Pros - Quality bass; wide soundstage; good timbre in mids; controlled trebles; excellent details
Cons - More than 200 hours burn in; ruthlessly transparent; bass and soundstage not as deep as Ref1
As stated elsewhere, for the longest time I have been more familiar with Tralucent Audio as the makers of the Uber cable as well as its silver/gold cable. both of which I have terminated for Fitear customs. I have owned the 1plus2 for for more than a month now. My 1Plus2 comes with the silver/gold cable. As with its younger sibling, the 1Plus2 needs at least 200 hours to hit the sweet spot. One thing which all owners of the 1Plus2 never fail to talk about is the sheer soundstage of this IEM. This soundstage is apparent even from the outset. The other thing which owners constantly rave about is the tight bass of the 1Plus2.
The 1Plus2, as you may have guessed from its name, uses one dynamic driver with a pair of balanced armature drivers. It is a hybrid IEM.
First Impressions & a Second Meeting
I will be the first to admit that the first time that I met the 1Plus2, it was after a 15 hour flight from NYC and my ears were still recovering from the flight. Spkrs01 had very kindly met me on Boxing Day to hand me the Tralucent silver/gold cable for Fitears. Of course, he tempted me by whipping out a Uber as well. But that is a story for another day...
Spkrs01 also produced a brand new 1Plus2 and asked if I would like to try. I put it on and listened to a couple of passages on my DAP. At that point in time, the 1Plus2 did not make me sit up and take notice. Blame it on the jet lag, ears not fully popped or having the Fitear 435 and AKG K3003.
The second time I had a chance to listen to the 1Plus2 was again when I met Spkrs01. This time he had a fully burnt in one which had clocked well in excess of 200 hours. This time around, the 1Plus2 blew me away as I listened to DSD music on the balanced output on the AK240: That soundstage! The grip of the mids and the purity of the sig! I wanted it; and it was mine. That was how I came to own the 1Plus2.
Build Quality & Comfort
As I had indicated previously, by this time, I had stopped buying universals because I found that Fitear customs fit me so well and were so comfortable. As with the Ref 1, I was surprised how comfortable the 1Plus2 were. Unlike the Ref 1 (which I prefer with Spin Fits), I am very happy using the 1Plus2 with Ortofons. The interesting thing is that although there have been some complaints that the 1Plus2 is less comfortable than the Ref 1, I found that the 1Plus2 fit my ears much better. With the Ref 1, I actually have to do some adjustment. While with the 1Plus2, I plonk the tips in and that is it: perfect seal.
I will say that I am also happy with the build quality of the 1Plus2. No issues here.
The Tralucent silver/gold cable is perhaps unfortunate to find itself in the same family as the Uber cable. In any other company, the silver/gold would be the flagship cable. That it is not is down to not so much its lack of quality but rather because it stands next to the superlative Uber. While there have been some concerns expressed about the ergonomics etc of this cable, I feel that the payback in terms of excellent sound quality far outweighs any inconvenience of a stiff cable. Of course, I will be frank and say that I can't say that it is any worse than the stock 001 Fitear cable.
Music Genres & Sound Quality
I am blessed to have an abundance of riches insofar as my music collection is concerned: it covers a wide range of genres from the Tallis Scholars (medieval church music) to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, to Mandopop to Popera to K-pop.
The 1Plus2, with proper burn in, handles all the genres in my music repertoire very nicely. Of course, what is outstanding about the 1Plus2 is its unrivalled soundstage. It even has a 3D soundstage which is eclipsed only by the Ref 1. The 1Plus2 also has a very tight bass with deep impact. Again, this bass is eclipsed by the visceral sub bass of the Ref 1. Unlike some other IEMs with significant soundstage, the 1Plus2 does not suffer from being overly bright or harsh trebles. Once, burnt in, the 1Plus2 displays none of these issues which plague other IEMs: the 1Plus has smooth and clear treble.
While I have seen the sig of the 1Plus2 being characterised as V shaped, I cannot help but wonder if too many of us have grown up listening to rather mid forward cans and therefore anything which is not mid forward is then characterised as having recessed mids. From my perspective, I find the 1Plus2 very balanced: everything is kept in the appropriate proportion to the other parts.
What I do like about the 1Plus2 is that the mids have great clarity and timbre. There is a great rawness in emotions I always feel when I listen to strings on it. The 1Plus2 is no slouch in terms of voices either. In fact, I do love the purity it renders on vocals.
The 1Plus2 has one characteristic which may be good or bad depending on the quality of your chain: it is very neutral, detailed and transparent. If there are any shortcomings in the music files or sources, you can be sure that you will hear them.
The 1Plus2 is quite versatile with DAPs. In fact, it is fantastic with the notoriously finicky Tera Player. Other than the usual suspects like the HM 901, HM 802, Calyx M, and AK240, the 1Plus2 is also very good with the HM 801 and HM 603 which have what is commonly characterised as warmer sigs. Of course, my view is that they are more mid-centric than anything else. This of course plays right up to the strength of the 1Plus2 with its pure and emotive mids.
The lesson I learnt in my journey to the Tralucent 1Plus2 is that we should look beyond first impressions. I did and I have reaped the rich rewards of having the 1Plus2.
Pros - Visceral bass, great sense of scale, smooth articulate sound, drivers well integrated
Cons - Disappointing build quality, lacks a little high frequency extension, vocals a little unengaging, extremely expensive
*Please ignore the audio quality / comfort / design / isolation / value sliders for this review. As far as I can tell, they seem broken*
This is a universal in-ear monitor with a two balanced armature drivers and a dynamic driver. This earphone costs $1250 IEM with a cable that costs about $800, or as a package together, about $1400. I'm part of an Australian listening tour for this earphone and I spent 2 weeks with it.
Let me say this first: I found this IEM really hard to review for a number of reasons, and all of them are related to the price of this earphone.
The most expensive earphone that I own is a second hand pair of Sony MDR-EX1000, which at the time of release were something like $600 or $700. At that time, people were saying that this was a ludicrous price to pay for an earphone that was not a custom monitor.
In recent times it now seems that $1000 is the new starting price point for flagship universal in-ears.
Whenever there is a high priced product released, there is a rehash of the same tired argument two sides. One side thinks this kind of high pricing is a cynical cash grab. There's another side which is willing to pay good money for what is hopefully an amazing aesthetic experience, and other people who would aspire to spend that kind of money.
Here's my perspective: I'm a student. I'm a believer in the free market. I believe that things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them, and as far as I know, no one is being forced to buy thousand dollar IEMs against their will.
Even putting a dollar price on sound quality is a bit odd because it is as much a subjective experience as a technical one. Buying high end audio is something like evaluating a painting or a sports car. There are technical aspects to the performance of the product. But it's also a lot about how it makes you feel. It is never a completely rational purchase.
I'm actually very hesitant to even talk about pricing or 'value for money' in my reviews, because everyone's preferences and circumstances are different. I don't want to encourage the perception that more expensive things always sound better in audio, because it simply just is not true. At the same time I think it's condescending to say that people who spend X money on so and so product are suckers. It's the kind of knee jerk reaction that seems to start a lot of pointless and boring arguments.
At the same time when a product costs this much, I can't help but get extremely hyper - critical, because at this price point things that might be acceptable in a cheaper product start to seem unacceptable at higher prices.
The best I can do in a review is to compare what I think are similar products in terms of build quality, ergonomics and sound quality, give a personal opinion, and hopefully people can use the information in my reviews and the reviews of others to come to their own decision.
In the case of 1Plus2, I can tell you that while I think it does sound really good, I would not be willing to pay $1250 for it. Here's why.
I made a Youtube video that gives you a look at the 1Plus2 as well as some of my observations about the build quality which are also reiterated below in text. If you like my videos, please check out my channel.
I place a lot of emphasis on build quality and design in my reviews, because I think build quality is a relatively objective thing that people can see and know what they are paying for.
Frankly, for the price of the 1Plus2, the build quality and design is embarrassing. It has a lot of 'boutique audiophile charm', which is another way of saying it seems amateurish.
Starting with the shells, they are quite large, bulky and made of acrylic. This is the material that they make custom moulded earphones with. Acrylic is fine for custom earphones because they are made on a case by case basis, moulded to an individual ear. It would be too expensive to make an injection mould for every individual customer, and the custom shape might be impossible to CNC mill or use some other manufacturing process.
But the 1Plus2 is a universal fit earphone. If you actually look at the internals of the 1Plus2 you can see most of it is empty plastic. I cannot think of any reason why it needs to be made this bulky or made out of this material, except that Tralucent wanted to make it 'look' like a custom moulded earphone and therefore charge the price of a custom for it.
Edit: The intrepid Tomscy2000 (always a knowledgeable one) suggests this reason for the 1Plus2's bulk:
If this is indeed the case I do retract what I say about the 1Plus2's bulk and apologise. I would still like to see it made out of metal though.
Even then, I want to bring up another product I currently have a demo unit for: the Null Audio Elpis. This is a 3D printed hybrid custom earphone from a company in Singapore which retails for about $250 USD - one fifth the price of the 1Plus2. (I plan to have a review up of the Elpis soon).
I bring the Elpis up not because it sounds as good as the 1Plus2. It doesn't, but it sounds better than the price difference might have you believe. I mention the Elpis because it demonstrates that it is not particularly costly or complex to make a hybrid design with a dynamic driver and balanced armature drivers and print it out of acrylic. It also does not need to be this bulky. The 1Plus2 is only marginally better built than the Elpis and it is not a custom earphone. I don't see where the extra money went.
Let's talk about the cable. The cable that I got on this listening tour is the silver/gold MK2 cable which bumps the price of the 1Plus2 up to $1400 or costs about $700 separately. Don't ask me how the maths works there.
I'm not personally a believer in cables making a huge difference in sound quality, but let's leave that to the sound science forum. That aside I have huge issues with the cable because for an $700 product it is very disappointing.
The cable is extremely stiff because it is clearly just heat shrink around a braided wire. The plastic on the connectors is ugly - you can see the mould seams. The connection itself is an older two pin connecter type. People on the listening tour have observed that the right earpiece on this unit will detach easily, and I have found this to be the case as well.
I thankfully have not dropped it, but I would never take this earphone outside where an earpiece could detach and drop onto a hard surface. I would not take this earphone outside anyway, because even though it is comfortable and has okay isolation it is expensive and the bulky high profile design is clearly prone to wind noise.
On the other end of jack has no strain relief and is just a off the shelf part soldered onto wire. The lack of any kind of strain relief is extremely troubling.
Simply put: I do not think the 1Plus2 feel like a $1250 product. What products feel like a thousand dollars?
