Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X

General Information

Da Vinci X's Sound Design
It's not just about the components, it's about how they respect and deliver the purity of sound. The sheer amount of power of this 10 driver configuration is managed by a 5-way crossover to ensure an incredibly even frequency response.
This earphone reflects detail and precision, but also presence and harmony. It's everything an audiophile or a real expert in audio looks for. The anatomic curves of its shell make the listening experience really natural and comfortable while all the power and technology within make the Da Vinci X a piece of audio beyond comparison.

TECH SPECS

Input Sensitivity:
117.2dB @ 1kHz
Freq Response:
20 Hz to 20 kHz
Speaker:
Single Armature Balanced
Impedance :
43.8 ohm @ 1 kHz
Noise Isolation:
-26dB
Input Connector:
1/8″ (3.5mm)

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Pros: + Unrealistic Detail revealing abilities
+ Build quality and comfort are top notch
+ Two cables included in the package by default
+ Instrument separation
+ Neutral, useful for critical work in music
Cons: - Carrying case is complicated to use, and bulky
- Soundstage width or size is average, it is saved by instrument separation and placing, but size itself is not very big
- Priceee
The Maestro - Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X Universal IEMs Review



Clear Tune Monitors or CTM are a large IEM designer and producer from USA, and they are known to be one of the few CIEM and customs designers to create their own new tech, as well as unique tuning for their IEMs. CTM X is their current flagship, priced at 2400 USD, so I will be comparing them to other flagships, like Campfire Atlas, Lime Ears Model X, and HIFIMAN RE2000.





Introduction


CTM or Clear Tune Monitors are well-known by both music lovers and music producers for being some of the most innovative when it comes to IEMs and Earphones. Their main products are Custom Fit IEMs, or CIEMs, but today we are taking a look at a universal IEM they designed. CTM Da Vinci X is part of their Da Vinci Flagship Line, and every unit comes with 10 BA drivers on each ear, along with other unique patented technologies designed by Clear Tune Monitors. As a company, they have excellent customer support, along with excellent reliability, good product design, and generally offer an excellent customer experience. You can rely on them when making an investment in either improving your music experience or in improving your setup as an artist for either performance or mastering, but more on that within the review. I have also reviewd another IEM from CTM in the past, their VS-4, which I found to have a romantic, warm and smooth overall sound that had a "vintage" touch to it. You can check that review here. I also made a video review of CTM Da Vinci X, which you can check out here.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with CTM, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank CTM for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with CTM Da Vinci X. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in CTM Da Vinci X find their next music companion.



About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging

First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:


















The package the Da Vinci Series comes in is quite exquisite, with Audio Filters, Airplane and 6.3mm adapters included, as well as two cables, one that is Balanced and one that is single ended. There is also a good selection of tips included in the package, and you can rely on their hard carrying case to keep your Da Vinci safe.

Overall, the package is large, rich, has a lot of effort put in, and suits well a product that costs the extra a flagship usually has.



What to look for when purchasing a high-quality midrange In-Ear Monitor


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

Starting with the build quality, Da Vinci X is the bigger brother of the series, and it has a smaller brother named Da Vinci IX, but the two have very little in common when it comes to sound, with IX being a warm, smooth and creamy performer, while X is the neutral, reference brother that you will want to have around for serious listening, mastering or performing. Speaking of performing, though, both IEMs are fully made of metal, and they are built really well, and will last any amount of abuse and usage, they are not scratched easily, and they will look pristine even after years of usage. I am not saying this out of pure enthusiasm, and I have used Da Vinci X for a few months before publishing this review, because a flagship like this is not only really fun to use, but takes some time to get used to.

On the outer face, there is an X made of a very high quality reflexive material, while the IEM shell is made of a black matte metal, making Da Vinci X really stand out as a more edgy and industrial looking IEM. Although the design is quite edgy, the comfort is good, as long as you have medium to large sized ears. Da Vinci X needs to have enough space to fit in ten drivers for each ear, and here we're not talking about any drivers, but actually high quality ones that are placed with a good reason, along with a high-quality with a 5-way crossover. CTM wants to brand their CTM DA Vinci X as the "Mona Lisa" of IEMs, and well, no one will stop them from it, but the time for that kind of bold statement will be in the Sound Quality part of the review, where we'll see whether they stand up to the task.



Now that we are getting deeper into the Fit and Comfort part, I have to say, while the outer plate may seem similar to something like what Campfire were doing with early versions of Andromeda, in terms of aesthetics, the inner part of CTM Da Vinci X is really smooth, and they fit really well in your ear. There are no hard edges or pointy parts, no corners, and the IEMs are made to fit comfortably. The IEM doesn't sit perfectly flush with your ear, so you won't be sleeping with them in your ears, but most of their weight rests in the back part, without touching your ear, so you should expect to be using them for many hours in a row without any sign of fatigue.

The IEMs have classical 0.78mm 2-Pin connectors and cable rolling is no issue, as they work with Dunu Hulk as well as other cables that are made on this standard. CTM even includes two cables with the IEMs, one that is a more typical 3.5mm Single Ended Copper cable, while the second is a hybrid 4-wire 2.5mm Balanced cable. Both cables offer good comfort and aesthetics, and if you'll want to upgrade the cable, the typical 2-Pin connector allows for that, but Da Vinci X is made for an over-the-ear wearing style, and you probably won't be using them straight-down regardless what cables you'll be using.

For the best comfort, either the Foam tips or the Dual Flange tips will provide better passive noise isolation, and since Da Vinci X is a performance IEM, you will probably want the most passive noise isolation that you can get, and they can offer that, up to 20 dB or so of passive noise isolation. Furthermore, there is no driver flex, since Da Vinci is an All-BA configuration, and there is no void, as they managed to keep the disadvantage of the BA design at a minimum.




