Pros: organic tonality, detailed but not analytical sound, resolution, balanced tuning, bling factor, excellent imaging, stellar Bluetooth implementation
Cons: Bespoke cable limits swapping options, apart from shells build isn’t “premium”, possibly too neutral for some, “audiophile” foam tips very fragile
Price: £999 (Flare Audio website)
I’ve always been fascinated by IEM technology various different manufacturers use to achieve their vastly different sonic signatures. I’ve also been intrigued to see where small differences to design and materials can make a big change. As a lover of the “traditional” dynamic driver sound, I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the last 7 or 8 months to listen to as many different dynamic driver IEMs as I can with different or unusual tech behind them, just to see if I could find my own personal end-game. This review will form part of an occasional series of DD IEM reviews (from TOTL all the way down to models as low as $100) where I will hopefully be able to offer comparisons against similar IEMs in the same price ranges, and some overall comparison on where they fit in the general DD landscape in 2019. These reviews will most often be shorter than my usual product write-ups, and will more obviously reference other DD IEMs that will appear in due course, so are meant to be read together.
As more reviews are published I hope to start building up a personal “ranking system” and catalogue of measurements for dynamic driver IEMs I’ve heard for comparative purposes – this isn’t an official “shootout” or other crazy death match, just hopefully a collection of similar ramblings that will help people who haven’t heard the particular models before.
The Flares Gold used for this review were purchased by myself from a fellow Head-Fi’er for the purposes of this review, so no input has been sought or received from Flare Audio on any aspect of this blog post. For reference, I originally came across Flare Audio back when they were launching their first IEMs (the R2 series) on Kickstarter, which I ended up backing. In fact, the R2A was my second ever IEM review on Head-Fi, and my first “proper” introduction to the world of audiophile in-ears. Their IEMs have traditionally sat squarely in the middle of my usual sonic preferences (see the “About Me” section at the bottom of this review for more details), so please bear that in mind when reading this review.
Anyone who has purchased one of the Pro models from Flare should be aware that the unboxing experience is something a little special. This has already been written about on this blog (see link here for a proper description), but suffice to say, any IEM that comes in its own rubberised modern art box modelled on an anechoic chamber and unpacks in multiple layers like a children’s “pass the parcel” game just flat out wins the unboxing game. Enough said.
Build and ergonomics
The Flares Gold are the (slightly) bigger and (much) shinier brother of the Flares Pro, serving as the flagship of the current Flares line. They share a similar tuning to the Pro model, utilising the same beryllium dynamic microdriver for the sound and the proprietary Flares “Jet” and “Acoustic Lens” technologies to sculpt the sound. Forbthose who haven’t come across these before, they are basically a way of balancing air pressure on either side of the driver mechanism (Jet) and a horn shaped IEM bore to reduce distortion of the sound waves between leaving the driver and hitting your ear drum (Acoustic Lens). They give the Pro and Gold series their unique open design, and have some interesting science sitting behind the aesthetics.
The Gold have a refinement of the Pros open-at-both-ends design, using a slightly thicker barrel with a more open rear port and a ribbed rather than bevelled finish. Looking in to either barrel, you can see the wiring at the back of the driver or the front wall of the driver casing respectively, without any mesh or gauze in the way. It’s pretty cool, but also a reminder to treat these IEMs with a little care, is it will be easier than most to get junk inside the casings.
Another reason to treat these with care is the “Gold” in the title. It isn’t a euphemistic statement of how medal-worthy these IEMs are – the whole IEM body is made from brass (instead of titanium on the Pro and Pro 2 models) and then plated inside and out with 24k gold. The technical blurb from Flare says this is for purely acoustic reasons, allowing the reflective surfaces between the driver and the ear to be perfectly smooth, helping reduce distortion of the sound waves between diaphragm and inner ear.
It’s a bold statement, but Davies Roberts and his team at Flare Audio have been championing the effect IEM construction materials can have on sound since their original Kickstarter R2 IEMs, which used an identical driver assembly but different materials for the shell of each model (aluminium, steel and titanium) to achieve a different sound. Acoustic benefit or not, it certainly makes the IEM design stand out, with a unmistakably high end feel in the hand and to the naked eye.
Apart from the bling, the design is very similar to the Pro model, with the Gold having a slightly thicker barrel in the middle and a notably smoother and more rounded horn shape to the mouth of the sound bore. They still fit deep in the ear like a good pair of earplugs (which Flare also sell), and despite the open design, the solid metal body actually help the Golds block a higher than expected level of external noise. These aren’t a isolating as a custom IEM or one of the deep fiitting Westone or Shure “coffee bean” style designs, but they definitely isolate more than a lot of IEMs I currently own. Leakage is also minimal.
The cables are semi-detachable, being hard wired to the shells and detachable (via an MMCX termination) at the V-splitter. I would definitely qprefer a more standardised and fully detachable design at this sort of price, but given the tiny form factor of the Golds, I presume this would have been awkward to implement. The semi detachable design does have a benefit, though, being designed to work with the included Flare Bluetooth module, which replaces the Y-split and is designed to clip on to your clothes for day to day use.
This tiny matchbox sized Bluetooth unit promises 10+ hours of play time and a fully balanced output, and I have to say, whatever magic they have implemented in the signal path, this little Bluetooth unit sounded just about as good as the normal wired connection through my ZX300. Flare are a little coy about the implementation inside the unit, but they do say they have simplified the internal design to optimise sound, and despite only having AptX rather than AptX HD, they seem to have done a bang up job here.
The other notable design feature is the choice of tips. Flare offer three styles of proprietary tips, two in foam and one in silicone, all with differing sonic properties. The “Audiophile” foam and silicone tips both share a horn shaped design to match the sonic cone shape of the IEM. This is designed not to interfere with the sound waves as they enter the ear, which Flare claim can alter or degrade the sound. The last set of foams are a more traditional tip shape, and do narrow the bore of the IEM slightly.
So, does this tip-trickery work? In my humble opinion, yes and no. The audiophile foams give the best sound to my ears, but have the major downside of being about as fragile as a certain American politician’s ego when subject to any form of abuse. They also rebound quickly, making fitting more of a “stuff it in and adjust” experience rather than place and hold. The other tips are good, and all offer a slightly different tint to the sound, so do experiment until you find whatever works best for you. My personal preference is actually split between the audiophile foams and two non-Flare options, with Spiral Dots sounding excellent with these due to the ultra wide bores, and my trusty custom tips from Custom Art in Poland also sounding top notch. There is definitely something to be said for having a wider bore to take full advantage of the sound quality these IEMs can provide.
Initial impressions on sound
The Flares Gold are marketed as an improvement on the already impressive Flares Pro and Pro 2 models, with the same beryllium microdriver powering things but some tweaks to the housing to eke a little more sonic improvement out. Owning all three models at the time of writing this review, I can confirm that Flare have succeeded, with the Gold offering a slightly refined take on the bold sound of the Pro series. The main point of difference is with the upper mids and treble, with the Gold smoothing out the slight spike in the higher ranges that could make the original Pro sound a little peaky with certain tracks, and adding a splash more analogue tonality to the tweaked Pro 2.
The general theme here is balance, with the Gold producing a sound that isn’t shy of bass thump but isn’t overly bassy, sliding into a more neutral midrange and rising into a reasonably linear but extended treble. There is a little uptick in the frequency response somewhere near the top of the scale, but it’s subtle and skillfully done, avoiding some of the prickliness of the Pro. This is a neutral sort of sound, with just enough character and body to remain engaging, and enough extension on either end of the spectrum to really deliver a full spread of sonics.
Starting off down low, the bass is a deep and textured affair, dropping deep into sub bass with a gentle rumble. It isn’t “subwoofer in the ear” huge, but if there are deep tones in your music collection, the Gold will find them. It handles “Heaven” by Emile Sande easily, giving just enough sub-bass hum to keep the track honest. The low end extension creates a solidity in the lower reaches of the sound, allowing the bass to still feel rich and planted despite not being massively present in terms of emphasis.
“Bad Rain” by Slash has a gritty, attitude-fuelled bass riff that sets the tone for the song, and the texture of the Gold is spot on here. The bass guitar notes feel almost three dimensional in the ear as they growl and decay, giving a solid body and a deeply textured feel to the outer edges of the notes, along with just a hint of softness as it spreads into the space around it. It doesn’t have the ultimate deepness of something like the CA Atlas or IMR-R1, but it does highlight that neutral doesn’t have to mean thin.
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk is also deftly handled, with the Gold grabbing hold of the bassline and digging out the fine differentiation between notes as it keeps on dropping. It adds a sense of depth to the underside of notes that helps with the overall liquidity, slinking around Nile Rogers’ guitar to underpin without overpowering. In terms of slam and impact, the 5.5mm beryllium micro-dynamic is surprisingly capable with the right track, giving a punchy edge and real kick to “Reptile” by Skrillex. This is a track with plenty of bass in the mix, and it draws out significantly more low end from the Gold than some of my other test tracks, highlighting that the Flares are pretty faithful to the original material – it won’t accentuate the low range, but if it’s already in the mix, the driver will respond in kind.
Mids share a similar approach, emphasising texture and a sense of solidity, while still sticking squarely to the overall balance. This is where the Gold starts to show its true “flagship” credentials, softening some of the edginess of the Pro in the vocal ranges while simultaneously increasing the clarity a small but noticeable notch. Tonality is clear and natural, without any undue emphasis or sculpting of the frequency response. It isn’t a “ruler flat” sound, carrying just a shade of warmth throughout due to the well rounded bass, but the Gold does a good enough job of remaining neutral to deserve a “Made in Switzerland” stamp on its golden chassis somewhere.
The vocals and midrange instruments share the medium sizing of the bass, occupying the Goldilocks zone in the middle distance. They don’t feel scooped or recessed, but don’t give a great sense of intimacy either, sitting a little further back from the listener and spreading out laterally across the stage.
Vocals are soulful and rich, with a gentle warmth that adds just a little weight to the otherwise neutral and highly textured presentation. Listening to “Champagne High” by Sister Hazel, the rasp in Ken Block’s voice sounds like honeyed sandpaper, carrying just enough rawness to avoid sounding overly sweet, cutting through above the chiming acoustic guitars and female backing singers below. Male vocals in general are well handled, the Gold switching from the gruff rasp of Ray Lamontagne to the operatic warbling of Freddie Mercury without skipping a beat. Again, this isn’t the most forward or heavyweight of presentations, so for the real mid-heads out there, the Gold may lack a little emphasis. For those preferring a more neutral or laid back vocal positioning, this will be far more to their liking.
String instruments sound timbrally accurate to my ears, the bowing of the cello on “We Found Love” by 2Cellos sweeping across the strings with the lightest of vibrato in the background. You can hear the notes being caressed as the fingers move on the cello strings, the natural resolution of the Gold coming to the fore here without need for any unnecessary sharpening on the note edges. The widescreen presentation also helps, giving more orchestral music a broad base to lay out the various sections across the X-axis.
Guitar is handled well (both acoustic and electric), with a punchy delivery on rock music that steers just away from real crunchiness (for that the Pro or Pro 2 are a little better suited). It adds a coat of analogue sounding smoothness to the jagged guitar riffs of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” by Led Zep and “Slash N’ Burn” by the Manics without losing the main thrust of either track, retaining enough bite and energy to avoid sounding dull.
It’s a trick the Gold could teach the Sennheiser IE800s, which has a similarly analogue tone but tends to trade anima for a more laid back smoothness, coming across as a little lifeless in direct comparison. Playing something like “World On Fire” by Slash on the Gold, the frantic riff is nimble and precise while still carrying a good amount of chug and weight as the chords decay. It won’t beat you around the head with sheer thickness of note like the Atlas, but for faster paced genres, the slightly leaner and tauter tuning works well to tread the middle ground.
Slowing things down, the Gold excels with acoustic and more laid-back fare, using its precision to render fine dynamic shifts in tracks, switching easily from gossamer-fine acoustic guitar strumming and violin plucks to more impassioned vocals as the song demands. It never feels too laid back, but does allow the listener to drift into more serene passages of music without constantly demanding attention.
With regards to sibilance, the Gold is true to source here. When something is hot or raw in the original mastering, it will be hot and raw with the Flare IEM. The troublesome vocal peak from the original Pro has been smoothed out, so the Gold doesn’t add undue heat to scratchy vocal tracks like “”Whiskey And You”, but the rawness and gravelly blast of Stapleton’s are in full effect here. It’s never unpleasant, but it certainly isn’t honeyed or buttery smooth, coming through like a case of musical strep throat into the eardrums. This is a very fair but quite unforgiving IEM in that regard, so IMHO it’s best to feed it well recorded fare if you like a smooth ride.
