EARNiNE EN1J: Rejoice
Today we’re checking out EARNiNE’s mid-range offering in the single balanced armature (BA) EN1J.
Unlike most, EARNiNE does not use drivers from well-established companies like Knowles or Sonion. Instead, they designed their own in-house which gives their earphones their own unique sound. The EN1J uses a single full-range driver within a housing reminiscent of that found on their flagship EN2J, though sonically they are very different creatures.
What makes the EN1J a strong contender in EARNiNE’s lineup? Let’s take a look.
Thanks to Penon Audio and EARNiNE for arranging a complimentary sample of the EN1J for the purposes of review. All thoughts within are my own and do not represent EARNiNE, Penon, or any other entity, nor am I being provided any financial compensation to write this review.
The EN1J retailed for 105 USD at the time of this writing: https://penonaudio.com/earnine-en1j.html
The EN1J on EARNiNE’s site: http://earnine9.com/e9/?page_id=71
For at home use the EN1J was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, HiFi E.T. MA8, F.Audio S1, or Shanling M1, all of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort. I didn’t find it particularly succeptable to hiss from any particular device. While I always recommend a clean source, the EN1J isn’t as picky or revealing as some other earphones, so you can get away with something that could be considered less than ideal.
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, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW +/- 3 dB @ 1 kHz
- Impedance: 38 ohm @ 1kHz +/- 20%F
- requency response: 20-20 kHz
Packaging and Accessories:
On the front of the outer sheath of the EN1J’s packaging you find an image of the earphone with some stylish matte graphics in the background. The left side contains some information on the product, such as that it contains one BA, a twisted cable, and strong noise isolation. On the right the accessories are listed. On the back you have a blown up image of the earphone’s construction along with the specifications and a few more statements about the EN1J’s features.
Just as with the EN2J, the EN1J is nestled in a dense foam cutout with the cable neatly coiled underneath. You also find a spacious carrying case holding all the accessories. In all you get;
- EN1J earphones
- Carrying case
- 3 pairs of single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- 1 pair of foam eartips (m)
This is essentially the same accessory kit as is provided with the EN1J, sans cable since it is fixed on this model. Overall it’s fairly minimal, especially for the price, but the quality of everything is outstanding. The tips are dense but soft and sticky providing a great seal. The case is compact and spacious inside with a smooth-moving zipper and covered in a durable fabric. I would love to see EARNiNE include some multi-flange tips, or even partner up with Spinfit since they pair so well with the EN1J.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The EN1J shares the same basic housing design as the flagship of the lineup, but with notable step down in material quality from stainless steel to a two-tone plastic; glossy facing the ear, semi-gloss facing the public. Most manufacturers would have swapped that around with the glossy side facing onlookers, but it looks fine so I’m not complaining. Feel in the hand is another matter with the EN1J’s plastics giving off a certain cheapness I associate with lower cost earphones. They’re very well put together with outstanding fit and finish, the materials simply don’t feel like they belong on a 100 USD product.
The cable is a bit of an oddity too. At first glance, it looks just like the top tier twisted cable found on the EN120 and EN2J, but once you’ve got it in hand you realize it’s not the same. The EN1J’s cable is a slightly stiffer and as a result less flexible and ever so slightly more prone to cable noise. They also removed the excellent chin cinch found on both the EN120 and EN2J, a move which makes little no sense to me. The steel jack has also been replaced with a lightweight plastic one. The excellent strain relief and preformed ear guides found on the EN2J are still in place here, which as you would expect is a great thing.
As with the EN2J and other earphones that run with a shapely, low-profile design, the EN1J is very ergonomic and virtually disappears in my ears. With the stock silicone tips I found them slightly finicky to seal fully, but that’s more a fault of the shape of my ear than the earphone itself. It’s my experience with most earphones of this style. Using the included foam tips eliminates this issue completely, as do any number of after market tips be they from Sony, KZ, HiFiMan, or another brand. At 5mm the EN2J’s nozzles are a standard size and the majority of 3rd party tips fit them just fine.
As is the case with most BA earphones, the EN1J is fully sealed and isolation is quite good, though not as impressive as the EN2J. The plastic housings used here let slightly more noise bleed in. Despite being sealed, I never experienced any pressure build up causing discomfort. Can’t say the same for the vast majority of fully sealed earphones I’ve come across.
Tips: Unlike a lot of other earphones, I didn’t find tips made a huge difference in experiencing what the EN1J had to offer. For fit and comfort reasons, I stuck with Spitfits for all my personal listening, though critical time was spent with the stock medium or large; whichever felt right at the time.
The EN1J has a mid-forward signature, and like the EN120 and EN2J, displays that distinct mid-range breathiness I have come to associate with EARNiNE’s custom BAs.
Treble out of the EN1J focuses on lower regions and has a somewhat dry quality to it. This combined with a smooth roll off takes the edge of aggressive use of cymbals and other higher pitched sounds. Micro-details are smoothed over slightly, but in general is in line with other competitive earphones in the 100 USD price range. Decay is expectedly snappy given the use of a BA, but no so quick as to be a hindrance for those looking for a realistic presentation. The EN1J’s treble is also quite airy, an impression helped along by this earphone’s competent staging qualities, such as it’s impressive separation that keep all effects playing in their own space.
