- The Penon FANs have possibly the most audiophile-friendly V-U profile I’ve ever tried.
- Great low end, with characteristics that make it very enjoyable.
- Very musical and pleasant sound.
- Great comfort and ergonomics.
- Good cable.
- Distinctive and very particular presentation.
- The finish of the capsules with stabilised wood panels gives it a great attractiveness and beauty, without losing the lightness of the product.
- Slight driver flex may occur if overly occlusive tips are used.
Link to the Store
Once again I am going to review a product from Penon Audio. This is the Penon FAN, a 10mm Single DD from the audio products brand that is known for having a very clear idea about how to tune their products. On this occasion I am faced with a review of the brand’s U-V sound. I have said that Penon has a preference for an organic, silky, warm sound, with softer, extended treble and a lot of passion. And indeed, all of that is present in this model, but with a touch more enjoyment and a dash of daring. Previous tunings of Penon products I’ve tried have been more balanced, while in this case, the profile is more pronounced, with a more prominent sub-bass and more emancipated upper mids, without losing the treble extension and velvety character. Without a doubt, this is a great alternative to the U-V models because Penon persists in containing a great timbre, its sound silky, musical and very pleasant. Let’s take a look at what this Single DD is able to offer to all fans.
- Driver Type: 10mm Dynamic Driver.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 102dB
- Impedance: 23Ω
- Jack Connector: 3.5mm SE
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
The presentation of the Penon FAN is curious. They came in a small, plain, white rectangular box, but inside was another beautiful box lined with textile, with a patterned motif that might be reminiscent of ocean waves. This box, eminently in blue, has a copper-coloured cord, with a knot in the middle and the strands separated from it, as a means of opening the lid. The inside is lined with black velvet and features the typical Penon envelope-like brown leather pouch and two zip pouches containing the silicone tips. Specifically, the complete contents are as follows:
- The 2 Penon FAN capsules.
- One 3.5mm SE 3.5mm cable and 2Pin 0.78mm 4-strand connection.
- Three pairs of clear silicone tips, with light green core, sizes SxMxL.
- Three pairs of blue silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- One envelope-style leather pouch with clip closure.
I insist that the packaging is surprising, because of its mix of originality and beauty. In reality, though, the whole thing is rather simple. I miss a slightly more rigid carrying case than the leather envelope and some sets of foam tips. But I must highlight the outer box, very practical for storing more IEMS and the blue tips: they are possibly the biggest tips I could find, something that users with wide ear canals like mine appreciate a lot.
Construction and Design
The capsules have been manufactured in resin using a 3D printer, while the outer face uses a stabilised wood panel. The pattern on the outer face, with a blue background and light wood grain, offers an eye-catching beauty, further highlighted by the gold lettering of the brand and model on each capsule, PENON on the left, FAN on the right. The shape is classic semi-custom, with a rounded African continent silhouette. Its thickness is accentuated and a relatively large breather valve can be seen at the top end, covered by a perforated mili-metal grille. On the other side of this corner are the two holes for inserting the 2Pin 0.78mm cable. These holes are integrated into the resin body itself and have gold-plated connections and both are shallow, so that the cable is completely smooth and glued to the capsules. The whole body is very rounded and the inner side has smooth curves without the protrusions that fit our ears being prominent. On the contrary, the whole surface is smooth and pleasant. At the bottom, although the capsules are dark, they have a slight transparency that allows us to intuit the components inside, albeit very subtly. The mouthpieces are metallic, silver-plated and are inserted into the body. They are 5mm long, have a ring located slightly beyond their middle, although their shape is quite regular, like a cylinder with a diameter of 5.5mm. They are protected by another millimetrically perforated grid.
