CanJam Singapore 2018 – A Study in Portable Audio

9

Jomo Audio

Jomo Audio was one of the three custom IEM brands accompanying Euphoria Audio at their CanJam Singapore debut. Also a Singapore-native, Joseph Mou initially conceived the company after years of experience in the DIY space. Now, with a plethora of world-class products under his belt, Joseph is previewing two prototype IEMs for public feedback: Type X and Type Z. Both units were equipped with three sound bores, so one can assume that they’ll be placed higher up the line at release. Regardless though, both prototypes yielded impressive listens and I can’t wait to see what comes of them a few months down the road.

Jomo Audio Type X: The Type X is undoubtedly one of the most balanced-sounding IEMs out of Jomo’s entire line-up. Tonally evoking the flagship Flamenco, the Type X walks the tightrope between clean technicality and engaging musicality. Its clarity and finesse can be attributed to excellent bidirectional extension, while a rise in the upper-bass and an accentuated centre midrange add a brilliant sense of body without congesting the stage. The Type X has an upper-bass-focused low-end. Like the Flamenco, mid-bass impact is neutrally-inclined, while sub-bass rumble is minimal overall. As a result, the Type X presents a bass that’s tight, well-resolved and well-layered, with just enough punch to signify its presence in the mix.

The Type X presents vocals cleanly – with a focus on articulation – but body never comes across as insufficient. Midrange notes aren’t the largest, but they’re solid, dense and well-resolved. This makes separation and imaging precision more palpable in the long run; trading off pure engagement for a cleaner and more accurate spatial presentation. Treble, ala Jomo, is crystalline, well-extended and – most importantly – smooth. A slight rise in the upper-treble enhances clarity and air, but the top-end region as a whole is linear otherwise. This contributes to background blackness and stage stability, ensuring that the Type X’s presentation is consistently defined, constantly easygoing and sufficiently organic. Again, the Type X is tactfully balanced and technically sound. It’s not necessarily a new sound per se for the company, but it’s the Jomo signature done right nonetheless.

Jomo Audio Type Z: The Type Z is a more dynamic, energetic and v-shaped spin on the Type X’s presentation. Immediately, it struck me as a Type X with the “treble-and-bass switches turned up,” so to speak. But, upon further listen, there are certainly inherent differences between the two that expand beyond just boosts in the extremes. Spatially, the Type Z presents music within a slightly larger soundstage. The prototypes perform similarly in imaging precision, but the Type Z is a touch stronger in left-right separation and central focus – possibly a consequence of the extra energy in the upper-treble. The Type Z’s low-end hits harder, with a greater focus in the mid-bass. As a result, the Type X has the edge in bass resolution and layering, but that doesn’t take away from the Type Z’s more musical response. Taken together with its sparkly top-end, you get a more dynamic, impactful and energetic listen.

Because of this, the Type Z’s midrange is the least substantial component in its presentation. Vocals and instruments alike are neutrally-placed, and they sound decidedly laid-back. Like the Type X, midrange notes are on the smaller side, but they excel in precision, separation and layering – yielding a clean and organised soundscape that never feels sluggish. However, listeners accustomed to large and engaging vocals will find the Type Z too nonchalant. Similar to IEMs like the Lime Ears Aether, the Type Z is best enjoyed with dynamic instrumental music where vocals aren’t too big of a priority. Clarity also receives a healthy boost due to the Type Z’s accentuated upper-and-lower-treble, whilst also infusing neutrality into the IEM’s overall timbre. Though, despite these bumps in the top-end, the Type Z maintains smoothness through excellent headroom. The mid-bass emphasis does fill up the stage to some degree, but treble notes sound neither harsh nor compressed; expressed with an openness that’s more akin to the Flamenco than it is to the Samba.

Vision Ears

Stationed at the opposite end of the Euphoria suite was German IEM manufacturer, Vision Ears. Amin and Marcel flew all the way to Singapore for the event, where they previewed their prototype universal flagship IEM: The Erlkonig. The Erlkonig is a 13-driver IEM with 4 switchable tunings – selected via a dial around the cavum of the shell. The IEM’s faceplate, shell design and tuning dial will be unveiled at High End Munich in May. The Erlkonig I heard had a specific tuning pre-selected, which I will refer to as the CanJam Singapore tuning.

Photo courtesy of Vision Ears

Vision Ears Erlkonig: The Erlkonig is a mainstream-tuned IEM with no particular bias towards any genre or tonal direction. Although this would imply a generic or unsubstantial signature, the Erlkonig strives because of a balance between versatility, engagement and technical performance. The CanJam tuning was particularly mid-bass-emphasised and lightly warm. Because of admirable low-end extension, bass notes are as melodious as they are easy to identify. Much like their flagship VE8, the Erlkonig crafts its energetic and inviting signature through dense notes set against a pitch-black background. But, in order to maximise soundscape expansion, the Erlkonig produces neutrally-sized instruments fanned out equally throughout its stage. Compared to similarly-tuned IEMs like the Jomo prototypes or the Unique Melody Mason V3, the VE flagship fares better in terms of note resolution and vocal definition. Because of an intricate balance between a lifted mid-bass, a linear midrange and a refined-yet-articulate treble, instruments sound more complete and coherent – even though they still lean more towards clarity than organicity.

