Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Joinhandmade Jelly Doux Review

Joinhandmade Jelly Doux Review

Thanks to Joinhandmade for the sample.  (N.B. Chromes translate function may be of use)

First Impressions:  Oh lordy, it would seem that loose polystyrene balls are still a thing.  Be careful when you open the box, lol or you’ll be cleaning them up for weeks.  Plucking out the case, where the buds and tips are located, it’s a substantial case.  Interesting finish on it too, black but with a hint of glitter underneath.  Inside we’ve got the buds, it would seem I got blue, curiously they call it Bleu de France while they don’t name any other colours in French.  Hmm I can’t help wonder if it’s a cultural hangover from French colonial days.  Yes I know Vietnam is probably most known for the Americans activities there but that all came off the back of its being part of French Indo-China.  Still it’s a rather attractive colour, the visuals on there are going to be a big deal I think.    You can tell from the pics on their site that they really care about the looks of these and that’s before you get to the customisability they can offer.  I think that springs from them all being largely handmade, no great factory production line spitting out everything the same.  Yeah, hand painted, polished and finished.  They look good too.

In the ears and these are just like their visuals.  Big, colourful, exuberant beasts.  Party time, fun, playful dynamics and a big, BIG bottom end.  Rather \ shaped a sound signature but I can tell this is gonna be one for mainstream poppy, bouncy stuff.  Nicely firm a bottom given its expanse, vocals are a bit focused and like to jump out a little.  Treble is nice, controlled and not too abundant, lacks a bit of bight but has a nicely smooth, and shimmery decay. 

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

Lows:  Playful.  They are big, ebullient and exuberant.   Is it me, not really but for the target market of playfully bouncy pop it works very well.  It’s a big old heap of bass, depth suffers a bit and its errs towards a bit mid/ bass region but its enjoyably bouncy.  It’s got a big heap of enthusiasm and it yearns for you to slap on some big heavy bassed pop.  If you do it then launches itself headfirst into every bass note.  It’s not subtle about it and it gives up finesse or control for bombastic party time.  It’s fun, its playful, its energetic and explosive.  I confess it’s had me track skipping a bit as the likes of Susan Wong, it wasn’t so well suited to. It doesn’t want to be composed it wants wildness.  It wants to hurl from one bass thump to the next, it’s so cheerful and upbeat.  Give a big and fast bass line, say Savage Garden’s “Affirmation” and it’ll just go wild in a smorgasbord of bass hurling all over the place, its super playfully fun.  This is not trying to at all please an audiophile audience, its playing to those who like its visuals as much as its acoustics.  It’s all party, all of the time.

In quantity terms it’s really rather elevated bass.  Especially if you throw on bassy music it just runs away with itself and it rather overshadows the rest.  Vocals are a bit over shadowed and the laid back treble stays in the back while the bass just takes over the show.

Mids:  It rather depends on what you’re doing with them.  You see when the bass has been put away the mids are rather softly melodic, neutral tonally with a gently pleasing lingering quality.  There can be something so softly sweeping to them.  However they don’t want to be that way.  They can behave but they want to be let off their leash and go wild.  Give them a playful and energising, poppy vocal and it’ll spring to life.  Refinement and detail fade a bit but that’s not important.  These are about party play time and so they respond best to music that lets them do so.   No sitting there analysing anything it’s dance about your bedroom and sing along out loud, not caring that no one can hear the music.  Enjoy yourself.

Highs:  They are a little on the muted side, yey, that works great for my ears.  Things of this price can’t do awesome treble so stay where you can shine and gloss over the really hard bits.  Plus I think they’re are aimed at those who may not be using the best bit rates in the world.  In low bit rate music the first thing to go to hell is the treble.  This will casually gloss over treble that isn’t of the finest quality.  It’s all about the poppy playfulness it’s not a tool for analysing music, it’s an instrument to put a smile on your face.  

Detail levels are fine, nothing special but its soft shimmy nature works very well for the music it’s aimed at so I consider it to be the sound signature you should want at this market segment.

Soundstage:  There isn’t a lot of particular placement going on.  There is a good semblance of scale and authority, it’s a powerful sound.  It’s just not very nuanced in their placement and it lacks in distance.  It’s a moderately close in big, PA speaker powering out at you.

Fit:  Very nice.  I slapped no a pair of Comply’s as I usually do but not any issues.  Not even any air pressure or lock of venting issues.  If anything the only issues was they were a little lacking in grip to pull them out.  The buds are so smooth and the lack of strain relief meant I pulled them out by the wire once or twice.

Comfort:  Great.  Worn up or down, no issues.  Very light and simple.

