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Aminus hates everything (Or, Aminus rants and reviews stuff)

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  1. aminus
    Meze Rai Penta:
    Where to begin on this one? It’s Meze, the guys who made the utterly inoffensive Empyrean. They’re making an IEM now I guess. Cool.

    The bass on the Rai Penta is lacking in subbass, mostly being midbass. The bass in Talk Talk’s After the Flood is of suitable quantity but hardly as satisfying as I’m used to. It’s also a little sloppy, there’s tightness to be desired. It’s a Not Good from me.

    The mids are... there. They seem to be aiming for a warm-neutral shtick and they nailed it. Congratulations, I feel nothing. I just don’t have the capacity to care here. They feel more lower mids oriented than upper mids, which sounds pretty decent overall. There’s a little bite with a little weight (just a little, don’t get your hopes up big guy) with electric guitars which sounds passable. Vocals are ok. Jon Anderson on Close to the Edge seems too consonant for my taste, but that feels more like a treble issue. Overall I feel it performs better with male vocals than female. Don’t expect it to handle soprano males either.

    Treble feels recessed and lacking in extension. The cymbals on Magma’s K.A. I lack in energy. Instead I hear far, far too much punch from the kick drum with not enough weight to make it convincing. Track A-Solo Dancer by Charles Mingus also lacks upper frequency fire from the cymbals. The whole thing sounds like it’s trying so hard, too hard, to please. And maybe if warm and boring is your thing, go ahead and pair it with your WM1Z. I can’t say much about it aside from that.

    Technicalities are mediocre, if not lacking. Treble gets splashy when called forth to lay down complex cymbal parts. Detail (especially microdetail) noticeably seems to get squished alive by the small and congested staging. There’s examples of good intimate staging, and there’s this. Seperation is mostly definitely not up to par either, the drums and bass on Gorguts’ Obscura have effectively fused into a single rhythmic entity which is again, Not Good. Boulez’s version of Le Sacre du Printemps is utterly lacking in grandioseness in Les Augeres printaniers. The orchestra chugs along, but there’s no rhythmic energy or drive to it, no power. I don’t find myself in awe at anything. This is the biggest flaw of the whole thing, the staging and presentation just sucks.

    I’d write more but what else is there to mention? I guess it’s comfortable? That’s it? You’re dropping a grand for this. I feel like with how poorly the dynamic driver performs, you’d be better off buying an Andromeda or an M7, and I’m no Andromeda fan. Hell, an M9 on discount or used would decimate this. There’s very little motivation to buy this unless you genuinely love the Empyrean sound.

    For reference, all of this was heard out of the 3.5mm jack of the WM1A.

    Do I recommend it? Only to Empyrean aficionados. I was talking to Crinacle while demoing it and the very first conclusion he came to was that it was, quite literally, the Empyrean in earphone form. Which, I guess, is a point to Meze for consistency. Unfortunately, neither of us are fond of the Empyrean, so it’s really hard to praise it. For the rest of us, it appears we’ll have to stay away.

    Rating: 4/10
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  2. aminus
    Vision Ears Elysium:
    This one’s been a bit of a hypebeast. One of the first tribrids from a major company. I’m not a fan of Sonion’s electret (that’s right, they’re electrets, not electrostatics) drivers, or any known implementation of them. So this will put that to the test.

    For context: I first heard the Elysium at Canjam. I was not impressed by the blobby wet bass and mids. However it appears Vision Ears have decided to retune it, after apparently having heard the preproduction Elysium out of a Headamp GS-X Mini and being wowed. The questionable decision to make a BA the woofer remains, and it certainly shows. Bass is classically limp and slightly plasticky, lacking in true rumble. It’s a BA, what did you expect? In addition it’s tuned to a quantity that’s far less than I would appreciate, which makes me not quite a fan. That’s entirely a personal preference though.

    Despite all the claims of how wondrous the DD mids are, I’m not really impressed. I’m not offended either, I just don’t care. They sound passable, without any noticeable tilt to upper or lower mids. Is there more to comment? They’re pretty flat overall, without much offense nor amazement.

