Reviews by grumpy213


100+ Head-Fier
Heat death of my heart
Pros: Gorgeous, lush and euphonic tonality
Generous bass response
Smooth reproduction of music
Tremendous musicality
Cons: Detail lacking somewhat
Some centre imaging issues



Many thanks to @Damz87 and 7th Acoustics for arranging the Australian tour of the Supernova and to Tom for ensuring their safe delivery.

The sources used to form this review included:
  • Chord Mojo 2;
  • Shanling M6 Ultra;
  • iBasso DC04 Pro;
  • Cayin RU7
all fed with lossless FLAC files.
In any hobby there is an air of pretension with certain hidden gems. Be it a sense of ownership of the hobby, the need to gatekeep the secret sauce to yourself or simply just an emotional reaction to something that you feel a connection to. The 7th Acoustics Supernova is perhaps one of the items of this phenomenon. Ordered off of a Facebook page of a smaller Indonesian maker, the Supernovas have received some attention from larger publications of audio reviews and the results have been rather telling. But in the grand scheme of things, the Supernovas remain as a fairly uncommon choice, a hidden gem if you will. But is this hidden gem a VVS diamond or a hunk of quartz?

The Factual Stuff​

The Supernova is a handmade IEM hailing from Indonesia and comes finished with a rather rounded black resin shell and a beautiful abalone faceplate.

However, there is a degree of customisability with your Supernova as their Facebook page is adorned with variations of the design ranging from clear resin shells to completely blacked out shells with no faceplate present.

Within the nicely finished packaging is a set of Final Audio E-type tips and BGVP A07 tips, a puck case with a screw down lid, a warranty card and a CEMA 4 wire copper cable.

The earpieces contain a six balanced armature setup with 2 drivers responsible for each section of the frequency response curve.

Their price at the time of this review is 800 USD.


The Opinion Stuff​



The Supernova takes a rather generous approach to the bass region, delicately balancing sub-bass and mid-bass frequencies in a manner that presents a rather fun listening experience. There was no want for more bass with hard-hitting hip-hop songs such as “GATTI” by Jackboys nor with EDM songs such as “Moving Mountains” by Disclosure. There is a sense of presence and punch with both the sub-bass and the mid-bass frequencies with these tracks and the latter imbues a sense of warmth and lushness to the rest of the frequency response.

The quantity does not veer into the inflated region and manages to maintain tonal balance within the music. The quality is also quite good with a sense of decay that provides more presence to the lower-end of music. It remains fairly fast however, as I would not describe the Supernova as “slow” in this region at all. The texture and detail of the bass remains readily discernible and provides great enjoyability to any song with a low-end focus, I was head bopping with the hip-hop regions of my library with great gusto. The one minor detraction I would make is that the mid-bass boost seems to tread slightly on the mids with certain male vocals such as The Weeknd’s “Out of Time” being somewhat lost in the sauce.

Overall, the bass presents an elevated tuning but manages to avoid being bloated and too much of a good thing, it imbues a sense of warmth and lushness whilst retaining detail in a manner that makes this region potentially the best part of the Supernova.


Moving on to the midrange, the Supernova does a rather good job with its reproduction of instruments and vocals within this region. The aforementioned mid-bass “boost” provides a sense of warmth and engagement to the mid-range. With songs such as “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington and Bill Withers contain strong male vocals and a large number of instruments that reside in this mid-range. The Supernova handles it quite well save for the aforementioned “muffling” of male vocals in lower registers due to the mid-bass, leading to a lack of separation in this portion of the frequency response. However, saxophones, steel drums, guitars and synths are reproduced with a relaxed and smooth tonality that is easy on the ears and feel comforting and emotionally engaging. Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” is a rather sparsely produced song focusing on the rather dramatic chords played by various instruments a very intimately recorded female vocal. The result on the Supernova is a very smooth rendering of the two with Billie’s vocals remaining clear, coherent but coloured slightly with a lushness and euphonic quality that makes it all a very easygoing listening experience. Upper mids such as those in “2easy” by Nive and Heize, a male and female duet with heady voices and lilting progressions are executed wonderfully with neither voice receiving undue precedence over the other. The emotionally charged singing comes across in spades and there is no edge to the voices to speak of.

Overall, the Supernova undertakes a smoother and more warm presentation of the mids that may leave some detail fiends wanting a little more neutrality, but these are definitely addictive to listen to and I find there is very little semblance of the oft quoted “BA plastic timbre”.


The upper end of the frequency response curve of the Supernovas presents a relaxed approach to treble tuning. Even when forcing some very aggressively bright songs such as “You & Me (Flume Remix)” by Disclosure/Flume with an extremely grating synth during the chorus did not lead to the usual cringe that I get with any other IEM. The Supernova remains clear, and crisp in its reproduction and does not venture into the overly bright. It provides a sense of sparkle with certain tracks and presents itself with good airiness that matches well with the well-executed speed and decay of the other regions. Comparing to other IEMs however, some of the shortcomings of the Supernova in this region become apparent. Certain instruments such as a brush on a hi-hat in Cliff Martinez’s “The Demon Dance” and the cymbal crashing in Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” does not present itself in a readily apparent and clear manner, being somewhat lost in the sauce of things.

If I had to give some points off of the Supernova, it would likely be in the treble region. I do not feel that it is horrible by any means but given the excellence of the execution of the bass and the midrange, I feel that the treble could’ve done perhaps 5% better in order to make this a slam dunk no-brainer IEM.


Perhaps by virtue of its tuning (which is excellent) there is a sense of speed, crispness and detail retrieval that is left on the table in return for excellent timbre and easy going tonality. The Supernova takes on a smooth reproduction and as such there is a sense that there is a bit of “rounding out” of certain notes that limits the capabilities of absolute detail. This is ultimately a nit-pick as I feel that the Supernova does a great job of rendering detail and resolution, it merely is inherently not at the forefront of your mind when listening due to the smoother tonality. Songs such as “Rush Over Me (Acoustic version)” by Haliene remains excellent in capturing the subtle details of a piano pedal, inhales of the vocalist and fingers floating over keys. There is a teeny, tiny sense of a “veil” but in this regard, the veil is that 5-year-old pair of threadbare underwear with a loose elastic band, it is essentially the equivalent of having a piece of tissue over the driver as opposed to a pillow if that makes sense.

The sound staging of the Supernova has little to no complaints from me. It does not wow me in any aspect but presents a sufficiently wide and tall staging but lacks somewhat in depth in that it doesn’t jump out to me like a MEST MK3 does (noting that the MEST is considerably more expensive). Left to right imaging with panning instruments also is achieved well, with a smooth experience throughout instead of a noticeable jump from left ear to right ear on lesser IEMs. Centre imaging of vocals seems to fall short here of other IEMs and is a rather prominent shortcoming of the Supernova.

Ultimately, these are not detail monsters but they do well enough at their price point. The trade off is an almost perfect laid-back and smooth presentation of music that is hugely addictive to listen to.


These have captured my heart and mind as being perhaps one of the best tunings that I have listened to. I described the Supernova as somewhat warm but I wish to clarify that in that it doesn’t lean too hard into that but rather balances it into a smoooooooth, easy listen that remains hugely engaging and highly emotional. I mean that in that there was plenty of singing along and toe-tapping and running through multiple tracks in their entirety instead of skipping ahead to the next test track. These are hallmarks of a wonderfully engaging experience and the Supernova provides that in spades.


One thought coming to my mind here namely lessons learnt after multiple DAPs, DACs and Amps plus headphones and IEMs is synergy! Hoping for the one and only holy grail Setup is maybe just a nice wish unless buying according synergy transducers and I don't believe even the best sources are an exception here. There's a reason why people are having multiple devices in parallel or reducing inventory and keeping only the ones with right synergy.

Chord Mojo 2

I would characterise the Mojo 2 as a very, very slightly warm neutral tonality with a more natural reproduction of instruments and voices with no DSP enabled.

The Supernova presents itself in a very straightforward but ultimately very enticing manner with the Mojo. The neutral manner of the Mojo 2 combined with its increased dynamics compared to the rest of the sources in this review synergises well with the laid-back Supernova, not adding too much of a good thing. The upper mids seem to gain a little bit of an edge with sss sounds from vocalists presenting a very slight sibilance over the other sources in this review but not falling into the realm of being overly fatiguing.

Aforementioned concerns such as a far from ideal centre imaging capability as well as slightly too much mid-bass are alleviated using the DSP, specifically the EQ and the crossfeed functions. These seemingly confirm the shortcomings that I identified in the non-DSP listening experience.

Overall, there is hardly anything to fault when using the Supernova and the Mojo2 with zero DSP and there is definitely some benefits to have with the DSP. The Mojo2 presents a rather neutral presentation that coalesces with the smooth reproduction of the Supernova and the increased dynamism of its mid presentation creates a mid focus that is definitely enjoyable for more vocal-heavy tracks in my library.


Shanling M6 Ultra

I would characterise the M6 Ultra (M6U) as a smooth, slightly warm source with an increased sense of presence in the mids and a strong note weight.

The M6U works to enhance the strengths of the Supernova by adding even more mid presence and smoothing out the frequency response even further. The result is an even lusher sounding IEM that feels sparsely staged and notes seem to strike with a relaxed character that feels almost effortless. Songs such as “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic feel tremendously analogue with instruments and the male vocals feeling as though they are meandering out of the drivers with a laid-back coolness. One could say that the two coalesce to be “too much of a good thing” which I can agree with in that there is a reduced sense of dynamism and attack from the notes and pushes the Supernova into the realm of being almost lethargic.

This is a pairing that is rather good for more folksy, acoustic tracks that perhaps may be poorly recorded (or just plain old) in that it is highly forgiving and just a relaxing listen. Those looking for a pairing that demands attention and greater critical listening companion may have to look elsewhere.

Cayin RU7

I would characterise the RU7 as smooth, slightly rolled off and warm (depending on your settings). The sound signature is meant to replicate a more “analogue” sound signature and the result is a more calming and relaxed approach.