Let's take the Sony EX1000. It is a beautifully crafted piece of mag alloy. The cables are beautiful and supple and the connection terminal and strain relief is completely solid. Let's take the Bang & Olufsen H3. It is a beautifully crafted piece of aluminium with tiny vents milled at a precision I have never seen in an earphone. It is $250. How about the JVC FXD80-Z? It is milled out of stainless steel and feels like a tank. It costs $70. I can name any number of earphones that have amazing build quality,like the mag alloy Westone ADV's, or my friend's pair of titanium shelled Audio Technica CK100Pro's, or the AKG K3003.
I have held all those products in my hand and they scream craftsmanship. Even if most of them cost a lot of money, they FEEL like a lot of money.
The 1Plus2 does not feel like that. Personally, I don't care how good a product sounds - at a certain point there is no excuse for a product this expensive not to have an amazing build. Or conversely, I would not feel right about pricing a product with this kind of build at this kind of price. It comes with the territory.
Thankfully, I am much more enthused about the sound of the 1Plus2 than the build.
I did most of my listening on an Objective 2 / ODAC with a mixture of lossless ALAC and high bitrate MP3 / AAC files. I also did some listening on my iPhone 5 and found that that the 1Plus2 is quite easy to drive.
The 1Plus2 sounds quite amazing. I don't know if they sound $1200 amazing (if that even makes sense), but it's clear Tralucent has done a pretty good job of integrating BA + dynamic drivers. Overall, the 1Plus2 sounds clean and smooth, with articulate detail and speed.
Before I heard the 1Plus2 I was a little skeptical about Tralucent's approach of putting the dynamic driver right behind the BA units, because this would mean that the bass and high frequencies will never reach the ears at the same time without some kind of crossover or DSP magic. It doesn't seem like this arrangement has a negative effect on the sound. The 1Plus2 does have a pretty amazing sense of scale that may be an artefact of the tiny travelling time increase introduced to the bass frequencies.
Speaking of the bass, it is immediately the most standout aspect of the 1Plus2. It is exceptionally tight and fast and extends extremely low with great authority. The 1Plus2 actually seems somewhat emphasised in terms of sub-bass - lowest registers hit very hard which gives everything a very big sense of scale.
Using the bass test at Audiocheck http://www.audiocheck.net/testtones_subwooferharmonicdistortion.php
I was able to hear that the driver is doing something audible at 14hz (may just be distortion) but is certainly present and accounted for at 20hz.
At times the bass can feel a little too heavy handed, giving it a bit of a blunt quality on some tracks. The bass of the 1Plus2 suggests the thinking behind the hybrid approach: if you look at the the worst aspects of dynamic driver IEMs in small enclosures, like the SE215 and Westone ADV, they have amazing bass punch but can sound muddy and congested in the highs. Put in a known quantity like the TWFK and tweak a crossover and, hey presto, you have the bass everyone secretly (or not so secretly) loves with the treble that everyone demands.
Of course, the single high bandwidth single driver IEMs like the GR07, RE-400 and Yamaha EPH-100 demonstrate that the hybrid approach still doesn't seem all that necessary to get a powerful visceral bass response with clean treble. This is without all the phase and impedance interaction issues that crossovers introduce.
Mids / Vocals
Mids and vocals on the 1Plus2 do not make a particularly strong impression on me. Actually, the mids are perhaps somewhat recessed in the signature. They are smooth and articulate, but they don't have any particular texture or magic to them that you might hear on something like an Audio Technica CK100 Pro or Sony EX1000.
So vocals are not the star of the show. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The 1Plus2 just sounds measured and competent.
The treble again is smooth and has a kind of brittle sheen / shimmer to it that seems characteristic of TWFK treble. The treble is very fast, and lacks decay to the point of maybe feeling a little tacky at times. Again, all very inoffensive and hard to fault, but not the star of the show. I got the sense that the 1Plus2 lacks absolute treble extension of some of the better dynamic drivers like the RE-400 and GR07.
I was able to confirm this with another test at Audiocheck.net http://www.audiocheck.net/audiotests_frequencycheckhigh.php
I am 25 and I can hear the RE-400 and GR07 kick in clearly at the 18-17khz region, whereas the 1Plus2 only becomes clearly audible between 17-16khz. If you think only mosquitos listen to these tones, please keep in mind that the main argument for lossless tracks is that it preserves audio information resolution at these super high frequencies that would be discarded or aliased with lossy algorithms.
If you want to try this test yourself, the site recommends that you download the file and play it to avoid aliasing artefacts from being played through the browser.
In terms of soundstaging, there is a lot said of the very wide soundstage of the 1Plus2, as if they were a pair of full sized headphones. While the 1Plus2 has very pin point accurate soundstage, in terms of sheer width I never got the illusion that I was literally wearing a pair of HD800's or something.
I do feel that the massive sub-bass response grounds the sound and gives everything a sense of visceral scale and authority. Combined with the articulation of the TWFK units, everything does have a great sense of placement and presence.
In terms of the perceived space I would only go so far as to say that the 1Plus2 has a soundstage wider than most IEMs and about as wide as the Sony EX1000 / 7550, which have very wide soundstages thanks to their treble responses and odd ear hanger designs.
If I had the time to do extensive tip rolling with the 1Plus2, I could probably find a tip that would boost the high frequencies and thus create a wider sense of space. Playing around with the EQ I did find that boosting frequencies above 4khz did give a wider sense of space, but only up to a point.
In terms of timbre, while the BA units make the 1Plus2 sound extremely clean, the fast decay and slight lack of treble extension meant that I still did not get the sense of texture or timbre that I get from good dynamic drivers like the GR07, EX1000, RE-400 or 7550.
I think the 1Plus2 sounds particularly amazing with electronic music, where the 1Plus2's strengths in terms of speed and resolution, as well as that visceral bass, really come into play.
Maybe this is my personal preference, but I did not find the 1Plus2 as engaging with vocals or strings as I do with a lot of my dynamic driver in-ear collection.
As I stated before, I think the 1Plus2 sounds amazing, with a combination of characteristics - speed, articulation and bass slam, which make it a great listen. It is definitely one of the best IEMs I have ever heard, but the sound does have some flaws My time with the 1Plus2 does not make me want to sell all my gear to buy one at $1250. After two weeks I did not enjoy the 1Plus2 especially more than my current stable of favourites, though it is very good.
Again, returning to that terrible bugbear of the price. What are you paying for with the 1Plus2?
Are you paying for an amazing build, a piece of quality craftsmanship that is beautifully functional and durable? No, not at all.
Are you paying for amazing R&D, some amazing technical innovation that wasn't just buying TWFK drivers off the shelf from Knowles and putting them in an acrylic shell with a mystery dynamic driver? No you're not.
So you're paying for the sound, which is pretty great. I personally wouldn't pay $1250 for it, because it is impractical for outdoor use and in-doors I may as well buy a full-size headphone for better long term comfort.
But if you like it and are willing and able, then go for it and enjoy some music!
Pros - Great balance, wide and deep soundstage, excellent imaging, good fit for uIEM
Cons - Price, shallow U shape less appealing to vocal lovers
Preface Long time no see guys. It's been a while since I hung around here. I'd like to apologize to Gavin as he has shown only generosity to me but I haven't shown any in return. I also owe you guys an apology because I have failed to do my part in helping you guys have a better understanding of the IEM without listening first. I would like to at least post my review very late in efforts to make it up to you guys. I'm truly sorry; I was so caught up at work in construction then Assistant Manager at a hotel that I just couldn't find the peace of mind to gather my thoughts and express it in words. Then I decided to wait til my JH16FP + JH3A arrive to really finish the review, but I had a hard time with the JH3A part... Also was waiting for the TH900 to arrive. Notes First, I'd like to let you guys know that I am not as romantic of a writer as those guys at Sixmoons. It also doesn't help that I've managed to lose my pictures that I've taken of the product. Also, please note that some of the comparisons were made from memory and notes of the past gear so do take them with a bag of salt. My purpose of this review is to give some insight as to how the IEM sounds by drawing comparisons to other generally known gear. This may help draw a reference point for the reader which may be the ultimate aid in realizing just what kind of sound the 1Plus2 retains. Also, since the 1Plus2 is a universal IEM, isolation will be as with any quality uIEM. Comfort is a subjective thing that depends on each person so this I won't comment on this. Cables For simplicity's sake, I will not elaborate on different IEM cables I have listened to. Instead I will say this: The sonic difference between 6N+ OCC silver and copper is so minimal that it just doesn't matter to the average Head-Fier. If there is a difference I will say that copper adds body to the sound while silver gives a bit more treble sparkle and slight more detail. This however is extreme hyperbole and would be like trying to discern the taste of VOSS water and Vitamin Water. However, the introduction of gold into silver changes things. It alters the wire's conductivity negatively, but without worsening the sound. It smoothes some treble glare and makes the overall sound very sweet and full bodied. This is also hyperbole but is quite noticeable. Yes I have heard Tralucent's S/G and yes I have heard the Piccolino, albeit it was with the LCD2 rev2. I still have the same findings between the two instances. In conclusion, it's up to you to decide if the price is worth it to you. For those who have the resources and can afford it, by all means get the best that will satisfy you, because that's all that matters in the end. Now to the meat of the course! Setup Transport: rMBP, iPhone 5, Audiophilleo 1, HiFace Two, iBasso DX50 DAC: Schiit Gungnir, ODAC, JH Audio JH3A Amp: Triad L3, LLP, O2, Tralucent T1, JH Audio JH3A Cables: Tralucent silver stranded, Tralucent silver/gold, DHC Symbiote Copper Headphones: Westone ES5, JH Audio JH16 FreqPhase, Audeze LCD2, Audeze LCD3, Sennheiser HD800, Fostex TH900 Test tracks Well recorded: - The Eagles - Hotel California 24/192 flac - Diana Krall - Live in Paris album 24/192 flac - Norah Jones - Come Away With Me album 24/192 flac - Claudio Abbado/Berliner Philharmoniker - Beethoven Symphonie No. 9 24/96 flac
- Artur Pizarro - Chopin Sonata No 2 & 3 24/96 flac
- Leonard Slatkin/BBC Symphony Orchestra - Bach The Conductors' Transcriptions 24/88 flac
- James Horner - Becoming One With Neytiri (Avatar) 24/96 flac
- BoA - Only One, Mayday 16/48 mp3
- Hans Zimmer - Time (Inception) 24/96 flac
- Back Street Boys - Show Me The Meaning 24/96 flac
- Adele - Chasing Pavements 24/96 flac
