Pros: 'hearbeat like' bass you can feel, ample detail in the mids and highs. Choice of sockets, faceplate material and colors.
Cons: Acrylic universal - durability and potentially fit/isolation. Wind noise at the vent. Probably bass-forward, or not as mids forward as some would like
Rhapdsodio RDB+ vs some current hybrid IEMs.
Rhapsodio sent us some gear for the Sydney 2013 Jan meet/to review after.
The review skims over some gear used, what I look for in IEM sound [in case it's not what you look for ] a bit of info about Rhapsodio itself, and general/quick info about RDB+, before going into detail, so skip as appropriate if you're not in a reading mood
It also includes some musings on accumulated experiences of using custom universals for about a year now, so if you're not into that - my apologies.
Likewise, please excuse the the poor pic quality - the ones not supplied by Rhapsodio mostly turned out bad - new camera/last minute pics. [and no appropriate composition or interesting backdrops ]
Source: Musiland MD11/MD30 [DAC only], Clip+ [into amps].
Amps: Epiphany Acoustics EPH-O2, Clip+ (as an amp), P&D Amp-k Pro
Cables: misc fancy looking interconnect, 2 cables supplied by Rhapsodio - silver + viablue , and flat weave 4 conductor per channel one + mini Oyaide .
Other IEMs/Headphones: Audiofly AF78, T-PEOS H-100, Unique Melody (UM) (custom universal versions): Merlin, may mention CI+TWFK . Keep in mind, officially Unique Melody don't really recommend getting their universals, that said the universal mold I have is the same one they use for demo Merlins (they also have a couple of other ones - without a helix lock with different nozzle diameters )
Quick impressions from Sydney meet: Sennheisser HD800/Beyer T1
pretty sure the IEM was used prior to being shipped to me. I used it for 2.5 weeks, several hours a day on some days, so probably around 100h+. Everything else was extensively used prior. All the sources/amps were pre-warmed for 5 mins to get to normal operating temp.
Volume matching: To a comfortable level by ear
General sound preference [this is what I'm looking for in an IEM or HP]:
Forward lower mids - around 1-3k, preferrably not too much. But still relatively enough 3-5k sparkle. Extended and relatively forward bass. Crisp, extended but not sibilant highs. To give you an indication - I probably think Beyer T1 levels of bass or HD800 on a suitable amp are realistic/necessary (the kind where you go to a piano concerto, and the drummer is relatively enthusiatic and piano sounds full enough). This all has to sound coherent enough as a package.
A bit about rhapsodio:
Some background and contact info is below
email: rhapsodiohk [AT] gmail.com [Sammy and Charles]
Some products: Cables, Universal Customs [acrylic universals], Balanced armature/Dynamic driver IEMs in various configurations. Upcoming 3BA+DD, 3+BA Resellers to amps, IEMs, DYI kits
Some general info: 'Rhapsodio was founded in 2011, and has been providing exclusive and quality DIY kits, handcrafted cables and custom monitors to the public ever since. Located in Mong Kok, Hong Kong'
'Our aim is to offer some high quality but budget products that already exist, also some unique and exclusive products from us or some other local manufacturers'
A bit about RDB+:
Design: TWFK balanced armature (Dual BA) + Dynamic driver (DD) IEM. Available as acrylic universal [silicon or foam tips], or acrylic custom IEMs.
This is their second version of the TWFK + DD hybrid [the Rhapsodio thread expands on that].
Didn't really ask what size the dynamic driver was, or what the X-over design was like (or even whether it was 2 or 3-way ), someone else can (same goes for what kind of acoustic filters they use if any)
The TWFK sits inside the nozzle, and above it the DD is enclosed in an acrylic dome (inside the main acrylic shell), with a port at the top (a bass vent on the shell).
The IEM body itself is fairly big compared to universals (about 1.5x bigger than say Westone 4R, where the latter is designed to rest at the bottom of the concha, but the shape is different, so the comparison is a bit unnecessary), but smaller than full sized customs or custom universals with a helix lock (the part that extends up/to the side and locks the IEM in place, sometimes at the expense of comfort)
If you want more info about your ear bits, have a look at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Gray904.png
Here's a pic next to T-PEOS H100, for size comparison:
There are some comparisons with the UM Merlin below as well.
Options/pricing/etc: not too sure - ask Rhapsodio about the faceplates, colors, cables, etc. Currently they're on a $500 special (facebook and site), I know it includes a cable, but not sure what sort of cable [plain westone, or silver?]
Here are some samples of colors, faceplates, etc that Rhapsodio do. You can see they offer recessed westone sockets (soon), Shure extruding (now), and westone flush, various colors of carbon faceplates, wood, etc, and some rich looking colors.
The RDB+ I was sent to review had red/blue body, and black carbon faceplates and looked nice. [the shades/pattern changes with angle]
Quick description of Sound [impression based on some prelim listening]:
crisp highs, orthodynamics like bass and detailed and pleasant but not too forward mids. Coherent overall and with a good sense of space. Very very fun and detailed, but probably rather far from what people would call neutral.
General use considerations:
While these might not be most appropriate in a review, being aware of some of these can save both you and the IEM vendors a bit of time and money
As with any universal or custom IEMs (impression quality/general comfort, pressure build-up, etc), fit or comfort might be an issue.
If you buy a pair you should really find out what are your return or refit options. [shipping and additional work charges, and if possible in general]. And have a couple of different tips to try and if possible cables. Rhapsodio do offer free refit within 30 days of receipt by customer for customs, but I'm not too sure about universals(they at one point said there were options on altering the default shell, but then said there was only one mold. if you're interested - ask them).
At the sydney meet most people who tried the universal version seemed to have no problems.
Pressure build-up wasn't a problem, probably because of the vent.
The nozzle size shape/length and outer shell size usually affect both how secure the fit is and how well the IEMs isolate.
For RDB's current universal fit, the nozzle is not long, and expands closer to the body, and the IEM itself is rather full because of the BA in nozzle/DD dome above design. (the body is actually taller than UM Merlin (RDB-right in the pic)).
The RDB+ looks to be designed to rest inside the concha (fit and rest in). Unfortunately for me, because of how tall the IEM is, it doesn't stay in the concha if not held in place by memory wire.
Here are some pictures of possible fit scenarios:
Here are a couple of ways it ended up in my ear (you can see there are different ways it can fit across, and many aren't very good for it staying in)
Good positioning, not really sustainable per se for me:
Compare this to the way a larger IEM with a helix lock fits
This one has the memory wire as well (UM's westone-ish cable with long memory wire)
For the seal you should try a couple of different tips. I prefer comply foam ones with wax guards for practical reasons, or large soft silicon ones [they give me roughly the same isolation and comfort. Sound is roughly the same, unless the comply tips are too long and the end squashes and blocks the nozzle]. The tripple and double flanges I had didn't fit me well, neither did small or med silicon tips.
Fit & Isolation Without memory-wire on cables:
For me - the left ear is fine, the right one doesn't hold in properly if I move around (and in general, because of how tall the IEM is) and if worn with the supplied cable around the ear, plug facing the top.
The IEMs aren't that big, and I can wear them slightly differently - plug facing the bottom, and the IEM rotated so that the part near the vent is hooked behind the anti-helix. (without blocking the vent)
Isolation felt pretty average if it doesn't sit in the concha properly though, providing about 10dB isolation max at about 1-3khz.
Fit & Isolation With memory-wire on cables:
I have a set of standard the westone cable with memory wire. I tend to prefer rigid memory wires to assist the fit. It holds the IEM in place and without having it fit perfectly inside the concha (if it's not deep enough), preventing it from sliding out [meaning I don't have to tuck it behind the anti-helix (or in case of ones with a helix lock - a bit of helix, anti-helix and fit inside the concha]. With memory wire I do get a secure and comfortable fit.
Compared to the full-size acrylic universals I have with a helix lock and longer nozzles, the isolation is a bit less [e.g. if I walk next to the highway or click my fingers]. Probably 5-6dB difference, not generally noticeable with moderate levels of music. [and a lot better than in the case above]
Wind noise from the vent:
If you walk around outside, moderate winds cause the outer vent in the IEM to make unpleasant sounds, loud enough to interfere even with loud music. If you buy one, ask if Rhapsodio solved this. UM Merlin have a recessed vent with an acoustic filter in it that makes no noise. RDB+'s vent has a plastic ring with a protective mesh inside it and that ring has sharp edges, possibly causing the noise.
