This is where I was pleasantly surprised compared to last year’s Throne offering. Out of the box the tonality of the Maze is neutral to warm with a nice smooth presentation in the mids and lower treble without any unbearable peakiness. The frequency response has a mid bass hump at 100hz that settles down at 500hz. From there the response is quite flat through the midrange with only a minor bump from 5-10k in the lower treble. If anything it is a very mild u-shape frequency with a touch of reverb or ‘hall effect’ to produce the “live sound”.
I-MEGO actually state that they reduced the size of the 40mm driver in the MAZE through a thinning process in order to maximize the air space in the cups. The intention here was to assist with the so called “live” experience in the sound as well as give a deeper extended bass “hit”. I did find the bass slammed reasonably well when using harder hitting EDM like David Guetta and yet clear enough when toning it down to female vocals such as Agnes Obel. However, though the MAZE had reasonably decent bass performance it wasn’t as tight or fast as compared to say the TMA-1X from Aiaiai or the ever popular ATH M-50.
In some ways the MAZE reminds me a little of the MS01 from Thinksound which displayed a relatively linear response with a mid-bass elevation and a mild tilt upwards in the treble for extra dynamics and sparkle without being considered sharp or peaky. The MAZE certainly sounds far more mature, coherent and musical than the Throne ever was. Naturally the resolution is not summit-fi or even mid-fi but the lack of sibilance and any upper veil makes the Maze a somewhat more flexible headphone that I had anticipated.
The soundstage is not massive and it still possesses that closed headphone effect whilst imaging is not terribly accurate. Vocal staging is a little recessed with a slight predominance on instruments pushing the vocals back a bit. It is not that I am complaining, more that I am pointing out that the MAZE is no breakout headphone when it comes to the pros and cons of using small cup closed headphones.
I tried matching the MAZE with a range of DAPs without any amping given they are rated at 32ohms they should be relatively easy to drive out of modern players such as the X3, X5 and DX90. I had been testing IEM’s a lot of late so I had to dial the MAZE up maybe around 5 – 10 digits on the DX90 but it drove very easily around 205 on the DX90 volume dial. The DX90 brought some excellent dynamics and a higher degree of clarity than the other DAPs but I actually found the FiiO X3 and the MAZE to be just the right match for both budget and sound.
DX90 users would most likely be studying something a little higher end and in my mind I can’t shake the idea of the DX90 being a great IEM DAP. What the X3 does is give it a very rich and smooth response for jazz and husky female vocals. The musical warmer approach of the X3 combined with the slightly slower paced but smooth MAZE response gelled very well in a very forgiving and relaxing manner. Those on a budget might do worse than try this combination. For those with an X5 the resolution and detail goes up a notch and the bass gets a bit more weighted but it still retains that smooth response of the X3. The higher price of the X5 might be overkill for some wishing to throw in a $130 headphone with a decent DAP on a budget.
I suspect a few will want to know how the MAZE sounds right out of a smartphone like an iPhone or Android. Well you are out of luck there as I don’t carry that kind of creature. I am a card carrying user of Blackberry and my weapon of choice is a Q10 with flac. Straight out of the jack and amping was at full throttle and whilst things sounded reasonable, clear and audible it just didn’t have that richer musical feel with the X3 or X5 or even the dynamic clarity of the DX90. Mind you I did get a chance to try out the remote which played and paused only on the Q10 and muted for incoming text and did just fine for a few calls so functionality wise it does what it says on the tin.
Click on next page for final thoughts…