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Alclair Curve (new tuning)

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. mark2410
    Alclair Audio Curve 2.0 Quick Review by mark2410
    Written by mark2410
    Published Nov 26, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - A paragon of sounding acoustically natural. Practically perfect.
    Cons - Isn’t an aggressive sound. Won’t thrill bass heads.
    Alclair Audio Curve 2.0 Quick Review
     
    Thanks to Alclair for the sample.
     
    Full review here http://www.head-fi.org/t/789030/alclair-curve-2-0-review-by-mark2410
     
    Brief:  Alclairs not custom, not monitor.
     
    Price:  US$250 or about £165 before HMRC gets you.
     
    Specification:  22 Ohms, 10Hz to 20kHz, 110dB@1kHz.
     
    Accessories:  Err, a little case, a carabineer and 3 pairs of Comply’s
     
    Build Quality:  Very nice.  Cable is very nice, jack is too and the buds look nicely finished.  Plus they have a removable cables if you do manage to kill them.
     
    Isolation:  Very good.  They are BA’s so while they aren’t Ety’s they are easily good enough for long flights or a daily Tube commute.  Learn to use your eyes when out or you’ll get yourself run over sharpish.
     
    Comfort/Fit:  Given their shape I’m sure they can’t work for everyone.  They just can’t.  However for me they were pretty awesome.  Perfect fitting and could wear them all day long with no issue.
     
    Aesthetics:  Weird, I like them.  A bit attention seeking but I’m okay with that.
     
    Sound:  Ahh you know v1.0, those I loved soooooooooooooo much.  They were in no way monitors but they were basically what I would have made for me if I ran an IEM company.  The 2.0 however, they have presumably the same drivers so I know they are capable but…… these are tuned differently.  These are the monitors that I think the 1.0 was meant to be.  These have the acoustic balance of that on the Westone W4.  Yes it’s technically bass boosted and the treble edged down a fraction but due to how we hear, it sounds perfectly natural on the ear.  It is a dual BA Mary Poppins.  Practically perfect in every way.  It really is a little acoustic masterpiece and that a little company hidden in depths of Fargo land.  Okay so actually in Minneapolis which has like 4 million people but I can’t help thinking Fargo.  There is nothing that the Curve 2.0 cannot do, or does wrong.  It’s a pretty flawless monitor.  Sure its treble doesn’t extend uber far, no BA does but its decline is linear and impeccably behaved.  It’s bass too is a paragon of well-behaved with enough capability to oomf when it must.  Bass heads will want more air movement but again, it’s a BA, massive air moment isn’t what they do.  The mids are neutral.  Middling tonally and adding so little flavouring that it’s perfectly happy to play smooth or raspy.  It’s beyond exceedingly capable.  Over all it’s a monitor with a touch of dynamism.
     
    Value:  Sounds frighteningly close to a W4 but at half the price.  It’s a fabulous monitor.
     
    Pro’s:   A paragon of sounding acoustically natural.  Practically perfect.
     
    Con’s:  Isn’t an aggressive sound.  Won’t thrill bass heads.

  2. Brooko
    Alclair Curve (revised) – Innovative fit & much improved tuning
    Written by Brooko
    Published Oct 25, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Innovative design, build quality, fit, isolation, vocal quality, bass quality, balance, response to EQ
    Cons - Microphonics, accessory package is sparse, (personal pref) would prefer more upper mid-range presence
    curve230.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

    My introduction to Alclair was back in March this year, when I won 2nd prize in a competition hosted by iFi Audio, in association with Alclair, Music Direct and Native DSD Music. Part of that prize was a pair of Alclair Curve IEMs – and I reviewed them HERE.  My recommendations to Alclair based on the original Curve were:
    1. To look at expanding the accessory package
    2. Retune the drivers to remove some of the mid-bass, and lift the upper mid-range and lower treble.
    3. Investigate possible changes in cable material to reduce microphonics
     
    Since then, Tyler from Alclair has exchanged several emails with me, and recently they asked if I would like to have a listen to their latest retuning of the Alclair Curve, and compare it to the original Curve I have.  Naturally I jumped at the chance – as the original Curve had one of the most innovative designs for fit and comfort I’d ever tried on a universal IEM.
     
