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.