'Custom' Universal Fit Triple Driver

Massdrop Plus

Rating:
4.875/5,
  • 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 Reviews

  1. CavemanSponge
    Just.... Grab Them!!
    Written by CavemanSponge
    Published Jul 14, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Unique sound quality, Extremely nice fit, good accessories
    Cons - Case is kinda smol, Cables are just meh despite looking good
    ---Introduction---
    I love Massdrop. Despite living in Canada and bombarded with heavy import taxes, I am still very interested in special collaborations made by Massdrop such as the TR-X00, HD6XX, HD58X, and K7XX to name a few. After years of collaborations, Massdrop had to create something of their own; a product that is tuned in-house, made in-house, and unique to its name. Thus, the Plus was born. Made and tuned by Massdrop from the ground-up, these IEMs hope to try and aim for that sweet, seemingly impossible spot in sound signature: reference-like neutral tuning with extra emphasis in the bass region. With a year worth of R&D behind their belts and continuous testing prior its release, is the Plus worthy of your $300? Read on to find out!

    ---Unboxing & Accessories---
    I usually almost never do this section as I immediately throw boxes and wrappers out after I unbox things, but the Plus really got my attention...

    First of all, the box is really small, and I have a soft spot for small, cute things XD

    IMG_20180712_200031.jpg IMG_20180712_200046.jpg

    Box design is a little different from the ones shown in other reviews... Is this a refresh? is it only a design update? My guess is as good as yours...

    IMG_20180712_203510__01.jpg

    Kinda like what they included... A mini hardshell case, a pair each of foam, silicone, and dual-flange tips, a cleaning tool, and a nice velcro strap attached to the cables. Note that the black cable is not included, it is my personal Noble cable, attached cos I was too lazy to remove them..

    If I could nitpick on something, I would say the case is a little bit too small, look at how fugly my Sage is in them..

    IMG_20180712_203641.jpg

    Anyways, moving on...

    ---Build Quality & Fit---
    The Plus is made out of 3D-Printed Acrylic, and it is what it is. The shells have a smooth surface all around, without seams or glue residue being present, which is nice. The edges/corners around the sides of the shells are also very round and smooth, which reduces fatigue and irritation on the ear once worn. Really it is as good as it gets, and there is no other special things worth mentioning here. The fit however, is down right amazing. This is the best fitting universal IEMs on the market right now. Period. No other IEMs come close to the fit of the Plus, with its custom-universal design nicely sitting inside the grooves of your ears, causing little to zero irritation whatsoever. Because of this the Plus also sits flush inside your ears, which gives you a more low-profile look, with nothing sticking out of either ear. Plus (no pun intended), it lets you lean on your sides with these on, which is amazing for those who love to sleep while wearing earphones!

    IMG_20180713_145605.jpg

    As you can see, the Plus looks more sleek and slender, as opposed to the more chunky, industrial design adopted by the Orions which gave my ears quite the run as it sometimes gets sore after awhile.. ymmv tho

    ---Cables & Connectors---
    The cable that comes with the Plus is a respectable silver-coated copper, which is quite thin and flexible. Being thin and flexible however could be a good and a bad thing. The good thing is that this cable is lightweight and tangles less often, but the bad thing is that sometimes when yanked they feel like they are about to pop off, and it could accidentally get snapped when closing the case included by Massdrop, which is no fun especially when you are in the middle of a trip, etc. While using the Plus, despite being okay with the cable itself, I found myself looking for a replacement cable fairly quicker than I initially thought, as the end connectors tend to get a little loose over time. I believe the issue is with the cables itself, as when I swapped it out for several aftermarket cables, the connection becomes more secure and even for some cables you can hear a "snap" sound when plugging them in.

    ---Sound Quality---
    Okay, the most important section, the "make-or-break" section of a review. I will start off by providing a general tonality of the Plus before going over the detailed breakdown. So in general, the tonality of the Plus leans towards neutral-warm, with emphasis towards the sub-bass region (duh?). The character is somewhat very immediate and aggressive, with impact being the key player in each spectrum. Confused? read on...

    Highs: The high frequencies in the Plus is mostly neutral, with a slight emphasis in the upper treble (at around 10-11k) which gives the Plus some added shimmer and sparkle on the very top end. Although there is more extension compared to say, the Orions or the ER4XR, the Plus still can't compare to the likes of CA Andromeda, with orchestral and several instrumental pieces sounding a little bit compressed, with string instruments sounding like they are gasping for air. Swapping genres to Pop and EDM however, the slight emphasis gives the Plus a little bit more room to breathe, preventing the Plus from sounding congested and stuffy. Detail-wise the trebles bring some good detail, not amazing. Cymbals crash with natural crispness and quick decay, which is desirable for me. The treble also contributes a little bit to the soundstage, which I will talk about below. Overall, 8.5/10

    Midrange: The Mids in the Plus are very well tuned and matched, and I found it to be exactly similar to the likes of Etymotics, with the exact same character, detail retrieval, and presence. I noticed the mids sound very detailed and forward, with solid vocals (both male and female) and excellent resolution on instruments; from piano notes to guitar strums, everything sounds crunchy and resolving. However, with this I also found that the mids sound cold, with less organic warmth present, especially within vocals. This makes the Plus very versatile, but not a master when it comes to slow pop, rock, or jazz. The Noble Sage, for example sounds more organic and involving with those genres, but sometimes sound less energetic with a more fast-paced Pop track. The Plus, on the other hand does not have that "inviting" feeling when listening to the aforementioned genres, but sounds better with more impact on fast-paced Pop tracks. Overall, looking at where these IEMs are aimed at and what is it for, I will give the mids a 9/10

    Bass: Bass in the Plus is exciting, in a unique way. The 2 Sonion vented drivers really show its finesse here, with strong, powerful impact and rumble. Now the typical BA-bass sounds tight and impactful, but it decays so quickly there is no apparent rumble for us to enjoy. Adding a vent in the driver allows for more airflow, hence adding the sense of rumble into the mix. Whenever I load bass-heavy tracks with the Plus I sometimes even forget that this is not a hybrid, but a full BA model. Yes, the bass is dynamic-like, with the nice rumble being the defining factor. Is it as tight as say the CA Andromeda? No. But it does not have to be. It is enjoyable enough even like this. Tracks like Summer Air by Italobrothers sound amazing, with good depth and impact throughout the track. Now its not all good for the Plus's bass, as sometimes due to the uber-clean midrange and highs, the rumbling bass seems a lil 'out of place', and could surprise you sometimes by sounding a little bit boomy and uncontrolled. This, however often disappears midway throughout the track and back you go enjoying its rumble. Overall, 8.5/10. My kind of bass.

    Soundstage: Now the Plus does not offer a great deal of staging, and although it is better than say, my Orions, they are no match for my Sage. The Plus sounds more wide than tall, with the slightly lifted treble giving a little bit of air throughout every mix. Separation between instruments are good however, with each one finding its own spot in your ears. I would say 8/10. BTA but not amazing.

    ---Comparisons & Matchability---
    The Plus is an easy IEM to match as it has a more or less neutral tuning, which makes it less picky when it comes to DAP pairings. The impedance, however states otherwise as with a 10 Ohm Impedance, players with OI of 2 or more would be less than desirable for the Plus. This renders players like the HiBy R6 a little unusable with the Plus, as the frequency fluctuation tends to make the bass sound boomy, pushing the midrange back in the mix, but leaves the highs untouched. Weird, but it happens. Now if you own DAPs with an OI of >2 Ohms, never fear as there is a product called iFi iEmatch and EarBuddy, which reduces your DAP's OI to less than 1. Use that with the Plus, and rip through your albums!

    Comparisons:
    I compared the Plus against several IEMs listed, with the same tracks, same DAP (AK100ii), and same OI (Balanced for all)

    vs Noble Sage: Both have similar configurations, with 2-way crossover which controls each BA individually (1 and 2 for the Plus). Tonality is a little bit different, with the Sage tuned more towards warmth, and the Plus more towards reference-like neutrality. The striking difference between the two IEMs is actually in the mids and bass. The Sage has a warmer midrange, with thicker, more organic notes being presented whilst the Plus offers detail and transparency right off the bat. Now I enjoy the Sage's mids more, as it sounds more pleasing and relaxing for my ears, but ymmv. The bass is where I wish the Plus is similar to the Sage, as the Sage receives a good lift from the midbass and to the sub-bass. The Plus however, does not have any midbass increase, and then suddenly you have a bunch of impact and rumble on the sub-bass. This makes the Plus sound less coherent, less 'refined'. But then again, with $300 difference, I can't complain, can I?

    vs Noble X: I think this matchup is important as both is up on Massdrop but the difference is the Plus cost more ($50) but ships much faster than the X. Now the striking difference is with the midrange and bass, similar to the Sage. This time however, I favor the Plus more, as the X has this warmish midrange similar to the Sage, but has the sub-bass suddenly slapped in there without careful tuning on the midbass. This causes the X to sound more muffled compared to the cleaner sounding Plus. The Plus also has a more satisfying rumble to them, which makes them a clear winner over the X.

    vs CA Orions: Against the CA Orion, I would say the Plus offers better balance and tonality for all-around listeners. Being one of the first adopters of the Orions, I used them quite a lot back in the day, and I can immediately say they are cleaner and clearer than the Plus, but they sound less dynamic, with little to no punch at all in the bass region. Granted, its 1 vs 3 BAs and although I feel the Orions still stand as the best, 1-driver analytical IEM on the market, I will say given the price ($349), the Plus offers more flexibility for less money. Definitely the Plus as a starter IEM unless you hate bass and want uber-transparent sound.

    vs ER4XR: The ER4XR sounds very similar to the Plus, and I can confirm that the Plus's midrange is tuned exactly the same way as these. The Etys however offer less rumble in the sub-bass region compared to the Plus, due to the less driver count (1 vs 3, again). The only thing that differs between the two is I would say the treble extension, with the ER4XRs sounding more extended, but the Plus sounding more immediate and crisp due to the dropoff at around 10-11k for the Etys and at 15-17k for the Plus.

    ---Conclusion---
    I would say this is an amazing find for me, as I never thought I could find something close to the Plus in the market right now for $300. Being a fan of midrange and highs and not too much bass, I find myself looking towards more analytical IEMs, but sometimes I crave for bass at the same time and whenever I do, I am always faced with choices that cost me over $800. The Plus really sets the bar for "entry-level IEMs" right now and I believe the Plus is worth picking up, as whether it ends up as another piece in your collection or your first IEMs, the Plus will not disappoint you.
      Niyologist, tarhana and B9Scrambler like this.
  2. siruspan
    Massdrop Plus
    Written by siruspan
    Published Jun 27, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Perfect mix of neutral, fun and analytical sound
    Overall very high level of sound
    Reasonable Price
    Comfortable
    Cons - Cable tangles easily and has plasticky feel
    No Spinfit CP100 tips included
    1.jpg

    For more of my reviews please visit: http://www.audionervosa.pl/

    Massdrop, a sales platform that connects enthusiasts (audio, outdoor gadgets or mechanical keyboards), has been offering in the past headphones that are modified versions of well-known headphones from well know company's like as Fostex, Sennheiser and AKG. The first time, however, they offered headphones that were entirely designed and built by Massdrop themselves. The idea was to make headphones that sound like UERM (Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor) and Etymotic er4s but with a real bass rumble. After a year of R&D, Massdrop Plus IEM were made.


    A tiny box in which there is also as tiny protective case. Inside there is a whole arsenal of tips, a cleaning tool and of course the headphones themselves. Pure and simple.



    The design and approach is very interesting because the enclosures are created using 3d print technology and the shape is taken by averaging the custom headphones molds of different people. The effect looks like semi transparent CIEMs (custom in ear monitor) but they are made of plastic. Inside there are 3 armature transducers made by Sonion in a 2-way configuration (2 drivers for bass and 1 for midrange and highs). The cable is detachable of course with 2 pin plugs. You have to take into account when ordering aftermarket cable the sockets are recessed. Most CIEM manufacturers, however, also utilize recessed sockets so there is no issue with the availability of correct plugs and cables.



    Earphones fit perfectly in the ear, they are very comfortable and offer very good isolation. It is a pity that the manufacturer has not decided to add Spinfit CP100 tips because, for me they sound best with them. Unfortunately, the cable gives rather poor impression. It tangles easily and is very plasticky. There is also a microphonic effect, but I's eliminated for the most part by wearing the cable over the ear.



    Sound impressions:

    It need to be pointed that MDP (Massdrop Plus) are very sensitive to the source's impedence. They sound like they are meant to sound with the players offering less than 1 ohms. but already above 2 ohms the bass begins to live its own life and creates a shapeless mass. If your source has more than couple of ohms it will be necessary to use an adapter like iFi iEMatch.



    It is hard to describe Massdrop Plus in a simple way and it is not due to the fact that the sound is strange or out of balance. We have something here that can be described as a perfect mix of 3 different approaches:

    - studio like neutrality, being correct is emphesised greatly
    - analytical sound and high efficiency with detail retrieval
    - pure fun

    If you had to make a cake from these 3 styles, MDP would be exactly where each layer met.

