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Rhapsodio Solar

Rating:
4.83333/5,
  1. PinkyPowers
    Of, Relating To, Or Determined By The Sun: A Review of the Rhapsodio Solar CIEM
    Written by PinkyPowers
    Published Aug 7, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Detailed and clear. A wealth of deep, deep bass. Glistening highs. Perfect Mids. Delivers a thick, full sound.
    Cons - Cable is rather stiff.
    SolarAK120ii4.jpg

    What would you do if you owned a pair of IEMs you loved completely—if only they weren’t so god-awful big?

    That’s my predicament with the Jerry Harvey Audio Siren Series Angie. I’ve now owned her just under a year, and sound-wise she leaves nothing to be desired. Everything I wrote in my review still holds. And then some! Unfortunately, her size causes me sorrow and distress in regular intervals, tarnishing an otherwise miraculous relationship.

    Modern wisdom says the solution to this conflict is to go custom with Angie, and I very nearly did. Yet I couldn’t shake the notion this was an opportunity to explore something new, something I may like even better.

    My passions run towards a warmer, weightier sound. Angie is capable of superb note thickness, but I wanted to push this philosophy even further. The Noble Kaiser 10 almost got my money, its legendary status as a beefy, warmth-monster speaking directly to my aforementioned disposition.

    However, the Solar BA10 repeatedly beat out Noble by Head-Fi members who owned or tried both. So in a reckless leap of faith I contacted Rhapsodio.

    SolarFarInfraredAK120ii.jpg

    Big Boss Sammy at Rhapsodio is highly responsive on Facebook—not so much via email—and he took good care of me. Being a life-long artist, I simply had to design the CIEM myself. I sent him some proof of concept images for the look of my custom Solars and he and his team were enthusiastic about tackling the project.

    RedWineMockup.jpg

    Now, I’m not going to lie to you, Sammy is not the greatest with English. Communication is hit or miss at times. Now and again I must take pains to make certain we understand one another. Although, seeing as I don’t know any second languages, he’s doing far better than me. Plus, he’s very patient with me and willing to work things out until all the details are agreed upon by both parties.

    This is my first experience with Custom In-Ear Monitors. I found an Ultimate Ears-approved Audiologist very close to me. She made the process painless, admiring how clean my ears were and commenting on my average canal size… which I felt undercut the praise a little. There’s nothing average about this man’s biology; I’m an experimental mutation the likes of which shall never be seen again.

    Wait-time on my CIEM Solar ended up being two months… the first go around. For someone who’s previously only gone the universal route, waiting months for a new earphone is hard on the psyche. So you can only imagine the mental anguish of finding out the left ear piece does not seal well. I held on to them for a week, trying to maintain my denial. Eventually reason won out.

    Back to the Audiologist for another ear-mold. And another one-and-a-half-month-wait for the refit.

    And the left side is still not perfect!

    Placing blame for fit issues with CIEMs is not clear-cut. It could be the Audiologist, the earphone manufacturer, or even your own damn fault. Maybe you tensed your jaw while the impressions set.

    The fact the left monitor still does not fit perfectly is fishy. I shall bring my IEMs into the Audiologist and try to figure out what’s going on here. I CAN achieve a good seal. It just doesn’t last like a custom fit ought to. You needn’t worry that my review is compromised by sub-par audio. I’ve put a couple hundred hours on these with absolute perfect seal. I know what these truly sound like.

    Who’s at fault over fit issues may be a gray area, but it’s far easier to blame Rhapsodio for the adventure I’ve had with the cable.

    During our very first correspondences I stated my want for a 2.5mm TRRS Balanced cable. I went so far as to put that info, along with other specifics, in the PayPal notes upon purchase. I wrote a lovely letter that traveled with my ear impressions across the ocean which also made reference to the type of termination my cable should have. I made further comments about it during the many Facebook chats I enjoyed with Sammy.

    The first time my Solars arrived they came with a 3.5mm TRS cable. I laughed. Sammy Laughed. When they came back after the refit, it still only had a 3.5mm TRS cable. I groaned, and Sammy cried. He decided to build me a special cable with a special new connector he found. Sammy claimed it changed the sound in a way he was very excited about.

    TRRSCase.jpg

    TRRSCable.jpg

    It’s a fine bit of work to be sure. The only thing different is the termination, and yet he’s right, it does sound truly different. Even when I use my 2.5mmTRRS-to-3.5mmTRS adapter, to rule out my AKs balanced output as the culprit, there is indeed a change. It sounds a tad clearer than the other cable, but the bass is audibly lower, which I’m not a fan of.

    The volume in general is also lower, which should not be, since my AK120ii puts out more voltage through its 2.5mm output. There must be a ridiculous amount of resistance in this jack. Unfortunately, the lack of bass is not an illusion due to the lower overall volume. When I volume match, and listen critically, the lows are lessened by a serious margin.

    I think I’ll re-terminate this new cable myself when I find the motivation. For now I’ll stay with the single-ended 3.5mm cable.

    The standard Pandora cable is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and right sturdy, but I don’t like how stiff it is, or the rough texture coating each strand.

    Sammy also turned my regular old standard Solars into FarInfrared Solars, which involves placing magic stickers on the driver clusters inside the shell. It’s meant to make the sound cleaner, with better extension. But no one can explain how or why. Since so much time past during the refit, I’m in no position to give a reliable comparison between the two versions. I loved them before, and I love them now. The stickers are pretty though.

    SolarFarInfrared.jpg

    Which makes this a good time to talk about how these buggers actually sound, yes?

    The Rhapsodio Solar BA10 delivers a full, bassy presentation, with enough treble to maintain good air and detail. The vocals stand back a pace on the stage, letting the lows and highs swell around them to wonderful effect. Very much like a live rock concert. Solar uses ten Balanced Armature drivers: A pair of large drivers for bass. Four medium-size boxes dedicated to the middle spectrum. And four tiny tweeters administer the highs.

    I cannot call the Solar v-shaped. The Klipsch R6 is v-shaped. In contrast, Solar is artfully done, as you never lose the vocals, no matter how much bass exists on the record. Like I said before, the mids simply take a small step back, nowhere near enough for the other frequencies to bury them.

    Nonetheless, the Solar’s bass is its defining quality. It blooms and rumbles deep into the lower reaches. It’s fast and smooth and remarkably natural in tone. It sounds more like a dynamic driver than a BA. Such warmth swaths the music, creating a tangible, earthy presence.

    SolarX51.jpg

    You would expect earphones like this to be dark in balance, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Solar’s treble pierces the gloom in clear, bright highs that sparkle like a pearl in sunlight. The treble is clean and honest, widening the soundstage and revealing all the subtle complexities of the track. Upon first hearing Solar, I marveled at how much air there was, given the amount of bass and the thickness of the sound. Those highs truly elevate it above the murky fenlands that often come from too much sub frequency in the mix.

    Terms like “recessed” are misleading when talking about the Solar’s vocal range; you can hear them perfectly. There is detail, grit, and vibrato. They sound true and right. With Rock & Roll, they could not be placed better in the mix. Still, if you are a purist at heart, and hold neutrality at top priority, then Solar is probably not for you, as they are tuned for fun and pleasure-listening, not professional/critical-listening.

    SolarInPelicanCase.jpg
    Solar and AK120ii secure in my Pelican 1060 case, with 1062 foam insert.

    IEMParty.jpg

    I’m cobsmacked at how much the Solar sounds like my early favorite, the Audio Technica IM03. Yes, Solar is much thicker, and noticeably more detailed, yet bass punch and treble sparkle are nearly the same, with Solar just barely edging ahead. Overall balance and tonality are very alike. The IM03 is just a little closer to neutral with the vocals. The Audio Technica is one of the most natural-sounding earphones, and Solar does not necessarily beat it here, but rather matches that high grade.

    Jerry Harvey’s Angie has been my closest companion for so long now. She sings with a voice I fell in love with upon first hearing it. Even after weeks and weeks with nothing but Solar in my ears, when I come back to Angie, I don’t know which I like more. Each does a couple of things better than the other.

    My preference is to keep Angie’s bass attenuators at 2:30, giving her a warm, bassy profile, without losing detail or air.

    Although Solar has two drivers more than Angie, note thickness and weight are about the same, both much fuller than the IM03. Angie is capable of nearly the same volume of bass, but Solar reaches deeper into the sub bass and the lows come off fuller and richer because of it. Amazingly, Solar also possesses FAR greater air in the presentation. Even when I turned Angie’s pots all the way down, Solar sounded brighter, with a better sense of space and atmosphere. This is likely due to Solar’s outstanding treble. I’ve always praised Angie for having clean, well-extended highs, but Solar adds some real sparkle to its top frequencies, and that makes a world of difference here. It brightens the stage up, revealing details Angie might miss.

    SolarAK120ii.jpg

    So you may think by the above paragraph that I clearly favor Solar, but as I’ve said, it’s not quite so easy for me. Angie is smoother and lusher. Probably owing to its lack of sparkle. Every detail is not highlighted, rendering a more forgiving melody. Angie is not dull or muddy. FAR FROM IT. Though compared to Solar, she’s certainly the easier, more euphoric monitor. She pours honey in my ears and I love her for it.

    I planned to sell off Angie when the Rhapsodio Custom came in, but I’m not sure I can do that. Her size really is a detriment, but if I don’t have to use her as my every day carry, maybe I can keep her around for the occasional sexy fun time when I lust for that old honey again.

    In the meantime, The Rhapsodio Solar FarInfrared BA10 CIEM suits my needs splendidly. It is a killer earphone and I can’t recommend it enough. The same goes for Rhapsodio as a company; Sammy helms a magnificent ship over there in Hong Kong. While it may be young, Rhapsodio has grown mighty, and I look forward to seeing where next it sails.

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-

    SolarAK120ii2.jpg

    SolarFarInfraredLCD22.jpg

    SolarFarInfraredinear.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. FastAndClean
      great review
      FastAndClean, Aug 8, 2016
    3. Paulo Abreu
      Well written.Interesting the mention about K10, makes me feel better and confident on my option for Angies... :)
      Paulo Abreu, Aug 8, 2016
    4. Subhakar
      Old honey. Sexy fun time. Miraculous relationship. Cobsmacked. Magnificent review from a life-long artist. Kudos. :)
      Subhakar, Oct 19, 2016
  2. MikePortnoy
    Rhapsodio Solar Custom In Ear Monitor Review: Bold Music
    Written by MikePortnoy
    Published Feb 23, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Musical approach, Separation, Natural sound, Comfort
    Cons - Transparency, Mid-bass presentation
    Introduction:
     
    Rhapsodio is a Hong Kong based company that produces in ear monitors and upgrade cables. Rhapsodio’s owner, Sammy, has a strong background and tuned many different in ear monitors such as Hybrid Series, Solar series and Galaxy Series. While Solar series utilize balanced armature drivers, Galaxy series are powered with UltraMag dynamic drivers. In Solar series, there are two versions of the same tuning: custom and universal. The reviewed unit is custom made and consists of 10 balanced armature drivers per side. Sammy also offers some high quality aftermarket cables such as Litz and Pandora series. My favorite is 2.98SG/8 braided cable that has a very strong imaging and resolution.
     
    solar1.jpg
     
    Build Quality, Internals and Accessories:
     
    The reviewed unit is refitted, since there was a slight disturbance at the left side. Sammy quickly handled and remade it. After refit process, the monitors become quite comfortable. Even during long listening sections, I have no pain at all. I like the body color as well as beautifully crafted faceplate with Rhapsodio’ logo.
     
    As I mentioned before, Rhapsodio Solar is powered with 10 balanced armature drivers (2 tweeters, 2 highs, 4 mids and 2 bass) with a 4 way passive crossover system. There are 3 main acoustic ways; one of them is bigger than two.  According to Rhapsodio website, the impedance of the monitor is 26 OHM. Solar has industry standard 2 pin sockets. They are neither too tight nor too loose; I think that they have good durability. 
     
    The stock cable of Solar is from Pandora Series, SPC Pandora. Pandora utilizes 4 silver plated conductors; on the other hand, many standard cables have 3 braids as standard. Overall build quality of Pandora is nice, but it is not as soft and flexible as Westone’s standard cables. In addition, Pandora has 3.5mm golden plated plug and good quality 2 pin connectors. However, I find its memory wire a bit long and rough. 
     
    solar2.jpg
     
    Sound:
     
    Rhapsodio Solar is warm and dynamic sounding unit with a slight V shape signature. Some may find its atmosphere a little dark, but high frequency has a little bright tone creates detailed and alive presentation.
     
    This review is about custom version of Solar. So, please note that universal version may differ in accordance with tips used and insertion depth. During critical listening, Solar was tested on Lotoo Paw Gold and the BIT Opus1.
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Solar has powerful and punchy sub-bass hits. Hitting to depth ability is quite good and overall tonality can be seen as natural. Resolution and texture are good; Solar has a fast response in sub-bass region, but ‘’hanging in the air’’ time could be a little longer.
     
    Even so Solar has V shape response, the energy focus of the overall presentation leans towards to low frequency due to the prominent and intensive mid-bass’ notes. In general, mid-bass’ notes don’t tighten the stage. However, if the quantity is plenty in the track, the mid-bass band can be thickened and the background becomes a little congested. On the other hand, mid-bass provides a nice musicality, softness and body.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    The midrange of Solar isn’t located very distant, thanks to full bodied and weighty notes. Indeed, Solar is very dynamic and powerful, also creates full-bodied instruments. Parenthetically, vocals sound a little closer to listener, when compared to instruments’ locations. Average note thickness is on the thicker side, but it may sound a bit too thick due to the possible mid-bass thump depending on tracks.  Resolution and transparency levels are not very high, but enough for a flagship. Solar isn’t very forgiving in upper-midrange, since there is a slight brightness here.
     
    solar3.jpg
     
    High Frequency:
     
    Solar has prominent treble notes, but it doesn’t have a forward presentation. Control and resolution is good, but tonality isn’t so close to true tone. Despite that, Solar's treble tonality can be accepted in natural region with non-piercing notes. I don’t find them too sensitive to bad recordings. Speedy Solar can handle cymbals in fast metal tracks, but they are cut a little too early.
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    Solar has effectual stage dimensions; there is no overly wide or super deep stage, but it carries a nice amount of depth to create sufficient space for a good layering. Also, the performing area of Solar isn’t congested and there is a fair distance between instruments. However, this distance is filled with warm air rather than neutral one due to the mid-bass presentation. Thanks to prominent and open-toned treble notes, this warm air doesn’t make Solar a boring custom in ear monitor. 
     
    The background of Solar is quite black and stable with strong instrument separation. However, Solar may have congestion pursuant to the mid-bass density depending on tracks and the background may become less clear. This problem may reduce the separation level by a small margin. Imaging and focusing is pretty strong with good coherence ability. Even if Solar has a V-shaped signature, the stage isn't located too distant. 
     
    Selected Comparisons:
     
    Rhapsodio Solar vs Spiral Ear SE5 Ref
     
    Overall, Rhapsodio Solar is a warm sounding monitor and Spiral Ear SE5 is closer to have a neutral sound in comparison. Both have natural sounding perspective, but SE5 has truer tone.
     
    solarse5.jpg
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Solar hits harder in sub-bass region, while SE5’s notes hang longer in the air. Solar’s attack and decay ability is a little faster than necessary. Solar uses larger and more impactful notes, but SE5 offers slightly more resolution in low end.
     
    In mid-bass range, Solar has significantly more prominent and warmer notes; SE5 offers more resolved and detailed presentation. In accordance with the mid-bass quantity, Solar sounds thicker and weightier overall.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    Solar has a V-shape signature versus SE5’s mid-centric and open-toned presentation in comparison. When viewed from this aspect, the midrange of Solar is located laid back, but sounds with bolder and darkish touches.
     
