NG Audio - new high-end IEM and CIEM company with some pretty intriguing designs
Oct 25, 2016 at 7:15 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 26

project86

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[size=small][size=medium]You'd never guess how many IEMs make their way through my home each year. Various manufacturers and marketing types regularly ask me to have a listen and I usually say "sure.... but I can't promise anything will come of it". And that's typically how it plays out - the vast majority of them don't get more than a quick listen before being sent back with a polite "thanks anyway". [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Poor sound and even worse fits are pretty standard, though I'll admit to being somewhat difficult in terms of fit. I've got large ear canals and I'm spoiled by using custom IEMs most of the time, so for a universal to fit really well is somewhat rare. I find that smaller designs like most of the HiFiMAN RE series or the Echobox Finder X1 do pretty well for me. Throw on a largish set of tips that insert deeply, and all is well, especially when the tiny body of the IEM doesn't really touch my ears much. [/size][/size]
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[size=small]Unfortunately it seems like many of the more ambitious IEM designs are not at all compact in that way. They have nozzle angles and design aspects which just don't end up working for me. An example of this is RHA, whose IEMs I generally like for the price. Their round designs such as the (more affordable) MA750 and CL750 fit me just fine, while the higher-end T20 and other models which use that same housing aren't as comfy. I need a deeper insertion which then causes the IEM body to get in the way. This is opposite of almost every friend and family member I've tested, who seem to get better results with the T20 style. So yeah, I'm weird when it comes to fit, and not in a good way.[/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]I'm especially unlucky with the universal-fitting versions of custom IEMs. I've tried many of them over the years. They very rarely fit me properly which is why you'll very rarely see me discuss them, much less review them. This is unfortunate as I see a lot of potentially interesting stuff out there, but if it isn't comfortable and I can't get an optimum seal, why bother?[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Recently, I began hearing some buzz from online pals in Hong Kong. They claimed to have found a new brand called NG Audio which was knocking socks off with a clean, organic sound that didn't quite sound like anything else on the market. One thing led to another and I ended up having a demo pair of their universal monitors sent my way. Honestly, hopes were not held high. Fit is the usual culprit and I assumed the evaluation would be over before it ever really began - as is so often the case with me.[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]So far it seems that I was wrong. Early impressions are quite positive on these, both in terms of fit and of sound. But let's back up a bit.[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]NG Audio appears to be the classic story, with a determined audiophile at the helm who couldn't stop exploring IEM design. His hobby turned obsession ended up as a full-blown business venture, much like Custom Art, Noble Audio, Jomo Audio, and others. You can read more about Mr. Ng here. [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]I assume that the fledgling Ng Audio is a small firm at the moment. As of right now there seems to be only 2 models in the lineup - the 5 driver Leo and the 10 driver Capricorn. Both are available in universal or custom form, with customs being more expensive by $200 (Leo) or $150 (Capricorn). It looks like that upcharge covers anything on their design menu as far as wood or other fancy faceplates - there's no extra fee involved no matter what you go for. [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]The model I was sent is the flagship Capricorn which goes for $1549 USD. That's a very large price tag so I already had some bias against them - assuming they could even pass the fit test, they would have to sound amazing to be worthwhile at that cost.[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Capricorn uses a 10 driver configuration with a 4-way crossover design. The array is divided into dual low drivers, quad low-mid drivers, dual mid-high drivers, and dual super high drivers. The shell is jam packed with balanced armatures and I can't make out model names/numbers on any of them. Not saying Ng Audio is trying to deliberately obscure them (as some CIEM makers have done) but with the angles and shell color I have, it's just not possible to see. The nozzle is made of metal as we've seen from some FitEar, Jomo, and Rhapsodio IEMs. Everything else about the specs is pretty standard IEM stuff: sensitivity is 108 dB at 1 mW, impedance is 21 ohms at 1kHz, cable is the standard 2-pin style used by tons of other CIEM companies. So far so good right? [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Surprise number one: rather than using the typical semi-hard shell case, or a Pelican style unit for storage, Ng Audio sent the Capricorn in a massively heavy brass looking case with a screw-off top. At nearly 400 grams, this thing weighs more than my Sennheiser HD800. Size-wise, it's actually just about perfect for a single pair of IEMs with cable and nothing else. I worry about the bottom scuffing up whatever piece of gear I set it on, but with a little care this thing is fine for home use. Portable use? Absolutely not. It's too heavy and impractical. [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Surprise number two: they seem to fit me very well. Using the largest included tips, they insert about as deeply as my custom IEMs, and the fit in my ear looks almost exactly like a custom mold. This is in contrast to the last few I tried - the Wizard Design Noble models are too small and don't go in deep enough no matter how hard I try, while the Lear LUF BD4.2 is massive and sticks out in comical fashion. I won't call the Capricorn "all day comfortable" as a true custom would be, but I can certainly wear them for 30-60 minutes before a slight discomfort sets in. That's about as good as it gets for me when it comes to universals these days. [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Surprise number three: they sound exceptionally good! Powerful sub-bass leads to sumptuous mids and airy, delicate highs with excellent articulation. These remind me of a mashup between the Shure SE846 and SE535, only better. Bass has a lot in common with the SE846 in that it can seem bottomless and oh-so-tactile without actually being overbearing. In fact the Capricorn lows seem tuned more neutrally in general but then have an emphasis in the lowest of lows, which gives a perceived authority without much actual coloration. Mids are liquid and beautiful like my fondest memories of the SE535 - an IEM which I find does benefit from a bit of nostalgia. When I actually break it out and have a listen, it usually doesn't quite live up to what I recall. But the Capricorn does. Just a stunning performance. Highs are more similar to the SE846 but even more refined, being on par with the UERM and other detail monsters. Capricorn does fall short of my Jomo 6R in high-frequency resolving power, but that may be just a result of the overall tuning trajectory of each model. I don't think Ng Audio was going for that type of sound. In any case, highs were never quite right for me on either of the Shures (with the 846 coming closer than the 535) while Capricorn absolutely nails them.[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]I've been primarily driving these with the Sony ZX2 on the go, or my Anedio D2 at my desk, and lastly the Arcam rHead in my big system. All three do a great job, and it seems like the Capricorn is not terribly picky as long as you use quality gear in general. It is fairly revealing though, and will showcase the organic detail of the Sony compared to the brighter iBasso DX90 or smooth-as-silk Cowon Plenue 1. [/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]I've only been listening a few weeks so I have a lot more time to spend with these guys before I have a final judgement. But so far they sound up there with some of the best in my collection, which means their high price is not so uncalled for after all. Of course I'd love to see them (and all headphone gear for that matter) priced lower but what can you do. For their part, it looks like Ng Audio is up there with the best in terms of build quality and interesting customization. At least that's what I get from looking at the various pictures like these:[/size][/size]
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[size=small][size=medium]Anyone else out there have any experience with the Ng Audio stuff yet? I've heard a surprising amount of discussion from friends but can't find much online, though it could be I'm not looking in the right places. Any Hong Kong HeadFiers know the scoop on these? I'd love to hear about the more affordable Leo if anyone has a comment on that. [/size][/size]
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Oct 26, 2016 at 1:32 PM Post #3 of 26
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Never heard of NG Audio before, but these look very interesting!  Might have to consider them for a future review.
 
