1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X

Rating:
4.75/5,
  1. ngoshawk
    The Da Vinci X, no snarky comment needed
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Jan 30, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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...
    [​IMG]

    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.


    [​IMG]


    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
    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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…

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]



    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.

    [​IMG]

    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…

    [​IMG]

    *Edit: they did win me over, I purchased the X…I like fruit.
      Wannabenewton and Grimbles like this.
    1. Wannabenewton
      Nice, and thanks for highlighting the refreshing nature of the sound, i couldn't put my finger on it but i felt it.
      Wannabenewton, Feb 1, 2019
    2. 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.
      ngoshawk, Feb 1, 2019
  2. Grimbles
    What a thing this DaVinci X... what a thing
    Written by Grimbles
    Published Jan 6, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - sound quality
    sound stage
    treble
    detail
    scalability
    premium
    Cons - a few niggles
    cost
    Quick Read Conclusion

    I set out to review the CTM DaVinci IX and X to figure out if I could tell the difference between my mid-fi kit, and some properly premium, top of the range equipment. Unfortunately for my wallet I can! These IEMs are absolutely sublime and from the second you open the spectacularly pretty box to the thousandth hour of listening, you will have a smile on your face as they stun you again and again. If I was dropping this $2k+ myself, I would spend the extra and buy the CTM DaVinci X – that treble, that soundstage, that tuning… sublime.

    Introductions and General Bumf

    This review of CTM's DaVinci IX (the "IX") and X (the "X", the IX and X together, the "DaVincis") is written as a side by side review. Partly this is because the DaVincis are packaged identically, look almost identical and are obviously products of the same development, although they do sound quite different. As a consequence, the sections headed Unboxing, Accessories, Practicalities, Fit and Tips and Niggles apply equally to both DaVinicis and it is only the section headed Sound where the differences between the two become clear.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am in no way affiliated with CTM and have received no inducement from them to write this review.

    Test Kit: I have tested the DaVincis with a Samsung Note 8 and Galaxy S8 (using both UAPP and Tidal), an 11" Macbook Air (2012 vintage, running Tidal), an Astell and Kern AK70 mk 1 (both balanced and unbalanced), an iFi iDSD Nano Black Label, xDSD, and iDSD Micro Black Label and also a Schiit Modi 2 Uber into a Vali 2 ("Schiit Stack").

    Preparation: I received the DaVincis as review samples and gave them both about 50 hours of burn in before any analytical listening.

    Me as a listener: I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination. I have always enjoyed my music, and my tastes are pretty broad. I go to live music ranging from rock and pop concerts to orchestra and opera. I would not describe myself as having a trained ear, but I am attentive and my ears are in pretty good nick for a 35 year old.

    My tastes: neutral to warm, but I do like good punchy bass and I love to hear decent instrument separation.

    Test tracks: Test tracks noted in the review below were the TIDAL 16/44.1 available through their Hi-Fi subscription.

    So, on to the main event. [/General Bumf]

    Tech Specs

    I have set out below the key technical specifications for the DaVincis, lifted directly from CTM's website. I also note that, on writing this article, the IX is priced at $2,000 and the X at $2,400. No small sum!

    table.jpg

    Unboxing

    I would like to reserve my superlatives for a little later in this review, so will not spend much time waxing lyrical, when I can let the pictures below do it for me. The retail packaging for the DaVincis is simply beautiful…artful… and every bit the elite experience one would hope for if north of $2,000 had been dropped on a pair of IEMs!

    Unboxing 1.jpg Unboxing 2.jpg Unboxing 3.jpg Unboxing 4.jpg Unboxing 5.jpg Unboxing 6.jpg

    How to tell the difference? The IXs have a black IX milled out of the face plate whilst the Xs have a chrome fill in their milled X.

    both on ak70.jpg

    Accessories

    Included in the box with both the DaVincis are a 3.5mm terminated 50" cable, 2.5mm terminated (balanced) 4-wire hybrid cable, 3x interchangeable sound filters, a hard carry case, 3.5mm to 6.25mm adaptor, aeroplane adaptor, cleaning tool, silicon and foam tips (small, medium and large of each), a set of double flange silicon tips and a warranty card and user guide. Some comments on a few of these are set out below (and in the niggles section of this review also).