The RU7 is the M6U but perhaps to even more coloured approach to music, the resulting combination with the Supernova is a highly diffused reproduction that feels airy and wide. Listening to tracks such as “Out of Time” by the Weeknd, that utilises a rather retro 80s sample heavily sound analogue and out of a time machine. Listening to more aggressively produced modern music such as “Walk with Me” by Cosmos Midnight seem to lose the edge and sparkle of modern production and the result is an overly smoothed out experience. Not bad in small spurts but ultimately, I feel as though the RU7 doesn’t represent a long-time listening companion with Supernova unless you want to heavily lean into the already lush tonality.

iBasso DC04Pro

I would characterise the DC04Pro as dynamic, clean and has a very low noise floor. The sound signature is slightly bright in comparison to my other sources and tracks seem to “attack” you.

The DC04Pro embodies what I feel is a running theme in modern chi-fi (especially more budget options) in that it is rather lean sounding and quite bright. These elements seem to contrast with what the Supernova seems to represent but I feel that the two synergise quite well, especially with the fast digital filter on. There is a greater sense of clarity and crispness to certain notes, the slight treble tilt gives an extra edge on wind chimes sparkling and cymbals crashing throughout a number of tracks.

The characteristics work well to bring a sense of crispness and attack to the previously laid-back Supernova and help temper its rather lush tonality with a greater sense of speed and attack.


vs Campfire Andromeda 2019

The Andromeda, especially the 2019 edition takes on a rather unique approach to tuning in that it lacks sub-bass, adopts a heavy scoop of mid-bass and imparts a generous amount of warmth into the frequency response.

The technical chops of the Andromeda are often hyped up as being “holographic” whilst I will refrain from stating that and overblowing it (like I was misled once a upon a time) the Andromedas do present music in a very unique manner. With certain tracks such as “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran presenting in a manner that feels as though Taylor Swift is singing from a stage in a small theatre imparting a wonderful sense of staging, the Supernova has some stiff competition. A comparison of the two displays that the Supernova has some issues with centre imaging of vocals, feeling decidedly left-right channel in nature whereas the Andromeda feels more capable and precise in its technical abilities.

Otherwise, the Andromeda’s tuning is a love-hate sort of approach whereas I feel that the Supernova is sure to please the majority of listeners out there. Overall, I feel the Andromeda is a Supernova turned up to 11 and whilst some benefits come from that approach (greater technical capabilities) so too does the thought that the music comes off a bit too coloured for most.

vs Symphonium Helios

I was less than forgiving to the Helios in my recent review with my qualms being that the tuning seeks to heighten its technical prowess at the cost of a more natural and calming tonality. The Helios seems to occupy the other end of the spectrum of the cold-warm scale compared to the Supernova. In this regard, it is a matter of preference of whether you are looking for clear, crisp notes that invite a critical hyper-aware listen of your music to seek out microdetails or if you are looking to sit back and relax with a random playlist.

The Helios wins out handily in terms of treble extension and quality, the mids however fail to match the Supernova and the bass is a little too tilted to emphasise sub-bass to be readily enjoyable throughout a more eclectic library.

The Helios gets a little too hot with certain sibilant tracks and certain songs feel fatiguing compared to the laid-back approach of the Supernova.


The MEST MK2 impresses me through its unique staging and imaging qualities as well as its diffuse and rather balanced tonality. It presents technical prowess whilst managing to have a tuning that is enjoyable to me over long listening periods.

Compared to the Supernova, the MK2 wins out in its treble reproduction and in its technical chops but in terms of tuning and tonality, the Supernova trumps it. There appears to be some missing element of the Supernova, that the MK2 achieves through its generous driver count and quadbrid design. However, where the MK2 seems to squeezing the most out of each note and flexing its technical abilities with songs, the Supernova sounds effortless and cohesive in its reproduction. The MK2 is also highly reliant on a good fit and at times does feel as though there is some disjointedness in certain points where drivers seem to be playing hot potato with lilting vocal lines.

Overall, I feel that the MK2 presents a more neutral and analytical tonality that does not veer into the sterile region of the Helios whereas the Supernova feels effortless and more warmth.

Quality of Life

The Supernova is a handmade product and there are some apparent evidence of that in the finishing of the nozzles which are rather rough to the eye and to the touch. The included CEMA cable is rather kinky and microphonic leading to an unpleasant experience when on the go.
The eartips included are rather good in that the E-types are very good value for money, having a well made but rather mid-forward tip type.

The fit of the Supernova is rather good in my opinion, noting that I have rather large ear holes. The shells are well contoured and rounded and I feel that it would work well with most people. The nozzles are somewhat wide but are not long enough to cause me any issues.

The Supernovas are also vented, something that is quite odd to me with my past experience with multi-BA sets usually dispensing with this. The result is a rather comfortable listening experience over several hours but noise isolation is noticeably worse than some of the other multi BA sets covered in the comparison above.

Otherwise, the nature of 7th Acoustics and the Supernova means that you will be unable to simply demo and buy them from your local audio store. These have a wait time, and you are required to send money overseas over Facebook. This detracts from the overall appeal of the Supernova but it does benefit from you being able to customise your own 1 of 1 Supernova with the folks at 7th Acoustics.


At its previous price prior to the price hike, I would have stated that the Supernova would represent the absolute most bang-for-the-buck IEM in the market.

At a price of 800USD I believe that the Supernova represents great value, trading punches with behemoths of the kilobuck region with gusto. It does ultimately lose on detail retrieval and a more technically proficient kilobuck IEM will be able to hold this over the head of the Supernova.

However, in return for this shortcoming, is a reward in the form of extremely well executed tuning and tonality. The Supernova is relaxed, easy-going listening experience, but not to the point of putting you to sleep and failing to engage you. The Supernova is a smooth, well executed sub-kilobuck price tag having kilobuck, and for that, I believe it represents very, very good value.


This review is entitled the “heat death of my heart” and that is because the Supernova’s namesake represents the final stage of a star. But unlike being an exploding star signalling the end, the Supernova represents a burgeoning maker of IEMs that I am hugely interested in seeing what the future holds. I await, with bated breath, the release of their next IEM which I understand will be their new flagship. And whilst this dramatic statement shows an overwhelmingly positive sentiment, the Supernova retains some rough edges in terms of details and technicalities.

The Supernova is a tremendously tuned IEM that presents a warm, inviting and natural tonality that is hugely enjoyable. There is an X-factor here that I feel is very unique and for that, I applaud the Supernova and heartily recommend it.

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100+ Head-Fier
“An aurora borealis…localized entirely within your IEM!?”
Pros: Smooth, natural tonality;
Wonderful vocal quality; and
Uniquely smooth bass response
Cons: Treble execution lacks excitement and engagement;
Intimate and slightly confined staging limits versatility; and
Rather middling accessory package.



Many thanks to @Damz87 and to Nicholas Tsu for arranging the Australian tour of the Aurora and to chowy for ensuring their safe delivery.
The sources used to form this review included:
- Chord Mojo 2;
- Shanling M6 Ultra; and
- Cayin RU7,
all fed with lossless FLAC files.

There is something in the water in Asia. The dominance of the region in the proliferation of a large number of IEMs in the last decade has been nothing short of amazing. Whilst Chi-Fi gets all the praise, there are a number of other nations providing a number of noteworthy IEMs. I have previously reviewed Symphonium, a Singaporean maker with ties to two other noteworthy compatriots in the form of Subtonic and Nightjar. Today’s review concerns another burgeoning IEM maker from the city-state of Singapore, the Aur Audio Aurora. With a small operation consisting of two friends, there appears to be an attention to detail and loving care that only a smaller shop can bring to deliver what they state on their website as being “the ultimate in sound quality and clarity unlike any other”. Rather lofty words let’s see if they can deliver such an experience with their Aurora.

The Factual Stuff​

The Aurora does not come with a box but rather in a puck style case containing:
  • The earpieces;
  • A twisted, cloth covered cable;
  • Silicone eartips; and
  • A cleaning brush.
Within the earpieces are an 8 driver setup consisting of two “opposed” 7.5mm dynamic drivers and 6 balanced armatures, with two of those being tweeters focused on the higher ranges and 4 being focused on the mids.
The Aurora is available for 560 USD.


The Opinion Stuff​


The review was conducted with Spinfit CP145s. The stock tips included were tested and an insight into their quality is provided in the section entitled “Quality of Life”.


The Aurora provides a rather heathy dose of bass in the form of both an elevated sub and mid-bass lift that ensures that it is present in nearly every song that you listen to. The sub-bass presents itself as a rather pleasing rumble in songs such as “THE PLAN” from the TENET soundtrack in a manner that is neither overbearing nor overly recessed. There is a rather good balancing act here and the sub-bass shelf remains nicely elevated for that sense of presence with modern-produced music. There is a decent quality to the sub-bass as well as it remains textured and detailed.
The mid-bass is ever so slightly elevated to present a nice sense of punch and added weight to the upper-bass/lower mid regions without treading on any other part of the frequency response. There is a tendency for a mid-bass boost to muddy up some male vocals and portions of the mids but testing the Aurora demonstrates that there is little to none semblance of this.
There is a detriment to the bass on the Aurora and that is there is not a great sense of attack and dynamism to the bass in that the quantity is good yes, but it does not provide the physicality and speed you would get in other IEMs. There is a sense of a laidback and smooth reproduction of these bass frequencies and I didn’t mind it that much, however, for more aggressive basslines in trap and EDM tracks, the Aurora did not keep up that well.


The mids on the Aurora are potentially the most well executed portion of the IEM, providing a smooth and natural tonality throughout. “2easy” by Nive and Heize is a female/male duet with rather lilting runs throughout and both vocalists receive an equal amount of attention from the Aurora. The timbre remains natural and “analogue” sounding in nature leading to a very laid-back listening experience. With more aggressive higher mid songs such as “4walls” by f(x) there is no real shoutiness or brightness to be heard throughout. This creates a rather easy-going listening experience that is non-fatiguing but there is a sense of a loss of sparkle throughout this region.
As previously mentioned, the mid-bass boost imparts a good sense of weight and warmth to the mids as well without detracting from male vocalists such as those in “Out of Time” by the Weeknd as it remained nicely separated and easily discernible.
The smooth reproduction, whilst enjoyable, appears to detract from certain instrumentalization throughout tracks such as “Starman” by David Bowie or “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington and Bill Withers with the guitar and the saxophone (respectively) losing a sense of “edge” and being more rounded in their reproduction.
Ultimately, the vocal reproduction of the Aurora is the most noteworthy element of the IEM and is definitely something that surprised me with how well it was executed. However, it does seem to be at the cost of some clarity and sparkle with upper mids and the speed and resolution of some instruments.


