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HBB x Yanyin Mahina Review

Another Great Collab for 2022

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

It’s the year of collaborations in the audio, and today we have the latest coming from HawaiiBadBoy, AKA Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews, and Yanyin. The two have paired up to custom tune the company’s popular Moonlight IEM which released to much praise earlier this year. It’s a tribrid, complete with two Sonion electrostatic drivers, 4 Knowles balanced armatures, and a big 10mm dynamic driver, custom tuned by the Bad Boy himself. At $649, it’s an expensive bit of kit, but does a good job of earning its keep with excellent sound quality, plenty of bass, and a comfortable, secure fit.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $649 (Linsoul)
  • Model: Yanyin x HBB Mahina
  • Driver: 10mm Bio-diaphragm dynamic + 4 Knowles independent balanced armature + 2 Sonion electrostatic units
  • Frequency response: 5Hz-50kHz
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 118dB
  • Cable material: 4 strands graphene wrapped with silver-plated cable
  • Cable length: 1.2m
  • Connector: 2pin 0.78mm

HBB x Yanyin Mahina - First Impressions and Key Features 

Collaborations: that’s been the name of the game over this last year in the ChiFi scene. And overall, it’s been a good thing for consumers. By turning to influencers to help tune their products, IEM manufacturers have been leveraging the “on the ground” experience of some of the most well-respected voices in the community. The results have been good. Collab IEMs, overall, feel like a safer bet because you know, or can know, the person tuning them. 

Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews has grown to become one of the leading voices in the audio community. His straightforward way of expressing his feelings, and the complete lack of vagueness, allow his reviews to be clear and reproducible. I’ve been a regular viewer for upwards of two years now. Knowing his tastes tend to align with my own, I’ve kept a close eye on his collaborations. Somehow, the Mahina is the first I will actually be able to try for myself, but it’s safe to say his others — the Olina and Mele — have been veritable hits within the community.

For the most part, they’ve been on the affordable side, but the HBB x Yanyin Mahina joins the Kinda Lava in targeting the mid-fi market. It retails for $649, which is unquestionably expensive, but that price deserves its proper context. 

The Mahina isn’t your average single dynamic driver IEM or even a hybrid of balanced armatures and dynamics. Instead, it’s a tribrid. It features a single 10mm biodynamic driver, four Knowles balanced armatures, and two European Sonion electrostatic drivers (ESTs for short). The ESTs are a specialized and expensive driver and virtually any IEM that includes one (a real one) is expensive. This arrangement puts it in competition with the likes of the Mangird Xenns Up and Theiaudio Oracle. Those are both extraordinary and expensive IEMs, priced in the same region as the Mahina. 

The entire frequency response range is broken across the seven drivers in each earpiece using an electronic crossover. The drivers are tuned to cover a particular range — which is fitting, because it allows the drivers to specialize and hone in on a particular band that they perform well in. In this case, the dynamic driver covers the bass, the balanced armatures covers the mids and highs, and the electrostatic drivers cover the highs and ultra-highs. There is some overlap there, but the design is fundamentally focused on allowing the drivers to avoid any kind of distortion from being pushed outside of their sweet spots, and to allow HBB and Yanyin more latitude for tuning.

Mixing drivers can be a boon to tuning, and is certainly the case here (more on that later). While single dynamic driver configurations are great for delivering a cohesive sound, every driver type sounds slightly different. Changing when and how much each is firing impacts the timbre, or natural sound, of each note being played. We’ll dive more into this in the listening section, but suffice it to say: tribrids are popular for a good reason. 

Given its plentiful array of drivers, the Mahina is surprisingly medium-sized. Its shells are made of dark resin, mixed with some color and a touch of glitter to create a sense of depth on the face plate. They look gorgeous but aren’t ostentatious. You won’t be getting any looks if you decide to wear these out and about. 

Also included in the package is an excellent carry case. Its the rectangular kind we first found on the Salnotes Dioko. It’s too big to fit in a pocket, but is semi-hardback and large enough to comfortably store the IEMs as well as some accessories, like a portable DAC and spare cable. This one is a mix of blue, purple, and gray and is emblazoned with the Yanyin logo. Really good stuff here.

Also included with the IEMs is an excellent graphene silver plated cable. It features gold-plated terminations with metal hardware. The cable is two-pin terminated at the earbuds and is available in 3.5mm single-ended by default or 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced terminations. There is no reason to upgrade this cable unless you’re swapping to something with interchangeable ends.

Yanyin also includes a selection of silicone tips (three pairs), a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, and an airline adapter. If I had to nitpick anything, it would be the lack of tips and the fact that the cable locks you to a single termination. 

