ddHiFi Janus (E2020A)

General Information

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Latest reviews

B9Scrambler

Headphoneus Supremus
DDHIFI JANUS (E2020A): INNOVATION
Pros: Innovative features like the use of flexible PCB and a dual-socket design - Amazing stock cable - Lush mids
Cons: Price might be a hurdle some won't want to jump for the brand's first earphone - Bit too mellow at the extremities for my tastes
Greetings!

Today we're checking out a unique product from the 'Masters of Audio Accessories' over at DDHiFi, the Janus.

DDHiFi has been making a name for themselves thanks to a wide variety of high quality portable audio accessories, be they compact DACS, cases for various FiiO products, cables, adapters, and whatever else the audio enthusiast needs. With the Janus, ambitiously named after the Roman 'God of Beginnings', they finally step into the extremely competitive world of in ear monitors.

Unlike most brands that are comfortable releasing a by-the-numbers product as their first, DDHiFi has gone a different route and created something unique. The implementation of both MMCX and 0.78mm 2-pin connection options for the removable cable is a first, as far as I'm aware. Another first among products I've tested is the use of a flexible PCB to connect the sockets and driver, forgoing the more traditional circuit board/wire setup found in competing products. The idea behind this is optimizing the circuitry to improve sound quality and reduce weight.

So how is DDHiFi's maiden earphone voyage? Let's find out.

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What I Hear The Janus is a warm, well-balanced, somewhat mid-centric offering to my ears. Nothing in particular is overly emphasized leaving the listening experience quite stable and coherent from top to bottom. I found it sounded best at moderate volumes, run balanced with the stock Forest cable out of the Earmen Sparrow, so that is the setup used for the following impressions.

Oddly enough, with a lot of tracks the Janus felt like the low end rolled of severely and as a result early impressions left me underwhelmed with the bass performance. After spending more time with it and upon more extensive testing with various ear tips, I found extension into sub-bass regions to actually be quite good with Kavinsky's “Solli” having an appropriate rumble in the opening moments. Throwing on a frequency test track, I got a good sense of rumble down to around 32Hz before all sense of physical feedback was gone. Improving emphasis in these lower regions would really help with long notes that deepen, as they fall off more quickly than is ideal. Texturing is quite smooth but not to the point of eliminating detail, leaving tracks like The Prodigy's “Thunder” sounding appropriately grungy and raw. This driver doesn't feel particularly quick and on the rapid double bass notes inherent to speed metal, definition was lost. It also leaves the mid-bass feeling punchy but somewhat soft in the initial attack.

Heading into the mids you find plenty of warmth backed by silky smooth vocals and accurate timbre. Both male and female vocals are equally well represented and nicely weighted. Neither thin nor thick. Just right. I especially like how it presents Paul Williams' vocals on Daft Punk's “Touch”, easily replicating the emotion present in his performance. Despite sounding extremely refined, I never found the Janus lacking detail (unless directly comparing to like-priced, multi-driver earphones). This is not an analytic presentation by any means, instead going for a natural realism that I expect will appease those who are sticklers for an accurate sound. Unsurprisingly, I found myself picking up the Janus as my preferred earphones for listening to podcasts and similarly commentary focused content.

Treble on the Janus is quite mellow with little emphasis in the brilliance region. Once it reaches just past 4k, emphasis drops off. This is definitely not a fatiguing earphone and should be quite suitable for those of you who are treble sensitive. This tuning leaves the Janus with good detail and clarity, but lacking sparkle and shimmer. Notes are very well controlled with little splash. It's also reasonably quick, able to deal with messy tracks fairly well. I find the presentation a bit dull, but then I also prefer a brighter sound so this is pretty much the opposite of my preferences. Given this, that I enjoy the Janus as much as I do speaks volumes for how capable it is.

When it comes to sound stage the Janus is pleasantly capable. It handles both depth and width quite well with a fairly well-rounded presentation. Instruments and effects flow from the mid-range which has a default positioning just outside the head, spreading convincingly off into the distance. Imaging is fairly accurate with a decently nuanced feel, but it can't quite keep up with some of the better multi-driver offerings like Brainwavz's B400. Laying and instrument separation are also good, but again fall short of the best in the category. Overall a great sound stage with competent technical capabilities.

Tips: The Janus comes with two different types of tips; a wide bore 'treble' set and small bore 'bass' set. The bass set I was not a fan of. While yes, they did increase bass, the quantity was minor and they hinder midrange clarity. The wide bore set sounded much more well-rounded to me, and they were more comfortable to boot.