    ABOUT ALCLAIR
     
    Alclair Audio (http://alclair.com/) is a US company, based just North-West of Minneapolis, who specialise in the creation of custom in ear monitors, custom hearing protection, and of course their universal IEM – the dual BA driver Alclair Curve.
     
    Whilst browsing their website and Facebook page, I noticed this little blurb which seems to sum up my experience with Alclair perfectly:
    “It's important that a company is passionate about the product they sell. And we certainly love our in-ear monitors. But more than the product, we are passionate about people. Our customers are the coolest people we know. That's why we call them family.
    That’s why we handcraft each of our custom and universal in-ear monitors to fit and sound fantastic, why we strive for outstanding service and personal attention. When you buy from Alclair Audio, you join a family. A family that is as passionate about music as you are.”
     
    And although all I’ve done is won one of their universal monitors, and provided a review (I wasn’t obliged to – but I was impressed with the Curve and wanted to get the word out), they’ve still treated me like family.  Tyler Folsom from Alclair has shown genuine interest in improving their product range, and their development team have been open to possible changes. So when they talk about being as passionate about audio as we are – they really mean it.  I like that in a company.
     
    So without further comment – let’s have a look at the Curve (2) – a retune of the original Curve IEM from Alclair.
     
    DISCLAIMER
     
    I was provided the Curve (2) by Alclair as a review unit to compare with the original Curve. I have no other association or affiliation with Alclair.  I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also Alclair themselves.
     
    I have now had the Alclair Curve for a little over 4 weeks.  Normal RRP is USD 249.00.  Tyler tells me that it will continue to just be called the Curve – and the new tuning will become default for further sales.
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
     
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portables (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-2000J, Jays q-Jays and Alclair Curve2. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    Over the last month – I’ve used the new Curve from a variety of sources, but for this review, I’ve mainly used it with my Fiio X3ii and also the new LP5 Pro.  In the time I have spent with the new Curve, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation.  Listening time with new Curve has been around 30+ hours, and possibly a lot longer.
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES          
     
    This time I received the retail box from Alclair.  It’s basically a hinged lid Kraft box (very sturdy) with a retail sleeve in black and white over the top (dimensions 110 x 165 x 50mm). The front of the sleeve has an image of the Curve, and short summary of its key features. The rear has specifications, list of accessories, and a short blurb on the fit.
     
    curve201.jpg curve202.jpg curve203.jpg
    Curve retail box
    Rear panel of the retail sleeve
    Specification and description

     
    The inner Kraft box has a simple cut-out to fit the clamshell case. Opening the clamshell reveals the Curve IEMs, a cleaning tool, and 3 pairs of genuine Comply T200 foam tips.
     
    The clamshell case is reasonably large (same size as the one for the original Curve), measures 95 x 90 mm, and a little over 40m in depth.  It’s not exactly pants pocket friendly – but it is fine in a jacket pocket.  It is one of the better clamshell cases I’ve seen though – zipped, with a meshed outer which is very ruggedly built (will protect those IEMs very well), soft inner, and inner mesh pocket for storage or tools or tips.  It is also very spacious.
     
    curve204.jpg curve206.jpg curve207.jpg
    Opening the Kraft box
    The clamshell case and Curve IEMs
    Accessory package - tips and tools


     
    I guess by the standards of some manufacturers, it could be considered to be a little frugal (tips etc) but it is very functional, and for me personally (as a fan of foam tips) it is all I need. But like I said in the original Curve review, in the future it may be a good idea to include a small range of silicone based tips for those who aren’t foam fans.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From Alclair)
    Type
    Dual; Balanced Armature
    Frequency Range
    10 Hz – 20 Khz
    Impedance
    22 ohm
    Sensitivity
    111dB @ 1 kHz
    Plug
    3.5mm gold plated, right angled jack
    Cable
    1.2m – copper twisted pair, PVC coating
    Weight
    Approx 14g with tips in place
    IEM Shell
    Polycarbonate

     
    FREQUENCY GRAPH
     
    The graph below is generated by a new measuring system I’m trialling – using the Vibro Veritas and ARTA software.  I don’t have the calibration for the microphone 100% correct yet – but the graphs I am getting are relatively close to Innerfidelity’s raw data (on other earphones we both share), and I think are “close enough” to get a reasonable idea of the frequency response for the Curve. Over time I am hoping to build a pre-set compensation curve so that I can get the graphs more consistent with Tyll’s curves.
     