    On the other hand, SE5’s midrange is more resolved and transparent, and it is better in terms of recreation both thick and thin notes well. Solar may perform too thick and more colored pursuant to mid-bass thump, yet it creates good body for vocals and instruments. Also, Solar is brighter in upper mid-range and tends to sibilance more, while SE5 is less detailed, but smoother in this area.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    In comparison, Solar has more prominent and brighter treble performance. SE5 sounds with less colored and more natural notes. In terms of speed and extension, SE5 has a slight superiority with more natural note releasing, but Solar seems to be more detailed in accordance with more alive and prominent lower treble. In addition, Solar is less forgiving against bad recordings.
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    Both don’t have a large stage, but Solar is slightly wider and SE5 is deeper. Solar has warmer stage structure, while SE5 is much neutral in terms of air between instruments.
     
    However, SE5 seems to be congested while locating instruments. By the same token, Solar may have a background clarity problem when comes to tracks dominated by mid-bass’ notes. Solar slightly betters SE5 in terms of imaging, but SE5 allows focusing a little easier. Overall, both have an impressive instrument separation. 
     
     
    Rhapsodio Solar vs Empire Ears Zeus (Custom version)
     
    As it is in the SE5 comparison, Solar has a V shape signature and Zeus has mid-centric approach. Overall, Zeus has open-tone, while Solar is bolder and warmer; both have a musical approach, but Zeus sounds more technical.
     
    Please note that EE Zeus universal version may have some differences in sound.  
     
    solarzeus.jpg
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Solar has more impactful hits, while Zeus has cleaner and more analytic sub-bass structure in comparison. Resolution and texture levels are similar; both have fast sub-bass’ response. Solar’s tone is more emotional, while Zeus follows a more technical way here. Like sub-bass range, Solar has more mid-bass quantity with a warmer tone. Due to mid-bass presentation difference, Solar may sound too warm and have background congestion versus Zeus’ airier approach. Mid-bass’ resolution level is higher on Zeus; Solar misses some little nuances.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    Zeus sounds more forward and aggressive with slightly thinner and cleaner notes; Solar’s midrange is located laid-back in comparison. Resolution and transparency are better on Zeus; Solar has hollow midrange presentation. Zeus is better in terms of note recreation and articulates details more than Solar does. Both have slight brightness in upper midrange; Zeus has more forward notes, while Solar is smoother and less stressed. Vocals are weightier on Solar by a small margin, but Zeus has more resolved and transparent vocals. However Zeus tends to sibilance more.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    Zeus has slightly more alive treble notes, while Solar is weightier and warmer in high frequency presentation. Zeus sounds brighter and cleaner in accordance with its general character and low end’s dominancy of Solar. The overall treble speed and resolution level is similar, but Zeus is slightly more extended. Both aren’t very forgiving against bad recordings. 
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    The overall stage depth is better on Zeus and it is airier with a bit wider stage. Zeus spreads neutral air between instruments, while Solar has much warmer air in the area due to mid-bass presentation. Both have an impressive instrument separation, but Solar’s background is blacker by very small margin. On the other hand, Zeus has definitely clearer and cleaner background. Zeus has better imaging, but Solar is more coherent with a bit better focusing ability.     
     
     
    Rhapsodio SG2.98 4 Strands Cable on Solar:
     
    solarkablo.jpg
    Pandora stock is on the right side.
     
    As we all know, Solar comes with Pandora cable as standard. 2.98, old RSD flagship cable, is made by silver/gold alloy material. Overall, it has a warm sound and offers higher resolution notes. It doesn’t carry the characteristics of a regular silver cable. 
     
    In general, 2.98 cable reduces low frequency’s quantity by a very small margin and makes sub-bass tighter and cleaner. Also, mid-bass becomes more controlled and the thump is becoming smaller. When compared to Pandora stock, 2.98 cable offers a little more forward midrange, but Solar still keeps V-shape signature. The resolution is slightly improved and instruments become cleaner and a bit more transparent. Overall treble tone is similar, but 2.98 cable creates more resolved and slightly clearer high frequency presentation. The width difference is not very significant, but 2.98 cable has deeper stage and better layering as well as a bit better separation.
     
    Note: 2.98 8 strands cable is a definite upgrade over 2.98 4 strands. Apart from its synergy with Solar, tone and imaging gets perfect with 8 strands.
     
    Final Words
     
    Rhapsodio Solar is non-fatiguing, warm tuned and dynamic sounding custom in ear monitor. If the expectation about transparency is not very high, with its strong instrument separation, Solar would be a good alternative for who prefers warm atmosphere and musical signature. The craftsmanship is also very nice and comfort is pretty good for long listening sections.
     
    The MSRP is 1550 USD for the custom version of Solar.       
     
    Please check the links for further information: 
     
    http://www.rhapsodio.com
    http://www.rhapsodio.com/products/iem/balanced-armature-series/
     
     
      Ritvik, proedros, AmberOzL and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. MikePortnoy
      My pleasure mate. Thank you. 
      MikePortnoy, Mar 4, 2016
    3. tranhieu
      Any comparison with the TG334? The sound signature seems similar in some regards.
      tranhieu, Mar 7, 2016
    4. MikePortnoy
      Sorry, haven't heard 334 yet mate. 
      MikePortnoy, Mar 8, 2016
  3. Kerouac
    Rhapsodio Solar (10BA flagship), pushing boundaries...
    Written by Kerouac
    Published Aug 12, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound quality (lows, mids & highs) all over. Superb details, soundstage (width & depth) and imaging. Build quality and fit.
    Cons - Not easy (for me) to get some tips on the nozzle. Not a con with custom fit (had mine reshelled later on) anymore of course.
    Introduction:
    For starters, I'm not the everyday ''Hey, let's write a review'' kinda guy and because English isn't my main language, please forgive me my grammatical flaws and somewhat limited vocabulary on this one. I decided to make an exception for the Solar, because I think Rhapsodio is a brand that just deserves (based on their high quality products) more attention...
    http://www.rhapsodio.com/

    My Rhapsodio adventure started over a year ago when I picked up a RTi1 in the classifieds on Head-Fi. I especially liked the treble and details of that iem but imo it also lacked a bit in the low frequencies. Although with some added amps bass boost, the lows where there...it just needed some extra help to get it outside...

    For quite some months I was thinking about (because of multiple positive reviews that I read) a universal Noble K10 or Unique Melody Mentor, but then the Solar came on my radar and because Rhapsodio had a discount because of it's 3rd anniversary I chose that one instead and I'm glad I did [​IMG]

    When I ordered it, Sammy turned out to be a very friendly and helpful person to deal with and he answered my questions/mails pretty quick, so communication went smooth all the way...

    Build & design:
    When the Solar arrived, it came in a (nice looking) Rhapsodio box with the cables that I ordered and 3 different size of (I think Spinfit) tips. What more do you need?
    Solar01.jpg
    Rhapsodio cables from left to right: Litz copper (4 braid), Silver/Gold 2.98 (8 braid, 2% gold) and Panther MKII (8 braid copper)

    I chose the universal fit with ebony faceplates and dark transparent shells without the logo and I really like how that turned out designwise...
    Solar02.jpg

    The build quality is very good imo, it feels and looks like a professional job to me...
    Solar03.jpg

    Fit:
    The Solars shells are slightly heavier and bigger than my Tralucent 1Plus2 and 1964 Ears V6 Stage (also universal fit)
    Solar04.jpg
    Solar05.jpg
    Solar06.jpg

    but when I put them in my ears the universal fit (I've never tried a custom in my life, so can't compare to that) appeared to be almost perfect for me. The only reason I didn't rate the Solar on max for comfort and isolation is that that's probably only possible with a custom fit...
    Solar07.jpg

    The only downside was that (for clumsy me) it was a bit of a hassle to get the tips on the nozzle (as it seems wider than that of my other iems)...but when I put the large tips (that came with it) on it, it filled up my ears in a positive way (perfect seal) and stayed in its place, even while moving around. I can listen with it for a long time this way, without the need to adjust them in my ears.
    (* Edit 02 dec 2015: on recent pictures of the universal Solar I see it has a wax guard nozzle nowadays => should be much easier to get the tips on the nozzle that way)
    Solar08.jpg

    * Edit 03 july 2016
    OK, after about a year I decided the Solar was here to stay anyway, so I decided to have it reshelled into a custom
    Please click to enlarge and see the beautiful details inside...
    20160630_120224.jpg
    Now I've felt and heard the difference, I would advise a custom fit above a universal one any day!

