Is the HiBy Crystal 6 II, with its high-end audio architecture, the most worthwhile purchase of dynamic iron earphones this year?
The muses are the embodiment of intelligence and beauty, singing and praising the beauty of all things in the world. Using the universal language of art, they spread legendary and immortal works to every corner of the world, blessing everything from the roots of young plants to the galaxies in the sky.
Achieving a high appraisal such as "the muses' praise" is not easy to attain a connection with the masses. In 2014, BVLGARI, as a top luxury jewelry brand, launched the MVSA collection. Combining blue topaz, amethyst, citrine, carnelian, agate, garnet, rose quartz, serpentine, aquamarine, tanzanite, mother of pearl, and diamonds, these jewels were cut using the unique and dazzling takhti technique. Through innovative color combinations and the skillful hands of craftsmen, the gems displayed an unparalleled roundness, some shining like the sun, while others were dark and resplendent.
"This is a tribute to the nine muses, the goddesses of art, poetry, and music in ancient Greek mythology."
If the MVSA collection's Burmese Song interprets Bulgari's bold and avant-garde design, exquisite craftsmanship, and the use of rare natural elements to create striking works, making the era and trend cast into eternal symbols, defining a new classical and fashionable design style, then describing them as "the muse's praise" has enough persuasiveness.
Bulgari's jewelry can become a top luxury brand while remaining enduring due to their selection of premium materials, such as various precious gemstones, and the unique and ingenious takhti cutting technique that gives the gems an incredibly soft and smooth touch, which is the extraordinary feature that runs through the entire MVSA jewelry collection.
Regarding HiBy products, although they cannot compare to the value of Bulgari's jewelry, they are unique in their own right.
Especially with the HiBy Crystal 6 II generation, if the Crystal 6 first generation can be characterized as the "New Muse," then this generation can surely obtain the long-standing and renowned praise of "tribute to the Muses."
If cutting techniques are the winning arsenal for jewelry, then for HiFi products, it is the use of skillful and innovative techniques that allow for the ultimate expression of sound performance.
It is worth discussing the technology in detail:
HiBy has always been committed to improving sound performance through technological advancement. This can be clearly seen in their R2R architecture players, and this practice is evident in their headphones as well, incorporating their unique understanding of sound.
In particular, the unit that plays a crucial role in determining sound quality is the 6 dynamic driver unit configuration, as reflected in its nomenclature. Compared to the previous generation, there have been great improvements in the selection and crossover of dynamic driver units. Firstly, the units no longer use a "public version" unit, which is a term borrowed from graphics cards, but instead choose custom units. Secondly, the quad crossover architecture of the first generation is abandoned in favor of the traditional 3-way crossover design used in traditional HiFi audio systems.
In terms of the units, all of them are exclusively customized: two 39AY units handle low frequencies, two 1006 units handle mid-to-high frequencies, and two E50DT units handle high frequencies. Audiophiles know that the number of units does not determine the sound of an audio system. Rather, it is a complex combination of factors such as quantity, crossover, DSP, box structure, and the placement of components. Senior HiFi enthusiasts know that simpler designs are often more advantageous in terms of sound performance. Take the Crystal 6 II generation for example; although it has one less level of crossover than the previous generation, the optimization of the crossover point actually makes for better transitions between frequency ranges. For manufacturers, this type of crossover design, resembling that of audio systems, allows for a better sound tuning strategy.
This type of architecture design indeed gives the HiBy Crystal 6 II generation an "early-mover advantage." To achieve a "leadership advantage," attention must be paid to details. Many headphones with multiple dynamic drivers focus only on the number of crossovers and the crossover points. While this is correct, the loss and distortion caused by the components inside the crossover are often overlooked, leading to distortion and noise. To avoid this, HiBy has used a gold-plated crossover circuit board, resulting in lower power consumption without affecting signal transmission. Additionally, the added air vents maintain low-frequency quality while solving the discomfort caused by negative pressure. Moreover, the ear shell has been designed based on a large amount of ear canal data analysis, providing a more comfortable wearing experience. This has been confirmed in practice as well - the lack of ear fatigue and foreign body sensation makes this type of custom headphone particularly advantageous.
Since there have been varying degrees of improvement in driver crossover and ear shell design compared to the previous generation, how does the HiBy Crystal 6 II generation perform in terms of sound quality? In the previous review of the first generation, it was stated that "if you are looking for a mellow, fat bass, you're in the wrong place."
However, in the second generation, the "change" in overall low-frequency quality and listening perception is the "highlight" of the HiBy Crystal 6 II generation.
But a word of caution: if you expect drastic changes in the low-frequency performance of the Crystal 6 II generation, you will still be disappointed as the low-frequency "change" is only relative to the previous generation. Do not forget a physical factor; although custom dynamic driver units are used in this generation, it does not necessarily provide the same sensation as that of a dynamic driver.