    Treble, is surprisingly enough, decent. The cymbals on Talk Talk’s Ascension Day definitely glisten enough for my liking without getting any sort of splashiness. It appears this would be an implementation of the Sonion electret that I like a decent bit. It’s a more lower-middish treble focus but it sounds just fine. Cymbals on jazz tracks like Eric Dolphy’s Hat and Beard also sound pretty fine. I don’t hate it at all.

    The overall technicalities and staging are also tasteful enough. You might not be getting Z1R or Solaris soundstage here but it’s suitable enough for conveying dense music. Detailing is also done very nicely. It’s definitely not lacking in the technicalities department, not by a long shot.

    Normally this is the bit where I would list personal gripes, opinions, rant or praise, but I don’t have too much to say. It’s a likable enough allrounder. The BA bass is not satisfactory to me but I could entirely see other people liking this. It makes me wonder though, if I would have come out liking this a lot more had it simply been a 2DD 2EST combination.

    For reference all listening was done through my WM1A’s 4.4 jack, with a FiiO 2.5mm to 4.4mm dongle to handle the 2.5mm termination of the stock cable.

    Do I recommend it? With caution. It’s quite passable and certainly likable but I get the itching feeling that more impressive stuff for the price exists. It’s decent. But not much more. I’ll go elsewhere to be wowed myself.

    Rating: 6/10
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  3. aminus
    Just added numerical scoring out of 10, 10 being what I would consider perfection, 5 being benchmarked as the ER4SR, and 0 being... well, we’ll find out what’s worthy of such a score when it comes. This I think should give a slightly better idea of where I think things stand in relation to each other. I’ll make up for the content drought this week by writing about lots of stuff over the weekend. I already have a few models and shops in mind I’ll be hitting.
    pstickne likes this.
  4. aminus
    64 audio Fourte Noir:
    I think I bashed this one for being a cashgrab at one point. Anyways, let’s get down to it.

    The Fourte Noir is essentially a retuned Fourte, promising a warmer and more coherent sound with a retuned dynamic driver. It’s also very conveniently priced $200 more than the already exorbitantly priced tia Fourte, and it’s limited to 500 units. I can’t help but feel like 64 are trying to pull an Andro S, except the standard Fourte is nowhere near as popular as the Andro. Unusual move. At least they have some sort of cable/solder gimmickry to justify the pricetag jump.

    The bass on the Fourte Noir has definitely been retuned, and not really in a good way. Midbass has received a modest boost, leaving subbass lacking. It’s not on a level like the Rai Penta where subs are nonexistent but it’s still not quite satisfying. Public Image Ltd.’s Albatross is ok, but not really good enough. Yes’ Close to the Edge has nearly no weight behind the kickdrum at all, merely a vague punchiness. I can’t say I really like it very much.

    Mids here seem to be vaguely similar to the original, appearing to be warmer. Unfortunately this still means it sounds fairly incoherent. There’s something very unnatural about the whole tuning, it has a strong lower mids slant, and really not much upper mids at all. This is especially apparent with Mark Hollis’ voice on After the Flood by Talk Talk, or the guitars in Gorgut’s Obscura, which have a really weird tonality which reminds me of listening to music through speakers and cupping your ears. The standard Fourte, which isn’t very natural to start with, doesn’t have this. It sounds hollow but at least it doesn’t sound muffled. I don’t quite understand why, considering the two measure almost identically, but it is what it is. Not looking good.

    The treble on the Noir is as hazy as ever. Talk Talk’s Ascension Day noticeably sounds lacking in sparkle or gleam with cymbals. The drumwork on Breadcrumb Trail by Slint sounds like Britt Walford is scared to hit his cymbals and hi-hats with too much force, lest he acquire tinnitus. It’s kind of a pathetic sound honestly. Not even my A12t, as treble shy as it is, is this timid in high frequencies. At least the 12t has the courage to apply some sort of stick impact, despite lacking in any sort of mid treble shimmer and decay. This... it’s just bizarrely lacking in treble.