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Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Shozy Form 1.4 (199 USD): The 1.4 is a five driver hybrid featuring four armatures and a single dynamic per side. Quite the contrast from the single dynamic Janus. The Form 1.4 is notably more bassy. Sub-bass is more pronounced and gives a deeper, more physical feel to notes, while the mid-bass presentation is also thicker and more forward. The bass on the Form 1.4 has a much stronger presence overall leaving the midrange sitting back in comparison to how it is presented on the Janus. The low end out of the Janus feels faster and better controlled, though it also falls behind in terms of texture and detail. The low end of the Form 1.4 is all-round more boisterous and in your face. Heading into the mids, I find they are more prominent on the Janus. Vocals out of the Form 1.4 are somehow thinner and warmer with similar clarity and detail. Neither has sibilance issues to my ear. Timbre on both is quite accurate with the Janus coming across a hint more natural. Upon a/bing the two back-to-back, treble out of the Form 1.4 is quite a bit more lively and energetic than it is on the Janus, especially in the brilliance. The Janus offers similar levels of detail and clarity, it just lacks the upper range emphasis. This result in a much more tame, less airy presenation and redirects attention back to the prominent midrange. While notes from the Janus are better controlled, the Form 1.4 is more nimble and does a better job with busy tracks. Despite the lack of upper treble air which can hinder sound stage, the Janus still takes the lead here with a wider and deeper presentation. Default vocal positioning on the Janus is further back giving the Form 1.4 the more intimate presentation. Where the Form 1.4 takes a step ahead is imaging, layering, and separation, all of which the Janus can't keep up on.

Overall I find the Janus the more natural sounding earphone, but the vast difference in tuning leaves them as complimentary products that compete in different spaces. If you want something less bassy and more mid-focused with mellow treble, the Janus is easy to recommend over the Form 1.4. If you prefer a warmer, much bassier sounding earphone, the Form 1.4 is a no-brainer.

ADV Model 3 BA2 (199 USD): The dual-armature Model 3 BA2 is a much more likely competitor for the Janus. While cooler sounding overall, it has a similar tune with restrained emphasis at the extremities and a more mid-range focused presentation. The BA2 provides a more linear transition from sub- to mid- and upper-bass regions but doesn't move air quite as effectively giving the Janus a more visceral presentation on the deepest notes. That said, the BA2 is notably faster. It handles complicated basslines more effectively and it's midbass provides more punch and texture. Heading into the mids the Janus' timbre shows itself to be very much superior, lacking the slightly dull, plasticky tone that plagues the BA2. Again though, ADV's earphone gets the nod when dealing with raw detail. It's presentation is quite a bit thicker though, hindering clarity slightly compared to the Janus. Where the Janus' treble peaks at a mere ~4k and trails off from there, the BA2's snappier treble remains fairly linear until a mild 7k peak, then drops off. This gives it a bit more sparkle on cymbals and chimes, along with more detail, but oddly does little to provide more air to the presentation. The Janus has a considerably wider and deeper sound stage compared to the BA2 which has a very intimate presentation. While I find the BA2's imaging to be a bit more precise, the Janus does a better job of layering and separating individual track elements.

Overall I prefer the Janus. While it's not a detailed and cannot match the BA2 in how it recreates drums, it is more natural sounding and feels better suited to a wider variety of genres. If you listen to a lot of drum heavy tracks and don't require the most accurate sounding mids, or need excellent passive sound isolation, the BA2 might be a better choice. Otherwise, Janus all the way.

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In The Ear The Janus has a dual material construction with the rear half of the housing using a clear plastic, and the front using stainless steel, all in a familiar bullet shape. Well, familiar except for the dual MMCX + 0.78mm 2-pin ports cleverly wrapped into the design. Fit and finish is good with the component parts fitting together fairly snug. A prominent lip is present on the nozzle that does a great job holding tips in place. The stainless steel rings that surround and protect the ports have a gap wide just enough to hook a fingernail into. It's not particularly noticeable thanks to the visible inner workings, nor do I think it will cause issues with durability, though the gaps might collect dirt and grime over time. A nice touch is not only are L and R markings engraved into the steel rings surrounding each port, but positive and negative terminals indicators too. This helps ensure you don't plug in your cables out of phase. L and R markings are also duplicated within the earpieces themselves, printed on the unique, flexible PCB DDHiFi used to connect the drivers to each of the connection options. It's all very clever and innovative.

DDHiFi's 'Forest' cable, part of their 'Air' series, included with the Janus is to put it simply, pretty darn fantastic. The simple dual-core design divides into a single strand each beyond the y-split leading up to the plugs. The blue-grey sheath used has a slick, dense feel, yet remains very flexible. Few cables in my experience resist tangling quite as well. The metal hardware used is also impressive. The MMCX plugs mine came equipped with are quite compact with small Ls and Rs surrounding the base making channel identification fairly easy in good light. In poor lighting, they are tough to see and not particularly useful. The y-split and chin cinch are the same size and very compact. The cinch slides easily up and down the cable, but not so easily as to slip out of place when in use. If I were to levy any complaints at the cable, it would be with the weight. Wearing the Janus cable down, I found the weight would tug noticeably with each step, though not enough to pull it out of place. Wrapping the cable up and over the ear negates this, so those that prefer that orientation will be right at home.

Shifting to fit and comfort, DDHiFi did a good job on the Janus here too. The mix of steel and plastic remains light, and when combined with a fairly standard bullet-shape means this is one of those iems you just pop into your ear and for the most part, can forget about. There are no hot spots to worry about, or any sharp edges or awkward angles to cause discomfort. It fits very well and is something that can be worn for extended period pretty easily. Isolation is pretty much non-existent though. The six tuning ports found at the base of the nozzle let in tons of noise, an amount that cannot be countered with foam tips. These would not be up for consideration for use in noisy areas for me.

