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In my previous article about in-ear headphones, one model that wasn't explored was the SA6 from Sleek Audio, which is a unique offering from a relatively new contender in the headphone world. What's interesting about the SA6 is that it's a completely modular system, and it has customizable treble and bass response. To my knowledge, this is the only pair of in-ear headphones on the market to offer this feature, and it does so at a pretty reasonable price.
In testing, the SA6 was very well-packaged and easy to open. The earpieces themselves, along with the treble tips and bass ports, 3 sizes of rubber dual-flange eartips, a cleaning tool, cable, and carrying case are all included inside the box.
The way you adjust the treble and bass in these headphones is by detaching and replacing the "treble tips" and "bass ports". The package includes "Neutral", "Plus", and "Minus" versions of each type, and Sleek Audio claims a 10 decibel difference between the Plus and Minus units at a frequency of 20Hz. There is also a set of extended high frequency treble tips to complement the basic set. The bass ports are easy to pop on and off of the back of the earpieces with your fingers. The treble tips need a bit more force, but a handy "key" is included to help facilitate this. Neither the treble or bass pieces seemed as though they'd come off accidentally.
Set of Bass Ports and Treble Tips
Exploded View Showing Placement of Bass Port and Treble Tip
Sound quality on the SA6 is excellent. These headphones are a shining example of a proper in-ear fit determining the level of audio quality. I initially tested the set with the small eartips, and the sound quality wasn't quite up to par. When I switched to the medium eartips, which provided a better fit for me, the quality was vastly improved with plenty of bass and treble and clear, rich detail. Noise isolation and comfort were also very good, with no audio leakage and no distortion at 100% volume.
When it was time to start switching between different bass/treble configurations, I was a bit skeptical. It turns out that my skepticism was unfounded, because the adjustment system actually works. When testing some bass-heavy tracks by Eminem, I could definitely hear the difference in bass response when switching the bass ports between neutral, plus, and minus. Some genres reflected the differences in bass and treble better than others, but for the most part, the system worked surprisingly well.
One of the huge advantages of this modular system is that any individual component can be replaced if lost or broken. If the cable gets sucked up by a vacuum cleaner or chewed on by a new puppy, then you only have to replace the cable, rather than the entire set of headphones. Over time, this can be a great advantage to your wallet if you're accident-prone.
Another unique feature is the ability to convert the headphones into a wireless set. The earpieces can be attached to the separately-available W-1 wireless accessory, which uses KLEER technology to deliver CD-quality sound with a range of up to 60 feet. If you want to go back to wired mode, simply detach the earpieces from the W-1, and reattach them to your cable.
The included hard plastic carrying case is very useful, and has a built-in cable spooler that is easy to wrap. Overall, even without the ability to customize the bass and treble, these are very nice headphones for the price. I love that individual components can be replaced if needed, eliminating the need to buy a whole new set of headphones. For me, the tone adjustments are just icing on the cake, and I look forward to exploring future offerings from Sleek Audio.
Click here to view a video podcast discussing the Sleek Audio SA6.