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Review of Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 Hybrid Universal IEM with Special uBer Cable (Long)

A Review On: Tralucent Audio 1Plus2

Tralucent Audio 1Plus2

Rated # 13 in Universal Fit
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Isolation
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $2,500.00
jbuuby
Posted · 8893 Views · 2 Comments

Pros: Amazing/ Hard-to-match Sonic Qualities/ Musicality (At least with special uBer Cable & decent Audio-Setup), Good Looks

Cons: Ear-Tips don't secure well on Shell, Sound Quality negatively affected by Positioning, Not suited for Travel/ active Wear, Short Cable, Pricy

Review of Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 Hybrid Universal IEM with Special uBer Cable

 

 

Summary:

 

The Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 Hybrid Universal IEMs are one of the highest end In-Ear Monitors in the Market. I recently acquired a pair of the IEMs with the special uBer cable from Musica Acousic:

 

http://www.musicaacoustics.com/wp/headphones/in-ear-earphones/tralucent-1Plus2/

 

With a price tag of $1295+shipping for the Baseline Silver Cabled Version, an additional $795 for the gold cable and significantly more than that even for the fanciest cable, the so-called uBer cable, these earphones had a lot to live up to in terms of sonic qualities, build quality, and wear comfort.

 

I was pleased to find that in terms of looks, build quality, and wear comfort, the Tralucents ended up pretty much living up to my expectations. Its sonic qualities, however, managed to completely blow me away. I’m a fan now! In a decent audiophile home-audio setup, these IEMs managed to outshine both a re-cabled version of the Sennheiser HD800 and a re-cabled Audeze LCD-2, both considered benchmark-level over-ear headphones, and in a similar price-class with the Tralucents including the uBer cable. In a nutshell, while the Sennheiser and Audeze headphones still retained a certain distance between the musician(s) and the listener and an almost cool neutrality that made listening to an organ concert sound like you were sitting in a small recording studio, the Tralucents managed to return the same organ concert back into a church-setting, and the opera back into the opera-house, while simultaneously making you feel like you were part of the performance.

 

The only slight quibbles that I could see someone having with these IEMs are not very relevant to me personally: The eartips are not well located on shell and tend to slide almost all the way up when trying to push the eartips into your ear; the Tralucents might be difficult to secure for people with very small ears; the cable is very thick, inflexible, and short, making it an unlikely/ difficult travel-companion and impossible for active wear; in absolute terms, the price is very high and difficult to justify unless absolute sound is the highest priority; these IEMs, like any super-high-end ear-/headphones, require an expensive audio-setup in order to ensure optimal performance.

 

 

Ratings:

 

sonic qualities @ price: 10/10 (Impressive musicality! Most engaging - I’m a fan)

build quality @ price: 7/10 (Plastic is fine. I personally prefer a metal though)

wear comfort @ price: 7/10 (Slight issue with ear-tips, no comparison with high-end over-ears)

looks @ price: 9/10 (They do look quite sharp while not standing out too much)

overall @ price: 9/10 (Sonic qualities matter most to me in this case)

 

 

Introduction:

 

Even though my initial reasons for purchasing these IEMs might appear to be very different to those most other people might have in mind, I still believe that most of the decision criteria I am covering in this review are much more broadly relevant.

 

Personally, I was looking for a pair of IEMs that promised amazing sonic qualities but would also not stand out too much in a professional office environment, making size and looks quite important driving factors in my decision making process. Furthermore, since I tend to listen to music most of the time I spend at work, ultimate wear comfort is a must. To me, price was the least important decision factor, as long as I could somehow afford the purchase.

 

 

Back-Story:

 

This section is mainly meant to provide a personal backstory to what motivated me initially to buying a pair of the Tralucent 1Plus2 with the special uBer cable. I believe this section is important for the reader to understand my subjective point of view in evaluating these ear-phones. But, in case this is not of much interest to the reader or the reader happens to be in a rush, this section can easily be skipped without too much loss of context.

