A Little-Known Earbud Begging to Be Discovered
Unexpected, sublime, epic. That is how I would describe the Baldoor E100. Its stunning tone and low price redefines what high fidelity should sound like. One could easily pass on these earbuds, and who could blame them? They don’t have a big brand label stuck on them.
Earbuds have gone out of favor in recent times due to the popularity of IEMs. But thanks to the rise of Chi-Fi manufacturers and support within the audiophile community, earbuds have gained popularity once again, slowly but surely.
Big brands like Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Sony no longer focus on earbuds as their core product strategy. Sure, you might find one or two in their entire product range, but these are usually cheap buds and nowhere near audiophile-level sound quality.
Earbuds work better for certain occasions—at the office or gym where you need awareness of your surroundings. And if you, like me, enjoy listening to music while lying on the couch or while taking a nap, then earbuds offer the best comfort. Try lying on your side with a full-sized headphone—not very practical.
Unexpected, sublime, epic. The Baldoor’s stunning tone and low price redefines what high fidelity should sound like.
Finding and collecting earbuds is both fun and frustrating. Within the audiophile community, there is a consensus for which earbuds are generally considered okay or great. That list doesn’t grow as fast as IEMs, obviously. So each time a new earbud is launched, we get all excited about it. Of course, finding out that it costs $200 makes everyone go meh.
But every once in a while, a manufacturer comes along and surprises us with a brilliant earbud that doesn’t hurt our wallets.
The Baldoor E100 is that surprise.
Released in early 2015, the Baldoor E100 was originally manufactured by Chintek, a Chinese manufacturer. Since then, another company—GranVela Mrice—has successfully cloned the Baldoor E100 rather quickly, even to the point of giving it the exact same name. Both brands look and sound exactly the same, with the exception of GranVela Mrice being more well-made.
For around $20, the Baldoor E100 offers stunning tone normally reserved for headphones or IEMs costing hundreds of dollars.
Why did the Baldoor E100 gain traction within the audiophile community so quickly? Simply put: it offered great sound at an affordable price. Its price-to-value ratio just cannot be beat. For around $20, the Baldoor E100 offers stunning tone normally reserved for headphones or IEMs costing hundreds of dollars.
The design of the Baldoor E100 resembles Beats in terms of color scheme and style. The earbud wire is housed in a red, V-shaped cable designed to prevent tangling. The driver is housed in an earbell-shaped case with no external stem connecting to the cable. This unique design allows the listener to customize the in-ear fit, something not be possible in a traditional earbud or IEM design (more on this later).
The straight-angle jack is 3.5mm gold-plated. The E100 comes with an inline microphone control, or with a non-mic version. Two sets of ear foams are provided: one standard, the other donut-shaped. L and R markings indicate the left and right channels respectively.
It outperforms many premium brands, including the Sennheiser MX980 earbud.
The E100 also comes in black or white. This is where the Beats similarity ends. While most Beats headphones are manufactured for a tenth of the price they are sold at, the E100 is sold for even less than a tenth of that. It outperforms many premium brands, including the Sennheiser MX980 earbud originally costing $198 (a decent earbud at its time of release). Why? Because of the similar components used in expensive brands and generic Chinese products.
The Baldoor E100 manages to combine great-sounding tone with good looks; not a lot of Chi-Fi earbuds look this good. Except for brands like the Astrotec Lyra and the Celsus Sound Gramo One, most Chinese earbuds tend to be a little lacklustre in the design department.
I’ve had the Baldoor E100 (non-mic version) for 8 months, and they work perfectly even now. The triangle cable might be gimmicky to some, but they do prevent cable tangling. I’ve not experienced signal degradation or loss in either of the drivers, and the cable has held up well. Every single component works. I can’t say the same for my Yuin PK-3, which lost some bass in its right driver after a year, despite costing twice that of the Baldoor E100.
I’m certain the E100 will continue to hold up well. As with most Chi-Fi buds, I tend to take extra care when handling them. That means not cramming them in a bag with other stuff, tugging on the cable with unnecessary force, or dropping the earbuds on a table top carelessly.
The Baldoor E100 does have a little quirk to its design which affects the sound quality, not dramatically but a little.
The following applies to all earbuds—always use the ear foams that come with your eabuds. The reason IEMs are popular is they have good sound isolation and prevent sound from leaking in and out. With earbuds, you have to make sure they don’t roll around in your ears. That’s where the foam cushions come in – they keep the earbuds in place.
The Baldoor E100’s impressive stereo-imaging and clarity is simply stunning.
I’m not kidding, but some E100 enthusiasts have found that inserting the earbuds sideways improves the bass resonance. I’ve never had success with this method; the earbuds either fall out or the fit just seems wrong and sound ends up leaking out. What worked for me was instead of placing the earbud straight in my ear like with most conventional earbuds, I would position its angle slightly towards my ear canal. It’s a fine balance because you don’t want to overdo the angle positioning. Similar to wearing an IEM, it’s important to get the fit right at first.
The Baldoor E100’s impressive stereo-imaging and clarity is simply stunning. Soundstage is expansive, and more spacious compared to some closed-back headphones. There is an amazing depth of sound, and instruments don’t sound congested. It’s almost unbelievable when you consider its price. Overall, I’d say the E100 sounds huge and well-separated, but not too separated and over-analytical.
The Baldoor E100 has a warm tone, mainly due to the large measure of bass which almost sounds subwoofer-like. It’s the only earbud I’ve tested so far with the biggest bass, but never muddy-sounding. Very impressive for an earbud.
Midrange is not lacking. There is clarity in the upper mid-range which makes for an energetic, lively and fun tone. Try listening to vocal tracks and you’ll notice the E100’s engaging mids. The E100 scores high points in realism factor.
Even though I described the E100 as having a warm tone, it doesn’t mean the high-end is sacrificed. In fact, the E100 has brilliant highs. The treble retains its smoothness. At times the upper high-end can be a little bright, but never overly-sibilant or hissy. It’s just that on fast or heavy tracks laden with plenty of distorted guitars or drum cymbals, the treble has a hard time keeping up.
There is clarity in the upper mid-range which makes for an energetic, lively and fun tone
At very low volumes, the Baldoor E100 has a V-shaped EQ. Raise the volume up to moderate levels and the tone starts to open up; the V-tuning backs off and a natural-sounding tone appears. It’s as if the tone is responding to little volume nuances.
The E100’s tone is energetic and lively. I believe part of the reason is due to its large 16mm driver. Of course, some credit could be given to the engineers who designed its signature sound.
Don’t try to compare the Baldoor E100 with IEMs or high-end headphones. Sure, higher-priced cans may offer a better design and more accessories (my E100 came with two pairs of ear cushions: one standard and one donut). But if you consider the E100’s price and tone, you’ll be amazed at what this earbud offers, especially when branded manufacturers offer much less for buds costing 3–4 times that of the E100.
It boggles my mind that the Baldoor/GranVela Mrice E100 offers such stunning tone in a decent package costing $20. With that in mind, I consider the E100 an important addition to any audiophile’s collection.
The E100 is an important addition to any audiophile’s collection.