The mid-range is where the EN1J makes it’s mark, offering listeners a crystal clear glimpse into their tunes. Listening to King Crimson’s Red front to back was one heck of a pleasant experience with the EN1J, showing off just how clean and detailed the mid-range is. Individual and rapid note changes on the sax, the unique vocals, and more all pulled together to provide a cohesive and unique experience. Tonality is spot on and timbre is realistically rendered. This is a very full mid-range with a lot of presence and character.
While bass is expectedly reserved coming from the single BA in the EN1J, it is far from anemic. Presence is mostly in the mid-bass regions with just enough digging going on to tickle your sub-bass receptors. More importantly, the EN1J’s low end is graced with texture out the wazzoo. Notes have great depth and body to them, and hit with speed and adequate impact.
When it comes to sound stage, the EN1J does a great job shaming some of it’s peers. With vocals front and centre hogging the spotlight, instruments and effects are free to roam around in the background. Effects that sweep back and forth, something Aesop Rock incorporates into many of his tracks along with layered vocals, are given lots of room to play and will comfortably swath from shoulder to shoulder. Front and back movement is adequately represented too, though raw side to side distance is where the EN1J excels. Imaging is reasonably accurate, losing precision as you move away from centre. Layering and separation are handled well too, especially in the mids where there is zero congestion.
Brainwavz B150 (69.50 USD): Both earphones are low profile, single BA products. While they also both feature twisted cables, Brainwavz’s is covered in another sheath adding some additional protection from tugs, pulls, cuts, etc., though this also reduces flexibility. The B150’s cable is better relieved and has the most effectively shaped preformed ear guides I’ve come across, though I have zero complaints about what EARNiNE has done with the EN1J’s guides. Both earphones’ shells are made from basic plastics and neither feel particularly premium. While the B150 has a more stylish design, I find the EN1J’s simpler, more mature approach more attractive.
In terms of sound they both suffer slightly from a lack of end to end extension with well-presented mids. The B150 is warmer and less detailed, in the mid-range especially, with greater mid-bass presence and makes for a smoother, more easygoing listen. The EN1J is also more textured in the low end providing a more engaging listen to my ears. In terms of sound stage, the EN1J throws sounds further, though not quite with as much precision. It is much more impressive than the B150 in terms of layering and separation though, avoiding the occasional bouts of congestion that plague the B150.
1More C1002 Capsule (89.99 USD): The C1002 squeezes one BA and one Micro-DD into a compact, pill-shaped and sized housing which nearly disappears in the ear. The fit and finish and overall build quality, along with the magnetic tips makes them feel more premium than the EN1J. Until you get to the cable that is. Noisy, semi-stiff rubber above the wire and fray-prone cloth below, with only passable strain relief to boot, EARNiNE’s cable is vastly superior in my opinion.
In terms of sound the C1002 is brighter which makes it seem more detailed, though on closer listen I’d put the EN1J slightly ahead for it’s resolution of fine nuances. The C1002’s mid-range is prone to mild sibilance and lacks the natural feel of the EN1J. Bass on the C1002 is handled by it’s tiny 6mm dynamic driver. It’s not big and boisterous, but actually quite reserved. It’s slightly slower and less textured than the EN1J but with more impact and slightly better extension. The C1002’s thinner presentation gives it a more airy presentation, though the EN1J throws sounds a greater distance with great accuracy and with a more layered feel.
Whizzer A15 Pro Haydn (124.90 USD): The A15 Pro’s overall package, from design to materials to build to accessories, certainly supports the feeling that it is the more expensive product, which it is. The EN1J doesn’t really compete in this regard with it’s overly basic accessory package and lightweight plastic housings. The EN1J succeeds where the A15 fails though. It’s fit is more secure, it isolates better, and the A15’s MMCX application needs some work. It is very easy to disconnect the cable simply by wiggling it. I like to dangle my earphones around my neck when not in use, a practice that will very likely lead to lost earpieces with the Whizzer.
The A15 Pro utilizes a single dynamic driver that somehow provides less low end impact than the EN1J’s single BA, though it extends deeper. Both are very textured and loaded with detail, both in the bass and mid-range regions with the A15 pushing out more detail in the treble which is also slightly more prominent. Both have a very open and airy presentation with the A15’s thinner sound helping it out. With airy, basic tracks like much of BT’s “If The Stars Are Eternal Than So Are You And I” album, it can sound impressively spacious. Despite the A15’s oddly non-visceral presentation, these two are great competitors and prime examples of their respective driver types.
With the EN1J, EARNiNE has brought to market a mid-head’s dream product. Forward, detailed, and natural, this earphone and vocal-focused tracks are simply made for each other. Add to that a comfortable, well isolating, low profile housing and some high quality accessories, though minimal in quantity, and you’ve got yourself a solid product.
In terms of improvements, I would love to see the EN1J revised with higher quality materials and a removable cable. At it’s current price of 105 USD, it doesn’t offer up the same value as other products in this price range like the numerous options from TFZ, MacaW, and others. Those brands will give you more for your money while still sounding fantastic. That said, if you don’t necessarily care about the extras and just want a good sounding, well-constructed and comfortable product that you can pop on and enjoy, the EN1J is a resounding success.
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)