Sound Bass: As expected with dynamic drivers, the bass was very impactful with a pleasant balance of mid to sub bass while maintaining texture and detail. It did not bleed into the mids though it felt slightly overwhelming on poorly recorded tracks, but this wasn't the case with good recordings. Overall, well balanced with good slam and sub bass. It's probably the best bass I've heard from an IEM. Mids: I personally listen to a lot of female vocals, jazz, and piano concertos. Because I enjoy sweet mids, I place a lot of emphasis and criticism on the mids more so than the other regions of the FR. In the 1Plus2's case, I had some mixed feelings. Because the 1p2's sound is U shaped, the vocals were less upfront than I would've liked. This however didn't mean it sounded that distant. It was adequate enough in that I was satisfied. You may find your own experience different than mine if you use a Silver/Gold cable. I used the silver stranded, and a full copper cable and had the same findings. There was no fuzziness or muffledness going on with the mids, it was clear and pleasant. Treble: I have very sensitive hearing, tested higher than standard at an audiologist, so I'm very sensitive to treble spikes. I'm also equally as sensitive to shelved treble. That said, the 1p2's treble was not peaky, nor shelved. It had the right amount of sparkle to it. It did reveal a lot of detail, more detail than your average cans. It didn't feel fake or weird like the AKG K3003i. Soundstage: Hands down the best intrinsic soundstage I've ever heard from an IEM. Seriously, this is what impressed me the most. I love a large spacious 3D soundstage, but not to the point where it feels unnatural like the HD800. The 1Plus2 was spot on with the soundstaging. It still wasn't full sized open cans, but it was actually satisfying where usually I dislike IEMs for the congested feeling. Imaging: Along with the soundstage, the imaging was extremely precise and accurate. It was layered and reached far and wide. Very impressive. Sometimes, I felt it even beat the LCD2 amped in this part. Detail: Maybe it's because of the imaging and sparkly treble, but the details shone through. It wasn't HD800 level, but it was better than the LCD2r2. General peculiarities: The sound was overall very organic and nautral. There was nothing forced-sounding, nor was anything lacking. Clarity, transparency, and decay was very good. There was nothing I couldn't really pick out that bothered me. Everything was done right. It's just a very well engineered and tuned piece of work. Physical features Build quality: As far as the build quality went, there was nothing particularly done wrong. It was a well built piece, but I'm unsure what material was used to build the housing itself. It didn't feel like acrylic. It didn't feel fragile but at the same time, it didn't have much weight to it either. The cable's plug was not exactly glued on properly so the solder broke loose and so I could not use the Silver/Gold cable much, unfortunately. This cable was an early production run so I'm sure the current ones are built well due to my experience's feedback. Design: For a universal IEM, the fit was pretty great. The design of the shell itself worked for me, and I'm sure it will work for the majority out there. Unless your ears are disproportionate, or extremely small, you shouldn't have any problems with the fit. The canals have a latch that locks the tips on so it doesn't fall off, but as with any universal IEM, if you yank or get the tip caught on something, you will most likely lose it. Accessories: The IEMs came with a small pelican case with padding and 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in small, medium, and large. Very standard, but not really missing anything. That said, I don't think I had the "production run" so it may not have come with other small stuff anyways. Comparisons ES5: ES5 sounded more lush, with vocals very forward. Things sounded fuller. That said, it lacked the transparency, clarity, and speed of the 1Plus2. The bass was punchy on the ES5, but it had no where near as much slam as the 1Plus2. Sub bass reached much deeper on the 1Plus2. ES5 sounded muffled in comparison, and lacked soundstage width and depth. However, if one likes "intimacy" then the ES5 would be better on that part. While the ES5 sounded like the singer was there with you, the 1Plus2 sounded as if the singer was on stage infront of you. JH16 FreqPhase: Take a bag of salt on this one since I got my JH16 much later after I passed on the 1Plus2. This is all based off of notes and memory. The JH16 FP has a more "present" bass. Although it's not omnipresent, the 1Plus2 sounded more dynamic. The slam was better on the 1Plus2. However, the JH16's mids and vocals are more forward. They have the same amount of treble. However, the JH16 couldn't touch the 1Plus2 on soundstage and imaging. The 1Plus2 would be definitely more natural sounding. However, adding the JH3A into the mix, things change. The JH3A makes the JH16 sound like full sized headphones. The soundstage is very 3D, very wide and deep. The imaging is very accurate, and layered so well. The FR tilts to a more neutral sound with some vocal warmth. I couldn't tell you which was better on these fronts, but one thing I can say is the dynamic driver is a dynamic driver for a reason. The bass slam and depth still doesn't match the JH16 with the JH3A. LCD2/LCD3: I know it's unfair comparing full sized cans to the 1Plus2, but it gives a nice reference point for many people. I felt that the Audezes sounded more smooth, organic, and natural as it's an ortho. However, the 1Plus2 did have better imaging than the LCD2. The LCD3 has great imaging however but I'm not able to tell you which is better. The 1Plus2 had more treble than the LCD2r2 but I did not hear any sibilance. Those who favor buttery mids wouldn't really prefer the shallow U shape of the 1Plus2. HD800: The HD800s being detail and soundstage freak, it's obvious that the 1Plus2 wouldn't be able to match these in these aspects. However, the HD800 with Anax Mod 2.0 had much more sibilance and peaky treble that was uncomfortable to listen to for an extended period of time. It also lacked sub bass in comparison to the 1Plus2. Although the mids are organic sounding on the HD800, they both still don't really match the mids and vocals of the Audezes. If you were to ask me which one I would buy with the money, I would take the 1Plus2 since it's more versatile than the HD800, and the latter takes a lot more money to get right than the 1Plus2. TH900: Funny because I just got the TH900 but by memory and notes, it sounds almost the same as the 1Plus2: shallow U shape, with slightly pushed back vocals and mids, but not distant. Organic and smooth, with more treble sparkle than Audezes, but not sibilant nor lacking in detail. Imaging and soundstage is very 3D and open, with lots of depth and layering. Bass has lots of slam and sub bass but never bleeds. Doesn't overpower with well recorded tracks at all. Freaky how similar they sound. I couldn't tell you which I prefer nor which was better. Conclusions If you like a can with a balanced presentation, sounds natural, and is very versatile with any genre, you will like the 1Plus2. The bass, soundstage, and imaging are really to die for. I have yet to come across an IEM that is intrinsically so good at these aspects. I also happen to suck at writing conclusions so I'll leave it here. A huge shoutout to Gavin and the rest of the members on tour who had to wait for me. Sorry for the trouble and thank you for the opportunity! I will be back to add on to this review. Might get JH Siren Roxannes soon, or a JH13.
Yep they sound amazing. YES they are worth the money. The Bass is amazing. They are VERY exciting. I listened to them intensely for a five week period and I haven't listened to them once since then. This is because in all honesty, for me, they are a pain to put in correctly. I have tried every tip under the sun, Comply Large give me a great seal, often though I need to do so much fiddling with my left ear to retain the seal and get a balance between left and right that the left one just kind of sticks out like I am Plug from The Beano whilst the right one goes in fine every time.
They are the best IEMs I have ever heard, but for me the overhead of putting them in and fiddling clearly makes them inconvenient, hence them sitting in a drawer for a couple of months totally unused.
To be fair, it is a total gamble whether you will get a good fit, and what is worse is that if you do get a great seal it is hard to know whether that seal is blocking some of the sound too.
I have gold silver cables, again and again, they sound ridiculously amazing, not like an IEM at all, and certainly miles better than the Ultrasone IQ9 Hybrids, totally different story.
Shame that I am a mutant and have weird ear canals, but don't let that put you off.
I listen to loads of Electronica and these are perfectly suited to it, to my ears. The bass is delicious and juicily swells perfectly. Detail is good, sound stage is really something else.
I wish I could have it all but I can't.
For now it is back to closed back cans so if someone wants to talk to me, be it on the street, at the checkout till or at work I can simply lift a cup and put it on my skull, instead of getting massively irritated by having to take one out tell the lady that; no I do not want a "Bag for life" and then annoy everyone else in the queue and I stand there reinserting so I can continue to listen to their awesomeness.
Make no mistake about it, they are awesome.
Tralucent and its creator Gavin are amazing at customer service and support, really brilliant, such lovely people.
Their product is simply amazing.
I just want my cake and eat it. Then, they can bake me another one.
With a price tag of $1295+shipping for the Baseline Silver Cabled Version, an additional $795 for the gold cable and significantly more than that even for the fanciest cable, the so-called uBer cable, these earphones had a lot to live up to in terms of sonic qualities, build quality, and wear comfort.
I was pleased to find that in terms of looks, build quality, and wear comfort, the Tralucents ended up pretty much living up to my expectations. Its sonic qualities, however, managed to completely blow me away. I’m a fan now! In a decent audiophile home-audio setup, these IEMs managed to outshine both a re-cabled version of the Sennheiser HD800 and a re-cabled Audeze LCD-2, both considered benchmark-level over-ear headphones, and in a similar price-class with the Tralucents including the uBer cable. In a nutshell, while the Sennheiser and Audeze headphones still retained a certain distance between the musician(s) and the listener and an almost cool neutrality that made listening to an organ concert sound like you were sitting in a small recording studio, the Tralucents managed to return the same organ concert back into a church-setting, and the opera back into the opera-house, while simultaneously making you feel like you were part of the performance.
The only slight quibbles that I could see someone having with these IEMs are not very relevant to me personally: The eartips are not well located on shell and tend to slide almost all the way up when trying to push the eartips into your ear; the Tralucents might be difficult to secure for people with very small ears; the cable is very thick, inflexible, and short, making it an unlikely/ difficult travel-companion and impossible for active wear; in absolute terms, the price is very high and difficult to justify unless absolute sound is the highest priority; these IEMs, like any super-high-end ear-/headphones, require an expensive audio-setup in order to ensure optimal performance.
sonic qualities @ price: 10/10 (Impressive musicality! Most engaging - I’m a fan)
build quality @ price: 7/10 (Plastic is fine. I personally prefer a metal though)
wear comfort @ price: 7/10 (Slight issue with ear-tips, no comparison with high-end over-ears)
looks @ price: 9/10 (They do look quite sharp while not standing out too much)
overall @ price: 9/10 (Sonic qualities matter most to me in this case)
Even though my initial reasons for purchasing these IEMs might appear to be very different to those most other people might have in mind, I still believe that most of the decision criteria I am covering in this review are much more broadly relevant.
Personally, I was looking for a pair of IEMs that promised amazing sonic qualities but would also not stand out too much in a professional office environment, making size and looks quite important driving factors in my decision making process. Furthermore, since I tend to listen to music most of the time I spend at work, ultimate wear comfort is a must. To me, price was the least important decision factor, as long as I could somehow afford the purchase.
This section is mainly meant to provide a personal backstory to what motivated me initially to buying a pair of the Tralucent 1Plus2 with the special uBer cable. I believe this section is important for the reader to understand my subjective point of view in evaluating these ear-phones. But, in case this is not of much interest to the reader or the reader happens to be in a rush, this section can easily be skipped without too much loss of context.
