HiBy Crystal 6 is the company’s flagship 4-way 6 balanced armature driver universal IEM designed using dyed wood faceplates. It is priced at $459.
Disclaimer: The HiBy Crystal 6 was sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank HiBy Music for this opportunity.
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Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
The Crystal 6 In-ear Monitor is HiBy’s latest creation with a 4-way crossover, 6 balanced armatures per earpiece configuration. This earphone is launched right after the new R6 2020 and HiBy claims to have designed them as a perfect combo.
The hand-crafted Crystal 6 IEM is Hi-Res certified, packing in 4 proprietary BA drivers and two Knowles drivers, as well as audiophile-grade capacitors inside. Moreover, there are two cables that come with the package, an OCC wired 4.4mm terminated cable and a 3.5mm SPC cable.
Looks like there is going to be an interesting contrast so let’s find out if there is perfect synergy with the new R6 2020 and other sources.
As far as parts quality and technology are concerned, HiBy is always up to date to try different components and doing their products in an industrial manner, getting their products Hi-Res certified by the JAS (Japan Audio Society) as well.
Inside the Crystal 6, you will find the bigger Knowles 22955 bass driver handling the lowest frequencies, a dual pair of 1006 drivers for the mids, and a custom 30098 + 2 custom 31735 drivers to handle the treble.
The mix of drivers from different manufacturers is arranged under 4 independent acoustic tubes and makes use of a 4-way crossover to split the frequencies.
HiBy explains that this is for more accuracy in imaging and to create more layers as well as a realistic rendition of the music. The configuration seems to lean to the treble side so as the tuning, we will be covering this in the sound session.
The other components besides the drivers also consist of Panasonic thin-film caps and dual-layer immersion-gold-plated PCB that links together the components. These are implemented to reduce transmission losses and to retain more detail in the sound.
The electronics and parts look rather promising on paper and the build has good visual appeal as well. A dyed stabilized wood faceplate is used so every unit you get will be unique in the look, the pair we got has light yellow patterns and a green-blue tone, and the cut out is much alike leaf veins.
The inner side of the IEM is Epoxy-filled so all parts are held firmly in place, isolation is further enhanced with the solid interiors. The finish with German Nice-Fit™ UV cured resin layer on top is very glossy, smooth, and quite scratch resistant, there are also no bubbles found. On the sides you will find a protruding 2-pin socket, promising a very secured cable connection.
Fit and Isolation
The previous HiBy earphones fit perfectly on my ears with their smaller profile, this time the Crystal 6 is also quite small in size but with a slightly extended nozzle that goes deeper and blocks out more noise.
According to HiBy, they use ‘Big Data’ analysis of anthropological pinna statistics, to ensure maximal long-term comfort for any ear shape and size.
Thanks to those who input their pinna statistics and contribute to data science, the Crystal 6 has a nice fit and the isolation is awesome with foams. While the form factor is quite small it is quite hefty due to the solid fill interiors but it is still overall light in weight and is not stressing the outer ear.
The generous package includes two different cables, and it is matching different usage scenarios nicely. The 4.4mm balanced cable comes with OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper cores and the 3.5mm Single-ended cable uses silver-plated copper wires.
I sometimes use my older DAPs and CD player’s phone out whilst enjoying the stronger 4.4mm outputs on the new DAPs like the R6 2020, so this arrangement is very trouble-free and ideal for those who are planning a 4.4mm DAP upgrade.
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging actually is similar to the Seeds II we reviewed earlier, and you will find
Three sets of tips namely balanced, bass, clarity plus memory foam inside. You could fine-tune the output with the tips which have different bore size and I will be using the balanced tips for all impressions down below. Aside from the tips, you will find a leather storage case with magnetic lids and cleaning tools.
I have had quite some good impressions towards the HiBy Seeds II and so I am intrigued to hear what their first multi BA IEM can do.
This time with balanced armatures inside, the Crystal 6 retains some of the signatures of the HiBy’s previous creations, while being brighter and more extended. There is also a focus on the mid-treble region while sounding more recessed in some vocal frequencies.
With the help of more drivers to cater to different frequency ranges, the Crystal 6 captures more micro detail, especially in the upper mids which have decent control. It is also more sensitive to power and gain and picks up very slightly on background hiss.
I will call the tuning an M-shaped one with the peak on the right side more prominent, and the staging is tuned to be wider than most IEMs. The vocal is falling back a few rows to render a more open stage, also more air in the treble range.