    Source:
    At first I used all my 3 sources/stacks to listen with the Solar: iBasso DX90/Chord Hugo, Pono player (single ended) and FiiO X5/Cayin C5. But because DX90/Hugo was the most revealing and gave the best sound quality, I mainly used that stack for this reviews listening time and believe me, that were quite some (not unpleasant at all) hours...
    Solar09.jpg

    Sound:
    For me it's extremely difficult to describe exactly what I hear...some members (for example Jason with his ''Fit for a Bat'' reviews) pull that of in a way that I can only dream of (I only wish I had that skills), but here we go:

    Because of it's driver set-up (2 bass, 4 mid, 2 high & 2 tweeters) I was a bit afraid the Solar would have an overly bright signature, but this is not the case imo. Clarity is absolutely a strong point, but everything seems in balance and it all sounds very natural to me...I'm very impressed with the sound overall from the start and I consider the Solar to be a great all-rounder as it sounded excellent with all songs and genres (I normally listen to) that I threw at it...I'm not sure how much the 5-way passive crossover design plays a part in that, but I guess it has its contribution in the final sound result...
    Without the intention to get into a sound science debate, I tried it with both new ''upgrade'' Rhapsodio cables and imo they added a bit of their own signature to it. With the copper Panther MKII the sound became a bit smoother and relaxed, while with the 2.98 silver/gold cable it sounded more forward and transparent, with stunning details that sometimes seemed to be too good to be true...oh boy, oh boy...I almost couldn't believe my ears/brain sometimes...for this review I kept the 2.98 s/g cable on the Solar as it had the best synergy to my ears.

    Anyway, my attempt for a sound description:
    Lows: yes, totally there...bass slams with authority and goes all the way down... Listening to a song like Massive Attacks ''Angel'' it has great sub-bass too. With Hans Zimmers ''Why so serious?'' (from The Dark Knight soundtrack) at around 3.25 the bass seems to disappear under water, but the Solar pulls it of to follow it there and give you the rumble in your ears.
    Mids: I don't think I've ever heard it better than this in any other iem so far...the Solars sound isn't V-shaped because of it's marvelous mids and therefor sounds very full. Listening to almost every song mentioned in this review, it gave a very rich and complete sound without getting muddy...
    Highs: sparkly but (luckily) never fatiguing on the ears. Female voices, for example Tori Amos high voice in ''Winter'' or Heather Nova on her ''Island'' were a real treat (never harsh) to my ears. Cymbals or other high tones sounded amazingly crisp and clear without sibilance detected...
    Soundstage: very wide (but realistic) with excellent depth. I also listen lots of live music => a good soundstage is a very important quality in an iem to my taste... Listening to Madrugadas ''Majesty'' live at Tralfamadore sounded so real that it gave me goosebumps...''Midnight Rambler'' from the Stones classic album ''Get Yer Ya Ya's Out'' put me between the crowd and made me almost smell the grass (I mean the sort that cows eat) and mudd of the festival field and Jon Hopkins ''Collider'' took me on a short trip into space...
    Imaging: with your eyes closed, you can almost point out the instruments yourself at their place in the musical spectrum. For example, at the beginning of David Sylvians ''When Poets Dream of Angels'' different instruments are coming from all kind of directions and the Solar points them out for you precisely. Same story with Jimi Hendix ''Born Under a Bad Sign '' on his ''Blues'' album, it's almost if you're in the studio with the musicians playing around you...
    Details: on an almost scary level, nothing less than crystal clear and highly realistic I would say. The thunder and rain in Tools ''10.00 Days (Wings Pt. 2)'', the birds, bug and bells in Pink Floyds ''High Hopes'', the typewriter and all kind of strange sounds in Thomas Dolby's ''Dissidents''....it all sounds so real to my ears...all songs seemed to come alive though the Solar, proving it's obviously an utterly revealing iem, that can serve you the quality that the file and the source that you play it on are able to deliver...

    Comparisons:

    Solar vs Tralucent 1Plus2
    The 1Plus2 has a more laid back signature, where the Solar has a more energetic signature. 1P2 is known for it's very good soundstage, but the Solar is probably on par (* Edit 27 nov 2015: have been listening extra with 1P2 lately, focussing on it's soundstage and I guess 1P2 is still ''king of the hill'' concerning its soundstage width, where Solar has an incredible depth) in that department. Solar just sounds more realistic and dynamic, and after switching from Solar to 1P2 the latter sounded every time a bit dull and muffled for the first minutes...although I'm still very fond of the 1P2's sound signature, it just lacked that lively feeling of the Solar.

    Solar10.jpg

    Solar vs 1964 Ears V6 Stage
    The V6 Stage (2 low, 2 mid, 2 high BA) has a sound signature that reminds me of the Solar, but (although being an extremely good iem for ''only'' $700 imo) it simply lacks the high level of sound quality that the Solar can bring to the table...because the V6S universal has very long tubes they insert deeper into the ears and give me a more intimate sound (also narrower soundstage). Level of details with V6S are also pretty amazing, but the Solar is simply the better performer in every single department.

    Solar11.jpg

    Solar vs Sony XBA-Z5
    The Z5 (hybrid) still has the best lows (using a 16mm dynamic driver) I've heard so far in an iem, but the Solar comes pretty close. The Z5 also has a very wide soundstage, I think almost on par with the Solar, although Solar has better depth. But in every other aspect the Solar is the clear winner imo, as it has better mids, highs, imaging and details.

    Conclusion:
    Although I'm still curious about other company's flagships, I'm also totally satisfied (or should I say extremely happy) with the Solar at the moment. Besides that, I seriously doubt if there are many (c)iems out there that would top this one anyway...but when I ever win the lottery (as robbing banks is just getting too dangerous nowadays), then I will surely try that for myself...

    So, would I recommend the Solar? Well, what do you think?
    From the moment I started to listen to AC/DC's ''If You Want Blood'', my foot started tapping and if it doesn't stop within the next few hours, then I'm off to see a doctor...

    And for those of you who are still not tired (really?) of reading, for this review listening purposes and comparisons between the different iems above, I made a special playlist and these were the used...

    Test tracks:
    AC/DC – If You Want Blood / Angus & Julia Stone – My Word for It / Atoms for Peace – Stuck Together Pieces / The Beatles – Come Together / Beck – Morning / Björk – Hunter / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Stop / Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer / Blondie – Rapture / Bob Marley – Exodus / Booka Shade – Mandarine Girl / Brendan Perry – The Bogus Man / The Cure – Primary / Daft Punk – Fresh / David Bowie – Fame (live) / David Sylvian – When Poets Dream of Angels / Declan O'Rourke – Sara (Last Night in a Dream) / Deftones – Pink Maggit / DJ Shadow – Stem, Long Stem / Dire Straits – Water of Love / Eagles – The Last Resort / Fleetwood Mac – Dreams / Foo Fighters – White Limo / Gregory Alan Isakov – Master and a Hound / Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit / Hans Zimmer – Why So Serious? / Heather Nova – Island / Jeff Buckley – Dream Brother / Jimi Hendriks – Born Under a Bad Sign / Jon Hopkins – Collider / The Knife – Silent Shout / Led Zeppelin – Babe I'm Gonna Leave You / Madrugada – Majesty (live) / Massive Attack – Angel / Matthew Dear – Up and Out / Moloko – The Time is Now / Morphine – Let's Take a Trip Together / Motorpsycho – Vortex Surfer / New Order – Sunrise / Pink Floyd – On the Run + High Hopes / Porcupine Tree – Trains / Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien / Red Hot Chili Peppers – Venice Queen / Rolling Stones – Midnight Rambler (live) / Rush – 2112 + YYZ / Simple Minds – This Fear of Gods (live) / Steely Dan – Do It Again / Soundgarden – The Day I Tried to Live / Suzanne Vega – Tom's Diner / Tears for Fears – Woman in Chains / Thomas Dolby – Dissidents / Trentemøller – Take Me into Your Skin / Tool – 10.00 Days (Wings Pt. 2) / Tori Amos – Winter / Vangelis – Spiral / Van Halen – Ain't Talking About Love / Wovenhand – Corsicana Clip / XTC – Making Plans for Nigel / Yes – Does It Really Happen?