The case is a bit large for pocketing, especially a bit thick, but it is made of hard plastic, and it will protect your IEMs, and I really loved the little compartiment where you can keep a set of spare tips.

There are thee filters included in the package. One is the original filter, which is silver in color, and which is the reference tuning for Da Vinci X. There is also a Blue and Red filter, which are noted to have 150 OHM for the Blue One and 300 OHM for the RED one. They basically increase the treble by 3 dB over a slightly wider range, for the RED one and the Blue ones decreases the treble by 3dB for a wide range. This means that the reference silver one should have somewhere around 225 OHMs... Joking aside, the filters do what they are intended to do, and I didn't feel too compelled at any moment to try them out, and I stayed with the reference for most of my time with Da Vinci X so far.


Overall, Da Vinci X is a well built IEM, that's comfortable, offers good passive noise isolation, and has no cable microphonics due to their over-the-ear design, no driver flex, and no void, making them good for both listening to music and live performances.



Sound Quality

Da Vinci X has been subjected to a good amount of burn-in prior to this review, just to be on the safe side about whether they require burn-in or not. In my experience, they didn't change their sound much with more burn-in, and sounded very open and crisp from the first moment I heard them.



I would describe Da Vinci X as a very clear, crisp and neutral IEM, that is pretty much just the right thing for those who lust for a detailed IEM, revealing every single intricacy in your music, down to the smallest nuance and micro-detail. What's interesting is that, even after hearing a total of over a hundred IEMs and Headphones to date, I never had something extract this much detail, even from simple songs, making the entire listening experience totally different. The funny part is that the Da Vinci IX is different in this aspect, and is considerably more euphonic, rolls off earlier in the treble, and sounds more musical, smoother and less focused than Da Vinci X, which is ultimately really clear and crisp. The overall tonality does feel like the extremes are slightly enhanced above what would be absolutely neutral, for example the sub lows and the highs seem to be a bit enhanced above the midrange, and this is even with the default reference filter installed.

The bass has a lot of impact, and they can totally blow your mind when the song calls for it, and won't lose speed for it. It is amazing what texture and nuance some songs have, and how much Da Vinci X can reveal that, as well as how much it can reach in the lows for an entirely-BA design that's made to sound reference. The bass drivers seem to have a slightly longer note decay than the midrange and treble drivers, but not a whole lot, just enough for the sound to not feel sterile or rushed, and if you're afraid of too-analytical sounds, like what Etymotic typical signatures that are light-quick, but lack substance, then you'll feel right at home with Da Vinci X. There is no coloration in the midrange, though, and the upper bass stays fairly neutral, just enough for the whole IEM to still be considered a neutral one.

The midrange is first and foremost described by its aggressive detail and clarity. Da Vinci IX cuts a bit on that clarity, but adds some warmth and smoothness, makes things more organic, where in turn, Da Vinci X is the clear and crisp one, precise and has the larger soundstage as well. Da Vinci X is made to sound right if you want true neutrality, and don't want any coloration in your IEMs. Furthermore, the upper midrange is still strictly neutral, and doesn't lend itself to color the sound in either direction. Now, I feel like I could talk days to years about the detail, crispness and clarity of the sound with Da Vinci X, there's just another level of resolution in those that I haven't heard before in any other IEM. To better share the story, one of the first songs I tried Da Vinci X with was Linkin Park - Faint, a pretty typical and fairly simple song overall, which I've heard countless times before, and have heard even on systems that cost over 100.000 USD, so I thought I knew everything that was to be heard in that song. Being a normal part of my test songs, and an old one at that, I didn't expect to hear much more, but there were textures and details that I simply never heard before. I'm talking about whole new layers of instruments, not just one micro-detail somewhere in the sonic space, but entirely new layers just jumping right at me. Needless to say, it took me a while to get used to having this much clarity, and I spent over ten days listening exclusively to Da Vinci X before starting to compare them, just to make sure I am understanding them the right way. The source was always a high-end one, from one high-end DAP to another, but man, I loved them paired with every DAP, and they also reveal the differences between the sources really easily.

The treble of Da Vinci X is another pleasing surprise, with extension to last for days, as well as a softness in the textures, they aren't harsh nor unnaturally detailed, but they aren't splashy or unnaturally soft either, they just have the right amount of everything to sound good. The treble is a bit less rich in textures compared to the midrange, which is simply outstanding, but this is balanced by a good extension and a good amount of overall sparkle.



The staging of Da Vinci X, when compared to the average of the other flagships I heard, is pretty medium in width, and they have a tendency to prefer depth and height over width. The width itself is smaller than the highly expansive types that I tend to prefer, but they take full advantage of the excellent separation, the final result being a very clearly cut and layered sound, with a nice holographic presentation. Vocals are slightly forward sounding, and this compliments both rock, metal, and pop, but also classical and music styles that rely on a good vocal performance, and this, paired with an excellent overall clarity and good dynamics, make up for a very realistic presentation.



Portable Usage

In terms of portability, Da Vinci X is not very sensitive to hiss, and won't hiss that much even with hissy sources like Hiby R6, FiiO X5-III, but they will reveal the differences between sources, and will prefer a better source like iBasso DX220 and FiiO X7 MK II or Opus #2 above an entry-level source like M6, although they are easily drive-able from a portable source, and don't need a lot of power.




The isolation is good enough for both live performances, as well as taking a walk and isolating yourself from the city, or the subway. With the right tips, you can get enough isolation to enjoy music even quietly. I would assume that when getting an IEM this expensive, and hearing the details so clearly, you are probably going to want to not blast them to one hundred decibels. Actually and to be honest, after hearing the details so clearly, I kind of want to do all I can to preserve my hearing the best I can, so I started to enjoy music much more quiet, Da Vinci X didn't just let me hear new stuff in my music, it showed me a new way to enjoy my music, an entirely new approach, where instead of loud, I can appreciate every nuance.





