Thieaudio is a sub-brand of Linsoul, and they have two lineups: Their all-BA Voyager lineup and their Legacy, hybrid lineup. To this effect, the Legacy 3 (L3) is using 1DD+2BA and retails for $119 here. My first encounter with Thieaudio actually took place a few months ago with their Voyager 14. Suffice it to say I wasn’t particularly impressed with that IEM; I didn’t make it in five minutes before handing it back to its owner. To my ears, the V14 had an egregious midrange suck-out which made vocals sound like they were coming through a telephone. It certainly wasn’t a good first impression, and as I’ll discuss in this review, the L3 doesn’t do much to assuage my doubts about this brand.
I’m not going to allocate too much time here just because this is a loaned unit, and I didn’t receive any packaging by my own request. Build quality seems good to me, and I like the slide-over connector pins they’re using. The L3 is small and it weighs very little. So there should be few fit issues, I also didn’t experience any abrasion with the switches at the back.
Disclaimer: This unit was kindly lended to me by a member of the audio community. At the end of the demo period, it will be returned to him. I have no other conflict of interest, and as usual what follows are my honest thoughts.
- Stock cable and silicon tips. I’m sure one could tip-roll to adjust the sound signature to somewhat better align with their preferences.
- FLAC files off of a Shanling M0.
- Burn-in – I don’t really believe in it unless we’re talking about your brain and ears getting used to the sound. For what its worth, I rarely hear differences after the fact, and this was a loaner anyways.
- The L3 takes very little power to drive, and I had no issues driving it off of any of my sources. I listened to it using both the switches “ON”.
Bass: There’s a noticeable bass boost and solid extension to the sub-bass. This is probably my favorite part of the L3 – I do like my bass after all – and you can hear that dynamic driver putting in work. That being said, I find that it can smear a bit, and a good example of this is on Jason Aldean’s “Talk About Georgia”. The recording has the drums pushed back further than usual behind the singer, and they seem to jumble/overlap at times on the L3 thus getting lost in the mix. There’s nothing blatantly wrong with the L3’s low-end though, and I enjoy it for the most part.
Midrange: Vocal presentation is the first thing that struck me as off about the L3. I hear it as leaning toward textured, and it has a very strange, murky quality to it. As my ears adjusted to the L3, the issue somewhat abated but switching to some of my other IEMs made it very obvious. While I don’t find this issue to be as pervasive with male vocals, it’s very clear listening to the likes of, say, IU. IU is a K-pop vocalist who has a clean, rounded voice, but the L3 presents her voice with a slight roll-off and gives it a grainy, “rough” quality around the edges. Just in general, I find vocals struggle to “move air” and cover the soundstage. I question how much of this is exacerbated by timbre coloration; it’s a turn-off nonetheless.
Highs: Are you looking for highs? Oh sorry, they’re not here. The highs on the L3 are defined almost entirely by their attack function; they decay so fast that they might as well not exist. And to this effect, they’re quite blunt, lack shimmer, and have very little extension. Put more nicely, I could possibly see them being described as “laid-back”.
The L3 has a warm, dark, tuning to my ears. It’s a decent tuning, and I’m actually a bit of a sucker for it just because it aligns similarly with one of my favorite IEMs, the 64audio U12t. But the L3 has serious timbre issues that effectively kill any positive regard I might have for the IEM. Admittedly, I might be a bit sensitive to timbre coloration; however, the L3 is the worst offender of this that I’ve listened to date. And it’s not even a plasticky BA hue, it’s more like everything is just…smothered in general, and I don’t think there’s much that can be done about it.
Someone also asked me what exactly I mean by “timbre coloration” which is a fair question!
To this effect, BA IEMs often have a plastic-like quality to the timbre that is characterized by an overall sense of weightlessness or lack of authority, hence “plasticky”. It’s also an issue with hybrids because perfect coherency between a DD/BA just isn’t possible. I’ve noticed this on all my BA IEMs and hybrids to varying degrees; the 64audio U12t probably being one of the best offenders. The L3 itself no doubt suffers from this to a certain extent, but there’s more so simply a “veiled” quality to the timbre. In essence, the entire frequency spectrum sounds slightly smothered, likely only further exacerbated by the darker tonality, and it becomes very evident when A/Bing between my other IEMs.
