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In-Ear item created by crinacle, Apr 18, 2017
Pros - Technical performance: transparency, resolution, imaging; balanced signature
Cons - Soundstage is on the intimate side
I would like to thank Joseph from Jomo Audio for providing the Flamenco in return for my honest opinion. Pics were provided by Jomo.
The customised earphone industry is increasingly expanding - a few years back there were only a handful of TOTL ciems to choose from that grazed passed the $1K mark. The market has changed in many ways. Not only is the competition growing fiercer with the rise of new boutique manufacturers, even the options in the summit fi level passing $2K are numerous. Multi-BA iems as Layla and Zeus were initially pioneers in this segment, but in Singapore alone AAW currently offers the W900, Dita recently unveiled the Dream, and Jomo now follows with its new flagship, the Flamenco.
Jomo has been steadily working on its ascension, starting with models as the Jomo 6R, which was swiftly followed by Samba and Flamenco. Safe to say, a line has begun to emerge throughout the lineup: Jomo is differentiating themselves with their pursuit for precision. The Jomo Samba defined itself by its highly technical sound – I can only think of a few iems that come close to it when it comes to aspects as transparency, resolution and imaging. So if Samba is already topping the charts in those aspects, can Flamenco improve upon them even further? Well, no, not really at least. But it can offer a more balanced signature, as well as the option of tweaking the sound with its two built-in switches for bass or treble.
Jomo Audio Flamenco
-Drivers: 11 BA drivers: 1 sub, 2 low, 4 mid, 2 high, 2 super high
-Design: 5-way passive crossover, 3 sound bores, 2 switches
-Frequency range: 20 Hz – 40 KHz
-Impedance: 106 dB
-Sensitivity: 35 Ohm
-MRSP: SGD $2999 (US $2140)
Jomo has stepped up their unboxing experience and accessories since the last time I checked, for the Samba review. The Flamenco is delivered in seriously stylish cube-sized matte black box. Where the Samba was shipped in an anonymous Peli case with a few basic accessories, Flamenco comes in a shiny blue hockey-puck style case, which sits tightly in a hollowed out enclosure in the box. The brand name ‘Jomo’ reflects in silver letters on the top, contrasting the metallic blue. Similar as with Samba, Jomo includes a 6.3 mm and airline adapter as extra accessories. The dark metal warranty card is a nice finish that adds to the luxurious feel of the package.
When ordered from Jomo's local distributor Music Sanctuary, the Flamenco is offered with three different cable options. The three choices are all pure copper cables priced at $150, but offer slight variations in sound. The HanSound Audio Zen has a lightly enhanced mid- and upper-bass, resulting in a pleasantly warm and smooth tonality. It creates slightly thicker notes than both the Ares II and No. 5. PW Audio's No. 5 in turn sounds a bit cleaner, as a result of a relatively attenuated upper bass. It's not overly warm, but it has the best timbre, as well as a nicely balanced vocal presentation.
However, as Flamenco is the official stock cable for Flamenco, sound impressions will be based on that pairing. The Ares II cable is the same stock cable option provided with Samba; a quality copper cable in looks and sound. The copper strands are visually pleasing, while the silver-plated jack with black and gray carbon finish and silver-colored 2-pin connectors provide a qualitative look and feel. The silver and black carbon splitter is slightly on the heavier side, but it provides a nice finishing touch and matches the carbon jack in design.
The Ares II provides a clean and controlled bass response, with good balance between sub- and mid-bass, while not being overly warm. The controlled mid-bass response further results in an airy stage structure. The midrange is relatively uncolored, but also slightly dry, as it doesn’t provide an overly warm or forward sound. The focus is more on providing a relatively neutral and clear sound, with good articulation and definition of individual instruments; the result of a well-extended treble in comparison to a stock OFC cable. Accordingly, the Ares II provides good resolution and transparency, especially when taking its price into consideration.
Impressions were done with both switches down, unless mentioned.
Flamenco shares a somewhat similar reference-oriented signature as Samba, with a slightly brighter than neutral tonality due to an upper midrange peak. Similarly, Flamenco’s bass is enjoyable in its quantity and impact, even in its neutral setting. They differ in their midrange tuning: Flamenco boosts the center midrange frequencies, a 2-3 KHz bump reminiscent of flagships as Zeus and W900. While Samba already has a highly focused vocal presentation, Flamenco adds more density and body, forming a more solidified center vocal. Generally speaking, Flamenco’s vocal and instrument presentation carries more weight and size. Samba is a bit brighter by comparison, although their tone is similar with Flamenco’s treble switch up.
