Han Sound Audio Aegis (S$499)
Compared to the 8-wire version, the 4-wire Aegis is more energetic and forward-sounding. This is especially true along the centre- and upper-mids. Instruments instantly take a step forward with a bolder, denser presence. The advantage to that is a punchier, more toe-tapping signature. However, there are cons to this in headroom and imaging precision. The 8-wire Aegis has a more free, open sound because its instruments are a bit calmer and more restrained projection-wise. Furthermore, you get to hear those tinier individual nuances more clearly because they’re not coming at you all at once.
In terms of resolution and transparency, the 8-wire version has the edge. Again, its more even-handed and disciplined response allows those smaller details and textures to naturally, effortlessly come through. On the other hand, it’s a bit easier for them to fly right by on the 4-wire version, due to its more brazen, energetic presentation. Tonally, the 4-wire version is a tad fuller-sounding because of the aforementioned discrepancies in the midrange. The 8-wire version also has a cleaner mid-bass response which adds to this. So, doubling the Aegis’s wire count has given it a more open, more laid-back and more transparent sound, while the 4-wire version is the bolder, punchier and fuller-sounding of the two.
Effect Audio Leonidas II ($888)
Effect Audio’s Leonidas II possesses a brighter, more vibrant sound. The cable brings forward the upper-mids and treble a hair to emphasise transient attack. Although this means the Leonidas II is – at first listen – the more engaging cable of the two, the 8-wire Aegis has the edge when it comes to coherence; both tonally and spatially. It’s more linear-sounding from top to bottom, and its stage is more proportional in its dimensions as well. You perceive a more three-dimensional, concert-like soundscape with the Aegis, while you get a more direct, two-channel-like presentation with the Leonidas II.
In terms of imaging, the 8-wire Aegis is the tighter of the two. The Leonidas II allows its instruments to expand a bit and intermingle, while the Aegis’ smaller note size allows for cleaner, more discernible separation. So, the latter has a precise image with greater spaciousness, openness and depth, while the Leonidas II is fuller and more in-your-face; sat squarely between the 4- and 8-wire Aegis’s in terms of intimacy. Down low, bass quantity is comparable between the two, though the Leonidas II has a slightly beefier mid-bass. The 8-wire Aegis emphasises cleanliness and texture there a touch more.
Effect Audio Cleopatra ($699)
Speaking of brighter, the Cleopatra is even more so in hue than the Leonidas II. It colours transients further for a crisper attack. But, this exuberant tone also comes with the same refinement as the cables above, so it isn’t much sharper than the 8-wire Aegis is. The Cleopatra also brings a more musical, rumbly quality to the lows. So, compared to the Aegis, the Cleopatra tends to infuse more emotion into an IEM’s sound by romantically colouring its extremes. On the other hand, the Aegis’s more restrained, uncoloured and concert-like tonality is more spacious, controlled and transparent in sound.
With all of this in mind, if your in-ear already excels at sounding engaging and delivering emotion, but lacks headroom, spaciousness and depth, the 8-wire Aegis will make the better pairing. On the other hand, the Cleopatra makes the more ideal pair if you have an open-sounding in-ear that you wanna inject some resonance, immersion and engagement into.
DITA Audio OSLO ($599)
The DITA Audio OSLO is like the Aegis in that it adds a rich, analog warmth without compromising spatial performance, definition or dynamic range. But, the two have differences in execution, particularly in note size and presence. For a full comparison between the two and more in-depth impressions of the OSLO, you can check out my full review of it here.
Han Sound Audio’s 8-wire Aegis possesses a wonderfully uncompromising signature, pulling off warm-and-organic whilst excelling effortlessly in spaciousness, transparency and texture at the same time. It’s a sound that’s unique not because it goes against the grain. Rather, it’s one that’s rare because of how difficult it is to pull off. Yet, this pleasing, realistic and concert-like balance is what the Aegis assuredly achieves. It brings colour and depth to leaner IEMs. And, it can reinforce a warmer monitor’s meatiness without harming technique. Bring Han Sound’s stunning build into the mix and you have one complete package. To me, this Aegis is a resounding success, and a top pick for warmth with transparency to boot.