Review: Sleek Audio 6 Earphones

Sleek Audio 6 Earphones
Link: Sleek Audio Website - $249.99

The Sleek Audio website says the following;
"Let the headphone revolution begin. Introducing the revolutionary in-ear monitor that allows you to customize your sound. With easy changes to our VQ System you now control the listening experience."

If you are anything like me, I know what you are probably thinking, as I was initially thinking the same thing as well... Sleek Audio has a clever marketing team that is capable of writing catchy sentences to hype up their product. Been there, done that. Being the skeptic I am, especially in such a competitive market flooded with so many different options, I can sincerely say I was made a believer within just minutes of actually using their product. Needless to say, if you find any pleasure at all in listening to your music, then despite the somewhat hefty price tag, these earphones are undoubtedly worth the price of admission to enter the world of true audio bliss.

I think it is fair of me to note that while I am not an audiophile, I do know and appreciate good sound. Prior to these headphones, I owned a high-end set of headphones from B&O, short for Bang & Olufsen, who make audio systems most of us cannot even dream about owning, I just I happen to know someone who worked for them a few years back and took the plunge financially as I felt if I had gigabytes worth of music to listen to, I might as well do so properly.

The people behind Sleek Audio actually have 30 years experience designing and manufacturing high-end hearing aids. This allows them to apply their knowledge of the human ear and provide an auditory experience that was literally never before possible. As they put it, their headphones allow the user to "find their audio fingerprint," aptly pointing out "that we all hear differently; its part of what makes us unique."

The Variable Equalization (VQ) System is truly a remarkable approach to headphone audio. Quite frankly once hearing it in action, I am blown away by the fact it has not been implemented until now. It is described as a multi-stage system that allows you to completely customize the sound of your music. Basically what this means is you can set the headphones up to have more bass and less treble, or vice versa, it really all depends on your musical tastes to begin with. It all sounds good on paper, but trust me it sounds even better actually implemented into the headphones themselves. It is something that needs to be experienced first hand to truly appreciate.

The headphones themselves are made up of three main pieces that can be taken apart very easily, but stay together extremely well, so much so that I have never once felt that the headphones themselves would "fall apart." The three pieces are The Flanged Tips, The Treble Tips, and the Bass Ports.

The Flanged Tips are interchangeable and come in three sizes to fit all types of ear canals. You know you have a perfect fit if you feel the tip seal when it is inserted in your ear. I have to admit, it is a very strange feeling at first, as these fit your ear so well when they are in place you literally hear yourself breathing. If you have ever used ear plugs when swimming, it is very much the same theory. They truly eliminate most outside noise, and I can only imagine this is part of the reason for the amazing sound the headphones produce. I stayed with the medium tip that was the default size.

Next up are the Treble Tips and the Bass Ports. Both come in three options, Minus, Neutral, and Positive. They are as they sound. Use the minus Treble Tip, you will reduce the treble frequency, use the positive Bass Port, and you will increase the frequency, so on and so forth. There is truly a vast difference in sound from the minus to the neutral to the positive. It is absolutely amazing. In regards to the Bass sound alone, the result is a dramatic 10db difference at 20 hertz between the three different filters. You can get anything from large booming bass to incredibly tight bass. The manual actually says the bass "is an industry first," and I absolutely believe them.

Swapping out the treble tips is as easy as twisting and slightly pulling that piece. The bass ports literally just snap in and out of place on the back of the earphone. It is truly amazing to me that different pieces of plastic somehow produce such a wide range of sound. They are also color coded inside of the tips. Considering you are reading this online, check out the features section of their website, it has a flash animation showing how all of the pieces easily work together.

Since I listen to a variety of different music, I tried literally every combination possible until I found one that suited my needs. At the end of it all, I went with deeper bass, and I left the treble at neutral. The amazing thing is, just the experience is indeed going to be a different one for everyone that uses them, and that is what makes this product so unique, you do tailor it for your specific needs. Although I do listen to a bit of everything, I mainly listen to Hip Hop. When I say I feel like I have a subwoofer in my ear now, I am not kidding. The bass is so deep and brilliant, it actually took a minute or two for my ear to adjust to the fact I had such deep bass being produced in my ear. The thing is it never hurt my ear once, not at all. It felt completely normal, it was however a completely new experience to hear bass this clearly in my ear itself.

There are only two minor gripes I have with the headphones themselves. The first issue I have is treble tips and bass ports are very tiny, and if you do not feel like keeping the original retail box (which is not very large at all) finding a safe place to keep them may be a challenge due to their small size. Even in the box, the packaging is very loose, so they can easily be lost. Naturally you can purchase replacements on their website, but at this price point, I believe an extra little plastic case for storing all of the tips would have been a nice touch.

