Before starting this review, I would like to share technical aspects and package details.
Also, I would like to thanks to Penon Audio for this great opportunity. Here is the link of the ISN H40: https://penonaudio.com/isn-audio-h40.html
Brand: ISN Audio
Driver:3 Balanced Armature + 1 Dynamic driver
Dynamic driver: 9.2mm
3 Balanced Armature: Custom 1 BA for middle Frequency + composite 2BA for high frequency
Impedance: 22 Ω @1khz
Sensitivity: 105 ± 3dB @1khz
Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
Cable length: 1.2M
7 pairs of silicon tips
2 pairs of foam tips
Earphone and cable
THX AAA 789 + Topping D50s
Astell & Kern AK120
Package, Design & Isolation;
ISN H40 comes in a fairly small size black box. All the cable, earphone, tips, everything are inside of a nylon carry case. There are 7 pairs of silicon tips and 2 sets of foam tips, I believe it’s easy to find the best one for you to fit your ears. There is also metal carabiner and cleaning tool. Carabiner attaches nylon carrying case and it can be secured on a backpack, pants belt loops or anywhere you can imagine. Carrying case is pretty small and it fits in your pocket of your jacket. Nylon case looks a bit cheap but it does its job. On the contrary of the carrying case, stock cable feels premium and looks gorgeous. 8 braid design makes the cable pretty thick but soft material is easy to carry and it’s not heavy. Cable color is silver but its material is silver plated copper. Termination color is glossy black as well as y-splitter and jack. H40 has only one-color option which is black. Black shells and combination with gold ISN logos on the faceplates are looks premium and metal gold nozzle supports the look. Shell is not small and not big either. It nicely sits on ear and comfortable to wear for long hours without any fatigue or pain.
Recently, ISN H40 is one of the most surprising and impressive earphone I’ve ever listened. Aside from the build quality and amazing stock cable, it’s also great earphone with its sound performance. ISN H40 has a very good performance that will embarrass many expensive earphones with its sound quality. It definitely has a sound far above its price.
H40 is successful in all areas in terms of sound and is one of the best in the high frequencies. In general, many earphones perform in one or two frequency regions instead of achieving optimum performance at all frequencies, but the H40 is truly successful in all frequency areas. The extension and level of detail of the treble are compete with many expensive earphones. Instrument separation is very good and background sounds are easy to hear. The overall tonality is soft and there is absolutely no harsh or sibilance. It does not show any sign of harshness or uncontrolled presentation, even at high volume. It helps to expand the stage with the effect of its airy presentation.
The clean presentation continues in the mids. Mid frequency is slightly behind of other frequencies with quite soft and smooth tonality. You do not hear any harsh or unnatural presentation. Instrument sounds are also very natural and have a very good detail. I would like to say that it’s sound tremendous with Le Trio Joubran – Douja. The string instrument is very clean and natural, and also highly textured. The natural atmosphere also allows it to create a realistic soundstage. The vocals are slightly forward and centered on the stage. As with instruments, vocals are pretty smooth and have creamy performance. There is not a face-to-face presentation with such vocal, it’s slightly forward. The airy and clean presentation of mids also helps with the perception of soundstage and has a very good width feeling. The instruments disperse freely in to stage and help you to focus and listen to any instrument.
The bass performance is absolutely awesome. It’s extremely powerful and deep, also natural and realistic. The potential of the dynamic driver is very well used and the coherence between the drivers are great. The bass is very clean, well defined and have all kinds of drum strokes and controls. Although bass cannot go too deep in the sub-bass region, it offers sufficient performance. In terms of quantity, it is more than enough for EDM type music and offers a great experience with many tracks that I listen to. Although bass is quite powerful, it also surprises with its speed and tightness. I tested it with a lot of fast tracks and it shows great control without losing it. Under $500, it’s one of the best dynamic drivers I have listened to in terms of control. I have listened to a lot of dynamic earphones with a similar amount of bass and only a few had such good control like H40 has. Also, there is no situation that dominates the mids and high frequencies. I haven’t heard any bleeding into the mids.
The soundstage of the H40 is quite wide and I can easily say that it is above the average in this price range. Vocals, instruments and sounds spread over a very wide area and offer a spacious concert. The stereo feeling is pretty good and can create a sense just like speakers. The stage depth is also very successful and it is good at imaging and layering. The background is black enough to provide clean presentation.
Effect Audio Ares:
EE Ares is a really great cable and I alwaya try with my earphones when I write a review, and it never lets me down with its performance. H40 and Ares are really good combination. Bass becomes more controlled and tighter while mids are slightly recessed but it doesn’t sacrifice its details and trebles are surprisingly still extended and sparkly. Soundstage keeps the same both depth and wideness or I couldn’t hear any significant changes.