 

A few years ago I started investing in a higher-end music system for my little room. I decided to go for headphones over speakers initially mainly in an effort to be respectful of my four room-mates, all hard-working young professionals who like to rest whenever their schedules allow them to, but also because I quickly realized that it is much easier & cheaper to achieve a great sonic experience with a headphone-system as compared to a speaker-based system. While I built up my system, I also bought several highly-rated over-ear headphones, curious in investigating the differences between each of them. Currently my favorites are a pair of Sennheiser HD 800 with ALO Audio Reference 16 Cables, and a pair of Audeze LCD-2 with ALO Audio Reference 8 Cables. I got to a point where I was very happy with my home audio setup but realized quickly that I was getting very critical of the quality of music delivery I was experiencing with the headphones I was using at work. I decided to try and build a miniature version of my home-setup for work. Instead of large, open over-ear headphones, I started investigating IEMs. In my opinion, large headphones inhibit communication more than small in-ear monitors do, simply because they tend to be more visually imposing and thereby tend to discourage conversation. Also, up to that point I had exclusively invested in open headphones, which meant that everyone at work would have been able to hear what I was listening to and potentially been distracted by the sound when trying to focus on solving intricate problems. So for those reasons and a healthy curiosity in IEMs in general I did some research and decided to give the FitEar ToGo 334 a try.

 

I saved up to buy a pair of the highly praised FitEar ToGo 334, but while waiting for several months for these IEMs to come back into stock anywhere, I became more and more intrigued by the Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 Hybrid Universal IEMs. The first time I heard of these headphones was from Dimitri Trush of Musica Acoustics. He told me he believed the sonic qualities of the Tralucent 1Plus2, especially in the recabled versions, to be superior to even those of the FitEar ToGo 334. And, after doing some more research, and since he had some of the Tralucents in stock and the FitEars weren’t going to be available in the foreseeable future, I decided to invest my money in a pair of the 1Plus2 instead of the ToGo 334. Deciding on what cabling option to go for was a lot tougher. The base-price for the Tralucents was already close to the amount of money I had set aside for the FitEars and I wasn’t really willing to spend much more unless I was sure to get significantly improved performance. But how much difference could the cable really make? Especially since the stock cable name already contains the word “silver” which, to me, already sounds like a serious step above copper. The next step above features the word “gold” and the highest end cable originally didn’t even have a name. If I had to guess, the silver cable probably is made of high purity copper strands with a thin coating of silver, the gold cable could be copper coated in a thin layer of gold and the uBer cable a possibly made of solid silver strands coated in gold? That me wildly guessing. After talking with Dimitri Trush and googling for a bit, I was left with the strong impression that each of these cables in fact is a large step above the next lower one in terms of sound quality. Maybe not enough so to rationally justify the price-delta that separates each form the next, but at the very top of the audio-game everything follows a steeply exponential cost-benefit curve where the smallest improvements in performance come at a high cost: Everything is custom and somehow the R&D money that went into the development of these breaking-edge audio products needs to be returned through the fairly low quantities these products are expected to sell at. In the end I decided to go against my conscience and indulge myself with the uBer cable, hoping that it would repay itself quickly in terms of improved musicality, detail, and presence. I told myself that this purchase could be justifiable if I listened to these IEMs a lot at work each day and, in doing so, the uBer cable would, at least to a small extend, contribute to improving my happiness and productivity at work, as well as hopefully adding to the things I’d be looking forward to each morning when coming to work.

 

So, in summary, in acquiring a pair of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs with the special uBer cable I was looking for a listening device to deliver exceptional sound quality in a package that looks as inconspicuous as possible as to not be intimidating and thereby act to discourage conversation in an office working environment. Price was less of a driving factor.

 

 

Audio Setup:

 

Even though I am mainly using the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs at work, I decided to evaluate them for their sonic qualities on my home audio setup instead, since that system is currently vastly superior to the minimal setup I am using at work.

 

Audio setup @ work (Not actually used for the purposes of this review, but this is the setup I personally use most frequently for listening to these IEMs):

-        Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64bit

-        Music files: ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18

-        Music player: JRiver MediaCenter 18

-        USB cable: Audioquest Forest 1.5m

-        USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier: ALO Audio The PanAm (Battery powered, Raytheon mil-spec tube upgrades)

 

Audio setup @ home (The one used for this review):

-        Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64bit

-        Music: ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18

-        Music player: JPLAY running on JRiver MediaCenter 18

-        USB cable: Whiplash Audio Polestar USB Cable 1m

-        DAC & Headphone Amplifier: April Music Eximus DP1

-        Power supply: PS Audio P3 Power Plant

-        Power cable: PS Audio AC3 Power Cable

 

Headphones for comparison:

-        Sennheiser HD 800, Cable: ALO Audio Reference 16 Headphone Cable, Length: 10 feet

-        Audeze LCD-2, Cable: ALO Audio Reference 8 Headphone Cable, Length: 8 feet

-        FitEar ToGo! F111, Cable: ALO Audio SXC 24 for FitEar ToGo! 334, Length: ~5 feet

 

For maximum comfort I’m using Ortofon premium size M ear-tips with all my in-ear monitors.

