For a sub-$100 IEM, the Shozy Form 1.1 provides impactful, engaging bass and a midrange that is relatively free of annoying resonances. The sacrifice comes in the form of an odd, unnatural-sounding frequency response.
- »Great technical performance
- »Authoritative bass
- »Unnatural stock tuning
- »Lack of clarity and instrument separation
- »Lack of dynamic excitement
One of the most difficult conceptual parts of reviewing headphones, especially for a novice reviewer like myself, is the idea that one is making a final judgment on a product that has spent months in development, under the guidance of skilled engineers with years of training that I, frankly, don’t have.
But despite the engineering skill that it takes to pull off a product like the Shozy Form 1.1, there are still very intentional choices being made in its tuning. My job is to judge these choices from the perspective of a musician and an avid music listener.
The Shozy Form 1.1 is yet another entrant into the hallowed pantheon of budget “chi-fi,” and it’s one that’s garnered some notice and appreciation. After receiving my review unit from Linsoul, I’ve given it a go and see how it stacks up.
Nonetheless, this is a pair of IEM’s that’s been delivered to the market with significant care, and people with genre preferences that align nicely with the Form 1.1’s sound, or who aren’t afraid to get dirty with EQ, should give it some attention.
The most exciting contribution to the Form 1.1’s sound is its beryllium-coated dynamic driver. It combines this with a balanced-armature driver to (hopefully) provide both impactful bass and clean, detailed treble.
- Driver Configuration: Beryllium-Coated Dynamic Driver + Balanced Armature
- Sensitivity: 100dB/mW
- Impedance: 19 ohm @ 1KHz
- Connector: 0.78mm 2Pin
The packaging of the Shozy Form 1.1 is nice. Calling it no-frills would be a disservice; low-pretension might be a better way to put it. The box itself simply describes the product, with a nice picture; it’s well-crafted, sturdy, and it shuts very cleanly, aided by a couple of magnets.
Aside from some descriptive text, calling our attention to the capsule, “handcrafted with premium resin,” or the “special venting design,” Shozy doesn’t use much of the typical marketing fluff. That’s appreciated–the product should speak for itself. So what does the Shozy Form 1.1 have to say?
Okay, I won’t lie, I do get a bit of a Star Trek vibe from the whole thing put together – it’s maybe a little weird-looking and a little corny, but I can easily choose to see it as charming instead, and you know what? I think I will.
Visuals and Build
The driver capsules are like little, shiny pebbles, without any seams or rough edges of any kind. They share the same kind of blobby, organic shape, but tiny differences in contour indicate that the package probably isn’t lying when they say they’re handcrafted. The naturalistic capsule compliments a little perfectly circular vent, the plug for the cable, and, of course, the nozzle itself, presenting themselves as mechanical appendages to the living creature that is the IEM itself.
Okay, I won’t lie, I do get a bit of a Star Trek vibe from the whole thing put together – it’s maybe a little weird-looking and a little corny, but I can easily choose to see it as charming instead, and you know what? I think I will. The Form 1.1 is a cute little retro-futuristic IEM; it’s a design with real personality, and that gets my appreciation.
The Form 1.1 also boasts above-average isolation. During the course of writing this review, I had the opportunity to take a cross-country plane ride, and the Form 1.1 isolated more than well enough to let me listen to music in relative peace, no volume boost needed.
Packaging and Accessories
The Shozy Form 1.1 also finds itself accompanied by a tiny army of differently sized and shaped ear tips. After finding the ones it came fitted with a bit large, I ended up going with the little double-flanged one, which nicely stayed in my ear without any chance of escaping, but also without feeling terribly invasive.
The included cable feels good and doesn’t possess enough of a tendency toward kinkiness to get in the way. It’s a braided fabric affair that doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart or split. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to note within the span of a review period whether the Form 1.1 will last forever, but my impression is of a sturdy cable.
The sound signature of the Form 1.1 is a V, but it’s not a clean, straight-edged Times New Roman V – more like the kind of cursive V they tend to use in handwritten math notation, or a lowercase gamma.
