Highway To The Light
- Sound with tremendous clarity, light, separation and scene.
- Very good level of resolution and amount of nuance and detail.
- Ultra-light weight.
- Excellent fit and ergonomics.
- The driver exchange process is getting easier and more efficient. One of a kind earbuds.
- Weak low end, with a more coloured and elementary sonority.
- The fit/anchoring of the drivers to the capsule is not very strong.
Link to the Store
Smabat returns to what it does best (earbuds) and persists with the idea of modularity, this time, improved. While the previous generation of modular earbuds required soldering to change the driver, this time it is no longer necessary. The interchangeable drivers now have a connector that makes it easier to replace the drivers. There is a choice of 5 different drivers, from classic to new. But this is not the only way to customise this new generation. There are also three types of damping grilles, which mainly affect the central part of the frequency range, where the differences are quite noticeable. The most affordable model in this new generation of stylish DIY earbuds is the M0: a symmetrical, metallic, ultra-lightweight model with excellent ergonomics. This aspect alone elevates it to a higher level of sound. Its weight, once worn, is negligible, its conical, regular and symmetrical design provides a very free fit. All of this, together with the extremely appropriate dimensions, makes the adjustment process simple and perfect, capable of offering the best possible sound. But not only the fit is virtuoso, read on to find out more.
- Driver Type: 15.4mm dynamic, titanium-coated diaphragm.
- Frequency Response: 15Hz-20kHz
- Sensitivity: 105 ± 3dB
- Impedance: 20Ω
- Jack connector: 3.5mm gold-plated
- Cartridge Connection Type: MMCX
- Cable length: 1.2m
The Sambat M0 comes in a small blue cardboard sliding cover box. Its dimensions are 102x102x37mm. In the centre of the main side is the M0 Module logo and on the bottom right, the word Smabat, all in white letters. The back side is still blue and on the bottom, with a darker background, are the specifications, in Chinese and English. It should be noted that these specifications are different from those on the sales page. I have thought it convenient to write those that are on the WEB. On the other hand, the M0 driver is sold separately and its specifications do not match any of the above. I think that all this does nothing but confuse the buyer. However, the most important thing is the sound and, in this sense, its quality makes all this mess forgivable. Continuing with the description of the packaging, next to the specifications there is more information about the brand, headquarters, address, manufacture and WEB. After removing the cardboard, there is a white lid on top and a grey one on the bottom. It contains information about the brand as well as WEB addresses. On the sides of the white box you can read the brand name in large black letters, as well as the slogan in smaller letters. On the back there is a bat-shaped logo, constructed from 7 pieces. With the lid removed, the M0 capsules appear disassembled, but connected to their driver. There is also a complete set of foams, a set of donut foams and the MMCX cable. All this is embedded in a white foam mould. There is also a small instruction booklet in Chinese and English, as well as other WEB links in the form of QR. Underneath the mould is the now classic brown, leather-like Smabat case.
In short, the complete contents:
- The 2 M0 capsules.
- The 2 15.4mm dynamic drivers, with titanium coated diaphragm.
- 1 MMCX single crystal copper core cable.
- 1 pair of complete foams.
- 1 pair of donut foams.
- 1 instruction booklet.
- 1 storage and protection pouch/bag.
The packaging is simple, but distinguishable, containing everything that is strictly necessary. Although Smabat is not very keen on giving away more foam than necessary: only 1 pair of each, it’s still a precarious amount for such a cheap component. Otherwise, it’s appreciated that the storage bag is included, even though I’m not a fan of this type.
Construction and Design
The external design of the capsule is not new and there may well be other similar earbuds. But both the colour and the lightness of the material, combined with the shape, give the M0 a special design, the results of which can be felt in the ergonomics. A new feature is that the driver is now attached to a small, secure plastic connector. The drivers can be purchased separately here:
Most of the capsule is hollow, to house the connector cable. At the bottom of the inside of the capsule is the other innovative module of this generation: the famous dome that provides the peculiar Smabat sound. It has a metal grille on top and an airflow channel running through it. This channel can be covered by the damping grilles. There are three types. This is the second module that allows you to tune the sound. They can be purchased here:
The driver that comes standard with the M0 is 15.4m, with a titanium-coated diaphragm. It is 20Ω. It has a clear grey outer rim and a metal grille.
The cable is white, with 4 white strands joined with a transparent plastic sheath. They are formed by cable with a monocrystalline copper core. It is 1.2m long and has gold-plated MMCX connectors. The connector sleeves are made of white plastic. The 3.5mm jack plug is gold-plated and has a small silver-plated cylindrical sleeve, finished in white plastic. The divider piece is also metallic and of the same colour, but of a slightly larger size. There is no adjustment pin.