The cables are very flexible, and won't prove to be an issue when wearing Da Vinci X, so you won't have trouble, even if walking long distances, and neither will be their shape and design, although you will probably want to upgrade to thinner and less visible cables if using Da Vinci X live, as most live artists want their monitors to be as invisible as possible.



Comparisons


The comparison list includes Campfire Atlas, HIFIMAN RE2000, and Lime Ears Model X. There are a lot of IEMs out there that I will be comparing to Da Vinci X as it just became my new benchmark, so you can expect to see it mentioned in future reviews as well.



Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X vs Campfire Atlas - Although RE2000 and Lime Ears Model X go for a similar tuning when compared to Da Vinci X, Atlas doesn't do that, and is tuned in a much more grand way, with a very different sound. In terms of package, Atlas comes in a much smaller and more minimalistic package, but has a nice carrying case, that's almost as nice, if not nicer than the one Da Vinci comes with. The default cable is excellent for both, and this time, Atlas may actually have the better cable. Atlas also allows for both straight-down and over-the-ear wearing styles, where CTM Da Vinci X can only be worn over-the-ear. On the other hand, Da Vinci X is more comfortable, because Atlas has driver flex, and takes some time getting used to if you're coming from an all-BA setup that doesn't have driver flex. Atlas also picks up hiss easier than Da Vinci X. The overall experience feels nice for both IEMs, but Da Vinci X is clearly the flagship here, with more detail, more clarity, and a more neutral sound. Atlas has a much larger soundstage, with a wider presentation, more emphasis on how grand instruments sound like, and makes a better partner for classical music, where Da Vinci X is more precise, presents music much more clearly with more detail, but has considerably less size to its stage. The dynamics are better on Atlas, but the layering is better on Da Vinci X. Overall, if you want a warm, thick, romantic and organic-sounding IEM, Atlas is much more of a fit for you, or even Da Vinci IX is, where if you want a more neutral performer that places detail above everything else, Da Vinci X would be your choice.

Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X vs HIFIMAN RE2000 - HIFIMAN RE2000 has been about 2000 USD at launch, so you can consider them to be a fair competitor to Da Vinci X in terms of pricing. This being said, the package RE2000 comes with, feels more premium, and Da Vinci X feels like the package has more detail and work placed in, but less overall quality to the package itself. The build quality is great for both, but I would give the heads-up to Da Vinci X, for the feature of having 10 drivers per ear, where RE2000 has just one, a single Dynamic Driver for each IEM. RE2000 should be more comfortable for most people, as long as the IEM isn't too long for you and doesn't touch the back of your ear, otherwise Da Vinci X is larger in overall size, but may feel more comfy. The default cable is much better for Da Vinci X, although the cable RE2000 comes with doesn't sound bad, but it does have a pretty poor overall ergonomic when you consider its design and thickness. The sound is quite different this time around, and although both IEMs are analytic in their nature, and have similar size to their soundstage, Da Vinci X has more detail and clarity, where RE2000 has a more organic overall presentation, with a thinner overall treble presentation, and a more dynamic-like bass, where the IEM itself has similar dynamics and punch. If I was to call out some differences, RE2000 seems to have more bass impact and thickness. RE2000 is priced at about 800 USD at the moment, so it makes a more compelling offer price-wise, but if you're looking for more detail and clarity, then Da Vinci X is the way to go.

Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X vs Lime Ears Model X - Lime Ears Model X is the current flagship from Lime Ears, a custom IEM producer from Poland, specialized in high-end IEMs that bring a little twist to the mix, as Model X has a little knob on its surface, for making the entire IEM warmer and thicker, or leaving it in reference mode, in which it should be compared to Da Vinci X. Starting with the build quality, both IEMs are really nice, both offer similar amounts of passive noise isolation, and both feel similarly comfy, although Model X has more void than Da Vinci X. On the other hand, Da Vinci X is slightly larger and especially if you have smaller ears, you may notice the difference in size and shape. The default cable is better for Da Vinci X, but the carrying case is impressive in both cases. Only Model X comes with free Polish candy that's quite tasty. The actual sound is quite similar in tuning, once you turn both to reference, and fit both with foam tips, as both seem to sound their best with foam tips. Also driving both from DX220 with AMP9, a pretty potent source, they seem to both have the same amount of everything, and actually Model X seems to sound wider, and to expand better in its soundstage, creating a more holographic presentation. On the other hand, Da Vinci X seems to have a better definition, better resolution, and better overall detail, making up for its higher price by revealing more details in your music. Whether wanting to hear every last drop of detail is worth for you or not, is up to you, but if you really want to hear the last word in clarity and detail, you can check out Da Vinci X for its sweet overall performance.




Recommended Pairings

The list of recommended pairings includes iBasso DX220 running AMP 9, FiiO M11, and Opus #2, as all of those are proper flagship sources that deserve to be mentioned in a proper review of Da Vinci X. They can be run off smartphones, like my Xiaomi Mi Max 3 as well, and they work well with ultraportables like FiiO M6, Shanling M2X, or Hiby R6, but they really sound at their best when paired with a high-end source. A little extra pairing I am going to include in this review is with QLS QA 361, as I am quite sure you'd want to know how it pairs with Da Vinci X, as it is the only flagship that doesn't have a touchscreen display, or any bells and whistles besides playing music the best it can.



Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X + iBasso DX220 (AMP 9) - DX220 running AMP 9 is probably the easiest setup to recommend thanks to its excellent software and hardware support, Tidal support, and sound, which is very versatile and clear, crisp, yet organic, with good soundstage, and a magical midrange. If there's anything to take into account when going for this setup, you should know that AMP 9 only works with Single Ended cables, and you will probably want to also look into aftermarket cables, or you can consider getting AMP 8 for DX220, and getting either a modular cable like Dunu Hulk, or getting a 4.4mm Balanced cable, to take the most advantage of AMP 8.

Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X + FiiO M11 - FiiO's current top offering, of M11 is another nice DAP to pair Da Vinci X with, thanks to its wider presentation, which counters the deeper, yet more narrow presentation of Da Vinci X. This pairing has good overall support as well, and M11 has a Balanced output by default, and you don't have to worry about searching for aftermarket cables right away. Furthermore, M11 has good Tidal and Streaming support, along with Bluetooth support, a good battery life, and good integration with Roon and other music services.

Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X + Opus #2 - Opus #2 is a pretty old DAP now, but it is still relevant, still has that organic, large and smooth sound that made me fall in love with it years ago when I first reviewed it. Paired with Da Vinci X, you have access to its Balanced output, as well as a few streaming services. The size and design of the DAP also pairs well with Da Vinci X, which feels like it was made to be used with this high-end DAP, making them a sweet pair, and my to-go pairing often. The sound is more organic, more creamy, and less analytic, yet still really detailed and crisp, compared to most other pairings.

Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X + QLS QA 361 - QA 361 is an interesting DAP because there's not much to talk about in terms of bells and whistles, as it has no features besides playing music, but it has a really nice way of doing that, with a really clear, crisp and detailed presentation, that's also slightly soft and splashy, making it really easy to pair with a wide selection of headphones and IEMs. It has a Balanced output as well, but it is in 3.5mm, so you will either need a modular cable like Dunu Hulk for Da Vinci X, or you will need to use the Balanced adapter that comes in the package with QA 361. I always used QA 361 in both high voltage and high current mode as it seems to sound best that way, having most dynamics, most details and most punch / impact when used that way. The pairing sounds sweet, detailed, mostly neutral but slightly softy, with a wider soundstage and more dynamics emphasis than most other pairings.



Value and Conclusion


Starting with the value of Da Vinci X, they cost a whopping 2400 USD at the moment of writing this review, and it is very hard for me to go around the price without saying that they are hecc expensive. Not only expensive, they are single handedly the most expensive IEM I heard to date, although I heard many flagships that were in a similar price range, including Empire Ears models that are about 2000 USD, Hifiman's RE2000, which costed about 2000 USD at launch, as well as other flagships from all over the world. Considering the performance of Da Vinci X, relative to other IEMs, if you really want the best clarity, detail and precision, they are worth the money they cost. You can always consider that you're also helping towards the design of new IEM tech, as CTM is one of the very few IEM companies that designs new tech in-house, where other companies go with a very clean and good formula, but do not design new tech. On this note, CTM is really nice to work with and purchase from, because they are physically capable to offer proper service and fix IEMs even after a long while after their initial release, so in the end, getting Da Vinci X is worth it, if you have the money, and want the best of the best the current market has to offer.



The package is not quite as exquisite as that of other flagship IEMs, but it includes all the extras that you may require to fully enjoy the IEMs, along with proper accessories, and a really nice carrying case that is going to protect the IEMs. This, and the default cables are better value than most flagship IEMs come with, so you won't feel pushed to upgrade the cables right away, although something like Dunu Hulk should serve you well if you want to improve the aesthetics and the sonics of Da Vinci X.

The build quality is excellent, and there's good comfort as well, along with good isolation from outside noise, and although the IEM itself will appeal mostly to a more industrial-look lover, they should fit in well with any performer, and you don't have to worry about warranty and build quality, CTM is a very reliable company.



The sound is clearly the highlight of Da Vinci X, with a really clear, neutral, and quick sound that will surprise you by revealing new layers that you've never heard before, even in simple songs, and even in works that didn't seem like they'd be hiding anything. The bass is quick, but it doesn't have an unnaturally quick decay, the midrange is neutral and has a very good amount of clarity, nuance and detail, and the treble is well extended, and it manages to be a touch on the soft side, to sound natural, without being splashy. The stage isn't the widest, but the entire 3D presentation is spot on thanks to the instrument separation and depth, combined with the impressive height. Paired with good dynamics, the entire IEM brings your music to life and helps you gain an impressive introspection to your works, if you're a music producer.

Before the end of this review, I'd like to add CTM Da Vinci X to Audiophile-Heaven's Hall of Fame for being the new current benchmark for IEMs, and for impressing me and breathing new life into my passion for this hobby. The amount of clarity surpassed all that came before it, and I'm eager and looking forward to what will manage to match CTM Da Vinci X. You can always check the Hall Of Fame here.



At the end of this review, if you're looking for a proper flagship, an IEM to really match a high price tag, something to sound new and impressive, without sounding odd or wrong, you're most probably looking for Da Vinci X, or at least you'd want to give it a listen, to know whether this kind of really pragmatic sound fits your taste.



Full Playlist used for this review


While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.



Youtube Playlist

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu



Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b



Song List


Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet


I hope my review is helpful to you!

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Contact me!











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Pros: Exceptional staging and imaging
-reaches into extreme ranges of the frequency spectrum
-abnormal detail reproduction
-fantastic build quality
Cons: the carrying case
-not the most versatile sound signature
-really really sensitive. Don't even try with hissing sources!
-expensive
Read first!

Clear Tune Monitors two top-end monitors, the DaVinci IX and X are identical in shell design and box contents, but offer very different sound signatures. So if you've already read my other DaVinci review, you may directly skip to "Sound" :)

I've got to listen to these IEMs as part of a review tour, so this review is my own and completely unbiased opinion, based on my experiences with audio equipment and my personal taste. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments or via PM.



Build & Design



The first thing you'll notice when taking the DaVincis into your hands is their excellent build quality. The shells are completely made of metal with a nice satin black finish and screwed-on faceplates depicting the model number in roman numerals. Little spoiler alert here: The faceplates already give away the model's sound signature. The "IX" is kept in the shell's low-profile matte black, while the "X" is inlaid with a shiny chrome finish. The screw-thing seems to be inspired by Campfire's Andromeda, but the rest of the shells if fortunately way more ergonomic, its curves fitting perfectly into the ear. This semi-custom fit gained a lot of popularity lately and I'm happy to see that CTM have adopted it, too.