HBB x Yanyin Mahina - Fit and Comfort

The HBB x Yanyin Mahina are a medium-sized IEM with a comparatively deep insertion depth. They’re modeled in the UIEM (Universal In-Ear Monitor) form and don’t break the mold in most ways, but if you’re sensitive to deeper nozzles, this may be one to miss. I actually prefer this style and found that it leads to a very secure fit for more active use. Once I found the proper tips (which is especially important with this design), I could wear them for hours without any soreness, fatigue, or the buds slipping out with normal movement.

HBB x Yanyin Mahina - Listening Impressions 

Listening tests with the Mahina were conducted using a mix of local lossless audio files and streaming through Tidal and Spotify on Very High quality. These are not a difficult set to drive, but definitely scale well with power and “open up” when given proper headroom. As such, I would recommend going a step above the usual dongle DAC — though do many people purchase a $650 IEM without having a proper source? I’d guess not. For my testing, I listened through the iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon, wired to my PC. 

Before beginning my impressions, it’s important to note that I have never heard the original Yanyin Moonlight, so can’t make those comparisons. Instead, my biggest point of comparison is going to be the Mangird Xenns Up, which is one of my favorite tribrids of all time. It’s a high bar, so let’s see how they stack up. 

Bass: Bass is definitely the strong suit with this IEM. BGGAR is a fan of bass, and the sub-bass here is excellent. The bass reaches low and you can feel those sub-bass vibrations really widening out the low-end in songs. Jonny Craig’s D.R.E.A.M. is a perfect example of this; the song lives on its sub-bass heavy bass line and this is one of the few sets that really does it justice. The mid-bass is warm but not overdone, so there’s no sense of bleeding into the mids at all. Kick drums and bass guitars come through clear. Tom MacDonald’s Riot is another good example of the mid- and sub-bass interplay and how well done each is. There can be a haziness at the edges at times that the Xenns Up lacks. This varies song to song, however, and the majority of my experience was clean, detailed, and reasonably fast. Bass texture is also prominent, so the drivers being used here are very capable. 

Bass is absolutely a case where power matters. Lower powered sources seemed to result in a touch less articulation in the mid and sub-bass regions. Definitely step up from the simple headphone adapter with this set.

Mids: Mid response is forward and rich with detail, but isn’t shouty. The warming tuning of the bass makes the mid-range also sound a bit warm, which I like for male vocales in particular (see, Jonny Craig’s U.S.S. Regret) Female vocals sound a bit more lush on this set (Adele’s Rolling in the Deep). Pianos are clear, articulate, and beautiful. I love the texture these earphones are able to provide. Compared to the Xenns, I’d say they’re equals. Mid response is very, very good. 

Treble: Treble is detailed but relaxed. There is no sibilance with this set, however, there is still air and space in the music and environment. Treble response is easy, which is well demonstrated on classical tracks like A Model of the Universe by Johann Johannsson and more contemporary acoustic such as Wrecking Ball by Dustin Kensrue and really allows the guitar and air within the environment to sound realistic and immersive. 

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The technical performance of this set is befitting of its price and is all-around impressive. The soundstage is impressively wide, which gives instruments and sound sources a realistic sense of depth and separation. Positionality of instruments is spot-on and easy to determine, which also works to its benefit if you plug these in to play games at your PC. Detail retrieval is excellent across the frequency band, though the tuning leads to less sparkle and more of a relaxed, fun sound signature. Technically, these lack nothing next to the Mangird Xenns Up. 

Gaming: Like most high-end sets, the Mahina is going to work perfectly fine for gaming, but that’s not why you choose this set. If you do, you’ll find that the added bass lends soundtracks and action filled moments more weight and impact. Likewise, the sense of space and great positioning making competitive gaming and immersive single-player games more engaging and fun. Still, my go-to recommendation is Dolby Atmos for Headphones and that remains true here. Enable it for the best gaming experience with these headphones as it enhances spatial awareness and soundstage even further. 

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

At $649, the HBB x Yanyin Mahina don’t come cheap and are definitely an “audiophiles first” pair of IEMs. With that in mind, HBB has a solid background tuning for bass response and that comes through here. While not a “bass head” set, they’re certainly performers. While I still think I prefer the tuning of the Xenns Up more overall, and have grown very comfortable with it, these are a solid contender at the price and are well worth considering if you’re in the market for a tribrid.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Excellent bass performance
  • Detail rich
  • Very secure fit (comfort will vary person to person)
  • Excellent travel case
  • Well balanced but fun
Cons
  • No interchangeable ends on cable
  • Deep insertion depth won't work for everyone
  • Expensive


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight