Today we’re taking a quick look at the AWK-I015M from ColaRad.
ColaRad is a bit of a mystery brand to me since I’ve only seen one other product from them, that being their C01 earbuds. I suspect they are an arm of TY HiZ given the model number for the C2; AWK-I015M.
At 24.90 USD, the C2 is up against some stiff competition from brands like Knowledge Zenith, BGVP, and a vast number of other much less expensive wallet friendly cheapos like the budget defying Mixcder X5. How does the C2 hold up? Let’s find out.
The C2 was provided free of charge for the purposes of a fair and impartial review. The thoughts within are my own and do not represent ColaRad, Penon Audio who provided the sample, or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided either.
At the time of this review the C2 was retailing for 24.90 USD: https://penonaudio.com/colarad-c2.html?search=colarad
For at home use the C2 was occasionally powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, but more often than not straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was commonly paired with the HiFiMan MegaMini, F.Audio S1, or Shanling M1, all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. I didn’t find the C2 scaled much if at all with anything, so I didn’t really care which source I was listening to it through. It sounded pretty much the same regardless.
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 105 dB
- Impedance: 16 ohm
- Frequency response: 20-20 kHz
Packaging and Accessories:
The C2 arrived in an unassuming beige cardboard box with some stickers pasted on telling you what’s inside. I appreciate Disney inspired font ColaRad is printed in. Flipping open the lid you’re greeted by a standard clamshell carrying case and a little black box with “Accessories” printed on it. In all you get:
- C2 earphones
- Carrying case
- Shirt clip
- 3 pairs of ingle flange ear tips (s/m/l)
- Faux-leather cable tie
Outside of the nice little ColaRad branded cable tie, the included accessories are bog standard and nothing special in terms of quality or what’s included. It’s enough to get you going and protect your earphones, and that’s about it.
Build Quality, Comfort, and Isolation:
The C2 features all-metal housings which I presume are an aluminum alloy. Their design is dominated by a large grill at the back that is functional based on the loss of bass upon covering it, and that you can just barely see the cable knotted behind it. The general shape of the housings is similar to the Coke-bottle curves Meze series of in-ears, those being the 11 Neo and 12 Classics. The shapely curves combined with bright red coloring used on both the ear pieces and cable makes the C2 stand out. Fit and finish is pretty good too with no sharp edges or poorly lined up sections.
The cable lets the C2 down for a few reasons. Above the y-split it is quite thin which combined with a sticky sheath does not inspire confidence for longevity. I routinely found the cable tangling up on itself and sticking to my clothing. In addition, it is quite noisy requiring over ear wear to help combat the sounds of the cable bumping against your chest, and the clattering of the buttons on the remote which wobble about freely. Strain relief is really only in place at the ear pieces, but the rubber sheaths don’t wrap tightly around the cable, nor are they provide much resistance. They really seem there more for looks than function.
The inline remote/mic doubles at the y-split which I like, but is of pretty low quality. As mentioned, the buttons wiggle around and clatter with any movement, there is no strain relief, and the plastics feel somewhat thin and chintzy. While the mic itself does sound good, the a mount of noise it picks up while you’re moving (rubbing, the buttons clattering, wind, etc.) makes it useless for phone calls anywhere but in the quite of your home while sitting in a chair. The saving grace for this remote is that all three buttons work with Android. Paired with my LG G5, it’ll adjust volume in addition to the usual track swapping.
Comfort is a strong suit of the C2. The ear pieces are light and ergonomic with a fairly traditional barrel shape. They can be worn cable up or down without any fiddling. Cable-up wear is recommended to combat the cable noise.
Due to the C2’s open back nature, isolation is minimal. At low volumes I can comfortably hear what’s going on around me, the clattering of keyboards, traffic, etc. These would not be a great companion for those that like to use public transit.
Tips: The C2’s sound didn’t seem particularly affected by tip choice, so I just went with what was most comfortable, that being FiiO’s medium single flange tips that came with the F1.
The C2 has a warm, v-shaped signature. Mid-bass is the special of the day, though it does a good job of staying out of the mid-range which could stand to be more forward, especially in the lower mids.
Treble is slightly elevated but comes across overly smooth, if not somewhat dull. It really lacks any vibrancy or excitement. Cymbals hit without any shimmer and other effect just seem to fall flat. Detail and overall clarity isn’t bad by any means, but is lacking compared to budget hybrids and other earphones in this price range.
The mid-range is recessed but still quite intelligible. The C2’s warmth benefits softer vocals and uncluttered tracks where they can come across quite emotional and intimate. Micro-detail is smoothed over, so if you’re intent on picking out minor details like fingers sliding up a string, good luck.
The C2’s low is is similarly unspectacular. Bass hits with a soft thump lacking urgency and attack. It’s not particularly quick either. Extension isn’t particularly impressive either leading to a lack of visceral feedback. This is a very one-note performance focusing primarily on the mid-bass region.
The C2 has a great sound stage as a result of it’s open back design. It’s airy and open with good spacing between sound. Imaging is a little vague, however, and the C2 doesn’t portray much depth to it’s layering. On congested tracks it starts to feel closed in and muffled.
Overall the C2 is an inoffensive, if uninspired, sounding earphone. It lacks micro-detail and overall clarity, offering little over similarly price mainstream earphones I’ve heard in recent years.
Mixcder X5 (9.99 USD): The X5 is a value-heavy offering that makes something like the C2 a very hard sell. It’s packaging is more complete and even includes a detailed manual. It has a higher quality and more durable TPU cable with a very extensive and high quality accessory kit that includes ear hooks for exercising. The case is smaller but more dense and better at taking an impact, and even has a carabiner to clip it to your pants, bag, or whatever. Add to that deeper and tighter bass, more forward and clear mids, and more detailed and rich treble and the X5 makes a strong argument for swapping the prices of these two. The C2 isn’t a bad earphone, but those areas it is lacking in are highlighted when saddled up beside the X5.
BGVP MRY6 (24.90 USD): The MRY6 is a deeply flawed product in my opinion, but comes out looking pretty good when compared to the C2. The packaging is night and day with the MRY6 showing off with a nice watch box style case. Similar to the X5 above, the MRY6 features higher quality materials top to bottom with better fit and finish. The cable especially is a huge step up. While they’re not overly useful given the stubby nozzle, the MRY6 comes with three complete sets of tips. It’s microphone performance is pretty good too, without it’s performance being degraded by loose buttons in the remote. It has a similarly v-shaped signature but with improve extension either way, a similar sound stage size, and heaps more detail.
As much as I want to like the C2, it’s lacking in too many areas to warrant a recommendation, especially at it’s current price of nearly 25 USD. There are just way too many products out there that outperform the C2 in most metrics at its price range and below, two of which are listed above. Some others? Sure. The Kinera BD005, BGVP YSP04, anything by KZ, the Vodabang VD01, among countless others.
At 10 USD I’d be more forgiving of the C2’s issues, but that’s unfortunately not the case. It’s under built, under accessorized, and under performing. Sorry folks, but the C2 isn’t the ballin’ budget baddy we’re looking for.
Thanks for reading.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)