The second issue I have, if you can even call it that, is these earphones truly do encompass your ear with sound. That is great, that is their purpose after all, but if you need to hear the outside world, you definitely have to keep them at a very low volume, and even then, it may still be hard to hear anything at all going on around you. If you do not mind hearing nothing at all except your music, then these are for you. Honestly I am not even sure that is a downside whatsoever, but it needs to be pointed out.

Finally, I will end this review just as I started it, with a quote from their website, as I truly do believe they accurately suggest why you should heavily consider purchasing these headphones.

"Think about it:
You just spent $300.00 on the latest MP3 player, $100.00 for the custom case and docking station, $100.00 in downloaded music and 3 days downloading your music collection. And you listen to it all through a $5.00 pair of earbuds?

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41 Comments

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These earphones are good, highly praised on head-fi. It's a very good single armature earphone.

Try going from high end back to low end and then compare. Only until you do that, will your ears appreciate what its heard. Wear something high end of a month and try using crappy earbuds again, you'd be surprised how much your ears have adjusted to detail.

And don't even compare big sized headphones to these in-ear ones, apples to oranges.

I can't imagine the Frequency response being very flat if you can alter the sound coming out of the thing.

Probably sounds "good" the same way slapping the bose name on something makes 2" wireless, one-way, speakers sound "good". :rolleyes:
Gimmiky products like this are all about coddling the consumer, and this according to the review, these buds apparently do a decent job of just that.

To those who are saying that $50 earphones are the same or better (or god forbid ibuds). Please actually try high quality earphones/headphones. Yes, believe it or not, there actually is a big difference.
I bet people will be surprised to hear that the SA6 at $190-250 isn't actually priced at the top-end.

In any case, these come highly recommended from a lot of users at Head-Fi, so they are probably pretty good.

Meh. I think that these are definitely for people who have more money than they know what to do with. You can get awesome canal phones for about $60. I picked up some Sennheiser (sp?) ones a few months back and couldn't be more happy with them. The sound quality is awesome.

Reminds me of the episode of Penn and Teller's bull**** where they say that "The Best" is bull****. They have a social experiment where they sell some "fine diners" a bunch of bull**** microwave dinners and cheep wine, jack up the price, and have a waiter rant and rave about how good it all is before they eat it. Everyone kept talking about how wonderful it all was...nevermind what it actually was.

I'm sure these are good headphones. But $250?!?!? Come on people. If they do in fact make everything sound SO much better, then I'm going to definitely avoid trying these. I'd hate to ruin the awesome experience I get with my current head phones.

I'd really like a nice pair of headphones, but I lose a pair about once a month :P

Since getting an iPod touch, the headphones don't always come with me if I'm only going to be using the WiFi, and not the music, so the headphones get left lying around instead of being wrapped around the iPod.

I see that they like Sennheiser as well. Seriously though, for $50 less, you can get the HD595's, although any iPod-like device would lack the power to drive them properly.

I personally would never buy these, as in-ear headphones make my ears physically hurt. I wear my Sennheiser HD555 headphones for hours on end, and forget that I have them on.

i will go all the way with a pair of shure's instead of this, i mean, im not gonna pay 250 bucks for this, who knows this brand?

and as they said, amplified crap is still crap, with or without hi end earphones.

btw, about ear damage, listening with ANY type of earphone can damage your hearing severely, but people dont seem to care, lets wait till 50% of the world population suffers tinnitus.

agreed with mrbester, studio in ear phones are meant to be used static, not in the gym nor in the streets.

thats why they are called STUDIO MONITORS, and not mobile studio monitors.

"Think about it:
You just spent $300.00 on the latest MP3 player, $100.00 for the custom case and docking station, $100.00 in downloaded music and 3 days downloading your music collection. And you listen to it all through a $5.00 pair of earbuds?

Hell, yes. $5 earbuds are fine, especially as the downloaded music I just wasted $100 on is DRMed to the max and only encoded at 128kbps. And I wouldn't buy a iPOS anyway. $300 for a gadget that plays MP3s? Stroll on.

No amount of funky acoustic technomagery alters the fact that a rubbish signal results in rubbish reproduction; you just get a better dynamic response. Any "audiophile" who buys these is the rich and stupid variety of "audiophile".

These are designed to render you deaf to the outside world and they become even more dangerous than standard buds when using New York cross walks. Therefore these are primarily for home (and therefore static) use (or you have the volume so low you can't hear it properly, making them pointless). High quality supra-aural headphones tend to be a lot more comfortable for long periods of time than any seal-your-ear-canal buds can be, plus, if you're static, you wouldn't be using them but listening through your 2000 strand quadruple-shielded iridium speaker wire connected system.

OK I didn't get the last two sentences. At all.

But I'm sure the super-bass feature will be useful for an album like say, ...And Justice For All, by Metallica. The original has literally inaudible bass (but its there if you concentrate).

