Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sennheiser RS185 Review

Sennheiser RS185 Review

Thanks to Sennheiser for the sample.

First Impressions:  Squeeeeee!!!!  It would be improper I think for me to not acknowledge I have excitedly waited for the parcel man to bring me the RS185’s.  I have had the old RS180’s and while I don’t use them a ton I recognise them as being pretty damn awesome.  They are what makes cleaning and tidying up round the house bearable.  I like Sennheiser rather a lot and I think I probably have more Sennheiser products than I do from any other company.  I am sure I’m not alone in this.  Anyway, so excited was I when they arrived that I completely forgot to write my “first impressions” at the start of my time with them.  Oopsy. 

With that in mind I do recall a bit of an initial quandary whether to use the analogue or digital input.  I ran with analogue for the first day or so.  Initially I felt that the sound sig was a bit changed from the 180 in that the 185 felt much less dramatically V shaped in sound.  More of a mature sound but less immediately attention grabbing.  One thing however is very clear, these are a seriously quality sounding product.  If you were blindfolded you wouldn’t be able to tell these are wireless from their audio quality.  They are superb.  Frankly I’d be shocked if any upper end product from Senn wasn’t.  

Source:  Err it doesn’t really have one.  It has an optical input therefor it uses its internal DAC and then the headphones being wireless have their own inbuilt amp.

Lows:  The 185 is the open one so as you expect with a big open can the bass reaches to a point then it drops off like a cliff.  Senn may be good but they can’t change physics.  Stylistically I’m a fan of open can bass, it’s far more open, articulated with far better dynamics and expression than you ever get from a big closed can.  The detail and nuance is gloriously agile.  Fast and ever so clean which making it far more suited to a little bit more grown up music.  Sure it’ll do trashy pop rubbish but it never really lets the bass overwhelm and dominate like pop is inclined to and its openness means it never feels super bassy, that feeling the air on your ears move.  It’s just not.  It’s like trying to send a Bentley round a racetrack.  Sure it will do it and it perform pretty well but there is no mistaking that’s not what it’s made for.  The 185 is meant for the sort of lows that come out of a cello or double bass, not a subwoofer.

In quantity terms the bass is a bit elevated but not as much as Senn normally do.  To compare with the 180, the bass here is more grandly scaled, that symphonic breadth and depth whereas the 180 is more directly punchy.  The 180 is the more immediately aggressive and feels more eager to blast out something from the top 40.  The 185 feels a little all above such petty trifles.

Mids:  Arguably the mids are you probably expected, are in a bit of a valley.  It’s a gently sloped valley but nevertheless it’s still a valley.  Senn don’t really do anything midcentric, the closest they have come yet was the IE7 (still one my all-time fav’s) so the sound here isn’t a shock.  They have a great, just achingly broad width to the mids however.  Lots and lots of air, it may be open and perhaps a little bit warm, little bit muggy, still it’s there.  Being a particular fan of clear, clean, maybe even a little cutting vocals the 185 are a bit laid back.    I personally want the vocalist to shine, they don’t here.  Detailed of course and without a doubt very nuanced and capable but everything is so integrated.  The 180 in comparison seems so more liquid in the mids.  They can shove them right up into your face, not quite “aggressive” let’s say assertive.  The 185 is ever so much more mature and controlled.  I suspect that while the 180 was happily tuned with Senn’s traditional pretty mainstream sound, more V shaped sound, the 185 feels like its aiming for a more audiophile audience.

Even when I push them, pulling out the big lady from Malta, (Chiara) she is a big old beast of woman vocally.  Think not much in the way of delicate but a big old belter vocally.  She should be the only thing on the stage and the 185 has politely asked her to tone it down a bit, to play nice with instrumentalists.  The articulation is beautiful and so full of detail but…. Vocals just aren’t capturing the soul in the way that the likes of Dido or Nora ought to.  Superbly polite but reticent and lack any will to be creamy or liquid in their presentation.

Highs:  Delicate, tremendous breadth and scale.  They convey the orchestral grandeur before you and the highs are flat out amazing for something wireless.  Highs are simply the hardest bit to get right, stay accurate and for me, not get ear stabby.  Sennheiser have clearly worked some magic or been selling souls to the devil.  Detail, oh my god the detail is fantastic for wireless. I’m never normally one to get gushy over the highs on anything but, holy balls its good.  Okay, so it’s not aggressive which won’t please everyone but it sure as hell pleases me.  The impact of a metallic edge is a little bit on the muted side but the shimmer and trail away is rather excellent.  The 180 could get a little overexcited in the treble when things get wild but the 185 has an improved level of refinement. 

