The Bird Finds a Rare Jewel:
(Blue Tiger camo...COD anyone?)
The hunt for a TOTL that could
replace Traillii has been an extensive effort-one that likely is annoying at this point for others who do take the time to reads my mini-reviews.
So let me skip the foreplay and just cut to the chase: Elysian X almost
clipped the bird, but the lack of the lower-midrange made it more of a specialist IEM than an all-rounder, so the bird got the final worm. Phönix didn’t outfly the bird. But the Jewel...thanks for complicating my life.
Simply put, Aroma hit it out of the park with this one. Let’s ignore the pitiful cable-it’s thinner than an audiophile’s patience for their new toys. The “cables” bright and thin profile is as accurate physically as it is sonically-it really does the Jewel’s sound signature no favors. Therefore, all impressions below will be based off the PWA 4W 1960 cable.
Jewel opts for a more revealing tonality that still blends musical elements, mainly in its extremely cohesive staging and clean, hefty bass response. There is a slight sensuality in the midrange despite the wallops of detail. Jewel portrays an upper-mids emphasis that can
be a bit fatiguing depending on your sources and tolerances. It is not the smoothest upper-midrange I’ve heard, but I quickly got used to it and appreciated the extra energy in that region to compliment the Jewel’s clarity proficiency. Jewel leans slightly on the brighter side of neutral, but can be reigned in depending on tips and warmer sources.
I’ve denied that I might be a slight basshead for too
long. With my recent dabbling with TOTL Headphone planars and EQ’d low-shelf bass boosts, if the bass doesn’t rumble or slam, I get sad. Fortunately, no sadness here-Jewel has arguably a top 3 bass response I’ve heard from any
Its’ elevation is rather modest than let’s say EVO, but it is extremely clean with excellent punch when the track asks for it. With Crystal eartips, I would pop in my favorite bass tracks and hear tremendous detail and pleasing slam with virtually no bleed into the lower mids. Speaking of the devil, Jewel’s lower-midrange adds a real heftiness and authenticity to bass drum hits and other percussive instruments, which only further proves why a properly implemented dynamic driver for the lows is, *chef’s kiss*.
For those who want dirty
or ultra elevated
bass, I am not sure if Jewel will fit the bill. But if you want one of the best DD lows in an IEM that performs at a summit-fi level, Jewel needs to be at the top of your list.
At first I was a bit surprised at the forward upper-midrange. It’s a region that I’ve gotten a bit more sensitive with over time. But with a cable swap and some brain burn-in, I began to appreciate the detail and transparency in the midrange. It’s not particularly thick, nor thin, but as Goldilocks once said, “it’s just right”. Vocals are natural with nice air between the notes. Female vocals are emphasized a bit higher than male, but the scruffy and growly male vocals are just as enjoyable. Instrument timbre is one of the best I’ve heard in an IEM, but with the clarity signature, you lose a bit of the special low-level detail on stringed instruments. It sounds natural, but the lack of warmth compared to something like Traillii still has Jewel a tier below on overall timbre.
For a slightly bright IEM, the treble is relatively lax. There is excellent upper treble and overall air across the frequencies, but there is not much lower treble (much like on the Traillii). There is a huge dip at 6k which I think adds a bit more emphasis onto the boosted-upper mids. That being said, there is nice sparkle and energy up top. Cymbals sounds nice, synth notes are enjoyable. It won’t touch the Elysian X for treble (and to be honest, I haven’t heard an IEM that can), but Jewel’s upper frequencies should be suitable for most folks who aren’t true trebleheads. Tons of details up top with nice naturalness.
Soundstage + Technicalities:
Two words: Summit…Fi. Soundstage is one of the most cohesive I’ve heard, portrayed in an addicting, engaging spherical stage. Imaging is incredible, allowing you to follow a myriad of instruments across the song, even on complex tracks. The stage depth allows a lot of room between the notes, with some modest stage height for that enjoyment. Width is not the largest, especially compared to the Traillii, but regardless, the width seamlessly blends into the rest of the axes.
Oh…and dynamics? ****ing awesome. The punch and defined transients is truly addicting. The overall sounds just reminds me of what a solid-state AMP would do to a referential monitor. This might be a good time to suggest that powerful desktop sources enhance how authoritative the Jewel can really sound.
What Weighs More-a Bird or a Jewel?
Switching it up from my typical A/B on general sound impressions, I decided to pit the two across a variety of songs. The impressions consistently portray what I find the biggest differences between the two:
Traillii wins in soundstage width, Jewel wins in depth and height. Bird comes across as “flatter” on the soundstage plane, meanwhile Jewel goes for a spherical staging with more fleshed out transients and notes. The flatter presentation on the bird allows for a more “intimate” and richer experience for vocals and instruments. It is still king for timbre in the midrange, with more euphoric texture on stringed instruments.
That being said, Jewel wins in realism in the lows, especially for drums or for genres that benefit from macro dynamics. The dynamic discrepancy is very noticeable in an A/B, and made me realize Jewel is killer for rock, metal, and pop. Jewel’s DD bass is more realistic with an equal 1:1 mid to subbass ratio, meanwhile Bird’s midbass seems more plasticky and goes for a 2:3 midbass to subbass ratio (more subbass emphasis). Treble is similar in that the lower treble is laxer, but due to Traillii’s more reigned in upper-mids, I hear more treble sparkle shining through Bird’s darker top end. Jewel is likely a bit more detailed and better imaging due to soundstage depth, but bird still layers better.