A few years ago I started investing in a higher-end music system for my little room. I decided to go for headphones over speakers initially mainly in an effort to be respectful of my four room-mates, all hard-working young professionals who like to rest whenever their schedules allow them to, but also because I quickly realized that it is much easier & cheaper to achieve a great sonic experience with a headphone-system as compared to a speaker-based system. While I built up my system, I also bought several highly-rated over-ear headphones, curious in investigating the differences between each of them. Currently my favorites are a pair of Sennheiser HD 800 with ALO Audio Reference 16 Cables, and a pair of Audeze LCD-2 with ALO Audio Reference 8 Cables. I got to a point where I was very happy with my home audio setup but realized quickly that I was getting very critical of the quality of music delivery I was experiencing with the headphones I was using at work. I decided to try and build a miniature version of my home-setup for work. Instead of large, open over-ear headphones, I started investigating IEMs. In my opinion, large headphones inhibit communication more than small in-ear monitors do, simply because they tend to be more visually imposing and thereby tend to discourage conversation. Also, up to that point I had exclusively invested in open headphones, which meant that everyone at work would have been able to hear what I was listening to and potentially been distracted by the sound when trying to focus on solving intricate problems. So for those reasons and a healthy curiosity in IEMs in general I did some research and decided to give the FitEar ToGo 334 a try.
I saved up to buy a pair of the highly praised FitEar ToGo 334, but while waiting for several months for these IEMs to come back into stock anywhere, I became more and more intrigued by the Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 Hybrid Universal IEMs. The first time I heard of these headphones was from Dimitri Trush of Musica Acoustics. He told me he believed the sonic qualities of the Tralucent 1Plus2, especially in the recabled versions, to be superior to even those of the FitEar ToGo 334. And, after doing some more research, and since he had some of the Tralucents in stock and the FitEars weren’t going to be available in the foreseeable future, I decided to invest my money in a pair of the 1Plus2 instead of the ToGo 334. Deciding on what cabling option to go for was a lot tougher. The base-price for the Tralucents was already close to the amount of money I had set aside for the FitEars and I wasn’t really willing to spend much more unless I was sure to get significantly improved performance. But how much difference could the cable really make? Especially since the stock cable name already contains the word “silver” which, to me, already sounds like a serious step above copper. The next step above features the word “gold” and the highest end cable originally didn’t even have a name. If I had to guess, the silver cable probably is made of high purity copper strands with a thin coating of silver, the gold cable could be copper coated in a thin layer of gold and the uBer cable a possibly made of solid silver strands coated in gold? That me wildly guessing. After talking with Dimitri Trush and googling for a bit, I was left with the strong impression that each of these cables in fact is a large step above the next lower one in terms of sound quality. Maybe not enough so to rationally justify the price-delta that separates each form the next, but at the very top of the audio-game everything follows a steeply exponential cost-benefit curve where the smallest improvements in performance come at a high cost: Everything is custom and somehow the R&D money that went into the development of these breaking-edge audio products needs to be returned through the fairly low quantities these products are expected to sell at. In the end I decided to go against my conscience and indulge myself with the uBer cable, hoping that it would repay itself quickly in terms of improved musicality, detail, and presence. I told myself that this purchase could be justifiable if I listened to these IEMs a lot at work each day and, in doing so, the uBer cable would, at least to a small extend, contribute to improving my happiness and productivity at work, as well as hopefully adding to the things I’d be looking forward to each morning when coming to work.
So, in summary, in acquiring a pair of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs with the special uBer cable I was looking for a listening device to deliver exceptional sound quality in a package that looks as inconspicuous as possible as to not be intimidating and thereby act to discourage conversation in an office working environment. Price was less of a driving factor.
Even though I am mainly using the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs at work, I decided to evaluate them for their sonic qualities on my home audio setup instead, since that system is currently vastly superior to the minimal setup I am using at work.
Audio setup @ work (Not actually used for the purposes of this review, but this is the setup I personally use most frequently for listening to these IEMs):
- Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64bit
- Music files: ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18
- Music player: JRiver MediaCenter 18
- USB cable: Audioquest Forest 1.5m
- USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier: ALO Audio The PanAm (Battery powered, Raytheon mil-spec tube upgrades)
Audio setup @ home (The one used for this review):
- Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64bit
- Music: ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18
- Music player: JPLAY running on JRiver MediaCenter 18
- USB cable: Whiplash Audio Polestar USB Cable 1m
- DAC & Headphone Amplifier: April Music Eximus DP1
- Power supply: PS Audio P3 Power Plant
- Power cable: PS Audio AC3 Power Cable
For maximum comfort I’m using Ortofon premium size M ear-tips with all my in-ear monitors.
Looks, Build Quality, Wear & Comfort:
All ear-/ headphones and other audio equipment used in this review each have seen over 100 hours of use and all should be beyond their perceivable burn-in period. The new Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs have seen about 150 hours of play so far and seem to have pretty much settled in on their final sound.
Shell Looks & Build Quaility:
Personally, I really like the look of the black carbon fiber shell. It looks so clean and technical, with the carbon fiber pattern on the face plate. In my opinion, this is a very good look for ear-phones used in an engineering/ technical environment. The other shell/ face plate versions, I don’t find nearly as esthetically pleasing and I’m glad my favorite version was available at Musica Acoustic.
This is clearly subjective though: I can totally see some people prefering the gold and silver face plate versions because these might go well with certain skin-tones, or because they might like the retro vibes the gold face-plate seems to emanate, or because they simply like having the Tralucent IEMs double as jewelry when worn in public. The blue and red shell versions, to me, look quite funky. They certainly could help you stand out a little if they weren’t mostly concealed in the ear when worn. But since I don’t have other versions for comparison, I won’t even go so far as to claim that the black carbon fiber version is the best looking when worn. To me, they simply look most appealing in the pictures shown on the Musica Acoustic website. And I’m glad how well the version I received matches the one shown in those pictures.
These IEMs look and feel quite well built/ solid/ rugged, like they could handle some miss-treatment without immediately falling apart/ loosing functionality. I think they appear this way to me because all of the delicate internals are visibly, neatly encased in a very smooth, semi-transparent, anatomically shaped blob of epoxy, forming a forgiving protective coating around all the vital components, suggesting that this shell might be able to absorb most of the impact blow resulting from an accidental drop. Obviously, these Tralucent 1Plus2 in-ears should really never be dropped or mistreated, but it’s still nice to make yourself believe that they might be able to survive some of such events without taking major damage.
So, all in all, I am quite happy with the subtle but technical looks and solid feel of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs I received, especially for use in a professional office environment.
Cable Looks and Feel:
The uBer cable looks and feels well-built. It is quite thick (about 5mm in diameter) and inflexible, discouraging from dynamic use cases such as travel or exercise. I believe this cable is really only meant to be worn at a desk. Such a constraint is quite all right with me as I was planning to only really ever use these IEMs at my desk at work, but other people might not be as ok with the cable’s dynamic limitations.
Wear & Comfort:
As I said in the previous section, the uBer cable is quite stiff which likely limits the preferred use cases of the Tralucent 1Plus2 to mostly static/ stationary listening. Also, the cable isn’t very long (~4 feet), thereby severely limiting the effective listening space without simultaneously also moving the USB DAC/ headphone Amplifier around.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve worn the Tralucent 1Plus2 for long stretches at a time, allowing my ears to get used to them. To me, they feel very similar to my FitEar and Ortofon IEMs: comfortable enough to be worn for 10+ hours, with only small breaks in between, without experiencing major discomfort at any point. The biggest determinant of comfort is probably the choice of ear-tips. Like many others, I’ve really come to appreciate the soft comfort of Ortofon premium tips, and I’m really glad I can use them for all the IEMs I own.
Even though, I am quite happy with the overall wear and comfort of my Tralucents, I have a major complaint with the way the ear-tips are interfacing with the shell. Even though the Ear-tips slide nicely and snugly onto the shells, the locating-grooves do not properly constrain their positions, allowing them to slide back and forth almost without constraint, generally causing them to end up being pushed almost all the way up onto the shells such that their tips sit practically flush with the tips of the shells. This has not yet turned into a major issue in terms of comfort but still is quite annoying since this is clearly something that should have been discovered and fixed in early prototypes before rolling the product out to the public.
All in all, I am not disappointed by the wear and comfort of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs. Other than the issues with not properly locating the ear-tips on the shells, I didn’t encounter any positive or negative surprises. Like with most in-ears, the ears need to first get used to having these things stuck in them for long periods of time, but after some conditioning and with the right set of ear-tips, 10+ hours of straight listening are easily possible. Yet, to be perfectly clear - nicely padded, well-designed over-ear headphones are still far superior in terms of wear and comfort to any IEMs I’ve experienced so far.
All ear-/ headphones and other audio equipment used in this review each have seen over 100 hours of use and all should be beyond their perceivable burn-in period. The new Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs have seen about 150 hours of play so far and seem to have pretty much settled in on their final sound.
Due to the fact that the Tralucent 1Plus2 with uBer cable cost well over $2000, I focused my comparison on the only headphones I own that reside in a similar price-range - two pairs of open over-ear headphones: one recabled version of the Sennnheiser HD800s (~$2300) and a pair of recabled Audeze LCD-2s (~$1600). Even though, to be entirely fair, the Sennheisers are the only true competitors when only looking at the price since the recabled Audeze LCD-2s still come in at well under $2000. Nonetheless, additionally I also wanted to compare the Tralucent IEMs to another pair of high-end IEMs. So I decided to put them up against a pair of recabled FitEar ToGo! F111s (~$800). Since these two live in completely different price-classes, also I didn’t expect them to perform nearly to the same levels. This comparison was mainly done out of curiosity in order to get an understanding/ appreciation of how much more one can get out of a high-end IEM when paying approximately three times as much.
Please refer to the Audio Setup section for an overview of the test setup and comparison/ benchmark head-/ and earphones I used in evaluating the sonic qualities of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs with uBer cable.
Here is a list of some of the music I used for evaluation/ comparison (all ripped original CDs in lossless .flac format using JRiver MediaCenter 18):
- Classical, Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker, Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (Op. 55) (Eroica)
- Classical, Organ, Wolfgang Rübsam, Johann Sebastian Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor Bwv 538 'Dorian'
- Classical, Piano, Glenn Gould, Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations Bwv 988
- Classical, Cello, Yo-Yo Ma, Camille Saint-Saëns, Carnival of the Animals (Chamber Version)
- Classical, Opera, Berliner Philharmoniker, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, K. 620
- Classical, Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake (Лебединое озеро)
- Techno/ Trance/ Electronic, Tiësto, In Search of Sunrise 6
- Pop, Adele, 21
- Pop, Mika, Life in Cartoon Motion
- Pop, Big Bang, Still Alive
- Rock, The Beatles, Abbey Road
- Rock, Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon
These comparative listening exercises left me thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Tralucent IEMs. Not only were they able to keep up with some of the highest-end open over-ear headphones, but they even managed to outshine them in several respects. Especially impressive was the Tralucents’ performance in instrumental, orchestral, and vocal music.