Carrying on from the discussion of the upper-mids, the treble region of the Aurora is very smoothed out and rolled off in my opinion. There is a lack of engagement in this region even when throwing sibilant and very bright tracks at it. “Reckoner” by Radiohead has a wonderful string of percussion throughout the track and the Aurora provides a slightly limp and not very engaging reproduction of it, lacking speed and sparkle. “You & Me (Flume Remix)” by Disclosure/Flume has a very aggressive synth in the chorus that cuts throughout the rest of the mix with its extremely sharp ascent into the highs and it remained rather non-engaging with the Aurora.
There is a benefit with this tuning as I feel that the Aurora avoids any sense of fatigue over long listening periods with its forgiving and smooth treble regions but there is a lack of engagement and drama with instruments within the region. There is a distinct lack of airiness and crispness as cymbals do not crash with the same brain-tickling effect and a hi-hat ringing throughout a track remains recessed and indiscernible from the rest of the mix.
Overall, I feel as though the treble remains the sore spot for the Aurora as it is too recessed, smoothed out and rolled off to present the sense of sparkle and ear-tickling effect that one would expect. I see what they were going for in aligning the region with the sound signature of the rest of the IEM but ultimately it remains a disappointment for me.


The Aurora’s smooth tonality belies some rather good technical chops. Despite not having detail “jump out at you” in the case of brighter IEMs, a careful listening elicits some good detail retrieval for the price range. However, the smoothed out and rolled-off nature of the Aurora ultimately limits its ability to communicate very subtle details in well-recorded tracks such as Haliene’s “Rush Over Me (Acoustic)” wherein there is a loss of detail with the piano player floating his fingers over the keys and the mechanics of the press against the pedal are not presented in the same manner as it was with other IEMs.
The staging is somewhat confined as I feel that the lack of airiness of the Aurora and the mid-forward nature leads to a rather limited width and depth to the music as things seem to present right in front of you and do not pan out very far from the immediate left and right of you. Centre imaging is a wonderful thing with the Aurora however, as the intimacy of the staging combined with the vocal quality of the Aurora with tracks such as “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift creates a very analogue reproduction of what one would imagine an intimate performance would be like.
Overall, the technicalities require a keen ear, a rather high volume and critical listen to present themselves in fullness. The staging is rather confined, but this lends itself to the key strength of the Aurora in its vocal presentation.


The Aurora presents itself as a vocal specialist with a dash of fun with its high quality lower-end reproduction. Where the issues (in my mind) lay is the movement into the upper mids and treble region wherein the pursuit of smooth and laid-back listening has limited the ability to communicate the drama of certain tracks and perhaps engagement with entire genres such as EDM.
Whether the great timbre of the mids and the balanced yet fun execution of the bass is enough to forgive this rather glaring limitation is dependent on your own preferences and the genres that you enjoy listening too. More acoustically focused and enjoy folksy music? The Aurora is a no brainer if your budget permits. Grating synths and harrowing percussion? Probably look elsewhere.


One thought coming to my mind here namely lessons learnt after multiple DAPs, DACs and Amps plus headphones and IEMs is synergy! Hoping for the one and only holy grail Setup is maybe just a nice wish unless buying according synergy transducers and I don't believe even the best sources are an exception here. There's a reason why people are having multiple devices in parallel or reducing inventory and keeping only the ones with right synergy.

Shanling M6 Ultra:​

I would characterise the M6 Ultra (M6U) as a smooth, slightly warm source with an increased sense of presence in the mids and a strong note weight.
The M6U coalesces with the Aurora in a very forthright manner. The smoothness of the M6U combined with the already smooth nature of the Auroras present butter in audio form. There are no hard edges here and the result is a rewarding and inviting listening experience as there is not fatigue at all over the course of several hours. There is a loss of engagement by taking this approach as notes no longer really “attack” but rather simply float out for your ears to listen to.
A rather interesting presentation that will be sure to attract more easygoing listeners but sure to disappoint those looking for a more extreme experience.


Chord Mojo 2​

I would characterise the Mojo 2 as a very, very slightly warm neutral tonality with a more natural reproduction of instruments and voices with no DSP enabled.
The Aurora and the Mojo 2 has a rather straightforward interaction with one another, with the relatively neutral tonality of the Mojo 2 bringing a greater sense of engagement and dynamism with the rather smooth Aurora. The attack and speed of certain notes is an obvious difference between the M6U and the Mojo 2. There is a greater sense of engagement with the Mojo 2 rather than having some pleasant-sounding background music.
Playing around with the DSP on the Mojo 2 affirms my previous insights into the treble region as EQ with the upper mids and treble brought about a greater sense of sparkle in the region and improved the overall experience in my mind.
The Mojo 2 synergises well with the Aurora in my mind, and I can happily recommend it with the benefit of DSP.


Cayin RU7​

I would characterise the RU7 as smooth, slightly rolled off and warm (depending on your settings). The sound signature is meant to replicate a more “analogue” sound signature and the result is a more calming and relaxed approach.
In the same vein as the M6U, the RU7 seems to amplify the sound signature of the Aurora by smoothing it out even further. Unlike the M6U, the RU7 imbues a rather healthy soundstage and a great sense of detail and imaging in microdetails by separating the mix. The soundstage factor is a welcome element as it widens out the Aurora and provides a nicely layered listening experience.
Otherwise, the experience may be described as overly smooth by some but the experience is a rather euphonic one and I can definitely recommend this for more relaxed, laid-back listens over long periods of time that will retain your interest.


Vs Moondrop Variations​

Occupying a rather similar price range, the Variations present what one could term as the antithesis of the Aurora’s tuning ethos. Leaner and more thin in its midrange, the Variations opts for a more sharp dip in the mid-bass to more cleanly separate the midrange and the bass. Sub-bass is the Variations forte and there is a greater sense of impact in the cleanliness of its tuning but the Aurora remains a very, very close competitor.
There is a loss of mid warmth and a lighter note weight overall but in return is a cleaner tonality that seems to highlight greater microdetails throughout the frequency response. The Variations feel more sparse and wide in its presentation but similar to the Aurora, there is a lack of depth. The vocals with the Variations are more recessed in the mix and thus there is a loss of emotional engagement with certain instrumentalization and vocals. There is a definite preference for female vocals and higher frequencies in the Variations as there is a prominent edge in the sparkle factor of belted female vocals and edgy percussion. This is a definite win in the Variations favour.
Overall, I feel that the Auroras and the Variations represent similar technical capabilities with the difference being their tuning. If you prefer a warmer and smooth reproduction, the Aurora is the clear choice.

Vs Sony IER-M9​

The IER-M9 represents in my mind, the gatekeeper of the kilobucks. With its rather inoffensive (and perhaps boring) tonality combined with its technical prowess, it presents $1000 vanilla ice-cream by which others may be tested.
The warmer than neutral tuning of the IER-M9 presents a similarly smoother experience than a lot of modern IEMs in the market but not the same extent as the Aurora. Sub-bass takes a definite hit in quantity but the quality of its detail and texture present a win over the Aurora. The mid-bass punch is also similarly impressive for the IER-M9 being an all-BA set, the Aurora does not win in the quality region but the balance in tuning of the Aurora provides it with a tonality that is more agreeable to me.
Treble is also more impressively executed on the IER-M9 with greater extension and greater prominence in the mix compared to the smoothed out and rolled-off nature of the Aurora. The IER-M9 remains rather sparkly and airy in its reproduction of the treble that lends itself to a rather enjoyable listening experience rather than being an afterthought in the mix.
Detail retrieval on the IER-M9 is also better in that microdetails are revealed to a greater extent in well recorded songs. Staging is somewhat similar with that centre-presenting vocal mix but there is a greater sense of depth and layering in the mix on the IER-M9 that gives a more textured quality to the recording than on the Aurora.
This is somewhat of an unfair comparison considering the price difference but where the Aurora can hang its hat on is its smooth, easy listening experience that is vocally focused and a better balance between mid and sub bass.


Vs 7th Acoustics Supernova​

The Supernova is another smooth criminal in the IEM space that I am in the process of writing a review for. Considering these arrived concurrently, I compared the two due to their similar approach to tonality despite their price difference (Supernova = 800 USD, Aurora = 560USD).
The bass presents itself more forwardly in the Aurora with a more generous helping of sub-bass throughout that adds to the fun factor. The more level bass response leading into the mids of the Supernova leads to some issues with male vocals whereas the Aurora’s shelf and subtle mid-bass boost creates greater separation.
The mids on the two IEMs seek out to create a smooth and natural tonality that is pleasing to the ear. Where the Supernova separates itself is the upper mids extending into the treble region wherein the spine-tingling reproduction of female vocalisation creates a more engaging experience compared to the slightly limper production of the Aurora. Vocal fry and the inhales of the vocalist running through their lyrics seem to present themselves with far greater detail and emotional engagement on the Supernova than the Aurora. Instrumentalization such as dramatic piano solos also seem to engage more thoroughly on the Supernova compared to the Aurora.
Treble extension is not the forte of either IEMs here but the Supernova remains more sparkly than the Aurora and creates a greater sense of drama with certain instruments.
Technicalities on the Supernova take the W in that detail retrieval, staging and resolution all seem to be bumped up from the Aurora in a noticeable manner.
Overall, the Aurora and the Supernova are more similar than they are unalike, however, the Supernova represents a noticeable step up in nearly all aspects save for bass quantity and the mid-bass control.

Quality of Life​

The 3D resin shell of the Aurora is very well made but the shells themselves are rather beefy. Whilst I had no issues with fitment, I would not be surprised if the rather wide and deep earpieces pose some issues to more smaller ears.

