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DITA Audio The Answer

Posted

Pros: amazing sound quality, durable built, can drive with any source

Cons: non-removable cable

*** 12/1/14 update - since I got another shot to continue with my review/testing of DITA The Answer, I just posted more pictures when you scroll down to the bottom of the review.  This time it's a full retail packaging ***

 

Before I start my review, I wold like to Thank Penon Audio for providing me with a review loaner of DITA Audio The Answer headphones in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

I tested and reviewed a lot of different headphones, everything from a budget $15 to a premium $1500. Regardless of the price, every review raises a Question if my journey in search of that ONE special headphone pair is finally over. This time I can tell you with certainty, I found The Answer! I was fortunate to have a unique opportunity to review DITA Answer and to discover a new world of sound which has been encapsulated inside of a round tablet shaped headphone shell with a single transducer (driver). You have to believe me when I say that at $650 this is a bargain because I heard plenty of $350-$500 headphones that don't even sound half as good as DITA Answer. Here is what I found.

 

Since this review unit was loaned to me, I didn't receive the full retail packaging but have seen plenty of unboxing pictures to realize how much attention went into presentation of this masterpiece from DITA. Everything from a custom crafted flight adapter to a selection of fine eartips, and unique premium leather case and zippered hard shell case, including a signed card by two co-creators of these headphones Danny and Desmond - speaks very highly how much pride they take in their product. My review sample had only zippered hard shell case with two mesh pockets, and that alone showed a high level of details down to a stamped DITA logo and the quality of a metal zipper.

 

When it comes to headphones itself, every element of the design has been approached like a science project, and you can read more about the technology behind it: http://www.ditaaudio.com/index.php/technology.html . Starting with 3.5mm plug, this is professional quality gold plated connector with a carbon fiber body finish and a decent strain relief. It handles very well with a comfortable grip, and I found its universal fitment to work with any DAP or amp or smartphone even with a thick case. The cable from the plug to y-splitter is rather thick, but still has enough flexibility for easy management and durability to give you a piece of mind. Y-splitter shape matches a common design of the Answer's round tablet shape and features an etching of DITA name on each side. In addition to a short strain relief, you will also find a sliding cable cinch (chin slider) which integrates perfectly with a round edge of the splitter. The portion of the cable from the splitter to earpieces is thinner and equally flexible and durable.

 

I know a lot of the people expect headphones in this price range to have a removable cable, but there are other details to take into consideration. Cable attachment to the shell of the earpiece is usually the weakest point of in-ear headphone design where constant bending can break the wire. Here it looks like a special attention was paid to a strain relief design of the permanently attached "the fat" cable, including lead-free silver solder. The strain relief shape flows smoothly with the Answer over-the-ear cable fitment so there is no worries about stress of wire bending. The shell housing of the Answer is milled from a solid piece of aluminum, and assembled together forming a round tablet shape. The nozzle of earpiece is angled for a more natural fitment in your ear-canal, and there is a pinhole air port opening on the side. Back of the earpieces have a laser etched DITA logo. Though made out of a solid metal material which contributes to additional weight, once you put these into your ears - the weight disappears. The fitment did feel a bit shallow, but with a longer stem eartips or using double/triple flange tips you can achieve a good seal. Eartip selection plays a very important role in DITA Answer sound shaping where the bore opening can significantly alternate a perception of low and high frequencies.

 

Out of the box I found a set of eartips with a wider bore opening to be more appropriate to brighten a sound, but after 20+ hrs of burn in I had to do the opposite by going back to a narrow bore tips which helped me in shifting a focus on more bass as well as taming down treble since I'm a bit sensitive to a bright sound. Once I was happy with a seal, I actually started to appreciate how well these headphones can isolate outside noise. Not on a level of train and subway full noise isolation, but noticeably enough in a regular indoor environment. Another thing worth special mentioning is the whole round "tablet" design which fits comfortably inside of your inner ear to the point where you can lie down on the pillow and won't feel they are in your ears! As I mentioned before, the cable fitment is over-ear where you can use a chin slider for an additional adjustment to keep wires together. Also, I hardly noticed any microphonics.

