Please be gentle with me, it’s my first time (posting a review of sorts on Head-Fi, that is).
Furthermore, I am neither an audiophile guru, nor a native English speaker, just an average dude who loves music.
Being what and who I am, I am not going to post an actual review about the Trinity Atlas ; there are many here who are much more competent than I am in describing the sound, showing frequency response charts, comparing the Atlas to other earphones or suggesting tweaks.
What I plan to do in my « review » is just to show and explain why I love the Atlas, as a simple, average, boy-next-door guy.
With the exception of EDM, I enjoy almost any kind of music ; blues, folk and all kinds of rock music are my favorites, but I love country, classical, and world musics as well as jazz, and I can even enjoy some pop from time to time, or even have a go with rap.
I have always been interested in music, but it is only when the Beatles’ 2009 remasters were released that my interest in quality music (lossless music and USB DACs) really rised.
My first purchases were an Audioengine D1 DAC and a pair of A2 powered speakers from the same brand.
After a couple of years of using this setup, I felt the need (and got enough funds) to evolve to something a tad more serious.
I then upgraded to a Schiit Bifrost DAC and a Lyr tube headphone amplifier, that I coupled with an AKG K701, and later a pair of Audioengine A5+ ; I am currently still using this combination as a sedentary setup, with the exception of an Asgard 2 taking the place of the Lyr (and all but the Multibit upgrades to the Bifrost).
While on the go, though, I was stuck with my 5th and 6th generation iPod Classics (that could not play 24 bit files, and whose sound quality could be definitely improved).
I experimented with an Astell & Kern AK100 (the mkI) which did not provide me with the satisfaction I was expecting, but it is only when I got my Pono Player that I felt the Audiophile Nirvana was at reach of my financial possibilities.
Since I received my Pono Player on December 6th, 2014, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with a couple of headphones (Beyerdynamic DT1350 and Sennheiser Momentum over-ear), and several earphones (Klipsch Image S4, CustomArt Music One, Flare R2A and R2Pro, and Trinity Hyperion and Delta, before I got the Atlas).
I also got a Fiio X3ii that I mainly use in conditions I’d fear for my Pono Player’s safety (mainly when doing sports).
During my audiophile journey, I’ve learned that getting something better than what you’ve previously owned passes through trials and errors ; I’ve also learned that noticing a step up is much harder than realizing a step down.
TRINITY AUDIO ENGINEERING :
I first backed Trinity Hyperion and Delta early in April of 2015, before I backed Flare’s campaign late in May.
I must confess I had buyer’s remorse (or backer’s remorse if you prefer) for backing Trinity giving Flare’s promises.
I got both Flare’s and Trinity’s rewards within a couple of days’ difference, and though the R2Pro show outstanding performances, I’ve found their value was much lower than that of the Delta, were absolutely unforgiving to average recordings (which, you must admit, are the norm rather than the exception), and were much less comfortable than the Delta were.
As a result, I’ve only listened through my Delta plugged into my Pono Player for about a month or so.
When I returned to the Flare, I was not as enthusiastic as I first was. Brain burn-in, it might have been.
I therefore wore only the R2Pro for about one week to see if I could return to my initial impressions… which I somewhat did. But when I returned to the Delta, the joy of listening to music was much higher.
I have come to think the R2Pro might be my critical listening IEMs, while I’d wear the Delta when I wanted to actually enjoy music.
Now, let’s be honest : I am not one who listens recording techniques or engineering qualities ; I, for one, want to listen to music and actually enjoy it. And for that, the Delta’s were the favorite IEMs I had ever owned. And probably one of the cheapest too.
A word about Bob too… Many here can praise how involved some manufacturer can be ; there are a lot of entrepreneurs, or even representatives from bigger companies, that are present on Head-Fi. I personally got in touch with some from different companies, but Bob stands apart. The commitment he shows to his backers or customers is absolutely outstanding : from respecting the estimated shipping date for his Kickstarter projects to offering a cash back program when previous owners want to upgrade to a newer version of the Delta, or to upgrade to the Atlas, through a total availability and a no-nonsense attitude when a piece shows a defect… Bob’s attitude makes me proud I’ve backed Trinity from its first campaign on.