When comparing the Tralucent 1Plus2s (uBer cable version) to the Audeze LCD-2s (also recabled), the Tralucents created a smoother, more personal, natural sound that was especially impressive with “organic” music such as live performance pieces. When listening to music on the Audeze-s it felt like listening to the same performance in a sterile studio environment instead of a concert hall, church, or outdoors. Even more fascinating was the proximity/ immediacy of the sounds presented by the Tralucents. When listening to Adele perform, it seems like she is singing into your ear, when listening to piano music, it sounds like you have your head really close to the sound body of the instrument. The soundscape created by the LCD-2s moved the listener further away from the performance, making the listening-experience much more passive than it is the case with the 1Plus2s. But even with pop or electronic music, where a certain level of sterility and studio-like character might even be preferable to some, I believe the Tralucents still managed to keep up quite well with very strong bass performance and impressively responsive and accurate dynamics. The one aspect the Audeze-s seemed a little stronger in was separation and depth of soundstage. But certainly not in a way that was detracting from the positive listening experiences I was enjoying with the Tralucents.
My recabled versions of the high-end Sennheiser HD800s generally tend to do better than the American-made Audezes in terms of clean, German accuracy, speed, responsiveness while sacrificing a little bit in organic warmth. Still, most of the points that I went over in the previous section held up for this comparison as well. The Tralucents were more natural, closer sounding, made you feel like you are more of an integral part of the performance/ sound-scape than feeling like a slightly removed listener. The one area the Sennheisers seems the preferable option in is in aggressive, fast music such as electronic/ techno/ dance music. This appears to be mainly attributable to their clean and precise sound. Though, yet again, the Tralucents’ bass worked impressively well with such types of music. So much so that I wouldn’t say that the Sennheisers are the better suited option for such music, but rather that both options manage to pull out/ highlight different strong points out of the same music. In all other genres I used to compare the two headphones, the Tralucent IEMs were the ones that left me more immpressed.
Obviously, in terms of wear comfort, both the Audeze LCD-2s and the Sennheiser HD800, by nature of being high-end over-ear headphones, were by far more pleasant to wear for extended periods of time than the Tralucents. Another factor that stood out to me during the comparison between these two full-sized headphones and the 1Plus2 IEMs was the very short cable length of the uBer cable of Tralucents, especially when compared to the 8’ cables on both of my over-ears. And finally, it was slightly annoying that, in order to get the optimal sound out of the Tralucents, I had to be quite careful about the orientation/ angle/ depth in which they entered into/ interfaced with my ear channel. Depending on how I angled each ear piece or how deeply I inserted each it into my respective ear and what ear-tip I used, I was getting significantly different results, sometimes making the sounds coming from one of the ear pieces sound significantly duller/ more muffled that the sound coming from the other one, to the point even that the music to lost much of its balance. But, in my opinion, most of these observations don’t really serve to highlight short-comings of the Tralucent 1Plus2 IEMs but rather those of IEMs in general. Shortcomings that can be understood, to a large extent, as trade-offs/ sacrifices that come with the reduction in size and weight when going from full-sized headphones to IEMs. But I do believe these points were nonetheless worth mentioning as they became quite apparent when doing these side-by-side testing.
When compared to the FitEar ToGo! F111, the Tralucents were quite clearly the more balanced, mature contenders. The FitEars were missing bass, the highs could sometimes be too much/ shrill. Nonetheless, the FitEars did quite well compared to/ were keeping up with their much more exclusive counterparts in terms of detail and separation, as well as mids. Overall, the Tralucents very much more musical and engaging to the point that it was hard switching back to the FitEars and to lower my standards sufficiently enough to rediscover enjoyment in the listening experience. Now, to the question of whether the Tralucent 1Plus2s with the uBer cable are 3x better than the FitEars is an entirely subjective question and probably comes down to budget constraints more than anything else. With the right audio-setup the Tralucents truly can let you have part in the performances you are listening to, while the FitEars can provide quite enjoyable listening experiences in their own rights when not pitted against a truly superior competitor such as the Tralucents 1Plus2 IEMs with the special uBer calbe.
The Tralucents 1Plus2s with special uBer calbe are a pretty sharp-looking pair of well-built IEMs that are hands-down the best-sounding music-reproduction devices I have had the pleasure to experience up to this point. Even when compared to high-end fully-sized headphones such as a pair of recabled Sennheiser HD800s or a recabled pair of Audeze LCD-2s, the Tralucents still stand strong and even manage to come out clearly on top in terms of raw musicality and keep up very well in terms of refinement. The only weak-points of the IEMs (besides their price-point) I was able to discover are the short cable length as well as its relative inflexibility, rendering them unlikely companions for athletic activities or travel. Also, in order to assure optimal and equal sound delivery into both ear channels, it can take some effort to properly position each ear-piece. This is augmented by the fact that the ear-tips aren’t properly located on the ear-shell, making it difficult to establish repeatable settings. While this can be annoying at times, it hasn’t prevented me from enjoying long listening-sessions at work of 10+ hours with only small work-related interruptions in between.
As previously mentioned, I purchased these Tralucent IEMs in order to have them serve as my primary listening devices at work. My main expectation in these IEMs was that they should guarantee as close to optimal sound quality/ musicality as can be reach within a finite budget since music is a very important part of my life that I hope to constantly surround myself with both at work and at home. Secondly, small size and proper sound isolation (Not so much for blocking outside sound out, but moreover to keep sound in so to not distract coworkers) were important decision factors on choosing to go with a pair of IEMs rather than a pair of high-end on-ear or over-ear headphones. Finally, it was important to me that I would be able to wear these IEMs for extended periods of time (10+ hours a day, 5 days a week) without experiencing major discomfort/ irritation. After working/ living with the Tralucent 1Plus2s for the past ~2 months, I am happy to say that they managed to live up to all of my expectations and even to significantly surpass my main expectation by redefining the levels of musicality I can now imagine coming for a music reproduction device. Finally, I want to remark that even though my audio setup at work is of significantly lower quality than my home-setup that I used for this review, I am nonetheless quite impressed by the performance of the Tralucent 1Plus2 (with uBer calbe) even on this setup.
Pros - So much Details, everything seems to be right.
Cons - Earphones disconects easely with the cable
Hearing the 1plus2 with the gold cable and Astell&Kern AK100, loss less PCM 48kHz/16bit. There are more details to hear as with the Grado PS1000. The bass seems more accurate (dry) and overall the sound more neutral. Bothe are fantastic earphones. Soundstage of the 1plus2 ist awesome and I don't miss the soundstage of the Grado, which is not bad at all... But the earphones needs a long burn-in time (mind. 200h) to sound smooth an no more harsh as at the beginning. Other earphones I have in comparison: Weston 3, Shure 530. Both nice, but the 1plus2 plays in a different league.
Pros - detailing; bass quality and impact; 3D imaging; accuracy of instruments in presentation; and an all round of good fun.
Cons - price; ergonomics of the cable; and microphonics.
(caution: this is a long review (I know this because I just typed it out in Word and it spanned 7 pages!)
I think this is a long awaited review of the 1Plus2s. I've had the stock cable for some time, but of late, I've had the new upgrade cable. I've had them for little over a week now (two weeks now since I've finished this), and the demo period is almost up. So in that sense, I think I've given both the cables and the IEMs enough time to set in. And on that note, it will be very important for me to state that this review will be long as I do intend to cover several bases all at once. But let me start off going a little off-tangent so to speak.
I'm going to try and use as little technical jargon as I can and attempt to use as many lay-man terms as possible. I will try my best to explain what I mean whenever I refer to anything "technical" because we all interpret terms differently. And in the event any of you don't understand, or wish to clarify my position, or anything that I say here, please feel free to do so. In addition to this, you won't see me going too deep into audio technicalities. I've never been one for that mainly because music to me is meant to be enjoyed and I derive little to no pleasure in delving too deep into things.
This review will be based solely on my own opinion, my experience and any parallels or comparisons I draw (if any) are done not to do a price-value comparison, but merely as a reference point for each of you reading (if it helps). To expand on this a little more, if I describe something in a particular way in respect of an IEM I draw a comparison with and that you've had experience with, you'll know what to expect, whether you agree with my opinion or not. And in that sense, it gives you (the reader), in my opinion, a more reasonable or objective view to qualify what I'm attempting to describe or explain.
On top of that, I think it is also important to bear in mind the law of diminishing returns in respect to audio equipment. So let me first please put out a cautionary note that I believe that whilst for some, the appreciable difference between an IEM that costs 250 USD and an IEM that costs 1,000 USD is stark in contrast, it may not be the same for others. I can appreciate the difference, but I do feel that when it comes to talking about whether the value difference of 750 - 1,000 USD is merited, that really is subjective. In general, I would tend to say that the difference is not as stark as the price point suggests. Then to further capitalise on something more "hi-end", you need to think about better cables, better DAPs etc. It really becomes "stupidly" expensive unless your wallet is able to sustain the mind bogglingly crazy expensive hobby.
And the next biggest caveat to all this is…we all hear things differently and in addition to that, we also have different music preferences. At the end of the day, all that is important is that we enjoy and like what we hear (no matter the price point of the item).
Now with all that aside, time to get into the review!
There are very few tips provided, mainly the ortofon along with a set of comply tips. Considering the price we pay to get the 1Plus2, one can't help but feel a few more tips could have been thrown into the equation. But here's a picture with the stock tips and the 1Plus2:
I've never been a fan of foam tips because I feel they mess around with the sound far too much. Not to mention the need to replace them after a period of time. So no, they are not for me at all. But that being said, I think the 1Plus2 can be mucked around with a fair bit to figure out what sound you'd like out of them. I think the stock tips provide the best bass response for example whereas V-Moda tips seemed to trip the bass. Heir tips are too big for me. I could break them in further, but it'd be pretty pointless going through the discomfort of it all. And finally, there were some other tips I used that covered too much of the sound bores that it just sounded odd.
So all in all, after all the tip-rolling I did, the stock ortofon tips are still the tips I use.
I think the shell is fine. But the print on the shell for example, just seems like it'll come off pretty easily if anything were to happen. Nitpicking 101.
The cable and the cable connector to the shell just seemed so make shift, so "hand-made" (which it is), but just seems a little odd at that price point. Then there is the issue of ergonomics. The stock silver is unfortunately poor in this regard, it is both "big" and at the same time, tough to manage. Because of the weight of the cable, I found myself having issues with the seal of my IEM far too often. Another reason why I prefer custom IEMs.
I think I'm a little spoiled by the IE8 cables. Maybe high end products should all come with the same coating as that on the IE8 because they just feel fantastic and are built to last, not to mention that there are no rough finishes unlike the stock silver on the 1Plus2 which just feels unpolished in its make. The new upgrade cable improves on all this though, but microphonics from both the stock silver and the new upgrade cable leave a lot to be desired. It just makes me wonder what in the world goes on with cable making from different companies.
