Canjam London 2019 – part one

Introduction

Canjam London 2019 marks my third trip to the UK’s premier headphone convention, and my second as a “press” member (i.e. blogger with a notebook). There were slightly less manufacturers in attendance this year, but more people, with plenty of people rolling through the doors of the Park Plaza in Westminster over the course of the weekend. Familiar faces (both industry and Head-Fi posters) were spotted, friendships were made and most importantly, a bucketload of gear was listened to.

Unlike previous years, I restricted myself entirely to IEMs this year – no source comparisons (apart from the Fiio M11 Pro), and no large over-ears. It was a fantastic two days, and a real high tide mark for me in terms of the technological development going on in the in-ear marketplace, with some seriously good sounding tech rolling off the production lines in the US, Europe and Asia.

My impressions are broken down by manufacturer and listed chronologically, so the later listenings may make reference to models or brands I listened to earlier on in the weekend (in other words, make sure you read in order). Please note – these are show impressions, and are based on anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes listening with the various models in most cases. As such, they won’t be complete or overly detailed, so should be taken as an initial impression of the most memorable or notable aspects of the sound that struck me in the busy (and loud) show floor environment.

All the impressions bar one (the Obravo Cupid) were made using the Fiio M11 in high gain, and using one of the balanced outs where possible. For tip choice I used the supplied silicon or foam tips from the manufacturers wherever possible, only switching to my blue Acoustune tips if I couldn’t get a correct fit or seal. All impressions were done with the stock cables provided with each IEM.

Jerry Harvey

My first proper listening stop of the weekend was the Jerry Harvey Audio stand. For anyone with more than a passing interest in the IEM market, JH Audio will be synonymous with high-end in ears, the Florida based firm pretty much cornering the market for stage and recording musicians across the globe (all but one of this year’s Grammy winners and nominees use JH Audio gear.

Fortunately for us audiophiles, Jerry Harvey is just as keen to conquer the audiophile market as he is to dominate the gigging musician bracket, hence their appearance at the show with the full suite of JH Audio models. Interestingly, they didn’t have any of the “new” universal models, as they are produced in collaboration with Astell & Kern, so are affectively considered as A&K models by the powers that be in JH Audio. As I covered a few models in my Canjam write up last year, I concentrated on two models that I liked the most out of the current lineup.

First up was the Roxanne II – this is one of the variable bass potentiometer models, so for the purposes of these impressions the bass was set at 2pm, which is just over 50% of the total amount available.

The tuning is quite rich and bassy, with an overall dark tuning lightened with a vinegary splash of sharpness in the highs. There is a pleasant level of resolution, giving the Roxanne decent but not stellar resolving power for its price bracket – there is more of an emphasis on macro rather than micro-details to my ears. The overall sound is large, with big instrumentation and note sizes and a pretty forward stage positioning. This isn’t an IEM that lets you view the stage from a distance, preferring to pull you right up to the front and let the madness loose all around you.

Testing out the low end with some Korn, mid bass slams pretty hard for an all-BA setup – “Freak On A Leash” punches with full ice cream headache inducing force. The bass drop in this track (around the 3 minute mark) sounds huge, but packs in plenty of texture, allowing the listener to hear the loose strings vibrate as the bass guitar rumbles. Actually, despite the bass capability, the Roxanne was less dark than I imagined, bringing a crispness to the vocals, and pushing them forward into the stage.

Listening to “Shallow” from the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, the track sounds properly live, with the acoustic guitars carrying a good dose of sweetness. The forwardness of the midrange is noticeable here, with Bradley Cooper sounding like he is singing directly into the microphone, pushing the sound directly into the forehead of the listener almost. Again, intimate but large is the vibe here, with a closeness that takes the listener right into the middle of the music. The female vocals again have a hint of sharpness that cuts through the warmth of the bass, but don’t sound quite as full as the male singers at the 2pm setting.

There is actually plenty of detail in certain tracks – the Roxanne provide a surprising level of clarity on “Palladio” by Escala, for example, rendering the subtle click at around the 20 second mark clearly in the left ear of the listener without muddying it or drowning it with low frequency around it. It also performs well with the dimensional cues on the “Thriller” intro, putting the footsteps down cleanly into a defined section of the stage, and moving them through the listener;s sonic picture quite cleanly. This is supposed to be a hallmark of the Freqphase technology, and I have to agree that the Roxanne does offer pretty decent depth and positioning here.