Rhapsodio said they're working on the problem, but if you buy one and use the IEM in windy places – enquire first.
Compared to metal or alloy IEMs acrylic ones can crack or shatter with relatively less impact[high fall onto hard surfaces or bump with lots of force into an edge]. You can still knock a solder joint or crack something on a metal or plastic universal, but it's less likely.
I've used custom universals for about a year and never had problems, but I'm fairly cautious. [the UM ones I had/have, met a few knocks and falls and are fine].
As far as build quality goes, the RDB+ shell looks to be without any large bubbles and done well.
keep in mind my sound preferences when reading this section
Highs: Extended, present, detailed. Not sibilant. Good hats and cymbals. Sometimes I got a slight sense of purposely enchanced highs (this is where you say you hear something you haven't before )
Mids:Both lower and upper mids are forward enough to be present and enjoyable and sound detailed, but not too euphoric or irritating. There's a bit of upper mids sparkle, but not too much.
Lows:Very extended and ample in amount. The texture is good too. There's a lot of snap and kick and depth, but no bloat. It has a throbbing/heartbeat quality to it where you can feel the bass as you usually do with speakers.
Mostly reminds me of the modded T50RP, and LCD2 or floor standing speakers I have and really like [microlab 7c]
Soundstage: I don't generally find much in IEMs [probably because I prefer very mids and high forward IEMs]. These have seem to have more than I usually expect.
Genre suitability: I liked it for all genres I usually listen to:
Classical (Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Schumann, Grieg, Brahms - piano or violin + orchestra concertos (full or chamber versions)). The weight of piano and drums was great, there was enough sense of space and the violin and piano had enough sparkle. While you might think the bass forwardness precludes RDB+ from being enjoyable with classical that's not at all the case. Overzealous mixes with too much drums aside, there's usually plenty of detail across the spectrum for a very pleasing experience. Even with nice large drums in symphonies or piano concertos the low end felt very appropriate, compared to the Sydney Symphony performances I've been to (they do have a very enthusiastic drummer though )
Heavy and power metal (Avantasia, Sonata Arctica, Royal Hunt, Machinae Supremacy, Kamelot), various rock (Emilie Autumn,Edguy,Pretty Reckless, etc), a bit of hip-hop, dubstep and pop/dance (which I'm not naming ) – the guitars, the drums, the bass, the vocals, the beats, everything sounded great. Compared to some more mids forward IEMs, pretty much none of the songs I usually find grating sounded harsh, but anything had a very nice amount of detail in it.
I think Rhapsodio tuned RDP+ in a very interesting and compelling way [somewhere between Merlin and H100, which we'll get to in a few minutes]. It manages to blend the TWFK double BA and Dynamic drivers into an end result that's great for a variety of genres - with very strong deep bass, forward enough mids with great detail and detailed but not over the top highs.
I'd probably still classify them as...errr...'bass strong', since some people may find it to be too much (you with the Ety ER4p, or maybe Westone 4R?), but I as I mentioned before, I like the Beyer T1 or LCD2 levels
Occasionally, I did get a sense of 'too much of everything' or maybe a slight U-shape curve (L ? ), but it was mostly recording/mixing related. However, keep in mind, if you're used to something like AKG K500, or something very very smooth sounding or with a very rolled off bass, it might take a while to adjust.
Compared to UM Merlin:
RDB+ has more bass impact, and maybe slightly more depth/amount[more of a throbbing/heartbeat quality to it. I've really missed that quality after passing the review unit on, it makes Merlin sound 'soft' in the bass ]. As well as relatively less prominent highs and upper mids. Overall I think that made RDB+ more enjoyable for Metal/Rock/Dance, but still comparatively good for classical.
