'Custom' Universal Fit Triple Driver

Massdrop Plus

Average User Rating:
5/5,
  • AI7B4502_copy_page_20171002112942.jpg
    • 3D-printed acrylic housing
    • Exclusive midnight-blue colorway
    • 3 balanced-armature drivers per ear in 2-way configuration
    • 2 vented drivers for lows, 1 driver for mids/highs
    • Multiple passive crossover points
    • Multi-bore sound channels
    • Input sensitivity: 109 dB at 1 kHz, 1 mW
    • Frequency response: 5 Hz–18 kHz
    • Noise isolation: -26 dB of ambient stage noise
    • Impedance: 10 ohms at 1 kHz
    • ⅛ in (3.5 mm) headphone jack
    • Included cable: 48 in (123 cm) braided silver-coated copper cable
    • Optional cable (+ $30 at checkout): 48 in (123 cm) 2.5mm TRRS balanced cable
    • Made in the USA

Recent User Reviews

  1. ejong7
    5.0/5,
    "The Absolute Plus : Massdrop Plus Universal IEM"
    Pros - Amazingly clear and detailed mids. Linearly boosted sub bass with absolute authority.
    Cons - Aesthetics may not be all. Ergonomics of in house cable can be improved.
    DISCLAIMER
    The Massdrop Plus Universal was sent to me by Christian from Massdrop in exchange for an honest review. The unit that I was given is a Development Validation model and as such may not completely reflect the end product received, which differences I will highlight in the review.

    In an effort to streamline future review processes, this will be the first review in which the style of writing is tweaked. Please do leave a comment if you prefer the newer style or the previous one.


    INTRODUCTION
    Hot off the heels of the recent Massdrop x Nuforce EDC, and their even more recent rerelease of the already legendary Kaiser 10 by Noble, aptly named the Massdrop x Noble K10, Christian Tanimoto and his crew is back at it again with a new IEM from Massdrop.

    To those unaware of the Massdrop brand, here is an short summary of the company, written myself for past reviews:

    Since its establishment in 2012, Massdrop (MD), a company that functions on a business concept as described by them as ‘community-driven commerce’, has continued to gain more attention, not only in the enthusiasts’ side of things but also the general public. By gathering ideas from its end users, MD would then learn and determine the products of interest for the general public, in which it works towards negotiating and organizing bulk purchases to allow said end users to have the chance of purchasing the desired products for a fine discount. More recently, their Custom Products department, manned by people such as Christian Tanimoto and Michael Wilson, took the extra step by working with the best of the best from our industry to produce products that are exclusive to MD, taking pride in their attempt at providing the best value for performance in all of their MD unique products.

    Except this time, the landscape has changed drastically. For the first time ever, MD is releasing an IEM that they tuned themselves from the ground up, named the Massdrop Plus Universal IEM (Plus). Taking inspiration sonic wise from the community heralded Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor (UERM) and Etymotic Research ER4SR, combined with several other aspects from IEMs favoured by our audiophile community, to produce what promises to be a game changer at an unfathomable price range.

    So will the Plus be able to hold its own when compared to the variety of quality options already produced by MD, like the NuForce EDC and Noble X, let alone the highly condensed playing field of IEMs that have both amazing performance and value? Read on to find out.


    INFO + SPECIFICATIONS
    The Plus is equipped with 3 Sonion balanced armature drivers on each side, with 2 vented drivers for the lows and a single driver for the mids and highs that is incorporated with multiple passive crossover points. The sound is pushed through multi-bore sound channels; I counted two: one a regular circle bore while the other is a more unusual crescent-shaped bore.

    It has a frequency response between 5Hz – 18 kHz, with noise isolation rated by MD at around -26dB. That’s right. It’s rated to have a CIEM level of noise isolation, and this is not a case of all talk and no show. I found it to isolate really well, far better than most if not all of my universals, and rival the isolation I found in my customs. This is down to the fit of the unit, which I’ll talk in more detail in a future section.

    In addition, the Plus has an input sensitivity of 109dB (at 1kHz) at 1 mW of power, with its impedance rated at 10 ohms (also at 1kHz). In my experience, the Plus is quite easy to drive, and I could drive it to ear bleeding levels for myself even with my mobile phone.

