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Oriolus Mellianus

Rating:
5/5,
  • Driver Type (per ch.):
    Balanced Armature x 10

    Sensitivity:
    109 dB/mW

    Frequency Response:
    10~40kHz

    Impedance:
    36Ω

    Cord:
    USA made single crystal silver oil-immersed 1.2m

    Plug Type:
    2.5mm AK(Astell & Kern) type TRRS

    Accessories:
    foam eartips S/M/L size
    silicon eartips SS/S/M/L size
    cord clip
    plug adapter 4.4Bto2.5B / 3.5to2.5B / 3.5Bto2.5B
    leather case

    cover_shot.jpg

Recent Reviews

  1. twister6
    The Silver Oriole!
    Written by twister6
    Published Oct 18, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - neutral-balanced signature with a transparent natural tonality, premium pure silver cable, compact design of 10BA universal shell, premium accessories including leather case and balanced adapters.
    Cons - universal fit only, stiff cable.


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Oriolus Japan. Available for sale directly from Oriolus or Penon Audio, or by request from MusicTeck.


    Intro.

    Attending CanJam NYC'18 early this year has left me with many great impressions, but one pair of IEMs stood out, to the point where I got a bit obsessed and couldn't get the sound sig out of my head. The only way to overcome this obsession was to get these back into my ears, and I feel very fortunate to be able to review Oriolus Mellianus (Mell), named after the silver oriole which is a species of bird in the family of Oriolidae. I tried to think about the meaning of this name, wondering if "silver" plays a more significant role here, perhaps related to a pure silver cable or the Titanium alloy faceplate with its silver glow. But regardless of the name, this "bird" has a singing voice with a unique sound tuning.

    Oriolus, as a company, was found in 2015 under the umbrella of Cyras Co. in Japan, and, in addition to a few popular IEMs, already released a portable DAP, DAC, and Amps. Last year Cyras also added a premium line up of IEMs under Hyla name, including 10BA silver-shelled Nerva X which some might consider as an upscale variation of Mell. Both iems caught my attention at CanJam, and I came back 3 times to Oriolus table to audition and to compare these two models. At the end of the day, for my personal taste the neutral-balanced signature of lightweight Mell won over a more bass driven fun signature of silver Nerva X. Oriolus Mellianus (Mell) universal IEM is the one I would like to share about in this review.

    oriolus_mellianus-00.jpg

    Unboxing and Accessories.

    IEMs arrived in a large all back, cardboard box with a magnetic flip cover and silver "Oriolus" name on the top, staying consistent with a silver theme. Inside, there was a velour covered foam insert with a secure cutout for IEMs and the cable, and another cutout for a custom genuine leather case. All together it had a jewelry box presentation.

    oriolus_mellianus-01.jpg oriolus_mellianus-02.jpg oriolus_mellianus-03.jpg

    The roomy leather case hosted all the accessories, including S/M/L foam eartips, not Comply but another generic brand, silicon eartips in SS/S/M/L sizes, and one pair of large double-flange silicone tips. The included shirt clip had a separate cable-clip attachment, always useful to reduce microphonics when cable is rubbing against clothes.

    As mentioned already, leather case was very roomy with a large magnetic flip cover, enough room for IEMs and a thicker cable. But I think the biggest surprise here were the included adapters. With the original Mell cable being 2.5mm terminated, Oriolus included adapters to convert to 4.4mm BAL, 3.5mm BAL, and 3.5mm SE. Furthermore, the housing of the adapters was made from African imported ebony wood which is very dense and durable. The same ebony wood material was used on the cable termination plug, y-splitter, and even a chin slider.

    oriolus_mellianus-04.jpg oriolus_mellianus-05.jpg oriolus_mellianus-06.jpg oriolus_mellianus-07.jpg

    Cable.

    The included premium removable cable uses single crystal pure silver wire, and according to Oriolus it’s imported from US and based on oil-immersed process (though not officially stated, I can see it looks just like TWag v4 cable). I’m familiar with single crystal cable manufacturing process which is used to improve the purity of the wire, but not sure if I came across oil-immersed process description before. The cable has a standard 1.2mm length and 2pin 18k gold plated standard 0.78mm connectors that fit securely into recessed socket of the shell. Only right 2pin connector has a red dot marking which is aligned with a red dot on the Right shell.