Aesthetics:  Their looks are one of their most important qualities.  The set I have here is a pretty basic version.  Grey cable, blue buds, Bleu de France they are called.  They look good, very nice, personally I rather like blue too but their lacquered finish with delicate little glitter sparkles underneath.  They look good.  Actually I kinda wish I had all of them in front of me, that Castleton Green I think could look spectacular.   Oh and then if you like you can get the “Vouge” version where you can customise each bit to the colour of your choice.  Clearly their looks are intended to matter to buyers.  I don’t know of anyone else that anything like this level of customisation in colour options.

Microphonics:   Nope, can’t say I really got any.  A bit if you must wear them down, so don’t wear them down.  Though if you’re like me, wearing collars all the time wearing down does have a habit of the mic hitting your collar from time to time.

Amped/Unamped:  As a relatively cheap earphone it’s not likely that they will ever see a real amp in the wild.  Thus they have been made with that in mind.  Their output from the Iphone 5 was somewhat warmed, softened and smoothed out compared to more powerful outputs.  Actually I rather thought they paired best with the Lumia 735 and its crisper sound.  The Iphone made the bass even more emphasised and pushed things in the direction of it becoming oppressive.  While I grant that making the bass even more prominent isn’t likely to put off but encourage most of its potential buyers, still I wasn’t loving it.  With the soft, warm Iphone it just wacked up the relative wall and warmth of the bass.

Phone Use:  Nexus 5, Iphone 5 and Lumia 735 all worked fine including the volume controls.  However the Moto G 4G the volume controls didn’t.  No idea why.  Otherwise the mic was good all-round, no issues I noticed.

Isolation:  Really rather good for a dynamic.  They sounded sealed, which is a little unusual in dynamics but hey, the isolation therefore was at the upper end of what a dynamic can offer.  Easily enough for on a bus or walking out and about.  Probably not what you’d want for a daily Tube commute or long flight but you could get away with it if you must.  Naturally it’s more than easily enough to get yourself run over if you forget to use your eves when out and about.

Cable:  Nice.  I have the grey one but you can also get it in white or black.  Well the outer woven covering anyway, I’m sure their insides are all the same.  Petty sturdy, fairly flexible but doesn’t feel super flexible.  That seems to be common on woven covered cables though.  The jack and Y-splitter’s are both fine too, simple but I do like their colour matching the buds.  Well unless you get the Vogue version and chose what colour each comes in.

Accessories:  You get 3 pairs of tips and a rather funky case.  The case is weird, so different from anything I’ve seen elsewhere, I love that it has the same finish as the buds.  That outer glossy, translucent layer over a faintly glittering lower layer.  Though I find myself thinking wouldn’t it be lovely if it came in the same range of colours rather than just in black.  The case is a little big for pockets maybe, that’s my only issue.  It’s so peculiar.

Value:  ATM they are still in their Indiegogo phase, you can order a pair of them with the standard 12 colours and the choice of a black or grey cable for US$25 plus postage.  If you want to customise everything, a different colour for everything and a choice of white, black or grey cable then the “Vogue” version comes in at US$35.  So in real money that’s just £16 or £23.  Note that these prices will rise after the Indiegogo campaign, to US$35 and US$55.  You can probably find a more audiophile pleasing IEM out there for the price but you’ll be hard pressed to find something as fun and as funky looking.  The Jelly Doux are big on the visuals with their crazy customisability, what other earphones can you have coloured to match your wardrobe?

Conclusion:  The Jelly Doux’s are a playful party time earphone.  They are just what you think of when you look at their web site.  Modern, clean, playful, all about the statement they make as much as they are about the music they make.  That music, it’s just like their appearance too.  Full of fun, playful and exuberantly eager to capture the attention of passers-by.  Have a listen and you’ll soon be swept up in their party atmosphere.  Joyful, playful no matter what they just want to be full of fun and have a good time. 

I like these.  I mean they are tuned to something that I personally would never buy but they are such eager little fellows you can’t help but love their eagerness to please and have a fun time.  They belong to the youthful party time ages of the late teens to early twenties, where the world ahead is full of optimism and wonder.  They are so full of enthusiasm and a sense that so long as you’re having a good time everything will be fine so just keep on dancing like the world isn’t watching.  It’s all about you, the music and having a smile on your face.

So should you buy a pair?  Well if you want grown up audiophile, then keep walking.  These are what audiophiles might buy their offspring, mostly probably daughters who want some decent tunes and they simply must look fabulously fabulous too daaaarling!!!  I can’t help feeling these would be as much if not more at home in a fashion boutique than they would in an electronics shop.  As fun and entertaining as they are colourful.

Joinhandmade Jelly Doux Quick Review

Joinhandmade Jelly Doux Quick Review

Thanks to Joinhandmade for the sample.  (N.B. Chromes translate function may be of use)

Brief:  Fashion and customisability galore.

Price:  US$25 or US$35 depending on the version.  (About £16 or £23 respectively.) Post Indiegogo they go to US$35 and US$55.

Specification:  Driving Unit: Dynamic, Impedance: 16 Ohms, Sensitivity: 113db@1000Hz, Distortion: less than 0.1%, Frequency Response: 18 – 21,000 Hz, Cable Length: 1.2 m, Plug: 3.5 mm

Accessories:  3 pairs of silicon tips and an active case.  The case is super funky.

Build Quality:  They are really very nice for the price, real eye catchers with that hand finished gloss and faint sparkle.  All feels pleasantly firm.

Isolation:  Very good for a dynamic.  They do have little bitty vents but I found them to be at the upper end of what a dynamic can do.  Easily fine for out and about or bus commutes.  You could do Tube or flights in a pinch.  Naturally more than enough to get yourself run over if you fail to use your eyes.

Comfort/Fit:  Great on both aspects.  They are small, rounded buds that fit my ears fine and without any effort.  In and that was it done.

Aesthetics:  They are all about the visuals.  Not any do they come in an unusually large 12 colour options, you get cable colour choice too and then if you want you can pay for the more expensive “Vogue” version and pick the colours of every different bit.  One bud one Blue de France, the other Spanish Orange, the Y splitter Rose Wood and the jack Saffron Yellow.  Then you can pick to attach them to a black, white or grey cable. Aside from buying customs at several hundred dollars I don’t know anyone who offers this many options.  Clearly this is intended to be a highly fashion conscious option.

Sound:  They are ebullient and playful sounding earphone.  Big bass is the most immediately noticeable feature which is going to play well to those I’d bet are most attracted to their visuals.  Playful, exuberant and playful are the order of the day and that what they strive for constantly.  Dance around your room singing out loud, not caring a fig who if anyone can hear you.  It’s all about you, the music and making you smile.  It’s playful, rambunctious and as such things like fine detail, subtlety fade away.  They aren’t integral to having a good time.  The bass with its big hearty boom, mids with their slight mid bass richness but with passable clarity.  The highs are a little overshadowed and polite but again in playful party tunes you want just a smidge or else they would scratch your ears.  Treble junkies will find these a bit too warm and rolled off for them.  These aren’t really aimed at audiophiles, these are aimed audiophiles daughters who want to enjoy themselves and for them to look fabulous.  These will get by dad’s need for them for sound decent and daughters desire for them to match her wardrobe.

Fun, party, the sound just like you might imagine they would by looking at them.  Lots of fun.

Pro’s:  Look fabulous daaaaarling!!!  Super cheap.  Super fun.

Con’s:  Don’t think for one second these are grown up, looking or sounding.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Christmas Musical Suggestion by mark2410 – The Cambridge Singers Carols of the Nativity

A Christmas Musical Suggestion by mark2410 – The Cambridge Singers Carols of the Nativity

So yeah, this year I’ve gone all traditional really haven’t I?  So what, who doesn’t love a little choral music wafting in softly?  Its Christmas, it’s the time of year you can do things differently and if that means you want to listen to music that’s older than the combined age of your entire family so be it.  Once more we have John Rutter strutting his stuff with the Cambridge Singers, while there is a little track overlap I had to include this as I rather love The Cherry Tree Carol.  Perhaps its my inner five year old snickering at its lyrical composition but it amuses me, never failing to make me smile no matter how much Christmas has me wanting to punch people.

Have a listen and see what you make of them.

A Christmas Musical Suggestion by mark2410 – The Cambridge Singers Christmas Star

A Christmas Musical Suggestion by mark2410 – The Cambridge Singers Christmas Star

While I have to date tended toward not traditional, or traditional but with a more modern twist musical arrangements, which does not mean that’s all that’s out there.  Here we has a compilation that is probably about as traditional as traditional gets.  Nevertheless there are some musical truths that have held, these are pleasing to the ear and for good reason have stood up to the passage of time.  Have a listen and see what you make of them, picturing in your mind a traditional Dickensian choir performing out in the faintly falling snow, illuminated only by a gentle sea of candles.

A Christmas Musical suggestion by mark2410 - Tori Amos Midwinter Graces

Tori Amos Midwinter Graces

I have been for about as long as I can remember been a fan of Tori Amos.  In my opinion she is the greatest piano player on Earth, as best I know anyway, then pile on her vocals, what’s not to love?  So some years back she released her Winter / Christmas themed album by the name Midwinter Graces.  Never was she what you’d call traditional and neither is this album, being neither traditional Christmas tunes but new compilations.  This means unless you have heard the album it’s all new, so no reminiscing to a new interpretation to an old favourite.  Still its musically interesting and makes a bit of a change from the usual repertoire at this time of year. 

Here is two of its tracks to see what you make of them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Mark2410's 2015 Christmas Gift Guide

Mark2410's 2015 Christmas Gift Guide

This guide is intended as a list of things that I believe would make for a good Christmas present for someone in your life, someone who either loves music or someone who could do with the joy that good quality music listening can bring.  This guide is going to be aimed at things not for yourself, so things are going to be a little bit generalist and with a little slant to “consumer” sounding things.  It’s not intended for those who have heard a hundred headphones and earphones, that knows exactly what they like and what they don’t.  With that in mind I will shortly being constructing a Christmas gift for yourself guide.  That will be a little late but as I think many will receive gifts in the form of cash, these “for yourself” presents often are bought post the big day anyway.

Stocking Stuffers

1.   RHA S500 (with or without the i)  £30 (i for £40) or US$40 (i for $50)

The S500 is a little gem of an IEM, combining impeccable looks and it sounds great.Now I realise that in audiophile land it’s an el cheapo but its show stopping good in every department for the money.While it comes from a western brand you expect there to be a price premium, stuff from a Chinese brand you’ve never heard of is always better value right?The little S500 throws that idea out the window.Great looks, great sound, great value, great warranty, the only thing that’s not great about it is its global availability.Just now the i version is Apple shop exclusive.That does mean though if you’re in doubt you can likely go and see what one looks like in the flesh assuming you have an Apple shop nearby.Trust me they look fantastic.I cannot for one second imagine a partner or child getting a set of these and being unhappy about it, even by looks alone never mind how good they sound.I can see no good reason why anyone interested in audio shouldn’t grab a set or two of these for their loved ones, and then grab a set for themselves.

2.   Trinity Audio Engineering Techne  £35 or about US$53

You might be wondering at how the Techne has made it in here.When it launched it was about £60 if I recall but it has been slashed in price down to just £35 and so it scrapes into “stocking stuffer” pricing in my mind.It is a rather unusual earphone for most normal people.Just look at the shape of it, then it has filters, you can change them????Yes you can change the bit that sticks in your ear with a tip on.You can unscrew them and swap them about to tailor how it sounds, dependant on your personal tastes.Clearly this puts it in the range of gifts for an older child or adult, one who can look after the filters.However with its customisability it lets the user grow in the audio tastes.Maybe they will start with the bassy one and over time experiment with a more reference like sound.The watch words for the Techne is its audio quality and its customisability.I’m sure that anybody that’s dipping their toes into the audiophile world would love to see a set of these on Christmas morning.

3.   Xiaomi Piston 3 £8 or £13 depending on posting location, US$12.49 or US$20 similarly.

The Piston 3 is not the best IEM in the world but its maybe the best performance to price ratio’d earphone in the world.Frankly the price that Gearbest has them for is so cheap if I hadn’t been in contact with them for some time now I’d look at the price and assume they are fakes, they must be fakes right????How can anything be a halfway decent product and be posted anywhere in the world for £8?!?!?!?I honestly have no idea.I can only assume Xiaomi are using these as loss leaders to gain brand familiarity in the West for their phones.They are rich and warm, so gooey and chocolatey, they are so easy on the ear with their big warm bass.So enjoyable and inoffensive a sound I can’t see anyone getting a pair of these and being displeased with them.They look nice and sound super comfortable.Oh and they are unbelievably, stupendously cheap.Seriously buy a dozen and give them out to all your friends and they’ll be awed by generosity, thinking you’ve spent a fortune and only you’ll know better.

There is so many to choose from that the three I went with may as well have been picked by the toss of a coin.  I did put a great deal of thought in but frankly we are spoilt by an embarrassment of riches.  In no particular order, if you can’t get the above or whatever…. The Brainwavz M1.  It’s a little treble happy perhaps so maybe not be loved by all.  The Trinity Audio Engineering Hyperion.  It was going to make the cut until I saw the price of the Techne had been slashed.  It’s tiny and fab.  The Honor AM-12, again they awesome, stupid cheap but the Pistons just piped them.  Oh and the now ancient Radiopaq Jazz if you can find a pair.

