Many people might have heard of the unofficial kings of clip-on/ear-clip headphones. Their name is Koss KSC75, and their price is a whopping $10 (give or take a few) if you look around a bit. They don’t need to be ashamed of being compared to phones that cost a lot more.
With clip-on phones being quite the niche product there aren’t many fancy, higher priced – or even good sounding ones – available. Until recently only some Audio Technica products like the ATH-EM7 or EW9 fell into that category (to the best of my knowledge).
Then Yuin – a company already famed for other niche products, such as high quality ear buds – came along and introduced their G1 and G2 clip-on phones. Both of these currently got upgraded to the G1A and G2A versions, which obviously have improved bass and treble response over the former iterations.
The G1A are the “high end” variant, with a higher price and higher impedance, the G2A are the more affordable variant that are easier to drive with portable players.
Let’s take a look/listen at how they perform – not only in the sparsely populated field of quality clip-on phones, but also in the grand scheme of headphones in general.
- Yuin G1A/G2A Specs
- Impedance: 150 Ohm (+/- 20) @ 1kHz (G1A); 60 Ohm (+/-3) (G2A)
- Sensitivity: 105dB (+/-2) @ 1mW (G1A); 110dB (+/- 2) (G2A)
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 24kHz (G1A); 20Hz – 20kHz (G2A)
- Cable: 150cm (G1A); 120cm (G2A), Y-style, straight 3.5mm gold-plated plug
- Accessories: Spare foam pads
Design, Build, Specs
The Yuins sure are among the better looking clip-on phones – perhaps not quite as pretty as the Audio Technica models, but way ahead of the plast-icky Koss KSC75 “hubcaps” and many others by various manufacturers. The Yuin’s back plates are solid brushed aluminum – not just some veneer – and the model numbers are engraved. Despite being mainly made of metal, the Yuin phones are lightweight enough for being comfortable.
The beauty of the phone housings doesn’t really translate to the cables, though: they look and feel like the average stuff found on any random $10 headphone. This doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t hold up in the long run, but they’re that kind of rubbery material that’s really hard to untangle – especially since the Yuin phones have quite a few edges and hooks, being clip-ons and all. The Y-splitter is rather adventurously placed as well: it sits at the height of my belly button. 50cm from the earphones to the Y-splitter is really a bit much, it just looks weird and has no obvious advantage.
But enough of the nitpicking… The strain reliefs appear to work well, and the whole cable has separate ground lines for both channels, possibly minimizing crosstalk and other nuisances that might appear with a single ground for both channels. They’re designed just like the Sennheiser HD650 cables or the ones found on other upper-class phones.
The clips might be a weak point in the long run – unlike the KSC75’s clips the Yuins’ are made entirely of plastic, without metal wire in the core. They might break from too much strain. Another factor is that they cannot be bent into shape to fit one’s ears perfectly. I’m wearing glasses, and bending the KSC75’s wire-reinforced clips to fit my melon is a big bonus – something that’s not possible with the Yuins. Still, the Yuin clips are comfortable enough even while wearing glasses – just not exactly as comfy as the KSC75 are for me.
To be honest, I actually do not care all that much about clips either way. I salvaged a headband from a $2 “disposable” phone which fits the bearings on the Yuin ear cups perfectly (see the photo above). It might not give the same secure fit as the clips, especially during workout and such, but for home listening it is quite nice and much easier to put on or take off one’s head.
There’s not a lot to be said about accessories included with the G1A and G2A: they come in a nicely designed cardboard box, and the only things besides the phones you’ll find in there are a spare pair of foam pads and a spec sheet. In my opinion at least the G1A models should have come with a 6.3mm stereo adapter to connect them to a home amplifier – since that’s where they perhaps could be enjoyed the most, contrary to using them on the go. However, almost everybody probably has at least one 3.5-to-6.3mm adapter at home, so that’s not really an issue after all.
Bass quantity on both Yuins is acceptable, considering they have smaller drivers than full-sized phones and also don’t isolate or exert a lot of clamping force on your head. They don’t like to be driven too hard – I’ve had the Yuins distort (or rather, resonate) with some loud bass tests, Drum’n’Bass, or Dubstep – but for normal use they behave well. The bass quality on the other hand is rather nice: textured, detailed, and layered. It reminds me a bit of my Sennheiser HD650, although more subdued and certainly not extending as deep.
Bass quality and quantity depend a lot on the phone placement over one’s ears. Changing their position a few millimeters to the back or front of your head, or pressing them a bit tighter onto your ears can alter the perceived bass response quite a bit. Needless to say, in loud surroundings all bass will be drowned out by environmental noises due to the Yuins being non-isolating – but in quiet rooms they perform well.
