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Review: CrossRoads MylarOne X3i

December 20, 2007

Crossroads are out with another incarnation of the X3, called X3i. So what does the "i" series has to offer?

I was very surprised at the X3i, the packaging for one, is totally different from the lame blue carton the X3 uses.

This bigger packaging in black with nice design, also contains a lot of useful information around the box. For instance, recycle information is provided on the left side, device compatibility icons on the right side, and specifications, warnings, and accessories information at the back.

The box also has a nice accent of violet stripe at the top, and red stripe at the bottom.

Ok, I've said so much for the box, and that's not what I'm reviewing. It's just a welcome surprise for me from the previous one.

That initial impression gave me hope that I'm NOT going to see a girlie colored pouch again, and I was right!

We now have a macho black pouch with a red trim that says CrossRoads. Let's see what's inside...

Wow! A manual! Regardless of the simplicity of any product, I always appreciate having something to read about it. The single-page manual speaks of important details, primarily, how not to abuse your ears. It contains a table of OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) permissible noise exposure. Really, really, nice! For one, I don't know myself.

The manual has a few paragraphs on the following- Using the device, Care and maintenance, Warranty terms and conditions. I really appreciate it, and that's not all- the English is very well written.

Another welcome addition, is an airplane jack adaptor, which allows one to use the X3i with most airlines' audio output connector.

The tips are translucent in color, compared to black in the X3.

Comfort

My main criteria in selecting a headphone/earphone is comfort. Yes, comfort. Because a headphone/earphone of any type could sound so good, but is "wearable" for a only a few minutes, and that is somewhat useless for me.

I am hoping that the X3i is at least as comfortable than the previous version, which I really liked. They did not disappoint, they are comfortable for my ears.

Physically however, this iteration seems to be smaller, in every aspect. The main headphone unit is smaller, and so is the 3.5mm plug!

When inserted into my ears, there is no bulging, protruding part anymore. I like very much. However, due to its small size, you might get tempted to yank out your ear via the wires.

I'm using the medium tips, and there is a smaller and larger version to suit your needs.

The Sound

Damn! Yes, that was the first word that came out my mouth when I listened to it. It's like this one has got a subwoofer. The X3i offers better depth, oomph, and impact compared to the X3.

That got me in doubt, as I liked the balance offered by the X3, and I was worrying about the pounding my ears will get from this new experience. I had to listen more intently and carefully and see if I will be comfortable with it like the X3.

I wanted the mids of the X3, and I still got it with the X3i. I was afraid that the better bass performance will over shadow the mids and the highs. I was pleased to find out that that I'm still getting the strong vocals performance and not losing anything- the nuance, the detail, and ambiance, all there.

After hours of listening, I was pleased with the results-

  • The warmth and detail of the X3 is still there, no annoying sibilance which is a strong point of the X3
  • There is a better "soundstage" compared to the X3
  • The bass, while audibly more, is not boring and not overpowering, while providing the impact

Compatibility

I would like to buy an IEM that I can use with the devices I have, which includes my notebook and my aging, but better sounding, Sony Ericsson K750i.

So I tested the X3i with these and I am pleased with the results. Even if it said 95dB sensitivity on the specifications, my K750i drove them easily and sounded best so far with the X3i.

I use my notebook a lot as the source, and I wanted something that would sound good without the complication of adding DAC, amplifiers, etc. Again, I'm pleased with the results, I didn't even bother using the HEPA DAC and an external amp.

Finally, I didn't bother testing with the iPod Shuttle that I have.

Verdict

Definitely a winner.

Positive

  • Detailed with out the harshness
  • Warm sounding which is great for listening for very long periods
  • Just the right amount of bass
  • Comfortable to wear for hours and hours

Negative

  • (intentionally left blank)

Equipment used for review

Setup #1

Clearaudio Magnum turntable w/ Tangent tonearm and Zyx R50 Bloom cartridge -> Clearaudio Basic Symmetry phono pre -> AK-100 (my own design and DIY) tube headphone amplifier -> X3i

Setup #2

Acer Aspire 4520G -> X3i

Setup #3

Sony Ericsson K750i -> X3i