    I’ve included the graph for the Curve (new) and also the Curve original.
    curvenew1.png
     
    What I’m hearing:
    1. Still a warmish tonality – especially with regard to a slight mid-bass hump
    2. Low bass which extends well
    3. Amid-range which is quite clear – and reasonably balanced between lower-mids and mids, but a little rolled off in the upper-mids and lower treble.
    4. Smooth and a little dark.
     
    Compared to the original Curve
    1. Definitely less mid-bass and low bass – enough to allow the mids to breathe a little more
    2. Still warm – but easier to hear guitar coming through now
    3. Mid-range is surprisingly similar overall
    4. Both are tonally dark and smooth
       
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
     
    The design is essentially the same as for the original Curve – so a lot of this, I’ve simply restated from my original Curve review.
     
    The Alclair Curve is still one the most innovatively designed universal monitors I’ve seen from a design point of view.  The shells are a hard polycarbonate plastic combo – clear on the outside (ie the side facing outside your ear) – so that the internal workings are visible, and a black (changed from the original grey) on the side facing your head.  When you disconnect the cable and take off the tips, the Curve is also pretty tiny, and literally looks like a “curve” – or more figuratively a crooked smile.
     
    curve208.jpg curve210.jpg curve211.jpg
    Transparent outer face showing the dual BAs
    Black instead of grey inner facing - ergonomic design
    The nozzle and front view

     

    Although it is essentially a two piece (or more correctly two half shell) monitor, the finish is again virtually seamless. Because of its unique shape, I can’t really physically measure it like any standard monitor – but maybe it’s just best to give you the following idea. From tip to tip the Curve measures approximately 60mm in length and is approximately 10mm wide and deep at its widest point.  In real terms though (not measuring the ‘curve’ of the Curve), it’s less than 30mm in length.  It doesn’t have a traditional nozzle as such – and instead simply tapers to a tube approximately 10mm in length and 4mm wide. In terms of appropriate tips, the Comply 200 series are a perfect fit.  There are three raised notches on the nozzle tube – and these work surprisingly well in keeping tips firmly in place.  There is no filter – so care would need to be taken long term to keep the Curve clean.
     
    curve212.jpg curve213.jpg curve218.jpg
    Close up of the nozzle
    Rear view - left side earpiece
    Tiny but gorgeous

     

    The shape of the Curve is designed so that it moulds around the inside of your ear’s Antitragus and Antihelix (lightly touching both) with the upper point (I think of it has a stability guide) lightly locking against the Triangular Fossa.
     
    The cable connector is a traditional 2 prong (so yes the cable is replaceable), and is quite firm and feels very secure.  The cable consists of a twisted pair of copper wires with a tight PVC coating.  There is an approximately 65mm piece of mouldable hard plastic which acts as a configurable ear-guide. The cable is extremely robust, easy to coil (very flexible), and I’ve had no issues with kinking or memory. The design is such that wearing the Curve is required to be over ear.  I guess this could be changed by purchasing an aftermarket-cable without any memory wire.
     
    curve214.jpg curve215.jpg curve216.jpg
    Standard 2 pin cable (Noble's fit also)
    Y split and sheath
    Standard 3.5mm right angled jack

     

    The Y split is rubber with excellent strain relief, and a very simply clear plastic sheath which acts as a chin slider.  It is functional – but tends to slide a little too easy at times, so passably effective. The jack is right angled, gold plated, and has very good strain relief.
     
    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION / MICROPHONICS
     
    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well.  With the Curve though, they only include Comply 200 series tips with it (I use Comply tips often) so I was perfectly at home with this tip.  For those who prefer silicone, as long as you use something with a relatively skinny internal diameter, you should have no issues.
     