The included accessories are rather limited, and I was not a fan of the stock eartips in any case given they seemed to jump from rather small to very large. With that being said, the cleaning brush is always a nice addition, and I am a big fan of the puck case that does a good job of being rather ergonomically shaped and with a very nice silicone friction fit.
The stock eartips are rather wide nozzle openings that lead to a rather odd sound signature wherein soundstage is improved somewhat at the cost of some dynamics. The bass is sucked out with the stock large tips and lends itself to an even more relaxed and laid-back listening experience that I would liken to having a smaller speaker in a rather larger room. Not the ideal listening experience which is why I opted for a CP145 for my review but would likely be quite ideal for those looking to maximise the inherent qualities of the Aurora.
The included cable is soft and well-made but the memory of the cable and perhaps any cable utilising cloth covers is a rather annoying aspect as it wants to retain its shape.

Whilst related to sound quality, the Auroras are best presented whilst listening at rather high volumes, giving a greater coherency across the frequency response curve. This however, is not an ideal situation given that it may lead to some rather poor consequences. The rolled off treble was alleviated at higher listening volumes that provided a greater sense of excitement but was untenable for longer listening sessions and with songs with greater dynamic swings in volume.


I feel that the Auroras reside firmly in their price point and do not seem to punch too high up. The comparison against the Variations, priced at 520 USD usually is a rather telling one. The two trade blows in more “objective” elements such as technical performance with the main difference being tuning, which is a more preference based aspect of the game.

The accessory package is quite middling at the price point as I found the puck case on Aliexpress for $4 and the cable, whilst nicely smooth, provided some ergonomic issues for me.

Overall, at 560 USD, I don’t believe that the Aurora is a revelation at its price point but remains a very good option for a specialist IEM that excels in vocal reproduction and for those seeking out a smooth, easy listening experience.


There isn’t much to dislike about the Aurora, it is a very easy listen in that I can freely just place them in my ears and leave my library to play on shuffle without any song feeling as though they have been wronged in their reproduction. Vocal reproduction is the forte of the Aurora and the intimate staging and smooth reproduction of all facets of the frequency response lend itself to a honeyed and euphonic mid-region.
However, there is a loss of overall engagement with music due to the treble performance of the Aurora that removes from the “drama” and “excitement” of certain instruments and notes hit by vocalists.
I am by no means a treblehead but the Aurora provides very little in the sense of engagement in this region and I sorely miss a more “revealing” tuning and a sense of sparkle and hair-raising peril of certain instruments.
The Aurora is not an IEM I can recommend for everyone but if you are looking for an intimate, smooth and warm listen and understand that this IEM is somewhat of a specialist, then I cannot fault it. More discerning individuals and those looking to jump up to the Aurora’s price point may find the lack of treble excitement sorely lacking.
Hard to find iems with sparkling and engaging treble in these days. Every manufacturer smoothing like Moondrop :frowning2:
Realy like this aurora
It’s a really smooth listen. Unfortunately it falls out of preference basket but glad to hear you’re liking it!


100+ Head-Fier
Symphonium Helios - Mr Clean, for better or for worse.
Pros: Neutral, clean tonality;
Great treble response; and
Crisp and fast detail.
Cons: Rather hard to drive;
Awkward shells and long nozzles lead to odd fit;
Mid-bass/lower-mid dip creates some incoherency; and
Somewhat dry and unnatural tonality.


Many thanks to @Damz87 and @Sebastien Chiu for arranging the Australian tour of the Helios.
The sources used to form this review included:

  • Chord Mojo 2;
  • Shanling M6 Ultra; and
  • Luxury & Precision W4,
all fed with lossless FLAC files.

There are a number of nations that are associated with the manufacturing of certain products. There is something to be said about a German car, a Scottish whiskey and now perhaps, a Singaporean IEM. Singapore has emerged as a heavy hitter in the audio scene and more specifically, the IEM scene. Today’s review concerns the Helios by Symphonium, a fairly new entrant into the audio market that has made some waves with their trio of initial releases and their association with their compatriots, Subtonic and Nightjar. This trio of makers from Singapore have garnered some attention for their rather exciting releases into the IEM market. But is the Helios a flash in the pan or a foundational product for someone that expects to be a market-leading audio manufacturer?

The Factual Stuff​

The Helios comes in a rather spartan and compact box housing within:
  • Stock Symphonium tips;
  • AZLA Sedna Eartips;
  • An Altatune Audio Nova copper cable;
  • A nice authenticity card;
  • A cleaning brush; and
  • A handsome metal carry case with a screw down lid.

The earpieces themselves are an angular and oddly shaped piece of machined alumnium anodized in black and adorned with simple white text. Within these earpieces are four balanced armature (BA) drivers accompanied with a four-way crossover to help the BAs to work together nicely. The Helios also spruiks their Filtered Linear Attenuation Tuning (FLAT) which promises to avoid impedance mismatches and any impact that your source will have on the frequency response curve of your Helios.

You get all of this for the price of 1099 USD, placing the Helios against stiff competition in the fabled “kilobuck” region.


The Opinion Stuff​



The Helios takes a sub-bass focussed approach to the lower end of the frequency response curve, elevating the lowest of frequencies to provide a satisfying sense of presence with great extension and presence. The low-end makes itself heard in songs such as “Solar Sailer” from the Tron Legacy soundtrack and Jhene Aiko’s “B.S.” each providing a very satisfying sub-bass rumble. The Helios does not sacrifice quality however as these frequencies remain nicely detailed and textured.

The mid-bass on the other hand is rather anaemic in comparison, with this section of the frequency response curve being pulled back rather heavily, potentially in order to maintain the clarity of the mids (further outlined below). Subtle bass lines in tracks such as “Out of Time” by the Weeknd or “Above the Clouds” by Gangstarr remain discernible but removes an element of punch and impact. This definitely renders certain songs feeling thin and lacking that fun factor.

Overall, the Helios takes a rather safe approach to bass tuning to achieve, what I feel is neutrality and cleanliness throughout the entirety of the frequency response.


The shift from mid-bass to lower mids is a rather peculiar one with this region seemingly being recessed to the point of removing certain sounds in tracks that I am quite familiar with. The result is an odd presentation wherein there is a jump from sub-bass to certain vocals and instruments in the mids. I also believe that this dip is also responsible for a seemingly recessed male vocal line, as certain songs such as more Weeknd tracks and “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington & Bill Withers felt a little thin and lacking the emotional impact of the male vocalist’s voices.

The upper-mids seem to be tuned with greater gusto however, as female vocalists and higher pitched instruments felt much more present within the mix. K-pop is characterised by the airiness and heady voices of their female vocalists and that much is apparent when listening to the Helios. There is perhaps a little too much juice towards this end of the mid spectrum as some songs such as “4 walls” by f(x) and “Fine” by Taeyeon came off a little shouty at times.

The timbre of the mids is also a bit off by my listening as each note comes hard and fast, with seemingly little decay. The result is a little bit of perceived thinness and dryness in the vocal tonality. The benefit of this characteristic is a greater perceived sense of clarity in the region as each instrument felt very clear and crisp in its presentation.

Overall, the lower-end dip and upper-end boost seems to target a certain demographic and certain library of music. I feel that the mids are clear, crisp and nicely sparkly, but is somewhat unnatural in its presentation and potentially missing the note weight and emotional engagement that slightly warmer tuned IEMs would offer.


The Helios manages the treble region with great gusto, with piercing synths, harrowing violin solos and crashing cymbals providing a great sense of sparkle and crispness. Brushes on the hi-hats in “The Demon Dance” by Julian Winding present readily in the mix and are wonderfully visceral. Piercing synths throughout a variety of EDM songs were resolved resolutely by the Helios with each note being crisp and clear in busily produced tracks.

I do not find the treble peaky nor do I find it overly bright. the Helios manages to balance the treble rather well with the rest of the frequency response curve and the aforementioned speed of the Helios manages to replicate higher end notes with great gusto. Despite not finding it “overly bright”, I did find that it toed the line at times with grating synths in “You & Me” by Disclosure and remixed by Flume came across a little hot at higher volumes. With that being said, the Helios did not seem to cause me any fatigue over long listening sessions.

Overall, I found the treble crisp, fast and extremely well detailed. There is a very slight toeing of the line here but the hair-raising sparkle that certain songs provided on the Helios was very rewarding and I can definitely state that this is perhaps the most well executed portion of the tuning of the Helios and potentially amongst its competition. I cannot find fault in this region even if I tried and for someone with particularly "ded" ears in that treble doesn't immediately jump out to me on first listen, the treble was sorely missed when switching to other IEMs.


I’ve touched on it somewhat in my discussion regarding the tuning but the Helios appears to be a wonderful technical IEM. The crispness and speed of the 4BA setup combined with the tuning creates a wonderful sense of a highly detailed and greatly resolving IEM.

The aforementioned dryness of the notes may lead to certain notes being overly fast and slightly thin but speed at which the Helios runs through generously produced tracks is something to behold.

It remains layered, coherent (save for that mid-dip) and certain sounds and instruments are easy to pick out from the mix. This is a particularly strong point of the Helios, perhaps by virtue of that mid-dip, notes seem to appear out of nowhere and strike with authority and speed. This style of speed and detail lends itself to a more spacious staging experience as it feels slightly diffuse in presentation.

Soundstaging is rather unique in that the Helios feels quite wide as certain notes seem to extend out quite wide in the headstage. The depth is also decent but I feel that this is helped along by the aforementioned tuning choice leading to recessed lower mids creating a faux-sense of depth.


The tuning of the Helios is, in my mind, a mixed bag. The sub-bass is wonderfully executed, the mid-bass leading into the lower mids is a black hole essentially, upper mids are crisp and elevated and the treble is simply wonderful.

This ends up creating a rather disjointed reproduction of music (in the case of my library at least) as I felt throughout listening to the Helios that I was missing out on something and there was less toe-tapping and singing along with my tracks and more just pointing out technical details of certain parts of the song.

On that point however, the Helios is, technically, a great IEM. Resolution and detail is provided in spades but this is perhaps at the cost of some note-weight, tastefully executed decay and a warmer, more emotionally engaging tonality. But this is simply a preference of mine and you may feel that I talking crazy here.



One thought coming to my mind here namely lessons learnt after multiple DAPs, DACs and Amps plus headphones and IEMs is synergy! Hoping for the one and only holy grail Setup is maybe just a nice wish unless buying according synergy transducers and I don't believe even the best sources are an exception here. There's a reason why people are having multiple devices in parallel or reducing inventory and keeping only the ones with right synergy.