    The Plus can be found only on Massdrop and will be sold for $299.99, which I think is a sweet spot for people who are trying to wet their feet in the mid-fi (in terms of pricing). A separate, 2.5mm balanced cable can be added on to the package for an extra $30, a more than fair price for the quality of cable being provided.

    The first drop is currently planned for 700 units, with the shipping date estimated at February 21st of 2018. Considering that there is about a 4 month wait (at the time of writing) for the completion of the first batch, those who jump in initially are in for quite a substantial wait.

    One aspect that MD has improved upon since my last MD-related product review is the fact that a supply of most MD driven products, such as the headphones from their Fostex collaboration, are now available on demand. For such products, the drop is launched and ended on each day. Your unit will then be sent out within 2 business days, provided that stock is available. This is a big change in the MD system that I have been waiting for and I’m glad that they have decided to implement this to most of the products that they have previously collaborated with various manufacturers on. Hopefully they would implement the same system on the Plus post the first few drops.

    ACCESSORIES & OPTIONS
    The unit that I received was a development validation unit and as such was not packaged in any form of discernible packaging. In fact, the unit and all its assorted accessories arrived in (neatly packaged) plastic bags. So I have not a clue in the overall quality of the packaging for the Plus though from my experience with MD products, I think we can expect the functional, non-fussy packaging that continue to convince that most of your hard earned money is spent on the product and not the box its wrapped in.

    [​IMG]
    The host of accessories that comes with the Plus, including a clear case, a silver plated cable, a cleaner and a large range of tips including silicone tips in single and dual flange variety and foam tips, each provided in three sizes. Picture obtained from Massdrop Plus Universal IEM drop page.


    A small clear case with MD’s logo on top is provided with the Plus, and though it will fit the IEMS and supplied cable without a fuss, the usage of third party cables and custom tips may not. From the feel of it, the case is of a decent quality and should be able to withstand shock like the typical Pelican case.

    Other accessories included with the Plus is a cleaner, a silver coated cable and a host of tips which includes single flange silicone tips, dual flange silicone tips and foam tips. To my knowledge, the foam tips are supplied by Comply. Each type of tip comes in 3 sizes, so that should cover most if not all sort of ear sizes.

    [​IMG]
    This is the stock cable that is supplied with the Plus. Some minor changes will be made to help with its ergonomics at production stage.

    The cable supplied with the Plus is a silver plated cable that is made specifically for it. It uses a 2-pin configuration, is about 1.2m long and ended with a 3.5mm single ended connector. It uses heat shrink tube as cable guide which does not coil, but instead curve around your ear though it does not completely conform to the shape of my ears. Instead, it leaves a small gap at the bottom of my ear as if its floating however I’ve been told that the shrink wrap will be softer and thinner so that should alleviate this small issue of mine. The add-on balanced cable is similar constructed, only with its end connector altered to a 2.5mm balanced variant. As of yet, there are still no announced plans for a Lightning, micro USB or USB C cable options.

    All and all, the cable may not be up to the quality of aftermarket cables commonly seen in our community yet it far surpasses the cables that are supplied with the majority of equipment out there. A nice touch from MD here, and just shows you the attention to detail they’re putting in here.



    BUILD QUALITY
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    A close up shot of Plus with a clear view of its shell, followed by a more general outlook of Plus with its silver plated cable. Picture obtained from Massdrop Plus Universal IEM drop page.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    These are my own shots of the Plus, first without cable for a closer look at the shell then followed with photo that has the cable attached to show the overall look.

    The shells of the IEM are 3D-printed acrylic housing in the MD favourite midnight blue colourway, with the entire assembly and quality control all done in a facility located in the US. The shape is based on custom designs worn by musicians on stage, and is derived from the average of thousands of customs shells.

    Frankly, it’s not the prettiest IEMs I have laid eyes on, yet it achieves something far more important than being a pretty boy: an immaculate fit. The IEM fits snug and deep in my ear even without any prior eartip rolling, and the body does not extrude but instead sits flush in my ears. I struggle to name many other universal IEMs that fit better, and I think it’s the best sitting among my own arsenal of universal IEMs.