I’m willing to open up the wallet a little bit

1.   HiFiMAN RE-400  US$80 or about £53

Simply put the 400 is with some ease, the best sounding IEM your money can get you for its stupid price of just US$80 or about £53.At that price nothing can come close to touching’s not a sound for everyone, its by consumer standards very bass light.It’s also not the most gifty of IEM’s.It’s not a product that visually or to the touch scream quality.It is however the most amazingly good value product, any budding audiophile would be ecstatic to get a set I’m sure but a Beats fan, err probably not so much.

2.   Trinity Audio Engineering Delta  £60 or about US$90

Starting life at £90 it was good value then, having been slashed it rockets up the value league.Were also starting to get in the realm of fancy, the Delta has not just one dynamic driver like most people will be used to but is more like a typical speaker.You see it has a big woofer and a second driver, acting as a tweeter.In this case that drive is of the Balanced Armature type.You don’t need to know how they work, they do and their awesome.Then you get the same filter altering abilities as was on the Techne.For little, little money you are getting some proper audiophile quality and a heap of customisability too.It’s simply a great introductory IEM to the audiophile world and it’s got a bass capability to keep pretty much anyone happy too.

3.   RHA MA-750 £80 or £90 for the i version or US$120 and US$130 respectively.

RHA again you say, yeah I know, they are having a good year, what can I say.They were in last year’s guide two.Some things haven’t changed, they still sound wonderful, good general crowd pleasers with audiophile pretensions.Then you look at the things, RHA know how to make an awesome first impression with their packaging which is something you want in a gift.They are, as they say, the complete package.

4.   Sennheiser Momentum In-Ears  £80 or US$95

Another return from last years, they like the 750 above, they were awesome, they still are awesome.These are getting rather “consumer” sounding but they are still pushing audiophile quality along with that load of bass.They look great, their packaging is lovely and it is the kinda thing that makes a stellar first impression, which is just what you want from a gift.It’s a solid choice that I can’t see anyone being displeased at receiving.

There are so many things that could have made the list but didn’t.  The most notable is the GR07 but while it sounds fab its packaging doesn’t really say gift to me.  Same for the PL-50, which I personally love but it’s not something that would please everyone.  The Brainwavz M3, the S3, and my own favourite, the R3.  That embarrassment of riches thing again. 

N.B.  I have a confession, I would have included the Echobox Finder X1 but my lateness means this guide is going up after their “get before Christmas” deadline.  It will be featuring in the impending “how to best part with all my Post Christmas Cash” article or however it’ll be titled.

Okay let’s get the credit cards out

1.   Alclair Curve  US$249 or about £159

These for me have been my highlight of the year.They are serious beasts that take what you can do with a dual BA set up and they have ran with it.The v1 of the Curve (I’m still hoping they keep alive) was a true successor the Klipsch Custom 3.The v2 is what I think the Westone UM3x should have been.These are capable in every way acoustically and have nothing in which I can fault them for.Sure their box is a little Spartan but as soon as the recipient hears them they will know they have a serious bit of kit here.Their Spartan box in my mind only emphasises their professional origins.Oh and they look super funky.

2.   RHA T20  £180 or for the i £190 or US$240 and US$250 respectively

I swear they haven’t paid me but yeah another RHA.What can I say, they make good stuff and they present it bloody well.That presentation is what tips them over the line as when you give a gift, you want the damn thing to look great don’t you and there aren’t many who I’ve seen do nicer.Oh, and yeah the T20’s are amazeballs good too.They look freekin’ stunning, they have customisable filters, a steal tip holder, are made from injection moulded steel oh and did I mention they sound amazeballs?

3.   Dunu DN-2000 £205 or US$260

Another survivor from last year’s list.The DN-2000 is one of the best IEM’s that your wallet can get you.They sound flawless and they look pretty good too.They come in a nice bundle with every accessory you could think of and a great case.It can do pretty much everything and still have a bass capability that would please any typical consumer too.

Once more there are so many that could have been included but with the growing word count things need to be cut.  There are a raft of amazingly good things around this pricing level, Sennheisers IE80, Shure SE-535, Westone UM3 pro 30.  They all don’t get in because I’ve not heard them, I’ve heard their largely identical siblings (IE8, SE-530, UM3x) but if I’ve not heard it it’s not a contender.

I want to pretend I’m Princess Leia

1.   Sennheiser HD600 / HD650  £220 or US$300 / £225 or US$380

These are the archetypal big can, they are where the Princess Leia look originated I’m sure too.Both have been around since the dawn of time, they were lauded on their realease and they are still recognised as among the best and best loved headphones out there.They are relaxed and enjoyable to listen too, the HD600 maybe the lighter sounding to the warmer 650 but both are a pleasing, smooth and unaggressive listen.Unless your name is Grado I can’t see anyone being displeased with getting a pair of these under the tree.

