WAVAYA Tria Live! Review: balanced beautiful porcelain

Pros: balanced sound, crisp clear mids, good bass texture, value for money, beautiful leather case, Linum BaX cable has fantastic ergonomics and has a solid tour-proof connector, less wax build-up and better thermal management with porcelain vs. acrylic

Cons: case not big enough for most aftermarket cables, case not a bombproof piece of tour kit, sound signature delivers smooth treble over detailed treble (some will prefer this)

List Price: $490 (€490)

Product Website: WAVAYA Tria Live!

WAVAYA Tria Live!

Rating Disclaimer: ratings are subjective. Audio quality and value do not mean the same thing across all prices. A headphone with a 5 rating on audio at $5 does not have equivalent sound quality as a 5 rating at $500. Likewise, value at $5 is not the same as value at $5000 dollars.

Introduction

This is my second review of WAVAYA gear. I previously reviewed their top-of-the-line first in the world quad electrostatic tweeter hybrid, the Octa. The Octa received my top rating I’ve ever given an in-ear. My blogmate, Jackpot77 reviewed the WAVAYA Quadra, and loved it. The WAVAYA Tria Live! is fully at the other end of the line-up from the Octa. It’s their three driver fully balanced armature entry-level setup. The Tria Live! is more than $1000 less expensive than the Octa.

As this is my second review of WAVAYA gear, if you want a fuller introduction to the company, you can read the intro to the WAVAYA Octa review. Here are the basics:

  • They make custom IEMs out of porcelain, which has some advantages over the more commonly used acrylic shells on other custom in-ears
  • They are based in Cyprus
  • They released the world’s first quad electrostatic tweeter in-ear monitor, nearly a year before the Empire Ears Wraith.
  • As a company, they cater primarily to musicians, but their excellent sound has audiophile appeal too

Producing porcelain IEMs is a more involved process than producing acrylic IEMs. Along my path to receiving my units I was sent pictures documenting what step everything was at, but the video below shows all that better than the pictures I received. The amount of work going into each pair justifies premium pricing, but their pricing is reasonable. I’ve lifted the video from their website, but the website is worth looking at to see further details about the steps. Producing these is a lot more involved with a lot more chance of loss and need to redo the process, so these are very reasonably priced; a bit of a bargain actually.

Audio quality

The WAVAYA Tria Live! provides a balanced presentation that works across a wide variety of genres. The mids are clear and articulate. The tonality of the treble is more smooth than detailed. It is never too bright and the mids are never strident. The bass is textured with some kick when called for, but these will not slam like a dynamic driver and won’t satisfy the quantity demands of bassheads. If you like your bass well textured with good extension, you’ll get some satisfaction. Violins and slide guitar sound awesome on these with great timbre. The soundstage of these is good for the price, but doesn’t equal what higher-end offerings like the UERR or the WAVAYA Octa can offer.

Comparisons

All comparisons were made using the Questyle QP2R in high bias. Volume matching was done using white noise and an SPL meter. When perceived volume and measured volume did not match multiple re-measurements were made and averaged to address the effect of position on measurement.

Headphone Cable SE/Balanced Gain Volume ~SPL
WAVAYA Tria Live! Stealthsonics U9 Stock Cable SE Medium 68 78.2
WAVAYA Tria Live! Cross Lambda Mikumo II SE Low 79 78.2
Lark Studio LSIV Stock SE Medium 70 78.4
Stealth Sonics U2 Stock SE Low 88 78.4
Stealth Sonics U4 Stock SE Low 82 78.2
UERR Stock SE Medium 87 78.2

Lark Studio LSIV ($449) vs. WAVAYA Tria Live! ($490)