The real heart of the M0 design is the modular technology. But, in this case, the shape and design goes beyond the process of assembling the drivers and damping grilles. Something that elevates these earbuds to a level of excellence. It’s worth noting that such a design is outstanding, in addition to the lightness of the capsules. The set looks tough and durable, at first glance. But, on first changes and set-ups, this does not appear to be the case: the driver rotates relatively easily on the capsule and it seems that, with little force, they can become detached. In the long run, it seems that such a lightweight capsule, coupled with the seemingly simple system of fitting the drivers, can become a weak point.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
As I have been saying, the whole design and construction results in a spectacular fit and simple, effective and tremendously useful ergonomics. The weight of the capsule in my ears is negligible, the fit and occlusion is tremendous, the freedom of fit is sensational. The following sentence may seem a cliché, but the M0 is the best earbud I have tried in terms of fit and ergonomics.
Smabat’s sound has grown, matured. It is no longer based on recreating a big, powerful and oppressive low end, but has now become more realistic and natural, losing depth, but giving prominence to the rest of the bands. The result is a much more balanced, open, airy and bright profile. The openness of the sound is impressive compared to, for example, the M2 Pro. True, the bass doesn’t have the power, punch, weight, presence or texture of that model. But the rest of the sound is much improved.
The result is a much more balanced profile, with more presence of all the bands in the sound spectrum, with that tendency to sound like an IEMS more prominent than ever. But above all, the clarity and openness of the sound stands out.
As I say, Smabat has changed. Those big, powerful and thick basses have been replaced by others that are more common in the world of earbuds. The M0’s bass is light compared to the rest of the Smabat saga. But, when compared to other earbuds, they are perhaps not as smooth. In the first instance, they have lost the ability to go very deep. Now, the sonority of the sub-bass lacks the realism and tremor of before, and has shifted to a less natural, more coloured tone. The lowest notes are no longer reproduced as a sensation, but are now a more elementary vibration similar to other earbuds, which do not have a complete development in the low end. The M0’s ability to move air in the bass is rather more limited and they are not able to exert the pressure of their predecessors. Still, the bass is not a lost cause and, on the whole, could be considered acceptable. They’re not what you’d expect from Smabat, but it’s not an artificial or poor sound, although it is coloured towards the mid-bass, with low impact, punch and depth. Perhaps that is part of the sacrifice.
As is often the case when coming from a low end with little power, the lower midrange feels orphaned. It is something that can be clearly perceived in the drums, bass drums and bass guitars: there is a persistent hollowness, a void that deprives these instruments of drive and body. Also, the male voices feel incomplete in the face of this sensation, they don’t sound nasal, but also lacking in body, in that bass component. As is usual with this type of sound, the fit plays a decisive role in producing it. And a greater occlusion capacity helps to improve these sensations, making them more realistic, but without reaching a fullness that shows them to be completely natural, in terms of timbre or tone. It is clear that these parameters have a marked tendency towards brightness, but also towards clarity. Clarity that makes the midrange an example of presence and closeness. A great virtue of the M0s is their ability to expose: everything tends to sound clear and exposed, even if the sonority is not complete. All sounds seem to be close, detail is not camouflaged, not hidden, everything is free and almost in the foreground, in the central range. There is no trace of warmth, no trace of fog, no trace of murkiness, no trace of darkness, no trace of thickness. I am talking about clarity, separation, light, exposure and freshness. This should be clear: the sense of definition and cleanness of sound is the differentiating factor of these earbuds, something that is very rare to find in this price range.
The female vocals, as usual in this kind of tunings, are better than the male ones and are more natural and complete, with a greater projection, a closer presence and a more predominant position. The rest of the instrumentation, with a similar or higher fundamental, are reproduced in the same way, maintaining that privileged position within the sound. The negative point of this emphasis is the sibilance, without being pronounced, it is something that cannot be hidden.
The result is again an uneven range, which starts weak, but ends quite well. The balance is not the best in the area, but its exposure, clarity, definition, detail, separation and resolution are. That is why it is so difficult to rate this range. But I will build on those distinguishing virtues that elevate these earbuds above many others.
There is no restriction in the upper range, there is nothing to stop the M0s here. The first trebles have a stellar presence, they always appear but without sounding strident. There is brightness, but no harshness. And this is due to the clipping at the beginning of the upper treble, something that «kills» more of the sparkle. It is perhaps possible that the timbre is not complete and feels somewhat forced to end more abruptly. But a higher emphasis would have engulfed the sound of the M0s. The result is a treble that could be represented as a controlled explosion. They are fulgurant, but, at the same time, sieved in their extension. It is true that, afterwards, the air is recovered, for the good of the overall sound, something that gives separation and distance between the elements. But it is also true that homogeneity is not the best virtue. On the other hand, the nuances and details are very exposed. Even the micro details manage to appear, something that is not usual in earbuds, and even less so at this price.
The M0’s are excellent in both these respects. The soundstage is very wide and open, although it does not have much depth, both because of the low incidence of bass and the closeness of the sound. Despite this, there is no congestion, no overlapping of sounds. The height is also quite good and this contributes to a semi-spherical presentation, but with more frontal, lateral and zenithal predominance than rear. And all this is thanks to the support of a very high separation capacity, large doses of air and outstanding resolution and definition.