It was therefore only natural for me to back Trinity’s second campaign for the Helio and Atlas.
TRINITY ATLAS :
I first contemplated getting both the Helio and the Atlas, but when the campaign relaunched, with much lower prices, I got in touch with Bob to ask him whether the Atlas were so much better than the Helio (I must say I had grown a total confidence in Bob’s advice) ; he then told me that while the Helio were really good, that’s the Atlas that were the star of the campaign and, to quote him, « his best realization yet .»
I pledged for a couple of Atlas, thinking one of them would be used on audiophile purposes (mostly through the balanced connection to the Pono Player), while I’d use the second one as my sports setup (through the Bluetooth lanyard).
I got my Atlas and the balanced cables about six weeks ago, and have avidly listened to them since then… I think I may now write down what my impressions about them are.
Being familiar with Trinity’s tips, I assumed my favorite tips for the Delta – the provided foams – would be the ones I’d prefer with the Atlas too, and it proved right.
I must confess I did not experiment with neither the red filter (enhanced bass), nor the gunmetal one (treble focused), as I usually like more of a quite neutral sound signature.
Once I fitted the purple filters (that are supposed to be the most neutral) on the Atlas’ shells and the foamies on the filters, I connected the balanced cable’s MMCX connectors to the Atlas, and plugged both jacks on the appropriate plugs of my Pono Player (left jack = headphone out and right jack = line out), then turned out balanced mode on the player.
I was then ready for my first ever go on balanced connection…
I usually am one who listens to albums all in a row, but for the purpose of testing, I selected tracks I knew well.
- « Faith » by The Cure (16/44.1) : I love the whole album, but this song may be the one I love the most… The despair, melancholy, hopelessness of the song never struck me as it did with the Atlas in balanced connection. The bass sounds exquisite, but more than only listening to it (the song and its bass), I actually did feel it. You know, when you’re in a concert and you feel the instruments within your guts, and everything that surrounds you blurs and evaporates, and there’s only you and the music. This is how I felt. For the first time. And I must have listened to this song about 10000 times.
When I fitted the gold filters, I had a feeling of increased bass impact but also, maybe, a sense of greater details retrieval. For the first time since I was first wearing IEMs, I had a feeling my brain actually shook with bass (and I had about the same feeling with « Russia On Ice » on Porcupine Tree’s Lightbulb Sun (24/48 DVD audio rip) and « Why So Serious ? » on The Dark Knight’s OST).
- « One Of These Nights » (24/192 digital download) on the same titled album by The Eagles (this album is mostly underrated in my opinion). There were so many details on that song I had not been aware before, how can a band include that many guitars and harmonies on one single song ?
- « Harvest Moon » on the same album by Neil Young (16/44.1). We’re getting serious here : this is the song I chose as a first dance when I got married.
How stupid do you feel when, listening to a song, you turn around, 180°, thinking someone is actually brooming just behind you ?
- « What God Wants (Pt. I) » on Roger Waters’ Amused To Death (24/192 Blu-ray audio rip) : the bass guitar has such an impact you actually hear the moment Waters’ (after checking on Wikipedia, it actually is Randy Jackson’s) finger hits and leave the strings.
These were my impressions within the first minutes of getting my Atlas.
First impressions, however, can sometimes prove to be incorrect, hence my waiting a little while so I can actually live with them and compare them with my other head gear so I can have more of a proper feeling about the Atlas.
Over the time, I found I enjoyed the yellow filters more ; bass may be a tad emphasized with these over the purple filters, but my impression of further details retrieval with these proved right time and time again.
Now, after having enjoyed them for several weeks, how do I feel about the Atlas ? Bring on the Phantoms Bob, I’d be surprised how you can design a piece of equipment that sounds better than the Atlas !
In balanced connection with the Pono Player, my feeling about the sound signature – with the purple and yellow filters fitted – is how natural, « organic » would I say, it sounds. When using that setup, I’m not listening to a DAP, no matter how good it is (and I must say I love my Pono), but I feel like I’m listening to live music. There is this listening experience, but also another aspect that gets more to your guts, you know, like actually feeling the music deep inside.