Build and feature comparison

The LSIV has nice looking build quality, but after doing a lot of head to head time on the comfort of the acrylic of the LSIV vs. the porcelain of the WAVAYA Tria Live!, porcelain is just more comfortable for long-term wearing. The porcelain adjusts to body temperature better, so doesn’t feel overly warm in the ear and there are definite differences in the amount of earwax I produce when I wear the porcelain in-ear of the WAVAYA Tria Live!. The Tria Live! produces way less earwax and therefore needs less maintenance. The LSIV feels sticky in comparison to the Tria Live! after fairly short use. As observed with the WAVAYA Octa, there is a little bit of hardness to feel of the porcelain earpiece that I do feel, so it’s a balancing act of temperature, earwax, sweating and Newtonian physics (for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction). The force exerted by my ears on the Tria Live! is reflected back when it meets the Tria Live! as less force is absorbed by the harder material. Others probably won’t notice this as I have ears that are probably a bit hypersensitive to touch. The accessories of the Tria Live! are better. It comes with the option to get a tour-proof Linum BaX cable (take that free option), and it comes with a Florentine leather travel case of a very high standard of construction. The LSIV doesn’t come with a travel case, it comes with a small jewellery box that doesn’t really function as a travel case. The other LSIV accessories are not exciting. The amp stacking bands feel 4 years out of date, and the airline adaptor and 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor that just doesn’t fit what most users will need. I’d rather have a useable travel case.

Sound

For my listening comparison between the WAVAYA Tria Live! and the Lark Studio LSIV, I used the stock cable from the Stealthsonics U9, which is made by Null Audio, for the Tria Live!. I tried the LSIV cable on the Tria Live! and couldn’t really tell the difference between that and the U9 stock cable. I didn’t use the 2-pin Plastics One cable included by default with the Tria Live! as I didn’t like the sound of the cable. I recommend taking the free upgrade to T2 Linum BaX. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

The Notorious B.I.G. – Me & My Bitch (24-96 Vinyl Rip) has some deep bass rumble, some slam, and midbass texture. The LSIV plays well to the hip-hop scheme with dynamic driver kind of slam on the bass drum and good depth and volume on the bass guitar. Soundstage isn’t wide, or particularly deep on this track, but the scene is set well. The tenor of the LSIV is a perfect match for the stylings of Biggie Smalls. The Tria Live! has a further back presentation with a little more relative energy in the strings. The bass texture is still good, but the quantity isn’t really hip-hop; it’s a neutral kind of flavour. The LSIV has a bit a W-shaped sound with a bit more emphasis on Biggie’s vocals but without the level of string articulation as on the Tria Live!. I think the LSIV probably has a bit of a treble dip that makes the mids and upper mids sound thicker. The stage depth and width impression are superior on the Tria Live! but on this hip-hop track I’m missing the impact and immediacy of the LSIV. For hip-hop, the LSIV fits better. The Tria Live! does have far superior depth and width on the stage, though.

When I’m listening to Pixies – Where is My Mind? (DSD64) I’m listening for the soaring female vocal in the intro and for the depth of the tiny male background vocals. The WAVAYA Tria Live! gets good extension on the soaring female vocal, but it doesn’t quite soar like I’ve heard on my top in-ears. In contrast, the LSIV is louder sounding with an aggressive, in your face presentation. When it comes to volume on the female vocal, it gets louder, and it has a slight bit more extension. However, the LSIV doesn’t present the female vocal in a balanced manner with more weight given to the centre of the note rather than letting the upper harmonics fully breathe. The WAVAYA Tria Live! has more delicacy to the female vocal. The LSIV sound stage is small with little depth and small width. The bass guitar is pushed forward, as is the drum-kit, with the bass slightly ahead of Black Francis’s vocal. The tiny male background vocal is pretty much swallowed by other elements and gets lost in the mix. The Tria Live! performs better, overall, on this track, unless what you are looking for is big drums and big chugging bass. The LSIV delivers big bass and drum power.

The limited stage of the LSIV really stands out on Wilco – Jesus, etc. (16/44). The sound never really gets outside of the ears and depth is basically just not there. It’s a microscope slide’s worth of depth. The bass is forward of Jeff Tweedy’s vocal. The female vocal is just behind Jeff, whereas it should be further back. Violins have a forward presence and a thickening of the notes due to emphasis on the lower part of their tonal range rather than the airier more delicate part, as does the tapping percussion. The bass is omnipresent on the LSIV on this track. From a performance perspective on this track the WAVAYA Tria Live! has much better mids, with good clarity and an overall balanced presentation. Instruments sound like they have room to breathe with their full harmonic structure and timbre intact. Slide guitar sounds much more natural, as do plucked strings on the Tria Live!; the LSIV has a similar kind of emphasis to violins on the slide guitar with more weight given to the lower parts of the sonic structure and less attention paid to the timbral elements up high in the treble. The compact staging on the LSIV and forward presentation of certain frequencies kind of crushes more delicate elements. The WAVAYA Tria Live! just beats the hell out of the LSIV on this one to my ear.