Accessories



The bundled accessories are exactly what you'd expect from IEMs in this price class, including a variety of silicone and foam tips, adapters, cleaning tool, carrying case, filters and two different cables. I'll go further into detail with the most important goodies of the DaVinci package:

The Carrying Case



Several things have to be said about the carrying case. First of all, the good thing: Once the IEMs are fitted into the case, you could basically play soccer with it. The DaVincis are held incredibly secure, with some extra foam padding holding the earpieces in place, no matter what you're doing. That's especially great news for professionals who are having these babies on tour with them, because tour equipment can be in for a rough treatment at times. There's also a "hidden" compartment which holds a small selection of eartips, a cleaning tool and an adapter, nice! Now the bad news: If you're a regular dude using your IEMs for the commute, you're going to buy another case. Balancing that thing on your lap while fiddling in the IEMs in the correct manner and then coiling up the cable correctly is one task nobody wants to attempt in a crowded subway at 7:00am.

Cables



CTM are supplying you with two cables. One standard cable with an angled 3,5mm connector and one balanced premium cable with a straight 2,5mm plug. Both cables are sturdy and sufficiently long, with securely fitting 2-pin connectors (MMCX haters will be pleased) and a protective transparent tubing for the part that comes in touch with your ears, thankfully without memory wire. The premium cable is a piece of art on its own, braided of pure copper and silver plated(?) wire and beefy plugs to underline the word "premium". It's not exactly designed for great portability, but the difference between a balanced and standard connection, let alone different cable types (if there is any) certainly cannot be heard in public transport or loud venues. So use the standard one for the go and the premium cable for your armchair or showing off at your local Head-Fi meet.



Filters



Besides the standard silver one, CTM are adding two different kinds of filters to the box, red and blue. And at this point I have to give the guys at CTM some more criticism. Nowhere on the box or in the instruction manual it's mentioned what the filters are supposed to do. Sure, by trying them out or simply searching the official Head-Fi thread you may find out. But undertaking in-depth research in forums or extensive A/B listening comparisons are not exactly the kind of experiences I'm associating with buying a premium product. Now back to topic: As CTM explained in the aforementioned thread, the blue filters are for taming the treble, the red filters are for enhancing the bass frequencies a little more. And they actually work like that; but the difference is, to be honest, very subtle. Changing filters takes a few moments, which makes direct comparisons difficult and you may end up not noticing any difference at all. But if you're treble sensitive or longing for these 3 decibels of extra-bass, the filters may be a nice addition. Offering these kinds of tuning options costs money and effort, so I'm giving CTM huge props for that anyway.

Ergonomics



You would not expect a very pleasant experience from plugging massive metal objects into your ears. But due to their ergonomically curved shape and short nozzle length, the DaVinci series feel very comfortable and secure in my ears. In fact, they're among the most comfortable IEMs I've ever tested and going back to my JH Angies made me realize that I should consider an upgrade soon. CTM's cables just add to the overall very pleasant experience; so wearing these IEMs for several hours is not a concern at all. The DaVincis are a true winner in the comfort category.

Sound



Being the higher-priced model of the DaVinci range, the X gets overall the more positive reviews here. But don't be fooled: The DaVinci X sounds vastly different than its little sibling. Equipped with an additional armature driver for the extreme treble region and a leaner midrange, the X are sporting a very bright and detail-oriented signature with slightly enhanced sub-bass for tonal balance. The treble lift is not just a peak but starts around 7-8khz and stretches far beyond 10khz, exposing every detail and every weakness in the recording. Let's start at the bottom:

Silicone tips

The X and it's smaller sibling IX are sharing the same low-end DNA.
On bass-heavy tracks like Banks' "F*** with myself" and Lorde's "Royals", the X pump out a decent amount of low end with a great balance between wobble and definition. There seems to be a dip in the lower midrange, so busy tracks like Trivium's "Until The World Goes Cold" or The Ocean's "Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny" sound very tidy with pristine instrument separation, layering and positioning. Due to this little twist in frequency response, voices and guitars are lacking a little body and substance. This trade-off is not an unpopular choice in in-ear-monitoring, especially if maximum spaciousness and instrument separation are desired. Fortunately, the DaVinci X achieve this effect just perfectly. So while Tina Turner's voice in "Goldeneye" lacks authority, the orchestral arrangements around her sound very holographic with pinpoint accurate instrument positioning. The leaned out midrange is less apparent in Sam Smith's "Writing on the Wall", where the DaVinci X really shine, perfectly positioning his tenor/falsetto voice into the wide orchestral arrangement. Throw some fierce sub-bass lines into an orchestral mix, like in Hans Zimmer's "Why So Serious?" And the X really start showing off their impressive reach into both ends of the frequency spectrum and bringing out every detail. They handle Hip-Hop surprisingly well too, showing off their love for detail while giving a fun ride on the bass train. You've never listened to Jay-Z's "Magna Carta... Holy Grail" like this before! The X's narrow focus on particular strengths has a downside though: Certain Rock and Metal recordings, like Metallica's "...And Justice for All" or Vektor's "Terminal Redux" will quickly become top-heavy and topple over. It's still impressive to have cymbals and hi-hats thrown in your face with all details and nuances, but that's quite a fatiguing listening experience. Try a crushed or poorly mixed recording and the experience will become even unpleasant. So choose your genres, sources and file quality wisely.

