‘Spiral Ear SE5 Ultimate’ Review: Welcome to the Temple of Heaven

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Spiral Ear’s new flagship proves that more drivers is not always better

Mon Sep. 28, 2015

By jelt2359

Spiral Ears SE5 Ultimate

Beginning from the 16th Century, the Emperor of China would undertake a twice-yearly pilgrimage across Beijing to fulfil his sacred role as the son of Heaven. The ceremony was always shrouded in secrecy, and ordinary folk like you and I would not have been allowed to observe, much less partake. But even if we’d been privy, it would all have seemed a bit strange. Religious buildings are typically grand, towering monuments, designed to astound the gods with the sheer richness of our sincerity. Not so the Temple of Heaven. It only needs to spotlight a single man- the emperor- when he prays to the heavens, and seems appropriately sized for the task. Not helping, the temple is situated within a vast courtyard of grass, which serves to further juxtapose just how small that temple really is.

Yet look closely, and a different picture starts to emerge. The key is in the shapes. The grounds of the temple, that unremarkable grass courtyard, is a square, signifying earth. It is big, much bigger than the temple itself, and meant for the more numerous laity. On the other hand the temple is a perfect sphere; circles symbolize heaven, and heaven was open only to the privileged. The Chinese character for ‘heaven’ is tien, also meaning ‘sky’, and everyone could raise their heads and see the firmament, stars and all. But the Chinese were very clear about this- everyone could see the heavens, but only one man could enter.

Enter the Spiral Ears SE5 Ultimate. Now you, too, can gain access to the sky above us. Big. Airy. Heavenly. BTW, did you know that the Temple of Heaven was acoustically treated, to improve the sonic resonance when the emperor made his prayers? In short here we have a building that echoes sounds endlessly towards the celestial sphere. That’s pretty much exactly what the Spiral Ears sounds like. I rest my case.

IEM: Spiral Ear SE5 Ultimate

Form Factor: Silicon Custom In-Ear Monitor

Damage: $1800 USD

Build Quality: Perfectly finished, smooth everywhere. Does not even look remotely handmade.

Fit: Perfect.

Accessories: Pelican case, stock cable

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: An Interview with Spiral Ears

Interviewee: Grzegorz Baran, Owner and CEO

What is your company’s history? Why did you guys decide to start this company?

Spiral Ear has set out with an idea of re-creating the best sound possible, with no compromises and a fresh approach to conventional acoustics, among other aspects. I believe it had actually begun in my childhood when being not satisfied with the sound of earphones and headphones existing back then I have always been striving for better sound quality ever since. It’s been music itself which had put me on that path and which has been one of the greatest driving forces in my life. It’s been a lifelong and music-driven project. There are also various philosophical hints to the very name- Spiral Ear, for those willing to dig deeper.

Who are the people behind your company?

People with likewise passion for music and sound, perfectionists and artists (I mean real fine-art artists).

Do you have a “house sound”? What would you describe it as, and what are its inspirations?

Our “house sound” derives from music and nature itself, as simple as that. The goal has always been to recreate the most natural and neutral sound possible; the right tools for our own monitoring purposes/music production and for personal listening alike.

What do you see as different or unique about your flagship? Why did you choose to do it this way?

5-way Ultimate are unique in a sense that, in my opinion at least, the monitors are as transparent as they can be, they disappear and you are left with a signal ‘hard-wired’, so to speak, directly into your brain. They take what we’ve achieved earlier on with 5-way Reference and spiral outwards even further. Spiral Ear’s products have been distinctive and unique because we’ve introduced the new way of multi-bore implementation years before everyone else, starting with the first true 3-way configuration and so on. A lot of other solutions have also been introduced during that time so as to achieve what SE monitors can do today, but we cannot disclose them, obviously. They cannot be copied either.

Where do you see the industry headed? What kind of role do you see your company playing in shaping this?

We cannot disclose our vision regarding that, I’m afraid. Spiral Ear will certainly try to push the limits, evolve and progress as it’s happened over the years already. We’ll see what the future holds and we’re quite excited about it!

Page 2: Sound (Bass, Midrange, Treble, Spatial, General Qualities)

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About Author

When jelt2359's Shure earphones stopped working ten years ago he was forced, kicking and screaming, to replace them. He ended up with more than 20 new IEMs. Oops! jelt2359 flies to a different city almost every week for work, and is always looking for the perfect audio setup to bring along.

9 Comments

  1. Woo7 on

    I don’t know why you rank se5 very high at number 1 ,, what’s make them special , They sound dark .
    there is more option and better CIEM like layla or heir 10.A

    • Edward on

      are you serious? which version of SE5 are you talking about? There are 3

      • Woo7 on

        yes I’m .Ult.

        • Edward on

          I’m not sure about Heir 10a , but i did try Layla and wasn’t really impressed except for the soundstage comapared to JH13FP. Do you have a link to specific comparison between heir 10a to se5 ult? se5 ref is even darker with some better details.

          • Woo7 on

            from my experience heir 10 score higher than roxanne and layla. I love my roxanne but all JH ciem are not good compare to other total ciem..
            Heir 10 headstage big and deeper than roxanne ,I’m sure it’s bigger and better
            than SE5 ul. which is normal or above avarage ,not very 3d .
            I thought heir 10 is warmer than se5 ul. heir 10 bass hit harder and better than roxanne.

  2. pt7 on

    I will get this ciem one day .I heard great things about flare r2 pro ,will you review them ?

    • WooAnto on

      I have flare r2 pro .I prefer it over my Adel 12 and roxanne .you better buy it .it sound near perfect the only downside it size small and tiny . But the sound very natural .Adel 12 Laid back while roxanne in your face .r2 pro between these 2 ciem . I bet it is better than ie800 .

  3. DeepGroove on

    Thanks Jelt for this incredibly detailed and precise series of reviews.
    I have not heard the Ultimate but have the Reference. I find them very thick and heavy compared to K10, so I am surprised by your impressions. Hopefully someone who heard both models can chime in.

    • jelt2359 on

      “Light” and “thick” are not mutually exclusive to me. I generally mean “light” as in “not forward”. Thickness on the other hand is IMHO a matter of note quality and presentation.

      That being said, I do find the K10 thicker than the SE5 Ultimate- but not by much.

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