The King-Killer – A Review of the Opus#1

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You shall find no bright-sounding headphones in my stable. Everything I own is a degree of warm and neutral-warm. Well, I suppose the Kaiser Encore is a bit bright in the treble. But even that still possesses an over-all warm sig. Because the Opus#1 is so capable in the upper frequencies, I feel a bright headphone may end up harsh and fatiguing. I strongly suggest pairing with a warmer transducer. None of the below qualify as “extremely sensitive”, but I do have “sensitive” IEMs. I discerned no hissing form any of them. They all had quiet backgrounds and sounded glorious. Apart from the neutral Klipsch X7i, which sounded flat and boring, everything I tried on the Opus came alive as the best versions of themselves. I seriously couldn’t ask for a better pairing, with any of them.

So, let’s begin with my brightest IEM, the Noble Kaiser Encore. Right off, you notice how much air and energy there is in the highs. But even these do not grow sharp or irritating. And I played my brightest album: Artpop by Lady Gaga. What you get is the highest levels of resolution of anything I own. Scary micro-detailing. Super fast transitions. Vocals as vivid and transparent as any human has a right to expect. Encore’s bass is tight as a squirrel’s ass, and fills in the deepest registers with solid attack. The soundstage is as wide and deep as you’ll ever hear from Opus. And it’s so bloody clear! Imaging is otherworldly, and that separation is matched only by my LCD-2. This is the pairing I go to when I’m looking for perfect clarity, and analytical degrees of rendering, all while maintaining great musicality. It’s syrupy and delicious.

The Rhapsodio Solar… ah, the Solar. My first, and only, CIEM. They have such thick, pure highs. I feared what the Opus would do to them, but I worried for naught. Solar is warm, and wonderfully bassy, and the highs twinkle just enough to add detail and keep them from falling to darkness. With the Opus, they are so very energetic. They are fed a staggering amount of information, allowing for superb imaging and separation. I hear more air from Solar than I’m used to. This paring is all about the masterful balance of extremes. Frightful detail and clarity. Mean-hitting, exaggerated bass. Thick and full mids. Sparkly highs. Opus is to Solar as spinach is to Popeye: Bigger and badder.

64Audio’s U12 with either the ADEL B1 or APEX M15 Module is Pinky’s notion of Heaven on Earth. It’s dark magic. There’s no reason something this warm and smooth should also present so spacious and airy. It’s impossible for recessed treble to also resonate and highlight a wide, organic world of a soundstage. Yet these do. Its release of pneumatic pressure must play a large role in this. Whatever the case, and however skilled this sorcery is, these IEMs do need a rather neutral source. My AK is fine. But if you go much warmer, like with the Cayin i5, they do start to close in behind a veil of sorts. The Opus is the perfect pairing. Yes, it’s even more perfect than the neutral-warm AK120II. This extra touch of treble energy gives the U12 something it craves, infusing the stage with even more atmosphere and space. All the while, the bass is as strong, deep, and marvelous as ever it was. The U12’s vocals are lush and real. On the Opus, they are not as full and thick, yet startling in their transparency.

An old friend of mine, and the one who solidified my preference in signature, the Audio Technica IM03. I call them the poor man’s Solar. They are very, very close, not only in frequency response, but also quality. Those who’ve been around Head-Fi a while know how bitter a reality diminishing returns truly is. I don’t need to say much about this pairing. Just read the Solar section above. Everything I wrote there holds true here, only to a slightly lesser extent. Opus>IM03 is a fantastic combination.

To continue with the less than bank-breaking gear, the Campfire Audio Jupiter is an utterly wonderful teammate for this device. Its clarity outshines all my other IEMs, with the exception of Encore. It’s fantastically warm, while containing some decisive treble. The detail and naturalness of these weighty mids belong in the TOTL category. Jupiter’s bass is big and liquid, coloring the bottom-end with lusty warmth. The soundstage is quite large, and that’s on single-ended; I don’t have an MMCX balanced cable. Transparency is one of the best I’ve heard, and Opus helps in that all too willingly. The Opus>Jupiter couple is the very definition of High-Res audio, and is unquestionably the best bang-for-your-buck setup I can name.

I’ve all but replaced my Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-Ears. Yet I just can’t do it. I can’t say goodbye to these. Not yet. Maybe after a year of little to no use I’ll create a For Sale thread. For now, I’ll keep them around and pull the bastards out to test DAPs and such. This decision is validated by the Opus#1. The Opus>Momentum is a marriage made in heaven. What an easy, reckless listen. Nothing refined or elegant about it, just raw passion and delicious tonality. One of my favorite things about the Sennheiser—and a big reason why I bought them—is the size of the soundstage. For a closed-back set of cans, it’s grand. The Opus maintains that staging. It drives the 2.0s with a full, vital sound. There’s no sense of being under-powered here. The bass feels good and the treble shines enough. The mids lack some clarity, but Opus helps matters as well as anything can. This paring can be enjoyed for hours upon hours without fatigue. There is nothing unpleasant about it.

