Well now, what do we have here? It seems today’s review is of the red-headed step-child in Havi’s B3 series, the Pro II. Interesting.
The Pro I has pretty much reached legendary status at this point. When looking for a neutral earphone under 100 USD, it’s still right near the top of the list despite having been out on the market for years. It’s excellent reputation combined with a late-2015, early-2016 update helped keep it fairly fresh in the minds of prospective buyers.
Given this, it’s a little shocking how little content there is out there covering the B3 Pro II. In everything but their tuning they are all but identical, so why did the Pro I get all the attention and the Pro II fade away into oblivion? A stroll through the annals of interweb history showed the Pro II to be an unsuccessful attempt to add more bass to the Pro I formula, with the Pro II ending up with bloated bass, a small soundstage, and without any of the magic that made the Pro I click with audiophiles on a budget.
I’ve been using my Pro I for quite a while now and despite running into the earpiece cracking issue that’s plagued many a buyer, still very much enjoy them to this day. That said, curiosity sunk it’s long claws into my scrawny neck and I had to give the Pro II a try to see if it was really as bad as everyone said. After spending months with them, I suspect it received an extensive re-tune around the same time as the Pro I was updated because they are every bit as special.
The B3 Pro II was purchased at full retail price from Penon Audio back on January 15th, 2017. I am not associated with them nor Havi. The opinions within this review are mine and mine alone, and there is no financial compensation for writing this review.
You can pick up the B3 Pro II from Penon Audio here: http://penonaudio.com/HAVI-B3-ProII?search=havi
*Given the similarities between the Pro I and Pro II, you might recognize some aspects of my B3 Pro I review in here.*
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M8, LG G5, Topping NX1 portable amplifier paired with an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox), and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
The Pro II comes packaged identically to the Pro I, distinguished only by an itty bitty orange sticker with Pro II printed on it. Nearly two years later, I think this is still some of the nicest budget earphone packaging I’ve seen. It gives you the impression that you’re about the dive into something special.
The primary box contains a subtle image of the earphones on the front, specifications and package contents on the left, a dude playing the gee-tar on the right, and a product description on the back. While I agree with most of what the description says, they keep bringing up the B3’s bass output for one reason or another. We will come back to that later.
Opening the initial package reveals a second box. I love the fibrous texture Havi chose. The matte finish, the way the Havi logo catches the light at certain angles…it’s cool. Despite the understated and simple design, it is definitely something I would be happy displaying.
Flip up the magnetically sealed flap and you are greeted to the Havi B3 Pro II with a spare set of single-flange eartips (small and large, medium installed) nestled in foam that has a felt-like coating. Underneath you find a manual, the cable wrapped in a thick velcro strap and two carrying options; a soft pouch and a spacious clam shell case. Inside the clam shell case is a cleaning cloth for the Gorilla glass, set of silicone ear guides, one pair of medium-sized, high-quality foam eartips, a set of Sennheiser style dual flange tips in s/m/l, and one final set of opaque white tips in s/m/l.
All-in-all, this is quite the unboxing experience and something I would really only expect from a significantly more expensive product, such as the Dunu Titan 1 or 1More C1002. The B3 Pro series earphones offer a slightly different but equally impressive unboxing experience as those two excellent earphones.
The Havi B3 Pro II is constructed of durable, high quality plastic. The public-facing section of the housing is plated with Gorilla glass featuring an image of Havi’s twin triangle logo. Hidden underneath is a vent for the twin 6mm micro-drivers. The red/black color scheme continues the understated theme put forth by the packaging and is tastefully done. It’s a clean design that I think has aged particularly well.
The cable on the Pro II is excellent in my opinion. Below the y-split you will find a unique quad-wire flat cable. Above the y-split is your standard twin cable affair. These cables up here are a touch thin, but the sheathing feels robust and confidence inspiring. While strain relief on the housings is minimal, the y-split and 90 degree angled jack are covered and good to go. The cable emerges from the package with clear kinks and bends but over time it loosens up nicely and becomes quite smooth and flexible, or at least it did on my Pro I.
The second you saw the title of this section your mind might have wandered to the disintegrating housing issues many have been suffering with the Pro I, myself included. I’m not going to say the Pro II suffers from the same flaw or manages to avoid it, but given it’s built from identical materials it’ll definitely be something to watch out for.
Overall I think the Pro II is a well-designed and well-built product with a shallow-fit design that nestles itself nicely in an ear. No complaints from this customer.
Comfort and Isolation:
Like the Pro I, the Pro II fits my ears like a glove. Over-ear wear is my preferred method so it is fine that it’s designed with this in mind. They can easily be worn cable-down, but then you run into cable noise and look kinda dorky with them sticking out at odd angles. With the included large dual flange tips, fitting them was a set-it-and-forget-it affair. Some time was spent tip rolling trying out a variety of single and triple flange tips that came with other earphones. In the end, the included Sennheiser style dual-flange always provided the best balance of sound quality, comfort, and isolation.
