Let me start by saying this isn't really a full fledged review but a testimonial to the brand Tralucent Audio and especially massive thanks to the owner known on Head-fi as spkrs01 or Gavin. My journey with Tralucent began several years ago in 2012, a member I know well on the forums was ranting about this new hybrid IEM he demoed after helping someone here on Head-fi. At the time you think its just hype, new toy syndrome like many products on the market, another hatched train line. Not long after our conversations a tour began for the earphone in question, impressions came through solid from reputable enthusiasts how capable this new hybrid monitor really was. The praise was strong, a large percentage of people on these tours ordered one almost instantly (take my money! kind of thing). Myself being new(ish) to the forums back then obviously I was dying to try it.
We ended up having a unit sent to Australia, thankfully directly from Gavin himself which we demoed over here in Oz. What I heard from the original Tralucent 1Plus2 monitor was above everything else I'd heard before, not by a little either. This earphone had technical strength like an Ox , it took any IEM I'd personally heard previously making me feel like I'd wasted time and money. The original 1Plus2 become extremely successful, there are many reasons for that. Its transparency, technical skill and ability to extract meaning, feelings and emotions from sheer music (quality) alone.
I think part of it comes down to the timbre and house sound these earphones possess. They express themselves being extremely posh or high-end which is hard to describe until hearing one. If you could imagine a luxurious house with state of the art audiophile sound system Gavin's earphones simulate or replicate what you would perhaps hear in that room as compact portable solution. The levels of detail, clarity and presentation, the timbre has this specific tone or character which screams premium and they're all extremely capable on a technical level.
1Plus2 is still a competitive earphone from many of the IEM's I've heard today, in my eyes its near perfection for my preference building a monstrous reference point for me to compare other IEMs edging their prices into the higher-end category. Not only is 1Plus2 very competent it aligns basically 99.9% with my personal tastes which forms a stronghold against most other earphones I audition or review (tough times for them). After 1Plus2 Gavin released some newer hybrid IEMs including his Ref.1 and Ref.1 Too which use dual dynamic drivers in an isobaric chamber (push/pull design) again the performance showed in flocks. He also has a new Plus5 all balanced armature design and finally around the same time in 2016 released 1Plus2.2, the successor to his original?
Considering we've explained my feelings for the original 1Plus2 monitor its probably pretty hard to upgrade easily, right? At first when I heard Gavin made a revised 1Plus2 I denied he could improve on what I found perfection, I thought there was no real way he could take it further Well, I was wrong, but to some extent so let's explain.
After some conversations with Gavin the overall design of 1Plus2.2 remains similar, the dual balanced armatures are housed close to the eardrum inside each nozzle, a single dynamic driver mounted behind the BAs (hence the vented housings creating an acoustic chamber). Tralucent ran some tests on the material used for the nozzle bore, they've gone for a metal bore this time round which you can see the gold colour finish on each housing. Another area tested for improvement was the positioning of the balanced armatures inside each nozzle, to my understanding they're positioned a little further back from the original 1Plus2 design. I will say I do seem to notice this as tips that work well on my original 1Plus2 react differently on the newer model. I'm not sure if its due to the new nozzle being metal now or the balanced armature positioning but I do hear a variation. I have also noticed out of all my Tralucent IEMs the popular JVC Spiral Dot tips seem to be the most responsive on 1Plus2.2, what I'd consider the most balanced and detailed sound from every tip I've tried on the new hybrid.
Tralucent is also quite popular for their excellent sounding cables, including their top of the line Uber cable. Gavin is quite the purist even developing propriety silver/gold wire designed for the internal wiring inside each and every housing of his earphones, its all taken into the equation when tuning. As for the external cables most earlier Tralucent series came with two options you could choose, pure silver wire or silver/gold. These newer models now come with Gavin's latest edition copper cable, he developed a copper cable that will come as a stock option and that is the cable I currently use on my 1Plus2.2, I believe he also does balanced cable terminations if requested. From my testing whatever purity and wire used inside this new copper cable must be extremely clean because they have an uncanny way of sounding like a silver cable while inheriting the note weight of copper. It makes for some excellent sounding vocals and an interesting contrast on the earphones signatures. But enough cable talk, let's do some comparing...
