BQEYZ Winter ($239): The End Of It All?
Culmination of the seasons provides a different signature (that’s a good addition)
Fit is quite good
Smoother signature (not for all)
Does everything well (nothing really stands out)
Smoother signature (not for all)
Does everything well (nothing really stands out)
Tough competition, Cable is a bit ungainly
BQEYZ Winter ($239): The End Of It All?
This culminates the seasonal cycle for BQEYZ, and that makes me sort of sad. But, the end of one run means something else is hopefully in the works. With each seasonal iteration, the sound was different. Some liked certain models, while disdaining others. Some thought each iteration while different yes, improved on the previous “season.” A third camp of listeners see each model clearly and could be held up on their own merits. I will say that I like all of the four iterations, and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. That said, the interchangeable filters of the Fall move gently up on my list here.
You never had to worry about construction quality either, as all were of a build like they should be: top notch as well as good looking. This may be the finale, but I hope another line continues for BQEYX. I thank Elle for the sample, and continue to marvel at what this manufacturer produces.
Driver: 12mm dynamic driver and 11.6mm PZT bone conduction
Cable Length: 1.2m
Connector Type: 0.78mm-2 Pin
Plug Type: 2.5/3.5/4.4mm available
In The Box:
1.2m cable (3.5mm)
6 sets of silicon tips (s, m, l) in Atmosphere & Reference
Jazz from Qobuz/Tidal
Jimmy Buffett on cassette (we are rewind)
Thieaudio Legacy 5
Simple small packaging greeted me, with a tasteful near-midnight purple color. Specs on the back sleeve give a brief note of what is to come. Sliding the sleeve off, you find the Winter IEM’s nestled in soft foam on top, and a cover over the whole inner box. Open to the IEM’s, you can touch the gems within. Taking the cover off you find the excellent zippered case on the bottom half complete with the sets of tips mounted in a metal plate, and cleaning tool inside. Simple. Complete, with no unnecessary frills.
Traditionally known for excellent build qualities as well as fit, the Winter does not disappoint. While the nub on the inner shell seems longer than others I have tried, it does not bother me nearly as much as others which follow the same path. Harder, more angular edges between the faceplate and shell mean that grasping the IEM is easier as well. A singular vent hole on the inside lower side is the only break from the flowing look.
The Summer & Spring faceplates I likened to an ocean or breeze of air, what with the flowing pattern. Here though, the swoop on the black faceplate means an impending storm to me. You have most likely seen those dark winter storm clouds rolling in to bring heavy winter snows. Seeing that color of cloud in the sky, one knows you may as well settle in for the long haul, as this storm will bring copious amounts of that white jewel precipitation. Living up north, it is an excited expectation, if properly prepared.
The swoop on the faceplate help define the shape of the shell as well. Almost teardrop-like, there is a decidedly pointed bottom side, swooping forward, echoed by the green ring of emerald color; itself of stellar understated beauty. One not need be a diamond to show beauty.
The 49-core single crystal copper plated silver cable carries a tighter braid above the Y-splitter, while looseness carries the portion below in 4-strand braided fashion. Ending in a BQEYZ logo laden jack, in your choice of 2.5mm bal, 3.5mm se or 4.4mm bal rounds out the cable. The jack is longer as well, allowing a firm grasp for insertion & removal without becoming so long as to potentially bend (I have never bent a jack in my life).
Fit with the proper tip is top notch as well, but that nub did bother me a bit after longer sessions greater than two hours. A simple readjusting took care of that. Using a smaller Comply foam tip, the insertion depth was greater, allowing me better fit, isolation and fullness of sound.
As usual, the Winter follows the path set forth by the previous seasons, giving the user a thoroughly good-looking unit, with very good to excellent fit and finish as well.
Bone conduction is not all that new, and some of the finest IEM’s I have heard and reviewed carry this tech. One only need think of Fir Audio and their “Element” models to understand how absolutely good this technology can sound. This technology, like a good piezo or planar has trickled down into the “more affordable” market of in-ears, and this can make for some interesting competition. With a large 11.6mm PZT bone conduction (bc) unit, BQEYZ is not messing about. Combine that with the larger-than-normal 12mm dynamic driver (dd) and you should be able to get a larger sound signature from the combination.
Here though, the bone conduction is used to compensate for the lack of mids and treble sounds coming out of the dd. The larger dd can carry its merits down low without having to worry about the upper end, since the bc accommodates that area of the sound spectrum. That bc is even designed in-house by BQEYZ, giving further credence to the development, instead of pawning that aspect to another company.
Succinct tight bass rides the wave of very good clarity when the song presents itself this way. I find the bass reaches low, but can bleed a bit into the mids; which is typical of a dd. Nonetheless, it is intoxicating, and the mids come across as full of verve and detail, giving way to a treble reach, which is not only pleasant but inviting. It can be a bit too sparkly when the song derides this aspect, which gives me pause due to my high treble intolerance. Soundstage affords the whole song to pervade the senses, with a good cubic feeling, but not cavernous. As a result, the presentation is full, and tied together without becoming too thin of note, save for the extended treble reach mentioned.
