flinkenick's 17 Flagship IEM Shootout Thread (and general high-end portable audio discussion)
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mvvRAZ

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Why did you sell your Sony Z1R. Just wondering.
Instead of the Z1R which took it's place?
The reason I was holding on to it was the slow bass decay and insane treble, but the Thummim covers both of these points along with a much more forward midrange. I also got the Ara and used the funds from the Z1R to pay for that :)
 
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The reason I was holding on to it was the slow bass decay and insane treble, but the Thummim covers both of these points along with a much more forward midrange. I also got the Ara and used the funds from the Z1R to pay for that :)
Any initial thoughts on the Ara?
 
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mvvRAZ

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Any initial thoughts on the Ara?
I’ll write up some impressions with photos by tonight, I know it’s been anticipated :) it’s a really good IEM though if you gotta decide whether to buy it in the next few hours :D
 
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Gotta love Sammy for doing it again. What the heck?!
Infinity Mk2 (the Zombie seem to have received a similar upgrade):
InfinityMK2_I.jpg
InfinityMK2_II.jpg
(Here is a YouTube video I can't understand, where Sammy seems to explain more details.)
Funnily enough, it stands for the exact opposite of what the original Infinity did, which was to pack as many drivers in there as possible. This one features a mere 3 BAs, but what apparently makes the design special is that copper coil enclosing them all. As usual, it's incredibly unique stuff from Sammy, and I can't wait to hear it when I get the chance. :)
 
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The reason I was holding on to it was the slow bass decay and insane treble, but the Thummim covers both of these points along with a much more forward midrange. I also got the Ara and used the funds from the Z1R to pay for that :)
It will be interesting to see if Thummim gets toppled and by which IEM in the coming months. Or if it will stay it's ground.
 
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It will be interesting to see if Thummim gets toppled and by which IEM in the coming months. Or if it will stay it's ground.
There’s a lot of things being released so who knows
 
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Funnily enough, it stands for the exact opposite of what the original Infinity did, which was to pack as many drivers in there as possible. This one features a mere 3 BAs, but what apparently makes the design special is that copper coil enclosing them all. As usual, it's incredibly unique stuff from Sammy, and I can't wait to hear it when I get the chance. :)
Yes, I noticed that huge step back in driver count too. Typical Sammy to go with these extraordinary and experimental design choices. Always the mad scientist, I love that!
 
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Funnily enough, it stands for the exact opposite of what the original Infinity did, which was to pack as many drivers in there as possible. This one features a mere 3 BAs, but what apparently makes the design special is that copper coil enclosing them all. As usual, it's incredibly unique stuff from Sammy, and I can't wait to hear it when I get the chance. :)

Does that improve the sound or its simply looks?

The copper coil was the first thing that attracted my attention 🤩
 
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@Deezel177, I see you own a JH Lola. I adore my Elysium. I've recently discovered how much I like a great midrange. I'm curious how the two compare. Or are there other iem's I should look into. I don't need huge bass. Thanks
 
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Does that improve the sound or its simply looks?

The copper coil was the first thing that attracted my attention 🤩
It's certainly meant to be for sound. Obviously, until I'm somehow able to A/B a coiled and coil-less version of the IEM, I won't be able to say for certain what it brings. But, yeah, it's gonna be interesting to see how it performs in general.

@Deezel177, I see you own a JH Lola. I adore my Elysium. I've recently discovered how much I like a great midrange. I'm curious how the two compare. Or are there other iem's I should look into. I don't need huge bass. Thanks
Hmm.. the Lola and ELYSIUM to me have very little in common. One peaks where the other dips, and vice versa. Compared to the airy, vibrant, breezy ELYSIUM, the Lola is fuller, richer and darker. But, it's not necessarily smoother either, because of JH's signature low-treble peak. It can get pretty brittle on some recordings, and I've had to turn up the bass near max to balance it out for my tastes and tolerances. The ELYSIUM also has a more vibrant, alluring midrange, while the Lola's upper-mid dip makes it sound - for lack of a better word - more stern or subdued. This is especially so on the custom Lola, while I remember the Performance Series universal being more vibrant and expressive here.

Overall, I think the ELYSIUM is more dynamic and open, which aids immersion and musicality, while the Lola is more of a just-there sort of monitor that you sit with. Something worth noting is that its imaging due to FreqPhase is very impressive. The ELYSIUM extends further still, but the Lola does sell its imaging a tad better to my ears.
 
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It's certainly meant to be for sound. Obviously, until I'm somehow able to A/B a coiled and coil-less version of the IEM, I won't be able to say for certain what it brings. But, yeah, it's gonna be interesting to see how it performs in general.



Hmm.. the Lola and ELYSIUM to me have very little in common. One peaks where the other dips, and vice versa. Compared to the airy, vibrant, breezy ELYSIUM, the Lola is fuller, richer and darker. But, it's not necessarily smoother either, because of JH's signature low-treble peak. It can get pretty brittle on some recordings, and I've had to turn up the bass near max to balance it out for my tastes and tolerances. The ELYSIUM also has a more vibrant, alluring midrange, while the Lola's upper-mid dip makes it sound - for lack of a better word - more stern or subdued. This is especially so on the custom Lola, while I remember the Performance Series universal being more vibrant and expressive here.

