ProGuard P2+1 custom IEM review: On stage
ProGuard Hearing Protection is a part of Sensorcom Ltd run by Rob and Richard (ex–Garwood, original manufacturer of IEM radio systems), both with around 25 years of audio and hearing protection experience. The P2+1 was launched around 10 months ago, designed for the gigging musician. They felt many CIEMs lacked good low end response which is how they ended up with the driver configuration of the P2+1, which is a dual low and single high driver. They auditioned quite a few triple driver configurations, but for them this configuration worked and they thought the retail price point was right for a 3 driver system.
Designed for stage use, the P2+1 has some competition in the UK from a few other companies such as Minerva, ACS, and Puretone among others, but as far as I know, the P2+1 is has the lowest cost for a triple driver CIEM. Since it is made primarily for musicians, the focus is performance vs. looks and artwork, and we shall see if these provide a good price/performance level.
The P2+1 uses dual balanced armature drivers for the low frequencies and single driver for 2K Hz and above. The shell is acrylic with flush mounted jacks for a detachable cable.
Frequency Response: 20 - 18000Hz
Impedance: 20Ω @ 1kHz nominal
Crossover: Passive @ 2kHz
Connector: 3.5 mm stereo jack plug
Cable: Detachable 1.5m - Kevlar Reinforced PU 2 Pin Gold Plated Earphone Connectors
Transducer: Dual LF Balanced Armature Driver + Single HF Balanced Armature Driver
Colour: Black, Beige, Red, Blue, White and Translucent
Delivery includes: Faux leather storage pouch, Cleaning Tool and Earmould fitting gel.
Faux leather storage pouch, Cleaning Tool and Earmould fitting gel. The carrying case is compact and easy to take anywhere, but doesn’t provide the crush-proof protection of a Pelican or Otterbox case.
The cable is detachable, 1.5m long, Kevlar reinforced cable with 2 pin gold plated earphone connectors. The cable is silver but isn’t a typical twisted cable, but is a coated cable and is very supple. The silver will not discolor over time and the ergonomics are good, much better than other cables I have tested of this type, and the memory effect is low. This cable also seems a bit more durable than the standard twisted cables.
Once inserted into the ear the P2+1 will give up to 25dB of sound. The P2+1 scores a 5/10 on my scale, offering average isolation for a acrylic shelled CIEM.
Bass: The P2+1 has been designed to provide plenty of bass for stage use with a warm and present bass that is prominent, but isn’t the most prominent part of the frequency response. The warmth integrates well with the thicker midrange that is reminiscent of other IEMs designed for stage use. The quality of the bass is good, but not great and while detail levels are high, fine bass details and texturing that are present in higher priced CIEMs aren’t well defined.
Compared with dynamic driver IEMs in the price vicinity, the P2+1 has better control and a cleaner note, but less rumble capability. The ability to sustain bass notes is good, superior to the Alclair Reference and EarSonics SM64, but not to the level of the Dream Earz aud-5X or Ambient Acoustics AM4 pro. Compared with the new wave of CIEMs that incorporate the Sonion 1723 acupass driver, the bass performance is similar. The P2+1 extends all the way down, but the deep bass isn’t as prominent as 50Hz and above, and while 20Hz test tones are audible, the bass starts to audibly roll-off at around 29 Hz. The P2+1 integrates the bass well with the midrange and does a good of recreating the right amount of bass for stage use, being present, but not overpowering.
Midrange: The midrange is the most prominent part of the frequency spectrum, pulled a bit forward compared to the bass and more so from the treble, which is typical for a stage sound. There is a thickness to notes that results in a smooth presentation, which is still detailed, but this thickness doesn’t lend to great articulation of instrument detail, even though detail levels are good. There is an excellent balance between the midrange and upper midrange that gives vocals a natural sound, with female vocals being a strong point. Overall, the midrange has qualities that are favorable for a gigging musician.
Treble: Relaxed with a good balance between detail and smoothness, the treble is non-fatiguing and well integrated with the upper midrange. Note sustainment is good with no sharpness and the relaxed nature is void of sibilance. While overall quality is average for the price point, the P2+1 lacks the sharpness and issues that can come with poor mastering or low bitrate tracks. Using test tones, treble extended up to 15.5K, which is slightly below average, but not truly lacking. The treble quantity and quality are both excellent for stage use as well as those that are averse to harsh treble.
Presentation: Tuned for stage use, the ProGuard P2+1 presentation is similar to other stage use specific models, meaning the midrange is a bit more forward than the rest of the spectrum, the bass is prominent, and the treble is relaxed. Soundstage size is decent with good depth and very good imaging resulting in a presentation that is deep and 3D, revealing nuances within the soundstage. While note thickness is a bit thicker than neutral, the good detail level provides plenty of instrument detail and separation, although the detail isn’t as articulated as analytical CIEMs. Capability of recreating faster notes and sustaining longer notes is average for the price range.
Projection places you close to the music for an on-stage feel. Coherence is good while dynamics and transparency are average. The P2+1 isn’t a slouch in technical performance, but it won’t win any awards even though it paints a compelling picture of the track without being offensive. The presentation is well done for stage use.
Sound Summary: The repeating theme for the P2+1 is the stage monitor sound tuning, with a smoothness across the entire spectrum, prominent mids, powerful but not overpowering bass, and a relaxed treble for a non-fatiguing experience that puts you on the stage. The sound is a bit on the thicker side, which is typical for a stage sound signature, but the imaging and depth of presentation still provide plenty of clarity and an involving, 3D presentation. Coherence is very good across the frequency spectrum and performance is in line with the price point. While the P2+1 isn’t a giant killer, it is a purpose made CIEM that successfully does what it set out to do.
The full review can be found here, which includes comparisons, source matching, and more images and details.
Edited by average_joe - 4/22/14 at 8:53pm