    Cables

    At this price range it is great to see a couple of really decent cables included. Microphonics from both are minimal. The 2.5mm cable has straight 2 pin (0.78mm) connectors, whilst the 3.5mm cable has angled connectors. Both cables are braided, with the 3.5mm being CTM's "standard" (presumably all copper, waiting for CTM to confirm) and the 2.5mm being a 4 wire hybrid copper/silver number. The 3.5mm cable has some sheathed memory wire running back from the connector to help retain shape, whilst the 2.5mm cable does not. The 2.5mm cable has much more premium termination and chin sliders, giving a v expensive feel over the 3.5mm cable.

    Cable jacks.jpg Cable Mids.jpg Cable tips.jpg

    Tips

    I didn't really get on with any of the included tips (see niggles), and opted instead for my trusty Comply TSX-400 tips.

    Sound Filters

    As you will see in the niggles section, I did not particularly like the design of the sound filters. I also found the sound quality with the DaVincis from the included reference filters so jaw dropping, it wasn't until I came to send them on, that I realised I hadn’t really played with them much. As such, I can't reasonably make comment on the effect these filters have on the sound signatures of these IEMs.

    Practicalities

    Glancing at the numbers above, the impedance figures for the DaVincis may seem high compared to some other TOTL headphones (CA Andromeda 12.8 Ω @ 1 kHz, EE Legend X 14 Ω @ 1 kHz, 64 Audio Tia Fourté 10 Ω @ 1 kHz), but the input sensitivities of both show they don't really need that much power, and I found my S8 was able to push both to very high volumes.

    On reading the specs, I thought that the DaVincis might not reproduce some of the hiss I have typically encountered with exotic multi BA IEMs. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and so you are still going to need to find ways around this. The IEMatch function on the Micro BL was successful, but I encountered no hiss on the AK70 (balanced and non, unless v high volumes), xDSD or xCAN. Obviously the Schiit Stack (specifically the valves in the Vali 2) made a racket and so are not well suited as a pairing!

    X on the rig.jpg

    This said, the DaVincis do scale brilliantly with the kit that you use – they were able to eke out levels of performance from the iFi xDSD and Micro BL (which I had on loan for another review), that my other kit (notably the Sennheiser HD 600) could not.

    Fit and Tips

    Cramming 9 or 10 drivers into an IEM is no mean feat, but the result is the largest universal IEM I have ever put into my ear. The surface area is sensible for my average sized ears, and the ergonomic shaping on the inside face of the DaVincis definitely helped with fit, the moulding into the concha fitting perfectly for me. Where the DaVincis show their size is in their depth, but the lightweight aluminium constructions helps to ensure that they stay in place (at least for me) during use, and I did not find that the DaVincis induced any physical fatigue over long listening sessions.

    The nozzle is pretty wide – on a par with the Campfire Polaris. This is fine if you are used to it, but may be uncomfortable for those with particularly small ears. I've noted in niggles below that I was a little disappointed with the included tips, but on a quick tip-rolling session, I found the tried and tested Comply TSX-400 worked a dream. As ever with a universal IEM, seal is key to get the best performance from the DaVincis, so this is worth spending some time on if you do decide to buy a pair.

    If you are dropping this sort of cash on an IEM you are obviously going to want to try them. For people with average to large sized ears, I do not think there will be an issue with the DaVincis, but for people with smaller ears, the depth and nozzle size may make comfortable fit more challenging. For this amount of cash, the advice has to be to go to your local retailer and try before you buy.

    all 4 no cable.jpg IX no cable.jpg

    The Sound

    Highs, Mids and Lows

    Mids and lows are a similar story between the DaVincis. Full and rich the mid reproduction remains sweet throughout, with no emphasis or weakness in any part of the frequency response. The result is that, no matter your choice of music the DaVincis render the sounds beautifully, whether male or female vocals, strings in the orchestra, electronica, unplugged, live or studio-produced the DaVincis deliver.

    Bass is full, rich and detailed. Whilst (as with pretty much all IEMs) this is not standing next to a speaker stack at a rock concert, the DaVincis are capable of both impact and texture, without losing detail. Thundercat's show off masterpiece Uh-uh (one of WhatHifi's 10 best tunes to test your system) is held together artfully, without confusion in response at even some of the most frantic of passages. Neither DaVinci struggles to deliver a solid bassline either… to try to really make them wobble, I chucked AwolNation's Sail at them – a tune that should really rattle your bones and the DaVincis did not disappoint, with the weight of the bassline conveyed with clarity and control.