One curiosity though, I noticed on one track the pithily named “There's A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought Of It Yet” the early treble in the track felt a touch overly digital.  Curious because normally the 185 is the more refined but I’m putting it down to the DAC in them.  The audio card the 180 is running off I feel is what’s giving the 180 the more analogue tone there. 

Quantitatively there is a bit of a lift to the treble but it’s very slight.  Senn normally do rather more but here feels pretty much all in line with everything else. 

Soundstage:  Scale. Vast and symphonic scale.  The 180 feels soooo very much more up and in your face but the 185 is far more relaxed and huuuuuggggggeeeeeeee.  On paper thats great right, but you know it meant the 185 at times felt a little unengaging.  Thats not a bad thing per say, just a stylistic choice.  Something you might want to use to relax with of an evening, maybe a little Nora, or that Krall woman, a hefty glass of decent Scotch and let the world melt away.

Fit:  Grand.  Slapped on head and boom, done.

Comfort:  Excellent.  I will toss in a small caveat though.  The 185 are big and pretty weighty.  The 180 next to them feel far smaller and weigh nothing.  The 185 doesn’t “feel” heavy when on but flicking back and forth made it hugely apparent how considerably much more the 185’s weigh.  The spec says 204g for the 180 sans battery and the 185 is 310g with batteries.  On paper it’s not a lot but the 180 in the hand feels very light, light to the point it feels a bit flimsy.  The 185 feels considerably more substantive.

Cable:  Woo hoo, no cable!!!   So what about the wireless connection that replaces it?  The old RS series used Kleer and the new use something in house from Senn.  It’s been a while since I used my old 180 lots but it never ever dropped unless I was far away.  The new one has a couple of times.  I put that down to there being 400 wifi points all trying to use 2.4GHz.  It literally happened a just a couple of times for a split second so nothing to worry about.  Still I’d have been happier if the pretty empty 5GHz band had been used instead. 

Build:  These feel really quite sturdy and solidly constructed.  You know, because as we all know expensive German products always feel like cheap crap don’t they J  Given their increased weight these feel considerably more sturdy than their predecessors. 

Microphonics:  See Cable. Yey!  Feel free to dance round your living room with them on if you like.

Amped/Unamped:  Not really applicable.  They are their own DAC and amp which is something to keep in mind when we get to the price.  You aren’t just getting a headphone.

Isolation:  Erm, pretty much zero.  Do not think you can use these in a room with someone else and not piss them off.

Accessories:  Well what do you count as being an accessory?  You could argue I suppose the DAC is an “accessory” to the headphone.  Then so must be the power cable and the optical cable. 

Value:  Remember when I said before to keep in mind that these are not just headphones?  Yeah this is where that matters.  These being new are still going for full RRP, that’s £300, 350 euro or US$400.  So it’s not what you might call cheap.  Given that the RS180 goes for about £180 that’s a big jump up.  The difference is that the 180 has no DAC, so you need to feed it a decent source.  That you can plug this into an optical connection and let the base station do the thinking is for many a good thing.  Plus they are wireless and are therefore their own amp so you get hell of a good quality sound for your £300.  It buys you the whole shebang.  If you want to start beating its sound quality in wired form you must think about each component individually and of course use wires.  In an age where simplicity is at times favoured over any absolute, the package that is the RS185 is superb.  You slap in a little optical cable from out the back of your TV or from your computer and you have an instant audiophile grade headphone set up.  It is that simple, the RS185 is everything in one and you get the not insignificant bonus of it being wireless to boot.  If you are starting from scratch or you just like the idea of no wires these do sound better than you would think any “wireless” headphone has any right to.  The convenience it offers is wonderful, I can put these on and go clean the house with music of an exceedingly high quality wherever I go.  You have to pay for that. 

Conclusion:  I love the RS185, it is a technological marvel that shows just what Sennheiser and every engineer that Germany can muster are capableof when they put their minds to it.  It is nothing short of a miracle that you can have so high an audio quality level out of something wireless, powered by a couple of itty bitty AAA batteries.  If you are completely new to audio or you just want to massively simplify your set up you could chuck everything out, plug this into your computer and you will have a first rate set up that is good enough to be all you’ll ever need.  Yes it is that good.  However………

Nothing in life is ever that simple is it? 