In terms of technicalities, I’m also not too impressed. Imaging is somewhat poor, a good example is on “REMEMBER” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] which has a female vocalist that enters from the back left at 0:41. The transients here are what I can only describe as fuzzy, sluggish almost. Resolution is par for the price; in general I don’t find it to be so hot although some of this can probably be attributed to timbral coloration.
I’ve seen a couple people ask how the L3 compares to the Moondrop Blessing 2.
First, let me just say that this isn’t a remotely fair comparison – after all, the Blessing 2 is more than twice the price of the L3. And in terms of tuning, they’re also wholly different. The Blessing 2 leans toward neutral-bright; it has a cleaner, thinner midrange, and much, much better treble extension and air. I do see the L3 possibly contending in one aspect, and that’s the bass. The L3 has much more bass quantity, which is a personal preference, but it has a tendency to smear more than the B2 and the attack isn’t as clean.
Technicality-wise it’s also a bit of a wash for the L3. As I noted earlier, the L3 has rather poor imaging and it also has a pretty average soundstage. The B2’s soundstage is only slightly above average, but it feels more evenly distributed, and it images better than the good majority of IEMs even above its price bracket. Both have some degree of timbre coloration, but the B2’s is much less offensive to me. For pure resolution, they’re right about where they should be for their respective price points. So, uh…the L3 as a killer to what is already considered the closest thing to a giant killer in the sub-$500 range? Yeah, I don’t think so.
Test Tracks (just some of the ones I went through)
- Brooks and Dunn – Red Dirt Road
- Ekali – Cage
- IU – Blueming
- Jason Aldean – Talk About Georgia
- Keith Urban – Sweet Thing, Kiss a Girl
- Kelsea Ballerini – Needy
- Lee Brice – Love Like Crazy
- Sabai – Million Days
- SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] – REMEMBER, e of S
- Taeyeon – My Voice (Album)
And here-in lies an important point of contention: The price. Thus far, I’ve been quite harsh on the L3, but I’ll be the first to admit that my expectations are probably too high. Most of my daily listening revolves around stuff that’s a few times the L3’s price if not more; however, I’ve also seen some sentiments that the L3 punches beyond its price. And unfortunately, to my ears it doesn’t. For $120, it’s not bad, but it’s also not what I would call good. I simply cannot entertain the notion of me listening to the L3 in my free time when there are cheaper, better alternatives like the Moondrop Starfield (which admittedly has a very different sound signature) at play.
Talking with Antdroid of Audio Discourse (check them out, I write for them too), who incidentally has a very different opinion of the L3, it seems I might’ve gotten one of the earlier, shall we say, more-so “cucked” L3s. The L3 has since presumably undergone a stealth-revision to the frequency response that makes some adjustments to the highs. If this is true, then sure, I could see the L3 as being a slightly more enticing option. But there also seems to be some unit variance, so ask yourself if you want to play the Powerball lottery when you buy your L3 because I sure don’t.
For what it’s worth, I do think that the L3 has a niche. It’s basically a poor-man’s U12t, so if you want a taste of flagship tuning – albeit with the numerous concessions that I’ve outlined thus far – then it could be a viable option. And just in general, it’s a pretty safe, inoffensive tuning. But for me, much of the L3’s value would actually be predicated on the CIEM option. For $200, you can get a CIEM that is not only decently tuned, but is also one of the cheapest I’ve seen on the market.
Understanding my scoring: This is a personal, subjective assessment of an IEM’s sound quality. I don’t take into account any other factors, and it’s relative to the absolute best sound I’ve heard. Take it with a grain of salt! I’m not going to lie; I have high standards. But I’m not telling anybody how they should hear something – it’s a reflection of what of me, myself, and I hear.