Discovering new names is an exciting activity, especially when you get to know it yourself and acquaint others with something really interesting, one might say - amazing. Today I will tell you about the awesome CERBERUS hybrid flagship from SoftEars!
Not so long ago, we reviewed two models IEM of this brand from the Middle Kingdom from the Reference Sound line, namely the ten-driver RS10 and five-driver RSV, which, in my opinion, are simply beautiful.
CERBERUS, on the other hand, is built on seven emitters / drivers, including electrostatic ones, which initially aroused increased interest. But we'll talk more about EST in the review itself. Now I will note that these headphones aroused the strongest emotions in me. Here I heard the philosophy of clean, neutral, competently tuned sound, already familiar from other SoftEars models, but embodied in an unusually melodic manner, focused exclusively on contemplating musical images and getting maximum pleasure from listening to the sound. Moreover, it seems to me that CERBERUS is several years ahead of the general vector of development of portable high-end audio, it is so good.
Well, and a little digression into the history of Softears. The company was founded in 2017 in China and worked exclusively for the domestic market. For 2018, the brand will announce its flagships IEM RS10 and Cerberus. This was followed by the TURII model built on a dynamic emitter, followed by the five RSV drivers.
Due to its focus exclusively on the domestic market of the Celestial Empire, the company was little known on the international market until recently. Fortunately, now the brand is confidently gaining momentum and decided to push the boundaries of its presence, and this, believe me, is great news for all lovers of great sound.
We have finished with the opening speech and it is time to unchain our beast. But do not be alarmed: he will not bite anyone, and an English gentleman will envy his impeccable manners. This Cerberus is a formidable, sometimes gloomy, but a truly mystical creature of rare beauty.
Text by Alexey Kashirskey aka Hans Barbarossa
Type: in-ear / IEM / hybrid
7 drivers: 1 (DD), 4 (BA), 2 (EST-Sonion) + 3-way crossover.
Frequency Response Range: 10-80000Hz
Sensitivity: 104dB / 100mV @ 1kHz
Impedance: 5Ω @ 1kHz (± 15%)
Detachable cable: 1.2 m, 2pin (0.78mm) / jack 3.5 mm - straight
Appearance kit and ergonomics
CERBERUS is packaged in a small dark green box with an embossed gold Softears logo on one side. Inside the cardboard cube we find a respectable cover-washer of the same color with an embossed brand logo, a metal business card-warranty card (this is what I call a serious approach to my product), an instruction booklet and a bag with three pairs of silicone tips of different sizes (S / M / L).
Opening the leather case, we find the IEMs themselves, carefully placed in two soft pouches, a detachable cable and a branded microfiber napkin. Everything is beautiful and stylish, you will not find fault.
As we can see, the kit contains everything you need that you might ever need to use these IEMs.
SoftEars CERBERUS looks extremely attractive. It was medium in size, extremely comfortable and extremely cute, the material was medical resin.
And, of course, a unique design: either amber melted in a hot flame, or golden sand from ancient treasuries - the sun streams spread over the ebony. CERBERUS immediately attracts the eye, and its mesmerizing patterns are a source of true aesthetic pleasure!
On the outside of the IEM, the black faceplate was located, matching the entire body, through which the fire ran and left behind two golden traces. The silver Softears logo was also placed right there.
On the inner side of the body there is a sound pipe with four outlets, one of which is covered with an acoustic filter. In the upper part there are connectors for a cable plug with 2pin (0.78 mm) and a small compensation hole covered with an acoustic filter. I believe that it is intended for the correct setting of the dynamic emitter.
Inside each of the headphones fit seven drivers: 1 (DD), 4 (BA), 2 (EST), as well as a three-way crossover.
Here, it is worth mentioning that in CERBERUS, as in the IEM RS10 model, one more, additional passive driver is used.
The IEM is expected to be worn behind the ear. Soundproofing is average, so in too noisy places, such as the metro, I suppose you shouldn't count on complete comfort when listening to music. Otherwise, everything is pretty decent.
Silver-white cable, extremely lightweight and flexible, with soft silicone earhooks. Cable length is 1.2m, connectors are 2pin (0.78mm) / jack 3.5mm. If you wish, you can replace the cable with any other with 2pin connectors, although personally to me it seems very attractive and effective.
Well, according to the results of the first part of the review, SoftEars CERBERUS deserve only praise. But the most important thing, as you understand, is only ahead of us: we are moving on to the analysis of sound.
Listening (audio testing) was conducted on: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, iFi iDSD Diablo, Lotoo paw Gold, iBasso 220 MAX, iBasso DX300 & QLS QA-361.
With all audio devices CERBERUS played at a very high level, their "voice" changed slightly depending on the sound source.
