Excellent cable, End to end extension, Wide soundstage
Somewhat sloppy sub-bass, Thinner mid-range
The IT01 is a comfortable earphone with an engaging yet natural sound and possibly the best cable on a budget earphone.
I haven’t reviewed any of their products, but iBasso and I go way back. My first experience with the company was their T3 amplifier in 2010, when I had just started in the hobby. These were my most formative years and iBasso left me with a lasting positive impression that evenutally pushed me towards the D-Zero and DX50. So when iBasso jumped into IEMs with the IT03, I was first in-line to see what they had created. The result was impressive to say the least, however, its signature didn’t suit my personal preferences. It was just too sculpted for a $300 earphone.
The IT01 is no different in this regard but offers much of the same experience at a vastly reduced $100 USD. Adopting a single graphene dynamic driver, the IT01 implements various innovations such as two Helmholtz resonators, similar to that implemented by the far more cost prohibitive Sennheiser ie800. Through this, I have no doubt that iBasso will continue to leave positive impressions on newcomers in the hobby, illustrating how a low-cost should not warrant low expectations. You can read all about the IT01’s technologies on iBasso’s website here and purchase the earphone here.
I would like to thank iBasso very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the IT01 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Though not as premium or extensive as that of the DX200 and IT03, the IT01 has a pleasing unboxing that feels professional. Opening up the magnetic hard box reveals the IT01 and included hard case in foam.
The case contains the cable in addition to a staggering 5 types of ear tips; 4 types of silicone tips with various thickness and bore size in addition to two pairs of foam ear tips. The case itself is very nice, with an aluminium exterior and soft rubber interior that feels immensely protective. Some of the tips feel a little thin and flimsy, but they’re very comfortable in the ear and well-moulded for the most part.
Those looking for something a little more solid will find great synergy with JVC Spiral Dots though I found the stock large bore grey tips to provide the best sound. For a just $100, iBasso offer a very well-equipped earphone.
The IT03 had bothersome ergonomics to say the least. Luckily, the IT01 does a lot to append this and holding the two side by side reveals that iBasso’s budget model is significantly smaller, smoother and ultimately, more comfortable in the ear. Moreover, it does so while retaining much of the fit stability and isolation of its predecessor. Though first launched in a far more vibrant red/blue colour scheme, a more subdued black model is now available.
In the grand scheme of things, the IT01 is still on the larger side, protruding from the ear quite a bit. This produces some additional wind noise and makes them unsuitable for sleeping on. However, with just two pinhole sized vents on its inner face, the IT01 isolates very well. Combined with its full, engaging sound, the IT01 is great for commute and public transport.
It’s all plastic build may not have the density and premium feel of the liquid alloy Falcon-C or stainless steel TFZ earphones, but the IT01 is very stable in the ear. A visible seam runs its perimeter, though both halves of the shell are well-joined with tight tolerances. Some driver flex is also apparent upon insertion, but I didn’t experience any sound degradation during my testing. I’m also a fan of the IT01’s metal nozzles that feel sturdy and add a little visual intrigue.
The IT01 uses an MMCX removable cable. The connectors are tight but provide reliable audio free of intermittency. In addition, the cable that iBasso include is easily one of the best I’ve seen regardless of price. It’s very custom cable-like, with a loose 4-wire braid that soaks up microphonic noise. The cable is impossibly supple with zero memory and a sturdy thickness. iBasso assume pre-moulded ear guides that I much prefer over memory-wire. It has nice strain relief on the case-friendly jack and remains continuous through the y-split, terrific!
The IT01 is on the engaging side with elevated sub-bass and lower-treble. However, it avoids becoming too sparse in-between and, likewise, rolled off up top. Though still cool in tone and slightly over-ambitious in its sub-bass tuning, the IT01 is tuned to impress and has the technical ability to continue doing so over extended critical listening. The IT01 recevied 150hrs of burn-in prior to evaluation to ensure optimal performance.
