ThieAudio is Linsoul’s newest venture into OEM partnership market, beginning with the $350 Phantom planar headphone that had lukewarm reception but didn’t really take off in the grand scheme of things.
Recently, ThieAudio dipped their toes into the IEM market with two lineups: the Voyager lineup and the Legacy lineup. The Voyager lineup consists of IEMs with pure BA configurations (V3 and V14) while the Legacy lineup consists of IEMs with hybrids configurations (L3 and L9). Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get access to an L3 so this review only covers 3/4 of ThieAudio’s IEMs.
Naturally, given that this is a new brand we’re talking about there’s really nothing much to introduce. Let’s get right to it.
ThieAudio Voyager 3 (V3)
Product page: https://www.linsoul.com/products/thieaudio-voyager-3
Driver configuration: 3BA
This V3 was kindly provided by Linsoul.
Signature & Tonality
The V3 ranges from a traditional V-shaped response to a warm V-shaped response depending on the switch configuration.
- 00/02 (no switches or only second switch on): V-shaped
- 10/12 (only first switch on both switches on): warm V-shape
The tonality of the V3 isn’t bad but it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself. In the “V-shaped configurations”, the wideband boost of the V3’s lower mids and bass are nicely counterbalanced with the upper midrange emphasis. However, the midrange in these configurations can get a little intense and shrill, so I don’t personally like it.
On the other hand, the “warm V-shape configurations” kill the intensity of the upper midrange nicely, however the lower mids get pushed to the forefront and makes things sound a little too thick and boxy at times, only barely balanced out by a much needed 8kHz-ish spike.
In all configurations, the V3 lacks that upper-treble extension and rolls off quite hard, resulting in a sound that’s lacking in airiness and overall clarity.
Tone Grade: C+
For the most part, the V3 has decent resolution but comes with the usual weaknesses of low-count BA setups. The bass is fuzzy and lacking proper definition, and the decay expectedly light and quick which results in a lack of body and/or impact in bassline rhythms.
Imaging performance is average like most other IEMs, and the attack isn’t the cleanest but more or less adequate for the most part. You’re not going to buy the V3 for its detailing, but it’ll make do.
Technical Grade: B-
Honestly speaking, I don’t think the V3 belongs in the sub-$200 conversation. It’s similar in performance to IEMs under $100 (or even the exceptional $50 ones), so it’s not exactly something I’d call competitive.
It does provide a somewhat unique tuning in the price range and the option to change it on the fly is certainly welcome, but that’s up to you to decide if that’s something you’d pay a premium for. Purely in terms of sound performance, the V3 doesn’t get any stars from me.
Value Rating: N/A
ThieAudio Voyager 14 (V14)
Let’s get the giant white elephant in the room out of the way first: the Mofasest M14 is not identical to the V14. I don’t know whether they use the same OEM or if Mofasest is the OEM of ThieAudio since I have about as much information as everybody else on the matter. But in terms of what the hard data says, the M14 is similar to the V14 but they’re definitely not the same IEM purely in terms of sound.
Product page: https://www.linsoul.com/products/thieaudio-voyager-14
Driver configuration: 14BA
This V14 was kindly loaned to me by “Valoncia”.
Signature & Tonality
I’d say that the V14 is really only usable in two of the four configurations. The “02” setting (only the second switch on) and the “12” setting (both switches on).
In 02 setting, the V14 has a nicely balanced tonality with no outright offensive characteristics, though one could put forth the argument that the V14’s upper midrange border on shoutiness. It is more or less neutral with no frequency range immediately jumping out at you.
The 12 setting tastefully bumps up the bass, countering the upper midrange emphasis nicely and providing more impact and depth to the basslines.
The 00 and 10 settings are where the tone of the V14 gets destroyed, sucking out the lower mids and increasing the contrast between lower and upper mids to near-intolerable levels. If I were to give any feedback for future changes, it’ll be to keep the second switch permanently on and just have a single bass-adjustment switch available for toggling.
Since I go by the system of “best performance”, the tone of the V14 shall be judged at 02 setting.
Tone Grade: A
I was probably most surprised with the V14’s bass. Make no mistake, this is still the lightfooted BA bass at its core, but the texturing is certainly above the average BA woofer’s.
Detailing and resolving ability of the V14 manages to keep up with most established TOTLs out there, though not quite playing with the best. That said, the V14 can be considered as a monitor-style sound with focus on resolving minute detail, so it plays well into that niche. The overall transients are clean and the decay is expectedly quick, making for a clear and well-separated notes.
Imaging is average like every other IEM in that nothing that stands out. The V14 is the classic neutral reference monitor, not a soundstage specialist.
Technical Grade: A
Interestingly enough, the kilobuck price tag of the V14 doesn’t seem all too bad in comparison with its competitors. If we’re talking best-of-the-best then sure, the V14 doesn’t quite measure up. But going down the ladder just a little, the V14 at least has reasons to exist.
Take the recently reviewed Moondrop Solis for instance, also a very competent reference monitor-style IEM, but just inching past the V14 with a $1,100 price tag. I didn’t consider the Solis to be “worth the price” by a small margin, and so the V14 just barely slides in to justify that monicker with that $100 discount at similar performance. But in all honesty I could go either way, since the V14 straddles the line real hard and is pretty much a fringe case.
I’ll still give the V14 a value star rating but ThieAudio, you’re on thin ice. Don’t expect to keep it for long.
Value Rating: ★
ThieAudio Legacy 9 (L9)
Product page: https://www.linsoul.com/products/thieaudio-legacy-9
Driver configuration: 8BA + 1DD hybrid
This L9 was kindly loaned to me by “Valoncia”.
Signature & Tonality
The L9 can be considered as either “neutral with bass boost” or simply “bassy” depending on your tolerance for low frequencies. The bass is relatively well-separated from the midrange, with tonal masking (bass bleed on the frequency domain) not being an issue here.
The midrange tone isn’t the most impressive but it could be better; the intentional contrast between the upper mids and the treble helps to add extra sparkle to the high frequencies without straying into sibilance, but at the cost of skewing the tone ever so slightly.
Extension on both ends of the spectrum is excellent, no complaints. The L9 is able to dig into the low octaves of sub-bass without any issue, and is also able to create a sense of air and clarity with its high-reaching extension.
The overall bass response might be a potential dealbreaker since there is quite a bit of it. I’d say that it’s in the realm of being a basshead’s IEM, so be warned if you’re looking for something more balanced.
Tone Grade: B+
After coming from the V14, the L9 comes off as rather fuzzy and undefined.
The bass in particular, an aspect that some may consider its strong point, isn’t doing much for me. It’s slightly sluggish and the decay lags a little too far behind the initial attack, so fast percussive hits tend to fall apart on the L9. The decay also bleeds into the midrange frequencies slightly which can result in a more congested image.
The resolution and detail retrieval of the L9 is fine but nothing noteworthy. This is definitely not the V14’s reference-monitor styled sound and so the L9 should be low on your priority list if you’re in the market for a technical set.
Technical Grade: B
The price tag of $550 might be a sweet spot in the ThieAudio’s lineup, but it’s hard to justify given the L9’s list of shortcomings. The L9 is mostly bottlebecked by its technical performance, which is arguably the more important of the two metrics as you go up the price brackets.
Value Rating: N/A
Right now, the ThieAudio lineup is a weird mix of signatures and performance that doesn’t have a clear direction as of yet. If you’re willing to spend a little more the V14 makes a pretty good reference monitor even at its kilobuck price tag, but the V3 and L9 struggle to be competitive in today’s market.
Grade: A ★
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