    As mentioned already, plug is terminated with 2.5mm TRRS balanced connector which has a rare ebony wood housing, the same material used for a short cylindrical y-splitter and round chin-slider. Cable wires are on a thicker side, probably 22-23 AWG gauge, 4 separate conductors, all inner-twisted with a stiffer insulation jacket. The overall cable does feel a bit stiff and has some microphonics effect, thus if it bothers you – use the included cable/shirt clip. There is no memory wire, but it has a pre-shaped earhook heat-shrunk tube which I welcome due to a thicker springier nature of the cable.

    oriolus_mellianus-08.jpg oriolus_mellianus-09.jpg oriolus_mellianus-10.jpg oriolus_mellianus-11.jpg oriolus_mellianus-12.jpg oriolus_mellianus-13.jpg oriolus_mellianus-14.jpg oriolus_mellianus-15.jpg oriolus_mellianus-16.jpg

    I was satisfied with a cable pair up and the cable quality, despite it being on a thicker side. But that didn’t stop me from trying other premium cables, and here are the results of my cable-rolling.

    I was using SP1000 SS as a source in every comparison, making sure the volume is matched to compensate for any level drop due to difference in wire impedance.

    Stock Silver to Effect Audio Ares II 8wire - Doesn't change tonality too much, and instead adds a little more body to lower mids and overall sound, makes mid-bass punch just a bit stronger, and takes a little edge of the treble, making it even smoother. Soundstage is the same.

    Stock Silver to PlusSound Tri-Copper - Upper mids and treble are very similar, but I hear more body in lower mids, sub-bass rumble is a little deeper, and mid-bass punch is a little stronger. Soundstage is the same.

    Stock Silver to PWA 1960 4wire - When you think the soundstage couldn't get any wider, 1960 pushes the boundary even further with a little more width and depth. Sub-bass has more rumble, mid-bass hits harder and faster, lower mids are as neutral but upper mids are a little more revealing, treble has a little more crunch and airiness. Switching to 1960 does make the sound a little more revealing and a little less organic in comparison to stock cable.

    Stock Silver to Effect Audio Horus - Interestingly enough, in this pair up the upper mids are pushed a little more forward and treble sounds crisper and brighter. The sound is more revealing, not as smooth organic as the stock cable, and a little colder in tonality. Soundstage was a touch wider, but I wasn't too crazy about this pair up since it took away the naturalness of Mell's tuning.

    While for my personal taste I found Tri-Copper cable pair up to be the best with Mell, in general I wouldn't worry about cable rolling since the included pure silver premium cable has a great synergy with Mell, and it sounds more like a pure copper rather than pure silver. Due to a stock cable being a little thicker and stiffer, I could only imagine people switching the cable to upgrade the ergonomics of it, rather than sound.

    oriolus_mellianus-24.jpg

    Design.

    Mell comes only in universal clear shell design, using a medical grade material from Germany. The shape of the shell is very compact, probably one of the smallest 10BA driver shells I have seen in a while. For 10BAs, the shell design ergonomics is excellent, and it has a very comfortable fit. Thanks to a transparent thick wall of the shell, you can also appreciate the full and clear visibility of every driver, internal wiring, and crossover components.

    The “Oriolus” marking on the inner side of the shell, above the serial number, is color coded with red on the Right side and blue on the Left side. Faceplate panel is made from a titanium alloy with an etched Oriolus name. While CIEM design option is not available, meaning that you can’t customize these, I still find Mell to have an elegant look and a very compact design. The only thing, nozzle is on a wider side (about 6.5mm), not an issue in my case since I got wide ear canal opening (and use the largest eartips), but it could be an issue for those with a narrow earcanal.

    Inside the shell, there are 10 Balanced Armature drivers per side, a mix of Knowles and SONION BAs. What’s interesting, the design has a 3-way crossover, with 4 highs, 4 mids, and 2 lows, but the nozzle has 4 bores, 3 smaller ones and one large one. I can clearly see two BA pairs going to one bore opening, and other three BA pairs going to their individual bore openings. Regardless of how drivers are partitioned and connected to sound tubes going to bore openings in the nozzle, what counts the most is how the sound mixes together in your earcanal when it leaves the nozzle, and I will cover that in the next section of the review.

    oriolus_mellianus-17.jpg oriolus_mellianus-18.jpg oriolus_mellianus-19.jpg oriolus_mellianus-20.jpg oriolus_mellianus-21.jpg

    The fit.

    oriolus_mellianus-25.jpg

    Sound Analysis.

