Trinity Audio Phantom Sabre Earphone Review by mark2410
Thanks to Trinity for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/823334/trinity-audio-phantom-sabre-earphone-review-by-mark2410#post_12944568
First Impressions: It’s a nice looking box with a little plastic window for seeing what’s inside. Well the earphones anyway, most is hidden. Nice box and unusually it’s in a landscape format rather than portrait, a little thing but it makes a bit stand out design wise. Opening it up and we have all the bits, oh and are there lots of bits. There are a heap of tips, the earphones and the case. Oh and yes, flanking the case are four, yes four metal tubes of filters. Yet we still aren’t done, you open up the case and there is a little bag with another two red filters, a shirt clip, a 6.25 to 3.5mm adapter, a 90 degree jack adapter then three cables. Yes that wasn’t a typo, you get three cables. One is a cloth weave coated thing with a mic and buttons for phone use. The other two cables are braided things, the differentiation between them is that one has ear guide memory wire stuff and the other doesn’t. To me this seems a bit over kill, I mean I don’t really like ear guides so a whole new cable for them seems like an over extravagance. Of course you also have what feels like half a million filters too. That I like, while I’m not someone that love filters as a rule I lake that they come in two lengths.
So they have the red filters on already and the Trinity website tells me that for the Sabre the Red filters are the most bassy ones. History says I tend to like the bassy filters as a rule so let’s give them a go first. Swapping the tips to the foam ones, hmm I might like a slightly larger foamy tip. Still I get a seal and these are interesting. There is a dead, blackness to the background and a dead pan vigour to the bass. Its feels granite like, unyielding and rock solid. It doesn’t feel a warm bass, there isn’t a softness, no warmly soothing, this is grrrrr beastly firm stuff. It’s reminding me of the old Denon C751. Big bass yet it’s a cold, potently unyielding bass.
Okay I keep finding myself getting lost and playing with different things so see how they deal with stuff and its most curious. The bass feel epically scaled and so rigidly unyielding. It’s more elevated in quantity than I think I want so playing with the several hundred filters, hmm that’s going to take forever. I hope they retain this hardness with the lighter filters. Grrrrrrrr. Okay must take these out and go burn in but I think this may be a fun one. The amount of work the filters give I won’t love but if the last hour is anything to go by, fun times are ahead.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: So first off, you can adjust the bass output on these quite significantly. While I jumped to the red filters first, they are the most bassy ones, I ended up dancing back and forth with the orange and yellow ones as to which I preferred. I really couldn’t quite decide as different songs suited other things and as I write this with the orange ones I think I want the yellow but when I have the yellows in I think I want the orange ones. Filters, this is why I hate them, I can never quite say yep that one that’s the one I like best. There is always a little something saying ooh but maybe that one instead. The take away for you is that you can adjust the quantity from light to tear your face off. The quality is more or less unchanged no matter the filter.
Tonality wise these are just like their Vyrus siblings. There is a hardness, a coldness, a rigidity to them. Something dark and foreboding like a storm about to break. The bass roars and cracks like a thunder clap, hard and sudden with a decaying vastness. The booming power of it, it is for good reason the ancients placed the god of thunder and lightning at the head of the pantheon. Sitting listening to “Caught A Light Sneeze” and there is just such a texture to it. It’s not a track with vast bass but there in an underlying bass and a image that has a darkness to it. A darkness that fills in the background, framing the rest of the acoustic picture, contrasting its blackness. Something that I can’t quite define, like a Gotham City night sky there is a darkness permeating everything and providing the perfect backdrop. There is almost something tangibly melancholic to it. Tori’s version of “I Don’t Like Monday’s” too has that same quality, something detached and cold to the bass. Something so clean and heartless.
