When I first started reading about LETSHUOER immediately I thought to myself: absolute gangsters. They make the craziest IEMs just because they can. This time we will take a look at their recommended daily driver, the S12. Also, there’s gonna be so many puns yall gonna understand why I’m going to die alone.
SHUOER may seem to you like another Chi-Fi company, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Every major person in this company has an impressive amount of experience in their field of expertise. It’s like audio monster mash, where everybody is an absolute unit. Imagine gathering those people in one building, and giving them all the means of development and production. I feel like they kinda stray away from the competition. LETSHOUER R&D meeting is not how can we make best IEM at $XXX. It’s more like how can we make the craziest/coolest IEM at that price range. Want proof? Singer, most basic model sitting at $99: hybrid DD with a magnetostatic driver. Oh, yeah shipping is free. Let’s make something more expensive, like around $150… BA, or DD? Maybe hybrid? No, let’s just use hybrid DD with a magnetostatic driver, squeeze that into aviation-grade alloy and make it tunable to user preference. Then we call it Tape Pro. Sounds good, right? And it’s the bottom of their range. They just do what they want, neither looking back nor looking at the competition. I madly respect that and you should too. Mad lads like that keep this hobby fun.
Hero of the day is S12 – second from the bottom in their range recommended for music lovers. It stands at $149, so it’s a direct competition aforementioned Tape Pro that is recommended for heavier music. You can easily conclude, that S12 is tuned for chill and pleasure. We’ll see about that.
Packaging and first impressions
First, let’s take a look at what you get. The package is simple and contemporary in style. It feels like getting a new phone. Inside you’ll find a warranty card, their business card with QR codes for social media (neat), and a quick start guide with a pretty woman printed on the other side. At least she is not anime fox-aligator-ninja-girl, right? Well, Shuoer, an exploded view of headphones I just bought would be much nicer to see. Think about it, alright?
The headphones themselves look very nice. The brushed metal finish is both nice to look at, and sturdy for everyday use. They are made entirely out of metal. Replaceable cable uses standard 3,5 mm jack, or 4,4 mm on order, and 2 pin connection to shells. LETSHUOER commented that they prefer 2 pin instead of MMCX because the first one is widely used and standardized more in Chinese brands. It’s just easier for customers to select aftermarket cables that way, less risk of not being exactly compatible. I’m not sure I dig that, but okay.
The cable itself is made out of silver-plated monocrystalline copper, it’s soft and overall great quality wire. I love it personally, might be one of the greatest. It’s also slightly heavier as it uses quite an amount of conductor. In the set, we’re also getting a nice, hard case with the manufacturer’s logo. Of course, they also included a nice variety of tips. You have not only silicon ones but also foams that I have ended up using. Everything is just right, no argument here.
Comfort, Fit and Isolation
S12 has an okay fit for my ears (my perfect fit is CA Mammoth for reference). They don’t go too deep, the nozzle is quite short. The shell is resting quite firmly on the back of my earlobe and after long usage, it slowly starts to bother me a bit. If you have smaller ears those IEMs might not be for you. A big driver needs a big case, it’s obvious if you think about it. Up to 2-3h it’s okay for me to use them. Because of the shallow insertion, I had to use the biggest tips, when usually I use mediums. Since you get a lot of them in the set, you shouldn’t have a problem finding ones that suit your case.
Isolation is not the greatest since there are 2 ports in the shell. You will have a bit of leakage when you are in a noisy environment, for example, in the city center at 4 pm. On the other hand, this might be a pro for someone who wants to retain some awareness, when cycling or else.
What makes these IEMs tick is their driver: large, 14.2 mm diaphragm planar magnetic. The whole headphone is basically built around it like the famous A-10 Warthog II is built around its insane 30 mm Gatling cannon. At this point, everybody probably knows what a planar driver is, but not everybody knows that it’s actually hard to put it into IEM. Planar drivers’ diaphragms by default have a very small swing back and forth, that’s why it has to be big. Overall, if you want to move air you either need a large surface area at a smaller swing, or a smaller area going further back and forth to move the same amount of air. Planars are in the first group, which is why they are a pretty rare sight in IEM that by nature are small. This setup uses two ventilation ports to regulate pressure inside, it’s necessary because based on my experience planar drivers require a relatively large amount of air around them to work properly. Even the input socket is mounted in an elevated piece of casing to make space for the planar driver. That is a crazy design, and you can’t tell me otherwise. I’m willing to die on this hill.
If you know what a character of planar-magnetics is, then you are not gonna get surprised here. S12s have that effortless, uncolored style of presentation. It’s super coherent, smooth, but not derived of information. With obvious out of the way, what is the characteristic of this IEM? Despite its characteristic of looking bass-heavy, I don’t feel it this way. It has some peaking in high frequencies, and I have had to tame it with foam tips. It gave lots of presence, but for me, it was too much. When damped with mentioned tips, the highs have a bit of smooth roll so take that into consideration, please. Overall I prefer warmer sound, as highs can be a bit overwhelming for me. Detail and resolution here are excellent in this price range, they just deliver the information to you, no questions asked. I really liked listening to some electronic music on them as they show textures very well.
