Current testing methodology is v1.2
January 14, 2023
3.15 x 3.15 x 1.18 in
Tunnel vision is a very important pitfall to look out for when you’re coming up with new ideas.
It’s quite easy to get caught up on a cool idea only to lose sight of the bits that actually make something good.
The Joyodio Shine, a fresh earphone from what I thought at the time was a newcomer to the space, had a cool idea. An earphone with a tuning system that gave up to 16 combinations for you to play with.
It’s an earphone with basically a hardware EQ, and it’s a really cool idea. But cool ideas can only take you so far, and while I was optimistic, I had my reservations going in.
So go in I did, and here’s what I found.
An earphone with the gimmick of choice…that doesn’t really give you any.
Mysterious on the surface, the Joyodio Shine is in fact a KZ sub-brand earphone that rides or dies on the merits of its gimmick.
This approach sadly leaves the earphones compromised and disappointing.
- Headphone Type: Closed-back in-ear monitor
- Driver Type: 1x dynamic + 2x balanced armature hybrid
- Frequency Response: 20 – 40,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 106 dB
- Impedance: 20 Ohms
What’s in the Box?
- Joyodio Shine earphones
- Carrying case
- Tuning switch tool
- 3 x pairs of red silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- 3 x pairs of white silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- 1.2m silver-plated copper cable (3.5mm to 0.75mm 2-pin)
Stuff I like
- Simple, one-and-done fit
- Great handling of vocals
- Decent tonal balance
- Tuning switches are interesting to play with
Stuff I like less
- Strangely veiled midrange
- Alternative tunings feel kneecapped
- Included ear tips are infuriating to use
- Splashy treble
Comparable products to consider
The same gimmick is a lot less effective when done on a cheaper single dynamic driver—but the D-Fi sounds decent regardless.
A Bit of Background
If you haven’t heard of Joyodio before this review, you’re not alone—even I had no idea what this company was before these earphones arrived at my desk.
A quick look at the box showed that they were indeed another Chinese brand, but quick Google searches failed to pull up a website or any official front-facing marketing.
That was until I found out as I was reviewing the KZ ZAR that Joyodio was one of KZ’s own sub-brands. I’ll explain what I think of them later on in the review, but for now, let’s just say that I dropped my expectations quite a bit after that.
OK, so how does the tuning switch thing actually work?
Surprisingly, Joyodio and KZ are rather mum on this subject. Instead, they’ve opted to focus their marketing on the broad strokes, done in fluffy prose that would be great if read in the original Chinese but only comes off as embarrassing in their attempts to translate it into English.
(Word out to Chinese earphone manufacturers: don’t do this, please. 我们不要浪漫的著述.)
From what I’ve been able to gather from fragments of marketing materials from KZ’s other tuning-switch earphones, the Joyodio Shine seems to use what’s called a Zobel network to get this tuning system to work.
Some cursory reading tells me that this is a set of circuits that affects the impedance of the output (the earphone driver in this case), which therefore changes the sound a bit.
Outside of those that really hate seeing tech talk, this is really interesting.
And it pains me to see Joyodio’s marketing only go about this with vague buzzwords like “adjacent frequency band crosstalk suppression and phase compensation technology” – which isn’t exactly wrong, mind you, but just comes off as inauthentic and gimmicky.
They could say this thing is tuned with angel tears and it would have the exact same impression. But I digress.
On the bright side, going through the actual product felt a lot less pretentious.
The unboxing experience was on the nicer side, with boxes in boxes and foam inserts making for a fairly premium presentation.
The included carrying case is a standout. Wrapped in blue crocodile-patterned protein leather, it’s spacious and has a satisfyingly large zipper.
KZ isn’t a brand that I know for premium build quality – my experience with their iffy QC doesn’t do them any favors on that front.
That said, the Joyodio Shine does look and feel well-built.
