Tangzu Shimin Li – Trilogy Part ii
TForce Yuan Li is one of my favorite single dynamic driver IEMs in the plethora of budget Chifi mediocrity out there. It is one of the most balanced-sounding earphones with a matured tuning from originally an OEM/ODM company, TForce (now Tangzu).
Shimin Li is the second part of the “Trilogy” that carries the same vibe & bold aesthetic on the packaging rather than the typical weeb-pleaser with waifus that most companies adopted conscientiously. I have nothing against waifus as I simply prefer something more minimal or simpler in a package. Anyhow, the IEM unit itself is a bit “extravagant” for my taste that comes in shiny gold. There's also a tolerable silver color option which I think similar to Yuan Li. A little contrasted to the packaging theme the tone of the gold color seems, still I believe there will be people who will appreciate it.
It sports a 10mm dynamic driver that’s said “tuned to deliver a neutral and balanced sound output” and priced to play in a highly competitive bracket with a $35 tag a pair. The main question is, can it compete? Also, will Shimin Li fit the bill in the Trilogy?
*This unit is sent by Hifigo (Lvy Yan) in return for an honest review. I listen to everything stock, without any modifications, or additional accessories. My source is varied depending on the occasion. Apple Music, Tidal, local files, LG G7, Windows PC, and dongles for a week duration with no EQ.
On subjective listening, the sound signature of Shimin Li can be described as neutral with a bass boost that’s skewed towards a slightly warmer tonality for the lack of treble response. It’s also could be described as Harman but definitely not a V-shaped. The tuning is arguably one of the most safe-sounding among other sets I’ve tried in under $35 price segment.
FR & Tonality
Let me be frank, I’ll be nitpicking here. The first thing I notice with this set is the overall slightly “thonky” sound which I believe is the main issue of its tonality, or perhaps the tuning. The upper midrange has peaks without the appropriate treble loudness around 5kHz to 7kHz to compensate for a more natural & smoother listen. The lack of air response (or overtones) also makes the instrument like cymbal or metal percussion sounded a bit bland and less definition at times, but I bet it might be sufficient enough for some people. There’s no sibilance whatsoever coming out from this set.
Vocal reproduction is forward & satisfying. It’s quite natural or I could say, safe. Vocal lovers should consider this set. But there's a balance issue with the loudness of the frequency response that makes up for the occasional “shoutiness” in the upper midrange. This is believed to be related to the tuning more than the driver’s frequency response itself. For example, the nozzle length or the volume of the shell which directly affecting the resonance.
The bass is probably the best feature of this set. Good mid-bass punch and warmth without muddying the midrange. Ample sub-bass rumble though not that shattering low. I think I’m pleased with the bass.
In the real world, the tonality of Shimin Li is decently-good but the tuning could be better even for a budget set. Nothing spectacular or really bad to write home about. It’s tonally listenable or perhaps enjoyable to a certain extend at a moderate loudness level.
Shimin Li has a bass texture that I’d consider quite good. The whole resolution is pretty good for the price with an exception to its detail retrieval. The imaging is a little fuzzy especially on busy passages but it’s still fairly decent with a rather not thin nor thick note density. Instrument localization is not the worst though I think that’s pretty common with budget single dynamic driver IEMs, yet that’s the fact. The imaging is not its forte. Sound staging is average as it’s lacking in depth mostly, however the width is slightly wider than Tripowin Olina’s.
It has a quite organic timbre, by not being too bright or dark which is something that I could really enjoy at this age. In terms of dynamic, it’s a bit compressed especially on the treble. Firmly to say, dynamically it’s average for a dynamic driver. It’s a pity because I believe this is a good driver as it has potential based on the transient response alone. Perhaps some overhauling or retuning could save it and thus turning it into an excellent IEM.
Comparison & Valuation
Comparing to the (in)famous Blon BL03, Shimin Li easily wins in many departments perhaps except the timbre. BL03 has an arguably more pleasant or more “correct” timbre although tonally it’s not as ideal or “natural” as Shimin Li. In terms of resolution & imaging, the award goes to Shimin Li. I could say, it’s an upgrade for Blon BL03 though indirectly.
How about Tripowin MELE? I prefer Shimin Li against MELE any time. No doubt that Shimin Li is way better in terms of tonality & technical performance. I know it’s a matter of preference as it's a different tuning yet somewhat a different class too. Shimin Li also feels like a budget Yuan Li whereas Yuan Li has slightly more control & balance. Overall, they both are like the same thing with minor differences.
I honestly think that Tangzu is doing themselves either a kind of stationary or dilly-dally by going this route with releasing a budget IEM that’s probably not just indifferent or ordinary, but rather almost-good and also passable at the same time. Yuan Li was a good debut in my opinion. So, I was expecting something different with a more refined tuning that's tonally pleasant from a company that I really look forward to but it is what $35 is. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a service for the masses, specifically the community to have more choice for their little money.
Good thing listening to Shimin Li after a few days (because my first impression was not this good) is it reminded me of the good old times where my younger self was blasting some good music to his mind with cheap but decently functional earphones. To me, Shimin Li is just another decently functional earphone that some might find it adequate to satisfactory for their library. For $35, I think it’s worth the price and it fits fine in the Trilogy. Maybe add a matte-black finish too?
Star rating: 4.5/5 (price to performance)Tonality: 5.6/9
Pros – safe tuning, sibilance-less, organic timbre, good technicalities, build quality, ergonomics, accessories
Cons – lacking treble extension, shouty upper midrange, dynamics, finish option