 

This brings me to a sound test. Before I start with my usual analysis of different frequency bands, let me first talk about the driver itself. After reviewing a number of multi-driver IEMs, everything from dual dynamic or triple/quad balanced armature and even hybrids with combination of both, I was convinced that it's impossible to have a single dynamic driver design to cover entire frequency range while still providing a high level of details. That is a reason for multi-driver design where frequency range is partitioned with separate drivers fine tuned to tackle a specific range separated by a cross-over. It wasn't even a question in my mind, and I was just a bit skeptical how DITA will be able to "answer" to this challenge. Well, the Answer was loud and clear, and their ultra-wide bandwidth dynamic driver pulled it off! What makes it even more amazing, you can use ANY source to drive these headphones to their full potential. Sure, they sound nice with my E12A and C5 amps, but it wasn't really a night'n'day difference when for comparison I was driving them from HO of my X5 or even Note 4. Anything I was throwing at this pair of headphones, flac, mp3, streaming - I was getting the same positive Answer with a high quality sound.

 

I always try to compare my impression before and after the burn in. I do strongly believe in burn in, especially with dynamic drivers, but my philosophy is also not to go crazy with 100-200hrs of "cooking". Out of the box headphones usually at 80-90% of their final conditioning, and burn in typically helps to finalize that. As I mentioned before, at first I found I needed to use wide bore opening eartips to achieve the best sound quality which included a healthy amount of bass and treble. After completing 20+ hrs of burn in, bass settled down and upper mids/treble opened up more. As a result, I switched to a narrow bore opening eartips that helped me shape a sound back to my preferred sound signature.

 

The first impression when you start listening to DITA Answer is the amazing positioning and imaging with literally 3D placement of instruments and vocals, complimented with a rather big staging in both width and depth. And I was able to achieve this even without amping! The sound is full of airiness; very impressive considering these only have a small pinhole opening in each shell rather than some fancy semi-open design. The overall sound characteristics is neutrally balanced with a borderline reference quality, but it's not your boring "neutral" sound. The sound is full of life, energy, and micro-details with a very engaging quality that draws you right into the music. The layering and separation of frequencies felt like a multi-driver IEM. Bass was shining with quality where quantity wasn't exaggerated and somewhat controlled by tip rolling. Also, it was present only when called upon and had an extension going down to sub-bass level with a pleasant rumble and a fast mid-bass punch. I think the fast nature of these drivers becomes even more evident when you analyze retrieval of bass details. Next, mids are well controlled with lower mids separated from the bass and adding a nice level of full body details, and upper mids providing an equal amount of details and clarity while still sounding organic and not too bright. I found vocal delivery to be smooth but not a typical warm dynamic driver smooth, but rather more toward BA driver bright-smooth. Treble has a nice extension, sparkly and airy, very revealing, and yet not harsh or peaking. I found it to be great for non-fatigue extended listening.

 

Overall, just saying that I was impressed with DITA Answer would be an understatement. I used to be a strong believer that over $400-$500 price range you are dealing with diminishing returns on your headphone investment, meaning the price goes up exponentially but the level of improvement is not on the same level. Here, DITA Answer proved me wrong. When I look at the other multi-driver and hybrid IEMs in the $300-$500 range I have tested, I can honestly tell you that sound quality, design, and flexibility of DITA Answer justifies its price. I haven't dived into a world of CIEMs yet, so it's hard to tell if DITA Answer would be an absolute end-game headphone for me. But in comparison to my quad BA driver UE900 and W40 or my beloved triple BA driver ATH-IM03 (with silver-plated cable) - I can guarantee that Answer's sound quality, level of detail retrieval, separation and layering, amazing imaging/spacing, and super comfortable fitment makes their value to be worth double of the others. I'm not quite sure about The Truth edition of the Answer since I'm afraid their $350 cable upgrade will brighten the sound to a level beyond my tolerance, but The Answer is definitely an amazing value!

 

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/// 12/1/14 Update ///

 

This is still the most impressive piece of audio equipment I had a chance to listen to and it continuous to impress me every day. It's not a bass enhanced or super analytical bright IEM. DITA is about bringing you the sound in it's most natural way without any coloration or fun enhancements. It is still amazing how you can tune a single dynamic driver to extend that wide in both directions and to be able to deliver high level of details in every band of frequency range, all thanks to its ultra-wide band driver with a very fast response and impressive dynamic range. Just to reiterate what I already mentioned in my original review, unlike other highly regarded hi-fi IEMs where you need to invest another $3k-$4k in additional amps, cables, daps to bring it up to their full potential, here with DITA The Answer you can drive it straight from your smartphone and still get to a decent level of its potential. Of course, going up to a dedicated quality DAP and external amp will make an improvement from great sound quality to audiophile sound quality, but it gives you a choice to build you setup later while start enjoying these headphones now. And as a matter of fact, my current reference setup is not that expensive to begin with using FiiO X5 DAP ($350), FiiO E12A amp ($159), and FiiO L16 line out cable ($13). You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on headphone amps and don't need to spend thousands of dollars on A&K DAPs to enjoy DITA the Answer. Plus, if you want more bass, you can switch to narrow bore eartips and use bass boost from your amp. That's my current FiiO/DITA setup to enjoy EDM or any other genre of modern music!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: Extremely realistic and accurate timbre, technically very sound, yet wonderfully musical