Being more used to intimate vocals, I find the sweet spot on the Crystal 6 at a slightly higher volume, and its swift presentation is great for a relaxing listen. It is also worthy to note this IEM is quite sensitive to equalizing.
With a big Knowles bass driver inside and audiophile capacitors, the Crystal 6 has punchy bass with a rather fast response. It is slightly boomy when powered by small DAPs but tightens up with a clean attack using stronger sources like the new R6 2020.
The rather deeply inserted nozzle helps to deliver clean and solid punches, the sub-bass region is attenuated to makes pop and some other genres like ACG even cleaner and exciting.
The quantity of bass is well adjusted to sound expansive. However, if you are not a fan of boomy bass and listen to Bossanova, piano BGMs for work or studies, the Crystal 6 will not steal your focus while keeping enough body and energy in the lows to sound full and engaging.
This tuning works particularly enjoyable with gaming music and synthesized instruments that sound tighter and more intense with the fast bass attack speed.
The midrange is articulated smoothly from the bass, slightly hollowed out to build up more space just before the threshold for it to sound compressed.
While being uncolored and pushed back, the lower amplitude in the midrange may weaken the vocal body with darker voices or the acoustic resonance of some instruments like cellos or guitars. Yet with energetic, fast attacking music and lighter, cleaner voices’ character will be reinforced.
Depending on whether you want the mids to be more intensive you could switch between low and high gain. Personally, I find the lower gain on the new R6 2020 gives the vocal more authority but the higher gain will add more penetration power to the voice.
The most defined frequency within the Crystal 6 is the mid-treble range, which is clearly presented with good energy, texture, and rounded in the upper end to not sound harsh at all. This works really well with higher pitch Jpops and Kpops, or Opera.
The treble range and overtones are nicely layered with good accuracy, good detail in the ambiance gets picked up, followed by a sharp roll-off that kills off sibilance. The extra clarity in the treble helps render lossy old music clearer and there are good dynamics with older pop songs as well.
Overall, the agile bass response with a well-controlled treble is a good match for streaming music, helping to retrieve more treble details while not sounding harsh in any way. It is not a neutral tuning but those who are seeking more excitement but hate sibilance will find this tuning appealing.
With some coherence as an expense, the staging is stretched wide and every instrument is clearly spaced from the listener. There is decent energy in the lows and boosted treble, as well as decent dynamics and overall, it feels like listening in a small hall.
The vocal is with a fatter image while the higher treble range is more pinpoint positioned with crossovers being implemented quite sharply.
The Crystal 6 pairs nicely with outputs that are strong in power, also textured in the mid-bass, with the new R6 2020 DAP the soundstage is wide and there is excellent clarity a swiftness.
With the SE cable, it sounds quite balanced even with a lower-powered source, while the 4.4mm cable gives more clarity in the treble, as well as better synergy with stronger outputs that have thicker mid-bass.
With most pairings, the mid-treble range is outstanding without any spikes or uneasiness in the upper treble, while the mid-bass has a very small hint of warmth that keeps it energetic and full, balancing the clean treble tuning nicely.
I also put the Crystal 6 on the Cayin N3 Pro and together they sound quite soothing as well, smooth in the midrange and treble also sounding richer in the vocal. Interestingly, I find the Crystal 6 quite a good match with older CD players too which are stronger in bass punch and more protruded in the mid-low frequencies.
Switching to entry-level DAPs and phones, the vocal may sound more recessed and that is when equalizing comes to the rescue. On the HiBy R3 Pro I am reducing the warmth and adding more body to the vocal with the equalizer, and it sounds more engaging and not as boxy.
HiBy Seeds II
Bass & Mids
The Seeds II is a beautiful single dynamic driver IEM with a glossy blue metallic finish. I am comparing it here because many may consider the Crystal 6 their upgrade option from the Seeds II. Putting both on the HiBy new R6 2020 you will find the Seeds II sounding fuller in the mid-bass also reaching deeper, leaning more to the bass.
The Seeds II presents the vocal range naturally, and it is positioned closer to the listener, and when you move to the Crystal 6 the definition is immediately boosted, picking up more micro detail in the mids and the upper vocal range.
The overall clarity and stage width are greatly enhanced with the vocal more separated from the backing instruments. Also you can hear the dynamics being stronger with the mid-bass and treble being much more defined.