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In The Box The Janus arrives in a long cardboard box covered with the same attractive, banded sleeve used for their other products, though here the band is a pale green with DDHiFi in reflective silver. On the front of the package is the usual brand and model info, as well as a partial list of contents. On the rear you can find DDHiFi's website along with some other administrative details.

Slipping off the sleeve reveals a smaller cardboard box with Janus printed on the front in which you find most of the accessories. Set beside this is a carrying case wrapped in protective plastic. Inside the case is a specially cut foam inset in which the earpieces and some other extras reside. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to continue using this insert following the unboxing as it's not designed to accommodate the cable. In all you get:
  • Janus earphones
  • 'Forest' cable
  • Bass type silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Treble type silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • 10x MMCX port covers
  • Magnetic cable organizer
Overall a pretty straightforward but clean presentation with little unnecessary waste, as I have come to expect from the brand. The included tips are a slight step above similar tips included with other earphones, but not up to the quality of those from RHA, Final Audio, JVC, and Sony. However, a nice touch that other brands could get behind is the use of black and red cores on the bass set so you can colour coordinate the left and right channels using the tips themselves. Would have been nice on the treble set too, but alas, c'est la vie. The included case is pretty neat thanks to the use of a dual magnetic flap design instead of zippers, buttons, or friction to remain closed. In addition, the build quality as fantastic thanks to clean stitching and high quality, padded faux-leather. It might be a little bulky for some pockets though. Since I commonly wear jeans or cargo shorts, I find it slips perfectly into back and thigh pockets.

Final Thoughts For their first earphone, one with unique features like a flexible PCB and dual-socket design, it would have been easy for DDHiFi to make something that was a success from the perspective of build and design, but with sub-par audio qualities. Thankfully, that's not the case. The Janus is a competent earphone whichever way you look at it. The somewhat unique tuning comes together to provide a much better experience than the graphs would suggest and is a product I have thoroughly enjoyed testing over the last few months. It is a wonderful all-rounder.

Not only does it sound good, but the rest of the package is solid too. The well-built carrying case features a unique clasp mechanism that works well, the included tips provide unique experiences (though I'm not a fan of the bass tips), and the Forest cable is positively wonderful. Flexible, durable, and it refuses to tangle.

If you want a reasonably well-balanced sounding earphone with great mids and a unique feature set, the Janus is a one-of-a-kind product that is unlike anything else on the market (yet). Highly recommended.

Thanks for reading!

- B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Lily with DDHiFi for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Janus, and for a arranging a sample. The thoughts within this review are my subjective impressions and do not represent DDHiFi or any other entity. At the time of writing the Janus was retailing for 261.80 CAD / 199.99 USD: www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001780883724.html / https://www.ddhifi.com/productinfo/84173.html

Specifications
  • Connector: 0.78mm 2-pin and MMCX
  • Plug: 2.5mm
  • Impedance: 32ohms
  • Sensitivity: 97dB/mW
  • Frequency range: 20-20000Hz
  • Cable length: 1.2m
Some Test Tunes

BT - This Binary Universe
Gramatik - The Age of Reason
Hail Mary Mallon - Are You Going to Eat That?
Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Skindred - Roots Rock Riot
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
The Crystal Method - Tweekend
Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Grand Funk Railroad - Inside Looking Out
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ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Excellent review, Thomas! We both like the Janus and it is a really good first try.
B9Scrambler
B9Scrambler

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
DDHiFi Janus: From these beginnings, what cometh?
Pros: Svelte shape
Excellent build
Sound fits many genre (esp with the ability to use different cables)
The ability to use either MMCX or 2-pin
Sound that does not offend in any of the three areas (which could be good for those who like a nicely balanced signatures)
Cons: Tough market
Better seal when wearing over-ear
Sound that does not offend in any of the three areas (which could be bland to some)
Not much else.
DDHiFi Janus ($199): From these beginnings, what cometh?

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Janus

Roman God Janus

Since my last installment from DDHiFi, the company has changed the packaging a bit. Known for the bamboo boxes, complete with a small amount of stripped fiber-like paper to hold the unit in place inside the box, they have worked to reduce their impact. The boxes were a unique trick, and much appreciated, but I would also imagine that the change in packaging is better for the environment as it is made from recycled paperboard and good for the company cost-wise. I do not fault them at all.

The company has their stuff together. Period. As such, they seem to be innovating items at a rapid pace, often giving us audiophiles a solution to a problem we did not know yet existed. Or did in small numbers. One need only look at their website to see the diverse nature of their products and ingenuity. As a result, it was only a matter of time before they jumped into the IEM market. Several early review samples were sent to associates, and I opted for a finished product, as my help would be none with regard to tuning. Those more versed in ear discerning would be the mules. I received the finished product. The company also has some visions on the horizon as well and I look forward to those with as much anticipation as the products in hand. A small part of this review will be devoted to the Cayin N6ii mk2 case, which was also sent. Look for a deeper review for that along with other accessories forthcoming.