Cons: Might be potentially harsh on poorly recorded tracks

Before we begin, the unit that i have was purchased with my own money. I have used it almost everyday for about 7-8 months, done comparisons to many other top of the line custom in ear monitor demo units (yes, I acknowledge that they probably wouldn't sound as good as the actual custom iem), and thus come to the conclusions that I have on what is, in my opinion, one of the finest earphones in the market.

 

The answer

 

The first Dita earphone that I tried was the truth. It is a wonderful looking earphone, aesthetically pleasing, looked good in and out of my ear, had this nice unique cable, as well as a sharp looking plug. On top of that, I heard that it was a startup from the very country that I'm from, Singapore. I started to like it before I even had the chance to try it on. I wanted to like it very much.

 

Well I didn't, I wanted a huge soundstage, I wanted crisp, sparkly trebles, I wanted a tight, controlled bass and lush mids. I didn't feel any of that. Nothing impressed me, and thus, I put it off my radar. As luck would have it, I decided to give it another shot. This time, I decided to try the cheaper model, the answer. Again, I was thoroughly unimpressed, nothing was really great about the answer either. I did prefer it to the truth though, finding a slightly fuller midrange in the answer. Apart from that, it really didn't seem to have the dynamics that I was looking for and that left my violins sounding a bit flat, especially when compared to my then go to earphone, the philips fidelio S2.

 

I went through a few songs though, a couple of classical pieces and broadway pieces, and to my surprise, I found myself liking the answer more and more. Gradually, the details crept up on me, the soundstage materialised, and the treble sparkled and shimmered. And that bass, oh it was powerful, deep yet tight and controlled. I switched back to my Fidelios, and to my surprise, they suddenly sounded shouty, harsh and coloured. I gave the answer a few more goes, and well needless to say, I was a happy owner of the answer just 3 days later.

 

Build

 

The answer is impeccably built. It has a CNC milled aluminium housing which is free from blemishes. It is lightly anodized to a smoke gunmetal colour, and in the light, it glows a classy metallic sheen. It is one of the most beautiful earphones that I have ever seen. The 'fat cable' as the guys at Dita call it, is thick, sturdy, and strong, yet very supple. It inspires much more confidence than most non removable cables do. The plug is another thing of beauty, the carbon fibre artfully molded into its design. Unlike most flagship earphones, a considerable amount of attention was actually given to the way it looked. I like that. The Dita guys don’t just want you to have something that sounds good. You’ve paid for it, and they want you to have the best damn product in every possible aspect.

 

Sound

 

The build is incredible, and it looks gorgeous, but none of that would matter if it didn’t sound good. Well as I did mention above, it sounds very very good, and I shall try, with my limited ability, to convey to you the magic of the Ditas through my words.

 

The answer is a very well balanced earphone. Some might consider it to be slightly bassy, and other consider it to be V shaped, but when I listen to it, it sounds tonally accurate, and that’s what really strikes me. The violins sound like violins, the cellos sound like cellos, and the voices of the singers come across realistically. Some people like heavy coloration to their music. The piano fortes, for example, are pretty well loved among those who have tried them. If that is the kind of sound that you like, the answer is, perhaps, not for you. It would be difficult for me to quantify the signature of the answer, but if I must, compared to the UERM, which is commonly considered the benchmark for a neutral sound, it has a bigger, harder hitting bass, and less pronounced upper mids. However, the answer sounds way more natural to my ears. When I hear a cello on the answer, it reminds me of what I hear in real life. When I hear a cello on the UERM, well yes it’s neutral, but the cellos in my memory don’t sound anything like that.

