The Shozy Black Hole is a unique semi-open universal single 10mm dynamic driver IEM designed in collaboration with KOOK™ Electro-Acoustic Engineering Lab. It is priced at $799.
Disclaimer: The Shozy Black Hole sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at Shozy for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Shozy products we reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
Shozy Black Hole
I think Shozy made one of the better imaging IEM's out there and it's not in regard to width or height. It is in another field of sound staging that is rarely spoken of: the effortless and natural physicality factor. It breathes so well. Immensely well, better than my CIEM's do. In fact, I cannot off the top of my head recall another IEM that feels quite like this one.
The Shozy Black Hole IEM is a $779 IEM that has been making the rounds in the audiophile world. I am eager to show the results of my experience with this model, as there aren’t that many popular open back IEMs out there for roughly $800 on the market at the moment. Let’s deep dive right on into the review and not linger onward more than we should.
The Build and Box
The Box is fairly standard, with nothing much to boast over. You get some ear tip selections and a nice 2-pin connector cable.
Beyond that, the build quality is very good, metal is lovely, hefty, and feels good in the hand. The IEM fits fairly well in my ear, but I have trouble obtaining a proper seal at all times, due to the thickness of the housing in my ear.
This is not a small IEM by any means, it is quite large. I do find the overall comfort just fine. I assume those with larger ears will receive an even better fit than little ol’ me.
At this price point, I demand and expect a balanced cable option included, along with a 3.5mm unbalanced. We didn’t receive that, only the unbalanced option. I feel at $779, this is something I am just not okay with.
Thankfully, I had plenty of spare balanced 2.5mm 2-pin cables from other, cheaper IEM’s that I use when this occurs. I’ve found that the unbalanced stock option is insufficient to maximize the potential of this IEM.
Balanced is pretty much required, that is my subjective opinion on this. With balanced mode enabled on my Ultrasone Panther portable DAC and amp, I have found the Black Hole to be a more enjoyable, firm, and rich feeling overall.
The most noticeable improvements being on the low end, which tightens up quite a bit with more power. I confirmed this by doing a no-no and letting my Burson Conductor 3 run it through high gain and off high gain. The experience mirrored the Panther: the more power, the better the low end.
Usually, I format my reviews with sound quality in the lows, mids, and highs first. Then, the Imaging and finale. This time, I am going to mix that up because I have a lot to say about the tonality of this IEM.
There aren’t many other options out there that sound quite as spacious and elegant. And that is really hard to come by, that natural appeal to the physicality qualities of a headphone of this design.
Usually, in IEM’s, you don’t get a pleasantly open sound signature or one that feels effortless. To date, well, scratch that, in the past year or so, only one other IEM really did it for me and that was the Shuoer Tape at $130 or so. It’s unique semi-static design allowed for stunning treble, which in turn, allowed for a more spacious and effortless feel to the sound signature.
I enjoyed that a lot in the Shuoer Tape. In this Shozy Black Hole, I feel like that entire open-feel ranges from the bass all the way up to the top of the treble.
Shozy has done a marvelous job here with the imaging department. While not incredibly wide or tall, the image is very nicely naturally setup. It is very easy on the ear and feels “natural…more natural than most IEM’s I’ve heard lately”.
Colorless tonality and a natural physicality equate to something I find a little in need of something for my ears to grasp. My ears tended to get adjusted too quickly and required something more, extra snap perhaps? A bit more bite in the top end? Maybe a little of both.
The Shozy Black Hole is a moderate bass responsive IEM, which means it is not a bass head IEM, nor is it lacking low-end response. Therein lay just a little gripe, as I’ve found it requires a +5dB boost on the bass side for me to consider (subjectively) a well-formed experience from top to bottom. Meaning, the stock bass experience without any EQ, is a tad bit lacking.
Clarity is just fine, but depth and rumble are missing until you boost a bit. I have a $199 set of Ikko Obsidian IEMs that offers more weight carried but feels less clean. I regard the new Ikko Obsidian as one of the best sub-$500 IEM’s out there, so it is nice to hear the Black Hole outperform what could have been a $500 IEM.
The problem there is the Black Hole sounds way more neutral/natural, more elegant, and soft. The Obsidian feels very musical, dense, and weighted.
I think this IEM is stretching its price tag. Right next to the Shuoer Tape at $130, I prefer both the Obsidian and Tape by heaps. And that is a musicality buff’s preference talking, as well as the critical reviewer talking who is trying to compare raw purity and quality between all three.
More so, the Black Hole dominated the response to EQ factor in my testing, I was able to ramp up to an insane +10dB of extra bass via ‘realbassexciter’s’ DSP in Foobar2000 and I didn’t hear a lick of added mud. This IEM stays very pure with what I consider heavy boosting.
As mentioned, this IEM is very pleasant sounding and lacking a harsh impact. I enjoy older tracks with this model due to the fantastic tonality it offers. It is quite unique, I don’t have anything else that sounds anything like it in terms of physicality or such a hypernatural appeal.
It looms between very dense and light on the ear in weight carried, which lends a ton of street cred to how natural it feels in a physical sense of the word.
Anyone here a fan of the Audio Technica ESW series on ear portables? Well, this Black Hole sounds just like the ESW11LTD, a headphone I prized for years. To have that sound signature in physicality for midrange is a blessing.