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Specs:

  • Driver: 10mm Dynamic Driver
  • Diaphragm: Composite
  • Impedance: 32ohms
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 97dB

In the box:
  • Janus IEM (E2020A)
  • Forest cable (BC120A)
  • 10 MMCX plastic dust covers
  • 2 sets silicon tips bass and treble type (3 each, s, m, l)
  • Earphone storage case (C80B)
  • Magnetic cable clip (C10B)
*Optional: Air cable (BC120B)-included for me

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Gear used/compared:

BQEYZ Spring 2 ($169)
IKKO OH-1 ($150)
Oriolus Finschi ($190)
Simgot EN700 Pro ($150)

MacBook Pro/iFi Zen CAN
MacBook Pro/Earmen TR-Amp/Sparrow
Questyle QPM
Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii mk2 (w/ DDHiFi case, C-N6II retail $20usd)



Songs used:

Tidal MQA
Whatever pops up including but not limited to:
Twenty one pilots
Santana
Big Head Todd & The Monsters
Van Morrison
Mark Knopfler
Jethro Tull


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Unboxing:

DDHiFi has somewhat refined or redone their box effort, to include more recycled material. I do love the wood box, but completely understand. Sliding the lid off the box, you are met with the blue unique monitor case, and another, which houses the accessories listed above. Nothing fancy, and quite tasteful in their restraint.

Opening the magnetic flaps on the blue case yields a fairly cavernous opening where you can hold the monitors and cable with wrapping of the cable. I did try and fit my Shanling M0 in as well just for fun. It did not work. The case is a solid square, which is quite protective of the items inside. Almost the right size to fit into your pocket. Almost.

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Fit-n-finish/build:

Following the shape of their adapters, DD made the Janus look like an adapter on steroids. But in a well-build way, not just bulk for bulks sake. Proportionally, it works. I find the size small enough to be not only light, but on par with the excellent Dunu Luna with regard to handling. Unfortunately, both suffer from the same fit issue. I was hard put to find a proper seal with the Janus unless I utilized a one-size-too-big-for-me Comply. A silicon of similar proportions also worked, but the Comply brought the Janus closer to my preferred signature.

I do like that you can see the innards of the Janus (I used to loathe that aspect, but thankfully manufacturers took note and actually made them of an industrial-artistic quality, enhancing the experience. One might think that an earbud made of so many parts was asking for trouble in the finish department, but I have learned from the beginning that DDHiFi takes their build quality very seriously and the work is almost flawless. Thje piecing together is in fact nie on perfect. The gold finish of the inner shell seems a bit off, but with all of the curved surfaces, I can forgive a minor unevenness of color, especially when the gold is not garish gold, but subdued.

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With vent holes all around the curved part of that inner shell, the Janus is allowed to breath and breath freely when it comes to venting for sub bass purposes. Of tubeless design (a nice feature coming along at a good time for many manufacturers), you can see the sheet filament not unlike an incandescent bulb or tube. But this one does not light up...that would be really cool, but raise its own problems... Ending in either mmcx or 2-pin, the Janus is of a very good build to me, except I would wish for a bit longer nozzle as this may help address fit issues. No matter, fit was good, it was isolation that is average at best to my average sized ears.

A single 10mm dynamic driver rules the roost, with a nominal impedance of 32 ohms, and a sensitivity of 97 db/mW. Somewhat harder to drive than some, easier than others. The shape of the shell definitely helps to tailor the most out of the sound emanating from within. I am in agreement with @Wiljen and @B9Scrambler in that a quality amp helps get the most out of the unit. A word here...on some forums of late there has been a push of MEGA-watts to get the most out of an IEM/earbud. While properly driving the headphone is of paramount importance, matching the unit with a quality amp is what matters more to me. And whether that be the $50 FiiO A5 or the $300 EarMen TR-Amp, it does not matter. It comes down to what you feel sounds the best. Properly driving a headphone counts, but less so than how it is driven. 600bhp through a Miata is ludicrous. 250bhp is more than adequate and can make the Miata sing on pretty much any twisty road out there. Enough on that.

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Sound:

Since the after-market Air cable was included, I ordered that in 4.4bal 2-pin knowing I have devices, which have that jack. The Forest cable came with 32.5bal mmcx, so I could garner both aspects of use. The Shanling M6P has all three types of jacks, and the Zen CAN has 6.35se and 4.4bal. the EarMen Sparrow has 3.5se and 2.5bal, so I was able to utilize all three types of jacks, especially when using the DDHiFi (DJ44B-4.4bal female to 2.5bal male and DJ35AG 2.5bal female to 3.5se male) adapters as well. I will also admit here that the majority of my time was spent using the excellent Air cable but will treat each cable separately below. The Air works better as an over ear while the Forest works better as an earbud-type of cable. But since both are balanced cables, the sound seemed fairly close

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Forest:

Pastel colors are in vogue, and that is all right. From cars to rooms and headphones, colorful pastels are coming back into style. Made of two-wire OCC copper, and as per usual with DDHiFi, overbuilt. Not monstrously heavy, but not svelte like some. It fits and lays well, while not tangling. Coming with the MMCX connectivity, the connection is easy and does not stick like some. I have actually pulled the wire out of a sample from another manufacturer whose MMCX connection was that of a vice grip. Connecting is one thing, holding on to it like the Hulk is unnecessary... Two wires come out of the straight jack wrapped fairly loosely and split at a flat y-splitter. The cinch strap is also flat but works easily while staying put to protect the single cables, after they split. A thick poly coating keeps the cable protected, plus it looks good as well.