The stage has fairly even proportions in depth, width, and height, resulting in a cube-sized stage. In overall size, the stage borders on intimate. While this might be associated with a less separated presentation, many iems with similar dimensions as EarSonics’ S-EM9, Jomo’s own Samba, or the Warbler Prelude tend to outperform the TOTL average in this regard. Size doesn’t matter – it’s what you do with it. By means of their precision of imaging, stability of the background blackness, and layering ability, these iems are able to convey a highly focused image – relying on the quality of the separation, rather than the absolute size. In addition, smaller stage dimensions have the advantage of being more readily able to follow the presentation as a whole; maintaining oversight of all the elements combined.
Jomo is setting a high standard for technical ability – even for itself. Jomo’s 8-driver Samba is a paragon of performance, excelling in transparency, resolution and imaging. Flamenco continues the tradition, exceeding the flagship average. Its resolution translates to high definition of midrange notes, while its level transparency uncovers the more subtle detail. Accordingly, its detail retrieval relies on separation, resolution and transparency, rather than its stage dimensions; the result however, is Flamenco being one of the most detailed ciems.
Flamenco’s low end is tight and moderately impactful, with an overall quantity slightly north of neutral. Similar to Samba, this results in an engaging and dynamic low end, which adds a bit of rhythmicity and power to the presentation. The low-end extension is roughly average, as is its mid-bass resolution. The virtues of Flamenco’s bass lie in the speed and airiness of its presentation. Flamenco delivers its bass hits in a fast and controlled manner, allowing the bass to keep up with the pace of the music, yet with sufficient quantity to be considered engaging. In addition, the stage maintains its airiness despite the quantity of the bass impact, contributing to the cleanliness of the separation.
Enhancing the bass switch adds more quantity, increasing the body of the bass, although the bass itself is not necessarily more impactful in the lowest registers. While the bass maintains a relatively airy structure, the added weight and prominence of the mid-bass affects the cleanliness of the separation in bass-heavy-music – an inevitable tradeoff. Bass enthusiasts will undoubtedly prefer the bass switch on, while purists might prefer the off setting. It’s good to have the choice, to vary between listeners or music styles.
While Jomo boosted the center midrange frequencies, Flamenco’s lower midrange is relatively laidback. Accordingly, the vocal range is centered on pronunciation, rather than warmth or depth. The overall body of vocals is fairly neutral in size. This results in a dense, focused center image. Although vocals aren’t necessarily very warm in tone, the slight forwardness and solidity of the image adds to a sense of realism in their portrayal. More importantly, the outstanding transparency of the midrange results in a clear and pure image – a lack of veil between you and the singer. In addition, the clean space surrounding the vocal is impressive.
Flamenco’s signature is further characterized by an upper midrange peak, which enhances the overall clarity of the presentation. Boosting the upper midrange results in a more natural form of clarity, without resorting to sounding overly bright. While the upper midrange could have been a bit warmer to sound completely accurate, the midrange tone is fairly neutral, and seems to work especially well with classical music – a sweeping violin, or the full range of a piano. This can partially be attributed to its outstanding transparency, as well as the full-bodied size of instruments.
The Flamenco’s treble is lightly enhanced, contributing to the clarity of the presentation, as well as its precision in imaging and transparency. In addition, its excellent top end extension results in its high resolution and airiness within the stage. It’s an essential treble tuning in construing its technical presentation, and successful in what it seeks to achieve.
The treble itself is slightly brighter in tone, while refraining from sounding bright or harsh altogether. This is very much an articulate treble: well-defined, moderately fast, and with sufficient quantity, altogether resulting in a highly detailed treble presentation. It’s a lively treble, that isn’t too shy to capture your attention. Importantly, the treble stays on the safe end of sibilance, even when specifically tested.
Turning the treble switch on makes the treble more prominent, boosting the clarity throughout the presentation. Accordingly, the detail retrieval is more upfront, while the image is slightly more holographic. As Flamenco relies on its extension rather than brightness for resolution, it doesn’t necessarily need the added brightness for detail - but it adds a bit of liveliness and stimulation, which may or may not be appreciated based on personal preference. I was surprised to find myself very much liking the versatility of the treble switch; more so than that of the bass, which I found sufficient in its neutral position. Guess there might be a casual treblehead lurking in me somewhere.
Unique Melody Maestro V2
UM’s retuned Maestro has a fairly neutral tonality, balancing between warmth and clarity. Though it can’t be classified as warm altogether, it is relatively warmer than Flamenco. Flamenco bests the Maestro in top end extension, and has greater resolution as well as transparency, while being slightly drier in its tone. Accordingly, the Maestro has the upper hand in tonal accuracy, while Flamenco is more precise.