    Btw, the answer is ''Yes, I would totally recommend it, also for it's full retail price''
    Thanks for reading and happy listening to all of you out there [​IMG]
      Tony1110, AmberOzL, canister and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Kerouac
      Thanks for the compliment(s) proedros...
      Trying probably ends up in buying :wink:
       
      Γεια σας
      Kerouac, Sep 23, 2015
    3. FidelityCastro
      What a great review, Kerouac. With a moniker like that, we should've known you can write very engagingly indeed...
      And seeing as you took the trouble to include your playlist, I've been checking out some of the ones I haven't heard of. So it's a double value review - bravo mate.
      FidelityCastro, Sep 24, 2015
    4. Kerouac
      Thanks FidelityCastro,
      Glad you liked the review and hopefully you discovered some nice new music on the way...or should I say on the road :wink:
      Kerouac, Jul 3, 2016
  4. ezekiel77
    Rhapsodio Solar - Arise, Empire of the Sun
    Written by ezekiel77
    Published May 5, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Immaculate balance, natural lifelike timbre, coherence, excellent bass, mids and treble, large soundstage with accurate imaging, robust build quality.
    Cons - Slightly veiled mids, sluggish bass at times, blunted note attack (can be too smooth), arguably best sound quality from silver cable.
    Introduction
    A wise man once said that in summit-fi, there are no weaknesses, only preferences. He must work in marketing. I’ve been in the head-fi game since 2012, still a relative newbie, and have tested, bought and sold my way up the ladder in pursuit of “the perfect sound”, which does not exist. Still, the journey has been nothing short of enjoyable, as I continue to be wowed by the many new ways music can be presented.

    Enter the Solar. Rhapsodio is a boutique brand from Hong Kong led by Sammy, who is active in Head-Fi and Facebook. The company is making waves for its impeccable IEM tuning and fancy upgrade cables. The Solar came highly, highly recommended among its reviewers, frequently garnering 5-star reviews. And being a 10BA-driver IEM, was naturally aligned with the Noble K10. Coming from a small city with no interest in developing head-fi, I had no means of testing either. So based on a few stellar reviews, the lower price of the Solar (at the time), and the friendliness of the guys in the Rhapsodio thread, I took the plunge to depths unknown, and bought the Solar blind. I chose the custom, because there’s nothing like commitment in your purchase, heh.


    IMG_20160504_165147.jpg


    Equipment Used:
    Astell & Kern AK100ii
    Chord Mojo
    Rhapsodio Solar
    Campfire Audio Jupiter
    JH Audio JH13 FreqPhase
    JH Audio Angie

    Albums Listened:
    Adele – 25
    Amber Rubarth – Scribbled Folk Symphonies
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    Jeff Buckley – Grace
    Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
    Xiomara Laugart – Tears and Rhumba


    IMG_20160503_191747.jpg


    Packaging and Accessories
    I was hand-delivered the Solar by Sammy himself. It came in a simple, classy packaging: all-black cardboard box, opening to reveal a metal miniature suitcase that would probably survive an earthquake, and in it… the power and glory of the sun. Also, the Pandora OCC cables. There weren’t any other accessories per se, but it’s a custom IEM, and I wasn’t expecting any. You were expecting a cleaning cloth?

    Fit, Isolation and Comfort
    Sammy gestured me for a quick fit. Being brand-new CIEMs they had slight resistance going in. Oh don’t worry, they will be coated with a delicate layer of my exquisite cerumen (that’s earwax to you) and will slide right in with repeated fits. And get a really nice sheen while we’re at it. So back to the subject, the fit was perfect, 100% seal for both ears in the first fit. No refits needed, REJOICE! Isolation was near-total blockage of external noise, and that is to be expected in well-made CIEMs. Comfort wasn’t the best and never will be in the first fit, but as of today, they slide in, stay put, and after an hour or so I don’t feel like I have anything inside my ears. Supremely comfortable.


    IMG_20160503_222941.jpg


    Design and Build Quality
    After a quick listen, I took them out of my ears to admire the fruit of my good taste. “Man, I chose good. Look at ‘em!” And I could look at them all day. Black with gold flakes is a Rhapsodio favorite, nearly a trademark, and a timeless design. The build quality is also flawless. I gave Sammy the thumbs up. He gave me an amused “of course” look. It’s really a different feeling when the creator of the CIEM is standing right in front of you. I wanted to gush at his genius, yet had to hold back, as I was certain everyone else has already gushed at his genius. In the end I mustered three words, “好好听 (a very good listen).”

    Cables
    Each Rhapsodio IEM comes with a house cable priced from $130 upwards, and have the look and feel of upgrade cables. The “stock” cable paired with the Solar is the OCC Pandora. After a week or so with it, something felt off, and I had to PM Sammy. This is a matter of preference of course, but to me the notes lacked attack and bite, and I was nodding off even while Rage Against the Machine (a very popular band known for their ballads) was playing. Matter-of-factly, Sammy suggested the RSD silver litz cable for more excitement in the sound, and so I bit. Holding the silver cable in my hands for the first time did not inspire confidence. It was more rigid than the Pandora, and has an unwieldy memory effect. The cable has more of a “backyard DIY” look compared to better-known brands, and the pins did not insert fully into the Solar. The sound had better be good! And true enough, there is a marginal improvement without messing with the overall signature. More note urgency and sparkle. Not a night and day difference, but enough to tell a difference. I didn’t a/b both cables because I sold the Pandora back to Sammy. I’m cheap. Now onto the sound.


    IMG_20160505_120924.jpg


    Sound Impressions:
    Overall Signature

    I’m a wordy dude, so no worries if you’ve skipped everything above. Bro’s got your back. What you need to know is the sound impressions are made with the RSD Silver Litz cable, not the stock Pandora copper. The cables are ran-in for 100 hours, and the Solar about 200 hours total before serious listening began. Sammy’s a proponent of burning-in, and I understand it’s controversial here, so just assume I’m following manufacturer’s instructions if that makes you sleep better at night. The signature is U-shaped, with enough bass to blow your house down, and a smooth yet sparkly treble that’s perfectly balanced. The mids are slightly pushed back, but still very detailed. Notes are thick and rich with a smooth finish, never fatiguing. Attack and decay is natural-sounding but its speed can be sluggish, noticeable in fast tracks. Very good separation and layering of notes owing to a deep and tall soundstage. On the whole, you get a very coherent sound, with a pleasing, easy-to-like signature, and natural, lifelike timbre in instruments. That’s the Solar’s main selling point.

    Bass
    The bass never ceases to amaze me. It’s definitely boosted for your enjoyment, but the bloom and decay sounds so natural, like a well-tuned dynamic-driver. Double bass, bass guitar, bongos, they sound alive and inviting. It reaches deep into your throat, and you feel it! Subbass is gently elevated while the midbass is plenty generous, with a rich tonal body. It does sound slower in complex passages, and not too detailed. But it segues very naturally into the mids, with no bleed at all. The deep soundstage helps in getting the most out of the bass, yet separating it cleanly from the rest of the spectrum. It has its own playground, and flourishes in it. A top, top bass. Hugely satisfying, like something from high-end speaker systems. And I’m not even a basshead.

    Mids
    Sweet, rich, creamy, a gentle but satisfying bite, and well-layered. I assure you I’m not reviewing a fine slice of cake. Although employing a mild U-shaped signature, the mids are still allowed to shine. You get used to the location of the mids, at the deepest part of a semi-circular stage, rather than occupying centre stage. Pop in a record heavy on vocals, acoustic guitar and pianos, and bask in its magnificence. Lower mids carry some body from the upper bass, lending richness and authority to the notes. Upper mids are intimate and melodious. Vocals are located above and in front of the head, with good heft and weight. They sound natural and pleasing, especially male vocals. Guitar plucks are realistic and have fantastic timbre. Pianos sound like the real thing. A GREAT slice of cake. Smooth as butter with no grain, perhaps a bit too smooth, as detail-heads will be clamoring for clarity. Compared to detail-oriented IEMs, there is a veil, but on its own, its richness and smoothness will make you sit back and enjoy the music.