Chord Mojo 2​

I would characterise the Mojo 2 as a very, very slightly warm neutral tonality with a more natural reproduction of instruments and voices with no DSP enabled.

This presentation of music does not impart any coloured tonality on the Helios and provides simply more of the same in that the Helios is able to present itself as it was likely intended. The result of this is a technically proficient and somewhat sterile listening experience wherein the end-user is feeling the music come at them fast with loads of detail within.

The Helios with the Mojo 2 didn’t really elicit any specific emotions out of me apart from just an appreciation of how well it resolved. As such I do not feel that the two synergised with each other well in stock settings but after a bit of tinkering with the DSP to correct some of the perceived misgivings above, I felt the Helios improved due to a greater alignment to my preferences. I altered the mid-bass to give a little more oomph to the bottom end and add in to what I call the "fun factor" of the Helios.


Shanling M6 Ultra​

I would characterise the M6 Ultra (M6U) as a smooth, slightly warm source with an increased sense of presence in the mids and a strong note weight.

This presentation seems to work well with the Helios as it seemed to elevate that previously mentioned mid-dip and add in a greater sense of warmth and weight to the mids that was previously somewhat thin and dry. The elevation in mid-bass and the euphonic quality it imbued on the mids generated greater enjoyment of the Helios for me and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Helios on this source.

I feel that the two synergise quite well with one another but considering that the M6U seemingly counteracts the conscious choices of Symphonium to tune the Helios in a certain manner, leads me to believe I am missing the point of the Helios.

Luxury & Precision W4

I would characterise the W4 as a fast, well resolving and somewhat dry source. With a penchant for sub-bass and upper mids on the stock settings, the W4 is seemingly similar to the tuning choices of the Helios.

These elements lead to a rather poor synergistic choice in my mind as it seemingly highlighted some of the issues that I had with the Helios as mid-bass remained rather limp, the mid-dip was left alone and the upper mids/treble started to venture into slightly too hot territory.

DSP settings such as the NOS digital filter and some other tweaks alleviated this but overall, I do not feel this represents the best choice for the Helios.


vs Campfire Andromeda (2019)​

A perennial contender in the kilobuck category, the Andromeda is characterised as a warm-neutral IEM with a rather generous amount of mid-bass and a euphonic, emotional presentation of music helped along with its unique staging capabilities.

Tonally speaking, the Andromeda and the Helios are chalk and cheese as far as I am concerned. A-B’ing the two is a rather grating experience as the Andromeda is seemingly muddy and incoherent at first listen but over time my ears seem to settle in and begin to note the lusher and more relaxed vocal presentation. Sub-bass is a definite win for the Helios whilst mid-bass on the Andromeda edges out a win purely based on my own biases as one could say the mid-bass on the Andromedas are muddy. For the mids, the Andromeda gets the nod from me as I prefer a warmer and more emotionally engaging presentation of vocals despite the loss of the speed and crispness in instruments. This is more of a nod from my own coloured tonality preferences and looking it from an “objectivist” point of view, the mids on the Helios are more detailed and resolving than the comparatively ‘muddy’ Andromedas. The treble on the Andromeda ventures into overly safe and I feel that I am missing out on the detail and extension of the Helios.

Technicality wise, the tuning would have you believe the Helios is the definite winner but on closer examination I do not believe one is a readily apparent winner over the other. The Andromeda’s warmth does detract from the sense of perceived detail in that notes do not jump out at you but overall it appears they resolve as well as the other upon a critical listen.

These two are heavily contrasting and I feel that I cannot give a definitive nod to one or the other from as objective as a perspective that I can give.

vs Sony IER-M9​

Perhaps the old-guard of the kilobuck region, the IER-M9 presents a slightly warm leaning neutral tonality and great technical ability but at the cost of coming off as a little too safe.

Comparing the IER-M9 and the Helios demonstrates some definitive differences. The IER-M9’s bass is, in my opinion, better balanced than the Helios with the exception for the detail within the sub-bass. The IER-M9’s bass chops as a whole cannot be denied and feels wonderfully meaty and present in every song that I listen too whereas the Helios flexes its muscles whenever there is a sub-bass focussed track on the queue.

Male vocals are better executed on the IER-M9 and instruments such as an acoustic guitar comes across as more natural and more engaging on the IER-M9 than on the Helios. The upper mids leading to the treble on the IER-M9 are slightly reigned in from the Helios but the result is a perceived loss of some sparkle and detail in the upper end. The extended treble of the Helios wins out in this regard compared to the IER-M9 as I felt it was much more well executed and had a greater sense of air and presence.

Technicality wise, the IER-M9 performs quite well on the detail and resolution front but I feel that staging is a little more confined and intimate on the IER-M9 which some people may like but others may not.

I feel that the IER-M9 takes a safer approach to tuning and provides similar technical capabilities. The warmth of the IER-M9 may have some detractors but I feel that it provides a more palatable tonality and does not lean too hard into the detail at all cost camp that the Helios seemingly occupies.

Overall, the Andromeda takes the most coloured tonality and is likely to be the most divisive tonally. The IER-M9 takes the safest route in my opinion and is a rather safe albeit boring choice in the kilobuck region. The Helios occupies the other end of the spectrum in that its tuning seemingly favours a more clinical approach to music reproduction.

Quality of Life Concerns​

The Helios are weird looking. There is no dancing around it, the angular housings combined with the long nozzles create a bit of a kerfuffle with fit. I for one, have had difficulties in finding an IEM which didn’t fit my cavernous earholes but the Helios took some adjusting and fiddling around with to get to fit well. The included cable did not feature earhooks and for good reason, these may protrude slightly and the cables may stick out and above your ear.

The Helios are also rather difficult to drive, requiring a rather healthy amount of juice to be taken to robust volumes. In my testing the W4 had to be cranked up to 70/100 on high gain through the balanced output to get it to border on slightly too loud which is rather a significant amount of power in my experience with IEMs.

The accessory package is half decent but the case is a screw down one that makes a godawful racket and the case is rather cramped if you’re not using the stock cable. I would have preferred a slightly larger case that wasn't made out of metal but I cannot deny it looks very, very nice.


The kilobuck IEM is an often-fabled price bracket with numerous competitors vying for dominance. There is something to be said for IEMs in this region as there is a great level of technical capability and a wealth of options for tonality. At the price that Symphonium is asking for, I honestly believe that the Helios is a fair purchase when viewing it from an empathetic mindset. The only question in my mind is the tuning. Some may value this detail-orientated and crisp IEM but I for one would rather either the IER-M9 and the Andromeda (noting that I am inherently biased as I paid for these two).

These two kilobuck IEMs offer up a more warm tuning approach and the three could sit on a spectrum with the Andromeda occupying the most coloured tonality in terms of warmth whereas the Helios sits at the other end in the cold, slightly clinical approach. The IER-M9 is warm indeed but sits in the middle of the two being the most balanced in my mind. So it really boils down to what tonality you enjoy but all three offer up their own benefits. Are you a treble head? Helios. Are you a bass-head? IER-M9? Are you just looking for something with off-kilter tonality and a warm and euphonic production? Andromeda.


“Objectively” infallible, the Helios tries to present a very clean and resolving tonality and achieves it with gusto. Instruments and vocals are clearly separated and the 4BA set up resolves extremely well, providing a crisp and “neutral” tonality.

“Subjectively”, the Helios presents a tonality that is too clean for me and dry in its presentation. Verging on the very edge of being unnatural for me, the Helios’ mid-bass/lower-mid dip as well as the sub-bass boost presents an oddly sterile tonality with certain instruments being thrown into the abyss in order to cleanly separate mids and bass.

I understand the appeal of the Helios for those looking for detail by any means necessary as the tuning seems to emphasise the idea of resolving notes in integral portions of the frequency response curve at the cost of everything else. The result to me at least, is a tonality that I feel fails to engage me emotionally and invites critical listening for random details you feel that you might have missed with lesser IEMs instead of simply relaxing to enjoy your library.

It is a fine IEM, but it is not a kilobuck revelation nor is it something I would welcome into my rotation based on subjective preferences. On my worst days I described the Helios as clinical and sterile. On my best days, I described it as wonderfully resolving, fast and crisp in its precision. The Helios, for better or for worse, is the Mr. Clean of the kilobuck realm and if that is what you’re looking for, then look no further.

This review and the rating I give it is inherently coloured by my own personal preferences but I've made it a point to try and highlight the strengths of the Helios which may have a greater weighting in your personal listening experience. Should you place greater weight on treble response and the crispness of note reproduction, then you may be more forgiving to the Helios.

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One of the best reviews I have read in a long time. Keep up the good work!


100+ Head-Fier
Luxury & Precision W4 - Big Fish, Small Pond
Pros: Tremendous technical performance for the form factor
DSP capabilities allows end-user to tweak sound signature
Knob go brrrr
Great build quality
Cons: Expensive
DSP is highly dependent on firmware which is confusing to upgrade
Somewhat dry tonality (with stock settings) may divide


Thank you to @Damz87 and to Luxury & Precision for arranging the Australian tour of the W4.
The IEMs/headphones used in this review included:

  • Moondrop Variations;
  • Unique Melody MEST MK3;
  • Sony IER-M9;
  • Campfire Andromeda; and
  • Symphonium Helios.
All fed with FLAC.

The audio hobby over the last several years has seen a significant growth in portable sources. At the centre of this has been the plucky "dongle". A USB-powered digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and amp in a pocketable form factor and intended to be used with your smartphone. Whilst the market has been filled with very affordable options for the most part, today's review concerns the Luxury & Precision (LP) W4. The W4 comes at an eye-watering price of 480 USD and seeks to be the crème de la crème of the dongle world. But does it succeed?


The Factual Stuff​

The LP W4 takes the road less travelled and implements an in-house developed DAC chip in the form of the LP5108. Housed in an angular aluminium housing with glass on the rear and on the screen, the W4 cuts a rather large and awkwardly shaped silhouette for a dongle. The W4 features an LED screen to display various metrics and allows the end-user to tweak digital signal processing (DSP) settings with the knob that doubles as a button.
Speaking of DSP, the W4 claims to utilise a field programmable gate array (FPGA) to provide the end-user with "lossless" DSP.
Otherwise, on paper, the W4 claims a SNR of 134db, power output of 110mW through the single ended 3.5mm connector and 420mW through the 4.4mm balanced connector.
Within the package, you receive a lightning-to-USB-C cable, a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-A to USB-C adapter.