As previously mentioned, I like all iterations of the seasons, but for different reasons. The interchanging of filters on the Autumn lends a note of different colored leaves to the song. The Spring is sublime in presentation, and the Summer exudes a warm noted day to the senses. The Winter seems to be the tie that binds all together, and does so with aplomb. Not especially technically proficient, but involving instead, the Winter makes me want for cold days with snow falling and a nice Bailey-filled coffee as I look out upon the lake and snow falling.
On a song such as “No Hay Problema” by Pink Martini, there is the succinctness of which I mentioned, and the level of detail follows the staccato notes of piano and support conga drums. There is sufficient detail here in the song, and even with the sharper tones, enough delay in the bass to aid in giving a thicker texture to the song than it might purvey. Flowing deeper than others in this range thanks to the dd, the sub bass is full and draws you in with just enough rumble to give a foundational aspect that I appreciate. One could always EQ in more (I find no need…).
The mids come across with a warmth, but a revealing warmth to them that seems antithesis. Usually a warmth exudes a thicker, smoother texture; but on the Winter there certainly is the warmth, but the texture alludes to a precise nature in both female and male vocals, which is due to the bone conduction. Here the pairing of dd and bc works in concert to bring the best of both together. Even with the slight bleed into the mids from down low, the bc affords the smoothness to overlay without issue the duo vocals from Massive Attacks “Safe From Harm;” which presents a cacophony of euphoric musicality to the senses.
It is here though, that the treble note of which I speak can become a bit too much. On “S” and “C” sounds, there is that bit of bite, which bothers me just a bit. It could be the recording as well, but the Winter does seem to exacerbate that a bit. Nonetheless, the way mids meld into the upper end gives tribute to the BQEYZ engineers and their tuning of the EST Bone Conduction driver. I fully approve, especially since the synthesis between the bc and dd is so good. This would be a case of going against the driver war. It is not needed…
Soundstage is good and wide, but not amphitheater-wide. Pretty much cubic to me, with a bit more height provides me with very good placing of instruments and the note struck from all involved. Layering does falter a bit but not enough to make a jumbled mess. There is still very good detail, and the bc provides very good clarity to the overall sound signature. I find that even with the “limitations” listed above, I can comfortably turn the volume up on this, where on others using the same songs, I cannot. That to me means most of you will have no problem, since there is a high probability, you have better ears than me…
BQEYZ Winter ($239) v BQEYZ Autumn ($199):
The Fall is a single 13mm dd with changeable filters (Bass, Normal, Treble). Until the Winter, this was my favorite of the seasonal BQEYZ offerings. I love single dd’s, and the changing of filters allowed me to tailor the sound a bit more. The treble tuning was indeed too hot for my tastes, and the normal too boring (smooth?). The bass tuning module allowed my music to reach even deeper, and without becoming harsh on the other end. I simply preferred this sound signature to the others…
…until the Winter came around. This is now my favorite of the seasons, with tuning, which fits me almost perfectly. Deep reaching bass, and the EST BC presents a wonderfully musical mid-section, smoothly moving towards the top, without issue. That said, much the way I mentioned the two Legacy versions above, the Autumn & Winter fall into the same listening patterns. If I want a smoother character, the Bass Filter of the Autumn and single dd provide me with what I want. If I still want that smooth characteristic of tune, but with better clarity, the Winter fills that “void.”
BQEYZ Winter ($239) v Thieaudio Legacy 5 ($249):
The Legacy 5 is a five-driver unit (single dd, 4 ba; 2-Sonion, 2-Bellsing), which gives me a more reference tuning but without becoming boring. To me that more neutral tuning presents details better than the Winter, but with less involvement. With the Winter, you feel the music. With the Legacy 5, you hear the music. Both a good, and the approach is good either way. I rotate between the Legacy 5 and Legacy 2 (and VE BIE Pro) as the units I wear when I mow. If the mowing is tough like this summer and it reminds me of mowing dirt, I wear the Legacy 5 because that hearing of the music guides me better. This may or may not make sense…if I were to wear the Winter while mowing under the same circumstances, I would probably come away with both anger and tears, since the music involved me so much. With the Legacy 5, that level of detail lets me finish the job in a very sensible manner.
The Winter brings to an end, the highly musical, but underappreciated line from BQEYZ to me. They may not garner the same levels of fan base as others from the Far East, but to me, the marque should definitely be in that same category of fan-favorites. Presenting a line just above entry level is tough. Many (most?) state point blank, “is this one much, MUCH better than my affordable unit?” To which I would answer, yes. Yes, it is. To me, the Winter culminates the line with the best (to me) sound in the range yet.
Musical such as I listen to “After Hours,” from Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt & Sonny Rollins makes me reach for the volume, and turn the song up when using the Winter. Those sax solos can melt one’s knees, and melt other IEM’s, which may not be up to the task as the volume goes north. Not the Winter, for it presents that cool natured smoothness as it should sound” with a realism that makes me strut like a cool cat wearing Ray Bans. But I will never be that cool, and the Winter will have to suffice to present me that way in my own little world.
The Winter is worth a serious look against its competition since the sound is different enough (note comparison above) to present you with a viable option. Many in this category simply regurgitate their version of a sound; which can be similar to the others. Not BQEYZ and the Winter. It is different enough to be worth nothing less than a good listen, even if only for comparative purposes.
I again thank Elle & BQEYZ for the Winter (and all of the Seasons!). This is a fabulous line of IEM’s, and I cannot wait to find out what their next project is.