    Soundstage is pretty average. I know there some people who think it’s the widest thing ever but I’m not hearing it. I would say the standard Fourte has a slightly larger staging than the Noir. Technicalities have noticeably taken a hit, largely due to the perceived muffling of the midrange. While the standard Fourte still held the technical chops to pull off impressive separation and layering, this one falls flat. Where I can hear the piano on the left channel in Mingus’ Track A-Solo Dancer cleanly separated from the brass section, on the Noir they kind of mix together, and that’s to say nothing of the rest of the brass ensemble.

    The Noir honestly feels like 64 tried, tried, to fix some of the criticisms of the Fourte, but they genuinely seem to have fallen flat on their goal. The Noir sounds like a straight downgrade from the Fourte in every way, the bass now feels more lacking in subs due to midbass obscuration, the mids now sound muffled and even more bizarre, and the treble is largely unchanged. Staging and technicalities have worsened. What was the point? Was it really worth it, 64? Well, I know it was worth it for your accounts, but really, was it worth it for you to release a pricehiked, inferior, limited edition of your already incredibly expensive flagship?

    For reference all the Noir listening was done with the WM1A through the 4.4mm jack, with a FiiO 2.5mm to 4.4mm interconnect to handle the 2.5mm cable. The standard Fourte (which I semi-reviewed here anyways) was heard out of the 3.5mm port of the WM1A. The fact that with the balanced port of the WM1A to its advantage, the Noir still falls flat compared to its predecessor, is a little embarrassing.

    Not recommended unless you’re a limited edition collector. Fourte fans, save your money.

    Rating: 2/10
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  5. deafdoorknob
    curious how would you rate the U12t, or the U18t, for that matter?
  6. aminus
    I'm not very much of a U18t fan. It's a very bland sound signature that has an excessively punchy midbass that I find bordering on obnoxious.
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  7. manthisis
    Is your rating scale based on a crin-like "ranked based off of technicalities and not personal preference" or are you determining their ranks as a "this is how much I enjoyed them out of 10"?

    Just curious so I can gauge exactly how you feel about certain IEMs. You rank the WF-1000XM3 at the same score as the ER4SR. From your perspective, why do they deserve the same rank?
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
    warriorpoet likes this.
  8. aminus
    As stated in the opening post I’m taking a subjective approach to things. The rating is based on how much I enjoy something, while giving points on what I deem to be tonally correct or technically competent. That’s why something like the Fourte would get a fairly high score on Crin’s list for being technical, where I would slam it for just being disjointed in tuning. The reason I’m ranking the 1000MX3 as a 5/10 is because I’m taking into account the use case and functionality of it. If this sound were just in, say, a cheap earbud it would probably be a 3 or 4/10. Although something tells me I should stay away from ranking consumer oriented products and stick to higher end stuff for consistency’s sake.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
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  9. deafdoorknob
    thanks for that. you appeared to prefer the tuning of the U12t over your a12t, or was that strictly wrt the lower treble?
  10. aminus
    In regards to the tuning variation of the two, the treble of the U12t was one of the things that drew me towards it when I decided to buy the A12t custom. At the same time however, the reason I even got the custom and not the universal was because I found the universal particularly lacking in bass, most likely due to a poor seal, possibly thanks to 64A’s rather questionable shell shapes. In a sense an ideal tuning from me would be a combination of the two.
    deafdoorknob likes this.
  11. aminus
    Campfire Audio Solaris:

    Ahem, okay, now we’ve gotten that out of the way. I will try (yes, try) to be as unbiased as possible here without succumbing to any memery. Let’s pretend that nothing happened last year and measurements don’t matter.

    The Solaris is Sir Kenneth Ballington’s latest flagship, usurping the Andromeda, shared with the custom Equinox. This golden shiny banana is one of the new wave of big boy $2000* earphones competing toe to toe with the Z1R, alongside the FW10000 from JVC. All nice DD bass boys. Hybrids rise up and all that stuff.