The Opinion Stuff​


It is rather difficult to ascribe any definitive sound signature on a source with some of the internet claiming it is downright impossible (“aPPlE DoNgle iS mOre THAn Enough”), but the following are my impressions of what the W4 characterises.

With a wealth of DSP settings (outlined below), I used the following settings for the majority of my review:
  • EQ: Normal
  • SDF: Normal
  • Gain: High
  • FLT: Fast
  • Tune: 01


The W4 takes a quality rather than quantity approach to the bass frequencies, seemingly preferring to enhance the sub-bass rather than any mid-bass frequencies. The result is a subtle and tasteful bump in the lower end but overall taking a rather reserved approach to the bottom end in order to maintain a clean and detailed reproduction. This may be altered by the end-user using a number of DSP presets outlined below.


The W4 presents a netural and balanced approach to the midrange, which is further enhanced by its technical abilities (outlined below). There is perhaps a slight precedence given to the upper mid-range as female vocalists seem to pop out a little more in the mix compared to male vocalists. Otherwise, instruments remain crisp and detailed in the stage in a manner that is potentially bordering on a “dry” reproduction. There is a degree of thinness and clinical reproduction of sounds in this region.


The W4 provides a nicely balanced approach to this region, continuing the story of a detailed and crisp source. The W4 doesn’t lean too hard in this region in order to squeeze out a false sense of detail and airiness at the cost of coming off too bright. Rather, the W4 toes the line, maintaining a sense of sparkle throughout the treble region as harsh synths and harrowing violin solos maintained their edginess without causing inner-ear bleeding. Very well done in this regard.


Where I feel the W4 shines the most is its technical capabilities. Staging is wider and deeper than other peers in the dongle form-factor and this is further enhanced with its detail retrieval and resolution capabilities. Listening to the W4 creates a distinct feeling that music is being rendered in clear cut layers, allowing you to accurately place the direction and placement of each instrument in well produced tracks. The W4 resolves well and provides a textured and layered rendition of music versus a rather flat and slightly incoherent mix on lesser sources.


The W4 spruiks a field programmable gate array (FPGA) to enable “lossless DSP” and supposedly, a higher fidelity means of adjusting your sound signature. The W4 comes pre-baked with a number of settings, including, EQ, Tone settings, SDF tuning for specific IEMs, and digital filters. These are disappointingly limited to whatever LP decides to keep in the firmware with their updates but nonetheless provides the end-user with a degree of granularity in their tweaking.

I for one enjoyed toying around with the NOS digital filter to give a smoother edge to the sound signature and played around with the two tone options that LP provides you. The SDF tuning on the IER-M9 (one of a handful of IEMs supported) and it appeared to make a warmer IEM into a more neutral one. Otherwise, I did not find much use in the EQ settings but your mileage may vary.

Which brings one thought coming to my mind here, namely lessons learnt after multiple DAPs, DACs and Amps plus headphones and IEMs is synergy!
Hoping for the one and only holy grail setup is maybe just a nice wish unless buying according synergy transducers and I don't believe even the W4 is an exception here.
There's a reason why people are having multiple devices in parallel or reducing inventory and keeping only the ones with right synergy.

The DSP settings are unfortunately let down by the fact that all of these settings are reliant on LP and do not offer the same level of granularity as other forms of DSP.


The W4 builds a foundation of good quality audio with great technical capabilities that belies its diminutive size. It then builds upon this with a rather healthy suite of DSP capabilities that allow a significant level of granularity for the end-user. Ultimately, the W4 presents sound quality that punches above its size.



vs Cayin RU7​

The most pertinent competitor to the W4 is the RU7, released around the same time and at an elevated price point (albeit still not near the price of the W4), the RU7 takes a novel approach to the digital to analogue conversion process. The RU7 converts all incoming digital signal to DSD and utilises a 1-bit DAC to convert to an analogue signal. The result is what I would term as a more analogue and smoother sound signature. The RU7 also provides some level of tinkering with the user being able to step through DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 with subtle differences between all settings. However, despite this, the RU7 appears to be more warm and lush in its reproduction of music, with a distinct focus on the mid-bass frequencies. Notes hit harder but are not as fast as decay seems slower than the W4, it is less energetic and there is less of an edge.

On a technical point, the above notes of the sound signature would normally lead one to believe that the technicalities of the RU7 are not as capable as the W4 but the truth is somewhat more muddled. The DSD256 setting remains highly resolving and only minorly lesser than that of the W4. The soundstage of the RU7 feels wide and deep to the level of the W4 but the resolution provided by the W4 provides a more distinctive “layering” capability compared to the RU7.

Other than that, the W4 provides far greater performance in the noise floor, with sensitive IEMs such as the Campfire Andromeda, the W4 performs much better in terms of maintaining a dark background in sparsely produced tracks.

Overall, I feel this is a pick-your-poison situation, the RU7 is a smoother and warmer rendition of music more suited to laid-back listening compared to the W4 which provides greater technical performance and a more aggressive, energetic approach to music.


vs iBasso DC04Pro​

Dropping a considerable number of tiers in terms of price point, one would think that the DC04Pro is a far lesser dongle and in some respects, that is true.

The soundstage is more confined compared to the W4, the imaging and detail of the DC04Pro is also similarly lesser than the W4. Switching between the two there is a lesser sense of coherency in the mix with the DC04Pro and picking out certain instruments is a more difficult experience.

In terms of perceived sound signature, the DC04Pro appears to place precedence on the upper mids and the treble, lending itself to a more sparkly upper end of the frequency response curve. However, with certain songs, the DC04Pro seems to cross into the overly bright region and may become fatiguing for some, like it did for me.

The DC04Pro was purchased solely for its impressive noise floor and in this regard, it definitely matches the W4 in presenting inky silence with the notoriously sensitive Campfire Andromedas. Overall, there are similar aspects between the DC04Pro and the W4, but ultimately the W4 comes off as a much more refined and technically capable source.


vs Chord Mojo 2​

Selected for its DSP chops, the Mojo 2 is a fan-favourite when it comes to portable sources, despite being larger than the dongles that are within this review.

The tonality of the Mojo 2 is minorly warmer and having more of a euphonic quality compared to that of the W4. Less dry and more “natural” the Mojo 2 presents a more “easy-listening” experience with all the DSP turned off. Whilst not as smoothed out to the extent of the RU7 above, the Mojo strikes a nice balance between a laid-back listening experience and attacking you with detail. There appears to be a greater amount of mid-bass and increased note weight compared to the W4.

Technicality wise, both are quite impressive in their ability to resolve tracks and present detail but the drier rendition of notes and the speed at which they come and decay with the W4 presents a slightly elevated sense of technical prowess. The Mojo 2 feels minorly wider and deeper compared to the W4 but overall, both appear to be rather similar in this respect.

Moving on to the DSP chops of either sources, the Mojo 2, despite having somewhat of a learning curve provides greater granularity in terms of adjustments. You are not locked into LP determined presets but rather you are able to step through dB adjustments in certain regions of the frequency response and also utilise a crossfeed function. I feel that this presents greater tuning options to the end-user and in this respect, I believe the Mojo 2 is the much better option.

Overall, the Mojo 2 matches or exceeds the W4 in certain aspects and has the benefit of having its own power supply and a wealth of DSP tuning to ensure synergy with whatever IEM you throw at it. Combined with the recent price drop in Chord products, I believe that the Mojo 2 presents a more compelling option if you are willing to go slightly larger and deal with the quirkiness of the UK-made device.


vs Shanling M6 Ultra (M6U)​

With a rather significant jump up in price, the M6 Ultra nonetheless, presents another form factor that is available for people looking at a portable solution. With the obvious differences being the much larger size, the capabilities of a digital audio player (DAP) to surf the web, utilise Android apps and the like cannot be understated. This is a rather big bonus for those who can stomach pocketing two separate devices as one is a fully fledged audio listening device that is not reliant on a separate device such as a phone or a laptop.

The M6U sonically, provides a smoother and rolled off form of sound compared to the dry and edgy nature of the W4. The midbass frequencies on the M6U are subtly elevated compared to the W4, offering a more laid-back and warmer tonality. Vocals come across more euphonic and emotionally striking compared to the clean and technical presentation of the W4. There is a slight edge to the sss sounds on vocal tracks with certain IEMs with the W4 whereas they are not present on the M6U.

Technicality-wise I would say both are on par, with both sources resolving quite well with no lack of detail with both sources. The W4's slight dryness and speed of presentation seems to make these details jump out but as you listen more critically I would say that the two sources are more similar than they are different.
The W4 seems to have a slightly wider soundstage but feels as though it is more shallow than the M6U. This may be due to the more forward vocal presentation on the M6U but that how it sounds to me in the end.

Overall, the M6U lacks any baked in DSP but benefits from the wealth of parametric EQ apps available on the Android ecosystem. Additionally, the bonus of a screen, the ability to run apps, manage your music library and the added juice to run headphones should you require it, present some compelling factors for anyone looking to purchase their next source. In terms of sound quality however, it is closer than what the price tag would have you believe. The M6U ultimately wins for me due to my own biases towards a more smooth sound signature (within reason) but the fact that the W4 sonically trades blows in its small form factor is definitely a big bonus.


Quality of Life​

The W4 is a rather well built device, however, it remains fairly large as far as dongles go. The knob provides a rather satisfying sound but the feel remains rather mushy and lacking the precise tactile feedback of “I have increased the volume by 3 steps”. With that being said, the addition of a knob is a rather welcome one as I lament fumbling with mushy buttons on other dongles in the market.

This particular W4 has an issue with Apple devices, and whilst this may not be an issue with other W4s, raises the issue that dongles seem to have with power delivery. There are anecdotal issues I have observed with certain dongles and power delivery from iPhones and this whilst this may be a moot point with the impending release of a USB-C iPhone, remains a consideration for many. Other bugbears exist in the W4 universe with a distinct lack of a readily available English manual to action firmware updates and to explain what each setting within the W4’s menu seeks to achieve.

