iFi Audio iEMatch

Editor’s Note: iFi Audio provided the iEMatch free of charge for the review

What is the iEMatch and why would you need one?

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Critical Analysis: 1964|ADEL — Science or Science Fiction?

Editor’s Note: At CYMBACAVUM, we’re constantly trying to bridge science with the wonderful audio experiences we have. @miceblue takes on an scientist’s curiosity to examine Asius Technologies and 1964Ears’ ADEL — how it functions, the scientific principles behind it, and what it might or might not be. Continue reading Critical Analysis: 1964|ADEL — Science or Science Fiction?

Quick Thoughts: Ion by Soranik

Editor’s Note: Our thoughts are based on pre-production, prototype units of the Soranik Ion and may not necessarily be fully indicative of the state of the final production models. Pictures were generously provided by Soranik.

In the grand scheme of things, the financial requirements for becoming a custom IEM manufacturer are not all that stringent. You need some acrylic (or silicone), curing apparatuses, some cutting and polishing tools, a low-power field microscope, basic knowledge of circuit design, and some elbow grease — it’s no wonder several home-brew companies have popped up the past few years.

While these companies don’t necessarily have the marketing clout of, say, a Westone or Shure, they often have the charm of a singular purpose and philosophy, along with an assiduous moxie. If there is one major thing we here at CYMBACAVUM really care about when it comes to companies putting out new products, it’s effort. A product needn’t be “groundbreaking” or paradigm-shifting; what matters is that the company develop their products in a systematic,  thoughtful manner, applying scientific principle and craftsman art to a new offering.

Soranik is such a company. It’s small, it’s new, and it’s looking to gain some recognition, with one unique feature — it’s from Vietnam. Few Vietnamese companies populate the world of head-fi; Sunrise Audio comes to mind as the one major OEM/ODM with aspirations to maintain its own brand, but none have arisen from the bottom-up until now. Thus, it’s no wonder that young, cosmopolitan guys are at the helm of Soranik — Hieu Tran, the head designer, grew up in Vietnam but studied in the United Kingdom at the University of Warwick for an advanced degree in statistics and applied mathematics. It was during this time that he developed his interest in IEMs and tinkering with circuits.

However, the sonic inspiration for Soranik is not English, but Japanese. A lifelong fan of anime and admirer of the kaizen spirit of the Japanese, Tran (and his partners) developed a penchant for Keita Suyama’s FitEar IEMs and wished to localize a similar kind of sound in Vietnam. They began a few years ago, in a quasi-stealth mode, creating custom in-ears on a by-request basis. But Tran noticed that most people preferred the convenience of a universal, and being an owner of a TO GO! 334 himself, embarked on designing what he considered to be an augmented version. The result is the Ion, the first model Soranik is offering to customers beyond the familiar circles of the Vietnamese audio and musician community.

The Soranik Ion is inspired by FitEar but is a completely new earphone from the ground up.
The Soranik Ion is inspired by FitEar but is a completely new earphone from the ground up.

On first glance at the Ion, the FitEar inspiration is striking. It uses large, keyed two-pin connectors in the same way and the default colorway is near-opaque black, just like the TO GO! series from FitEar. The nozzle exit is clear, and the milled titanium tubes can be clearly seen. The build quality is good — not quite as precise as that of FitEar’s, but decent all-around. Tran spent years doing remolds for his friends before being confident enough to begin designing his own universal mold. Don’t mistake the Ion for a bizarro-esque imitation of the TO GO! 334, however —- the guts of the Ion are completely different and engineered from the ground-up to be its own beast. Soranik is rightly proud of the sweat and tears poured into the conception of the Ion, as it is the culmination of about two full years of research and experimentation from Tran.

The array of accessories for the Ion is standard-fare for a premium, custom-derived IEM: waterproof Pelican case, removable cables, and a wipe cloth.
The array of accessories for the Ion is standard-fare for a premium, custom-derived IEM: waterproof Pelican case, removable cables, and a wipe cloth.

Undoubtedly, many people will end up listening to the Ion in the months to come. They’ll share impressions on the positioning of the vocals, the slam of the bass, yada yada yada. What they won’t often mention, is how laborious the R&D process was for Tran. He tried just about everything, going through multiple different prototypes and developing his own titanium tube milling process. Ready-made titanium tubes, he felt, were too thick and made the music sound coarse. Apparently, the thickness and smoothness of the tubing affect more than the size constraints of an IEM; sonic resonances are measurably and subjectively affected as well. Local CNC contractors didn’t have the skill or patience to process low-volume, high technical requirement orders like his. So he learned to mill titanium on his own.

His main goal, though, was to improve the molasses-like bass of the 334 while preserving its vocal richness. And like a good engineer, he attempted to rectify these shortcomings with precise control of acoustic low-pass filters and judicious, minimal use of passive components.