    IMG_20160504_165037.jpg


    Treble
    The most accomplished of the whole spectrum. Where the bass can be sluggish and the mids can be veiled, the treble is hardest to fault to my ears. Hugely resolving, extending for Miles (Davis), with nary a touch of harshness. It’s quite exciting yet forgiving, achieving a splendid balance between smoothness and clarity. Cymbals and hi-hats decay with realism and a certain je ne sais quoi, trumpets bray triumphantly without piercing the ears. Cavalli Audio might have taken the name, but listening to the treble is truly like liquid gold. Some sparkle and shimmer, a fluid and seductive character, and precious to no end.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    This is the IEM that taught me about height, that it’s not enough for a soundstage to be wide and deep, hang on bruv, there’s a third dimension! Where the width is good, but not the greatest I’ve heard among TOTL IEMs, the depth and height are astonishing. The music achieves a definite 3D space, with width, depth, height and layering used to maximum effect, creating a wonderful, enveloping soundscape. Think back to when you were a kid going inside a circus tent for the first time, the sensation overload and being amaze-balled by everything. Okay maybe not that big but you get the idea. Imaging is stellar. Each instrument occupies their own space inside the tent and is allowed equal opportunity to shine. Even with the note thickness of the Solar, separation and air between instruments are well below the lime (sublime). My jokes might fall flat but not the Solar. Like the first burst of light at dawn, the Solar provides light and warmth and invites you to immerse in its splendor. What a sight, what a sound.


    IMG_20160504_215709.jpg


    Comparisons:
    Campfire Audio Jupiter

    The Jupiter is a well-loved 4BA universal with a solid build and a neutral-with-slight-warmth signature. Its subbass and midbass are boosted equally, unlike Solar with more midbass emphasis. Note thickness is similar for both, but impact, slam and rumble definitely goes to the Solar. But curiously, bass detail and separation are better for the Solar despite the elevated midbass. It makes good use of its depth for better layering. Jupiter’s midbass stumbles more in fast passages, notes less well-articulated. For mids, Jupiter’s are in-your-head whereas Solar’s are more above and in front (studio vs stage). Solar has sweeter and more natural mids despite being slightly veiled. Jupiter has boosted upper mids and lower treble that increases detail and clarity, however this makes some instruments, especially trumpets, sound unnatural. Treble in the Jupiter also has more sparkle and shimmer, but not as forgiving and once again, natural sounding as the Solar. Jupiter has the wider stage, but is no match for the depth and height of the Solar. Overall, Solar sounds more coherent with a seamless spectral transition. Jupiter no doubt has a more exciting sound and a bigger wow factor on first listen. But its thick bass and sparkly treble, while good individually, can come out disjointed at times. The Jupiter seems like the kid trying to impress the teacher with his knowhow, while Solar IS the teacher.

    JH Audio JH13 FreqPhase
    The 6BA 13 is my reference, the yardstick by which all TOTLs are measured by. Its exciting, fast, balanced sound makes this an endgame for rock and metal. Against the Solar is a battle between two ideologies, the quick aggressor vs the relaxed slow-burner. Notes are thinner and nimbler on the 13, with a faster and impactful attack and decay. It makes for a very engaging listen. Solar, as I’ve said, has a more natural, lifelike tuning. Sounds sluggish next to the 13, but shines so much more on low-tempo tracks when emotion and euphony are called upon. Then it makes the 13 seem cold and “digital” in comparison. If we go by sections, bass extension is equal for both, but Solar packs more rumble, with a more accurate, realistic timbre. The 13’s mids, probably the weakest point of the 13, is no match at all for the natural, emotive Solar mids. 13’s vocals might sound clearer with a veil removed, but tends to be shoutier. 13’s treble too, is splashier, less forgiving, and can be downright harsh in poor recordings. Certainly more exciting but error-prone next to the Solar. In terms of presentation, Solar has a more immersive, enveloping sound with good layering, while 13 seems to present its music like a flat canvas in front of you. There is width and some depth, but the separation and air between instruments are lacking next to the Solar. And I will again harp on the lifelike timbre of the instruments presented by the Solar. The 13 does cymbals, drums, percussion and high-hats very well, but just about every other instrument is bested by the Solar.

    JH Audio Angie
    The Angie is an 8BA IEM that’s known for its mid-forward neutral sound, and to me the best-tuned of the Sirens. In contrast to the 13, the Angie and Solar share many similarities. Let’s get to it. Angie (at bass port 2:00 position) has slightly more detailed bass, with cleaner notes and quicker decay. Solar is warmer, slower, midbass-heavy, punches harder, with a natural decay, and sounds dynamic-like. Angie sounds like a very good BA bass. Mids they go blow-for-blow, decided only by preference. Angie’s mids are more prominent and upfront, with a bit more detail but grainier. Excellent tuning, except vocals are in-your-head. Solar's mids are located further back, sounds sweeter and smoother but very slightly muffled compared to Angie's mids. Both sound natural, with realistic timbre. I would gladly go for either. Treble is another close fight. Both have equal extension and detail. Angie with more precise, articulated notes, and Solar with sweeter, thicker notation. More treble shimmer and sparkle on the Solar, very addictive and natural. Both are just as forgiving. In terms of staging, Angie is wider, whereas Solar is taller and deeper, with better layering of music. Not to say Angie’s imaging is bad, but Solar makes a better case, using its width, depth and height to create a splendid 3D image. Imaging is a mighty Solar strength! Overall, both are in the same ballpark of warmish, smooth, detailed premier IEMs. Angie has the thinner and better-separated notes, giving the impression of more detail. But Solar, with its thicker, richer notes actually sound airier because it uses its depth and height very well. A rare feat indeed.


    IMG_20160505_091550.jpg


    Conclusion
    This is my first TOTL review, and with apologies to Sammy, I’ve really taken my time with it. Moments of critical listening were interrupted by hours upon hours of sheer musical enjoyment. I have not heard realism from instruments as good as this. It’s uncanny! And like a drunk uncle who knows not when to leave or shut up, I will drill these words again to you. Natural, lifelike timbre. I’ve said natural like a few hundred times in this review alone, because it really was a revelation to me. If you want a well-balanced all-rounder suitable for nearly all genres, with pinpoint imaging and a satisfyingly large soundstage, please do consider the Solar. Its bass, mids and treble gel together in a super-coherent unit, ignited by its immaculate balance. It truly has no deal-breaking weaknesses.

    At this level, and especially with this signature (warm, smooth, detailed), people will gravitate towards fellow headliners Zeus, A12 and of course, the nambawan custom in Head-Fi, the legendary K10. I daresay the Solar stands with that elite group of CIEMs, and trades blows with them week-in, week-out in Head-Fi battles/comparos. Sort of like Austin, Triple H, Undertaker and the Rock. The past year has been a watershed moment in IEM history, with breathtaking TOTLs arriving every other month, portable audio has never been this exciting. With more reviews, good word-of-mouth, and aided by the excellent customer service of Sammy and co., I hope to see the Solar withstand the test of time.


    IMG_20160504_164940.jpg
      autumnholy, Wokei, Kerouac and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. EagleWings
      @ezekiel77 , Cool. I also noticed that a K10 is in order as well. I look forward to reading your comparisons between the Solar, K10 and A12. Exciting times indeed.
      EagleWings, May 6, 2016
    3. ezekiel77
      @EagleWings that one's up in the air bcos the wait is so long. I might or might not cancel, we'll see.
      ezekiel77, May 6, 2016
    4. EagleWings
      @ezekiel77 , oh well.. I'm sure the Solar and the A12 will do the job of keeping the times excited..
      EagleWings, May 6, 2016
  5. flinkenick
    The Solar: Rhapsodio's TOTL Contender
    Written by flinkenick
    Published Sep 16, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - full and natural midrange, upper midrange and treble clarity, fast and precise bass with enough qauntity
    Cons - customization options (at time of ordering, updated)
    Introduction
    Ever thought of what your perfect signature for an iem is, if you had to specify it as accurate as possible? I was once discussing a custom iem project with one of our local ciem makers, and he asked to list my preference for a sound. I told him I wanted bass that was as powerful as possible, while remaining fast and clean as it shouldn't distort the rest of the frequency. A full sounding midrange like the Heir 8.A was an absolute must, but with more sparkle and airiness up top. Unfortunately we did not proceed with the project, and a few months later I decided to gamble on a relatively unknown ciem based on limited information available: the Solar, by a small company called Rhapsodio.
     
    Rhapsodio is a boutique company based in Hong Kong, that recently celebrated their 3 year anniversary. The two owners Sammy and Sam are passionate about their craft, constantly experimenting with new innovative designs and improving their products. Rhapsodio was the first company for instance to introduce a hybrid design encorporating two dynamic drivers, a while back. Despite their high quality products and satisfied customers, they never managed to make that final ascension to the top of the audiophile community. With two new flagship models, the Rti2 sporting two dynamic drivers and the Solar with ten balanced armature drivers, as well as a new line of upgrade cables, Rhapsodio has come storming again in a fresh attempt to win over the audiophile community.
     
    21538161860_f76fbb5bb3_o.png
     
    The Solar
    -10 balanced armature drivers (2 bass, 4 mid, 2 high and 2 tweeters)
    -Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
    -Impedance: 26 ohm
    -MRSP (custom): $1550
    http://www.rhapsodio.com
     
    Sound impressions
    For this review I’m listening with a Cowon P1 connected to a Headstage Arrow 5TX. The Cowon has a fairly neutral presentation, with smooth tonality. The 5TX is also neutral, but provides a slight increase in tone definition and separation, and widens the soundstage by placing instruments a step back from the listener. It can also boost bass significantly while remaining nice and punchy. Most listening was done with the provided Copper Litz cable. -edit- note, this is a different cable than the current standard cable, the Pandora SPC. The Pandora is warmer, and fuller sounding; while the Copper Litz has slightly leaner notes with more treble sparkle.
     
    Overall, the Solar has a clean and natural presentation. The 4 BA drivers dedicated to the mids provide a solid foundation for a full and lively midrange, with nice thick note impact and clear, beautiful treble. Its signature is best described as natural, in a lively and colorful way. Soundstage width is not more than average compared to other top tier iems, but depth perception and layering is excellent. The precision with which you can hear the different rows of instruments is uncanny. Take the Eagles’ classic hit “Hotel California”. The song starts with the lead guitar presented close and intimate to the listener. The arrangement becomes more enveloping with guitars chiming in to the left and right, topped of by a drum to the right announcing the vocals are about to set in. Instrument separation is spot on - close your eyes and you can identify each instrument from the moment it sets in, as well as the distance between the guitars in the front to the vocals and guitars in the back. Depth perception and separation within the soundstage does not rely on subtle cues that required trained ears - I played the track to a non-audiophile friend that can get a decent fit. She was shocked by the accuracy of the 3D presentation, besides the beautiful tonality of course.
     
    Bass
    The Solar’s bass is fast, tight, and controlled. The high level of control prevents it from leaking to the mids, contributing to the overall clean sound. The bass is not ever present such as with the 8.A and Velvet, but comes with authority when called upon. While I wouldn’t consider the Solar bassy, quantity is definitely more than adequate for most – even for a basshead as myself. It provides ample punch for bass heavy genres as hardcore, hardstyle or hip hop. But its speed is its most remarkable feat. Even with rapid bursts of bass, the definition from the first to the last tone remains intact. Partially because bass decay is rather quick; the bass does not linger for any more time than necessary.
     
    Mids
    Ah, that gorgeous midrange. The Solar’s mids are full, clear and colorful. Now what I mean with colorful is that compared to other iems, it’s like peeling off that plastic protector from a new smartphone. It looked great before, until you realize what you’d been missing. The lower midrange provides that bottom end extension to fill up those classic rock ‘n roll guitars as in AC/DC’s “Who Made Who” (wait for the second guitar to kick in!), creating that nice full sound. It also contributes to the depth required for male voices. Consider Fink’s “Pilgrim”. The song starts with the drumming chords of two guitars, portraying a sense of urgency. The chords being struck should not only be heard, but felt. The vocal sounds deep, providing the perception that sound is being produced from the throat. A lacking midrange will miss that quality, appearing as sound comes only from the mouth. But the upper midrange is where the Solar really shines, especially higher pitched guitars like Mark Knopfler playing away on his Fender Stratocaster in “Sultans of Swing”, or Slash playing one of those heavenly solos in pretty much any Guns ‘n Roses track – this is how an electric guitar should sound: full bodied, clear, and extending smoothly up in to the treble. Vocals sound well defined and realistic with just a hint of warmth to bring out emotion, while the clarity helps female vocals to really shine.
     
    Treble
    The Solar’s treble keeps on extending up to the point you think it might break, but never does. The upper midrange extends on fluently to the treble, contributing to that overall clear and beautiful sound. As with the mids, rather than thin, the treble has a thicker presentation – violins sound beautiful and full, but less sharp and precise in their definition – emotive, rather than analytical. For synthetic treble however the thicker note presentation contributes to a more engaging experience, where you need that nice note impact to feel the music.
     
    Overall, the Solar sounds very lively and has the right properties for an allrounder: fast, punchy bass with enough quantity without distorting the sound. A solid midrange for instruments and vocals, and treble that extends far enough for classical music, but excites for electronic-based music.
     
    IMAG0232.jpg
    From left to right the Solar, Heir 8.A, Rooth LS-X5, Rhapsodio Rti2, and EarSonics Velvet
     
    Comparisons
    EarSonics Velvet ($700)
    The Velvet is U-shaped, with energetic highs and excellent punchy bass that will satisfy most bassheads (full review). The Velvet finds a great balance between being detailed without sounding cold and analytic, due to pleasant warmth that comes off the bass. Following the EarSonics house sound, the Velvet has nice thick note impact, providing a great sense of energy and musicality. When playing Muse’s “Defector”, treble is clearly more forward giving the electric guitars a more upfront ‘in your face’ sound compared to the Solar. The Solar is both smoother and more balanced – the guitars are less prominent and don’t dominate the overall sound. The same holds for EDM, where you want the main melodies to be more prominent. The U-shaped signature of the Velvet however gives it an exciting edge, partly due to the enhanced bass quantity. The Solar’s bass doesn’t fall far behind in quantity, but steps up in quality. The Velvet cannot match its level of speed and precision. So far for the good – the midrange is where the Velvet falls far behind. When directly switching between the Velvet and the Solar (or 8.A for that matter) for most instrument-based music, it can sometimes feel like there’s a hole where the mids used to be: the overall quantity of sound being heard feels reduced. Vocals lack depth and can sound hollow, while the lack of presence in the lower midrange makes instruments sound thinner and less dynamic. Due its U-shaped signature, the Velvet still sounds fun for V-shaped genres – EDM, hip hop, pop and energetic rock, but must admit defeat when it comes to music relying on instrument definition and vocals. While the Velvet's soundstage is slightly wider, the Solar steps up with imaging and depth perception.
     