Foam Tips

Tip selection is one underestimated possibility to influence an IEM's sound signature. The DaVinci X is one model that's particularly sensitive towards ear tip material. Like most other manufacturers who are aware of this phenomenon, CTM also add some foam tips to the package. With these, the X's treble dominance gets more tamed and transform them into a different beast altogether. At least for me: My hearing is very good and I'm quite treble sensitive, so usually my criticism towards enhanced higher frequencies is much harsher than most people's. So when I tried the X with foam tips on, I could finally enjoy its vast headroom and staging appropriately without bleeding ears. The mids are still tilted towards their upper spectrum, but the foams' addition of warmth and thickness does the overall signature some good. Revisiting problematic recordings like "…And Justice for All" or live recordings like Alice in Chains' MTV Unplugged Album is a much smoother experience. Hi-hats and cymbals are still presented boldly with exceptional shimmer and fizz, but take a little step back, giving the overall mix a better balance and musicality. Of course, some resolution will be sacrificed in the process, but the DaVinci X are detail monsters that can easily afford this little trade-off.

TL;DR

TheDaVinci X are rather bright/analytical sounding monitors with an approximately U-shaped frequency response and a heavy focus on imaging, detail and treble extension.



Verdict



While I definitely can appreciate the technical capabilities of the DaVinci X, I couldn't quite warm up to the lean midrange and the forward treble presentation. If you're a treble-sensitive person like me, these IEMs are only usable with foam tips for many music genres, which is kind of a let-down for a 2,5k product. If you have an acquired taste for strong treble and want the maximum quantity and quality of detail and stereo imaging imaginable in a 2019 flagship IEM, the DaVinci X are definitely worth looking (listening) into. CTM's TOTL product has not only the highest requirements for treble tolerance/love, but also source quality and your wallet. If you can meet all three of them, the DaVinci X might be your audio-nirvana.
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Pros: Best box I have ever seen.
Beautiful looks.
Sound, which is intoxicating.
Sparkle, detail, spaciousness.
Sound stage is very, VERY good.
No weaknesses of which to speak.
Excellent accessories.
THE BOX!!!
Cons: Ummm...still thinking about that.
Maybe the Torx screws, which could nick the finish?
Still thinking...


Clear Tunes Monitor Da Vinci X-retail $2400usd


Da Vinci X: https://cleartunemonitors.com/product_detail/240/Da-Vinci-X/#top


Intro: When one finds out they are on a tour there are several layers of response. There is the initial coolness of being included into the club (sometimes pretty exclusive) while getting to listen to something pretty sweet. There is the next layer, which defines how long you have to wait; usually for me about ½ way through (the end is ideal, because you get the critter for a couple of extra days…). There would then be the layer of reading the other reviews of that product (if it has been out for a bit). Or NOT reading those reviews, since you want the anticipation/reaction to be raw. Next would be the laying up of the review specifics so you can focus upon the listening and review itself upon arrival. For something completely new, you must take especial care for you could well be the first. And NEXT to last is the arrival of said critter. You open the box, give a quick listen, fire off emails stating “unit in hand” or some such nonsense and then proceed directly to daughter-units Futbol practice (sigh no listen…). And then the last layer (the icing to me, and the best) …the listening while you write. Oh my, that is a darn good layer, too.

That is a fairly typical response to the way I see reviewing tour units. Due to the short-term nature of time involved, you really want to listen as much as possible. That’s kind of the point. As an added “layer,” you might have to investigate the company itself and products. I did somewhat here, but had heard good things regarding CTM, so I called that part good. Another layer would be that BOTH the IX and X were included, which is a definite benefit. I rather enjoy comparing, so this makes a natural comparison with what I have on hand (see list below).

As luck would have it, I just finished a couple of online grad classes, and could afford time again to the reviewing process (and more listening!!!). So, upon arrival (earlier than I thought, but that’s a good thing here, so…), I hooked the X up to my QP2R and listened. Man, an excellent pairing using the attached 3.5 se cable was wrought from Bandito. Tyler’s voice was fully in my head, and articulate. Succinctity of sound permeated my cranial matter with excellent detail. A very good start.





Specs:


Input Sensitivity:
117.2dB @ 1kHz

Freq Response:
20 Hz to 20 kHz

Speaker:
Single Armature Balanced

Impedance:
43.8 ohm @ 1 kHz

Noise Isolation:
-26dB

Input Connector:
1/8″ (3.5mm)

Acoustic Filters:
150Ω and 300Ω


What you get when we ship your In-Ear:

  • Your Da Vinci X Universal Fit In-Ear Monitor
  • Standard 50" Cable
  • Premium 4-Wire Hybrid Cable
  • Interchangeable Sound Filters
  • Hard Case
  • 1/4" to 1/8" Adapter
  • Airplane Adapter
  • Cleaning Tool
  • S,M,L Silicon and Foam Tips
  • Double Flange Silicon Tips


Gear used/compared:


UM Mentor V3
CTM Da Vinci IX
Campfire Audio Atlas (3.5 cable)
64Audio U8 (2.5 bal cable)

Thebit Opus #2
Macbook Pro/iFi iTubes2/iDAC2/micro iDSD Black Label
Shanling M5/iBasso PB3
Questyle QP2R

Songs used:

Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

twenty one pilots-Trench

Unboxing:

I have espoused in the past about having either a plain box, which then focuses on the critter inside, or a box laden with information surrounding the company and IEM of choice. The CTM approach with the Da Vinci would be of the second variety, and I must admit I am fascinated by the box. Who would want the company with an IEM named for one of the greatest Scientific-designing minds of all-time to have an ordinary box? Certainly not me. Chock full of valuable information, you get a sense of efficiency of packaging (yes even though the box is on the larger side) as well as packed with that information. Presentations gets an A+ here.



Fit-N-Finish:

As mentioned in the IX review, the two main halves are held together by Torx screws. Nary a scratch is had on the screws and fit of the upper half is perfect to the lower. Fit of the nozzles is very good, with only a slight difference in angle noticeable on the right IEM. Mentioned already in another review, we will leave it at that.