    I analyzed Mell sound performance across different sources while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. Also, Mell went through about 100hrs of burn in before I started analyzing it, just playing tracks in the loop, though I didn’t notice any significant changes in sound.

    Mell is a neutrally tuned IEM. But when i say "neutral", I don't mean neutral "flat" like, for example, UERR. Instead, it has more of neutral-balanced signature where nothing is overemphasized, and everything is perfectly balanced. Mell has a neutral signature with an even natural tonal balance of a transparent effortless layered sound across the entire spectrum. While you can hear a deeper sub-bass extension and maybe a little extra sparkle in treble, there is hardly any coloring of the sound, it's very transparent and has an excellent retrieval of details even without a need to sound analytical.

    Another very interesting observation is how coherent all the drivers sound. It feels like a continuous transitional flow from low end, through mids, and into treble. Certainly, a neutral signature without too much of extra emphasis on any parts of the FR helps in creating the coherency. But nevertheless, it does feel like one coherent driver.

    The sound is well layered with a clear separation between the layers, where every instrument and vocals are easy to distinguish, nothing ever gets congested or veiled. And as I mentioned already, the sound is very transparent (not colored at all).

    Soundstage has a large expansion, both width and depth, taking an oval shape with not too much of out of your head depth, but still with the sound having a little bit of holographic spacing. I don't mean it like 3D holographic, but rather more like an oval shape holographic. With such expansion and sound layering, there are no issues with accuracy of the instruments and vocals positioning within a space. To my ears, the imaging is convincing and natural, the way how you would see/hear instruments with performers on stage.

    In more details, bass has a pretty good sub-bass extension, goes deep with a nice textured rumble, not too much elevation, but you need to be sure to select a pair of eartips that gives you the best seal; this could make-or-break the bass extension here. Mid-bass has a nice punch, not overly aggressive, but also not exactly neutral-flat either. It's not the fastest or the tighter mid-bass, has a more natural attack and decay, perhaps a little slower than other BAs but not quite as slow as dynamic drivers. Overall bass is well controlled, layered, natural, having a performance somewhere between BA and DD.

    Mids are neutral, especially in lower mids where you shouldn’t expect a thicker or a leaner body, and I think that's also contributes to coherency of tuning and how smoothly bass transitions into mids without any extreme separation. Upper mids are neutral, natural, but still very detailed. In many cases, a combination of neutral and natural can smooth the sound too much, making it more laid back, taking away some clarity. Here you have a combination with a balance of many different peaks in upper mids and lower treble (2k, 3.5k, 12k, even a little 7k bump) when you sweep the FR, also confirmed when I measured with Veritas. The mix of all these peaks yields a smooth natural tonality with an excellent retrieval of details.

    Treble is well controlled while still maintaining a natural clarity and sparkle, thanks to a balance between small bump around 7k and peak around 12k. Treble does sound natural to my ears. I think what's important here is not only the frequency, but also the quantity of the peaks, creating a more balanced tonality when tuned properly. Also, the airiness is OK, but the treble doesn't extend too far and starts to roll off after 12k, which adds more to a natural tonality of this IEM.

    oriolus_mellianus-26.jpg

    Comparison.

    In each comparison I used SP1000 SS as my sources. Also, each pair was volume matched for consistency.

    Mell vs Westone ES80 - Mell soundstage is wider, but ES80 has a little more depth pushing sound further out. While I consider both to be neutrally tuned, the biggest and the most noticeable difference here is the sub-bass, where Mell goes deeper and has more rumble while ES80 roll off with a politer sub-bass extension. Mid-bass is similar here, maybe with Mell punching a touch harder, but I think I got that perception based on Mell bass being a little faster and tighter, while ES80 mid-bass is a little more relaxed in comparison. Both have similar neutral lower mids, while Mell upper mids are a little more revealing in comparison to ES80 upper mids being smoother and more organic, but still not too far off. Both exhibit a similar retrieval of details in mid-range. Treble has a lot of similarities as well, having a natural well controlled non-fatigue sparkle. ES80 was a big step for Westone, away from their usual lush signature. Mell tuning is for those who want ES80 with a deeper sub-bass and a little brighter and airier upper frequency tonality.