I typically listen to music for about four to six hours a day, and I play only albums ; once again, my favorite kind of music is the rocking kind, and I haven’t given classical or rap a go with the Atlas, as I wanted to test them with albums I know well.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES :
Trinity is known to provide a high quality packaging and ridiculously numerous accessories.
For the purpose of a comprehensive review, I’ll repeat what the Atlas come with :
- the Atlas shells (obviously),
- different cables : (1) standard braided – maybe the best earphone cable I’ve ever seen, especially given the retail price of the Atlas –, (2) standard lengthed rubbered with mic and remote and (3) shorter lengthed rubbered with mic and remote. On top of that, I’ve ordered the dual 3,5 balanced cable for the PonoPlayer ; this one is a braided one too and as far as I know, is also available in balanced TRRS configuration for other DAPs that play balanced in this configuration (such as the HiFiMan, but I’m not familiar with this player),
- no less than 7 sets of tips : (1) silicone (S, M, M and L), (2) double flange and, (3) my personal favorites, Trinity’s foam tips (M and L),
- two aluminum tubes to store the four remaining sets of filters (the fifth one being screwed on the Atlas shells),
- a high quality semi-rigid carrying pouch with a mesh liner (I use it to store a spare set of tips and my filters, so I always have them all on the go),
- a 90° angled jack adapter and,
- a placstic shirt clip.
BUILD QUALITY :
All metal. The shells are sturdy and heavy enough to show this is a quality piece of equipment ; they are not too heavy neither, and I’ve nothing actually felt them or their weight in my ears.
The braided cable is exquisite (unfortunately, my picture is not up to the cable's quality), tangle-free and the over-ear fit makes them microphonic-free.
My only concern is how the MMCX connector would survive regular plugging and unplugging from the shells. I think only time will tell…
As I previously wrote, when first experimenting with the Atlas, it is strongly recommended testing each tip in order to find the set that not only is the most comfortable, but also that provides you with the best seal, which is mandatory in order to get an accurate bass response (and, consequently, a balance all over the frequency range.
Should you not be familiar with how to know whether you get a good seal or not, I’d encourage you to check the following link : http://www.sensaphonics.com/test
With two short test tracks, you’ll find out in about a minute whether your IEMs are properly worn.
The Atlas being the third set I get from Trinity, I assumed the I’d go with the tips I’ve loved best with my previous Trinity IEMs which, in my own case, proved right.
I’ve found that I get the best response, at least for my personal preferences, with the tips located just at the entrance of my ear canals (yours may vary) ; the tips being not actually compressed within my ear canal, the Atlas are extremely comfortable, and can be worn for hours without the slightest discomfort.
To be totally honest, I personally found the Delta even more comfortable (even paying attention, it occurred to me I could not tell whether I felt them in my ears) ; but I’ve suffered from the Delta’s microphonic noises, which is a shame as they were otherwise perfect.
Don’t get me wrong : it is not the Atlas that are problematic, it just is the Delta that are unbelievably comfortable !
Compared to the Delta, the Atlas are designed to be worn over the ear, which is a fit I prefer for many reasons : comfort, no microphonic noises, stability of the fit, ...
As a first time « reviewer », this part is the hardest part to write…
I can always tell when I love a sound signature, but I’m having a hard time describing the sound signature I am looking for.
Describing, in a language that is not mine, how a pair of headset sounds is something not only uneasy, but also eminently subjective.
My Atlas have about 50 hours of burn-in time ; to me, the biggest improvement happened around the 10 hours mark ; I feel they keep on improving over time, but after 10 hours or so, the Atlas have lost their initial harshness.
All my music is lossless and goes from the standard 16/44.1 CD rips to the 24/192 Blu-ray Audio rips or digital downloads. I also have several DSF files, but they are far less numerous since my PS3 showed the infamous yellow light of death.
The first thing that strikes with the Atlas is the level of detail retrieval ; even on records I thought I knew, I discovered parts I had not noticed before.
