HIFI WALKER A1 (modded)

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by james444, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    Feedback on the tape modded IEMs from a 16 year old: “these sound great, much better than apple earbuds.”

    And I did find that they worked well with the Shanling M0.
     
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  2. Soups

    Soups Sadomasochistic cat

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    Got my pair yesterday and first tried them eq'd - and was really quite impressed with their sound for the price. I then applied both the tape and vent mods, which helped greatly to tame the treble and bass.

    Unfortunately I'm still finding them a bit sssibilant from both my M0 and Lyr 3 (low gain). I've tried both the stock tips and some softer, wide-bore tips to the same effect.

    Any suggestions as to what other mods I might try to further tame the treble?
     
  3. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    Well, the obvious suggestion is to increase front damping with slightly wider micropore strips or dual layers of 2mm strips.
     
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  4. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    Turns out we has a dozen needles small enough.

    With both mods they are pretty good in the budget range of the market. I'm using them out of an iPhone SE and they sound pretty good! I'd definitely recommend them to anyone looking for decent, cheap IEMs to use right out of their phone. I can't think of any IEMs sub $100 that I'd take over these.

    I wouldn't pair with the M0. At $100-110 for the player plus the cost of MicroSD card I'd consider using something nicer like the JVC's @james444 recommended or the MD Plus. I'm thinking I might pick up the Plus for the M0 and leave a pair of these in my bag to always have something cheap on hand.
     
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  5. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Ok - after considerable fooling around and a reminder that my two-bits-of-plastic-tube measuring coupler has its idiosyncracies...

    [​IMG]

    Red curve is stock, orange is with Tennmak Whirlwind tips (Spinfit imitations with a wide bore which measure similar to the Spiral Dots in my earlier post but are easier to stretch over taped nozzles).

    Applying the 2mm Micropore strips under the Whirlwinds gave the brown curve, which looks almost like stock up to about 7k, higher than that beyond. It did seem to me the Whirlwinds/Spiral Dots elevated as well as cleaned up the treble, but I thought the tape strips reduced the peak a bit more than is apparent from the curve.

    Covering the nozzles completely with Transpore tape and piercing the front-vent mesh gave the pink curve. The needle I used for the piercing was fat enough to get stuck in the hole on reaching the main part of the shaft, but sharp, and the operation felt like a successful piercing of the mesh rather than dislogement. But afterward I felt the bass was a bit lacking (hole in the mesh is probably the full diameter of the vent), so I taped over the vents and poked small holes as in James's later post which gave the purple 'final' curve (this is the right side; left is a trifle lower but pretty close). They're now maybe a little too bassy so I might enlarge the tape holes a bit.

    Nice in the midrange, these. @monacelli I'm not hearing the plasticky treble timbre you mentioned; if you're using the stock tips that might be why (note though I haven't heard the FD01 to compare).

    Not sure I like these better than the modded Blitzwolves, those seem to be faster in the bass - but I haven't compared head-to-head. These are easier to drive, though, and go well straight out of a phone. And the modding was fun as always - thanks @james444 .

    Edit: Walking around with these, though, the cable is pretty microphonic - and while strong, is annoyingly springy.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
  6. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    Almost forgot, I actually prefer symbio Wides on these.
     
  7. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    @Biodegraded: Great in-depth analysis, as always!

    I agree that the Blitzwolves are a smidgen faster in bass. Although your current tuning of the HW A1 seems a little bassy and you might want to enlarge the tape holes before you do a head-to-head comparison.

    Having said that, here are two reasons why I prefer the A1 over the BWs:
    - Mids are sweeter on the A1 (the BWs are neutral too, but extremely dry)
    - The A1 have more air on top and sound more open (damping the BW's 3-5kHz bump knocks down high treble a bit too much)

    Everything else is pretty close in my book, and both are great budget IEMs. As always, mileages may vary, depending on individual preferences...

    Wearing them over-ears and engaging the DIY chin-slider eliminates this problem for me. Also, ime the cable seems to become a bit more pliable with use.
     
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  8. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    I think there was a revision because mine have a chin slider.
     
  9. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Mine too - silver ring of same appearance and diameter as the splitter block.
     
  10. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    I'm envious, guys! :p
     
  11. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    Grabbed a sewing kit from the pharmacy and finished modding these today. I agree with @zerodeefex's post above. I think these play nicely in the budget end of the market. The overall tonal balance is pretty even, with the mids being the highlight for me. (Really digging @Biodegraded's measurements with the different tips and tunings.)