    Mell vs 64 Audio U18t - In this comparison I hear both Mell and U18t having nearly identical soundstage expansion, in both width and depth. Once you start comparing their signature and tonality, you will also notice a lot of similarities in bass with a similar sub-bass extension and mid-bass punch, but U18t bass feels even faster, with a performance more typical of BA drivers, while Mell is somewhere in between of the speed of BA and the full roundness of Dynamic driver. Moving up to the mids, you will hear more difference with U18t lower mids being a little leaner in comparison to a more neutral Mell. Upper mids are brighter and more forward in U18t, while Mell sounds a little smoother and not as forward, but despite the difference in presentation and tonality, both offer a similar level of detail retrieval. Their treble performance pushes them even more apart, with Mell being more natural, smoother, and with a more moderate sparkle, while U18t being brighter, with more sparkle, and more airiness. The choice here will be based on a personal preference of tonality.

    Mell vs UM Mason V3 - Both have a very similar soundstage width, maybe with Mell being a tiny bit wider, but overall the width is nearly identical. With depth, I feel like Mell pushes the sound/vocals a little bit further out of your head, while Mason brings it a little closer to you, giving it a more intimate feeling. In bass comparison, Mell bass is closer in sub-bass extension/rumble to Mason (with bass module closed), when Mason port is open, sub-bass attenuates down. In mid-bass, Mason packs a little more punch, while Mell is staying closer to more neutral quantity, but overall the bass is similarly layered and has the same tight control. With an exception of mids presentation, where as I mentioned Mell gives it more space while Mason brings it closer and makes it more intimate, the tonality and the layering of the lower and upper mids are nearly the same. Treble is where I hear more difference with Mell being smoother and more natural, while Mason having more sparkle, being brighter and crisper. But in a summary, these are not too far off in tuning and performance.

    Mell vs oBravo ERIB1C - I know some might question, why compare DD/PMD hybrid to 10BA iem? Well, aside from bass, these have a lot more in common. Starting with a soundstage, semi-open design of ERIB1C has nearly the same width as Mell, while ERIB1C depth is more holographic out of your head, even further out then Mell. Despite ERIB1C having a dynamic driver low end, it's a lot more neutral than Mell, while Mell has a deeper sub-bass extension and stronger mid-bass punch. Mids have a lot of similarities, both having a neutral lower mids and smoother natural upper mids with a very similar level of detail retrieval. The variation in soundstage depth gives mids a little different perception since ERIB1C pushes them further out of your heard, but once you adjust your focus, you quickly realize how similar they are in tonality and transparency, maybe with ERIB1C being just a touch smoother, but not too far off. With treble, while I hear ERIB1C extending further and Mell having more sparkle, they both have a well-controlled natural treble tonality. What strikes me the most here, we are comparing miniature planar magnetic driver to multi-BAs, where I find tuning similarities.

    Mell vs Ultimate Ears UERR - Of course, how can I talk about neutrally tuned IEM without bringing up UERR. In this comparison, I find Mell to have a wider soundstage, while both have the same soundstage depth. UERR bass is a lot more neutral, something I consider to be flatter, while Mell has a noticeably deeper sub-bass rumble and a stronger mid-bass punch. Lower mids are similarly neutral, without any additional boost or attenuation, while upper mids slightly vary with Mell sounding more natural and smoother while UERR being a little brighter and sounding a little raw in comparison to Mell. While both have a treble with a similar sparkle and extension, the tonality of Mell is a little smoother and more natural while UERR pushes a little brighter here. I still consider both to be neutrally tuned, just at an opposite spectrum of it, especially when it comes to the low end and the treble.

    oriolus_mellianus-27.jpg

    Pair up.

    From Mell spec, it has 36ohm impedance (a perfect average to make it sound great even with higher OI sources), and 109dB sensitivity, a little below average which requires a few extra volume clicks.

