A likable and refined middle child is a welcome addition to the Legacy lineup.
Ah, the age-old question posed by the greatest scholars of our time. Is Thieaudio pronounced “thigh” or “thee” audio?
Is it a tad sleazy or aristocratic?
Based on the products that Thieaudio is turning out, my vote is firmly in the “thee” category. No cheap trash here. Just refined and excellent IEMs at a variety of price points. Especially with their hybrid IEM Legacy lineup.
- Smooth and relaxed sound signature.
- Refined package and sound.
- Upgrade cable and accessories are excellent.
- Dark resin housing makes discerning the faceplate details difficult.
- Not the most resolving or energetic sound signature.
Over the last few years, my tastes have evolved. Turns out, it seems I’m no longer a sub $100 IEM guy. Sure, I can be very impressed by what some manufacturers are producing at bargain prices, but something always seems to be missing for me. Invariably, there are compromises to achieve a low price.
However, with a few outstanding examples priced just above $100, such as the Moondrop Starfield and Legacy 3, these compromises seem to get much smaller. You can get a refined sound paired with very good build quality. The law of diminishing returns starts to weigh in heavily.
So, is there any real point in producing IEMs that cost about twice as much as these great budget performers? Do they bring anything of substance to the playing field? Are the improvements worth about double the cost?
For my ears, the exciting IEM of the last year is the $299 Mangird Tea. The sonic improvements, while admittedly somewhat subtle when compared to very good sounding IEMs like the Legacy 3 and the Starfield, are nonetheless worth the additional cost.
Now the Legacy 5 has arrived at my door. Bundled with a fancy upgraded cable, and priced the same as the Mangird Tea, they face stiff competition. Can they challenge my current favorite? Perhaps even dethrone the Tea?
Or perhaps we should just find out if the Legacy 5 sounds better than the 3, and if so, which one provides the best price to performance investment?
I know it’s best to temper one’s expectations after all. So, let’s just stay calm everybody.
Why is it that I can never follow my own advice?
I’m very excited to try out the Legacy 5! No more preamble… let’s go!
Thieaudio Company Overview
Thieaudio is a creative endeavor of Chi-Fi mega-company Linsoul Audio. Founded in 2019, the “…goal of Thieaudio was to serve as a creative platform for gathering the best teams of engineers … For each project, we hand-select the most innovative and renown engineers in his or her field to oversee the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the products.”
The Thieaudio Voyager and Legacy IEM series are both headed by master audio engineer Chongjun, and “were created to bring about unparalleled sound performance that would rival the leading international brands.” The Voyager series is intended for musicians while the intended audience for the Legacy series are audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
Legacy 5 Specifications
- Name: Thieaudio Legacy 5
- Brand: Thieaudio
- Price: $249
- Form: IEM
- Total Drivers Per Side: 5
- Dynamic Driver: 1 – 10mm Thieaudio
- Balanced Armature: 4 – 2 Sonion and 2 Bellsing
- Driver Size (mm): 10
- Impedance (Ohm): 23
- Sensitivity (dB): 110
- Removable Cable: Y
- Source Jack: 2.5mm
- Cup / Shell Jack: 2-pin 0.78
- IPX Waterproof: N
Legacy 5 Packaging
The Legacy 5 packaging has benefitted from trickle-down upgrades from Thieaudio’s new flagship IEMs the Monarch and Clairvoyance. Much different from the original Legacy 3 and Voyager 3 IEMs, the box and included accessories are undeniably impressive.
The Legacy 5 are packaged in a large, dark green, square cardboard box. Sliding it open, you’ll find a vellum insert with Thieaudio embossed in the center in gold. Underneath, nestled in felt, are the IEMs above a classy looking brown (faux) leather folding case, which looks a bit like a large wallet or small clutch handbag.
The cable and additional accessories are contained in the case.
In the box
- Legacy 5 IEMs with Spinfit CP100 silicone ear tips
- 3 sizes (Small – purple, Medium – mustard, Large – green) of extra memory foam ear tips
- Brown leatherette carrying case
- 2.5mm balanced silver-plated copper cable
- 2.5mm to 3.5mm TRS adapter
- 2.5mm to 4.4mm pentaconn balanced adapter
For $249, the Legacy 5 comes with the standard Legacy cable. It’s an entirely functional, if not overly exciting, black 8-wire braid with aluminum-bodied connectors, terminated in the 3.5mm and 0.78 2-pin standards.
