The Roar’s Here – iBasso AM05 BA IEMs
AM05 is a new IEM released by iBasso, and this is the green version, with a better looking one, blue, in the wild. The price is about 300 USD, so they will be compared to The Periodic Audio Carbon, Final Audio B2, and FiiO FA7. Despite having 5 BA drivers, it has a unique sound, but it is not picky, so the pairings will include iBasso DX160, Lotoo Paw S1, and Earmen TR-AMP.
iBasso doesn’t really need an introduction, they are pretty much the best DAP maker in terms of consistency, they just have been consistent with their DAPs, they offer an awesome warranty, and if you don’t know much about iBasso, they are best known for their DAPs, like the DX220, DX220 MAX, DX160 and even their entry-level variants like the DX120 is simply outstanding even now.
That being said, it should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with iBasso, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank iBasso for providing the sample for this review, with me being responsible for paying the custom taxes. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in iBasso AM05 find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
The package is actually quite similar to what IT01S comes with, which is not great considering the steep price difference, AM05 being quite a bit more pricy.
On the other hand, iBasso went again with their excellent cable design, where you can use the same cable as a balanced and as a single ended cable. There’s a good selection of tips, and the carrying case is practical, earning the AM05 an actually good grade for the overall package.
What to look for when purchasing a high-end In-Ear Monitor
The build of the AM05 is simple, plastic all around, but the plastic is of an excellent quality. There’s actually a good selection of tips and the IEMs are rather ergonomic, making them really easy to use regardless of the ear size. AM05 is not exactly small, but it is one of the rare IEMs that I can easily recommend to those with smaller ears too.
The green color was not my favorite to be honest, the blue looks a bit better, but the green has its own charm for those who love green eyes. The IT01S tends to look a bit better, in overall, but I feel like the AM05 is built better, the MMCX connectors are of an excellent quality too.
The passive noise isolation is insane, 20 dB to 25 dB, being an all BA design. The good part is that the void is not very prominent, so you don’t feel like the IEMs are sucking out your eardrums, so it is comfortable, even for long periods of listening. There’s no cable microphonic noise, there’s no inherent issue to the wearing. The MMCX connectors are slightly on the tight side, and it can be a bit tricky to take the cables out, but AM05 doesn’t pose an issue if you decide to go for a different cable. iBasso does not sell the cable separately, so they had a custom configuration made for AM05, which is both flexible, ergonomic and sounds pretty good, being made to work well with the AM05.
There’s a wide selection of tips included and bundled with AM05, but for the absolute best sound, I totally recommend AM05 foam tips. They have a tinner overall sound by default, with a stronger treble, so foam would compliment the default sound the best. Despite being an all-BA design, the headroom is good, so you can both take them quite loud, but also EQ the AM05 quite a bit without distortion (3-4 dB), something which can’t be said about Final B3.
I would recommend the iBasso IT01 or IT01S for more bass though, they have an incredibly strong and tasteful low-end.
The synergy is great with DX120, DX160 and DX220. I could also say that it sounds great out of DX220 MAX, but that’s a pretty large DAP, and FiiO M11 PRO, as well as something tiny like HIDIZS AP80 PRO all do a great job in driving AM05. High SPL, paired with an average impedance of 32 OHMs mean that AM05 is not only fairly easy to drive, but not very sensitive to hiss, so even Hiby R6 would work alright.
AM05 can be described as somewhat thin, balanced, the midrange is quick, precise, but slightly recessed in the lower mids, the bass has a slightly warm presentation in the 100 Hz area, while the sub-bass is mostly linear, without much coloration. Clarity and detail are strong points, although the midrange has a peak in the 1-2 kHz, while the treble is natural. The sound is somewhat thin, light, snappy, and sweet.
The bass is quick, doesn’t roll off, but is quite flat. There’s not much warmth, although there’s a hint of magic in the 100Hz range. After that, it tends to be slightly recessed, so AM05 is not for thick or dark and rich signature lovers. The bass is easily described by the speed and precision, and if quantity is what you’re looking for, IT01S is totally more able to satisfy.
Talking about reasons to get AM05 instead of IT01S, the detail, clarity and vocal presence are top notch. This comes at the cost of the sound not being very bodied, but the textures are presented with excellent detail, without being harsh or fatiguing. The sound is exciting, you can hear many details even in pianos, the presentation has a beautiful musicality, with a sweet tilt, so sadder songs aren’t presented quite as sad.