In terms of physical design, the latest iteration of Roxanne shells are considerably smaller than the original versions, but still remain large. The internal tubing design required for the proprietary Freqphase phase correction technology used across the range means that some very clever engineering is required to fit the entire tubing structure inside the IEM shell, so the days of JH Audio releasing a “small” Freqphase IEM are probably a long way off yet.

The other model that really struck me was the more “plug and play” JH11Pro, which comes with no bass pot on the cable. This is a single high / single mid / dual low balanced armature design, designed to be a touring musician’s workhorse. This was recommended to me by the very friendly JH rep working the stall as his own personal “grab and listen” IEM for daily use – sadly I didn’t write his name down to thank him properly, but must commend him for the suggestion, and also for his absolutely magnificent moustache, which could probably get its own TV show it was so impressive). The signature on this model is a slight V shape (to my ears), with a slight elevation at both ends and a nicely weighted push in the vocals to ensure they don’t drop too far behind the other two. The Dual BA once again provides a surprising physical sense of slam from an all BA set, giving the JH11 a nicely entertaining low end for most modern styles of music and plenty of weight in the notes. This struck me as a good “plug and play” type signature – engaging, adds a good sense of energy and resolving enough to render most music well without blowing your socks off with its level of detail retrieval. The other thing to note was the shell design, which is absolutely tiny in comparison to the Roxanne, and slips into the ear very easily in what I thought is a very comfy universal design. As mentioned, detail and clarity isn’t as obvious as the Roxanne – this is still a decently resolving monitor on the macro-level, but certainly not a detail monster.

I can’t finish my section on JH without talking about their shell designs, which were some of the most interesting and impressive on display over the weekend. After chatting to their rep, he mentioned that they have been looking to push into more exotic shell materials like wood (which they have executed beautifully), as the actual design of the Freqphase driver and tubing configurations mean that the shells play no part at all in the actual sound of the IEM as the driver is tubed from spout to the IEM nozzle, giving them a bit more freedom to use pretty much anything that can hold the required shape internally. He also commented that the original “Full Metal Jacket” designs are now a collector’s item, as they have been officially retired by JH Audio as they are too problematic to manufacture compared to the newer shell designs and materials. I recommend checking out the JH site for a look at some of the newer designs if you are looking for inspiration for your next CIEM – there are some beautiful examples of IEM art in there.

Westone

Next up was the Westone booth. Westone is a brand that has a hugely long history in the IEM game, being involved with hearing protection for over 50 years and in-ear monitors since the start of the modern IEM industry. Despite this, they don’t have a huge presence in the UK, so the only model I have heard or owned previously was the UM Pro 50 (v1), which I found a little warm and dark for my personal tastes (which run quite warm and dark, so that should tell you something).

Willing to have my mind changed, I tried the W60 model, which is a 6BA design in the now ubiquitous Westone coffee bean shaped shell. On picking up, I was surprised at how light the IEM is, and how solid the build feels despite being fully plastic and pretty lightweight. This looks like something that should be able to take a decent level of use.

In terms of tuning, I felt the W60 had a warm overall tonality, with a decent level of technical capability, being able to pick out the click in the foreground on Palladio above the bassy cello notes going on around it. That surprised me a little, as in general the W60 isn’t a very bright sound, and feels almost blunt as it goes up the range, giving the impression it doesn’t have a load of detail in the background. On the same track, the tinkling harpsichord that accompanies the more prominent cello and violin later in the song sounds faint and suppressed compared to the strings, robbing the track of some much needed air and lightness. This darkness does help give a decent feel of power and bass impact, but despite that, it is still not at DD levels of physicality.

This is another IEM that has a tuning that seems firmly aimed at the gigging musician (even though it is in the “W” series rather than the “UM” range, with a warm and non fatiguing sound that can get a little claustrophobic at times. I would categorise this as another “plug and play” type IEM – the sound is inoffensive, but almost sounds a little blunt around the edges of vocals. For instance, it emphasises the lower undertones of James Bay’s voice on Hold Back The River, making the singer sound almost throaty, again taking the air that is present in the delivery and pushing some more warmth into it. Not a bad sounding tuning, but not sharp or crisp enough for even my dark and warm preferences, so will definitely suit a particular type of listener.

On the positive side, the isolation and fit are truly excellent. These things fit snugly, and lock in perfectly each time with the pretty unique Westone foam tips. The insertion is pretty deep, so if you are uncomfortable with long stems in your ear then these may cause a little discomfort until you get used to them, but I genuinely can’t imagine most people would think the fit was anything other than excellent. Kudos, Westone – there is a reason that the “coffeebean” popularised by yourselves and Shure is so popular. There should also be a mention for the new “Epic” cable used with the models – this is nicely finished and satisfyingly thin, giving a very ergonomic wear.

