DISCLAIMER: Metal Magic Research provided me with the Gáe Bolg in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Metal Magic Research for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
Metal Magic Research has made waves throughout the in-ear industry as one of the youngest, most promising, high-end brands in recent memory. This Singaporean team have carved quite a niche with their exotic aesthetics, their whimsical, alchemical marketing and – surely – their acclaimed sonics as well. A major, major contributor to the latter is MMR’s lead designer, Joseph Mou of Jomo Audio fame. He’s taken his know-how and merged it with the company’s fittingly-forged in-ear monitors. And, now, with their latest release, they’ve paired this with a slightly more digestible price point too. MMR’s new-and-improved Gáe Bolg is a fresh contender in this $1000 bracket with its big, intimate and, yet, well-layered sound.
MMR Gáe Bolg
- Driver count: Five balanced-armature drivers
- Impedance: 25Ω @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: N/A
- Key feature(s) (if any): 4-way MMR EFD crossover system, GBAC (Gáe Bolg Acoustic Chamber)
- Available form factor(s): Universal aluminium IEMs
- Price: $1199, $1399 (packaged with an Eletech Prudence upgrade cable; online exclusive)
- Website: www.metalmagic.co
Packaging and Accessories
Unfortunately, MMR weren’t able to ship us the Gáe Bolg’s retail packaging in time for this review. But, based on the pics they’ve sent us, it looks nothing short of quality. They’ve kept that old-time-y aesthetic throughout both the exterior and interior. While I wish they’d have included a bit more branding on the top cover, I do love the intrigue that the sole spear exudes. And, I adore that the illustrations inside make sense as well; almost reminiscent of the DITA Dream XLS’s interior in this way. Finally, the two-tone colour scheme fits these monitors too. Obviously, I cannot speak for the materials MMR have used for the packaging, or what the unboxing experience itself is like. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do so in the future.
Image courtesy of Metal Magic Research
As far as accessories go, it looks like they’ve included a zipper case to go with these IEMs. Again, I adore both its imagery and colour scheme, which pair with the monitors perfectly. It also looks roomy enough to fit either an extra set of cables, an addition pair of IEMs or a portable source there too. MMR have also included a well-carved, premium-looking owner’s card. Again, I’d need it in-hand to examine its quality and finish. Lastly, the in-ears themselves are well-nestled in the top-left corner. They’ll come packaged with a generic, OFC cable if you choose to purchase the Lite version. But, if you opt for the Complete version, it’ll include Eletech’s Prudence instead, which MMR say the Gáe Bolg was tuned with. That option is online-exclusive and costs an extra $200. With the Prudence’s $249 price, it’ll save you $50 versus purchasing separately.
Image courtesy of Metal Magic Research
Ergonomics and Build
MMR’s commitments to metallurgy and precision-engineering have given their monitors a premium look and feel on par with some of the best in the market today, and this Gáe Bolg is no exception. It’s a robust, substantial-feeling IEM that, at the same time, doesn’t feel heavy; luxuries of an all-aluminium chassis. The machining on both the shells and faceplates deserve huge plaudits for all the smooth curves MMR have seamlessly incorporated, as well as the absence of any sharp edges throughout. Similarly, the join between this Gáe Bolg’s two halves is spotless too. Then, there’s the anodised finish across both the red and silver areas, which further cements this monitor’s classy, cutting-edge, and yet refined aesthetic.
Speaking of aesthetics, despite the Gáe Bolg’s less out-there silhouette compared to MMR’s previous releases, they surely haven’t held back when it comes to design. Taking inspiration from the monitor’s namesake, the faceplate features these intricate patterns, which evoke ancient weaponry or stone carvings. At the same time, they’re splendid displays of MMR’s precision-engineering, once again. I love that there’s almost an outer and inner layer to the plate, which gives off a three-dimensional effect. It’s certainly not the best for keeping dust away, but it’s nothing a little wipe and a blow can’t fix. That pattern finds its way on the back of the monitor too for a good bit of symmetry. Again, it’s a very stylised look that not all will particularly appreciate or gravitate towards. But, it’s very well-executed at the end of the day, and that’s what counts.
Further down the back of the shell, it’s clear MMR’s precision isn’t solely reserved for aesthetics, but function as well, i.e., the Gáe Bolg’s nozzle design. It sports that groove I’ve always asked for on universals, so ear tips won’t slip off with every wear. In addition, MMR have even added a couple small ringlets for better grip too. Then, a horn-like shape connects the nozzle to the chassis, which prevents tips from going too far up the barrel. This “locks” the ear tip in place and minimises variations in insertion depth, so you should get a more consistent, as-intended sound at all times. It may also reduce the potential for tone-shaping through tip placement. But, I reckon most users would rather take that extra security anyway.
