Metal Magic Research Balmung


Headphoneus Supremus
Balmung, Nothung or Gram?
Preamble: As most of us here know, Joseph Mou's iem empire has expanded to Jomo and MMR becoming the custom and universal branches (respectively). Having no prior experience (or easy access) with this maestro's work, the appearance of MMR's latest flagship tier release in the hands of a Canadian was too much to pass off. This warranted the first significant shift in my collection in almost a year (A geologic era in Headfi terms, I know) to acquire it. Not to say that I wasn't sorely tempted based on the fine photography of @ryanjsoo and the marketing images from MMR between the monitors and custom designed Eletech cable. However, I wasn't about to drop $2700 on an iem of a brand that I had no previous listening experience from. Much thanks to @mvvRAZ for not liking this and @riverground's ears being just the wrong shape for them thus making these impressions happen. It's an interesting choice to name their next flagship Balmung and I know this is mostly due to Joseph's weebery in full swing, but I like to posit that this is an apt name. Depending on the story and source material, the mythical sword in Germanic lore can be referred to as Gram, Nothung orrrrrr Balmung. Like it's namesake, this iem's identity is hard to be pin down.

Design: In the pictures, the Balmung is more of a jewellery statement piece ala that Noble diamond encrusted "thing" at the HKAV show. In person though they are a bit more underwhelming. It clearly falls into the "photographs better than it actually looks" category. Don't get me wrong, it can and does look amazing, but that requires specific light conditions that more often have to be artificially induced as opposed to natural light. I personally have yet to get a good photo myself. Though it does mean that it won't attract unwanted attention on the go.

The nozzles are fairly long before the lip for the tips and are slightly angled forward, but should work well with most ears. I've had no issue so far and the design seems to ensure that there are no pressure points that built up despite having metal shells ensuring longer listening sessions are not issues. However the portion that sits in the antitragus is rather wide and may cause pain for those of you with a narrower gap there. As such I would recommend demoing to ensure that your ears are fine with it. @riverground reported those issues, but my ears were okay. They included Acoustone stone stock tips, which I really like. (I just really like those after getting them on the DMagic).

Full points to Eletech for the physical design of the hardware on the stock cable playing so well into the design of the monitors. From the flat 2 pin connectors to the chonky y-split and the 4.4 plug shaped like a sword hilt, this is the first stock cable I've tried where it plays so well into the design of the iem in terms of looks and aesthetics. Eric has mentioned that the choice of wire is not the SPC being used in the Prudence, so this isn't just a hardware swap on an existing cable. I really have to applauded that as well, as it pairs extremely well to produce an incredible stock sound and still look pretty! So far this is the second iem that I've heard where I haven't wanted to replace the stock cable immediately.

Testing: Despite the stock Acoustone tips , I opted to go stright for the Radius Deepmounts as usual. They're pretty easy to drive and I had them at 55 on low gain of the 4.4 of the WM1A. Balmung does pick up some hiss, but is closer to the Odin's levels with the hiss only being evident in extremely quiet environments and no issue at all when the music starts or on tracks with darker backgrounds.

Bass: I LOVE VENTED BA BASS DRIVERS! There have been a lot of release lately using vented BA drivers, but the Balmung is the first model where I've heard them being used in the bass. I suspect those might be similar to the in house BAs that Sony uses on the M7/M9 as they do move a lot more air than standard bass BAs in the bass region. It doesn't give the bass texture and decay of a DD, but it does increase the volume of air that BAs can move while retaining the qualities of BA. Like the M9/7 it comes fairly close to DD bass standards whilst retaining the benefits of BA bass (For those of use that like it).

Balmung has a clear mid-bass bias and pack a lot of slam, leading to a very fun bass that isn't fatiguing to me. It has good sub bass extension that exists when called for, but just simply doesn't dig as deep as the Odin. The bass has good warmth and body without being bloated or bleeding. The most impressive feat is that despite a cutoff into the lower mids to prevent that, Joseph has managed to use that warmth and body to add colouration into the mids despite the Balmung being a brighter iem.