My overall verdict is that the WAVAYA Tria Live! is a better overall sonic performer, with better ergonomics and accessories. For $50 more and made in Cyprus instead of China, I think the Tria Live! is also better value. If you like impact and hip-hop is your favourite genre, the LSIV will probably fit your likes better. When I’m listening to Biggie or Aesop Rock, I make sure to have it handy. The LSIV is my hip-hop IEM now.

Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered ($999) vs. WAVAYA Tria Live! ($490)

Build and feature comparison

My Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered (UERR) is a 3D-printed acrylic IEM with all the customisability options that come with that. The acrylic is high quality, but the porcelain of the WAVAYA Tria Live! still feels better to me. The presentation box of the UERR is much nicer, with higher quality materials and the UERR puck case that I really like. The UERR now comes standard with an IPX connection (a UE modified T2 connector) Linum SuperBaX cable, but the one I have has a generic cable in their old 2-pin cuffed connector that has always sounded fine to me. They switched connectors, and I’ve never shouldered the international shipping and cable upgrade price to get the ‘UE SuperBaX’. Both IEMs have 3 drivers, and both are excellent.

Sound

Macy Gray – Slowly (24-192, binaural) starts with some big drum hits and bass strums. The UERR doesn’t disappoint on definition. It throws out a textured and accurate bass and tactile drum hits at a good depth in the stage for a realistic presentation of players live in front of you. Each musician has their own distinct place and are easy to monitor on the UERR. I’ve put the UERR up against many many IEMs now, and at $999 it just doesn’t get beat often for being a superior value tool for interpreting music. There are funner sounding IEMs, but when it comes to having a neutral reference, they are pretty hard to beat at the price. The Tria Live! don’t beat them, but they are also more than $500 less expensive and offer a very similar signature. The bass on the track has a little more body but a little less texture and string slap character with the Tria Live!, Macy’s voice also has more body. The stage isn’t quite as deep, but musicians still have good spacing. Stage width is superior on the UERR.  The Tria Live! is a touch softer, less detailed, and more forgiving than the UERR, which means that on some tracks it will be more enjoyable to listen to than the UERR. The UERR will mess your head up if you put on Green Day – Walking Contradiction (those damned cymbals!), the wrong version of John Lennon – Imagine (that messed up piano!!), or any of your many guilty pleasure horrifically mastered metal tracks (if you like metal you know); you’ll probably be alright on the Tria Live! I tested the UERR and Tria Live! on Walking Contradiction and the UERR made me want to scream, while the little bit of extra body and smoothness in the treble of the Tria Live! made the track more enjoyable. It’s still a horribly mastered track, but I can look back on my youth and not wince with the Tria Live!.

The Tria Live! has such a realistic feel on Yes – Sound Chaser (24/96, Steven Wilson Stereo Remaster) transporting me back to the recording styles and standards of another age while thoroughly engaging me. The high-speed treble tapping keeps up admirably, though higher end in-ears will get you faster and cleaner with better depth of stage and a more micro-detail. Percussion in the intro comes across well defined across the frequency range with good dimensionality to the drums especially. There is some nice impact, but like most balanced armature set-ups, I don’t really get a load of slam. The UERR is perceptibly sharper and more tactile, while the Tria Live! is a little bit softer and smoother. The Tria Live! isn’t as technically gifted, but they share a similar tonal character. Both are in the neutral monitor vein of in-ear tunings. The UERR deals with complexity with a bit more adroitness and higher levels of detail.

Stevie’s vocal and the piano on Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know-It-All (DSD) are a bit more distant on the Tria Live! than on the UERR. Overall, the UERR shows more energy. It’s a front-row vs. 3rd row kind of feeling. The UERR also has a bigger stage width. Otherwise both show the texture of the bass, though the UERR has slightly more volume—this could be due to the difficulties of volume-matching customs; a 1/2mm different positioning can be 1-2dB difference. One interesting thing with the Tria Live! is that the porcelain shell doesn’t sound as good when it is cold, which it will be when you first take it out of its case. After warming up the bass and mids get a little more presence. It’s a heckuva performer with great clarity and rhythm. The UERR has significantly better spacing and precision in the mids and shows more micro-details coming through on the track, but the tonal signature is pretty even between these two. The mids are slightly more forward on the UERR. The UERR is the better technical performer, but at $500 less expensive, the Tria Live! performs very well in comparison. There is a sleight bit more warmth with a little bit softer texture to the Tria Live! sound, which I think many will enjoy.