    Even maxing these out with full mods and spiral dots, the treble is not my favorite. It's not a brightness issue, it's more of a body/texture issue. But that's in comparison to the JVC FD01 and the HD600, which is a tall mountain to climb. In my opinion, the HD600 has the most natural, normal sounding treble of any headphone/earphone I've heard, and amazingly the modded FD01 achieves quite a similar presentation. (I like a "living-room neutral" tonal balance.) I would never expect a $30 earphone, modded or otherwise, to possess similar technicalities, which is why the 90% performance figure caught my eye. Based on my sonic priorities, I wouldn't go that far (maybe 60%?). But I am impressed for the price.

    The bottom line for me is that with @james444's mods, you are able to achieve roughly $99 sound quality for $30 or just north of there. That's rad, and James' efforts are much appreciated.
     
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  12. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    Fair enough. The problem with treble and IEMs ist that there are so many variables, like tip material and shape, bore size, insertion depth and angle, ear canal anatomy, listener age, ... which factor into individual perception. Makes it pretty much useless to argue about, because we simply may not hear the exact same thing.

    Personally, I don't have an issue with treble tonality on these, except that it's ever so slightly on the "metallic" side. Which is ime more typical for BAs and rather rare with DDs. This benefits the brassy timbre of cymbals in my book, but may well sound a tad "unnatural" with some other instruments.

    Still, just a slight variation in the variables I mentioned, a resonance shifting in frequency, a minor change in SPL, and the treble you are hearing may be a little different from mine. Like @Soups, who's finding them sibilant, whereas to my ears they pass both my sibilance test tracks without any issues:
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/cam...a-ii-head-fi-tv.823337/page-146#post-13111059

    My reasoning for the 90% performance figure goes as follows: I have about 15 or so test tracks that I regularly use to detect flaws in IEMs. The modded HW A1 don't fail any of them... which isn't something I can say for many DD IEMs. Of course, the JVC FD01 do some things noticeably better (to me it's bass precision / dynamics and treble extension, above all). But I can switch from the FD01 to the A1 and, after some time to adapt, enjoy the latter without feeling like I've made a huge sacrifice in sound quality. Again, that's not something I can say about many DD IEMs I've heard.

    So, from my pov, the 90% rating is legit. But needless to say, it's highly subjective. :)
     
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  13. Soups

    Soups Sadomasochistic cat

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    So I tried both approaches and although each offered improvements for me, the treble was still either too hot or too dull. Also, the thicker the layers of tape seemed to have the side effect of making the mids seem a bit shouty?

    So, I tried some other variations and this is what I've settled on, and I'm really happy with them now. Instead of two strips of overlapping micropore tape, I decided to try one piece that covered the entire nozzle, and using a needle to create some pores (for finer control of airflow). Also created the pores before putting the tape on the nozzle, as I wanted to preserve (not stab) the stock mesh.

    [​IMG]

    Also, I found that the extra button from my sewing kit served as a nice template for poking vents with the needle. The inner circle of the button was very close to the size of the actual nozzle.

    [​IMG]


    No more sibilance complaints, and it seems to maintain the best thing about these IEM's: the nice mids. I have no measuring skills to objectively qualify any of this, but maybe someone could check it out and report?
     
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    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  14. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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    There you go....

    (green = original HW A1 mod, red = button mod with large pores, blue = button mod with small pores, gray = full micropore)

    [​IMG]

    Point of interest is the 5-6kHz peak. You can see that your "button" mod with large pores has an even higher peak than my original mod. However, with small pores, it does a better job flattening the peak. And that's very likely the reason why your sibilance issue has been resolved.

    Great job @Soups, congrats! :)

    Just in case anyone's wondering what the pores are for: Gray is micropore tape without added pores... definitely too much damping!
     
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    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  15. Soups

    Soups Sadomasochistic cat

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    Wow, that was fast! Thanks for the measurements as well as your guidance with the A1's. These are a complete steal at $30 (and even $50) and really appreciate you scouting them for us.
     