Maestro’s stage is both wide and deep, resulting in an evenly proportioned and large stage. Its imaging is sufficiently precise to result in a holographic presentation. Flamenco equally has precise imaging, but its stage is more intimate by comparison. In terms of separation, both are top performers, with the Maestro relying on its stage dimensions and precision of imaging, and Flamenco on the focus of the image – its imaging and resolution.
Both monitors share a moderately enhanced bass impact, which adds a sense of dynamism to the music. In both cases, the control and pace of the bass results in an airy bass room, benefitting the stage and separation. Maestro’s midrange is slightly warmer, with a different vocal presentation. Vocals are greater in size, offering a nice balance throughout the vocal range. Flamenco’s vocals might be slightly more compact, they are greater in density, and create a more solid image. Maestro has a full-bodied instrument size, accurate in tone. Flamenco on the other hand offers higher definition of its instruments, due to its further extension treble and more prominent treble tuning. Finally, as Flamenco’s treble is a bit brighter it offers more sparkle and detail, while Maestro’s treble is smoother and more accurate in tone.
Advanced AcousticWerkes W900
Flamenco faces off with its first local competitor: Singapore’s AAW recently released flagship 8+1 hybrid. The W900 is slightly warmer than neutral; Flamenco’s more prominent upper midrange results in an overall slightly brighter tuning. Both monitors share some faint similarities, though ultimately differing in their presentation. They share an impressive treble extension, with the W900 offering one of the furthest extensions on the market. In terms of transparency and resolution, the two cut it close, as well as in their precision of imaging.
The W900 impresses with its vastly wide stage, impressive for iem standards. Although it is significantly wider than deep, it combines a good bit of height with width to create an overall large screen. Accordingly, the W900 primarily relies on its width for separation, while Flamenco falls back on its depth and layering. Due to the smaller space, the image is more concentrated and focused.
Similar to Flamenco, the W900 has an enjoyable bass, north of neutral in terms of overall quantity and body of the bass. It’s a rounded bass, with a sub-bass that extends slightly further than Flamenco. Despite the bass being produced by a dynamic driver, the bass is particularly airy and quick, somewhat out of character. While they differ in their texture and decay, they aren’t vastly different in terms of sheer enjoyability. The W900 has a forward center midrange, with a slightly more prominent lower midrange than Flamenco. Accordingly, vocals have similar density, although the W900 has slightly more body. However, due to the W900’s upper midrange dip, its vocal presentation smoothens over the top end of vocals, with Flamenco displaying more balance in the top end of the vocal range. Finally, the W900’s treble is fairly neutral in quantity and slightly thicker in its definition, although its tone is not completely natural. As Flamenco’s treble tone is brighter, it isn’t completely accurate either – it is however more articulate.
Dita Audio Dream
Local competitor #2, the Dita Audio Dream, strives for a reference tuning, but does things its own way. Using a full range single dynamic driver, the Dream combines a powerful bass response with a relatively neutral tuning. Although both monitors share an upper midrange peak, the midrange tone of the Dream is warmer, due to its significantly enhanced bass response. As a result, Flamenco bests the Dream in terms of transparency. In addition the Flamenco’s treble extends further, giving it the advantage in midrange resolution.
The Dream creates a vast, 3D stage, with even proportions in width and depth, similar to the Maestro V2. Accordingly, its stage dimensions are larger than Flamenco, while its imaging is precise enough to create a holographic image. However, the enhanced bass response affects the airiness of the stage. Due to Flamenco’s airier stage and greater transparency, it is more upfront in its detail retrieval, while the effectiveness of their separation relies on different means. Flamenco sounds cleaner, while the Dream’s stage is simply larger.
Dream’s low end is monumental – it reaches low, and hits hard. It’s a deep, rounded bass, with beautiful texture and impressive weight. Unfiltered dynamic power. Flamenco’s bass is faster, but can’t match the sheer power of the Dream’s quality bass. The Dream’s enhanced bass produces more warmth to the stage and the midrange, resulting in a warmer tone. The midrange itself however is laidback, with a relatively distant vocal presentation. Flamenco’s vocal is not only more forward, it creates a denser, more focused center image. The Dream primarily creates its clarity based on an upper midrange peak, while its treble is relatively linear. Flamenco’s treble in turn is more articulate, while it adds a bit more sparkle on top.