Now, my only concern with this nozzle is protection against debris, considering the size of the bore and the lack of a wax guard. Speaking with Joseph Mou himself, he assured that the size of the bore will, in fact, prevent wax from clogging up the nozzle, and that any dirt that does make it in won’t make it past the in-ear’s 3D-printed acoustic chamber. Though, he also does recommend getting an in-ear vacuum (like FiR Audio’s Headphone VAC) for the best results when cleaning. For me, personally, I’d rather have had the Gáe Bolg come with a wax guard built-in, if only for peace-of-mind. But, for now, I will have to take its designer’s word for it, and only time will tell whether or not MMR’s choice there ends up panning out.
Finally, we have the 2-pin connectors. Personally, I love this design choice of giving them their own housings, rather than simply cutting out holes on the sides of the shells. They’ve been installed seamlessly flush with no traces of glue as well. Unfortunately, the joint between this housing and the chassis is where MMR haven’t been as surgical. Looking very, very closely with the cables off, I can spot the tiniest bits of metal that weren’t polished to perfection. To be honest, they’re so minuscule that calling them nitpicks would probably be an understatement. But, at the end of the day, if I am gonna laud their precision, the tiniest warts must be noted too. Nevertheless, those near-inconsequential flaws won’t hurt this in-ear one bit. It’ll just mean, despite being better-built than most in its price tier, it isn’t absolutely flawless (on my unit, at least).
As mentioned, the Gáe Bolg’s silhouette takes a slight departure from MMR’s typically-zanier designs. They’ve opted for a more traditional teardrop shape, and, although it’s been quite some time since I last tried their other universals, I can still safely say that this is their most ergonomic design to date. The long nozzle allows for a deep insert without having to jam the entire shell into my concha, which was a common complaint with the Homunculus. And, again, the lack of any pointy edges throughout the monitor aids comfort tremendously as well. My only complaint would be the same one I’ve lobbed towards DITA, 64 Audio and FiR Audio’s UIEMs, which is the shell’s flat rear. There isn’t a protrusion or lip to grip onto the cymba with, so the in-ear’s almost left dangling, simply holding on via the tip in your ear canal. Still, though, it’s more of a could’ve than it is a should’ve. This Gáe Bolg still grips just fine, and it ultimately remains a comfortable monitor without it.
In creating the Gáe Bolg and shaping the sound, MMR have employed electric and acoustic “tricks” to ensure the monitor delivers a coherent tuning and clean, organised imaging; tricks that may not seem too alien to those familiar with Joseph Mou’s previous efforts. First is a crossover system, which MMR call the 4-way EFD (Electro-Frequency Division). Paired with specially-tuned RLC filters, the system separates the monitor’s 5 drivers into their respective, intended frequency ranges.
Image courtesy of Metal Magic Research
But, with the inclusion of these components, MMR now must solve the issue of phase cancellation. So, sound from those drivers meet the ear canal at the same time and form a tidy image. To that end, MMR have implemented something akin (in practice) to the Cross-Sync Uniphase system Joseph developed for his Jomo IEMs. This time, he’s put a large majority of the Gáe Bolg’s R&D into developing an in-house acoustic chamber to achieve those results. The resulting GBAC (Gáe Bolg Acoustic Chamber) solves the earphone’s phase issue and tunes those balanced-armature drivers at the same time. MMR credit much of this IEM’s sound to it, and it’s a joy to see brands continue to create bespoke solutions for their products.
MMR’s 2020 Gáe Bolg is a bold, full and fairly warm-sounding monitor. It’s driven by a 2kHz peak, which generates larger, chestier-sounding instruments with weight and gusto behind them. It leans further towards baritones, trombones, cellos and the like, positioning them closer to you than their higher-pitched counterparts. And, at the same time, it imparts this heavier, less vibrant, less breathy tonality towards the latter too. Violins will have more body to them, trumpets will seem less bright and direct, and electric guitars will have more distortion or chug than presence or bite. Despite that, to MMR’s credt, the Gáe Bolg is able to achieve its response while deftly avoiding mushiness or congestion. Relatively-relaxed lows and low-mids give those instruments room to breathe. And, despite its tapered upper-treble, it sports enough extension to let clean air flow as well. Ultimately, it’s a rich, hearty, mid-biased sig with enough articulation and air cutting through.