    Heir 8.A ($1200)
    I’m guessing a lot of people are anxious to hear how the Solar compares to Head Fi's local celebrity: the Noble K10. Best I can offer, is the K10’s stepbrother from a broken marriage - the 8.A. With its gorgeous lush and thick midrange, the 8.A has a full and warm sound, partly due to that copious, ever present bass. The 8.A is the iem equivalent of 70’s American muscle car: strong and powerful - but lacking some precision and refinement. Details tend to get lost in the warm sound, and full and lush as it is, its midrange lacks a bit of clarity. The number one complaint of 8.A owners is probably the lack of sparkle in the treble, the 8.A just doesn’t go there. Bottom line however, is that the 8.A presents a very impressive midrange. The Solar calls  – and raises with detail and clarity in that beautiful upper midrange. The top end of electric guitars are better defined and have that sparkle that let them really shine. The 8.A however has more presence in the lower midrange, giving the bottom end of grungy electric guitars a bit of extra rumble. Due to the warmer sound, male voices sound slightly deeper. However with the Solar, vocals sound clearer and less veiled; vocals can come off a bit more distant with the 8.A. Part of the 8.A’s charm is in its slow ‘analogue’ sound, which presents its main weakness with fast music. Be it metal or EDM, the 8.A wants no part of it. EDM tones and fast guitars - the Solar is much quicker. The same holds for the bass; the Solar’s bass is faster and punchier, as well as more controlled and detailed. In a direct comparison they both share a beautifully full midrange, but differ in their upper vs. lower midrange presence. The 8.A has a unique charming signature, but there’s no denying that the Solar is technically on a higher level due to its speed, precision and clarity. If the 8.A is a 70’s classic muscle car, the Solar is a ’15 Porsche.
     
    Rhapsodio Rti2 ($1200)
    With two dynamic drivers Rhapsodio’s other flagship follows a different design, as well as philosophy (full review). Where the Solar strives for beauty, the Rti2 aims at realism. The Solar has a fuller midrange, and its treble extends higher. The Rti2 sounds darker than the Solar, in which the upper midrange and treble sounds slightly more accentuated, making the Solar sound a bit livelier and more colorful. The Rti2 might not have that full, multi BA sound, but music is portrayed with a higher resolution: instruments are sharper defined, while the Rti2 takes midrange clarity to a next level. The nuance of the chord of an acoustic guitar being plucked, a silent breath before singing - it’s all there. In short, acoustic instruments sound better with the Rti2, electric guitars with the Solar. The Rti2’s bass is slower, but has that nice round feel of a dynamic driver. Decay is slower and more natural, giving kickdrums that nice ‘thump’. The Solar is a clear winner concerning quantity, but the Rti2's seems to be less variable than the Solar's. While the Solar's bass doesn't require amping, I'll keep my Arrow's bass setting on I or II when listening to the Rti2. While the Solar’s bass is faster and more precise, my preference for bass goes to the Rti2 - albeit amped. You just can’t beat a high quality dynamic driver. Overall, the two flagships are more complimentary than similar. When comparing, either’s strength is also a relative weakness. The Solar has a fuller, but as a consequence, less pinpoint precise midrange as the Rti2. The Solar sounds livelier, the Rti2 more balanced and realistic.
     
    Summary
    If I had to describe the sound of my iems in one word, I’d say the Velvet was designed to excite. With its forward highs and thunderous bass it sounds emotive and energetic. The 8.A was built to sound cool. The 8.A basically sounds great for any type of music where artists perform in sunglasses and leather jackets, irrespective of their age. It doesn’t care if it’s too slow for modern synthesized music; it was made to rock. It’s certainly too cool to add any ‘sparkle’ in the treble. The high resolution Rti2 provides every subtle nuance in the music, the dynamics of instrument being placed: the Rti2 aims at realism. The Solar’s natural and colorful sound is built from a solid foundation of mids, extending on up to that sweet, beautiful treble. Detailed, without being analytic and full bodied without lacking clarity, and all of that perfectly balanced: the Solar was built to sound beautiful.
     
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    Cable matching
    If you are interested in the Solar, it’s worth asking Sammy about their new cable collection. He might be inclined to give you a good deal on an additional purchase of one of their new upgrade cables. Switching between cables drastically changes the Solar’s signature, and slowed down the process of writing this review. Every time I thought I pinned down exactly what the difference between say the Solar or Rti2 was, switching cables reversed my perception of their relative differences forcing me to rewrite the review a couple of times.
     
    RSD OCC Copper Litz 8-braid
    When I inquired about their copper 8-braid, the first thing that Sammy said was that it is a hard cable. He warned me twice more before I purchased it, but I am personally not deterred by cable ergonomics. He wasn’t lying though, it’s probably the stiffest cable I’ve ever had – that being said, it also brings out the upper midrange and treble with a clarity like no other cable I’ve ever had. Female vocals, acoustic instruments or gently plucked electric guitars: this is the one cable you’ll ever need. It is somewhat of a specialist though, since the Solar becomes quite a bit more V-shaped. The consequence of the upper midrange clarity comes at the cost of a lower midrange recess affecting rock ‘n roll guitars, and sometimes the depth of male voices.
    Recommend for: acoustics, vocals, singer/songwriter type music, classical
     
    RSD Silver Litz
    Sammy recommended the 4-braid over the 8-braid due to that the Silver Litz remains very true to the sound of the iem. The 8-braid is warmer, but also adds more coloration. So, reluctantly, I got the 4-braid. The Silver Litz is a very balanced cable, bringing out detail in the treble without recessing the lower mids. It sounds slightly colder than the standard copper, without sounding bright. It’s a very transparent cable, although it doesn’t add that sparkle on electric guitars like the OCC Copper 8-braid. Bass is punchier than the standard Copper Litz and OCC Copper Litz 8-braid, and better defined. Of the three cables it is the most neutral.
    Recommend for: EDM, metal, rock, pop
     
    RSD Silver/Gold 2.98 OCC Litz 8-braid
    Of the three cables, this is the most serious sounding one. The cable is warm and midforward, and regularly brings out abundant detail in the (lower) midrange and bass that I overlooked before. Music sounds weightier, with increased note impact. The same holds for the bass, which becomes rounder and again, weightier. The treble appears slightly attenuated; this is not a ‘sparkly’ cable, as one would expect of a silver alloy cable. Not that treble is recessed, it is just as extended, but the relative forward mids dominate the overall signature more. I picture the 2.98 as the cable equivalent of the Heir 8.A, with it’s warm, midforward and somewhat analogue sound. As such this cable is also somewhat of a specialist. It excels for band-based music. Vocals, electric guitars, just anything that rocks. It is somewhat of a specialist though, as it doesn't have a clear background. Instead it sounds very heavy, which cannot be mistaken for muddiness as it has a high resolution. It’s best matched with iems that have strong mids, like the Solar or 8.A. The 2.98 can be considered the opposite of the RSD OCC Copper 8-braid; midforward vs. V-shaped. Rhapsodio: where you get a silver cable for the mids, and a copper for treble. Shocking.
    Recommend for: rock
     
    IMAG0236.jpg
    Top to bottom: 2.98 Silver/Gold 8-braid, Silver Litz, OCC Copper Litz 8-braid and standard Copper Litz. 
     
    Comparisons with the Solar in other reviews:
    AAW W500:
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/advanced-acousticwerkes-w500-ahmorph/reviews/14596
     
    Empire Ears Zeus:
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/empire-ears-zeus/reviews/14716
     
    Perfect Seal AR6:
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/perfect-seal-ar6/reviews/14957
     
    EarSonics S-EM9:
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/earsonics-s-em9-in-ear-earphones/reviews/14990
     
    (Photos credit to Victor van der Boom)​
    1. View previous replies...
    2. proedros
      Hey Nic, just one question about the cables part in your review - is this copper cable the same as the stock one provided ? or is the sound enhancement different due to it being an 8-braid (i think stock is a 4-braid) ?

      RSD OCC Copper Litz 8-braid
      also , the thing you say about silver cable beefing up the mids and copper cable beefing up the highs extends to cables by other makers as well ?

      cheers

      proedros, Feb 8, 2016
    3. flinkenick
      Hi Sotos,
      -The review was actually written with the copper litz cable, the former standard cable.
      -The OCC copper 8-braid was an upgrade cable that is no longer for sale.
      -The silver litz actually gives a slight recess in the lower mids, has a colder atmosphere, but makes the midrange clearer by improving resolution as well as treble sparkle. I will prob edit the whole cable part out.
      flinkenick, Feb 9, 2016
    4. Incarnation
      Hellooooo, just wanted to know, after so many other TOTLs are being released, do you think solar still has the capabilities to stand against the rest? :)
      Incarnation, Mar 11, 2017