A First Look: New Flagships from Lime Ears, Empire Ears, Vision Ears and HUM

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HUM Dolores

HUM’s Dolores is the company’s brand new flagship piece; a spiritual successor to their renowned Pristine three years ago. Like their former flagship, the Dolores sports two balanced-armature drivers, in accordance with the company’s minimalist philosophy; an emphasis on unique, high-quality internals, rather than the more common driver-stacking. The result is a signature packed with resolution and nuance, as well as a few brave tonal colourations along the way.

Technical Specifications

  • Driver count: Two balanced-armature drivers
  • Impedance: N/A
  • Sensitivity: N/A
  • Key feature(s) (if any): Unique crossover components and design
  • Available form factor(s): Custom and universal acrylic in-ear monitors
  • Price: $1699
  • Website: www.hum.hk

Sound Impressions

The Dolores is a clear-sounding, studio-esque IEM. Its standout attribute is how effectively it can strip a recording bare, presenting the listener with all of its individual elements with pristine clarity. However, several compromises were made to achieve such a feat. An example would be articulation. The Dolores’ clarity is unique in that it’s attained without any sharpness whatsoever. One might even say they’ve gone the other direction and muffled transients via dips around 6-7kHz. On one hand, the very modest transient attack encourages the listener to pay attention to the tinier textures; the more subtle sounds. But, if sharp, crisp sparkle is a prerequisite for you, the Dolores will require lots of getting used to.

The Dolores’s low-end is quick, agile and compact-sounding, never radiating beyond tiny jabs in the centre of the image. This preserves the cleanliness and airiness of the stage. The sub-bass is laid-back, but extension is excellent. There isn’t any roll-off lower down the range, allowing all those textures to come through, even though they’re never exaggerated. After all, this is – again – more of a studio reference sort of signature. Speaking to that, the Dolores’ low-end is expertly linear. It’s an uncoloured-sounding bass ideal for professional work that sits in line with the midrange and the top-end. And finally, despite the lighter doses of impact, high resolution ensures you hear everything that low-end has to offer.

For a studio monitor, the Dolores is a hair mid-forward. Instruments aren’t heavy or dense, but they do have a thickness to them. This comes from a 1-2kHz rise, as well as the reserved top-end. Instruments like guitars, keys and horns have a vibrance to them that isn’t perfectly neutral. It reminds me of the Avantone near-fields I’ve used to EQ or track vocals. As a result of this slight colouration, the Dolores has a musical quality to its midrange, especially when listening to female vocals; rich in timbre. But, they aren’t too intimate either, because of a dip around 3-4kHz. So, the resulting presentation is wet, thick and soothing with appropriate doses of openness and air; transparent in tone and strong in spaciousness.

The top-end is where I presume many will have qualms with the Dolores. In terms of tone, it does strike a pristine sense of neutral without sounding dry or clinical. There’s a wetness to its neutrality that many will find uniquely appealing. But, the methods taken to get there – again – have given a slightly blunted attack. There isn’t that sense of sparkle that crisps transients up and cuts through the mix. But, at the same time, it has its benefits too. The softer edges allow the listener to focus on the smaller sounds, particularly ideal for studio use. Also, don’t think the Dolores’ softness comes from roll-off, because its top-end extension is quite impressive; resulting in fantastic stereo separation and a vastly open stage.

Page 1: Lime Ears Aether R
Page 2: Empire Ears Wraith
Page 3: Vision Ears ELYSIUM
Page 4: HUM Dolores

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About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

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