Would you believe me if I told you that I’m enjoying the £249 oBravo Cupid as much as any oBravo I’ve listened to? The oBravo line-up is notoriously picky with amplification, including the £8999 Ra C-Cu. Each of the ERIB and EAMT hybrid series has several flavours with different sound according to housing material (warm wood, neutral aluminum, vibrant ceramic). Pick the flavour that fits your listening preference and it will sound good on the right amp. The Cupid, on the other hand, loves to pair with everything and only comes in one flavour. All amps, all my music. That is, assuming I can get the right fit in my ear.
I’ve been familiar with oBravo for about 3 years, and that entire time Phil Wannell of Audio Concierge has been there shepherd and influencer. Phil has had effects on final tunings and he probably sells more of their gear than anybody else. My first front page review on Head-Fi was the oBravo ERIB-2 (I was much more excitable back then), a planar magnetic hybrid with a funky form-factor, an open design that created a big stage and a love it or hate it tuning that I happened to love. They looked like Franken-headphones sticking out of your head, but they sounded good.
When Phil showed me a picture of a new product from oBravo he had coming out, with he showed me a picture, this one:
This is how it went:
Me: Ergo oBravo. Neato. Planar dynamic hybrid?
Phil: [sends more pictures]
Me: Guessing circa $2k
Phil: ROFL emojis
Later I look on Phil’s site and discover Phil was enjoying a little bit of Raven, Anansi, Loki, pick a trickster god shenanigans at my expense. When he said $2, he meant $200 ($300 is more accurate). That said, these are pretty darn good.
The unit I was loaned was a short term loan, and is not the final tuning. There has been a little adjustment to the 4-5kHz range which should soften some of the snappier elements a bit.
An ergonomic oBravo for less than $6000 dollars
The Ra C-Cu is more ergo than other oBravo IEMs that all tend to have that Frankenstein form factor previously mentioned, but the lowest model of the Ra is around $6k, which is crazy money. The Ra series still sticks out, but it wraps over the ear. The Cupid doesn’t stick out, it nestles into your ear.
I couldn’t get a fit with the included silicone tips, so I went through almost my whole selection of tips trying to get a good fit: Spinfit CP100, Spinfit CP230, JVC Spiral Dots, Symbio MandarInes, and I was having the same problem. I couldn’t get them to settle and seal right, which was leading bass being way out of whack and treble being wrong. When I put the Dekoni Mercury foam tips in though, it was right on. The Final E-Type tips are just a tiny bit down as a silicone option.
After I got my fit right, it was time to enjoy.
These things only have 16 ohm resistance, so I thought I’d give these a shot out of my phone (LG V30). It hissed. I tried them out of the SOUNDAWARE M2Pro. They hissed. I tried them out of the Questyle QP2R, hiss too. So I used an iFi iEMatch and hiss was gone. I bear good news, though, the hiss problem wasn’t actually a problem, it was burn-in. After putting about 20 hours on these, the hiss disappeared. I’m playing out of the balanced jack of the QP2R right now jamming to Run DMC, and there isn’t a hiss anywhere need. That’s good, because I’m going to Tropical World this weekend. There will be enough hissing there.
These suckers are lively, and precise. There are no bleeding notes, just crisp clarity across the whole spectrum. These bring all the planar goodness of the ERIB-2A, but they have good bass too. The bass is full with good decay. The bass has power without having any bloat and has good texture. I dig it.
Mids are placed right without any particular recession and nice clarity. These are absolutely excellent on clarity at this price point. I’ve enjoyed these with vocalists from Leonard Cohen to Geddy Lee with some Macy Gray and other female vocalists in between. These just handle vocals well.
Highs are a touch forward starting in the upper mids/lower treble, but it’s not overly aggressive. Cymbals sound natural without any excess splash or ting. Violins are emotive and silky.
Soundstage is a little above average with good depth and slightly out of head width with not a ton of height. Can’t have everything at £250 (£299 with the 2.5mm to 4.4mm adaptor). The goodly stage that is there is well delineated with good space and presence for individual instruments.
Speedwise, the planar tweeter keeps up with rambunctious tracks like Billy Cobham – Quadrant 4 without any problems.
With the hiss and fit problems either solved, or never actually a problem, these are pretty usable. They do have a tendency to like more amping, sounding better in high gain modes of everything I put them on with volume levels controlled. Bring your big boy amp.
The regular kit comes with a 2.5mm balanced OCC copper double twist cable. Don’t be fooled by the golden appearance, that’s for show. There is also a 2.5mm to 3.5mm convertor included by default and a 4.4mm with the ‘ultimate’ package. The ultimate package will cost £50 ($60-$65) more outside of the pre-order (free with pre-order at audioconcierge), so your mileage may vary on whether you want to spend $60 more to get an adaptor that is matched to the set. All the adaptors are really big, so will need to be treated carefully when handled sticking out of your amp.
Tips are common variety, some silicone and Comply foamies in the standard S/M/L array of sizes. I went aftermarket. If you can’t get a good fit (ergonomically and sonically) with the included tips, see my comments above.
I think the future isn’t as bleak as Leonard Cohen’s depiction. I’m looking forward to listening to the final tuning and getting the full unbox experience. These very well could be world beaters at their price.