Comparatively, Merlin has relatively more forward upper mids and highs sparkle and amount. It still has great bass [deep, ample, hard hitting for say dance], but it's tuned differently - without the extra kick RDB+ has. Those two factors I think make it more enjoyable and euphoric for classical. Sometimes they make metal specifically too harsh [Royal Hunt in particular], but perhaps that's as much mastering as it is Merlin.
It's difficult to make a relative sound preference assessment, as I think a lot of people think Merlin is tuned to have extended bass,emphasised mids and extended/ample trebble. To me, the RDB+ tuning is a bit less extreme/more refined in the mids and treble, but more extreme in the lows
Similarly, you can also get a TWFK + CI (CI upgrade to your current TWFK IEMs, for a total of about $400), and it has a rather fun sound too. [probably not as refined, not vented/prone to pressure build-up, and not quite there with the bass, but about 85%]
Compared to Fullsize HP:
I thought, compared to Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD800 in various set-ups RDB+ held up fine [detailed, full sound, the feeling of space and general refinement of the tuning]. I also preferred RDB+ to my GMP-450 and 435.
If anything, I'd probably describe RDB+ as LCD2 [heard on the meet before the last] or Smeggy Modded T50RP. [probably with improved mids ]
Compared to other Hybrids I own (AF78 and H100):
It certainly seems like making hybrid IEMs is not easy to get right. I think RDB+ is tuned by far more coherently, and in a way that makes it sound more refined vs both AF78 and H100. It's... Pretty much everything: The feeling of space, the mids tuning and the balance of highs and upper mids and mids vs lows.
AF78 is tuned very strangely in the mids - thick and not very detailed. H100 has a large lower mids dip, and is tuned to a supposedly objective target of some sort (golden ears target), but after weeks of use I gave up on the 'balanced golden ears sound' theory [going back to the conclusion that to my taste H-100 sounds horrible]. It's always possible to get used to a sound signature [stockholm syndrome in HP ] , but switching to and from H-100 the difference in tuning is immediately noticable.
For H100 you can feel a similar approach to highs and bass [with more upper mids and treble emphasis], but RDB+ doesn't forget the lower mids.
About the cables included and amp:
Rhapsodio sent 2 cables and a P&D amp-k pro amp to try.
I was pleased with both of the cables. Supposedly, they're both $160 separately, but cheaper if bought with an IEM.
The braiding on the blue/red one was very interesting - it was flexible, yet didn't tangle and didn't conduct physical noise up the cable - combining the perceived advantages of flat and round cables . I'm not a big fan of the red/blue color scheme, but it also comes in a much more appealing [imo] dark brown/goldish color.
The silver cable looked very nice, and was extremely flexible too. [a lot of people at the meet liked that one]
Plug wise, the blue/red one had what looked like Oyaide mini, and the Silver one - viablue
As mentioned at the begining Rhapsodio can do all sorts of plus at either of the cable ends, and all sorts of wire and insulation materials. They can also do something similar to metal memory wires - memory wires using heatshrink (where you'd need to heat it up for it to take shape).
You can see a lot of transistors and the particular opamp used inside
The amp is interesting too. it makes the IEMs sound 'mellower' (a bit less bass impact, and highs crisp) [this is as opposed to O2 amp making it crisper] but still kept the detail and overall sound. At the meet I used it with HD800 and Beyer T1 with pleasing results and plenty of space on the volume dial even with quiet classical. However, it uses 2 9V batteries and does not include a charging port. The version I had also had the vol knob attached too firmly to the vol pot, making volume adjustment a pain past and around the middle.
Some pictures, including of the board are inside.
If you're looking for a full sound with an orthodynamics like bass, without compromising on vocals or a sense of detail and aren't afraid of acrylic universals - I'd certainly recommend RDB+ . Talk to Rhapsodio - see what they can do in terms of how it looks/cables, etc.
Price-wise and competition from upcoming TWFK+DD - it depends - $500 is pretty good [compare to Cosmic ears on one end and UM, Aurosonics, Tralucent on another].
Will the upcoming Vsonic(1 cheaper and one similarly priced Hybrid, not sure about the driver configurations anymore?) and T-PEOS IEMs with a similar design and a speculative price of about $150 less, sound better to your preferences? I can't tell you that.