Playing the Janus (the beginning) through the iFi Zen CAN and my MBP Music, Alex Fox’s guitar work sound subtle and full. With both XBass and 3D on, the Forest is provided a robust holography of opportunity. Subtle still comes through, but with an added bass that may be missing. Switching both off to get the “real” story, the Janus provided a laid-back competent sound. Wearing the Forest down (as opposed to overear with the Air), the bass comes across as clean and fairly fast to me. There is not the deep reaching rumble of some, but the support provided by that lower third does play nicely, with only a hint of bleed into the lower mids to me. With adequately fast decay, the bass neither shouts “look at me!” to you, nor does it hide; providing just the right amount on this occasion.

Guitar work such from Guitar On Fire is present and almost dead center. No lifting above the centerline here, it is almost like the mids were meant to tie both ends together. Detail retrieval remains high here, with male vocals coming through but without taking front stage. Maybe center stage, but again in support of the whole. Vocals such as on Chuco’s Cumbia come across as rich and semi-vibrant, giving a smooth transition across the spectrum. One could almost call it too laid-back, but again those male vocals support the whole of the sound. Bass saxophone provides the right depth off in the wings, as does the bass guitar the other way. Percussives sit slightly behind center, like they would on stage, giving a nice realism to the performance.

Cowbell and cymbal clashes highlight the treble on the above-mentioned song, and when that audience member shouts from the far left, I do get some tingles. She times it perfectly, and it was like she was part of the show. She will be immortalized as such and the song remains one of my all-time favorite live versions. Good gawd, Los Lobos are phenomenal. With a slight rolling off up top, I appreciate the tuning as it is neither too bright nor too sparkly. This can be a fault as well, as the cymbal clashes of twenty one pilots Guns For Hands lack that energy the song provides and deserves. Tyler’s voice seems a bit too hushed as well to me. For once I would have liked a bit more energy up top, even if I appreciate the rolling off for my tender ears.

Still on the Zen CAN, without additions, the soundstage is broadly wide with very good height. Tyler’s voice seems to float higher and higher throughout the song, playing like Peter Pan flying about the stage. The piano accompaniment comes along for the ride, and you get a broad brushstroke of stage, which belies the lack of depth when compared to height and width. Not the best stage, and certainly not the worst as defined by Holding On To You.

As is often the case with a single DD, layering and instrumentation can be difficult to fully represent (think of a fine 2-way speaker, there’s a reason the bass driver has an accompanying tweeter), but I have a soft spot for well-defined single dynamic drivers. Not the best at presenting the overall picture, but a valiant try and the Janus represents the realm well.

As a result of the above-mentioned fares, the Janus provides the user with a fairly laid-back signature highlighted by good speed across the spectrum, but not lightning fast. For to me if it was faster, that might destroy the rich, warm tonality provided. This is a fine IEM, which can play across genre.

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Air (BC120B):

Made of four-wire OCC, the Air is a premium cable, which can also be had as part of a combo purchase. One I would highly recommend, which only adds roughly $50usd to the price. With stabilizing buckles every 40cm, the cable does not tangle, while keeping the wrap tight. Both the Air and Forest lie nicely and are supple of character. Just like DD gets their adapters right, the cables are as well.

Immediately noticeable to me is an increase in bass quantity. Subtle, but noticeable, the reach is deeper with a bit more punch. Soundstage also opens as the reach up top pulls you a bit higher as well. Wearing this overear, this is my preferred cable for the Janus. Since it came as ac 4.4bal, I can use it across many platforms, and that balanced sound does aid in the width and holography of sound. Nuevos Aires sound rich and vibrant, competing with the Simgot compared below nicely. I find myself turning this combination up in volume noticeably more so than with the Forest. This is a pump me up combo, which can help you get ready for the day or help with chores/housework/working out. The sound comes across as richer and with a fullness that is more than the Forest can provide to me. A nice combination, which gives the Janus multiple opportunities to shine. I like this set up very much.

Treble has a bit more reach as well, giving that bit of sparkle up top that enhances the overall signature. I find this opens up the sound providing a bit more air (no pun) between notes as well. Succinct clarity would be an apt descriptor. Mids come forth a bit as well, or maybe it is the clarity of which I speak. Either way, the Air cable is my clear choice of the two. The Forest is good, but the Air is better.