Let's first talk about the "similarities" between the two generations. Both have a fast and dynamic transient expression that is swift and unhurried. However, the second generation is more dynamic, and when I attempt to increase the gain, I find that the transient response is further enhanced, and dynamic has a certain "incremental" improvement. This is particularly evident in drum performances. Therefore, there are considerable improvements in volume, elasticity, and coherence, and the low-frequency atmosphere is also impressive. Although this extremely subtle change is not easy to perceive, it can be felt by increasing the gain a bit.
The change in vocals is somewhat of a "transformation." The first generation can be described as having a "violent" interpretation and information volume compared to dynamic drivers, not to mention enunciation and luster. When listening to singers like Adele, it retains some sibilance and granularity while preserving the form and body of the voice. In contrast, the second generation has a certain "convergence." Firstly, it no longer emphasizes "vocals that sound like they are right next to you," but instead highlights a certain sense of sound imaging. This is my first impression. The second impression is that the vocal lines are not as "firm" as emphasized in the previous generation, but have a bit of "roundedness." For example, when listening to some classic songs by Sarah Brightman, her somewhat aggressive voice has a clear convergence. This is a very good phenomenon. This kind of smoothness, even warmth, makes the voices of female singers more elegant. It no longer pursues high clarity in enunciation, but rather returns to natural and uncontrived performances. There is no significant change in information volume or the form and body of the voice.
Regarding the high-frequency performance, I personally believe that it is necessary to pair the earphones with different types of players. This time, I used the HiBy FC4, HiBy R5 second generation, and my favorite HiBy RS6 to perform different combinations and discuss the pairing strategy.
Firstly, it is important to establish a premise: is the Crystal 6 II generation an earphone suitable for listening to "all types" of music? This depends on how it is being listened to. If we disregard the front-end equipment, this earphone is not an "all-rounder." However, if it is paired with different front-end equipment, not only can it exhibit the essential sound characteristics of the player, but it can also highlight the unique features of the earphones in certain aspects, making it truly versatile. Without considering pairing, it would be like playing rogue!
Of course, the performance of Crystal 6 II generation in the high-frequency and sound field areas is impressive enough to "break the mold."
For example, when paired with the HiBy FC4, which is a portable player, I suggest selecting popular music. At this time, whether it is the low-frequency atmosphere or the high-frequency extension, there are good representations. For example, when listening to songs dominated by guitar, the sound is not too "bright," but still slightly convergent. According to my personal listening habits, this kind of high-frequency sound is the most comfortable and can express the short and urgent harmonics after the guitar is strummed. The thickness and extension of the guitar itself are also good, but there is still some lack of unrestrained extension. In terms of the sound field, it can be said to be average, with a clear sense of marginality.
If you want to listen to more "unrestrained" music, I suggest pairing the Crystal 6 II generation with the new HiBy R5 II generation player. Thanks to the overall output power increase, even in low gain, the three-frequency lines can be felt to be more "clear," and the overall information volume and density have greatly increased after each vein is penetrated. In simple terms, the sense of low-frequency volume and elasticity are both enhanced, bringing a good low-frequency atmosphere. The mid-frequency changes are not significant and do not require further explanation. The high-frequency changes are the most significant, and can be understood as transforming from a relatively introverted personality to a social butterfly, while also being full of passion. The brightness of the entire high-frequency part is well balanced, and under a certain driving force, the tone has a very gorgeous appearance. The sound of the violin is fully present, sometimes hurried and sometimes gentle. However, in terms of detail control, it still has some roughness due to the lack of "control power."
If you want to pursue relatively balanced sound performance, pairing the Crystal 6 II generation with the flagship HiBy RS6 earphones is even better. The biggest advantage is that it can have very stable "control power." For a pair of earphones costing just over 2K, it can be pushed to perform "properly" by using a R2R player costing tens of thousands of yuan. The sense of low-frequency volume is moderate with a quick rebound, and the deeper plunge is indeed very similar to the sound of real drums. The mid-frequency is delicate and moist, suitable sound imaging plus good linearity can bring more pleasant human voice. In terms of high-frequency, it is "restrained yet dynamic," just like the golden age of Hollywood, where a lady wearing a red-brown dress and a delicately embellished crown dances lightly with a sense of joy. All of this has a "degree".
Overall, the HiBy Crystal 6 II generation has delivered the sound I wanted since its opening. It will be my fixed combination for evaluating players and headphones. Regardless of sound field level or sound delicacy, it can fully reach the level of multi-unit dynamic iron earphones at a 4K price point.
Lastly, let's talk about the accessories. Compared to the previous generation packaging, it is smaller, but "although small, it is complete." In addition to the standard "huge" headphone protection box, another major change is the use of 4.4mm and 3.5mm quick-plug interchangeable interfaces. This is one of the few solutions I have seen at a 2K price point. This design can greatly reduce unnecessary wear and tear caused by repeated plugging and unplugging of headphone interfaces, and is indeed a recommended design.
As for the appearance, I don't think I need to emphasize it too much. The hand-drawn flowing sand painting technique, which is not commonly seen in the 2K price range, creates a flowing effect under the light. The fine texture under a smooth appearance is the trendy design barrier that HiBy has built. However, the most core aspect is still the strength of improving sound quality through superb technology.
To receive praise from Muse, that is naturally the most outstanding existence.