as the sheer size and dimension of the performance.
Veteran South African singer Roger Lucey’s ever-stirring vocals, and the delicately lucid arrangements on Now Is The Time sounded vivid and engaging in a way that allowed me to rediscover this underrated set all over again.
The Yamahas sounded accurate without becoming clinical, and real without resorting to artifice. Instead, the acoustic guitars had just the right burnish and simmer, while the percussion was rendered with punch and impact.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Yamaha EPH-RS01 earphones match a well thought out design and the reassurance of rugged, quality build quality to a satisfying and entertaining sonic performance.
It’s lucid and capable enough to reward a good quality signal from a dedicated digital audio player like the AK Jnr, but still user-friendly enough to make the most of lesser MP3s and streamed content.
It interfaces well with mobile devices, and does a decent job as a hands-free interface for phone calls, even if the in-line volume control can be a little fiddly and the calibration not quite fine enough.
As is always the case with in-ears, how well the Yamahas fit individual ears will be a vital in determining ultimate performance.
• To stand a chance of winning one of 20 Yamaha EPH-RS01 earphones, visit our Yamaha Competition page now!
Headphones are becoming ever more sophisticated, and more technologically advanced. The latest reference design from Audeze is a good case in point. While it carries a hefty price tag, and isn’t exactly lightweight either, it delivers a level of musical engagement that makes for enthralling listening.
California, US-based Audeze (pronounced ‘odyssey’, by the way) has an established reputation for producing innovative, high-tech, audiophile headphones. From the unusual iSine in-ears to the high-efficiency LCD-X, Audeze products ooze technology and class.
The LCD-4 is the marque’s current reference-standard headphone – and it looks the part. Large, substantial and fairly heavy, it’s also a thing of beauty, thanks to ebony earcups, chrome finishes, plush earpads, and a carbon fibre headband with broad leather strap.
It’s fairly easy to get comfortable with the LCD-4s, thanks to the swivelling earcup mounts, adjustable headband and ample padding. But their sheer size and weight means you’re always aware of wearing them – especially during extended listening sessions.
It’s worth noting that Audeze recently launched a lighter, magnesium version of the LCD-4. The LCD-4MX is also easier to drive – and at at US$1 000 less than the LCD-4, it’s also easier on the pocket
UNDER THE COVERS
The real story of the LCD-4s is the technology that underpins them, though – and specifically their planar magnetic drivers. At less than 0,5 microns, the aluminium-coated diaphragms are ultra-thin, and are suspended between magnet arrays delivering a field strength of 1,5 Teslas!
The combination of ultra-light, ultra-thin diaphragm and powerful magnetic field promises very fast, very precise responses to signal input across the entire diaphragm surface, suggesting a broad and linear tonal response, together with close attention to fine detail, and athletic dynamics.
A quick glance at the specs confirms that the LCD-4 demands decent amplification. Specifically, the 200 ohm impedance means that this isn’t a headphone to be partnered with limited-output mobile players. These cans demand (and deserve) real drive and muscle to show off their best.
As an aside, Audeze released a free DSP plug-in for use with its headphones after our review period with the LCD-4. Dubbed Reveal, the plug-in is compatible with most DAWs and music playback apps that support AU, VST or AAX plugins. Both Windows and Mac are catered for.
The plug-in recreates the sound of reference-standard studio monitors, and is meant to further expand and enhance the listener experience. We’ll be trying out Reveal in a future Audeze review.
For this evaluation, I connected the LCD-4 to the latest-generation ADL Esprit headphone amp/DAC, with Roon playback software facilitating access to my digital music library (and Tidal CD-quality files).
The review example was already well run in, so I could immediately enjoy the engaging, expansive sound delivered by the Audeze headphones. Despite their physical presence, the accessibility and effortlessness of the LCD-4s made it easy to become completely immersed in the music.
SOUNDS LIKE …
These are headphones that closely scrutinise the music, but without stripping it of its emotive essence. The sound was precise and truthful, but not overly analytical.
Simply put, the LCD-4s afforded the listener full, unfettered access to the sonic character, the impetus and emotion of the music in a way that was both believable and thoroughly enjoyable.
Tonally, the LCD-4 linked a substantive, powerful and tautly structured bass to a superbly rendered, fully-fleshed midrange, ensuring that the music’s substance was delivered with authority and integrity. Indeed, the headphone treated the music with a welcome glow that further highlighted texture and timbre.
The trebles were smooth and well defined, allowing ample attention to fine detail. But compared to my reference Sennheiser HD 800s, the LCD-4s sounded slightly rolled off and not as transparent.
They were certainly more accessible and less critical than the Sennheisers – more music-friendly, perhaps – but at this level, some listeners will demand headphones that are more revelatory than appeasing in their approach to the music.
That said, there was a wholesomeness, an intensity to the LCD-4’s treatment of the music that made for compelling listening.
On ‘C#’, from the Avishai Cohen Trio’s From Darkness set, the syncopated rhythm initially drives the melody, with the articulate percussion, agile bass and muscular bass all vying for attention.
Despite the complexity of the arrangement, the LCD-4s easily, even gracefully maintained their poise and lucidity, affording each instrument close attention, yet never losing sight of the music’s overall thrust and intention.
Nitai Herschkovits’ piano sounded liquid and incisive, leading the music’s charge with brilliance and intensity, while the virtuoso percussion of Daniel Dor was succinctly and powerfully rendered across a clearly delineated soundstage that gave the music free rein and never constrained the sound.
Dimensionality was effortlessly presented but never artificially emphasised, meticulously placing each instrument in the sonic space, and always promoting a sense of cohesion and musical empathy.
The lush, Latin-lounge jazz of Eliane Elias was beautifully translated by the LCD-4s. They extracted the smouldering, sexy essence of the Brazilian singer’s vocals to riveting effect, and placed her against a backdrop of slick piano, enthusiastic percussion and seamless backing vocals.
The piano provided a compelling melodic counterpoint to Eliane’s breathy delivery, while the doo-wop backing added a richly timbred backdrop. Again, it was the effortlessness of the LCD-4s that impressed: the hardware got out of the way of the music, allowing it to flow with an unencumbered grace and ease that made the result sound more like the real thing, and less than hi-fi.
THE BOTTOM LINE
And that, my friends, is the true magic of the Audeze LCD-4. It brings the listener closer to the heart and soul of the music with a vivid, all-embracing intensity that makes you forget all that hi-fi mumbo jumbo, and focus on the essence of the performance instead.
In terms of sheer resolution and detail retrieval, outright transparency and sonic precision, there are better headphones out there. But when it comes to musical authenticity and sheer music pleasure, the Audeze LCD-4 is one of the very best.
Type: Open-back, circumaural
Transducer type: 106 mm planar magnetic
Impedance: 200 ohms
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 20 kHz
SPL: >130 dB at 15 watts
Mass: 680 g
Price: R54 495
Technologically impressive and sonically immersive. Supremely comfortable – but can become a bit heavy during extended listening. Price tag can lead to cardiac arrest …
ADL Esprit headphone amp/USB DAC
Naim Audio Uniti2 integrated amplifier
Linn LP12/Ittok/ Ortofon Cadenza Black
Valve Audio Whisper phono stage
PS Audio DirectStream DAC + Bridge II
PS Audio Stellar 300S power amp
Vivid Audio V1.5 loudspeakers
Eliane Elias – Dance of Time (|Concord 96/24 FLAC)
Avishai Cohen Trio – From Darkness (Razdaz 96/24 FLAC)
Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch 44.1/16 FLAC)