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Comparisons:

DDHiFi Janus ($199) v BQEYZ Spring 2 ($169):

The Spring 2 is right up there as one of my 2-3 2020 products of the year (along with the excellent XDuoo TA-30). I thoroughly enjoy the deep reaching bass and vibrancy wrought from the quick decaying sound. Staccato with impact on Alex Fox’s To The Gypsies, the guitarwork is phenomenal and presented here with a rich tonality belying the sub-$200 price. I loathe saying “it punches above its weight,” so instead I will say that the Spring 2 makes others look overpriced, for it really does.

What separates the two here is that the DDHiFi product promotes a more mid-forward part of its signature. A bit less depth, but nonetheless, the Janus pushes that fine guitarwork a bit closer to you, much like you would edge closer to the stage to see the finger frets working their magic. Mind you the Spring 2’s version allows you to sit back in comfort, and both provide a rich warmness of texture to the song. But the Janus is a bit more vibrant. A bit.


DDHiFi Janus ($199) v IKKO OH-1 ($150):

When my posted review of the OH-1 came up, pretty much everyone said, “if you like the OH-1, you should try the OH-10.” Well to me it was a “why? I like the OH-1 just fine,” response. Deeper reaching bass than the two above, with to me near-perfectly placed mids provide the foundation for a really good sound. With slightly brighter treble than the Janus as well, the IKKO can give the needed vibrancy where needed, and provide that spark of energy, which can be lacking in the Janus on some songs.

That said, the same energy, which can provide the vibrant response to Flamenco guitars can become a bit tedious on twenty one pilots Guns For Hands. This is where the Janus bests the OH-1: across multiple genre, the Janus works. The IKKO is a more specialized unit, which you could tolerate across genre to me.


DDHiFi Janus ($199) v Oriolus Finschi ($190):

An absolute favorite of mine, which I mention every time I write about it, the Finschi hits my perfect sweet spot. Rich deep reaching bass, slightly rolled off treble, and mids, which sing to me especially on female vocals such as Adele. This is one I can turn up without fear of offending any part of my senses. Where the Janus might best the Oriolus is in its vibrancy. Even though they are both a bit laidback, the Janus provides more energy, especially with the Air cable (a worthy combo to me). Superb detail from the Air bests the Finschi. But as of now, pretty much nothing can replace the Finschi for me at this price point. While I relish that rich warm sound, I could always do with a bit more up top for those instances where females vocals are a bit lacking.



DDHiFi Janus ($199) v Simgot EN700 Pro ($150):

A manufacturer, which has fallen by the wayside sadly, Simgot produces some really fine products and the manufacturer ranks amongst my favorite from the Fareast. An odd-looking beast, the EN700 Pro went for the “headphone look” with their presentation.

Good presentation of the sound up top highlight the EN700 Pro to me, and with decent reach of bass, the sound provided is an exciting rendition of a conglomeration. Of the five mentioned here, the Simgot provides the most vibrant sound to me. And that open sound is quite strong, giving excellent detail as well as placement to the note. Even with a bleed of the sub-bass into the mids, the separation of instruments is the best of those here (to me). Fit is good, and isolation the best as well. With a good cable, there really is not much to dislike here. For some there may be a bit too much energy up top, as witnessed on pretty much any twenty one pilots song; but even to me it is a tolerable offense showing in the overall excellent character of the unit. This is a really fine unit, which should have received more positive attention.

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Finale:

I have been privy to numerous DDHiFi products over the last year and a half. Pretty much since the start. A common theme running through their adapters and cases from the off was one of quality. Solidly built to over-built would be apt. Not tank-like overbuilt, just built for the repeated use in which they were made. I use the C2019 daily as my carry-all to and from school. It is also my traveling case, providing all I need save whichever higher end IEM I take. I have yet to find fault in any of their wares with regard to quality construction and use. Some have mentioned that the larger size of the adapters might cause issues should one bump their DAP into anything. I would agree, but the care in which we use our gear should negate this concern.

With regard to the Janus, the familiarity of build carries over without worry. Throw in the familiar shape, and you understand the care and commitment that goes into everything DDHiFi produces. They approach the market right. Build what we did not know we needed, and when arrival happens, we go, “why didn’t we think of that?” Some have mentioned the “change of sound” wrought from the adapters. I scoff in their general direction and say that I cannot tell a difference (not that I could); and one need not worry.

The same quality holds with the Janus. Build is top notch, and the ability to run either MMCX or 2-pin makes for a capable changeable IEM. Throw in that the IEM/bud can be worn both ways and that is yet another plus. Finally, the sound is worthy of consideration in this market, especially for a first-time effort. From what I read, DDHiFi took the beta testers advice and changed the signature to meet their concerns, thus making a very good sounding IEM/bud. To me, the Janus can match those at or near the top in this segment, especially when you throw in the abilities it has as well.

What with its neutral (near neutral?) character, you can purchase two distinctly different cables in the included Forest and option-purchasable Air, providing you with different enough sound to satisfy most. Instead of carrying around two IEM’s (I carry more...), you can scale back to the Janus and the Forest/Air and to be honest; be satisfied. And as I have said before, isn’t that really the point?

I thank Lily & DDHiFi for the continued good fortunes they have wrought my way and with the company. This company has their stuff together, and it shows.