Penon Audio Leo+
Leo+ is my new favorite cable from Penon Audio and I really like its sound. With H40, it’s good combination but it might not be good for everyone. The most significant change is on the bass side. After swapping the Leo+, the first thing that I’ve noticed that bass becomes more in quantity and slightly pushes the lower mids. This is apparent with EDM kind music but you might hear other bassy genres as well. On the other hand, bass is more powerful and hitting harder which gives extra energy to H40, that is good for who wants more impact and power on lower ends. Mids become more forward and it improves silky sound of H40 in good way. Trebles’ quantity maybe stays the same but definitely there is some improvement. Instruments are way easy to pick up and there is more air and space between the instruments. Soundstage is another big step up from stock cable. It gives fresh air and space that instruments need.
ISN H40 vs Final Audio B1:
Final Audio B1 is very impressive earphone and it’s almost 3 times expensive than the H40 but I decided to compare it because of their similar sound performance. Both earphones are hybrid; B1 has 1dynamic driver + 1 balanced armature driver while H40 has 1 dynamic driver with 3 balanced armature drivers. B1’s material and build quality is top notch and it looks more elegant and feels better than H40. On the other hand, H40 has great build and material quality. Both earphones are comfortable in ears, but H40 provides better feeling in long hours. Sound; they are sharing similar smooth, clean presentation. Trebles are smooth while extended on both earphones. B1 shows slightly sharper edges on trebles but still provides smooth and rounded presentation while H40 is safer with its smooth trebles. Both are extended pretty well and shows lots of details but B1 is slightly better to provide details but there are no big differences. Maybe just some nuance is more prominent. Mids are laid back on both earphones and they have slightly forward vocal presentation. Actually, they are very similar in this area, especially low mids are bodied and tonality is almost the same. Details are great on both and H40 is somewhat has better texture with more romantic sound. H40’s bass has better control, dynamics and power than B1 which reaches deeper and hits harder. B1 has also great control and dynamics but H40 is something else when I compare side by side. Soundstage has similar wideness and depth; differences are not significant.
ISN H40 vs Rhapsodio RDB Gen2:
Rhapsodio RDB Gen2 is a great earphone for its price and I really enjoy to listen with all genres. RDB has 1 dynamic driver + 2 balanced armature drivers while H40 1 dynamic driver and 3 balanced armatures as we know. Both earphones are beautifully made and they are so comfortable in ears. Surprisingly their sound signature is similar and they are differing in some minor areas. Both earphones are similar in bass quantity and impact but control side is better on H40. RDB is pushing and dominating to lower mids more when I listen side by side. Mids are laid back on both earphones but H40 is slightly more forward and it’s especially more obvious with vocal tracks. RDB has more in quantity and extend better than H40, but on the other hand it is closer to red line of sibilance, so you might hear some sibilance with your sources. Trebles are well extended and sparkle in both earphones and details levels are very similar but details are easier to catch with RDB. Soundstage has similar wideness and depth, and hard to tell the differences to be honest.
ISN H40 vs Audiosense T800:
T800 is very good earphone for its price and like H40, its sound performance is way above from its price tag. Actually, these are two different designed earphones with their driver’s configuration. T800 has fully balanced armature drivers inside while H40 is hybrid earphone. Both earphones are beautifully made, ergonomics are great on both. T800 is warmer in tonality with thicker and bolder presentation while H40 has more traditional V-shape sound signature. Treble are airier and more extended on H40 and it’s more articulated while T800 is smoother and it feels more intimate when I compare side by side. Detsails are more obvious and up front with H40. Midsand vocals are more forward, lush and warm on T800. Instruments are thicker and bolder. H40 is slightly more recessed and there is more distance between you and vocals. Bass quantity is almost similar but still H40 is more powerful, deeper and rumbled as we expected from its dynamic driver while T800 is slightly faster and has better control on bass area. Both earphones bass performance is great with different presentation. Soundstage has better width and depth feeling on H40 and instruments play wider area while T800 is slightly narrower than H40, but still has good soundstage.
ISN H40 is a fantastic earphone for this price. It’s so powerful in low end, silky smooth in mids and detailed in trebles, all in all easy and safer choice for the most people. Easy to love tuning and high quality craftmanship are the key words of H40. 4-5 years before, you have to spend some money to hear good earphones, but nowadays no need to spend thousands of dollars to get high quality sound earphone, and I can easily say that H40 is one of them. Its sound performance is above its price and it might be the best earphone under $500 I’ve ever listened to.