Optimised for use with amplifiers, the CL1 Ceramic combines two unique transducer technologies to...

RHA CL1 Ceramic

Average User Rating:
3.58333/5,
  • Optimised for use with amplifiers, the CL1 Ceramic combines two unique transducer technologies to exert unprecedented levels of control over an extended frequency range. The headphone’s CL Dynamic transducer has been engineered for bass and midrange accuracy, while the ceramic plate driver generates precise upper frequency and harmonic tones.

    The CL1 also features RHA’s first high-density ceramic housings and detachable cable system with mouldable over-ear hooks, affording high levels of both durability and comfort.

Recent User Reviews

  1. MrOTL
    4.0/5,
    "The way to Ceramic"
    Pros - durability, liquid treble, clear sound stage, comfort, build quality, warranty
    Cons - Designed for stationary audio-source or Dacamp L1
    [​IMG]


    Intro.


    Ceramic is the most familiar material for humanity and requires many touches. This material obtains by applying high heat to raw natural particles, starting from ceramic cups to glasses, cements, optical fiber and synthetic diamonds.

    It is also resistant to sudden temperature changes, does not pass through electricity, has good corrosion resistance. However, is usually broken easily. ‘Zirconium Oxide’ which improves this weakness is 8 times stronger than plastic, but it is known as a hard material to process.

    The Scotland company ‘RHA Audio’ has been recognized by the US ‘Apple’ for its production philosophy, and as a co-operative company, it has delivered in-ear headphones to Apple stores around world since 2011. Now 2017, they released new ‘CL-1’ in-ear headphone using ‘Zirconium Oxide’ for high-end head-fi users.





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    Exterior


    The exterior design of ‘CL-1’ is optimized for audiophiles using a dedicated portable DAC-amplifier ‘DACAMP L1’, or an audio system for headphones. The unit's housing is made of non-oxidizing zirconium metal, which has a stylish appearance is reminiscent of titanium and has a ruggedness that does not break easily even when dropped.

    Both unit houses have their logos and model names engraved on the front and back, and there is a black wire mesh duct next to the RHA logo. The nozzle part is fabricated in the shape of a whirl of aluminum metal on the wire mesh filter separately. The nozzle tubes are 4mm caliber size, so a variety of ear-tips are available for listening with.




    [​IMG]


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    The 'CL-1' employs a sMMCX proprietary connector, so you can alternate between a 3.5 mm stereo braided oxygen-free copper cable and a 4pin mini-XLR balanced silver core Ag4X cable. Compared to the existing MMCX method, it is more tightly coupled. The length of both cables is same about 1.5 m (59 inch) and is recommended for use with stationary systems.

    The outer shell is made of high-quality material that does not adhere to dust, has good flexibility and has not been exposed to microphonic. Since the position of the Y-split point is below than normal earphones, recommend using the cinch up.

    Unlike other brands of cable ear guides, spring and wire are included. The unit is firmly fixed enough to float in the air, so if you put it well behind your ears, the weight of the unit will be well dispersed, helping you to enjoy your music for a long time.





    [​IMG]



    The silver core cable is designed separately for 4pin mini-XLR terminal of 'L1 DACAMP'. It is designed to be removable by pushing the black button at the top like the regular XLR. The copper cable’s polarity of 3.5mm stereo terminal is made long so that it can be connected smoothly to a portable device with thick case.

    CL-1 package includes silicon ear-caps, double flange silicone ear-caps, Comply Tsx-200 memory-foam ear-caps, clothing clip, carrying pouch, and 3.5 to 6.5 mm stereo converter. The 3.5 to 6.5 stereo converter can be screwed onto the copper cable. There are two small storage compartments inside the dedicated pouch, but it is narrow space for even basic components for CL1 use.






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    Specification

    Driver: CL Dynamic + Ceramic Plate
    Frequency range: 16-45,000Hz
    Impedance: 150 Ohms
    Sensitivity: 89dB
    Rated/ max power: 10/ 50mW
    Weight: 14g

    Warranty: 3 years


    =======================


    Interior


    Overall sound signature of ‘CL-1’ pretty is analogous to weak V-shaped, with more weighted-on highs. Overall soundstage shifts two steps forward, that doesn’t make recessed layering of middles. Spatiality is expressed as if the instruments are resonating from the center axis of the listener, so that sonic brings a feeling of being opened and not confined.


    Due to the feature of trebles having liquid and taut texture, in beginning of ‘Paganini Caprice No.5, Op.1’, ‘CL-1’ does not miss the long stretches of violin strings, helps to blow out intensely. Since lower highs have no tail and are expressed in dry state, the scraping expression of classical guitar strokes sounds natural. But, the detail of the snare or high-hat may sound lifeless.


    While the reverberation becomes richer with lower frequency on middles, roll-off response speed is constant. Also, the middles are warmer and thicker than treble that make piano note or vocal belonged more like flat. The bass is relatively warmer compared to middles and highs, and as its band reaches upper band, it is heavier and roll-up speed is faster, so that the sonic details can be more expressed. The texture from harmonics of the brass and bass instrument represented in the sound source blow pretty well without filtration.





    [​IMG]




    With mini-XLR terminal of RHA DACAMP L1, ‘CL-1’ shows deep-bass naturally boosted and trebles analytically revealed. The whole sound stage is laid-back by two steps, dynamic range and width get bit bigger. That allows instruments to be more precisely positioned so that do not overlap each other. However, “ah” vowel coloration is caused because of rapid roll-up on upper midrange.

    If use the enclosed double flange silicone ear-cap together, the presentation of midrange moves one step more forward and the trebles get thicker to sound a stronger string instrument representation. Comply Tsx-200 Memory-Form including CL-1 package makes upper midrange and overall trebles closed, and lower bass smother, thus creating a soft sonic imaging ambiance that allows you to enjoy more genres of music.

    'CL1' has a 150 ohm high impedance and a low sensitivity of 89dB. If the required output environment is not reached, trebles and middles of ‘CL-1’ will present wiry and tizzy sound. Strongly recommend matching it with a dedicated amplifier 'DACAMP L1' or stationary audio system capable of driving low-efficiency headphones, as has required fairly-high input-power.







    DISCLAIMER

    Hello, I am a Head-fi product reviewer named 'Bigheadfiler' in South Korea. This review may not be perfect because it is my third English translation. I appreciate your understanding. Thank you.

    The 'RHA CL-1' in-earheadphone posted on review was provided by 'RHA Audio'. And 'DACAMP L1' sample was rented by Korean RHA official distributor 'Sovico AV'. This review has been written without any restrictions as respect author's autonomous decision making.




    Photo & Review by Bigheadfiler, 2017
    Matrix Petka likes this.
  2. ngoshawk
    3.5/5,
    "Good sounding attempt at a flagship IEM, especially when combined with the L1"
    Pros - Comfort, decent reach in bass and treble, BUILD QUALITY, excellent cables
    Cons - V-shaped not for all, not really much...
    The nice thing about being last on the tour is that I have the benefit of completely broken in equipment. The new smell and feel is gone. Gone through many miles and air flights, and USPS trucks and many ears filled with various stages and consistencies of earwax. Various stages of responsibilities and obligations set under the guise of "I have to get this done, YESTERDAY!"
     
    That is the beauty of being last. I have no such pretense. I have no such obligation. No such responsibility. Kind of like when I applied for the tour....I was late, I was after the deadline...and well...didn't get onto the tour. But, as luck would have it, another dropped and I caught the RHA bug. As time would have it, I was between reviews, and successfully breaking in some of my own gear. Yiiipppeeee! It was fate. It was almost like RHA knew my Scottish heritage. I gladly accepted the spot, and waited. Other reviews and gear filled my time.
     
    I casually waited for the arrival, and perused the reviews. Having a pair of fine RHA ma750 (non-mic), I knew of RHA's near-legendary build status. Known for a build equivalent on par with a Swiss watch, I really like the sound. A bright vibrant sound reminds me of a stalwart Scot who is friend to all at a party.
     
    mens-polished-steel-swiss-military-hanowa-patriot-chronograph-watch-p9750-10057_zoom.jpg
     
     
    I was hoping that the sound of the enclosed gear would rival my happily owned ma750's. Reading the various reviews, all commented on that build as top notch. But when sound was discussed, the views varied wildly. Yes wildly, not widely. Widely denotes a common line in time albeit one with variance. Wildly denotes all over the place, passing that line with the speed of light, in all directions. I loved that, and awaited my take on that ride, grabbing hold late one Saturday, after the snail pace of my wait on the day of delivery (not the fault of the sender). As hours turned into MANY hours, the lateness of postal delivery...by tortoise I have no doubt, finally brought the product(s) to my door.
     
    k13002398.jpg
     
     
    Hence, the time begins....A huge thanks to Nik and the RHA team for including me on the tour. I will do my best with various devices in hand to give an honest open review.
     
    I have an affinity for the state of Kansas (otherwise known as “flyover country”). It stems from the hours and days and months I spent riding my mountain bike through that wonderfully peaceful scenery, as distraction from classes at Kansas State University (#EMAW). Far from civilization, we would just ride. Sometimes we met a rancher, but before we could be booted off his land for trespassing; we always mentioned how we had mended a section of fence for him, or cleared some brush from their fence line...something to show we cared about his land as much as he and his family. Over time our group grew to a hearty 5; but the rules did not change. We ALWAYS fixed something. The mutual respect between the rancher and our group of mountain bikers allowed us free entry onto land that few if any would visit, ever. This solitude was not lost on either the rancher or us. Ever.
     
    That affinity to Kansas carries over the group, which shares that same name, a group I wholeheartedly recommend you give a good listen. It was this music, which was used for the week (along with many of my standards). I could not think of a better tie between the heartland, and the Scottish country. A country with a proud heritage of many items. Not the least of which is the best single malts the planet has ever known. Of that there is not debate in my mind. It is with that same fortitude, which I do believe RHA crafts their wares. Having, and still owning the ma750, I understand. If the product cannot stand up to Scottish standards, it is of no use. It is not good. Well...I can unabashedly state that the quality of craftsmanship is excellent. Top notch is a term thrown about, but would not be a shy comparison here. It is that tie between Kansas and Scotland, which gives me the tie and the right to proceed on this solitude of listening. I am within, and I do not mind.
     
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    V-shape sound. Bright highs, somewhat deep bass, bleeding into the sub-bass often. Not unpleasant, but not what I expected from a flagship. Definitely needs EQing.
     
    Compared to the FLC8S-recessed mids, lack energy. Filter versatility and a more vibrant sound. Again, EQ needed to compete.
     
    Compared to the Aria-not as neutral, overwhelming treble. Lack of control in bass. Aria defines warm full-even sound. CL1 has to try really hard and must be EQ'd to compete.
     
    An intimate sound stage accompanies that “power,” from the L1 to the CL1. This is not an unpleasant sound, mind you; it is just not as open and authoritative as I expected. Running my FiiO x5iii on 80/120, through Tidal and the L1 all the way up and on high gain, yields a decently loud sound, and of good quality. Again, the V-shape of the CL1 compliments the L1. But, I am left wanting MORE…. more power, louder volume…It was not until I hit 100/120, that the sound became uncomfortably loud. Granted, my old ears do have a hearing loss, but I have not gone that high on the x5iii with anything else. That said, when running the Line Out at 120/120 on the FiiO, I am allotted a good dose of power from the L1, which then drives the CL1 the way it was meant…Full, detailed, albeit bright, I am more happily enjoying the sound.
     
    For rock such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, this combination of full on Line Out and 2-3/5 on the L1 provides the CL1 with the necessity of power needed to portray the music almost as if one were in the crowd at an SRV concert…almost. The treble still seems a bit bright, and too far forward for my taste, but this can easily be compensated for by EQing the treble down on the L1, or whatever device you are using. That is IF you prefer a treble, which is not as hot as this.
     
    For me though, that hotted-up treble masks the detail I like in the mids. The bass and treble squeezing it out of the way hide that support piano, or support instrumentation, while they both compete for center stage. Those that like competing ends will most definitely enjoy this competition. And I can see the benefit of this in songs such as almost any Stevie Ray song. It is after all, his guitar, and the bass line, which holds the song together as SRV’s voice shines.
     
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    As for the sound qualities of the L1, I stated before they are quite nice, and acceptable. Switching to Dave Holland and his excellent Hands album, my reactions are tamed, in a good way. Music of much better quality, allows the L1 to do its work. Paired with the CL1, I can now see the benefit of both. There is most definitely that synergy going on…the pair WAS made for each other after all…A good solid bass, paired with the forward trebles allow the Spanish guitars to play effortlessly. Recessed mids are not unacceptable here. Allowing both ends around them to come through, without congestion.
     
    If one likes expressive treble, then this may be your ticket. Not sibilant in nature, but a far reaching treble affords the CL1 to shine (pun intended) in that realm. This is definitely a V-shape, and one can accept that if ones likes. It has been said, though that for a “TOTL” IEM, this is too much of a V-shape. I would agree; but RHA has never really been one to follow the rules. Out the window went mediocre build quality for the masses, when they came along. Out the window went a tie with a large corporation, which aides their process (one needs only step inside an Apple store and you see a variety of RHA products). Out the window went a “neutral” IEM as a flagship. RHA is playing by their rules, and I completely respect that.
     
    If one does not like the sound, then one can EQ the sound to their tastes. This is an almost refreshing aspect. One with which you can either adhere to, or look elsewhere. I have not run an EQ as much on any of my other IEM’s, as I have with the CL1. And I do not mind.
     
    Running the CL1 through my FiiO x5iii and Aune S6 provide a MUCH different sound, than the DACAMP L1 does. Gone is the fairly even bass and treble push. An overly bright sound, overshadowing the decent bass is had streaming Tidal and Jimmy Buffett. The bright sound might suit some, but I find the treble too much to handle. That said clarity is extremely good with this set up. So, if you like an analytically bright sound with excellent clarity, then this is a good pairing.
     
    Repeating the sound, through the native FiiO app confirms that the triplet is quite a vibrant and bright sound. I admit it; I like a warm full sound. I adore a warm sound…it is like that Guinness, which you drink warmer than it should be, but you still love it; because it is just right. That said, I do kind of dig this cold analytical sound. This is Guinness like it was meant to be served…ICE COLD. And I’m OK with that, because I LIKE Guinness. And I must admit, I like this colder sound. This makes the CL1, quite good, detailed, with excellent separation and placement of musical note.  
     
    *Carryover from the DACAMP L1 review*
     
    I must say, as did @Brooko in his thorough review; that the more time I spend with this little device, the more I come to appreciate it. The more I appreciate the simplicity of plug-n-play. The more I welcome how seamlessly the RHA Team makes all of the functions work. The more I value the ability across listening/music platforms…FLAC? No problem. MP3? No problem. AAC? It…just…plays…running Los Lonely Boys (another of my all time favorites) through my x5iii, and the L1; the CL1’s simply shine. With this combination, I can bypass that V-shaped sound. I can forgive the need for POWER! There is no want for more, running these together. A benefit of the Line out on the FiiO, is that the volume is adjustable. A near unheard of feature in mid-fi DAP’s. And well worth it, in my mind. Born on the Bayou simply oozes through this combo; making me feel as if I was in a backwater open air Cajun shack of a bar. Throw a lime in a cold beer, and you are there. A superb combination, not to be diminished when one considers cost.
     
    Combined this “set up” runs north of $1600 USD. Not cheap, and for that outlay of cash, one would hope for this type of synergy. I guess it just goes to show, that even devices, which may be less than “worthy,” to some based upon their sonic preferences, can shine as part of the whole. I’m not saying I will run right out and purchase the RHA’s no; but I AM saying that for that kind of outlay, one could do much worse.
     
     
    This really does show that the CL1 performs best under the “influence” of an external power source. While not bad running solo, one truly benefits from the addition of the L1. Think Big Bird and Snufalufagus, Bert & Ernie, Statler & Waldorf from the Muppet Show; and you get the idea…solo, they really aren’t that good, but paired together…WOW! What a difference! To really shine, the other is needed.
     
      StatlerandWaldorf.jpg ernie-and-bert.jpg ff0652aa90f1426e6dd0330e1e0c9af3.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    Alone, the CL1 is adequate, but not up to the level of comparably priced IEM’s, such as my Vibro Labs Aria, or the excellent Lend Me UR Ears FLC8S. When running at this price point, one must not only compete against the other I mention; but also “hand made” IEM’s such as the Campfire Audio Nova, and equally good Lyra II. This is a crowded market, as is the DAC/AMP one…
     
    This is not a bad thing as a consumer, mind you. But for the PR departments of competing companies, an absolute nightmare…How does one promote THEIR product over the other?! I’m not sure I can fully answer that, other than to say that as a company you must innovate…be different…apply your sound to a market, which has not been tapped yet; or at least not too much…And I do think RHA is on to something here. To combine a top quality DAC/AMP with a “flagship” IEM makes good sense. For the price of a near-entry level custom IEM, one can have a really quite decent IEM AND a very good DAC/AMP. To those with the need or cash to fortuitously think of that level; they should indeed consider the RHA CL1/L1 combo. It would be a good addition to an already existing DAP, or even to use as a desktop set up.
     
