Not All That Glitters Is Super
- Smabat’s design and available parts allow for multiple combinations to find the best sound at a good price.
- Very well defined treble, with good control and presence.
- Technical capabilities of the combination (definition, resolution level, separation and transparency).
- The bass power is not controlled with this capsule and unwanted vibrations are felt.
- The mids are very unbalanced.
- The final tuning is not natural.
- The anchoring of the driver to the capsule is not very secure.
- The rim of this driver is different from the original M0, it is less comfortable and the fit is worse.
Link to the Store
After testing the M2S Pro and the M0, Smabat’s modular earbuds, I did some tests by installing the Gold driver in the M2S Pro and the combination that I will try to review now: the M0 capsule with the Super Point driver. In reality, it’s a case of using the cheaper capsule with the more expensive driver, although the total set is over 50€, being cheaper than the M2S Pro itself. What is the reason for this combination? Basically, as I said, the standard M0s seem to me to be one of the best earbuds at the moment, and they differ from the rest of the Smabats in that they emphasise clarity vs. bass. I wanted to know if that kind of sound was due to the comfortable capsule or the driver itself. That’s what this review is about, let’s see what the result is.
- Driver type: dynamic Fiber membrane 15.4mm
- Frequency response: 10Hz-22kHz
- Impedance: 100 Ω
- Cartridge Connection Type: MMCX
The drivers come in a small square box with rounded corners. Inside is a soft sponge that houses them, emitter side up. On the lid of the box is a sticker with the specifications and frequency response. On a black dot there is a white letter S inside, indicating the type of driver, but on the purchase website they call it Super Point.
On the other hand, the capsules come loose and unprotected, inside a two-coloured plastic zip bag, with a white back and a transparent side.
The packaging is very simple, I think it’s enough for the drivers, but too simple for the capsules.
Construction and Design
In the M0 review I already described the capsule. It is a cylinder attached to a cone, with a horizontal groove in the conical part. It is metallic blue, with a silver rim at the confluence of the two shapes and the Smabat mark inside a metallic circle on the outside. The inside is hollow, with nothing but the labyrinth and the wires with the connector. The edge of the cone has a groove containing a rubber ring, to secure the fit.
Little can be said about the driver, apart from the fact that its grille has relatively larger holes than other models, it is not a micro grille. It is black, just like the rim. As it could not be otherwise, attached to the inside of the driver, there is the female connector according to the M0 capsule.
I have to comment that the coupling of the driver to the capsule is not very stable/robust and that on more than one occasion, when removing the earbuds from my ears, the drivers have separated. I would have liked some kind of screw or tighter fit. Debatable.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
I already mentioned that I found the ergonomics of the M0 capsule to be very good. However, the combination with these drivers was not as comfortable or secure for me. Perhaps the rim of this driver differs in material, thickness or diameter and generates a lower degree of adjustment and satisfaction. That, coupled with the insecurity of the driver’s fit, has disappointed me a little.
I used a balanced cable and donut foams throughout the test.
What I was looking for with the most expensive modular driver you can buy to date was to outperform the standard M0. It is true that I was expecting more bass, and it has it, but also the brilliance of the M0. Not so, the current combination is less balanced and clearer, also more polarised. It has a higher bass response, but also a higher pinna gain. And, again, this polarisation creates a gap in the centre of the mids that gives a less natural sonority.
I can’t say that the profile is neutral, nor is it completely warm, although it does have a good dose of it. The balance is lost in the centre and it doesn’t have a low or dark profile either. Certainly, they are sort of V-shaped earbuds with very close peaks, because the treble is soft.
As usual with Smabat, the bass has its stamp and can reach a certain level in the sub-bass, although the colouring towards the audible range is clear. It is not a sensory bass, something that was more noticeable in other Smabat. Here it is back to a higher presence, but with that displaced sonority that brings a more pronounced colour. Although the presence is more noticeable, these are not bass-heavy earbuds, nor do they bleed into the mids, although they do add warmth. The most remarkable thing about the low end is its level of texture, a technically adequate punch with some speed. However, in sub-bass laden passages, this combination suffers greatly, emitting equivocal, coloured bass lines with a degree of undesirable rumble. It is clear that the combination of such a capsule, coupled with the higher bass capability of this driver, does not produce the right synergy. I think that the driver can give more, but the capsule’s anchorage and the capsule itself is not capable of containing or controlling the power of the bass emitted. A gesture as simple as keeping a very light pressure with the fingers on the external face of the capsules, during the reproduction of these critical bass lines, helps to minimise the «vibrating» effect of the capsule and to improve the sonority of the notes. A pity, because the driver feels capable.
As I have said before, the polarisation of the midrange, which is a handicap to the overall result. One of the things that stands out is that imbalance, how notes that seemingly belong together can sound with such a difference in presence. A clear example is the male vocals versus the guitars. While the former sound moderately distant, thin and certainly hollow, the latter feel close and penetrating, especially in their higher notes. But both lack a body to complete them, to add a substratum, a common thread to balance them. This is not the case, and the strong change between 1kHz and 2kHz seems to be an error of little solution, which causes some notes to have a lot of presence and penetration and others to have a distant, thin, incomplete and denatured sonority. All this affects the timbre, which is also uneven, erroneous in some cases, better in others, but unreliable.