Mids: They are not unlike the bass in that there is that same certain cold detached something to them. Not dry or breathy but they have such a deadpan tonal presentation. Something so uninfluenced by any warmth or feeling. Something so emotionally detached, maybe even despondent, I just cannot put my finger on it. Like a wistful sadness there is a purity in its tone and timbre. So many shades of grey and the layering, each a delicate and detailed composition on its own. The dynamic range too is high yet that is that inescapable monochromatic lack of colouring to it all. Everything is somehow cleaner than it should, that contrast enhanced and expanded. I’m not really quite capturing how it comes across in my description, I’m just not quite pairing the sound to the words, I just don’t have the words to fully express the capabilities of these.
Quantity wise they are never especially prominent and depending on the filter at most they are fairly in line. With most the bass tends be a bit bigger. The mids are good quality and while they don’t have any great degree of warmth or richness their grey tonality offers something unusual. That tone gives a coldness, a detached something and it works perfectly with songs that have a sadness to them. If you throw something more party and lively at them they will spring to life and dance yet there is ever a certain deadness vocally. Like a high contrast black and white photo.
Highs: You can dial up the quantity quite a bit if you want the trebly filters but I’d wager most wont. They treble in its quality is nice, very nice and it has a delicately fine point. I tried to play more treble happy songs but I found myself listening to The Beautiful South’s “Prettiest Eyes.” Listening out to all the little treble details, so clean and tonally pure. With a little grey metallic twang as triangles and cymbals impact. There is lots of detail and it’s all so very highly delicately rendered with a little ping that decays away gently. Dynamics are very dynamic though I note that to get the best out of them you’ll want to throw power at them and I’d say stay clear of warmly soft sources. The Studio V and the Nuforce uDAC3 into the Solo Ultra was superb. These love to have power applied, it just ever firms up their already hard presentation. They take on an extra dynamism too. It’s a presentation that I have always loved and is rather rare too, many things are inclined to a warmer, richer more organically rounded style. The Sabre is taking names and kicking ass. Super-duper fun.
The treble while hard is refined enough that it can dazzle away to its hearts content, clean and crisp. With a shimmer and pin sharp cleanliness that even treble happy tracks where super exciting thrill rides. Normally that presentation style would be a little over so for me and my treble sensitive ears but those filters come into play. You slap in ones with the dampeners and it takes away enough and diminishes to near nothing any abrasiveness. If you must have more and brighter treble hurled at you then go with the non-dampening filters.
Soundstage: There is a bit of space to them but these have a hardness that makes them feel like a sealed room. A fairly bigish room but sealed tightly the air is compressed with every bass thump and it is hard, no gentle fading soft stuff. Solidity all the way. String based orchestral works do sound full-bodied and symphonically striking but your still in a sealed room, just a grandly scaled one.
Fit: At first I had the shorter tips on and I did find that they were a little shallow fitting. However they come with longer tips too and changing to those improved things. With those on I had zero issues.
Comfort: Great. My ears were happy to have them in for hours and hours. Though I did notice that I tended toward more vigorous music which did start to get ear tiring. Despite that I kept going with the fast paced and darkly grandiose tunes at volume so I can’t really blame the Sabre’s for that.
Microphonics: So two seconds after posting the Vyrus review I realise that these do indeed have a chin slider I just hadn’t noticed. Though it really wasn’t needed as unless I went out of my way to hit the cable or drag the braiding over my collar. None in normal use.
Build Quality: The buds as best as I can tell, by my eyes and finger tips, seems super good. It’s not like I’m going to beat them with hammer to test but not a thing about them gives me pause.
Cable: I am still a little unconvinced by the cable thinness but as the thing comes with not just user replaceable cables but with 3 in the box including one that has a different outer. It has a cloth weave over it (with a microphone too) so if they did die you’ve got 3 to go through and you can always user replace them with whatever you want anyway. The jack also seems great as does the super handy 90 degree adapter.
