Starting from the Past
- Ability to reproduce complex bass without losing realism or getting out of control.
- Definition and resolution.
- Height of sound.
- Volatility and sound separation.
- Despite the size, ergonomics and comfort are high.
- Low weight of the capsules.
- Good cable, remarkable zippered case, good accessories for the price.
- Sunken mids.
- High-mids and first highs very present, sibilant, penetrating, abrupt, even metallic.
- The detail of this area may overlap with the detail of the rest of the frequencies.
- Extension and presence of upper treble could be more prominent.
- Uneven timbre depending on frequencies.
- Bass may be too voluminous for some.
- Polarised, unbalanced frequency response and profile.
Link to the WEB
Tempotec, the well-known brand from China, continues to move forward with new products for its catalogue. Specialising in DACs/AMPs and dongles, it is lately diversifying its products with the DAC Streamer Serenade X, the small desktop DAC/AMP MARCH III, the excellent DAP V6 and now it is daring with its first IEMS. These are 1DDD+4BA hybrids priced under $150, at $139 to be precise. The dynamic driver is an 8mm LSR unit, for the mid frequencies it uses the BA composite driver SWFK 10006 and for the high frequencies it uses the BA composite SWFK 31736, both from Knowles. The cable used is oxygen-free silver-plated copper and consists of 4 strands of 112 0.05mm strands. It comes with a 3.5mm SE plug. The capsules are made of resin with a classic semi-custom design with good volume. There is a choice of two colours, black and transparent with a silver outer face.
According to the brand itself, the IM05 headphones are named after the classic Tempotec nomenclature, which classifies the devices by musical forms, such as Sonata, Serenade, Variations, Fantasia, Waltz and now Impromptu. IM stands for Impromptu.
For this review, the model used was the black one. Let’s see what Tempotec offers us in its first IEMS model.
- Driver Type: 1DDD 8mm LSR, 2 drivers BA SWFK 10006 for mid-high frequencies and 2 drivers BA SWFK 31736 for ultra-high frequencies.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz.
- Sensitivity: 99±1dB
- Impedance: 30Ω ± 10%.
- Channel Difference: 1dB.
- Maximum input power: 20mW
- Jack connector: SE 3.5mm silver plated
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Cable length: 1.2m ± 5cm
- Cable Composition: 4 strands of 112 strands of 0.05mm oxygen-free silver-plated copper.
The Tempotec IM05 comes in a medium sized black rectangular box of dimensions 117x117x77mm. The main face is the profile of a capsule seen from the outside. Above it is the model name in large orange gradient letters. Underneath is the configuration of the drivers and, at the bottom, the brand logo. On the sides you can read the brand’s slogan. On the back side there is very little information, the model name and the small description are repeated, the brand’s web address and the e-mail address are in Chinese and English. You can see a sticker with the EAN13 code indicating that it is the «black» model. Finally, the brand’s logo and slogan can be seen in the bottom right corner.
After opening the box, you can see a round, black zippered case, which is bulkier than usual. It is housed in a black foam mould. Underneath is another level separated by a black cardboard with the logo. This is a small case containing the user guide and warranty cards. Finally, there is a kind of envelope, also made of black cardboard, which contains inside a foam mould where the silicone tips are housed. The capsules and cable are inside the zippered case. Each one of them is inside a transparent zip pouch. There is also a small carabiner. In summary, the complete contents are as follows:
- The two IM05 capsules.
- The cable.
- One carabiner.
- One zippered case.
- 3 pairs of wide-core grey silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 pairs of grey narrow core and black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- 3 pairs of narrower core black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- User guide.
- Warranty card.
- Warranty certificate card.
The highlight is the zipped case. It is larger than usual and round. Inside it has padded hexagons and is spacious, the IEMS fit perfectly. Even though it is bigger, it protects very well and the extra volume inside is appreciated when storing the IEMS, as well as the extra protection. 3 types of silicone tips is not bad at all. Although it’s not the most luxurious presentation, Tempotec has, as usual, aimed for practicality in the packaging, as well as more effective accessories than gimmicks. And that’s appreciated.
Construction and Design
The model described is the black one. The IM05 capsules have a semi-custom design, medium-large in size. They are relatively bulky, especially because of their thickness. It is true that the outer face is not very large and it is a stylised version in the shape of an African continent. The mouthpieces are designed and oriented according to the semi-custom shape. While the outer plate is metallic, the rest is made of very smooth and light resin. The right plate has the brand logo and the left plate has the brand name, in yellow inscribed ink. The surface of each plate is micro-textured. It is true that the capsules are slightly translucent. On the narrow-sided rim is the model name, in yellow lettering. The zero is a hole surrounded by a small golden cylinder. On the long edge is the 2Pin 0.78mm connection, fully integrated into the body of the capsule. Next to the transparent plastic insert containing the gold-plated double female connection, the letters R and L are circled and written in gold ink, indicating the channel. The inner side has a projected edge to anchor on the root of the helix. The mouthpieces have two levels of diameter, the first and narrowest being 5.3mm, while the rim is almost 6.2mm. The mouthpiece itself is short, less than 4mm, but its base is well projected. The orifice is protected by a perforated metal grid.