Stealth Sonics U2 ($249) vs. WAVAYA Tria Live! ($490)

Build and feature comparison

Both headphones come with reasonable accessories. The Tria Live! comes with a swish Florentine leather case that is on the small side but well designed for the included cable; it doesn’t accommodate after-market cables well. The Stealth Sonics U2 comes with a faux leather zip-case that is way too large and doesn’t quite do it for me. The Tria case is objectively higher quality. The case that is more likely to meet folks needs in general is the WAVAYA case, as it is a more usable size for throwing in bags. Real leather also wears better than fake leather. Fake leather like that on the Stealth Sonics case peels and cracks in unappealing ways when tossed around too much due to it basically being a thin laminate material. The Stealth Sonics line-up comes standard with a recessed 2-pin cable, while the WAVAYA Tria Live! comes standard with a T2 terminated Linum BaX cable—I did not get this version, instead getting a Plastics One 2-pin cable that I immediately replaced with a better sounding cable. I’d personally recommend that WAVAYA buyers go with the T2 Linum BaX cable.

Sound

The bass on Norah Jones – Feelin’ The Same Way (DSD64) feels a bit more in control than on Macy Gray, but this is probably because the track has the bass mastered further back in the stage. The stage width is really good here and the drums are being rendered at a good depth. This track is sounding really excellent on the U2. The WAVAYA Tria Live! is more restrained. Bass tone is similar, but bass volume is lower on the WAVAYA with a slightly more textured presentation. Norah Jones’s vocals exhibit a bit more breathiness on the Tria Live!. The U2 exhibits a bit more silkiness on Norah’s voice, but also dips in with a bit more sibilance—just a little. The sound of the U2 is really silky smooth on this track, which is quite appealing, but probably a little less photorealistic.

For raw power, Rage Against the Machine – Take The Power Back (16/44) is in the upper echelon. The U2 gets right up in your motherf’in face. Zac De La Roca’s vocal sounds a touch recessed on the U2. As expected, bass has good thump. On this track the texture match is better than on some others. So, these may do better with a more electric style bass than the stand-up acoustic bass on some of the other tracks that have played in these comparisons. At this point in the comparison, I took off the faceplates to see what would happen. Drum got bigger. Bass got more textured and impactful; Zac’s vocals got clearer. The sound is still aggressive, but the tone is more clean and less warm and smooth, which is more to my liking. Even with the faceplate removed and a little air and vibrance breathed into the U2, the Tria Live! still has more texture. The Tria Live! sounds more balanced with greater stage depth. Some of this could be due to Zac’s vocals being perceived as further back. On this track, stage depth is not huge to begin with, but the Tria Live! has an edge.

Spacing on the WAVAYA Tria Live! is excellent on Yosi Horikawa – Wandering (16-44, binaural). The synthetic bass has both good volume and good depth. These do an honest job on the bass here. The Tria Live! like this modern mastered track. The sound of the three drivers is well integrated on the Tria Live!. Switching to the U2, nevermind what I said about bass depth on the Tria Live!. The sub-bass goes way the heck down on the U2 on this track. If you like bass, you are going to dig this, it’s a rumbling sub-bass monster with the faceplate off. It’s bass you feel, not just bass you hear. They should have built the bass tuning function in a more aesthetically pleasing way. The U2 doesn’t have the stage depth of the Tria Live!, but holy moley does that bass rumble make up for it.

