NCM Bella – the Bella of the TOTL hybrid ball

Pros:  Sub bass presence and overall bass capability, beautiful and non-recessed midrange, exceptional treble, lots of air and sparkle, very coherent tuning Cons: Fit is shallow, nozzle bore is very large List Price: 23,500,000 (Vietnamese Dong) / c. £735 (UK) Product Website: http://www.nguyencustoms.com/ncm-bella/ Rating Disclaimer: ratings are subjective. Audio quality and value do not mean... Continue Reading →

Focal Elear: dynamism with a dash of French flair

Pros:  Incredible dynamics and punch, crisp and detailed sound, good balance through the frequencies, rock solid build and comfort, decent bass weight, highly engaging sound Cons: Small soundstage for an open-back, dip in upper mids may not be to everyone’s taste, “always on” dynamics make this a little excitable for more mellow genres Price: £769 ($799,... Continue Reading →

Advanced Alpha: unboxing and initial impressions

I initially met the folks at Advanced at CanJam London 2017. I actually had mixed them up in my head as Advanced Acousticwerkes (AAW), and had them in my schedule for the 2nd day as a must visit. I was confused, but at least I was half right. Advanced surprised me as much as any... Continue Reading →

Campfire Audio Andromeda – another stellar constellation from the stargazers at CA

Pros:  Great value, classy metal build and accessory package, superbly balanced tuning, clarity, large and airy soundstage, neutral yet musical Cons: Sharp edges on the shell casing can cause discomfort for some, not for bassheads Introduction Anyone with more than a passing interest in high-end in ear audio gear costing more than $100 will most... Continue Reading →

IMR Acoustics R1 – unusual ceramic/beryllium hybrid with bags of tone

Pros:  Smooth and organic sound signature, good all metal build, serious bass prowess, nice texture and weight to the sound, smooth and clear treble, very coherent and musical tuning, multiple tuning options with filters, capability to open up the soundstage with the open/closed port mechanism Cons: Not massive amounts of micro-detail, could potentially be a... Continue Reading →

Empire Ears Zeus-XR – the pinnacle of the pantheon

Pros:  Sublime detail retrieval, very coherent tuning, switchable crossover modes, mid range clarity and expression, non fatiguing but truly transparent sound, superb build quality Cons: A little on the expensive side, prone to hiss with most sources, not a drastic difference between the two modes on some DAPs, not much else List Price: $2399 (empireears.com) Acknowledgment... Continue Reading →

TheBit Opus #3: stellar sound, Android features still under construction

Pros:  Excellent tonality, good soundstage width, very detailed, balanced output with good power, solid build quality, leather case (not included by default everywhere) Cons: Horrible app implementation, navigation niggles, DLNA music app sounds substantially worse than standard music app, tiny hardware buttons, wobbly volume knob Price: $899 (€899) (Haven’t found UK shop with it yet)... Continue Reading →

FiiO X5iii: the giant killer that wasn’t

Pros:  Size is nice in the hand, solid build, 2 micro-SD slots for tons of storage, Google Play Store, minimal skinning on Android, good functional interface, Quick Charge, excellent USB DAC function, full-featured Cons: Sound is very mid-fi, hiss with sensitive IEMs, button layout not terribly ergonomic, weak/poor Bluetooth, limited amplification, crowded bottom end, coaxial... Continue Reading →

Unique Melody Miracle: a smooth operator

Pros:  Smooth pleasing signature, laid back, isolation, deep rich bass, detail retrieval and imaging Cons: Soft tonality, slightly diffuse bass, soundstage merely average, like some amplification to sound their best List Price: $1049 (musicteck.com) Acknowledgment I’d like to thank Lawrance of Unique Melody for loaning audioprimate.blog the Miracle V2 in exchange for honest opinions. You... Continue Reading →

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