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Wiljen

Headphoneus Supremus
DDHifi Janus - a novel in ear with a fun signature.
Pros: Near neutral signature, very coherent delivery, good detail, polite treble
Cons: Dual connections may be seen as gimmick to some, won’t please bassheads
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disclaimer: I was involved in testing the beta versions of the Janus and spoke with DD-Hifi regarding the tuning and ease of use features of the Janus. Some pictures are of the Beta model while others are the final product as the shells have changed little save for a few convenience features on the final product (welcome changes). Sent as a beta by DD Hifi for testing and tuning. I have not received any guidance on what to write for this review, I was not compensated for this review, nor do I have any financial interest in DD-Hifi.

Unboxing / Packaging:
The Janus is packed in a fairly nondescript cardboard slip-cover box with two compartments. One contains the case while the other contains the earpieces. The kit contains the earpieces, cable, cable tie with magnetic closure, 7 sets of tips (3 each of treble and bass tips and 1 additional that ships on the earpieces), mmcx covers (5 sets for when bi-pin is in use), and a soft case also with magnetic closure. Tips are all silicone with no foams provided in the kit. One needs to understand that DDHifi over-engineers most of their products so the accoutrements provided here are typical of DD craftsmanship and design. While others are providing a velcro tie for cables, DD is using cloth backed leather with magnetic pads to do the same job. The case is also well made and well designed, more on that in a bit.




Build/Fit:

In some ways, the Janus is an age old design, in others quite innovative. Single dynamic drivers have been around since the first earphone, but using FPCB (flexible PCB material) instead of wires between the connectors and the driver is not. Use of the PCB both provides more rigidity and strength while also yielding a very clean and symmetrical look to the connections. The inclusion of both .78mm bi-pin and mmcx connectors opposite each other is another rarity. I ran measurements with both connectors and they are within the margin of error of each other so choose the one you prefer and go. This makes a great option for testing cables and I’ll likely use it for that going forward. The earpieces have clear housings at the rear so you can see the connectors, fpcb, and rhe rear face of the driver. The front is steel with a straight short nozzle giving the Janus a fit similar to a micro-driver or Etymotics style in-ear. There is a ring of vents just behind the nozzle evenly spaced around the surface of the casing that do limit isolation considerably. Tips are standard T400 size with a large lip on the nozzles for retention. DD went an extra step and not only is the right bi-pin connector red for quick reference but the stems of the tips are also red and blue to give the user a quick visual reference even when the bi-pin connector is in use and obstructed. Since the provided cable is tip-down – this a good thing as the earpieces look a lot alike an could be switched accidentally. I had no issue with wearing the Janus for extended periods and no physical discomfort or fatigue was noted.




Internals:

The Janus utilizes a single 10mm dynamic driver using a bio-composite diaphragm with a dual magnet structure. Nominal impedance is 32Ω with a sensitivity of 97 dB/mW. I did find that while the Janus performed well with a phone or low-powered source it does indeed improve with additional power. In particular the Janus bass tightens up and is more dynamic with the addition of a solid amp to the chain. The chambers (both fore and aft) are also tuned specifically for this driver to help get the most out of it with venting to the front visible behind the nozzles. The rear is non-vented but is a much larger chamber and uses the clear resin rather then the stiffer metal of the front chamber.




Cables:

The Janus ships with a cable they call Forest and they also offer an upgrade named Sky. Both cables are offered in either .78mm bi-pin or MMCX and in 2.5 and 4.4mm balanced connectors as well as 3.5mm single ended. I opted for 2.5mm balanced as I have a couple of DDhifi’s excellent 2.5mm to 3.5mm single ended adapters and that makes this a very versatile option. They also have a 2.5 to 4.4mm adapter for use with DAPs like the Sony or Cayin models. The Forest is light blue with a twisted pair from the straight jack housing to the splitter and is listed as occ copper. There is very little strain relief but the cable itself is fairly heavy so the likelihood of breakage is small. (Again with the over-built stuff). The jack housing, splitter, chin slider, and bi-pin connectors all share a matte gray finish and are all aluminum alloy for durability. One quirk is the left/right is on the top of the connector housings rather than the sides so at first glance I missed them and actually mentioned to the maker the lack of labeling. They kindly told me where to look and indeed they are well marked if not where anticipated.

The upgrade cable (Sky) is a 4 strand braid from the jack housing to the splitter with one wire light blue, one a light tan, and two clear exposing the silver coated copper internals. At the split, blue goes left and tan goes right. Hardware on the Sky is polished steel with a small clip midway up the cable to hold the braid tight and a rubber chin slider above the split. Connectors have matching polished steel housings and unlike the forest do come with earhooks for tip-up wear. I much prefer the Sky from my time using both as it transmits much less movement to the ear compared to the tip-down wear of the forest.




Case:

I mentioned in the unboxing that the case was over-engineered and while from a quick glance it looks a lot like any number of other earphone cases, its closure is unique and well thought out. The case is reinforced leather with a suede interior and closure is accomplished by magnetic pads embedded in leather flaps that meet at the top center. Size is good for storing the earpieces, a single cable, and an extra set of tips. It is a bit large for pant’s pocket carry but the trade off is the cable and earpieces don’t have to be mashed into the case to fit. I have a couple of DD’s other cases for Daps and have grown to expect this kind of design from them. They are definitely a step above the average and the attention to detail shows here.