Heading into the treble regions, the Gold maintains its smoothness, showing a decent if not mindblowing extension and a crispness to the edge of notes that gives definition without sounding sharp. It is an evolution of the original Flares Pro tuning, swapping out and out zing for a more even handed approach. There is a depth to the treble notes, a sense of physical presence that gives solidity to the sound up top. Listening to some modern classical/fusion by Duel, the twin violins are clearly defined, each fingered pluck and vibrato easily audible in the ear as the music winds around the floating synth lines which sit and shimmer at the top of the sonic spectrum.
The treble presentation isn’t particularly airy or grand, but the jet black backdrop of the Gold provides a sense of openness and scale which stops it from sounding dark or closed in. This is smooth and clear treble in its purest form, the combination of smooth gold housing surfaces and the pressure balancing air jet technology at the heart of the IEM providing lots of natural detail and resolution without needing any tuning trickery.
The harmonic driven intro to”Starlight” by Slash sounds spiky and alive, the subtle sounds of fingers moving on fretboard and the room echoing behind Myles Kennedy’s vocals adding to the dissonant guitar overtones to build the song into a sweeping rock overture. The notes carry sharp edges, but don’t lose their sense of body, with a sepia-tinted tonality that reminds me of a good vinyl or live performance. It’s difficult to describe, but the middle of each note seems to be given a much emphasis as the edges, so while the note weight is still neutral rather than thick, there is a sense of roundness or three dimensionality that brings realism.
Soundstage, separation and layering
The Gold have a decently spacious stage, pushing a little out off the head in all directions. They aren’t vast or expansive like the Andromeda, but there is a nice sense of scale on more grandiose music. Hard panned sounds lurk are the periphery of the ears, with a solid sense of imaging. This is one of the areas that the Gold clearly improves on the Pro and Pro 2 for me, locating each instrument and voice cleanly on the stage against a jet black backdrop, and firmly establishing its credentials as a top tier monitor here.
The stage isn’t quite holographic in presentation, with slightly less depth than width to my ears, but it still does a pretty good job of locking everything into its own area of the stage without blurriness or amalgamation. There is also a sense of size to notes once you get the insertion depth right that leans more toward something like the Campfire Audio Atlas, giving a much bigger sound that you have a right to expect from an earphone using a 5.5mm driver.
Separation is unfussy but excellently executed, the single DD keeping multiple stands of instrumentation clean and clearly distinguishable in the most chaotic of tracks. It never screams space between the instruments, but there is a natural resolution that keeps things coherent throughout without ever feeling contested or cluttered. Layering is the same, the Gold going about is job with a quiet composure as it packs in multiple layers of texture to double bass and cello, and nuance to gospel style chorus lines.
This for me is where the true TOTL credentials are most clearly noticed, with the Gold achieving an enjoyable analogue tone but still being able to achieve technical excellence without any noticeable tuning spikes to draw the attention out of the music.
Campfire Audio Atlas – c. $1299, 10mm ADLC dynamic driver
The Atlas is the current DD flagship from the Portland based manufacturer, sporting a 10mm ADLC dynamic driver and a drop forged stainless steel shell. Size wise, it is pretty small compared to other high end DD units, but still notably larger and a lot heavier than the Flare model. The Atlas has a dense, stubby design that lends itself to wearing down, and feels noticeably more “present” in the ear due to the increased weight.
Starting with the low end, the Atlas has much more bass emphasis than the FPG, mainly concentrated around the mid-bass, with a “bigger” and beefier sound profile in comparison to the more neutral Gold. Sub bass is actually not a million miles away, with the depth and extension of the FPG putting up a reasonable contest to the CA bass king, just feeling a little less emphasised. Texture is similar, with both IEMs managing to extract great punch and detail in the lower end of the spectrum.
Mid bass is definitely a clash a of two different styles, with the neutral/natural dB levels of the Gold being a lot flatter and quieter in comparison to the more voluminous Atlas. Again, detail and texture are similar, with little to split them, the Atlas possibly pulling slightly ahead due to the increased volume on display and the impressive control of the ADLC driver. The Atlas has the more visceral impact of the two here – the Gold is actually tighter and more focused feeling in the low end punch, delivering the sound with a audit point of impact on the eardrum. The Atlas counters this with a bigger sense of weight and substance after the initial this, winning on sense of sheer physical impact.
