Exclusive Interview with Softears
Dear Wang Cheng, thank you for the opportunity of this interview. As founder and CTO of Softears, can you introduce yourself to the readers?
Wang Cheng is a senior audio enthusiast as well as a loudspeaker enthusiast, who has been engaged in high-end headphone ODM for many years, and served as a research and development consultant for a moving iron unit manufacturer, very familiar with the process of the headphone manufacturing industry, with 7 years of experience in the industry. When he was still a player, after acquiring many mainstream products on the market, he found that none of them could really reach a product that could boast reference sound, so he started to explore on his own and after 5 years of brewing, he founded SOFTEARS in 2017, successfully entering the public eye and gaining market recognition with an RS10 ten-unit moving iron. At the same time his wide range of hobbies has allowed him to have novel ideas that he can apply to experiment in the development of headphones and creatively develop passive units. His personal attention to detail and pursuit of excellence has also led him to perfection in the craftsmanship of his products.
What does the name Softears mean?
SOFTEARS literally means soft ears and we created the brand with the intention of bringing soft, comfortable sound to everyone, hence the name.
Which was the first IEM to get you hooked and interested in the business?
Triple.Fi 10 PRO by ULTIMATE EARS, these headphones allowed me to hear a very high resolution sound at the time.
People are confused by the relation between MoonDrop and Softears. Can you help to clarify the cooperation?
The founder of MOONDROP is also one of the founders of SOFTEARS, and the two brands share some of their technology platforms. At the same time, SOFTEARS and MOONDROP are two independently operated brands, belonging to two completely separate companies.
What’s the difference between Turii and Illumination? Were you involved in both designs?
The TURII and the ILLUMINATION can be considered to be on the same platform and have a similar front chamber structure from the outside. However, the main difference between them is the different materials used in the diaphragm and the different tuning, the different material characteristics lead to the different styles of the TURII and the ILLUMINATION. Although I was involved in the design of the TURII, I have to admit that the success of the TURII is due to the work done by Mizuki Rain Acoustic Laboratory in terms of materials.
The MoonDrop S8 and Softears RS10 are also very similar. Is there any relation?
The S8 and RS10 are not on the same platform, but the midrange unit of the S8 was developed & supplied by SOFTEARS.
Will you continue to support MoonDrop like you have before or will you reserve your innovations for Softears from now on?
SOFTEARS is an independently owned and operated brand and we have always been committed to product innovation.
“Chi-Fi” is a composition of the terms Chinese and Head-Fi. It represents the movement of Chinese brands providing better sound quality at comparatively lower prices. Often it refers to the budget segment, for which it is sometimes also used as a reference for low quality. Have you come across the term yet? If so, do you consider Softears as a Chi-Fi brand?
I have heard the term CHI-FI because of the strong material and manufacturing supply system in China, and I am proud that SOFTEARS products are made in China and are positioned at the top end of the range and far above the competition.
You specifically mention linear phase as one of the main design features of the RSV. How does phase affect the soundstage in your experience?
Accurate phase is an important part of an accurate soundstage, and I believe that both headphones and audio speaker systems need to be designed with low phase distortion. Usually we refer to phase as the need for the delay between different frequencies to be almost identical across the frequency bands when the signal reaches the headphones for playback, which is the only way to achieve accurate playback and a precise soundstage.
The Turii is an exceptional single-DD flagship. How fun was the project? Can we expect more DD-goodness from Softears or is this already the limit of what a single driver can achieve?
I think the most interesting thing about the TURII is its design, which seems unergonomic but can actually be worn easily. There is still room for development of single-action coils and the ability to actually improve performance through different structural designs and materials, leading to higher objective indicators. This is also similar to the history of engine development in cars, where older technology could only increase power by increasing engine displacement, but now can be improved by superchargers or with electric motor hybrids.
The RS10 is an extremely polished product with excellent tuning and incredible resolution. What was the biggest design challenge of the RS10?
The design required matching the phase and frequency response curves of so many units, as well as fitting so many components into the ear shell. The need to match the impedance, phase, timbre and frequency response curve to the ideal level, and to ensure an excellent listening experience, has led to the use of so many crossover components and the fine control of dimensions.