It’s been a while since I dedicated any amount of time to a headphone that could be considered “commercially-tuned.” My experience with my last few pairs of headphones has been buying progressively bassier and bassier headphones and then reading in reviews that they’re “not for bassheads,” and wondering–well, if these aren’t, then what are? And as soon as I looked up reviews of the Form 1.1, I was greeted with that same line: that these “aren’t for bassheads.”
It’s true that they’re no Skullcandy Crushers, but the bass here will be strong enough for most. For those that have an almost masochistic desire to have their ears totally fried by bass (and I only say that because I know there are such listeners out there in the world), the Form 1.1 may be found slightly wanting, but to me, the bass is clearly the strong suit of the Form 1.1’s performance.
The sound signature of the Form 1.1 is V-shaped, but it’s not a clean, straight-edged Times New Roman V – more like the kind of cursive V they tend to use in handwritten math notation, or a lowercase gamma. Like some other commercially-tuned headphones, the boost to the low-end carries up through the lower mids and gradually falls off after maybe 500Hz through the rest of the mids, up until the expected 3 or 4kHz boost.
In other words, this is a sound signature that’s attempting to do both warmth and a V-shape at the same time, a goal that’s almost noble in its apparent futility. The actual result is a sound that, while occasionally quite interesting, is just as often both claustrophobic and thin simultaneously. Okay, perhaps that’s a little harsh–it’s not that bad, provided a track isn’t recorded/tuned/mastered in a very specific way (which I’ll get into later). But it’s certainly colored.
The bass of the Form 1.1 is prominent, deeply extended, and for an IEM of this price, startlingly controlled. My impression is that the attack is very nice, but the ringing makes the bass sort of thuddy rather than punchy. It doesn’t reach the level of bloat, and it seems quite clean overall, but it could probably manage to be slightly more textured if it dealt with the decay issue.
The mid-bass, especially, is loud, and can be kind of overpowering (especially for me, an unapologetic AKG-head who loves classical music). But aside from this quibble, one can hardly fault it: this is apparent class-leading bass performance.
The mids, in their stock tuning, is where things somewhat start to go off the rails for me. Looking at measurements, or running a sine sweep, it becomes immediately obvious that the Form 1.1 suffers from two problems: a continuation of the midbass hump into the lower mids combined with a wide suckout from around 1000Hz to 3000Hz. This is the real problematic area of that oddly-shaped V that I was discussing earlier.
Since the lower mids are so warm, and the upper mids are so absent, the Form 1.1 takes on the strange characteristic of simultaneously sounding “warm/dark” and “thin” – inheriting the negative aspects of both descriptions without really any of the positives. The problem with warm headphones is a lack of detail, while the benefit is a full-bodied, intimate sound; and vice-versa for thinner, brighter headphones, which offer detail at the expense of body and intimacy.
In “Troupeau bleu” by Cortex, for example, the vocals are recorded with a much greater emphasis on the lower partials than the other instruments. With a pair of headphones or earphones with a more traditional hi-fi tuning, this gives the vocals a really central role, very intimate, with the other instruments sort of floating around it. On the Form 1.1, though, the vocals practically crowd the other instruments off the stage – you can barely hear them.
For a classical music lover, the mids make the Form 1.1, frankly, a bad choice. Listening to the Bach B minor mass (as conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, released in 2001, if anyone wants to look it up), I’m struck by an unpleasant, compressed, cagey sound to vocals and strings. That boosted lower-midrange comes back with a vengeance, shrinking the soundstage, pushing female vocals far back, foregrounding the bass, and wreaking all kinds of havoc besides.
You get a weird, distorted picture of the orchestra, with some instruments unnaturally foregrounded and others pushed much further back. A well-tuned headphone may present acoustic recordings as if through colored glass, with some alterations to the timbre of the recording, but it should never warp things or push certain sonic elements out of position.
I tend to be pretty suspicious of any review that describes a piece of audio equipment as “bright, but never sibilant.” Any bright headphones will always display sibilance that’s already present in a recording.
The Form 1.1 does have an emphasized treble response, especially with a sort of “fake detail” peak at around 7.5-8kHz. While I generally consider peaky treble a negative, the decision to place it there rather than, say, a more typical 10Khz could be seen as a sort of beneficial tuning choice–often, the really unpleasant sibilance peaks in modern recordings are found closer to the 10kHz mark. This means that the Form 1.1 runs into real sibilance issues less often.