Sound Impression / Comparison with Original 1Plus2:
The newer 1Plus2.2 still sounds like the same DNA pool, you have the Tralucent house sound, the timbre, transparency, detail, its technical skill still remains. But what's been changed is the signature has been tuned slightly smoother, thicker, the treble has been eased ever so slightly (some people found the highs hot(ish) on the original). It actually makes 1Plus2.2 sound more musical and less fatiguing over long listening sessions, the music flows more seamlessly.
Another transformation is the tonality being shifted slightly warmer around the mids, its lost some of that analytical/cold nature the original has. When you think that's not really an upgrade the 1Plus2.2 uses this new layer of thickness around its mid-range to surprisingly reveal more detail, thicker clarity which makes its vocal reproduction absolutely outstanding. What it does with the extra note weight is push out more of what the original 1Plus2 capped out on. Its like having a sports car with an extra gear, 1Plus2 went to 5th, 1Plus2.2 goes to 6th (or maybe even 7th) gear. Another way to look at it is like someone added a stronger microscope lens on your detail meter or injected anabolic steroids into the earphone. Also because of these tuning adjustments the majority of sibilance with vocals people sometimes mentioned is toned down considerably.
Area's like the bass still have amazing texture and extension providing you're completely sealed up with the correct tips and I do detect it being a little faster when transiting from one note to the next, it seems to bounce a little more elegantly as you hear bass notes enter and exit clearly and quickly. Clarity in the low-end remains very much like Tralucent, soundstage still presents extremely open and airy like all Gavin’s earphones have in the past and the treble remains as detailed.
For anyone who enjoyed 1Plus2 signature but thought it was a little thin at times or cold the newer edition corrects most of those concerns. I won't say its as warm or deep sounding as his Ref.1 though something around the ball park of thicker/warmer, smoother 1Plus2 with more musicality. Despite these changes, the driver configuration and armatures used I still always hear an essence of the original. Like mentioned previously the DNA or bloodline totally remains intact.
When we consider the two earphones I need to ask myself if the new 1Plus2.2 is a true upgrade from the original? Has Gavin's new creation stood up to the extremely strong reference point I mentioned in the opening paragraphs. I believe it has yes, its shown the original 1Plus2 could be improved upon, its shown there were some areas that needed loving care. But in saying that its not like the original now sounds bad or is the underdog, we've already established in my eyes the original is very capable and unique.
I consider the newer 1Plus2.2 an add-on or expansion pack to the original, an extension of the 1Plus2 monitor. It does have more detail, at times you think 'yep' it has the first in the bag, and one needs to admit it can push out some remarkable vocals. But what the 2.2 has lost is a little of the analytical nature and that's right were my natural preferences lie, there's always a trade-off. The ballerina technical display 1Plus2 delivers still builds a solid case against this newest competitor. I think others will feel differently because they both deliver an altered representation of music and versatility depending on your favourite genres.
Either way what has been done is a tremendous effort all round without separating itself too far from the main roots of Tralucent Audio's house sound many have grown to love.
I look at the Tralucent earphones as more an investment, they prevent me needing to make any further purchases or upgrades, they perform at a level I'm entirely satisfied with and never become uninterested in them, I think I've owned the original 1Plus2 over a year now, it never seems to tire me, I can still listen to them and say 'hell yeah' like the first day I heard them. Now the newer 2.2 only adds an expansion of that experience retaining any want to upgrade even further.
I'm quite fussy when spending large amounts of money in this hobby because I've seen people can be so disappointed with some purchases, I dread the thought of spending $1000+ waiting 2-weeks for delivery only to listen 5 minutes and want to neck yourself. But when it comes to Tralucent I am willing to fork over the cash, I know what's offered is a premium sound. I admit it, I'm a fanboy, but why shouldn't I be when these earphones have demonstrated they're some of the best on the market.
In a hobby we're throwing away money trying to reach some endless audio nirvana if an earphone can accomplish that for me its a very good earphone entirely for that reason alone, to postpone purchasing thoughts of this (seemingly) infinite audio addiction is a blessing. 1Plus2, Ref.1, Ref.1 Too, 1Plus2.2, Plus5, they're all simply outstanding IEMs made by an extremely great man, someone who actually gave a damn. Big thanks to Gavin, the guy who wanted to make a difference, It doesn't go unnoticed!
I'd like to leave you all with a live concert recorded in 1993 by Michel Jonasz, one I own on CD to reference test earphones.
Its quite a long video though you'll get a feel within the first 10 minutes and I don't ask you watch it all.
