QOA PINK LADY REVIEW
THE PLUS: Clean Balanced sound, fast and tight bass, clear mid-range, snappy highs, no harshness or serious sibilance, versatile tuning, beautiful construction, nice cable and carrying case
THE SO-SO: Slightly cold sounding, bass lack natural extension, small soundstage, lack treble sparkle-decay
QUEEN OF AUDIO (QOA) is a recent Chinese company that was founded in 2018 by two sisters, Sophie and Yunco, who are passionate about the esthetical aspect of the earphones as well as a sound offering high price-to-performance value.
This company is connected to Kinera by having in their team Steve Tong, a founder of this company. This means they got good experienced audio engineers in their team too.
QOA do stand apart from other Chinese company because of how they name their IEM models, like Mojito or Pink Lady, being a cocktail name. The care they give to earphones esthetic too is a refreshing take on universal customs in-ear.
Priced at 120$, the Pink Lady is a hybrid IEM using 1 dynamic driver and 2 balanced armature. The look is gorgeous, now let’s see if the LADY is more than just a looker and can deliver a sound quality worthing our attention.
The QOA Pink Lady can be bought from authorized seller HIFIGO STORE.
>Triple Driver Hybrid setups, having one 10mm DD and Dual BA driver unit.
>Impedance: 16 ohms.
>Sensitivity: 112 +/- 1 dB.
>Frequency Response Range: 20Hz-20kHz.
>Copper+SPC Cable with 0.78mm Two-pin interface and 3.5mm termination plug.
The LADY came in a little box, with minimalist packaging and accessories. You have a nice looking faux-leather carrying case. A generous amount of silicone ear tips of different shapes (6xsilicone and 1xmemory foams). And a cable of great quality.
In hand, the LADY is quite light, which surprised me because I was thinking the housing was made of resin plastic, but in fact, it’s just normal light plastic which offers less durability to shock damage. This housing is made of 2 pieces of plastic, and backplate use 3D printer technology to achieve a ”jewelry like look”. The nozzle is rather short and has 2 holes with tubes that are connected to 2 BA and the 10mm dynamic drivers. To my eyes, the Pink Lady has a purple color, which is very beautiful, and all body is translucid apart from the back faceplate, so you can admire the well-done driver’s implementation. The 2pin connection is embedded in housing, so it can never break.
The design is similar to most universal custom in-ear and reminds me a lot of the Kinera H3 but without a solid resin plastic body. The shape is very organic and body is very soft, and even if nozzle is short I do not have a fitting issue with the LADY. People with small ears might need longer ear tips for a better fit. My main issue about nozzle is that their no ear tips holder on it, but as its thick, it will tend to make a secure fit most of the time.
CABLE construction is very nice, it’s an 8cores copper and silver-plated cable that is very soft and flexible and does not create microphonic. It feels sturdy and does not justify cable upgrade as it drives perfectly the Pink Lady. The pre-shape ear hook is comfortable, not too tight. The jack is quite of excellent quality too, with thick metal construction and gold plated 3.5mm connector.
These are very easy to drive, at 16ohm of impedance with a high sensitivity of 112db, the LADY can be drive properly by anything and do not benefit from powerful amping. Anything can drive them even your phone.
Sound canceling is good but not extreme, due to light plastic as well as side venting holes, you can hear some outside noise when you listen at very low volume. If you use the memory foams tips, noise cancelation is improved a little. For sound leakage, we have some minimal ones.
The overall sound signature of the LADY is a balanced W shape one where the lower treble is more prominent and energic and bass is warmer and punchy while mids are transparent with a hint of dryness. The transition between dynamic and balanced armature drivers is really well done, to the point it sounds more like a triple BA than hybrid iem. Tonal balance being excellent, the LADY would be a very neutral sounding IEMif it wasn’t for extra mid-bass punch and extra highs bite.
SOUNDSTAGE offers a peculiar spatiality where you have more deepness than wideness and not a lot of tallness. What unique it’s the fact that deepness go in back and front, making you feel in the middle of a tunnel, as said, not a very wide one, but hearing instrument playing slightly in my back is very rare with IEM and the only aspect of headroom I will compare to open-back headphones. Still, I would consider the presentation rather intimate, due to the lack of air and wide space between instruments.
IMAGING is all about Y-axes layering, which is densely extracted. You have minimal left-right placement, so everything sounds centered and not particularly holographic.
