Pros: Excels in almost every aspect of a quality audiophile signature
Cons: Price, comfort, overall integration of each signature quality
Tralucent 1Plus2 Summary
Ever wanted to know what all the fancy audiophile jargon means audibly ? The 1Plus2 can cover most of what you've read in a single pair of IEMs - soundstage, imaging, detail, high airy extensions, tight & deep bass, clarity, transparency, and the list goes on.
1Plus2, Beat Audio Cronus Cable balanced, iPhone 4S, CLAS -dB Balanced, ALO Rx Mk3 (real use case in low gain setting, despite what the photo suggests)
Physical Design and Comfort
Before we go into the sonics, I'd like to describe more into the physical aspects of this IEM for my ears. The 1Plus2 looks more like a custom IEM with a universal tip and its made up of 2xbalanced armatures & 1x10mm dynamic driver.
Despite it's bulky and awkward appearance, it's actually average in weight. Fitting for my ears at least wasn't exactly perfect (I'm using large sized Orotfon tips), and due to the thick gauge of the silver cables, they aren't exactly flexible despite having a wire memory guide - the memory guide wire is actually too flexible that the thick silver gauge wire defines the bends more than the wire.
At least for me, I kept fiddling attempting to loop it around my ears and have to tighten the neck loop to keep the IEMs in place. To add, aside from fiddling, due to the gauge of the cable I find it somewhat microphonic too.
I also found wind noise to be a slight issue with this IEM. Funnily I've owned other ported hybrids and not noticed wind noise, this is the first hybrid that I have heard.
In terms of aesthetic appearance too, I have to admit it doesn't exactly scream finesse for a $1300 pair of IEM. However depending on your priorities this may or may not be important to you 'cos after all, it's all about the sound, isn't it?
In terms of what's going under the covers, there seems to be quite a bit of proprietary design going in inside the IEMs. As such please note that even though you think you can see through the translucent shell in my photos, you can be sure that I've photoshopped them somewhat to hide anything it may reveal. However, despite the average looking shell, that awkward stiff cable is a clear indication of true quality being a part of the IEM package. This was easily tested by swapping cables with a cheap $50 OFC copper of a thin gauge and the sonics changed dramatically. By the way, this also means the connector used is a typical UE-styled connector making the IEM to be quite cable-agnostic.
Red Wine Audio AK100 Mod, 1Plus2 Silver Cable
Sonics - That's what we're here for aren't we?
Before going into what it sounds like, I'd like to add a few brief statements of the journey to getting to the final sonics. Over the past 2 weeks, I've developed a love/hate relationship with this IEM. I'll start with the love 'cos I heard it before purchasing it and it obviously it performed well enough to get my attention, however as some of you may have read in the Tralucent thread, I had some pretty major concerns of a new company charging so much for a pair of IEMs.
However, investment choices are eventually up to each individual so I decided to take a risk, bite the bait, focus only about the product and bought one. During the burn in process though the love-hate juggled from day to day. I have to give Tralucent a lot of credit and a thousand apologies for the daily e-mail exchanges, at times with the most undeserving analogies to some infamous headphone companies. Despite what appeared to be a chap having some major hormonal issues, Tralucent was extremely patient with me very step of the way and I truly appreciate them for it. The sonics mostly settled around the 160 hr mark and continued to change subtly until the 230 hr mark where I feel it's fully stable.
I won't go through what I heard during the burn-in as the signature then was merely transient.
So the real question is what do I hear now that it's settled? As mentioned in the introduction, if we look through most of the audiophile jargon, the 1Plus2 comes up with top marks for them. This IEM screams detail, transparency, airy trebles, deep tight bass, wide soundstage, nice 3D imaging, etc.
Soundstage and Imaging
When I listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons (take your pick on any conductor & orchestra…Isaac Stern & The Jerusalem Music Centre Chamber Orchestra, or Moskow Chamber Orchestra, etc.) the soundstage presented by this IEM is wide akin to say a good closed isolating high end headphone like the Ultrasone Signature DJ/Pros or Edition 8's. I will say though the Fostex TH-900s do have a wider soundstage but the TH-900s, despite being closed back, are not isolating. Even listening to John William's Star Wars Trilogy, I could imagine myself in a huge hall with the the orchestra performing before me.