But on a more positive note the W4's battery drain while using the device seems to stellar compared to the other dongles in this review. I am unable to measure this accurately, but anecdotally, the W4 seems to do a great job in this regard. Noise floor is also impressive, even with a Campfire Andromeda hooked up in the balanced connection, handily beating the RU7 and essentially matching the DC04Pro in their absolute silent noise floor. This is definitely a bonus for those with sensitive IEMs in their collection.


Coming in a rather eye-watering price of $480 USD, there is a distinct feeling of “pick your poison”. This is likely the “best” dongle there is but $480 USD is rather significant amount of money to be put elsewhere should you not require a dongle specifically. The aforementioned Chord Mojo 2 has experienced a significant price drop that puts it pretty close to the W4. The footprint is considerably larger sure but the greater DSP granularity and overall flexibility in its role in the source chain is undeniable.

I, despite owning two dongles, do not enjoy the idea of carrying a floppy and ineffectual USB cable and draining my phone battery. But your mileage may vary.


This have been a lot of words for a dongle, but with the exception of perhaps the RU7, this is simply the best dongle that I have ever used. With a wealth of features to provide you with the ability to tweak the sound signature to your liking, wonderful technicalities and a rather neutral, non-offensive sound signature, the W4 would be a no-brainer buy for me except for one “but”. And that is the price. For the price, I feel that there are a number of options that become available and perhaps are far more compelling, but for the form-factor.

If money is no option and you definitely need a dongle for whatever reason, I feel that the W4 is an easy buy, but that’s between you and your wallet.

Great review, mate!
Excellent review man!


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Warm tuning invites long, engaging listening sessions.
Strong detail and staging capabilities provide for a unique listening experience.
Wonderfully balanced tonality combined with great ‘layering’ leads to detailed yet emotionally engaging musicality.
Cons: Accessories are lacking.
The treble is missing a sense of hair-raising sparkle.

Unique Melody MEST MKIII – Bone Conduction 3.0​



This is the first of what I hope to be many audio reviews. As a newbie of putting audio impressions to paper, I may misconstrue the meaning of certain terms and phrases, as such I appreciate any feedback that you may have. I do not purport to be the most technical reviewer but I hope to make this entertaining and provide you with an understanding of the experience as a whole.
Many thanks to @Damz87 and @UniqueMelody (UM) for arranging the Australian tour of the MEST MK3 and to @o0genesis0o for ensuring their safe delivery.
The sources used to form this review included:
• Gustard X16 -> Topping A90;
• Shanling M6 Ultra;
• iBasso DC04 Pro; and
• Cayin RU7,
All fed with Apple Music lossless.

Everyone loves the third movie of a trilogy. The Matrix Revolutions, Revenge of the Sith, Spiderman 3, and Godfather 3, are all the pinnacle of the respective series. Okay, not really but today’s review pertains to the third of its name, the MEST MKIII (MK3).
The MEST series of IEMs have long occupied my mind as somewhat of a curiosity by virtue of its bone-conduction driver (BCD) which was described as either a gimmick or the next big thing in IEMs.
And so, when presented with the opportunity to review a set, I jumped at the opportunity (thank you to Damz and UM for arranging the Australian tour) and perhaps, in my haste, also purchased a set of MK2s from @MusicTeck (thank you to Andrew and the team at MusicTeck for their great customer service).
After both had arrived at my doorstep essentially simultaneously, I would have two weeks to realise if I had made a horrible mistake (bought a terrible IEM and have to write about an equally terrible IEM) or if I had made a horrible mistake (bought an IEM that was outclassed by its successor).

Factual stuff:​

The MK3s is a 10-driver hybrid IEM consisting of a single dynamic driver, 4 balanced armatures, 4 electrostatics and a single BCD.
The earpieces are carbon fibre suspended in resin and feature fruitwood faceplates finished with gold accents.
Within the box, you will find:
  • a Peter Wong Audio (PW Audio) 1.2m copper cable with your choice of 2.5mm, 3.5mm or 4.4mm terminations (the review unit is a 4.4mm) and shielded in nylon;
  • a leather carry case finished in what UM terms “emerald”;
  • a leather cable tie;
  • 7 pairs of UM’s own proprietary tips consisting of:
    • 3 “open” tips; and
    • 4 “petal tips,
  • a cleaning cloth;
  • a mesh storage bag; and
  • the MK3s!
Priced at $3,199 (for the blue) to $3,899 (for the red) dollarydoos at Australian store Minidisc or $1,919 to $2,359 freedom dollars at MusicTeck. Additionally, MusicTeck now offers the MK3 without the aforementioned PW Audio cable for $1,599 to $2,124 USD.


Opinion Stuff​


The bass frequencies of the MK3 were wonderfully executed with a slight boost in these regions. The bass extends low and there is a strong sense of presence and impact with the sub-bass. With deep booming bass in tracks such as, “THE PLAN” from the TENET soundtrack, the bass feels physical and at times (perhaps with a rather generous amount of volume, which I don’t endorse) could be felt in my chest, something rather rare for an IEM.

Unlike some of the more fastidious adherents to the Harman curve, the mid-bass of the MK3s receive some elevation providing an overall warm colouration to the rest of the sound of the MK3s. This mid-bass bump imbues a level of warmth and engagement across the board but is especially present in hip-hop portions of my playlist, with “Above the Clouds” by Gang Starr presenting the drums in a manner that is readily present but neither underwhelming nor overwhelming.

These “boosts” I speak of do not render the MK3s the equivalent of a 12-inch sub in a 2001 Honda Civic (ala the Fast and the Furious) but rather elevate the ‘fun’ factor of the MK3s against more neutral IEMs whilst maintaining a delicate balance to not bloat it to the point of intruding on the rest of the frequency response.

Bass texture and quality are also very well done, as these bass frequencies remain clear, coherent and readily discernible compared to more “generously” boosted IEMs out in the market.

Overall, I rate the MK3s as fun and engaging in the bass frequencies without diminishing the rest of the frequency response. Ultimately, these are not basshead IEMs but I feel that they achieve a great balance.

Perhaps by virtue of the slightly warmer tonality, the mids achieve something close to my particular preferences. I am unabashedly a fan of warmer mids as I equate this and note weight in this region with imbuing a great level of emotion and engagement with the vocalist or instruments in whatever I am listening to.

Ruler straight response the MK3s are not, nor are they boosted to the point of becoming the sole focus of the song. The MK3s achieve a nice balance between female and male vocalists as both appear to be given an equal amount of footing. This is readily apparent in duets such as “Until the End of Time” by Justin Timberlake and Beyonce or “Can’t Love You Anymore” by IU and OhHyuk, with both songs utilising a call and response between the two vocalists. The MK3s handles both songs readily and presents the back and forth with equal emotional impact and clarity.

Instrumentation remains clear and precise throughout the mix and with the warmer tilt, creates the sense of greater note weight. There is nothing about the MK3 that could be construed as thin or lacking body in my mind.

Overall, it appears the keyword of this review will be “balanced”. The mids, whilst not especially awe-inspiring in any particular fashion in my time listening to them, remained very well balanced, clear within the mix and with the warmer tilt that I thoroughly enjoy.


The upper end of the frequency response carries forward what appears to be the theme of the MK3 and that is balance.
When I state that there is a warmer tilt, there is perhaps an inclination to believe the MK3 may sound a little dark and perhaps is missing detail. However, the tuning of the treble region manages to carry on the “balanced” nature of the MK3 as it provides a strong presentation of the treble regions.

Hugely varying synths in “Language” by Porter Robinson and hi-hats throughout “Edamame” bbno$ and Rich Brian remain crisp, clear and detailed in the mix. There remains a distinct amount of air despite the warmer tilted tuning as the technical chops of the MK3 manage to juggle all three regions with great gusto.

And despite doing so, the MK3 also manages to avoid becoming too bright as there is no sense of sibilance or fatigue when listening to tracks that seek to draw that out. The MK3 does not attack your ears with such boosted treble in a manner to try and get you to really believe that it has as much detail as other IEMs and in the process did not leave my ears lying on the ground curled up in the foetal position, rather it presents these frequencies in a straightforward yet enjoyable manner.

There is a bit of fallacy as a result as my brain, perhaps by virtue of reading too much about Harman curves and other “detail monsters” felt that there was some detail and sense of sparkle that was left on the table with the MK3s.

Given my experience with IEMs in the price range are fairly limited, I hesitate to wax poetic about the technical chops of the MK3 in this regard. However, there is something to be said for the resolving ability of the MK3 despite its warmed sound signature and slightly ‘wet’ presentation of sound. These characteristics are usually seen as the antithesis of a detailed and highly resolving IEM as I understand however, the MK3s revealed and represented very well-produced tracks with gusto. From hearing fingers grazing piano keys and the kick of the pedal and subtle inhales of the vocalist in tracks such as Haliene’s “Rush Over Me (Acoustic Version)” were simply amazing.

The imagining chops of the MK3 combined with its tuning as each region of the frequency response curve seems to sit comfortably within layers in a very coherent and organised fashion.
The combination of these factors leads to a very unique soundstage. In my time with IEMs, there have been limited instances wherein it was not abundantly clear that I was listening to (comparatively) tiny drivers stuck in my ears. A suspension of disbelief and absorption in whatever I was listening to led to the belief that the MK3s were essentially replicating an intimate stage beyond the confines of my head and something more akin to what I have termed, “the most hi-fidelity karaoke room you have been in”.

An odd analogy but I hope some of you get what I am trying to get across. The ambience and atmosphere that the MK3s belie the fact they are tiny IEMs pushing big and layered sounds into your ears. Like an intimate stage wherein you’re in the front row, the MK3s present something a little special.

I would like to note that the soundstage of the MK3s will vary depending on the tips you use (see below). The Petal tips provide a deep insertion depth and place the nozzles right next to your ear canal, creating a slightly more intimate rendition of staging. I also used Spinfit W1s, CP145, and CP360 (oddly enough) to good effect to provide a minorly larger staging effect but your mileage may vary.

The MK3 adopts a warmer sound signature that provides a punchy and engaging audio experience, when combined with its excellent technical abilities creates a unique ambience wherein music is presented on an intimate stage that belies the fact that it is an IEM.