The cable has 4 intertwined strands of what looks like silver-plated copper. The connector sleeves are cylindrical, with a checkered pattern in black carbon. The 3.5mm plug is gold-plated. The splitter piece has the same pattern, but the checkered part is a bit longer and has two thick black plastic rings on its edges. The adjustment pin is a black hard plastic sphere that fulfils its role well. The sleeves of the 2Pin connectors retain the mixed carbon pattern and black cylinder design, as well as having appropriately coloured sunken rings, in red and blue, to identify the channel. The two pins are mounted on a piece of white plastic with an indentation in the middle to identify the outer face of the cable.
There is nothing strange or excessively new in the design of the FANs, but I must comment that the stabilised wood panels give them a superior appeal, their motif being one of my favourites among the brand’s headphones and, why not say it, among the competition as well. As usual, the construction is excellent and both the shapes and the design are very well used for the purpose of the product. The cable fits quite well with the sound profile, only a cable with more silver could be used to splash the treble a bit more, but I can’t complain, and it doesn’t feel like it needs to be changed. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a choice of balanced plugs, something that would give a plus to a pretty decent cable.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The slightly longer and thicker metal mouthpieces than the integral resin caps ensure a shallow insertion, which could be medium if smaller tips are used and our ear canals allow it. Using the standard wide outer canal tips, the seal obtained is very occlusive, resulting in very high isolation and comfort. Moving on to my foam-filled hybrid tips, the comfort is maintained and the capsules are fixed, remaining almost floating, but without being able to move one iota, thanks to the great fit inside the pinna. It is a shape that adapts to my morphology like a glove, no rotation is possible and the set of guides on the ear of the cable in conjunction with the shape of the capsules, both the inner side, as well as its external shape, form a highly comfortable set, very light, that can be used for hours, even being suitable for movement, running or walking. In addition, the cable is very flexible and has no tendency to take shape, which increases the freedom to use it outdoors without any problems.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Penon FANs have a U-V profile, where the sub-bass is pronounced, along with the high mids and early treble. Still, it’s not a bright profile and despite the noticeable gain at the low end, it doesn’t have an unbalanced curve either, but rather Penon’s trademark smoothness persists. The treble is never over-excited, but on this occasion has a more accentuated brilliance. Again, I emphasise Penon’s control over this part to ensure a pleasurable listening experience, adding a high enjoyment factor on this occasion. Possibly, a clear example of how Penon is able to tune such a profile without anything sounding aggressive, without losing musicality or the silky nuance of its sound. Something that makes them great to enjoy our best electronic music for hours on end, to give an example of a style that I feel suitable for these IEMS.
Without a doubt, Penon bass tuning is synonymous with quality. And the FANs are an example that elevates this statement, if possible, even more, given the more emphasised level of the low end that this model possesses. In addition, it is a dynamic driver, something that adds superior value to the sound of this range, both for its naturalness and its depth. The response of this range starts with a very sensory perception of the sub-bass. It is able to move a large amount of air, something that achieves a natural sonority, with the necessary darkness, a highly noticeable and very pleasant power. This is my preferred response. Sorry, BA drivers, there is nothing to do when the LFOs come from a DD as well tuned for bass as I find myself here.
Another highlight is the texture, which is rough, purring, persuasive and very eloquent. It has a great descriptive capacity and a roughness that is as attractive as it is soothing.
As for the level of punch, these feel very effective, very well resolved, combining a remarkable relationship between dryness and moisture, enough to maintain restraint, but without losing juice in the execution of the drums. Their power level is high and it is the point that adds viscerality and that fun factor that is undoubtedly necessary for many musical styles. On the other hand, it is not a bass that lingers, but it is also able to stay in the room long enough to be savoured, without colouring the rest of the frequencies. Although, I can’t deny that its level of presence is felt from the very first moment.
Thanks to the depth that the driver achieves, the bass has great layering, as well as an important ability to generate different planes. It’s also very effective when you demand speed in the execution of complex, unfiltered passages. The Penon FAN is not one of those IEMS that get lost in the bass scales or sound vulgar, far from it, lost. They can handle a high level of sound pressure without losing control. In fact, their level of precision and resolution is very high, even if the excitation is as high as in this case. And this is never easy to handle. As outstanding as its emphasis.