    SOUND QUALITY

    Evaluation Process

    As always, the Plus is burned in for at least 200 hours before any critical evaluations were made on the unit. I didn’t find any huge change in sound after it smooth out after the 15-25 hour mark, nonetheless I continued with the burn in process to eliminate any potential doubts around the burn in time.

    The tracks used for my listening sessions are files that are either FLAC/ALAC from a wide variety of genres except metal. The following is a list of source gear that I used during the review of the Plus:

    · Chord Mojo

    · iBasso DX90

    · Questyle QP1R

    · Calyx M player

    · Samsung Galaxy S8


    Initial Impressions

    During my initial listening period, a substitute cable was provided for me solely to sample the Plus, as the silver plated cable samples were not completed yet. The Plus has a sound that is close to neutral, bordering slightly U-shaped. There is a linear bass boost in the sub-bass region that does not bleed into the mid bass or the mids. The mids are smooth, clear and engaging. The highs are just a hair above neutral and are crisp throughout.

    The initial impression was really good, but the IEM truly transcended to great status when the actual supplied cable arrived. The already linear sub bass boost is even more controlled, the highs more extended while the amazing mids are left untouched. The added level of detail from swapping cables comes through, elevating the IEMs performance to another level.

    Sound Signature

    The MD Plus has an overall signature that approaches flatness, or neutral, with an obvious lift at the sub bass region. Some may even feel that it has a slight U-shape sound as it has a hint of treble forwardness or brightness. Therefore, the sound is more ‘balanced’, almost reference like, but with a touch of fun to it.

    The bass has what I feel is the MD touch to its IEMs, where the sub bass is most pronounced within the region. This sub bass boost is unbelievably flat, both in the frequency charts produced by various other reviewers and during my own listening sessions. The sub bass hit hard and aggressive, yet never boomy or bleeding into the sound. The mid bass is lifted, though not to the extent of the sub bass, and maintains rich and punchy throughout. The overall bass is well extended and well detailed, so it presents a nicely refined bass presentation with that added presence to satisfy the bass lovers.

    The mids are very clear and well defined, and is definitely my favourite part of the IEM. This is the region that I feel is closest to neutral, and while it may not be as lush as some of its competitors, it’s still highly articulate and smooth. Like the other regions, it’s full of detail, and with its slightly forward nature, it provides a highly engaging sound that will have you mesmerized if not completely head over heels about it. Much like Christolph Waltz’s performance as Hans Landa, I thought this ‘supporting character’ really stole the show.

    The highs are a touch lifted above neutral and performs with a crispness and delicate touch that is perfectly matched with its detailed and extended performance. It lacks a little sense of airiness but never to the extent that you will feel congested or veiled. The treble has no sign of strident in it, so it maintains sweet and is very easy on the ears despite the slight increase in presence. For me, it’s done more than enough to satisfy my more treble head needs, and it will certainly have the energy and apparent detail to please most if not all of its users.

    The Plus’s soundstage may not blow your socks off, but its wide and deep enough to create a nicely spaced ‘room’ to allow your music to do what it does best. This is also down to the great detail and separation of Plus, ensuring the image spreading across said room is always clear with a deep sense of realism. The PRaT factor of Plus is also deserving of praise, with a highly organic sense of decay and attack, often times leading to believe that the piece sounds more akin to a hybrid IEM, with a dynamic driver tuned for its bass.


    COMPARISONS

    For this set of rounds of comparisons, I compared the Plus to the Massdrop x Noble X, the Noble Sage and the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR). I believe comparisons with this particular set from my arsenal will provide the best reference for you all.

    If there any other comparisons that you are interested at, I’ll do my best to provide some feedback as long as I am confident that I have a solid impression of the IEM in mind. So please do leave a comment or PM me if you’re curious.

    Massdrop x Noble X (X)

    Firstly, I would like to note that I do not have the X in my possession currently as my review unit was a loaner that has since been returned upon completion of the review. Regardless, I feel that I still have a good grasp of how it sounds and think that most people will be interested to know how the Plus compare to its other MD cousin.

    Now let’s start with the first comparison: the price. X is the cheapest IEM currently produced by Noble but sold exclusively on MD for $249.99. If the driver count matters for you, the X is a 2 driver per side unit that utilizes proprietary balanced armature drivers made by Knowles.