2.   Oppo Pm-3  £350 or US$400

Arguably the star product of the year.It’s a genuine bona fide planar that you can power off your phone.Not just that, it doesn’t suck being powered by your phone.Actually not only does in not suck but it sounds phenomenal.It’s a marvel of engineering.It’s so quick that despite being close it can do a convincingly good open, airy sound.There is nothing else I know of that is quite like it, seriously, planar speed but out of your phone!!!!!Anyone who gets one of these under the tree and isn’t ecstatic about it needs to be taken out and shot.

3.   Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-Ears

There is a reason Senn are the kings of the headphone world.They have been doing it since the dinosaurs and thus have gotten pretty got at it.The Momentum line is their attempt at making a “consumer” friendly sounding range.They are all warmer and more bassy than they really should be but they know how to crowd please.Audiophile quality levels with a big and hearty bottom end.I’d wager even a hardened “Beats fan” would be pleased at getting a pair of these.Oh and they came in a bunch of colours so you have a fair degree of visual tailoring.

I’m Bill Gates and I want to spend all of the monies!

1.   The HE-1000  US$3000 or £2200

This was without doubt the star of Canjam London this year, if there was a product that people were queuing up to get a hands on listen to, it was this.Not to denigrate other attendants but I’d bet that if attendees were given the choice of anything at the show they could take home with them it was this.The HE-1000 is beyond exquisite, it is for lack of a better word, perfection.If the Borg were after a headphone this is what they are looking for.Sure it’s a little wallet busting for most people but hey, compared to the lunatic Carrera marbled Orpheus 2 Sennheiser just launched it’s a tiny fraction.(Yeah the Orpheus 2 is US$55000, if ever there was a penis waving product it’s the Orpheus 2.)Now I don’t expect anyone to really think of the HE-1000 as a good value product, that would be silly.However, if you have more money than you know what to do with and want to buy someone an audio gift these are as fine as the human race can construct, I’ve heard nothing better and I’m not sure that I ever will.

2.   JAYS q-JAYS 2.0 400 Euro’s or about £287 or US$433

They are expensive, I mean I got my v1.0 pair (in sea blue) for the steal price of £60.They usually went for about £120 if I remember correctly.So why the hell the jump, pretty huge jump too?Well now they are metal, have removable cables, oh and they retuned them a little.These are hands down the best dual BA out there. (Sorry CK10’s) They are so much better than what you would think they can be on paper.They defy logic if not the laws of physics.They also come in the most insanely “premium” packaging I’ve ever seen.You want an IEM gift that will make a good first impression, these say I love you and I’m showing you how much by using my wallet.

3.   Graham Slee Solo Linear Ultra Diamond Edition £670  (US peeps should get sans VAT so I reckon about US$840)

Ohhh look, the first non ear/headphone option.So the Solo Ultra, I’m not writing out that full name repeatedly, is a headphone amp.Just an amp.You still need a source and a DAC to feed it so it’s just one component in the chain and it’s not exactly a cheap component either.However something’s in life if you want the best you have take the wallet ouch on the chin and just get over it.It’s a beautifully simplistic bit of kit, lacking even an on off switch (The pro audio background Graham hails from apparently doesn’t want things powering down or changing states.)It’s got 2 inputs, a switch to select which and a headphone out socket.Simple stuff but it sounds just wonderful.It positively drips in that lovingly hand crafted ambiance that you get buying from boutique outfits where everything that goes out the door has been a labour of love.

So that’s it folk’s.  I know I haven’t covered everything, the big omission is DAP’s.  That is in large part due to the way they are priced additionally as this is for gift’s, for other people, well so many use their phones.  I’m just not completely sure that buying someone a DAP is always going to be an entirely welcome thing.  Anyone who does want a separate DAP has probably a good idea of what they want.  In short I’m just not sure it’s an awesome gift for others idea.   Gift for yourself is a totally different story and they hence will be featuring when I get around to making that guide.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above or want to know why this and not that etc etc ask away and I’ll try and answer it for you. 

N.B.  Dont ask about the formatting.  i dont know why it went wonky and i couldnt seem to correct it.

Friday, 4 December 2015

RHA T20 Review

RHA T20 Review

Thanks to RHA for the sample.

First Impressions:  Well my first impressions of the T20 took place waaaay back at Canjam.  My instant notes made there and then are up in the Canjam impressions thread if you care to go hunting.  The main take away was, oh yes baby, these right here these are what the T10 should have been.  Hells yeah!!  These are looking to be top tier contenders.  Certainly they look the part, they are maybe in my opinion the best looking IEM available right now.  Mind you there are a few other stunners and looks can be subjective but surely no one looks at these and thinks they don’t look impressive?

