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Signature Acoustics Elements Series C-12


Pros: Zero fatigue, nice mids and bass, looks nice, handmade

Cons: Veiled sound, slight bass bloat

The C-12s are the first IEM from Indian company, Signature Acoustics. The C-12s use a hand-made wooden housing and a great looking wooden Y-split and slider. At around $60 (AUD) they are a budget IEM which is impressive given their hand-made and all wood design, but the sound is just a little way off from being something to get excited about.


Overall, the sound is smooth, laid-back and very easy to listen to, but perhaps just a bit too warm and lacking in the air and extension needed to bring out the best of a wide range of genres. The bass and mids are good with an enjoyable balance and mostly lifelike timbre - they just need a little more air.


If you'd like to read more I've written a more extensive review here: http://passionforsound.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/signature-acoustics-c-12-iems/


Pros: Smooth sound, Forward and luscious mids, wide soundstage, Bass Quantity

Cons: Bass quality, Forward mids can be overbearing, silght veil

Signature Acoustics C-12: The Elemental Underdog Woodies



Signature Acoustics' Foundation


Audiophiles love music, especially when played from high quality audio products that contain several different flavors. Flavors that audiophiles usually experience with audio equipment can be spicy, salty, sweet, or bland. Now, imagine tasting any of the mentioned flavors in your mouth. Would your tongue handle the spiciness of a jalapeno pepper? What about the irresistibly sweet cinnamon buns? Would table salt alone allure or dissuade you from experiencing a lone flavor? Regardless, each of the mentioned condiment/food caters to a specific audience. Several audio companies have been created by an audio enthusiast group to enrich the population’s lives. Audio Technica, AKG, Sony, Beyerdynamic, and other companies have succeeded in placing a smile on peoples’ faces. Yet, there are also underdog companies that deserve the popularity.


Enter Pristine Note, a market that was created by an Indian group of audio enthusiasts in 2010. Before the conception of Signature Acoustics, the audio enthusiasts created an audio store that sought to import notable brands like Audio Engine, Audio Technica, Fiio Amplifiers, Brainwavs, and Allesandro Heapdhones. On 2011, Pristine Note created and implemented their own brand called Signature Acoustics. Signature Acoustics’s intentions are to create their own audio products that caters to both Indian and international markets. Before Signature Acoustics could produce an audio product, they dedicated 18 months of research, experimentation, and testing to introduce their first audio in-ear monitor called “The Elements Series.” Due to Signature Acoustics’ dedication to the audio market, they produced a great budget in-ear monitor called the C-12. The C-12, based on reviews and other information, was considered a budget hero for the Indian market.



Here are it's specs


  1. Wooden enclosure / housing for a natural warm sound and strong build quality.

    2) 10 strands of wide Cu wire, to ensure impactful bass. Twisted to reduce microphonic noise.

    3) 8mm Dynamic driver for Speed and Detailing

    4) Treble tuning with provided 180 and 250 micron filters.

    5) Genuine Leather pouch as standard and a Hi-Quality Metal carry Case carved out of Solid Brass blocks - polished to give an antique feel for Limited Edition.


2)      MODEL                  :      Elements C-12

3)      Driver                     :      8 mm (CCAW)

4)      Impedance             :      18 Ohms @ 1Khz

5)      Frequency             :      17 to 20 Khz         

6)      Sensitivity              :      102 dB

7)      Total length            :      1.2 mts (split length 28 cms)

8)      Channel Balance   :       < 2.5% dB @ 1 Khz



I have received this in-ear monitor not as an affiliate with the company, but as a semi-experienced consumer who will one day venture to high-end audio.


I will also be reviewing another element in-ear monitor called the O-16 metal in-ear monitors. These in-ears are the big brother to the wooden in-ears that focuses on producing a “natural sound signature and spacious soundstage” by using an 8mm voice coil and an open back mesh design.


Before anything, however, I will provide my personal background of the music I listen to.


My Personal Musical Background:

My preferred genres of music are j-pop, pop, rock, classic rock, and some jazz. While I may not present all genres of music, I will briefly mention the genres of music that I failed mentioning.

