If you look into hybrid drivers, CU-Cen is a cut out of a different cloth, it does share the principal but has a different approach to it. It sounds engaging yet detailed.
Matching with sources
Comfort inside ear
PAIRING WITH SOURCES:-
The hybrid driver of the cen has a sensitivity of around 100db and nominal impedance of 21ohm. Even though the sensitivity value is not high it gets fairly loud when driven out of mobile phones. Thanks to the impedance value of just 21ohm it is much easier for most of the mobile phones to drive the Cen without losing the essence of the IEM. Driving the Cen with better source yields marginally better details and accuracy.
When driven out of the Shanling UA1 it exhibits slightly better layering and a bit more stage expansion. Even though the Cen is not power hungry, it complies and responds accordingly.
HOW DOES THIS SOUNDS:-
CU-Cen is nothing like a typical hybrid IEM. More often than not, hybrid driver earphones have a v shaped sound signature, they tend to deliver plenty of bass and energetic highs while the mids are a bit recessed, lacking enough emphasis.
Cen has a single 8mm dynamic driver paired with a BA driver producing a mid forward sound with good amount of lower end thump and treble energy. As mentioned by the brand itself it favors vocals more than anything else. It has a bit of brightness across the spectrum, the sound signature cannot be called warm but a bit crisp and marginally dark.
I am using stock wide bore tips for this review and the LG G7 along with Shanling UA1 is used as sources.
The 8mm dynamic driver strikes a beautiful balance between volume and agility, it is neither very voluminous like the DK2001 or Jomo P3 nor is lean like BA based IEMs like DUNU SA6 or Fibae 3. It has the dynamic essence and satisfying weight which a dynamic driver is supposed to have while retaining exceptional amount of accuracy and details. It packs a punch, if not big enough to knock a bass head down it has enough to make its presence felt with good amount of impact and body, body which is nicely rounded and aptly full. It lacks little bit of sub-bass extension but gains good amount of mid bass body giving the lower end a full and meaty feel. It does not have a very fast decay which helps it to extract some rumbly sensation but is fast enough to cut out the mud. The amount of details and accuracy it has is hard to find in a hybrid driver around $500, helped by textured notes it has a cohesive feel and unique timber which its more expensive sibling lacks. The upper mid does not exhibit any agitation and complies well while delivering good amount of clarity.
Imagine a lower end with good body and slightly faster decay than most dynamic driver’s lower end. That is what on offer here. It has the feel to it but exhibits more control over notes, it’s aptly fun, but it does not have the grandness with slam or punch.
As mentioned earlier CU-Cen is a mid forward earphone which is a rarity with hybrid driver earphones. The first thing of notice is the amount of clarity it has, let it be vocals or instruments it has the quality to please demanding audiophiles (You are forgiven if you didn’t pay attention to the lower end initially). The mid range is the driving force of the Cen and takes the center stage along with a big chunk of stage. The Cen does not have thin or thick notes, it has notes precision which we usually associate with BA based earphones. It delivers accurate notes which are oozing with details.
The transition from upper bass to lower mid is not as forward as the Opus Mia and not as drowned as UE900s either. Going up from upper bass to lower mids it starts gaining some energy resulting into better clarity and transparency compared to the Jomo P3 and Fibae Black.
Vocals of Cen is not as sharp or as peaky as some of the BA based earphones like AF180, AF1120, these earphones can introduce some vocal sibilance with some tracks but the Cen has nothing like that. It has good amount of depth and energy with notes but doesn’t have any peaks or spikes to cause any discomfort. Let it be male or female vocals, both sound fantastic with more precise notes body and details. Bryce Vine’s Carnival or Lakeyah’s Times Up, they all sounds more flush than lush. It does not try to smoother but has more control while having excellent details and precision. Vocal notes are presented with beautiful texture, resolution and transparency.
Instruments does not go out of their ways, it exhibits similar kind of control while serving very good attack, thanks to the slightly energetic upper mid range, it delivers one of the best amount of details and clarity in its class. Let it be live music, acoustic jams or synthetic music the Cen effortlessly deals with any type of music without showing any obvious shortcomings. Just be prepared to be served with good harmless amount of bite. Instrumental cues placement is fantastic too thanks to the well spread stage.
The Cen has a single BA driver for the treble region (assuming it handles the treble region won’t be wrong) which pours into the same cavity as other driver. It delivers equally impressive accuracy and details. The whole treble region is slightly less energetic than the mid range, keeping it clear of any type of sibilance or piercing. There is no obvious drop of energy or details in the transition region of upper mid to lower treble region, delivering high amount of clarity while keeping clear of any sharpness. It starts losing a bit of energy though, just after mid treble region.
More expensive IEMs like the Avara AV6 or the in house Kis do better with extension as the Cen feels lacks a bit of treble extension. A slight better linearity in this region would have made it more balanced. There are two ways of looking at it depending upon preferences. One is, “OHH man, a bit of energy and better extension would have made this an extravagant earphone” other one being “Thank god it does not have more energy, keeps it away from aggression, I like this”. Even with this slight lack of forwardness the Cen maintains good amount of spark and transparency. Notes have pleasing tonal accuracy and details. The instruments are lively and agile with natural attack and precision, excitement I was missing with the TSMR 4 pro is intact with the Cen. Let it be Cymbals or percussions, all of them have good emphasis with nice texture and contrast. The contrast of background and foreground instruments is very good, delivering crispier notes.
The sound stage of the Cen changes a bit with the power it is getting from the source. It is clearer when I switch my Shanling M6 from low gain to high gain, the X axis expansion is better with more power. The stage is nicely rounded with very good width and height with a slightly smaller depth. The sonicality of the Cen is much more impressive than the Fibae 3 and 4. In whole the Cen has bigger than average stage. Cen manages to play both foreground and background instruments without any hiccup delivering impressive imaging and resolution.
Layering and separation is excellent thanks to accurate notes body, CU-cen has uniformity across the spectrum when it comes to notes thickness. It is not thin or thick giving notes good amount of room to breathe.