Tips:

DD refers to the tips as treble and bass sets but to my ear they are more a matter of reference vs enhanced bass. The treble tips don’t enhance the treble to my ear, but they do reduce the bass to a level that gives it a more linear sound. For that reason, I did all of my listening notes using what DD calls the treble tips in size large.


Sound:



I tested the Janus using both the mmcx connectors and the .78mm bi-pin connectors to try and visualize any differences in signature due to connection type. To keep this a fair fight, I used two cables of the same make/model/construction where the only difference was the connector type. I also tested against the Forest and Sky cables and found that any differences between them were within the margin of error for my equipment so concluded that sound tests could realistically be conducted with any of the cables without dramatically impacting the outcome. I used the Sky to do the listening notes.


Bass:

Sub-bass has good rumble with perceptible roll-off only below about 30Hz and good speed. Mid-bass is on the same level as the sub-bass as are most of the lower mids which makes the Janus a warm sounding in-ear. This is very different from the 1st beta that had a much larger treble presence and was quite bright and I have to say I much prefer this later tuning. Speed is good with slightly faster attack than decay giving the notes a bit of weight that isn’t present on some of the new hi-tech wonder material drivers. It won’t compete speed-wise with those same beryllium wonders but detail is in no way lacking here. There is some very mild compression when fed really complex tracks, but less than many single dynamics and certainly not unexpected at the price point.

Mids:

Transition to the lower mids is very clean with only the smallest traces of mid-bass bleed and no notable obstruction of lower mids. Lower-mids have good weight and male vocals are well voiced and stand even with their female counterparts which is a pleasant change from the norm. Guitar growl is well rendered as well with crisp edges. True mids begin to drop back slightly but still maintain enough presence in the mix so they do not seem recessed, just not emphasized. Lower strings have good note weight and timbre as a result of the tuning but as we continue to move up the upper-mids continue the step-back and lack just a touch of energy for violin to sound completely realistic. Female vocals do cut through most of the instrumentation but are not forward of the male vocals and make these particularly good for duets. Detail in the mids is quite good with more micro-detail than anticipated from a warm iem as that same warmth and note weight is usually counter to micro-detail.

Treble:

Treble is polite with lower-treble on the same plateau with mids and upper-mids (roughly 1.5k-3.5kHz). There is a
mild elevation between 3 and 4kHz that adds a little brightness and lends to female vocals cutting through the mix (I got to playing with EQ and cutting this bump makes the vocals step back into the instrumentation). We see a gradual drop-off above that peak and treble is very polite as a result. Final roll-off is above my hearing (14kHz). Snare rattle is good with crisp hits but cymbals lack just a touch of energy needed to be completely realistic. The nice thing is no stridency or metallic click to percussion, the downside of which is slightly less energy than entirely realistic at times. This will be an iem the treble shy should not have any problem with and at the same time all but the most extreme treble lovers will find it tough to find fault at the price point.

Soundstage / Imaging:

Stage has better width than depth with some height but stops short of 3D with overall dimensions reminding me of a small school auditorium. Seating the orchestra is straight forward with good instrument separation and no large gaps or marked overlaps. Movements around the stage are easily tracked but movement from directly behind or directly in front can be tougher to pinpoint. As mentioned previously, there is some mild compression to the low end on particularly complex tracks but this takes effort to find and with most popular music will never be heard as the complexity simply is not there.


Thoughts / Conclusion:

DD-hifi is an interesting company with a unique market position. In a market of increasingly disposable cookie cutter parts, DD-Hifi takes time to design innovative products and then over-build them to last well beyond the average. I have enjoyed their adapters and cases as both have great utility and are built like absolute tanks (albeit not overly large or bulky ones). They also recently released a USB type-C to type-C OTG cable that has quickly become my go-to for pairing portable devices and even more recently a lightning to USB-C that eliminates the need for the camera kit. Nothing in the DD-hifi catalog lacks for utility and they have become my first stop for adapters etc because of that. So, when their rep asked if I’d be interested in the beta of their first iem, I was thrilled because I knew if they followed the same design process, it should be a good one. I wasn’t thrilled with the tuning on the earlier beta and can say they made considerable adjustment and improvements in the final product. The result is a very novel in-ear that delivers a very nice near neutral listening experience. The dual connections give the user more options and even if you don’t see the need immediately, it could become handy in the event of a broken connector as you could simply flip them and connect a different cable and keep going. I’ve even seen one comment suggesting connect both and bi-amp the Janus (I think this is a poor idea for the record). For a first in-ear from the company, I find the Janus to be impressive as it takes the things I knew DD was good at previously and adds tuning and in-ear design to the list. This one is well worth a try if you get the chance.
deafdoorknob
deafdoorknob
thanks for the review, are these raw or compensated measurements?
Wiljen
Wiljen
raw - no compensation applied. If I ever do any manipulation of raw results, I will always note it.

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