iBasso AM05 – First Contact

The iBasso AM05 is a 5 balanced armature driver universal monitor featuring a 4-way crossover and a designed using resin inverted mold technology. It is priced at $299.

Disclaimer: The iBasso AM05 was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank iBasso for this opportunity. 

To learn more about iBasso product reviewed on Headfonics you can click here.

The iBasso AM05 literally landed on my desk as we were about to close up shop for the holiday season end of 2019. So unboxing actually just happened a few days into 2020 along with our post-party detox plan, (not working but you have to try).

Given the IT04 hybrid has been out for some time I was expecting a 5-driver alternative eventually from iBasso. What I was not expecting was that firstly, it would comprise of entirely balanced armature drivers and second, it would be much cheaper than the IT04 at $299.

So, where does this fit in exactly into iBasso’s IEM range? I am guessing between the IT03 and IT04 based on price for now. However, given we have a new branding name AM05, (yeah ‘Amos’, I know its unfortunate), I am going to presume we are seeing the launch of an entirely new monitor series.

iBasso AM05

Tech Inside

Configuration

The AM05 5-driver Knowles balanced armature configuration is 2 for the lows, a single for the mids, 1 for the highs and 1 for the ultra-highs using a 4-way crossover. The exact size of these drivers I will confirm for the main review write-up since Knowles driver sizes range from large subwoofers to tweeters.

Crossover

The iBasso crossover is unique for its use of thin ‘audio level’ film capacitors. These capacitors are being pitched as being more resistant to EMI, signal loss and distortion compared to ceramic capacitors. iBasso also claims that these capacitors will ultimately be a key factor in delivering a smoother sound on the AM05.


Resin Inverted Molds

The final tech is more on the outside than inside of the AM05 and this is the use of resin inverted mold technology to build the driver shells. This is a special acrylic shell design using a cavity pour technique to highlight the internal design in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Free of wrinkles if you please.

iBasso AM05

Unboxing

The AM05 comes in iBasso’s standard mid-fi packaging which they use for a wide range of IEMs and DAPs. The internal packaging materials and layout are pretty much on par with their IT01 layout also. Everything is packed rock-solid in there and nicely presented when opening it up. What I appreciate is the lack of ‘destruction’ to the materials in getting inside also.

iBasso AM05

Accessories

Whilst the packaging is a little on the whiter side of things compared to their usual grey, iBasso fans should be more than familiar without how to get the AM05s out of the box. Inside the box, there is an impressive line-up of accessories which is something iBasso are becoming known for.

Aside from the silvery-green tinged suction lid small carry case you get the following accessories:

  • 1.2M high purity SPC Balanced 2.5mm MMCX-terminated cable
  • 2.5mm to 3.5mm connector cable
  • 4 bags of single bore silicone tips in S/M/L
  • 1 bag of foam tips M/L (hybrid plastic stem)
  • Manual & Warranty Card

iBasso AM05

Design

The previous IEM offerings from iBasso are quite monotone in their visual appeal. Both the IT03 and IT04 are black with the IT04 deploying a 3D carbon fiber print to break the flow of that black. The IT01 series is more silvery or gunmetal.

The AM05 is a complete break from that corporate feel of before though that excellent custom universal shaping remains. This is essentially a transparent shell with a splash of blue on the faceplates, (more color options available). This is much more youthful and “energetic looking’ in its aesthetic.

What is even more impressive is just how smooth and clear that transparent resin finish actually is. It feels incredibly solid, nothing hollow and fragile about these designs at all. You will also be hard-pressed to find any distortions or bubbles in that resin fill of the AM05 driver shells.


As for the branding, its ok but a bit old school on the front. I would prefer to see the iBasso logo on the front than the phrase “All Music” as it sounds a bit stilted.

iBasso AM05

Cable

The supplied stock cable for the AM05 is a 1.2M high purity SPC Balanced 2.5mm MMCX-terminated cable. iBasso has included a 2.5mm to 3.5mm pigtail converter which is a very thoughtful and nuanced gesture. I tend to use adaptors but the same composition wire pigtail adapter relieves pressure and keeps the geometry and materials of the cable 100% consistent from end to end.

I just did a quick check on the iBasso website and I can’t find an equivalent cable geometry or wire composition to match the stock cable of the AM05. That either means it is brand new and we may see a separate designation code to be sold as a cable in its own right on their website. Or, it is unique to the AM05 or AM series as a supplied cable only.

