While the SA6s could be modified to trail the cables over your ears or drop straight down, the SA1s just sit in the conventional drop down style. Sleek provides a selection of regular and double-flanged silicon tips in three sizes, so you should be able to find something that maintains a secure fit without giving you the dreaded IEM sore ears. The SA1s are bulkier and heavier than most of the IEMs I use regularly, particularly the Etymotic HF5s and Phonak PFEs that are my current favourites, but they’re actually not as uncomfortable as I feared. The tips don’t protrude too far into your ears, and the earpieces don’t feel as big or obtrusive as I thought they might. They’re not lie down and drop off to sleep IEMs, but I can comfortably wear them for a couple of hours without irritation.
Now we come to the SA1’s two major selling points. Firstly, by disconnecting the regular cable and connecting the W1 adaptor (£99) you can instantly convert them to a set of wireless headphones, at a total cost some £80 lower than the equivalent SA6 bundle. Admittedly, it’s a bit weird to be spending less on your IEMs than the adaptor, but if you want the convenience of a wireless system and can live with the drop in audio quality, you can probably see the appeal. It’s a comfortable setup, with the body of the adaptor resting gently on the back of your neck, and the combination of a decent range (walls and floors permitting) and a 10 hour battery life works well.
Secondly, the SA1s are still customisable, though not as customisable as the SA6. There’s no separate tweaking of the treble and bass via treble tips and bass ports any more – instead a choice of two interchangeable filters allows you to choose between a brighter sound with a clearer, more balanced mid-range, and a more bass-heavy, punchy alternative. Changing filters is as simple as removing the silicon tip, unscrewing one filter and replacing it with another, and no tools are needed (or provided). You can also use different tips in different ears, so if your left ear is more sensitive to certain frequencies than your right, then you can – to some extent – compensate. This works, and there is an easily recognisable distinction between the two sounds. And while there are other IEMs around that have a similar feature – the Phonak PFEs, for a start – I can’t think of any that do at this kind of price point.