If there was something that Tralucent could improve on, it would be their finishing of their products so they don't look as "raw". That being said, as I've mentioned to some others, I'd much rather companies throw everything into sound quality than into their design and marketing whilst forgoing sound quality, unlike some other top tier companies.
So onto the sound. Let's think a little about accuracy. When I read about people talk about accuracy, they talk about how well the instrument is placed, or how well the instrument is reproduced sonically. I'm from the latter camp. But at the same time, there are plenty of pitfalls in this, and none more so than the fact that instruments on their own have different sounds e.g. a Taylor acoustic guitar can sound very different from any other brand/type of guitar (and no, I'm not talking about a classical guitar), or different brands of drum cymbals e.g. Zildjian and Sabian (not to mention differences between the make of the cymbal i.e. cast or sheet cymbals).
I'm not a musician, nor do I have extensive knowledge of either. But I did feel the need to talk about this because too often is one earphone touted to be better than another etc in terms of accuracy, but yet at the same time, there is nothing to compare it against, nor do we even know of the reviewer's background in audio and instruments. For me though, the instrument that I'll focus on, as with most of my music involves beats, but for instrument accuracy, I'll turn to drums (with the little experience I have with them). The track I used for this was Liquid Tension Experiment's - Acid Rain.
The main reason I did this was because it was the one time I've actually been able to accurately place where exactly on the hi-hat that the drummer is hitting. That's where I think accuracy comes in. It is one thing to be able to detail the drum being hit and another step further to be able to tell the listener precisely where the drum is being hit. What this means is that whilst the casual listener may not appreciate this, the one who analyses or mixes music, or one who listens for little nuances will be able to further enhance their listening experience (my opinion). Contrast this to having heard the Heir 4.Ai recently where the drums, the bass kick, just sounded off. Instead of hearing solid impact, it felt like someone just hit something with an inflexible material on top, but totally hollow underneath. It was static and fake.
The next track I used was Jay Chou's - Fa Ru Xue and this was used to listen to the traditional Chinese instrument in the track, the Gu-Zheng. The texture of the Gu-Zheng itself in the track was both distinct and clear to the ears. This is an instrument that is plucked at times somewhat like a bass guitar, but complicated in a different way. To be able to play the rifts and at the same time hear it through the IEMs is quite nice.
3D Imaging and Soundstage
I think the 3D sound for earphones is derived from both imaging and soundstage. Let me explain what I mean by both those terms. Imaging would be in the sense of being able to place an instrument or sound forward/backward i.e. depth. Soundstage would be to be able to place an instrument or sound left/right i.e. width. That's my opinion and that will be where I'm going for this review as well. If you have a different opinion on those two, then just read my review here keeping an open mind. We all have different interpretations on terms after all.
My favourite track to test this is TobyMac's - Me Without You (Capital Kings Remix) and in particular, the intro part of the track. In general, the IE8s have been praised for having good soundstage, but the 1Plus2 in my opinion, are much more impressive in this area. I cannot explain how happy I am whenever I close my eyes and then replay the introduction of this track in my head.
Take the sound I'm hearing as just a sound, just a dot in the grand scheme of things. With the 1Plus2, I'm able to close my eyes, and at the same time, use my eyes to track that dot in almost one full circle. It accurately produces a 3D imaging that is near seamless. Other IEMs I've tried have not been able to reproduce it in quite the same way. Sure, some other IEMs are able to reproduce it but the full circle isn't quite as full. If you take the full circle to be a straight line, other IEMs just don't seem to image the line full i.e. it is like a dotted line so to speak.
I don't think I've quite heard anything that has been able to image near field left/right and far left/right quite so well. It is impressive. There is a sense of space, a sense of depth and a sense of sound staging being expansive all at the same time.
Following and sort of an extension of the previous section, is instrument separation. The tracks I used for this bit are Dave Douglas Quintet's - High on a Mountain, Esperanza Spalding's - Winter Sun and Brian Culbertson's Live From the Inside album in its entirety. There just isn't a part of the music where I feel that the 1Plus2 is struggling or that it is starting to sound convoluted.
This is also however, down to the mastering/mixing/post-production. What I mean by this is that there can be some rubbish mastering and the 1Plus2 isn't going to change any of that. It isn't going to make a badly produced track suddenly sound great. However, what it will do for a well mastered track is to ensure that you are able to enjoy the track far more. I'm careful here by not saying "far more than anything else or any other IEM etc". This is an important caveat because whilst I've heard other custom IEMs or IEMs, I've not been able to spend enough time to analyse them too much etc. And there also comes a point where if you listen to too much gear, if there are some similarities, it becomes almost like an exercise of splitting hairs. Not to mention that memory can mess around with one's listening impressions.
I don't think there has been a track where I've been straining to hear anything. That actually says something. There have been tracks on other IEMs I've used, more recently being the H-200 for example, where whilst the detail was there, it just wasn't brought out as much and as well as the 1Plus2. The 1Plus2 just does it effortlessly.
There are many occasions where people say that they hear something more with a new IEM that they have gotten, something better in theory, but that doesn't mean they will be able to hear it when they are lost in the crowd and public. The 1Plus2 is able to bring it out well enough that it will still be appreciated on the go. That's the difference for me.
Clarity and Transparency
I think I'll cover a bit of this in the cable bit below. But just to be clear, I think for me, the clearest IEM I've ever experienced is from the FitEar 333. This is a notch below. That isn't to say the 1Plus2 isn't clear in any way whatsoever, because it still is. The crispness of the FitEar may have been a little too much for me and the 1Plus2 sits just about right.
If you are someone who has ever owned the IE8 and tried EQ-ing out the "veil" from the sound signature of the IE8, then the 1Plus2 displays no veil whatsoever. I am however hesitant to say that the 1Plus2 is true to the source simply because I don't know what each producer has intended. However, I think to some extent, if I had to say what producers have tried to capture, the 1Plus2 I think produces it. But a little more on that later below.
This is difficult. I think with the stock silver, it leaned a little south of being just right. And with the new upgrade, that got a tad leaner again. Lushness to me is almost a tad like musicality from the music, and perhaps, the "fun" factor. Perhaps.
That being said, the 1Plus2 has quick note decay. For this, let me bring up dance music etc. Or even some funk based modern jazz like Brian Culbertson. Because the note decay and the bass seems a little trimmed on the 1Plus2 upgrade cable (canvassed more below in the cable section), I think the 1Plus2 has lost a little bit of its musicality and makes everything a little more clinical. I think the 1Plus2 takes away a little from the sustain that is thrown into some notes, but that could just down to my preference for a slightly warmer and more lush sound signature, a more enveloping sound so to speak.
Yes, I'm a bass head (sort of). And I think I've covered a fair bit of this as is so I don't think I'll add much to this. See the section just below this for example (in respect of bass bits etc).
That being said, the 1Plus2 has very good control over its bass, it has very good "texturing" over the bass notes as well. There is also no bleeding over of the bass to colour the other notes. Just like instrument separation, this is done very well so there is no worry of any of the bass hiding any of the notes.
That aside, I think some tracks like Daft Punk's - Derezzed and Eminem's - Cinderella Man didn't sound any much better than coming off the IE8s for example (or that may just be purely down to the fact that they are mainstream i.e. no instruments to really let the IEM shine). Cinderella Man needed a fuller and more hard hitting bass that the 1Plus2 didn't exactly seem to deliver. This isn't to say that the 1Plus2 doesn't have bass because it definitely does, and it has sub-bass to spare.
In soundtracks for example, you can feel the air flow through. The Dark Knight Rises OST (Imagine the Fire and Rise) and The Transformers Revenge of The Fallen (Nest and Forest Battle) soundtracks, the 1Plus2 "almost" makes me feel like I'm seated in the movie theatre itself. The rumble in my opinion, could be a little more, but that is asking a lot from an IEM. The atmospheric sound that the 1Plus2 is able to deliver is unlike most IEMs that I've been able to try and at times, I feel myself having goose bumps, just like I'm seated there in the midst of everything and I think that is all I can ask for.
Stock Silver vs. Silver/Gold Upgrade
This is tough. I think the stock silver has been well documented throughout this thread itself, not so much the sonic ability of it, but more so the ergonomics of the cable. Personally, I think Tralucent sold themselves a little short with the cable, even if it is of a very high quality. Here's a couple of pictures of the cables next to each other:
I'm going to take a fair bit from my previous review and statements on the differences I heard on this, so this will be a re-hash. For those who have already read what I've had to say on this, then you may wish to skip this bit.
If I could sum it all up in one sentence, the new upgrade cable has diminished the presence of bass comparatively speaking whilst adding further clarity and this could be due to a combination of a few things: one, a more expansive imaging capability; and secondly, a tightening up of the bass throughout.
Now, I think infamously, I have touted two analogies to explain the differences of the 1Plus2's upgrade cable's bass difference:
Think of a punch as the bass itself. With the stock cable, it felt like the punch was connecting at full tilt. With the new upgrade cable, the punch feels like it is released halfway, or the person putting the punch through lacks conviction in his punch.
Think of bookshelf speakers with tweeters. Then think about a sub-woofer being linked up to the speaker setup. The stock silver cable felt like I had a sub-woofer going off whereas with the new upgrade cable, the sub-woofer has been taken out of the equation. To some extent, the rumble I once felt has disappeared.
With the 1Plus2 in its current form, I do feel that the deep bass impact has now disappeared a little. There does seem to be something missing. Whilst I know the sub-bass is there, and that there is "air" moving in the bass. There is no way that I can make this out when I'm on the go. IEMs after all, and portability, go hand in hand. And keeping that in mind, usability on the go is paramount. Users of the IE8/80/800s (not that they are in the same performance bracket) but users of those IEMs would understand how "too much" bass may actually work very well in the public. It helps to drown out the ambient noise whereas with the 1Plus2 upgrade cable, the ambient noise seeps into the music and drowns out the sub-bass.
If you want to have an idea of the difference experienced between switching cables, try different IEMs that you feel give you the same experience on these couple of tracks: Pendulum - The Island Part I (Dawn) and Brian Culbertson - Waiting for You. However, the amount of bass one desires is entirely up to the individual, all things considered.
All that being said though, there is a clear step up from the stock silver to the upgraded silver/gold cable in terms of sound quality. I moved from the IE8s to the 1Plus2s, but that isn't to say I hadn't heard other comparable IEMs and CIEMs between or within similar price brackets. The stock silver on the 1Plus2 sound both clear, transparent but with oodles of bass. The upgrade cable on the 1Plus2 however, made the stock silver sound like I was listening to the IE8s i.e. much more clarity but even more refined bass.
