Accutone Pisces BA: Sure sounds like a flagship

Greetings!

Today we are going to be looking at Accutone’s current flagship earphone, the Pisces BA.

Since 1969, Accutone has been delivering businesses and regular consumers alike with quality products. Their primary goal is to bring people closer, be that through music or communication. It’s clear that they are well-versed in the industry and that the knowledge and experience garnered over numerous decades has been put to good use crafting their latest series of consumer products.

From the energetic Lyra, to the Pavo with it’s dual dynamic driver setup, to the Gemini HD with it’s three filter options, Accutone has done an excellent job of offering both competitive and unique products. The Pisces BA continues this trend and is Accutone’s only earphone using a hybrid dynamic driver/Knowles balanced armature setup.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Angus with Accutone for providing the Pisces BA in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Accutone or any other entity.

The Pisces BA retailed for 389.00 USD at the time of this review; http://www.audio.accutone.com/pisces-ba

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A Little About Me:

Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.

The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. An XDuoo X3 has recently been added to the crew and was used for the majority of my testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.

Packaging and Accessories:

The Pisces BA’s packaging gives off a premium air and makes the product feel very special. When you realize this is the same package included with their much less expensive and prior flagship, the Gemini HD, that feeling is dulled somewhatl. Since the Pisces BA’s unboxing experience is very similar to that of the Gemini HD, some of the following may seem familiar to those who have read my review of them.

Covered in a cardboard sheath displaying the Pisces BA is an immaculately stitched large white leatherette case, very reminiscent of a high end watch or jewelry box. I’m surprised this case isn’t mentioned on Accutone’s product page or in the store because it’s absolutely gorgeous and would be an enticing feature to advertise should someone be looking to buy a high end pair of headphones as a gift. Heck, it even smells amazing.

Opening the box you are greeted by the comforting smell of leather and the Pisces BA earpieces standing proudly on display. Lifting the foam layer out you see the removable MMCX cable wrapped neatly underneath around another cutout. It does an excellent job ensuring the cable isn’t kinked or bent upon first use.

The bottom layer of the case holds a now-familiar portable white leatherette case, similar to that provided with the Lyra, Pavo, and Taurus, and the same as that provided with the Gemini HD. While I really like this case, it isn’t ideal for the Pisces BA due to the size of the housings. It’s hard to get everything comfortably in the case without detaching the cables. Since they use MMCX connectors, removing the cable should be done as little as possible to ensure a secure connection long into the future.

You are also provided a spare pair of Compy eartips and two information cards about the size of a standard business card. The first card has a unique QR code used for warranty and promotional purposes on one side and a mission statement on the other. The second card is a little more interesting. One side features the earphones statistics;

Hybrid Unit Model: Knowles WBFK

Hybrid Sensitivity (dB/SPL): 101 +/- 3dB SPL; 1kHz

Impedance: 32Ω

Frequency Range (Hz): 20-22kHz

Cable Length: 1.3m

Noise Isolation: 26dB

The other side shows your particular Pisces BA’s frequency response curve, lovingly titled as it’s “Birth Certificate”. This personal touch is pretty cool.

While the presentation is excellent and the quality high, at nearly 400 USD the complete lack of extras seems like a major oversight. It would be nice to see Accutone revisit this product and revise it’s accessory kit to better match the cost of entry. Maybe something like this would work?

– slightly larger portable case that can more comfortably accommodate the Pisces BA with cable attached

– more tips; one set of dual flange and one set of triple flange both in medium size, one set of single flange tips in s/m/l, plus the two sets of Comply tips already included

– a second, higher quality, more professional feeling cable intended for over-ear wear sans inline mic and with a chin cinch

Updating the Pisces BA’s accessory packaging to something like the above would improve the presentation and add more value to the overall package.

Design, Build, Comfort:

One look at the Pisces BA and you can tell style was an important factor in their design. The design and shape is very unique in that the driver units are contained in their own separate, neatly machined, aluminum housing. Attached is a slightly curved plastic plate displaying Accutone’s logo at the top. At the bottom is the MMCX connection point. The two pieces are at odds with each other and the cable clips in somewhat awkwardly, almost as if it was an afterthought, but together as a whole it works. It’s an interesting looking product that definitely catches your eye.

