First I’d like to thank Jack at Hisoundaudio for giving me the opportunity to purchase the Golden Crystals, or GC as I’ll reference them, as they are not yet available from any US dealer.
Meet the super tiny Golden Crystals. They are the smallest dynamic driver on the planet (I think the Monster Tributes are 5mm as well, if their claims of also having the world’s smallest dynamic driver are accurate).
15 - 23,000 Hz
5mm dynamic driver
When I say these things are tiny, they are TINY!
I gave the GC’s 250+ hours of burn in, as 200 to 300 was recommended by the manufacturer. I can tell you straight out of the box they were extremely bright to my ears but have since settled in nicely. Whether that is attributable to driver burn in, brain burn in or a little of both, I’ll leave to the reader to decide based on their beliefs of burn in. A 6[sup]th[/sup] generation iPod nano and laptop using Spotify were used for testing.
The GC has a very clear and somewhat balanced sounding overall presentation. The micro drivers are super fast and the speed rivals some of the faster BA phones I’ve owned and heard. These pair best with a darker source as the treble can get quite hot and splashy at times. The Hifiman bi-flange tips were the best solution for me in bringing the treble in line with the rest of the sound or if you wish to dampen the treble more, Comply foam tips will do nicely. With different tips, the signature can change from somewhat balanced to very analytical and treble heavy. The better the seal, the better the bass response and overall balance.
Bass: When called upon they can have a pretty big and tight bass punch. It is not something you get with every song but if it’s in the recording, the GC can really deliver. There is very little mid bass and is mostly deeper sub bass to my ears. I was not expecting the small driver to be able to dig this deep. I’d say it digs nearly as deep as the GR07 but lacks some of the texture and rumble the larger 11mm driver can deliver.
Mids: The midrange is very transparent, clear and dry. Vocals are never obscured by other parts of the spectrum, displaying subtle nuances that warmer phones may gloss over. With the bi-flange tips I find the midrange neither forward nor recessed but with shallower tips the midrange can be slightly recessed. Distortion guitars have average byte; think less than the GR07 but more than the EX1000.
Treble: The treble is crystal clear. Joking aside, the treble is bright, splashy and can be more up front of everything else. With the wrong tips or particular recordings, the treble can sound very piercing and overwhelming; however it is a highly detailed and powerful high end. Cymbals, hi-hats, bells, triangles, tambourines and brass instruments are of prominent focus. Treble junkies apply here. Pre-burn in there was quite a bit of sibilance but that has tamed a great deal.
Soundstage is on the small and intimate side. Width doesn’t extend very far and depth is just ok. In comparison, the GR07 is much wider but has similar depth. Instrument realism is good to average, which I think is due to the overall thinner note the small driver produces. For instance I think acoustic guitar and piano should sound weightier but overall it is a very clean and likable presentation. Instrument separation is very good and I have no problem with location cues during busy passages. The GC has a very BA like instrument separation.
As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of the digiZoid ZO. For those of you in the dark, this little device can turn any phone into a bass monster. The GC pairs very well with the ZO amp and my laptop using Spotify. The little 5mm driver can really deliver some sub bass with this set up! In fact it gives it a weightier note that really improves overall instrument timbre.
The GC comes with a typical round case and a nice selection of tips ranging from hybrid clones to tips similar to the GR07 stock tips. Durability and craftsmanship seems to be top notch. The cable is thin and pretty flexible but does tend to tangle; otherwise is of high quality. Comfort and fit is simple and easy and with the Hifiman bi-flanges, isolation is among the best of dynamics I’ve tried.
In summary, the GC’s are a very unique offering due to their extremely small size, good build quality and isolation. They deliver a very clear and bright signature that is tipped towards treble and an analytical signature but can still offer very nice bass punch. Frogbeats (UK) is the only dealer I’ve found that will ship to the US but at the current exchange rate means paying around $200+, which seems a little steep and is in a price range of some very capable competition.
For further impressions and another perspective, please check out this review from mark2410.