Empire Ears Zeus-XIV
Zeus-XIV combines technical proficiency, with an outspoken forward and midcentric signature. At the time, its forwardness and flavour seemed counterintuitive for the general expectancy of a summit-fi flagship, eventually resulting in its later revision. Even later, Empire Ears included the option of ADEL technology. The original, unaltered Zeus-XIV however boasts a full and forward midrange, with a relatively neutral bass and treble. With similar treble extension, Zeus’ performs at the highest level in terms of transparency and resolution – similar to Flamenco.
With a stage that is wide, deep and tall, Zeus’ stage is larger in all directions. Flamenco’s stage is similarly proportioned, but more intimate by comparison. In both cases, the imaging is precise, with excellent layering ability. As neither iem outperforms each other in individual aspects, Zeus has a natural advantage in separation, based on its larger stage dimensions.
Zeus’ sub-bass is lightly enhanced, but overall still relatively close to neutral. Flamenco adds a bit more quantity and body to the bass, although the overall impact is fairly similar, at least without the added bass setting. Flamenco and Zeus share a similar forwardness in the center midrange, but due to a more prominent lower midrange as well as less treble emphasis, Zeus’ vocal presentation has more body and balance throughout the vocal range – truly Zeus’ specialty. Flamenco’s vocals are dense and slightly forward, but more compact in size. In addition, Flamenco's midrage is less warm in tone. Finally, while both iems share an articulate and detailed treble, Flamenco offers more sparkle up top, and increasingly more clarity with the treble switch on.
Back in the day when there were only a handful of flagship ciems to choose from, Hidition made its name as the ‘king of clarity’ – leader of the pack when it came to technical performance, a role that Jomo seems comfortable in taking on. Following its latest flagship releases, Jomo’s house sound has started to emerge – a philosophy with as starting point that technical excellence should be expected at this price, and variations in signature depending on the models. Preference for signature might be subjective; technical performance isn’t. When it comes to aspects as transparency, resolution, imaging and separation, very few iems can come close to the Flamenco’s performance.
Flamenco and Samba share several commonalities: high resolution and transparency, and precise imaging as well as layering. In addition, their overall stage dimensions are fairly similar. I for one tend to be very appreciative of such a solid technical foundation. Jomo had already set a high standard for performance with Samba – one of the most technically proficient iems, with a signature in service of performance: a racecar, not a saloon. Due to the added body and more forward vocal presentation, Flamenco’s space is a bit tighter compared to Samba; Samba’s vocal presentation is relatively more laidback by comparison, taking a more central role on the stage. Accordingly, the leaner note structure results in a more effortless separation, especially since Samba’s background is just a bit blacker. I mentioned resolution, transparency, and imaging; but when it comes to separation, hardly any monitor can outperform Samba – not even Flamenco.
However, by boosting the center midrange frequencies, Flamenco’s midrange is more in line with summit-fi competitors as Zeus, 5-Way and the W900, to name a few. The midrange carries more weight, while there’s more tonal balance throughout the signature. The Flamenco successfully marries Jomo’s signature technical performance, with a mature and competitive flagship tuning. Best of both worlds?
Pros - Extremely detailed, fast transients, transparency to the highest degree
Cons - Somewhat thinner notes, relative lack of sub-bass rumble
Disclaimer: I approached Jomo Audio myself for a loaner demo of the Flamenco to be returned in two weeks in exchange for my honest opinion. As with my usual review style, I will jump into sonic impressions immediately.
Low scoring for comfort is due to my uniquely large ear structures not being compatible with the universal Flamenco's switch placement, as seen here. Your own experience may vary but Jomo has assured that this design was intentional and should be comfortable for most other ears.
The demo unit I received
Both switches up
Bass switch up
Treble switch up
No switches up
Bass The Flamenco's switches allow its bass to swap between neutral to slightly boosted (roughly 5dB across the bass spectrum). Hits are tight, fast and extremely quick, revealing minute nuances in the bass notes that most other IEMs would gloss over. While the bass is very punchy, sub-bass articulation falls short compared to its dynamic and hybrid competitors.
Spoiler: Additional notes
It's important to distinguish between personal preference and technicalities when it comes to reviewing headphones. In the Flamenco's case, while my personal preferences leans towards the wetter, more rounded nature of dynamic bass, it's also hard to not recognize the Flamenco's bass for what it is: a highly precise rapier than delivers hits with lightning-quick accuracy. The name of the Flamenco's game is clarity and detail and this philosophy extends into its bass presentation, with every detail bathed in the white light of its stunningly quick woofers.
Mids Leans towards the colder side of tonality. Very well textured and sharp with a slight emphasis on vocals (especially female). Clear, transparent and detailed, and quite honestly the top in those three metrics out of all the IEMs I've ever heard.
