Kinera H3 ($99): The H3 is a stunning $100 earphone and one that can compete with certain higher priced earphones, but its models like the New Primacy and Cardas A8 that prevent me from saying that they exceptionally outperform their price class. When talking build and ergonomics, however, the H3 is actually quite accomplished, their over ear fit is just as stable as the A8 but less microphonic and they isolate pretty well despite being vented. The Kinera also sports a nice removable 2-pin cable which is more manageable than the A8’s in daily use. But it’s sound where the A8 starts to pull ahead, and though the Kinera has great end to end extension and texture for a $100 earphone, they can’t touch the power and definition of the Cardas. The differences in refinement are most apparent within their midrange presentations, the A8 is a much more natural sounding earphone and though the H3 has more clarity, it is also strangely voiced and lacks the smoothness and layering of the A8. Highs will be hit and miss for both depending on buyer preferences, the H3 is moderately accentuated while the A8 is much smoother. Extension is similar on both, the H3 is far more aggressive in its detail retrieval though both are similarly nuanced. The A8 has a larger stage than the H3 and images better though the H3 is often more separated on account of its more v-shaped tuning. I am not intimating that the H3 is a poor performer, simply providing some reference on the relative performances of both earphones. While the A8 is undoubtedly a better performer, whether that is worth the $200 premium will be a subjective matter of opinion.
1More Quad Driver ($200): The Quad Driver makes for interesting and perhaps more even comparison; both are cable down, bassier earphones with metal builds though, in use, they couldn’t be more different. In terms of construction, I can’t fault either apart from the lack of a removable cable though the 1More has a remote which is handy for smartphone use. In terms of anything fit related, the A8 is leaps ahead, they seal far better, are more stable and isolate a lot more whilst the Quad Driver is somewhat ergonomically awkward. When it comes to sound, the Quad Driver is more balanced overall with a slightly v-shaped sound. That being said, to my ear, the A8 is the more linear earphone, the Quad Driver has some unevenness within the bass and treble that saps detail though the 1More is considerably more aggressive within its highs which grants its sound with more energy and engagement. Mids are similar, both are more full bodied though the A8 is slightly more organic at the cost of some clarity. I do find the bass response on the A8 to be more discerning, they are simply more extended, textured and defined. This is definitely a more evenly matched comparison, the 1Mores are lacking some technicality compared to the A8 but they are tonally more conventional and I can definitely see some preferring their more energetic high-end and clearer midrange.
Oriveti New Primacy ($300): The New Primacy is easily one of my favourite sub $500 earphones yet the Cardas offers a very realistic alternative for different preferences and requirements. Both earphones garner top marks on build quality, the brass A8 feels more solid in the hand though the New Primacy has a fully removable cable whereas the A8 only detaches at the y-spit (or fully fixed on the 30th-anniversary model). Both are very comfortable and isolate similarly though the New Primacy is more stable and offers a lower profile fit for sleeping and activity where the heavier, cable down A8 tends to be better suited towards more general daily use. Sonically, the two are very different, the A8 has much more bass emphasis and depth with great sub-bass rumble and definition though the New Primacy is tighter and more textured above. Mids are immediately clearer and more separated/layered on the New Primacy, mids also lie in better balance with their bass response though they lack the space of the A8. The A8 is actually more transparent within its midrange and slightly more natural just with a tendency to sound a bit thick. Highs are interesting, both are on the smoother, more laid-back side, the Primacy is more linear where the A8 has a small rise then falls off in emphasis. Neither have exceptional air or extension but resolve nicely.
Flares Pro ($450): The Pro’s are slightly more expensive but offer a lot of interesting features and qualities that will justify that additional cost to some buyers. Most notably, the Pro’s are Bluetooth enabled and feature a much cleaner style of tuning. In terms of build, the A8 has a significantly nicer cable though I can’t fault either the Pro’s titanium housings or the A8’s brass ones. The Pro will be more comfortable for smaller eared listeners but both were similarly comfortable to me. The A8 does isolate more for those who plan to use their earphones for travel. When it comes to sound, the two couldn’t be more different; the Flares are supremely clear and resolving while the A8 is thicker and more laid-back. Both have exceptional sub-bass extension though the Flare’s lack the weight and rumble of the A8. Above that, the Pros are faster and mids have a lot more clarity and balance at the cost of space and body. Treble most diverges, the Pro has a very sparkly, airy and hyper detailed response that vastly differs from the A8. In fact, the Pro suffers from the opposite, it can occasionally sound unrefined especially through a wired connection.
Noble Django ($999): The Django is not really a competitor to the A8 but a comparison that I found fit due to some similar tuning choices. The first thing that hits buyers is the Django’s size, they absolutely dwarf the A8 but somehow find an ergonomic fit nonetheless. The A8 is more comfortable and more stable in the ear but both isolate very well. The A8 is also all metal where the vastly more expensive Django is half plastic (but it’s fantastic). Sonically, both are powerful, full bodied sounding earphones with a more polite high-end though the Django takes balance and refinement to the next level. The Django, while not a remotely neutral earphone, is much closer to neutral than the A8. Bass is still weighted and moving on the Noble, not nearly to the extent of the Cardas, but in reference to more balanced earphones around their price. And although the Django houses 6 armature drivers within each earpiece, the A8 easily bests them on bass extension, the Django can’t even resolve the rumble that the A8 flourishes with. Yet above that, the Django is both cleaner and clearer, mids are still full but have excellent clarity and layering that the A8’s doesn’t achieve. The Django has a smooth high-end, but it extends brilliantly and has gobs of detail and texture, never sounding closed off or overdone. The A8 is a very nice $300 earphone, but they do lack the balance and meticulous attention to detail of more expensive in-ears. Again, whether that massive premium is worth the difference is subjective and the dynamic driver based Cardas actually has an advantage when it comes to bass. Yet in a lot of other aspects, listeners looking for this style of sound will find a natural progression with the Noble earphones.
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