For an additional $50, Thieaudio will replace the stock cable with the same Litz 5N OCC, 100 wire, 4-core silver-plated copper cable included with the Monarch and Clairvoyance. While it’s not the softest and most supple cable I’ve ever encountered (the Triptowin C8 holds that honor), it’s pretty close.
The silver cable differs from the black one in design as it is a twist structure, rather than a braid. Additionally, the upgrade cable is terminated with a balanced 2.5mm plug and includes matching high-quality adapters for use with 3.5 single-ended amplifiers and 4.4 pentaconn balanced devices.
The default installed ear tips are also the same Spinfit CP100 used on the Monarch and Clairvoyance. They appear to be medium-sized and fit my ears well. Spinfit claims that the CP100 has an “inner diameter of 4 mm… Upgraded sound, lengthend [sic] umbrella and softer silicon used… Ergonomically designed with the ability to flex in all direction and conform to the ear canal… Deeper & clearer sound. Improves sound quality overall in bass, treble, and sound stage”
Additionally, 3 sets of soft memory foam ear tips are included. I stuck with the silicone ear tips for the majority of my listening and this is what my review notes are based upon. Factoring in the upgrade cable, adapters, ear tips, and case, this is one of the finest included batch of accessories I’ve seen.
Legacy 5 Design
The Legacy 5 are made of opaque dark blue/black resin, with subtle coloration highlights on the faceplate.
“For the Legacy 5, we decided to go with a custom hand-painted faceplate. Each Legacy 5 is hand built from medical grade resin and unique painting textures. The result is an extremely detailed and elegant look, one that is different for every Legacy 5. Each earpiece takes almost an entire day to build, and the outcome is something that no mass-produced product can ever achieve.” – Linsoul
Unfortunately, the attractive red and purple sparkly swirls on the faceplates are nigh on invisible unless you are looking at them up close and in good light. Much lighting and positioning trickery are necessary to have the colors show up in pictures.
Fairly large vents are on the upper edge of the IEMs (when positioned in the ears). The body is rather hefty and thick, but the smooth organic shape is comfortable.
One much-appreciated improvement over the Legacy 3 is the switch to metal nozzles from an all resin design. Although the metal nozzles do not feature a lip around the edge, the ear tips are much more firmly captured than on the Legacy 3, which have an annoying habit of leaving an ear tip in my ears when removing them.
“Legacy 5” and “Thieaudio” is printed in large gold script on the inner side of the IEMs, and is not visible when wearing. The overall look of the Legacy 5 is classy, but certainly not showy. When you’ve got them in your ears, no one will be able to discern that they are anything particularly special.
Legacy 5 Internals
As the name implies, the Legacy 5 is a five-driver per side hybrid, as per the convention set with the three-driver Legacy 3 and nine-driver Legacy 9.
“The Legacy series capitalizes on Thieaudio’s proprietary 10mm Nano-Membrane Dynamic Driver to create a high-performance hybrid in-ear monitor…
Two independent genuine Sonion balanced armature drivers allowed the successful reduction of the total harmonic distortion and the presentation of a clean mid-to-high frequency transition. Correspondingly, vocals shine with clarity and a forward presence.
Two independent Bellsing drivers were matched to bring about an even upper treble presentation that brings about a shimmer to every instrument. All of this combined with our newly designed 3D-printed shell in a tubeless configuration means that your music is as smooth as it is accurate.” – Legacy 5 marketing material
The use of industry-standard Sonion and Bellsing BA drivers is befitting for the cost of the Legacy 5. The Legacy 3 uses Thieaudio branded BA drivers, while the Legacy 9 uses Sonion and Knowles drivers. The dynamic driver is shared between all the Legacy models (and the high-end Monarch and Clairvoyance).
Thieaudio claims that “…the Legacy series re-envisions the qualities that make up high-fidelity audio to present a unique combination of enjoyable tuning that also excels in technical performance… Focusing on three primary values – musical tuning, high-fidelity sound quality, life-like listening experience – Thieaudio’s new project aims to redefine the true potential of in-ear monitors for both enthusiasts and professional musicians.”
Let’s find out how they did.
Legacy 5 Sound
Much like the packaging and accessories imply, the Legacy 5 sound signature follows in the footsteps of the latest Signature Series monitors, the Monarch and Clairvoyance.
“The emphasis was placed on delivering faithful reproduction of the recorded music while trading the pure analytical tonal characteristics for a more pleasing and musical playback. Hence, the sub-bass and bass had to give a powerful presence, but without coloring the midrange.