The cable consists of 4 intertwined strands. Each strand has 112 strands of 0.05mm oxygen-free silver-plated copper. The black model has a dark copper coating. The rest of the parts are simple metal cylinders. The sleeve of the 3.5mm gold-plated plug is straight and has the brand name written lengthwise. The divider piece is a black metal cylinder. The pin is a simple, small metal ring. The sleeve of the 2Pin connectors repeats the pattern and indicates the channel by means of a corresponding white lettering and a plastic ring at the base of the two connectors, red for the right channel, transparent for the left channel. Both pins are gold-plated. The cable has over-ear guides and is a bit thick, yet manageable and flexible, its stiffness is low, nor does it have much tendency to take shape. The connectors are not very heavy and the capsule plus cable assembly is light.
It is a classic but effective design, not too flashy. The outer sides are very simple and only the colour of the transparent model is more eye-catching because of its silver tone and because you can see the inside clearly. My black model loses that possibility and is much more nondescript.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
The capsules are bulky, but the semi-custom design of projected mouthpieces, pronounced valley and high rim, makes the fit unobtrusive, overcoming the root of the helix without problem and without rubbing it excessively. However, this effect may be limiting in the choice of tips that allow for a comfortable fit. Attempting a deeper insertion may increase the pressure on the root of the helix and cause discomfort as the hours go by. With a shallow insertion with my large foam-filled home-made tips, the fit is very good, achieving a very occlusal fit and very good sound insulation. Thanks to the anchoring, the capsules do not move out of the shell, as they do not rotate.
Although they clearly protrude, as they are very light, there are no problems with them falling out during daily activities such as walking, commuting, moderate activity, etc.
The thickness of the mouthpieces may limit the use of alternative tips, as a wider or more flexible core is required.
One could say that the IM05s have a W-profile because of their three peaks. In short, though, one could almost say that they are V-shaped IEMS. The low range is relatively linear up to 100Hz and then there is a steep drop down to 600Hz, with a valley extending down to 1kHz. From here, there is a double climb, first to 2kHz and then to 2800Hz, which is very pronounced (almost 10dB). Here there is a very sharp «cat’s ears» curve, which ends at 5kHz, and then suddenly descends into a rather abrupt control zone towards the air zone.
The profile is not balanced, after a thick and wide bass, the first half of the midrange is rather backwards. Then, the mid-highs are truly exalted, ending in an initial sparkle in the treble. After that, the high-mid and high treble decay quite a bit.
The bass is quite rounded, extensive, powerful, somewhat rubbery. It has a medium velocity, it feels like it leaves a certain aftertaste in the environment and its recovery is not immediate. All this means that the volume and space occupied by the bass is relatively large. There is something dark about them, which is capable of infecting electronic music. There is weight and punch in the kick, yet it doesn’t feel visceral, it’s more big than raw. Another feature that limits that feeling is the roundness of the surface. In this sense, its surface is relatively smooth, the texture is more smooth than descriptive. The bigness of the bass is felt more for volume and physicality than for energy in a full stroke. It is the build-up of the bass that can become saturated, as well as the low flexibility of the bass. It is not a very dynamic ensemble in this respect. Between the afterglow, the somewhat slower retrieval and the volume of the bass, the result is a not too high resolution and an average, even somewhat diffuse definition, implying that consequent saturation of the bass space, which tends to take up a lot of space in the music, but also inside the head. If the music tracks lean towards sub-bass, the IM05s can handle the situation better. But if it’s more classical electronica, with thicker bass drums, the IM05s may be too much. Without being better, technically speaking, the sub-bass is more natural and deeper, with a good darkness and a tighter behaviour, but it still gets away with a lot of power and volume. At this stage there is more control, a more prominent roughness. As the frequencies get higher the bass begins to overcrowd and lose its ability to recreate concise planes and discernible bass lines. Even so, in complex, unfiltered bass-saturated songs, the resulting sonority is even pleasant, kept under control, without becoming saturated and without misbehaviour. On the contrary, in these complicated situations, the IM05s remain musical and realistic, managing to round off the situation, without losing their temper, at the expense of the result becoming overwhelming. And this is much more than others are able to do.