I didn’t have time to try the other models, but I hear the W80 is tuned in a less dark and more linear fashion, so suspect that may be more to my liking. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to check that out next year.

oBravo

This is a brand that has pretty much polarised audiophile opinion, putting out some unusual looking and eye-wateringly expensive IEMs that range from a few hundred pounds all the way up to close to £10k. Yes, you read that right – the current oBravo flagship runs close to five figures in UK currency.

I decided to jump in at the “middle” of the range with the EAMT-1C model, which only costs a paltry £3699 at current RRP. This is a dual driver hybrid, pairing a dynamic driver with an Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter to produce the sound. The “C’ in the model designation stands for “ceramic”, as this is what some of the driver housing is made of. These are unusual looking IEMs, with a shape that looks similar to the top part of an exclamation mark and a well crafted but fairly industrial look. These look unusual, but not especially expensive. Despite the unusual shape, it was possible to wear them over-ear, so that was my preferred method for listening as it killed most of the cable noise from the chunky attached cabling. (Note – this was hooked up to a mystery Xuelin player on the stand, so I left it running on that for the purposes of review as I have been informed previously that these things need a fair bit of power to be driven properly).

The signature was fairly balanced, with a punchy bass and a very wide soundstage. The music seems to expand outwards in all directions but still feels quite intimate, which is a neat trick (and a fairly unusual sensation!). I found the 1C quite bassy with the attached whirlwind tips, which came in quite handy in the busy exhibition space as the isolation on these isn’t exactly the best due to the vented (or possibly semi-open) nature of the IEM design. The rest of the range felt smooth but very detailed, both a good balance through the mids all the way through to the top of the treble.

Loading up “Thriller” (one of the only demo tracks I was familiar with), the 1C produces that vinegary sharpness in the instrumentation at the start of the track very well, placing the footsteps crisply and precisely, and stretching the right to left image to something pretty large. The bass on this track is lithe but carries good quantity, with a nicely judged mid and sub bass balance. I switched up to my Fiio M11 and tried a few other tracks (the M11 seems to be capable of providing enough oomph in balanced / high gain to drive these to a similar level). Sticking with bass, the Bass drum on “Dubai Blues” hits with real punch, showing the DD to be pretty capable when it comes to impact. It isn’t the most detailed, however, slightly shrouding the snare drum “ghost notes” played by Chad Smith behind the main rhythm. It showed better clarity on “Palladio”, but wasn’t quite as bombastic as something like the HS1650Cu from Acoustune (coming up later), so could do with a touch more gravitas for my personal preferences. Overall, the sound felt balanced and fairly grand as you head further up the range, with a neutral note weight and plenty of detail. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt the AMT driver tech is pretty capable, but I think the DD could struggle in comparison to other TOTL flagships at this sort of price level. Ending on a positive note, the cable is positively pornographic if you are into cables), looking like something that deserves its own jewellery case. At least the included accessories look the part.

After trying one of the big hitters, I moved down into the more affordable price bracket with their hybrid Cupid model, which retails for £250. I only walked away from this year’s ‘Jam with two IEMs, and the Cupid was one of them, so that should give you a pretty good indication of what I thought about it.

Starting with the tech, the Cupid is a dual hybrid, using one 8mm planar magnetic driver and a 6mm dynamic driver, both fitted into a beautiful looking brass shell in a more classic looking coffeebean style shape. There is no getting around it, the Cupid looks like it should be one of their higher end models, with a beautiful build and design, and a nice cable (provided in 2.5mm as standard, with a 2.5 to 3.5mm adapter.

As my blogmate Glassmonkey has already noted on Audio Primate, the Cupid is a seriously good IEM in the sub-£500 bracket, which is a fairly bold statement considering they only cost half that much. I tend to agree with him – these are good. Starting with the bass, these are a seriously rumbly IEM, with a tuning that is rich and organic, leaning more toward dark than airy. The slam factor pushed out by the two drivers (running in parallel with no crossover) is very high, producing more than enough air movement in the inner ear to keep bassheads happy. In fact, it almost felt too impactful in the midbass on some tracks with the included whirlwind tips, which is something as a CA Atlas owner I don’t tend to say too often. Bass is pushed forwards in the tuning, which is somewhere between L and U to my ears.