The IT01 serves notes with heightened impact, most notably with regards to sub-bass. This is reinforced by impressive extension; few would want for more rumble and slam. Sub-bass is surprisingly controlled considering its emphasis, but it is still a little slow and sloppy. As a result, it can overshadow mid-bass details and negatively impacts low-end separation and transparency, regardless of ear tip or source. I seem to be in the minority with this impression, but I simply don’t find the IT01 to be as controlled down-low as other dynamic earphones like the TFZ King. However, I have less issue above where the IT01 is more agile and controlled, with a considerably cleaner mid and upper-bass presentation.
The IT01’s low-end isn’t the most defined, as its notes are slightly larger, but it never sounds congested or muddy either. In addition, mid-bass is less pronounced but still slightly elevated above neutral, contributing to punchy yet slightly rounded notes. Bloat isn’t an issue and the IT01 doesn’t sound too warm in tone; above sub-bass, notes are both well-articulated and agile, demonstrating impressive control. Upper-bass is slightly attenuated to my ear, contributing to greater separation between bass and mids. As such, the IT01 achieves both great bass impact and a clear, neutrally toned midrange.
Mids are bright with a gradual incline into an accentuated lower-treble. Resultantly, the IT01 has heightened clarity and mids sound both well extended and clean, though they aren’t the smoothest, assuming a more revealing character. Lower-mids and male vocals sound quite laid-back due to this style of tuning, resulting in a cool tone and thinner vocal body despite the IT01’s heightened bass presence. Female vocals are slightly more forward if still recessed in comparison to bass and treble, while instruments such as piano and guitar sound pristine without becoming overly sharp.
As a result, the IT01 maintains high levels of midrange transparency that aids its retrieval of finer details. It can sound slightly over-articulated on occasion due to its more aggressive lower-treble, but vocals aren’t obviously sibilant or raspy. The IT01 also doesn’t excel with timbre in the grand scheme of things and some will find mids too thin. However, compared to most similarly priced earphones, the IT01 is among the most natural in its voicing. It also has excellent foreground detailing in addition to impressive resolution, both contributing towards a nuanced sound without sounding artificial or overly sculpted as similarly tuned earphones like the Rose Hybrid 7 frequently do.
iBasso deliver extended, clean yet vibrant high-frequencies with the IT01. Again, it’s not the smoothest, most realistic presentation, but the IT01 manages to sound very engaging without crossing any boundaries. It is aggressive in nature, with enhanced lower-treble producing a very crisp sound with great attack. And though not quite as forward as the TFZ King, Fiio F9 or Pinnacle P2, the IT01 is a very well-detailed earphone with more pleasing instrument body and texture. This stems from its even upper-midrange/lower-treble transition, that provides a solid foundation for treble instruments; cymbals and guitars sound crisp, defined and precise in their delivery.
Middle-treble is attenuated by comparison, but it has a small peak that heightens air and shimmer, with instruments such as high-hats offering surprisingly natural decay. However, as a result, strings can sound slightly over-forward and thin, on the periphery of stridence at times, and cymbals can occasionally sound a little truncated. Still, treble is otherwise clean and the IT01 has a darker background than most despite having plenty of sparkle and shimmer. Extension above is also very impressive, especially for a $100 earphone, granting the IT01 with great resolution. The result is an earphone whose crisp superficial presentation is well reinforced by a strong technical foundation.
The IT01 tops this off with a spacious, open soundstage. Width is very impressive, stretching beyond the head while depth is respectable but not quite as outstanding. Layering is defined, they do lack a little body and density, but remain well-detailed throughout. Imaging is also impressive with precise directional cues and generally well-placed instruments, though some treble elements are prone to sounding overly-forward. Separation is a key strength of the IT01. As its sound is transparent, slightly thin and very spacious, there’s plenty of delineation between each element even on more complex tracks. That said, bass separation is mediocre as sub-bass has a tendency to overshadow higher details.