Imaging performed reasonably well too. It struck a nice balance between it's wide soundstage and it's 3D depth perception. I have to admit that I'd actually prefer the imaging of the FitEar TO GO! 334 however, doesn't have the wide soundstage of the 1Plus2. However I felt with these two aspects, the choice of which IEM it would vary from genre to genre - e.g. I personally preferred vocals such as Lana Del Rey, Adele, Michael Buble, and Anne Murray with the TG!334 than the 1Plus2. But with classical, electronic, and even pop I'd prefer the 1Plus2.
These IEMs are no doubt very detail. In fact even rather unapologetically! It will scrutinise the mastering quality of the track. It will further scrutinise the ripping quality, etc. At times I felt some tracks were excruciatingly painful to listen to due to too much detail. At least to my ears, I find that the 1Plus2 does this through the forwardness and extension of the trebles. For subtle music such as classical, this is fine. However for music such as Michael Jackson's Billie Jean from the SACD version of Thriller, or the 1992 Australian Cast Recording Highlights of Jesus Christ Superstar, I felt daggers were thrown into my eardrums.
At this point, one may question what source/transport and amp I'm using and I found even using the RSA SR-71b which is known to have a somewhat darker/warmer signature it was barely tolerable.
As such, I feel the way detail is portrayed on this IEM through trebles primarily is pushing my eardrums to the limits. At best on a rather mellowed track, the detail is simply amazing. At worst with some brightish recordings, it's unlistenable.
I feel these factors also are closely related to my thoughts about the detail feature. With classical, acoustic instrumental, and simple vocals even, the presentation is impeccably clear and transparent. It's as though the microphone & pop filter is placed just next to the instruments or the lips of the artist. Everything is unbelievably crystal clear. Listening to Tony Bennett's "The Shadow Of Your Smile" from the Ultimate Tony Bennett, you can hear him smack his lips before singing, and even every breath he takes before he sings.
But like a doubled edged sword, if you have something that's (again) badly recorded, this IEM will pick it up. It doesn't even have to be the recording quality but possibly just the way the master was mixed. Listening to Cher Lloyd's Sitcks + Stones album, at times it's hard to discern between poor mastering or if it's how the mixing engineer intended it to be.
It gets to the point whether you're listening to detail, clarity, and transparency, or if you're listening to music.
Due to the wide soundstaging, detail retrieval, clarity and transparency, I feel these features have a great influence on instrument and vocal separation. As mentioned before, it feels each instrument and vocalist was recorded directly and independently then put together later by the mixing engineer. Separation is also impeccable.
Along the lines of all the other aforementioned aspects of sound quality, the 1Plus2 screams quality. It has a deep reaching bass that's tight with little decay (unusual for a dynamic driver?!?), it's treble as mentioned before extends high and has a very airy presentation. The midrange is pulled back somewhat for my personal tastes. To be more precise it's the cusp of the upper bass to low midrange that feels more pulled back whereas the upper midrange. I'd personally prefer a low midrange that filled a little more. This slight pull back in the upper bass/lower midrange gives a somewhat more analytic signature rather. By comparison something like the FitEar TO GO! 334 feels more warm, rich, and immersive.
At least to my ears, contrary to what other 1Plus2 owners feel, I find the 1Plus2 to be somewhat U-shape in signature. As such, I'd actually disagree that this is a natural sounding IEM. At least to my ears, it's far from natural - however the exaggerated features of this IEM makes a quick immediate impression.
By comparison what I'd personally consider to be more is the Stax SR-009. Naturally it is unfair to compare a $5000 pair of headphones to a $1300 IEM, however I'm merely challenging the definition and use of "natural" in the Tralucent thread to be quite different to what I perceive to be "neutral".
I feel overall, my impressions is somewhat of a mixed bag. It seems I'm praising each aspect of the IEM but at the same time criticising it. If I were to surmise my thoughts into a few quick sentences I'd say that despite this IEM performing well in each discrete components, I have a hard time integrating all these components into one single musical piece. Somewhat more descriptively, I feel like I'm listening to each musical instrument independently but playing together, instead of taking a step back and listening to an entire orchestra. In contrast to the FitEar TO GO! 334, the Stax SR-009, or the Fostex TH-900, I find those other earphones/headphones to be more natural sounding and (especially with the SR-009) a more accurate representation of music than the 1Plus2 which at least to my ears, feel somewhat exaggerated. As I've told some members privately, every individual aspect in the 1Plust2 is almost too perfect, and somewhat too upfront (or as another listener said to me, too aggressive). I think for my personal tastes, I'd prefer a more natural sounding IEM that educate me these components of sound quality in more subtle ways rather than, wham, right in my face.