In the pure tone test, darkness and gomosity can be felt in the reproduction. On the one hand, this gomosity is attractive and may be responsible for rounding out and softening complex situations. But it can also be responsible for adding that more diffuse, less defined and less precise touch. On the other hand, the darkness is nice in bringing realism and naturalness to the reproduction, recreating a sub-bass that is more sensory and also, charged with energy. The timbre is appealing in that respect, as is the vibration produced, more apparent in the LFOs than in the low-mid.
This is undoubtedly the most polarised and unbalanced area of the IM05. Although what we can see in the graph does not translate so clearly into the sound, it is obvious that the first half of the mids is perceived as being far away. The male voices are sunken, although their recreation is not bad at all. This implies a desire to seek to enhance them by means of the volume, turning it up more than necessary to enjoy them, making the mistake of finding the undesired imbalance, obtaining much more bass and a more present mid-high range. As I say, the recreation of the male voices is relatively accurate, they have a certain warmth, a good amount of detail and nuance. But their remoteness allows them to be enjoyable as a whole, only in those vocal pieces with few instruments, where their quality can be glimpsed. In many other situations, the bass is closer. But, above all, it is the high-frequency flashes that are placed above the fundamental, bringing them to the edge of sibilance when the clicks are evident. In this situation, the result can be somewhat abrupt, harsher, even metallic and piercing. And it is here that the control of the male voices and the good timbre they possessed when they were quieter is lost.
On another note, in this first half of the mids it reaches a zone that feels thinner and finer. It’s as if the sinking thinned the notes, to add extra definition to them. Certainly, this zone feels like the bottom of a cone: it is concentrated, thin and deep, but as you get closer to the edge it becomes more spacious and discernible. However, this cone is transparent, quite precise and defined. In this respect, the mid-range has some analytical ability as it approaches the higher frequencies. However, the sonority is not as adequate. The female voices combine a more realistic part with rougher and less pleasant high details, achieving a more penetrating result, even unpleasant in some situations. The detail and nuances show at first glance, but at times they are rough, unpolished, very raw, making that unrefined BA driver look and sound clear. Detail and definition are obtained, a cleaner, more analytical sound is achieved, but at the cost of losing naturalness, bordering on sibilance and obtaining a penetrating, incisive brightness, which can become fatiguing. Undoubtedly, the imbalance between the fundamental and the details, the fineness and thinness of the notes, the lack of weight and thickness of the first half and the difference in distance between the first half and the second half of the mids, greatly penalises the recreation of a central range that moves away from realism, naturalness and musicality, to become an exalted zone full of contrasts.
The treble is sharp at first, but then moves into a much clearer and more nuanced control zone. Actually, this can also create an imbalance. In the face of an initial vivid and vigorous sparkle, the harmonics feel more subdued, getting some uneven and over-emphasised treble initially, but not suitably extended, even nuanced when the frequencies are higher. The first highs can become penetrating and sharp, before moving into a more normal and controlled zone. This makes the contrast evident, the sonority and timbre not the best. Even the BA character of the drivers is revealed.
With a sound that has clear analytical capabilities from the mids onwards, with fairly voluminous bass, two clear characteristics are achieved: depth and volatility. The clarity and forced definition of the BA drivers makes for a more ethereal sound, marked by details that are evident and at the forefront, but have a certain level of vapour needed to distribute themselves ethereally in the environment. This sense of splashed detail allows for a slightly surrounding appearance, with a subtle out-of-head feel. However, the scene is not very wide, the impression of distance from the mids and its conical representation means that the oval of the image does not widen and the frontal exposure predominates, albeit with a notable height. In this way, the representation of the scene is not completely natural. It has the appearance of being large, but it is penalised by the distance of the mids and by the first highs being too close together. Both the mid details and the lows are the elements that help to make the scene more dynamic, although not as much as would be desirable.
On the other hand, the neatness in the development of the notes, their rawness and definition, bring a level of resolution, separation and clarity that is obvious. Even the background feels dark and the sense of transparency is high, only blurred when the bass dominates the music.
As for micro details, they have a tendency to disappear due to the proximity of larger, more obvious details. If the fundamental frequency of the detail is around the high-mids and first highs, they become too evident, masking the other small nuances to the right and left of these frequencies. This is sometimes a pity, because with a different tuning, the IM05s would be much more democratic with details, gaining presence in a much wider frequency range. In this way, the revealing virtue of the drivers seems to be wasted because of the tuning imbalance.