Isolation: A little bitty filter dependant as some ore more open than others, also the more deep you insert things the more isolation you normally get too. In use I was perfectly happy using out and about and on a bus too. Not exactly Tube commute or long light stuff but for a dynamic they are rather good. Naturally they are more than enough to get your skull bouncing off a wheeled death machine if you don’t remember to use your eyes near traffic.
Accessories: It is a first rate bundle. I mean you get 10 pairs of filters, 5 different sound signatures in two lengths each. The box says 13 pairs of tips. Then the 6.25 to 3.5mm jack, the 90 degree 3.5 to 3.5mm jack, 3 different cables and lastly a case. The cables being one normal braided, one braided with memory wire ear guide things and then a cloth weave phone one with a mic and controls on it. I’m not sure what else you could possibly include.
Amped/Unamped: Do these “need” power, no. They sounds good from even my terrible Nexus 5. What they didn’t sound though was outstanding and these are capable of doing so. You should be aware if you buy these you’ll get by totally fine with any old phone or source but if you chuck some beefy power at them, they will reward you for the wallet pain. They just got more, more stuff you know, more. More beefy, more solid, more potent, more vigorous, more engaging, more captivating, more dynamically spectacular, like I said, more. Oh and if I might suggest try to go with a cool, hard source / amp to really let them go wild.
Value: They are going for just £125 and well, I think that’s a bit of a bargain. I’m sure I paid about that for my old Denon C751’s and these completely spank them up and down the place. Now there is a heap of stuff that you can get for that money that is also fabulous, I mean there has been an explosion of great stuff at great prices in the last handful of years. So none of them I could ever say is the mostest bestest value ever in the universe. The boring truth is stuff is so good now at this price it is more about getting what pair’s up to your tastes and your hearing curve. There are a bunch of reasons though why these should get on your list of things to check out. Firstly they kinda sound a bit amazeballs. That darkly hard vigour they just ooze is super awesome, the instrument separation it spits out is emphasised and superb. The other thing is that if you are a normal person and you’re perhaps only going to have one pair of really good earphones, you’re maybe not totally sure what is for you because you haven’t heard many high quality earphones? The Sabre has all those filters for you to experiment and find out just what is the one for you. You might think it’s the super bassy one and maybe it will be in the beginning. Then maybe as your musical pallet refines you’ll see the merits in a more natural or even neutral sound. This gives you options in a way other things just don’t. Even more so if it’s a Christmas gift. You might not exactly what would be best for a loved one, buy them this and they can chose a sound signature themselves.
Conclusion: Yeah so it’s probably a little apparent that I like these bucket loads. While I’ve not played a part in there tuning I have in the past with Trinity and I think in these it shows. They kick ass. Now sure maybe you don’t want ass kicking thrill rides, there is a time and a place for something all soothing and relaxing. Variety is the spice of whatever and such. Sooooo you can play about with the filters though I’d say with none of them do these became some gooey hot fudge Sunday, ever. These are hard, clean, and vicious like a citrus sorbet. Sweet and tart and light and refreshingly pallet cleansing.
Nothing is of course, perfect. These are vigorous and whatnot and while I loved even more melodic, cleanly recorded Susan Wong for the oh so enhanced acoustic contrast, these never at any point soothed me. No rich, mellow relaxing etc etc. These wanted me fully awake and paying attention at all times. Exciting and fun but after a day with spent with them in my ears and gosh they are exhausting. All that energy and enthusiasm is both a plus and a negative for some. Nothing is ever good or bad only, things are simply attributes and it is how they compare to what you want is what makes things a positive or a negative.
So would I / should you buy one. Yes. There is very little in the qualification of that yes. They are gloriously entertaining and with their filter options I’d expect every one that gets to play with a pair will find something right for them. Well unless you want earphones to drift off to sleep with. Not that they are perfect but they are for the price not far off it. I know I may be biased but these work for my ears, seriously big time. I’ve also got Christmas gift neon lights going off in my head and it’s very safe to say these will be listed on my little Christmas gift guide this year, if you’re interested I’d nab a set sooner rather than later.