I listen to at least 50 percent volume on my devices. However, as all devices vary in terms of volume output, articulation in the vague term *50 percent* will be explained.


On a Samsung galaxy note 4, the 50 percent threshold is at least 6 buttons in, but I normally listen to 7-8 volume notches. The volume bar goes from a 50-70 percent threshold,  except that the decibels from the galaxy and the in-ear signature acoustics comes at about 60-75 db. However, I normally attempt to listen at 50 db.




Build Quality/Design/Microphonics




The packaging for the C-12 is the same as the O-16, which is what I

will be reviewing next


Packaging of the O-16 series



If I had to describe the build quality of the C-12 in-ears in one word, the word would be solid. The material used for the C-12’s housing is basically a two piece wood. To verify my assumption, I scrutinized the housing’s structure and found scant traces of glue that suggests an assembled wooden housing. In order to test the build quality of the C-12s, I squeezed the housings to ensure the quality control of the wooden housings. Then, I proceeded to place them in my ears to check for driver flex. Thankfully, there is no indication of driver flex present in the C-12s.


The housings should be able to endure the physical abuse from the average consumer.


The design of the in-ear monitors remind me of the average earplugs meant for a good night sleep. The grain texture on the wooden housings looks fabulous enough to wear the audio product as a fashion accessory. However, I would be wary about one particular thing about the C-12s. The microphonics are problematic.


Microphonics are average for this in-ear monitor, but when one wishes to traverse through the outskirts of a city or town, the cable of the in-ear will collide with your clothing and cause a slightly vexing noise. Of course, the microphonics can be remedied through the shirt clip that the C-12s come with.


The cable used for the C-12s may be a positive or negative aspect of the in-ear. When I handled the cable of the C-12s, I immediately recalled the re262’s sticky cable. The difference? It doesn’t smell out of box, and lacks the adhesive texture that the re262s contained. Instead, the cable felt slightly rough in comparison to the plastic cabling from brands like Audio Technica, Hifiman, JVC, or Ortofon. The shiny spots on the cable indicates the plastic appearance to the cable. Despite the odd feeling to the cable’s texture, with a shirt clip, the worries of the cable’s “raspyness” can be mitigated. The positive point of the cable would be my own alleged claim that the disentangling process of the in-ear becomes easier.

The connector for the headphone output is superb as it uses thick, durable plastic with a strain relief of its own.



I find the accessories to be just slightly lacking in terms of earphone tips. However, the product does come with a pouch, filters, and a shirt clip to compensate for the lack of additional eartips!

2 Small Tips

2 Medium Tips

2 Large Tips

A shirt clip

Two filters

A leather pouch



Fit/Isolation/Sound Leakage


Fit can be rather finicky if you solely go by the tips you’ve been given. Of course I, being the wonderful man with celestial organization skills, had to rely on the included tips for the C-12s.

I had no fit problems with the medium sized tips. All I had to do was insert the in-ear monitors as I normally do, meaning that I grab the housing, push it in my ear, slightly twist it if I don’t feel the seal bubble, and release. The same applies to the small tips, but the large tips are a different story. If you use large tips, please be aware that finding a seal becomes a tedious task. I followed etymotic’s tutorial for in-ear insertion, but I still failed to achieve a good seal with the in ear monitors. The best way for my ear canal was to either switch to smaller tips, or to wiggle the in-ear until a decent seal has been created.


Sound leakage on this in-ear monitor is phenomenal, no one can listen to what I hear from 2 feet away. The closed design of the in-ear is helps it achieve a private listening space.


Drivability/Amp synergy (I only own two amps)

The in-ear monitor is easy to drive on a Samsung note 4. I had to rely on 30 percent of the phone’s volume, or 4 out of 12 ticks. I only need 22 percent volume on a PC. On a sony Xperia, you will find out sooner or later.

Will post more about the amp synergy later.