The headphone is not supremely forward, but it is well into the forward sound signature range compared to most other IEM’s. It sounds much more forward than the Shuoer Tape, less forward than the Ikko Obsidian.
The top end of this IEM is lacking sparkle and a musical flare in tonality. It will make neutral and natural enthusiasts happy. It is a stark contrast from the $130 Shuoer Tape, which in my opinion, offers some of the best tonality in the treble that I’ve ever heard at any price point.
Quality aside for just a moment, the tonality of the Black Hole is what I consider neutral, but thankfully, lacking harshness. I think they toned down the treble quantity in the tuning phase of development because the IEM sounds much softer than what I would think a neutral tonality IEM like this would generally offer.
So if you like softer physicality on the top side, this is a good option to grab, as it retains a very neutral/natural sound signature. It is nearly colorless. There are some other models cheaper than these that match the Black Hole in purity, so I going to rate it the same as I did with the midrange. For the price, there are better options out there.
Running out of my Burson Conductor 3 DAC/Amp at a whopping 4watts, the Black Hole sounds quite effortless and that I think is the big appeal of this IEM and not so much the purity factor.
When A/B’ing this model with the Obsidian from Ikko, or the Shuoer Tape, or even my Empire Ears Nemesis, they all sound like I am closed in a box and the walls are closing in around me. I feel like I can’t breathe. When I swap over to the Black Hole, I have the opposite effect of the idea of a Black Hole…and I feel like the other IEM’s I’ve just listed are the actual Black Holes. Ha!
By that, I mean the Shozy Black Hole feels like the limitations to the void of listening are much more natural and forgiving, whereas the others I’ve mentioned are simply overly closed in. Your space bubble really got audible better with better amplification, so I think this IEM surely scales with more powerful amplifiers.
Be careful though, as I am personally terrified of running IEMs out of powerful amps like this, a fear of accidentally leaving the volume on too high from a full-size headphone usage prior.
That is my fear though, I don’t know if others share it. I suppose as long as you are responsible, you won’t deafen yourselves. Make sure your source has low ground noise and is regarded as being a very quiet and very spacious feeling in the imaging experience.
The step up from my Ultrasone Panther to the Burson is audible, so experiment and see what you come up with for rig pairing potentials.
MST Patented Design
This IEM was specifically designed a certain way, the semi-open nature of the IEM allows for an un-IEM like experience while still using an IEM, which to me, is worth the price.
This special MST (Multiple Separation Technology) is a path to extreme low distortion and I completely agree with other reviewers that this is one of the quietest and silent IEM’s I’ve ever heard.
It is also not sensitive to high output amplifiers either, at least the ones I have tested with. I mean that Burson Conductor is 4w strong, and I hear nothing in the background.
Audeze LX and LCDi3
Audeze produced some nice open-back IEMs over the last few years including the LX and the LCD-i3. Both were enjoyable, firm, and weighted feeling but I had always felt that Audeze didn’t go far enough into the typical Planar house sound.
That density factor was just good, but not great. I feel like the Black Hole is about as solid as a dynamic IEM can get, so I cannot justify a comparison there. the best I can do is offer my opinion in that I feel like the LX and the Black Hole are roughly on par with the solidity factor.
As far as quality goes, the Black Hole sounds audibly superior and closer to the i3 in quality. I really enjoyed my i3, so to have this Black Hole from Shozy offer a nice open sound, but one that is much smoother and easier on the ear was quite enjoyable.
Personally, I would pick up the Black Hole over the i3, due to the immensely superior comfort factor and easily swapped cable options. I can toss a balanced cable easily on it and that isn’t so easy on the i3.
Audeze does make it easy with the DAC cable option though, if there is an area that Audeze trumped most others in, that would be it. For now, the Black Hole is a solid semi-open back IEM that sounds on par with the i3 infidelity, however, offering a more soft and easy-going experience vs the Audeze’s more harsh impact.
The i3 feels taller than wide, but the Black Hole feels wider than tall. The i3 is also more mid-forward, while the Black Hole is more relaxed overall.
Audeze iSINE 20
This was the least interesting comparison, as I felt like the iSINE 20 fell off the map compared to the i3 and the staggering audio fidelity between them was very apparent.
I felt like the Black Hole was more akin to the i3 than the iSINE 20 and far off the LX as well. The biggest difference between them being the natural flow of the Black Hole and the more forced condensed feel of the iSINE 20’s imaging experience.
I felt like the treble of the iSINE 20 was a little too potent compared to the Black Hole, but then again, the Black Hole is really making things very easy to listen to.
I think Shozy made one of the better imaging IEM’s out there and it’s not in regard to width or height. It is in another field of sound staging that is rarely spoken of: the effortless and natural physicality factor. It breathes so well. Immensely well, better than my CIEM’s do. In fact, I cannot off the top of my head recall another IEM that feels quite like this one.
I question my own needs now because of this Black Hole, I love my Nemesis, but the Shuoer Tape feels like an Electrostatic IEM. I love my Tape, but the Obsidian is the yummiest and most musical IEM I’ve heard in years.
I love my Obsidian, but the Audeze LCD-i3 is rock solid and highly engaging. I love my LCD-i3, but the Black Hole is so natural sounding and breathable in comparison. Sometimes…I hate this hobby and love it at the same time.