Pros: Build and Cable quality, Accessories, Technical ability in the upper mids and treble
Cons: Soundstage, Aggressive V-shaped tuning, Excessive Bass, tonality, Fit, Poor tuning overall
Driver Setup: 1DD + 1 EST
Price: 129 USD
Disclaimer: I purchased the Tape Pros with my own money at full price and this review is written of my own accord.
The Tape Pros are the first products I’ve tried from Shuoer. The first time I’ve heard of them was from their release of the original Tape Electrostatic Driver IEM. The Pros are a refresh of that release and takes on a similar aesthetic. The Tape Pro is now a hybrid comprising 1 Dynamic Driver and 1 Electrostatic Driver, with changeable screws to alter the Bass frequency response.
Accessories and Build Quality (Score: 9/10)
Shuoer is rather generous with the accessories, including a well-made and appropriately sized leather (or pleather) zip case. There are also sufficient tips for you to choose from to accommodate the very large nozzle of the Tape Pros. There are also many miscellaneous accessories such as replacement filters and bass vent screws and a screwdriver tool for you to swap the bass vent configuration. The Tape Pros retain the same design as the original Tapes, with an additional silver/blue colour option and an upgraded cable.
I really like the included and it is one of the best stock cables I’ve seen. It handles very well and terminates into a 2.5mm jack (There is an included 2.5mm female to 3.5mm male adapter)
Fit (Score: 6/10)
The fit was not great but YMMV. The sharp edges would hurt my ears after a while. Moreover, the nozzle diameter is one of the largest I’ve seen and is tough to get a comfortable fit in my slightly smaller than average ear canal. Listening to them was a physically hurtful experience, as though foreboding the things to come…
Sound (Score: 6.0/10)
The Shuoer Tape Pros have a V-shaped tuning and quite an aggressive V for that matter.
- Hiby R5
- Lotoo Paw S1
- Shanling M3s
Albums and Tracks tested with
- Carmen Fantasy by Itzhak Perlman
- Ragtime Broadway Recording
- La La Land Soundtrack
- Phillip Phillips – The World From the Side of the Moon
- NEEDTOBREATHE – Acoustic Live
- Michael Bublé – To Be Loved
- Gryffin – Gravity
- Robin Schulz
- Spinners – Essential
- Andy Gibb – The Very Best Of
Bass (Score: 5.0/10)
Bass quantity was overpowering. I found it a little too boomy as well and it overshadows the other parts of the music, especially the lower mids and male vocals to a certain extent. I noticed this while listening to the La La Land Soundtrack.
Bass extends very deep and Subbass is very prominent, probably from that subwoofer Dynamic Driver. In fact, the Subbass impact can be felt so significantly you feel the beat vibrations. However, that is where the praise ends. The feel of the vibrations is so strong it is almost headache-inducing, and this is supposedly already in the “less bass configuration”. The technicalities and detail retrieval in the bass is comparable to some of the $20 dollar IEMs out there.
Mids (Score: 6.0/10)
Male vocals on Phillip Phillips’ “Gone, Gone, Gone” was slightly soft in proportion to melody and drumbeats. Lacking in forwardness and openness and feel suppressed. However, on acoustic tracks that don’t have an overly distracting bassline such as Michael Bublé, the vocals then have the space to shine with ample warmth and body.
The best part of the mids on the Tape Pros was how instruments sounded. I especially enjoyed how the piano sounded in NEEDTOBREATHE’s Acoustic Live album. The mandola used by NEEDTOBREATHE on their Acoustic LIVE album really has a nice timbre and texture. Instruments like the violin, harmonica and trumpet also enjoy this otherworldly performance on the Tape Pros. Listening to Carmen Fantasy, things were extremely lively, and I enjoyed the timbre of the violin. The upper mids are where the EST driver really shines and flexes its capabilities. Upper mids and Female Vocals more forward and present.
However, in terms of balance, things are a little skewed and the upper mids are a little over-pronounced as compared to the lower mids and the forwardness can be a little fatiguing and shouty at higher volumes. There is a certain unnaturalness in overall midrange tonality, and this makes the Tape Pro lose some of its versatility across genres.
Treble (Score: 7.0/10)
Detail Retrieval in the treble pretty good for its price, with exceptional speed and attack. Snappy cymbals and Hihats, and doesn’t suffer from the splashiness and lingering graininess that other sets in its class suffer from. The best thing is that despite the details, it never gets harsh or peaky, though the lower treble gets overbearing after a while.
A very intimate sound with below-average soundstage and imaging. The bass seems to tower over the rest of the sound in a not so good way. This set does have noticeable changes from burn-in, be it brain or physical (or both). The change in bass vent screws does not have much change on the sound. They just make the bass stronger (make it stop, please.) If the tuning isn’t to your liking, swapping the screws won’t change much.
It’s funny how the subwoofer driver is so thick and muddy-sounding, absolutely lacking in micro details and the EST driver is so lean in its presentation. This contrast left me really confused and I found it hard to enjoy music with it in general.
The TRI I3 is a tribrid with a planar, dynamic, and balanced armature while the Tape Pros is a hybrid with a dynamic and EST configuration. I just thought it would be an interesting matchup comparing the two. They share a similarity in that they both have a V-shaped tuning. Another similarity was that the I3 had an almost equally large nozzle and I had an equally hard time getting a good fit on the I3. However, I prefer the sound signature on the I3. It is less warped and more natural sounding in the midrange. That said, the detail retrieval on the I3 is not very good and doesn’t come close to that of the Tape Pros.
What the TRI I3 did right and the Tape Pros failed to do was to achieve a coherent sound where the different drivers synergise together to give an overall enjoyable sound. The bass presentation on the Tape Pros should play a more complementary role instead of trying to drown out the work of the EST driver. I really enjoyed how the bass performance on the I3 was powerful and extended very well too but didn’t overstep its boundaries and gave way to the beautifully fluid planar mids.
My biggest gripe with the Tape Pros is the overall coherency of the sound. There seems to be a mismatch, with the dynamic driver doing its own thing in the lower half and the EST driver doing its own thing in the upper half. With major issues in the sound and fit, I struggle to see much reason for the Tape Pros to remain in my collection apart from novelty.
It is quite a shame as the low voltage EST driver really does show flashes of its potential many times in my listening sessions and I really wanted to enjoy the unique details I picked up in songs I’ve not noticed before. At the end of the day, I can’t find a reason to justify purchasing the Tape Pro, since it hurt my ears physically and sonically. Ouch.
Overall Grade: D
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