With more drivers inside the Crystal 6 has a more complex tuning that is able to shape different frequencies in a more polished way, especially in the higher register which tries to extract more details than what traditional dynamic drivers can do.
It is also able to handle more instruments in the mix with better control when sound intensity gets higher and more objects come into the mix. Tonally, the Seeds II is more natural, with good bass density and more body in the vocal. The Crystal 6 is technically stronger and able to capture more details, especially in the treble.
While the Crystal 6 is not as coherent sounding as a single dynamic driver it actually sounds smooth enough especially after a little bit of MSEB tweaks.
If you are looking for more detailed retrieval power when upgrading from the Seeds II and seek large staging, clean and delicate treble, the Crystal 6 shall easily impress with its technical qualities as well as how it looks.
Shanling ME700 Lite
We just looked into the ME700 Lite earlier and it is a more neutral variant of the mid-bass intensive ME700, at a similar price bracket with both crafted beautifully with resin finishes.
There is quite some stark contrast when putting the two against each other, in particular the way the two manufacturers color the vocal range on their IEM. The ME700 Lite has a stronger emphasis on the mid-bass and the Crystal 6 is focusing on clarity.
Bass & Midrange
With a dynamic driver inside the ME700 Lite, it is not hard to imagine its bass being more punchy and full, and it goes deeper down and decays slightly slower.
Shanling is trying to do a more expressive bass while maintaining accurate response using stiffer materials on its driver. The HiBy Crystal 6 also takes a lighter and faster approach, though not as strong in terms of intensity.
On more powerful sources, the ME700 Lite sounds fuller and more linear in the bass, while the Crystal 6 is more attenuated down below so it sounds cleaner, leaving more room for the upper frequencies to stand out.
The vocal frequencies, on the other hand, are rather natural on the ME700 Lite and more upfront than on the Crystal 6. For any darker, deep, and powerful voices the ME700 Lite will give it more authority while the Crystal 6 will sound more laid back but clean and accurate.
When it comes to genres like Japanese game music, synthesized vocal and cleaner voice, for example, Taylor Swift, the boosted 6kHz range on the Crystal 6 goes very nicely with the slimmed mid-bass, sounding silky smooth and clear. It is more rounded sounding than on the ME700 Lite which has more sparkle in the even higher frequencies.
If the files you listen to are very peaky you may find the Crystal 6 polishing the treble nicely while not killing the air. The ME700 Lite will be more exacting and loyal to the recording.
Overall, the ME700 Lite is nicely balanced in a more natural tone, it works well with pretty much every kind of music and sounds more immersive. The Crystal 6 is more sensitive to power, extracting more details in the upper frequencies and rendering a larger stage without distorting the image.
This is a great match for some tunes that need the extra sparkle and dynamics and sounds refreshing with the right pairings.
HiBy has created quite a different choice to the competition this time which highlights the treble finesse. The Crystal 6 has a crystalline, smooth vocal line as well as a very elaborate and detailed treble performance.
While the design is quite sensitive it is also very friendly to user-tweaks with HiBy’s own MSEB digital tuning platform, without causing much distorting even altering frequencies to a higher extent.
If you are looking for an IEM to go with the new R6 2020, or want your portable rig to sound more expanded, rich in treble details also exceptionally smooth with electronic music/ ACG genres but with no awful spikes, you will enjoy the Crystal 6.
HiBy Crystal 6 Specifications
- Type 4 way 6BA-per-earpiece in-ear monitors
- Drivers: Balanced Armatures
- Driver info Knowles: 22955 bass x1, custom 1006 mid x2, custom 30098 high x1, custom 31735 high x2
- Frequency response: 5Hz-60kHz
- Sensitivity: 107dB/mW
- Nominal Impedance: 14 Ω
- Shell material Epoxy interior, German Nice-Fit™ UV cured enamel exterior
- Faceplate material: Dyed wood artwork
- Cable composition: 3.5mm: coaxial 4-core silver-plated OFC copper; 4.4mm: coaxial 4-core OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper
- Cable specs: OCC copper: 4 cores x 18 strands x 0.05mm strand; Silver plated OFC copper: 4 cores x 24 strands x 0.05mm strand
- Cable length: 120cm
- Earpiece ports: Standard 0.78mm 2-pin gold-plated cable ports
- Cable plugs: 3.5mm / 4.4mm gold plated straight plugs