The purple filters seem to be on the neutral side, but even though there is a really tiny bit of bass emphasis on the gold (which makes them a bit more fun to listen to), the latest show even more details than the purple.
As far as the bass is concerned, it is really hard to tell both filters apart when A/B-ing them, it is only through longer listening sessions that their differences show.
Once again, despite the fact I like to claim I love better a neutral sound signature, I’ve found I liked better the « funnier » (I’d prefer the « more alive » tag to it) signature of the gold filters.
Bear in mind that the changes between the « neutral » (purple) and « slightly V-shaped » (gold) is really subtle.
Given the fact I settled with the gold filter, which is subjectively my favorite filter (at the moment of writing the review), I’ll try and give my impression on « how » the Atlas sound with the gold filters, both in balanced connection with the PonoPlayer and in single-ended with my Fiio X3II.
The bass section is very well defined all over the range ; the bass has a very good impact, more so than with the purple filters.
I may have a feeling the only limit of that filter is when the bass pace accelerates and goes into complex arrangements (think of a very fast drum solo or complex bass arrangements), maybe because of the increased impact of the bass.
Being a rock lover, John Bonham’s drums or Steve Harris’ bass have never been defaulted with these tips, so I’m all good.
While the Delta (with the gunmetal filters) were sometimes a little bit too « boomy » (which is not a flaw in my opinion, I really like them), bass is much more controlled on the Atlas.
I think the mids are Trinity’s strong point in all of their IEMs : hey sound absolutely natural and strikingly real. It also is on this range that the instrument placement is the best ; on several occasions, I have felt a sense of 360° placement with a feeling of music coming from behind me.
It is with the mids that the level of retrieval is the greatest too ; in my experience, they have never shown any weakness, and I honestly cannot think of anything else I would want them to be or to sound like.
I really love the coherence shown by the Atlas, which are my favorite IEMs so far, and think all of Trinity earset show outstanding value. However, the highs may be the frequency tuning I like less (I am far from disliking it, it just is that I feel the lows’ and mids’ tuning much more to my liking).
I have a feeling the highs are more easily put in default compared to the other frequencies. Bob Dylan’s or Neil Young’s harmonica playing sometimes show less precision and details than the other instruments, and I regularly have to turn volume down on highs-oriented music (once again, Dylan’s harmonica may feel a bit painful on a slightly over recommended listening volume).
Imaging and soundstage :
Thanks to the mids tuning, instrument placement is very good, though depending on the quality of the recording – you can’t compare the quality of the recording and mixing of Muddy Waters’ Folk Singer with that of L7’s debut album).
Soundstage is good, but is restraint by the form of the gear ; do not expect to visualize a whole stage, but you will definitely not have the feeling music is stuck in your skull.
With imaging as it is with soundstage, it is important to remember it is IEMs we are talking. Both characteristics are well above average on the Atlas.
During Trinity’s first campaign, many backers came with several requests : an over-ear fit, a sport-oriented earset, detachable cable, more refined tuning possibilities, … none of which could be incorporated in the Hyperion-Techne-Delta campaign by Bob, who obviously wanted to respect estimated delivery dates.
However, all of the suggestions were taken into account when designing the Atlas ; moreover, Bob showed extreme respect to his backers by offering a cash-back program to those already owning previous products but wanting to upgrade to a newer model (the Atlas or the Delta V.II).
I personally find a bit sad the Atlas were marketed as « sports earphones » ; they may have been designed for sports use, they definitely have the ability to be enjoyed under sports circumstances, but they are much more than just sports earphones ; as far as I’m concerned, with my somewhat limited experience, they could be tagged as audiophile earphones.
Purists may argue that their filter system, or even the balanced armature, defaults the audiophile purpose, but it is definitely not my feeling.
Trinity has given me – as well as several hundred backers – the opportunity to get a high-class IEMs at an affordable price.
Even at full retail price, I’d recommend them without the shadow of a doubt.
And if you’re not willing to trust an AverageDude’s word on his first review, there are dozens of other Head-Fi members who are Trinity backers or customers and who share my feeling about this set of earphones, the guy and his company J.