DISCLAIMER: DITA Audio and Project Perfection loaned me the Dream XLS in return for my honest opinion. I will send the unit back following the review. I am not personally affiliated with the companies in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank DITA Audio and Project Perfection for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
DITA Audio is a name many in the industry identify with luxury, refinement and class. Back in 2014, their clean-sounding, all-aluminium Answer was an outlier in a sea of resin-based, multi-armatured in-ears. Then, three years on, they further upped the ante with the titanium Dream. To this day, DITA still stand out as that rare instance where substance matches style, and nowhere is that truer than their newest flagship: The Dream XLS. Sporting the company’s latest dynamic driver design and encased in titanium and sapphire glass, the XLS is DITA at their cleanest, most transparent and most refined.
DITA Audio Dream XLS
- Driver count: One dynamic driver
- Key feature(s) (if any): Proprietary Ultra-Linear dynamic driver, jewellery-grade build quality, OSLO-XLS cable
- Available form factor(s): Universal titanium in-ear monitors
- Price: $2299
- Website: www.ditaaudio.com
The Dream XLS is a suavely balanced, reference-sounding IEM with pockets of richness, wetness and warmth gorgeously sprinkled throughout. While the original embraced vastness and air – often sidelining instruments to the farther reaches of the stage – the XLS preaches presence, tonality and texture. Instruments are meaty, clear and rife with nuance; wholly revealed. But, this isn’t to the detriment of staging either. While it eschews the openness of the original Dream, the XLS’s superior treble extension gives it a more stable, well-defined and effortless image. Despite the richness those notes now have, resolution is as palpable as ever; now complete with a vibrance that imbues instruments a breezy, radiant warmth.
Down low, the XLS strays from what some may consider the standard single-DD sound. While in-ears like the Sennheiser IE800S, the FAudio Major or DITA’s very own Dream tend to elevate the sub-bass for a more rumble-ready response, the XLS’s low-end is more linear. The lows sit squarely behind the upper-mids, which – again – gives the XLS its emphasis on instrument tonality and texture, rather than dynamism or impact. But, when called for, the XLS’s low-end can definitely punch. Toms like the ones on Dirty Loops’ Work Shit Out or Larnell Lewis’s Change Your Mind have excellent physicality, as well as a chesty, well-resolved sustain. It’s a more selfless, reference low-end, but with authority and texture all the same.
Again, the XLS is rather unique as a single-dynamic-driver monitor in how it pulls your focus toward the midrange, rather than the extremes. While not particularly forwardly-positioned – especially once it’s been run-in – the XLS’s midrange has a rich, vibrant glow to it. Even if instruments are sat neutrally within the stage, the warmth they emit almost reverberates throughout the surrounding areas. This makes electric guitars like Mark Lettieri’s on Spark and Echo sound theatrical and huge, or simpler acoustic arrangements like Tori Kelly’s Sorry Would Go A Long Way intimately enveloping. But, regardless of this, the XLS’s separation here remains strong. So, you get that sweet, harmonic timbre with superb technique in tow.
The XLS’s highs are deftly well-tempered; articulate, punchy and clear, yet not as hard-edged as the original was. A purer, more linear response results in more rounded, textured and full-bodied treble notes. The XLS gains its energy from what I perceive to be a 6kHz peak. While it’s a relatively well-graduated rise, its texture will depend largely on the music. Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed and Jazvolution’s So Many Stars sound crystal clear without an ounce of harshness, for example. But, the plosives on a track like Charlie Puth’s Done For Me can get rather brittle. What’s for certain, though, is the XLS’s strong extension. So, even if you’ll have to be a tad mindful pairing-wise, it’s a treble that’s always open, airy and vibrantly clear.
Custom Art FIBAE 7
The FIBAE 7 is a great foil against the XLS, due to their shared philosophies in the lows and mids. Both IEMs lean towards reference down low, and have emphases around 2-3kHz to highlight texture, enclosed within a rich, wet and lightly warm timbre. Where the two diverge, then, is past the upper-midrange. The XLS leans slightly upwards toward a brighter 6kHz peak, then steadies into its high-treble. The FIBAE 7 relaxes past 4kHz and settles into a more reserved upper-octave. As a result, the XLS’s transients come off brighter and more articulate, while the FIBAE 7’s are mellow and refined. So, while their instruments share similarities in body, presence and texture, their leading edges (or faces) do differ quite strongly.
Empire Ears Wraith
Empire Ears’ Wraith is less rich along its upper-midrange. Its vocal presentation is a touch more compact, more reserved and drier too. The XLS’s higher vocal range comes across more dynamic, rich and transparent, while the Wraith’s is more matter-of-fact. When it comes to the low- and centre-midrange, however, the Wraith exhibits a denser body, which lends gravitas towards male vocalists, violas and the like. By comparison, the XLS’s is lighter and airier. Up high, the Wraith has a cleaner, darker background with more refinement and speed. The XLS’s air is a tad warmer and more romantic. But, its presentation does come off more open, due to its dynamic range. And, the XLS’s image noticeably spreads wider as well.
Vision Ears ELYSIUM
The XLS and ELYSIUM have a similar tonality: Neutral-natural with a fine balance between warmth and air. Where the two differ, then, is which of the two extremes they tend to lean closer towards. The XLS favors the former with richer, wetter, more harmonic notes. Instruments are larger and more resonant, and they have a slight looseness – a glow – to them as well. The ELYSIUM leans closer toward air. Its images are tighter, more focused and more precise, with the slightest of an emphasis on cleanliness and technique, rather than bloom. So, the XLS comes across as the more playful and easygoing – but less stringent – of the two, while the ELYSIUM is the one with more discipline and authority in addition to its groove.
64 Audio tia Trió
64 Audio’s tia Trió is yet another soulful, neutral-natural monitor that sits snugly between the XLS and the ELYSIUM. Like the latter, it leans towards the cleaner, airier side of neutral. But, its timbre is much more like the XLS’s in that it blooms, warms and enriches the midrange. But, the Trió does have an edge in image stability and background blackness, due to its tubeless armatures. Notes have cleaner edges to them for more apparent clarity. But, the XLS does keep up in terms of separation and layering, despite its richer tone. The latter’s upper-mids are brighter and more vibrant, while the Trió’s sit back. And, the two slightly diverge up high too. The Trió is airily smooth, while the XLS is more articulate and punchy.