    Both have removable cables that are in the 2-pin configuration, so third party cabling options are open to both units’ end users. The X has ABS housing with a CNC aluminium faceplate, which will lead to some believing that the X may be built better and last longer, though I think both should have a similar level of durability. A fair few would certainly be more impressed with the aesthetic quality of the X. Nonetheless, the X offer a good fit to my ears, yet the Plus triumphs defiantly over the X in this bracket.

    Moving on to the sound, both units have a level of bass emphasis in them, with the Plus’s emphasis more on the sub bass while the X has a boost in presence throughout the region. Nevertheless, I felt the Plus has a better grip of its bass boost, as it sounded more linear throughout the boosted region. In contrast, the X somehow felt less ‘even’ in that regard, but the increase in mid bass quantity is highly welcomed especially for some vocal notes that are represented in the lower region.

    Both units have a smooth, slightly forward midrange, with the mids on the Plus being the more forward of the two. While the mids on the Plus is clearer and a touch more detailed for me, the mids on X is richer and thicker in my experience.

    In terms of the treble, the Plus has a slight lift in the region, where as I felt that X has a roll off at the top end for me. The small yet noticeable increase in treble energy from the Plus brings more apparent detail and thus listening joy to my preferences, while in comparison the X sounded a little veiled or muffled for me in the region.

    On overall detail, I would prefer the Plus over the X as I felt there is more clarity throughout. Soundstage of the two units sound similar to me, perhaps the X has a slight lead in width while the Plus performs better in depth, though it’s really close for me that the difference is almost negligible.

    Noble Audio Sage (Sage)

    On the next comparison, the Sage will be the next contender. Like the X, the Sage is a 2 driver per side unit and is currently selling for $599.

    It’s similarly built to the X; with the only two differences are the replacement of the basket weave pattern and the colour change of the aluminium faceplate from dark blue to green. Hence, if you already prefer the look of the X, you would probably still prefer the look of the Sage. That said, the shape and thus the fit of the Sage is still the same with the X, which means that the fit of the Plus is still more preferable for me than the Sage.

    The Sage has more of a subtle lift to the bass region, affecting both the sub bass and the mid bass, whereas the Plus received a boost mainly within the sub bass. Again, the boost of the Plus is more linear, though the Sage feels much more even handed than the X. Bass heads, particular the ones who craves harder hitting and aggressive sub bass will lean towards the X, while others might prefer the relatively lighter sub bass and a touch heavier mid bass of the sage.

    On the midrange side, I feel that the Sage and X is most similar on this regard, so the comparison is highly similar. Both are tuned to have a more forward midrange, and aim towards a sound that is easy on the ears i.e. smooth. The mids on the Plus is still clearer and more detailed for me while the Sage is still richer and arguably lusher for me.

    With the treble, both the Sage and Plus have a slight increase in the region with the Plus having a touch more in quantity. The Sage’s treble is smoother than the Plus but loses out a little on the apparent detail department. The soundstage of the Sage is a little wider but the Plus is slightly deeper, though like the X I found the difference to be pretty negligible.

    Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR)

    For the final comparison, the well-respected UERR is next in line. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to listen to the legendary UERM so this represents the next best option. My UERR unit is a custom unit, whereas the UERR could be obtainable in universal format as well for the same starting price of $999, barring any customizations. The UERR is a 3 driver per side unit that use UE’s proprietary True Tone drivers that can achieve a flat response to 18 kHz.

    The UERR has a 3D-printed acrylic housing with customizable faceplates made from a large array of materials ranging from toned wood to carbon fibre. Although both the option to change the acrylic shell’s clear colour or stray away from the selection list of faceplates are not available, it’s safe to say that most would prefer the aesthetic of an IEM that they had a hand in designing.

    Fit is harder to compare as my UERR is a custom unit. Nonetheless, I have a universal version of the UE 18+ Pro, and if the overall shape of the shell is similar for the universal UERR, I can say with confidence that the Plus should provide a better fit in most cases. That said, the shell for the UE18+ Pro could be bigger due to the fact that it has to hold a few more drivers so do keep that in mind.