So what portable full-size headphones did a scrotum-punch on the Momentums? Why, that would be the Meze 99 Classics, of course. Conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t look for an “upgrade” in the same price range as the thing you hope to replace. But the reviews on the Meze were so gosh-darn good I had to give them a try. “Better in every way,” is how I like to describe these when making a Sennheiser comparison. They are so clear! There is such a wealth of bass. Outstanding treble! Sparkly, sparkly, sparkly. But not sharp or nasty. Beautiful treble, which casts a numinous light over the otherwise warm presentation. The vocals are phenomenally clean. I mentioned earlier how the Opus renders the vocals with extreme clarity. Well, that is a trait of the 99 Classics, also. Together… words can’t describe it. They were made for each other. I don’t attribute tonality to a DAP or DAC. I feel that is the province of the monitor. The Meze 99 Classics possess one the richest, most natural timbres around, and the Opus#1 allows it to shine by not getting in the way, by helping in the areas it can help with, and not faltering on a single point. Together, the music is often breathtaking.

With the AudioQuest NightOwls, you get a smooth, warm tone. The high frequencies are very natural, but only receive a touch of glimmer. Opus tries to help out, but mostly they take a backseat to the mids and bass. Vocals come over lush, yet tremendously clear and detailed. That low-end has unbelievable reach, and is so controlled and textured you forget these are headphones, instead of studio monitors. NO’s soundstage is greater even than the 99C, and the layering/separation beats everything other than my LCD-2. Opus’ dynamic presentation makes it certain you’ll not bemoan using a mobile device instead of a proper desktop amp to drive these phenomenal headphones. NightOwl gives Opus a velvety refinement, and Opus gives NightOwl a kick in the ass with pure, inane energy. They complete each other.

Knowing I dealt with a DAP which had relatively strong output, I made special effort to remember to test her on my Massdrop + Sennheiser HD6XX. At 300 Ohms and moderate efficiency, most of, if not all, the DAPs I’ve tested can drive them to a level I call “Too loud.” But very few mobile devices make them sound good. Or rather, full and complete. They always sound good. But not always complete. They were lovely off the Opus. The bass is marginally less punchy than from my desktop amp, the NFB-28, but it’s there, in maybe 92% of its glory. What about the mids and highs? Just fine. Nothing was out of place. The HD600-650 are not great for mobile use, but if you must, this DAP is more than adequate for the job.

Well that’s it, folks. That’s all I have to say about the Opus#1. The only thing I find less than orgasmic is the physical and aesthetic qualities. And even there, it’s nowhere near “bad”. It’s simply not exciting or sexy. But that sound… oh, that sound!

I wanted to own this thing so desperately I posted a WANTED AD, PM’ed friends, and eventually bought directly from South Korea to get that low review price… despite the fact I own “better” DAPs already. The sound is that good. Only the mediocre build holds this thing back. And even there, I find little to complain about. While it did take me buying the Opus#2 before I found a true upgrade to the AK120II, the Opus#1 came fearfully close. That should give you pause.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

theBit Opus#1

Model Opus#1
Display 4″ TFT Touch Display(480*800)
CPU & Memory ARM Cortex-A9 1.4GHz, Quad-Core Memory(RAM) : DDR3 1GB
Button Power, Play/Pause, FF, REW Vol+ / Vol-
Supported Audio Formats WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WMA, DSD, MP3, OGG, APE(Normal, High, Fast)
EQ & Effect 10Band (T.B.D) , NORMAL/USER1/2/3
Charge & Data Transfer

USB Micro-B input (for charging & data transfer (PC & MAC))

Connection Mode : MTP (Media Device)

Outputs Phone (3.5mm) / Optical Out (3.5mm)
Balanced Out(2.5mm, 4-pole support)
Battery 4,000mAh/3.7V Li-Polymer
Battery Life(Play) Time & Charge Time Play: Approximately 10 hours(44.1KHz 16bit, Vol.75, 32ohm, LCD off),
Charge: 4 hours
Memory Built-in 32GB(OPTION:64G)
External microSD(Max 200GB) x2 Supports SDXC exFAT, NTFS
Clock source/ Jitter 50ps(Typ)
OS Android
Supported OS Windows 7,8,(32/64bit), MAC OS x 10.9 or higher
Dimensions 72mm(W) * 112mm(H) * 18mm(D)
Weight 185g

 

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About Author

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.

4 Comments

  1. Doug Campbell on

    Although at a slightly higher price point, having reviewed the x7ii, do you feel the #2 has a more fluid/natural presentation than the x7ii? Pairing with Lyra 2 but won’t have the luxury of back to back.

  2. Ed on

    Great in-depth review. Is the Opus #1 your reviewed the base model (plastic case) or “CNC metal body with a new op amp for superior sound quality” (according to Massdrop)? Thx

    • Pinky Powers on

      This is the basic plastic.

      I have read the Metal is better. And indeed, it should block out the EMI the plastic one is inflicted with. If you place your smartphone a few inches away, the Opus#1 will pick up some signal pollution.

      But as you can see in my review, I am smitten with the sound quality of the plastic one. It’s a top performer.

      • Ed on

        Thanks for the quick response. Good to know the basic model is tops.

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