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.