Stealth Sonics U4 ($499) vs. WAVAYA Tria Live! ($490)

Build and feature comparison

Both headphones come with reasonable accessories. The Tria comes with a swish Florentine leather case that is on the small side but well designed for the included cable; it doesn’t accommodate after-market cables well. The Stealth Sonics U4 comes with a faux leather zip-case that is way too large and doesn’t quite do it for me. The Tria case is objectively higher quality. The case that is more likely to meet folks needs in general is the WAVAYA case, as it is a more usable size for throwing in bags. Real leather also wears better than fake leather. Fake leather like that on the Stealth Sonics case peels and cracks in unappealing ways when tossed around too much due to it basically being a thin laminate material. The Stealth Sonics line-up comes standard with a recessed 2-pin cable, while the WAVAYA Tria has the option of a free upgrade to a T2 terminated Linum BaX cable—I did not get this version, instead getting a Plastics One 2-pin cable that I immediately replaced with a better sounding cable. I’d personally recommend that WAVAYA buyers go with the T2 Linum BaX free cable upgrade.

Sound

On Queen – Bicycle Race (DSD64) the bass is big and groovy on the U4, but the mids aren’t dirtied up by it and the bass is still pretty clear. The bass leans toward smooth over detailed, but detail is not completely lost. It sounds substantially like a dynamic driver with the faceplate open. It really is impressive how big they’ve gotten the bass and how they’ve gotten the note decay just about right. It is frequently the case that balanced armatures have decay that is a little bit too fast in the bass region. Something often not noted in reviews is that elevated treble gives bass greater definition. In the case of the U4, it also pushes cymbals and other instruments in the 5kHz to 6.5kHz spike in the range (I listened and then looked at Crinacle’s graphs, they are accurate). The mids maintain good detail and clarity and their position in the stage is good, there are no spikes in the midrange, just a good light slope upwards toward the treble which lends a touch of sweetness to female vocals and higher pitched male vocals. Comparatively, the WAVAYA Tria Live! sounds more balanced with a good deal of air around the instruments and a presentation that is leaner. The U4 is spaghetti carbonara while the Tria Live! is spaghetti vongole; they are both delicious, both have some salt (extra treble here) to clean up the stage and allow clarity through the mids, but U4 has a lot more richness to its signature that will appeal to some and feel all too much to others. I like both, but they are substantially different offerings. The bass is smaller on the Tria Live! than what you see on the U4, but the sound is more balanced and less in your face. Freddie’s vocals are more appropriately placed in the stage with cymbals crashing behind it more frequently than in front of it, which is more appropriate. The bass isn’t as thick and groovy and doesn’t have as much amplitude, but it’s still good balanced armature bass.

So, who handles greasy fast speed and lots of impact better? On Billy Cobham – Quadrant 4 (DSD64), the drum impacts sound a touch muted and rounded off on the Tria Live!, I think a little bit more in energy in the air region of treble (16kHz or so) would benefit the WAVAYA Tria Live!. Speedwise, they don’t quite keep up like their top tier (I’ve got the Octa too). Note transitions and boundaries have some overlap and smoothing. Performance is generally better from a speed perspective on bass and treble, fast mids have more trouble. The drum beat on the U4 sounds a bit boxy with two much emphasis. This track is just overexposed in the upper bass and lower mids for the U4. It’s very uneven sounding. Guitar placement is generally a bit too much back of the bass. These are bass led IEMs, but there is something to note here: the roundness of the bass is partly distortion. These are gaining some greater body by increasing distortion in the bass. The guitar and treble are doing better than the WAVAYA Tria Live! on the U4 with cleaner delivery, but the bass is about 10dB too loud for this track in the mid and upper bass. The answer to the initial question is that the U4 is slightly better, because of better treble and mids speed, but that the imbalance of the signature makes it a harder listen. On technical performance on this track the U4 is better, but on tone, I have a slight preference for the Tria Live! due to its more balanced presentation.

The U4 bass is again dominant on Natalie Merchant – Carnival (24-96). Natalie’s voice is nicely placed and warm. The U4 is warm in general. This track is a vocal forward mastering, which means that Natalie’s vocal depth in the stage is still pretty appropriate compared to the treble presentation. The mids have nice clarity. Initial drum hits in the beginning of the track have good snap. I could use a bit more bass on the Tria Live!, but some of this will be due to switching from a certified bassy beast to a more normal balanced armature presentation. The intro bass actually sounds better and more natural with less distortion on the WAVAYA Tria Live! as the decay is more refined and tightly controlled, it’s not overly fast. The WAVAYA Tria Live! has decay that’s just about right. The balance of the sound signature means that individual instruments have more separation, where there’s more spatial blending on the U4. Natalie’s voice is a bit airier on the Tria and warmer and thicker on the U4. The Tria Live! still has warmth, but it isn’t to the heightened level of the U4.