Mids: I LOVE VENTED BA MIDS... Okay I already did that before, but really I'm surprised that Joseph went with vented mid drivers as well. I have to admit that it works very well. The mids are fairly forward and could be called the star of the show....and not at the same time. When combined with the colouration from the bass, they convey emotion really well. Dare I say, even better than the A8000 does. Despite the lower mids dipping, I heard no recession in the male vocals. In fact there was a bit of body and thickness that I didn't expect. Females vocals are exactly where they're suppose to be and are not exaggerated as other tunings might do. The upper mids are excellent and are perfect for my preferences, and despite the forwardness don't become shouty. However for those sensitive to the upper mids, the forwardness of the vocals in combination with the upper mids might be too much for you.

Treble: How many treble drivers does this thing have? 4 Tweeters AND 2 mid high drivers?! That's a lottttttttt of drivers. I was surprised at how many drivers were dedicated to the highs on the Balmung, because they definitely do not give that feel. The Balmung's treble has plenty of energy and good amounts of sparkle, as I was coming from the Wraith prior, I initially put down Balmung as not having enough sparkle as I would like. Giving it another try after a couple days away from Wraith gave a better picture. Balmung doesn't lack in sparkle, rather chooses to dial it back to give the perception of more energy. This makes for a very pleasant listen especially for those with that 5K sensitivity.

Conclusion: I called the Balmung's mids " could be called the star of the show....and not at the same time ". And even after almost a week of listening I still find myself at a loss of what to classify the Balmung as. It has imaging worthy of a flagship and handles my busiest track without a sweat, but there are some very unique things that it does that no other iem does as well as it does. IE. The mids are forward, but also the overall signature is incredibly balanced. Joseph has crafted such a unique iem, that when you think finally have a grasp on it with a certain track, you move on to the next one and you're left to pick up your thoughts again and at times feels paradoxical.

There are 3 specific things I did notice:

1. Positional cues. The Balmung has incredible positional cues, and that was the first thing that I noticed during a short demo when I picked it up. After further listening, this seems to be only possible with the incredible width of the Balmung. With the mids firmly centre in the image and the instruments to the left and right, it leaves an incredible amount of space for sounds to come in from their respective side, allow you to pinpoint those with ease. This is easily the easiest to identify and most unique aspect of the Balmung.

2. Emotional mids. The A8000 ended up leaving my collection for the very reason that I also liked it so much: The boosted treble that make for every emotional mids. Unfortunately this kind of presentation ends up taking away from the bass and lower mids. When sticking to a certain artist or album this is less evident, but is much more evident when just shuffling through everyday listen. The Balmung manages to convey emotion in the mids without utilizing an overloaded treble making a much better all rounder.

3. Warmth and Body. Make no mistake, the Balmung is a relatively bright monitor. But Joseph has managed to coax warmth and body into the signature whilst maintaining balance, but without taking away that brightness that it has.

I think that in light of this, the question isn't: "Is this Gram, Nothung or Balmung" but: "This is Gram, This is Nothung, and This is Balmung". This iem's identity isn't A, B or C but A and B and C. Well done MMR.

Short addendum: I thoroughly enjoyed the addition of a Tia mid driver on the Fourte and I thought that would be the pinnacle of BA tech. This is my first ToTL iem using vented drivers despite their prevalence in the lower brackets of the the range and they bring a welcome addition to BA market.
Last edited:
@Xinlisupreme Just remind me whenever I get to the EXT. WIll get a listen as part of the Canadian Tour
I've got these second hand from a fellow head fier, and they are pure joy and excitement to listen to. I am surprised they aren't mentioned a lot more. Great all around IEM, an endgame for most people I would think.
With what I've heard till now, EXT is treble is unbearable. Balmung is better in this department. Even in the mids, Balmung steals the show. Very enjoyable indeed!