Moving through to the midrange, both models are similar in midrange sharpness when playing tracks like “Starlight” by Slash, with the Atlas giving a slightly less open but more forward feel than the Gold to the soundscape, concentrating the sound a little closer to the listener’s ears on the stage. The is also a greater sense of warmth to the miss on the Atlas, the underside of the notes being warmed by the chunkier mid-bass beneath to give a fatter sound.
Despite this warmth, the Game actually has a more analog/vinyl tone, the smoothness of the delivery giving a more rounded feel to the edge of notes in the ear. Detail retrieval is similar between the two, with both pulling high levels of sonic information out of well recorded tracks.
Treble is a little crisper feeling on the Atlas, with the FPG possessing a more rounded and less crunchy tone. Neither are overly bright monitors, but both had excellent extension, with the Flare model probably edging it here with the sense of delicacy.
In terms of staging, the FPG presents a more distant picture than the Atlas, not quite able to match the impressive sizing of the notes but pulling the listener back for a more wide-screen view of proceedings. Width is actually pretty similar, with the Atlas having slightly more depth for me.
Regarding build and accessories, this would be won by the Flare Audio model on most counts, but the bespoke cable solution just hold it back from being a runaway victor. Both models are comfortsbly in the TOTL bracket in both price and presentation, but the additional Bluetooth accessory, insane box and all-gold build skiing with a note comfortable fit probably edge me to the Flare here, despite the lack of a universally swappable cable.
Overall, choosing between these two models is a case of preference as much as capability. Both models are excellent, but the Atlas has a tuning closer to my ideal preference (especially in the bass), so my personal pick would be the CA model here. However, if you prefer a more measured and neutral tonality or a more laid-back feel without sacrificing any of the technical capability, the FPG would be my suggestion out of the two.
Sennheiser IE800s – c. $1000, 7mm ultra-wideband dynamic driver
The IE800s is the recent revision of Sennheiser’s iconic IEM flagship, sporting the same design and build with a slightly more sedate matte colour scheme and an array of detachable cable options. It shares a similarity with the Flare Audio like in that the cable is only detachable from the Y-split, with the upper portion being fixed to the IEM shells. It shares another similarity in the size of the actual earpieces, comfortably being one of the smallest and lightest designs I have put in my ears.
The overall tuning shape is similar on both, with the IE800s going for a similarly neutral overall sound, with an uptick at either end of the sonic spectrum like the world’s shallowest U, whereas the Gold feels more like a gentle V shape when compared side by side. The IE800s is considerably more laid back than the Gold in terms of general approach, however, coming across as the lovable slacker older brother in an 80s comedy in comparison to the more vibrant and dynamic Gold (in comparison, anyway). There is a palpable difference in energy levels that permeates throughout the sound when comparing the two models, lending a more sedate and genteel feel to the IE800s.
Looking at the frequency ranges in more detail, the Gold has slightly more presence through the midbass, carrying a little extra weight around the traditional “thumb” region of the bass response. Both IEMs have a similar subbass extension, dropping low and keeping decent quantity and quality, with the IE800s feeling a little more lifted towards this region due to its lower mid bass quantity. Overall, the Gold feels a little bassier than the IE800s, although neither are overly bass-centric. Texture is similar here, with both drivers resolving fine low end details well, although the Gold has a noticeably snappier response for drums and other attacking bass notes, giving more of a sense of thump and impact.
The difference in bass between the two lends the 800s a slightly cleaner feel to the stage, although it actually feels a little warmer in tone than the more neutral tonality of the Gold. Stage size is similar between the two models, with the IE800s exhibiting a slightly more spacious feel. This is due to the relative note size and perceived air between each note – Sennheiser make a big play on the construction of the 800s shells helping reduce the “masking effect” where notes can be overshadowed by overlapping frequencies, and in this case, it does seem to have an impact. The IE800s have a more apparent separation between instruments, allied to a more solid “blackness” to the backdrop of the sound that helps position them in more stark relief.
In terms of technicality, apart from the separation mentioned above, clarity and detail retrieval in on par, with both monitors exhibiting excellent resolution for single dynamic driver models. The finer detailing is sometimes more noticeable on the IE800s in quieter passages of music due to the relative thinness of the presentation, with the Gold packing in a fuller and more dynamic rendition of the sound that tends to draw your attention more towards the macro rather than the micro. Despite this, when pushed, clarity is pretty much identical on both, with the respective technologies used around the driver setup doing their part to deliver a clean and clear sound to the listener.