    In a sense writing about the bass and mid-range output of the DaVincis is difficult – they just sound right! But then we come to the treble and what really separates the DaVincis. For the IXs, this is a continuation of the rest of the story. Measured and controlled with clarity in abundance. Whether the hi-hat, the triangle over a busy orchestra (think Throne Room and opening credits from the first Star Wars movie) or the metallic twang on an acoustic guitar piece (the live version of Matisyahu's Live Like a Warrior), the IXs are faithful – decay is realistic and there is no fatiguing ring. The word here is "balance", and it is the signature of the IX.

    Now the treble on the X – wow. Never overdone, never sibilant, the treble on the DaVinci X is CTM's Mona Lisa. I can't wait to see some frequency responses published, as I hope they will bear out what I hear, which is a subtle but audible peak across the treble range. On top of making those hi-hats, triangles and metallic twangs more noticeable, this introduces a clarity on every single track I played on the Xs, opening out soundstage (see below) and making every other earphone I have heard (including the IX) sound a little bit muffled in comparison.

    Soundstage, Separation and Detail Retrieval

    Both the IX and X pull incredible level of detail and micro-detail from tracks, scaling up with source and (of course) the quality of the recording and file. Neither is unfriendly to a lower quality recording, so your non-lossless files will still have some life in them, but listen to well recorded CD quality or higher, and your ears will be rewarded.

    For both DaVincis, separation is a strongpoint, with busy tracks (again, heavy orchestral like Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King form the Peer Gynt Suite, but also multi-layered numbers like Ed Sheeran or a Beach Boys harmony) never confusing the IX or becoming muddled or fuzzy.

    The soundstage and separation with the IX are both superb. The soundstage is as wide as any I have heard (including from the open backed Sennheiser HD600) and portrays some depth. As mentioned above though, the X does something a little different, and listening to it is the first time I have experienced truly holographic soundstage. Not only does the X describe depth and width, I could hear height too, meaning that different instruments and singers could be placed in 3 dimensions. This was most pronounced on live tracks, and particularly with the background noise on those tracks, where the Xs create a sense of being enveloped by the audience in a way I have never previously encountered. I have to say I absolutely loved this, and a number of times (including on a train and in my office) I jumped as I heard somebody right behind me or next to me, only to realise it was just the Xs doing their party trick!

    Comparisons

    Given the price differences between my kit and the DaVincis, this isn’t quite apples for apples! Against both the CA Polaris and the FIBAE Massdrop Edition, the DaVincis felt like a more refined, more detailed… more mature sound. Against the DaVincis, the Polaris' weaknesses on lower mid-range (particularly male vocals) are brought under the spotlight, whilst the FIBAE ME sounds slightly veiled in comparison, particularly with the remarkably airy X. The only place either of these IEMs could compete was in bass, with the Polaris having more impact, and the FIBAE ME edging ahead for both detail and impact. But neither of them could touch the X for its treble, soundstage, separation and clarity.

    Niggles

    I have a few niggles which I set out below. Some of these may feel a bit like splitting hairs, but at $2-2,400 I think the customer can expect the very best and accordingly I set out some niggles below.

    On first blush I thought that the hard carry case that the DaVincis come with was brilliant. Although it is quite large, it is solid and includes everything you need in a case of this nature – well moulded storage, a decent loom to wrap your cable around to keep it tangle free, a padded flap above the IEM storage bays which is itself a magnet-sealed compartment storing tips, wax cleaning tool and 6.35-3.5mm adaptor. Unfortunately, I found that it was impossible to store the DaVincis, with cable attached, without always squashing the foam tips when closing the box. See a couple of photos below showing how the box fouls the IEMs on closing. The only solution was to remove the cable from the IEMs each time I put them away. A bit annoying.

    in carry case.jpg in carry case issues.jpg in carry case 4.jpg in carry case 3.jpg in carry case 2.jpg

    Unlike the sound filters with, say the Shure SE846 which require their own special tool to remove, the tiny (and therefore easily lost) filters on the DaVincis simply screw in, easily removed by virtue of their serrated ends. Using the foam tips, I found that daily use loosened the sound filters, and if I was not careful (I was as these are review samples which I don't own) the tips could get loose to the point of falling off, with filter.

    Sticking with tips a moment, I was a little disappointed with CTM's choice of tips with the DaVincis. One set each of small medium and large foam and silicon, and one double flanged silicon. Personally, I don't get on with silicon tips and I didn't really like the included foam tips. At this price point, I would expect a decent selection of high quality tips – Comply and Spinfit are the obvious names, but I am sure that there are other equally decent tip makers out there!

