Today we’re going to be checking out Penon Audio’s newest in-house creation, the BS1 Experience Version ear bud.
Back in the day when Penon Audio released their first audio product, the Penon IEM, I hopped on board and included them in my purchase of the Fidue A31s. At that time I was just getting into the hobby, Chinese gear in particular, and was enjoying all the great gear you could get for not a lot of money. When the IEM arrived, I was impressed with the clean, comfortable design and powerful sound that was comparable to much of what Knowledge Zenith was putting out at the time. They were a somewhat mid-bassy and slightly veiled, but for 10 bucks they were a great little earphone. Durable too. Three years later and they’re still going strong.
Penon is back and time time they’re targeting those who are passionate about ear buds, a style of earphone that has recently been receiving some much deserved and well overdue love. With a clean design, excellent materials, and an engaging signature, the BS1 is a pretty solid entry and something to consider. Let’s look at the why in great detail, shall we?
The BS1 was purchased at a discounted rate for the purposes of review. There is no financial incentive for writing this review. The thoughts and opinions within are mine and mine alone. They do not represent Penon Audio or any other entity.
The BS1 retailed for 39.00 USD at the time of this review; http://penonaudio.com/Penon-Audio-BS1-Dynamic-Driver-Earbud?search=bs1
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, LG G5, Walnut V2s, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with the 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:
If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time you’ll know that I appreciate an engaging unboxing experience and useful accessories. Engaging can mean an in-depth and flashy experience like the FLC 8S or something no-frills and environmentally friendly like the Double Tap Audio R1. Penon kept it sweet and simple with the BS1.
The first thing you see is a small blue box with a colorful Penon sticker in the top left hand corner of the main face. Other than that, the box is plain as day. From the front, the lid is held shut via magnets. Flip it back and you’re immediately greeted by a small, clam shell hard case which holds the BS1 and accessories. All-in-all you get:
– BS1 ear buds
– carrying case
– shirt clip
– 5 sets of foams in various colors (includes one set of donut foams)
– Penon branded Velcro strap for cable management
(I got a few extra foams with mine)
I appreciate that Penon includes foams of various colors because the L/R indicators on the BS1 are limited to a single dot on the left earpiece, hidden behind the strain relief. An area of improvement in my opinion, especially if someone who is vision impaired orders this ear bud. Without performing a channel test it’s unlikely they would be able to tell which channel is which.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation (I jk, I jk, these don’t isolate. They’re ear buds.):
From my first glimpse of the preview pics, I was confident the BS1’s cable was going to kick some serious butt. When they arrived, I was not disappointed. This is a cable I’ve gushed about in the past in it’s application on the MusicMaker TW1 and AK Audio Light T2. It does nearly everything right. Strain relief? All there except at the y-split where you find a chin cinch. Memory? Completely absent. Bounciness? Nothing. Microphonics/cable noise? A thing of the past. Durable? So far, so good. All that and it looks great. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this is the best cable you can get on a budget product right now. Good choice Penon.
The rest of the BS1’s build isn’t all too shabby either. The rear section of each ear piece is metal while the face plate protecting the driver is plastic. The matte black housings are free of any branding and have a very straightforward bell-shape to them that flairs at the back. This makes them easy to hold and ensures they stay securely in your ear. Down near the strain reliefs are three vents through which you can clearly see some filter material. I wouldn’t be shocked to see modders playing around with different materials to see what effect they would have.
When it comes to comfort the BS1 is excellent. Like many ear buds, you just pop them into your outer ear and they rest ever so daintily, held in place by your antitragus. The BS1 is very light and free of sharp edges so there’s really not much to say. Although, since this is a pretty standard ear bud design and the housings have some thickness to them, those that have trouble getting ear buds to fit probably won’t be experiencing a revolution with the BS1.
I, like many, for the longest time was under the impression that ear buds were a waste of time and money. They were cheap throwaways packed in with audio devices and were simply meant to be a stopgap until you could get something better. Clearly that’s not the case with the modern ear bud scene thriving the way it is. You’ve got wicked good entry level stuff and totl gear from Venture Electronics, TY/HiZ/Seahf, Rose, and many others. Penon’s entry costs a little more than your hyper-budget cheapos, but it’s still far from what I would consider expensive. Also, it’s got a unique design instead of running with the same MX500 housing everyone and their mother uses, fantastic build quality, and most importantly, the sound quality to back up the 39 USD they’re expecting you to pay.
I found the BS1 to be characterized by a slightly warm, mid-focused presentation. Lower treble, mid-range, and mid-bass are all the most prominent aspects. Treble rolls off slowly and smoothly while the sub-bass dip is a little more prominent than I would prefer. I’m not knocking them for this quality given ear buds aren’t necessarily known for a killer sub-bass experience. It’s simply an observation that is in line with my experiences with most earphones in this style. The way they fit you may also lead to a differing experience, so keep that in mind.
The BS1’s treble is prominent but not overpowering. Listening to one of my favorite treble-heavy tracks, that being ‘Bluestep’ by Gramatik, the BS1 shows itself to be smooth and well controlled with good clarity and detail retrieval. It also lacks the shimmer and sparkle that really makes the track come alive, though on the other hand this helps make it a non-fatiguing listen. In this case it’s a nice trade-off as there is still enough shimmer to keep some of the excitement going.
In the middle frequencies is where the BS1 truly shines. It’s a thick, weighty presentation with good body and a naturalness that many earphones I’ve used struggle to encapsulate. This is very evident on Godsmack’s acoustic ballad ‘Hollow’. Sully Erna and Lisa Guyer’s surprisingly powerful duet is matched by an emotionally poignant acoustic guitar, mandolin, and cello that are faithfully reproduced by the BS1, drawing you in.
The BS1’s low end takes on a prominent mid-bass focus that has a surprisingly good punch for an ear bud. It lacks extension though, taking away from some tracks such as Haywyre’s ‘Sculpted’ which relies on a deep bass-line to guide the tune. Shift over to a song that has less sub-bass and more mid-bass reliance, such as Supertramp’s ‘Rudy’, and the BS1 will put a smile back on your face.
When it comes to sound stage, I didn’t really find the BS1 doing anything special in terms of size. This is a bit of a bummer as they image very well, and have great separation. Going back to ‘Rudy’, the BS1 does a stellar job of giving each vocal element and instrument a clear stage to play on. The immersion is impressive, and would only be made more so were there more space to play within. Bringing in King Crimson’s ‘Starless and Bible Black’ shows off the BS1’s ability to separate congested and busy aspects of a track. After a hilariously slow, yet intense build from ~4:25 to ~9:08, the track explodes into a crazy jazz rock extravaganza that with many earphones lacks any sense clarity and definition, devolving into a glob of noise. Not the case here. It was a cake walk for the BS1. Didn’t break a sweat. Two thumbs up.
Overall the BS1 is a very enjoyable and well-tuned ear bud. They have a competent, textured, and fairly detailed signature that really only falters on tracks reliant on deep bass. I would prefer it had a larger sound stage allowing it to really flex and show off it’s excellent imaging and separation qualities, but as-is it’s just fine.
*Slow Clap* Well done, Penon. You’ve brought to an ever-growing and extremely competitive ear bud market something that really sells what makes this style of product appealing. The BS1 has a great cable with quality materials that are put together with care and precision, and with a clean and comfortable design to boot. It’s beautiful, mid-focused presentation is a treat for the ears and while I wish it’s sub-bass extension were improved, what is there is acceptable.
If you’ve been hesitant to try ear buds and want to give them a go with something that will make you feel like you got something worth your while, the BS1 is well worth a look.
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
Haywyre – Sculpted
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
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