The midrange sounds very pleasing: neutral, yet certainly not “boring”, very detailed and clear. The G1A display more clarity and precision than the G2A: there’s a slight hint of “veil” to be heard on the G2A, something that cannot be said about the more expensive G1A.
However, there’s a caveat regarding these observations: if the 150 Ohm G1A are underpowered – like with a Sansa Clip or a similarly weak player – they sound actually more veiled and muddy than the 60 Ohm G2A. In other words, the G1A definitely need a stronger amplifier to sound their best. They really shine when they get sufficient power, while the G2A don’t react all that much to a stronger signal. A $20 FiiO E5 amp already helps a bit. The G2A sound more or less the same, no matter what amp or source.
The treble might be one of the bigger differences between the G1A and G2A. The G2A are brighter, do sound maybe a bit harsher, maybe a slight bit more sibilant than the more expensive G1A (but still quite a bit more refined than the Koss KSC75). I wouldn’t call the treble overly bright, all in all, but it sure is somewhat forward sounding. Just as the rest of the Yuins’ audible spectrum it’s very clear and precise; with the G1A being more laid back sounding than the G2A – but without lacking any detail, so nothing is lost.
On a personal note, I certainly like the “darker” Sennheiser HD650 a lot more than the overly bright AKG K701 or Beyerdynamic DT880, so that might influence my judgment when I say that the G1A are without a doubt the better sounding variant of the two Yuins.
One aspect where the $10 Koss KSC75 outperforms the Yuins
by a bit is soundstage. It may be that the KSC75 is an open-backed design and the G1A and G2A have closed backs, but the Yuins have no better soundstage than any average in-ear phone – while having the same level of isolation as the Koss: none. One would think a medium sized headphone would take advantage of the head related transfer functions that go along with including the outer ear anatomy into the sound reproduction, but somehow the Yuins manage to not have a really remarkable soundstage to speak of.
As you may have noticed, besides using the incredibly inexpensive KSC75 as a reference, I could not help myself but to liken the Yuins to the “big boys” of the headphone business, the flagships of Sennheiser, AKG, and Beyerdynamic. It’s not that the G1A and G2A are really as good as those reference phones – but the Yuins are better than anything comparable in their size range, or anything meant for that “sporty, urban” clip-on application. I do have to admit that I did not hear any of the fetching Audio Technica clip-on phones, but if they’re anything like the Yuin G1A, or even the G2A (considering their not too high price), they’re worth the money.
All in all, the Yuins are more on the “lean, fast” side of phones – think K701 or DT880, as mentioned before, or Phonak Audéo PFE or q-Jays, as far as IEMs go – but without being overly boring or anemic. They sure cover the middle ground between being analytical and being “lush” or “musical” quite nicely, and they are a pleasure to listen to.
Are the G2A worth the additional $30 or so over the KSC75? Certainly, in my opinion. They sound smoother, more refined, and definitely look a lot better. Are the G1A worth the additional $100 over the G2A? I’m not so sure about that one. The G1A do sound even better (clearer, smoother) than the G2A, but not “$100 better”. I’m aware of the law of diminishing returns in audio, and of course I would keep the G1A if I had to choose between them – they simply are better, as long as they are properly amped. But I don’t know if that price isn’t a bit… artificial, compared to the G2A. Another thing to keep in mind is that the G1A really need a headphone amplifier to sound their best, which might increase the overall price and might compromise portability by a bit. In my opinion it’s worth it with the G1A, though.
Of course since the Yuins don’t isolate at all you only would notice the subtleties of their sound quality in quiet surroundings. On the other hand, they should be safe for biking, jogging, and so on. So, if you’re living on the edge and have a craving for good sound, go for these non-isolating quality phones. Using them in an office or around your significant other might be a good application as well – given that you don’t want to be completely sonically detached from your surroundings.
Either way, both Yuins are very nice sounding phones – jazz, classical, soundtracks, rock, folk, and so on sounds great on them. Just don’t expect them to give you insane amounts of sub-bass response. You should definitely give the G1A or G2A a closer look if you’re in the market for high quality, small form-factor, non-isolating phones.
- Dynamic, nicely balanced, forward (yet still mellow) sound
- Good precision and clarity (especially the G1A)
- Can be modified with an inexpensive headband
- Fetching light-weight brushed aluminum back plate
- No isolation from outside noise
- G1A need an amp to sound their best
- Soundstage could be better
- Heavy bass might distort/resonate at high volume levels
- Clips/hooks are plastic without metal reinforcements, might break