Pros: End to end extension, Sub-bass, Clean mids, Soundstage Width, Metal Build, Removable cable, Isolation, Comfort
Cons: Rubbery cable with no remote/mic, Bass can get muddy, Mediocre Imaging, Upper mids too laid-back for some
Oriveti is a very new manufacturer that you might not have heard of. Nevertheless, they deserve as much attention as any other brand, having produced two fantastic offerings in what are probably the two most active price brackets on the market. They made a huge entry with their first earphone, the Primacy, a triple driver hybrid whose audio performance, superb build and ergonomic fitment all well exceeded its meagre $350 AUD asking price. This was followed by the incredibly impressive New Primacy, which retained the same ergonomic design and price as its predecessor but brought a new level of balance and refinement to the sound. But even that $350 figure is unattainable to most buyers and Oriveti’s new BASIC has come to occupy that lower, budget sweet spot around $99 USD or $150 AUD.
This review will be somewhat of a comparison to the current market (not performance) leader, the Shure SE215 and another popular choice, the Westone UM 10 Pro, both models that have mostly sold unimpeded due to their great fit/isolation in addition to the allure of a removable cable. While there are plenty of other earphones around $100 that handily best both In technical audio ability, the Hifiman RE-400 and Dunu Titan’s probably being the most notable examples, barely any of them, if any at all, are as full-featured and acoustically inviting, making them these models more or less the go-to options for most buyers just getting into the hobby.
The BASIC holds many parallels to these models; namely it carries exactly the same price as the Se215 here in Australia ($150), is sold and can be demoed in retail stores (Jaben), employs the same over-ear fitment with removable cable and also pursues a sort of darker, fuller sound. But while the SE215 remains very much a consumer-geared earphone to my ears, the BASIC provides a more nuanced and balanced experience that represents a step closer to the Audiophile standards pursued by Westone’s UM Pro earphones. Let’s see if the BASIC has what it takes to bring down the current budget champs.
I would like to give Marco from Oriveti the biggest thanks for providing me with a BASIC for the purpose of review. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the product free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation. All words in this review are my own.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
Both of Oriveti’s higher end Primacy earphones had gorgeous unboxing experiences, so it’s great to see that the BASIC has retained the majority of that premium feel at such a reduced price.
The BASIC comes packaged within a similar matte black box with renders up front and specs with a nice exploded vector on the rear.
Upon removing the top cover, the buyer is presented with that same cable winder/foam inlet as included with the Primacy earphones. Again, I’m a big fan of this packaging as it prevents the cables from becoming overly coiled during storage, they straighten out much quicker than most tightly packaged earphones.
Underneath the inlet lies a double sided Oriveti card brandishing the logo on top and basic instructions on the back. Unfortunately, we don’t see the same comprehensive accessory suite as included with the Primacy earphones, simply a hard EVA case with Oriveti print peeking through a cutout in the cardboard above.
The case contains the rest of the accessories within plastic bags, a set of silicon ear guides, S, M, L ear tips and two sets of dual flange tips. Oriveti don’t include any foam tips with this set, but if you want to purchase a set aftermarket, they employ a ~T200 size bore. All standard tips such as Spinfit, CP200’s and Sony Hybrids fit comfortably onto the BASIC’s, I will have some tip suggestions in the sound section of the review. Of note, the case itself is very large, large enough to be somewhat impractical in daily use. It’s easily large enough to contain a small player such as an iPod Nano in addition to the BASICs and accessories.
BASIC – PRIMACY
Compounding upon the premium unboxing experience, the earphone’s themselves carry quite a sumptuous look and feel. With the same smooth satin black aluminium build as the Primacy’s, the BASICs immediately stand out from the plastic monitors that are so common at this price. The level of finish is also a step above other similarly priced metal earphones like the re-400 with laser etched logos and very ergonomic sculpting. All surfaces are very smooth and the seam that runs along the perimeter of the M&M shaped housings is undetectable in the ear.
Of note, the inner face of the housings has a slightly smoother texture than the outer face that is easier to clean (since the black does inevitably pick up some smudging from skin oils). It’s a nice little touch that indicates the level of thought and design that went into these earphones.
A rubber support cradles the rear of the housings, gently contouring to the MMCX connector that feels tight and even in tension on both sides. The earphones do have a small vent just beneath the nozzle though I found it to have minimal effect on isolation. Still, for those who like to use their earphones for sport (a seminal reason why people buy over-ear earphones), the exposed vent does pose some concerns. But taking the earphones for a handful of HIIT sessions I experienced no issues with water/sweat ingress and the earphones have held up exceptionally well during my fortnight of vigorous testing. In addition, I experienced no driver flex, an issue that strangely affected the New Primacy so I would expect these earphones to age well with daily usage.