The MK3, is in my opinion, something that can be listened to for hours due to its rather non-offensive sound signature and is engaging by virtue of its unique staging abilities. This is definitely not an extreme IEM that seeks to wow you by being a strong performer in any region of response but rather provides the mix of the song in a manner that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Perhaps if I was to nitpick, I would have minorly boosted the treble to imbue that goosebump-inducing feeling with certain higher frequencies.


In spite of what Reddit /r/headphones would have me believe, I can indeed hear some differences in source chains much to my wallet and perhaps my ears, chagrin. This section will try to put my “delusions” into words, after all, I could have gotten away with an Apple dongle just fine.

Shanling M6 Ultra
I would characterise the M6 Ultra (M6U) as a smooth, slightly warm source with an increased sense of presence in the mids and a strong note weight.
These elements added another element of warmth and cosiness to the overall tonality of the MK3s perhaps colouring the music to the point of being perhaps “too much”. Bass frequencies were heavy and quite forward in the mix. Hip-hop / RnB tracks such as “Conceited” by SZA felt slightly overwhelming at times. Fun, but still, not exactly the most faithful and flattering representation of what the MK3 was able to offer.
Overall, I feel that the M6U with the MK3 would be something for a very particular bass-head mood and would be indulging far too much in warmth and overly coloured tonality for my personal daily use.


iBasso DC04 Pro
I would characterise the DC04Pro as dynamic, clean and has a very low noise floor. The sound signature is slightly bright in comparison to my other sources and tracks seem to “attack” you.
These elements complemented the slightly warm and laid-back tuning of the MK3s, imparting great energy and dynamics to the MK3s. This resulted in me flipping through tracks in a haphazard manner in order to listen to certain portions in an almost feverish manner.
Overall, I feel there is rather good synergy between the two but ultimately, for a very engaged sense of critical listening rather than relaxing with a nice drink to wind down.

Cayin RU7
I would characterise the RU7 as smooth, slightly rolled off and warm (depending on your settings). The sound signature is meant to replicate a more “analogue” sound signature and the result is a more calming and relaxed approach.
The RU7 changes rather noticeably as you flip through DSD64, 128 and 512 resampling with the DSD64 being the most warm and smooth reproduction of music that you can get on the device. This did not play nice in my experience with the MK3, as it started to take away some of the strengths of the MK3, namely imaging chops and its engaging sound signature. DSD128 starts to tighten things up whilst maintaining that smooth sound signature, overall, this setting and the MK3 demonstrate great synergy for the purpose of very laid-back listening sessions for long hours.


Topping A90 + Gustard X16
I would characterise the A90 as ruler flat and being entirely overpowered for any IEM but in an attempt to avoid any “u didn’t have enough watts” comments, I sought to see how the MK3s scaled and how they were represented by a (comparatively) very neutral source chain.
With the knob at around 9 o’clock on the A90, the MK3s present themselves as neutral as they can be and my impressions remain largely the same. The warmth of the MK3s remains untouched and so too does largely the frequency response as a whole.
Perhaps there is a touch of added boost to the treble but otherwise, these two go together fairly well in that there is little to add to the MK3s already great tuning. There also may be my brain playing tricks on me but there is a smidge of an expanded stage width. Otherwise, these appear not to “scale” that greatly with the added juice.

Comparison vs MK2​

Perhaps the most pertinent comparison for the MK3 is with its predecessor the MK2. Now there may be some bias given that I purchased the MK2 with my own money but I had essentially both show up at my doorstep at the same time. As such, I have not had any extensive time with either IEM to colour these impressions.

First and foremost, the tuning of the MK2 and the MK3s is noticeably different. Whereas the MK3 leans to the warm side of things, the MK2 tends to move slightly to the lean side wherein note weight is noticeably lighter and certain beats and vocals come across as thinner compared to the warmth of the MK3. The MK2s feel more sparse, and more airy compared to the MK3s which hold their own appeal. In this regard, I opted to test some of the more “sibilant’ tracks in my playlist and whereas the MK3s rendered these comfortably to my ears, there was a mix of tingle-inducing sparkle from the MK2s bordering on some slight puckering of my (ear)holes. The MK3’s additional bass impact and punch definitely added a level of ‘drama’ and ‘fun’ to certain tracks whereas the MK2, whilst very respectable, did not have that same sense of presence in the low-end.


In terms of technicality, I do not feel that the MK2 is as resolving as the MK3. That is not to say that the MK2 is no slouch but the MK3’s technical chops are definitely one of the best that I have experienced (noting my lack of experience). Certain nuances of tracks are not made abundantly clear on the MK2s as they were on the MK3.
In terms of staging and ‘layering’ the music, the MK3 once again trumps the MK2s as I feel each particular section of the frequency response comes at you in readily apparent layers that remain cohesive. This contributes heavily to a greater sense of the depth of the stage, however, I feel that the MK2s are somewhat ‘wider’ in their staging compared to the MK3s. Based on the above, one would say that the MK3s are a no-brainer however, the consideration of cost is definitely something to keep in mind.

Overall, I feel that the MK3 represents marked improvements in technicalities and soundstage, with detail retrieval and a “holographic” head stage being readily apparent on first listen. The MK2 represents some elements of this but to a lesser, more subtle extent. I would describe the MK2 as “thinner”, “sparser” and less “engaging” compared to the MK3. There is a charm to the MK2 as the brighter tonality eeked out some definitely goosebumps on certain tracks as the crisp rendition of high notes, hi-hats and cymbals were much more forward in the mix compared to the MK3s.

Quality of Life​

Whilst the raison d'être of an IEM is to produce sound in a manner that is technically proficient and enjoyable, there are always external considerations for something you insert in yourself.

Beyond sound, there are a number of concerns that one would be remiss to not raise in the context of a purchase this significant.

First and foremost, the PW Audio cable is very, very bad in my opinion. Outside of the realm of “sound quality” concerns, there remain distinct ergonomic issues with the cable due to the nylon shielding. The cable is akin to the terrible Focal balanced cable they give you with a set of Clears and is wholly unsatisfying to use due to its memory and like myself on a late night on an incognito tab on Chrome, can get very kinky.
MusicTeck now offers the opportunity for purchasers to opt to not get the cable for a $320 USD discount, which would be my choice.


The ear tips included are rather unique in their very shallow leading to the nozzles pressed directly to your earholes. Now this doesn’t cause any comfort issues with me and likely was done to maximise the BCD’s efficacy but this may cause issues for certain people. Other than that, I see literally zero purpose with the “open” tips as they basically suck away the dynamic range and all of the bass from the MK3s.
The petal tips worked for me but at the cost of some soundstage as the insertion depth was rather deep. Other tips that worked for me (in no particular order):
  • Spinfit W1;
  • Spinfit CP100;
  • Spinfit CP145;
  • Spinfit CP360; and
  • Final Audio E-Type.

Comfort was very good to me, apart from the whole experience of being weighed down by that nasty cable when using a cable that made more sense, the MK3s sat comfortably in my ear for hours at a time with me. The lightweight construction made the MK3 feel as though they were an extension of my ear and perhaps like I was wearing nothing at all (insert stupid sexy Flanders).

Driver flex was apparent in both earpieces but was more apparent in the right ear with that crinkly cringe-inducing sound emanating when inserting the MK3s, and with those petal tips, this is really, really close to your ear holes. Not a good look for any IEM in this price category.


The cost of the MK3s is definitely something to behold with the red unit coming in at $3,899 AUD and the blue at $3,199 (Minidisc prices). MusicTeck’s move to offer the MK3 without a cable presents significant cost saving with the blue coming in at around $2,400 AUD (adjusted for FX). With the original MK2s coming in around $2,500 AUD at Minidisc with rather healthy discounts from time to time and especially now that it is at the end of its life, the MK3s present a somewhat questionable value proposition. However, with MusicTeck’s very clutch move, I feel as though the MK3 would definitely be worth its price tag currently and things can only get better from here on out.

The price increase from the MK2s also is disappointing as I feel that the price is somewhat of a tough pill to swallow. Other value considerations are the rather anaemic number of accessories provided with the MK3s. Perhaps by virtue of the “apparently” $320 USD PW Audio cable, the MK3s do not come with an accessory pack to provide you with (likely) the maximum potential of the IEMs themselves. A greater variety of ear tips would have been something appreciated with the MK3’s package.

Overall, the asking price, with the accessories included leaves a lot to be desired. I for one, am now mightily enticed by MusicTeck’s discount without the wire and feel that presents the best bang for the buck.


And then I saw her face. And I was a believer.
The BCD of the MEST series was something that I had a distinct curiosity about. They now have my attention. There are inevitably caveats with this method of sound reproduction as it is heavily reliant on the fitment of the IEMs themselves. Reports of the effect of BCD has been overblown by some more zealous individuals waxing poetic about its effect but with both the MK2 and MK3 there appears to be some indiscernible "special sauce" in their staging abilities.

With a balanced, rather non-offensive sound signature that leans slightly warm, I feel as though the MK3 presents a unique presentation, a highly engaging tonality and technical chops that leaves you wanting to listen to more and more.
The ends of the audio-enjoyer spectrum in terms of bass heads and treble heads are likely going to be left wanting more but I found enjoyment in the MK3s beyond whether they met my tonality preference and rather I just wanted to see how they produced sound compared to other technologies.

I somewhat lament purchasing the MK2 prior to trying the MK3, the successor being a strong technical upgrade over its predecessor. Whether the rather drastic change in tonality and the not-insignificant price premium justifies such an upgrade is something that I cannot opine on. This is not to say that the MK2s are going in the bin but the MK3s have made an indelible mark on my audio-enjoying heart with their hard-to-hate tonality and whimsy-inducing technical chops.

Ruler flat neutral the MK3s are not, super bright and sparkly either, nor are they bass monsters. Rather, by leveraging wonderful technical capabilities, and unique staging combined with a rather inoffensive tuning, the MK3s present something that I feel would be an everyman sound, albeit, not at an everyman price.
The value proposition of the MK3 stifles this glowing audio review as I cannot justify the full price of the MK3s. Given the MusicTeck discount and likely more discounts over the course of the life of the MK3s, I believe that the MK3s would present a compelling package in the future if you are looking for a technically great, warm and enjoyable listening experience.



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