DITA Dream (original, discontinued; $1999)
As previously addressed, the two Dream’s are fairly similar on paper, yet feel very different; I imagine their frequency responses will only show slight deviances. They are both powered by a fantastic bass, and share a flat midrange with lower treble peak around 5 KHz. Similarly, they both construct a spacious three-dimensional stage with excellent separation. But where the midrange of the original Dream sounds rather thin and diffuse, the XLS sounds smoother and fuller, making it not only more engaging but easier to listen to.
The primary difference lies in the mid-bass response, where the XLS adds extra emphasis resulting in a greater impact. In addition, the XLs brings bass-lines more to the foreground. The original Dream has a deep-reaching sub-bass, but is lighter on the mid-bass. This particularly returns in the presentation of the midrange. The XLS creates a fuller sound with more engaging vocals. The Dream instead focuses on the lower treble. This results in a highly articulated and detail-oriented sound, but lacks a bit of substance in the midrange. In terms of tonality they are fairly similar, hovering around neutral. While the XLS has a thicker sound, I would not necessarily classify it as warm altogether, although others might disagree depending on their point of reference.
Rhapsodio Eden ($1999)
The Eden is the Dream XLS’ counterpart from Rhapsodio: their top of the line single dynamic driver, and personal passion project reflecting their style. I consider the Eden one of the most natural sounding neutral iems, with which I mean it doesn’t require any warmth to still sound natural. When I listen to a piano with the Eden, it removes any doubt I am listening to an actual piano. Every tone sounds clear, articulated, and very true. The XLS reproduces them well enough, but misses that last bit of realism that makes Eden so special. That being said, the Eden’s naturalness specifically pertains to acoustic instruments such as guitars, violins and pianos, making it a specialist. When it comes to male voices and electric guitars for instance, it could use a touch more warmth.
While the Eden particularly shines in the (upper) midrange, its bass is quite anemic. It’s there, but it’s humble. The XLS’s bass is turned up a notch by comparison. It’s not only a more fun bass when it comes to impact, the mid-bass adds a layer of warmth compared to the clear-sounding Eden. Listening to rock with the XLS not only sounds more natural, but more engaging due to the fuller notes. In addition, the XLS has a significantly larger and more three-dimensional stage, resulting in greater separation. Overall, the Eden is an impressive specialist, while the XLS is the more fun and versatile all-rounder.
Empire Ears Legend ($2299)
The Legend might not instinctively be the first to come to mind for comparison, but within my personal choice it actually shapes up as one of the most direct competitors: both offer a fun sound resulting from their dynamic bass, completed by a semi-neutral tonality and spacious stage. Accordingly, they are both top picks for energetic music such as pop or electronic. Nevertheless, despite some general similarities they are equally different than similar. For instance, although the XLS has a quality bass that is fun to listen to, it doesn’t cross the threshold to bass-head levels – the Legend clearly does.
The Legend has a greater quantity of sub- and especially mid-bass, resulting in greater impact and a more prominent presence throughout the presentation. However, the added weight significantly slows it down, with the XLS’ bass being more agile due to a quicker decay. Furthermore, the Legend has more presence around 2-3 KHz, resulting in a more forward midrange: vocals have more body and sound closer, As a result, the Legend sounds more intimate. Finally, the Legend’s midrange is a bit smoother, although the upper treble is slightly more pronounced. The XLS’ midrange in turn is neutrally positioned, which in turn creates a more spacious, three-dimensional feel. While it has leaner midrange notes, the lower treble accentuation provides greater clarity of each individual note.
DITA’s newly revised Dream XLS is a classic single dynamic driver, providing a sound that can perhaps be summarized as a combination of the original Dream, IE800s, and maybe Eden. The IE800s offers excellent resolution, separation and an overall level of refinement for its price, but its anorexic midrange is just too much of a letdown for me to consider it a serious all-rounder. The original Dream was executed differently, but displayed a similar deficiency: a rather thin sound. The XLS offers a similar sense of spaciousness and enjoyable bass, but adds significantly more body for it to sound engaging.
Traditionally, DITA’s used to be good if you liked that particular type of sound. But the XLS demonstrates their sound has matured over time. The XLS has a neutralish sound that can span the globe, and let’s be honest; who doesn’t love a vast soundstage and great bass? When you break its sound down into pieces not much has significantly changed, but holistically, it feels like a different monitor all together. The XLS is easy to listen to, fun, and an overall all-round monitor; a polished sound. I’ve been enjoying it on a daily basis without the need to switch, which to me, is the most practical indication of its versatile use.
Dita Dream XLS
Design: single dynamic driver