The difference in dynamism is most easily noticed in the midrange, with guitar based music especially easy to spot. On the Gold, note edges crunch a lot more where needed from the recording – the staccato riffs of “World On Fire” (Slash) sounds properly jagged and spiky on the Gold, in comparison to the more pedestrian and blunter feeling chug of the Sennheisers. Despite both being neutral, The Gold is definitely the more aggressive of the two monitor, with a faster feeling driver response and crisper transients.
Treble is smoother feeling and more delicate on the IE800s, with the Gold treble sounding sharper in direct comparison (but still not sharp). Again, the laid back tonality of the IE800s is in evidence here, with cymbals sounding a little more artificial and thinner than the Flare flagship, although that isn’t hugely emphasised itself.
In terms of driveability, the Gold is a fair bit harder to drive to listenable volume, requiring a chunk more power to get to the same sort of output. This is partially alleviated by using the Bluetooth module, which kicks out a decent amount of power due to its balanced design, but if you want to go wired, weaker sources won’t pair as well with the Gold in comparison to the Sennheiser model. In contrast, the design and build of the Gold feels more premium compares to the 800s – the cable is an order of magnitude more sturdy (and attractive), and the solid metal shells with the conspicuos gold plating definitely look and feel more appealing than the matte ceramic finish of the Sennheiser.
The accessories follow a similar vein, with the generic packaging and accessory loadout of the Senns looking a tier down compared to the accessories and opulent box and design of the Flare Audio model. The only thing that I would take it the snazzy IE800s case, which is a well thought out design with space to wind the IEM cable and slot one of the interchangeable jacks. On that topic, the IE800s has multiple jack connector options, so if you are running a balanced source and want to use the more powerful wired output, the Sennheiser definitely offers more choice here.
Overall, both IEMs shoot for a neutral sort of tuning, and both have good detail levels and clarity throughout. The IE800s lends itself well to acoustic and jazz genres, and has a rich and almost terminally laid back sound, whereas the Gold is a more vibrant and dynamic sound, while still staying pretty close to a musical neutral. For my preferences, the Sennheiser is just TOO laid back and lacking in anima compared to the engaging and musical Flares Gold, plus the IEM and cable itself just feels a little too flimsy for a proper flagship. Therefore, it is an easy recommendation for the Flares Gold from me here.
The Gold is a bold statement piece of an IEM with its proprietary cable system, modern art packaging and 24k bling. The extravagance is backed up by some bold technical claims, and in the main, they hold true. This IS a step up from their other models, pushing the Flare “house sound” to its natural conclusion, and taking elements from all the models that have come before it to make something genuinely worthy of being considered a top tier earphone.
The tuning betrays Flare’s origins as a manufacturer of stage and studio gear, sitting on the edge of neutral and natural and eschewing any sort of audible emphasis (either consumer or audiophile). It is content to simply recreate the music as closely as it can to the original intention, for better or worse. This Swiss neutrality will mean that this isn’t a monitor for everyone – those looking for emphasised bass or treble air and a more traditional letter based tuning can probably find something more suited to their particular preferences in this sort of price bracket. If you don’t have a particular bias towards one part of the frequency spectrum or a broad range of musical genres you enjoy, this is a pretty all-round sort of sound that allows you to enjoy a TOTL technical performance in a musically neutral setting.
There are two things that stop this hitting the top of the DD recommendation tree for my personal tastes: the neutrality (beautiful as it is), and the performance of its middle sibling, the Pro 2. Much as I love the sound of the Gold, my personal tastes lean a little more towards something bassier and more sculpted, so on a purely preference level I would still take the CA Atlas over the Gold. Also, the Pro 2 is a perfect example of how to illustrate diminishing returns in this hobby; it returns probably 90%+ of the sonic and technical capability of the Gold with only 30% of the cost (and even comes with the same packaging and accessories). In some respects, the Pro 2 actually ticks more boxes for me preference-wise due to the slightly more present bass and more forward midrange.
The Gold is definitely a top-tier addition to the ranks of the high end DD scene, so as with all sorts of audio purchases in this price bracket it is down to how much you are willing to pay for that additional percentage increase in performance, and what exact tuning you looking for to get that. If you are happy to shoot for the stars and want a musically natural and just flat out enjoyable sounding gold-plated IEM, you won’t go too far wrong here.