Before I go on, I’d like to thank the folks at Woodees for sending me a sample of the Woodees IESW101B in ear monitors for review.
Wood has long been used in the manufacturing of musical instruments because of its acoustic properties. One application of wood that has failed to really take off is in the world of in ear monitors. Sure, there are a few well known IEMs that have been crafted out of wood but the IEM market is thoroughly dominated by plastics and metal.
A Canadian firm by the name of iConnects is looking to change that and has developed two wooden IEMs under the name “Woodees” for the mid-fi marketplace. Both IEMs are virtually the same with their primary difference being their color scheme and a microphone for use with the iPhone and other smartphones that accept microphone input through their 3.5mm audio jack. I have the sans-microphone version on hand and I have taken my time in putting these through their paces.
So, do the wooden enclosures produce the type of rich, detailed sound that is pleasing to the ear or does everything sound like a muddy mess? Read on to find out.
Packaging and Accessories
The Woodees arrived in a nice cardboard box, showing off the IEMs and proudly proclaiming that “Wood Sounds Richer”. Inside the package are four pairs of silicone single flange tips, a black velour carrying pouch and a generic shirt clip. On the whole, the packaging is pretty standard but the accessory package is better than average.
Design and Build Quality
As the name betrays, the Woodees IEMs are comprised of wooden housings but feature metallic nozzles and metal mesh filters. The housings themselves are well designed and polished and feel durable but they are a bit on the long side and will protrude from people’s ears quite a bit. Extending down from the housings is a decently flexible rubber strain relief that immediately reminds me of my other wooden IEMs, the Kanen KM 92s. At the Y-split, there’s a small but functional strain relief extending from the split to the cable that leads into the decently relieved 3.5mm plug. On the whole, I like the design of the Woodees IEMs and they feel like they would be able to take a decent amount of abuse.
Comfort and Fit
Getting a good fit with the Woodees is important for getting the best sound quality out of them and that, for me, was a trickier proposition than I’d expected. Using the small single flanges and then the longer small single flanges provided the best fit for my small ear canals and I quickly noticed that these were very sensitive to insertion depth, like the MEElectronics M9s before them but even more so. With the M9s, I was able to insert both of the earpieces in the same depth to get the best sound. With the Woodees, the seal is different with each ear, with one going in further than the other. While I highly doubt that my case is typical, I don’t doubt that some users will have some issues getting these fitted for the best sound. Once a good seal has been achieved, isolation is just slightly below average, even when using de-cored black foams. Overall, the iEMs are fairly comfortable and easy to use but they just take some time getting used to as far as fit.
Burn in: These IEMs were given no less than 30 hours of burn in. It’s worth noting that the sound signature changes considerably for the better after being burned in for about 20 hours or so and with that in mind, I highly recommend that you burn these in for a similar amount of time. Trust me, it’s worth it.
I had more than a few preconceived notions about the Woodees before I actually used them purely because of their wooden housings. Honestly, I was expecting these to be bass cannons. Bass cannons with rich, textured sound and decent tightness, but bass cannons nonetheless. I am happy to say that I was wrong. The low end is pronounced but only as much as it needs to be. If anything, I’d refer to it as understated. Extension isn’t particularly amazing as the low end begins to roll off after 100Hz or so but it still remains very linear and has good resolution and impact. Bass is warm, tight and rich on top of being well controlled so that it doesn’t spill over the mids in the slightest bit and it’s actually rather refreshing to listen to.
Straight out of the box, mids had a somewhat grainy sort of texture that was certainly off-putting at first but with burn in, the graininess has more or less disappeared, making the midrange sound smoother and more detailed. Clarity throughout the midrange is nice and somewhat analytical with a touch of warmth to keep them from sounding thin.
Highs are detailed and have a nice sparkle and shimmer to them but sometimes, they can become a bit strident. Treble clarity is very nice but because of this occasional sibilance, they can be a bit bothersome to listen to. Foam tips such as de-cored Shure black foams (olives) can help attenuate these treble peaks but one solution I’ve found is to EQ down the lower treble/upper mids by a few decibels which helps reduce some of the sharpness.
The soundstage is decently wide and deep, certainly no giant killers in this regard and leads to a fairly intimate sound. Imaging and positioning are both decent and instrument separation was good.
The Woodees’ sound signature can be described as somewhat thin and analytical but retains enough of a fun factor to keep things interesting. The warmth of the low end, smoothness of the midrange and sparkle of the highs all combine together into a signature that’s very good for the price. While the highs can be a bit harsh and the mids a tad edgy, the sound signature doesn’t suffer from these heavily enough to be a serious annoyance and with the right equalizing and eartips, the faults can be smoothed out so that you’re left with a very good sounding pair of IEMs.
Value and Conclusion
The Woodees IESW101B IEMs retail for $59.99 but can be found online at many retailers for about $20 less. At $40, these are a very capable pair of IEMs that perform admirably for the price. The sound signature which is a nicely balanced mixture of analytical and “fun” sounds is one that is certainly very appealing but seems as though it could be polarizing to some users. On the whole, the sound signature is very good for the price.
As a whole, I like what iConnects has done with the Woodees IEMs. Their sonic character is one that I find to be very enjoyable and well worth the purchase price. These IEMs surprised me and were far from what I had expected considering that they are made of wood. In my experience, wooden enclosures typically lead to a very warm, thick and bass heavy sound signature but that’s not what I heard from the Woodees which may be a disappointment to some but I imagine that the sound signature that they do output isn’t going to turn off too many people. So, if you have $40 to spend on a new pair of earphones/IEMs, the Woodees are a great all-around choice that I can easily recommend.