This is why so many crossover components are used, and so many dimensions are finely controlled. It is also necessary to match up so many moving iron units and electronic components to ensure consistency on both sides. In short, there were many difficulties, but fortunately, we managed to overcome them all.
3 out of your 4 products sound extremely fast and have fast attack. However, the Cerberus is a warmer and relaxed sounding IEM in comparison. How does it fit into the line-up? Can we expect more „mythology“ models that are different than the ultra-detailed Reference Series?
The CERBERUS is not part of the REFERENCE range, so it doesn't need to achieve the precision playback of the RS10 One Spot, but it also fits in with our sound philosophy: soft and comfortable. In the future there may be more products available that cater for the mass consumer rather than the specialist sector.
The worth of a product can be measured by the joy it brings to the user. It seems there is no limit to how much an IEM may cost. Are the RS10 and Cerberus the most expensive items you have planned?
We are able to ensure that our products have absolute advantages and value for money at its price point, while we I don't think these products are our upper limit, we will actively develop even better products to bring to our customers.
Reference Sound 5 (RSV) and Reference Sound 10 (RS10) are quite similar in tuning but they have a huge price difference. Will there be room for another RS model in-between? Say a RSVII or RS8?
It will fill out the product line, but good products take a lot of time to develop.
MoonDrop has noticed that many IEM-fans are also interested in anime. They have started a trend and brands like Tanchjim or See Audio are following. Overall, hi-fi audio is still a mostly conservative business and some users look down on this way of branding a product. How does Softears stand to this move? Will there be Softears girls on the packaging soon?
First of all, SOFTEARS and MOONDROP are independent brands, belonging to different companies with distinctly different teams, and we have our own independent design direction.
Sean Olive and Todd Welti are two researchers that were essential for the infamous Harman target curve for headphones. Does Softears agree with the publicized targets or do you have research on your own?
HARMAN TARGET can be considered as a first step for human beings and I acknowledge the results of this study, but HARMAN TARGET is not suitable for blind application, we will look at and adjust it in a professional way and set our goals with reference to the actual experimental results.
How many drivers would you say are needed to create a transparent IEM?
This is not easy to say, but with a capable crossover 3-way or 4-way systems are obviously better than 2-ways. They have the efficiency to allow each unit to work in a more appropriate frequency band.
To your experience, how important is the cable? Some boutique manufacturers sell cables more expensive than your flagship IEM. What do you recommend to your customers? Are the included cable with your products not good enough?
1. The wire is vital in terms of analogue signals and must be well shielded, as well as low impedance and contact resistance. A good cable is not just the base material of the cable, but the hardware of the cable is also important and must have durable contact point plating, as well as low contact resistance, low inductive resistance, low capacitive resistance, etc. If the cable material is extraordinarily poor, it can really make the sound bad.
I do not normally recommend cables to customers, but if a customer comes to me and asks, I will tell them some of my approved cable specifications, such as stranding method, cable material, etc.
3. The wire of our products is qualified in terms of durability and wire material.
What does the future look like in general? Do you agree that the cable is dying and Bluetooth is the future for audiophiles? Which direction will Softears take – or will you also eventually capitulate and serve the TWS market?
Technological progress is inseparable from human laziness. Wireless technology is undoubtedly more convenient, but wired is often more reliable, at least for my personal computer monitor, keyboard, mouse and network cable with wired connections. In the future we will produce reliable wired headsets, and convenient wireless headsets depending on product positioning.
Studio monitors, headphones or IEM: If you could only have one, which would it be?
At this stage it's definitely the monitors. If IEM headphones can do the same as speakers in the future, I would choose IEM, but of course there are some inferior speakers on the market that are not as good as IEM, so these are excluded.
Finally, I have rarely encountered a brand with such a stellar entry into the market. Are you prepared for international fame and success?
Hahaha, thanks for the endorsement of our products, I firmly believe that hard work pays off.
Any question I forgot to ask? Feel free to share anything with the Western audiophile audience that you want!
The way we make our products is to make them the best we can. Even if it takes more work, more time and more materials to make a product, if we can make it as perfect as possible within our capabilities, we will try, even if we can't, at least we have tried.