    Spin-fit tips fit well (I couldn’t get a seal with them though), as did the Ostry Blue and Black tips. Sony Isolation tips were also a perfect fit – so the Sony Hybrid tips should also be a perfect match.  This time with the new Curve, I’m actually using some Shure Olives.  It is a real push to get them on the nozzles but they do fit (handy tip is to freeze the tips for 3-4 minutes to harden them for easier application or removal).  The Olives give me a fantastic seal and seem to have a nice presentation of bass without dulling the highs.
     
    curve217.jpg curve219.jpg curve220.jpg
    Curve with large Shure Olives - ideal for my personal fit
    Standard Comply tips included
    Sony Isolation tips

     

    Isolation with the Curve is excellent, and using the Shure Olives, I would say that isolation would be at least as good as wearing any from the Shure Se series. I did take these on a long haul flight this year, and they were very good.
     
    Comfort is still excellent – they are very easy to fit, and incredibly comfortable when they are intact.  It really is just like wearing a set of customs – they mould so well. There are no pressure points and the Curve is easily one of the most comfortable IEMs I’ve ever worn. I still marvel at how good the design is.  It fits me like a glove.  Sleeping with them intact is easy as they sit actually slightly recessed from my outer ear.
     
    curve221.jpg curve222.jpg curve28.jpg
    Ostry blues fit - but somewhat loose
    Spinfits fit the nozzle perfectly
    Borrowed from original Curve review - ergonomic fit

     

    I mentioned in the last review that the Curve’s cable is microphonic. There were originally two issues:
    1. The mouldable memory section (which I actually really like for fit and comfort) is not too bad if I’m not wearing glasses – but with glasses intact, any slight tap, and it was immediately transmitted.  I thought all it needed was some sort of coating to alleviate this. If I was doing any type of active pursuit, I either had to wear contacts, or adjust the guides so that they weren’t coming into contact with my glasses. I’ve since found that once fitted – if I press down on the memory wire – so it moulds completely with my ear – this alleviates microphonics further
    2. The second issue was the cable itself.  It’s really well made – one of the better cables I’ve had – but again it is quite microphonic when active.  This can be alleviated by tucking into clothing and using the cinch.
     
    The cable on the new Curve is the same as with the old model – so nothing has changed. But I’ve also tried it with the cable from my new Adel U6, and essentially it has similar issues.  So a bit of cable management goes a long way.  Not perfect – but if moulded around my ears properly, and cinched, with the cable tucked under clothes – it is pretty microphonic free.
     
    Overall though – design, build quality, fit, comfort, and isolation are really good.
     
    SOUND QUALITY
     
    The following is what I hear from the newly tuned Alclair Curve.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).  Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3ii as source, and included Shure Olive tips. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    Thoughts on Default Signature
    After getting used to the quite warm signature of the original Curve, I had high hopes for a retuned Curve – and Alclair have delivered – maybe not quite far enough for my personal tastes – but a definite improvement that I think a lot of people will really like.
     
    On first listen, the Curve is still warmish, but after switching from the original Curve, the first thing I noticed was that guitar especially was a little clearer, and the bass wasn’t quite as prominent. IMO these are definite changes to the good. Vocals are still quite clear, and there is enough treble to convey detail, but it is a gentle upper end, with a bit of roll-off, and definitely very smooth. Those who are a little treble sensitive will really like this presentation. For me personally, I’d have really liked just a little bit more presence in the 5-6 kHz area, just for that added clarity. But EQ is simple, and I really do think the changes they’ve made are going to please a wider audience.
     
    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Once again I used my normal go-to tracks (“Gaucho” and “Sultans of Swing”).  This time the bass was more balanced on both tracks, and while it is still quite a mellowish relaxed listening experience, the finer details with cymbal shimmer, drumstick clicks, and other minute details are easier to pick up. Guitar is good – personally I’d like a little more edge to it – and the easiest way to describe what I’m hearing is detailed but smooth, and slightly lush and warmish.
     
    Sound-stage & Imaging
    Staging and imaging hasn’t really changed much from my impressions of the original Curve, and with Amber Rubarth’s “Tundra” it still just borders on the outer edge of head. The imaging once again is very good, if anything a little clearer and cleaner, and the directional cues remain consistent and well defined.
     
    Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” was up next, and the presentation was once again more intimate than the formal binaural track. Loreena’s vocals were clear and forward, and the reduced bass helps both the presentation of Loreena’s vocals and the dynamic contrast between vocals, piano and cello. The part of the track which I often use for immersion (as far as stage and imaging goes) is the transition to applause at the end of this live performance.  Once again there is a feeling of connection with the crowd, which is something few IEMs manage well.  It isn’t perfectly immersing, but enough to get a good thumbs-up from me.
     