Overall, I think I prefer the WAVAYA Tria Live! for most music. For smash you in the face kind of music like metal, or bass led music like hip-hop, I’d probably go for the U4. It will come down to whether you want a more coloured signature or a more balanced signature for the music you are listening to.

Specifications

WAVAYA have provided a frequency response chart, so I’ll provide that here.

triagraph-300x151

Specifications  
Price $490 (€490)
Driver type 3 balanced armatures
Frequency response 5Hz to 20kHz
Impedance 40Ω at 1kHz
Sensitivity 110 dB at 1 kHz, 1mW
Construction Porcelain, no output tubes, 2 bores
Accessories Linum G2 BaX cable with T2 connector, hand-made calf-skin leather case, leather cable wrap, earphone brush, polishing cloth, ear-cleaning tools, care instructions, warranty information, lots of swag
Warranty 2 years parts and labour

Usability: Form & Function

Unboxing

The WAVAYA unboxing experience is pretty good. They come in a red, light card box sealed with a metallised WAVAYA sticker. Inside the box there is a soft foam top sheet with a polystyrene inner below and another soft foam sheet on the bottom completing the foam sandwich. The soft foam was off-white, while the polystyrene is of course white. I think they could step this up a level by getting black foam for both parts and potentially using a similar density foam throughout. It’s good, secure packaging with a good internal organisation for content, but it could look and feel more premium. I’ve been told they’ll be updating the packaging and including a t-shirt instead of the pins—I support this and hope to advise on the new packaging.

Inside the box are a plethora of business cards, buttons, and other merchandise. There’s even a lapel pin. It was more than I needed. I did very much like the ‘Wait it’s porcelain’ card, which gives instructions on how to care for the IEMs. I found this very helpful. There is also a card containing a pair of magnets that can be applied to the leather case to affix it to a microphone stand. At their heart, WAVAYA IEMs are designed for live musicians, so this nod is a good one. There is also a branded polishing cloth, which is pretty much par for the course on custom or high-end IEMs (becoming common in mid-tier $150+ IEMs too).

There is an unique addition in the box, an accessory in a dedicated compartment at the bottom with its own plastic case: a set of ear cleaning tools. I found their presence a bit odd, though I did try them. A word of caution, audiologists don’t generally recommend sticking anything inside your ear beyond the outer ear as the risk of permanent damage to hearing isn’t worth getting at a hardened piece of wax near your eardrum. Ears are generally designed to be self-cleaning, but if you have excess wax or hardened wax using an ear-dropper with olive oil a couple times a day should help loosen up wax build-up. Some folks use diluted hydrogen peroxide, but while this will clear wax, it can also cause irritation and a defensive mechanism that will increase wax build-up. Treat your ears gently, they are a marvel of biology.

At the centre of the box is the main event—right where it should be. The IEMs are held within a leather calf-skin case; available in red or black, personalised or not; that is held within a black WAVAYA logo box. Also inside the box is an insert that provides information about the warranty, fitting guarantees, and the special leather box.

The leather box is made from Florentine calf-skin leather and will naturally absorb moisture off your IEMs, which is good. Moisture isn’t good for IEMs, and customs need more protection against moisture. The leather box has a decidedly premium feel and the branding of individual units is clear. The double box is designed to be affixed, open and pointing upward, to a microphone stand (using the included magnetic stickers), which is a thoughtful piece of design for musicians. Inside the leather box is a leather button strap designed to wrap the IEM cable around and place an IEM on each side of the wrap. The wrap is absolutely necessary because it prevents the porcelain IEMs from moving around inside the box, which should mitigate the risk of the porcelain colliding with equally hard objects and becoming damaged. Inside that wrap there is also a cleaning tool. I’ve used the cleaning tool, but find that my wax build-up has decreased with the porcelain IEMs, so I don’t need it after every time wearing them.