Made of black brushed alloy, you can still “promote” fingerprints on the IEM, and the chrome “X,” which crosses the back can gather prints as well. Not much can be done here. Finish is tight and good, no imperfections noted or differing layers of finish to be noted.

In-ear fit is again very good as mentioned. Better than my Mentor V3, which frankly is a PITA. Plug in, insert in ear, run cable over ear, push play and go. That’s it. Nicely done CTM.



Initial listen:

Plugging in to the Shanling M5/iBasso PB3 combo, the gorgeous 2.5bal cable provided an almost fruity sound on Keb Mo’s Tell Everybody I Know. I do believe Keb Mo is still an unsung hero of recent Blues genre. His songs are sweet, supported by wonderful musicians, and this particular song is not different. Starting with the Southern sound of the Dobro, he brings in a light and airy keyboard/marimba-type of instrument. We delve even further south towards the Caribbean as a result. Fruity, fun, airy and an extremely pleasant sound from the X and that cable.

Before said song, my initial songs were listed above, and I found the X to be on the somewhat brighter side of life, with lively bass, even if it didn’t delve too deeply. My Mentor is somewhat bass-shy, and I love the sound signature. They are in the same price bracket, so good to know that two can catch my eye. Running Roger Daltrey’s The Love You Save, besides his voice taking front stage (oh darn), the bass line comes on first letting you know what this is all about. Rich of sound, quality and density; the X comes across as commanding here. Taking an active role in providing the sound here, you marvel at the presentation and layering knowing that Roger is 74 years young and can still bring it. An excellent album presented properly.



Follow that with the homemade 12-string of Junior Brown and you have essentially come full circle. His songs are always on the sharp, brighter side of life and this is no exception. A song I know well, The Better Half promotes a solid bass guitar line, melded perfectly with the singular snare giving that western-railroad sound. Throw in his guitar and rich, deep, melodic voice and this is a darn fine setup. His albums are not to be missed. Nor his small-venue concerts.

I guess it is a rock kind of intro to be had, because Joe Satriani’s fabulous Invisible comes on and you simply must turn the volume up. His guitar ability is right up there with my all-time favorite, Stevie Ray Vaughan, but in a different sense. Technique-wise Satriani has few peers. Simply superb. Combine that with his quick changes of pace and volume levels, and you have a sound, which could bring lesser IEM’s into trouble. You know the ones of which I talk…the ones that cannot handle technically-complicated songs. No problem for the X.

Backing off to something a bit mellower in Bonnie Raitt’s Love Letter, you appreciate the X’s response to female vocals. Sensuous, strong and full of vitality Bonnie’s voice plays extremely well through the X. No muddying or shadiness of sound. Presentation is as it should be. Solid and honest.

Finishing off with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s I’m Cryin’ you really have experienced all you need to formulate an “educated” opinion. Running towards his guitar licks, you scramble for the front row, knowing full well there isn’t a bad seat in the house, so why bother. Well, because it is the rush of the music, which draws you in. His sumptuous voice and guitar, which has not equal in my mind solidify whether the pleasure of your listen is worthy of inclusion intro “your club” or not. Many times, this is how I approach a review. Would this be something I would add to my stable of audio gear or not? When one shells out north of twenty-four Ben’s you have a right to know if the pleasure is placebo or long term. I have made that mistake on some, but luckily not at this level of price.

So, if you want to quit reading after this next bit, you will still understand about 90% of where I come from on the X (and the IX). When I had the Mason/Mentor V3’s in possession, I quickly realized that I liked the Mentor more. It’s presentation of bass and overall characteristics lent themselves more closely to my ideal. This was not the first time that I picked the lesser of the two on an “ultra-tour” as you might name it. I liked the u18T more than the Fourte and liked the u12T more as well. I would spend my hard-earned on either and almost pulled the trigger on a B-stock u18t…almost. I already had the Mentor on the way, so I thought my pocketbook would close up on itself…The CTM Da Vinci IX/X IS something I would spend my hard-earned on. I would add either of them to my arsenal, and it would be good. Both have excellent characteristics, which will be defined below and as part of the comparison section. So, there you go, you can quit reading and look at the cool pictures if you like.



Delving deeper, no really!

Hotel California from Hell Freezes Over is an incredible song to start with, and a fitting end to that greatest song of all-time debate. This song screams of Spanish dancers sashaying across the stage in long flowing dress and impeccable knee-high formal boots on the male. Just a superb representation of the song. I am thoroughly in love with the song. This is how I know that some are not worthy of use on this song. Either too bright and sibilant or confusing the sound because they cannot handle the complication of song; there is no hiding poor representation here. None.

The X comes through at the top. The meme above fits here as well. Come at me Bro! The way the song is represented, with the deep visceral bass and Don Henley’s voice coercing another level is followed by that Spanish Guitar of Joe Walsh & Glenn Frey. Simply incredible song presented as it should be. Fantastic.

Moving on to the iFi stack, Tidal Premium and my MBP, the X came along without problem. On It’s Just My Heat Talk’n from Los Lonely Boys, the presentation is again light, but not faint. The song itself is a remarkable juxtaposition of South-Texas blues and Central American staccato beat. Each strum of guitar is felt and positions well. No misgivings with the instruments. Done well, the song is. Added in was XBass+, but even without, the presentation gives that bit of thump down low, even if the song is a lighter arrangement. That tube sound from the iTubes2 gives the X some genuine soul on more than just this song.

Again, the X shows it can compete with the best when it comes to a diverse genre of music. I am again impressed.

I do get a sense of a more laid-back vocal presentation. Instead of being out front leading the charge, the vocals provide the necessary support to all. Throw on Porn Star, and the bass guitar line is the main course here. A great song, with varied beats and instruments, this is another song, which could be trouble for some due to the diversity of sound. But, the X plays with aplomb. You almost get the sense of the X grooving in your ears. Not bad.



