Today, we review the TGXear Serratus which is a 300Ω Blue Sapphire PET diaphragm pair of earbuds equipped with a custom pure silver cable. It is priced from $199 to $225.
Disclaimer: This was sent to us as a sample for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or services. We thank the team at TGXear for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about earphone products previously covered on Headfonics please click here.
Note, this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
In today’s foray into portable audio, I will be reviewing the TGXEAR Serratus, a $199 high-end earbud! But do any of you realize what you have done to me!? I used to be “that earbud guy” over a decade ago with excellent stuff like the Astrotec Lyra and the VE Zen 2.0.
In recent times, I dropped off the map due to not enough earbuds being made to warrant continuing my quest. For a while there, earbuds fell off the edge of the universe only to suddenly resurface a few years back with a raft of new hanging-style earbuds.
What happened?! I’ve not a clue, so don’t ask me, I can only tell you that I enjoy it a lot and am so happy to see a resurgence of them. You have all made me reacquire my addiction to earbuds and I couldn’t be happier about it!
TGXEAR custom fabricates their products up yonder in Canada, each made by hand and designed in-house. This Serratus also comes in an entirely red option.
At 300Ω, the Serratus is a 15.4mm Blue Sapphire diaphragm design. These drivers are specifically used to fuel a smooth, balanced sound signature with a tiny bit of extra bass and treble potential.
Reading up on the company, it seems that was exactly their intent: to create an earbud that is overall balanced in tone presentation but offers a bit extra bass and treble than a totally flat experience. Another phrasing for that is “wonderfully engaging”.
The Serratus is a closed-style hanging earbud. The shells are entirely plastic and extremely lightweight. In fact, they are the lightest earbud that I have on hand in my entire collection.
Most earbuds lately have been mostly produced in an aluminum shell, or in the case of the FiiO EM5, a 3-D printed material. The shells are also a now retro call back to how most earbuds of the 2000s and 2010s were made.
Back then, I used to have a massive collection of earbuds that used these exact same shells. I haven’t seen them or felt them in years, so this was like a blast from the past for me.
The Serratus has no open vents or ports. It also hangs loosely in your ear, rather than lodging into your ear canal as inner-ear IEMs tend to. So, there are virtually no isolation properties on these earbuds. But it does leak a fair bit of sound when it is being used.
Despite it not being an open design, the sound leakage of someone I know using them next to me, during testing, was enough to cleanly and easily hear the lyrics to the song currently playing.
They are small, they are light, and they are very comfy in the ear. However, the fit for me is an issue. I am constantly adjusting them, which is a problem I had with older earbuds that used this class shell style.
Lately, most earbuds are heavier and have a shape that sits in my ear nicer. I simply cannot get a solid fit with this Serratus as I do with the FF3 earbuds from FiiO.
Despite them being so small, they are a bit thicker in the disk portion of the shell and tend to slip out of what I consider the snug zone.
The Serratus stock cable is marvelous, probably the best overall quality cable I’ve seen in years. It is totally a custom project on the cable, pure silver and twisted, coming in either a 4.4mm or a 3.5mm option.
I have opted for the 4.4mm so that I can use it often with my TempoTec V6 DAP, which is a music source that has a bunch of input types for me to play with.
The connection points on the termination side of the cable feel strong and well-soldered. I am also happy about the tiny bit of leaded strain relief at the bottom of the plug, but I wish that the top side near each shell also had this.
I worry and foresee some problems in the distant future if I were to wrap the cables over my DAP or not be as delicate as possible with them. Instead, the cable leads right through a hard plastic entry point that I can only hope will not harm the cable later in its life.
Packaging & Accessories
My Serratus came in a normal small cardboard box with no logos or notice of what was inside. Upon opening the many layers of tape and bubble wrap, sat a small hard case.
Inside, the Serratus and some extra spare foam pieces. Outside of that, nothing else was included in my box.
