New Head-Fier
Toneking V10 alias AGATE - life in the music.
Pros: comfort and noise insulation
quality design plus possible customization
spacious sound with perfect localization
TOP tonality - music is as alive in all its aspects
Microdetails incorporated into the whole of music
Cons: weak equipment and average cable
sensitive to the signal source
sensitive to used tips
high nozzle diamater
ToneKing V10 alias AGATE IEM earphones.

At first, sorry that i don´t write as first positive and negative things in short words. Second sorry - for my english. And at least - this my words can´t be taken as objective thing, but only as personal view. Thanks.

Greetings to all the fools of portable audio or IEM headphones. I would like to try to share my experience with the ToneKing V10 or AGATE headphones. As I am neither an expert nor an experienced reviewer and poet in audio words, take my review as purely subjective. My personal opinion, feeling.

Why did I choose this particular model, because there is really a lot to choose from the market at this price? I bought a Lucifer model before these IEM. I don't know why, but every time when I saw them, something attracted me to them. Lucifer are an unbeatably comfortable IEM for me, and what got me, was their tonal performance. He was breathing, soaked in something fluid, something that made me feel at home. Not just good reproduction at this price level. Even though they have their sound limits, every time I exchanged them for the Dune DN2002, there was such a pleasant feeling to just get carried away by the music and not deal with it. So I took a risk, trusting the tonal tuning of ToneKing, more precisely their main sound designer, the tuner. As a bonus, the look was made roughly to my requirements.

First, a few technical info, on which I "tested", listened to what I was up to, and what I used as my test tracks.

My main audio source was a Furutech Stratos DAC / ADC amp, connected with an optical cable to a PC. As other DAP I used were: QLS - 360 MOD, Oriolus DP100 and Colorfly C4 PRO portable player. For comparison, I have only one - Dunu DN2002 headphones, but I also tried the large Tago Studio T3-01 and Ath-W5000. Just for curiosity.

As test tracks I used all WAV from CD or SACD - 24bit / 192Khz.

Esbjorn Svensson - Trio Viaticum - Viaticum

Word - Nomo - Whisper

Dead Can Dance - Toward the Within - Rakim

Oscar Peterson - You Look Good To Me / AAA recording /

Sebastiano Plano - Impetus - Impetus

Kovacs - Shades of black - 50 Shades of black

Bjornstad Ketil - Floating - Floating

Dire Straits - On Every Street - Calling Elvis

Porcupine Tree - Ilosaarirock - Fear Of A Blank Planet

Diana Krall - All for You A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio - I’m an Errand Girl for Rhythm

And many others ....

First, what you will get. ToneKing is generally known for not advertising, not giving its products to anyone for free. Unfortunately, also because the output control is sometimes not at the 100% level. And finally, the fact that all their products have the same packaging, the same case, the same tips, only the cables are different, more adequate to the headphones. As the AGATE models are more or less custom-made headphones, you can be sure that they will be tuned and checked at 99%, if not 100%. The rest I must honestly admit remains. AGATE came in the same tiny box as Lucifer, as well as the included tips and the aluminum case was the same. Only the cable was clearly of better quality. What about the fact that the headphones themselves and the cable will no longer fit in that case. They're bigger than Lucifer. Here's a big minus for ToneKing. Because if I get a top-packaged product from other manufacturers for a given price, they often a custom-made case, sometimes two different cables or a reduction from 2.5mm balanced to a 3.5mm standard jack, and a bunch of different tips. This means that if the AGATE costs about 450-500USD, for others you can take into account the price of 600USD. And that puts AGATE at a significant disadvantage.

In any case, the overall design, the quality of the paint, every detail is at the top level. It can be seen that it is handmade and the whole production process is seen through human eyes. Likewise, communication with ToneKing before and during production is perfect. If no step or detail is clear, production will not begin.

Since, as I mentioned above, I don't have any other IEM, similar in construction or price to AGATE, I only have to use Dune DN2002. They are about 100-150USD cheaper, they are hybrid IEMs, and also ready for HiRes. AGATE no. For Dunu, a few tens of hours are enough to burn, for AGATE it is happily close to a hundred.

I will not be very detailed, but I guess it will be understood and forgiven. The first fundamental difference between these IEMs is in tuning. Dunes are clearly balanced headphones. Nothing stands out, nothing is in the background. They do not try to color the sound. Their reproduction is neutral, no warm no cold. They have, I'd rather say a drie reproduction. AGATE are different. Personally, I perceive them as not completely balanced. They are dominated by bass, more precisely ultra deep bass. It would not obscure the rest of the high spectrum, but it clearly dominates. Very, really very much depends on the used tips. Personally, I still have trouble finding a single type of tips, that would suit me for all genres of music I hear. It is true that recording is a huge problem nowadays, where the quality and tuning is very different. But with DN-2002, I don't have such a big problem with this. But maybe it's because I'm a person against strong and bummy bass. Even though I need it in music. On the other hand, it's much easier to find tips that suppress the bass than what the bass will highlight. Also, the larger hole in the tips, the wider, make deeper sound stage, more airy sound. With small holes on the tips, everything becomes smaller, more common, more compressed. But I will return to AGATE. The bass is strongly dominant, but using the right tips is more than cool. They are deep, but not blurred or muddy. They are tight, they are precise, they resonate clearly, you can feel the source of the bass as well as its echo in space. They add volume to music. However, they do not obscure anything. Each tool is clearly drawn, separated. It has its volume, position, location in space. The music works as a whole, but you know exactly where and how it happens on stage. It is not sterile. The high tones are clear, transparent, fast and have reverberation when needed. On the contrary, when they are to disappear, they will. All microdetails are audible. The jingle of the triangle is amazing. It is incredibly clear how big or small it is, how metallic it resonates. The middrange is clearly defined. But this very much depends on the recording. I can't say if it's in the foreground or in the background. Also the singer's voice. Somewhere I felt that he was in the background compared to DN-2002, somewhere on the contrary that he was where he had, breathing into my face. For me, the high tones, despite the fact that DN-2002 go up to 40kHz, are cleaner, sounder, clearer in their presentation. Compared to DN-2002, the sound stage is more spacious. DN-2002 sound wider, but with a weaker space in depth. AGATE are better at this. Everything seems to have a larger volume, not only tools, but also the space between them. However, what is the biggest difference between DN-2002 and AGATE is their tonality. DN-2002 sound perfect, balanced and harmonious, with accurate reproduction. AGATE supplies the instruments with their body, their volume, their material from which they are made, human clapping hands are truly human clapping hands. The singer's voice - sometimes I literally feel that he had a dry mouth and if he drank before singing. All tonal variations of singing are more real, they are more vivid. They give music a real life with its tastes and smells as well as flaws. The wood piano sounds like a wood piano. Not like a perfect electronic piano. The wooden bass suddenly has its own wooden baffle. Conversely, electronic sounds are clearly reproduced as electronic. These are all very fine tonal details, but on the whole they give the music that special unique taste. If DUNU DN2002 are about great harmony and balancing in the sound, AGATE are about emotions, feelings, and life.

Suitability with DAC or DAP or chip. Personally, the Dunu DN-2002 clearly fits a more musical DAC or chip. Not with accurate, cold. ToneKing AGATE - for them, on the other hand, a soft warm DAC or chip is not suitable. DN-2002 clearly played better with QLS-360, but with Oriolus already quite sharp, unpleasantly. AGATE on the contrary. However, both IEMs play excelled with Colorfly C4. Personally, this DAP, like my first DAP, is still the only one that always kidnaps me with its sound and gets me into a state of letting music just drift. It even happened to me, that when I tried AGATE and Tago Studio with Colorfly, sometime I preferred AGATE.

Noise insulation and comfort. AGATE does not sit in the ear like Lucifer from ToneKing, which seems to be carved by the ear. They're bigger, but after a while, I forgot I had them in my ear. With longer tips in the ear, they sit very stably. The insulation is very good, I would say dangerous, because I really was not able to hear the noise of a car or a man on a bicycle behind me.

What would I add at the end? Am I completely satisfied with AGATE and clearly recommend them? I honestly cannot make a clear recommendation. As I mentioned at the beginning, for poor accessories, it is necessary to compare them with more expensive models. In my opinion, they are not completely balanced, rather they are dominated by bass, and they are quite sensitive to the chosen tips or DAC. On the other hand, their presentations is already close to electrostatic models. Their tonality is ingenious. The wearing comfort is not at the level of Lucifer, they are bulkier, but they are still very comfortable and light. They have a 6.5 mm diameter nozle, which makes it a bit of a problem to find the right tips. But what I can finally say is that with AGATE, SpinFit CP100 plays best for 90%. They also played well with Dun DN2002, but in the end I preferred KZ tips to them. Even if anything tightens their power due to their low impedance, on the contrary, it is in sound quality. They are uncompromising in exposing poor quality in the source. On the contrary, the better you give them, the better the reward in sound quality. I can't say that these IEMs will be among the TOP10 priced up to $ 500. I have nothing to compare them to. But I definitely recommend them for attention. Especially for those who are not looking for perfection in sound, but rather the enjoyment of music and the feeling that music is a living thing. With ToneKing AGATE, music simply becomes alive in all its aspects. I am more than satisfied in this regard.

PS: some pictures....

PS: 6/24/2021 - Adding an additional opinion. After another hours of playing and comparing, I have to say that Agate is still improving. And they also get into a balanced state. My previous sense of bass dominance is gone. Although I am one of those who prefer less bass, with Agate everything is complemented to the right extent. Each tone and frequency is thus clearly defined, with vigor and power delivered. It doesn't matter if you are listening quietly or at a higher volume. Nothing merges or obscures each other. These IEMs cannot be listened to as just relaxation, they literally force a person to listen as carefully as possible. I am fully satisfied. I recommend.


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