    A&K SP1000 SS - very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral signature with a natural tonality, a little extra sub-bass rumble, neutral lower mids, clear detailed natural mids, well defined treble with a natural sparkle. This is my baseline pair up.

    oriolus_mellianus-22.jpg

    Sony WM1Z - very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral signature with natural revealing and slightly brighter tonality in upper mids/treble. In this pair up, sub-bass has a great extension but a little less rumble in comparison to SPK. Mids are a little leaner, and I hear upper mids and treble being slightly more revealing and a little brighter. This pair up wasn't my favorite since I preferred a more natural tonality of SPK pair up.

    Hiby R6 - very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, and no effect of 10ohm output impedance since this is 36ohm iem. Signature is more neutral-balanced, with a natural revealing tonality, nice deep sub-bass rumble, punchy mid-bass, natural revealing upper mids, and a nice crisp treble. It takes SPK SS pair up to the next level with an improved retrieval of details, though SPK is a little smoother and more organic in comparison. Really enjoyed this pair up; perhaps high output impedance is good for Mell.

    FiiO X5iii - wide soundstage expansion, nearly zero hissing - hard to believe but output is quiet, and I usually use X5iii specifically to check for hissing. Sound sig is more neutral-balanced with a warmer smoother more organic tonality. Sub-bass rumble goes deep, and mid-bass has a little more punch here. Lower mids are neutral, upper mids are detailed, natural, organic, treble has a nice well controlled sparkle. I was surprised with this pair up since many IEMs do hiss with X5iii, while here it was down to minimum, hard to even hear it. In this pair-up Mell don't have the most detailed sound, instead it's the smoothest and the most organic.

    Lotoo PAW Gold - very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing. The signature is more neutral-balanced with a natural revealing tonality. Bass is very punchy and tight, but sub-bass extension here is not as deep as in other pair ups. Lower mids are neutral and upper mids are more revealing but in a natural non-analytical way. Treble is very crisp, but not harsh. In this pair-up I actually hear upper mids/treble to be a little brighter in comparison to other ones.

    iBasso DX200Ti w/amp8 - very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral balanced signature with a natural revealing tonality. Bass has a deep sub-bass extension and nice fast mid-bass punch, neutral lower mids, natural revealing upper mids, and a very nice crisp treble which still maintains a natural tonality. This pair up felt like a more refined version of R6. I think this was probably my favorite Mell pair up, with the best sound transparency.

    oriolus_mellianus-23.jpg

    Conclusion.

    In the intro of my review I mentioned that I wanted to hear Oriolus Mellianus again, so I can get the sound sig out of my head, but instead I became more addicted to this silver bird. I have heard, tested, and compared a lot of flagship IEMs, and after a while the excitement drains out because every new IEM is just a variation of something you heard before. With Mell, it’s something different, and I feel that it stands out and complements other IEMs I have tested. This IEM is not trying to excel in bass slam or mids micro-details or treble sparkle. It just flows naturally with an even transition across entire frequency range. It’s not flat or fun and not laidback or energetic, it just sounds neutral, natural, balanced, and enjoyable for many hours of non-fatigue listening.

    I talked to a few other people who also auditioned both Mellianus and Nerva X and preferred X because they wanted more bass and more treble sparkle. We all have different sound preference and I don’t expect everybody to appreciate Mell the way I do. In my opinion, Mell emphasizes more on quality rather than quantity in everything from the sound tuning to the design. And even so I wasn’t too crazy about cable ergonomics, the pair up with stock pure silver wires is excellent, and with access to so many other premium cables, I still went back to the stock one. If you get a chance to audition this pair of IEMs, don’t miss the opportunity.
      icefalkon, garcsa, Vartan and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rantng
      As soon as I read 'neutral-balanced' I thought of Mason V3. Thank you for the comparison.
      rantng, Oct 19, 2018
    3. klaimzlgd
      How does it fair to the Zeus?
      klaimzlgd, Oct 20, 2018
    4. twister6
      @Carlsan : yep, it's not a Con according to today's flagship prices lol!!! this is a bargain now...

      @rantng : that's exactly how I felt when I got Mason V3 for review, it was a total recall of Mells I heard at canjam NYC. But I can never go by memory, until I got these in for an actual a/b comparison.

      @klaimzlgd : sorry, I don't have Zeus (sent it back after the review year and a half ago).
      twister6, Oct 20, 2018
      Carlsan likes this.

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