Today we are going to be taking a look at the newest earphone from the good folks over at Blue Ever Blue, the Model 1200EX.
Based out of Washington, D.C., Blue Ever Blue (BeB) exploded onto the earphone market in 2011 with a variety of products featuring HDSS (High Definition Sound Standard) technology. A number of respected Head-fi’ers like jant71 and clieOS gave them a go. After some outstanding initial coverage, it was apparent BeB was bringing to market some heavy-hitting earphones in the under 100 USD category.
Fast forward five years and BeB has continued to expand their lineup, releasing higher quality and seemingly more technically proficient models along the way. Their new flagship, the Model 1200EX, was recently released on October 28th, 2016 and I feel we’re going to be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months. Why is that? Let’s find out.
I would like to thank Bentley with Blue Ever Blue for providing a sample of the 1200EX in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving financial or any other form of compensation for this review. All comments and opinions within are my own and do not represent Blue Ever Blue or any other entity.
The 1200EX retails for 130.00 USD. You can purchase it here on Blue Ever Blue’s website: http://www.blueeverblue.com/product_model_1200ex.html
The nozzles on the sample I was sent came misaligned, a QC issue BeB is keeping a close eye on. It didn’t affect fit or sound quality.
To help launch the Model 1200EX, Blue Ever Blue is for a limited time offering a $31 rebate. This is available to Head-fi.org members that purchase the 1200EX between November 10th and December 31st, 2016. All you need to do is purchase the earphone from their site (link above), and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your Head-fi username. Once received they will issue a $31 refund dropping the final price to $99. Sweet!
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 from outstanding 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 composed of an XDuoo X3, HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. 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:
Looking back to BeB’s older models and the heavy use of blister packages, you can see they’ve taken a pretty big step forward here. While nothing mindblowing or uber premium, the outer package clearly outlines what to expect from the 1200EX; what it looks like, specifications, and features. The magnetically sealed front flap is a welcome touch, giving you a sneak peak of the earpieces and BeB logo embossed on the carrying case. An area of improvement would be the layout and presentation. It’s overly busy with six or seven different fonts used on the front alone, and the red on grey is nearly impossible for a color-blind chum like myself to read, especially when the light hits at certain angles.
HDSS and some of the benefits of this unique technology are noted, such as 3D full stereo sound, high definition audio, and a 14.32% reduction in psychological stress. I don’t fully understand how that’s supposed to work, but I highly recommend heading over to HDSS.com (http://hdss.com/technology.html) to read up on it as it’s an interesting subject. There are some big names backing the tech as well, such as Asus, Marantz, Sharp, Head-fi favorite Dunu, and of course, Blue Ever Blue.
Moving on to the contents, sliding out the inner package you’ll notice the foam inlay is covered in a smooth, felt-like fabric. A unique touch compared to the bare foam inserts used by most manufacturers. The 1200EX earpieces are on full display up top, with the compact carrying case on display below. I was afraid the case would be a bit too small, but it holds the 1200EX just fine.
Inside the case you find a bunch of goodies; medium bore eartips in s/m/l sizes that were very similar to those included with the ATH-CKP300, a single set of wide bore tip in medium size, and a single set of dual flange tips reminiscent of those used by Brainwavz. There are also three alternative ear hooks in s/m/l sizes. Another ear hook in a completely different and more compact style comes preinstalled.
Tucked away underneath the inner tray is a 1 year limited warranty card. Not as great as the three year warranty you get with RHA’s products, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the hilariously short limited 3 month warranty Sony offers with the AS800AP.
Overall the presentation is a little hit and miss, but quality materials are used and the accessory kit is comprehensive.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
Cheap materials and poor build quality can quickly quell enthusiasm and cast a dark shadow over a great sounding product. Now way would I want to drop my hard earned cash on something that’s probably not going to be in good working order in a couple months, especially when I start dipping my toes in the 100 USD and over market. The 1200EX meets my expectations and feels like it should stand the test of time.
If my experience with old school Hot Wheels toy cars from the 70s, 80s, and the early 90s is any indication, these housings will take a licking and ask for more. The solid feel and weight of the 1200EX immediately brought to mind that classic toy the first time I held them in my hands. The hefty metal alloy and thick, reassuring plastic used for the earpieces inspires confidence. Only time will tell of course, but I would be shocked if the Model 1200EX ran into durability issues.
All this girth means the 1200EX is a heavy beast but the weight is fairly well distributed. This is further aided by the use of the included ear hooks. The ear hooks are made from a very soft silicone so while they taper into a seemingly sharp edge you hardly notice they’re there. I would like to see BeB include slightly beefier ear hooks in the style appearing on Brainwavz’s BLU-200 model. Their ear hook works amazingly well with the 1200EX, adding additional stability the stock ones lack while maintaining most of the comfort.