    Amanda Marshall’s “Let It Rain” displayed its usual holographic nature (the miking of this performance is really good).  The original Curve presented this well, and the improved version achieves it as well.  What I really like is the added detail coming through with the slightly reduced warmth.
     
    Bass Quality and Quantity
    This was always going to be an interesting series of tests – as this seems to be the main area of change with Alclair’s tweaking. Mark Lanegan’s “Bleeding Muddy Waters” had lost a little comparative impact intensity, but the track itself was still portrayed wonderfully – dark and broody, yet with vocal clarity and texture.  Mark’s vocals hadn’t lost any of their projected intensity, and the bass presentation was quick and agile, with no sign of bleed into the mid-range.  Testing sub-bass meant switching to Lorde’s “Royals”, and this time the impact was more apparent, and low bass still came through beautifully, with good extension. Ella’s vocals were clear and clean, and the overall presentation as a lot more cohesive than on the original Curve. Personally I’d prefer just a little more in the upper mid-range though.
     
    Female Vocals
    This was always going to be an interesting one for me.  My personal preference for frequency curve with female vocals is usually a little bump in about the 4-7k range, and as with the original Curve, the new tuning has a little comparative recession in this area. My first test is usually Agnes Obel’s “Aventine” and although it is a nice presentation, I still find it a little too warm and smooth for me. Presentation was good – but there was still a little stridency and hollowness. Cello was a little more distant this time. London Grammar was up next, and the slightly deeper tone of Hannah’s voice probably helped – more in line with the default tuning of the Curve. But still I was thinking about the tuning on my recent q-Jays and DN-2000J, and the real magic with female vocals just isn’t quite at the same level with those earphones. Where the Curve continued to shine though was with very dynamic vocal/music combinations (Feist, FaTM) and with really smooth jazz/soul presentations (Norah Jones, Lianna Le Havas). Le Havas was outstanding – I could listen to her all day on the newly tuned Curves – but once again some of my other favourite female artists were a little hit and miss.
     
    Male Vocals
    For me, the original Curve was far better with male vocals than female, and I really enjoyed it with my rock and acoustic rock tracks.  Male vocals were full and rich. The newly tuned Curve continues this progression, and IMO betters it, with a little more audible focus (the subtle lessening of the bass?), without losing the tonality or dynamics.  Bass is still dynamic enough to be ideally suited to most forms of rock, and this is where their tuning of the BA driver (and its resultant speed) is a joy to listen to. Again my older classic rock (Jethro Tull, 10CC, the Eagles) had really good balance between detail, and dynamics.  Smooth, but also clear and articulate. Alter Bridge this time was a step up on the old tuning (better definition of guitar and cymbals). Acoustic music again was a joy to listen to.  The subtle warmth combined with the better balance had Hotel California humming – a really wonderful rendition.
     
    As always – my final test of male vocals – and the decider for me - is always Pearl Jam. The result was breath-taking. The entire presentation – dynamics, detail, texture, tone – was in a word – wonderful. If I was to choose an IEM to exclusively listen to PJ, the Curve would be very near the top.
     
    Genre Specific Notes
    Alt Rock – Presentation vs the original Curve was improved.  Better presentation of dynamics and detail. I’m guessing the muffling I alluded to on PF’s “Money” last time was the elevated mid bass muffling micro detail, and this time more of that detail is evident. Porcupine Tree’s “Trains” still had its clean and clear bass dynamics, and so far I’ve had no issues with any of my Alt Rock tracks.
     
    For Jazz, Blues and Bluegrass, the improvement over the original version was very evident.  This time Portico Quartet (while still on the smooth and warm/rich side) had enough detail coming through to be thoroughly enjoyable. Miles Davis was thoroughly enjoyable, and Diana Krall’s “Love Me Like a Man” was jazz club smooth. Krauss & Union Station had much improved presentation of stringed instruments, and even a lot of Bonamassa’s guitar edge or crunch was more evident (again I personally would have liked just a little more).
     
    Anything bass driven (EDM, Rap, Trance) was brilliant.  I really enjoyed the added clarity with both Little Dragon and AVB. And surprisingly the lower bass in the new tuning hasn’t compromised these genres at all. If the bas was good with the original Curve, it is now excellent. The speed with transitions is really good.
     