Having spent many hours going back and forth between the RS185 and the RS180 that is hooked up to my Auzentech's HDA X-Plosion 7.1 sound card.  Card I changed the opamps in.  I can’t remember what the hell to though.  I remember it being one that was rather middy and a bit creamy in its presentation.  So as a result I have found myself often liking the RS180 better.  Yes I know I could plug the RS185 into an analogue input but I can’t.  I just can’t do it.  No, you buy the 185 because you get everything you need all in one, that’s the whole point of it.  You aren’t supposed to be using a sound card that you can roll the opamps and fine tune.  That’s crazy audio people behaviour, the kind of weirdos who want a separate DAC, a separate amp and then hooked up to a headphone.  That’s not even thinking about opamps and cables.  The tinkerer in me wants to tinker.  The RS185 isn’t a tinkerer headphone.  So while the RS185 is declaratively the better of the two, its technical abilities are just plain better than the 180.  Sometimes I liked the 180 more.

If you are the chap or chappett who has a home that looks like a catalogue, all open spaces and beautifully minimalistic then the RS185 is so the headphone for you.  Its beautiful open sound is wonderful and that it’s the whole package in one, DAC, amp and headphone is so staggeringly minimalist.  It’s all so effortless.  This is the reason you buy it, or the reason you don’t. 

The RS185 is a world entire unto itself.  You buy it because it’s the beginning, the end and everything in-between of your headphone journey.  You buy it because you want its unsurpassable simplicity.  You have it, a digital outputting source and you’re done, not a wire to get in the way of anything, hell it even charges its own damn batteries so you don’t even need a separate charger.  It is everything, everything you need.  Everything wrapped in one beyond minimalist bundle.

So the RS185 is pretty amazeballs. No ifs no buts its audio quality is awesome.  But…. When I pull out my old faithful HD600 (circa £200,) plug it into the Solo Linear Ultra (circa £670,) running of a Majestic DAC (circa £1700) and then the RS185 gets a thorough spanking from its “cheaper” brother.  Yes the £200 HD600 bests the £300 RS185 with ease.  That of course ignores everything behind it.  This is why I’m finding it so hard to judge the 185.  In the Head-fi world if you already have all that back ground stuff then you are paying a lot just to lose a cable. 

All of that said, the final arbiter of so much is, could I live with it as my only headphone. (obv I’d need something in ears for outside.)  I find myself thinking yes I could.  Its audio quality is excellent, there are no two ways about that.  It’s a pretty middling sound signature so I can’t see anyone hating it.  It’s good enough at absolutely everything and then you add in the lack of wires.  If it wasn’t for wireless headphones I might never clean the flat again!  The RS185 is never going to be the love of my life, I could settle down and live with it.

Sennheiser RS185 Quick Review

Sennheiser RS185 Quick Review

Thanks to Sennheiser for the sample.

Brief:  Look Ma, no wires!!!

Price:  £300 or US$400 or €350

Accessories:  HDR 185 headphones, TR 185 transmitter, Optical cable, RCA audio cable, Power supply with 4 adapters (EU, UK, US & AU), 2 AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries,    Quick guide & Instruction manual CD

Build Quality:  Duh, it’s a Sennheiser.  It’s as firm and sturdy as you expect from the Germans.

Isolation:  Zero.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good.  It’s a bit heavyish compared with the old 180 but its ear cups are a touch bigger so properly fit around my ears.  Comfy enough to wear all day long, I know because I did.

Aesthetics:  Not sure I love the monolithic looking base station.  Still the whole bundle looks pretty reasonable.  German, sensible and functional rather than stylish.

