disclaimer: After hearing a good bit of hype surrounding the IT01, I purchased one (second hand) to try for myself. I did not receive any discount or incentive for this review, nor have I spoken to anyone at Ibasso about its content.
Unboxing / Packaging:
As I mentioned, I purchased the IT01 secondhand so the unboxing is a bit less than usual, but the packaging was well thought out and the hard case is a nice touch for an iem at this price point.
Kit is pretty standard as far as items included except the tip selection which is well better than the standard SML Silicones provided (Mine came with 12 different pairs of tips in the packaging which is consistent with Ibasso marketing materials), but quality is better than expected for an entry level iem. An anodized hard case, and a cable that could easily be $100 by itself make this kit top rate.
Shells are on the smaller side but are fairly thick front to back. I don’t think anyone other than the smallest ears will have much trouble with fit. At first glance, the shells appear to be solid black, but when held to a light they are deeply tinted transparent plastic and all of the internals are easily visible. The seam between faceplate and shell is visible but well polished and clean with no evidence of gap or glue. Nozzles are brushed aluminum with a pronounced lip and allow for fairly deep insertion. Comfort was good with no tendency to shift once seated and as such the IT01 could be used for exercise in lieu of a more expensive model. The cable deserves its own discussion as it is a 4 wire braid of oxygen free copper with brushed aluminum jack casing, splitter and chin slider terminated in well fitting MMCX connectors. This cable is better than many sold on the upgrade market in the looks department and certainly was better than I anticipated finding on a sub-$100 iem. I do prefer the 90º jack as opposed to the included straight but that’s a rather small nitpick on an otherwise very good offering.
Ibasso lists the driver in the IT01 as an in-house developed 10mm dynamic driver approaching 1 Tesla magnetic flux pushing a graphene coated diaphragm. In addition, the entire driver is encased in dual helmholtz Resonators to improve bass performance. All of these features have been used other places, but none that I know of combine all three of these technologies in a $100 iem. Ibasso’s claim is that it improves bass depth without harming efficiency and clarity. Nominal impedance is listed at 16Ω with a sensitivity of 108dB/mW (±2dB) so is designed to be used in conjunction with low powered sources, but does scale well with a bit better amplification.
Sub-bass is emphasized and extension is very good at the low end but can get a little loose at times. Lower mid-bass is also emphasized and begins to drop as it climbs toward the mids. Mid-bass control is a bit better than the sub-bass but still can get loose on faster tracks and begins to slur a little on really dark really fast material. The good news is with the drop off as we reach the mids, you don’t hear any bass bleed or bloom and lower pitched instruments are not made artificial warm.
Mids get increasing more recessed as you climb toward the treble. This makes lower pitched vocals feel a bit more forward and a bit more lifelike than their higher pitched counterparts. Instrument timbre is good for acoustic guitar but not quite so much for upper strings as they need that upper mid to sound fully natural. The mids are well done for rock and pop, but less so for string quartet or orchestra. Upper mids and lower treble are the deepest point in the V. This detracts a bit from upper range vocals as mentioned but the most notable thing to me was that snare drum comes across as a little soft on the attack and not quite realistic as a result.
As one might expect, treble is a bit more toned down on the IT01 as a single dynamic usually rolls-off at both ends and with one geared toward the lower-end as much as the IT01 is, we really expect roll-off fairly early on the opposite end. Lower treble shares the trough with the upper mids and begins to climb again to put some energy back into the mix in the true treble region, a bit of extra energy is introduced around the 9kHz range (not as much as something like the F9, but you know it is there) and then roll-off begins with a fairly mild drop from 10kHz to about 12kHz and then a much steeper drop above 12kHz. The treble has enough energy to add some air and sparkle without getting particularly harsh or strident but for those with a particular sensitivity to the 9kHz range (like me) you may want to audition a pair before you purchase them to be certain it doesn’t get fatiguing.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is wider than deep with some sense of height. Overall soundstage is what I would define as limited, not quite intimate, but certainly not expansive either. Instrument separation is good but can get a bit congested as pieces get busier. Imaging was directly proportional to the complexity of the piece being played and is very good with simple works but increasingly overlapped as ensembles get larger and more dense. Overall, the IT01 is still very good at its price point, but for those wanting a bigger stage and more separation, moving up the ladder to the IT03 offers a bit more to like.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The hype is somewhat justified, the kit is first rate, the cable may be the best available in entry level audio, and the IT01 sound has a lot to offer fans of rock, pop, and EDM. Overall, its $100 very well spent as it responds to EQ fairly well and can be tuned a bit for those of us that want to tweak. It isn’t for everyone though and those wanting the best mids possible and those who listen to a lot of strings will find the recess in the mids annoying and reach for something else. Overall, a good iem at its price point for selected genre, but not the world beating all-arounder it is sometimes claimed to be.