    I think mainstream listeners are going to enjoy the subtle changes also.  Pop artists like Coldplay and Adele had well balanced presentations. I delved a little deeper into my collection and artists like Nickelback (don’t judge me) were also thoroughly enjoyable. Some of my more “Indie” type bands though were definitely magical with the new Curve. Of Monsters and Men’s new album Beneath the Skin was purchased during my testing of the Curve, and I absolutely love it with this IEM.
     
    Classical was still very good – standout again was the solo piano (Kempff) and also Zoe Keating’s entire album Into The Trees (note to self – must check out kore of her music). I also listened to an older recording of the master (Pavarotti), and that was a track I probably had louder than I should – but it gave me goose bumps, and any time a transducer can do that to you, you know there is some magic there.
     
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
     
    As with the original Curve, there is no need for additional amping with the portable devices I tried. Straight out of the X3ii (depending on the track) 30-40/120 was more than sufficient, and with the iPhone this was around the 30-40% mark. I did try with the Fiio E11K and E17K, and neither is necessary, nor were there audible sonic gains, in using them. I did however use the E17K quite a bit, and I’ve outlined this in the section below on EQ.
     
    EQUALISATION
     
    In this section with the original Curve, I talked about taking out some of the mid-bass and raising the upper-mid-range to align the newly tuned Curve closer to my own personal preferences. This time, the bass is just about perfect for me – but I’ve still been missing some of that upper mid-range presence which would take my female vocalists presentations from generally good to really great. So after looking at the measurements, the first thing I tried was simply to give EQ on the X3ii a bump on the 4K slider (about 4 dB).  The effect was immediate, and for my preferences much better.
     
    The next step for me was simply to use the tone controls on the E17K, and simply lifting the treble control +6 again added all that I thought was missing for my own preference.
     
    Anyway, the Curve once again responds incredibly well to tweaking, and that gives me the best of both worlds.  As-is (un-eq’d) for a lot of my rock or acoustic tracks, and a simple upper mid-range bump for everything else.
    To put it in perspective, I’m currently doing the same for my new Adel U6 monitors from 1964ears, so I don’t see this personally as a great hardship.
     
    COMPARISONS
     
    Even though the comparisons I’ve made below are in different price brackets, I consider all of these earphones to play in the same technical bracket. For this exercise, I’ve compared the Curve 2 with the original Curve, DN2000J (triple hybrid), and new q-Jays (dual BA). My comparisons mostly look at default signature – but I’ve also added a simple comment regarding addition of my preferred signature tuning through use of the E17K at +6 treble.
     
    curve226.jpg curve227.jpg curve225.jpg
    Default tuning with X3ii - Curves(1+2), q-Jays & DN2KJ
    Fiio E17K added for simple EQ
    Comparison of the old and new Curve (I like the black!)

     

    All comparisons were using the Fiio E17K and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and test tones at 2 kHz.
    curvenew2.png
     
    Curve Old vs Curve New ($250)
    Obviously build, fit, comfort, isolation are all the same. So the only comparison here is the sonics. The original Curve is still very enjoyable with its default tuning – warm, smooth, great with male vocals. Comparatively the new Curve appears brighter, more detailed, and vocals seem to pop a little more.  It is still on the smooth side, and both earphones struggle a little generally for my tastes with female vocalists. With EQ added, clarity lifts and female vocalists really hit my sweet spot.  Sublime. My preference is definitely with the new Curve tuning – both default, and especially EQ’d.

     
    Curve New ($250) vs DN-2000J ($340)
    Build is comparable on both – they both have innovative features and exceptional overall build quality. Comfort, fit and isolation are all heavily weighted in favour of the new Curve. Included accessories must be considered in overall value, and the DUNU offering is far superior. The 2000J is one of my favourite default tunings , and compared to the new Curve is a lot leaner and quicker in the bass, and brighter with more apparent detail in the upper mids. Clarity is good on both – but the 2000J just has more upper end – where the Curve is a lot smoother.  The default signature on both is still very good but my preference would be with the DUNU.  Add the E17K’s EQ though and the Curve is transformed, and the two are much closer. Without EQ my preference remains very much overall with the DUNU – but introducing EQ and considering the additional comfort, isolation and fit, and also the value difference, and I’d be swayed toward the new Curve.
     
