- Jan 25, 2010
Synopsis: The Rhapsodio Galaxy v2 are a high-end in-ear monitor with a 10.3mm titanium coated dynamic driver, a re-designed housing, and a braided copper cable. These earphones have a warm, well-extended bass, sweet midrange, and a boosted treble that, with the right fit matches the bass. These are a sizeable step up in clarity and range from cheaper dynamic driver iems. However, the fit is difficult to get right and will require time to find the right eartips and positioning in-ear. Without the right fit, the treble is bright, sibilant, and sharp without the proper bass to balance it. At its best, the Galaxy v2’s sound can come together in a coherent package, with rumbling bass and clear vocals that are hard to resist.
Disclaimer: The Galaxy v2 I’ve had for a week is a loaner set from Rhapsodio which will be returned to them when the loaner tour is over.
A little about Rhapsodio: Rhapsodio is a small but innovative company in Hong Kong. If you ever have the pleasure of corresponding with Sammy, the head of the company, you will quickly find out that he has a million ideas about portable audio and is always thinking and working to make the best products possible. He’s been making balanced armature iems, such as the Solar, dynamic driver iems like our Galaxy v2 here, and hybrid armature dynamic iems. A friend of mine in Hong Kong introduced me to Sammy two years ago and when I heard that the Galaxy was coming out in a 2nd version, I knew I’d have to see if a loaner tour was possible.
The Galaxy v2: At the heart of this iem is a 10.3mm titanium coated diaphragm. The ultra-thin coating of titanium adds rigidity which helps the dynamic driver to have better clarity. For this, the 2nd version, the Galaxy receives a custom housing—for dynamic drivers, the housing itself can be an important part of its tuning. Here, the new housing helps to add bass depth and resonance. The cable is a high-quality braided copper. Overall, these are well-built and should really last. The price is $1450.
The Galaxy v2 (more pics to come)
Power: These are not hard to drive, but I think it’s good to give a dynamic driver plenty of power, so I used the apex Glacier as a portable amp on top of my ipod 5.5gen. That Wolfson chip equipped ipod is surprisingly still competitive!
Burn-in: I think the new generation of metallic coated diaphragms will make more people into believers about burn-in for dynamic driver iems as the stiffer diaphragms do need some flexing before they sound their best.
How to burn-in a dynamic driver? Well, I use the advice of one of the audio engineers who made the Monster Cable line of dynamic driver iems. He said that it didn’t make any sense at all to play soft piano music for a million hours. What you want is to flex the driver. That means high-volume (I say higher than is safe for a human to listen to, so take the iems out of your ears) and a playlist with heavy bass and bright treble, particularly the bass for a shorter period of time. Yes, a shorter period of time with much higher volume. I played the Galaxy v2 at about 110db with bass and treble heavy music for 72 hours in a drawer. Done. I did give a quick listen before doing this and the Galaxy sounded weird, my second listen was after burn-in and I could easily tell these were high-end iems.
Fit: There are several issues with fit here:
1. The seal. Yes, you need iems to seal, people mostly seem to know that. You don’t get the right bass if you don’t have a good seal. The bass on the Galaxy v2 should be rumbling and resonant, reaching deeply. If you don’t get the full mid and sub-bass, then you don’t have a good seal. But, that’s only half the story.
2. Air pressure. This is a big one for dynamic drivers and iems generally. If you have a “vacuum” seal then your own ear drum can’t move, to say nothing of a dynamic driver’s diaphragm. The sound sucks, pun intended. The Galaxy v2 is very sensitive to this, you really have to get a good seal, then break the seal to allow the air pressure to normalize (without re-creating the air pressure issue upon re-sealing). It takes practice. After a few days, you’ll have it down pat, no problems. But, you should be prepared to tip-roll. I used some tips from another iem. The Galaxy loaner set had spin-fits, I don’t think these are the best tips, but YMMV. What might be an important note is that I used silicone tips in listening to the Galaxy v2, I think foam tips would have been a perfect choice as they would match the treble and lead to an even better sound. If I get a chance to hear these again, I’ll be sure to listen with foam tips.
The Sound: The overall sound is a little V-shaped with excellent bass presence, mids that give vocals nice clarity, and a bright treble that really works on many recordings, particularly acoustic, classical, folk, and jazz. After burn-in and with the right fit, some pop and rock were a bit sibilant at times, although not overmuch. With a poor fit, however, the sound does get harsh, so be sure to get that right. The clarity is good, but doesn’t match the best multi-BA iems and the soundstage is natural—which is my preference. There are tricks to make an iem have a large soundstage, but at the cost of sounding artificial. The Galaxy’s vented shell gives it a good-sized soundstage for an iem, but more important to me is that things sound relatively natural. Isolation is average, not bad for a vented dynamic driver iem.
Bass: This is good dynamic driver bass, with an emphasis on rumble versus punch or snap. You get that real air-moving bass feel which adds naturalness versus an armature’s bass. I think this is due to the housings as the sound resounds very nicely with a trade-off in bass texture and clarity for a high-end iem. The sub-bass is very good in extension. The quantity is at north of neutral levels for sure, but I didn’t find it overmuch and a little extra is important for commuting to deal with external sound.
Midrange: Vocals and lead instruments stand out well in the mix. This is important because when the bass and treble have a boost, the mids can get “sucked out” of the overall sound and a singer can sound in the background when they should be in the lead. The Galaxy v2 has things right, with sweetness and good clarity to male and female singers—something which is not just about the mids, but I think the treble adds something here as well.
Treble: This is the tricky spot. There is a boost here and you can definitely get some sibilance. The Gorillaz track Ghosttrain is an example the “S” in GhoSttrain sticks out a bit with a little sharpness. If one is sensitive to it, it is something to note. However, the flip side is that violins sound fantastic. The Galaxy v2 is very nice for classical music to my ears, because the treble brings strings alive in a nice way if you know the live sound of the instruments. Cymbals crash well as well. Acoustic music is a real strong suit with the Galaxy v2. I didn’t use foam tips but I have a feeling they would answer a lot of issues with the treble. That’s going to be a strong recommendation here.
Comparison: I think the main iem I’ll compare the Galaxy v2 to is the Campfire Vega, another high-end dynamic driver iem, this time with a ADLC coated diaphragm. The Vega definitely has more bass and more of a V-shape to its tuning, that is a primary difference. The Vega’s bass is definitely a lot more. I like it, but it’s big. The Vega’s treble is boosted differently, with a peak coming later and then falling off more than the Galaxy v2. They each had a bit of sibilance to me using silicone tips but on different tracks. Neither was too much for me but neither is for people who are particularly sensitive to sibilance and both should be used with foam tips. The Galaxy v2 is more balanced. The Vega is more v-shaped, more detailed but also edgier with greater dynamics, whereas the Galaxy v2 is more natural.
One further note: I had the Dita Truth and Answer editions a while back for a week and while I won’t do a full comparison, I will say that I think the Galaxy v2’s sound was superior in overall capability while having a not-so-different tuning. Overall, I think the Galaxy v2 is for the dynamic driver fan as high-end multi-BA iems will sound more separated and more clear but won’t have the naturalness and cohesiveness of a dynamic driver.
Overall: The Galaxy v2 is a welcome addition to the options available for a high-end dynamic driver. For the fan of acoustic music, this is a serious option. With the right tips and a good fit, the resonant bass, clear vocals, and bright treble of the Galaxy v2 really come together. I think this iem by Rhapsodio deserves more attention and as the word gets out, it’s going to get it for sure.