1) An action or event serving as an introduction to something more important.
2) An introductory piece of music, most commonly an orchestral opening to an act of an opera.
So, the Prelude is Warblers introduction in the wonderful world of audio. And what an introduction it is!
The Prelude got my full attention when it ended in @flinkenicks totl IEM shootout at the #4 position.
That was quite a remarkable accomplishment imo, regarding its relative low (well, at least compared to most of the other contenders) pricetag of $1099. And the fact that it only had ONE balanced armature driver a side!
Now, if there ever was an IEM that put the drivers war in a completely other perspective for me, it absolutely was this ONE!
Only ONE single BA driver a side? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Could it possibly sound that good? I just had to found out for myself and was lucky that I could get the Prelude on a loan for a couple of weeks soon after that.
The answer was: YES! It sounded that good! As a matter of fact it sounded indeed better to my ears than most IEMs, carrying many more drivers inside, that I had heard untill then. It didn’t took me much listening time to realize that this truly was a very special ONE and that I wanted it in my collection. And so I contacted the (very friendly) guys at Warbler, which resulted in an imo beautiful (thanks @hamhamhamsta for the inspiration) design later on…
Btw, for more background information regarding the Preludes technical design or the guys who developed it, please check this excellent review by @jelt2359, which was also the start of a dedicated Prelude thread itself.
The Prelude came in a nice Pelican 1010 case, incl. a (very thin) Linum BaX cable, a 3,5mm to 6,3mm adapter, cleaning tool and a small drying pellet.
When I got it, I almost immediately picked the Ares II cable for the Prelude, as I already knew (thanks to the loan period, when it came with that cable) that they had excellent synergy.
And even from a $350 dap like the Opus #1, the Prelude already sounded fantastic to my ears!
Just recently I thought ‘OK, let’s try that Linum BaX stock cable for a change’ and I was surprised how good that ONE sounded as well. Maybe not as extremely clear as the Ares II, but still pretty close, with a wonderful smooth and full bodied signature. Let’s also not forget that this is a $79 (= approx $100) ‘stock’ cable. So, the guys at Warbler certainly didn’t go for the ‘cheap / let’s save us some dollars on a cable’ route.
Taking the sq up to 'top notch' level, from a RedWine modded AK380 Cu
Now the main question: How does this little birdie sing?
This was what I read on some website and imo it would essentially do as a basic, but pretty accurate signature description:
''Equipped with only a single balanced armature on each side, the Prelude is tuned specially for tone, with a timbre that is considered as natural. The Prelude offers a velvety smooth sound that has powerful, deep, emotional vocals that is completed with a mid-range presentation that sounds as if the Prelude can present infinity number of layers in this spectrum of sound.
With it's beautiful timbre and smooth, natural presentation, the Prelude doesn't aim to please the crowd, but to entice specific audiophile users that want a pair of in-ear monitors that allows them to forget about seeking the utmost details and transparency, but to simply let the music flow into their heart.''
Or to elaborate on that a bit further in my own words:
Do you know the feeling that you’re listening to music and you get so involved, that the rest of the world seems to disappear and you simply become ONE with the notes surrounding you?
Have you ever seen the movie ‘Magnolia’ by Paul Thomas Andersonn? Now that ONE did put emotions in the spotlight, didn’t it?
Eeeh what? You saw it and it didn’t move you at all in some kinda way? Well, in that case I’ve got a newsflash for you: 'Congrats my friend, you’re an android!'
Now, do you also know/remember the song ONE by Aimee Mann from that same movie?
There’s a lot of emotion in that song and Aimees wonderful sweet voice. And I doubt that any other iem brought me closer to the core of that emotion in that voice than the Prelude did.
So, if ‘ONE is the loneliest number that you'll ever know’, how to explain that an only ONE driver IEM can make me enjoy music in such an impressive way? Could it be because there’s nothing more cohesive than the number ONE?
What is it exactly that makes the Prelude such an excellent sounding ciem?
Imo it’s the clarity and superb (also left-right) separation that makes you aware of all the (micro)details that are in the music. ONE of the most used clichés is probably ‘It made me hear things that I never noticed before’. Well, excuse me, but that is exactly(!) what this IEM does for me...the Prelude is just detailed on an almost scary (micro)level to my ears. No matter how hard the microdetails try to hide within the music, the Prelude will hunt them down for you.
Soundstage is decent imo, surely not the widest or most holographic that I’ve ever heard, but still realistic and slightly ‘out of your head’.
However: this is NOT an IEM for addicted hardcore bassheads! For my taste there’s enough (especially mid-bass oriëntated) lows and it’s a high quality (very detailed and tight) bass as well. But don’t expect too much sub-bass on a bone rumbling level.
On the other side of the spectrum, the treble is ONE of the best I’ve ever heard. Never harsh, smooth but still always revealing. Instruments like cymbals or bells sounded crystal clear to my ears.
But ONE of the most important ingredients that makes the Prelude sound so good/special is its (natural) tonality. Instruments and vocals sound very realistic to my ears. And that beautiful timbre is probably the reason that gives the Prelude its slightly warm signature and makes vocals sound so wonderful emotionally loaded at the same time.
A short comparison with some other, also priced at $1100, BA driver IEMs that I own(ed):
Warbler Prelude vs the 5BA Campfire Audio Andromeda
The Andromeda is usually my ‘on the go’ IEM. Because it’s such a small universal, it’s easy to put in / take out whenever you travel, or go to public places. The Andro beats the Prelude in soundstage and has a more bass heavy signature, but I like the Preludes treble, mids (especially vocals) and overall signature better. Where the Andro has a fun and dynamic tuned signature, it simply lacks the beautiful and natural timbre / tonality that the Prelude delivers.
Warbler Prelude vs the 8BA Custom Art Harmony 8.2
The Prelude delivers more and imo better treble than the H8.2, where the H8.2 has noticeable more (sub)bass in its signature. The H8.2 sounded pleasantly smooth and relaxed, but less detailed to me than the Prelude.
Soundstage wise (based on memory) I don’t think they’re that far apart.
The Prelude sounds more revealing to my ears, with better left-right and instrument separation. Although the H8.2 sounded very natural and coherent, and I really liked its lows, it sometimes just lacked some ‘bite’ to my taste. Where the Prelude always makes me feel like I’m on some kind of musical adventure. Discovering new nuances and emotions in the music itself down that road.
OK then, ONE final song called ONE (sorry to all Metallica fans, as I chose another ONE) was written by some, maybe not so well known, obscure little Irish underground band. Later on another version appeared, ft. Mary J. Blidge.
But the song never touched my heart and soul, like the way it did when I first heard this (bare naked, but so sincerely sang on an emotional level) version from the legendary ‘Man in Black’ himself:
Just listen to it, and if you ever get the chance to check this version again, with the Prelude in your ears, then you’ll probably agree: the Warbler Prelude is a beautiful tuned IEM, that is able to capture the emotion in/behind the song! But beware: once you’ve heard it yourself, it might also capture your heart. And chances are big that you won’t be able to resist ordering ONE yourself after that experience.
So, should I rate the Prelude, out of ‘theme consistency’, with just ONE star? Yeah, right!
Maybe that would make sense in an ‘upside-down’ universe...but here in this Head-Fi universe it will get the full, five star, ranking from me. Without ONE single doubt.
Or, to put all the above in just TWO words: BRAVO PRELUDE!!!
Thanks for reading and happy listening to all of ya’ out there!