    Curve New ($250) vs q-Jays ($399)
    This is really interesting as both are dual BAs. As far as build goes, although both have fantastic build quality, the nod has to go q-Jays – it is just a little more solid. Comfort, fit and isolation are essentially equal to me, but the q-Jays have far less cable microphonics and a better accessory package. Both are relatively well balanced with a clear and fatigue free signature and a smooth treble.  Where the q-Jays differ in its default signature is in the presence area between 5-8 kHz, and for me this very much affects female vocal presentation. For me personally, this gives the q-Jays their advantage – but it’s surprising how alike these two earphones are for the most part. Adding EQ to the new Curve again just gives them a little edge, and in fact for me to more closely match the q-Jays they don’t need as much (dropping back to +2 or +4 treble on the E17K).  With this engaged the two are a lot closer, but overall my preference would still lie with the q-Jays.  There is something about the default signature that just seems to resonate with me. For value though, the new Curve offers an incredible total package – and if I hadn’t bought the q-Jays, I could be very happy with the Curve as a substitute.
     
    VALUE
     
    The new Curve replaces the older tuning, and continues to have a RRP of $249. I still think it presents exceptional value for what the Curve delivers in ergonomics, fit and comfort, build, and more importantly its new default sonic tuning.
     
    One again though I do think Alclair needs to think seriously about the accessory package they offer.  It may not seem like a lot, and tip choice can be quite personal, but most competing products offer far more choice in their accessory options.  Whilst the cost may not be high, the “perceived value” does rise, and if Alclair want to hit the mainstream with the Curve, then they really need to up their game slightly.
     

    ALCLAIR CURVE – SUMMARY

    It’s been an enjoyable journey with the newly tuned Curve, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to give feedback to Tyler and his team at Alclair.  I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to watch an IEM evolve.
    Looking at overall build, fit and comfort, the Alclair Curve is a stunning example of engineering and design done exceptionally well. Once you’ve found the right tip, the Curve just disappears, and all you are left with is the music, and in a package that will stay put no matter how strenuous the activity. Yes, there are still some microphonics, but these are easily reduced through cable management (especially forming the ear guides properly – perseverance is key).
     
    And this time the sonics (whilst still not my ideal) are a vast improvement on the original tuning. The changes are mainly in the bass, but the reduction has changed the perceived upper end frequency response (if not the actual one).  The default tuning is now far more balanced – whilst still retaining a slightly warm, lush and smooth overall signature.
     
    The Curve does respond incredibly well to EQ, and anyone wanting a little more upper mid-range clarity and presence only needs to apply some very simple tweaks.
    Once again the question is would I buy the newly tuned Curve for its RRP, or recommend it to friends and family?  This time my answer is a firmer yes than last time. Although it is still not my ideal default, I do think that the tuning is likely to appeal to a far greater audience now.
     
    For the innovation in design, and overall quality vs price (value) I have no issues giving Alclair a 4/5 star rating. For my own personal preferences it would be an easy 4.5/5 after EQ is applied.
     
    Once again though, I’d like to pass my thanks to Tyler and the team from Alclair for allowing me time with the retuned Curve. My time in correspondence with Alclair has shown once again that this is a Company who are very comfortable with what constitutes true customer service.
     
    RECOMMENDATIONS TO ALCLAIR
     
    Shorter than last time.
    1. Have a look at expanding the accessory package
    2. I'd personally like to see just a touch more presence in the 5-7K area

       
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      twister6 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Brooko
      Yes - the Curve has just as much resolution as the B400. Both (and I need to update the graphs now that I have the new measuring kit) are pretty flat and balanced throughout the frequency spectrum. B400 has more bass overall (mainly mid-bass) and is the warmer of the two. Curve has more lower treble extension, and slightly less bass, and is the cleaner / brighter of the two. I will PM you a graph - so you can see the two side by side.
      Brooko, Apr 27, 2018
      Jenz likes this.
    3. Jenz
      Thank you for the quick response and also for the frequency comparisons. is the fender fxa5 aggressively to the b400? Greets jenz
      Jenz, Apr 27, 2018
    4. Brooko
      Sorry - I haven't heard the Fender.
      Brooko, Apr 27, 2018