Putting on some MJ, “Thriller” positions well, but not quite at the high level of some of the other IEMs I listened to this weekend (admittedly at a much higher price bracket). The footsteps feels flatter, pushing from right to left but not too far “in” to the sound. The wolf howls pull in from left and right and highlight a nice L/R separation for the sound, with the vocals occupying a strong slot in the centre just a shade behind the bass in stage position. This IEM comes across as a pretty warm listen with bluesier material like Matt Andersen, latching on to the inherently warm production and producing a velvety and comforting listen. Listening to “Shallow”, the Cupid doesn’t quite make it sound live, but the track is presented very organically, catching the echo in Bradley Cooper’s voice as it dies out into the auditorium.

Overall, there seems to be a good level of clarity and separation despite the richness of the sound. With the whirlwind tips, it did sometimes feel like I was being pushed up against the sound, so they may be a little intimate for some, but with the foams in place instead, the sound pulls back a bit, but bass is still very present. Vocals are presented as smooth but detailed, with a sheen of warmth. “Give Me Some Light” by the aforementioned Mr Andersen sounds deeeeep as it kicks into gear.

In the main, this is not an overly trebly or bright sounding IEM in the upper ranges, almost verging on dark in presentation. Playing “Whiskey And You” by Chris Stapleton, the track sounds syrupy and smooth, with no hint of harshness in the usual trouble spots. “Bad Rain” by Slash positively growls with these, pushing a serious amount of impact and heavyweight texture throughout the ranges. It is noticeable on this track when switching between the Whirlwind tips and some Comply that the silicon tips loosen up the bass and make it even bigger, starting to stray towards boomy. On both tips, the treble is actually very nimble, and exhibits great speed. This helps it cut through the warm and velvety sound below, and while this will never be an IEM you could describe as sharp on initial listen, it does have plenty of treble capability. I think the tuning is sufficiently “different” from a typical audiophile tuning to appeal to its own section of the market, and probably a good chunk of the higher end consumer market as well. I think these represent a very good value at £250, so I’m personally very glad oBravo decided to play in the mere mortals sector of the market as well as the millionaire’s toys aisle.

Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic didn’t seem to have their A&K collaboration IEM (the AKT9IE) on display, so the only model I was particularly interested in was their Lagoon ANC over-ears. These were nicely put together in terms of build, but a little plasticky and not hugely substantial in solidity or weight. they do have a very cool illumination inside the cups to denote different functions (and make them glow in the dark), so they will appeal to the more magpie-like members of the audiophile community on that front. As with anything Beyer I have ever stuck on my head, they are uber comfortable, with a great balance between wearing weight, clamp and comfort on the pads. Why can’t more manufacturers take a leaf out of their book??

In terms of sound, they give a good depth in the bass on some of my bass testers like “Bad Rain”, with decent but not mind blowing texture. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk sounds nice, with a little mid bass emphasis but not a hugely deep extension, the bassline just lacking that properly bottomless depth that it can possess on certain headphones. I’d say overall this is a slightly bassy slant on a neutral tuning, somewhere around a very shallow L or U if I had to approximate.

Detail retrieval is around average, it does have the bonus of no troublesome Beyer treble though, so it won’t drill into your inner ears while you are relaxing with them. Overall thoughts are that this is a decent but unspectacular headphone, probably similar in performance to the latest Sony ANC model but without the brand recognition in the consumer market and carrying a little extra price without any obvious advantages apart from the fact they are from a “proper” audiophile brand. While they don’t do anything wrong, there is nothing massively noteworthy to fixate on, these being the epitome of a “safe” or “middle of the road” style sound. The ANC seems to be very good though, managing to kill the noise in the bubbling exhibition space without inducing a pressure headache in the process. I didn’t have any of the other ANC champions on hand to compare, but it certainly seemed adequate enough to do a good job on public transport. While the main SQ seems pretty unaffected, the ANC actually seems to rob the playback of a hint of really deep bass, so it sounded better to my ears with the ANC off, kind of defeating the main use case.

Ibasso / AMP3

Ibasso were represented at this year’s Canjam by the smiling Chris Laidler from AdvancedMP3Players, who brought with him the DX220 with AMP9 and the new wood versions of the IT03 and IT04. Being short of time, I listened to the IT03 wood model, as I was pretty familiar with its acrylic predecessor.