The IT01 has a modest 16ohm impedance combined with a 108dB sensitivity. As such, it’s one of the more sensitive in-ears I’ve tested, reaching high volumes from portable sources. As a single dynamic driver earphone, it also isn’t overly affected by output impedance; its signature sounding similar from both the Hiby R6 (10ohm) and iBasso DX200. That said, when connected to my HTC U11 through the included dongle, I did notice a softer, less controlled sound with a more width biased presentation. The differences weren’t huge, but a dedicated source will provide an appreciable jump in quality. Still, I would consider the IT01 to be happily driven from most portable sources, it’s not overly picky and won’t require an external amplifier in the vast majority of cases.
Rose Mini 2 ($100): The Mini 2 is considerably smaller than the IT01 and more comfortable to my ear. Neither IEM use premium materials but well-realise their designs through quality finish. Both have removable MMCX cables, though the unit on the IT01 is undoubtedly superior in both feel and durability.
The Mini 2 is a lot more balanced, with the IT01 sounding a lot more vibrant and engaging. Bass is far more extended on the IT01, but the Mini 2 is tighter and more defined. The Mini 2 is also more linear into its midrange, and its vocals sound a lot more realistic as a result. The Mini 2 also has more defined layering than the thinner IT01 though it lacks the same clarity and dynamics. Treble is immediately more aggressive on the IT01, lower-treble in particular. On the contrary, the Mini 2 is smoother and slightly more laid-back, but both extend just as far, producing excellent resolution. Both are well-detailed, the IT01 has a little more foreground lower-treble detail while the Mini 2 retrieves more micro-detail. The IT01 has a much larger stage than the Mini 2, but one that has less consistent instrument placement. The IT01 has a large advantage when it comes to separation.
Pinnacle P2 ($100): The P2 is considerably smaller with a design geared towards a deeper fit. The P2 is more stable in the ear, lower-profile and slightly more isolating, it is ergonomically terrific. That said, neither earphone excels in build quality with lightweight plastic housings. Both utilise removable MMCX cables, the P2’s cable is terrible, it doesn’t even compare to the excellent IT01 cable.
The P2 is more balanced with exception of treble that is noticeably brighter. As the IT01 has increased bass presence to balance out its treble, it will likely sound better metered to most. Bass is fairly even, with a slight bump in mid-bass. The P2 is slightly warm as a result, but it doesn’t extend nearly as well as the IT01 and lacks the same scale of impact down low. That said, it is tighter and quicker, delivering more defined notes. Lower-mids are slightly recessed on the P2, but not to the extent of the IT01. As a result, its male vocals are more natural and less recessed, though it retains a similar focus on female vocals and articulation. The P2 delivers a more extended upper-midrange due to greater low-treble emphasis, while the IT01 is slightly more organic and refined. Lower-treble has a very aggressive peak on the P2 where the IT01 is more controlled. As such, the IT01 is more detailed despite being less crisp than the P2. The IT01 also extends further, it has greater resolution and micro-detail retrieval. The IT01 produces a wider stage with the P2 offering a hair more depth. Both separate very well, the IT01 more so due to its greater end to end extension.
Simgot EN700 Pro ($150): The EN700 Pro is a larger earphone, but it’s just as comfortable as the IT01 and slightly slimmer. Its housings are entirely aluminium, feeling far more solid than the iBasso. As it’s semi-open, it doesn’t offer the same level of isolation. The EN700 Pro has a terrific 8-core 2-pin removable cable, but it isn’t as supple as the unit included with the IT01.
The EN700 Pro is more balanced, with greater midrange presence and a more even treble response. Its bass isn’t quite as extended, and has greater focus on mid-bass, producing a noticeably warmer tone. The IT01 is slightly more controlled through its mid and upper-bass though it doesn’t hold a huge advantage due to its sub-bass spill. Lower-mids are more neutral on the EN700 Pro, producing more naturally bodied vocals. It also has more vocal presence than the IT01 though the IT01 has slightly more midrange resolution; I feel it’s the more extended earphone overall. Treble is noticeably more sculpted on the IT01, lower-treble is more aggressive and its middle treble bump produces greater air. That said, the EN700 Pro, despite being less crisp in its delivery, has better detail retrieval by a fair margin. The EN700 Pro offers a larger stage both in terms of width and depth, I also find it to image better on account of its more balanced sound signature.
