Alclair Electro – Elegance, Eloquence, Excellence

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Presentation

The Electro’s signature is all about balance. It’s a studio-ready response that doesn’t prioritise any frequency range over another, which results in an uncoloured, matter-of-fact tone ideal for professional mixing and equalising. The Electro is the antithesis of flashy, which – given its status as the first custom in-ear to sport e-stats – is the last thing I expected it to be. I must commend Alclair for showing restraint and not parading the e-stats, even though they most definitely could have. Those tweeters blend seamlessly with the four armatures below, granting them stereo separation, resolution and background blackness that wouldn’t have been possible with a signature this unassuming, balanced and transparent.

In fact, spatial performance is the Electro’s technical forte. The sheer volume of the stage is impressive, but the standout qualities are undoubtedly layering, resolution and separation. Each element in any given track is effortlessly discernible without any one stepping on another’s toes. But, unlike most in-ears I’ve heard that are marketed towards professionals, the Electro is among the few that achieve this without sacrificing structure. Notes aren’t thinned out or compacted for definition’s sake. The Electro’s instruments are full-bodied, fleshed out and balanced from transient to decay. In tone, they’re lightly warm and gorgeously natural as well, with a decent helping of air. So, what you get is an organic signautre that does not sacrifice resolution, and transparency that does not sacrifice naturalness – truly the best of both worlds.

Bass

The Electro’s low-end is the epitome of reference. What I mean by that is it’s entirely dependent on the chain to perform. In quantity and quality, it adapts to whatever the track wills it to. It can sound warm and analog on Black Thought’s 9th-Wonder-produced track Twofifteen, and it can sound heavy and full – almost distorted – on Gallant’s Bone + Tissue. If there any consistent qualities to the bass, it’s that it tends to play second fiddle to the midrange and (sometimes) treble. No matter how big it gets, it usually speeds out of the way. So, because of all this, it’s not a low-end anyone could blindly enjoy. It’s an engineer’s dream, but bassheads should reflect on their gear and playlists to see if this’ll be to their liking.

Technically, the low-end delivers. No matter the track, you can always count on the Electro’s bass to have physicality and weight. Wherever those hits sit in the mix, they will always hit, because of the monitor’s wonderful extension. But on the other hand, this is also still a balanced-armature bass through and through. You won’t get the raw texture or verve that a dynamic driver provides. It’s an authoritative bass response that prioritises being heard than being felt. But again, this is a tuning choice that’ll appeal more to the engineer, who’ll tend to prefer a bass clear enough to analyse, and transparent enough to tone-shape with in mixing. In conclusion, Alclair have given their flagship a linear, amenable low-end with just enough of everything to sound balanced. And, they’ve imbued extension for it to sound dense, tactile and musical too.

Midrange

The Electro transitions really linearly towards the midrange – eschewing the common lower-mid dip that manufacturers typically employ to generate definition, again because the Electro doesn’t need it. The e-stats produce a stage so stable and primed for nuance, that those lower-mid harmonics can sit with the transients without any congestion or veil. With that said, there is a slight bias for the upper-midrange at around 3kHz to push lead instruments a hair forward. I find this helps identify the minute changes you’re making to them when tone-shaping or mixing. This region could be toned down a hair if you were to make a strictly neutral monitor. But, I personally find it musically beneficial. The slight lift makes those melodies more immersive and vibrant, and prevents the Electro from ever sounding dull or detached.

The structure of the Electro’s midrange as a whole is immensely likeable. Instruments are large, vibrant and energetic, but they’re airy and spaced well too. There’s ample headroom between them and the listener to prevent any sense of claustrophobia. In timbre, the Electro has a refined, elegant smoothness that sweetens every instrument it reproduces. This isn’t the crisply defined presentation that electrostatic drivers may imply. It’s one geared more towards naturalness and long-term pleasure. Thankfully, the Electro’s stage and separation compensate for this, allowing the monitor’s black background to come through. Listening to Javo Barrera’s Just in Time, a wetness along the drums, woodwinds and bass create a cohesive image. Once you get to the chops at the end, the Electro gives you depth and stereo separation too.

Treble

The Electro’s treble is the key to its success; not simply by virtue of the drivers at play, but rather how they’re integrated. Resisting the temptation for an ultra-crisp, detail-oriented top-end, Alclair have tempered the region with coherence and balance in mind. What you get is a treble with an organic, natural tone. Instruments like hi-hats have a whiff of warmth to them that prevents them from sounding metallic. Rather, they sound uncoloured and transparent. But at the same time, they aren’t mushy or diffuse either. The Electro does an excellent job of sounding articulate, yet velvety and silken. Perhaps it also has to do with the e-stats’ speed, which grants this timbre without overlong decay mucking up the image.