Sound Quality


Lows – The bass contains a powerful mid-bass with a slightly more relaxed subbass. The mid-bass and sub-bass quantities almost match as the mid-bass prevails with an extra +3db in comparison to the sub-bass quantity. The sub-bass roll off is present around 30hz or so, maybe even at 28hz. The quality is somewhat bloaty with the mid-bass while it slightly seeps into the mids. If the lower mids weren’t a bit enunciated, then the bass would have overtaken the lower mids section entirely. Fortunately, the mids are forwarded and full enough to only be somewhat smeared by the bass. The bass in a few songs had me dancing as I listened to Daft Punk’s Doin it right, Some video game music I heard from the psx/n64 era, and to most of the beatles albums. The bass is bolder, stronger, and definitely thicker than most of the in-ears in my collection. It has slightly more thickness than the kef m200, and if most of you know what the sounds of the kef in-ear are, then you may be in for a treat (or not).


Mids – The vocals are pretty dang buttery smooth while retaining some (light) detail. The veil is what prevents this in-ear from being better than great, but for the cost, I believe it IS great. This in-ear has a great capability of reproducing beautiful female vocals (while still retaining most of the awesomeness of males) despite this slight veil. I’m not stating that the earphone produces enough clarity to have me dancing to the rhythm, but it has the smoothest vocals and almost conveys the emotion of the singers themselves (would have been a bit more emotional if clarity were added). As I stated in the lows section, the lower mids have enough thickness to add great warmth to this in-ear, while still having at least a decent (borderline passable) amount of clarity for you to understand words, even though the vocals are uncomfortably lush at times. The uncomfortable feeling occurs on songs that came from 70s to 80s (rock, pop, etc. The beatles, Aerosmith, and even REM) where the upper mids to treble quality and clarity are necessary. Timbre on this in-ear is unheard of at this price point. It almost sounds similar to the thinksound on1s, but only fail to fully deliver the instrumental timbre due to the lack of clarity and air that other in-ears possess. Having said that, The j-pop I hear (my dearest from guilty gear), or from a song like aoi-shiori’s galleli is a wonder to behold. The vocals are almost liquefied thanks to warmth of the wooden housings (and tuning), but have enough clarity for me to enjoy my j-pop music collection. The females reel you in, while the males gently soothe your hectic day. The mids ooze a great load of intimacy while staying organic and accurate to an instrument's timbre. As I already said, the mids are great, but it could use just slightly more clarity.


Highs – Unfortunately, the highs are muted and mostly dull compared to the in-ears that I own.

The treble rolls off at 13khz (to my ears) and slowly starts to lack the sparkle that only the 9khz contains (it’s not that sparkly either, I can just barely hear the strength of the treble’s quality because of that veil). The bass bloat most likely caused the veil to occur, but regardless, the treble is great enough for the in-ear user to hear an expansive soundstage (surprisingly from these small in-ears). However, it isn’t outlandish enough to make you believe that these were full sized headphones.


Soundstage – Wider than the usual closed in-ear monitors (such as the ath-ckr9, ath-im02, ath-cks77 etc), but lacks the depth that other in ears contain (the sony xba-h3, ath-ckr9) and of course loses to the kef m200 and sony xba-h3 in width.


Imagery – It is not spectacular, but the imaging is slightly below average as instrument separation is decent while lacking the accuracy and precision in instrument placement.


Conclusion – This in-ear monitor may not exactly appeal to people who crave detail, clarity, or even accuracy in sound production. However, the main audience for this in-ear is for people who wish to have a fun, bold, and relaxing sound that will help the owner feel at ease with his/her music. While this in-ear monitor is currently competing against other Asian brands such as the Ostry kc06, havi b3, or even the ttpod te1, this in-ear monitor can actually do a good job in satisfying a particular audio lover. I would say that if one is yearning for relaxed highs, profuse bass levels, and somewhat forwarded mids, then look no further than the signature acoustics C-12.


Pros: Wooden earpieces, good quality case, smooth and fun sound

Cons: Sightly veil

Signature Acoustics is a brand created by the India based audio retailer Pristine Note. Their first offering is the Elements C-12 - an IEM that took them 18 months of R&D, completed with a full wooden housing and aims to deliver the best bang for the bucks with an estimated price of US$50~60 with international release.





