Pros: Excellent sound quality for a single dynamic driver. Cable doesn't suffer from "microphonics". Design quality and accessories are outstanding.
Cons: The cable isn't detachable, restricting use to regular, single-ended DAPs and amps. Long run-in time.
Being somewhat well-known, it is not unusual for me to be approached by manufacturers at the Tokyo headphone festivals, ushered into an empty corridor or behind the banners at a manufacturer’s display and asked to look at or try a prototype of an up-coming product. I’ve even been accosted in this manner in a headphone store in Tokyo the day before one of the festivals by someone who recognised me. A couple of years ago a pair of gentlemen, Danny and Desmond from Singapore approached me to ask if I’d try a pair of in-ear monitors they were going to manufacture for a fairly reasonable price. Round, like a large pill, with an nozzle exiting at 45 degrees to one side, they fitted simply and sounded good enough with my current variety of music types that I said I’d take them on the spot as they were. Not only was it unusual to find a prototype of an upcoming product from a new company that seemed to get it right, but also to meet two people whom, with everything they spoke, were completely sensible with an excellent attitude.
Danny and Desmond with Alex, their distributor in Japan at the 2013 Autumn Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival.
It turned out that both owned a high-end audio store that imported, among other things, Stax. Like Gavin Chiu of Tralucent Audio, they had set out to make their own product as a result of the dissatisfaction they felt when auditioning other available IEMs. But unlike Tralucent, they had decided to go with a completely mechanically manufactured design with a non-removable cable. This is where it gets interesting, however, as they offer two versions of the IEMs: One with a regular cable and one at around double the price with a Van Den Hul 3T cable called “The Truth”. Honestly! Jokes aside, the attention to detail on both products is absolutely outstanding.
Fast forward to 2013 and the release and the box they come in is the largest I’ve ever seen for a pair of IEMs. As well as the IEMs themselves, 6.5mm and airline socket adaptors are included, along with two cases — one more conventional 2-pouch zip case and a leather or leather-like box with magnetic latch. Three sizes of single-flange tips are included with one set of bi-flange tips. Each size in turn has three different types of tips, differentiated by colour and nozzle size, allowing the sound to be tuned to taste to some degree.
Tips: Blue (narrow), Grey (reference), Black (wide) and bi-flange.
The Answer is surprising for a high-end pair of IEMs in that the cable is permanently attached. In the case of the Truth Edition, the guys have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that it is robust and will last a long time. Likewise the cable is designed by Van Den Hul using their 3T technology, which is likewise designed to be mechanically reliable even when wound tightly. Physically the cable is very rubbery and holds its shape well, which is necessary for it to sit well around the ears. Adjustments can be made by heating it with a hair dryer, though in use, if you examine the top of the splitter, you’ll find that it is a slidable choker. One major plus of the cable is that it is completely silent. It doesn’t transmit any noise to the ear pieces when touched or rubbing.
The IEM itself is pill-shaped with an angular nozzle for the earpiece, which results in a fairly shallow insertion that may not be deep enough for some. This nozzle is larger than average, similar in size to the FitEar IEMs. The tips themselves fit with differing degrees of difficulty, a result of each type having different nozzle sizes. The widest black tips pop on easily and bring out the treble more and the bass a little less. The smallest-nozzle blue tips are difficult to get on and reduce the treble peak somewhat, bringing out more mid-bass emphasis. Between black and blue are the grey “reference tuning” tips which provide more of a balance.
The overall balance of the sound is fairly typical of what you’d expect of a standard pair of “audiophile” headphones — something of a mid-bass hump and a high treble peak. With the blue tips I found the mid-bass to be a bit strong. Likewise with the black tips a bit weak. But the former may be preferable to people who listen to more modern recordings that seem to have a stronger treble. Their treble does seem a bit bright and, until they have had a sufficient number of hours of use, is a bit harsh.
Once they have had a sufficient number of hours on them, the frequency response stops fluctuating and everything starts to come good. It’s then that it really becomes apparent what Danny and Desmond have achieved with their design. Typical for good dynamic driver designs, the bass is fantastic in how it is delivered, rivalled in balanced armature designs only by the Shure SE846 and Roxannes. The mids are phenomenal, rivalling the best full-sized headphones in quality and the treble, especially with cymbals, which are notoriously tricky to get sounding right in an IEM, is unexpectedly excellent, again only bested by the latest top custom or universal IEMs that I’ve had experience with.
Switching between various IEMs on my AK240, in many respects I felt the combination was very much rivalling my main listening system for detail retrieval, which was unexpected. While proper instrument spacial positioning isn’t possible with IEMs, in other aspects there was enough separation between frequencies and sounds in all music to make for a very enjoyable listening experience.
Overall, The Answer (Truth Edition) is a very expensive pair of IEMs, but compared to the cost of other top-of-the-line universals, especially after paying for an extra, high quality cable to replace the stock cable in some cases, they are quite competitive given their outstanding quality, unique and thoughtful design and included high-quality cable.
Thanks to Danny for giving me a unit for review.