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Review - Urbanfun YBF-ISS014 - Second try... how about now?

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 




Not long ago I reviewed the Urbanfun YBF-ISS014 (which I still think is a terrible name) and my impressions of it weren’t that great. However, after seeing other reviews and impressions, plus some discussion with other Urbanfun YBF owners, it seems that there were various issues and variances in units that meant that the sound was not consistent between units. It also seems that some of the units had beryllium drivers whereas others didn’t.

Not long after, Urbanfun released a revision of the IEM where all of these issues were supposed to be resolved and they presented this revision in a new packaging in order to differentiate between earlier models and new revisions.

Normally I would have just moved on and put the YBF down as a “not great” experience but due to the praise by those who (claim to have) got the version without the issues, I decided to give it another try.

 I got in contact with Linsoul and they were kind enough to offer me a 50% discount on the new revision so I could revisit my review and see if it really was an improvement over the previous generation. Although I have received a large discount on this unit (for which I am grateful), I will be comparing it directly to the previous set that I purchased at full price, so the price is not factored into this review.

I will be comparing throughout this review, however, if you would like to read my full review on the previous version, you can find it here (Review - Urbanfun YBF-ISS014)


Presentation…

The first difference that is noted on the new revision is the box that it comes in. Rather than the dark black box with silver lettering and monkey logo that the previous revision came in, this time it is presented in a smaller white box with the same silver lettering on the top, minus the logo.

Inside the box the contents are also different.

In the first version there was a small metal case with three sets of various foam tips, along with a few silicone options, a round black carrying case with the monkey logo of Urbanfun on the top, an acceptable cable with MMCX connectors and the IEMs themselves.

In the new revision, the small metal tip case has been removed, with the tips (which are also slightly different) presented in the cardboard cut out of the box. The carrying case has also changed from the black version to a grey material version, also eliminating the monkey logo and opting for just the name of the brand on the case. I must say that I have no issue with either of the presentations, I like the metal box for tips from the first set and prefer the carrying case of the second set.

I can’t compare the two included cables as they are slightly different, I got the pink cable version this time around, which is more “plasticky” than the grey cable of the previous set, but I don’t know if the grey cable version is still the same on the new revision.

Build quality and comfort…

There is not much to say here that I didn’t say in my previous review as they are exactly the same IEMs.

However, I will mention one thing about build quality...

When the YBF were initially released, there was an issue with many people complaining about the MMCX connector being faulty. I mentioned this in my previous review and said that luckily I did not have this issue.

On this second set, the issue has supposedly been resolved. I say “supposedly” because I do have that issue on this set. The right IEM with the stock cable is intermittent and cuts out when the cable moves.

It is possible to solve this by tightening the ring inside the  MMCX connector with a small set of tweezers or needle nosed pliers, which I did, but I still had the issue with the stock cable. I replaced the cable with the usual NiceHCK balanced cable that I use when connected to my DAP and the issue went away, so maybe it is a case of the stock cable having a small issue with the connector on the right channel.

I mentioned this to Linsoul who said they would contact the manufacturer because this issue has supposedly been resolved on the new batch. To be honest, I haven’t heard anyone complain about this on the new revision so it is quite possible that I am just unlucky (all manufacturers can have an issue now and again). I didn’t request an exchange or any further action as I am not really bothered about the stock cable anyway and I have plenty of other cables that work fine, but I am sure that Linsoul would be happy to help anyone that did experience any faults.


Sound…

So, here is the interesting part of this re-review, do they sound any better than the first set I received?

I have spent the last 10 days or so listening to these and also comparing them against the originals. When I reviewed the originals, after testing different tips I settled on foam tips, therefore I decided to use the exact same cable (NiceHCK), the same foam tips (NewBee) and the exact same source (Shanling M2X or Topping+Atom), so it would be a fair comparison. However, after playing around with some tips, I found that the silicone tips I received with the T2 Plus changed the IEMs sound signature and provided more bass quantity and a warmth that was not there on the first revision.

Let me first say that I didn’t feel that the sound signature had changed in any way in comparison to the first set, it is still an IEM that is pretty cold and neutral, maybe with a slight forwardness to the mids. That has changed when swapping to silicone tips, however, there are a few drawbacks at the same time.

With foam tips, bass is not boosted in any way. There is enough bass to appreciate it is there but it is not elevated in comparison to the mids and does drop off when reaching down towards the subbass regions.

On songs like “No Mercy” by Gustavo Santaolalla or “Nara” by E.S.Posthumus, you can tell that there is music coming from down in those areas, so there is obviously some subbass there, at least enough to appreciate the notes, but it is not present enough to make the songs sound as they should.

When switching over to silicone tips, the sub bass is increased slightly. Although it is still not exaggerated, I did find it enough to give you a much more realistic presentation of the tracks.