When I first saw the winded cable, the QKZ W1 Pro came to mind. While the 1200EX’s cable is similar, it’s thinner above and below the y-split and uses a much stiffer sheath. It’s fairly resistant to tangling but has some memory, retaining mild bends from being stored in the case. Cable noise (microphonics ) is almost completely absent and is very likely the best I’ve come across in an earphone designed predominantly for cable-down wear. Strain relief is present at the 45 degree angled jack and leading into the earpieces, if not a touch too stiff. It is completely absent at the y-split. Overall it’s a very nice cable. While thin, it feels tough and the near complete lack of microphonics is a HUGE plus.
The Model 1200EX isolates like a dynamic driver earphone, that is to say it is simply okay. The large vent in front of the driver, just beside the nozzle, lets in a fair bit of sound. Once you have music playing, even at low volumes, its not so much of an issue but you’re still going to need to crank it up when using public transit.
Overall the Model 1200EX comes across as a very durable earphone. The fairly comfortable design, which makes good use of the included ear hooks, combined with very low cable noise means they’re great for mobile use, just try to avoid overly loud areas because their passive isolation could be better.
Tips: I tried a variety of tips with the 1200EX but didn’t hear much of a difference moving between bore sizes. In the end, large dual-flange Havi tips and medium Mixcder ANC-G5 tips offered up the best comfort and most consistent seal, so I settled on them.
Amping: Please do, even though this is an earphone optimized for low volume listening. They are a slightly warm, treble leaning, mid-range forward earphone that with extra power is extremely clean, tight, and very detailed. Straight from a cellphone, they certainly sound great, but an amp kicks it all up a notch.
Bass seems to be the prime focus of most manufacturers as of late. Warm, smooth, monstrous bass that will please the masses. What I love so much about the 1200EX is that their bass quantity is sidelined putting everything else in the spotlight, with just enough warmth to tie it all together.
Treble is crisp, accurate, full of detail, and prominent, along the lines of Dunu’s Titan 1. Unlike the Titan 1, the 1200EX is a touch dry and quite crisp that results in them sometimes coming across a bit over exuberant, such as during particularly energetic cymbal crashes. For the most part, however, it’s well behaved. Well behaved enough for this to become my go-to earphone for metal, taking the place of my beloved JVC HA-FXH30.
Their midrange is truly something special, making the Havi B3 Pro 1 sound almost muffled and veiled in comparison. The B3 has one of my favorite midranges, and still does, but listening to the two back-to-back confirms the 1200EX is not playing the same ballgame. The realism and ease with which voices are presented is outstanding and in my earphone collection, I’d be hard pressed to find a rival.
Their low end is pretty tame, with not much more emphasis than the Havi B3 Pro 1. Extension into sub-bass regions is quite good, showing that a somewhat bass light earphone can still hit the low notes if called upon. It is also insanely quick and punchy. Drums sound spot on with just the right amount of decay, and so good I caught myself spending a couple hours on Youtube hunting down the craziest drum solos and battles. The intent was to find one that would exceed the 1200EX’s capabilities. Still looking…
BeB touts a 3D, full stereo soundstage. I don’t know about it being 3D, but it sure is impressive. Definitely larger than average and nigh identical to the Titan 1 but with improved depth. Where the sweetness comes in is with the way sound travels within this space. I’ve run into earphones that make me aware of non-existent activity in my surroundings, but not quite like the 1200EX does it.
Overall the Model 1200EX is an outstanding sounding earphone with a stupendous midrange. Don’t let the ear hooks fool you into thinking this is a sports earphone your typical bass-heavy signature, because it couldn’t be any more different. If you like a fairly neutral sound with a ridiculously sweet midrange and some extra energy up top, these are well worth your time.
Blue Ever Blue has eschewed standard tuning expectations for the Model 1200EX, and like the Havi B3 Pro 1 shows that you can release a very capable, audiophile friendly tuning at a good price. They don’t spam your ears with “EXTRA BASS!!!”, they output gobs of detail top to bottom, and they present their midrange and soundstage in a way that would make most earphones jealous.
While the misaligned nozzles are something to watch out for, it wasn’t something that affected my enjoyment of the Model 1200EX. The packaging design also needs some work, but this is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things especially when most buyers will be tossing it out anyway.
I’ve been thankful to have the opportunity to listen to a number of outstanding earphones this year, but the Model 1200EX really stands out. It’s always refreshing to try out something that’s intended for low-volume listening. It’s even better when the earphone sounds this good.
Thanks for reading!
Earphone stand provided courtesy of Aural Life
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Gramatik – The Age of Reason
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That?
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Skindred – Roots Rock Riot
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Tom Cochrane – Trapeze
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey