Ultimate Ears UE 18+ Pro ($1500)
The UE 18 and Galaxy are a clash of philosophies, with very different signatures as a result. The UE 18 is designed as the ultimate stage monitor, but is much more than that; it’s a very smooth and natural sounding iem. The Galaxy on the other hand seeks to maximize its detail, and doesn’t mind taking a little risk; where the UE 18 will always remain smooth, Galaxy can sound a bit edgy. While both iems have excellent resolution, Galaxy betters the UE 18 in transparency. The Galaxy’s presentation is a bit more technical, where the UE 18 sounds more lifelike.
Both iems construct a similar stage, with average dimensions in width, depth and height. They differ in the forwardness of their vocal presentation, where the UE 18 is more neutral relative to the laidback vocals of the Galaxy. Accordingly, the UE18’s creates a more realistic stage in terms of its instrument positioning. The Galaxy’s imaging however is more precise. In addition, the UE 18’s instruments have more body. Overall, there isn’t much difference when it comes to separation.
The differences in their signature are fairly large, starting with the bass. The UE 18’s bass is neutral in quantity, and slightly laidback in the presentation. It’s a natural bass in tone, it just doesn’t mind taking a back seat. The Galaxy’s bass has a good deal more impact, and that beautiful natural decay. It’s slightly darker in tone, but still sounds very natural. Overall, the UE 18’s bass is technically good with proper low-end extension, but it isn’t as engaging as that of the Galaxy.
The UE 18’s midrange is warmer in tone, and slightly more forward. The vocal presentation isn’t overly full or forward, but it’s masterfully balanced. It sounds very realistic, conveying detail in its articulation; but always remaining very smooth. Due to its laidback lower midrange, the Galaxy’s notes carries less weight. Vocals are very clear, but have less body and are slightly more distant. In general, the UE 18’s instruments are more accurate in tone. However, there’s an exception for string instruments, where the UE 18 might miss a bit of treble emphasis on occasion.
The UE 18’s natural tone results from a dip in its lower treble, with a smooth and warm signature as result. The Galaxy’s treble in turn is brighter and more upfront, demanding your attention. The UE 18’s treble tone is warmer and more accurate by comparison. Listeners that prefer a brighter signature might prefer the Galaxy’s treble tuning, while more sensitive listeners will definitely appreciate the UE 18. Both iems have good upper end extension.
Dita Audio Dream ($1780)
The Galaxy and Dream have more in common besides their single dynamic driver – their tuning and presentation share quite a few similarities, while ultimately also being very different. For instance, they can both be viewed as a variation of ‘reference’ tuning; the result of a similar upper midrange peak, that determines their midrange presentation. On the more fun side, this is a battle for best bass – the Galaxy’s is technically superior, but the Dream’s has more raw power.
The Dream’s stage is larger in both width and depth, creating a more spacious 3D stage. It’s also quite a unique stage, due to its dark atmosphere. In both cases the imaging is precise, but the Dream bests the Galaxy in its layering ability. Due to the Dream’s enhanced mid- and upper-bass, the stage isn’t the most airy – Galaxy’s is cleaner by comparison. But nevertheless, the Dream’s separation is better based on its stage dimensions.
The dynamic bass of both the Dream and Galaxy isn’t just good; they’re probably the best. In both cases, the low-end extension, impact, decay, and tone is excellent. The Dream’s bass is slightly more enhanced, making it more engaging. It’s less controlled though, and produces more warm air. The Galaxy’s has the better speed and control, giving it a technical advantage that benefits the airiness of the stage.
Both iems have an enhanced upper midrange, resulting in a slightly laidback vocal presentation with similar body. However, due to the Dream’s enhanced bass, its overall tone is significantly warmer, while it also creates larger instrument tones. The Galaxy’s midrange is both leaner and brighter by comparison. Its midrange transparency is greater though, due to the enhanced upper bass of the Dream.
Similarly, as a result of the warmer bass the Dream’s treble isn’t as upfront as the Galaxy’s. It’s more linear, and thicker in its definition. It’s relatively neutral in its overall quantity. The Galaxy’s treble in turn is both leaner and brighter. Finally, the Galaxy’s treble extends a bit further.
The Galaxy is represents Sammy’s ideal sound: an uncolored and highly resolving sound. A hyper-detailed presentation. Sammy is a bit of a treblehead though, which returns in its tone. The bigger surprise is that Sammy ordinarily doesn’t care much for bass. Yet, the Galaxy has one of the most allround, and arguably highest quality bass in this shootout. It reaches low, hits hard, and yet remains very well controlled. And of course, its tone and resolution is worth mentioning.
However, the midrange seems to have fallen victim to the quest for an uncolored, clear sound. The prominent upper midrange tuning overshadows the lower midrange, affecting the vocal presentation – the Galaxy’s weak point. Overall, this is a sound that will be highly appealing to Sammy’s similar in kin – trebleheads seeking that air, detail, and definition. Or classical music enthusiasts, that value a purity in their sound; that high level of transparency. Whether it’s the bass, detail, or high resolution – there’s something in here for most people. But it’s package as a whole might be something of an acquired taste, rather than a crowd pleaser.
Rhapsodio Galaxy V2
-Might be fatuiging