Sound:  Duh, once more, it’s a Senn.  They have been making headphones since the dawn of time and it shows.  They know how to make things sound excellent with a reliability you expect from the Germans too.  It’s not a flashy thing though, it’s a grown up, exceedingly proficient sound.  Its bass is full, deep, controlled and expansive.  It’s not party bass, it’s very grown up, polite and mature bass.  If you throw on massively bass heavy stuff it will do it, competently and accurately.  It is slightly bass heavy but it’s not a bassheads headphone.  Mids are a hair reticent and reticent but vastly broad.  Breathy and detail by the bucket load but they lack something of the soul about them.  Dry, breathy stuff like the Krall woman are excellent, creamy melodic Nora stuff is “accurate” but it hasn’t quite that creamy sumptuousness I’m looking for.  Not that it’s bad it’s just a bit, well it’s not expressing the emotiveness of her vocals.  It’s a bit staid.  Beautiful but not quite captivating.  Strings are tonally dry and accurate too but lack that creamy softness I so love.  Treble is highly, highly proficient.  Once more the order of the day is accurate.  Cymbals have the right amount of metallic twang and bight.  Decay and extension are very competent too.  It’s all so very German, accurate and superbly capable but I’ll confess it lacks a little soul.  It’s very slight V shaped sound is all so flavourless. No drama, nothing it’s especially well-suited for just as there is nothing its meh at.  I believe Senn are thinking this could be your only headphone and I think they could be right.  Its excellently capable at everything, From Tracy Chapman, to Scissor Sisters, to Twenty One Pilots, to Megan “I think I’m Fat” they are excellent with everything, no matter how talented or not your chosen musical artists are.  The 185 is pretty much on paper perfect.  It really is but, just so German, polite and capable.

Value:  Depends how you look at it.  This could be effectively your entire set up, DAC, amp and headphone all in one, oh and wireless to boot. So super awesome value.  If you don’t want to use its DAC and you’ve already got an awesome headphone amp then £300 for just the headphone is quite a bit just to get rid of a wire.

Pro’s:   No Wires!!!!  Sounds most excellent wires or no wires.

Con’s:  Its not cheap and you pay for the lack of wires.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Trinity Delta Review

Trinity Delta Review

Thanks to Trinity for the sample and collaboration.

First Impressions:  Well what I have here clearly isn’t what the rest of you will get.  I’m running on pre production “prototypes” so my packaging is, err a poly bag.  So I guess that means I should crack on with the listening.  Before I do that though, I do see a little tube with the selection of “filters.”  Yes the Delta is one of those sound variable IEM’s that gives a reviewer 3 times as much work, sigh.  Still if you’re going to have just one IEM I can see why it could be handy to have one you can tailor to your tastes.

So in the ears and the filter in them is the “silver” one.  I think that’s the flat one.  Hmm going by the colouring surely the silver one ought to be the trebly one, black the bassy and the goldish one the flater one in the middle.  I feel confused.  Anyway, clarity right off is most impressive.  Rather V shaped sound going on here mids could do with more prominence but the treble for a BA seems quite excellent.  I think the DUNU- DN-900 may be in for a bit of a kicking.

Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5, 1G Ipod Shuffle and the Graham Slee Solo Linear Ultra.

Lows:  Deep inside we have a big dynamic doing the low end and depth wise it shows.  Now it changes quite a bit with the different filters.  The silver ones seem to be most sealed and there we get the most V shaped and impactful punch.  The depth feels if anything thing rather slanted upward as it descends.  Poppy, punchy power all the way.  It’s rather rambunctious and eager to show off.  The goldish filters in and they seem rather more vented and it gives a much more open acoustic style.  As with open headphones the lows feel more grown up and begin to fall off rapidly as it descends low.  The black one though, it’s a bit of a queer duck.   Its open like the gold but it also has a filter that sizeable sedates the treble so comparatively the bass and mids come out more.  In regards to the bass, it keeps the open air and while it does suffer the open drop off you have cranked the volume to compensate for the filters muting.  The end result is you sacrifice the deepest lows for a vastly more noticeably nuanced bass.  It feels authoritative and detailed.  It is also agile in a way that kinda takes aim at the DN-900 and sadly for Dunu its a clear level or two up on it.  Sure you need to work the amp a little harder to make it sing but I figure if your buying £90 IEM’s that’s not going to be that big a problem for you.  

It comes down to a question of taste.  The gold and black filters give open styled bass with the black being quantitatively much greater.  Open headphones give vastly more articulated bass and far more agility.  Closed gives you that heavy, weighty and solid impact at the expense of nuance and lithe control.  Silver gives you power and punch, black gives you gloriously talented skill.  Gold gives you treble.

Mids:  Oh those filters, once more the black one is the one that appeals to me.  It mutes the top end and being open it loses the punch of a closed IEM.  The mids then have the best opertunity of the three to come forth and play.  They are still not what I’d call middy and I do love mid centric stuff.  Here it’s clear and detailed.  It’s very middling tonally, perhaps it’s the slightest hint towards liquid, it is a BA after all.  Vocals are reminding me of the old but glorious KC3.  It sacrifices a hint of breathiness to give you a somewhat monitor like deadness.  It feels that teeny bit dead inside.  Then I compare it to some other IEM’s and what’s instantly apparent is that its competing at a level above things at the same price.  I know price wise you don’t have to go up too far before you find its comparable.  Vocally it’s not exciting and it’s not particularly emotive either. Nevertheless these are vocally the equal of the triple driver DN-1000 rather than the 900 which is quite something. 