Either way, this is a 4-core build with a tight weave using a transparent flexible PVC or PET jacket that lets that silver-plated copper wire shine. There is some spring shaped memory wire on the top that does not feel too weighty. The main weight comes from attaching the adaptor. If you can go 2.5mm TRRS balanced the cable feels much lighter with the connector cable off. Microphonics are stupidly low, bravo iBasso.

iBasso AM05

In The Ear

As you can expect from a custom universal iBasso designed monitor the comfort levels are top-notch. They really have this resin molding and contouring down to a fine art now. Not only are the AM05 comfort levels pretty darn good out of the box but they are super steady in your ear. You will be hard-pressed to wiggle these out of your ear before breaking your neck.

Tips

Much of that steadiness, plus the isolation levels, will come down to the tip selection. It is early days and I will go through the tips in more detail but already I can see iBasso have supplied a wide choice of silicone varieties and a foam version with a stiff silicone stem – almost a hybrid. The foams are the ones I am using out of the box as they give me the most secure fit and the best isolation.

iBasso seems to have also supplied single silicone Whirlwind tips much like you get with Jomo Audio’s universal gear such as the Haka. Those tips I like to enjoy though the seal will take a hit. You also get a selection of softer black and white single silicone with very wide bores. The last set are a set of taller single silicone with narrower bores. You can that bore size to affect bass levels on the AM05.

iBasso AM05

Initial Sound Impressions

Synergy

At 32Ω and 115dB SPL, the AM05 is not an especially hard IEM to drive so most DAPs will pair just fine.  We paired the AM05 with a Lotoo PAW Gold and iBasso’s own DX220/AMP1 MKII and both were fine in low-gain. Beyond technicalities, it is going to come down to personal preferences and how you like the sound stock or EQ.

The first thing I did was check how responsive the AM05 is to a bit of PMEQ and you can extract a little additional low-end dB from 20-100Hz by around 2-3dB but beyond that, the bass will distort. For me though if you are looking for more than you have bought the wrong monitor. Go for the IT04 as it is entirely different in tuning and timbre.

Tuning

Out of the box, the AM05 has a fairly balanced to slightly warm or natural overtone. The low-end is tight, with a slither of warmth around 100hz but otherwise a fairly BA-type bass sound. There is a fairly gentle drop into the lower-mids which I quite like, it sounds very coherent to my ear. That means instruments have a good presence if not exactly thunderous bass fundamentals.

The clarity seems excellent to me in the mids but there a forward tuning, particularly 1-2k though no huge dips beyond. Actually, it is pretty steady up to around 7-8k. That forward tuning means vocals have excellent presence and clarity. The timbre sounds on the sweet and light side of neutral. Nothing rich or dark at all but not in the slightest bit boring. Cayin YB04 lovers will take to the AM05 easily.

I do prefer the treble tuning on the AM05 over the IT04 in terms of how it affects the mids timbre. There is less of a lower-treble suck out leaving that extended 8-10k peak sounding a bit thin or ethereal on the IT04. The AM05 sounds much more even with a slight fade beyond 7-8k and that I would say is why you get a wetter more natural harmonic balance to the AM05 over the IT04.

iBasso AM05

Stay Tuned!

This will be a very interesting competitor to the Cayin YB04 and perhaps even FiiO’s FA7, two competing all-armature driver universal monitors. My out of the box reaction is closer to the YB04 than the warmer and darker FA7 but we shall see.

Tips do play a role in the tuning and so far the foam tips are giving me a detailed but slightly warmish undertone and a natural timbre from the treble. You will be drawn more to the mids than anywhere else on the AM05.

The comfort levels beyond the tips are excellent due to the resin shaping and design. iBasso make some really comfortable universal monitors. At $299, the AM05 might be shaping up to be a nice reference point for good value IEM’s. Just how strong it against the rest in a saturated market we shall see so stay tuned!

iBasso AM05 Specifications

  • Impedance:- 32 ohms
  • Sensitivity:- 115 dB +/- 2dB
  • Frequency Range:- 10Hz-40kHz
  • Passive noise reduction: -30dB
  • Rated power: 5mW
  • Distortion: <2%(at 1kHz/1mW)
  • Plug: 2.5mm gold-plated plug
  • Cable length: 1.2m
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