TFZ King Pro ($150): The King Pro has excellent build quality, with an entirely aluminium housing that feels far more sturdier than the IT01 but also a little less stable due to its weight. Both are comfortable earphones that isolate well, the King is actually a little larger. The King has a 2-pin cable that’s nice, but still doesn’t feel as soft and pliable as iBasso’s unit.
The King Pro is a little more balanced with regards to midrange tuning, but it’s a noticeably brighter earphone overall. Bass extends terrifically on both, the IT01 has greater sub-bass impact while the King Pro is more balanced. The King Pro sounds slightly more controlled, tighter and more defined. Lower-mids are similarly recessed on the King Pro, it also has recessed male vocals with a cooler tone. That said, the King Pro has greater clarity and resolution. Female vocals are noticeably forward on the King Pro, they’re also more extended and defined. The IT01 has a bump for crispness and just a small peak for air while the King Pro combines a small lower-treble lift with a larger middle treble emphasis, creating a brighter background and huge air. It has excellent extension and detail, more than the iBasso, creating very high-resolution that compliments its clarity. The IT01 does sound cleaner and more focused; and those sensitive to high-frequencies may become fatigued by the King Pro. Both earphones are very spacious, the IT01 is wider while the King Pro has greater depth. The King Pro is a little faster, producing more immersive imaging. Both excel with separation, the IT01 isn’t as separated down low, but is cleaner up top.
Dunu Falcon-C ($200): The Falcon-C is a smaller and smoother earphone whose liquid metal housing feels far more solid than the plastic IT01. Both seal well and provide great isolation, both are equally comfy. Both earphones also use removable MMCX cables though, once again, I prefer the unit included with the iBasso as its softer and smoother, where the Dunu cable has a rubbery texture.
The Falcon-C is a little more balanced and a lot more technical, though it is also more technical than most $200 earphones, yet alone $100 ones. The Falcon-C has a similar bass presentation, focussing on sub-bass though it’s a little more balanced. It extends just as well, if not slightly more, and has greater control, delivering tighter impact. Mid-bass is cleaner on the Dunu, and its low-end is appreciably more detailed. The Falcon-C has a slightly more linear, neutrally bodied midrange. It’s equally transparent and has greater vocal presence and extension, though I would still consider it to be a u-shaped earphone overall. I find the Falcon-C to sound more refined through its midrange, it’s more even and slightly smoother without sacrificing clarity. Treble diverges a little more where the Falcon-C is slightly less aggressive in its lower treble, and also more linear into its middle-treble. As a result, it sounds airier than the IT01 but less forward in its detailing, though actual detail retrieval is superior due to greater linearity. The Falcon-C also extends further, delivering higher resolution. Both have excellent soundstage presentations, the Falcon-C is slightly wider but has less depth. The Flacon-C images and layers better, it also has superior separation overall on account of its more controlled low-end and more extended, airier high-end.
In full transparency, I didn’t want to like the IT01 as much as I did; it’s simply too unanimously praised by critics and I’ve received far too many messages from buyers burnt by the “budget wonder” of the month. However, after spending some time with the IT01, experimenting with tips, comparing to similarly, even slightly more expensive models, I feel that I can offer a fair indication of its performance. I can conclude that iBasso’s IT01 is indeed a very competitive model. It’s not as flawless as some would have you believe, with a thinner midrange, sloppy sub-bass and peaky middle-treble.
However, the IT01 easily remains one of the best V-shaped earphones I’ve heard under $150. What impresses most is the technicality of its sound. It isn’t just superficially pleasing like the Magaosi K3 Pro and even the Pinnacle P2, but has genuinely impressive end to end extension and control. Again, the IT01 is not for everyone, and those seeking accurate timbre, premium build and great low-end coherence will want to look towards more balanced offerings. Still, the IT01 is a comfortable earphone with an engaging yet natural sound and possibly the best cable I’ve seen on a budget earphone. If that kind of signature piques your interest, the IT01 is worth more than a second look.
The iBasso IT01 is available from Amazon (International) for $99 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.