Swapping to the silvers and the vocals start to sit back a bit.  They retain their vocal darkness, if anything thing its fractionally more dark but more focused.  The quantity though is what’s really different, the highs and bass both take a step forward leaving the vocals in a valley.  Its that classic V shaped sound signature.  The clarity is still excellent being highly articulate with poppy mediocre vocals.  Breathy subtle vocals aren’t so breathy however.  With the gold ones the bass takes a dive so vocals are a sliver lighter tonally, it is not what I’d call open and breathy vocally, think more rich and fluid.

Highs:  For a single BA doing the mids and the treble, I am most impressed.  It’s still a BA so it has issues with treble extension as they all do, if you want the very highest highs you should still look to a dynamic.  Otherwise it’s bloody good.  Head to head with the 900 and this bests it.  The 900 is more narrow and focused where the Delta has a greater width and breadth to it.  It still has that monitor esq hint of deadness to it so some may like the more alive 900 but in terms of technical ability we have a winner here.  With the black filter and its treble filter tames the more brutal aspects and while I could see some finding it too sedate the quality is exemplary.  It is my favourite filter.

Swapping to the silvers and that V shaped brutality kicks in and while head to head its competitors it is excellent.  For my ears all a little aggressive and dazzling.  BA’s in my opinion can be too edgy up top and while this puts up a truly valiant effort the MA-750 feels ever so more naturally capable.  With the golds in its just the same as the silvers but sans big bass.  In theory that should make it one for treble heads, it does this by increased venting so I’m not sure treble junkies will love the resultant loss of sound isolation.  The gold filter really does show off just how detailed and capable the driver in side is.

Soundstage:  So so.  Size wise there is nothing super special here.  It’s bigger with the silver and golds in, both being open.  So you get more a hint of air and breadth but its middling in scale.  Putting in the blacks and things take on a bit more of that monitor deadness.  Things feel more closed in and a bit more intimate.  They take one a monitor esq enclosed and darkened room feel to them.  The blacks feel VERY well integrated for a dynamic/BA hybrid.

Fit:  Good.  The angle of the cable coming out the buds id have preferred at 90 degrees to improve wearing up fit but they coped okay.  Wearing down they were likewise effortless to stick in your ears.

Comfort:  Worn up or down their very ordinary shape made for very ordinary fit.  No issues whatsoever.

Microphonics:  None.  Even wearing down if you’re one of those people how insist doing so.  The cable is great quite frankly.  I mean if you will consult crazy earphone like us these are the things that get done right.  Yes Klipsch I’m looking at you, the Custom 3 may have sounded wonderful but the cable was worse than if you had used a coat hanger.

Cable:  Its practically perfect in every way.  Its exactly what I would have picked for them.  Shocking I know.

Amped/Unamped:  These have been built with phones in mind.  They were easily driven to excellence out of just my mediocre Nexus 5.  The bass did loosen up a bitty and the treble took a bit of a quality knock (the phone just hasn’t the treble quality of better sources.)  so you can perfectly happily use these out of a phone and get a great deal out of them, they don’t “need” an amp but….. frankly when you are getting to this quality level you are missing out if you use just a phone.  I realise there are better phone outputs than my Nexus 5 but if you think that any phone matches truly dedicated, quality outputs you are mistaken.  Out of big and ever so slightly expensive Solo Linear Ultra they look on a new degree of ass spanking goodness.  You throw power at them and they make good use of it.

Still if you must use your phone, these work well even with sucky amp outputs.

Isolation:  The black and gold filters are both vented so neither isolate massively.  The black ones were a bit better but nothing to write home about.  The blacks were fine for day to day use, being sat on a bus but they are not sealed so I’d skip for a Tube commute or flight.  The silvers being more sealed were a bit better but these remain so so isolators.  It goes without saying, its more than enough to get you run over if you aren’t using your eyes around roads.

Accessories:  You get a fair package.  Funky triangular case, 4 pairs of tips but I think foamies might also be coming.  Then lastly the little metal tube for the filters.  Pretty much what you really want.