@project86 : how do they compare to K10?
 
Oct 26, 2016 at 2:04 PM Post #4 of 26

project86

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  2 low frequency , 4 low-mid frequency , 2 mid-high frequency , 2 superhigh Frequency
4-Way Crossover
 
Lets guess drivers - 2xCI or 1xHOVDTEC , 2x DTEC, 2xTWFK

 
 
Could be... you probably know how hard it can be to look inside such a densely packed snaggle of drivers, inside a smoked translucent shell, and get a clear view of the markings/size/general features of the drivers.
 
I can think of a few alternate ways of arriving at the 2-4-2-2 configuration but in the end I don't really care all that much - it's the tuning more than anything that determines the sound, and in this case it's a huge success. 
 
Oct 26, 2016 at 2:05 PM Post #5 of 26

project86

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  Never heard of NG Audio before, but these look very interesting!  Might have to consider them for a future review.
 
@project86 : how do they compare to K10?

 
Good question.
 
I've mainly been listening to the Capricorn on its own to get a feel for it. Next comes comparisons with other IEMs and CIEMs. Also need to use a bunch more sources/amps to see if I can find any standout matches or particularly poor combos. 
 
Oct 26, 2016 at 3:10 PM Post #6 of 26
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Had the NG Audio Capricorn for the last week but haven't had much time to get that much in terms of listening. Giving them some time to burn in but first impressions have been quite pleasant. Surprised there hadn't been much posted about them on Head-fi yet.
 
I also really love this solid brass case, it could probably survive a train crash.

 
headphones.com Stay updated on headphones.com at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
https://www.headphones.com/ andrew@headphones.com
Oct 26, 2016 at 3:39 PM Post #8 of 26

project86

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  Had the NG Audio Capricorn for the last week but haven't had much time to get that much in terms of listening. Giving them some time to burn in but first impressions have been quite pleasant. Surprised there hadn't been much posted about them on Head-fi yet.
 
I also really love this solid brass case, it could probably survive a train crash.

 
Yes, that case is completely impractical but somehow I still love it.... 
 
Oct 27, 2016 at 3:18 AM Post #11 of 26

7nationarmy

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  Btw is anybody seeing my pictures in a weird format? Like all over the place?
 
It might just be a problem just with tablets and phones, when viewed as "mobile" instead of "desktop" mode. If so I apologize. 

For me the pics aren't vertically aligned (on my PC). It's not too bad though, since it doesn't disrupt the text. 
 
Oct 27, 2016 at 12:21 PM Post #14 of 26

WhatToChoose

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These look interesting, but nothing about the design seems revolutionary (which is true for most realses, so nothing wrong here per se). I guess time will tell if these truly are top tier or if they are just another one shot to dust IEM. Now, if I consistently hear something like "these blow the K10s out of the water", THEN we have something potentially epic. But for now, would need more impressions after new toy syndrome has worn off.
 
Oct 27, 2016 at 4:26 PM Post #15 of 26

Cinder

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These look interesting, but nothing about the design seems revolutionary (which is true for most realses, so nothing wrong here per se). I guess time will tell if these truly are top tier or if they are just another one shot to dust IEM. Now, if I consistently hear something like "these blow the K10s out of the water", THEN we have something potentially epic. But for now, would need more impressions after new toy syndrome has worn off.

I think we need a revolution in tuning, not necessarily in actual design. We have clearly figure out how to use many drivers, now we need to figure out how to completely leverage them.
 

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