 

 

Looks, Build Quality, Wear & Comfort:

 

All ear-/ headphones and other audio equipment used in this review each have seen over 100 hours of use and all should be beyond their perceivable burn-in period. The new Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs have seen about 150 hours of play so far and seem to have pretty much settled in on their final sound.

 

Shell Looks & Build Quaility:

Personally, I really like the look of the black carbon fiber shell. It looks so clean and technical, with the carbon fiber pattern on the face plate. In my opinion, this is a very good look for ear-phones used in an engineering/ technical environment. The other shell/ face plate versions, I don’t find nearly as esthetically pleasing and I’m glad my favorite version was available at Musica Acoustic.

This is clearly subjective though: I can totally see some people prefering the gold and silver face plate versions because these might go well with certain skin-tones, or because they might like the retro vibes the gold face-plate seems to emanate, or because they simply like having the Tralucent IEMs double as jewelry when worn in public. The blue and red shell versions, to me, look quite funky. They certainly could help you stand out a little if they weren’t mostly concealed in the ear when worn. But since I don’t have other versions for comparison, I won’t even go so far as to claim that the black carbon fiber version is the best looking when worn. To me, they simply look most appealing in the pictures shown on the Musica Acoustic website. And I’m glad how well the version I received matches the one shown in those pictures.

These IEMs look and feel quite well built/ solid/ rugged, like they could handle some miss-treatment without immediately falling apart/ loosing functionality. I think they appear this way to me because all of the delicate internals are visibly, neatly encased in a very smooth, semi-transparent, anatomically shaped blob of epoxy, forming a forgiving protective coating around all the vital components, suggesting that this shell might be able to absorb most of the impact blow resulting from an accidental drop. Obviously, these Tralucent 1Plus2 in-ears should really never be dropped or mistreated, but it’s still nice to make yourself believe that they might be able to survive some of such events without taking major damage.

So, all in all, I am quite happy with the subtle but technical looks and solid feel of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs I received, especially for use in a professional office environment.

 

Cable Looks and Feel:

The uBer cable looks and feels well-built. It is quite thick (about 5mm in diameter) and inflexible, discouraging from dynamic use cases such as travel or exercise.  I believe this cable is really only meant to be worn at a desk. Such a constraint is quite all right with me as I was planning to only really ever use these IEMs at my desk at work, but other people might not be as ok with the cable’s dynamic limitations.

 

Wear & Comfort:

As I said in the previous section, the uBer cable is quite stiff which likely limits the preferred use cases of the Tralucent 1Plus2 to mostly static/ stationary listening. Also, the cable isn’t very long (~4 feet), thereby severely limiting the effective listening space without simultaneously also moving the USB DAC/ headphone Amplifier around.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve worn the Tralucent 1Plus2 for long stretches at a time, allowing my ears to get used to them. To me, they feel very similar to my FitEar and Ortofon IEMs: comfortable enough to be worn for 10+ hours, with only small breaks in between, without experiencing major discomfort at any point. The biggest determinant of comfort is probably the choice of ear-tips. Like many others, I’ve really come to appreciate the soft comfort of Ortofon premium tips, and I’m really glad I can use them for all the IEMs I own.

Even though, I am quite happy with the overall wear and comfort of my Tralucents, I have a major complaint with the way the ear-tips are interfacing with the shell. Even though the Ear-tips slide nicely and snugly onto the shells, the locating-grooves do not properly constrain their positions, allowing them to slide back and forth almost without constraint, generally causing them to end up being pushed almost all the way up onto the shells such that their tips sit practically flush with the tips of the shells. This has not yet turned into a major issue in terms of comfort but still is quite annoying since this is clearly something that should have been discovered and fixed in early prototypes before rolling the product out to the public.

 

All in all, I am not disappointed by the wear and comfort of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs. Other than the issues with not properly locating the ear-tips on the shells, I didn’t encounter any positive or negative surprises. Like with most in-ears, the ears need to first get used to having these things stuck in them for long periods of time, but after some conditioning and with the right set of ear-tips, 10+ hours of straight listening are easily possible. Yet, to be perfectly clear - nicely padded, well-designed over-ear headphones are still far superior in terms of wear and comfort to any IEMs I’ve experienced so far.