In terms of fit, comfort is the name of the game and the overall design of the BASIC is immediately reminiscent of the Primacy/Phonak PFE line of earphones. I would consider that a huge positive, given that those are some of the most universally comfortable earphones around; I owned both the Primacy and New Primacy in addition to the Phonak PFE 122 and 232 so I can personally vouch for the comfort of them all.
For those unfamiliar with those models, the earphones have a more teardrop-shaped housing as opposed to the regular pod shaped monitor. They are shorter in length and also quite slim in profile (one could easily sleep in any of these earphones, BASIC included), occupying more vertical space instead. As a result, only the silicone tips contact your ear, leaving the housings suspended, thereby avoiding any hotspots or long-term comfort issues.
Fit stability is retained through a deep insertion depth (they have the slimmer nozzles of the New Primacy vs the blockier Primacy), a strong seal and of course, an over-ear fitment; staying put during a 5km hill sprint session. Isolation is very good, better than the RE-400 and semi-open Dunu Titans despite having a small vent. I also didn’t notice any leak and isolation was easily sufficient for public transport and use in loud areas. The SE215’s are considerably larger and do isolate a little better by filling more of the outer ear, but the vast majority of buyers will no doubt prefer the more comfortable BASICs.
8-Core New Primacy Cable – 4-Core BASIC Cable
The BASICs employ the same 4-core braided cable as the original Primacy, not the 8-core unit included with the New Primacy unfortunately. That being said, it is one of the nicer cables included with a $150 earphone, similar to that included with the UE900 but with different connectors and a slightly less tacky texture. For instance, the stock Shure cable is considerably thicker, heavier and more cumbersome, preventing making any form of activity without a shirt clip. The cable on the BASIC is far lighter, more compliant and even without any form of ear guides, the cable wasn’t prone to flicking over my outer ear. I still prefer the smoother Westone EPIC cable, but Westone employs a proprietary form of the MMCX connector that is slightly shorter than the norm meaning that any replacements will be loose within the sockets and prone to intermittency (From personal experience with the W30’s).
The gold-plated MMCX connectors are nice and tight, effectively resisting unwanted swivelling and any intermittency during my 3 weeks of testing, something I can’t say about the looser fitting Shure’s (though newer batches may have addressed this as with Westone’s latest earphones).
The Y-split is a bit rudimentary as is the chin slider which consists of what appears to be heat shrink and some plastic tubing. It’s not flashy, but is light and doesn’t snag on clothes which will prevent damage further down the line. Many earphones terminate the lower cable and divide each channel to each earpiece via a small PCB making the Y-split a common point of failure while the BASICs cable is continuous all the way through, negating these issues.
Moving further down, the BASIC’s are terminated with a straight gold-plated 3.5mm plug with the Oriveti logo and serial number laser etched into the surface. There is some basic strain-relief, not enough for my liking, but I never experienced any issues with either the BASIC or the Original Primacy. Of course, a right angle plug is ideal for portable usage, but the installed plug is slim and relatively short; it fits comfortably within snug cases and won’t protrude too much in your pocket.
Of note, Oriveti have omitted any form of remote/mic denoting the BASIC’s more audio related focus though I would argue that such inclusions are vital at this price point since most buyers will be driving them from IOS or Android devices during commute or activity. Still, the standard SE215 and UM 10 Pro both lack a remote cable and aftermarket options are easily available online due to the use of the widely adopted MMCX connector.
Ultimately, build is a big part of any buyer’s purchase; it doesn’t matter how great your earphones sound if they cease functioning a few months after purchase. Oriveti clearly actualise this premise through the BASICs that are easily one of the best-built and best fitting earphones around this price. Other comparable earphones such as the Dunu Titan/Fiio EX1 lack the removable cable and level of isolation offered by the BASIC while the Um 10 Pro’s and SE215’s both have much cheaper feeling housings.
From first listen, the 10mm titanium membrane dynamic driver BASIC’s are clearly not as linear and balanced as the hybrid New Primacy’s. On the contrary, they were far more neutral than the thicker, warmer SE215’s but also a little more v-shaped than the more midrange focussed Westone UM 10 Pro’s. As stated in the introduction, the BASIC rather sits in between with a full low-end combined with a clear midrange and relatively crisp high-end. While the mild bass boost will be no surprise to many, the midrange and high-frequency tuning of the BASIC are impressive at this price point. So what we have here are three earphones at roughly the same price, each utilising different driver technologies; The BASIC representing the “basic” dynamic driver, the SE215 employing a micro-driver and the UM 10 Pro sticking to a single balanced armature unit. Of note, I will add little comparisons to the New Primacy in this review for buyers looking to upgrade, I feel that the NP is the logical step up.