I think some audiophiles will feel cautious about using the calf-skin leather case for a few reasons: it doesn’t have any padding, it isn’t watertight (it should be fairly water resistant), and only the smallest of aftermarket cables fit inside the box using the wrap—not using the wrap would almost certainly lead to cracked porcelain IEMs, don’t do it. If you want to change your cable, there is a good chance that a standard size upgrade cable won’t fit in the leather case—I tested. With regards to the first concern, when I shake the leather case with the IEMs inside, they don’t really move. The double thickness of the leather will also provide some cushion for the little bit of movement that happens. It’s objects in motion or objects with substantial motion applied to them that break, the case and strap do effectively limit motion. Unless you mistake the case for a Gallagher prop (get glasses), you’ll be fine. With regards to waterproofing, this case won’t prevent water getting in if it’s submerged, it will limit ingress, but it won’t prevent it.

For those worried about submersion or using their expensive IEMs in a sledgehammer-based prop comic routine, a nearly indestructible padded box like a Pelican 1010 with pick and pluck foam or a box similar to the Empire Ears Aegis case (which Empire is no longer making) with individual padded foam compartments for each earpiece might be a good option to pick up as an aftermarket accessory.

Pelican 1010 (£21.14) Pick and pluck foam (£5.45)
1010-black-clear image_3759
img_20170813_17034802020-20watermark_zpsl4rezisx
I’m sad to see the Aegis case go. I would have modified it rather than discontinued it.

Other companies sometimes use a metal puck style case, but the only way a puck style case would work is if WAVAYA built a custom insert to wrap a cable and place the IEMs in padding in the centre. I think that this would actually be the best option, as the case would be tough, flexible to a variety of cables and easy to transport with confidence. You’ll probably always have to take it out and have it open when travelling by air, but it is a worthy price to pay for a really solid case. It wouldn’t affix to a microphone stand.

Cable choice

By default the Tria Live! comes with a Plastics One cable that doesn’t sound terribly good. The good news is that you don’t have to get this, WAVAYA offers a free cable upgrade to the Linum BaX cable which will likely sound better (I didn’t get one because I wanted 2-pin), will be super ergonomic due to the light and slim profile of the cable, and will be more durable in sweaty and difficult situations due to the good engineering of the T2 connector. Ultimate Ears has adopted a modified version of the T2 connector because of how well it holds up in a tour setting. I’d go with the Linum BaX cable and not regret it.

Aesthetics & Build

The all white Tria Live! remind me of a dainty teacup and are quite nice. I recommend having a conversation with the company on what finishes turn out the best of the finishes that you like and go with their recommendation. The WAVAYA Octa I picked out are the mother of pearl lustre finish. It is a nice white rainbow pearlescent effect. Lustre finishes are free on the Octa, but $100 (€100) on other models. When the light catches them right, they are stunning—difficult to photograph, but stunning. Because of how the glaze is applied no two WAVAYA will look exactly the same. Each is a unique artisanal piece. I have now seen several WAVAYA glazes in person, and I think that my favourite is the finish on the WAVAYA Quadra reviewed by Jackpot77 and my second favourite is the mother of pearl effect. If you are into Swarovski crystals, you can get those as an option too in some truly unique looks.

Another aspect of the WAVAYA IEMs is that they have tubeless outlets. Instead of a structure defined by tubes snaking around the inside of the IEM they built a structure to guide the sound which they say gives better fidelity and sound magnitude while being more durable.

Ergonomics

Some research before I tried porcelain in-ears

I asked Pasquale, the leader of the porcelain posse why the heck I would want to put porcelain in my ear. I mean—won’t it shatter and send little splinters into my temporal lobe to scramble up my mind ala Bob Dylan in Alabama? I didn’t really ask that—I lied to you there. I used to ask the stupid questions that people didn’t want to ask in classrooms while I was growing up because the questions aren’t actually stupid and people need to know this stuff but may be too embarrassed or shy to ask. When I thought about porcelain, I imagined that it was really a hard ceramic with good thermal properties. The most bomb-proof IEMs are made of zirconium ceramic, ceramic doesn’t mean brittle. One of my favourite countries to visit is Turkey, and in the palace and many of the mosques there are the famously decorated Iznik tiles, but what most folks don’t know when looking at them is the tiles are excellent at retaining and reflecting heat, so they are actually quite good insulation.

the-rustem-pasha-mosque-izzet-keribar
Rüstem Paşa Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

The properties of porcelain could be quite different than acrylic customs, so I asked Pasquale to help me define these properties. The testimony on the website that once you go porcelain plastic will never do wasn’t quite specific enough for me.

