“Hey, you used to be Swbf2cheater on Head Fi…that earbud guy right? Can you review the Baldoor E100?”
“SWBF2 Cheater, please review the E100 from Chintek Baldoor, it is really good.”
“But Mike, you haven’t heard these earbuds yet pretty sure earbud enthusiasts need you on this ! “
” Hey Swbf2cheater, I have this rash on my inner thigh, can you help me?”
Sure! I’ll happily review this earbud…can’t help with that rash though, even if I am the one who gave it to you. Sorry.
Turns out this little Asian company called Chintek Baldoor ( sounds like a Lord of the Rings reference or something, Gandalf! The Eaglessss! ) forged an earbud of epic proportion in the heart of a neutron star, deep in the furthest reaches of space. With cosmic deities looking down in awe of this amazing piece of technology and with a twinkle in their ears, out popped the most controversial audio product of the last decade. I’ve read reviews of this earbud over the last year or so, never believed a word by any reviewer who talked about them with so much reverence. Shame on me. The earbud King not wanting to review an earbud? Blasphemy. I heard there is some other reviewer on Head Fi who is regarded as the Earbud King, I’ll be visiting him soon to change that sentiment.
Yes its $12.99
Anyway, back to the Baldoor E100. I want this to be a quick, mini review. Something a bit different from the community forced, lab report style that I am usually chained to. Upon first listen, I really didn’t expect one word from anyone else about this earbud to have been so true. Regrettably, I couldn’t have been more wrong on the subject at hand. How did we all miss this? I recall a time when “someone” over at Head Fi told me via a phone call conversation, while I was high on pain killers the day after I got home from a surgery on my leg, where this “dude” told me that he wasn’t fond of earbuds. This seems to be the general gist of what most people felt in the audio community: Earbuds? Pfft! Those are for suckah’s. I tried to defend them in a 22 Earbuds compared guide, nobody really believed me that a Sony earbud from the early 1990s outperformed most of the expensive earbuds from Blox and Yuin today. (We can build 24bits better, faster and stronger. We have the technology.)
The point I am getting at here is that earbuds can be great fun, most of the world agrees and the Hifi community are the minority in this debate. With Apple iPods success came awful earbuds that were cheaply made and offered a high failure rate. They introduced most of the world to a nicer audio experience in the original Apple portable music players market a decade ago. I thank Apple for that; gosh I wish they would hire me. I have so many great ideas for them. Seriously, someone with Apple contacts, please toss someone at Apple HQ a link to my review and let them know I want them to hire me as a designer. I’m destitute, I need money and I can’t keep selling kittens that were stolen from homeless people here in Cleveland anymore.
Sennheiser released the $189.99 MX980 and 985 revision a few years ago, these earbuds were extremely well built and offered a fantastic level of clarity and style. They were shockingly clear compared to the rest of the competition from companies like Yuin. Turns out that this $8.99 – $12.99 earbud from Baldoor outperforms the MX980 series buds in every single way. Thought the MX980 was impressive in staging properties? Well, this E100 is much better. It is actually seemingly more spacious than my Sony 950BT, a full size closed back headphone. While on the subject of stereo imaging, which is unreal on this earbud, most earbuds in general just flat out suck the big one in this area of listening. To date, no earbud came close to portable on ears or other full size sets, not until this Baldoor E100 anyway. Staging is important to me, I despise congestion and while I was working with 9wave’s CEO years ago with their buds development, I noticed that every single bud designer neglected some core design elements while producing their earbuds. I can’t say what, but when you pull earbuds apart, you will instantly know what I am talking about.
When it boils down to it, this E100 is stunning in every facet of the word, this is a Hifi earbud. The most impressive feature is certainly the staging experience, which again is damned beautiful. In fact, it is roughly as spacious as my JH16 custom iems that cost me a whopping $999.99. I don’t know how Baldoor achieved it, but there is now no reason portable headphones should sound the way they always have if this company was able to produce such a vast stage in a $10 earbud. Everyone, including all Hifi Summit level headphones should be studying this earbud for the next year, take some time off and stop producing headphones for a bit to learn how they did this.
Why do I say that? Well, if the market doesn’t follow suit and produce cheaper products that sound this great, every audio manufacturer will have officially failed at their jobs. I’ll be the first to brand everyone as a failure and compare $500 headphones to a superior product found in a ten dollar earbud. MrSpeakers did well with recently with their Alpha Dog, although on a more expensive scale. A cheap $599 headphone that performed on the Summit level? Hardly anyone believed me until months after my review and users actually heard it and had a chance to compare it. That headphone raised the bar, now Baldoor takes the emperor’s crown for the best price to performance in an audio product to ever be produced.