An in-house high-order lowpass crossover network was utilized to obtain an impactful and textured dynamic driver bass response that makes way for a linear midrange to allow every instrument to be heard as they were meant to be.” – Thieaudio
The overall sound of the Legacy 5 is smooth, weighty, and non-fatiguing. The drivers mesh and work well together. This is as much a function of driver selection and enclosure design, as it is of proper crossover tuning. There are no jarring dips or peaks in the frequency response, with each aspect of sound reproduction flowing smoothly into one another.
The Legacy 5 is deeply anchored in the low frequencies and gradually fades off in the high end. This adds weight to notes, voices, and instruments. Far from the thin, brittle audio reproduction of poorly done BA IEMs, the Legacy 5 impart a convincing presence and depth to the music.
While the Legacy 5 laid-back sound signature is easy to listen to for long periods, clarity and imaging remain very respectable. These aren’t detail-scalpels and for my ears, are the better for it. Generally, they are a little more relaxed than the Legacy 3 but smoother and more encompassing. The feeling of space and positioning certainly meets my expectations.
The bass response of the Legacy 5 is nicely emphasized. They give impressive depth and weight with a nice punch for music that calls for it. If you like a low-end prominence to your sound reproduction, the Legacy 5 will be right up your alley.
Thankfully the bass, while prodigious, remains controlled and in its place. It doesn’t overwhelm or drown out the midrange. The sound remains clear and clean, without smearing or muddying the music. The impact is great fun.
The Legacy 5 are warm sounding IEMs with lower mid-range weight. They are without a sharp upper midrange rise, and (thankfully) are far less harsh sounding than other IEMs I’ve been trying lately. This non-fatiguing sound signature is one that appeals to me.
Vocals are natural and full with a pleasant tonality. The Legacy 5 are sublimely easy to listen to. The transitions through the frequency range are impressively smooth.
The Legacy 5 treble is clean and clear, without sibilance or sharpness. Overall they present a relaxed signature, likely due to being somewhat rolled off in the highest frequencies. Cymbals sound natural, but without the highest frequency airiness or sparkle that some prefer in music reproduction.
If you are looking for a lot of high-energy treble response, the Legacy 5 aren’t likely to be your first choice.
For my tastes, the Legacy 5 work well, as I tend to gravitate to a darker sound signature. I find the treble response to be entirely adequate to give the impression of transparency and proper imaging. Balanced sound with lower-end weight is the name of the game with the Legacy 5.
It is in the treble energy and presence that the Legacy 5 depart the greatest from the Mangird Tea.
Thieaudio Legacy 3
Let’s be honest, the Legacy 3 are an excellent bang for buck choice. At about half the price of the Legacy 5, they do many things right for around a c-note. However, the Legacy 5 more than justify their inclusion in the Legacy lineup.
The Legacy 5 are a more refined version of the 3. They are smoother, with better transitions from bass frequencies through the midrange and up into treble. They are less fatiguing and easier to listen to. The 5 are definitely an upgrade over the 3.
I can see that the Tea aren’t for everyone. They are not overly neutral or laid-back IEMs. The Tea have an energy that demands that the listener pay attention. Somehow, without being shouty, they elevate the upper midrange and lower treble in such a way that the music is very present and in-your-face.
Like the Legacy 5, the Tea have a darker-sounding signature, and while the Legacy 5 have a slightly more prominent bass, I feel the Tea dig a bit deeper into the lower sub-bass response.
The Legacy 5 are likely to be more generally appealing to a wider listening audience. The Tea are more polarizing. You will either like their forwardness, or not, but either way, you won’t be able to ignore it.
The Legacy 5 are an easier listen and demand less of the listener, but something about the Tea just speaks to me. The Tea make music more intimate. Both are excellent sounding IEMs. They are sonic quality equals, although they do sound different.
Legacy 5 Conclusion
A huge thank you to Linsoul for providing the Legacy 5 for review purposes. Bravo on your new accomplishment with the Legacy 5! If you’d like a pair for yourself, hop on over to Linsoul and buy the Thieaudio Legacy 5 for $249.
It all comes down to the value for your dollar. Bang for your buck. Is a product a good investment? Worthy of your money?
I’m currently loving this $200-$300 price point for IEMs. Much of the quality, extras, and sound quality of the ultra-high-end is trickling down. Affordable refinement in audio signature and construction quality is a reality.
Can the mega-buck options offer somewhat more resolution, clarity, and extension? Sure. But can they offer more value?
The Legacy 5 bring a lot of enjoyment, performance, and refinement to the table for their price. While I still (slightly) prefer the Mangird Tea’s presentation, I would be extremely happy with the Legacy 5 in their place.
And from me, that’s high praise indeed.