Unlike the full-metal build of the D-Fi, the Shine opts for a two-piece setup with the metal half facing outward and the plastic half going into the ears. I imagine this was done to accommodate the 3D-printed sound tubes used to guide the sound of Shine’s 3 drivers into the ears.
The Shine’s marketing also takes some time out for its included cable, which I’ll admit is one of the nicer ones.
Featuring 8 strands of silver-plated copper, the cable is supple and the braids are tight enough to not leave any large open gaps in normal use.
Fit and Comfort
The Joyodio Shine’s housings are shaped in a way that makes for a simple fit and decent long-term comfort.
They’re a bit large, which is understandable given what’s in them, but they are otherwise easy to put on.
The only problem I have, though, is with their included ear tips. For whatever reason, they’ve gone with shallow tip depth with wide flanges – a shape that only makes a seal possible right at the entrance of the ear canal.
While this probably works for most people, it meant that, for me, all but the large-sized ear tips were practically useless.
It was nice for Joyodio to include two different sets of ear tips – the softer white ones and stiffer grey ones but having them share the same shape didn’t help.
If you have other ear tips at your disposal, I’d suggest using them for a better-fit experience.
As it so desperately wants you to believe, the Joyodio Shine isn’t meant to be any ordinary IEM. After all, it has 16 total tuning combinations you can use to find the sound you want.
But as I flipped through the switches and listened to what each tuning switch does, two things became clear to me.
The first was that there was no way I could do a review of each of the 16 tunings justice. Writing about the tiny differences between each of these switch combinations is too difficult to do without a measurement rig, which I don’t have.
Someone with the time to run the measurements would do that aspect justice far better than my measly ears ever could.
And second, I only found one tuning appealing to my ears: the one with all four switches set to ON (1111), described by the Shine’s included tuning guide as “Pop”.
Despite the implied meaning, “Pop” isn’t that. It’s more along the lines of a Harman-style tuning with a splashy treble.
And to me, turning switches off from this as a baseline feels like you’re giving up some part of the sound until you turn all switches OFF (0000)—a sound that’s lifeless, compromised, and disappointing.
So with this preface, this main sound assessment will be done with all switches ON (1111), since it is the best one for my ears and should keep me from ragging on the Shine too hard.
The Joyodio Shine’s bass sets us off to a good start. It has decent punch and extends down to the low end well enough without any noticeable bloat.
Indeed, even with the bass boost from the first switch, Shine’s low end is well controlled and doesn’t overwhelm the midrange even with Kan Sano’s “Don’t You Know The Feeling“, which has a very heavy kick that punctuates each beat.
Turning that bass switch down (0111) gives the Shine a more neutral flavor—muted but still has its mannerisms intact.
The midrange of the Joyodio Shine is where I’m most conflicted.
It is, on the surface, decently tuned and is balanced against the bass pretty well. BLU-SWING’s “Find Your Way” was a standout track for the Shine, deftly maintaining clarity for Yusuke Nakamura’s piano, Sho Kojima’s guitar, and Yuri Tanaka’s vocals.
And indeed, vocals are a high point of the Joyodio Shine.
It has a smoothness in its texture that treats both male and female vocals just as nicely—DEAN’s performance in “D (Half Moon)” is rendered especially well.
As I spent more time with them, though, there came the feeling that the Shine’s midrange is ever so slightly clouded. It’s fairly noticeable in songs like “Notre-Dame Est” by Anomalie.
For some reason, the Shine seems to cast a veil of sorts over the piano here in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on. Higher octaves on the keys get a strange peakiness, yet can’t quite capture the tactility of its attack.
It feels rolled-off on both the top end and the lower octaves that I feel shouldn’t happen since the earphones can capture the bass well enough.
This pull between a decent tonal balance and rather kneecapped details really has me confused as to how to conclude it.
I’m unfortunately the kind of listener that likes to listen for details, and like an unintentional pattern in an image, these awkward details stick out to me far more than they should now that I’ve noticed.
At least my mind is made up about the Joyodio Shine’s treble section—it’s quite alright.