Once again, I urge everyone to responsibly approach the process of selecting tips, as they make a noticeable contribution to the creation of a sound picture.
The sound of SoftEars CERBERUS is clear, smooth, perfectly balanced, without sharp peaks and dips. This is an almost linear frequency response with a subtle elegant accent in the lowest register. There is both a restrained manner and a slightly darkened, soft background.
As if in the night sky, as if woven from velvet, myriads of bright sparks sparkle, which, gathering in constellations, skillfully dance in front of the listener. You do not just listen to music, but you begin to see beautiful sounds and their intricacies in your head.
CERBERUS perfectly build a stereo panorama, have high resolution and good detail, playing compositions in a measured, graceful, wide and very musical way.
The sound is delivered smoothly, legibly and unusually melodic. This is at the same time neutral, slightly dark, clean and beautiful manner of presenting the sound.
These IEMs exhibit excellent dynamic range and stunning volume reproduction with precise localization of apparent sound sources in space.
Musical compositions are presented at the same time seriously, strictly, precisely, smoothly, tenderly and sweetly. This is an amazing interweaving of analog and digital sound with incredible beauty - a real Hi-End!
In general, CERBERUS, as I mentioned above, were clearly ahead of their time. Other companies are just beginning to show substantive interest in electrostatic (EST) drivers from Sonion, and SoftEars already thoroughly studied this issue and competently applied them in its development several years ago. In my opinion, this is one of the best EST implementations at the moment.
What is perhaps missing here is the violence in the form of pressure and drive. They are certainly present, but in a rather modest form. Our Cerberus does not use claws and fangs, if he strikes, then only with a strong, but fluffy paw. And this is done intentionally, because this is how the elegance and beauty of sound is achieved in this case.
Well, for other purposes, the brand has a line of in-ear monitors "Reference Sound" RS10 and RSV, as well as a dynamic model Turii. I can't say about Turii, I am familiar with these IEMs only by hearsay, but in general, the hand of a master is recognized in the family of SoftEars in-ear monitors. Despite the different sound character from each other, in all IEM models of the company there is a clearly verified tonal balance, super-competent IEM tuning and a complete absence of distortion. Yes, these guys from Softears are virtuosos, what else to look for! But let's get back to the CERBERUS sound analysis.
The bass for the dynamic driver is quite tight and nimble, with good control, accurate kick, clear articulation and high-quality elaboration of textures. Here, as I mentioned earlier, there is a barely noticeable accented area in the sub bass area. It is worth noting how smoothly Lows move to the mid-frequency range, merging with the neighboring register and complementing it with depth, rhythmic base and warm living substance. The midbass area is served linearly and is almost level with the mids.
Mids are smooth, smooth, natural and charming. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. This is an extremely melodic and holographic manner, where all sounds and instruments are in their right place. The compositions are presented smoothly, balanced and beautifully, in a neutral-soft manner. CERBERUS demonstrates good detail and amazing visualization of sound images where no detail escapes the listener. It is a balanced and moderately emotional performance. The sound canvas is drawn harmoniously, informatively and reliably, with a spreading stereo panorama.
The high frequencies are reproduced in an unusually clear, crisp, euphonic and completely comfortable manner. Here you can hear the impeccable operation of the EST driver. Highs clearly and accurately hit the target, wonderfully, like stardust, shimmering, scrupulously draw the micro-contrast. It turns out beautifully, unobtrusively and charming. Quantitatively, there are not many of them, for my taste, more is not needed. The register is transmitted clearly enough, cleanly, smoothly, without sharpness and distortion. Highs harmoniously contribute to the overall operation, precisely matching the play of the entire frequency range. Pure harmony and nothing more.
In terms of genre preferences, in my opinion, SoftEars CERBERUS have a fairly wide coverage: they play interestingly both classical music, instrumental, jazz, and electronics or rock. In principle, things are not bad with brutal styles either, but, in my opinion, there may not be enough mass and pressure here, CERBERUS is too elegant for such musical forms.
SoftEars CERBERUS is an amazing model of in-ear monitors. This IEM are beautifully designed and deliver truly amazing sound, and this is definitely a winning combination that fans of melodic and modern Hi-End sound should fully appreciate. Softears engineers are extremely commendable, and their products receive the utmost scrutiny. I sincerely hope that Softears will take a prominent place in the portable audio market, they deserve it!
Well, about the price, which is also impressive. The RRP for the SoftEars CERBERUS model is $ 2,099. Yes, the money is big, but that is how much the sound costs, which excites and captivates, makes you dream and sends you on magical journeys.
In general, if you have the opportunity to fork out for a great sound, then I recommend CERBERUS for purchase without the slightest hesitation. Listen and get high!
Sound, design, kit.