Hyla CE-5 Review – Rhythm over Melody

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Comparisons –

Dunu DK-3001 ($550): I love the way the DK-3001 sounds, it’s one of the best hybrids of the recent year. It is cheaper than the Hyla, but from glancing at its stainless steel build a gap in quality isn’t apparent. However, in the ear, the much larger CE-5 actually finds higher levels of comfort and much-improved isolation. Both have removable cables, MMCX on the Dunu and 2-pin on the Hyla.

The DK-3001 is more balanced, u-shaped rather than V-shaped, but it has emphasis in similar regions. The CE-5 provides a more visceral sub-bass response with both greater extension and emphasis. The Dunu has greater mid-bass presence and remains emphasized within its upper-bass, producing a warmer, fuller-bodied midrange. The Hyla is a lot more dynamic and less bloated, it has greater definition as a result. Mids are more present on the Dunu and more realistic in timbre due to greater linearity. However, the Hyla is more transparent due to reduced bass colouration where the Dunu sounds warmer and less separated. Both are brighter earphones with an emphasis on articulation due to a similar lower-treble emphasis.

I find the Dunu to layer slightly better due to its more balanced sound, however, the Hyla has greater clarity, resolution and separation; it is the more revealing earphone. The Hyla has a stronger lower-treble emphasis and less middle-treble air than the Dunu. However, though the Dunu is very well detailed, the Hyla retrieves greater foreground detail in addition to being more aggressive in its presentation. The Hyla sounds darker and cleaner than the Dunu due to the weighting of its emphasis’ where the Dunu has greater shimmer. Both extend very well, but the Hyla has more detail at the very top. The Hyla provides a much larger, more separated stage while the Dunu has better instrument placement due to its greater linearity.

Campfire Jupiter ($799): Campfire draw eyes like few others with their aluminium clad earphones, and the Jupiter is one of their most striking designs yet. Though exotic and unique, the Hyla doesn’t feel as premium in the hand. However, in the ear, both are similarly comfortable and the Hyla isolates almost as well as the Jupiter despite being vented. The Jupiter includes one of ALO’s SPC Litz cables which is subjectively superior to Hyla’s included unit in both sound and ergonomics.

The Jupiter is far more balanced but also warmer and mellower in its presentation. The Jupiter has terrific bass-extension for a BA earphone but it can’t match the hybrid CE-5. Bass is unsurprisingly a lot more present on the Hyla, most notably sub-bass but also mid-bass by a hair. On the contrary, the Jupiter has a notable upper-bass hump that imbues warmth and body into its midrange but also a boxiness to its bass notes. On the contrary, the Hyla is more transparent with greater clarity. The Hyla is noticeably brighter where the Jupiter is fairly linear though its midrange. Resultantly, the Jupiter has excellent layering and background detail retrieval that the Hyla can’t match, but it also sounds quite mellow due to its smoother lower-treble tuning.

The Hyla is quite the opposite, with recessed upper-bass and emphasized lower-treble. As a result, it has greater upper-midrange extension and a grander, if less nuanced stage. The Hyla has greater lower-treble emphasis while the Jupiter smooths off before a modest middle-treble lift. As such, the Hyla is more aggressively detailed with a darker background while the Jupiter has more air and shimmer. Both extend terrifically, the Jupiter a little more granting it higher resolution. Both also have terrific soundstages, the Jupiter is more coherent while the Hyla is more spacious. The Jupiter has better resolution through its intermediate layers where the Hyla transitions more jarringly between foreground and background details.

Campfire Lyra II ($699): The Lyra II carries Campfire’s dynamic driver design that is compact and smoothly formed. Its liquid metal construction feels more premium than the Hyla however, the CE-5 isolates a little more and is more stable for my ears. Both have removable cables, once again, I do prefer ALO’s Litz wire on the Lyra II.