These are perhaps the first IEMS with a clear U-V profile that I have heard from Penon and I wondered how they were going to approach the mid-range. And the result can be summed up in one word: very pleasant. It’s certainly something the brand doesn’t lose sight of and, in this respect, the midrange enjoys a slight warm colour, is hugely harmonious, musical and pleasing. The presentation is smooth, subtly delayed, but still virtuosic. There is no doubt that if the bass is powerful, vocals can take a back seat. Yet the driver has such good resolution that, even in these extreme cases, it is able to demonstrate dexterity in the presentation of the mids, male voices included. Because of the shape of the curve, female voices are treated more favourably and are slightly closer. But if there is one thing to note at this point, it is that despite the distance we are talking about, the descriptive capacity of the strip is still very high. It is not a V that sends the mids to the background to forget its treatment. Quite the contrary. It is a tuning that points in this direction, but it would be unfair to ignore the fact that the quality of the mids is not at odds with this slight distance. Moreover, as usual with Penon, there is always a touch of passion and exuberance in this section to add zest to the whole.
Continuing with the second half of the mid-range, the FANs are the perfect example of how to excite this band without bringing negative effects. If it weren’t for the graphics, it would be difficult to comment on the emphasis in this section. Because their treatment remains safe, smooth, musical and free of sibilance. The tuning, in this respect, brings what is needed, clarity, sparkle and a point of joy to the sound. And so it is, the mids are helped by this burst of light, which broadens the perception of softly exposed detail, to gain in transparency, offering a sound with a restrained brightness that counterbalances the warmth of the whole. Possibly one of the most melodious and delicate mid-range I have ever heard in an IEMS of this tuning.
The Penon Fan’s also enjoy the kind of treble that is a trademark of the house. It’s true that this time there is a higher initial sparkle, but it’s also true that everything is under control and, again, I have to talk about smoothness. These are not nuanced trebles, which have lost their light and energy through clipping. It’s the treatment I’m talking about: extension and musicality, the search for sound with brightness, but pleasant above all else. And so is the upper range of the FANs, subtly sparkling and controlled, with rounded trebles that bring sweetness while doing their job effectively. In this way, the brightness is ephemeral, with a quick glare that is never piercing, spreading well, but without echo, or over-exposure. The control roll-off exists, but therein lies the wise tuning of the ensemble: it is not a clipping that impairs the spaciousness of the zone, but smooths it out to stretch it subtly into the air zone. In this way, the treble is present, relatively broad, yet pleasing, subtly crisp and equally melodious as the rest of the range, but with a hint of initial spice that adds liveliness to the sound, as well as hinting at more obvious detail. In this respect, I have found that fonts can play an important role. I used several dongles to test the FANs and found the best synergy with the E1DA #9038D, getting plenty of body in the lows, great musicality and sweetness in the mids and moulded, present, descriptive, controlled and melodious highs. While with the xDuoo Link2 BAL the sound has not been so rounded and more oriented towards the high range.
The scene has good depth and is predominantly frontal. Although the amount of height is adequate, the sense of laterality is better. Thus, the image has a semi-spherical shape, with an oval tendency, whose perception of three-dimensionality is not able to completely envelop the listener. This creates a scene that is quite natural and where the sound does not escape from the head, which is good for reproducing music in a realistic way. Vocal and instrumental positioning is adequate, well-drawn, though not exactly defined.
There is no congestion whatsoever, though the elements feel cohesive for the musicality of the ensemble. Separation is better than average, but these are not analytical IEMS. The driver has sufficient resolution to expose micro detail, but perhaps the large presence of bass can mask it at times.
TFZ Tequila Pro
During the review of the Penon FAN I was thinking about what I could compare them to and I realised that they had a similar profile to the TFZ Tequila Pro, but more musical. The FANs are currently priced at $139 and the Tequila Pro at $179. Both models have a very different design, from the semi-custom shape of the FAN to the cylindrical capsules of the Tequila Pro. Both have good ergonomics, but the shape of the FAN is more universal and fits better. They also weigh less. The TFZs might only be more suitable for those who prefer flatter capsules.