Overall, I think the ELYSIUM is more dynamic and open, which aids immersion and musicality, while the Lola is more of a just-there sort of monitor that you sit with. Something worth noting is that its imaging due to FreqPhase is very impressive. The ELYSIUM extends further still, but the Lola does sell its imaging a tad better to my ears.
@Deezel177 I appreciate your thoughts. I think I’ve found my end game. At least for a little bit. I find myself searching for something similar to the elysium, but don’t want to change anything about the elysium.
 
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Campfire Ara Review. Have compared the Ara to SE: Gold. The Ara is an outstanding IEM. Enjoy! :)

photo_2020-06-25_11-49-17.jpg
 
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@Deezel177 I appreciate your thoughts. I think I’ve found my end game. At least for a little bit. I find myself searching for something similar to the elysium, but don’t want to change anything about the elysium.
I know the feeling. :D As far ELYSIUM sound-a-likes go, there isn't anything on the market right now that I'd immediately point at. Though prices are higher than ever, I think the flagship market has settled into a fairly good place sound-wise with tons of variety in tone. As for something on the slightly fuller, more organic side that could complement the airy, breezy ELYSIUM, 64 Audio's A18s has actually been really impressive for me.
 
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Aight so the time for me to share some preliminary impression of the Ara has finally come! Now, before you light me on fire for my criticism, I have to say that I think this is an awesome IEM, and I would recommend it at its price point, as well as any price point. The reason why I purchased it was that I was looking for a CFA IEM to buy for a while now (because my brain said I wanted one, I got no better reason for you), and considering my seriously dislike for the Solaris 2020, the Ara seemed like the best option all around. I also loved the Andromeda 2020 actually, but considering how many Andromedas I've tried and owned I decided to simply move on at this point

First and foremost - the build is exceptional. It is light, it is comfortable, the titanium looks and feels amazing. I can't really say anything other than, 10/10

The sound - The subbass has a clear emphasis over the midbass, but they're both rather neutral, with really good speed and control - pretty much you everyday typical BA bass. Doesn't really do anything wrong, sounds pleasant and light, rather reference-y. The treble is in line with the treble that CFA is known for - amazing sparkle, great control, and all around some of the better treble money can buy. Ever since I owned the Andromeda S about an year ago the treble has left an impression on me and how euphonic its presentation is

The Ara is also very revealing, with great imaging coupled with a large soundstage. The level of technicalities punches above its price point imo, and matches many TOTLs on the market

Now, before I go off on a rant, I have to say that the Ara's midrange texture is a significant step up from that of the Solaris 2020, which has pretty much become my reference for absolutely terrible midrange texture. Not only that, I find that the light, texture-free BA bass of the Ara actually matches its midrange well, and makes for a great listen all around - can't say the same about the Solaris 2020, but where coherency is concerned, the Ara has nailed it.

(As many of you know, where mids are concerned, I have a sickness for thickness, so do take my midrange impressions with a grain of salt)

// Begin rant

Now, in the case of the Ara I don't quite understand why CFA decided to go with a full 4 BA drivers for the bass and a single BA midrange driver. The treble is quite impeccable so that doesn't need much of a discussion, but I feel like the 4 drivers to cover BA bass that sounds spot on like BA bass is just a massive overkill. The VE Elysium pretty much performs similar if not almost identical bass with a single BA, and it sounds nice, light and pleasant. I'm not saying that the bass on the Ara sounds wrong, I'm just suggesting 2 or 3 of those BAs could comfortably be put towards a better textured midrange.

Much like a single BA can produce supporting, but not quite satisfying bass, a single BA can produce a light and easy midrange but not one that is quite worthy of the big leagues.

CFA have proven themselves to be one of the most capable companies where IEM tuning is concerned, and I'd personally like to see how far that can go

// End rant

Now, my rant aside - I can easily say that the Ara will be a very popular IEM, and deservedly so - it has amazing tonal balance, a light signature all around, and the best midrange CFA have achieved in any of their IEMs so far. I'd personally move away from the single BA midrange, as I just don't feel like that can get the job done well enough, but regardless, the Ara is certainly a keeper, and my favourite CFA IEM so far.

IMG_1896.jpg
 
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Now, in the case of the Ara I don't quite understand why CFA decided to go with a full 4 BA drivers for the bass and a single BA midrange driver. The treble is quite impeccable so that doesn't need much of a discussion, but I feel like the 4 drivers to cover BA bass that sounds spot on like BA bass is just a massive overkill.
The reason sound designers use multiple drivers is to reduce noise, e.g. unwanted harmonics. So if your bass driver has creates noise at 200 Hz, you will hear sound at frequencies that are not part of the actual audio information, in this case at 400, 600, 800, ... Hz (multiples of 200 Hz). So Especially bass drivers need to have low noise. That’s why sound designers like to use multiple BA drivers in lows.
 

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