(Last Updated On: November 6, 2019)

With the implementation of three leading technologies, namely high Tesla magnetic flux, carbon nanotube diaphragm, and diamond-like coating, iBasso promises that the new IT01s will satisfy the needs of audiophiles’ through high-fidelity sound quality.

I won this pair of in-ear monitors (IEMs) from an event hosted by Zeppelin & Co. Thank you for hosting such a wonderful event. This is not a sponsored post, but an honest review written from a consumer’s point of view. Dollar to performance ratio is included below.

iBasso is well-known in the audio industry for manufacturing digital music players (DAP)s. In 2016, iBasso released their first pair of IEMs – IT03. With a single dynamic driver coupled with dual balanced armature (BA) drivers, IT03 proved to the industry that iBasso was a new challenger and competitor in IEM manufacturing.

iBasso continued to work hard to fill the IT0X line up. The last number in the model name is always the driver count. Last year, Paul from iBasso launched 2 models, flagship of the series IT04 and entry level of the series IT01 on audio website Head-Fi. This created a rumble on the forums and since then, audiophiles have had high expectations for the new release.

Without a doubt, iBasso successfully satisfies their hunger with the two new IEMs.

IT01s is a step up from the entry level of the series IT0X. It should be an improvement as compared to IT01. We take a close look at what has been improved and where it stands in the line-up.

iBasso IT01s
iBasso IT01s

iBasso IT01s

“The iBasso IT01s is a great choice for those who do not like the tonality of the original IT01. Instead of an upgrade from the entry-level model, it’s more like an alternative for those who prefer a leaner and brighter sound signature.”

Pros:

  • »Excellent cable quality
  • »Eye-catching shell
  • »Many ear tips increase the chances of getting a good fit
  • »Generous number of accessories

Cons:

  • »Fingerprint magnet shell
  • »Could sound a little analytical for certain users

Unboxing

It was a very pleasant experience unboxing the iBasso IT01s. The product’s name and company logo are printed in an icy grey shade, matching the misty blue color that the packaging box comes in. Overall, the packaging is eye-catching and stands out among other products when placed on the shelf of any audio shop.

Misty blue sleeve with iBasso logo and model name
Misty blue sleeve with iBasso logo and model name

The cardboard box reveals a darker blue hard box, which contains the IEMs themselves and all the accessories. There is an engraved iBasso logo on the hard box, making it look simple yet elegant.

Darker blue hard box with an engraved iBasso logo
Darker blue hard box with an engraved iBasso logo

Opening the box, your attention will immediately be drawn to the pair of shiny iBasso IT01s. I got my set in smoke grey. Could the ‘s’ in the model’s name stand for shiny? The glossy, reflective surface of the IEMs sure charmed me. Apart from the IEMs themselves, you’ll also find a hard-shell carrying case which holds the rest of the accessories. Smooth and round, it looked like a good home for the IEMs and on the whole the product’s packaging left a good impression on me.

IT01s and “puck” case make their first appearance when you opened the box.
IT01s and “puck” case make their first appearance when you opened the box.

In the case, you will find the following accessories:

  • 2.5mm MMCX cable
  • 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS adaptor
  • 9 pairs of silicone ear tips (3 types and 3 sizes each)
  • 2 pairs of foam tips
  • 2 pieces of spare screens with “O” rings installed
  • Additional “O” rings
A total of 11 pairs of ear tips can be found in the box
A total of 11 pairs of ear tips can be found in the box
A closer look at the storage case. Made of plastic, the opening of the case also comes with a rubber seal, ensuring that the case is sufficiently waterproof. Useful if you ever drop it into a puddle or toilet bowl!
A closer look at the storage case. Made of plastic, the opening of the case also comes with a rubber seal, ensuring that the case is sufficiently waterproof. Useful if you ever drop it into a puddle or toilet bowl!
IT01s with cable and adaptor installed
IT01s with cable and adaptor installed

Specifications

  • Frequency response: 10Hz – 43kHz
  • Sensitivity: 109dB
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms
  • Noise attenuation: -26dB
  • Rated power: 10mW
  • Total harmonic distortion: <1% (at 1kHz/1mW)

Build

I am very happy with the finishing of IT01s – no flaws and near perfect. The shiny surface makes this pair of IEMs look grand. The only downside is that IT01s is a fingerprint magnet. You will need to constantly wipe it down to make sure it looks shiny. But this is a small issue if you consider what it offers in terms of sound.

The reflective surface of the IT01s doubles up as a mirror
The reflective surface of the IT01s doubles up as a mirror

The MMCX connector on iBasso is always slightly different from other generic MMCX connectors. Although it is slightly recessed as compared to other MMCX connectors, its build is pretty sturdy. I have no issue with plugging and unplugging. In fact, it always produces a satisfying “click” sound when I plug it in, which I really dig.

MMCX connector on IT01s
MMCX connector on IT01s

iBasso utilized quite a unique design for the nozzle of IT01s. Initially, I was a little confused by it, thinking that the removable screen on top of the nozzle was a filter that had the ability to alter the sound profile. In the end, after playing around with it a little more, I realized that its only purpose was protecting the nozzle. I hope I am not the only one that got it wrong. Wouldn’t it be cool if iBasso implemented a sound profile filter on IT01s?