    The DaVincis are clearly aimed at audiophiles, so I suspect that the decision not to include a Bluetooth attachment or phone control cable was about increasing spend on the cables and IEMs – in my mind a sensible decision, but I thought worth noting.

    Conclusion

    Over the last couple of years, I have built up some decent experience of listening to high end personal hi-fi equipment. I have heard a lot of headphones, amps, DACs etc in that time, but I have never heard anything quite like the CTM DaVinci X, and from the first moment I listened to the Xs I was utterly blown away. In comparison, The IX is a refinement of a sound signature I am familiar with; that is to say, analytical without being clinical, but without a "wow" factor – it is a consummately balanced IEM, with detail retrieval levels I did not realise were possible. But the extra driver (and presumably the upgraded crossover) in the X, create something truly amazing. Not just the best IEM I have ever heard, but the best earphone. A joy. Thank you CTM – Leonardo would be proud!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 21qz
      Wonder how these compare to the Empire Ears Legend X?
      21qz, Jan 10, 2019
      Grimbles likes this.
    3. Grimbles
      Hi @21qz if i get a pair of those on loan i will let you know my thoughts!
      Grimbles, Jan 10, 2019
      21qz likes this.
    4. leeperry
      Sweet, can't wait for Da Vinci XI
      leeperry, Jan 11, 2019
      Grimbles likes this.
  3. Wannabenewton
    Endgame renaissance
    Written by Wannabenewton
    Published Dec 13, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, tonality, soundstage, neutrality, detail, bass,aesthetics
    Cons - Not enough sizes of silicone tips,
    Note: i was provided with a review kit of the da vinci series (Edit: X alone costs 2400 USD) for a duration of 1 week by clear tune monitors free of any expense.This review is going to be as objective as possible despite my enamoration with the product and how every aspect of it seems like it was made with me in mind.
    Links for additional details, pictures, and excruciatingly in-depth opinions will be edited in later.

    Tldr: if you like music buy it.

    Unpacking:
    The sleeve on the box has pictures of both X and IX but only contains one unit, so it's obviously a placeholder during pre-production IMG_20181211_170414735.jpg

    The box inside though is very elegant to look at and touch, i'm certain this will be the box the final product will be shipped in. IMG_20181211_170506131.jpg
    The case flap has information and exploded views of the da vinci and it's features, there's a brief description of leonardo da vinci in there too. IMG_20181211_170603534.jpg
    And here sit the da vinci IX's in all their glory, the X wasn't boxed, it arrived in it's carry case. IMG_20181211_170526169.jpg

    The accesories and the unpacking experience do justice to the price point, it's all very premium feeling and sophisticated. IMG_20181211_170657700.jpg
    They provide a 2.5mm fancy cable, assortment of tips, airplane adapter, two sets of filters, cleaning tool, 1/4inch adapter, velcro cable ties, and a case that can hold them all.

    Fit: CTM gives you 3 sizes of silicone tips,3 sizes of foam tips and 1 size of double flange. Ideally there'd be many more sizes of silicone but it's hardly an issue with all the tips audiophiles have lying around. I get a perfect seal with the M size stock tips, the double flanges seem to bring a little physicality to the bass but also reduce the bass resolution.

    Comfort: extremely comfortable, i don't know much about ear topology and i don't know if these will fit everyone well but I have perfect seal and the isolation is above medium. The ear hook is also well implemented, never a hassle and always useful.

    Sound:
    It is ambitious to drop an Iem with a price tag of 2400$ especially without a custom fit option. So, is it worth that much money? Will the bet pay off?
    The answer is absolutely yes, da vinci x is a masterpiece maker like it's namesake and worthy of it's name and price. Here's what most of the money went into, the SQ->

    Detail: painfully detailed, i could hear lips parting, tounges clicking, breathing even on masterfully recorded songs like sound of silence by simon-garfunkel. Very tight control and fast decay, as expected of BA's. Masterpieces like led zeppelin iv, dark side of the moon, appetite for destruction are elevated to new light through these, they aren't just art anymore they're like entire museums with something to be found in everycorner and crevice like detailed magnificent architecture.

    Soundstage: expansive but not artificially massive. The stage presented by these is natural and depends on the location the recording was made unlike some products which sound artificially enlarged or gimmicky.