Value:  Right now I’m inclined to say it’s my favourite IEM I’ve to date heard for £90.  Best however is always arguable and an abstract term so there is no such thing as “best” rather there is a best for you.  This won’t be everything to everyone, the filters do go some way to making this something you could gift with confidence the recipient will be pleased.  Most buyers will quickly find the filter for them based on their own preferences which for me was the black.  It was bassy and middy and with a price point busting detail level.  At the Kickstarter “earlybird” price they are an outright steal.

Conclusion:  Okay, I pretty much hate music tuning filters.  I have 400 million IEM’s and I know very well what I like and can extrapolate from others writings what is and what is not going to be for me.  Everyone doesn’t have that luxury so I do understand where tuneable filters come from, if you are going to buy just one IEM and you aren’t super sure what’s you and what isn’t, it negates the risk somewhat. 

The gold filter, it’s the kinda trebly one.  Or the flat / neutral one.  Actually with really well recorded things I found myself enjoying it in small doses.  It’s so open and detailed.  However it’s just the sort of thing I’d want a bass boosting amp for.  Err or just use the black filters.  Still treble heads will like I’m sure but to me it seems a shame to net get the most out of that dynamic driver too.

The silver one was not really to my tastes, with its big V shaped sound.  The bass is big and potently punchy, the treble is crisp and dazzling.  It’s a thrilling and dramatic sound.  You get all the oomph that dynamic can give you down low and the crispy edgy BA treble up top.  Both are clearly exceedingly accomplished, I get that, I really do.  Still I found myself gravitating to the black filters again.  The Silvers are just to WAAAA!!!!!!! for little old me.

Then the black.  They just manage to nudge things into an ever so much more grown up, mature sound.  The word monitor keeps flitting into my mind.  They aren’t truly monitor flat dullness but they have that acoustic deadness in the background.  Like every little imperfection and reflection that’s not supposed to be there has been suppressed by taking out the bottom layer of the dynamic range.  That faint wisp of hiss and openness has been Dolby’d out and it leaves something feels so sonically pure.

Music feels like anything extraneous has been gently erased and you’re left with this darkened pit of acoustic goodness.  Everything feels very controlled with an overshadowing darkness.  That darkness pervades everything.  Visually you might think of it as a well calibrated TV that to appreciate it you require to sit in a dimly lit room.  Once you get the acoustic room levelled properly then you can full appreciate the full range of what is being displayed before you.  The black filters give you that appropriate room and then the music become the true centre of your focus.  You can notice and pick out tiny little details that you otherwise would miss because your senses are too busy being blinded with your TV set to “shop” mode.  You know that mode, where the brightness is set to 400% colour, is at max, contrast is at max, edge “enhancement” is turned on etc etc etc.  It pops visually but subtlety is eradicated and along with it a boat load of nuance.

I do rather fee that if your spending best part of £100 on an IEM you will be more drawn to the subtly of the blacks.  Perhaps you may use the Deltas as a transitional IEM, using the silvers as an option to take you away from your former audio listening days and gently ease you into the maturity of the blacks.  For the cash it’s a great and versatile option.  Personally I’d never use the silver or gold filters.  The black ones though, let you see what the drivers can do inside it and when you power it well, feeding it a quality source, they absolutely shine.

Trinity Delta Quick Review

Trinity Delta Quick Review

Thanks to Trinity for the sample and collaboration.

Brief:  Yet another new UK firm kicking some serious arse.

Price:  £90 or about US$137

Specification:      Balanced Armature + 8mm neodymium dynamic drivers, 3 x Interchangeable tuning filter system, Impedance 16Ohm, Sensitivity 110 +/- 3DB,   Frequency response 19 - 21000HZ, Gold plated 3.5mm Jack, 1.2M Cable length

Accessories:  Filters, bunch of tips and a wee case.

Build Quality:  Looks great.  The jack is particularly sturdy and the cable is perfect.

Isolation:  It’s a bit filter dependant.  Black, okay.  Silver, okay, about normal for a dynamic.  Gold, meh.  I could live with these for normal out and about but not really Tube stuff.  More than enough to make you road kill if you don’t keep your eyes open though.

Comfort/Fit:  Very good on both accounts. 

Aesthetics:  Bland.  I like the gun metal colouring but it’s very subtle looking overall.