The BASIC is like a Primacy for the masses, so where the New Primacy and Primacy were quite neutral earphones, the BASIC is rather a slightly v-shaped one with a particular emphasis on bass. The midrange is clear all the way through and perhaps more full-bodied like the New Primacy while the treble response is crisp if slightly rolled-off at the top. Bass is a bit uneven for my tastes but is well considered for the price and target audience, evidently, the same consumers looking into earphones like the SE215.
By comparison, the Shure SE215’s have a notably more forward lower midrange, a darker treble response and also have more of a mid/upper bass focus, granting them with a warmer sound. The slightly more expensive UM 10 Pro’s ($180) were more neutral than either to my ears with a leaner, more linear bass response though they maintained perhaps a slightly darker midrange tone. They had a similar treble tone to the BASIC’s, with both being much more extended than the SE215 which was the darkest of the bunch.
Tip Selection –
The Hybrids are quite a staple in the tip rolling community for good reason. They were immediately a little more comfortable than the stock tips while maintaining a similar level of seal and isolation. They are usually quite a warm tip though here I feel that they actually clear up the midrange a little. The stock tips provide a slightly brighter high-end and also a tighter bass response while the Hybrids have more sub-bass slam, a little more midrange clarity and are slightly more relaxed in the highs. In the end, I did prefer the stock tips since they were already comfortable enough already and I prefer a brighter sound.
The TS200’s, in particular, are more transparent than the regular T200’s but still impact the sound. Isolation is considerably improved as expected and, being a foam tip, fitment was superb. If you have fit difficulties with the stock tips, these should alleviate those issues. Bass is slightly looser and the high end received similar withdrawal as with the Sony Hybrids. I wouldn’t use them for daily usage but they are fantastic during any sort of long travel. I don’t feel that the vent on the BASICs is limiting isolation in any way though the SE215’s and Westones do still isolate slightly more when they too are equipped with foams.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –
The BASICs have a commendable soundstage for the price. They are ovular in presentation, focussing more on width over depth at the cost of a somewhat diffuse centre image. Soundstage space is great at this price, clearly superior to the other sealed units I have on hand, the Shure SE215 ($150), Westone Um 10 Pro ($190)/Alpha ($180) and Klipsch X10 ($120). They are also a little better than the Meze 11 Neo’s and 12 Classics, both earphones that did soundstage particularly well at $80 and $100 respectively. Separation is also one of the best I’ve heard around this price due to the BASICs clear, open midrange tuning and wide presentation. Vocals and instruments are given plenty of breathing room but the low-end can get a bit overwhelmed at times due to their slightly muddy sub-bass tuning. The more forward SE215’s did sound a little overbearing in the upper-bass/lower midrange and also quite blunted in the high-end, compromising any form of separation. Imaging was above average but not as outstanding as I had hoped for. Listening to The Cure’s “Close to Me” revealed somewhat ambiguous placement of vocal and atmospheric effects. The similarly priced Westone’s and Shure’s both image slightly better, the Westone’s in particular, with better placement and a stronger centre image (though I’m sure their more intimate sound contributes to such placement precision).
Soundstage is always a fine balanced between space and precision, very rarely does a headphone do both well. Personally, I would take the larger space and separation of the BASIC over the presentation of the Shure’s and Westone’s, but I can definitely see some users preferring a more intimate presentation with more accurate imaging.
The BASIC’s are very easy to drive with great sensitivity (108+-3dB/mW, 1000Hz) and a low, but not overly picky impedance of 16 ohms. They are very slightly less sensitive than the Shures and are appreciably more sensitive than the UM 10 Pro. I wouldn’t say that they are particularly sensitive to hiss, they pick up a small amount from my Oppo HA-2 and iPod Nano 7G but none from my HTC 10 or iPod Touch 6G. By comparison, the Klipsch X10’s and New Primacy’s generate a clearly audible hiss on the HA-2.
They don’t scale awfully well with a better source (though the 10 is already a very good source for iems), but they do get a little benefit from my HA-2. As always, soundstage space improves slightly and the low end sounds a little more articulate. They also aren’t too source dependent, sounding similar from all of the sources I have on hand. They are clearly intended for portable smartphone usage and have been designed for such. With great sensitivity, they do not require any form of amplification to reach dangerous volumes and, using a single dynamic driver, they have minimal swing with different output impedances.