The Lyra II is a mellower earphone than the CE-5, pursuing a gentle l-shaped signature as opposed to the more v-shaped Hyla. Sub-bass extension is excellent on both, the Lyra II has a warmer bass presentation on behalf of its greater mid and upper-bass emphasis. The CE-5, therefore, presents notes with greater slam and definition where the Lyra II has a little bloat. The Lyra II has a little more lower-midrange presence but upper mids are similarly laid-back. The Hyla has a little more midrange articulation, its bass response is more separated from its midrange creating clearer and more transparent vocals.

On the contrary, the Lyra II is natural and full-bodied, it isn’t as clear but doesn’t sound remotely veiled either. The Lyra II has a slight lower-treble emphasis that imbues some additional energy into its sound. The CE-5 is clearly more aggressive but the Lyra II is also very well detailed. The CE-5 has greater treble extension and air where the Lyra II sounds even darker, lacking some air and shimmer. As such, the Hyla has greater resolution and its stage is quite a bit larger. I also feel that the CE-5 has more accurate imaging and separation is higher.

Sennheiser ie800S ($999): The ie800 was among the first 4-digit IEMs and the S represents its re-imagining for the present day. Its minuscule matte ceramic housings offer flawless comfort but only modest levels of isolation and stability. On the contrary, the Hyla locks more solidly into the ear and offers more useable levels of isolation. The ie800S has a semi-removable cable that detaches at the y-split where the Hyla is fully removable, utilising the widely adopted 2-pin interface.

The ie800 is more u-shaped as opposed to the clearly v-shaped Hyla; it’s certainly engaging but still reasonably balanced. Sub-bass is slightly emphasized on the ie800 but not nearly as much as the Hyla, nor does it extend as far. The ie800 remains quite linear through its bass, with an impressively even emphasis throughout. The CE-5 is similarly defined and just as controlled despite its larger emphasis. The Senn has a more present midrange though they are still on the laid-back side. As a result of its more linear low-end, the ie800S’ mids are slightly warm but also very natural, more so than the Hyla. Both are very transparent in-ears, the Hyla is brighter with greater clarity and articulation. However, the ie800S is more realistic and coherent with better layering.

Treble is more aggressive on the Hyla with the ie800S demonstrating a more subtle approach. The ie800S still has some additional lower-treble crispness and a middle/upper-treble lift that enhances air. As such, it isn’t quite as clean sounding as the CE-5, but sounds more expansive at the same time. Both extend terrifically well, the Hyla has a small advantage up top where the ie800S is a little peaky, sounding slightly thin. Both have excellent resolution as a result, the Hyla more evidently so on behalf of its clearer sound. The CE-5 has the more spacious stage, mainly due to its laid-back midrange presentation. However, the Sennheiser is more coherent, especially within its midrange with superior imaging. The Hyla has greater separation.

 

Verdict –

There’s been a bad attitude permeating throughout audio recently; an idea that generic parts in a fancy package can draw a crowd, make money. My experiences in Japan revealed quite the opposite, these are companies fuelled by passion and an insatiable hunger for high-quality audio; even if that means designing proprietary drivers that extend treble beyond human hearing or including expensive cables that provide no measurable impact on frequency response. It’s a refreshing outlook and one that produces innovation with a profound impact on the end product.

Because, I can’t confirm whether that ultrasound ceramic driver aids soundstage dimension and I can’t quantify the impact of the CE-5’s 6N OFC cable or titanium innards. However, what I can hear, is an incredibly engaging V-shaped signature with outstanding technical ability. It’s soundstage is huge, its bass agile and controlled. Mids may not be realistic in timbre, but I would be lying if I claimed they weren’t pleasing to the ear. When listening through the CE-5 from Hyla, one doesn’t monitor audio, they experience music. The CE-5 therefore best suits buyers searching for a sound that is unique without compromising ergonomics or resolving power.

The CE-5 can be purchased from Hyla’s website here for $832 USD. I am not affiliated with Hyla and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

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