Moving into the higher frequencies of bass, the bass is again non dominant with foam tips and it proves that this is not a V shaped sound signature. In comparison to the Tin T2 Plus that I reviewed last week, with the song “Sun Is Shining” by Bob Marley feat Robin Schulz, this presents a completely different song. Where this track was a mountain of bass on the T2+, on the YBF it can be a little shouty if you increase volume in search of bass.

With the original version I said that it did not have enough bass to make me feel like I was having fun with EDM and I maintain my opinion with this revision. Again, after some bassier IEMs such as the BL03 or the T2+, the YBF feels like it is missing a subwoofer.

However, although it may not have enough bass to be considered a “fun” or “warm” IEM, they way it holds itself together in the bass region is excellent. No matter how busy the track gets, the detail is still present and each separate kick of the kick drum, or each note of the bass guitar on faster more complicated passages is completely clear and allows you to pick out everything that is happening, even if it does seem to be slightly recessed at time.

But… when moving to silicone tips, it was as though someone had found the switch and unmuted the subwoofer. Suddenly the bass is more present, the missing warmth is there, and EDM becomes enjoyable. The problem is that the silicone tips seem to also remove some of the detail that is present with foams. Suddenly tracks like “Bombtrack” by Rage Against The Machine have more authority to them but it becomes very difficult to focus on the details that are clearly present with foams.

With foam tips, the mids are very present, especially as they climb towards the higher part of the mids. I don’t get the feeling that they are overly boosted, just that the slight lack of bass means that the mids are presented more forward than on other IEMs. Again, this is no change from the original version, instruments and voices have great separation and nothing seems to be taking a backseat in the mids.

Once again, this changes with the swap from foam to silicone. Suddenly Zack De La Rocha is no longer in front of everything else, the drums, bass and lower notes of the guitar become the “frontmen” and while his voice is still clear, it is not quite as clear. The same happens on “Smooth Operator” by Sade, where her voice and the saxophone were the center of attention with the foams, along with the higher parts of the percussion, when the silicone tips come into play, the bass becomes far more present but again at the expense of detail and definition.

Moving up into the treble, once more with foams I do not notice any difference in regards to the first edition. The treble is present but does not suffer from sibilance, only tracks that are harsh in the treble are presented this way on the YBF.

With silicone tips the treble doesn’t actually transform the way it does with the bass and mids, at least as far as presence. The treble is still there and is still not sibilant or overly forward, but I do feel that again it loses a bit of detail and some of the “air” that is present with the foam tips.

With regards to speed and detail, here is where I feel it is an improvement over the original version, at least with foam tips. I said that the original version had great detail and separation and this version is even better. When listening to any song, no matter how busy, you can select an instrument and follow it, hearing even the smallest of details that the instrument presents. Even instruments in the bass regions, which are not overly present, are still clear and defined at all times.

In fact, I have had a lot of fun listening to how drums, and other instruments, are played on metal tracks, as it proves exactly how complicated some of these are. I don’t listen to a lot of metal related music but I did end up digging out some of my older Fear Factory albums and enjoyed being able to hear the machine gun style double kick in minute detail on albums like “Demanufacture”, but anyway, back to the subject at hand.

When switching over to silicone tips, a lot of the detail and separation gets lost. The speed of the IEMs is still there, they don’t get any slower, but everything seems a little more congested and is nothing like the impressive detail and definition you get with foam tips.

The width of the presentation is not amazing, and this does not change with tips, but to be honest I am yet to be amazed by the width of any IEM. Once again imaging is improved in comparison to the first revision when using foam tips but is lost when switching over to silicone tips.

My main gripe with the original version was the timbre of acoustic instruments, as I found them hollow and lifeless. This has improved on this revision and spanish guitars, acoustic basses etc. sound more realistic, however, with the foam tips they still sound a little anemic. When switching over to silicone tips, the warmth in the lower mids (and higher bass) gives them much more life, but again this is in exchange for a loss of definition. While I prefer the way these instruments sound with the silicone tips, due to that extra warmth, I miss the detail that is present with foams and allows you to notice every nuance of the way the guitar is played. Let me just point out that timbre is not horrible with foam tips (it is certainly an improvement over the first revision) it is just a bit more “focus on” than “enjoy” the playing.



Tip swaps…

It is normal that a change in tips changes the overall sound of an IEM, much the same as a pad swap on over-ear headphones, but in the case of this second revision of the Urbanfun YBF, the change is dramatic, maybe the biggest change I have noticed between foam and silicone tips on all the IEMs I have listened to so far.

On the original version, the swap between tips was nowhere near as pronounced as it is on this second revision. On the gen1, there is definitely a small sound change, with the silicone tips being slightly warmer, but it certainly wasn’t enough for me to choose the silicone tips over the foams (I prefer the comfort of the foams and am usually willing to sacrifice a slight change in sound in exchange for comfort). There was also no perceived loss of detail on the first gen when opting for silicone.