Sound:  Filter dependant.  The golds are the open trebly ones, which if you want bass light and treble I’d always go for a single BA myself and get isolation.  Still it’s an option if you want.  The Silver, it I can see as appealing to some.  It’s big, brash and highly V shaped.  The bass is hard and punchy, the treble dazzling and attention seeking.  The mids get a bit overshadowed but are still clear and detailed.  Though for me the black filters are where these come into their own.  The bass loses it furthest depths and the highs mute themselves considerably.  In short, they grow up.  The bass takes on a nuance and control that was too busy punching you with the silvers.  The highs are refined and detailed superbly for a BA, especially for a single BA doing the mids too!  The mids, they have a darkness, a certain sense of the void about them like your listening to everything in a treated acoustic chamber.  Everything that bit deadened taking away all the little noises that aren’t supposed to be there. Its offers a beautifully dark background to more fully display the fullest range of colour and shading before you like a properly calibrated TV might in a faintly lit room.  The littlest of differences that you might otherwise miss out on in a less controlled environment.  So much detail yet so subtle in its display yet so apparent when you seek it.  In short its price point leading goodness.  Top class bass, mids and dynamics.  Bar setting audio quality.

Value:  Right now as good as it gets. (Kickstarter early bird offers are stupendous value.)

Pro’s:   Truly fine audio quality with a sumptuously black background. Glorious.

Con’s:  Plain looks.  Gold and silver filters not subtle about the treble.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Trinity Hyperion Review

Trinity Hyperion Review

Thanks to Trinity for the sample and collaboration.

First Impressions:  Once more it’s a pre-production sample I have so just a bare bone affair, IEM and a bag of tips.  So I guess straight in the ears they go.  Gosh, very open and airy sounding.  Vocals especially have a very airy take on them and quite some prominence, not particularly mid centric but they do like to jump out a bit at you.  Treble seem likewise very open and airy.

Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5, 1G Ipod Shuffle and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  For something of this price bracket unusually the bass is not taking centre stage.  It’s not lacking in absolute terms but it’s comparatively somewhat behind what you’d normally see around this price.   It’s really very controlled and has I nice element of depth to it that tries very hard to go down linearly.  At the lowest ranges both it and human hearing drops out and so it does roll off.  It’s clearly going for quality and measuring well over quantity.  That’s fine by me as bass is the one thing dap’s and bass boosting amps are all set up to enhance anyway.  Still it’s pretty reticent to jump forward and show off, you have to goad it with some heavy bass tracks for it to come out and even then, upper mids and lower treble still like to command your attention.  Comparing to the GR06 and its clearly much more linear and accurate than the rounded humpy bass of the 6.  There just isn’t all that much of it. 

Though please note, if you hook it up to a powerful amp the bass becomes remarkably deep and linear for their price point. GR06 and RE-300 with ease beating linearity.

Mids:  Very spacious and airy.  They have masses of breadth to them and an exceedingly explicitness to them.  Once more clearly they have gone for a quality and measuring well feel.  It’s very explicit nature makes it very well suited for well recorded and well mastered tracks.  The like of The Beautiful South and Susan Wong both sound exemplary on them and vocally are even GR06 beating.  There is just more detail and more expressiveness.  You slap on some Nora and she sounds superb, all breathy and lingering.  Guitars likewise particularly suit the dryness and twang excellently.  Creamy though, not so much and by not so much I mean not really at all.  The Hyperion feels like it’s trying ever so hard to express every last detail where as something like the BA drivered PL-50 makes creamy and expressively detailed look utterly effortless.

Quantitatively its all pretty much in line with the bass and the treble.

Highs:  The hardest bit to get right and we get a really nice offering.  That air, open and expressive nature shines here with the highs on the whole sounding very detailed and delicate.  If you keep yourself to sedate and calm treble then they are fantastically good for the money.  All that air and openness makes everything feel hyper explicit and the spike they have is much less noticeable.  The extension beyond that spike is very good too.  The trouble is if you start playing more active treble and things that err toward sibilance then the treble spike of the Hyperion begins to start making itself known.  It also tends to drown out somewhat the extension and decay too.  This is not something unique to the Hyperion, highs are the hard bit to not get something wrong.  The GR06 has a similar spike that can get ear stabby but its overall more mellow warmth softens it somewhat.  The cool dryness of the Hyperion ensures it stays right up front and in your face.  If you hurl fast, scratchy treble at it it will serve it up, brutality intact.  My treble sensitive ears did not love this.  For the price though I think I’m being a little overly picky.

Quantitatively the treble can get really quite prominent.  It is a little out there in front of the mids and therefor the bass too making this somewhat of a fractionally treble focused IEM. Using foamy tips does tame the uppers a tad nicely though and with well mastered treble its really rather enjoyable.