There is a black “O” ring on top of the nozzle. I believe it is used to give additional friction to the ear tips to stop them from slipping out from the nozzle, and also to provide a good seal between the nozzle and removable screen. This “O” ring tended to move about when I was doing tips rolling and has a tendency to fall off when removing the ear tips. The good news is that there are 6 spare “O” rings in the box.

Removing the screen from the nozzle
Removing the screen from the nozzle

The most attractive accessory among all those which came with the IEMs was the cable, which really surprised me in terms of its quality. In fact, I believe other users will also find it a pleasant surprise. The cable is a 5N (99.999%) mono crystal copper cable with a silver-plated shield. The termination is in 2.5mm balanced tip-ring-ring-sleeve (TRRS). In my experience, it’s quite rare for IEMs under USD200 to come with such premium accessories.

Users who favor unbalanced outputs are also in for a treat: iBasso even included a 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS pig-tailed adaptor in the box. Kudos to them for being so considerate!

Fit and Isolation

There are 11 pairs of ear tips in the box, so you’re sure to find a pair which fits perfectly. However I was after superior isolation, so I used a pair from Symbio instead. They give me the best comfort and isolation.

IT01s with MandarinEs Symbio W ear tips installed
IT01s with MandarinEs Symbio W ear tips installed

In terms of isolation, IT01s isn’t the most impressive model I’ve ever tried, but what it offers isn’t bad either. For almost a month, I used it when commuting on the train (which in Singapore, is always crowded), but did not experience any problems enjoying the music the entire journey.

The cable is pretty supple. With the correct implementation of the neck slider, I hardly even noticed any microphonics when walking. To be honest, this could be the most supple cable I have ever come across!

Pairing

While test-driving the IT01s, I paired it with my Opus #3 DAP because it is lightweight and has good streaming capabilities. I used the balanced output on this DAP.

IT01s on Opus #3
IT01s on Opus #3

Sound

The overall sound signature of this pair of IEMs can be categorized as lean and bright. For a long time, a bright-sounding pair of IEMs had been missing in my personal collection, and I’m pleased to say that iBasso’s IT01s has filled the gap perfectly. Although it has a bright signature, it does not cause me any fatigue while listening, which I really appreciate.

For those who are looking for a more forward-sounding IEM, IT01s might not be the best pick.

I was surprised to experience how wide the soundstage was when I first listened to the IT01s. It is extremely wide; a lot of space and a lot of air. Depth-wise, it cannot be compared to IEMs with multi-drivers. The depth is just sufficient to create layering.

iBasso IT01s with Opus #3
iBasso IT01s with Opus #3

Lows

The response for lows on IT01s is exceptionally fast, especially considering that this IEM has a dynamic driver. The fast and accurate response produces a very well-controlled bass. The appearance on the bass is basically a tap-and-go.

It appears immediately when it is summoned and leaves instantly when it is no longer needed.

However, due to the driver count limitation, the lows response seems to be a bit too close to the surface, resulting in insufficient depth to create a rumble. Thus the overall sound is a little analytical, which is fine by me since I’ve always liked sounds which are a little technical and analytical, but if you prefer musicality and emotion to be highlighted, then this pair might not be up your alley.

It will be tough for those who appreciate musicality and emotion to accept this pair of IEMs.
iBasso IT01s
iBasso IT01s

Mids

The mids are slightly shy in this pair of IEMs. They are staged slightly behind lows and highs. The spacious and airy signature makes mids very lively. You can really “feel” vocalists breathing because of the injection of air in the mids. Besides that, all the notes in the mids are presented without any congestions or stacking. Impressive!

This is not a V-shaped IEM but do expect a slight recess in mids.

For male vocals, I find the overall texture slightly leaner. I would appreciate a thicker texture to make the vocals more powerful. The same cannot be said for female vocals, which the IT01s is able to handle flawlessly.

I actually appreciate that the team tuned the mids to be slightly recessed, otherwise I would have to deal with shouty vocals. A very wise choice by the team!

Fingerprint was sticked on the shell
Fingerprint was sticked on the shell

Highs

This is the part that I love the most about the IT01s. The treble is very well-tuned. It is very natural-sounding, with a good amount of air and space in it. If my everyday pair of IEMs (Campfire Audio Nova) could adopt this trait from the IT01s, it would really make them attain holy-grail status. Currently, the Nova’s treble rolls off too early, making its presence insignificant. Hence I find IT01s’ treble especially praiseworthy.

The highs shine out the most among the three frequency spectrums.

For those who are very sensitive to treble peak, don’t worry, it is very well extended but not peaky. As mentioned in the earlier part of this review, I did not experience fatigue after long hours of listening to this pair of IEMs. Perhaps the ‘s’ in the model name could also stand for ‘sparkle’?

IT01s with cable (adaptor removed)
IT01s with cable (adaptor removed)

Conclusion

The iBasso IT01s is a great choice for those who do not like the tonality of the original IT01. Instead of an upgrade from the entry-level model, it’s more like an alternative for those who prefer a leaner and brighter sound signature. The number of accessories, especially the inclusion of a high-quality stock cable, makes the iBasso IT01s a more appealing product than its predecessor.

IT01s retails for USD199. It can be purchased at most of the major audio retailers such as ConnectIT by Jade Gift Shop or Amazon. Currently, there are two color options available – blue and grey.

Once again, iBasso proved to the industry that a new challenger is emerging and with the release of IT01s, iBasso stands even firmer than before in the audio industry. I am looking forward to review more great stuff from them soon!

Well done, iBasso!