Details: First IEM from Ortofon utilizing a new type of transducer
MSRP: est. $320 (discontinued)
Current Price: $298 from musicaacoustics.com (discontinued)
Specs: Driver: Moving Armature | Imp: 31 Ω | Sens: 117 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Sennheiser dual-flange
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down
Accessories (4.5/5) – Silicone single-flange (3 sizes) and Comply T400 tips, felt-lined storage case, leather carrying case, filter changing kit with two pairs of spare filters, and filter cleaning tool
Build Quality (4/5) – Weighty aluminum shells with rubber strain reliefs feel rather solid. Cabling is in two parts (very similar to the original Lenntek Sonix), with a plastic sheath above the y-split and woven nylon below. Unfortunately, the large plastic strain relief on the 3.5mm plug is quite hard and unlikely to protect the cord. Also, there is no cord cinch and a small bump on the left-side strain relief takes the place of L/R markings
Isolation (3.5/5) – The extremely short nozzle limits the insertion depth of the Ortofons by design. The IEMs are fully sealed, however, and isolation is still good
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Though minimal in the nylon-sheathed part of the cable, microphonics are present and bothersome in the plastic part above the y-split, where it counts. Wearing them over-the-ear solves the problem but isn’t as easy as with other IEMs due to the long housings
Comfort (3.5/5) – The short nozzle of the Ortofons means that the housings are nearly flush with the ear canal when wearing all but the longest tips. For those with smaller ears this may be uncomfortable. In addition, the length and weight tend to torque the housings when wearing them cord-down and moving about. A set of cable guides would’ve been nice to make the Ortofons more over-the-ear-friendly
Sound (9.1/10) – If blindfolded and given the e-Q7 for the first time, I would have attributed the sound to a dynamic driver, albeit a very clean and precise one. The overall tone of the IEM is just a tad on the warm side. Bass extension is impressive – not quite as deep as the dynamic-driver MTPG and Atrio M8s, but better than with most armature-based earphones. Texturing across the range, but especially at the low end, is excellent, right up there with the best of the best. The bass is punchy, boasting plenty of impact and great speed. The midrange is rich and full and acts as a unifying element, making the entire signature extremely coherent and musical. Similar to the Soundmagic PL50, the midrange seems to be the focus of the presentation with the e-Q7 despite not having any particular emphasis. The mids can sound a bit dry, almost grainy at times, and there is a tiny spike towards the upper midrange that can accentuate harshness already present in certain recordings, but I’ve really only noticed it a few times in the hundreds of tracks I’ve listened to using the e-Q7.
The treble, on the other hand, is very smooth and inoffensive. It is devoid of sibilance and harshness but also doesn’t feel as endless and effortless as, for example, the ATH-CK10 or RE0. Despite this, I wouldn’t call the e-Q7 laid-back or relaxed-sounding. They are highly resolving and detailed, resulting in an involving, attention-grabbing sound. Overall balance is excellent, with all signs pointing to the midrange but yet no lack of emphasis in the bass and treble. Soundstage width is impressive, falling right behind the RE252 in expansiveness. Depth is decent, but not class-leading. Instrumental separation, positioning, and imaging, however, are all excellent. I’ve also said before that being enjoyable at low volumes is one of the hallmarks of a great earphone for me and the e-Q7 handles the lowest listening volumes quite well. A note on amping – if planning to pair them with an amp (not a necessity in my view), make sure that your amp is at least neutral. The e-Q7 does not play well with warm amps such as my iBasso T4; it actually pairs better with my new Rocoon RC-1, which is rather neutral, and the mini3, but neither is a significant enough improvement to warrant using.
Value (8/10) – As a total package, the Ortofon e-Q7 does not feel like a $320 product to me. The cable is almost identical to the one found on the $40 Lenntek Sonix 3, several throw-ins are missing from the accessory pack, and the microphonics leave much to be desired. The short nozzle and sizeable housings may also cause fit issues for those with small ear canals. But all of these usability issues can be remedied or mitigated by throwing a few more bucks at the earphones for a set of Phonak cable guides, nicer tips, and a shirt clip.
With tight bass, full mids, and smooth (albeit slightly relaxed) treble, the e-Q7 possesses one of the most coherent sound signatures in the land of portable audio. As with all high-end IEMs these are bound to have both strong fans and convinced critics in due time. Though the signature of the e-Q7 is far from the analytical and neutral type of sound I prefer, I easily subscribe to the former category.
Pros: Beautiful design and packaging, very rich, detailed, and balanced sound
Cons: No true L/R markings, no cord cinch, fit issues likely for those with small ears