Soundstage:  Outstanding.  For something cheap like this it’s vast sounding.  It has oodles of breadth, a goodly amount of depth and height too.  The air and openness as I have mentioned are clear stand out features.  They are just huge of you feed it a cool, dry track.  Its integration is pretty good too.  Though that upper mid/treble spike and general treble abundance make instrument placement seem odd.  The treble regularly sounds very upfront and in your face with the mids and bass placed behind it.  You may get space but you don’t get things arrayed before you they feel one hiding behind the other.

Fit:  Great, tiny things that just went in ears and that was it.  Up or down it was the same story.

Comfort:  Their teeny dimensions meant they pretty much instantly melted away once in.

Cable:  The new cable is super lush.  Some double weave wrap thing that leaves it super flexible and zero cable memory.  A particularly top quality cable for something so cheap.

Build Quality:  The cable as I said is awesome.  The jack then, it should be pretty damn indestructible though the shrink wrap over the spring is a touch stiff.  The buds though are rather sturdy little things being carved out aluminium.   They feel as nice in the hand as they look to the eye.

Amped/Unamped:  Actually I think if anything they have been made with warm and pretty puny amps in mind.  When you hook up the a phone, the treble seems to calm itself a bit.  The phone just hasn’t the power behind it to make that treble stand out and berate your ears.  Since I now have an Iphone for these things, swapping to it and I guessed right.  The Iphone is a bit warm and hasn’t the oomp in its little amp to really make the treble dazzle like it does of the Solo Ultra.  I could see the combination working to boost the warmth of the low and and toning down somewhat the energy and edge of the treble.  Certainly form my own assortment of sources, consistently they were softer and less edgy when paired with warm sources.  Oh and the little 1G Ipod shuffle, known for being a bit brutal up top, oh there were not a happy pairing. 

So while power isn’t needed for the Hyperion, their comparative bass lightness meant that adding in a little baby amp with a bass boost button was rather fun.  So you don’t need an amp for power but I can see the bass boosting potential here and its just a bit of naughty fun.

Isolation:  Pretty fair.  It’s about the norm for dynamics these days.  Perfectly grand for normal out and about or on a bus.  Probably not for a daily Tube commute but for the odd flight or visit to London am sure they would do fine.  Clearly more than sufficient to make you road kill if you don’t keep your eyes open when in motion.

Accessories:  They will come with a bunch of tips and a nice little case which is all you could want really.

Value:  Pressing off out the door with a retail price of £30 these are erring towards bargainlishous.  They aren’t going to be all things to everyone, certainly if you’ve only got bright DAP’s you might want to stear clear but in terms of quality, they are going head to head with the RE-300 and frankly they trade blows, for the most part, evenly.  So what that means is for the money you cant get better, you can get different but not better.

N.B.  I have just had it confirmed that the Kickstarter price will be just £20.  Uberbarganlishious!!!

Conclusion:  I have some mixed feelings about the Hyperion.  The detail levels it can spit out are just incredible for the cost.  The openness it exhibits lends well to this and they make everything hyper detailed.  It bests the RE-300 in terms of details, though the 300 has a greatly warmer and richer tone.  Yes, the world has gone crazy.  A HiFiMAN IEM is the bassy option and lacks in detail retrieval.  Who would have ever seen that coming a few years ago?

Treble, at cheap a price point you are not going to be able to nail perfectly, if you could we would no longer have expensive IEM’s.  My own inclination as you go down the price scale is to dial back the treble.  The Hyperion does not do that at all.  It keeps that treble right up there and even with a warm DAP in play, if you throw a trebly track at it, it tries its little heart out.  It does every damn little thing it possibly can to get everything spot on and it can’t quite manage everything.  Come on though, the thing is only 30 quid.  You feed it a brash high end and it dishes out all that brashness and more.  With smooth and rich tracks its crisp dryness find a much more suitable pairing.  Nevertheless it put a truly valiant rendition of Owl City’s “The Bird and the Worm.”

The Hyperion feels almost a bit too good for itself.  In its own price range, the RE-300 goes for a vastly warmer sound and much easier on the ears for it.  If you are willing to pair it with a nice warm DAP you will be highly rewarded though.  It’s a real enthusiastic little go getter.  For just £30 these feel like a total steal, I mean I could maybe see this sound quality level at the price but to get it and have such solid construction too?  I’m pretty sure there is a pact with the devil somewhere however seeing as I’m not Bob’s first born I can live with it.