Smabat M2 Pro
The M2 Pro is in the previous generation where bass was the star of the show. Because of this, the sound of this model is subject to the tyranny of the low end. While this is almost excellent, with a sonority approaching that of the IEMS, the glare of the lower band dulls the rest of the bands. You only need to switch to the M0s to understand this reality. The only thing that can be missed is the presence, power, tone, timbre and texture of that bass. The rest doesn’t even bear comparison. The bass of the M0s are pure pose, they have an approach that seems to stand the test of time, but they don’t really stand the test of time. As soon as the bass drums are complex and unfiltered bass sequences appear, their performance gets worse. On simple bases it can hold its own, as long as the sub-bass is not prominent. This is not the case with the M2 Pro, although it is not a very fast performer and there is a clear tendency for it to linger in the room more than it should. Everything changes when the mids and treble appear. They are night and day, never better said. The clarity, definition, openness, closeness, resolution, air, light, proximity of the mids and treble of the M0 are not found in the M2 Pro. In the M2 Pro, vocals are clearly distant and their details are more hidden. Their treble is more prominent, but unbalanced with the midrange, producing an inhomogeneous sonority. This does not happen in the M0s and, skipping the hollowness of the first half of the mids, the rest shows a much more natural balance. Despite not having much depth, the M0s have so much air that their soundstage is wider and more diaphanous than that of the M2 Pros. While in the M0s the nuances bloom, the separation is obvious, in the M2 Pros none of this is evident, only the low end and warmth.
Smabat M0 without dampers
In principle, it is always difficult to make a comparison based on a memory, even if it is close in time. But I will try to make an effort. As I don’t have any additional damping grilles, nor do I know what kind of grille the M0 has; there is a simple tuning possibility: just remove the grille. I have used a pin for this, as it seems that restoration is not possible due to its fragility. Besides, it seems to be stuck with some kind of resin/glue. The first thing I notice is that the result is not the same for both headphones. For the left side, there is a greater increase of the low area than for the right side (I clarify that although it is the cable that determines the channel, I have not changed the capsules in this process, so that the comparison is more realistic). Leaving aside this difference (noticeable with the frequency response graph) and focusing on the sound, it is worth noting that the bass has improved quite a lot. First, their sonority in the sub-bass notes has become more realistic, leaving aside the coloured vibration, to become more Smabat-worthy. Now, pure 40Hz notes are perceived as deeper, with a more natural timbre and more power. It’s not quite up to the level of the M2 Pro, but it’s certainly better than before. Believe it or not, for this alone, my bass score could go up 10 points or more, compared to the review (which is based on the unmodified model). The feeling is as if the grilles vibrate with the power of the bass and give that more artificial sound. Now, the vibration is gone and the notes sound freer, though not quite perfect in execution, but much better. It seems that from the upper mids onwards, the frequency response has not changed. But in the mids it has. Now, the lower part of the midrange is much more complete, no more of that earlier hollowness, no more bright, unreal sounding drums or basses. This also helps the male voices, whose body is fuller and more pleasant. Clarity suffers, with not as much light as before, but the sound still has a lot of detail and separation, although it has lost a bit of air. The change has returned the M0 to a more balanced profile, with a more natural, less bright tone and timbre. It loses some technicalities, but becomes a more all-rounder. And best of all, the treble is still there, maintaining a high level and allowing for a commendable presentation of detail and nuance. Congratulations Smabat and thank you very much!
Smabat has taken an unexpected turn of events with these M0s. It was known a priori that soldering was no longer necessary to change the drivers, thanks to the mini connector. This works like a charm and increases the value and versatility of this model. But in reality, the real change is in the driver, because it offers a sound that I didn’t expect from Smabat. It has changed the preference towards a profile with emphasised and powerful bass, towards a much more open, detailed, defined and, above all, luminous representation. Now, the low end is only acceptable, but the rest is superior to anything I’ve tried before from Smabat. The M0s have a very different light, exceptional clarity, I think it’s one of the best I’ve tried under $100. The tone and timbre is brighter, but it’s not as pronounced a profile as the NiceHCK EBX21s might be. They retain that naturalness that makes them pleasing, both in their mid-mids, mid-highs and highs. Then, their level of resolution, definition, separation, sense of openness and scene size do the rest, in the sound section. But then, its lightness and its enormous ergonomics should be emphasised. The fit is absolutely free and they feel very little in the ears. This means that the sound can be improved even further, as the fit is exceptional. Who would have thought that Smabat’s cheapest earbuds would be so good.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- E1DA #9038D.
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Hidizs S3 Pro.
- Tempotec Sonata E35.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- Burson Audio Playmate.
- Hiby R3 Pro.
- Xduoo X2S.