Both IEMs were compared from 1960 4W cable and off the IDSD Pro Signature (solid-state mode). Jewel strongly benefits from more power and does have more potential to scale than bird does.
1. Anomalities in Heart Rate-Original Mix
Jewel’s dynamic driver exhibits more authentic, tighter and precise midbass thumps against Bird. Bird’s bass sounds a bit dirtier with a subbass decay emphasis, but the slams do not punch you as hard. Bird’s stage expands wider, but jewel has the depth advantage, more spherical as bird comes across as a bit flatter (putting sounds closer to you). A touch more sparkle on bird but more energy in upper mids from jewel.
Jewel. I use this song for staging immersion and abyssal depths of bass. Jewel’s DD nails it.
2. Pontos de Exclamacão (Vintage Culture & Future)
Bird sounds sweeter, a bit more sensual, but clarity is a touch higher on Jewel. There is more of a tunnel depth to the notes on Jewel. Instruments like the trumpet and strings have more warmth on bird which gives off the more “musical” timbre. Bird’s instruments have more texture. Both excellent
Bird. I love acoustic guitar and the Traillii’s timbre is still king---instruments and vocals are sweet and rich. Where are the tissues at? :’)
3. Raven (GoGo Penguin):
Jewel: excellent drum punch, does nice job imaging the centre focused rapid drums while imaging the offset piano keys. Great detail, good speed, balances without the overlap that many IEMs struggle with.
Bird: instrument plucks linger a bit longer, more warmth again in the instruments. A bit smoother but that’s usually price you pay for slight loss of clarity that jewel has. Imaging feels more precise on jewel, but bird layers the coexisting drums and piano solo nicely. More flat, less depth. Less percussive weight on the hits, Jewel does the drums better due to DD authenticity. But pianos are sweeter, richer on Bird. Jewel does speed better I think due to being a tighter focus.
Tied. Two differing but excellent portrayals of one of my favorite songs. Jewel for the dynamics and percussive focus, Traillii for the piano emphasis.
4. Nutshell (Live at the Majestic Theatre, Brooklyn, NY)
Jewel: Excellent right hand acoustic guitar, can pinpoint audience crowd cheering as the bass line slowly chugs in from the mid-stage.
Bird: more emphasis in initial crowd cheering, acoustic guitar timbre is richer but less properly imaged on the far right (3 o’clock) than jewel. All imaged on a flatter y axis but excellent x-axis. A bit darker overall, more of a smokey, warm lighting environment. Vocals more emphasized
I preferred the Traillii’s intimacy and warmth for this one, but Jewel sounds more hi-fi and offers a more detailed rendition.
5. Dethrone-Bad Omens
Bird: Drum hits feel a bit lacking, this is an ultra dynamic song and bird feels soft on it for sure. The intro breakdown is supposed to make you headbang, and bird falls flat on its face. Cymbals have that nice sparkle though although muted on lower treble initial impact
Jewel: more heft on the bass, better punch on the breakdown (helps with the intended head banging) nature. Brighter, a little less forgiving. More detail on the cymbals but less of an enjoyable sparkle.
Jewel. I use this song to test dynamics and aggressiveness/energy in drum hits. Bird is noticeably soft here, meanwhile Jewel’s DD and lower midrange provide the impact for the song to properly amp you up.
6. Asilos Magdalena-The Mars Volta (*using the SP2000 DAP for this one)
Bird: Incredible. So rich, emotional, the vocals are haunting, intimate, detailed. The guitars are imaged nicely on the width axis, can hear every pluck.
Jewel: more out of head, less intimate due to depth. less warmth, more hi-fi sounding. Mature vocals, more detached sounding.
Bird. This song and pairing reminds me why Bird has permanently nested a spot in my heart. There is something magical
about its synergy with the SP2000 CU. The midrange has a glow
of musical timbre, texture and sensuality.
There should be room for both in the Bird’s nest, and I can’t confidently say one is better than the other. It’ll come down to sources and preferences-I’ll always pick up Traillii to pair with my SP2000 CU for the romantic, textured mids, but Jewel would easily win if I am listening to dynamic tracks like rock, metal, EDM and/or just want more of that hi-fi experience
IEM prices are getting more and more acid-reflux inducing…but being privileged enough to listen to most of the TOTLs in the $3-6k range, I can happily confirm that Jewel performs true to its summit-fi status. Yes, it should be paired with a better stock cable as it clearly bottlenecks the Jewel’s potential, but I guess Aroma is assuming anyone spending $5k on an IEM will already have their favorite TOTL cables to roll with. Ultimately I can see why some folks prefer Jewel to Traillii---depending on my mood or genres, I do too.
Jewel is appropriately named---a rare-find jewel that is crystal clear in its tonality with enough shimmer and smoothness to bring a smile to your face. Just bring a different cable and feed it power to make best it shine best