Pros: Very transparent and clear. Bass packs a nice deep yet tight punch. Trebles are smooth, airy and clear and a large soundstage
Cons: Cable socket still doesn't lock in. Cable is somewhat tangly. Need really well mastered tracks
Does Tralucent Audio really need any introduction? It's been around and well known since 2012 and Gavin (@spkrs01) has been active with the Head-Fi community even before the business started. In fact he's more a consumer than a maker! Tralucent Audio did not start of by making low end products then working their way up. The business wasn't shy in coming up with high end sound from day one with Gavin himself listening and instructing how the sound should be tuned.
In the past few years, Gavin has come up with the 1Plus2 back in late 2012, then Ref1 in 2014 still a hybrid but employing a isobaric design for the dual dynamic drivers, the Ref1 Too, and most recently offering an all BA earphone with the Plus5. However in 2016 he also revised the 1Plus2 into a the 1Plus2.2.
As far as I know, I believe the design is still pretty much the same - a single dynamic driver with twin BA's. Whether it's the same drivers as the original 1Plus2, I'm uncertain. I've long since sold my 1Plus2 however shape-wise it does seem to look the same. I'm not certain but I think the filter grills may be different but I can't seem to find pix of the old 1Plus2 grills. It uses a Westone-styled connector however I'm not certain if the diameter of the pins are the same as they used to be.
The cable to me is a little tangly and cumbersome and somewhat microphonics. However in terms of sonics, it seems to couple with the 1Plus2.2 rather well.
We'll get to the meat of it all but before doing so, my primary set up is as pictured - the AK380Cu with matching amp on firmware 1.25 listening to mostly DSD files. Why the AK380Cu? 'cos Gavin convinced me that the setup was to die for - and who am I to argue with a man who knows what he's talking about?
First and foremost, the 1Plus2.2 is ridiculously transparent and clear. Whatever you have in your DAP, it feels like the 1Plus2.2 just presents it exactly for what it is - if you have a bad recording, well you'll definitely hear it; if you have a live recording; well you're gonna feel like you're there hearing every chatter, clapping, toe tapping, champagne corks popping, etc. in the background of the track. Want to know what I mean? Have a listen to Bill Evans Trio's My Foolish Heart from the Waltz for Debbie album. The 1Plus2.2 makes you feel like you were there back in 1961. In fact with so much transparency, with the wealth of information that the 1Plus2.2 can present, it can almost be overwhelming.
Which leads to the next point of instrument separation - the 1Plus2.2 is distinctively clear. The various instruments don't muddy up each other. This works well for "simple" presentations but if it's a musical track of multitude of instruments, vocals, etc. it can be a little overwhelming. However listening to Jazz triplets and quartets or simple vocal jazz the 1Plus2.2 absolutely excels.
Soundstage plays a part in the above too - one of the reason why the 1Plus2.2 works is that the soundstage it presents is wide and deep (for an earphone at least), and at least in my opinion, gives the instruments room to "breath" so to speak. I don't hear any excessive decay and overlap in this earphone. The 1Plus2.2 also seems to create one of the largest soundstage presentations within the category of IEMs.
As for it's tonal signature, if memory serves me correctly, to me it's the same as the original 1Plus2 but smoothed out somewhat less "harsh crisp". The bass is deep, punchy and tight. To my ears, it's an addictive part of the signature that I really like. The mids are a little toned back like the originally 1Plus2 but not offensively recessed - I may call this a slight shallow U but not V shaped signature. The trebles in the 1Plus2.2 is where I feel it has improved the most over the 1Plus2. The 1Plus2.2 trebles remain a extended however are much smoother and silkier than the original 1Plus2. There's more air and a "classy" presentation to it than it's predecessor.
As the 1Plus2.2 has an overall very tight presentation that it makes it a speedy IEM that works well with fast tracks.
If one were to seek a very open and transparently clear earphone, the 1Plus2.2 would probably one of the top in this category. It's the kind that would keep one excited in hearing every detail and it keeps one on the edge of the seat throughout the whole listening time. To me, it's not a laid back, relaxing kind of presentation - in a movie analogy, it's like watching an action movie in 4K or even 8K with the full 4DX works. At least in my experience, there are few IEMs in this category and personally in my IEM list, the 1Plus2.2 reigns in the top 2 list (where the other is the Shure KSE1500).