    That said if purchasing separately, I probably would consider the L1, instead of the CL1. To make the CL1 shine, the need for equalization keeps poking me in the side…and I do not like to be poked in the side, let alone poked anywhere.
     
    3173.eye_2D00_poke.jpg
     
     
     
    The L1 can overcome that need to tame the V-shape, or enhance it, should that be to your taste. The CL1, does indeed give a good base in which to work, and one for those who do like a V-shape. But, that should not limit those who may prefer another signature. With a good EQing, one can indeed make the CL1 work to their advantage, but it will take work. With that, I would recommend the pairing together. Or, if you only purchase the CL1, prepare to look for an external amp; it is in need of a good one.
     
    Comparisons:
     
    RHA CL1 Ceramic ($449) v Vibro Labs Aria ($499)
     
    A definite V-shape defines the CL1. Decent reach at both ends, allows the bass and treble to mostly shine. It is quite apparent that the mids take a back seat to both. If that is your ticket, then you won’t be unhappy. As for the Aria’s, the signature is more even across the board, with excellent clarity. Vocals definitely shine with the Aria, and they are quite good at representing that sound. With an overall sound on the warn side, this is my go to IEM. I see no reason to move up the “chain” any higher. The sound stage is bigger, too. While the CL1 tries to cover that lack of mids with elevated ends (verified by Brooko and his excellent sonic findings), and nearly pulls it off. I do like the sound signature, but to be completely happy, I would need to equalize the CL1 pretty heavily for my tastes. Something I do not have nor need to do with the Aria. To me, the winner here is the Aria.
     
    RHA CL1 Ceramic ($449) v Lend Me UR Ears FLC8S ($309)
     
    I came across a loaner pair of FLC8S’ and I am glad I did. I now own a VERY lightly used pair of my own. Complementing the Aria quite nicely, I am struck how from one day to the next I can be happy with either. Granted, with the ability to change the umpteen filters, you would be hard pressed to NOT find a sound, which you like. I currently run the black-red-gunmetal combo (from outside to nozzle), because I like the bass the FLC’s pull. This is where they best my Aria…bass…And a top quality bass it is. Far reaching, and sonically deep/correct (to me); the FLC is a steal for full retail, let alone a used pair. During my review, I lost my pair…I was so despondent that I nearly purchased a new pair on the spot. Luckily, I found them in a box of Vanilla Wafers, which I had taken to school…cue the Crackerjack jokes…That is how much I liked the FLC8S. The complementary synergy with my Aria, makes both better. I cannot get enough time for either…
     
    That kind of synergy evades me with the CL1. Only when I match the L1/CL1 combo does it come close to that level. But alas, it does not. It is good, and as I said, those with more neutral tastes will find the pair quite attractive. With the tuning ability of the L1, one can ALMOST overcome the deficiencies…almost.
     
     
    RHA CL1 Ceramic ($449) v AudioQuest Nightowl ($699)
     
    Not really a far competition, but what the heck, I did it, and I’m glad I did. I will say up front, that I am in love. I am in love with the sound of my Nightowl’s. A very different sound than my favourite IEM’s, but that is one of the points in my love. An almost holographic sound signature provides me with a wonderful alternative to the Aria. One, which is in complete complement. Decent bass, good reach in the treble, and mids, which are allowed to shine for what they were meant…honest and true. The NO allows the music to shine, sitting quite comfortably in the background. And I like that. Emminently comfortable, and a sound (to me) second only to the Focal Elear, which I was lucky enough to use as a loaner. So, as I said not really a far comparison. But one I made to make a point. A point, in that for the near-same-price (actually less) I can come away with the Nightowl and the FiiO A5, and be quite happy. Happier than I am with the CL1/L1 combo. Again, YMMV, but what with the multitude of options, the CL1/L1 combination is an excellent one to consider.
     
    DSC_0162.jpg
     
     
    Finale:
     
    You might think that will all of my gut punches, and near-denegration of the RHA’s, that they are not good. That would be false of you to believe. Here is why. I still own (OK, my son just absconded with them…) the RHA ma750, and like them. As I said, they were taken from me, but my son now enjoys them. As he should, they are a very good open sound, which competes well at its price level. The same is what I will say of the CL1/L1, both individually and in combination together.
     
    Taken separately, the CL1 is an honest attempt at making an affordable flagship. Albeit one with a V-shaped signature, which may not appeal to all. I get it, I understand its calling. I respect that, and would highly recommend to those that enjoy a V-shaped signature to give them a listen. Even if you prefer a more flat response, you can EQ-out the imbalances; and enjoy them. When you combine the CL1 with the L1, you have very good mid-fi combination, which can compete with other similarly priced options. The two were meant for each other, and that alone, might be worth a look…taking the consternation out of piecing together a combo might just do that. Impeccable build quality to boot, and you will be hard pressed to best this for the sound signature they provide.
     
    I want to thank the RHA Team for including me on the tour. I do love trying new gear; especially gear, which is out of my “comfort zone” so-to-speak. Gear, which after careful analyzing I would recommend most take a look at if ones taste, might run on the more V-shaped side.
     
    DSC_0157.jpg
  3. Jackpot77
    3.5/5,
    "The CL1 - RHA's ceramic flagship cuts through the audio landscape (literally)"
    Pros - Excellent extension, superb ergonomics and build, great cable, high level of detail retrieval, bass texture
    Cons - Treble is far too hot for my personal preferences, can sound thin without serious amping, too unbalanced for a true flagship sound signature
    20170115_225203_HDR.jpg
     
    RHA CL1 – initial impressions
     
    Reid Heath Audio are a Scotland-based manufacturer who will be familiar to iFans, with their T10i and T20i all-metal IEMs being prominently displayed in Apple stores across the UK. Their products have been firmly aimed at the “consumer” end of the market, with models like the MA750 and the T-series occupying the very competitive pricing sectors between £50 and £200. As part of their recent world tour, I had the chance to hear their first foray into the more serious audiophile end of the market with their new CL1 Ceramic IEM, a hybrid DD/piezoelectric tweeter design encased in a fully ceramic housing and requiring more amplification than the average iDevice to get the most out of the included technology.
     
    20170115_225032_HDR.jpg
     
    Tech specs
     
    Driver type: Single DD + piezoelectric wideband driver
    Frequency range: 16Hz – 45kHz
    Impedance: 150 Ohms
    Sensitivity: 89dB
    Weight (w/o cable): 14g
     
     
    20170115_225218_HDR.jpg
     
    Unboxing
     
    As the current “flagship” in the RHA line, the CL1 comes in packaging that wouldn’t look out of place being wrapped around a popular fruit based audio product (handy, as one of their main retail distributors is said fruity merchant). The box is a large and sturdy black affair, with a good picture of the beautiful ceramic housings on the front and some serious technical breakdowns scattered around the remaining sides. Sliding the cover off, and you are presented with a hard carboard box which opens in “book” style to reveal a booklet about the CL1 on the inner front cover and reveals the IEMs, nestling in a thick black foam cutout. The initial impression screams quality and attention to detail, with the CL1 feeling like it demands every penny of its c. £350 pricetag.
     
    Pulling the foam layer out that the IEMs rest in reveals the remainder of the contents – further booklets containing info and the warranty card (both in nice black cardboard boxes), a standard RHA zippered carry case (about the same size and shape as a man’s wallet) and the two cable options (balanced and unbalanced) sitting in their own little chambers. Completing the loadout is a 6.3mm stereo adapter, sat in a bed of foam like the IEMs. Again, quality appears to be the order of the day here – opening the carry case to reveal the generous tip load out (all packaged individually in their own shrink wrap bags) also reveals a thin metal credit-card sized sheet built to hold all the tips once unpacked, ensuring that you can carry the full array of earplugs with you in the carry case at all times in some form of order. Overall, the packaging is well thought out, premium quality and gives a very good impression of the care and attention that has gone into this aspect of the product.
     
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    Build quality and ergonomics
     
    The CL1 are moulded from a ceramic compound, which is harder and less resonant than their normal metal shells according to the supporting literature. The ceramic material feels exceptional to touch, with a super-smooth and glassy finish to the grey/black exterior that makes the IEMs look almost like ear-jewellery as opposed to audio gear. The finish is also top-notch, with everything looking smooth and precise, with the logo neatly etched onto the outer shell in an understated and classy way.
     
    The design of the shell follows their T10 and T20 models, with a small coffee-bean shape and a slightly angled metal nozzle, designed for over-ear wear. In practice, the CL1 fits into my ears as well as anything I have tried or owned, with a nice sense of solidity once in place and allowing me to get a great seal with the provided Comply tips. The cabling does come with RHA’s take on memory wire for the over-ear sections, which I’m not usually a fan of, but the plastic jacketed implementation on offer here does its job well, not interfering with my glasses when I wear them and keeping the IEMs seated firmly at all times. Moving further down the cable, the build quality and overall aesthetic effect is fantastic, with both cables having a multi-braid design with a flexible plastic sheathing to give a flexible, non tangling cable (for me, anyway) that sits nicely, exhibits practically no microphonics and looks like a top-end aftermarket cable. I am not a massive believer or disbeliever in the power of cables as they affect sonic quality (I am sadly too poor to spend much money investigating this either!), but if RHA ever brought out a range of cables with standardised connectors rather than their own sMMCX variant, I would certainly consider purchasing one for my other MMCX iems.
     
    20170115_225130_HDR.jpg
     
    Sound quality
     
    Test gear:
    LG G5 (with HiFi Plus 32-bit Sabre DAC add-on)
    Hifiman Supermini / Megamini
    RHA Dacamp L1
    Fiio X7 (with AM2 module)
    Test tracks (mainly 320kbps MP3 or FLAC/Tidal HiFi):
    Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. / Wasting Time
    Blackberry Smoke – The Whipporwill (album)
    Slash – Shadow Life / Bad Rain (my reference tracks for bass impact and attack, guitar “crunch”)
    James Bay – The Chaos & The Calm
    Sister Hazel – Hello, It’s Me (bass tone)
    Chris Stapleton – Whiskey And You
    Elvis – various
    Leon Bridges – Coming Home (album)
    Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (album)
    Aerosmith – The Definitive Aerosmith
    Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note
    Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide / GLA
    The Darkness – Permission To Land
    Led Zeppelin – Mothership
    Shawn Mullins – Soul’s Core
    Sammy Hagar & The Circle – At Your Convenience (live album for audience sounds)
     
    20170115_224944_HDR.jpg
     
    General impressions on the sound signature
     
    The CL1 is billed as an IEM that needs amplification, and (barring the Pinnacle P1), this is the first IEM I have tried that definitely does need the help of a sturdy amplification system to bring out its true qualities. Like listening to music on a mobile phone or Sony EU-limited DAP? Not with this set of in-ears. Once you have properly boosted the signal coming in through the cabling, the true character of the IEM comes to the fore. The tuning RHA have gone for on their flagship is a sharply defined and unforgiving sound, with a slight hint of warmth in the bass which gives a little substance to the lower end but does nothing to blunt the scalpel-edge of the higher midrange and treble. Despite the obvious technicality, the treble tuning is a bit of a curate’s egg for me, being too sharp and piercing to be enjoyable for extended listening. As a listener with a natural preference for smooth and clear tuning over fizz and shimmer up top, that isn’t surprising in itself, but even treble-heads will find this a little bright in its current incarnation. To be able to listen for any length of time, I used the excellent Dacamp L1 that came with the tour package to cut between 2 and 3 dB from the treble to bring it within the bounds of listenability for me. Most comments that follow in the below sections are based on a treble reduction of 2 dB, so please bear that in mind.
     
    20170115_224910_HDR.jpg
     
    Difference between single ended and balanced operation
     
    Due to some serious issues between my PC and the Dacamp (and a non-functioning OTG cable for my USB-C toting phone which I am waiting to replace), I was only able to briefly test out the balanced operation compared to the single ended sound through the Dacamp, as after one three hour listening session my PC decided to give up the ghost and cease working with the Dacamp again. I don’t feel this is long enough to offer any concrete opinions on any major differences between the two modes of operation – opinion seems to be split on the benefits this offers, and to me, there seemed to be a little extra thickness to the sound, but that may just as easily have been expectation bias as anything more concrete so I will have to leave that to the other reviewers on our little world tour – for simplicity’s sake, please assume that the impressions below relate to single ended operation.
     
    20170115_225235_HDR.jpg
     
    Highs
     
    The first thing you notice with the treble is the crispness and definition of the higher frequencies, with a soaring presentation and practically limitless extension as it works up through the range. Like its younger brother the CL750, I truly believe that the CL1 is an IEM that can produce sounds only dogs can hear if it happens to be there in the music, with an effortlessness to the really high range that leaves you with no doubt that the piezoelectric driver tech is just getting started where your hearing finishes. Sense of location and “room sound” is exceptional with this IEM, with the drivers giving you an excellent feeling of being sat nearby when listening to acoustic guitars or singers, picking up on the imperceptible audio cues in the sound to flesh it out in your head nicely. In fact, the only IEM I can remember hearing with a similar effect is the Vibro Labs Maya, so in this aspect, the CL1s are definitely impressive.
     
    Listening to “Starlight” by Slash, the dissonance of the opening guitar motif is just inside comfortable, sounding edgy and defined. Myles Kennedy’s falsetto also comes across hot but enjoyable, with a thin but crystal clear definition to the chorus. Strangely, the power in the high vocals seems to overshadow the percussion in this song, which “tssk” crisply but then seem to evaporate into nothingness rather than decaying more naturally.
     
    Going hunting for harshness (as opposed to sharpness), Chris Stapleton gives my eardrums the usual indicators, with the sound sans EQ giving a touch too much rawness to be enjoyable for any length of time. The texture of the singer’s voice feels almost hyper-emphasised, with the chorus drilling into my inner ear and taking me out of the soulful vibe the rest of the song inhabits. There is a leanness to the highs that emphasises detail and texture, but without the accompanying body, it becomes too sharp for my personal tastes, crossing the line into audio anorexia in an attempt to have the most defined sonic cheekbones on the market. Using the Dacamp EQ does help, but in doing so, it takes a little of the glorious air and openness out of the sound at the same time.
     
    Switching to some electronic music, the results are better, with “Nobody To Love” by Sigma and “Go” by the Chemical Brothers benefitting from the sharply defined sounds to give an airy and engaging upper end to the respective tracks.
     
    20170115_225823_HDR.jpg
     
    Mids
     
    Again, texture and definition are the order of the day here, with a rasping detail to vocals and beautiful if thin sound to acoustic guitar and strings that can be quite compelling with the right track. The vocals sound a little overshadowed by the comparatively warmer and chunkier lower end and the rapier-like high end, so sit a little further back in my ears in something approximating a U shape for me. With the right acoustic or simple orchestral music, the quality of the dual-driver setup can really be brought out, with “The Trooper” by 2Cellos and “Saint Is A Sinner” by Slash sounding delicate and textured, shimmering through the earpieces with energy and life.
     
    The leanness of the sound can tend to leave the overall presentation feeling a little analytical in the vocals, without enough body to the sound to really drive home the emotional connection the texture and detail are reaching for. Similarly, electric guitars give more crunch than an explosion in a breakfast cereal factory, but don’t have the accompanying “whoompf” of physical impact to go along with the pyrotechnics. Technically, the midrange is detailed and carries good energy, but could do with a little more body. One flaw that is apparent for me is in a similar vein to the CL750, with a spike in the higher-midrange through to the lower treble that can make some male singers sound unpleasantly harsh and seems to cloud some detail from the higher ranges. On a badly mastered or sibilant track these can be downright painful, turning a nice session of ear massage into open-skull brain surgery at the drop of a hat. The fact that both new models exhibit the same tuning indicates to me that either it is a “side-effect” of the new driver tech they haven’t smoothed out yet, or a deliberate tuning decision. The spike can be supressed by judicious use of EQ, which tells me that the IEM should be capable of a smoother ride, so the choice to bake so much of a jump in the frequency range into the basic tuning is a little confusing to me.
     
    20170115_225258_HDR.jpg
     
    Bass
     
    The bass is a reasonably lean but textured affair, with a little lift above neutral but no massive feeling of body or presence. Kicking off with one of my favourite tracks for mid-bass texture, “Bad Rain” by Slash highlights the capability of the driver in certain areas, exhibiting good extension all the way down into the borderlands of the sub-bass region. It also sports a texture you could strike a match one like Clint Eastwood’s stubble, all definition and snarling cool but not a massive amount of body, just enough to rise above flat without warming the sound too much.
     
    Looking for liquidity and smoothness, “Hello, It’s Me” by Sister Hazel is up next. The wideband DD shows good speed and control with this track, giving a great rasp to the vibrating bass guitar strings. On IEMs like the Campfire Vega, this track can sound like someone pouring molten chocolate into your ears – with the CL1, the sensation is less molten chocolate and more warm milk chocolate milkshake in terms of filling the soundscape, keeping a nice sense of liquidity but painting everything with a thin layer of bass rather than a more viscous coating.
     
    Switching to electronica, “Nobody To Love” by Sigma has a crisp and bouncy bassline presence, but needs a little bass boost from tone controls on the Dacamp to really command the track. The normally thrumming sub-bass sounds more polite and restrained, highlighting not so much a lack of extension into the sub frequencies as a similar lack of real “meat” to the sound, in keeping with the mid-bass. Trying “Heaven” by Émile Sande, which opens with a solid sub-bass rumble and pins it to the foundations of the track, the CL1 is again polite rather than throbbing, the sub-bass not quite filling the soundscape like it should. Moving up through the frequency range, the rest of the bass is crisp and defined, however, with a decent kick to the drums and good overall feeling of speed.
     
    Overall, the bass is a lean, mean creature on this IEM, with plenty of detail but just lacking a couple of lbs around the middle and lower portions to really hammer home the quality. For people who value a leaner “audiophile” style bass, this will probably be close to perfect, but for my personal preferences, it is just a little too much rasp and not enough thud to help me engage with non-acoustic styles of music.
     
    20170115_224902_HDR.jpg
     
    Soundstage/separation
     
    The soundstage on the CL1 is a decent size, extending outside my ears in all directions in a nicely spherical arrangement, with as much depth as width. Helped by the supersonic extension, direction cues are very good with this IEM, with a precise sense of placement of instruments across the soundstage to my ears. In terms of separation, the technical prowess and overall sharpness of the sound in the higher registers helps to keep the instruments nicely distanced, with multiple strands of guitar or keyboard riffs winding around each other without blending together, allowing the listener to quite easily pick them apart with minimal effort.
     
    20170115_225914_HDR.jpg
     
    Tip and cable choice
     
    The CL1 ships with two of their proprietary sMMCX cables as standard, one in “standard” 3.5mm TRS configuration using OFC copper, and one using silver cabling and using a 4-pin balanced connector for use with the new Dacamp. Both cables are gloriously thick and supple, making the usually stellar looking ALO Litz cabling from my Campfire Audio IEMs look positively anorexic and stiff in comparison. The finish on both cables is top-notch, with solid metal on the Y-split and cable jacks, and a well-implemented memory wire earhook that sits nicely behind the ears without the need for too much moulding. The cables are high quality and beautiful looking, with minimal microphonics and an overall impression of quality that will happily hold up against plenty of after-market options without looking inferior. If it wasn’t for the bespoke sMMCX termination, I would say these are the best stock cables I have come across yet, pushing ALO/Campfire Audio hard in overall quality and sonic capability.
     
    Tips are the standard RHA fare, with multiple dual-density silicon options, some dual flanged silicon and a smattering of Comply Tx tips. For my personal preference, the dual-density silicon fitted beautifully but did nothing to alleviate the excess treble present in the base IEM tunings, so I found the best synergy with the Comply Tx-comfort series tips that are included. The “Waxguard” covering takes a little edge off the highs, still leaving it with plenty of crunch and bite but taming it just enough in tandem with some heavy EQ from the Dacamp for my personal preferences and also allowing the best seal in my ears.
     
    20170115_225814_HDR.jpg
     
    Power requirements / DAP synergy
     
    At 150 Ohms and 87dB sensitivity, there is no doubt about the fact that the CL1 is definitely an IEM that requires amplification to sound good. It even says so on the front of the box. That isn’t to say that the CL1s can’t be run from a more modest setup – my LG G5 manages to get passable volume out of them at close to full tilt on Neutron Player. What it doesn’t get is the proper sense of dynamics and fullness to the sound that the Cl1 is actually capable of. Putting additional power through these IEMs helps fill out the sound in the mid-range, and retains the extension on the treble but helps smooth out the sharpness to listenable levels. Without gas, the sound signature sounds thinner and almost shrill with certain music – with am more sturdy source, the “true” signature comes out, the treble settles down and the midrange comes fully out to play. As you would imagine, the RHA Dacamp L1 pairs well with these IEMs (in fact, due to their proprietary sMMCX connectors, this is currently the only option if you wish to run the CL1s in balanced mode to take full advantage of the extra horsepower), with the CL1s singing properly on the “High” gain setting without sounding forced or overloaded.
     
    Another surprisingly synergistic combination is provided by the new Hifiman Supermini, with the higher than usual voltage output of the tiny DAP bridging some of the power gap between standard phone/DAP outputs and the beefier Dacamp L1 and producing a more nicely rounded and pleasing sound out of the CL1s. The little brother of the new Hifiman range (the Megamini) also does surprisingly well here too, requiring a good few more volume steps to reach the same output but again sounding a little fuller and less harsh than the G5, sitting between the phone and the Supermini.
    Fiio X7 – like its little brother the CL750, I didn’t find the pairing with the AM2 module on high gain to be particularly pleasing for my ears, even with the extra power from the “mid-range” amp module. The tonality of the music sounding a little too etched for me – for my ears, this isn’t a pairing that goes together particularly well.
     
     
    20170115_225413_HDR.jpg
    Overall conclusions
     
    Like its younger sibling the CL750, I think the CL1 is more a sign of the potential capability of the driver tech that RHA are debuting here rather than the finished article. It provides excellent high end extension and superb crispness and definition, but then overcooks it a little further down the scale and buries some of that crystalline beauty in the hot and harsh lower treble/high midrange. The bass is textured and capable, with a little warmth but not quite enough body for my personal preferences – without the midrange spike, they would blend much better with the rest of the frequency ranges to give a nice coldness and analytical spin on the sound overall, with just a hint of substance. As it is, they aren’t thick enough to warm the lower end enough to overcome the more recessed midrange. This isn’t to say this is a bad IEM if you like crystal clear and icy cold detail, with a king size serving of heat. For some people, this will provide the sort of sound that is more commonly brought up when discussing things like the HD800, with the undeniable ability of the tweeter bringing something different to the party than most current “flagship” offerings. As a flagship, the beautiful build and top notch cable and packaging are certainly befitting of the tag, and if RHA can take a healthy dose of sharpness out of the high mids and send the bass on a strict gym regimen to pack on some weight, they could have a real contender on their hands. In its current form however, it is a little too lean and a lot too sharp for my personal tastes – I look forward to seeing where RHA go with this technology, however, as I don’t think the story is quite over yet.
    Brooko likes this.
  4. jinxy245
    3.0/5,
    "Well Built, Sonically Polarizing"
    Pros - Great build, good comfort, included accessories
    Cons - Polarizing SQ, questionable value of balanced implementation
    It is with great pleasure, and with thanks to RHA (as well as nmatheis for helping to organize the North American leg) that I can say that I have been selected to take part in the RHA listening tour. During this tour, I have 10 Days to listen to & evaluate the CL750, CL1 ceramic earphones, and the Dacamp L1, a digital-to-analogue converter with class AB amplifiers. Although I am very grateful to be able to participate in this tour, I receive no compensation other than the joy of listening to these items in the comfort of my own home, and the following review is my honest opinion of the CL1.
    IMG_0542.jpg
     
    Here are some features paraphrased from their website:
     
    -Dual transducer configuration combines the precision CL Dynamic and dedicated high frequency ceramic plate driver
     
    -Injection molded ZrO₂ housings for low acoustic chamber resonance and durability
     
    -Detachable cable system using custom, locking MMCX connections
     
    -Two cables: Ag4x Silver cable with fully balanced  4pin Mini XLR termination for use with Dacamp L1, and a braided high-purity OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) cable terminated in  3.5mm with a 6.35mm adapter, also channel separated to eliminate risk of cross channel interference.
     
    -3 year warranty;
     
     -$449.95 MSRP (USD)
     
    This is my 1[sup]st[/sup] experience with any RHA products. RHA has a reputation for a robust build quality, and I can honestly say that the CL1 lives up to that reputation. The fit & finish is simply beautiful. The injection molded housings look sleek, feel durable, and are very comfortable in the ear (at least my ear, as with all IEMs YMMV). The cable is a thing of beauty (IMO…eye of the beholder and all that) and was mostly microphonic free during my listening due to the over ear orientation. The only potential caveat I can find pertains to the proprietary MMCX connectors. I never felt 100% confident that they were properly seated when connecting them, even though they have a tab which leaves only one way to marry the wire & housing. They don’t “click” the way many others do, and I did find myself misaligning them occasionally, though the reseating them was usually easy enough.
    IMG_0546.jpg
     
    As previously mentioned, comfort was very good overall, with the small housings sitting securely in my ears. The biggest problem for me comfort wise pertains to the size of the nozzle which exerted a little pressure with any tip I chose. This wasn’t enough for outright discomfort, but I was always aware that there was something stuck in my ear (more so than with some more comfortable IEMs I’ve used from Shure & Westone). I personally have a challenge with IEMs in general due to my left ear canal being smaller than my right, but I found a good fit among the abundance of tips provided by RHA.
    There was a good amount of accessories included with the CL1. There’s 2 cables and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, a truly generous amount of tips (11 in all, including 6 pairs in various sizes of single flange, 2 double flanged and 3 genuine comply Tsx-200) a stainless steel holder for the tips, shirt clip, and a fairly large carry case. I feel the need to take a closer look at the second cable they include with the CL1. This cable has a balanced headphone plug terminated in a 4 pin mini XLR, which seems to only be compatible with their own Dacamp1 (at least I don’t know of any other manufacturer using that connection). While that could be a worthwhile addition even if the connector is proprietary, what struck me as odd was that the benefits of using that connection was not readily apparent…it sounded just about the same when used single ended or balanced (reviewer Brooko did record measurements that seem to back this up). In any case, utilizing a more common connector, such as a TRRS would have been much more useful.
    IMG_0545.jpg
    IMG_0547.jpg

    (I forgot to take a pic of the 4 pin XLR connection)
    IMG_0589.jpg
    IMG_0596.jpg
     
    Before I offer my listening impressions, I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m pushing 50 and have less than perfect hearing (50 is pushing back). I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and the more I listen, the more I learn). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 4 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s with primarily RHA’s own Dacamp L-1, assisted by my Shanling M2, Fiio x3 (1st gen.) or my HP all in one PC  acting as a source. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but my listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and various genres of EDM.
     
    At 150 ohms and 89db sensitivity, The CL1 is not easy to drive. These earphones do best with a decent amplifier, whether separate or within a dedicated DAP. Plugged directly into my Samsung Galaxy S7, I could certainly achieve adequate volume and the dynamics didn’t suffer all that much, however I found my Fiio and Shanling to be a noticeable step up in fidelity. The Shanling sounded great at about 30-35 out of 60 on low gain, and when paired with the ALO National the CL1 faired even better. However the CL1 paired with the Dacamp L1 had the best synergy I heard (no surprise there) which is why I did the majority of my listening with that combo. The impressions I’ll share are with the default tuning, without EQ which I’ll address later on.
     
    Starting with the sub bass, I found it to be pretty pumped up, giving ZZ wards ‘When the Casket Drops’ a solid though overzealous foundation. I am often drawn to an extra dollop of sub bass, but this tuning is farther north of neutral than I typically enjoy. I did appreciate it on many tunes, though, particularly older recordings like Cream’s ‘Badge’. The bass added a healthy amount of oomph down low, without jacking the mid bass.  The mid bass does sound slightly elevated, but definitely not overblown. On Sarah Jaffe’s ‘Watch Me Fall Apart’, the bass notes have a good amount of presence and texture, but again I’m struck more by the sub bass emphasis the kick drum has, which lends an overly thunderous quality to the track.
     
    The mids are relatively scooped, sitting further back in the mix than I would anticipate on a flagship IEM. Cueing up some Stevie Nicks, she sounded more distant than I’m used to hearing on her already relaxed recordings. On ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ both she and Tom Petty sound further back from the microphone. RHA’s other new release, the CL750, (reviewed separately) has a similar dip in the midrange, but it doesn’t sound nearly as pronounced, probably because the “V”  shaped tuning isn’t as severe…the bass & treble aren’t as elevated, so the mids have more presence to spite the dip.
     
    Moving into the treble, I think we find the area where most people will have the largest problem. There is a very sharp spike somewhere around in the 4k to 6k range that makes the CL1 hard to listen to without EQ. Personally, I am not very treble sensitive, but I found myself rapidly fatigued  listening to the default tuning. Cymbals strike with an unnatural shimmer and are more forward in the mix than was likely intended. The prominent finger snaps in Lorde’s ‘Royals’, which is already recorded hot, takes on the sonic quality of wood sticks striking together. Any tracks that you might usually find to be sibilant are that much more so. Crystal Bowersox singing ‘Speak Now’, or Kacey Musgraves singing ‘Silver Lining’ are tracks that are already sibilant. Through the CL1’s default tuning, they become almost painful.
     
    Tip rolling did help a bit; using Comply tips with a wax guard did mitigate the effect slightly. I found Sony tips sounded the same as RHA stock & fit me better, so I stuck with them or the Comply T200 w/wax guard. To really appreciate what the CL1 is capable of I found it was imperative to add EQ. Using the Dacamp L1, tuning the bass -1 and the treble -3 helped tremendously.  Using a graphic EQ you can fine tune the sound even more carefully. On my all in one PC using JRiver, I applied a small drop at 60 Hz, a bump at 310 Hz & 600 Hz, with an equal drop at 3 kHz, a larger drop at 6 kHz and another at 12 kHz and had terrific results. This of course raises the question of whether or not EQing to achieve the desired sound is “cheating”. Should someone have to spend premium prices for a headphone, only to add EQ and change the sound? Many people do buy the Sennheiser HD800 and do just that, so the question is, is it unwarranted here? Only you can answer that for yourself, but I personally am not a fan. It’s one thing to judiciously adjust the SQ in order to dial in the perfect sound; it’s another to significantly alter it through EQ.
     
    I can’t help but feel that the CL1 comes off as a work in progress. Whereas RHA got a lot right IMO concerning the build, overall quality, and ergonomics, the sound signature they chose I find to be too extreme to outright recommend. This can be fixed through applying EQ, but I feel that shouldn’t be necessary, especially in a flagship. I’m not a fan of Baseball, but the analogy I would draw wouldn’t be so much a swing and a miss, it would be more like a foul tip. If they can drop the sub-bass a bit, bring the mids a touch forward and tame the treble, they’ll have something very special on their hands indeed.
    Brooko and Cinder like this.
  5. daduy
    3.5/5,
    "Awesome bass but overly done treble"
    Pros - Build quality, excellent fit and ear guide, awesome bass
    Cons - too much treble
    Disclaimer
     
    I got this unit as part of Australia/New Zealand tour arranged by @RHA Team, thank you very much for including me in this tour :)
     
    Introduction
     
    I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 10 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
     
    I've listened to RHA CL1 for about 4 days. I've used them with LG V10, Walnut V2 DAP, and through RHA DACAMP L1 . The source will be either my personal music or google play music.
     
    Music preferences
     
    My music preferences is mostly instrumental, whether it's Classical, Jazz, Celtic, New Age, etc. I also enjoy music with vocal on them, but my playlist is mostly instrumental. I would say around 80/20 mix.
     
    Example of the music I listen (not limited to):
    - Acoustic Alchemy
    - Tony McManus, Soig Siberil
    - Hawaiian Slack Key guitars
    - Fusion Jazz (Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Fourplay, Special EFX, you get the idea)
    - Akira Jimbo, Tetsuo Sakurai, Casiopea
    - Incognito
    - Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi, Musica Antiqua Koln, Rolf Lislevand
    - Yoko Kanno
    - Madonna
     
    Sound signature preference
     
    Hmm...not sure what my pref is, I enjoy Fostex TH-600 very much, It's one of the best headphone I've heard, so that make me a fan of U or V shaped sound signature.
     
    Having said that I also enjoy ZMF Blackwood which have mid-centric sound sig compare to the TH-600, so i guess i am flexible :)
     
    My typical listening gear is: Asus Xonar STU -> Project Polaris -> ZMF Blackwood
     
    When travelling I usually use MEE P1 straight out of DAP/Phone.
     
    Build Quality and Design
     
    I was quite impressed with the build quality of CL750, but CL1 is just a step (or maybe two) above them. It's hard to describe how beautiful and smooth the ceramic is, it's a pleasant feeling to hold and felt so good in my ear. The fitting for me is perfect, it's like it was custom mould for my ears. I also have to praise the nice flexible ear guide, they are firm enough that it will hold on my ear, but flexible enough to bend as you like to fit your ears.
     
    Sound Quality
     
    Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? They have a bit extreme V shaped sound signature, treble and sub bass is very emphasized, the effect of that is the mids feel quite recessed. I love the bass, they are quite detailed that you can hear the bass texture and there is plenty in there to provide enough kick to the music. The treble....well...there is so much of them, and this in my opinion is a double edge sword.
     
    I listen to a lot of acoustic guitar music and I found CL1 sound sig quite enjoyable, string sound on higher frequency sound crispy and clear thanks to the elevated treble, unfortunately there is so much treble sometimes the string sound is so sharp it's painful. One of my typical test music is Acoustic Alchemy - Girl With A Red Carnation, and there is a point in there where the steel guitar sounds quite sharp, I've never had this kind of experience with other IEM or headphones before. It's interesting because CL750 never sounded bad with my instrumental music, but CL1 can be bad with bright instrumental music. 
     
    Female vocal is a even worse, this is dependent on the mastering (and maybe quality of the source as well), for example, I tried listening to Vanessa William - Colours of the Wind and the sibilance is quite extreme that I can't finished the song. Madonna - Cherish is almost similar experience. From what I can hear both recording is a bit bright, and the CL1 just doesn't play good with bright vocals. SSSSSSSSslytherin, imagine song with heavy sssss and amplify them, you'll get the picture. However, not all vocals are sibilance, for example Orange Pekoe - Oriental Jazz Mode sounded just fine to me.
     
    I do found solo piano to sound great with them, most of the solo piano recording i listened to tend to sound bit dark, so CL1 fits them well, even better than CL750.
     
    Having said that, if you don't mind using EQ, i find that lowering the treble really make huge difference, with the treble reduced, they become better balanced and actually a very good IEM. 
     
    Comparison
     
    RHA CL1 vs MEE P1
     
    P1 is quite balanced with slight mid bass hump, while CL1 is extreme V shaped sounding, so they are quite different. The bass is better on CL1, but for me thats the only thing the CL1 wins again P1, again the treble of CL1 while good, can be disturbing and painful, while P1 can pretty much go with every song without a hitch.
     
    If you reduce the treble on CL1 using EQ, then it's a worthy rival for the P1, however remembering the price difference between the two, I will say P1 is the one providing better bang for your buck
     
    RHA CL750 vs CL1
     
    When i listen to CL1, i have and immediate feels that the CL1 is like the big brother of the CL750, very similar sound signature but more, specifically more bass and treble. More bass - great!, more treble - hmm, not so great for me. CL750 alread a bright IEM by default, and CL1 somehow add even more trebles make them sounding hyper-clean and bright, while this might be favorable for some music, when you hit those bright recording it's really painful to hear them.
     
    Again, with EQ they can be a better IEM, I prefer the bass of the CL1, but prefer the treble on the CL750, so a bit undecided here. However comfort and build wise CL1 is way better than CL750. 
     
    Notes on balanced cable
     
    The CL1 came with a silver balance cable, and since DL1 support these balance connection, I just have to give it a go.
     
    The following observation is based on my listening, no proper measuring or volume match has been done: I am pretty sure that when i used the silver balance cable out of the DL1, i hear more sub-bass and (sadly) even more treble. I am not sure if there is something different inside the DL1 circuitry or if it's just my imagination but thats what i heard.
     
    On the normal copper cable, my sweet spot for CL1 through the DL1 is -2 treble, when using the silver balance cable, i have to bring down the treble to -3. Again this is purely based on my listening, but other then the elevated bass and treble, I can't hear any other difference. In this case I honestly prefer the normal copper cable.
     
    Summary
     
    While I did enjoy CL1, I have to be honest that their treble is bit of a dilemma, by nature i prefer a bright sounding cans/IEM, however the CL1 just have too much.
     
    If you don't mind using EQ, you will find CL1 a very good sounding IEM.
     
    If you don't like EQ, and thinking about getting the CL1, I would recommend a trial first before commiting to them.
     
    If you're treble maniac, look no further, this is your heaven.
    Brooko likes this.
  6. potatoe94
    3.5/5,
    "Nothing Impressive"
    Pros - Solid build quality , loads of accessories
    Cons - Possible sibilant at "t" & "s" , emotionless , metallic sounding .
    Box & Accessories 
     
    _DSC6241.jpg
     
    Was greeted by a high quality flip packaging , opening it , reveals 2 tiny ceramic pebbles .
    Under it was where the documents and cables were stored . 
     
    _DSC6246.jpg

    The quality of the entire packaging felt luxurious , what's included is a 1/4" jack , which has the same stainless steel case as the jacks , a high quality case which was padded and a significant improvement over the previous RHA case . The previous RHA case made of leatherrette peeled at the edges where they were most contacted with . Overall the new pouch looked like it could sure stand the test of time and daily torture . The most interesting thing i noticed was the fact that they included 2 different cables , which initially i thought they were both 3.5mm with different cable materials (eg Silver/Copper) , turns out that they are not only different materials , they have different termination , with one being the default 3.5mm & the other , the mini XLR balanced Plug , which is meant for their amplifier (head over to their amplifier DACAMP L1 on my review on it) . Like RHA products , they provide a vast number of silicone eartips from dual densities to foam , all at different sizes , so you'll never have an excuse on not getting the perfect seal ! 
     
    Audio
    Although RHA have sent the review unit to me for demo , Do note that the review is done in no particular favor of RHA , and i do not get to keep them . What you are about to read would be an honest impressions from my point of view , however your mileage may vary . I did not went to read about the IEM before hand and have zero knowledge on the retail price or any technological "breakthroughs" to note . This is to keep the review as fair as possible , by just blind hearing them . 

    The CL1  is well balanced over the entire spectrum with a lighter sounding characteristic . It presents itself to be a very clear IEM , allowing instrumental separation to be done easily , soundstage is not wide , but is nothing commendable as well . It does however , present some sibilance in the "t" and "s" with some songs , this may be an issue for peole who run directly from their player , and would seriously reccomend you trying out the pairing before making your purchase . Comparing with the CL750i , you would notice a slight improvement in detail retrieval ., trebles are much more controlled , and less harsh . Overall a very fatiguing experience as i have to take them out of my ears as it just doesn't sound comfortable for long , probably because of the treble spike around the t and s . 
     
    Pairing
    Pairing with the DACAMP L1 with the 3.5mm was nothing amazing , it simply had more room for you to tune it to your liking , with the bass and treble adjustments . The only gain option i can set it to would be the LO option , where even within the LO option , i was unable to turn the volume anywhere higher to have me to try the other few gain options available . The treble was way to distracting to turn it up , so turning it down would be my suggested option . 

    Pairing it with the Mini XLR Balanced cable , it was when things start to get alittle more interesting and musical , with acoustics being more believable and everything more tangible . The sound produced was still pretty cold and metallic even with the improvement , but i felt that this should be the only way that these 2 should be paired , by XLR . I could listen to this pairing for awhile longer before the listeners fatigue kicked in again , and forced me to remove them from my ears to have a break from it . 
     
    Honest Final Thoughts
    The audio produced is not particularly on the musical side , but on the analytical end . It was after my period of listening that i found out they were retailing at S$848 , which i honestly think is too much of a price ,regardless of the research and material that went into it . Personally i rank IEMs based on their musicality and enjoyment , and completely disregard the price point or technology behind it . This was simply not musical nor enjoyable enough to recommend it to a friend , and i certainly would not pay for it .

    The RHA MA750i would still be a far better recommendation option for the price of only S$178 . 
    Hawaiibadboy likes this.
  7. Delance26
    3.5/5,
    "CL for so Close"
    Pros - Great extension, superb build, nice cabling
    Cons - Treble hot, sounds best with the Dacamp L1, poor value compared to the CL750
    About the reviewer:
    I am a 24-year-old science teacher, which means I am poor and like to find headphones that offer an excellent value.  When I first started my “audiophile’ (I tend to not like that term, rather all things audio lover) hobby I generally was akin to a more laid back, warm signature.  I do still love that signature in a pair of headphones, but have recently developed a taste for treble in the past year or so. 
    I listen to just about every genre of music, especially singer-songwriter and music scores.  I do, however, listen to many contemporary pop artists and some rock music.  I always make sure to listen a wide variety when reviewing headphones, but bear in mind everyone has their own unique tastes!
    When looking at headphones there are a few things I value over others.  Those things being: are they well-built, are the comfortable enough that I can wear them for long periods, and can I appreciate the sound they provide (which is extremely subjective).  
    Hello, Head-Fi! I am one of the members who was lucky enough to be selected to review the three newest products from RHA here in North America.  These products are the CL750, CL1 Ceramic, and the Dacamp L1.  Today you will be reading about the CL750.
     
    Disclaimer: The CL1 were provided to me as a part of the North American Review Tour by RHA.  I have been given 10 days to listen to and then write a review where I will pass them along to the next reviewer.  My opinions written in this review are just that, mine.  They do not reflect RHA as a company.  I am receiving no monetary compensation for this review.
     
    Introduction:
     
    My first introduction to RHA was about a year ago when they first released their first microdriver IEM, the s500i.  I found them a superb value at their price point, even though they had a pretty strong v-shaped sound and poor isolation.  I was also not too fond of their fit.  The CL1 is the new flagship of RHA.  It retails for 449 USD and 349£.  It is the first dual driver headphone by RHA, and the first ceramic housed IEM.  The CL1 introduces lots of new for RHA.  The question is, how does this new actually perform?
     
    I will apologize upfront: no pictures for the CL1, there was a terrible tragedy in which those photos got deleted, and I have since passed the RHA trio onto the next reviewer.  Luckily for you, dear reader, other reviewers have wonderful photography skills and have already taken amazing photos!
     
    Build Quality:
    I am not going to spend large amounts of time talking about the packaging of the CL1 simply because many other Head-Fi member have already done a wonderful job, so instead of rehashing past statements I will simply say the packaging is nicely done and well presented.  The CL1 also comes with a wealth of accessories; including a nice carrying case and plenty of different ear-tips to choose from.
     
    Design and Comfort:
    The CL1 is made from a ceramic material which offers extremely strong, low resonance, housing for the drivers.  They have a decent heft to them which further reassures the durability of them.  The fit and finish of these is top-notch.  Thy certainly give the appearance of a premium IEM. 
     
    Sound:
    The cables for the CL1 are removable, although currently can only be replaced by RHA as they have a unique MMCX connector named sMMCX.  The difference is that it has a small clip on the input which locks the cable in place.  They idea is to increase the durability of the connecter as MMCX connectors are known not to be the most reliable.
     
    One cable is essentially the exact same as the CL750 being copper braided with a threaded 3.5mm jack at the end.  The difference is that the CL750 cables are fixed, the CL1 is removable and features the aforementioned sMMCX connector.  The second cable is silver braided (which means things are getting more serious) and has a mini 4-pin XLR connector.  It is meant to be used with the Dacamp also released recently by RHA and included in this tour.
     
    In summary: this is a very well-built IEM that looks and feels amazing.  It certainly will not be easy to damage, and RHA backs it up with a 3-year warranty so you know they are standing by their design choices, even if many question the sMMCX connector.
     
    Sound:
    Alright, cool, so this is all great and wonderful, but how do they sound? Afterall, I do not care if they look great if it sounds like a screeching squirrel in my ear (yes they can screech and it is terrifying). Short answer: Polarizing detail, with thudding bass.  These headphones have some serious treble present.  It is so present that it over-shadows the upper mids.  Since the bass is boosted a touch it also pulls some attention from the mids as well, essentially leaving no love for the mids.
     
    The bass of the CL1 is good, don’t let my prior statement fool you, it is tight and has lots of punch.  I did think it had a little too much at times.  It does, however, had lots of fun to the music and allows it to pair well with music that has lots of lower tones present.
     
    The mids are where this story takes a sad turn.  It is almost as if it is the forgotten middle child.  The bass and the treble both outshine it, which in turn cause the mids to feel distant and thin.  I regularly felt myself almost straining to hear the vocals in songs, which is never a good thing as it causing listening fatigue.
     
    Ah yes, the treble… It is what I would call polarizing.  What I mean by this is that some are going to love the micro detail it provides.  Others are going to run and hide as it is just too much.  For me personally, it was alright.  I am pretty tolerant to treble, and have actually started liking more treble-focused headphones in the past year.  I would highly recommend using good recordings, as poorly recorded tracks will sound terrible.  You can hide nothing from the all-seeing treble of the CL1.
     
    Sound with the L1:
    There has been lots of discussion on the L1 and how it seems to magically turn the CL1 into the best thing since sliced bread.  I agree, to an extent; let me elaborate.  All of what I said above is still true.  It has a very distinct V-shaped sound.  However, when you connect it to the L1 it is almost as if it gives more space to the sound.  The tonality is still the same.  If you hate treble, you are still not going to like the sound with the L1, unless you EQ.  However, the L1 manages to breathe life into the CL1 which make the mids sound much better and turn the CL1 into an extremely lifelike IEM that reproduces the smallest of details.  The downside, it will cost you $1000 which enters then enters the realm of very high expectations.
     
    The CL1 is a unique sounding IEM.  It is one of the most uniquely tunes flagship IEM’s that I can think of.  It will be an IEM that I think wins many fans and many enemies.  My hope is they continue then CL line and have a more vocal focused version.  I think if they managed to do this, even if it sacrificed a bit of the detail, it would be an amazing IEM.  Until then I will keep dreaming!
     
    Comparisons:
    I do not have a whole lot of IEM’s currently that match these in price, but I will make a few in case they apply to you.
     
    CL750 (140 USD) vs. CL1 Ceramic (450 USD): Here comes a match up I am sure many will be interested in.  The two new IEM’s from RHA pitted against each other.  For those that read my CL 750 review, you already know which one will come out on top: the CL 750
     
    The CL750 has very similar tonality but reduces the bass and treble a bit which allow the mids to come forward enough to make it a wonderful sounding IEM, especially got the price.  Considering that the CL750 is a third of the price and arguably sounds better is pretty compelling.  Sure, the CL1 has better detail retrieval and sub bass, but not nearly worth the extra 300 dollars better. With the L1 the CL1 is definitely superior in every way to the CL750, but that is also several times more expensive; a rather large mark against the CL1
     
    Vibro Labs Aria (499 USD) vs. CL1 Ceramic (450):
    I am going to be blunt straight away, the Aria is a completely different IEM than the CL1.  It has a lushes midrange and robust bass.  It has a slight treble sparkle present, but not harsh at all.  In contrast, the CL1 has a thin midrange and excitable treble that can be painful to some. 
     
    In the end it largely comes down to preference, but if I had to choose, I would get the Aria.  It is easy to love with its familiar tuning, and stunning aesthetics.  It also has a more user friendly cable option and is much easier to drive.  While it is not as detailed as the CL1, some may consider this a positive.
     
    Conclusion:
    I am not going to try and draw conclusions for you, but simply sum up my experience with these over the past 10 days that I have had the privilege to listen to them. 
    The CL1 is a good headphone, but at this price point and flagship status, I wa a little underwhelmed by the CL1.  I am not saying it is bad, it certainly has great merits.  What gives me a slightly negative tonality is that the CL750, the little brother of the CL1, sounds very similar to the CL1 and is far less expensive and in many cases sounded better.  While adding the L1 improved the sound of the CL1, it only adds more dollar signs to the price of the product.
     
    Final verdict: Unless you truly love treble and detail extension, I would consider other options.  Especially the CL750, which has wonderful treble, but not as sharp. My hope is RHA will make revisions and release a variant of this headphone.  If the tuning is tweak just a small amount it could shine into a truly amazing headphone.  It is a good first step in a unique direction for RHA.
    Thank you to RHA again for giving me the opportunity to listen to the CL750.  I have enjoyed every moment with these.  For those of you reading this review, thank you for taking your time to read my opinions and impressions of these new IEM’s from RHA.  If you have any questions regarding them let me know!
     
    Happy Listening!
    B9Scrambler likes this.
  8. FortisFlyer75
    3.5/5,
    "CL1 Flagship Rollercoaster..."
    Pros - Build & Design, Balanced cable included, accesories, A more fun reference sounding flagship with excellent extension and good bass presence.
    Cons - Upper mid bass hump at times, lower treble to sharp. recessed mids losing some micro details at times.
    RHA CL1 Ceramic IEM Review
     
    January 2017
     
     
     
    DSC02218.jpg
     
    Intro
     
    This is the second review I am doing on RHA’s new range of CL IEM range with the first one been the affordable £99 CL750   and now I am embarking on the other end of the RHA price scale as this is their new flagship IEM the CL1 which weighs in @ £349 which takes the design in a new direction with this IEM’s in terms of the build which I will touch upon in “Build, Design & Fitment.
     
    I am going to include quite a long intro taken from the CL750 review which can be found here:  http://www.head-fi.org/products/rha-cl750/reviews/17775  as it is the same experience with both CL IEM’s I had when I heard these at a London show recently so if you have read it already from that review or just want to get to the nitty gritty then please scroll down to the “Unboxing” heading to roll on with rest of the review although I will refer to my experience of “the show” where I first heard these which relates to then and now as hearing them in a review two months on.
     
     
    DSC01846.jpg DSC01842.jpg DSC01850.jpg DSC01852.jpg
     
     
     
    What’s in the box?, unboxing…
     
    One thing RHA have done which shouts out we want this to be a flagship model is the packaging as even at £349 for an IEM I have seen far, far worse packaging than on here, it actually makes me wonder how much this cost alone as you have the outer card slip case cover which shows you your product.. Then once slid off you are left with a hard case presentation where the lid is magnetic and just flips open like a book to reveal the CL1’s both detached from cable sitting in their own foam protection housing on display and is a wow factor when opening up to see the high gloss polished finish of these ceramic shells.
     
    Once that tray is lifted underneath you are then greeted with the carry case which has the tips inside which uniquely are in a steel sheet holder and just pop out which is a cool touch for tips RHA have always done with their tips.
     
    In the compartment next to it a separate cardboard box which has the user manual inside. Take that box out and underneath on the bottom is the ¼ inch adaptor which is finally crafted and has a nice touch with RHA engraved on the side ( I wish RHA would also sell these separately!) then you have both the SE cable and the Balanced cable and almost forgot there is the cleaning cloth and a clothing  clip, how dare I forget that!
    The included accessories as listed below are:
     
    1. Custom detachable cable system (MMCX)
    2. Braided Ag4x silver-core (4-pin Mini XLR) with MMCX detachable cable
    3. OFC (3.5mm/6.25mm) cable with MMCX with detachable cable
    4. Case protector
    5. 11 pairs of silicone and Comply™ foam ear tips
    6. Clothing clip
    7. Cleaning cloth.
     
     
     
    DSC01948.jpg DSC01958.jpg DSC01956.jpg DSC01962.jpg DSC01966.jpg DSC01970.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    Build, Design & Fitment…
     
     
    Design…
     
    The design is pretty much the same in shape as you see their T20 shells but here the similarity ends with the CL1 to be the first shell to be done by RHA that is a ceramic housing shell which is injection moulded (Zr02 Housings) that uses a seven stage process to manufacture them which is meant to accumulate into a headphone with low acoustic chamber resonance thus eliminating distortion.
     
    The driver is also a first for them using a dual transducer configuration which essentially brakes down into two components with one been the CL dynamic transducer which handles the frequencies below 8khz been the mid-range and the bass then for above that for the treble they have used a High frequency ceramic plate transducer to achieve extension in this area like no other and given RHA track record for liking to show off the treble more than some IEM manufacturers out there makes this interesting to see how it pans out.
     
     
    DSC02057.jpg DSC02054.jpg DSC02025.jpg DSC02017.jpg
     
     
     
    Build…
     
    The build is no different to any other RHA piece of gear, that is of course to the highest standard with what always seems a keen eye to even the little details throughout the whole design process and these feel and look like a flagship model and the drivers feel fairly weighty in the hand just detached from the cable.
     
    I do like the shiny polished finish of these ceramic shells (just don’t leave them outside in summer with magpies lurking!) and they fit just like the T20 shell does which is easy and comfortable with overall comfort coming part of the way down to which tips you go with from the vast choice of silicone and Comply’s RHA provide with them.
     
    DSC02039.jpg DSC02253.jpg DSC02079.jpg
     
     
     
    Cables…
     
    RHA have been kind enough to provide not just the standard 3.5 SE cable but also the balanced XLR cable that coincidentally fits into their new L1 Dacamp but I can actually imagine a few companies that would not of included this in the first place so is welcome to see this although it leads to shall I get the Dacamp as I’ve got the cable ready to go!?
     
    Both cables are of good quality again with very well made machined plugs and the cable is kept simple with a clear PTE jacket which is nice as you can see the copper or silver wiring underneath on both the cables and are both finished off with the sMMCX connectors to attach to the CL1 shells and this was actually my first time in using them and have to admit it felt a bit clumsy to detach and attach that I thought it would be but guess and hoping if I was to own these it becomes easier like riding a bike after a while? Where did those stabilizers go?...
     
    Most importantly I never noticed any micro phonics from them which actually makes a change of late from every IEM I have been come across with their cables which seems to be an afterthought.
    Finally the ear hooks are something RHA take notice of any throughout their IEMS in the past and are a good quality build and design with RHA probably have made these even more ergonomically friendlier than the T20’s ear hooks and work a treat and help stay in place really well once on keep them in place without you knowing they are there.
     
     
    DSC02234.jpg DSC02322.jpg DSC02061.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    Sound Impressions
     
    To start with before we get to the Dacamp L1 combo I will run through with how the CL1’s performed with my gear to see how they pair for those who might not be able to get both.
     
    The following impressions were done with:
    Chord Hugo
    Vorzuge Pureii+ amp
    Sony ZX1 Walkman direct H/P out, and as source to Hugo/ Pure combo
    HiFIMAN Supermini direct H/P out
    HP X360 Spectre WIN10 laptop via Hugo/ Pure via Vertere DFI USB cable
     
    Music files used: WAV, FLAC, DSD DSF
     
    With already owning a pair of RHA T20’s I had been saying every time I was at their stand at a show was you guys need to really do a higher model, a new flagship that will just scale up on what they have and two years on almost they have done just that with the CL1 dynamic ceramic hybrid IEM with the ability to gain greater extension in the upper frequency region where 747’s cruise and UFO may be spotted (apparently?)
     
    I must admit it was not quite what I was expecting as I assumed and envisaged it would once again be an IEM that was efficient friendly that would plug into a smartphone or your normal everyday DAP and go but no, RHA have decided it needs an amp to power these new CL IEM’s in order to get the best out of the 150 ohm demanding drivers but we touch upon this subject later on RHA direction of these new models a bit more in the conclusions section.
     
    So, yes for anyone wanting for this to go with their DAP it will need to have a powerful amp built in to take advantage of getting the best from what the CL Dynamic driver can deliver to provide the gusto and guts in balance if what RHA want you to experience in terms of sound and feel as this is a dynamic driver that can and will rock if you feed it with a diet of Motorhead and Underworld.
     
    This does however seem just a tad more easier to drive than the CL750 considering it is exactly the same to drive @ 150ohm but found on all devices the volume would be a couple of clicks down from what I had to have it on the CL750 yet  saying that it still wasn’t enough for my Sony ZX1 (Japan version) to drive properly as like the CL750 even with the ZX1 feature to get more output power by disabling the sound enhancement feature which many ZX1 owners do to drive some headphones out of it still was not enough to listen to how the CL1’s are meant to be heard.
     
     If in a quiet room with them you could have an acceptable listening session which would still be just a bit too low on volume still with them but it just does not have the guts to drive them adequately.
     
    Just like at the show in London I had been to recently the CL1 was just like the CL750 and did not sound right with  them been too much thinned out and coming across as too hot, I know these are showing a V shape to them anyway but it was still too much just unstable treble with not much bass present but was still doing better than the encounter I had with the CL750 at the show as it was sounding the more promise of sounding like a pair of musical IEMs out of the two as there was a bit more warmth compared to the CL750’s had despite still sounding somewhat too washed out in general.  This was pretty much the case with both my gear and the L1 Dacamp. 
    Again like the CL750 review unit I have now received this has changed quite a bit since two months prior at the show to what I heard and is almost a different beast in many respects as there is a better balance now with a treble that is more coherent and tamer, not strained or thrashy anymore [and there is a bass presence that is there from mid bass to sub bass which  is actually tuned quite low. 
     
    The mids seem to be the one that still takes a back seat and sits a little behind both the treble and bass energy but am hoping the ability to find air and space with the soundstage will help keep things clear and concise like some other V shaped equipment I have heard in recent months including the still slightly recessed CL750.
     
    DSC02357.jpg
     
     
     
    Treble…
     
    So like the Cl750 I first wanted to try these with my Chord Hugo to see how they would be and much as I wanted it to work with my Chord Hugo which I love the only Achilles heel for me with the Hugo with what I was saying with pairings I find some sources or headphones/ IEMS that are prone to been bright with too much treble energy in the first place gets too sharp and strained on the ears. With the Hugo especially with Headphones I have found the Hugo cannot drive certain cans properly (and I’m not talking about volume levels here either, the Hugo has plenty of power in theory) it is having a detrimental effect when paired with the Hugo and  is the same here with the CL1’s when paired although better than the reaction of the CL750 pairing with Hugo as that was more neutral/ flatter sound which was more brighter signature.
     
    The CL1 ability to have great treble extension also does still not match quite right for balance together with the Hugo still resulting in an anaemic strained sharper treble to point of too sharp and uncontrolled with notes losing real definition there.
    This is why I have for this scenario with the Hugo had to re-purchase a Vorzuge amp in the  Pureii+ (sold my Duo originally) which are very good underrated small amps although they are not cheap is a good match with the Hugo in that it seems to counter balanced this issue I find with the Hugo.
     
    With this In the chain the CL1 balance was more evenly matched all round with the treble has this pretty convincing ability to scale with great extension high and wide but it does still show a tendency even with the Pure to reveal a sharper side to the lower treble region like a typical RHA right on cue which will detract away from details more in this area which still might be too much for some even though the Pure calms it down a lot more than the Hugo it is still present which is a shame as the top end extension has a great amount of detail articulation with brilliant decay to top end notes. 
     
    The tricky balance here is trying to execute this with it still been cohesive to the rest of the audio range yet not sound hot which with RHA been known for having a more treble pronounced approach is a fine line to tread all round and this was always the biggest worry after what I had heard at the show and knowing from the way the T20’s are tuned in general which just keep it within the boundaries although at times does come close for me even with some stuff to tolerate on sharp treble as I am also prone to treble sensitivity in the past with certain equipment which I do mention some of them in the CL750 review.
     
    My experience of RHA equipment  they are one of those that can be tricky with their pairing but once you find the right partnership with equipment and found best tips for the IEMS in terms of comfort and sound then it can be the difference between chalk and cheese sometimes but even with the CL1 it is still there to an extent.
     
    The CL1’s ceramic plate balances metallic sounds to sound tonally balanced with a shimmer and to yet it brings just the right amount resonance to trailing notes with plenty of air surrounding them to pick out above everything else playing as the soundstage and separation is also apparent and more vast in scope than it’s now predecessor flagship the T20. 
     
    This is the one thing that has surprised me from hearing these at the show is what I’m now hearing is now a more airy articulate treble that is a lot less piercing although it is still evident in the lower treble it is more detailed as it rises up the range and with the upper mid-range is with the right  type of music can rise and soar with quite an climax when climbing the frequencies like a song I stumbled on with the Eurovision song contest winner 2014 Conchita Wurst “Rise Like a Phoenix” which should have the lead song for one of the James Bond films but anyway this really shows a lot of the good sides to what the CL1 can do with a song that climbs up the frequency range from the bottom and some of the bad all at the same time but it still managed to make this song sound powerful and big with an immersive feeling that makes the hairs stand on end.
     
    They can still have the ability as any RHA with wrong tips and combination of bright or poor recording show symptoms of going over the edge like the T20 is able to but unlike I had heard them at the show it was not doing this in general across the board with my well known tracks with good to Excellent recordings. 
     
    Even though I am finding this area more acceptable now whether it will for others remains to be seen but I do stress to get this RHA balance of their treble more acceptable will be a combination that will depend on tips used, quality of the actual studio recording and file quality used and in general the  paring of equipment synergy wise. 
     
    For those who like to EQ this will not be so much of an issue but for those who like me are a bit old school or just want their equipment to blend first time like a set of Hi-Fi separates used in a speaker set up it with not much patience for finding the right match may be turned off by this.
     
     
    DSC02333.jpg
     
     
    Bass...
     
    Turning to the bass section next was another question mark I had from hearing them at the show originally as really there wasn’t much bass as such present which made them seem unbalanced which even when it was with their own Dacamp which was confirmation at the time it was not just my gear.
     
    It was one of the things the RHA team did say the finished versions would have more presence in this area and I must admit I took that with a pinch of salt as I was not pessimistic about this happening but just more cautious of not getting my expectations too much after they had said that to me as I didn’t want to be too disappointed when I finally heard them again.
     
    Well, the depth the bass now goes to is what I would actually call sub bass in a dynamic driver and has a varying level of range in dynamics that makes hearing a song easy to track when it goes from high to mid bass to finally delivering a good amount of sub bass which can rumble when it wants to.
     
    The CL bass is quite layered in texture with what I was hearing, this section sounded good with the Hugo on its own anyway as it does not struggle here and delivers a controlled and punchy low end which can also extend further when required but it does it with a visceral feeling at times as we now have what if a more familiar dynamic type bass response with a nice amount of rumble in the low end without been over bloated.
     
    One thing I cannot be critical off now with the CL1 is its ability to extend low with a good well controlled sonic boom when asked upon and have a punch to upper bass notes makes this signature quite energetic with a lot happening both ends on the CL1’s.
     
     So… all this has been a revelation on the bass front to me from what I had experienced at the show and was just nice to see RHA had paid as much attention to this end of the spectrum as they have with the  top end with the ceramic plates.
     
     Only irony thing with the bass I was hearing and was thinking to myself now was some might find it a bit too much bass for those who prefer a flatter bass response but me personally I’m used to a JH16 bass which can sound boosted in an obvious sense much as I enjoy them but the CL1 does come across sounding natural enough with the way the sub bass is handled it does not sound boosted and has an organic free flowing feel when hearing it go down the FR range with songs.
     
     With the Pure added into the mix with the Hugo the bass is same in quantity but is done with a slightly more broader dispersion of bass rumbles to the more linear controlled bass on the Hugo although the upper mid bass sounds to me at times to be more elevated which can be a bit distracting to the rest of the music especially when its the mid info which is already recessed especially with vocals been sat back makes it then more difficult to hear what they are singing.
    Both Hugo or the Pure amp is  good with the CL1 which conveys them well in detail which ever it is paired with here.
     
    It still sounds good on the ZX1 but does not quite have that impact nor slam as when amped with the Hugo or Pure hence I didn’t listen to the CL1 too long with the ZX1 here.
     
    With the HIFIMAN there is bass to be heard rather than felt as the Supermini is a bit like the Hugo in delivering a controlled tight bass but just lacks that more on the ability to portray the detail and depth to the Hugo but shows although it was not the perfect marriage with the Supermini it was far from been a bad one again and would still be able to have a session with just the Supermini and the CL1’s. 
     
     CL1 showed it was able to perform with another source although the 150 ohms was still pushing the Supermini towards the end of its volume settings depending on the level of the original recordings as quite a few older albums compared to most modern recordings seem to be a few DB lower. 
    The Supermini was a much better pairing with the CL1 to what the CL750 was here.
     
    DSC02350.jpg
     
    Mids…
     
    Now the bass has finally arrived on the CL1 and the treble has articulated higher extension makes for a bit of a V shape sound going on but it still sounds fairly clear in the mid-range and gives the impression of more depth with the mids sunk in a bit more like an echo chamber of a bigger amphitheatre style sound. 
     
     
     The mids do sound a bit colder, more clinical with the Hugo stand-alone as it is quite a flatter sounding signature with a big open soundstage but is still engaging with enough detail in a dynamic enough presentation that gives the Hugo it’s crown for sounding fluid analogue in the mid-range but the CL1s still translate how the Hugo perceives its more neutral approach here quite well.
     
     It was just as satisfying with the Pure in the chain with the Cl1s having a slight more forward feel to the mids as to with the Hugo as the Pure is a little above flat mid driven and fills out the CL1’s a bit more than normal in this area which may suit those wanting to bring forward the mids a tad more on the CL1’s which I personally welcomed without having to do EQ adjustments. 
     
    With the ZX1 and Supermini as daps direct they both sounded at home with the CL1’s here as they could still pick up on details fairly well without having to be driven hard but again not quite both having the extra juice with the amps they do not drive with enough authority and lack space, depth and body because of this and with this brings me nicely on to the,,,
     
     
    DSC02347.jpg
     
     
    Soundstage…
     
    Soundstage and imaging is good in general as this is what the CL1’s do well with the assistance of these new ceramic plates with the ability to sound good with the treble extension it is capable off and just space for everything to breath and give clarity for detail and the Hugo compliments the CL1’s perfectly here for space and airiness despite the Hugo not pairing with that top end well with treble been too bright with the CL1’s whilst the Pure in the mix will reign it in compared to the Hugo as it is slightly more centrally focused but speed and timing with imaging is good on the CL1’s through the Pure with above average headroom allowing the CL1’s to be driven a bit more rugged if needed to without fear of losing detail and subtleness of dynamics in a song at louder levels. 
     
    Compared to amping the two DAPS are a bit more underwhelming with soundstage and imaging although the ZX1 is not poor it does not excel or shine like the Hugo or Pure does and the Supermini is a little flat and feeling condensed with soundstage even though stereo imaging is precise enough it felt unengaging to a degree with this combo for soundstage. 
     
    So with my combination of gear I own currently I found they do need good adequate amping and would take a really good amp section in a dap to be a one box solution for the CL1’s but unfortunately cannot gauge which DAPS they would be only owning the HIFIMAN Supermini and Sony ZX1 at the moment (can only say from experience maybe the HIFIMAN 901, Questyle QPR1 or A&R ARM2 possibly?) but it did show again this pair of RHA’s is no exception to having to find that fine balance of getting the paring right for synergy between the CL1 and the equipment feeding it.
     
    In essence get the paring right the Cl1 will be fairly balanced with enough depth and width and height  combined with clarity with good musicality is quite engaging but get it wrong will sound good as two cars colliding in a crash with metal on metal action going on.
     
    So in a nutshell I would say they are fussy (quite fussy in fact) but get it right and they can sound more pleasant with a lot of musicality richness that is quite dynamically fun keeping a sense of tonal correctness along the way so is a bit of a mix mesh mash up between them trying to been linear and fun for a flagship but actually becomes more of the latter to my ears (which is not a bad thing, more just an observation)
     
    DSC02343.jpg
     
    With the Dacamp L1
     
     
    Firstly in SE mode…
     
    DSC02213.jpg DSC02071.jpg
     
    After going through the arduous impressions of how the CL1 reacts for those who can only get or want the IEM with other amps it was now down to how does this pair with the new RHA Dacamp L1 that was you can’t help thinking was primarily designed with this CL1 IEM in mind.
     
    First thing I noticed was after comparing the CL1 on my range of gear was how the treble sounded with the Dacamp, again it was nothing like I had heard them when paired together at the show in London that is for sure!
     
    Treble…
     
     After a few hours of listening to the two paired together I was finding the treble on the CL1’s were less edgy with the Dacamp which made it more listenable in that hot spot area of the treble and felt like they were not going to scream at me and if anything these were a bit more friendly and sweeter than when I had them on the Hugo/ Pure combination as I think the Dacamp is to me actually warmish sound to the amp which I think is taking a certain amount of edge from the sharp lower treble section.
     
    It is still dependant also on if the recordings are brighter the lower treble will accentuate this more so but I found not too many tracks were given me the normal ear piercing in this area.
     
    The CL1 still retains a sense of tonal presence and clarity with enough extension to details in the higher frequencies and the Dacamp has been designed to go in hand with the CL1 to match each other in the higher extension range which almost supersonic in their range in a good way with the upper treble with that extension which is a shame it is  still a tad hot in the lower treble to a degree. It’s like the good old days of Concorde breaking the sound barrier where it would be a cut-off point where it goes bang and goes hypersonic yet the CL1 is the opposite way round with its treble.
     
    There is plenty of energy going on but it is very measured and even when notes rise up the octaves to a higher pitch there is a nice sense of it been on a crest of a wave  where you really appreciate that area where the notes can hit higher with better accuracy.
     
      There is a good amount of sparkle with clarity when chimes or triangles ring with a nice resonance.  High notes are also positioned quite accurately and are easy to pick out in between busier passages and was great to hear things shot from left to right when they happened as the CL1 steering or panning was solid and effective in making you take notice when this occurred.
     
    It still does not feel like the most expansive soundstage I have ever experienced but I think the perception of air and space it does create is partly coming from the hollowness of the recessed mids as well as the exceptional extension of these IEMs.
     
    If I was marking the treble over all out of ten with the Dacamp L1 I would give it 7.5/10
     
    DSC02086.jpg
     
     
    Mid-range…
     
    The mids which are no doubt recessed, more so than the Cl750’s are and would usually bug me as my perfect scenario if anything is to have the mids to the fore but I could still make out lead vocals clear enough although not as close as I would like them and they did have a good texture to their voices and was actually quite good tonally having a leaner sounding tone which is good for the upper mids in vocals but still enough body to have a fuller type vocal sound powerful enough without sounding too coloured as there is a sense warmth to these ceramic shells that was very noticeable after coming from the CL750’s.
     
    Never overwarm but there was an obvious step up from the 750’s in terms of tonal finesse with notes and harmonics having better resonance and timbre yet it seems to have a little more trouble expressing some details as they seem to be getting hidden a little bit more than normal and was not sure if this is due to the mid-range losing this slightly as it is not projecting it quite enough as I would not say it is been drowned out by anything like the mid or sub bass as it does sound articulate and airy enough in general to pick things out but sometimes after hearing recently IEMS like the Mayas which have great mid articulation revealing everything you need to hear or even my JH16’s which are similar shape I can hear these details a lot more easier. 
     
    Other than that part detail in general that does come through articulated with enough grain and nuances in the details of notes from the twin Sabre dacs and there is good layering and imaging going on in the upper mid-range with good clarity and localization of instruments and upper mids lend to projecting songs that having good dynamics.  If that loss of finer details and vocals been closer with maybe a little more body to them was there then this would be a more in balanced to the accentuated way both the bass and treble have been tuned. 
     
    Again if scoring the mids with the Dacamp I would say it would be 7.5/10 again.
     
     
    DSC02216.jpg
     
     
    Bass…
     
    The synergy with this amp is good, no I will rephrase that… It is a match made in heaven (almost) and you can see it was meant to go together as the layering and timing is executed with an ease that makes the sound flow quite freely with good timing between the mids and bass as the improvement in this section is quite a vast one as it has gone from to lean as in I am a studio reference monitor to having quite a flexible response and can kick quite low with a thump which was more so when I heard film Soundtracks with sounded good anyway with the CL1 with my Pure amp but with the L1 it made it more explosive and widespread in bass note reverberations which made this in turn excellent for any live or rock/ metal as with the ability to have a very clear and prominent high treble range really suits those genres above as they exude those ends of the spectrum from which they thrive on those end of the scales for their energy and power. 
     
    The mid bass can actually sound like it did with my gear is a little lifted to me at times and was almost like I was been distracted by this. It is not flat at all and seems to have an bump with the upper mids bass which can sound a bit odd as in not maybe natural in relation to the lower mids and bass connection so may sound okay with beat driven music, dance and R&B tracks maybe but may be distracting a bit with music that has more natural rhythmic passages in the mids. At first I thought it was due to my Pure amp doing this when I first heard it but now it still shows signs of it on the Dacamp I know it is a trait of the CL1’s. 
     
    Apart from that he way bass notes can transcend through to the low bass is a joy to hear and is quite a flexible sounding bass which has good amount of texture and detail as well as subsonic ability to feel this bass when it hits ultra-low frequencies.
     
    The one thing I thought I would never be saying about these IEM’s in this review from listening to them at the show is how much impact and range they do have which has impressed me as I thought with this been a new flagship when they said the finished version would have more bass I was thinking a conservative extra 1-2db extra but feels and sounds like more than that.
     
    Put it this way I never had to turn the bass up on the Dacamp at any stage with these, if anything I would in general only of ever turned it down with the mids to come through or dial down the treble to counter act this a little but in truth with the amount of testing with different gear and music could not quite get this adjustment quite right to suit across the board and was actually better off leaving it all set neutral despite my only main reservation been with the mids area been a little recessed and missing that area with some detail retrieval just not coming through at times.
     
    Out of ten for bass with the Dacamp for me would be an 8.0/10
     
    Also taking into account sound staging and imaging out of ten would be 8.5/10
     
    Over four sections that scored 31.5/40 (before going to balanced mode)
     
    DSC02205.jpg
     
     
    General findings….
     
    The Cl1’s I think are still accurate with tonal reflections of instruments with guitars reproduced really well like the CL750’s can but it just adds a refinement and kid glove approach to the delicate string work with the CL1’s which can really buzz with fret work and make it come alive. Tonally maybe a bit more warmer and accentuated to the CL750 in this area but it still sounds pleasing to listen with string work.
     
    Piano work sounded okay but sometimes actually sounded a little veiled than they should be on the CL1’s and never quite matched what I heard with string work unless it was a piano been strangled by someone like Elton John with one of his faster pop songs back in the eighties which was hitting the upper mids which would catch your attention then it would sound on key with clarity around the notes.
     
    Classical pieces and some cathedral music showed it had enough space and air to move but its depth and head stage is more impressive of the four and is a bit like a see saw ride from top to bottom with this music with the frequency range the CL1 can operate at with the Dacamp. 
     
    I enjoyed it enough on here but feel the sort of genre if any that just slightly losses out with the recessed mids is jazz or blues music just where it was not quite bringing some of those mids info retrieval forward enough to bring it more forward in the soundstage.    
     
    On the whole this does sound good with most genres, I just think a couple just suffer a little bit more in been able to shine fully but I still enjoyed listening to Ryan Adams various albums as he has the ability to cover different sounds with each album he does…
     
    Like the Live at Carnegie Hall suits the way the acoustic set has excellent reverberation and room echoes with the CL1’s excellent string work and feel the mids do not suffer here with this album because of this setting and minimalist amount of instruments needing to share that space to get the finer details out there.
     
    Unlike his other self-titled album released in 2014 which had a dry course electric guitar sound led band filled studio sound then just struggled to hear some of the finer details here which from what I’ve heard with the Pure and Hugo is sometimes was easier to pick this out with the CL1’s so it also would point to the Dacamp also attributing to dealing with finer details which I have become accustomed to with the Hugo in recent couple of years.  Yet on the Hugo with Pure amp the CL1 still could not quite reveal details as easier as the Mayas or JH16’s do in general.
     
    Overall apart from the things I highlighted with the mids as I am admittedly a bit of  mid centric lover anyway with choices like the JH16’s or my T20’s I am not always going to choose the most mid forward sound out there if it can still show the ability to produce details easily enough and the lower treble which was a little below par in comparison to the upper extension these CL1’s are capable of I really still enjoyed the combination of these with the Dacamp.
     
    There is a good synergy on the whole even with the Hugo & pure set up which can gleam more detail and bigger soundscape this combination that made them still listenable for a good session as it was actually has the ability to be just musical enjoyment as the overall layering and tone with its warmish presence is quite an addictive listen with them together despite the CL1’s ability to still be a little too much in the lower treble area.
     
    But how did this sound in balanced mode and I hear you ask as after all this is probably is its obvious point of interest in the armoury when people see this amp and dac has balanced added into the mix.
    Well after four days of SE with the CL1 decided it was time to try them. 
     
    So beware the following is from my ears and not plotted using a super computer from the Star ship Enterprise! All I can say is I have had bad experiences of balanced (actual ownership) also before which actually did put me off for many years as I dispelled it in my head as anything worth the hassle of SE until I heard a balanced set up last year on a good set of open backs but was with a relatively cheaper desktop dacamp in comparison which changed my mind a bit on this so I went into this one with an open mind as I have been both ways with the thumbs for balanced so here is my findings using ear lobes only….
     
    DSC02209.jpg
     
     
     
    with Dacamp L1 BALANCED
     
    DSC02227.jpg DSC02229.jpg DSC02223.jpg
     
    I thought it might take a bit of time to start to notice any changes if there was any but it was quite immediate to my ears there was a difference in how the soundstage and headroom was flipped on its head to what I had been hearing as the CL1 becomes wider and more accurate with picking things out as the panning with stereo imaging.
     
    It was another level but what also gave it like an extra dimension was how the sound approached in terms of depth and height in conjunction with the more accurate sound staging and stereo imaging for me to this pairing to another level really as there is even more room for everything to breath and work with just more accuracy of the sound filed and where sounds come at you from and where they are going. 
     
    It still does not bring back the area in the mids with some of those lost details but it helps give a bigger picture to paint with the bigger sound staging in width and height as well as more defined accuracy of where sounds are coming from.   Nor does it at the same time seem to do anything to tame the lower treble which can still glow hot at times.
     
    Going back to one track I have always used as one of my demo tracks for example is Yello - The Race track which just sound bigger with more space been able to hear things pan passed with more cohesion and easier tracking as the racing cars roar past from right to left and the lower to upper frequency’s seem to approach more from back to front with ability to scale over the top of you more in your head which made it feel like a more grandeur in its all-round delivery in terms of scope and scale.
     
    It was a bit like;  imagine being stuck under one of those Gazebos only enough room for two people but have only attached two of the three leg parts it takes usually to get the proper height they stand at, well that was SE ended mode. 
     
    …Then plugging in balanced mode was like adding the last third of those leg parts to get the full height and used a double width Gazebo that can now fit eight people under there and that was how I heard going from SE to Balanced just without the Sausages and Burgers (and indigestion!)
     
    I tried this back and forth over my last four days at different times whilst still trying to keep the volume near damn it by ear and still even in balanced would hear the same effect whether it was lower or higher than the SE volume (more importantly lower to note) using same songs over again then some fresh ones out of the blue I was not hearing any different from my fist lot of findings so for me the balanced part of this despite not having a magic fix to some of the missing mid area of detail retrieval really made a difference so much so it was not the same going back to the SE way after hearing how the Dacamp running balanced performs with this.
     
    I did  try SE several times after but in short now this is killer mode for me this combination of balanced with the CL1 and L1 Dacamp and think RHA know that too! 
     
    For me in my heart this is a big boost in the arm for this EIM which will make it harder to weigh up things even more come the end of the review as this was a good pairing enough in SE mode on the whole and in some ways more enticing listening to the CL1’s with RHA’s own Dacamp despite the Hugo Pure combo bringing more air and soundstage with finer detail retrieval in the DAC area there is an obvious musical synergy going on between the CL1 & L1 and going to balanced has pardon the pun just tipped that balance of these two going together as a perfect marriage that will end up having listening sessions for hours at a time with ease with this combo of Balanced mode set up.
     
    For me now the score is now 3-2 in favour of what I’ve heard from a balanced set up down the last several years and can say this one shines in balanced together as opposed to SE mode.
     
     
    Pre - Conclusion
     
    DSC02217.jpg
     
     
    This is a hard one out of all of them really as this has so many different areas to take into consideration mixed together with what I heard.
     
    There is the fact I have been used to the Hugo DAC which for me is still one of the best detailed DACS in this portable price range even two years on and have to take into account you do get used to a certain level of sound but on the other hand I never would of thought I would like a pair of £250 headphones until this year as much as some of the other cans out there that can cost three times that even if the resolution on some of those £1K cans are still edging the £250 pair (which was the Meze Classic 99’s by the way)
     
    Then been a long awaited “Flagship model” from RHA does this mean is has to be linear and flat sounding?  I honestly thought when I went to that show in London recently and heard these this was going to be a very flat reference sound especially as I did not feel that both these CL IEM’s sounded right at all… even it was aiming to be a reference studio flat sound it was far from that at the show and did get me quite concerned to where their direction was going at the time. 
     
    I do not mind admitting walking away from the their stand like out of that scene out of the Wedding Singer where Jon Lovitz has just done his audition in front of Drew Barrymore when Adam Sandler has his turn then breaks down singing “Somebody Kill Me Please!) and Lovitz peeps from behind the stage curtain to say “His Losing His Mind!) which is what I thought was happening to RHA at the show with the both CL IEMS but turns out like Robbie Hart RHA turned it around for a happier ending!
     
    Now after having them for 10 days to strip apart like a mechanic does to an F1 car after a race I have found some surprises both bad and good which is where the struggle begins a little.
     
    I have to say my expectations for quite a while of what their next flagship line would be something efficient that could be powered by a normal phone or any DAP like my rather weak powered ZX1 Walkman that was only ever designed for IEM to start with really so was taken back that RHA had decided to make two IEM’s that would need more power with at the end of the day would be in most cases a separate amp need in the chain hence the clever marketing here of the third addition of the L1 Dacamp. 
     
    I can see where RHA are coming from albeit it still relatively at the other end of the pricing ladder they still work in they wanted to cement themselves as been viewed as one of the more Hi-Fi seen companies revolving in the Head-fi world that reflects their British Hi-Fi culture way of thinking with sound and engineering as well as it been apparently the only way (amping) they could get this treble extension like they wanted was to go that route…
     
    But I still feel their next step should have been a friendly efficient IEM we could all use with ease in terms of pairing with equipment which I am sure will be their next chapter now they have their showcase “look at what we can achieve” and they can by looking at what they have produced in the three new products that cater for different taste and needs.
     
    And now I have tried the CL1 for almost best part of ten days shared amongst the CL750 and L1 for time I do like these new flagships and do feel they take off in some areas to the T20 que that does it without thank god making the T20 seem completely redundant as I just purchased one recently anyway! 
     
    But it has raised its game on these with overall refinement in sound quality as well with a change in signature but does not move away far from its previous tuning stable in FR shape although it has been tweaked here and there with some been for the better but at same time some oddly for the worse which is almost like giveth with one hand take away with another type scenario.
     
    Nitty gritty now… I found they can match other equipment really well although I have decided  to label RHA across the board they are fussy with what they pair with to get the absolute best from them as there is that fine line of them either sounding great or poor, so my Hugo – No, my Pure with Hugo or alone with ZX1 then they are magic and really suit the Pure amp despite the CL1’s couple of misgivings.  Unfortunately I only had two daps that although one was better they both were not a substitute for a really good portable amp to perform as the Pure or L1 amps could muster. 
     
    There was a couple of surprises on a negative note with the way it sounds or has been tuned as even though the treble extension has been executed really well and that end sounds tonally good the lower treble was not quite right in detail and still has the RHA ability to come across hot.
     
    For me it was actually not quite as annoying as the mids which like other RHA have sounded before it is somewhat recessed,  enough with the shape of the signature as a whole there was an area in the mids where I could not make out certain details as easy to what I had done before with my fav old tracks I religiously use so did take away a bit from certain tracks you know inside out and enjoy the most so there was just a couple of things that do not quite make this perfect but then again all though not exactly not bottom end now even for a flagship this still far from the big boy’s shoot now days that seems to be standard fair that go above the £1k mark.
     
    And there in my head lays trying to balance what I know how RHA are up till now to what this their next offering is in taking the next step and factor in if someone is also about to hear these for the first time and to top that off what I originally heard at that show which initially was a worry for me. 
    So bit of a combination of balancing there to do really.
     
     
     For newbies to RHA I feel if pairing these with your own equipment might not be used to the “RHA” treble and understand where you would be coming from on that and would only say do give it time especially with these but it will be the pairing of your own gear and this which is the biggest hurdle also well as and I cannot stress enough getting good master recordings and file type plus the tips right also as this alone could be the barrier between good and evil in hearing them in conjunction with equipment pairing.
     
    If that is not right you might not ever hear how the CL1 could sound like.  This is not a fault of one or the other but it is just one of those Head-fi anomalies, after all look at my experience with them with the Pure amp in the mix, happy as Larry or should say CL1. Just with the Hugo then makes it a no, no!
     
    But if you are open to a new Dac/amp combo and want to hear what it is like when two items are designed in house to work together then this is it and that is before I take into account the balanced side of the L1 Dacamps performance but I will not shy away from it will still not fix the only couple of real negatives I could find with the CL1’s which I will admit and not shamefully even with my bliss ownership of my Hugo and Pure amp for me I just love this combo of the CL1 with L1 which was cemented in stone for me with balanced mode.
     
    If it was not for me buying some non Head-fi related boys toy recently (and Christmas!) thus not enough money left I would of looked at pulling the trigger on the two together for sure as it is a special combination they have made there when it is in balanced mode.
     
    The CL1’s is a case if you can get to hear these for yourself then it is highly recommended so even if it is for the worse at least you know… but at same time it could be something you fall in love with and glad you did take the time to hear it as you just may like the overall way these sound.
     
    For me this was far away from what I heard at the show two months before release and I have to say was relieved with what I heard with the finished retail versions as it was a big turnaround albeit still not quite perfect with a couple of imperfections that just blot it’s paper even at this moderately fair price for a “Flagship”.
     
    So in a nutshell I would personally still have them but even with the gear I have now it would probably have to be with the Dacamp L1 together strange as that sounds as it does sound sublimely magical with that Dacamp L1 especially in balanced.
     
     
    DSC02219.jpg
     
     
    Final Conclusion
     
    I feel it is like 85-90% there and just needs a couple of tweaks sound wise and would be there for me as perfection with this signature they have gone with and with what they have brought to the table I have actually now manage to overlook on the most part you need to use these with an amp to get the best from them although I should still be peeved with this from my stand point I feel next time is the time for them to deliver with a normal driven higher end IEM that does not need an amp still.
     
    Over all taking into consideration the build quality and design (which is usual for RHA) with the overall fairly decent “musical” sound signature for Flagship with their highest IEM model to date even with the couple negatives with the sound I think this is still an enjoyable IEM which hits it’s peak performance when running balanced in situ with its mothership Dacamp feeding it.
     
    It is taking RHA in the right direction for the future albeit shall we say a work in progress and factor in it has to be used with an amp to make it sing I would still recommend them as an IEM alone (but take head of the caveats I mentioned at your own risk!) and Highly recommend them if using with the Dacamp L1 balanced.
     
     
    DSC02091.jpg DSC02220.jpg DSC01979.jpg
  9. Brooko
    3.0/5,
    "Needs EQ to shine"
    Pros - Build quality/materials, fit, comfort, accessories, design, warranty, can be extremely good sonically after EQ.
    Cons - Default frequency (too V shaped for a flagship), vocal fundamentals severely recessed, very sharp at any volume.
    RHACL146.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
    INTRODUCTION
    I was first introduced to RHA (or Reid Heath Acoustics) during a review tour for the RHA T10i, and later the RHA T20. I was very impressed with the build and fit on both earphones, but less impressed with the T10i signature (too bassy IMO), and pleasantly surprised with their T20 – which I still regard as a very good earphone in its price range. So when their new CL range was announced late in 2016, I was very keen to review, and especially so when there had been a little bit of controversy around early impressions of their earphones. Call me nosy – but when this happens, I just really need to get a listen. I also wanted to measure the CL range, as its easier to really discover truth when you can compare what you hear with what you are able to measure. So join me in a small voyage of discovery as we put the CL1 through its paces. You can see my review of the CL1 here.

    ABOUT RHA
    Reid Heath Acoustics (RHA) is a Scottish based headphone company. Their core values (from their on-line presence) are described as follows:
    “We stand for true-to-life audio reproduction and lasting quality. With these values at our core, we work to deliver the most accurate, comfortable and unobtrusive listening experience possible. Every RHA product combines high quality materials, precision engineering and our fundamental commitment to design.”

    Their current product catalogues ranges from the budget oriented MA350 (~ USD 30) to the current flagship CL1 (~ USD 450).

    In the last couple of weeks I have spent as much time as possible listening to the CL750, CL1 and also their L1 DAC/amp. Sadly I don't have a chance to directly compare to the original T10i or T20 (they were part of an earlier tour), but toward the end of the review I have compared the CL1 to some other IEMs in similar price brackets.

    In the time I've spent with the CL1, I’d estimate that I’ve logged around 10-15 hours actual listening time.
    RHA on Facebook
    RHA's website

    DISCLAIMER
    I was provided the RHA CL1 (as part of a tour) from RHA. I am in no way affiliated with RHA - and this review is my subjective opinion of the CL1. The tour unit was returned at completion of the review. I'd like to especially thank Iain and Niketa for their brilliant communication and allowing me to be part of this.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
    I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5, L3, and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
    For the purposes of this review - I used the RHA CL1 mostly with my iPhone SE as transport to RHA's L1 DAC/amp but also from most other sources I had at my disposal including my trusty X3ii/E17K combo. I'm again a little on the fence with the CL1 and amplification at this stage. At 150 ohms and 89 dB sensitivity, it really will need extra amplification (especially with weaker sources), however even my iPhone SE at 60% volume was able to drive them fairly respectably – more on that later. In the time I have spent with the CL1, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (burn-in), but am aware that I am becoming more used to the signature as I use them more often (brain burn-in).

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    RHACL101.jpg RHACL102.jpg RHACL103.jpg

    Retail sleeve - front

    Retail sleeve - rear

    Retail sleeve in profile

    The RHA CL1 arrived in a reasonably large, but attractive black retail box measuring 143 x 200 x 74mm. There is a lot of information on the outer sleeve (which is IMO very well laid out) – including:

    1. Front face = picture of the CL1, Sony Hi-Res logo, and instruction that an amplifier would be required (nice touch)
    2. Rear = information on design, materials and frequency
    3. Sides = information on warranty (3 year!) and contents
    4. Bottom = CL1 specifications

    Removing the outer sleeve reveals a book style lidded box, and opening this discloses a nice full colour booklet about the CL1, and the first look at the CL1 itself nestled in its foam cut-out. Below this are compartments for carry case, tips, tray, manual, and for the cables (2) to sit.

    RHACL104.jpg RHACL105.jpg RHACL106.jpg

    Sleeve and inner box

    Colour promo booklet and first look at CL1

    The beautiful ceramic casings on the CL1

    The carry case is a largish padded zippered case measuring approximately 130mm x 85mm x 25-30mm (at its deepest point & depending what you include when packed) – so while it’s not pants pocket friendly, it does pocket very well inside a light jacket. It is well padded, with generous inner pockets and a mesh/canvas-like outer covering. The case is large enough to hold the tips in their steel display tray.

    RHACL107.jpg RHACL108.jpg RHACL109.jpg

    Compartments for accessories

    The colour booklet

    Manual, cleaning cloth and warranty

    The tip selection is generous, and along with the storage tray includes 2 pairs of dual flange silicone, 6 pairs of single flange silicone, and 3 pairs of Comply Tsx-200 foam tips. The mounting tray is stainless steel and from past experience, works really well as a storage medium. There is also a small plastic shirt clip, cleaning cloth, 3.5-6.3mm adaptor, and the two removable cables (one single ended and one balanced). As I was first recipient on tour, I've shown pictures of both how the tips come, and how they are mounted on the tray. Fellow members in the tour – feel free to use these photos if you wish.

    RHACL111.jpg RHACL112.jpg RHACL115.jpg

    All the accessories

    Carry case and tips - as they are packed for buyers

    Tips in the stainless steel tip holder


    The manual is multilingual, very informative and includes a frequency graph (which incidentally corresponds very closely with my own – nice to know my rig is recording things nicely).

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From RHA)

    RHA CL1
    Cost
    USD 449.95 (RHA website)
    Type
    Dual transducer dynamic IEM with ceramic plate driver
    Driver Type
    Dynamic + ultra wide band ceramic (CL) driver
    Frequency Range
    16Hz – 45 kHz
    Impedance
    150 ohms
    Sensitivity
    89 dB
    Jack
    3.5mm gold plated – straight (SE)
    mini XLR gold plated - balanced
    Cables
    1.35m replaceable SE OFC with TPE outer coating
    1.35m balanced silver core with TPE outer coating
    Weight
    14g (without cables)
    IEM shell
    ZrO2 injection moulded ceramic



    FREQUENCY GRAPH
    The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget.

    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference. My graphs have similarity to the ones shown in RHA's manual – but there are differences, especially in lower and upper treble..
    RHACL1freq.png RHACL110.jpg CL1CSD.png

    Frequency graph and channel matching

    RHA's graph from their included manual

    CSD plot - clearly showing the big treble ridges


    What I’m hearing from the CL1:


    1. Elevated sub-bass, more akin to the default tuning in the RHA T10 and T20. There is a 10 dB difference between sub-bass and mid-range, and it is fairly noticeable. Very good extension.
    2. Relatively flattish lower mid-range, which is recessed, but mainly due to the elevation of both sub-bass and lower treble.
    3. Upper mid-range has a slow rise in the presence area (2-3 kHz) and gives a clear and clean vocal presence.
    4. There is a very sharp and clear lower treble which I suspect will be be too hot for most (it is too sharp for me – there is a definite emphasis between 7-10 kHz, so if you are sensitive to brightness, will be problematic. A point of interest is the peaks measure around 25 dB above the fundamental vocal range at 1 kHz. Even RHA's graph shows similar.
    5. Upper treble extension is very good – but surprisingly the CL750 measures better (sounds better too IMO)
    6. Overall it is a very V/U shaped monitor with an extremely bright upper end.
    Channel matching was reasonably good throughout most of the spectrum – but the differences shown above 3 kHz were consistent despite multiple measurements.


    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN

    External
    The RHA CL1 has a two piece injection moulded ceramic body which has an ergonomic shape similar in design to the RHA T10/T20. The shells main body is a approximately 18mm in length, 12-3mm in height, and 10 mm in depth (18mm if counting the nozzle length).
    RHACL116.jpg RHACL117.jpg RHACL118.jpg

    Outer face

    Connectors and nozzles

    Beautifully smooth inner faces


    On the exterior of the IEM body, “RHA” is engraved on each earpiece and next to this is a small mesh covered port – I’m assuming this is to vent the dynamic driver. On the internal facing “CL1” is engraved, along with the L/R indicators. Both internal and external faces are incredibly smooth and there are no sharp edges when worn.

    The nozzle proper is only 5mm in length, but in reality because of the shape of the housing extends closer to 7-8mm. It measures just over 5mm in diameter and takes a standard Comply Tx200 tip. There is a generous and well designed lip which securely holds the ear-tips.
    RHACL119.jpg RHACL120.jpg RHACL145.jpg

    From the rear

    Socket and sMMCX connector

    The CL1 is definitely a stunning earphone aesthetically


    The cable is attached to the housing using a proprietary sMMCX locking method which is supposed to enhance both durability and contact efficiency. Basically it seems to be an extra sleeve over the base of the connector which firmly fits the MMCX connector to the socket. There is also a small tab so that the connector only fits one way. They do not seem to “snap” into place as firmly as other connectors – and so far I have found no other connector which actually fits (which is a pity – as I would have liked to try this balanced. Unfortunately the only balanced cable fits the L1 DAC/amp – and unfortunately either the cable or the L1 has a fault – and I cannot get the balanced connection working).

    The cables
    The cables are replaceable, and use the proprietary sMMCX connection. They both use formable ear-guides which have been patented by RHA and are similar to those used on the T10 and T20. They are very flexible, with a soft and malleable protective outer sheath. I’m not sure what materials are involved, but they are one of the best example of formable ear guides I’ve encountered – and for me, are very comfortable. The CL1 is designed to be worn over the ear only (my preferred method). The formable guides end with a strange 20mm plastic/rubber section which joins to the cable proper. I’m assuming this is simply to accommodate the join between the formable guides and the cable – but it does look a little strange and ungainly.
    RHACL121.jpg RHACL122.jpg RHACL123.jpg

    Single ended ear guides and connector

    Y split and cinch

    3.5mm jack


    Both cables consist of twisted pairs from earpiece to y-split, which are then combined to larger twisted pairs between y-split and jack. The twisted pairs are covered with a TPE outer coating, and the whole cable is very flexible, and only slightly micro-phonic when worn over ear. The slight noise disappears entirely when cinched. The Y split location is very low on my chest (only about 2 inches above my belly-button) – which feels strange, and I would have listed as a con if not for the excellent inclusion of a very good slide-able cinch to keep everything in place. The y-split is made of stainless and has the serial number engraved in it, as well Lewis Heath's (RHA’s Product Director) signature. It is light enough not to notice, but heavy enough to keep the ear-loops nicely in place.

    All points of the cable have excellent strain relief. Overall the cable has excellent build quality throughout, and I couldn't really see the need for swapping it with anything else – although I personally would prefer something with a little less bulk. The inability to swap with other cables I have (for aesthetic reasons) is somewhat annoying.
    RHACL124.jpg RHACL125.jpg RHACL126.jpg


    Balanced ear guides and connector

    Balanced Y split and cinch

    Balanced mini XLR plug


    The single ended (default) is OFC and terminates in a straight 3.5mm gold plated jack. The casing is stainless steel and it has a premium look and feel. The jack has a screw in section at the base – allowing the adaptor to be applied. This extra spacing also makes the plug smart-phone case friendly (if your device has sufficient power).

    The balanced cable is a silver core (Ag4x) and is fully balanced (each channel – left, right, positive, negative). It is essentially the same overall design as the single-ended, with outer same coating, same Y-split, strain relief and formable ear guides. It is terminated in a mini XLR jack which is again gold plated with a stainless steel body. The only thing I would have liked to have seen with this termination choice would have been an adaptor. I have DAPs with a common 2.5mm balanced connection – and it would have been nice to test and measure the cable. Sadly I am unable to do it.

    Internals / Design
    The review wouldn't be complete without mentioning what RHA has achieved with the internals of the CL1. The housing is injection moulded ZrO2 ceramic. Because of the material used, the housing is extremely high density, but also very light weight. This results in a very comfortable to wear, but also very durable earphone. It is also very low resonant – so that distortion should be kept to a very low level – if not eliminated almost entirely. The actual moulding part is a complex 7 stage process – clearly RHA has identified this as important to the overall design and necessary for the sonic performance of this earphone.

    The dual transducer design of the CL1 combines RHA's CL dynamic driver (in their words “producing accurate tones below 8 kHz) with a new ceramic second layer diaphragm which effectively extends lower treble and upper treble above 8 kHz. A crossover is used at 8kHz to seamlessly combine the targeted frequencies of the combined drivers. The dynamic driver has a high impedance because of the high flux density of the voice coil array (which is just a mere six microns) – and it is this which allows the very high precision, detail and accuracy.

    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. I initially tried the included large silicone tips, and I was unable to maintain a constant seal. I then switched to the included Comply Tsx200s and got an immediate seal and fantastic comfort and isolation.
    RHACL129.jpg RHACL131.jpg RHACL132.jpg

    Default silicone single and dual flange tips

    Sony Isolation/Trinity Kombi & Spin-Fits

    Comply and Ostry tuning tips


    The CL1 also fits Ostry tuning tips, Spin-fits, Spiral Dots and Sony Isolation / Trinity Kombi tips perfectly. Whilst I stuck with the Comply for this review – I did find that the other fore-mentioned tips all gave reasonably good seals.

    Although the CL1 has a relatively shallow and non-angled nozzle, I personally find the overall fit to be fantastic. Comfort for me is excellent – the CL1 (like the CL750) is one of those designs which simply disappear when worn. They sit well within my outer ear (inside the external ear cavity), and are extremely easy to sleep in.
    RHACL130.jpg RHACL133.jpg RHACL134.jpg

    Spiral dots and included Tsx200

    My preferred tip were the included Comply

    Fit is fantastic and very comfortable


    Isolation with the CL1 is better than average for me (not quite near Shure’s or Alclair’s almost perfect isolation – but very effective), and they would be good enough for public transport (despite the vent). With no music playing, you can just hear outside sound – but with music playing, isolation is definitely respectable.

    There has been no driver flex present.

    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the RHA CL1. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X5ii + A5 as source, and the included Comply tips. The reason I chose to go with the X5ii + A5 combo was merely to ensure that there was more than enough power on tap for the CL1.

    RHACL135.jpg RHACL137.jpg RHACL128.jpg

    Default pairing - X5ii and A5

    The new FiiO X5iii

    iPhone and RHA L1


    For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the A5 was around 9 o'clock on the pot (using low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

    Frequency Relativity

    1. Sub-bass – very well extended, with extremely little roll-off (excellent for a dynamic driver) and there is reasonable level of rumble present, but it is doesn't appear over done for the most part. Sub-bass shows a peak to the curve at around 40-50 Hz and is raised quite a bit compared to mid-bass. Personally I would have preferred the sub-bass to be a little more balanced with mid-bass, but I know others will like the default bass presentation as it is.
    2. Mid-bass – less presence compared to sub-bass but it sounds pretty natural. Distribution is very good and the overall result is quite pleasant. However due to the apparent recession of the mid-range, on some tracks I have found myself reaching for more volume, and this then elevates the bass response above my personal liking. There is no noticeable bleed into the mid-range. Both mid and sub-bass are elevated compared to lower mid-range.
    3. Lower mid-range – very recessed compared to bass and extremely recessed compared to upper mid-range and lower treble. Its not all bad though – just quite distant – and I've found myself upping the volume with some tracks (which brings some issues with both bass and treble). Because of the elevated lower treble, and recessed lower mid-range, I have found that male vocals can sound quite thin. My go-to Pearl Jam – lacked body on the vocals.
    4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and it is slow rise from lower mid-range to the first peak at about 3 kHz. The result is a clean and clear vocal range, with good presence to lend a sense of euphony to female vocals. The upper mid-range on the CL1 is one of the better qualities of this IEM, and under EQ can be extremely pleasant.
    5. Lower treble – elevated (massively). There is a peak at between 5-6 kHz, and it is considerably higher than the upper-mid peak. From this point there are further climbs of 8-10 dB between 7-9 kHz. The problem with the lower treble is the size of the peaks +25 dB above the recessed mid-range at 1 kHz. So while you do get a lot of clarity, there is also a sharpness / sizzle which seems to be always present. For me, even tracks like Pearl Jams “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” becomes very sibilant (and it is not a sibilant track). Cymbal decay is actually better than the CL750 (it is audible) but it is also too sharp, and I've found myself constantly wincing on tracks which have any semblance of higher energy. For tracks recorded on the brighter side – forget it, the CL1 with its default tuning can tune a listening experience to a nightmare.
    6. Upper treble – difficult to notice because of the massive intensity of the lower treble (under 10 kHz)

    Resolution / Detail / Clarity

    1. Good with micro detail, and able to resolve most finer details well.
    2. Cymbal hits have good presence, and also good sense of decay. This is unfortunately mitigated by the overly crisp sizzle (tish sound – hard to describe) which is always present – but heightened by any sound occurring above about 5 kHz
    3. A very clean and clear monitor with good resolution but overall portrayal is unnaturally (and extremely) on the bright side.

    Sound-stage, Imaging

    1. Extremely precise directional queues, and just outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – so very good sense of width and depth.
    2. Spherically presented stage – with very good presentation of both width and depth
    3. Compelling sense of immersion with the applause section of “Dante's Prayer” - but it did sound unnatural (again that sizzle which is simply the lower treble emphasis). I use “Let it Rain” as my sibilance test and also because it is quiet an immersive track from a 3D perspective (the way it is recorded). I had to stop 20 seconds into the track. The sibilance (it is normally present in the track anyway) was heightened to a point which made it unlistenable for any length of time.

    Strengths

    1. Good overall bass response – and with slight reduction (4-5 dB) suits my tastes quite nicely
    2. Reasonable presentation (if a trifle thin in tonality/texture) with male vocals, better with female vocals. The thin-ness of the male vocals may be due to the over-abundance of harmonics paired with the recession of fundamentals in the mid-range.
    3. Pretty good with dynamic music – and able to show very good contrast between bass and upper mid-range (e.g. cello and violin). You really need to EQ the lower treble down on the violin though.
    4. Pretty good with acoustic music and gives strings good sense of realism and tone when plucked, and nice edge to electric guitar when strummed. The only caveat again is the sharpness in some notes (a real guitar does not sound this accentuated)
    5. Good with female vocals, lending a slight air of euphony and sweetness. Somewhat spoiled at times by the over-abundance of harmonics compared to fundamentals.

    Weaknesses

    1. Lower treble is extremely over-done relative to the rest of the frequency range. Anyone with a sensitivity toward brightness, or a preference to a richer mellower tonality should avoid.
    2. Vocal fundamentals can tend to sound a little recessed
    3. Not good at moderate to high volumes – lower treble gets extremely unpleasant. This is not helped by the vocal recession (which actually prompts trying to turn the CL1 volume up)
    4. This would be one of the least flagship sounding flagships I've heard. Most have a nice sense of overall balance. This is unfortunately missing on the CL1

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
    The CL1 with its lower sensitivity and higher impedance really needs to be amplified. But it can sound pretty good straight from a smart-phone of DAP as long as they aren't power limited. From my iPhone SE with general pop/rock songs, around 50-60% volume was sufficient to get to a pretty good listening level.
    RHACL138.jpg RHACL127.jpg

    iPhone with IMS HVA

    iPhone with RHA L1


    With the X3ii I needed 60-70/120 (low gain) depending on the track, and it was similar on the X5ii. The X5iii was around 55-65. So while amplification is recommended, if you have a DAP or source which is powerful enough, you should net some pretty good results. To be honest I didn't notice a lot of difference between the different amplified and unamplified sources I tried – mainly tonality with the amp sections. One of my favourite combos was the IMS HVA and iPhone SE as transport. The other was the X3ii and E17K – see below for reasons.

    EQUALISATION
    You've probably already guessed at what I think needs changing on the CL1. Yep – tame those treble peaks (and for my personal preference – drop the bass to bring the vocals more into balance) and it should be a very nice sounding IEM. I knew this was going to need quite a bit of reduction so I concentrated on using the tone controls on both RHA's L1 and also the E17K.

    So with the iPhone SE as transport, and RHA's L1. I took the treble down to -3, and bass down -1 using the tone controls. The result was definite improvement, but still not enough. I knew from measuring the L1 that this had only dropped the upper treble by about 2.5 dB. Time to use something with a little more ability to lower those peaks.
    RHACL136.jpg CL1L1EQ.png CL1E17KEQ.png

    E17K - swiss army knife for simple but effective EQ

    EQ difference with L1

    EQ difference with E17K - result was sublime


    This time with my go-to, the X3ii and E17K, and engaging -8 treble and -4 bass (the E17K was on 27/60 volume). The result was (to my ears) absolutely brilliant – and if this was the default signature, I really do think it's appeal would be a lot more universal. Really an amazing transformation.

    My final test was with the new X5iii, using EQ I dropped the 8 kHz down all the way, 16 kHz down most of the way (so as to provide more reduction in the 9-10 kHz area) and 4 kHz slider down slightly. Again a good improvement – although I think that overall the best difference was with the X3ii and E17K combo.

    COMPARISONS
    This was going to be a hard one because of its price bracket, and because the default tuning is polarising. I could name any number of lower priced IEMs which perform better than the default tuning of the CL1 but it would not be giving you a lot of information. So I chose instead to look at IEMs regardless of p;rice which show a similarly bright signature – as it would give more information to perspective buyers. For this test, I chose Rhapsodio's RTi1, Earsonic's ES3, DUNU's DN2000J, and RHA's own CL750. I've also shown a comparative graph of Campfire's Andromeda and Orion – which I personally consider to be (at two different price points) some of the most well balanced and extended monitors around. Both are also reference points when targeting treble extension IMO. Unfortunately I do not have the Andromeda or Orion for direct comparison.

    With the comparisons, I first volume matched with a 1 kHz test tone and SPL meter. I had a fast switch set-up in place with a splitter and volume attenuator for the volume matching. This section is very subjective, as it is sighted, the change between IEMs took about 5-10 seconds, and I knew exactly which one I was listening to. But it is my honest thoughts on where the CL1 sits for my own personal tastes. Source used was the E17K / X3ii combo – with no EQ.

    CL1 ($450) vs Dunu DN2000J ($285)
    RHACL140.jpg RHACL1vsDN2000J.png

    RHA CL1 vs DUNU DN2000J

    Comparative frequency response plots

    Both have similarly good build (as far as materials go), and accessories. The CL1 has the better overall materials (ceramic) and is far more comfortable and fits much better. The CL1 also includes detachable cables and the option to go balanced. The CL1 is reasonably difficult to drive whilst the DN-2000J is easily driven out of practically any audio device.

    Sonically both are on the V shaped side of neutral, but where the DN2000J is mildly so, you can see the excessive difference with the CL1. Where the DN-2000J is a moderately bright sounding IEM with similar treble peak locations, the lower treble and bass are far more benign and in line with the vocals. So the DN-2000J remains clear and clean – but more importantly somewhat balanced. The CL1 in comparison is excessively coloured and massively bright. EQing out the peaks with the E17K effectively gets a monitor sounding a lot closer to the DN-2000J's natural frequency response, so you can see how good the CL1 potentially becomes.

    CL1 ($450) vs Earsonics ES3 ($399)
    RHACL141.jpg RHACL1vsES3.png

    RHA CL1 vs Earsonics ES3

    Comparative frequency response plots

    The CL1 clearly has the better build quality overall, and better accessories. I actually prefer the lower bulk of the ES3's more generic cable, but that is simply personal preference. Both have extremely good fit and comfort. Again the CL1 is reasonably difficult to drive whilst the ES3 is easily driven out of practically any audio device.

    Sonically the ES3 is slightly U shaped with elevated sub-bass and lower treble, but the difference of course is the flatness of the mid-bass and lower mid-range on the ES3 (vs CL1's more traditional hump), and the extent of the treble on the CL1. The ES3 is a very clean and clear monitor with emphasis on sub-bass and lower treble – so there is a certain warmth in the very low end but a clean, clear, and slightly cold upper end. The CL1 on the other hand has a more natural sounding bass, comparatively heavily recessed mid-range, and extremely bright upper end. Both are quite coloured (you would call neither neutral or natural). But the CL1's treble is massive compared with the ES3 – and not in a good way.

    CL1 ($450) vs Rhapsodio RTi1 ($600-800)
    RHACL139.jpg RHACL1vsRTi1.png

    RHA CL1 vs Rhapsodio RTi1

    Comparative frequency response plots

    This one is here simply to show the similarity between the two monitors, and also because at first listen, I was immediately reminded of the RTi1. Both have very good build. The RTi1 has the better cabling system IMO – being more traditional two pin. Both are comfortable – but I'd actually take the overall fit of the CL1 over the RTi1 – for me personally it fits better.

    Sonically the two are very similar. The difference is in the volume of lower treble – especially between 6-10 kHz. Where the RTi1 has a little heat – but for me is OK without EQ, the CL1 has a lot more lower treble (10 dB+) - it is both noticeable and detracts a lot from the signature. If you were prepared to EQ the CL1, you can get a better overall signature from it – but if you are not an EQer, the more expensive RTi1 will give a better overall sonic signature.

    CL1 ($450) vs CL750 ($140)
    RHACL142.jpg
    RHACL1vsCL750.png

    RHA CL1 vs RHA CL750

    Comparative frequency response plots

    I won't go into a lot of detail with this comparison. Both are from RHA, and although the CL1 is their flagship, there are a number of areas which I consider the CL750 to be the better earphone. Build is very good on both – but I must confess that I'm not a fan of the proprietary MMCX cable connection system. Otherwise, the CL1 has the ceramic casing, the additional driver membrane layer, and the more ergonomic fit – but they mean nothing if the overall experience is not enhanced by the use of these.

    Tonally, while both are V shaped, the CL1 is more so – exhibiting too much sub- bass and way too much lower treble to be enjoyable without a heavy dose of EQ (and definitely not for a flagship). The CL1 is too hot and makes practically every track I've listened to sibilant and harsh to the point of removing enjoyment. Next to the CL1, the CL750 is a blindingly good bargain.

    Showing difference to “reference” - CL1 ($550) vs CA Andromeda ($1100) & CA Orion ($350)
    andromeda28.jpg orion30.jpg RHACL1vsAndroOrion.png

    Campfire's Andromeda

    Campfire's Orion

    Comparative frequency response plots

    I won't talk about anything except frequency response in this section (although build quality is truly very good on all 3). I don't have the Orion or Andromeda for side-by-side comparison, so instead will rely on the graphs.

    A reference monitor (to me) should have well extended bass, a slight mid-bass hump (this sounds more natural to us), a slow rise from lower-mids to upper-mids (from vocal fundamentals to vocal harmonics – again sounds more natural), and good extension into the lower treble without getting to peaky. Sometimes there will be emphasis at around 7 kHz, and as long as this isn't overly accentuated, can give a nice lift to detail levels – particularly with cymbal fundamentals.

    The Andromeda and Orion are excellent examples of balance and reference tuning. I will simply let the graphs speak for themselves. The intended tuning of the CL1 and the issues it introduces can be clearly seen.

    RHA CL1 - SUMMARY

    I love it when you see companies pushing the boundaries. Sometimes they get it spectacularly right, sometimes spectacularly wrong, and sometimes they have almost everything right – so that their next release will be the perfect one. Ultimately I think RHA are definitely on the right track with the CL750, but missed the mark with their flagship CL1. There is (IMO) too much sub-bass and way too much lower mid-range and upper-treble to be classed as a flagship.

    As far as build quality goes – it is top notch. No flaws or obvious design faults. Fit and comfort both excellent. RHA really knows how to ace this area of design. Accessories are great – and when you consider the price range for the materials used – it could actually be very good value.

    Sonically the CL1 still has the basis of a potentially excellently tuned IEM. If you use the EQ to slightly tone the bass down, and heavily reduce the upper end, it is a wonderful sounding monitor. The problem is that without this, the signature is ear-piercing. At lower volume this does not manifest as badly – but at lower volumes, the recessed mid-range disappears. As soon as you raise the volume, then the ear-shredding treble takes over. I like a brighter signature – but this is clearly over done.

    The problem is how to rate them. They get top marks for build, accessories, and even for design (the science behind what they are doing is a step in the right direction). The tuning is just horribly wrong IMO. If I give the CL1 a 2.5, then it appears as a negative - but this does not tell the full story. The CL1 (after heavy EQ to negate the peaks) is an excellent monitor, and combine that with the build quality and price point – then if you are prepared to EQ, they actually are a bargain. But if you are relying on default signature – then it is impossible for me to recommend them. On the basis that you would EQ, I'll give them 3/5. If Head-Fi's rating showed 2.5 as a neutral review rather than negative – then it would be a 2.5/5.

    Once again thanks to RHA for including me as part of the tour.

    FINAL COMMENTS
    I know I will likely get a comment from someone regarding the balanced connection. Fortunately I finally figured out what was up with the L1 as I was doing the final edit. It turns out that on this particular L1 - if you use unit s both DAC and amp, the balanced connection works. If you just use the line-in (ie as pass through), it doesn't seem to want to go. But at least I could both measure and compare the L1 balanced and single ended with the CL1. One of the first things that puzzled me is that usually balanced will yield more volume. To my ear - there was no real change - so I measured it. Sure enough - no change in frequency or in volume between the balanced and single ended connections.
    CLfromL1DACandamp.png CL1fromL1DACandampvsE17K.png

    Single ended vs balanced using RHA L1 DAC/amp

    RHA L1 DAC/amp compared to FiiO's E17K


    Next step was to make sure that my gear was measuring properly - with a source I know well - so I used the E17K and remeasured. The reason the E17K shows slightly higher peaks is that it's DAC is extremely linear - with hardly any roll-off. So I think I can say quite confidently that nay talk of the balanced connection taming the treble simply aren't true.


    RHACL144.jpg
  10. noobandroid
    3.5/5,
    "Jet up"
    Pros - Still maintaining that great mid, cable changable
    Cons - Treble spikes, slight weaker bass mass
    Special thanks to RHA for this tour unit, it came along with the CL750 and RHA DACAMP 1, hence I will be reviewing the setup as a whole package, in this case, DACAMP 1 + CL1
     

    Packaging

    20170107_1445021.jpg
     
    As shown in the photo, besides a very thick booklet which I'm not interested in, there are 2 cables and a bag with multiple tips in it, and also the steel card for storing tips. The left cable is a mini xlr attachable in MMCX socket to the CL1. The right is copper with standard jack + MMCX.
     

    Earpiece

    20170107_1443441.jpg
    Outside the earpiece is a mesh port, wonder if you can see it or not.
     

    Sound

    I will be describing the DACAMP 1 + CL1 as a whole, with 2 sub sections, 1 with XLR and 1 with standard jack.
     

    XLR

    Using the XLR, and with the CL1, the song I use is the Pentatonix, which is a capella group.
     

    Treble

    The treble on the CL1 is very sharp and can be ear irritating if you can't take the treble that goes clicking. Some might like it, but frankly i don't. RHA has take a turn to the worse, in comparison to my old faithful M750i, which has a softer treble tone to it, so that you can enjoy music for long periods. Ear piercing trebles, what were they thinking?! 
     

    Mids

    The good old mids are still maintained, vocals are clear and speeches can be heard correctly without much muffled effects or flatness. 
     

    Bass

    Although i spotted the bass port, i expected big fat bass, but i was wrong, the bass is short and punchy, with some power to it when it needs to. Maybe the port isnt for bass flex but other things? I have no idea.
     

    3.5mm 

    On this section, I will only point out the major difference in comparison with the xlr mode.
     
    The first major change is the brightness and the treble spike of the XLR. It might also be due to the silver cable used, so the spike is heavy but greatly toned down while using the standard cable. No more ringing in my ears, thank god ~~
     
    Other factors remain consistent. So if it was me, i suggest strongly copper based cables, as I suppose the driver is already tuned towards high trebles so we do not need the silver cable to make it worse. If you want an xlr config, get a copper + xlr, it will be much better.
     

    Side note:

    For both cables, the ear guides are a pain to have it wrap around the ears. They go all weird and cannot get a good wrap like the 750 cables do. Keep that in mind before getting this IEM yeah..
     

    Conclusion

    This ends the part of my review of the CL1, the other RHA tour items as an individual review will be at that head gear page when it's ready. For CL1, I am quite not convinced that it is any better than the MA750i, as the whole sound quality has taken a makeover, and for me it's not a fit. So for me, I would not buy it as in all comparison, MA750i still has the better equation out of them all.
     
    Special thanks to RHA for the chance to take a dive into their new refinements, appreciate it.
    Deftone likes this.

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