For the rest of the accessories, the level is similar. I think the Penon cable is better and more manageable.
In terms of sound, the signature is similar. But the emphasis changes slightly on both. I feel a superior sub-bass enhancement on the FANs, while the TFZs are slightly brighter. The FAN’s signature is warmer and more musical. The TFZs are not purely analytical, but the subtly superior mid-high and upper treble enhancement gives them a point of more sparkle and brightness.
TFZs, as usual, are more sensitive and need less power to sound good.
The bass of the FANs is slightly bigger. From the sub-bass, you feel a superior roughness and more punch. Their texture is more perceptible and descriptive. This time around, the TFZs are drier and tighter, possessing a more restrained and subtly faster punch. You could say that the bass of the TFZs is more disciplined, while it is more visceral and fun on the FANs. On the other hand, in all other characteristics, there are more similarities than differences. Both in terms of sub-bass rumble and texture, I prefer the FANs.
Both IEMS are very similar in their curve and this is demonstrated in the midrange. In the sense of mids recreation, distances and separation, this is where these similarities are noticeable. In the timbre there are slight differences generated by a more accentuated brightness in the TFZs, while the musicality, smoothness and warmth of the FANs reigns supreme in the range. Thus, the sound is more passionate, harmonious and a little thicker on the Penon. The TFZs feel cooler and subtly more defined. The higher brightness point serves to isolate the centre notes a little more, which are described as a little more separated and also clearer. This does not imply a detriment to the detail of the FANs, but it is more evident in the TFZs.
Much the same is true in the treble. There is more finesse and a higher point of emphasis in the TFZs, while the high notes in the FANs are more rounded. Both the control zone and the extension of both sets is similar. But the comparatively brighter and more analytical character of the TFZs offers subtly more evident and clearer treble. Although, in reality, there are not so many differences in their extension or draw, just that slight emphasis and a finer note profile in the TFZs.
Reviewing my notes on the TFZs, I noticed that the scene and image is described in a very similar way in both IEMS. The level of laterality, height and shape are similar. I think there is more depth in the FANs, while the TFZs have better separation, thanks to that sparkle point and finer definition. I would venture to say that the scene is bigger on the FANs, but not by much.
A fairly similar curve, for a different tuning and timbre in both models. While the FANs go for a more descriptive sub-bass, with better texture and presence, as well as a harmonious, musical, passionate and rounded sound, the TFZs have a bit more sparkle, light, definition, as well as finer notes. These differences can make you choose one or the other, without fear of making a mistake, because both are great products. But the price/performance ratio of the FAN is higher. Thus, the sound of the Penon is, qualitatively speaking, equal to that of the TFZ, but at a lower price. If you add to this their level of musicality, their lower weight and better ergonomics, it’s all advantages.
The Penon FAN are probably the most fun IEMS I’ve ever tried from the brand. They are an approach to a more classic V-U profile, but without departing from their own canons. In this way their sound is highly musical, very pleasant, smooth and even passionate. The low end is distinctive, with its depth, power and great texture, making it a very unique and highly enjoyable range. The midrange overlays the typical IEMS V class, offering a superior quality, providing a remarkable level of detail, without omitting or nuancing information. The result is a sweet midrange that borders on lush. And it is in the high end that Penon’s nature persists, combining extension with presence to recreate rich, respectful and melodious trebles that allow you to enjoy the music for hours on end. The combination is rounded off by a surprising presentation, with capsule and cable design that enhances the attractiveness of the product, as well as providing great ergonomics and comfort. The result is a clear reference in this category with a superior price/performance ratio.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- TempoTec Variations V6.
- E1DA #9038D.
- Hidizs AP80 PRO-X.
- xDuoo Link2 BAL.
- Tempotec V1-A + Hidizs DH80S.
- xDuoo XD05 BAL