Today we’re checking out a very high impedance ear bud from TY Hi-Z, the F300M.
TY Hi-Z has quite a positive reputation in the ear bud realm due to their offering of a wide variety of quality products at prices that tend to bely the performance on offer. I was excited to check these out based on this reputation and the few reviews I read. Were my expectations met? Not even remotely. Let’s take a closer look.
Disclaimer: Thank you to TY Hi-Z and Chi from Penon audio for arranging a sample unit. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Ty Hi-Z, Penon Audio, or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided. At the time of this review the F300M retailed for 69.00 USD: https://penonaudio.com/ty-hi-z-f300m.html?search=f300m
Source: Being a 300 ohm bud, the F300M requires a ton of power to drive. Given this, it was run for the first month almost exclusively with the iFi Pro iCAN. Once that was returned to iFi, it was up to my TEAC HA-501, the Auglamour GR-1, and the Walnut F1 to carry the torch. If you don’t have a powerful amp you’ll get nothing out of the F300M.
Personal Preferences: 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 unique examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Driver: 15.4mm dynamic
- Impedence: 300 ohm
- Sensitivity: 115 +/-5 dB
- Frequency Response: 16-24000 Hz
The F300M Experience:
Packaging and Accessories: The F300M arrives in a VSonic-esque package. The entirety of the front is a plastic viewing window showing off the earpieces and emblazoned with the Ty Hi-Z logo, which I think is one of the best designed logos in the world of Chinese products. At least the TY part is. Lift out the cardboard/foam panel the earpieces are nestled within and you are greeted by the same simple, semi-hard clamshell carrying case with a faux carbon fibre look that I used to get with my KZs. Inside are the rest of the accessories, 4 pairs of foams (two donut, two full). Below that is an after sale guide which goes over warranty info, burn in and care directions, and info on the benefits of high impedance designs. English translations are expectedly spotty at best, so enjoy the read. In all you get:
- AWK-F300M ear buds
- Carrying case
- 4 pairs of foams (2 donut, 2 full)
In all, a nice presentation backed by a basic accessory kit. Just enough to get you going and keep the F300M protected.
Build and Comfort: The F300MT shares housings with the HE 150Pro and the TY Hi-Z F32MT, and it’s wonderful. It’s all metal, light, has fine metal grills front and back, a great paint job, and it’s all put together with precision and care. The braided cable is exceptionally cool too. Despite a very rubbery and somewhat bouncy sheath, it is well behanved with little to no memory and good tangle resistance. In terms of cable noise, this one is exceptionally quite and one of the best I’ve come across. Add to that a great looking straight jack with a carbon fibre finish and good strain relief. Relief could be improved everywhere else though. Regardless, this is a great cable that I wish was installed on a different product.
Because the shells are so light and do not have a thick base, I found the F300M very appealing to wear. There are no sharp edges and the design slots in comfortably and securely regardless of whether you’re wearing them cable up or down. I also found them low profile enough to wear in bed, lying on my side. I suppose that the wide face will cause issues for those with smaller ears, but again that’s a common issue with ear buds since they tend to use such large drivers.
Sound: To me, running the F300M with full foams is an absolute necessity. Without any or with donuts, the F300M is especially peaky. Don’t go anywhere near horns or excessive cymbals. Poor ears. Ouch. Note that all of below impressions were gathered with the full foams installed.
Like the F32MT, I found the F300M rife with potential but saddled with a very inconsistent tune. Let’s start with the low end which is one of their best qualities. Mid- and sub-bass balance is tuned well with a nice mid-bass presence that is punchy and quick. Sub-bass is more emphasized though, giving the rest of the F300M’s signature a strong base upon which the rest of it is build. Texture is excellent with lots of layers to go along with the depth. Throwing on Gorillaz’s “White Flag” with it’s thumpy, measured bass line really suits the F300M. I really have no complaints with the way the bass on this bud. This part is pretty great.
Leading into the midrange, like the F32M, the F300M is pretty hit or miss. On “Rhinestone Eyes” by Gorillaz, Damon’s vocals taken on a very hollow and shouty presentation whereas the female background vocals take on a slightly more natural tone and lack the sibilance in the main vocals. Contrast that with Paul Williams on Daft Punk’s “Touch” who sounds engaging and natural.While Paal sounds great, the 70’s inspired guitar work and strings often come in too aggressively and sharp. The balance is simply wrong. Timbre is way off as well highlighting that an earphone like the Kinera H3 really isn’t as bad in this regard as we’ve been lead to believe. It can get much, much worse.
The F300M’s upper ranges fare better than the mid-range thanks to some early roll off, at least with full foams which effectively tame the peaks. Without it they’re thin and unbearably peaky. Back to full foams. The way it’s presented is really nice with melodic metal, such as the classic “Black Album” from Metallica. The only major flaw is a lack of clarity and definition when tracks get busy, so avoid thrash and speed metal. It all starts to bleed together into a cacophony of noise. On a track like Gramatik’s “Bluestep” which starts with some prickly cymbal work, it works well enough with the cymbals just licking at the heels of what I consider too aggressive; most of you can read that as quite bright. Later on (~2:35) there is another shimmery effect that kicks in that sounds organic and smooth with great clarity and none of the harshness I was expecting.
In terms of sound stage, the F300M is pretty average for a bud. Unlike the F32MT or HE 150Pro which use the same shell, covering the rear vents does nothing on the F300M. Still, they do a decent job of giving you a sense of space and in terms of imaging accuracy are acceptable. I wouldn’t use them for gaming or anything that requires precision sound placement, but for general listening it’s fine. Separation is also decent until a tracks get really busy, such as one King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”. A 9:07 when the jazz explosion happens after a long and arduous build, the F300M collapses upon itself. Not good.
Final Thoughts: In the end, like the F32MT, the F300M shows flashes of brilliance in the mids and bass, but overall is a disappointing listen. With an uneven tune and exceptionally odd timbre, along with an inability to adequately separate convoluted tracks, it was a hard one to get through. It also doesn’t help that the 300 ohm rating makes in exceptionally hard to drive requiring a half decent amp to get at the best of it’s already fairly meager performance. On the plus side, I absolutely love the cable and shell. Its a good looking unit and the cable’s sheath is pleasantly unique among my collection. The carbon fibre jack has a seriously high quality feel to it too.
I went in excited to try out a well-rated ear bud from a storied brand among ear bud enthusiasts, and came away loving the physical presence but let down by the audio performance. Sorry all, but this is another one I cannot recommend.
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)