The treble tends to have a slight drop after 8kHz, but it doesn’t roll off entirely. This makes for good air and stage, without the entire sound being fatiguing or too treble-happy. This was a slight issue with It04, which had a pretty strong and ethereal treble, where AM-05 is more natural.
iBasso AM05 vs Periodic Audio Carbon (300 USD vs 400 USD) – Periodic Audio Carbon has a simpler design, which is mainly made to be incognito, a great sound, but within a very simple and basic design. The comfort is better for AM05, it has less microphonic noise, the IEM fits better with most years, and they tend to sit better in both larger and smaller ears, while the Carbon works well mainly for large ears. The package is better for AM05, with a better carrying case, and they have a better cable. The sound is light, snappy, clear, detailed for AM05, while it is deep, bassy, explosive, incredibly heavy, and thick for the Carbon. AM05 is mid-centric, while the midrange takes a second place in the Carbon.
iBasso AM05 vs Final Audio B2 (300 USD vs 300 USD) – B2 is considerably more colored in terms of sound, despite having a somewhat more attractive design, and a slightly better package (thanks to the Final Tips, which are regarded as being some of the best on the market today). The sound of AM05 is very natural, slightly sweet, fun and engaging, while B2 is colored, somewhat thick and smooth in the treble, they don’t have nowhere the same detail and clarity as AM05, although if you want something thicker, with a full body, which is relaxing and has Final’s outstanding design, the B2 still makes an interesting option at 300 USD.
iBasso AM05 vs FiiO FA7 (300 USD vs 300 USD) – FiiO FA7 has a better package, but AM05 has a slightly better ergonomic, especially for smaller ears, where FA7 still works well, but for medium and larger ears. The sound is basically a one-trick pony for FA7, still, a bassy, colored, full, deep, thick sound that’s extremely fun to listen to at first, but which gets boring after a while, as it lacks treble extension and detail. This being said, for those who find treble to be fatiguing easily, FA7 is a perfect choice, where those who love a clear, sweet midrange, and want a quicker, snapper sound, will happily go for AM05.
The pairing list includes iBasso DX160, Lotto Paw S1, and Earmen TR-AMP. The list could go on forever, and pairing with iBasso DAPs gives an excellent result, while pairing with entry-level and affordable sources is not only possible, but also has an excellent result.
iBasso AM05 + iBasso DX 160 (300 USD + 400 USD) – DX160 is the natural pairing DAP for the AM05, because not only it has a very natural sound, but you have access to streaming services, a quick OS, and a reliable overall DAP. The Wifi Signal is great, at least has been so far on my unit, the battery life is pretty great too, and you even have a great EQ programmed by iBasso if you want to slightly tweak and play with the settings of the AM05.
iBasso AM05 + Lotoo Paw S1 (300 USD + 170 USD) – Paw S1 is another thing to drive the AM05 with, and it is great because it has a dynamic, clear, punchy sound, which compliments the AM05 nicely, but it also has EQ, even a few presets, and none of which distort with AM05, so you end up with a lot of options to listen to AM05, imagine pairing the detail, clarity and snappy nature of AM05 with more bass, or even more treble, or even a V-Shaped presentation. The price is a bit high for S1, but it can drive full-sized headphones too, making a great portable DAC/AMP for a long time to come.
iBasso AM05 + Earmen TR-AMP (300 USD + 250 USD) – TR-AMp does not have many tricks like Eq up its sleeve, but the default sound is great, has a lot of driving power, great battery life, and during the main Corona Isolation time, it has been a trusty partner for me, as I kept spending more and more time at the computer with a fairly minimalistic setup on hand.
Value and Conclusion
AM05 has an excellent overall value, great comfort, provides a really good detail / clarity and revealing abilities for the price, the package has a nice carrying case, and they come with a nice cable.
Not only that, but you get a large selection of cables, along with iBasso’s excellent concept of having one cable that works both as a balanced and as a Single Ended cable. When designing it, the guys at iBasso made sure that you could use AM05 with a few dB of EQ so if you’re not entirely happy with the default tuning, you can tweak it slightly.
But I recommend getting it mainly if you like the default signature, because for other signatures there are many options, including IT01-S, if you’re into traditional V-Shaped signatures.
The sig of AM05 is what you’d expect out of a mid-forward, slightly lighter, snappier, sweeter IEM with an excellent amount of detail and clarity. They are also easy to pair with any DAP, from DX120 all the way to DX220 MAX.
At the end of this review, if you’re looking for a comfy IEM that isolates well from the outside noise, something to use for many years from now on, with iBasso’s great support, if you’re looking for a light, snappy, mid-forward, clear and detailed signature, AM05 is one of the best IEMs at 300 USD, for this kind of signature.
Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.
I hope my review is helpful to you!