Earbuds are new territory for HIFIMAN, so these ES100 are their very first. They retail for $69.99 within the USA and come with a carry pouch and spare silicone buds.
HIFIMAN have utilised a quite retro design here, with small, near perfectly round, buds covered in a tight blue on silver plastic enclosure. They’re quite discreet due to their size, and the cable, whilst thin and easily flexible, doesn't permit much strain relief protection when meeting the buds. Similar shortcomings usually mean the cable will break open from low measures of strain and we see no reason why that will not eventually happen here. Really the strain relief covering should be three times as long.
A one size fits all approach is usually taken with earbuds and these certainly fitted all our ears fine, although some did find that they were too loose in the ear for listening to music whilst running or exercising. Having said this, without the extruding silicone sides that feature on each bud they would literally fall out of your ears when simply sitting still.
The problem with reviewing earbuds is that by design they leak sound and when you push the buds into your ears, whilst music is playing, they usually sound better. However, we always review them on the basis of what they sound like when resting in the ears, and after throwing a conclusive selection of genres through the HIFIMAN ES100 earbuds, it was evident that these have a cold sound signature. The highs are more progressive than any of the other frequencies and impressed us when playing ‘Crazy’ by ‘Daniella Andrade’. The bass is the least prominent range. For instance, the song ‘You know Me’ by ‘Air Traffic Controller’, exhibits tinny guitar instrumentals and vocals. This represented a general level of depth that we felt was missing from all similar music.
Mid-range is a sticky point for many audio products and, even with surrounding frequencies, it’s actually quite broad and yields a more dynamic sound from the HIFIMAN ES100 earbuds. Having said this, when all frequency ranges are being highly demanded, we can on occasion witness a claustrophobic mid-range. Stereo performance and volume are fine and the 15mm drivers don't reverberate when the volume is fully pumped, probably because the bass is so diluted.
For us the HIFIMAN ES100 earbuds have got the high and mid range frequencies balanced generously but need more emphasis on the lower bass range. Regardless of this we do admire the lightweight retro design.