 

The Answer is also one of the most dynamic earphones I have tried. As you might have noticed, I do listen to a lot of instrumental tracks, classical pieces especially. I find that very often, earphone manufacturers struggle to find a good balance between an aggressive and laid back sound. Earphones are often described as sounding aggressive or forward, or laid back. With the Answer, I find it hard to quantify this. The answer is one of the few iems which get this right to me. I wouldn’t say that it is forward sounding, nor would I say that it is laid back; it is both. Let me try to explain this. When you listen to a piece of music, there are some things which are going on in the background, and there are other things which happen in the foreground, that star of the show. Everything else in the background serves one purpose, to bring out the best of that star. The answer handles this distinction very well. For instruments and sounds in the background, it tends to give them a softer touch. This allows those instruments to meld smoothly into the background to allow it to better play its supportive role. For instruments in the foreground, and vocals, however, it brings them forward, giving them the energy and power to hit hard. To me, that makes for a wonderful, cohesive musical experience, where every single sound in the song just comes together to support the lead. The Answer is able to touch softly and effortlessly, yet when the song calls for it, it comes down and hits really hard, full of life and energy.

 

The soundstage of the Answer is wide, deep and spacious. Layering and imaging are good. There is a good sense of air to the stage. On large orchestral pieces, everything comes together very well to throw a large stereo image. No matter how complex the pieces are, no matter how large the scale of the piece is, the answer handles it with ease. It never once sounded congested or overwhelmed by complex arrangements.

 

The Answer isn’t an earphone for everyone, though. Compared to many top of the line custom earphones, some find the Answer to be lacking in the sheer size of the staging, as well as the razor sharp precision of imaging, separation and layering of some of the other top custom earphones. However, I actually find this to be one of the strengths of the Answer. When I listen to an orchestra live, I’m pretty sure that I cannot pinpoint each instrument with such razor sharp accuracy. I’m pretty sure that each of these instruments do not radiate sound from a single point like some of these top custom earphones portray them to, and I’m pretty sure that the different instruments do meld together to give some diffusion and fuzziness as to the actual placement of the sound. And that’s what happens with the Answer. The image is sharp and well defined without being artificial. And to me, that makes for a much more cohesive and realistic musical experience. Yes, it may not have that razor sharp separation and imaging of some other top custom earphones, but that just makes it even more realistic. And never once have I felt that the Answer was sounded congested or overwhelmed. It handled everything with ease.

 

The Answer is an extremely resolving earphone. It is incredibly capable of gobs of detail. This can sometimes result in a perceived harshness in the trebles. I realised though, that this was simply a display of its ability to resolve imperfections in recordings.

 

The Answer sounds great out of just about anything that I have plugged it into.  Out of the humble iphone or macbook, or my fiio X5 driven through the vorzuge pure 2, it sounds brilliant. The answer also scales up brilliantly. When you upgrade your source, or your amp, it really shows.

 

When I spoke to Desmond about the tuning of the Ditas, he told me that the star sr-009 was the reference with the Resonessence Invicta as the DAC. I never once put the Stax and Dita sound in the same category. The Sr-009 was, in my opinion, while brilliant sounding, not quite the most impactful or punchy on the low end. The Answer, however, has always been an iem with a big bass to me. Out of the Invicta though, the Answer was completely transformed. The bass tightened up so much, the transparency went up a few notches, the soundstage opened up, and lo and behold, I was almost hearing the Sr-009 out of those tiny earphones! The ability of the Ditas to scale was almost frightening. If people got to hear the Answer driven out of the Invicta, any doubt that they had that the Ditas weren’t top end earphones would be readily erased.

 

Conclusion

 

The Answer is a brilliant earphone. It is the most natural, realistic sounding earphone that I have ever heard. Technically, it is very very capable, and on par with, if not near to the level of the top custom earphones. Compared to many of them though, it remains a far more accurate, yet realistic earphone, and that, to my ears, is a true winner. Looking back at why I was impressed with it at the start, it all came together and started to make sense. I was looking for something special when I first tried the Ditas, but the Ditas don't have that. Well alright perhaps they do. Their specialty is in being so natural sounding, that nothing stands out on first listen. Give it a bit of time though, and you will grow to love it. Once you do, there's no turning back.

 

I have a Noble K10 coming in soon, but the Answer is here to stay. Yes, it’s that good to my ears.

Posted

Pros: Very smooth, realistic sound with great dynamics. Rugged construction with a rubberized, non-microphonic cable. Tons of accessories.

Cons: Non-detachable cable that is a little too long for portable use. Plug is large and non-angled. Depending on the song mastering, can be a little harsh.