TFZ Tequila Pro
As usual, I like to compare IEMs with a similar frequency response. One of the IEMS that fits these characteristics is the TFZ Tequila Pro. It is a model from last year, a revamped classic with a W-profile, a particular cylindrical construction, a 1DD driver with a wide frequency response range. Its starting price is more expensive than the IM05s. While the Tempotecs are priced at $139, the TFZs cost $179.
In terms of construction and size there is a clear difference, the TFZs are metallic and cylindrical, while the IM05s have that semi-custom shape that uses resin as a material, apart from the outer face. The TFZ are smaller, but with a more controversial ergonomics, with which it is not so easy to reach the best fit, due to their short mouthpieces.
In terms of sensitivity TFZ has always been one of the most sensitive IEMS brands in its entire catalogue. And this is something that is noticeable with the Tequila Pro, as they are very easy to move. The IM05s need considerably more power to match them in sound pressure.
Another thing that jumps out is the level of brightness: the IM05s are splashier, brighter and more penetrating in those first highs. The detail in that range is more noticeable and closer. The treble and, in general, the notes from the mids onwards are finer and more defined in the IM05s. The TFZs are smoother and somewhat more diffuse in presenting detail. At the micro level it is not able to reveal the same amount as the IM05. But in those nuances that are lost by superimposing others, in the TFZ they are only hinted at. The level of resolution and definition is more relaxed in the TFZs, but they are also less penetrating, sibilant and lacerating. I find that the TFZs don’t have such incisive mid-highs and this manages to relax a profile that is also abrupt. The mids of the TFZ are somewhat fuller, with a more natural sonority, even the highs also sound more realistic due to the better balance and coherence of the driver. It can’t compete in resolution, definition, separation and clarity, but it can compete in naturalness and musicality.
The bass of the TFZ is a bit more focused on the sub-bass and more compact than the IM05. I still think that the TFZ basses are a reference and I have always liked them, maybe it is their most characteristic seal. The Tequila Pro’s are no less in this aspect, they have a fast and powerful punch, their surface is smooth and round, while their roughness is smoother. The IM05s are pretty good too, they are a bit more expansive and a bit slower, with a bit more dwell time and take up more space. But I like their texture and roughness, something that makes them more expressive and descriptive. They are a different flavour, with a bit more viscerality, with a sonority that rips a bit more. On the other hand, the TFZs have a more classic and refined bass, more canonical. Tempotec has given a point of difference to the bass of the IM05s that can be a lot of fun. Finally, the bass of the TFZs, believe it or not, is not as invasive as that of the IM05s, perhaps because of their greater inclination towards the sub-bass and their smaller footprint.
In the mids, the male voices of the TFZs also sound distant, soft and light-bodied. On the IM05s they seem to be a little more grounded, with more definition, a little more body, which makes them feel subtly closer and also fuller. In the appreciation of the midrange, the tips used can play a trick on the TFZs, as well as their ergonomics.
The female voices have a similar level of sound, but in the TFZ they are softer and don’t feel as forced. The descriptive level is still higher in the IM05s, but there is also a more obvious possibility of sibilance in them. There is more clarity and brightness in the mids of the IM05s, also more separation and definition. The TFZs are more cohesive, smooth homogeneous and more musical.
Stage-wise, the TFZs offer a more classic and natural presentation, being wide and deep, without too much headroom. The IM05s are more surrounding and their presentation is different, more volatile, with more height, with more projected and separated elements. There is less precision in the image layout of the TFZs, while it is easier to discern the elements in the IM05s.
As a conclusion, I would have liked the IM05s to have those softer touches that do exist in the FR of the TFZ Tequila Pro. Surely, the Tempotec would have been more successful, not only in technical aspects, but also in more sonic aspects.
The Tempotec IM05 is the first IEMS from the DAC/AMPs and dongles specialist brand with a great price/performance ratio. It was designed to match their excellent DAP V6 to match their temperament. It is an IEMS 1DDD+4BA with classic Knowles drivers and that is something that is noticeable in the somewhat more abrupt performance in the frequencies they act on, i.e. mid and treble. In the low end, the LSR dynamic driver recreates a large, wide, voluminous range, which has a good deal of roughness, descriptiveness and energy. It is a V-profile with a bright tendency and analytical character, with good definition and resolution, but with a mid-high and first treble that are too present, which can polarise the sound by attracting the protagonism towards that range, to the detriment of a relatively distant first midrange. Just by smoothing the frequency response and getting a bit more out of the highs, the result would have been more homogeneous and satisfactory. In the current case, it is a less audiophile profile, more polarised, but it may still have its audience due to the absence of other similar tunings in these times.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Tempotec MARCH III
- Tempotec Serenade X
- Tempotec Sonata HD V
- Tempotec Variations V6
- Tempotec Sonata E35