Overall, the ensemble is inhomogeneous and the result may depend on the styles to be played. But for those who focus on mid-range, acoustic, vocal, stringed instruments, even rock or pop, you may find that your favourite songs don’t sound as you remember them.
The best range of all is the upper zone. The first half is comparatively very good. It is a clear restrained tuning in the second step, which tries to seek control, but the first determining zone is very well resolved. The treble is fine and very detailed, contrasting with the imbalance of the rest of the band and accentuating its shortcomings, because the harmonics sound better than many of its fundamentals. And this only adds to the imbalance. These are not treble-focused IEMS, as I say, they are based on good control, with a moderate initial extension, but with a gratifying sparkle of air. Quite simply, the initial flare, expression, development, presence, delicacy and level of definition, plays in a totally different league to the rest of the bands. Perhaps, in this case, the M0 capsule does have the best virtue for this band, as was already the case with the standard set.
Perhaps the technical aspects are the best thing about these earbuds. There is a good level of clarity, separation, definition and resolution. But all this is overshadowed by the incoherence of the final sound. You can tell that the driver is of a higher standard than cheaper sets, but the tuning prevents you from paying attention to these parameters. It’s a pity because the level of detail and micro nuance can be very high, revealing minute elements with ease, on a par with very few other earbuds. There’s not a hint of congestion, muffling or veiling. While it doesn’t feel bright or very clear, when you pay attention to these aspects, comparatively speaking, it’s very easy to feel how it stands out from other earbuds. There is a remarkable level of resolution, allowing for very well outlined, explicit and defined notes. The air is easily perceptible and the elements keep their space. The soundstage isn’t very big, it doesn’t feel very wide, but it has plenty of headroom and a sense of three-dimensional space, though it doesn’t feel particularly enveloping or very deep.
Smabat M2s Pro + Golden Driver
This is another possible combination using the top capsule and the Gold driver. Although I found the original M0 to be more ergonomic and comfortable than the original M2s Pro, in this case and after adding these new drivers to each capsule, the tables have turned. Basically, the M0s+Super Point slip out of my ears, no matter what I do, while the M2s Pro+Golden do not.
In the low end, although the tuning is very similar, there is no colour. The M2s Pro+Golden combination sounds much more natural, restrained, realistic, complete and most importantly, there are no unwanted vibrations. The result is deeper bass, much less coloured and more in line with reality.
In the mid-range, the differences are still big. Although the M0+Super Point are less warm and clearer, due to their incoherence they do not outperform the M2s Pro+Golden. I would describe the sound of the M2s Pro+Golden combination as muddier, with less transparency and definition, but its sound is much more natural and balanced, though not complete, when compared to other models on the market. The M0+Super Point can be seen to be technically superior in low instrument situations, with more silence between notes, much better definition and a higher cleanliness. But the imbalance and the strange timbre drown out any comparison.
Both in the high range and in the technical aspects, the M0+Super Point is superior. There is better resolution and definition, even though the extension is very similar. I’m not talking about the tuning, it’s about the technical capability of each driver and in this respect the Super Point is superior to the Golden. The details are more explicit, there is nothing camouflaged, cloudy, dark, opaque or veiled. That’s what I look for in a good earbud, but it’s ruined by its behaviour in the lower ranges. A pity. The M2s Pro+Golden are also good in this respect, but that slight warm veil takes away a point of definition and eliminates the finer details and nuances that do show up in the M0+Super Point. The higher level of transparency and clarity of the latter, enlarges its scene, generating a wider image, with more height and enveloping sensation. The greater distance between notes, their higher clarity and better definition do the rest. But they do not solve the problems of incoherence. So a hybrid between the two sets would be best. Or perhaps a tweak in the tuning of the Super Point driver would result in a much better sound. But in any case, both tunings suffer to a greater or lesser extent from that imbalance in the mid-range that has unfortunately become characteristic of some Smabat models.
It is clear that Smabat has designed a product that can be put to good use. I had high hopes for this combination, having reviewed the M0 as one of the best products in its price range. I thought that by improving the driver, I could improve the overall product. In my opinion, this is not the case. It is clear that the Super Point driver is clearly superior in its technical aspects. However, the low end vibrates very much with this capsule and the mids are too unbalanced to be considered natural, so that the timbre becomes strange. The music doesn’t sound as it should and only the treble and its good technical capabilities can save the whole thing. And that’s a pity, because in these aspects he is clearly superior to many others. But in the end the music must be coherent and here I don’t feel this property.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Hidizs S9 Pro.
- Tempotec Sonata E44.
- Earmen Sparrow.
- S.M.S.L Sanskrit 10th MKII + iFi ZEN CAN.
- Zishan Z4.
- ACMEE MF02s.
- Tempotec Variations V1-A + Hidizs DH80S.