The package the Answers came in was very well designed and includes a ton of accessories. They showed up in 2 business days which was awesome. Several large, medium and small ear tips with different sized openings to slightly tweak the sound. Also comes with flange style tips. The cable is a little too long for my tastes and I have to roll it up and stuff it in my pocket when I'm walking around with it. The stereo plug is also kind of big and bulky and I would have liked it to be a little smaller and angled so it took up less room in my pocket. These are just minor complaints, and it seems Dita was aiming at providing a quality cable and connector so it's understandable.

 

Isolation is pretty good, but if somebody walked up to you and said something you'd probably hear it. To me that's a benefit as I use them at work. 

 

The Answers are pretty comfortable and after a few hours, I don't even notice they're in my ears. The flat design actually makes them easier to listen to while lying on your side with a pillow against your ear. They leak very little noise if you're sleeping next to someone and don't want to wake them.

 

It took me some time to realize everything I was hearing. I think it's because the sound is so balanced and smooth, nothing but the spacial presentation and clarity jumps out at you at first. Instruments are very well separated with a natural decay. This really becomes apparent when listening to jazz, classical music, vocals. There's a really nice stage, not unnaturally wide, but pleasantly large, leaving lots of room for each instrument to have their own place, even during more complicated passages. Dual vocals like in The Pixie's Bone Machine are really a treat in that you can hear both vocals in their own space while clearly separated from all the other instruments. 

 

Listening to Rome - Accidents of Gesture or Gillian Welch's Revelator, the micro-details I normally only hear on my T1's through the Crack appear. All the little flaws that make a singer's voice unique and beautiful stand out. Dynamics jump out at me, explosions of energy sometimes surprising me when I don't expect it. This is a quality in my T1 setup I'd been looking for in a portable setup for work. They are very fast, and can keep up with furious drum passages like Tool's Ticks and Leeches while maintaining the ambiance/reverb.

 

Metal with gobs of distortion, screaming and double bass drum such as in Deafheaven's Sunbather maintain clear separation, which is a joy because it's one area where many headphones fall short for me. With metal, a lot of headphones and speakers seem to blur all the instruments together, but the Answers give even hectic metal plenty of room to breathe. 

 

Mastodon's Crack The Skye is not mastered well, but is one of the greatest metal albums of all time. It's a great album to reveal peaky highs, and certain passages will judo chop your eardrums if you're not careful. The Answer brings the vocals right up to the edge of what's acceptable to me. Some people may find this too harsh with some recordings. In this way, I feel the Answers are accurate enough that bad recordings are going to show themselves, but not embarrassingly so. They're forgiving and incredibly detailed at the same time which is not something I've heard in a lot of phones, but they might not be the best for people that listen to music that is not always well mastered and are sensitive to a little peak in highs.

 

Beck's Morning Phase is a great test of how well string instruments can sound with The Answer. You hear the rattling of the strings against the frets every once in a while, and they have this full-bodied texture to them that has me really engaged. String instruments sound particularly exceptional.

 

Upright bass in Tsuyoshi Yamamato Trio's Midnight Sugar has tons of texture. Bass sounds wonderfully detailed and impactful during slaps. It doesn't get muddied over by other instruments and neither does it seem to drown out other instruments. There is a nice amount of sub-bass but it blends in with the rest of the bass and doesn't stand out unless you're specifically paying attention to it. 

 

I think they're very reasonably priced for the quality you get. In a boxing match with a TOTL headphone, they come out of the fight admirably well, and have a very pleasing musicality to them that will have you listening to all your favorite music over again. They're so natural sounding that it might take some time to really appreciate what Dita has done with this IEM. They also sound really great out of pretty much every source I tried them on, but amping them and using higher quality source material will definitely bring them to another level that is truly exciting. What a great job Dita has done with this headphone.

 

Can't wait to hear what they make next.

DITA Audio The Answer
Description:

The Answer was designed entirely from the ground up with one simple goal in mind, to be the finest sounding, most luxurious, universal fit earphones available today. To achieve that, we had to rethink and scrutinize every single component in the audio path. From the 3.5mm TRS connector, cable, chassis, driver, tips and even the solder used. Almost every single item had to be customized and developed in-house to meet our standards. However, in practice it is an exceedingly time consuming and excruciating process. The Answer uses a single ultra-fast, ultra-wide bandwidth transducer, purpose built to handle any musical genre with ultimate purity. The startling dynamics and lifelike portrayal of the musical event must be listened to believe. It is supplied with a slew of accessories that are designed to be easy to use, practical, and pleasing to the eye. As is always the case with our products, we built and tested every single one of these accessories to ensure that they perform as intended.

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