On this new revision, the swap between foam and silicone is like having two completely different IEMs. With the foam tips, the overall signature is almost identical to the first generation, being quite cold and neutral, but with detail that is excellent and is improved over the first generation (which was already pretty decent). When swapping out to silicone tips on this second generation, the change in sound signature is very noticeable. The IEMs go from being a neutral, bass light, sounding earphone to becoming a warm IEM with plenty of bass. My issue is that this change also has a dramatic affect on detail.

With foam tips, these IEMs let you focus on every detail of the music, allowing you to pick out nuances in playing, identify layers, spot the placement of each instrument etc. With the silicone tips, that is a much more difficult task. With silicone the layers become more difficult to separate, making them blend together and giving a congested feeling at times.

While performing my listening tests, I did not have the time to constantly swap between many different tips so the tests were done with just two kinds of tips, the NewBee foam tips and the Tin Silicone tips, which are the ones I had on hand. However, due to the huge difference between them, I started to believe that maybe I could find the perfect tip that would give me a middle ground between the two, providing a little more warmth and bass without losing the great detail these have.

So, I have taken a day to just compare different tips and their changes on the new revision of the YBF (without constantly comparing to the first revision, otherwise this would turn into a a very very long review). I’m afraid I haven’t compared all tips as that would take a lot longer than I can spend with this review, so I just limited this to the ones I had in front of me (those from the YBF and from the T2+), here are some quick impressions in comparison to the ones used in the review.

Large silicone tips with rigid rubber core (included in YBF)
: Bass is more present than on the NewBee foams but much less than the with the Tin silicones. Detail is retained to a decent extent and a little more warmth is present. Vocals are not as forward as with the NewBee foams but is less overpowered by bass. Acoustic guitars have more body to them.

Red/Blue/Black foams (included in YBF)
: I couldn’t tell a difference between the three except for colours. The response with these is very similar to with the NewBee foams, except for a slight (I mean very slight) increase in bass. Detail is very good with these (as it is with the NewBee) and these go back to being very impressive at clarity and detail. Without doing a direct comparison on many songs, it would be difficult to notice the difference between these and the NewBee.

Grey foam tips (included with Tin T2+)
: These are the bassiest foam tips I have tried on these. The bass response is very similar to that of the silicone tips used in the review, slightly less maybe, and also creates the same issue with the mids being a little overpowered by the bass (losing presence in voices etc.). Details are also reduced, not quite to the level of the silicone tips used in the review but still congested. These tips actually work well when the track is simple, the detail can still come through, but as soon as there is more bass in the track, the congestion is back.



Conclusions…

This review started out as a direct comparison between this revised version of the Urbanfun YBF-ISS014 and the original version I reviewed previously, however, it has also become a comparison against itself.

With regards to the difference between this and the original version I received, yes there is a difference. At first I only noticed the difference in detail and timbre, which are both improved over the original, with the sound signature being pretty much identical in my opinion.

However, the changes in tips on this revision result in differences that do not present themselves on the previous set. I really do believe that this version has the beryllium driver and the original version either had a different driver or something else wrong with it. The tuning seems to be identical but the response to tip changes and EQ (I did play around with EQ for a while also) make it clear that there is something definitely different (and better) going on.

Now, if we forget about the original version and just focus on this set, I think that this is a very capable set of IEMs that can be fine tuned to the liking of each person. It is a shame the the increase in bass provided by some tips caused a loss of detail but I really do think that with enough tip rolling, I will be able to find the correct balance for me to be very happy with this IEM. In fact, it may just be a case of swapping between different tips for different moods or genres (the tip carrying case from the previous gen will come in handy!).

I am sincerely hoping that the QC issue with the connector on mine is just an unlucky one of on this revision and that they have fixed the issues they had. If I do hear of more issues I will update below.

Would I recommend this IEM? Well, it depends. There are a lot of decent options around this price range at the moment, some slightly cheaper and others slightly more expensive. I think that this is a very capable IEM that can perform very well but needs some tweaking (i.e: tips and maybe EQ) to get it to a point where I think it is great.

I definitely think it is an improvement over the previous set I had but I still don’t think the timbre is perfect, at least to my ears.

As far as detail retrieval (again, depending on tips), I think it is far superior to the KZ ZS10 Pro and the Tin T2 Plus but the T2 Plus doesn’t lose detail when the bass is boosted, which is something that the YBF does suffer from. I would definitely be happy with this IEM for monitoring and editing, even mixing as long as I built up a good reference point for how it translates to other systems and earphones/headphones.

The current price is a little over 50€, so it should be quite possible to find them on sale for under 50€, which would place them in the sub 50€ category against things like the Blon BL03, the T2 Plus, the KZ ZS10 etc, but I would probably still opt for the T2 Plus in that price range.

In the 100€ range, I would certainly choose the Moondrop Starfield over these for my general music listening as they match my tastes and the genres I listen to far more than the YBF.

SenyorC