    You know, on a certain forum, there’s a certain someone that’s praised the Solaris as the most coherent hybrid ever. Well, I’m glad to say that he isn’t wrong, the Solaris is indeed coherent. The DD and BA both sound like they match each other very well. Except... it’s not because the BAs sound like DDs, it’s because the DD sounds like a BA. The bass isn’t lacking in subbass as badly as a lot of BAs and some of the worse DD woofers I’ve heard are, but it’s far too fast in decay, and has a very slight tinge of plasticky-ness to it. The decay issues are made especially apparent with the kickdrum on Public Image Ltd’s Albatross, where there’s certainly a hit but it doesn’t really reverberate in a way that I’m used to. The drums and bass on this song just sound like they’re speeding along and trying to just be done and over with track. Similar applies to Talk Talk’s Ascension Day, there’s a lack of decay in the contrabass with the Solaris. Not my deal.

    The midrange of the Solaris. Ah, prime breeding grounds for endless controversy. The Solaris has a very slight lower midrange tilt, which in this case doesn’t sound half bad unlike certain others I’ve tried. However, the oft discussed vocal hollowness is certainly present, and doesn’t apply just to vocals, it works its magic on any sort of instrument that shares a similar frequency range. Take for example a saxophone. On John Coltrane’s Out of This World, Trane’s sax reminds me of a vocalist who’s stuck in chest voice and straining to reach higher notes. Yes, a saxophone reminds me of a vocalist straining. At least it makes Luc Lemay’s screamed vocals on Gorguts’ Obscura sound even more tortured than usual. Guitars also have a very noticeable and aggressive crunchiness and roughness to them as well, which I can’t really appreciate. In the aforementioned Obscura it’s particularly glaring, and honestly sounds terrible. The tuba on Mingus’ Track A-Solo Dancer displays a similar kind of dry crinkly-ness. It’s just overly dry, if not somewhat bright and harsh in that region.

    The treble, at least, passes. If there’s one thing Campfire usually (usually) doesn’t drop the ball in, it’s treble response, and at the bare minimum the Solaris keeps that trend up. It doesn’t have enough stick impact for my preference, but it’s technical enough to handle complex cymbal crashes, and sounds tonally accurate enough. I suppose this is one of the rare times you’ll catch me saying “well, it’s not really my thing, but I don’t think it’s bad”. It’s fairly mid treble oriented but doesn’t excessively lack in lower or upper treble either. Cymbal decay is too fast for my taste but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard. It’s fine.

    Soundstage is unsurprisingly very wide, as wide as if not wider than the Z1R. Separation is also quite nice, and presentation is likable. I think this is where the Solaris excels, it’s technically proficient with a very nice soundstage and presentation. Not much to comment aside from that, it’s just solid enough all around.

    A overall comparison with the Z1R is inevitable, so let’s get it out of the way: the Z1R simply sounds less forced and more tonally accurate. Sure the soundstage may not be as wide and tall as the Solaris, but it’s just more natural in tuning and timbre. When I hear vocals and saxophones on the Solaris, they sound so forced and strained. On the Z1R there is an effortlessness to it which just makes it much more pleasant overall. And maybe it’s just my short experience as a vocalist myself, but when I hear that distinctive chest-voice-pulling sound, my vocal chords clench up cringing at it. It sounds painful.

    For reference, all this listening was done out of the 3.5mm jack of the WM1A. The Solaris unit in question is from E1 Personal Audio, which is, at least according to measurements, the best unit there is of the 3 demo units measured in Singapore. From my understanding Campfire have fixed the unit variance in their production line, however the target curve matches the worst of the measured units (that is, the one with the most 4khz dip). Make of that what you will.

    Recommended? Hard to say. I can see how this appeals to people but at the same time I can’t recommend it in good faith. Assuming that the unit variance has been made a nonissue, the problematic midrange strain is still there, even moreso than on the unit I’ve written about. That and the glaring crunchiness and dryness of the mids makes this something I can’t quite call a pleasant listen. There’s just better stuff out there, honestly.