Of all the headphones I have currently on hand, the Baldoor E100 earbud sounds virtually identical to Sony’s 1R, which is a $250 or so full size headphone. Not only does it sound the same in clarity from the lows through to the upper midrange ( More on treble flaws in a bit ) but the E100 sounds larger, more well separated and effortless by comparison. How the hell…wha…what!? The most incredible feature of this little earbud is the immensely effortless sound signature, I find it incredibly addictive and it pisses me right the hell off that my expensive iems have yet to achieve this type of a staging experience. I’ve not received my Noble K10 yet, so that might change, but this E100 is indeed larger and more aired out by a noticeable degree compared to my last favorite custom: the JH16 Pro. This is a sound staging titan that makes the previously largest sounding earbud, Sennheiser’s MX985, sound positively lifeless and bland.
The bass on this earbud is nothing short of a game changer, it is powerful and smooth. True, the texture is very boring, very classic Sony MDR V6, but what is really boggling my mind here is how much this thing responds to EQ. Via my Calyx M, which doesn’t have an EQ at all to toggle, the E100 just isn’t reaching full potential in quantity, although it is plenty maxed out in clarity. Via my Oppo HA-1 and my Red Wine AK120B (On loan, thank you Jim) the E100 showcases its ability to dip and raise in bass quantity unlike any other earbud can. It isn’t going to win awards compared to something as insane with bass as the Sony 950BT, but for this price and considering it is an earbud, this is damned impressive.
The midrange is wonderfully forward and incredibly engaging. Again, I revert back to A/B comparisons with my Sony 1R and I am baffled…both headphones sound the same in clarity. Although, the Sony 1R does certainly sound more firm and well formed, more solid. The E100 isn’t that far off though. Another quality that strikes me is how yummy the midrange bloom factor is. Some headphone designers just don’t take the time to make sure the midrange actually sounds good with vocals, but this is not the case with the E100. There are no earbuds I’ve ever heard that sound this forward, this deep and enveloping. The stage depth is excellent and I can no longer rate this on an earbud level. This E100 performs in stage depth of field on mid tier Hifi portable headphone levels. It is very similar to the recent Focal Professional in that realism factor.
Treble is the downfall of the headphone, but at this point I am asking way too much of it. It is less sibilant than my Sony headphones and is on par with the lack of hiss factor my Sony Z7 headphone has. This earbud makes my Fostex TH600 sound hissy with sibilance. This is odd to me because the E100 is very bright on the upper end, shouty even yet in slow tracks found in Jazz or Big Band genres, the treble retains good quality and smoothness. The problems rise when you attempt to listen to faster paced tracks, rock, metal and similar messy genres. The treble of the E100 cannot keep up, so I would recommend usage only with slow to moderate speed tracks. What is upsetting is the lack of engaging qualities the upper end has, by no means is clarity a problem. The downfall occurring is a result of it being fairly lackluster in tone and solidty. If it had lustrous treble, I would never buy another sub $999 headphone again for portable needs.
Sadly, the upper end is just too bright for me. The problem I have with the E100 is the build quality and the lack of a firm sound signature; it really does feel overly thin to my ears. If you can throttle down the AKG K701 into an earbud, this is very similar to what the E100 might sound like. Hisoundaudio has an earbud called The Living, which is rather expensive at $150 and is my pick for the yummiest earbud to date, even which fails to match the E100. If Baldoor revisits this earbud and improves it, sells it for $99, that would spell the end of portable headphones for everyone else. With a small treble quality increase, somehow making the experience sound a bit more firm and solid and lastly offering a higher quality housing similar to the Sennheiser MX980…there really would be no reason to shop for portable headphones anymore. That would ring true for me at least.
I know most people dislike earbuds in general so I can’t speak for them. Baldoor took the ball and ran with it right out of the stadium, got in a hot air balloon and starting pouring maple syrup on the players just to annoy them. The audio community said a product like this E100 is not possible; well…you are all wrong. Of course you shouldn’t expect clarity on par with ciems or mid tier portables. If I had to toss a portable price to performance ratio of other products in headphone land, I would say the E100 earbud offers raw clarity on par with some $100+ on ear or full size headphones, but surpasses a lot of them in staging properties.
For around $10, you really can’t go wrong here. It will make a great birthday or holiday gift for family members or other audio enthusiasts. For this price, I’ve not heard anything that even comes close to this price to performance. Great job, Baldoor! I can’t wait to see your future products. If you guys make a flagship earbud, please contact me! I would love to be the first to review it for you. I am a Baldoor fan now; the rumors are absolutely true about this earbud. It is a best buy, no doubt about it. Makes the $30 Yuin PK3 and Blox earbuds sound like a muffled ball of haze that are unlistenable. I really doubt any other audio company wants to even acknowledge the E100 and I don’t actually expect the market to change their values accordingly. If Baldoor can do this for $10, there is no reason other companies cannot produce full size sets of a similar design that offer the same shocking price to performance value.