 

 

Sonic Qualities

 

All ear-/ headphones and other audio equipment used in this review each have seen over 100 hours of use and all should be beyond their perceivable burn-in period. The new Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs have seen about 150 hours of play so far and seem to have pretty much settled in on their final sound.

 

Due to the fact that the Tralucent 1Plus2 with uBer cable cost well over $2000, I focused my comparison on the only headphones I own that reside in a similar price-range - two pairs of open over-ear headphones: one recabled version of the Sennnheiser HD800s (~$2300) and a pair of recabled Audeze LCD-2s (~$1600). Even though, to be entirely fair, the Sennheisers are the only true competitors when only looking at the price since the recabled Audeze LCD-2s still come in at well under $2000. Nonetheless, additionally I also wanted to compare the Tralucent IEMs to another pair of high-end IEMs. So I decided to put them up against a pair of recabled FitEar ToGo! F111s (~$800). Since these two live in completely different price-classes, also I didn’t expect them to perform nearly to the same levels. This comparison was mainly done out of curiosity in order to get an understanding/ appreciation of how much more one can get out of a high-end IEM when paying approximately three times as much.

 

Please refer to the Audio Setup section for an overview of the test setup and comparison/ benchmark head-/ and earphones I used in evaluating the sonic qualities of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs with uBer cable.

 

Here is a list of some of the music I used for evaluation/ comparison (all ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18):

-        Classical, Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker, Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (Op. 55) (Eroica)

-        Classical, Organ,  Wolfgang Rübsam, Johann Sebastian Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor Bwv 538 'Dorian'

-        Classical, Piano, Glenn Gould, Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations Bwv 988

-        Classical, Cello, Yo-Yo Ma, Camille Saint-Saëns, Carnival of the Animals (Chamber Version)

-        Classical, Opera, Berliner Philharmoniker, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, K. 620

-        Classical, Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake (Лебединое озеро)

-        Techno/ Trance/ Electronic, Tiësto, In Search of Sunrise 6

-        Pop, Adele, 21

-        Pop, Mika, Life in Cartoon Motion

-        Pop, Big Bang, Still Alive

-        Rock, The Beatles, Abbey Road

-        Rock, Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon

 

These comparative listening exercises left me thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Tralucent IEMs. Not only were they able to keep up with some of the highest-end open over-ear headphones, but they even managed to outshine them in several respects. Especially impressive was the Tralucents’ performance in instrumental, orchestral, and vocal music.

 

When comparing the Tralucent 1Plus2s (uBer cable version) to the Audeze LCD-2s (also recabled), the Tralucents created a smoother, more personal, natural sound that was especially impressive with “organic” music such as live performance pieces. When listening to music on the Audeze-s it felt like listening to the same performance in a sterile studio environment instead of a concert hall, church, or outdoors. Even more fascinating was the proximity/ immediacy of the sounds presented by the Tralucents. When listening to Adele perform, it seems like she is singing into your ear, when listening to piano music, it sounds like you have your head really close to the sound body of the instrument. The soundscape created by the LCD-2s moved the listener further away from the performance, making the listening-experience much more passive than it is the case with the 1Plus2s. But even with pop or electronic music, where a certain level of sterility and studio-like character might even be preferable to some, I believe the Tralucents still managed to keep up quite well with very strong bass performance and impressively responsive and accurate dynamics. The one aspect the Audeze-s seemed a little stronger in was separation and depth of soundstage. But certainly not in a way that was detracting from the positive listening experiences I was enjoying with the Tralucents.

 

My recabled versions of the high-end Sennheiser HD800s generally tend to do better than the American-made Audezes in terms of clean, German accuracy, speed, responsiveness while sacrificing a little bit in organic warmth. Still, most of the points that I went over in the previous section held up for this comparison as well. The Tralucents were more natural, closer sounding, made you feel like you are more of an integral part of the performance/ sound-scape than feeling like a slightly removed listener. The one area the Sennheisers seems the preferable option in is in aggressive, fast music such as electronic/ techno/ dance music. This appears to be mainly attributable to their clean and precise sound. Though, yet again, the Tralucents’ bass worked impressively well with such types of music. So much so that I wouldn’t say that the Sennheisers are the better suited option for such music, but rather that both options manage to pull out/ highlight different strong points out of the same music. In all other genres I used to compare the two headphones, the Tralucent IEMs were the ones that left me more immpressed.