Isolation on the B3 Pro II is excellent for a shallow fit, dynamic driver based earphone. They do a great job of passively drowning out external noise. Should you wear these while out-and-about, be wary of traffic since there’s a good chance you’re not going to hear it.
Amping: The Pro I is known for requiring lots of power to reach their full potential. The Pro II seems to be a little easier to drive requiring a notch or two less on the volume dial to reach what feels like an equivalent volume (I don’t have any official way of volume matching, so take this with a grain of salt). Still, they come across tighter and more reactive when amped. Recommended.
If you enjoyed the B3 Pro I but found them a little lacking in the low end, the B3 Pro II should be pinging loud and proud on your budget-hunting radar about now. Take everything that makes the Pro I so desirable (detail, clarity, soundstage), add a dash extra spice in the low end, and that’s pretty much the Pro II in a nutshell. Where the Pro I has a lean, warm, slightly colored but neutral-ish signature with a mild treble tilt, the Pro II takes that same signature, puffs it up a bit and shifts it the other direction towards the low end. The additional bass emphasis and weightiness ends up adding a lot to their fun-factor and as a result the Pro II resonates with me in the way that Pro I simply cannot.
The Pro II’s treble presentation is very smooth and precise. While it’s clearly less emphasized than on the Pro I, the trade off is some additional heft and body thrown in the mix which also lends itself to a more organic and natural presentation. The Pro II loses some airiness in the upper ranges compared to the Pro I, but I don’t find the trade off a negative and in many cases prefer the way the Pro II handles itself. The Pro I can at times be a little rough up top. The Pro II is always silky smooth, and unlike many of the hybrids I’ve tried recently, such as the Audbos DB-02, 1More C1002, or Accutone Pisces BA for example, it doesn’t shove the detail it pulls out of a track in your face. The Pro II is much more subtle and nuanced.
When it comes to the mid-range the Pro II is just as sweet as the Pro I. It doesn’t matter what you’re playing, it’s going to sound fantastic. It’s forward and rife with texture. It has a fairly thick, lusty, presence that with some tracks makes you feel like you’re in the room with the artist. The Pro II is equally competent with male or female vocals, able to carry their emotion and passion to you. Again, the detail the Pro II pulls out in the mid-range is top notch. It’s not as precise and crisp as something like the FLC 8S, but it holds up very well to two of my other favorite iems, the TFZ Exclusive King and Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced, both of which have glorious mid-range presentations.
The Pro II certainly adds more grunt to the low end of the B3 Pro signature which I feel gives it some much needed authority with electronic biased tracks. It’s also even more textured than the Pro I. While I wouldn’t consider them a bassy headphone, they avoid that somewhat anemic presentation of the Pro I. It’s really just a case of Havi dialing in more; more mid-bass, more sub-bass, more presence overall. It works and it works well. I enjoyed the Pro I with my favorite electronic tracks, but I LOVE the Pro II with them. The extra punch from the mid-bass and rumble from the sub-bass really wakes it up with EDM, hip hop, and other genres with a strong bassline.
Like the Pro I, the Pro II has a stellar sound stage. It gives up a sliver of depth to the Pro I but is still much larger sounding than the vast majority of in-ears I’ve tried. It also retains that 3D-ish effect with dynamic effects that swirl side to side, front to back. Using them for gaming is a pretty killer experience since placement and laying is accurate enough to use for positioning of enemy footsteps, gunshots, or just immersing yourself in a rally car barreling down a tight side road in the rain, stones hammering the inner wheel well of your car. The extra bass doesn’t hurt in this application either, something one of my other favorite gaming earphones, the Brainwavz B100, could use a snippet more of sometimes.
The Pro II’s extra low end does nothing to ruin the Havi B3 Pro experience. If you want neutral-ish with a treble tilt with a preference for bass to play a clear supporting role, get the Pro I. If you want neutral-ish but prefer a more exciting, authoritative low end that can step up when needed, get the Pro II.
I went into the Pro II with fairly low expectations based on the feedback I could find floating around the web. Most of it was flat out negative. The auditory experience the Pro II has been giving me for the last four and a half months does not at all match that old feedback, furthering my thoughts that Havi made some changes to the Pro II around the same time the Pro I was updated.
In the end I feel the Pro II is just as good as the Pro I, but special in it’s own way. The extra low end presence and slightly (and I mean slightly) more intimate presentation is truly involving. I wouldn’t be surprised if pure audiophiles found them too bassy since the Pro I seemed to teeter on the edge for some. However, for everyone else that wanted to hear the Pro I hype but has held off, lamenting the thought of sacrificing your precious low end, this is the B3 to get without a doubt. It really is an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock – Crows 1
Aesop Rock – Maintenance
BT – The Antikythera Mechanism
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)
Daft Punk – Touch
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Godsmack – Hollow
Godsmack – One Rainy Day
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd – Money
Skindred – Death to all Spies
Supertramp – Rudy
The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On
Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack
Various EDM mixes by SubSil3nt and Vintage Culture