When it comes to build and material quality, the Pisces BA is a bit of a mixed bag. Build quality of the housings is perfectly fine. The aluminum is neatly machined without any blemishes or sharp edges. The curved plastic, while clearly made of multiple pieces, fits together well and doesn’t feel flimsy or fragile. That said, it also doesn’t feel like a premium material that would warrant a nearly 400 USD price tag. This would be more forgivable were the cable something spectacular, but alas, it is not.

This cable is the same as that used on their Taurus model, and is actually less substantial than the cable found on the Pegasus C, one of their entry level models. It is thin above the y-split and of average thickness below. I’d be generous in saying that strain relief is minimal at best. There is no relief at the 90 degree angled jack It is very short and stiff leading into the y-split and remote. Heading up to the housing, there is a long relief but it too is quite stiff. Not so much of an issue here due to the rotating, removable cable, but elsewhere more effective relief would be welcome. On the plus side, the cable is well-behaved. Microphonics (cable noise) are minimal, it is very flexible, and does not hold memory at all. This is a good cable that needs some extra strain relief to help ensure greater long term durability. I’m not sure if the MMCX connections are proprietary, but none of the spare cables I have worked out since the connections are quite stubby. Most of the MMCX cables I owned would fit, they just wouldn’t lock in place and therefore were unusable.

The inline mic is made entirely of plastic and feels fragile, especially compared to the quality of plastic chosen for the housings. The buttons depress with defined clicks and are easy to tell apart from each other due to the ergonomic design. Microphone quality is simply alright. My voice comes through fairly clear, though there is some notable background static that intrudes on your conversations. Since the cable provided with the Pisces BA was intended for use with Apple’s iDevices, only the centre button was functional.

Isolation seems pretty decent and is listed at 26 dB. I found they did a good job of cutting out background noise, and were entirely serviceable for listening in noisy urban environments.

Due to the rotating cable the Pisces BA can be worn cable up or cable down. Despite their size this earphone is quite light so cable down wear seems most natural, especially given the length of the housings. That said, I found wearing them in either orientation very comfortable. The primary portion of the housing is a standard barrel shape without an angled nozzle, so the Pisces BA is very easy to seat in your ear.

Overall the Pisces BA features a unique design let down by non-premium materials and a cable that desperately needs to be upgraded to something more suitable of a flagship product. Simply re-purposing the Lyra or Pavo’s cable into a removable design would be a large step in the right direction.

Sound:

Tips: The included Comply tips are an excellent match for the Pisces BA. If you prefer to use silicone tips, you have lots of choices. The Pisces BA’s nozzle is a fairly standard size so you can toss on pretty much whatever you want. I found tips with a semi-wide bore, such as Ultimate Ear’s UE600 tips, worked quite well in matching the sound you get from the included Comply tips.

Amping: Not at all required. The Pisces BA worked amazing well with anything I tossed at it, maintaining a surprisingly consistent signature regardless of the source used. They’re also pretty easy to drive. I’d be surprised if you found an amp necessary to bring them up to volume.

At this point I have experienced a number of Accutone earphones, from introductory products like the Lyra to their prior flagship the Gemini HD. Most have been quite good and competitive at their respective price points, sharing qualities that I guess you could say are part of Accutone’s house sound; non-fatiguing with a light and airy feel. Despite being a fairly bright earphone, the Pisces BA carries on this trend and sounds more than worthy of carrying the title of Accutone’s flagship product.

This earphone does everything I would expect a hybrid to do. It firmly displays the positive qualities expected from a BA driver in the form of detailed and accurate treble with a lush, though mildly recessed midrange.

Many of my earphones containing BA drivers can be a little grainy in the treble, but the Pisces BA remains silky smooth from top to bottom. Despite there being a lot of treble presence, it is never harsh or fatiguing and there is still a notable amount of warmth to the signature. My cousin whom has preferences quite the opposite of my own came away from a listening session with the Pisces BA shocked at how listenable they were for long periods, despite being so treble heavy.