 

Obviously, in terms of wear comfort, both the Audeze LCD-2s and the Sennheiser HD800, by nature of being high-end over-ear headphones, were by far more pleasant to wear for extended periods of time than the Tralucents. Another factor that stood out to me during the comparison between these two full-sized headphones and the 1Plus2 IEMs was the very short cable length of the uBer cable of Tralucents, especially when compared to the 8’ cables on both of my over-ears. And finally, it was slightly annoying that, in order to get the optimal sound out of the Tralucents, I had to be quite careful about the orientation/ angle/ depth in which they entered into/ interfaced with my ear channel. Depending on how I angled each ear piece or how deeply I inserted each it into my respective ear and what ear-tip I used, I was getting significantly different results, sometimes making the sounds coming from one of the ear pieces sound significantly duller/ more muffled that the sound coming from the other one, to the point even that the music to lost much of its balance. But, in my opinion, most of these observations don’t really serve to highlight short-comings of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs but rather those of IEMs in general. Shortcomings that can be understood, to a large extent, as trade-offs/ sacrifices that come with the reduction in size and weight when going from full-sized headphones to IEMs. But I do believe these points were nonetheless worth mentioning as they became quite apparent when doing these side-by-side testing.

 

When compared to the FitEar ToGo! F111, the Tralucents were quite clearly the more balanced, mature contenders. The FitEars were missing bass, the highs could sometimes be too much/ shrill. Nonetheless, the FitEars did quite well compared to/ were keeping up with their much more exclusive counterparts in terms of detail and separation, as well as mids. Overall, the Tralucents very much more musical and engaging to the point that it was hard switching back to the FitEars and to lower my standards sufficiently enough to rediscover enjoyment in the listening experience. Now, to the question of whether the Tralucent 1Plus2s with the uBer cable are 3x better than the FitEars is an entirely subjective question and probably comes down to budget constraints more than anything else. With the right audio-setup the Tralucents truly can let you have part in the performances you are listening to, while the FitEars can provide quite enjoyable listening experiences in their own rights when not pitted against a truly superior competitor such as the Tralucents 1Plus2 IEMs with the special uBer calbe.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The Tralucents 1Plus2s with special uBer calbe are a pretty sharp-looking pair of well-built IEMs that are hands-down the best-sounding music-reproduction devices I have had the pleasure to experience up to this point. Even when compared to high-end fully-sized headphones such as a pair of recabled Sennheiser HD800s or a recabled pair of Audeze LCD-2s, the Tralucents still stand strong and even manage to come out clearly on top in terms of raw musicality and keep up very well in terms of refinement. The only weak-points of the IEMs (besides their price-point) I was able to discover are the short cable length as well as its relative inflexibility, rendering them unlikely companions for athletic activities or travel. Also, in order to assure optimal and equal sound delivery into both ear channels, it can take some effort to properly position each ear-piece. This is augmented by the fact that the ear-tips aren’t properly located on the ear-shell, making it difficult to establish repeatable settings. While this can be annoying at times, it hasn’t prevented me from enjoying long listening-sessions at work of 10+ hours with only small work-related interruptions in between.

 

As previously mentioned, I purchased these Tralucent IEMs in order to have them serve as my primary listening devices at work. My main expectation in these IEMs was that they should guarantee as close to optimal sound quality/ musicality as can be reach within a finite budget since music is a very important part of my life that I hope to constantly surround myself with both at work and at home. Secondly, small size and proper sound isolation (Not so much for blocking outside sound out, but moreover to keep sound in so to not distract coworkers) were important decision factors on choosing to go with a pair of IEMs rather than a pair of high-end on-ear or over-ear headphones. Finally, it was important to me that I would be able to wear these IEMs for extended periods of time (10+ hours a day, 5 days a week) without experiencing major discomfort/ irritation. After working/ living with the Tralucent 1Plus2s for the past ~2 months, I am happy to say that they managed to live up to all of my expectations and even to significantly surpass my main expectation by redefining the levels of musicality I can now imagine coming for a music reproduction device. Finally, I want to remark that even though my audio setup at work is of significantly lower quality than my home-setup that I used for this review, I am nonetheless quite impressed by the performance of the Tralucent 1Plus2 (with uBer calbe) even on this setup.

2 Comments:

Wow you feel they outshine your HD800s and LCD2 in sound staging??
Nice write-up. I also think the 1p2 with uber is mind-blowing. Soundstage could rival LCD-2, not HD800. I'd still definitely give the nod to the HD800 over 1p2 in refinement and soundstage. But I'll have to do another A/B tonight!
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