The FitEar-style two-pin connector sockets are hand-molded.
The FitEar-style two-pin connector sockets are hand-molded.

He first sent CYMBACAVUM a prototype in September last year — a dual-woofered, dual titanium tube behemoth. They were really tip dependent (though Taylor Swift always sounded awesome with them), ranging from caramel vocals in a deep fit to energetic highs in a shallow one, and while they shared common traits with the 334, the soundstage presentation was very different. The prototype Ion had a wider, flatter soundstage, and was less smooth sounding. Fit was also a little awkward, as the nozzle exits were a bit long, causing the prototype to hang loosely off the ears. We suggested that Soranik rework the Ion prototype — mainly for purposes of ergonomics.

Fast forward six months, and the new Ion is completely different. Not only is it now much more comfortable, the sound signature is reworked. Tran collected feedback from us and others to create a different, crowd-pleaser type of signature — a good deal of bass, but well done and without strangulating impact/stuffiness. It still maintains good clarity, but with a kind of fuzzy warmth that many people like, and with the treble being smooth enough such that extremely compressed music (e.g. K-Pop) doesn’t sound horrible, all while preserving good treble extension.

The bespoke titanium tubes are a self-spun R&D project for Soranik.
The bespoke titanium tubes are a self-spun R&D project for Soranik.

Variance in sound signature due to depth of insertion is now not as variable (but is an unavoidable feature of sound physics), and coupled with the vastly improved fit, the Ion is comfortable as can be. We love the performance-style braided cables as well — these type of cables are sorely lacking in FitEar’s staple of 000/001/002/003/004/005 cables.

The Ion is a labor of love from Soranik, built with the kind of effort we here at CYMBACAVUM can really appreciate; we can’t wait to see what others have to say about it!

For more information, please visit Soranik’s Facebook page.

Perfect Seal AR6: Ambiance and Reference Defined

Note: Perfect Seal graciously provided the AR6 in this review.

Perfect Seal LabPS logooratories, based in Wichita Kansas, is a relatively new company in the increasingly popular custom in-ear market. The company is run by Mike Martinez, and while Perfect Seal might be new to the Head-Fi community, Mike is certainly not new to the industry. He previously worked for an early industry lab that made monitors for Sensaphonics and Fireside, in which everything was dynamic driver based at that time.

Before getting into the model being reviewed here, I wanted to share a Q&A I recently had with Mike, so he can shed a light on the Perfect Seal team and how he approaches the tunings that make up the Perfect Seal line-up:

Continue reading Perfect Seal AR6: Ambiance and Reference Defined

The Empire Strikes Back: Empire Ears Line-up Overview

Editor’s Note: shotgunshane was able to get a 10-day loan of the Empire Ears’ universal lineup; read the introduction, or jump straight to sound impressions

By now most of you have probably heard of EarWerkz , perhaps from one of our reports on the company (read more) and their previous flagship Legend CIEM (read more); many of you might even be owners of an EarWerkz product as I am.

But in case you didn’t know, I’m sad to report, EarWerkz is no more; but before you shed tears and scream to the audio gods, “Why hath thou forsaken me!”, you should know that Jack and team are back for the attack, this time as Empire Ears. The King is dead, long live the King! Continue reading The Empire Strikes Back: Empire Ears Line-up Overview

The Biz: E-Earphone’s CIEM Store in Akihabara, Tokyo

Founded by an Osakan man with a full head of hair and a hope to spread the spirit of porta-fi to the masses, E-Earphone is one of Japan’s premier personal audio store chains, with storefronts in both Tokyo and Osaka metropolises.

Its aisles upon aisles of headphones and earphones are famed to the enthusiast community, and when the CIEM specialty store opened its doors last August, Nathan of OHM Image and Headfonia went to take a look (link). This glowing report of toys abound convinced me that it had to be a must-see stop while I was on vacation in Tokyo last month. Continue reading The Biz: E-Earphone’s CIEM Store in Akihabara, Tokyo

Estron Linum SUPER BaX – Super Thin, Redefined

Editor’s Note: Estron provided the Linum SUPER BaX 2Pin Balanced prototype in this review, originally for internal feedback purposes.

Last September, I had the opportunity to test and review the upcoming Estron Linum Balanced BaX in-ear monitor cable (read review here). Since then, I’ve had opportunity to own a few single-ended Linum BaX cables that came as options with various custom in-ears I’ve purchased this past year. Linum cables are some of the thinnest, if not the thinnest, in-ear monitor cables on the market. They’re great for their light weight on the ear and almost invisible in use. However, there has been one big, consistent knock on them: The Tangles! Continue reading Estron Linum SUPER BaX – Super Thin, Redefined