Again though, I really do wish this had some type of option for termination detachable, or a detachable shell input. I do not like being stuck with what I have. I feel like FiiO EM5 really got this right by using the same termination side detachable cable that allows you to use really any type of termination you can think of.
I do admit, though, the case is really nice. It has a nice balance of hardness and size. All too often, expensive IEMs lately came in a tiny little box that forces you to wrap up the cable tightly just to fit into it, but this Serratus case is rectangle-shaped and allows me to gently wrap and coil the cable and lay it inside without the wire crumbling around itself.
The low end of the Serratus is very dense and very pure in tone and presentation type. Compared to something like the FiiO FF3, the Serratus has less quantity, but significantly more quality.
This is a bass moderate experience, definitely a few steps up from bass light and that makes me so happy to hear. I love my bass, and this Serratus is an earbud that I would actually want to use on the go.
The quality factor is another story, it is leagues ahead of any other earbud I currently have to test with. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say it’s the cleanest earbud I’ve ever used, period.
The older MX980 from Sennheiser had a good amount of bass, but it’s not as clean as this Serratus in the slightest. The new FiiO FF5 is not that far off in price from the Serratus and swapping between them showcases that the Serratus has superior fidelity across the board.
The presentation type doesn’t slam harshly, as one would expect from a tonality that pure tends to. This is a moderately engaging experience that stays a few steps below annoyingly physically impacting.
So, I can use the Serratus for a while without fatigue setting in. It isn’t a relaxed physicality factor, and it certainly isn’t “soft” on the impact, but it is also not at all harsh. Somewhere in the middle, mildly engaging and fun is what I would call it.
The Serratus is all about balance. So too, the midrange is set up to not hinder the slightly elevated bass below it. The vocal experience is neutral in placement, meaning it is neither very forward, nor recessive and pushed back feeling.
The Serratus is beautifully tuned, especially in the upper mids. That entire area is simply gorgeous and sparkling, without going into harshness.
The vocals are meaty, weighted, and smooth. All of the other earbuds I have on hand feel gritty, chugging even, almost like they are struggling. The Serratus, however, feels ultra-plush and effortless. Like a large river that is flowing without disruption anywhere on its surface.
The experience is full-bodied and lacks any thinness that is prevalent in most earbuds of this style. We generally never get a thick feeling hanging earbud, we usually always get a thinner presentation in tactility factor.
We are now progressing into higher substance value, which means that jazz vocals and songstress tracks finally can feel of a higher standard than they’ve ever been before in the earbuds of a hanging style.
The top side of the Serratus is sometimes breathtaking. I am told that the designer was a classically trained musician. And this can really be felt and heard here with the tuning on the upper side of the Serratus. This area is the star of the show.
If the nice bass quality and heft mids weren’t enough, the top side takes that a step further. The raw purity factor is sublime and I am positively shocked sometimes at how clean and clear the treble is presented.
It is wonderfully tuned, just right. It has some bite to it but lacks a harsh impact. So, in that sense, it is relaxed in physical strike factor and quite enjoyable for long periods of time, while at the same time, it is offering a great amount of treble in terms of quantity factor.
There is plenty of it, and it is of that gentle brightness that I speak of in my reviews often. I chase this and have only ever found it a few times. There is a massive difference in how the treble is portrayed in this Serratus than something like the FiiO EM5 and the older Sennheiser MX980.
The quality factor is off the chart good for $200 earbuds, and I can safely say that this model really outshines every other earbud I’ve ever reviewed. I want 2023-2024 to be an era of earbud searching for me personally, so I think this will be the new standard benchmark for $199 tier clarity. Truly, it is impressive for a hanging-style earbud.
We have come so far, haven’t we? For $199, this earbud packs a nice punch in the sound staging department, although still not on par with the older MX980, which to this day remains the champ of staging, but not in all areas of the image.
The Serratus feels deeper and more realistically coherent. The MX980 feels like it lacks the depth of field, but has more space left and right. The Serratus is on the top side of staging qualities that one can buy, that I am aware of.