The low end was where the New Primacy especially impressed me and I’m glad that performance has mostly translated over to the BASIC. The BASIC possess a boosted but very engaging bass response with fantastic sub-bass extension that is very uncommon from an in-ear, especially one that costs $150. I generally do prefer the sub-bass presentation of dynamics over other driver types. For instance, neither the single BA UM 10 Pro or micro-driver SE215 were able to reproduce sub-bass nearly as well as the BASIC. I hate to generalise, but sub-bass is a general weakness of those technologies with only very expensive products such as the ie800 and SE846 (both employing proprietary technologies) achieving such rumble and slam.
That is not to say that every Dynamic driver earphone has a great bass response, the vast majority of consumer earphones have huge tuning issues resulting in considerable quality loss, the BASICs simply capitalise on this strength with a hearty sub-bass boost that is just shy of muddiness but still provides dollops of slam and rumble. They have a punchy mid-bass response and a little dip in the upper-bass that prevents the sound from becoming too thick or bloated. Despite the moderate sub-bass emphasis, the BASICs have quite a textured bass response overall, not nearly as textured as the much tighter New Primacy, but much more so than the bloat prone SE215. When listening to The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Soul to Squeeze”, the BASIC reproduced the bassline with convincing texture and weight where the SE215 glossed over these finer nuances and bass drums lacked convincing slam. The UM 10 Pro sounded a little more textured and tight but at the cost of extension and bass body; which is superior will really depend more on your personal preferences here. Booting up Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and the BASIC did a good job avoiding the bass drone that affected the SE215 while providing more insight into the lower bass notes that the UM 10 Pro significantly rolled off.
While they are ultimately a little unevenly tuned in the grand scheme of things, the BASIC is a really nice performer in this price class. They carry a considerable sub and, to a lesser extent lower-bass boost, but also present notes with nice resolution and texture. For those curious, the New Primacy has considerably less sub-bass but maintains similar extension with much more texture. They are far more linear and articulate and bass sounds better integrated into the rest of the sound.
The midrange on the BASICs is on the darker side, but female vocals remain clear and retain a nice sense of clarity. The midrange is slightly recessed compared to the overall bass response, but with quite a clear tone, vocals never become overshadowed even on tracks that already have a recessed vocal line. Lower mids, in particular, are natural and quite clean on the BASICs, matching the UM 10 Pro. The SE215’s sounded a bit over-forward in the lower midrange and also granular while the BASICs sounded more balanced and considerably smoother. Female vocals on the Basic also have a nice sense of clarity and midrange details are well present if not aggressively forward. That being said, I do feel that their upper midrange is focussed more on smoothness than clarity. This becomes clear during comparison to the UM 10 Pro which also has a really nice midrange presentation for the price. The Westone’s are more balanced than the more upper midrange recessed BASICs and SE215’s, making them a really great choice for any kind of vocals, especially female vocals that these darker earphones tend to draw attention from. While the Westones do have the least end to end extension, the midrange performance does do a lot to redeem them and vocals have the most clarity and detail, they simply produce a very pleasant midrange. The BASICs are, once again, smoother than the Westone’s and gloss over a little extra detail as a result, female vocals also have less clarity than the UM 10 Pro with a less apparent sense of layering (I suspect the more precise imaging of the Um 10 Pro is helping here too).
So the BASIC is a strong performer in the midrange but not necessarily class-leading. They are quite clean sounding and also have a nice sense of clarity. The Westone’s do hold an overall performance advantage, especially within the upper midrange, but depending on individual preference, some may prefer the smoother, more laid-back Oriveti’s. If you are prone to brightness, the smooth BASICs are a really nice option while retaining plenty of detail and enough clarity to avoid sounding dull.
As expected, the New Primacy holds a considerable performance advantage here too, with a more balanced midrange that has a lot more upper midrange presence and clarity. Despite that, vocals are more full-bodied with a lot more layering and separation between each instrument/voice. Imaging is also a lot more accurate which contributes to more three-dimensional sound. Details are also far more present on the New Primacy without sounding forward and aggressive, it is a very refined sound that I have grown to greatly appreciate.
Treble performance is also really impressive when compared to these similarly priced models. When listening to Elton’s John’s “Honky Chateau”, the BASIC was easily my favourite presentation between the SE215 and UM 10 Pro, both in tonality and quality. Extension immediately stood out within this price range; while it does roll off at the top, it did so to a lesser extent than the UM 10 Pro and SE215. High-hats were a little recessed but still maintained texture and detail while cymbals had nice body and shimmer. Treble detail and resolution are all impressive on the BASIC and quantity is very well judged; they are definitely not overly forward despite being so aggressively detailed but avoid sounding closed-off too. Lower treble is slightly emphasised and has nice separation from the slightly recessed upper midrange with higher notes gently decreasing in emphasis as the frequencies get higher. This translates to a treble response that is pretty neutral in quantity overall while retaining crispness and body.