    When it comes to the bass, the UERR and the Plus are tuned in two different directions: UERR comparatively have a subdued sub bass, while the Plus is way north of neutral in the same field. The sub bass from the UERR still provided enough rumble to satisfy my preferences but bass heads would automatically prefer the Plus. As for the mid bass, UERR has a subtle lift while the Plus is closer to neutral on that end.

    At the midrange, both the UERR and Plus have tunings that are a tad forward, with the Plus being the more forward of the two but not by much. I found the mids on the UERR to be more clear and transparent, with more detail coming through. In terms of richness and lushness, I lean towards the UERR.

    On the treble, both the UERR and Plus are slightly brighter than neutral. Only when compared to the UERR, it felt that Plus was a touch piercing (really, it’s not). The UERR’s treble is easier on the ears and more extended. Finally, with the sound stage, the UERR is wider and much deeper, which showcases its superb separation.



    CONCLUSION

    MD has always been a company that pushed hard to provide us consumers with high performing IEMs at an attractive price point, and the Plus continues to drive home that mission. At $300, the Plus may represent a significant leap for those who have yet to join our circle of audiophiles but I found it hard to suggest other IEMs that could match its performance let alone surpass it at the price range.

    The Plus tick a lot of boxes that will be on many people’s checklist in terms of the overall package. Does it have an impressive fit to allow for superb comfort and deep isolation when in use? Does it have the bass presence to satisfy the bassheads that are searching for that extra rumble, especially in the sub bass? Does it have mids that are so clear and smooth that it will keep you enchanted throughout the whole performance? Does it have highs that are never piercing but would allow gobs of detail to come through? To all those questions, I say yes, definitely yes.

    What would I change about the Plus?

    Perhaps I would change the colour scheme into something a little more vibrant to make it look more attractive? To be honest, this has never been a problem of mine as I have a preference for the simply, utilitarian look with a dark colour scheme that MD is aiming for here, and the fit of it is so great that I fear altering the shape my change its fit.

    Perhaps I would like to have a slightly more ergonomic cable that might increase the overall comfort of an already unbelievably comfortable IEM? I have always been one of the select few who actually am a fan of the memory wire cable guides despite its apparent shortcomings. From the small changes I’ve heard they’re making for the production run of the cable (don’t fret, none of the changes will affect the sound), I think they got that covered.

    Perhaps the shipping date for the first batch can be a little bit earlier than the current expected date? Now I’m really picking needles from the haystack here.

    And that’s it. I really struggle writing through the changes as I found the Plus to be great as it is. The fit, the sound, Plus just brings you an overall amazing package in an IEM. How MD got it so right on both the fit and sound is simply astonishing, and is testament to their hard work in both research and development. As such, the Massdrop Plus will become the first MD item that I’m giving a 5 star rating.

    For those who are trying to explore the world of audiophiles, especially when it relates to portable gear, and are willing to spend a little more in hopes of finding something great, put the Plus at the top of your shopping list. For those who have already entered our world through more budget friendly IEMs and are trying to go to the next level, I urge you to do the same. And finally, for those who are already veterans in the scene, I sincerely advise you to grab a piece as I found the Plus to be worthy of joining anyone’s collection.

    Because really, it’s a Plus to your team.
    knopi, peoplee, Cheaplad and 3 others like this.
  2. shotgunshane
    5.0/5,
    "A Musical Reference"
    Pros - Custom like fit; reference type sound with tastefully boosted deep bass; super clarity; price
    Cons - Storage case is tight fitting
    Today Massdrop is announcing their own branded iem, designed and tuned from the ground up. It’s a triple Sonion armature universal with custom-like fit, for only $299.
    https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-plus-universal-iems

    The Massdrop Plus tuning approach reminds me a little of what Sead Smailagic of Sony was trying to achieve with their MH1 and MH1C dynamic driver iems. The basic approach is a diffuse field accurate iem with a healthy deep bass boost. The problem with the Sony is that they boosted the bass entirely too much, with approximately 12 db’s of bass centered around 50 or 60 hz, it could certainly use some taming. The Sony also suffered from poor quality control and some samples exhibited over 20 db’s of bass boost!

    Luckily Massdrop seems to have found the sweet spot. I’m guessing the Plus bass boost is around 7db’s, give or take and centered just a little higher. The result is an iem approaching neutral that should appeal to a broader base of users. The bass boost is extremely pleasing, adding a hint of fun without sliding into indulgent overload.