The treble potency and brightness factor help the airiness sense with staging needs, so that is a plus. Also, the Serratus feels more widescreen effect than something like the FiiO FF5, which feels more box-shaped in comparison.
For the price, I am still baffled at how deep and cavernous earbuds are becoming. The Serratus is easily the best imaging overall in any earbud that I own and actually does scale with your source and amplifier.
The more power and the more depth of field your source or amp has, the better this Serratus will sound.
At 300Ω, this Serratus does not play well with most gear. You need a specialized powerhouse of a portable music player, something that can pipe out 800mW at least to even begin to hear what this is capable of.
And sadly, my TempoTec V6 DAP being as nice as it is, still cannot power the earbud to its max potential. I have to really push it with a desktop rig, or a CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2 DAC/amp that can shell out in excess of 1w in total.
This earbud requires a ton of voltage and you can absolutely hear the depth of field and bass slickness suddenly change and step up when you sway from something like my portable TempoTec V6 to a powerhouse of a desktop rig amplifier like my Burson Conductor 3.
When you do that, it’s like another door opens up in the background and you can truly feel it becomes that much more aired out in stage-forward appeal. So too, the treble factor is so sublime, that you will need a source or amplifier known for exceptional quality treble.
This is a bit of a conundrum, the very expensive CEntrance V8 is a powerful amp and DAC, but it lacks that treble sparkle I need to do justice to the Serratus. So, I opt for the Ultrasone Panther, a far lesser quality amp that has less output power, but a much nicer tone in the treble that works better with the Serratus.
Be prepped to rig pair and hunt for the right source player for the Serratus, otherwise, you’ll know how nice that treble can really be with the right power voltage output and a source known for exceptional tone in treble.
The FiiO EM5 is $299 and sounds audibly inferior across the board. For $299, you will pay more for less, but you get tons of adapter options with the FiiO, as well as a 3-D printed material. The Serratus is purer feeling and reflects a more tamed treble that is not nearly as harsh as the EM5.
FiiO FF3 & FF5
The FF3 from FiiO has more bass quantity than any other earbud I own (outside of the X6 from YinCrow), but the Serratus makes the FF3 sound like it is behind 3 veiled curtains and a waterfall in terms of fidelity purity factor.
The Serratus is also totally different in staging shape, the FiiO FF3 and FF5 are more box-shaped, and the Serratus has noticeably more width and less height factor. But also, the Serratus is deeper and more realistically dense and hefty than both of the FiiO earphones.
Back in the day, talking 2010-ish, the 980 and 985 were Sennheiser’s top-tier flagship earbuds and I have no idea why they stopped making them.
What on earth were they thinking? This is typical of Sennheiser, they make the baseline alpha like the HD800 in full size, ye’ that is compared to all others, and then they don’t expand or release a better new version.
And that makes me sad because the 980 is still one of the best earbuds money can buy even so much longer after its release. But, the Serratus has a trump card that the MX980 series does not, and that is stunning purity and heft.
The Sennheiser earbuds feel thin, weak, frail even. The Serratus is thicker, meatier, and more realistic in terms of sound weight carried in real life.
In my entire earbud life journey, I’ve not heard anything this clean and clear before. Seriously, the next best purity factor is still a step down from this Serratus in my inventory.
So, this is high praise, because the designer understands you need some low end to compensate for a sublimely tuned treble.
The experience needs to be meaty and hefty, not thin and frail if the treble is to be that stellar. And the tonal balance is absurdly good on this earbud, no doubt.
Overall, the TGXEAR Serratus is a massive win for me. Sound quality-wise it just makes me want Jim (the owner and designer) to go bananas with a $1000+ earbud just to see what he can do with it.
TGXEAR Serratus Specifications
- Driver: 15.4mm dynamic drivers with PET diaphragm.
- Connector Type: fixed silver cable with 4.4mm connector / 3.5mm connector
- Impedance: 300Ω