Technique is what allows that understated, natural tone to stand out. The e-stats give the Electro superb stereo spread. Spatial cues and depth are rendered more convincingly than most in-ears with similar sigs. And, despite how velvety smooth those treble notes are, they’re constantly defined against the black background. Given what I’ve said about the in-ear’s timbre, it’s obviously not the most crisp and clean monitor out there. If you’re coming in looking for glass-like clarity to the point of tonal detriment, you should look elsewhere. What the Electro aims to bring is an altruistic top-end that gets out of the way, whilst being resolving, transparent and studiously accurate at the same time. Not only is that a genuinely noble philosophy to foster, but it’s the more difficult task as well – a task Alclair have absolutely nailed to a tee.

General Recommendations

The Electro’s linear signature and neutral-natural tone lends itself to a wide variety of genres and use-cases. This is true because of the technical performance it achieves along the way too. So, here are four of its most noteworthy qualities:

An all-rounder by way of balance: The Electro maintains its charm throughout an immense plethora of music, simply due to its natural, well-founded and linear tonal balance. While it’s easy to earn sounds-good-with-everything points by simply sounding clean, airy and crisp, the Electro’s tone ensures that it is versatile and detailed, but with meat to its bones too.

Stellar harmony between body and clarity: This is very much intertwined with the first point. The Electro blends body and clarity seamlessly, such that they don’t sacrifice one for the other. Whether you need more of the former for jazz or slow rock, or more of the latter for EDM and pop, the Electro will deliver. This is done through sheer extension and resolution.

A treble response with depth and speed: Alclair have put Sonion’s e-stats to very good use, allowing the Electro to possess a top-end that’s well-textured, three-dimensional and natural in tone, with speed and refinement at the same time. This combination is rare, as the pursuit of naturalness typically results in a loss in detail. But, this is what that new tech is for.

An adaptive, transparent bass response: The Electro’s low-end is reference-quality in that it shifts according to the track. This is in advantage in that it’s ideal for studio use. But, it can also be a con if your playlist consists of material with sub-par bass production. Regardless, the region’s extension ensures that it always has physicality and presence at all times.

But, the Electro’s steadfast tonal balance may make it unattractive towards those who are looking for strongly-coloured signatures. If you’re one of the two demographics mentioned below, you may want to reconsider going for the Electro:

An ultra-crisp, compact, clarity-focused sig: Although I view the Electro’s meatier, more natural signature as something to be celebrated, those who go into the Electro expecting an ultra-crisp, in-your-face-amounts-of-detail presentation may leave disappointed. If a correct tonal balance is second to clarity on your list of priorities, the Electro may not be for you.

A basshead-ready low-end: As mentioned previously, bassheads should be mindful of the Electro’s adaptive low-end. Although it easily has the chops to bring out the thump and verve in your favourite EDM tracks, it won’t reproduce what isn’t there. So, if you’re a basshead with an appetite, you should evaluate your playlist before giving the Electro a gander.

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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.

4 Comments

  1. Hey Daniel,

    Incredibly well-written as always! Thanks a ton for the review.
    One thing that came to mind when reading though was that how would the Electro compare to the SM64 as they are both (supposedly) tuned for mixing. Do you have any impressions on how these two compare — especially in the midrange and the overall engagement?

    Cheers!

    • Hey Ed,

      Thanks so much! I currently have the EM64; not the SM64. So, I hope the comparison still applies. The EM64 is quite a bit sparklier than the Electro. The top-end is brighter and bites more, so I’d say the Electro’s top-end is more transparent (i.e. it changes more from one track to another). Obviously, that’s a quality that would be more ideal in mixing, so you can track the differences you’re making more accurately in real-time.

      The EM64’s midrange is also a bit more distant, which gives its soundstage a bit more depth. As I said in the review, the Electro’s upper-mids are a hair more forward than flat-neutral. If your engagement is determined by dynamic energy and the contrast between the top- and bottom-ends, the EM64 is more fun and lively to listen to. The Electro’s reference-tuned low-end can make it sound straight-up dull down-low with certain recordings. But, if your engagement is determined by the fullness and intimacy of the vocalist or lead instrument, the Electro’s more forward, vibrant midrange will come across more engaging.

      With all that said, I think the EM64 is more ideal for performing than it is for mixing, even though it can serve that function capably too. I feel the reverse is true for the Electro. If you like a touch of brightness and a bit of bite to your IEMs, the EM64 is for you. If you prefer a slightly thicker, smoother, but no-less-detailed sound, the Electro is the one.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      • Daniel,

        Thank you for the detailed explanation! I meant to say EM64 — the one you recently reviewed (sorry) and you got straight to the point! Seems like the Electro would be more ideal for vocals lovers and the EM64 is more fun-oriented.

        Thank you again for your help!

        • Definitely! But, I reckon they’re both balanced enough to please most crowds as well.

          No problem! Cheers! 😀

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