The wood shells look beautiful, giving a classic and pretty unusual look, and feeling very smooth and polished in the ear, without any irritation. I don’t know if they have tweaked the pseudo-custom fit at all, but it did seem to fit my ears slightly better than the original IT03, but I wasn’t able to do an A/B to confirm.

In terms of sonics, this still possesses the classic IT03 sound: crisp mids, nice rawness in the vocals and a sub bass tilt to add some depth and weight. It isn’t any warmer or smoother, sticking with the engaging but slightly dry and crisp feel of the original tune. According to Ibasso this is supposed to have a slight improvement over the original in terms of balance to the tuning and some finer technicalities, and comes with the upgraded IT01s cable with additional 2.5/3.5 adapter. It may just be the effect of the upgraded cable on the overall tuning, but it did feel marginally smoother in the midrange to me, with less graininess to the texture – again, with no A/B that could just as easily have been use of a better source (I’ve upped my DAP game since I owned the IT03) so don’t take that as gospel. Bottom line – if you liked the IT03, you should like this one.As mentioned, the fit with the included silicon tips feels better to me, locking in fully without any messing around, and sitting very comfortably.

I also checked out the IT01s, as I am a current owner of its baby brother the IT01. This gives a slightly cool shallow V shaped tuning, with good crispness in the vocal. “Shallow” sounds good, but cleaner and less emotional than on some of the other IEMs in these impressions, tending more towards analytical than emotive. The IT01s does seem to give equal weight on male and female vocals, showing mice balance through the midrange. I was a fan of the bass tuning, which is weighted more towards sub than mid bass, giving a solid physical heft to tracks. Vocals on Matt Andersen “Give Me Some Light” were forward and smoothly rendered, erring again more towards clean than emotive but carrying a nice tinge of sweetness in the gospel chorus.

Separation and layering are excellent for the price bracket – this is no slouch technically. The metal IEMs shells feel lightweight but robust, and fit well in the ear. This seems like a high level performer for the price, and just lacks a little weight in the midrange for my personal preference, leaving some songs feeling a little dry. Impressed.

InEar

InEar are a German IEM manufacturer, specialising in making IEMs with a pseudo-custom fit that is almost uncannily comfortable (to my ears), and actually locks into place for me as tightly as my actual custom IEM do. I tried most of their range last year, so concentrated on the top model in their SD range (the SD5) this year.

As will all the other SD models I’ve ever tried, the 5 fits like a glove. It sports a beautiful (and beautifully simple) black shell design, with a very low key vibe, and almost no visible marking on the outer shell. This is definitely not an IEM for the bling-addicts.

With regards to sound, the first thing that hit me was the sharp treble, the SD5 hitting the ears with a crisp and zingy top end. Overall I think the sound sits between a moderate V shape and a low W, with emphasis on either end and a small push in the midrange to get the vocals a little closer to the listener. It didn’t give me a huge sense of depth, but did put out some decent stage width. In terms of clarity, I’d class it as good but not TOTL great – it captures the subtle click in the intro to “Palladio” by Escala, but you have to actively listen for it.

This is quite an energetic sounding IEM, designed to grab the attention of the listener and present tracks with a sense of energy and plenty of anima. As such, it isn’t really designed for easy listening, and I have a suspicion it may get a little fatiguing over time. There is a nice accurate sounding tonality to the mids for guitar and vocals when there aren’t any other instruments in stage, which tends to get a little lost when the tracks get busier in the overall fizz of the tuning. The SD5 is slightly warm (as with all SD models), but not overly so, with the bass being balanced out by the slight raise in the vocals and the treble emphasis. The DD bass is very good, giving almost as much rumble as some of my dynamic driver IEMs, which is pretty impressive for a 5 driver using an all-BA setup.

Sticking some demo tracks through their paces the intro to “Thriller” sounds sharp and defined, with the SD5 giving the right amount of crispness to the various sounds in the opening minute or so. “Champagne High” by Sister Hazel has a good sense of lightness to the high guitar notes, the song handling Ken Block’s rich baritone adeptly while layering the jangling guitar into the background. Switching to heavier fare, you really get to the heart of what this IEM is good at. This is a powerful sounding earphone, well suited to rockier genres due to its punchy bass and energetic high end. Despite the crispness further up, the SD5 avoids sounding overly harsh – on “Whiskey And You”, Chris Stapleton sounds throaty and raw, managing to avoid total sharpness but still cutting up edgy. Overall impressions are that these are a good fun sounding IEM with decent technicalities and a warm and engaging signature. Perfect for when you want to rock out, but not so well suited to more sedate genres. Good, but not giant killers in the price bracket (c. £1k I believe).