In the ears and I’ve left the “Reference” filters on them.  There is a good chance I’ll swap to the “Bass” ones shortly and never leave them but that’s my personal preferences showing.  These things as are, are bloody good.  These are the 750 but better, lots better.  It’s safe to say right now these are one of the best IEM’s your pennies can buy, the only thing in doubt is to quite where exactly they slot in-between.  It’ll be near the top I know that but it’s becoming a crowed area, sigh, I think there may be much swapping about, and then the filters.  Urgh this is gonna be much work isn’t it.

Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5 and FireyeDA.

Lows:  Squeeee!!!!!  Regulars will know I’m not a bass head.  It’s not like I hate bass, I like it, I like it rather boosted too, just not insane vomit inducing levels (TFTA, yeah I mean you.) So here with the “Reference” filters on and they are awesome.  Swapping to the “bass” ones and they are a boosted though I’m not instantly loving and preferring like I thought I would.  It seems a little deep bass boosted disproportionately to the middle and upper bass region.  The trouble also get muted with is what I expected to happen and the air is a little sucked out of the mids.  Not that it’s bad just it’s more of a difference than I anticipated.  Bass filtered its big, hearty and the bass warms up, takeing on a tiny hint of softness and smooths.  Reference, its more ridged and marble like.  God I rather like both, they are fantastic to the point I can’t bare to unplug myself from the Solo Ultra,  Cyndi Lauper’s rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”  is amazeballs good.  So delicate and soft then it roars to life and tears your face off, squeeee!!!

Okay with the Bass filters it’s actually a bit much bass.  It’s not compared to some crazy things.  It’s up nearing the level of the IE8 except the IE8 sound flabby and slow beside it.  Yes the IE8 sounds relatively flabby in the bass.  I’m not saying one is “better” than the other they are differently styled.  Here we a visceral impact, like being slapped by the missing marble hands of the Venus de Milo.  Graceful and delicately sculpted but as unyielding as it is beautiful. 

Mids:  Bass filtered it’s a little enclosed and has a little bit of air sucked out of it.  Reference in and it opens up notably, space, free open air and even more so with the ultra-sparkly Treble filter.  Argh I find myself agonising between the Bass and Reference as to which I like more.  The Reference is arguably the more tonally perfect but then I like the darkened hint the Bass one gives.  Either way they are very clean and articulate.  Rather unforgiving too and their rigidity makes them not super suited to soft and laid back vocals.  It wants to be clean and precise as is the nature of its ultra-precision manufacture.  Its unyielding, metallic, machine like lack of give.  I find its tonality to be near perfect but it does now and then feel a little artificial and metallic.  The faintest grace and beauty at times is subsumed by a digital accuracy.  Most however was stunningly accurate and pleasing.  Nora however just wasn’t pairing well. 

Guitars, they twang with an almost cutting edge, such clarity and bight to them they feel super explicit and detailed on the first edge yet trail wonderfully and naturally.  Maybe a little unfeeling but I can’t fault its cleanliness.

Quantitatively they vary as your expect with the filter in use.  The Bass one is bass heavy, then the mids then a little reduced treble.  The Reference is more or less even.  The Treble is slanted the other way from the Bass.  Mids however do dry and open up with the lighter filters.  With the Treble a little too open and airy perhaps.  They still rock with all the filters.  Wonderful tonality and timbre.

Highs:  I’m kinda treble sensitive so my time with the treble filter was minimal.  Not that there was anything work with it, it was just too much more my preferences.  Extension though feels practically endless.  Super, ultra-mega clean too.  Perhaps a little too hyper accurate metallic.  Even with the bass filters its tonality is just so awesome.  The only issue is its accuracy and bang on metallic reproduction means it can be extremely unforgiving.  More than once with a badly mastered track the treble was grating on my ears.  This was highly, highly noticeable with the Studio V, oh god a badly mastered track on the there can get savage on the ear. 

Otherwise the treble is exquisite.  Dynamics do the best treble in my experience and that here is among the best.  I’d still maybe at a push give it to the IE8 as being the more refined and with its less explicitly crisp nature favourable to my ears but still, the T20 is right up there as simply one of the best, most, dazzlingly talented trebles out there.  Just bare in mind it’s not got a forgiving nature.

Soundstage:  Very good.  Of course having been comparing to the IE8 it’s clear it’s not on that level but it’s still a very grandly scaled soundscape.  The dry airy metallic nature on the Treble and Reference makes them feel so open.  The bass is more enclosed but your still talking a large room.  Placement is fine but it does rather better in integration, one big driver doing everything tends to make things seamless.  They are big and powerful things.  Just don’t hope for endless distance.