    Rating: 4/10

    *I know the Solaris is $1.5k in the US but in Asia and the rest of the world pretty much it’s 2 grand. It’s like how you guys get shafted on Sony prices. Don’t murder me, ok?
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  12. ScottPilgrim
    Flat is justice.

    Requesting to r8 tin t2, sony mh755.
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  13. aminus
    I've heard the MH755 briefly before, didn't pay too much attention to it but did recall not being a major fan of the Harman-ish upper midrange boost. At least not with the KZ tips that were on the one in question. As for the T2, I don't think I've paid very much attention to it. I'll have to look for someone local with a unit.
  14. chickenmoon
    Audio-technica ATH-CK2000Ti if you've got an opportunity, please.
  15. aminus
    JVC HA-FW10000:
    The polar opposite of the Z1R. Where one is wood, the other is metal. Where one is a single DD, the other is a hybrid. Where one is V shaped, the other is comparatively flat. And both are Japanese, alongside being basically the same price too! There’s some sort of poetry in this.

    The FW10000 has been lauded as a successor to the legendary EX1000 from Sony, and I can see where that comes from. Both are single DDs, both are somewhat openback, both are aiming for a level of neutrality. The hype around this has certainly been built up quite a bit.

    Well, I can’t say it’s warranted. The FW10k’s bass suffers from a similar flaw to the Solaris: it’s “technically” flat but I don’t find it satisfying. There’s a lack of rumble to it. On top of that, from the bass up there’s instantly a problem in the time domain: the attack feels blunted. It’s in the midrange as well but it’s especially apparent with the lowend. I’ve talked to other people about this, some don’t hear anything, some interpret it as a decay issue. Me personally, I find that there’s definitely something wrong with the attack. This is especially apparent on kickdrums, like the one on PiL’s Albatross. The punch of it just feels slow compared to the faster DDs I’ve heard.

    The midrange of the FW10k is where a lot of stuff gets wonky. There’s an extremely strong upper midrange boost, almost enough to match the DF curve. It doesn’t make the lower mids sound thin but it certainly makes the FW10000 an intense listening experience. Close to the Edge by Yes has obnoxiously loud guitar, synth and vocal parts compared to the rhythm section, and Jon’s voice can get particularly consonant at times. Not what I’d call a relaxing listening experience. It’s also very crunchy with distorted electric guitars, take Obscura by Gorguts. It’s not quite as dry and harsh as the Solaris but it’s again, very intense. Schoenberg’s first quartet performed by Arditti is not spared by this either, the cello noticeably has a hard time keeping up in terms of volume with the already loud violin parts. I have a feeling that JVC was trying to match the DF curve’s mids somewhat here (considering the similarities between the two), but fell flat at the bit where the DF curve isn’t really all that flat.

    The treble on the FW10k continues the midrange trend of intensity. While not being nearly as difficult of a listen as the upper mids, it’s still a very lower treble oriented sound that can be fatiguing to a lot of people. The strong lower treble boost somewhat obscures extension which is actually present too, which messes with decay in cymbals. Ascension Day by Talk Talk makes this very apparent, although the electric guitars overpower the mix anyways.

    This essentially amounts to a rather strange take on the DF curve. It doesn’t really sound like DF but at the same time it measures somewhat similarly to the target. It’s just far too intense and heavy on the 2khz mark to really be considered DF. It borders on giving me a headache with just how absurdly aggressive the whole listening experience is. I don’t get it.

    Technicalities and soundstage are... mediocre. I’d argue that even the EX1000 surpasses them. Part of that may be due to the blunted attack but I’m certainly not hearing the claims of “EX1000 successor” with these technicalities. Layering isn’t anything to be impressed at either. It’s rather lacking compared to the other 2 competitors at this price range that I’ve compared. Oh well, at least it isolates about as well as the EX1000.

    For reference all listening was done out of the 3.5mm jack of the WM1A.

    Do I recommend this? If you enjoy getting battered to death with upper mids, sure. If not, stay away.

    Rating: 3/10
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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