How about these? Very sturdy and well built. Let me know if you want to try it out.
The Sound of the Ref. 1
Gavin and I went back and forth a bit on the frequency response, and the final production model was tweaked to be the even more fantastic than it was. The prototype here is just slightly not as refined as the final production units. My impressions are based on the prototype, but rest assured that the qualities and characteristics that make up the sonic signature as a whole are not different than what is outlined below.
First, lets eschew what we think we want from audio. Lets forget science and let the music take us in. After all, the whole point of this hobby is to obtain the most enjoyable musical experience possible. Usually that idea transfers to good data on paper, but data is just data. What matters in the end is how an audio device moves you emotionally. That doesn't mean the earphone has to be overly warm and romantic by any means. It just means, to one single individual, the earphone just works, and does the things that grab at your heart strings and makes for a great music experience. That's not to say the Ref. 1 wouldn't measure very well, but that won't be my focus.
The Ref. 1 is a little unconventional. If you're not used to this idea, or have never heard anything like this, you might not understand immediately. The Final Audio Design veterans will understand. Not because the Ref. 1 is akin to the graph-slaughteringly bad Final Audio Design IEMs in its presentation, but the Ref. 1 does capture a magic that is difficult to describe. Only in that way would they be similar to FAD devices. A sort of defying of audio physics to a certain extent.
The Ref. 1 is perfectly enjoyable out of an iPhone to me. However, it also scales remarkably well with quality gear. If you pick these up, you owe it to yourself to throw some good, high-quality music at them, connected to some good gear. The refinement and quality just scale tremendously. I am completely addicted to them out of my Hugo.
One well-known and fine attribute about the 1plus2 is its bass. I do not believe I have heard bass in an IEM that was so exciting, powerful, yet high quality in the 1plus2. The Ref. 1 takes it to the next level, without a doubt. The bass is seriously awe-inspiring. In my opinion, it does a better job than many full-size cans, and sort of defies explanation. It is wonderfully textured and of very high quality, no doubt. But at the same time the sub-bass is powerful, digs deep into your ribs, and rumbles - the mid-bass POPS with serious impact. It has the characteristics of a well-done mid-bass centric can, and the characteristics of a quality sub-bass centric can. Not that the FR is bass-centric, just using those examples.
The bass is palpable and textured. It bites, rumbles and is of very high quality. The reverb and decay are natural sounding, the upright bass so realistic up on that stage for the jazz trio. Bass so natural and life-like, huge for this earphone.
Seriously this bass is something else. It's not something else for an IEM, it's something else, period. So rich, so clean, so enjoyable. From jazz to EDM, a pure joy. How do you improve on the bass response of the 1plus2? You invent the Ref. 1. I like to give reserved impressions, and let the reader determine if what I'm writing works for them. But the bass is so impressive on these things that it makes the 1plus2 sound considerably more flat. But everything is so highly refined on the Ref. 1, with that sweet high-end, there is no lazy bloom evident. The bass is nimble, the bass is spectacular.
I would say it's the best part of the earphone. But then...
There's the magical mids. Yes, I'm going to go ahead and throw out "magical." A little background: I love the Final Audio Design lush and euphonic midranges for a special treat. The FAD devices are not neutral in any way, but they hold a special quality that makes them sound unlike anything else on the market. But also consider I did not fall in love with the ASG-2. While it had a thick and lush midrange to me, it seemed to lack an organic sense.
Compared to the 1plus2, the Ref. 1's midrange is much more robust, full-bodied, natural and organic sounding. With an excellent and natural timbre on vocals and violins alike. They bring depth and magic without losing a reference quality. I love the mids here. While similar in description perhaps to the ASG-2, these mids sound so much more effortless and natural while preserving the euphony. It's magic.
The mids are so impressive, I might be inclined to say that it is the best part of the earphone, but then, the highs, the highs oh my!
Again, norm-defying in its quality here. Somehow very detailed, open, airy, yet sweet and delicious. At first you may think they are too romantic up high to be this detailed and transparent, but if you take a second to hone in on the details, listen to the decay, you can't help but be blown away by the refined naturalness of the highs. They are, once again spectacular.
The soundstage is once again pure Tralucent goodness. A bit different for sure. For these earphones, with these ear canals, and these tips (Ortofon M), at this insertion level, the soundstage is logically defying for an IEM. The 1plus2 had a reputation for a bit of a projected sound stage, held out from the listener a tad. I feel the stage on Ref. 1 is more immersive and 3D, surrounding you in music. I think the outer edges are just as deep and wide, but the stage reaches all the way back in to you, adding much more depth, and a much-improved sense of intimacy, taking the euphonic character to the next level. Those mids, with that soundstage, and some female vocals, is truly something special I've never quite heard before. It's not necessarily better than everything else, it might be to you, it very well might be, but the magic is undeniable.
Different sounds of the stereo image come at you at varying height and width levels, but tight and cohesive, making for a very immersive experience. Nothing is imprisoned on the same audio plane. Each sound has its own location, depth and width. Because the stage comes in closer, they might sound at first to have a smaller soundstage than the 1plus2, but then you listen for a few minutes and hear the parts that are way out there yet clear, and realize this is huge and absorbing.
What does this all amount to? An exceptional offering from Tralucent that begs to be checked out, with qualities unique to this earphone, and unique among any headphone or earphone I've heard. Of course personal preference will come in to play, and I would never say this earphone is better than all the top-of-the-line full-sized cans. But I can say it is competes at a level second to none. It does a lot very well, and what it does well, it does very very well.
Well done Gavin,
Thanks for posting SoundFreaq, your description of the Ref 1's make them sound very intriguing indeed! I hope I'll be able to get to hear these for myself in the near future.
I do think this will be the answer for many that didn't quite fall for the 1plus2. And it's just so good, the 1plus2 guys will fall for it too!
I'd like to avoid such a candid quantification of my subjective opinion, if only for self preservation : ) Since my opinion and perception won't match every single person.
I have not heard the Roxanne. I've read quite a bit about it, and have a firm grasp on the way different drivers sound.
It's my opinion, based on what I've read only, the Ref. 1 soundstage will likely outclass the Roxanne. I find it really difficult for any IEM on the market right now, and especially a BA to be able to sound like the proprietary isobaric dynamic driver in the bass arena. I am also under the impression the Roxanne would be a little darker. Saying the Ref. 1 treble is a little sweeter than the 1plus2 still leaves lots of room for a solid high-end.