Amazon.com Review: Sleek Audio SA6 Lets You Build Your Perfect Headphone
Thirty years of creating high-end hearing aids have given Sleek Audio a unique take on earphone design. The SA6 is the first completely adjustable in-ear monitor; meaning that the user can physically customize the headphone's equalization characteristics through a set of interchangeable bass ports and treble tips. Various endpieces governing the earphone's bass and treble are included in the package, letting you literally build the kind of headphone that sounds the way you prefer.
Sleek Audio SA6 Design and Accessories
| | The SA6 comes with modular ports, multiple tips, and a cleaning tool
The SA6 arrives in a fit and finish that that certainly lives up to the Sleek name. Packaging is tastefully minimalistic, and the case and earphones are outfitted in a stylish black and chrome scheme that looks futuristic without appearing overly flashy. The kit comes with three sets of bass adjustment ports, three sets of treble adjustment tips, and three sets of differently sized silicone ear tips. It also includes a cleaning pick, which is important because in-ear monitors sit deeply inside of the ear canal and can become clogged with wax over time.
These earphones are surprisingly small, even when compared to other in-ear models. They are significantly smaller than the Ultimate Ears Super.fi and Shure E2c; and while thinner in profile, they are only slightly larger overall than V-Moda's Vibe earphones. When inserted, they barely stick out from the ear and are quite comfortable to wear when you're lying on one side.
In-ear earphones, or "canalphones", use the ear canal as the resonating chamber for the sound they produce. Sleek Audio argues that no two people have the same listening experience with standard canalphones, since their ear canals are shaped differently. This design philosophy has resulted in the totally modular and customizable design of the SA6. Their Variable Equalization System uses interchangeable bass ports and treble tips to physically alter the earphone's sound reproduction characteristics, allowing the user to personalize their listening experience.
The bass ports plug into the rear of the headphone unit. The Bass- port is essentially a solid rubber plug. The neutral Bass port is hollow, and the Bass+ port is hollow with a small hole in the rear wall. Each of these affect the earphone's ability to "breathe", and result in some fairly significant changes in bass quality and amount.
The treble tips are inserted into the front of the unit, and each has different type of material inside of it that alters high-frequency sounds. The yellow Treble- tip appears to have an opaque fabric mesh, the green neutral tip appears to have a thin fabric mesh, while the gray Treble+ tip has a thin metal screen.
Changing either of these is a simple task, however the bass ports seem to pop off a little too easily. Losing them is not much of a concern though, since you have to slip a fingernail underneath to get at them. The treble tips lock in with a double-flange design. They pull straight out with a bit of force, and require the same to snap back into place.
Following the SA6 design trend, the cord is also modular and disconnects from each of the earphone units. This allows it to either hang directly down from the earphones, or it can be rotated up and looped around the top of the ear. Unfortunately, the Left and Right channel designations stamped on to the earphone jacks are fairly difficult to see under normal use. This often leads me to resort to trial-and-error to find out if I've put them in correctly most of the time. The cable has a Y-split and an adjustable bolo slider which significantly cuts down on cord microphonics.
While the earphones are detachable, they take a bit of force to remove from the cord and I have no worries about losing them. It has gold-plated contacts on both the earphone jacks and the 3.5mm mini-jack. Additionally, the mini-jack is on a compact right-angle plug and it has a very robust tension relief sleeve to protect the connection.
Sleek Audio has definitely worked magic with the dual-flanged silicone ear tips. They come in three sizes--8mm, 10mm and 12mm--and are very comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time. Although the ear tips are thin and flexible, they do an excellent job of isolating you from outside sound. In fact, I decided to mow my yard while wearing them and was very pleased to find that I could hardly hear the lawn mower with my Creative Zen 16GB at half volume.
Sonic Performance: How It Sounds
| | Build your perfect headphone with the SA6's fully modular design--
the parts you choose affect your sound
The neutral bass ports result in well-defined but slightly underpowered low and mid-bass. Kick drums are clean, while bass from acoustic and electronic sources sounds wide-bodied but not blown out and boomy. The Bass- ports noticeably zap low bass response, but they affect mid-bass to a much smaller degree. I'm not a fan of highly "colored" bass response, so I was expecting to enjoy the Bass+ port the least. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the low and mid-bass pick up the power that was missing from the neutral bass port. However, the trade-off is that a bit of clarity and speed is lost. Lower electronic bass is affected the most here, and is most noticeable in complex passages of music. That said, the effect wasn't great enough to make me switch back to the more anemic neutral ports.
Midrange and treble are where the SA6 really shines. The vocal range is clean and detailed without sounding clinical or cold. Midrange sounds are only slightly affected by the choice of treble tip, which goes to show that the bass ports and treble tips work as intended and only alter their respective ranges. The choice of treble tip doesn't color music to the degree that the bass ports do. The Treble- and neutral treble tips sound very similar: smooth, natural and clean. The Treble- tip does make a noticeable cut in the high-end volume though. Using the Treble+ tip gives the SA6 a marked response in the extension of high-end frequencies. Unlike the Bass+ port, the Treble+ tip trades off nothing to make its gain. There isn't any harshness or distortion to fatigue you, just additional clarity and brilliance that all music can benefit from.
Conclusion: Great Sound, Versatile, Comfortable
Sleek Audio is certainly off on the right foot with the SA6. Its modular customization isn't just a gimmick--it actually works, and can make a noticeable change in the character of an already well-balanced earphone. They are very comfortable and are easy to wear for extended periods of time. Losing parts is admittedly a minor risk, however you would probably have to engage in extreme physical activity to do it. Even so, all parts are easily replaceable from the manufacturer. If you are someone who likes to tweak your gear and are looking for a high-quality earphone upgrade, you can't go wrong with the Sleek Audio SA6. --Jon Dale (photos by Chrissy Mayor) What's In the Box
Multipack ear tips, tip cleaning tool, treble tuning ports, bass tuning ports, and carrying case.
- Standard Cable: 60 inches
- Impedance: 50 ohm
- DC Resistance: 24 ohm
- Speaker Type: Ultra Wide Band Balanced Armature Driver with Custom Porting
- Sensitivity: 110 dB SPL/mW