The midrange is always clear and open, aided by a large and almost 3D-ish presentation. The buttery texturing really pairs well with softer vocals but doesn’t do more gruff, aggressive vocals much justice. As a result I feel they pair best with female vocals, or male vocals that are higher pitched. Guitars have excellent presence but again, a touch more texture and detail would be appreciated to bring out the most in recordings.

Bass on the Pisces BA is what you would expect from a well-tuned dynamic driver. It’s punchy, quick, and has great extension. Texture and detail are good, but not as impressive as something like the Echobox Finder X1. The X1 isn’t anywhere near as smooth, however, so the trade off in detail for listening ease makes sense.

The Pisces BA has a very large and open soundstage for an in-ear. Unlike my experiences with most earphones, this one’s soundstage extends around your head quite nicely and gives a very solid impression of depth, width, and height. Imaging and placement were also excellent. These things are amazing for gaming and have become my go-to for World of Tanks and Battlefield when I’m not using my AKG K553 Pro or HiFiMan HE-350.

Overall the Pisces BA gives you a fantastic auditory experience. Their sound is exceptionally refined and smooth, detailed enough, and with excellent extension at both ends. They are not at all fatiguing and are very easy to listen to for long periods of time.

Select Comparison:

Easy EE846 Hybrid (~200 USD): The EE846 was my first introduction to hybrid earphones, and wow what an introduction it was. It’s a 4-way hybrid using three BA drivers for the midrange and treble and a dynamic driver to take on the low end. This product is no longer available for purchase, though you can find something similar here on AliExpress.

Despite all the extra drivers, the Pisces BA and EE846 share some qualities. They are both smooth, liquid sounding earphones with excellent extension at either end and a coherent sound between their drivers. The EE846 is the more balanced of the two with the Pisces BA having notably more emphasized bass and treble with a less prominent midrange.

The Pisces BA has a slightly larger soundstage which I found pretty impressive given the EE846 is no slouch in that department. The EE846’s dynamic driver doesn’t produce bass in the same quantities as the Pisces BA’s but it is significantly more punchy and textured. Despite the Pisces BA being brighter, it somehow manages to be less fatiguing than the EE846. The EE846 is more detailed and slightly clearer sounding than the Pisces BA. Imaging and separation are excellent on both, but the Pisces BA’s more spacious soundstage gives it the edge, especially when used for gaming.

The EE846 is a little picky when source matching and as such can sound a little off if matched up improperly. The Pisces BA on the other hand couldn’t give a lick about the source used, and is much more versatile as a result.

While the EE846 feels much more solid and substantial in hand, fit and finish is nowhere near as nice as on the Pisces BA. Accessories were also extremely limited boiling down to a very basic carrying case and three sets of tips, two foam, one silicone, all in medium size. No cable was included. The Pisces BA feels miles ahead in this regard, though tip selection was similarly limited.

The additional warmth of the Pisces BA makes it the more natural sounding of the two. The EE846 also comes across more rigid and clinical, and lacking the fluidity of the Pisces BA.

Overall:

The Pisces BA is a stellar earphone that falls short in material quality and overall value. If Accutone had used more premium materials throughout, the Pisces BA would feel much more deserving of their price tag.

Plastic being used for the housings is a minor disappointment. It doesn’t feel amazing in hand, but it looks good at a distance and has shown itself to be quite resistant to scratching, so I’ll give it a reluctant pass. On the other hand, the cable doesn’t cut it. It is much to thin and fragile feeling for something nearing 400 USD. If it was better relieved this would be less of an issue. The included accessories, while of decent quality, are much too limited for something costing this much. At the very least some silicone tips in s/m/l sizes should have been included to make the earphone compatible with a wider variety of ears. I have quite a few different eartips to fall back on if the stock options don’t fit, but not everyone is so lucky.

All that said, the Pisces BA does sound absolutely sublime. Most of my qualms melt away once I have them in my ears as I can easily get lost in my music for hours on end. It’s only when they’re waiting to be used that their faults stand out. Luckily, that won’t be a common occurrence once you’ve heard them. The Pisces BA rewards you with an aural experience that far exceeds your average earphone.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Albums/Tracks

BT – This Binary Universe

Gramatik – The Age of Reason

Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That?

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Skindred – Roots Rock Riot

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The Crystal Method – Tweekend

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Grand Funk Railroad – Inside Looking Out

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