IEMs are not really intended for home use. They are intended for use when you actually need isolation. Locations like airplanes, buses, work, libraries.

(CrisCr0ss said @ #8)
rockbox lets you do what VQ does and its free

Different Market. :P

I've tried rockbox, wasn't overly impressed. Rockbox breaks my Car IPod adapter compatibility. What's the point in touch screen if you can't use it? These are definitely sweet looking though.

huh i was told by an audiologist that more than 15mins at any volume level is enough to start damaging your ears and 2 hundred and 49 bucks you gotta be joking right thats just ridiculess what are they made from solid platinum

(Atlonite said @ #7)
huh i was told by an audiologist that more than 15mins at any volume level is enough to start damaging your ears and 2 hundred and 49 bucks you gotta be joking right thats just ridiculess what are they made from solid platinum

Good quality sound is worth paying for, especially when the product will last you a very very long time.

(tele-fragd said @ #7.1)
Good quality reproduction is worth paying for, especially when the source has very high fidelity.

Fixed that for you. Amplified crap is still crap.

(mrbester said @ #7.2)

Fixed that for you. Amplified crap is still crap.

Agreed. That's why a portable amp with a player's true line-out is a nice solution.

(mrbester said @ #7.2)

Fixed that for you. Amplified crap is still crap.

psh i challenge you to tell the difference between these and a 50 buck pair of buds with the same output characteristics unless you have an inbuilt spectrum analyzer in your brain you wont be able to

(tele-fragd said @ #7.3)
That's why a portable amp with a player's true line-out is a nice solution. :D

But the player isn't the source. The source file contains the encoded source. Which is why a FLAC / SHN sounds better than a 128k MP3, irrespective of what speakers the sound comes out of.

(Atlonite said @ #7)
huh i was told by an audiologist that more than 15mins at any volume level is enough to start damaging your ears and 2 hundred and 49 bucks you gotta be joking right thats just ridiculess what are they made from solid platinum

Ever heard of punctuation?

(noPCtoday said @ #6)
Soo I guess Sleek Audio is one of the sponsors behind our new server, eh?

Just curious, why would you think that? Because the reviewer had a good opinion of the product?

um nothing offensive, just thought its rare to see an almost-luxury earbuds review on neowin, and it was posted by the staff i just naturally thought maybe neowin is advertising for this product in return to the server.

I was thinking the same thing. You don't often see product reviews highlighted with big flashy lights (Neowin's red box ) stuck to the top of the front page. Especially when the product is $250 and the majority of Neowin reads won't even consider buying these.

(TCLN Ryster said @ #6.4)
I was thinking the same thing. You don't often see product reviews highlighted with big flashy lights (Neowin's red box ) stuck to the top of the front page. Especially when the product is $250 and the majority of Neowin reads won't even consider buying these.

Every original review that has been posted by staff (in the last year or so anyway) has been "stickied" with the big flashy lights. There hasn't been many but I can tell you in the next few months you will see more start popping up.

the best is open-eared headphones, but they are extremely annoying for the people around you. and if the earbuds cancel out most outside noises like the review says, then you don't have to turn the volume up loud at all

these earbuds also look like they'll be good for running since the wires come in at a good angle and don't stick down

The problem is, earbuds do damage at levels well below where the sound 'hurts'. A particular level of volume from normal headphones that's perfectly safe can be damaging from earbuds.

A great place to destroy your hearing? The gym, where everybody cranks it up just loud enough to drown out the sound of the equipment surrounding them.

So then earbuds that almost totally drown out the surrounding noise when they are connected to nothing, would require a lower volume when listening to music than other earbuds, which would result in a safer listening experience.

A good rule of thumb, as far as I'm concerned at least, is to set the volume low enough that the sound is barely audible when the earphones are out of your ears. If they sound like mini PC speakers, then they are too loud.

However, if you REALLY like music, as any sound engineer or acoustic technician will tell you.

In-Ear headphones damage your hearing....

I could see that if you cranked the volume or used them non-stop for hours on end, but if you listen at a sane level and for no more than a few hours at a time, then I wouldn't expect them to be a problem.

what is a sane level of listening to stuff?
and how can i know that on my ipod 9like how much of the volume bar 50% 60% 70%)? any idea?

That reminds me. My Zune doesn't have a way to limit the maximum output. When it goes to max volume out (which is actually pretty easy) it hurts my ears (ouch)! That can't be good. At least there is "hold."

(cRuNcHiE said @ #1)
However, if you REALLY like music, as any sound engineer or acoustic technician will tell you.

In-Ear headphones damage your hearing....

Myth.

Any headphones can damage your hearing. Since canalphones offer sound isolation, you can set your volume level much quieter compared to earbud-style or open-air headphones within a noisy environment, so IMO they're much safer to use.