While many listeners choose their ear tips purely based on ergonomics, they can actually have a direct impact on the overall sound of a particular earphone. And depending on the model, these sonic changes can vary from minute to immediately noticeable through a combination of material, bore size and level of seal. Silicone tips are most popular as the standard tips that come with most earphones while foam tips are a little less orthodox but more common with higher-end monitors.
The general rule of thumb is that silicones are brighter, especially large bore tips, while foams are a little warmer with more attenuated treble. Foams are undoubtedly the choice for those wanting the best seal and isolation possible, conforming to the individual’s ear canal and offering great attenuation with their higher density. However, they’re also impractical to wear during daily use, have a limited lifespan and gradually lose their elasticity. That’s where the Symbio W tips come in, theoretically combining the best of both materials. Let’s see whether Csaba’s new tip is as revolutionary in execution as in theory.
I would like to thank Csaba from MandarinEs very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Symbio W tips for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the tips free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Those familiar with Csaba and MadarinEs will remember his original foam designs. They were very sound in theory as a durable and acoustically transparent foam tip. And for the most part, he succeeded. However, they were a little rough in their execution with no stem and some uneven cutting.
The Symbio W tips are immediately a big jump forward, they look and feel almost like a mass-produced product. This starts with a solid silicone base tip that is on the softer side with a firm stem. They have a rounder design yet their more solid silicone construction promotes a deeper fit. But what makes these tips special is that orange foam stuffing that enables the tips to conform to the ear much like Comply’s and provides additional isolation through added density.
Of note, Sony also did something similar with their Hybrid isolation tips, however, those utilize sponge rather than memory foam that I find less compliant to the ear even though they have similar properties. The Symbio W’s also have a 4.5mm bore size that better suits large bore earphones though smaller 3.8mm bore tips are also available.
And in wear, that’s exactly what they produce. The medium Symbio W tips paired perfectly with my Campfire Jupiter and 64Audio U3 while the small tips paired well to the deeper fitting Rose BR5 MKII and Lyra II. These earphones are all a bit picky about tips, the Lyra II and U3 in particular; foams provide great isolation that prevents bass from drowning out in louder environments, but they’re also impractical for portable use. On the other hand, silicones are practical, comfortable and sound the purest but also create pressure in the ear and lean out the sound when outside.
The Symbio W tips provided t1he best of both worlds, blocking the low-frequency rumble of public transport considerably better than Spinfits and Spiral Dots while avoiding attenuating the high-frequency brilliance these earphones are capable of. Furthermore, they don’t quite impede social interaction like foams, they’re easy to remove and put back in, just like a normal silicone tip.
In theory, the Symbio W tips combine the traits of both silicone and foam tips but, to my ears, they more reflect silicone tips with a hint of foamy goodness. It’s hard to define the tone of a tip since the effect will vary with every in-ear, but the Symbio W tips have a generally transparent u-shaped tone.
Paired with the aforementioned earphones and compared to stock tips and Spiral Dots, the Symbio W’s produced a little extra sub-bass weight without muddying the bass. Low-frequencies remained controlled and defined, where foams and Spinfits soaked up a little texture and definition. These advantages were only accentuated when outdoors where their higher level of isolation aided the impression of bass solidity in these louder environments. Mids were mainly untouched, the Symbio W tips didn’t sound wonky like Spinfits occasionally do nor did they sap clarity like foams, they were mostly transparent which is a great trait in my books. Highs were also flattered by the Symbio W tips, their large bore size and excellent density providing an open presentation that aided air and soundstage space but not to the extent of incoherence, keeping imaging performance intact. By comparison, Spiral Dots were a little brighter but not necessarily more nuanced. I’m quite ambivalent about Spinfits in terms of sonics, they are a bit uneven in general which can subjectively improve tonality but this does detract from technical performance.
If you follow any of the more renowned reviewers out there, you may have noticed the MandarinEs Symbio W’s making frequent appearances. And though they aren’t the most economical accessory, coming at $15 USD for 3-pairs of user specified size, their popularity is well earnt. In all honesty, that price isn’t all that steep either, they’re a truly unique handmade product and the same price as JVC Spiral Dots in my location.
Csaba has absolutely succeeded with his design, effectively combining the solidity and seal of foam with the resolution, practicality and longevity of silicone. Furthermore, he does so with mass-production levels of finish and the tips add a splash of colour to even your blandest iems. I couldn’t ask for much more in an ear tip, they are simply a transparent sounding tip with excellent sealing and attenuating properties.
The MandarinEs Symbio W is available from Csaba’s eBay store for $15 USD with free international shipping, see the link above for configurations and availability.