Fit:  Great.  The ear guides didn’t get in the way.  Sadly they are built in so you can’t take them off but they are pretty good, for me anyway.  No issues.

Comfort:   Great.  With a good fit comfort tends to follow and their shape fit my ears perfectly.  Despite being metal and thus rather unyielding they never had any pressure points.

Cable:  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  The Cable from the T10 and 750 is replicated here and it’s an awesome cable.  Its rubberised texture though can sometimes pull if it catches between jumper and jacket but that’s my only issue.  It feels super in the hand and it looks super too.  Then the Y splitter and jack, just look at them, they are just outstanding.  One small point of note, the cable here is more of a charcoal black rather than the grey previously seen, I liked the grey one better.

Build:  They are made by heating steel up to 1300 degrees Celsius and injection moulding them. Part of me thinks that must be overkill, they are earphones after all do they need to be constructed so as to be so utterly indestructible?  Probably they don’t but wow, they are serious little beasties.

Microphonics:  It was fine for me, you pretty much must wear them up which is fine with me and for the most part removes the issue.  They is a neck synch if you do get any though.

Amped/Unamped:  Weirdly while I found that I was consistently having to crank the volume dial, you’d expect that they demand an amp.  Thing is they don’t, not really anyway.  They still sounded great out of my crappy Nexus 5.  The treble took a beating in quality and quantity but it was still very good overall.  With more power you get noticeable improvements to speed and solidity so I would always say if you have an amp, or good DAP then please use it to get the very best from the T20 However…….if all you’ve got is your crappy phone you’ll still find the T20 to be excellent in the meantime, until you do get yourself a nice amp for them.

Isolation:  For a dynamic they are really good.  They are practically pushing at BA levels of isolation.  So as ever easily good enough for out and about or bus journeys.  At a push you could cope on the Tube or for long flights but not my first choice.  As ever my warning, do look where you’re going because you won’t hear deadly traffic sneaking up behind you.

Accessories:  RHA offer an amazing looking package don’t they?  That tip holder thing, it’s just so impressive isn’t it?  You name it pretty much and you get it, tips galore including their own foamies with I’m rather a fan of, shirt clip you’ll never use, filters and filter holding thingy.  Then we come to the only downer, the case thingy.  It’s not that its “terrible” but the rest of the bundle is so fantastic it just doesn’t feel like it belongs.  I’d actually rather have the little hard case that came with the MA-450’s I believe.  Actually what I’d love to see is an imitation TF10 case, you know the one that was supposedly titanium, that’s the kind of case these deserve to live in.

Value:  Well can one ever say that any earphone costing £180 is good value?  One could look at it beside something costing £400 and say this is practically the same level yet half the price so therefore must be great value, yet you can find something half of its price and say but that is nearly as good therefore it must be rubbish value.  Fact is at this kind of level “value” stops meaning much.  What we have here is a top class IEM that is top tier stuff, it costs at the lower end of top tier money yet has insanely crazy good construction and a great warranty.  I’d say that all adds up to good value for a product of this level.

Conclusion:  The T10, I think it’s not really a secret that I didn’t love it.  Actually a lot of people didn’t love it and thus around Head-Fi the MA-750 was the RHA that would be recommended as the “best” offering from them.  The 750 was great, is great and the T20 is the next step, a fairly big step too, up from it.  The T20 is awesome.

I know it won’t be entirely for everyone as at this level it’s all about personal preferences and while the filters may alter things about there is still a crisp metallic nature to the treble especially.  It has an edge and while it may quickly turn into a shimmer (quite beautifully in my opinion) it still won’t be to everyone’s tastes.  Honestly we currently spoiled with an assortment of wonderful IEM’s to choose from at this level, and while I most immediately mentaly jump to the IE8 and the DN-2000 I really cannot say that any of them is “better” than another.  They are all exquisite, they just are differently flavoured.

So should you buy a pair?  Well if you have the money, yes.  It would impossible for me to categorically say pick these over the 2000 or 8 as each person is different and will want different things.  However I cannot for an instant see anyone buying these and being disappointed.  They are joyous and symphonic little buggers that when amped can move like lightning, with such articulation and power.  That bass especially is amazingly capable, so much fun too yet never overwhelming or suffocating.  The treble too is especially skilled.  Its timbre and tonality with metallic instrumentation is just so perfect, soooooo perfect.  Its acoustics are every bit as wonderful as the thing looks.  Love it!!!