All that aside, my impression has changed a little over time in that I do feel that the newer upgrade cable opened up a little over time and sounded better all round. I still would like the amount of bass the stock silver produces however. Overall though, the new upgrade cable is a clear step up that I'll hang onto, and have to fork out extra, but with the better ergonomics in mind, and the already very high entry price to the 1Plus2, I do feel that the "upgrade" cable should have been the stock cable given all the misgivings over the ergonomics of the stock. Oh, and I wish I had asked for a right-angled connector pin instead of the straight up given as stock!!! I'm always worried that the bending that goes on in the pocket might kill the cables!
Was I a cable believer before all this? Nope. Am I a cable believer now? Yes.
My overall impression of the 1Plus2's sound signature is that it is fairly aggressive whilst at the same time, not fatiguing, though I could understand how it may be so for someone else. That being said, the 1Plus2 lands itself on the north side of fun. It isn't exactly flat out neutral and has itself a flavour of fun, something I feared when I first made the plunge. But, the fear was allayed the moment I heard the 1Plus2. It did everything I wanted improved from the IE8s, not only just improved, but it did so with a big difference. There is a distinct sense of clarity without any loss of detailing whilst maintaining power that the dynamic driver pushes out in the bass department. I sampled some really good IEMs, but the 1Plus2 did it all for me and I can't tell you how happy I was when I heard it.
Coming from the IE8s and being a bit of a bass head, I feared that the 1Plus2 might be too lean for my tastes. With the IE8s, I tended to EQ the bass down whilst at the same time bringing the treble up a notch and taking away the veil. With the 1Plus2, I've refused to EQ the 1Plus2 because it really shouldn't need EQ-ing at this price point, and I haven't done so.
Let me dig up some reference points for this. The k3003 offering from AKG for example, that I feel is more likely to be very reference like, and somewhat "lifeless" and perhaps, true to the source. I say it is true to the source primarily because the flavour of music tends to be added in at the production stage. For me, the k3003 just produces everything without much flavour, or if there was a flavour, it tends to lean on well, being a little bland. Now, this is not a bad thing. It just doesn't suit my tastes.
The 1Plus2 on the other hand, whilst not being "euphoric", has just the right amount of "fun" thrown in. It has my feet tapping constantly, but at the same time, if I wanted to sit down and listen to my jazz and chillout stuff, I would feel right at home with it too. I think the stock silver does every genre competently, from classical and jazz to rock, dance etc. I think the upgrade cable limits itself a little more but still sounds great to me.
Ultimately, the enjoyment one gets out of music is dependent on the individual. I cannot and should never tell you that this will be the perfect fit for you. I could recommend it based on a person's listening preferences, but as I've already noted, we all hear things differently.
What then makes a good IEM? Besides technical efficiency, what matters above all, on a subjective scale, is that the IEM suits both your innate listening preferences whilst taking into account your hearing including any potential deficiencies. All the talk of technicalities is secondary to your personal listening pleasure. You may be listening or using something that isn't "hi-fi" by virtue of its price point, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the music you listen to any less than the person next to you with something expensive stuck into their ears.
In my journey which I've noted down in the following thread: Portability? The next step after my IE8s, I've listened to custom IEMs within the same price bracket as the 1Plus2 like the JH series of custom IEMs, EarSonics and the FitEar 333. I've also heard the new flagship universal IEMs like the IE800 and k3003 on my search for my next step with IEMs. I can say that I'm more than happy with my purchase in the end. I know that I could have gone far more in depth with this review, but I hope that this paragraph alone tells you how much I hold the 1Plus2 in comparison to other IEMs that I have tried. It truly is a fantastic IEM and probably does a lot of what I wanted in an IEM, more so than the others I have heard and read about.
In terms of universal IEMs, I think I've found my end game IEM. At least until something else comes up and changes the game again. However, that said, if I ever have the money to own something in the custom range that would rival or match the 1Plus2, I would love to simply because I've always wanted a custom IEM. I wouldn't say the 1Plus2s have been the most comfortable, and the cable issues do get annoying, albeit the significant elimination of it from the recent upgrade cable. But I'm very very happy with the 1Plus2.
With all of that now said and done, I do feel that I could do with a more laid back and less aggressive IEM, but I'm also thinking, after my experience with my IE8s and custom tips, that I'd much rather have custom IEMs at some point. Whether I do so, I don't know. There are far too much budget constraints for me on this, and I probably won't be able to afford one until I hold down a stable job in a couple of years time.
Before I end this review, let me give a quick shout out to Tralucent who have been fantastic to deal with both in terms of responsiveness, friendliness and approachability on any subject matter.
And on that note, it is time for me to end this review and I think it is time for me to really enjoy my IEM now.
Pros - Great sub bass, Massive soundstage, Great PRAT, Oodles of detail, Great imaging, Great for live music
Cons - Lack of tip options is annoying, Silver cable needs a more refined look and may be to unwieldy for some people, Mids may sound to thin for some people
Ladies and gentlemen say hello to the Tralucent Audio 1Plus2 hybrid IEM. This little gem of an earphone easily falls into the group of pricey high-end mobile audio gear with its suggested MSRP of 1300 USD. On first glance this rather plain Jane piece of gear with its beefy silver cable may not look like much but you only have to give it a few minutes of listening time to realize it’s a brute like monster in the sound department. Before we get to the good stuff lets first get the small niggles out-of-the-way. At 1300 USD I expect a lot from an earphone both in the sound department and in the form factor department. Overall, I am generally pleased with the execution Tralucent Audio has taken form factor wise with this little beauty BUT there is room for improvement.
First of all, for such a pricey piece of gear I was rather put off that only 3 pairs of Ortofon tips were provided. These tips were useless to me and I found myself scrambling around going through my desk drawer trying to find tips that both fit the earphone as well as my ears. After a couple of hours and a lot of experimenting I settled on a pair of medium-sized Comply T-500 tips to give me a proper seal. The second little niggle I had problems with would be the removable cable. This cable is a pure silver 6n OCC cable with a very high MSRP all of its own. Overall, the cable feels quite sturdy and although a little stiff seems acceptably pliable enough for everyday use. The problem I have with the stock cable is for such a high-end cable I really am not to happy with its outer covering. The OC feels very rough to the touch and to the uninitiated gives an outward appearance that serves only to cheapen the product. At this MSRP I think a nicer more luxuriant feeling OC is a must have as well as a better selection of tips.
Now that all the little niggles are out-of-the-way let's get to the great stuff, the sonics. As stated earlier the 1Plus2 is a hybrid IEM. What that means is under the hood it sports dual Knowles TWFK balanced armatures (BA) that handle the high and mid frequencies but nestled behind the BA’s is a rather large 13mm traditional dynamic driver that handles all the bass frequency duties. The idea behind using a traditional dynamic driver is to try to give the bass frequencies a fuller more lush and natural sound. Because of how this dynamic driver is tuned, for me, the star of the show on these IEM’s is the bass.
It’s not a bass head-piece of gear by any stretch of the imagination but none the less it brings incredible speed, slam and punching power to the table. Because of its incredible speed and very tight control bass bleed into the mids is nonexistent. I’ve yet to hear an IEM that can throw out the amount of sub bass the way the 1Plus2 is able to and yet because note decay is so quick there’s no low-frequency smearing or bleed into the lower mids.
The mids are rather hard for me to explain. Edgy would probably be a good word to use. They’re very crisp, clean and almost thin on first listen when compared to the bass. After awhile of listening to more music you start to notice subtle nuances in the music made possible by the extremely high detail retrieval. Guitar plucks and other instrumentation such as horns etc sound more life-like and the listener feels like they’re sitting in on a jam session.
The highs, well the highs are a piece of work. They extend extremely high and give the listener a sense of air. It's a little peaky in spots but overall it’s quite detailed, controlled and lends to the IEM’s resolving sound. Cymbal crashes are clean and decay seems ludicrously fast. The best part, because it's so clean there’s no hint of grain that can be detected. And if that wasn’t enough there’s no metallic like tonality that lesser IEM’s sometimes exhibit.
If all I’ve written wasn’t enough we now move on to the icing on the cake, the soundstage. When you listen to these IEM’s they don’t sound anything like traditional IEM’s but instead sound far more like a high-end headphone. The soundstage is massive both depth and width and sounds completely out of the head. Strangely enough, these IEM’s especially excel with live music due to it being able to image in such a way that the listener feels like the music is coming straight head on at them. On top of that the 1Plus2 somehow is able to install an incredible amount of air between instruments giving the added feeling that the listener is sitting in a large stage arena somewhere near the front center floor area bopping along as the band belts out tune after tune.
Is this IEM to me worth paying an MSRP of 1300 USD? Well, unfortunately I don’t own these IEM's. They’re a sample unit I received from Gavin, the mind behind Tralucent Audio, and as of tomorrow they’re being packed up and sent on their merry way to the next reviewer for product feedback. These IEM’s have made me stop and double think what the term flagship IEM is about and I’m finding myself doing some soul-searching on whether my next investment on mobile gear will be my very own 1Plus2. To answer the question to me they’re very much worth it.
Many special thanks to Gavin of Tralucent Audio for allowing me the pleasure of listening to his product. I hope he reads my final thoughts on his product and addresses the few minor niggles I pointed out. What an incredible sounding IEM.
Pros - Excels in almost every aspect of a quality audiophile signature
Cons - Price, comfort, overall integration of each signature quality
Tralucent 1Plus2 Summary
Ever wanted to know what all the fancy audiophile jargon means audibly ? The 1Plus2 can cover most of what you've read in a single pair of IEMs - soundstage, imaging, detail, high airy extensions, tight & deep bass, clarity, transparency, and the list goes on.
1Plus2, Beat Audio Cronus Cable balanced, iPhone 4S, CLAS -dB Balanced, ALO Rx Mk3 (real use case in low gain setting, despite what the photo suggests)
Physical Design and Comfort
Before we go into the sonics, I'd like to describe more into the physical aspects of this IEM for my ears. The 1Plus2 looks more like a custom IEM with a universal tip and its made up of 2xbalanced armatures & 1x10mm dynamic driver.
Despite it's bulky and awkward appearance, it's actually average in weight. Fitting for my ears at least wasn't exactly perfect (I'm using large sized Orotfon tips), and due to the thick gauge of the silver cables, they aren't exactly flexible despite having a wire memory guide - the memory guide wire is actually too flexible that the thick silver gauge wire defines the bends more than the wire.
At least for me, I kept fiddling attempting to loop it around my ears and have to tighten the neck loop to keep the IEMs in place. To add, aside from fiddling, due to the gauge of the cable I find it somewhat microphonic too.
I also found wind noise to be a slight issue with this IEM. Funnily I've owned other ported hybrids and not noticed wind noise, this is the first hybrid that I have heard.
In terms of aesthetic appearance too, I have to admit it doesn't exactly scream finesse for a $1300 pair of IEM. However depending on your priorities this may or may not be important to you 'cos after all, it's all about the sound, isn't it?