Like the KZ ZAR, a bit of its bite is taken off to keep vocal sibilance under control, but not all of the treble frequencies are smoothed down to keep some sparkle back in the overall balance.
This targeted approach works as described, and it works quite well. The extra treble energy keeps percussion sparkly in songs like Up Dharma Down’s “Never“.
But being a targeted approach, it does leave behind some peaks. And as they tend to do, these peaks on the Shine stick out quite a bit.
Secret of Kaplan’s “Voyage” features a variety of sibilant sounds, and while the more direct “ss” vocal sounds are dulled down as expected, other sounds like the “tss” at the end of “T” sounds hit just outside of that treble dip and stab my eardrums.
A strong soundstage is another thing that these earphones don’t really have.
It’s not too bad in terms of size. Sure, it isn’t as impressive as a Simgot EA500, but it at least doesn’t sound cramped.
Unfortunately, this is kind of why it’s bad in the first place—the Shine is simply outclassed by others in its price range.
The EA500 is a very new earphone, sure, but we’ve already seen impressive soundstage and imaging abilities at the $80 price point from earphones like the Moondrop Aria Snow, the DUNU Titan S, and the Final Audio VR3000.
The Joyodio Shine faces such stiff competition nowadays that it needs to go above and beyond to be worth the attention. And sadly, this isn’t quite the case.
Of course, the Joyodio Shine still has its tuning system.
I’ve only just gone through one of the tunings in this review – there are 15 more just at my disposal, the manual tells me.
But as I mentioned earlier, I find it hard to go into detail about these alternatives because I neither have the equipment to measure their specific difference nor care about them since they sound compromised relative to the 1111 tuning.
There are a couple of interesting ones, though, which I will quickly describe in list form below:
- 0111 – A flatter tuning that reminds me of Etymotic earphones. Still shouty in the upper midrange, but otherwise pretty decent.
- 1000 – A smooth, bass-boosted tuning that’s warm and easy on the ears. Similar to the KZ ZAR but lags in clarity and bass power.
The Joyodio Shine is an earphone built around its tuning switch gimmick. As such, most of its $80 asking price rides or dies on whether or not you find those tuning switches both effective and useful.
To my ears, they’re indeed effective. Playing with the tunings was genuinely interesting for the first day or so that I used them.
There was this sense of exploration that came with the experience as I was going through the combinations to find the one I liked. But is it useful in the long term? I’m not so sure.
There’s some value in having a tuning system on headphones or earphones – you get to play around with slightly different sound signatures without needing a software EQ on your source device (which, let’s be honest, it’s unlikely to **not** have).
But once you do find the sound that you like, you end up with two issues.
First off, what value do the other 15 tuning settings have to you once you lock into a single tuning? Sure, there’s still some fun to be had playing with other settings you find interesting, but I’m sure most will just stick to that one tuning they like and ignore the rest.
More importantly, the tuning system itself is limited by the technical abilities of the earphones. No matter what tuning you use, you still get the veiled midrange, the unimpressive imaging, the bass that could be better, and a host of other qualities.
There’s value to be found in gimmicks. While they might come off as tacky, there’s always the chance of one good idea evolving from gimmick to innovation.
Whatever the case may be, though, it’s important to not neglect the fundamentals.
This is one of the problems that I have with KZ, and by extension, the Joyodio Shine.
More often than not, KZ tends to focus so much on pushing out interesting gimmicks and marketing bullet points when the earphones themselves just don’t sound very good.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Joyodio Shine isn’t a complete write-off. Its tuning system, tacky as it is, is genuinely cool and works as intended.
But the Shine’s own gimmick is held back by the earphones themselves not sounding all that impressive in the first place.
Its tuning system ends up being little more than the Instagram filter settings – a wide variety of flavors, some genuinely great, others not so, but all held back by the quality of the photo they’re applied to.
And the Joyodio Shine just isn’t a very good photo.
This post was last updated on 2023-12-03 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.