Spoiler: Additional notes
There's that word again: clarity. That really is the first thing that pops in your mind when you hear the Flamenco; everything is right there in your face, begging for your attention. There is absolutely no "veil" to speak of and nothing sounds out of place at first listen.
Note weight could be a potential weakness in the Flamenco, but that can also be chalked up to personal preference as well. I'd prefer denser hits that give more body and weight to things like male vocals or bassy strings like cello myself.
Treble The switches boost the 2k-8k regions slightly which improves clarity and perceived detail slightly. As with the rest of the frequencies, the Flamenco's treble is of course extremely detailed and clear. It's absolutely bursting with energy and highly articulate, with crashes and zings ringing true to my ears.
Spoiler: Additional notes
I'm sensitive to treble myself so the Flamenco tends to be a little too much for me, even with the switches down. However, the speed and note density is absolutely on point and I'd love to have it on every IEM I have. Apart from the emphasis, I'd say this is the perfect treble right here.
Soundstage More intimate than spacious. There's less outward diffusal going on but the Flamenco still maintains a decently proportioned stage. Positional ability is outstanding and staging goes pretty deep, making sacrifices in width more than anything.
Choice comparisons Advanced AcousticWerkes W900 As expected, Jomo's shining flagship should be up against its own local competitor's, AAW. As with the W900 vs the Samba, both excel in different things and are less rivals than complements.
Bass on the W900 is rounded, rumbly and decays in a way that brings wider staging to the sound, as compared to the Flamenco's speedy, quick notes. I'd liken the W900 to a large, dampened sledgehammer to the Flamenco's ornately decorated rapier, each having their own strengths. I'd prefer the W900's authority and articulation but you might prefer the Flamenco's clarity and punchiness.
In terms of tonality, they sound to be on the far side of either side of the spectrum relative to the average TOTL signatures. The W900 has a warmer, denser tilt to its notes while the Flamenco is brighter, colder and clearer. I prefer the more bodied sound of the W900 myself, but you know it's all down to preferences.
Into the treble, it's all about their showcase of different strengths. Flamenco has the edge on energy, clarity and airiness while the W900 is superior in control and note density. Perfection would be combining the two but as far as this goes, it's all about picking your poison.
Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors I received the UERM about the same time as the Flamenco and it has replaced my ER4PT as my go-to reference for neutrality, both in frequency response and tonality.
With the bass switch down, both have similar bass emphasis with the Flamenco slightly edging out on both transient speeds and articulation. With the bass switch on, articulation is improved slightly whilst maintaining clarity.
The Flamenco is definitely slightly colder than the UERM (with the W900 being warmer), but at the same time allowing for greater transparency and clarity. Perceived detail is also much higher on the Flamenco and actually makes for a decent reference monitor with all the switches down, with the colder tonality and all that.
Treble is more uncontrolled on the UERM (with a spike or two here and there) and the Flamenco manages to maintain relative flatness in comparison with similar levels of sparkle and energy.
Custom Art Harmony 8.2 The 8.2 has been with me for a while and is my go-to "lounging" IEM. Relaxing signature that doesn't have a hint of fatigue to it. The two are definitely different in terms of sound signature and fulfill entirely different needs, even moreso than versus the W900.
The bass on the 8.2 is denser and has more rumble, but also has a certain "muffle" and veil to it compared to the Flamenco. At the same time, the Flamenco's quick and punchy notes can be a little intense and fatiguing compared to the 8.2's soft and pillowy ones. In terms of technicalities though, I don't think anyone would deny the Flamenco is superior.
The 8.2 and smooth and warm, a stark contrast to the Flamenco. Vocals are smoother and much more relaxing, albeit with a slightly lower levels of relative detail. The Flamenco throws every last detail and texture in your face, which is enjoyable for some but can be quite taxing to listen to for longer periods of time. Detail vs non-fatigue, pick your poison.
Flamenco is energetic, and that extends to the treble as well. The 8.2 is quite a bit darker and more veiled, but (as I've repeated many times before) is a lot less fatiguing to less to as a result.
Final words The Flamenco is easily one of (if not the) most detailed IEM I've had the pleasure of listening to, and its colder, to-the-point personality is one that complements the smooth-warm nature of my collection ever so nicely. Jomo outdid themselves even with the high standards set by the Samba, allowing for a myriad of listening styles with the implementation of its switch system
A proud addition to the realms of summit-fi, it sets itself as number 2 on my top 10 list. I wait eagerly for Joseph's next venture, the Flamenco only increasing my hunger.