1Plus2 Silver Cable, Ortofon MHd-Q7, iPad 3
Where does the 1Plus2 Succeed to my ears?
A quick learning lesson on what detail, soundstage, clarity, instrument separation means.
Where does the 1Plus2 Fail to my ears?
The ability to present a musical piece as a whole with natural presentation.
Update 1st February 2013: 1Plus2 Impressions Update With The Silver/Gold Cable
I managed to get my hands on a pair of sliver/gold cables today and can compare the silver & silver/gold side-by-side - well can't A/B immediately since I only have 1 pair of 1Plus2's.
Let's get the quick summary out of the way, then delve in a little bit into the details.
So I find the silver/gold still somewhat sibilant but different and in a way more acceptable. The reason is that the silver/gold (as previously mentioned by others here) alter the sonics of the IEM quite differently. Is it noticeable? Yes quite so - although I never was a skeptic on cables causing sonic changes, trying these two silver vs sliver/gold cables merely confirms my beliefs.
A few noted comments others have made about the silver/gold is that it's warmer, slightly smaller soundstage, not so sibilant, etc. I'd agree with most of them but I may describe my thoughts somewhat slightly differently.
As with others, I'm finding that the upper bass or lower mids are filled more which makes it nicer for vocals. Others have said that it's more TG!334-like. Although I won't say that they're (the 1Plus2 and TG!334) alike but with the silver/gold cable, the signature starts to sway more towards that TG!334/XBA-3 direction.
Whilst with the silver cable, I described quite a bit of sibilance, I didn't really put down too much detail but (and here's where I may start pulling numbers out of thin air), around the XkHz and above, the trebles start to sound quite forward. Whilst with the silver/gold cable, it's more around the upper trebles of YYkHz that starts to exhibit sibilance.
As such I find I have less sibilance issues with the silver/gold than I did with the pure silver cable. There's more about sibilance later.
Soundstage and Imaging
Others have noted that with the silver/gold cable the soundstage is less. In the short time I've had with the silver/gold, I'd say that the apparent soundstage does sound somewhat narrower. But this isn't bad - where I found the silver to be unrealistically wide, If find the silver/gold to be more realistic. In general though with other headphones/earphones I've tried, I've noticed that with more pronounced U or V-shaped signatures, the apparent soundstage sounds wider than those headphones/earphones with a more forward midrange.
On the other hand, a more prominent midrange doesn't always necessarily mean deeper imaging but well made IEMs with rich mids (coupled with rich bass) do seem to exhibit a deeper imaging. I find that the 1Plus2 with the silver/gold cable to have a deeper imaging naturally.
Now back to the sibilance topic again, with the silver cable the soundstage was unnaturally vast and at least to my ears seem to start earlier on in the treble frequencies. As such the sibilance on the silver cable seems to me to be "all around" which is probably where I had a problem with. On the other hand with the silver/gold cable, as mentioned above the apparent soundstage seems narrower (and more realistic), and the treble forwardness seems to start later in the upper treble region - therefore the sibilance seem to be more focused rather than "all around". I actually feel there's more room for other instruments to breath, and therefore doesn't feel overshadowed by the sibilance.
This inadvertently seem to imply that instrument separation seems to be more distinct with the silver/gold cable.
I can't remember if I read somewhere that the silver/gold has less detail. If someone did say that, I'd have to say that my ears disagree. The details and micro-details aren't as obvious smacked right in front of your face, but it's there in a more subtle form that you'd hear more naturally. This is something I learnt through my ownership of the TG!334, TH-900, and SR-009, and as such appreciate in the silver/gold cable more so than the silver.
Silver/Gold Cable Conclusion
As such, I actually find the silver/gold cables of the 1Plus2 to be more agreeable to my ears. Though the upper treble region forwardness is still there, most of my music genre don't venture that far (at least excessively).
Does this mean there's no room for the silver cable for my 1Plus2? Well, not entirely....the silver cable is quite useful in determining the quality of a rip or mastering of a CD/SACD. However, that's more critique rather than listening for enjoyment.