Excellent build quality and finish, Great stock cable, Well-balanced sound tuning, Impressive technical performance, Easy to drive with favourable impedance curve
Thin midrange won’t suit all
The greatest accolade I can appoint the Volume is that it made me forget I was listening to a $285 earphone. It’s balanced, beautiful and technically accomplished across the board.
Moondrop has achieved legendary status among Chi-Fi manufacturers for their consistently well-performing and well-priced products. However, should you want something more high-end, Soft Ears are the company for you. An off-shoot of the famous brand, Soft Ears focus has been on high-end designs with their reference monitors achieving particular notoriety. The Volume seeks to change this, being the first affordable model from the brand and blurring the line between the two. It assumes a triple hybrid driver configuration and design language that marries the Soft Ears shape with styling as seen on the Moondrop Blessing 2. As you’d expect, tuning is linear and Harman-inspired with some subtle twists that should make this a popular model. Despite being the cheapest Soft Ears model and cheaper than most hybrid Moondrop models too, the Volume is a refined and sensible product that should serve as an accessible gateway to the two brands’ and their higher-end models.
The Volume just launched for $285 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on HiFiGO.
I would like to thank the team at Soft Ears very much for reaching out to organise a review of the new Volume. 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.
- Drivers: 1x Be Dynamic Driver, 1x customised mid BA, 1x customised high BA
- Housing: Medical-grade resin, aluminium alloy faceplate covers
- Frequency Response: 8 Hz – 40 kHz
- Impedance: 5 ohms
- Sensitivity: 123.7 dB
Behind the Design –
PEEK Dynamic Driver
Don’t take this as a knock towards the company, but I have generally found Moondrop’s dynamic drivers to be a weakness of their hybrids. The Volume seeks to change this perception with a substantially different driver makeup to its predecessors. Soft Ears has developed a 10mm dynamic driver with PEEK suspension and beryllium-plated diaphragm dome which should provide vastly superior mechanical properties to the paper cone driver in the Blessing 2. This should provide a more controlled, responsive sound with greater excursion and lower distortion for enhanced extension and bass reproduction.
Customised Soft Ears BA Drivers
Many earphones use off the shelf Knowles and Sonion drivers using crossovers and multiple driver packages to achieve their desired frequency response and sound. This was true for the Blessing 2 which adopted Knowle’s renowned SWFK tweeters alongside 2 custom BA drivers for the midrange (4 drivers total). With the Volume, Soft Ears is using 2 customised mid and high drivers that have allowed the company to achieve a similar sound signature from a more simplified driver layout.
Unlike the simplistic unboxing experiences provided by the Cerberus and RS10, the Volume has a proper unboxing experience. It comes within a green square box with gold Volume print and Soft Ears branding. Sliding off the outer cover reveals a hard box inside with the earphones nestled into a foam inlet. Below are the accessories including a nice leather magnetic hard case, cable, papers and 3 styles of ear tip. You also receive a microfibre cleaning cloth and metal Volume card as seen on the other Soft Ears models. The ear tips are especially interesting, being Soft Ears branded and individually packaged.
Included are 3 sizes of regular silicone tips, 3 memory foam style tips with a smooth coating similar to Sony’s WF1000XM4 tips and 3 pairs of “liquid silicone” tips that are similar to the TPE Xelastec tips from Azla. They all feel high quality and will stretch to fit old Soft Ears and Moondrop models. Do note, however, that they do have a smaller bore than past tips as the Volume is the first Soft Ears model to sport a small nozzle design. There are a lot of little touches here that represent significant thought and effort, especially considering that this is Soft Ear’s most affordable in-ear by a wide margin. The company expressed that the Turii is also receiving updated packaging so I’d expect to see a similar treatment across their higher-end products too.
The Volume tells a tale of commitment and attention to detail alongside representing a strong response to popular feedback received by the two companies. For instance, the Volume’s resin body and aluminium faceplates are instantly reminiscent of the Blessing 2, however, they far more resemble the more squared-off RSV in terms of shape. Considering that many listeners found the B2 housings too large, many will appreciate the Volume’s squatter proportions. Similarly, the anti-helix fin is smoothed off relative to the RSV so the shape is overall more forgiving on the ear. As always, expect superb tolerances and finish here, the shells are resin-filled which gives them a sense of heft and quality in the hand, and the faceplate matching is nigh-perfect with zero sharp edges. Compared to the Blessing 2, the anodized faceplates feel far better finished and the deep green colour gives them plenty of visual pizzazz too.
Above are recessed 0.78mm 2-pin connectors whose ubiquity permits wide aftermarket support. The stock cable impresses with its quality, feeling almost identical to the RSV cable yet with a smooth rather than rubbery jacket. This is a nice quality of life improvement as the cable no longer snags on clothing and is easier to untangle. It has no memory and a very supple feel making it easy to coil for storage. Besides this, the strain relief, pre-moulded ear guides and connectors are all identical to the RSV besides gold “Volume” print on the y-split. This is a good upgrade in terms of usability day to day which means Soft Ears have been responsive to complaints. Even though many budget sources these days have a balanced output, I do also think it is sensible to go with a 3.5mm connector as the earphones have a very low 5-Ohm impedance and the double-amp circuits used on low-cost balanced sources usually doubles the output impedance. This also means they are efficient enough not to require the additional power these circuits generally provide.
Comfort & Isolation –
As aforementioned, these much resemble the RSV but have a slightly more rounded rear and smaller nozzles. This makes a world of difference for the fit which is deeper and more stable. In addition, the shape and nozzles design should accommodate those with smaller ears far better than the taller Blessing 2. That said, the earphones are still medium-sized so those with small ears should be cautious of hotspot formation at the rear. For my ears, this wasn’t the case, and I was able to wear them for hours at a time with no issues, subjectively they felt more comfortable than the RSV and the B2 especially. A lot of this can be attributed to reduced wearing pressure as the housings are vented and have a more open-feel than many in-ears – hybrids included. The upside to this is a complete absence of driver flex. In addition, isolation is quite good if still shy of the fully sealed RSV. I still found them completely accomplished for public transport and general commute.