    Highs are very clear and possess high culture. They are not hot but they still have great extension but I would not call them overemphasized. They do not go out in front of a row, they do not impose themselves, they do their own thing by extracting a lot of details but they are never tiring. Cymbals and the snare drum sound exactly as they should. The midrange is practically on the same level as the highs and is very weighty but still not thick. The midrange and highs do not work against each other, on the contrary they create a harmonious and coherent unity. Women's vocals still have this wonderful feature that they give goose bumps, but they are not accentuated. Sibilance and sharpness are ironed out. If the sibilance is in the recording, the MDPs will only tell you about it with marely just a noticeable gesture.

    Bass is the only range at which you can say that it has been bumped Fortunately, it's not to exaggerated and it was lifted in a very linear way, which give very noticible effect but still in good taste. The bass has a full character, digs deep, have strong impact, never looses control, but it is also not too dominant - he does his thing complimenting midrange and highs. It is not epic in quality or quantity, it is simply very good.

    Neutral highs and midrange with a larger bass gave the sound a darker, more massive, smoother and calmer character than analytical scalpels, but it's still not boring. On the one hand, we have the correctness and on the other, still very high musicality and cheerfulness of the bass. The musical essence is transmitted in a streamlined way without breaking it into atoms and throwing in the face. A lot of details are served as if by the way. Music flows and we still have an excellent insight into the recording, at the same time without falling into analytics. You can either focus on details or just let yourself be carried by the music without analysis. I think this is as much coloration as there can be to stll be called somewhat neutral.

    The space is not very wide, but rather deep. Holography and spatial 3D effects are at a very high level. The instruments are well laid out in space and have a very good physical presence. Resolution, separation and transparency are excellent despite a little darker tone and not very wide soundstage.




    Comparisons:

    Etymotic Er4xr - legendary, one driver, absolutely flat, here with a slightly raised, more universal bass response. In direct comparison er4xr are much brighter, with much smaller bass more in the midbass section with very poor but still perceptible subbase region. Sparkly upper er4xr registers take out any imperfections of recordings. You can hear that they do not work that great with heavy music either. Metallica for example is listenable (on er4s it's a caricature) but still feel that this is not exactly what it should be. Massdrop offer much more in terms of bass and overall mass while not emphasizing often poorly recorded metal albums. There is a great percussion and authentic wall of sound with guitar riffs. In softer genres and better recordings, the brighter, more airy and raw approach of er4xr is more appropriate. It is impossible not to notice, however, that MDPs, apart from having massive sound, also have better resolution and three-dimensional soundstage. Er4xr serve the details straight in your face on the platter where in MDP this is not so obvious and you have to pay more attention.


    Campfire Vega - several times more expensive offers a much more fun-oriented sound. Bass bumped greatly, super massive at the same time with astonishing culture combined with beautifully sparkly highs equals very impressive sound. A subdued midrange with a very organic timbre darkens the overall sound, and here the MDPs appear brighter, more neutral, more restrained both at the top and bottom. Certainly, the MDPs offer more universal, reference and even tuning, putting only a relatively light emphasis on the bass, but I must admit that Massdrop give way both in terms of resolution and the size of the soundstage. The difference, however, when it comes to the overall quality level is much smaller than price would suggest.



    Inear Prophile 8 - you can't argue that technically Prophile 8 are better in every respect, offering also neutral tuning but with higher resolution, huge soundstage and effertless ease of detail retrieval. They lack however, a spark in the highest octave, and I would say they are not thrilling. MDPs loses when it comes to technical perfection, but they offer a more exciting sound, sacrificing a bit of being correct in order to give more fun sound.



    Massdrop delivered exactly what they promised, that is, neutral sound with more base. Bass was raised linearly across the whole range, so the neutral character was only slightly disturbed. They offer a very high level sound, however, still a cultural manner perfectly balancing between ruthless detail extraction, studio correctness, and giving pure pleasure. Fans of colored sound can be disappointed because it's not headphones for them. If you want a neutral correctness but you do not want to give up musicality then these are headphones are for you. Similarly, if you feel the potential in Etymotic er4, but the amount of bass is too small for you MDP is also the equipment you should look at closely. At a reasonable price, we've received a product that literally i on almost 1000+$ level and offers a very universal sound.
      karmazynowy, Colors and B9Scrambler like this.
  3. ejong7
    The Absolute Plus : Massdrop Plus Universal IEM
    Written by ejong7
    Published Oct 30, 2017
    5.0/5,
    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.
      cardeli22, knopi, peoplee and 4 others like this.
  4. shotgunshane
    A Musical Reference
    Written by shotgunshane
    Published Oct 10, 2017
    5.0/5,
    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.

Comments

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