The Erlkonig’s midrange is defined by an evenness that spans throughout its vocal range. Unlike the scale and forwardness of the VE8, the universal flagship sources its resolution through density and physical solidity. The aforementioned fully-formed instruments are equipped with a tactility that gives its presentation realism without the need for a brighter tone. Although a lower-treble lift exists to provide articulation in snare drums, hi-hats, etc., smoothness is excellently maintained through great headroom, a speedy decay and balance against low-end warmth. Like the VE8, the Erlkonig maintains a linear and neutrally-tuned upper-treble. It performs excellently in extension and transient response, forming generous amounts of micro-detail throughout the stage without forging an excessively wispy or crispy presentation. This sense of top-end control is also why the Erlkonig maintains a blacker background than the VE8. Its resolution, cleanliness and well-organised stage is a result of this achievement; maintaining both a spacious, roomy soundscape, and the dynamic impact of a boosted mid-bass.

Taken together, the current iteration of the Erlkonig is an excellent all-rounder. Although its mind-blowing rumoured price will only be palatable to the upper echelon of audiophilia, its performance evokes a similar vein of supremacy. The CanJam tuning was admittedly immensely enjoyable, but to me, it’ll take at least three more excellent signatures for this flagship to prove its worth – a challenge I’m sure Amin and Marcel won’t mind accepting with a wink and a smile.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Share.

About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

9 Comments

  1. Adrian Hoe on

    Hi Deezel

    Thanks for your impressions of the event. Im interested in your impressions of the retuned aaw w900. From the sounds of it, the changes have not fixed the treble timbre and have made the signature brighter and more treble focused overall. Would that be fair? Aaw are saying that the retuning improves the soundstage and treble detail.

    I have an opportunity to purchase the w900 for a good price but wondering whether to get the retuned version or the original. I have heard the w500 (which i liked alot – particularly its bass impact and stage width although found it a little artificial sounding), but i understand they are quite different tunings. I also liked the texture and body of the bass on the ax3.

    Even though its not quite your cup of tea, do u prefer the retuned or original w900? I prefer slightly warm, natural sound with the great bass texture and body of the other aaw models.

    Thanks
    Adrian

  2. Adrian Hoe on

    Hi Deezel

    Thanks for your impressions of the event. Im interested in your impressions of the retuned aaw w900. From the sounds of it, the changes have not fixed the treble timbre and have made the signature brighter and more treble focused overall?

    I have an opportunity to purchase the w900 for a good price but wondering whether to get the retuned version or the original. I have heard the w500 (which i liked alot – particularly its bass impact and stage width but also found it a little artificial sounding), but i understand they are quite different tunings. I also liked the texture and body of the bass on the ax3.

    Thanks
    Adrian

    • Deezel on

      Hi Adrian,

      The retuned W900 is more treble-focused overall, but that shouldn’t be read as an exacerbation of the the original W900’s problems. The old W900 had a lower-treble spike that was very clearly out of place compared to the rest of the frequency response. With the upper-treble lift, the general treble region is now accentuated, but it’s more linear and – therefore – more realistic. It’s still not natural in terms of tone – and the IEM’s whole tonal balance is now brighter as a result – but the increased coherence makes it at least neutral to the ear.

      In my opinion, the new W900 is a better buy than the original. The original is fatiguing because of its incoherence, while the new one fairs better in terms of linearity. The neutral tone is definitely in the vein of 64Audio’s U18Tzar or Jomo Audio’s house sound, but it’s surely a more-easily-liked signature than the original had.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      • Adrian Hoe on

        Hi Daniel

        That makes sense. Buying iems blind is always a little unnerving. Thanks very much for your clear and quick response!

        Cheers
        Adrian

  3. MartinJoura on

    Hi All im rookie here. Good article! Thx! Thx!

  4. Surya Pratama Wijaya on

    Hi deezel, thanks for replying.

    How would the n8t and sound writer compare to the A18 tzar. I was looking top midrange and treble performance, clean speration and layering and also slightly boosted but accurate bass. I listen to pop, edm and acoustic covers both male and female vocals mostly. An i am looking for a custom.

    Recommendations deeply appreciated.

    Btw how is the ergonomics and pliability of the wires of saladin and 1950s say compared to the latest from effect audio and plussound.

    Best Regards,
    Surya

    • Deezel on

      Hi Surya,

      The entire Soundwriter write-up is a comparison against the U18t; unfortunately I can’t get any more specific without an extended listen between the two. The N8t is a much warmer, richer and bodied IEM than the U18t. The U18t is cleaner and clearer, while the N8t has a bold, voluminous bass, a butter-y midrange and a more controlled treble. It looks like what you’re looking for is an emphasis on technical performance, with moderate body from the bass, so for your preferences, I’d recommend the Soundwriter.

      All of PWAudio’s are as pliant and ergonomic as Effect Audio and PlusSound’s offerings. The only aspect in which they differ is in the feel or touch of the insulation; EA and PS’s insulations are softer to the touch. But, in usability alone, they’re pretty equal. The 1950s’ insulation was still pre-production, so I can’t comment.

  5. Surya on

    Hi deezel,
    Thanks for you excellent coverage of canjam SG. Could you rate your top three fav iems and top three fav cables. Just to sum up your overall expwriences during Can jam.

    Thanks

    Best Regards,
    Surya

    • Deezel on

      Hi Surya,

      Thanks so much for your kind words! My top three IEMs there in terms of overall performance and personal preference were the N8t, the Soundwriter and the Vision Ears Erlkonig. But, the three most surprisingly impressive (especially in terms of value-for-money) were the AAW A3H, the Jomo Type X and a tie between the FIBAE ME and Model X.

      Cable-wise, my top three were the Saladin+, the Janus D and the 1950s. I love the Saladin+ for its warm, bodied and natural tone, mated with great imaging and stage stability. The Janus D isn’t as warm as the Saladin+ in tone, but it does have a natural timbre balanced skilfully with strong technical performance and finesse in its note release. The 1950s is absolutely a cost-no-object item, but its open stage, colourless tone and bass performance have made it an almost must-have for me. I’ve honestly never heard the Phantom sound as good.

Leave A Reply