Driver: 8 mm (CCAW) Dynamic

Impedance: 18 Ohms @ 1Khz

Frequency: 17 Hz to 20 Khz         

Sensitivity: 102 dB

Cable length: 1.2m (split length 28 cms)

Channel Imbalance: Less than 2.5% dB @ 1 Khz




Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality

The C-12 comes on a fairly innocent looking black paper box - nothing too fancy or eye catching at first look. Inside, you will find the IEM, 4 pairs of eartips (S, 2xM, L), a shirt clip, two set of filters, either leather or brass case, depends of what package you are paying. The leather case, which looks and smells like real leather (and probably is), will come standard with C-12. The brass case package will cost a few dollars more. Practicality wise, the leather case is probably the better choice. But the brass case does look very impressive in person and probably great as a jewelry case. Considered that the IEM itself has a fairly inexpensive price tag, both cases are rather outstanding addition that elevates the whole package. The extra filters are also another great addon. One set is the same as those installed on the nozzle, while the other is a denser variance (with higher acoustic impedance) to tune for a slightly different sound.


Build quality is above average. The whole wooden housing doesn’t look quite as good a finish as Crossroads’ Woody or ThinkSound’s models and probably be better with a darker lacquer, but it is still solid. The cable looks and feels quite durable with a similar twisted wires finishing like the early Branwavz M2, but with some minor memory effect. All and all, it isn’t the best I have seen in the price range but far from the worst either.




Sound Quality

The IEM has been given 50 hours of burn-in before the review.


C-12 sounds warm and smooth, with emphasis on lush and richness. Bass reaches down deep, but rolls off in lower sub-bass so it doesn’t quite have the deep rumbling sensation. It is however quite abundance in quantity from mid to upper bass, not particularly boomy though definitely presents at most time, and can almost be classified as bass dominance. Lower mid is lush and rich, which are the signature sound of wood housing. However, the upper mid to treble are a bit too polite, lacking sweetness, crispiness and sparkle to highlight the micro-detail and air, and in turn makes vocal, especially female, sounds smooth, if not a bit dull. It is however still slightly ahead of that of Brainwavz M2 or M3 in drawing out detail. With a few dB of treble boost however, C-12 can really shines. Despite restricted air, soundstage is still very good, and better on width than depth. It is probably benefited from the wood housing which from my own experience, always delivers a more specious, nicely resonated sound than metal. All and all, the C-12 compares well to the similarly priced (and also bass heavy) beyerdynamic XP1 as well as early Brainwavz models, which is not too shabby for any company’s first IEM. The lushness of the C-12 will most appeal to those who are looking for easy going and fatigue-free sound, especially if you don’t mind a bit of bass in the mix.





Despite being in India, a country that is not known for having audiophile’s headphone company, Signature Acoustics is passing with flying colors with their firstborn, the Element C-12. While it isn’t the be-all-end-all by any long shot, it is a statement to show that the company does know what it is doing and able to produce an IEM that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the competition – and that’s something they can be proud of.


A thank to Signature Acoustics for the sample.


Pros: Lightweight wooden housing; unique cases; fun bass heavy signature

Cons: Slight veil

Signature Acoustics C-12 - From India!





A few months back I was contacted by a representative of Signature Acoustics asking if I’d like to audition their Elements Series C-12.  They’ve already been selling them in their home based country of India and are preparing for a worldwide release.  I thought, Why not? Sounds like fun!