Overall, I’m not stunned with the Form 1.1’s performance in the treble region, but I’m not terribly turned off either. At this price point, treble is typically not terribly refined, with some severe ringing issues often present. The Form 1.1’s treble is a bit grainy, but it’s resolving enough to reveal nice little juicy details like tape hiss and pages turning, and a lot of listeners will be very happy with that.
Any peaky treble performance presents itself as an issue, but there really are significantly worse offenders in this category–even my beloved AKG has done worse with their open headphones, and I quite like them. The Form 1.1 does not boast outstanding resolution or detail, nor an incredibly flat or well-extended frequency response, but it doesn’t have a huge amount of glare either, and the level is sufficient to make out some nice additional pieces of information.
The soundstage seems a bit odd relative to most other headphones or IEMs I’ve heard in that it seems to get wider at higher frequencies. I already discussed this just a bit previously, especially with regard to the mids – the lower mids and bass seem claustrophobically close while the upper mids seem more distant and withdrawn.
This leads to an oddly funnel-shaped soundstage, where the size of the room is larger for violins, wind instruments and other sounds with greater high-frequency content, and shrinks for basses and other low-frequency instruments. The resulting effect is interesting but tends to be somewhat obstructive on very imaging-dependent tracks, especially acoustic recordings, where it’s important to have an idea of room shape and instrument position.
Obviously, many of the problems described above are with the tuning of the Form 1.1, rather than the drivers themselves. It’s not uncommon that a product will reveal a somewhat alternate character upon equalization.
It’s up to potential listeners at home to “re-tune” the Form 1.1 to a more desirable, even frequency response, as everyone’s ears are different. My personal EQ setting, pictured above, involved cutting the frequency band from about 100 to 500Hz by a few dB, boosting a wide region surrounding 2kHz by 4dB, and boosting 6kHz and cutting 7.5kHz. That left me with a much more even, realistic sound.
Unfortunately, the sound after equalization still wasn’t top-notch for sitting at home listening to my nice FLAC files in a quiet environment. The sound was just a bit too low-resolution, the soundstage seemed kind of vague and compressed (although more naturally-shaped), and the dynamics weren’t quite wide enough to be truly “life-like” or “high-fidelity.”
Often, equalization reveals the more tenacious resonances that can’t be eliminated simply by cutting away the peaks, and here, it sounded like there was noticeable, but not deal-breaking (for $70), grain remaining in the treble.
Ultimately, the sound struck me as sufficiently high-quality for listening to music on the go, in a noisy environment. After EQ, however, it seemed a bit dull, able to give me a good idea of the music but not especially able to fully convey the emotion of a track.
Despite all the nitpicking I’ve done, I think the Form 1.1 is an overall good entry-level IEM. There is some minor grain, but these IEMs represent a very clean, inoffensive product that, at less than $100, may well be impressive to those not already accustomed to high-end personal audio gear.
Although it offers a sound that is by no standards complementary to all genres or all recordings (classical and acoustic music fans, especially, will want to stay away), the Form 1.1 also offers nicely textured, impactful bass and sufficient detail to keep pace with many recordings.
For those willing to do some EQ work, the Shozy Form 1.1 offers very nice performance for an under-$100 IEM, and demonstrates nicely, especially compared with my own Dunu Titan 3 from only a few years ago, how far the budget IEM field has come when it comes to offering clean, relatively resonance-free drivers – there is no earsplitting upper-mid shoutiness to be found here.
So despite my reservations, the Form 1.1 should not be seen as a below-par product: I’ve seen many new users singing its praises.
On the other hand, those who are interested in a neutral, naturalistic IEM, or who are looking to get really deeply into hi-fi audio, may find the Form 1.1 lacking, especially in its stock tuning. After EQ, the Form 1.1 boasts sufficient performance to render recordings somewhat well, but may still not be a fantastically exciting or emotional listen–not that that should be expected at this price point.
Despite all the nitpicking I’ve done, I think the Form 1.1 is an overall good entry-level IEM. There is some minor grain, but these IEMs represent a very clean, inoffensive product that, at $70, may well be impressive to those not already accustomed to high-end personal audio gear.Readers can purchase the Shozy Form 1.1 from Amazon.