    Bass: I used these songs to analyse the bass
    Bad Romance-lady gaga
    Cheap thrills-sia
    Halo-beyonce
    Radioactive-imagine dragons
    Imagine-jhon lennon
    I love it-icona pop
    Cello suites-J.s Bach

    You can see a lot of hard work has gone into getting the lows right, and it is a great achievement indeed. The timbre and texture you get here is unparalleled, the bass is well seperated and positioned in relation to other instruments, it never steps on anything else or veils any detail. I'd be suprised if any BA or hybrid iem can do better bass than this. The rumble is very clean and doesn't push a lot of air eliminating pressure issues and keeping your ears safer for long sessions.

    Mids-
    Stairway to heaven,ten years gone-led zeppelin
    Comfortably numb, wish you were here-pink Floyd
    You give love a bad name, bed of roses-bon jovi
    Vocals tested with ost of across the universe and diana damrau in the magic flute.

    The vocals are fluid and detailed (duh 4 mid drivers), the electric guitars are to die for, distortion and other pedal effects are rendered with impeccable precision. Acoustic guitars sound just as amazing and you can hear any mistake or tap of a finger. Since all instruments have some notes in the mids, layering and seperation can be easily studied in this range and it was a delight to see what it can do. Easily the best part of the iem. Even hotel California which works best on dynamic full-sized cans sounds extremely good on this.


    Highs-
    Ode to joy, 5th and 9th symphony- beethoven
    Air-J.s Bach
    Burn-ellie gouldling


    Spacious headroom, airiness, empty background are the first things i noticed. In many cases most of this space is occupied by leaking bass or lower mids, but theres a great synergy going on between the lows and highs here, some black magic i don't understand. These aren't forgiving in any way and i like that, even if poorly mastered songs sound bad it also means well made ones will sound that much better. Highs are not fatiguing even at pretty high volumes, very useful for mastering which can be painful when violins are involved. Sibilance if present in the track shows very easily.


    Synergy- bringing it all together is a very crucial part of engineering and it is executed very well here, i don't know much about Wise ( CTM's new tech ) or how it blends acoustic waveforms but it works and it's fantastic. The 5-crossover is a big deal too, it is flawlessly executed and it delivers in the tonality department.

    Conclusion-- This beast is an all-rounder classic rock, metal, pop, edm, house, classical orchestra it can do em all and kick ass while doing it. X is the closest it gets to the ultimate goal of audiophilia, accurate and natural reproduction of music which feels like you're in the studio during recording. The only downside for the makers is living up to the expectations from now. Like leonardo da vinci himself this is a gold standard and a near impossible target to aspire to. I don't have as many nice things to say about IX, not that it isn't good but the difference between X and IX is a lot more than a 400$ jump. I tried very hard to find something bad about these and the biggest problem i see is these only come in iem form, i want open backs and speakers that sound like this too.

    Subjective interlude- And i say all this without accounting for my preference of it's frequency response because it can't be evaluated objectively, some like it bassy some like it bright, but anyone who wants it close to neutral, as real as the live act should get this if they can afford to, if they can't afford it they should invest in ctm now because they're going places. Again this is subjective, not everyone might feel this way.

    Filters: coming soon.


    X vs IX: coming soon.

    Monitor: As a monitor it is easily the best choice for vocalists and most instrumentalists, and these'll do a very good job of not making them go deaf.

    Aesthetics: These are some of the most beautiful things i have ever seen, beautifully made, XI is better looking than X though.
    IMG_20181211_170318063.jpg
    IMG_20181212_205127075.jpg

    IMG_20181211_222643374.jpg
    IMG_20181211_170128052.jpg
    1. Grimbles
      Great review chap, mine to follow soon. Agree with this - I have never heard anything like the X before - they blew me away.
      Grimbles, Dec 13, 2018
    2. josesol07
      Awesome review. But would love to have the price shown at the beginning of the reviews
      josesol07, Jan 2, 2019
      JLW654 and Wannabenewton like this.
    3. szore
      ..they're like entire museums with something to be found in everycorner and crevice like detailed magnificent architecture.

      -That's a great line!!!!
      szore, Jan 21, 2019
      Wannabenewton likes this.
  4. Asspirin
    The Renaissance Monitor pt. 2 - DaVinci's Scalpel
    Written by Asspirin
    Published Feb 26, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    Filters

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    Verdict

    [​IMG]

    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.