The Um 10 Pro’s were darker and more laid-back in the highs, cymbals sounded more recessed than the BASIC and higher notes were regularly glazed over, sounding a little woolly. The SE215’s sounded quite blunted in the high end with most truncated sounding high-frequency presentation in this trio. Cymbals sounded distant and dull, lacking a lot of shimmer and texture while higher notes were often absent altogether. Furthermore, the BASICs are actually a less fatiguing listen than the SE215’s due to their more balanced midrange and textured bass performance, they sound less aggressive and smoother in general. Comparison to the New Primacy reveals similar findings as before, a more linear, detailed and extended treble response. This contributes to their more open sound and sense of detail/micro-detail. The New Primacy is naturally a great step up from the BASIC as naming scheme wouls suggest. It does have similar sound qualities, such as an emphasis on bass texture, midrange smoothness and lower treble, but it is ultimately an evolution of that sound.
Comparison to the New Primacy reveals similar findings as before, a more linear, detailed and extended treble response. This contributes to their more open sound and sense of detail/micro-detail. The New Primacy is naturally a great step up from the BASIC as naming scheme wouls suggest. It does have similar sound qualities, such as an emphasis on bass texture, midrange smoothness and lower treble, but it is ultimately an evolution of that sound.
I applaud Oriveti for once again providing us with a really well thought out in-ear. While the SE215 has served as a staple in the audio market, that earphone is rapidly approaching almost 6 years of age. We no longer live in such a concrete world where one earphone defines a price range, but the BASIC is a very logical purchase for those searching for an earphone with a removable cable, over-ear fitment and dynamic sound. Due to the nature of their tuning, the BASIC’s full low-end is suitable for audiophiles and bass craving consumers alike while their clear midrange and detailed high-end will provide new levels of insight to those upgrading from a cheaper/older earphone. There are few options out there at this price that best the BASIC when purely considering sound, and any sonic advantages those earphones hold easily pale in comparison to the Oriveti’s comfort, fit and durability which is a pretty common weakness among all budget-minded earphones.
Accessories – 8/10, Nice accessory suite, would be great to include some foam ear tips for travel and I would personally prefer a smaller, more portable case. Included tips, ear guides and case are of nice quality.
Design – 9.5/10, Really no issue with the design. The aluminium housings are very well finished and ergonomically moulded with perfect long-term comfort in my uses. Isolation could be very slightly improved when compared to sealed monitor style earphones but remains perfectly usable even during air travel. Fit stability is great and they work well for activity if you don’t mind the exposed vent. Nice cable for the price, but the texture is a little rubbery and may catch on clothes. No remote/mic.
Bass – 8/10, Really nice bass performance, well extended with great sub-bass slam. Surprisingly textured given the emphasis and slightly more uneven nature. Does well to avoid bloat and bloom.
Mids – 7.75/10, Relatively even but slightly dark. Lower mids are clear and have nice presence. Upper mids are smoother rather than clearer but mids sound clean on a whole.
Highs – 7.75/10, Very good detail retrieval and extension with roll-off at the very top. Nice texture and body to treble notes, not splashy, thin or fatiguing. I didn’t notice obvious sibilance issues during my listening.
Soundstage, Imaging & Separation – 7.25/10, Plenty of space with a lot of width and pleasing depth. Separation is better than the more mid-forward competitors but imaging and centre image are both a little vague.
Verdict – 9/10, The SE215 is so embedded in the iem market that it becomes difficult to even consider alternatives but the BASIC definitely has what it takes to become a new recommendation around this price. I suppose, bass could be a little more linear, mids could be slightly more balanced with more clarity and the cable could be smoother with a right angle jack, but the BASICs are ultimately a very well-rounded earphone within a price range riddled with compromises.
*As an added note on marketing, with a name like the “BASIC”, Oriveti is clearly pushing consumers towards the higher end “New Primacy”. But I reason that Oriveti’s budget option should stand on its own in name as it differentiates from the competition in performance (since it should ultimately sell in higher volumes). Perhaps the Oriveti Classic would be a better fit given that the dynamic driver is a becoming a sort of precious relic with hybrids, armatures and micro-driver earphones all occupying the majority of the $100-150 audiophile market. Regardless, I’m personally not a fan of the any name that denotes the product’s status as anything lesser, it should rather be a cheaper alternative.
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