Trees from twenty one pilots is a cacophony of sound exuberance. Almost hiding before the bold beat comes in, the song develops slowly, but man when it comes on, there is no hiding an IEM, which cannot keep up with the speed. Yet again, the X playfully comes. This is a rollicking good time. This song pretty much defines that the X can be EQ’d to your personal preferences. Driving the bass deeper with the addition, the songs crescendo is met with little resistance and finishes a fine tune from a fine IEM. Man…this is getting good…



Comparisons:


CTM Da Vinci X ($2400usd) v UM Mentor V3 ($2100usd, sale):

The first thing that struck me switching to the V3 from the X was that the V3 sounded absolutely muddy. Mids sounded congested, and lacked the crispness of the X. The V3 definitely has a “meaty” sound to it. Better depth on the bass, the V3 is ahead down low. With an almost rolled off top end, the V3 lacks sparkle as well. The X has an air about it that is superb. When the V3 came on to the market, it was priced at about $2400usd, but has since been put on sale. At this price, a comparison to the IX might be better warranted. But you will get that, too.

The V3 (with the copper side on for the cable) definitely hits the warm side of the equation. Switching to the silver cable (by switching sides) the field evens out a bit, and that mid-drop all but goes away. Fit of the V3 falls behind as well. With a much longer nozzle, the fit can be a bit tricky. Throw in the stiff cable and you get an almost cumbersome affair.

Through all of that, I love the V3. I love how it sounds. I love that almost “dirty” sound. That down low and “it means business” sound. To me, the V3 is that poster your parents didn’t want you to put up in your room as a kid. The one with the killer legs. The one that would kick your sorry arse, then tend you back to health. Man, it’s baaaaaaddd. It joined my stable over the Mason V3 simply because to me it presented a better bass presence. I liked them both, but the Mentor V3 is the one that came home with me. If I had heard the Da Vinci X at the time, and had my choice, I would really have to think about that, and might have come home with the X. It is that good.



Switching to the M5/PB3 combination, the V3 brings things back in to line, presenting a better mid line than before. The iTubes2 most definitely had more of an effect on the V3 than the X. Using Jumpsuit from Trench, the presentation is again full and without reservation. THIS is the sound, which drew me to the V3. Solid bass, excellent vocals and a warm signature, which matches my taste. On Bandito you anticipate the end where the song cuts loose. Some IEM’s would falter here due to the complexity of detail. Neither does here. You turn it up and enjoy. Switching back to the X, the air between notes is something at which to marvel. Detail is paramount and if that detail were not of the caliber it is, the song would falter. The X provides that almost delicate balance of detail and a warm touch. I’m not even sure what reference sounds like (no training), but I imagine the X is the one to shoot for. That is not to say it is dry and analytical. Far from it. I mentioned fruity earlier. Fruity and airy would be apt descriptors.





CTM Da Vinci X ($2400usd) v CA Atlas ($1300usd):

Flipping to the Atlas, we get the clear bass winner here. Hands down. The flagship model from Campfire Audio (before the Solaris), the Atlas brings much to the table as it tries to muscle in to this territory. With a wide and tall sound stage, there is an expansiveness to the bass, which makes you think of an orchestra filling the concert hall with rich vibrant sound. Again, with a lower treble threshold than the X, the Atlas presents a rounded sound, emphasizing a slight mid-forward sound along with that bass line, which is to die for by the way. If it was only bass, this would not even be a contest. But when you look at the overall picture (albeit unfairly due to the price difference), the X shows itself well again.


With a more detailed presentation than the Atlas, there is no getting lost in the plot line as a result. You can clearly see the path and it is a sunlit mountain air type of day. The Atlas on the other hand, grabs you by the hand and tells you soft but deeply, “TRUST me.” And you then get on with the journey a bit scared and taken aback. Not bad mind you for the journey is good, just in a different manner than the X. The Atlas is still one of my favorites, because it has that fairly unique sound, presenting exactly how far a single DD can go. And it does an extraordinary job at it. But it simply cannot compete with 10 BA drivers, and twice the price.



The Finale, sadly (not really!!):

Throughout this, I have waxed on about a certain level of detail and a “fruitiness” to the sound. I do not mean this in a bad way, no. To me, the X would be that first batch of freshly-made Sangria for that fine Spring evening when you have friends over to celebrate the end of Winter. Even if there is still snow on the ground.



There is an openness to the sound, which can become quite intoxicating. You dare not listen too long, for you will become embroiled in the X’s spell, not able to rise due to the excellent Sangria. Well, I could think of worse things to do with my time…Speaking of time, I do appreciate the time I had with the IX & X. Albeit short, the time was spent utilizing many hours listening to tunes galore, DAP’s galore, combinations galore. Some late nights were had, and at the end…I did not mind because the X’s sound kept things lively, open, airy and fruity. In fact, so good were they, that I may most likely replace my TOTL IEM with the X.

I like fruit.

I am beyond smitten with the sound and cannot shake that feeling. Clarksdale Getaway from Charlie Musselwhite gives that end all sound. A driving down home blues tune, with his raw seedy harmonica filled in with the jam of a Fender, held together by bass and drums really ties the sound together. This is good stuff, and I do not want it to end.

I profusely thank the CTM crowd for sending their flagship IEM’s on tour. The tremendous trust put into each of us is an honor we must cherish and hold true. Plus, we may just end up purchasing one of these fine critters in the end…



*Edit: they did win me over, I purchased the X…I like fruit.
Wannabenewton
Wannabenewton
Nice, and thanks for highlighting the refreshing nature of the sound, i couldn't put my finger on it but i felt it.
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Ah, thank you! It isn't that the sound is unique (it IS really, really good), but refreshing would be a very good adjective as a descriptor as well.

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