Before you go further I’d like to say that they really like power and they will thank you for it. While driven by a weaker source they tend to be more mellow and lighter sounding. Under a more powerful amp, they will get some muscle and thicken up a bit. Under you will find an average of both situations.
Even though on characteristic bass is basically even higher level than mids and highs (7kHz peak matches the bass) you don’t hear it that way. For me, it is slightly behind mids in its amount. What you get on the other hand is very nice. Detailed, controlled, refined, and even. Take bass riff in Starlight by Muse, it’s just so rich and satisfying… When going down in frequency it retains that satisfactory feel. When I dropped Smack That by Akon ft. Eminem, even with a bassy song like this SHUOERs doesn’t lose control. There is something that I think is quite typical for planars. Low bass is not as powerful as from dynamic driver, but it still has a very good body to it. You can feel big diaphragm moving air, just like it can be heard in loudspeakers with big drivers. Effortless like Eminem’s rhymes. The dynamic driver delivers punch, planar delivers a smack, just like Akon.
SHUOERs really shine within the midrange. I can really imagine someone getting them just to listen to girls sing softly into their ears. Also if you are into brass or string instruments S12s are going to be your jam. Higher mids are just insanely good here. They are just totally uncaged, swift, nimble, they project emotions, no sweat. Take Katie Melua Spider’s Web as an example. An amazing voice accompanied by basic instruments, delivering a powerful message. You can really feel that in your bones. On the other hand, true mastery is shown (or heard as you wish) with Nils Lofgren famous Keith Don’t Go. It’s not easy to reproduce amazing things this artist does with his guitar, but those IEMs do an excellent job at that. You can feel the strings being strung, it’s just a very tactile sound. Also, a separation between strings and their decay is just top-notch for quite budget-friendly headphones. I’m a little less enthusiastic about male vocals as they feel a little underpowered in a sense. They are nice and share qualities with female voices, when girls make me feel the music in my bones, boys lack a little meat on theirs. Maybe you can try experimenting with tips to level that out.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. There is peaking between mids and highs. I personally had to tackle it directly in the means of using foam tips. Without them, the treble tends to get a bit metallic and harsh at the top end. With them, the highs really nicely got along with the rest of the frequencies. They are a bit mellowed and peak disappeared completely. It’s great because I used foams in the set, and you can do that too. Using TOOL Chocolate Chip trip as an example of a pretty extreme top-end song I’m happy to report that S12s deliver a very nice, detailed, and fun-sounding top end. They have an excellent balance between detail and harshness showing you just enough to never get tiresome. They tend to get a little bit metallic in the highest octave but it’s nothing too bad, even for a picky guy like me.
The soundstage is good, solid, however, you want to call it. In most wide and deeply recorded songs like Chocolate Chip Trip it can get pretty wide, but usually, it is pretty closed in, especially in depth. This is what fans of smooth jazz and even smoother voices dig. It creates that intimate energy, makes you feel surrounded and swimming in the sound. I think that foam tips might limit it somehow, so if you want to explore this area go ahead. For example, When we’re high by LP creates that sensual feeling with boomy, soft bass, and her voice floating so close to your ear. The scene has a slight tendency to be placed before you and slightly behind your head in a circular pattern, instead of the usual rectangle one. It’s great if it’s your cup of tea.
As I said in the previous paragraph – S12s are the type of IEMs that greatly benefit from a balanced connection. It might not be the case since they are priced at $149, and the typical user will use them with a smartphone. In that case, you will get what the manufacturer promises: musical, fun sound for lighter music types. Love to listen to Sade, or smooth jazz? It’s gonna be up your alley. My Mi 10T Lite handles them okay, so your phone will probably too.
If you upgrade to some dongle you get an instant jump in quality. Not only you can feel better DAC in action but also a more powerful amplifier makes a difference here. Even a cheap Fiio KA3 has a 4.4 mm balanced output, and I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement that brings. My reference source and new daily driver Fiio M11 PLUS II was of course best sounding of them all, but using a $750 DAP with $150 IEM is quite absurd. Until you have your nicer set already and you look for new, different-sounding phones to mix it up. Well in this case, if this type of sound suits you look no further. SHUOER S12 is a type of product that will grow with you.
If you have some over-ear planars and you want to explore the IEM world, this is your ticket. If you want a killer IEM for lighter music, SHUOER has got your back. If you have some more serious hardware but look for something different and fun, it would be foolish to miss these. For $149 it’s a very solid choice and I recommend you to take a good listen if you are able. I love the style this company has and I like the craziness of this product. That’s some extra points in my book. Must try.
You can get your Shuoer S12 here.
Disclaimer : I would like to thank Aoshida for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my unbiased opinion and it wasn’t influenced by anybody.