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  16. james444

    james444 Mad IEM modding wizard level 99

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  17. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    I continued to experiment with the front damping on these to see if I could get closer to my preferred sound signature. I started to think that the loss of treble extension introduced by the tape was part of why I wasn't connecting with these. Since I recently applied James' gauze mod to the FD01, it was fresh in my mind. I didn't have much to lose since I got these on sale for $30, so I started poking around. It turns out the front mesh covering the nozzle is pretty easy to remove with a needle. It's only held in place with a small ring of adhesive around the edges. Once I got the grill mesh off of the nozzle, I needed to see how much room there was to work with. There is a perforated metal plate that protects the driver inside the nozzle about 4mm from the opening. Not quite as roomy as the JVC, at 6mm depth, but not tiny either. I used the same gauze trick and tried to dial in a good length by ear. After inserting the gauze, I was able to reseal the mesh using the existing adhesive (no additional glue or tape).

    I tried 3 different strips, each 4mm wide at lengths of 15mm, 20mm, and 25mm. The 15mm strip served as the starting point because that's the length of the "relaxed" FD01 filter. Well, it turns out on the A1, that length results in anything but a relaxed sound signature. To my ears, it was "clean-your-teeth" bright. (This is totally conjecture on my part, but maybe the acoustic impedance of the gauze filter is related to the area, or perhaps volume, of the gauze? So even though the filter was the same length, it had 33% less area due to being 4mm wide instead of 6mm.) Anyway, that gave me a starting point and I just fiddled with it from there. Of the lengths I tried, 25mm sounds the best by a good margin. I'd say quite similar tonally to the FD01 with relaxed filter, but 1--2% darker. This will of course depend on the exact damping material used, but it in this case it gets close to my preferred sound signature. To my ears, this FD01-style mod helped to alleviate peakiness/weirdness in the treble without sacrificing too much extension.

    I will refrain from putting a percentage on how close I think the gauze-modded A1 gets to the FD01, but it is closer than it has any right to given its price. I agree with @james444's assessment that the A1 is a bit behind in sub-bass quality/quantity and treble extension. I'd also say that the FD01 has a seductive quality to it that the A1 lacks. For me, this is about the refinement and cohesiveness of the overall presentation. If you're paying $400 for any piece of gear, it better have some magic to it, and the modded FD01 definitely does. The plasticky timbre I was hearing with the tape mod on the A1 is gone. I do hear the slightly metallic nature of the top end, but agree that it is subtle and not a deal breaker. Overall, I definitely see why James is enthusiastic about these. They replaced my cheap Xiaomi iems I had been using at work, and it took about 2 seconds to determine the A1 outperformed them in basically every category.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
  18. Brause

    Brause Almost "Made"

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    I poked holes in the bass vents as described and it worked well. And I followed biodegraded's taping of the nozzles with transpore tape. We both used 3 M transpore but mine looked different (his is older). And, after repeating the process several times, I realized there was no stock mesh on the nozzles (anymore). Must have been pulled off somehow but probably didn't make any difference anyway.

    A/Bing with biodegraded's modded pair: his treble is much smoother than mine. Mine is still piercing. Wonder whether it is the 3M transpore or the fact that I must have ripped off the black nylon mesh.

    Will try again tomorrow.

    P.S. I also have a second kind of 3 M transpore tape made of paper: this one sucks all life out of the sound.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  19. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    My Transpore is 3M - but the roll is old, maybe your new one is different. And just to be wierd, I have J & J Micropore, which I think is thicker than the 3M stuff most people are using, but which seemed when applied as two strips to have less effect...
     
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  20. Brause

    Brause Almost "Made"

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    Maybe it is the missing stock mesh that keeps my treble piercing.

    EDIT: no it is not as the mesh is still there...I checked with a flashlight. HOWEVER: using biodegraded's M3 tape (old, wider roll..maybe it is chewier :)) did the job. Both sound the same in the treble now...beautifully smooth. I did not tape the bass vent after poking as it just sounds fine to me. biodegraded's bass may still be considered to be slightly boomy by some, but it also sounds just fine to me.

    Thanks to james444 and biodegraded. I will be writing an extensive review of the Hifi Walker A1 on another site. Not sure whether I am allowed to mention it here, therefore search the internet (not allowed the other way round).

    Also, stay tuned for price flip-flopping on diverse amazon sites. In Canada, it went from $61.54 to $49.99 and back, then suddenly to $39.99. In the UK, it went from 58 quid to 20. Take screenshots and message amazon for refunds.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018

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