Lime Ears Aether (€1150)
Deca and Aether share more similarities than differences when it comes to tone and performance. As a result of their tuning they both sound very natural, although there are various differences here and there. For starters, Aether is tuned with slightly more mid- and upper bass emphasis. As a result, it’s tone is balanced with a bit more lower treble presence. As Deca’s mid-bass is laidback, its lower treble is dipped a bit further. The slight variations affect the presentation in several ways.
For instance, while their stage is similar in proportions, Deca’s attenuated mid-bass opens up its stage, resulting in a more airy and spacious feel. In addition, its midrange gains in transparency. However, Aether betters Deca in its layering ability, while its imaging is more precise. Overall, this results in a more focused image. But as Deca’s stage feels slightly more spacious and airy, their general performance in separation is still quite similar, with neither having a clear advantage.
Aether’s bass has more low-end impact, and increasingly so with its bass switch on ‘up’. Accordingly, its bass provides a warmer tone to the midrange, as well as warmer air on the stage. Deca’s bass has less quantity, but improves in low-end extension as well as definition. In addition, its bass is a bit faster. Due to its greater quantity, Aether’s bass can be considered more engaging. While Deca’s bass retains a somewhat distant position in the background, its quality is slightly greater.
But Aether’s midrange benefits from its greater upper bass emphasis; it creates a thicker note structure, with more body on midrange notes, as well as a warmer tone. Compared to Deca’s laidback lower midrange, Aether’s is more neutral. The vocal presentation is thicker as well as denser, although their position on the stage is similar in terms of forwardness. Deca’s upper midrange however is crisper and purer, while Aether’s is warmer. However, overall their midrange can be considered variations of a similar tuning.
Aether’s lower treble has a bit more presence compared to Deca. This gives it a bit more sparkle, as well as precision. Deca’s lower treble dips a bit further, so it trades a bit of detail for a smoother presentation. In addition, Aether’s treble is a bit faster, although the differences are not great. Similarly, their extension is roughly the same, as is their resolution.
Hidition NT6pro ($1200)
The NT6pro is one of the technical high performers, focusing on precision over naturalness – a contrast to Deca. With greater resolution and more accurate imaging, the NT6pro’s presentation is more precise, while being more upfront in its detail retrieval. Deca on the other hand is not only smoother, but more accurate in tone. Especially when it comes to the upper midrange, it’s a case of beauty versus precision – but that doesn’t mean the NT6pro can’t equally shine.
Both monitors create a fairly classic stage in dimensions, although the NT6pro’s is slightly flatter and less wide. What it loses in size, it gains in airiness: this is a spotlessly clean stage. As both its layering as well as imaging is more precise, the NT6pro more successfully creates a holographic image. While Deca’s separation doesn’t necessarily leave one wanting, the clarity and precision of the NT6pro is nevertheless a significant improvement.
The NT6pro’s bass has similar extension, but greater definition due to its enhanced treble. Its bass is more resolved, although Deca’s is more natural in tone. As the NT6pro’s bass is lightly enhanced, it betters Deca’s more neutral bass in impact. In both cases the speed is good. Overall, the NT6pro’s bass is slightly more technical and engaging, while Deca’s is more natural in tone.
Deca’s midrange is roughly similar in warmth as the NT6pro. The NT6pro might have a brighter treble, but a bump in its midrange results in a nice bit of forwardness in the midrange. Accordingly, its vocal presentation is slightly denser. Its vocals have a bit more body, but its instruments are leaner – the result of an upper midrange dip. Deca’s instruments not only better the NT6pro in size, their timbre is more accurate; the NT6pro’s are brighter by comparison.
The NT6pro’s treble is one of its defining feats; while enhanced, it remains relatively smooth. And it sparkles, to say the least. Not something Deca can quite keep up with, although this must align with one’s preference. But to be fair, there isn’t much that sparkles like an NT6pro. As a result of its greater treble quantity, it’s more upfront in its detail retrieval. Deca’s treble is certainly smoother, but not as precise. In addition, the NT6pro’s treble has the better extension, and slightly better speed. But importantly, Deca has the more accurate tone.
Every manufacturer puts their heart and soul in their creation, and comes up with something they feel is ‘right’. Just like with listening preferences, when it comes to tuning there isn’t a case of wrong or right. Each has their own philosophy, their purpose. This was the case with the 8.2 and Aether, and it’s certainly clear to see what Mike was going for with Deca.
Deca’s midrange can truly shine. Key to its signature is its upper midrange peak and beautifully attenuated treble. This not only results in a smoother treble, but an overall accurate timbre – Deca is one of the more natural sounding monitors. Its tone is above average for string instruments like acoustic guitars, although they lose a bit of engagement once they’re plugged in.
But posed against its beautiful and accurate tonality, is an average technical performance. Aspects as separation and resolution are not bad, though not top tier. It’s been mentioned before; when it comes to technical performance, the bar in this shootout is high. Like Aether, Deca is an excellent sounding monitor that deserves more praise than critique – it bests many iems in this shootout when it comes to tone. For many listeners, kindred spirits to Mike perhaps, Deca will hit a sweet spot. But being good at one end of the spectrum is not enough – it needs to excel in all.
Perfect Seal Deca
-Separation and resolution could be greater