    Frankly it’s pretty amazing. Clarity is through the roof fantastic! It makes just about everything else at my disposal sound like there are differing degrees/layers of veil yet to be removed. However, the Plus stays harshness and hardness free, particularly with Mee Audio dual flanges, which give me a bit deeper fit and a hair smoother top end.

    Speaking of fit, it’s superb. The shell shape is form fitting and flat to the ear. Nothing sticks out. These rival the fit of Westone universal shells I like so much, and the wider nozzle allows for many more tip rolling options than the narrow nozzle Westones. My understanding is the shape comes from nearly 3 decades of custom ear plug and hearing aid manufacturing; all those custom fits average into one. I really do love the fit of the Plus.

    Is it worth $299? Absolutely. This iem holds it own and doesn’t give up much to TOTL offerings. The Plus is easily the best iem under $600 or so on the market today. I love they way it pairs with the Lotoo Paw 5000. (Sources with 1 ohm or less output impedance are recommended.) This combo is pretty hard to beat and probably impossible in this price bracket. Needless to say the Plus is going on my list.


    Comparisons


    vs Massdrop/Noble X

    Where the X has a general bass boost across the spectrum, the Plus is focused in deep bass, which helps makes the lower midrange sound much clearer. Both have similar bass texturing but the Plus bass is noticeably cleaner.

    The X vocals sound much warmer than the Plus. Upon switching, it’s like a veil has been lifted. There’s more energy and detail, producing a much clearer window into the performance. The Plus also sounds brighter and crisper overall, though never harsh. The X top end is much more laid back and sounds softer, darker. The Plus is overall much clearer and much more transparent. The Noble X’s downward sloping signature sounds much warmer and has a slight veil in direct comparison.

    The X produces a much more intimate presentation, even if vocals are place further back than the Plus. The Plus sounds wider left to right, with more air and space between instruments. Depth is negligible between the two.


    vs Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor

    The Plus has a noticeable boost in bass over the UERM with a stronger focus in deeper bass that lingers a little longer as well. The UERM definitely sounds leaner right after switching. Kick drums are more forward and palpable with the Plus. While the UERM sounds more linear in the bass, the difference in extension is noticeable with the Plus.

    The Plus rivals the UERM for female vocal reproduction. In fact the Plus sounds a bit more forward and more lively with female vocals in comparison. The same follows with male vocals, the Plus sounds more forward, more energetic, though the slight difference seems to give the UERM a more noticeable depth to vocals and the midrange in general.

    While the Plus sounds a touch clearer, due to more forward upper mids, the UERM is brighter in treble, particularly in middle treble. Top end details are easier to pick out with the UERM and there is just more of a sense of air.

    Overall the UERM sounds a bit more spacious, layered and airier. In contrast the Plus sounds more forward, clearer and energetic. It grabs you, demanding your engagement.


    vs Campfire Audio Andromeda

    Both sound very lively and clear with similar bass levels. Actually the bass sounds really similar, with a similar deep bass boost. Perhaps Andromeda’s boost is a hair deeper and hair bigger at 1ohm OI. Andromeda also seems to have longer decay, for a bass sounds a little more natural in direct comparison. The Plus bass is a little denser sounding, restricting texturing in direct comparison.

    Male and female vocals have similar weight and richness, with the Plus sounding closer in distance with both, particularly with female vocals. Both models have excellent distortion rock guitar crunch and bite; definitely two of the better iems on the market in this regard. Again the guitars sound a good bit closer to the listener with the Plus.

    The biggest difference between the two is in treble. Andromeda is overall brighter with more sparkle and air. I also think the spoutless armatures produce a more lifelike decay than normally aspirated armatures. In this regard, Andromeda’s going to put top end resolution more up front and easier to hear. Low level micro dynamics and decay are just easier to hear and separate.

    While there are many similarities, Andromeda still sounds airer, more spacious overall with greater micro dynamics and resolution. The distance Andromeda gives up in the middle helps to create a deeper and larger stage.
    knopi, Cheaplad, halcyon and 6 others like this.

User Comments

To view comments, simply sign up and become a member!