 

Porcelain Acrylic
Initially 3D-printed from an ear impression Can be hand-poured, 3D printed, or a combination
Must be glazed and fired multiple times at 1200⁰C to harden the structure of the porcelain and create a pretty finish Require UV curing to set and polishing to finish
Holes must be drilled before firing and cannot be redone if mistakes are made Holes can be drilled after or before curing and can be corrected if mistakes are made
Hypoallergenic Potential for contact dermatitis and allergic reaction (1% prevalence in dental studies, acrylics used in dentistry are similar to those used in custom IEMs, and similar in an international study on methacrylic allergy)
Adapts to your body temperature Less flexible to body temperature (i.e. cause sweating and potential fluid in ears)
Less wax build-up (I have basically none with these) More wax build-up
One shot at fit, if fit is wrong the shell must be remade IEMs sent back for poor fit can be sanded and refinished

So basically, acrylics are easier to work with and less expensive to work with, but have differences, may be more comfortable in the ear and can cause contact dermatitis or allergic reactions (in the 1% to 1.5% of people who have an acrylic allergy)—a recent USA study found 2.6% of people undergoing patch tests to be allergic to hydroxyethyl methacrylate—that was a bigger study than the others, but these were people who knew they were allergic to something, so detection rate of allergens would be expected to be higher than the general public.

However, most people haven’t regularly exposed themselves to acrylic, and most people won’t be wearing and sweating in their in-ears for 8 hours in a day, so there may be higher rates of diagnosis of allergy or contact dermatitis in people who regularly use acrylic in-ears in heat, such as musicians and folks living in hot climates. This would mean that more custom IEM users would be expected to have allergic reactions or contact dermatitis while using acrylic in ears. Essentially rates are unknown for contact dermatitis, and methacrylic allergy is rare but not hugely rare; i.e. porcelain is worth trying.

I’ve now gotten a second and third set of IEMs off the same trio of impressions I had done with Gisele at Aid2Hearing, and I can say with confidence that the feeling of the temperature management (which reduces sweating) of the WAVAYA IEMs and the limitation of wax build-up from porcelain is noticeable. The acrylic IEMs are lighter, so the improved temperature management and wax reduction of the porcelain WAVAYAs comes with a trade-off. Acrylic IEMs do get more sweaty, and this can lead to them getting a touch sticky; I don’t have this experience with the WAVAYA IEMs.

Upon arrival

My Tria Live! came at the same time as my second fitting of the Octa, and the fit is perfect. If you want to have a check on whether your impressions are fit for purpose, WAVAYA does have an online impression checker, which is an innovative feature that should help avoid refits. WAVAYA also offers VIP Service for $199 (€199) that includes the following: pick-up of impressions at your door, fast-track preparation and shipping of plastic shells to test fit (repeated until the right fit is achieved), fast track production of in-ears within maximum of 30 days or whole VIP fee is refunded, priority shipping, and a dedicated customer service representative.

Porcelain is harder and heavier than acrylic, which has meant that I note it in my outer and inner ear more under the same fit as an acrylic pair. This awareness of the IEMs does fade over time, but I don’t think they will become invisible to my senses and that is okay. They are comfortable for me for goodly length listening sessions. I think this will be an experience that varies from person to person.

Acknowledgment

The WAVAYA Tria Live! was provided free-of-charge by WAVAYA. I have received no compensation for this review. All thoughts in this review are my personal opinion.

Conclusions

The WAVAYA Tria Live! just like the Octa, is a bargain. It’s a balanced signature with a little bit of warmth and a smooth, natural character throughout the frequency spectrum. I found that these outperformed most comparators. The UERR were better, but also double the price. These are fantastic value for money and excellent sounding at $490. Add that these are sweat and wax-build up resistant and they don’t overheat in your ears like acrylic customs can after long or vigorous sessions and the value argument increases. These come with a gorgeous leather case, and have options for a number of unique finishes. I don’t know that once you go porcelain you never go back to acrylic, but WAVAYA has given Audio Primate three reasons (see Quadra and Octa reviews) to argue to our readers that they should at least give porcelain IEMs a try.

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