The C-12 is going to retail somewhere around the $45 to $60 range and the manufacturer describes the offering as follows:


  • Wooden enclosure / housing for a natural warm sound and strong build quality
  • 10 strands of wide Cu wire, to ensure impactful bass. Twisted to reduce microphonic noise.
  • 8mm Dynamic driver for Speed and Detailing
  • Treble tuning with provided 180 and 250 micron filters
  • Hi-Quality Metal carry Case carved out of Solid Brass blocks - polished to give an antique feel


Additional specification found in the box literature:


  • Impedance: 18 ohm @ 1hz
  • Frequency: 17 to 20 khz
  • Sensitivity: 102 db
  • Total Length: 1.2 mts (split length 28 cms)


Accessories include 4 pair of tips (2 medium pair), a shirt clip, replaceable filters (HiFiMan style), a heavy duty brass, twist off case and a neat little, round leather zipper case.  Definitely some nice cases for a budget IEM. The C-12 by default comes with the hand stitched genuine leather case with suede leather inside.  The metal brass case will be a part of a limited edition or an optional accessory. 






The overall sonic signature is a bass first presentation, that has very impactful mid bass and a solid sub bass rumble.  The sub bass can at times be just a bit overshadowed by the mid bass impact. Bass starts to roll off after 60hz and is audible down to 30hz. There is a good bit of decay, lending to an even greater perceived bass quantity.


The lower midrange is forward and warm, and reminiscent of the Brainwaves M2, and continues to stay slightly forward through the upper midrange before it starts to taper down. There is a slight veiling effect from the strong bass presence but at the same time provides the thick and rich tonality. Treble is softer and behind the bass and midrange but is still clear and distinguishable, thanks to an inoffensive 6k peak, and gently rolls off in the upper treble.


So many of the budget bass first signatures are often muddy or cloudy sounding, so I was pleased to hear some treble sparkle and decent vocal clarity. But make no mistake, these have copious amounts of bass, that should please most bass-heads.  All in all it is a pleasing and very fun earphone and would be great for workouts or outdoor activities.







Soundmagic E10 ($35)


The E10, which is commonly thought of a somewhat bass heavy presentation, is much tamer in direct comparison.  Having less bass and brighter treble gives the E10 a clearer overall signature, more easily revealing lower level detail. The E10 also has considerably more treble sparkle.  The C-12, though, presents the midrange much closer, for more intimate, warmer and throatier vocals, giving the E10 more of a V shaped feeling in direct comparison.  This lends the E10 to having a wider, more spacious soundstage but the closer midrange of the C-12 gives it the feeling of taller, more intimate staging.  Both have good depth.


The cable of the C-12 seems to be of higher quality, and while more flexible, does have some annoying memory characteristics similar to the much more plasticky cable of the E10.  Both are easy to fit and wear up or down (up preferred on both), the E10 having metal housings with minimal strain relief and the C-12 having more traditional, beefier strain relief and light weight wooden housings. I’ve owned the E10 for a long, long time and used in sweaty, active situations and it has never failed me.  The C-12 seems as if it would be as durable as the E10 in these same situations.


NuForce NE-650m ($45)


The 650 is another bass first signature that also sounds just a little tamer in comparison to the C-12.  It’s bass is more sub bass focussed but doesn’t have the texture, impact, nor rumble of the C-12, unless a song is recorded with a lot of sub bass and that’s when the signature of the 650 is at its best.  The 650 also sounds V shaped in comparison to the C-12 but does not posses the clarity or detail retrieval of the C-12.  All of the high end of the 650 is upper midrange focused and treble rolls off very quickly for no treble sparkle, so the C-12 does sound brighter in comparison.  Soundstaging of the C-12 is overall bigger than the 650, which sounds a little flat in comparison.


The 650m comes with a flat cable, which I find less friendly in general (just not a fan of flat cables) but does have an iPhone mic that doubles as a pause/play button.  Again the C-12 cables seems to of much higher quality and better flexibility.  The 650 housings are plastic, so while lightweight, do look cheaper than the wood of the C-12.

Signature Acoustics Elements Series C-12

From India -Wooden enclosure / housing for a natural warm sound and strong build quality -10 strands of wide Cu wire, to ensure impactful bass. Twisted to reduce microphonic noise. -8mm Dynamic driver for Speed and Detailing -Treble tuning with provided 180 and 250 micron filters -Hi-Quality Metal carry Case carved out of Solid Brass blocks - polished to give an antique feel

Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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