Jomo Audio

Jomo was a favourite visit from the previous year’s ‘Jam, so I made sure I spent some time there hearing the newer models, specifically the Trinity and the Game Raider. I was only able to hear one of the Trinity models, so was recommended the Brass due to the supposedly warmer tuning.

The version I heard was actually the new Trinity Brass “Black” – this is a new edition of the current Brass model, developed with what looks like an acrylic style coating over the brass shell (jet black, naturally). Speaking to Joseph (mr Jomo himself), he mentioned that this was due to some customers complaining about oxidation on the shells in the first edition models – he mentioned some customers loving the “aging” effect, but others didn’t like it, hence the move to offer a different and more protective paint job without moving away from the brass shell.

This is Jomo’s current flagship IEM, packing a dual estat tweeter, 4 BAs to cover the midrange and an 8mm DD low end with some proprietary tech around the air volume in the driver chamber. I couldn’t quite pigeonhole whether this was a more flat natural type tuning or a slight V – either way, there is plenty of bass and treble, but the mids dont’ feel pushed back or recessed either. The tonality of the Brass Black is what struck me most, coming across as very refined and beautifully controlled. there is a richness to the low end thanks to the DD, and the midrange starts off smooth but detailed, with a surprisingly sharp hard raise somewhere around the high mids (I think – was difficult to pinpoint exactly in the time available). This additional emphasis makes “Whiskey And You” almost painful to listen to, in contrast with the buttery smooth refinement of the rest of the frequency range. “Starlight” by Slash was handled well, with the complex harmonics of the intro and the subtle detail throughout the track being handled easily by the tribrid setup, dredging up small scuffs on the strings and tiny room and recording noises without detracting from the main body of the music. There is a liveliness and sense of energy in the highs which cuts through the healthy slabs of bass kicked out by the DD, giving the Trinity a very dynamic “edge” to the sound. Bass is north of neutral, kicking out plenty of mid bass for a flagship tuning, and plenty of impact. It also runs deep, with good warmth and excellent definition and texture. Playing my Matt Andersen review tracks (“Take Me Back” and “Give Me Some Light”) was a supremely enjoyable experience for sheer enjoyment, but somewhat wasted from a review viewpoint as I drifted so far into the music I only took one word of notes: sublime.

Looking into the finer detail, “Palladio” is handled easily, picking out the small clicks and creaks and fine violin texture with supreme ease. The Brass Black also made easy work of the macro and micro dynamics in the song, building a sense of engagement that sweeps you along with the music. Looking for low end extension, “Why So Serious?” from the Dark Knight soundtrack builds to a crescendo of sub bass at the 3:30 mark, with the Trinity proving extremely capable at producing both the pulsing rumble that shakes the ears (and chest) and also the really faint ticking that slowly introduces its way back into proceedings, which is a detail some IEMs don’t pick up on until a good few seconds later in the mix. The new estat drivers are obviously at work here, providing a level of detail that was previously difficult to achieve without adding more edginess and hardness to the upper end. There is no harshness for me here, with the treble extending up as high as I can hear with absolute smoothness and clarity.

Overall, this has the flagship sense of effortlessness, and if not for a slight edge and sharpness in the high mids in my particular “sensitivity zone”, would be an almost flawless tuning for my preferences.

The other IEM I spent a bit of time with was their new Game Raide triple driver hybrid. This is a model designed specifically for gaming rather than music, sporting an enhanced bass and a push in the ultra highs to aid with soundstage and accurate positioning. True to Joseph’s description, these are a bassy IEM with plenty of top end. Also true to his description is the midrange, which is fairly well detailed for a sub $500 model but recessed just about as far as anything I’ve heard for a long long time. This is a heavy V shaped IEM, almost trending to L shaped in places.

Despite the fact it isn’t designed for music playback, it actually did a pretty decent job once you got used to the pushed back mid range. There is decent clarity and an absolutely pounding bass (which occasionally feels boomy), along with a smoothly extended high end. This tuning is designed to work well with the explosions and gunfire of a modern FPS game, with the treble chops to plant sounds precisely in the ear, and it also delivers there too, giving an excellent rendition of the footsteps in “Thriller” for the price tag. Purely for music playback I would say this is too extreme in its V shape for my preferences, but if you listen exclusively to drum n’ bass floor fillers or music without any useful sonic information in the mids in between gaming sessions, this could work for you.

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