BASS is slightly boosted in the mid-range region but very lean in sub-bass. Control is excellent even if you got slight warmth due to extra mid-bass weight, this comes from sub-bass and do not really bleed on lower mids which is kept very clean. Sub-bass is dry in timbre and has minimal rumble, but when a track has big sub-bass slam, it will keep its control. The transient response of the dynamic driver is very versatile, and can deal with a slow bass hit as well as fast thump without losing control. In ‘’Peaks of light’’ from AMETSUB, a lot of IEM struggle to articulate sub bassline which is heavily boosted and lot of IEM even distort at high volume showing limitation of transient response, with the LADY even volume cranked at a killing level it handles the sub-bass and offers minimal rumble to extend thickness, as well it impressively keep the kick clean enough to offer thigh attack, bass stay in the center while you have an analytical treble that craves lot of micro-details around you. For IDM, Drum&Bass, electronic, pop, rock, the bass of LADY is very impressive in accuracy and control and offers a versatile presentation. Though I would not call the presentation naturally extended as it still lacks proper extension down to 20hz, the LADY bass has just minimal boominess, which is problematic for an acoustic bass that will have a boxy feel, but electric bass and even synth bass is well done, as well, cello sound good enough too, full-bodied and thick as it does not have to extend as low as contrabass.
MID range is quite forward but just a step back from the lower treble, it’s clean from bass bleed but the lower mids are on the dry side and slightly more recessed than above 1khz range. We do recognize the brightish balanced armature timbre, which gives a hint of coldness to the overall midrange. When looking inside the IEM housing, I see that it’s written KINERA on the balanced armature, and indeed, timbre reminds me a little the Kinera H3. An instrument like saxophone can sound thin and lack airy transparency, but the piano has a crisp attack and violin good grip. Tonality is well balanced and we do not feel the mids is out of place as it can happen with badly tuned hybrid IEM. Female vocal sound fuller and more realist than male vocal which sounds little boxy due to lack of high bass foundation. Upper mids can add some aggressivity to vocal or snare but not to the point of creating pathological sibilance. Overall mid-range is a little intimate in its presentation, very centered and to my ears would have benefited from extra air and space. At this price range, I consider the mids well balanced, highly resolve and especially impressive in attack speed.
TREBLE is crisp, fast and crunchy with good energy and extra snappy attack. It’s rather smooth on top even if we have a good amount of micro details, which sometimes sound a little unbalanced and coming out of nowhere. This is the crisp part of treble, with good brilliance but not a lot of decay, again, showing a lack of extension above 10khz. The attack is fast and edgy, making hit-hat super agile as well as violin precise and accurate. Tonality is gently bright, never harsh or splashy. I do not consider treble timbre to sound particularly natural but it’s not artificial too, again, little cold but with a good tonal transition. The LADY isn’t neither analytical or trebly, but more about micro-resolution accuracy.
VS IKKO OH1 (140$)
The OH1 is more U shape, with notably more boosted sub-bass than the LADY as well as a more extended bass response. OH1 has slam and very well articulated sub-bass, but it’s slower and less thigh than the LADY. MIDS are more recessed with OH1 as well as brighter, creating more sibilance than the smoother LADY. TREBLE feel less balanced and neutral with OH1, especially in the lower treble which is thinner and slightly more artificial than fuller response of the LADY. OH1 upper highs are more sparkly and deliver higher amount of micro details. Another notable difference is the soundstage, which is notably bigger and airier with the OH1, though imaging is about on par but with wider space between mids and highs instruments.
All in all, the OH1 is a fun, bassy and airy IEM that has a less mature and balanced tuning than more neutral and intimate sounding PINK LADY.
VS MOONDROP STARFIELD (110$)
Both these IEM are very well balanced and near neutral, but the STARFIELD has a more natural tonality and fuller bass response. SOUNDSTAGE is notably wider and taller but less deep than the LADY. IMAGING has better transparency and layering with the STARFIELD as well as a more spacious presentation. BASS extends easily down to 20HZ with the STARFIELD, with full body and smooth transparency, making the LADY sound dry and boxy especially in sub-region. Mid-bass is slightly more punchy with the LADY, as well as faster so unlike the STARFIELD it does not warm lower mids. MID RANGE is fuller and has more presence with the STARFIELD, vocal are more natural, emotional and musical, as well transparency is better, the LADY has an edgier definition, but more intimate vocal and dry tonality. TREBLE of the STARFIELD is even more relaxed than the LADY, it’s thicker too and less snappy in the attack, as well it digs less micro details but feels overall more balanced with rest of the spectrum.
All in all, the STARFIELD sound more natural and balanced with a bigger soundstage, better bass response, lusher mids and smoother tonality.
To me, the LADY is the perfect example of a special kind of IEM we call ‘’jack of all trades, master of none’’, this is due to its well-balanced sound that pushes everything forward: bass, whole mid-range and treble up to 10khz. This makes the LADY very versatile, as much for IDM or beat-driven music than POP, Indie and some classical like chamber orchestra. Transient response is impressively fast and cohesive with all 3 drivers making the sound more similar to a good triple BA than hybrid or single DD. The LADY does have a serious drawback that interferes with its otherwise excellent technicalities and it’s the soundstage, this makes the imaging very intimate and can lead to congestion in busy tracks, strangely the imaging is decent anyhow.
At 120$, the LADY have plenty of competition, but stands apart of the crown because of how cohesive is the whole sound which avoids to have an artificial tonality often found with IEM using a balanced armature. If you found the IKKO OH1 to have too much bass and lack in mid-range department, the QOA PINK LADY could be a good bet as it’s more neutral with more mids presence.