In terms of what's going under the covers, there seems to be quite a bit of proprietary design going in inside the IEMs. As such please note that even though you think you can see through the translucent shell in my photos, you can be sure that I've photoshopped them somewhat to hide anything it may reveal. However, despite the average looking shell, that awkward stiff cable is a clear indication of true quality being a part of the IEM package. This was easily tested by swapping cables with a cheap $50 OFC copper of a thin gauge and the sonics changed dramatically. By the way, this also means the connector used is a typical UE-styled connector making the IEM to be quite cable-agnostic.
Red Wine Audio AK100 Mod, 1Plus2 Silver Cable
Sonics - That's what we're here for aren't we?
Before going into what it sounds like, I'd like to add a few brief statements of the journey to getting to the final sonics. Over the past 2 weeks, I've developed a love/hate relationship with this IEM. I'll start with the love 'cos I heard it before purchasing it and it obviously it performed well enough to get my attention, however as some of you may have read in the Tralucent thread, I had some pretty major concerns of a new company charging so much for a pair of IEMs.
However, investment choices are eventually up to each individual so I decided to take a risk, bite the bait, focus only about the product and bought one. During the burn in process though the love-hate juggled from day to day. I have to give Tralucent a lot of credit and a thousand apologies for the daily e-mail exchanges, at times with the most undeserving analogies to some infamous headphone companies. Despite what appeared to be a chap having some major hormonal issues, Tralucent was extremely patient with me very step of the way and I truly appreciate them for it. The sonics mostly settled around the 160 hr mark and continued to change subtly until the 230 hr mark where I feel it's fully stable.
I won't go through what I heard during the burn-in as the signature then was merely transient.
So the real question is what do I hear now that it's settled? As mentioned in the introduction, if we look through most of the audiophile jargon, the 1Plus2 comes up with top marks for them. This IEM screams detail, transparency, airy trebles, deep tight bass, wide soundstage, nice 3D imaging, etc.
Soundstage and Imaging
When I listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons (take your pick on any conductor & orchestra…Isaac Stern & The Jerusalem Music Centre Chamber Orchestra, or Moskow Chamber Orchestra, etc.) the soundstage presented by this IEM is wide akin to say a good closed isolating high end headphone like the Ultrasone Signature DJ/Pros or Edition 8's. I will say though the Fostex TH-900s do have a wider soundstage but the TH-900s, despite being closed back, are not isolating. Even listening to John William's Star Wars Trilogy, I could imagine myself in a huge hall with the the orchestra performing before me.
Imaging performed reasonably well too. It struck a nice balance between it's wide soundstage and it's 3D depth perception. I have to admit that I'd actually prefer the imaging of the FitEar TO GO! 334 however, doesn't have the wide soundstage of the 1Plus2. However I felt with these two aspects, the choice of which IEM it would vary from genre to genre - e.g. I personally preferred vocals such as Lana Del Rey, Adele, Michael Buble, and Anne Murray with the TG!334 than the 1Plus2. But with classical, electronic, and even pop I'd prefer the 1Plus2.
These IEMs are no doubt very detail. In fact even rather unapologetically! It will scrutinise the mastering quality of the track. It will further scrutinise the ripping quality, etc. At times I felt some tracks were excruciatingly painful to listen to due to too much detail. At least to my ears, I find that the 1Plus2 does this through the forwardness and extension of the trebles. For subtle music such as classical, this is fine. However for music such as Michael Jackson's Billie Jean from the SACD version of Thriller, or the 1992 Australian Cast Recording Highlights of Jesus Christ Superstar, I felt daggers were thrown into my eardrums.
At this point, one may question what source/transport and amp I'm using and I found even using the RSA SR-71b which is known to have a somewhat darker/warmer signature it was barely tolerable.
As such, I feel the way detail is portrayed on this IEM through trebles primarily is pushing my eardrums to the limits. At best on a rather mellowed track, the detail is simply amazing. At worst with some brightish recordings, it's unlistenable.
I feel these factors also are closely related to my thoughts about the detail feature. With classical, acoustic instrumental, and simple vocals even, the presentation is impeccably clear and transparent. It's as though the microphone & pop filter is placed just next to the instruments or the lips of the artist. Everything is unbelievably crystal clear. Listening to Tony Bennett's "The Shadow Of Your Smile" from the Ultimate Tony Bennett, you can hear him smack his lips before singing, and even every breath he takes before he sings.
But like a doubled edged sword, if you have something that's (again) badly recorded, this IEM will pick it up. It doesn't even have to be the recording quality but possibly just the way the master was mixed. Listening to Cher Lloyd's Sitcks + Stones album, at times it's hard to discern between poor mastering or if it's how the mixing engineer intended it to be.
It gets to the point whether you're listening to detail, clarity, and transparency, or if you're listening to music.
Due to the wide soundstaging, detail retrieval, clarity and transparency, I feel these features have a great influence on instrument and vocal separation. As mentioned before, it feels each instrument and vocalist was recorded directly and independently then put together later by the mixing engineer. Separation is also impeccable.
Along the lines of all the other aforementioned aspects of sound quality, the 1Plus2 screams quality. It has a deep reaching bass that's tight with little decay (unusual for a dynamic driver?!?), it's treble as mentioned before extends high and has a very airy presentation. The midrange is pulled back somewhat for my personal tastes. To be more precise it's the cusp of the upper bass to low midrange that feels more pulled back whereas the upper midrange. I'd personally prefer a low midrange that filled a little more. This slight pull back in the upper bass/lower midrange gives a somewhat more analytic signature rather. By comparison something like the FitEar TO GO! 334 feels more warm, rich, and immersive.
At least to my ears, contrary to what other 1Plus2 owners feel, I find the 1Plus2 to be somewhat U-shape in signature. As such, I'd actually disagree that this is a natural sounding IEM. At least to my ears, it's far from natural - however the exaggerated features of this IEM makes a quick immediate impression.
By comparison what I'd personally consider to be more is the Stax SR-009. Naturally it is unfair to compare a $5000 pair of headphones to a $1300 IEM, however I'm merely challenging the definition and use of "natural" in the Tralucent thread to be quite different to what I perceive to be "neutral".
I feel overall, my impressions is somewhat of a mixed bag. It seems I'm praising each aspect of the IEM but at the same time criticising it. If I were to surmise my thoughts into a few quick sentences I'd say that despite this IEM performing well in each discrete components, I have a hard time integrating all these components into one single musical piece. Somewhat more descriptively, I feel like I'm listening to each musical instrument independently but playing together, instead of taking a step back and listening to an entire orchestra. In contrast to the FitEar TO GO! 334, the Stax SR-009, or the Fostex TH-900, I find those other earphones/headphones to be more natural sounding and (especially with the SR-009) a more accurate representation of music than the 1Plus2 which at least to my ears, feel somewhat exaggerated. As I've told some members privately, every individual aspect in the 1Plust2 is almost too perfect, and somewhat too upfront (or as another listener said to me, too aggressive). I think for my personal tastes, I'd prefer a more natural sounding IEM that educate me these components of sound quality in more subtle ways rather than, wham, right in my face.
A quick learning lesson on what detail, soundstage, clarity, instrument separation means.
Where does the 1Plus2 Fail to my ears?
The ability to present a musical piece as a whole with natural presentation.
Update 1st February 2013: 1Plus2 Impressions Update With The Silver/Gold Cable
I managed to get my hands on a pair of sliver/gold cables today and can compare the silver & silver/gold side-by-side - well can't A/B immediately since I only have 1 pair of 1Plus2's.
Let's get the quick summary out of the way, then delve in a little bit into the details.
So I find the silver/gold still somewhat sibilant but different and in a way more acceptable. The reason is that the silver/gold (as previously mentioned by others here) alter the sonics of the IEM quite differently. Is it noticeable? Yes quite so - although I never was a skeptic on cables causing sonic changes, trying these two silver vs sliver/gold cables merely confirms my beliefs.
A few noted comments others have made about the silver/gold is that it's warmer, slightly smaller soundstage, not so sibilant, etc. I'd agree with most of them but I may describe my thoughts somewhat slightly differently.
As with others, I'm finding that the upper bass or lower mids are filled more which makes it nicer for vocals. Others have said that it's more TG!334-like. Although I won't say that they're (the 1Plus2 and TG!334) alike but with the silver/gold cable, the signature starts to sway more towards that TG!334/XBA-3 direction.
Whilst with the silver cable, I described quite a bit of sibilance, I didn't really put down too much detail but (and here's where I may start pulling numbers out of thin air), around the XkHz and above, the trebles start to sound quite forward. Whilst with the silver/gold cable, it's more around the upper trebles of YYkHz that starts to exhibit sibilance.
As such I find I have less sibilance issues with the silver/gold than I did with the pure silver cable. There's more about sibilance later.
Soundstage and Imaging
Others have noted that with the silver/gold cable the soundstage is less. In the short time I've had with the silver/gold, I'd say that the apparent soundstage does sound somewhat narrower. But this isn't bad - where I found the silver to be unrealistically wide, If find the silver/gold to be more realistic. In general though with other headphones/earphones I've tried, I've noticed that with more pronounced U or V-shaped signatures, the apparent soundstage sounds wider than those headphones/earphones with a more forward midrange.
On the other hand, a more prominent midrange doesn't always necessarily mean deeper imaging but well made IEMs with rich mids (coupled with rich bass) do seem to exhibit a deeper imaging. I find that the 1Plus2 with the silver/gold cable to have a deeper imaging naturally.
Now back to the sibilance topic again, with the silver cable the soundstage was unnaturally vast and at least to my ears seem to start earlier on in the treble frequencies. As such the sibilance on the silver cable seems to me to be "all around" which is probably where I had a problem with. On the other hand with the silver/gold cable, as mentioned above the apparent soundstage seems narrower (and more realistic), and the treble forwardness seems to start later in the upper treble region - therefore the sibilance seem to be more focused rather than "all around". I actually feel there's more room for other instruments to breath, and therefore doesn't feel overshadowed by the sibilance.
This inadvertently seem to imply that instrument separation seems to be more distinct with the silver/gold cable.
I can't remember if I read somewhere that the silver/gold has less detail. If someone did say that, I'd have to say that my ears disagree. The details and micro-details aren't as obvious smacked right in front of your face, but it's there in a more subtle form that you'd hear more naturally. This is something I learnt through my ownership of the TG!334, TH-900, and SR-009, and as such appreciate in the silver/gold cable more so than the silver.
Silver/Gold Cable Conclusion
As such, I actually find the silver/gold cables of the 1Plus2 to be more agreeable to my ears. Though the upper treble region forwardness is still there, most of my music genre don't venture that far (at least excessively).
Does this mean there's no room for the silver cable for my 1Plus2? Well, not entirely....the silver cable is quite useful in determining the quality of a rip or mastering of a CD/SACD. However, that's more critique rather than listening for enjoyment.