Spatially, I feel, is where this Gáe Bolg has furthest exceeded expectations. Though it doesn’t necessarily have the largest space I’ve ever heard, as Joseph Mou’s IEMs previously have, it makes fantastic use of the real estate it’s been given. This Gáe Bolg is a precise imager with striking left-right separation. The two drum kits on Snarky Puppy’s Gemini, for example, are panned gorgeously. And, the ride towards the end of Tarova (from the same record) showcases superb accuracy too. When it comes to depth, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’ll depend on which frequency range that instrument occupies. Tracks led by female vocalists or flutes will have a more even, spherical stage to them, while male vocalists and trombones will instantly leap out at you; certainly more on the intimate side. But, again, that precision and stereo spread ensures that it’s all as tidy and tightly-layered all the while. Lastly, while the in-ear has a more relaxed, back-foot tone, it is able to eek out a fair bit of contrast, especially in the mids. So, its smoothness comes with good punch and precision too.
I’d argue the Gáe Bolg’s bottom-end will be better-remembered for its timbre and character than physicality or impact. It wasn’t tuned to be a crowd-pleaser, necessarily, with exaggerations in rumble or punch; not the kind to thump the chest or rattle the skull. I’m personally more taken to its melodic qualities. A slightly longer decay allows the bass to sing a hair more, almost, which is a pleasure to hear with toms. And, it’s a superb tool for discerning between kick drums too; really helps bring out those individual characteristics. These lows also work particularly well with contra basses. It balances the grunt of the string plucks with the actual notes resonating off this instrument quite nicely. Then, it’s also got that realistic scale, where they grow louder as the bassist travels further down the range. Though it’s still a ways away from a true DD in raw verve, the Gáe Bolg ultimately delivers lows that excel in nuanced musicality with an organic, character-filled tone.
With all that said, however, the Gáe Bolg is by no means a flimsy performer down low either. The IEM actually showcases a fair amount of low-end extension, which serves as a tactile, guttural foundation for the melodic qualities I described up above. With the vibrant tonality of the kick drum comes the thump as well, and the same goes for tom-toms and acoustic basses. So, though, again, it doesn’t quite match the texture or physicality of a genuine diaphragm, that blend it is able to achieve between tactility and melody still elevates it beyond most all-BA woofers I’ve heard in the price level. Clarity-wise, MMR have cleverly included a light drop throughout the upper-bass, which separates this Gáe Bolg’s lows from its lower-mids. As a result, you get a clear bass that’s encased in clean air; minimal in bleed, despite its longer decay. That extends all the way down to the sub-bass, which shines through the ensemble cleanly, even with its closer-to-neutral positioning.
To me, the Gáe Bolg’s tuning is midrange-driven; the centre-mids, to be exact. It has a palpable rise towards 2kHz, which imbues vocals with weight, thickness and size. Baritones like Michael Bublé gain presence – gusto – while female singers like Tori Kelly or Ariana Grandé will have a hair more smokiness to them; not as light or nasally as more neutral or clinical monitors may make them sound. Lead instruments span large, and they’re forwardly positioned too. So, it isn’t an in-ear for fans of tight, compact notes lining the rim of the stage. Neither is it for those who want their instruments on the drier side. But, those who like their trombones and saxophones meaty and hearty will find lots to love in this Gáe Bolg. It ends its 2kHz rise with a dip between 3-4kHz. That cuts out those brassy, tinny notes you may find on trumpets, as well as lots of the clang you may hear on snare drums. Again, if you like your horn stabs bright and zingy, it may not be ideal. But, to me, it does well to maintain balance across the spectrum and prevent the midrange focus from becoming too unnatural.
Technically, lots of credit has to go to how much control MMR have lent the Gáe Bolg’s mids, despite the thicker, chestier timbre. Instruments, while rich and full, don’t spill into or mask each other. Again, this IEM is an impressively tidy imager, which goes a long way with multilayer guitar parts, string quartets, etc. In terms of resolution and layering, the Gáe Bolg, despite the thickness, doesn’t come off veiled or mushy. Notes have definition to them, and they have good pace as well. So, this stage is always allowed to breathe; never saturated with too much going on at once. Still, it’s definitely more of a single-focus IEM, rather than a big picture one. Its 2kHz-leaned sig naturally gifts it an up-close look at instruments, which, again, contributes to texture and detail. Horns, electric guitars and the like all seem rounded and complete; their ranges perceivably presented in full. Lastly, in tonal accuracy, it’s likely richer and thicker than what most would call neutral. The high-mids are flatter too. But, ultimately, I feel the Gáe Bolg does coloured right; unabashedly bold, yet clean and refined.
Up high, the Gáe Bolg’s got somewhat of an L-shape; a healthy 5-6kHz peak, which then gradually falls to 10kHz, where it peaks for the final time. The former is where it draws most of its articulation. It adds attack to snares and cymbals, and it lends guitars their bite too. It’s not the crisp, pointed kind of articulation, I’d say. There’s a wetness and body to the attack that softens it on the ear. It makes it more agreeable to different users and chains, but not to the point of feeling diffuse, I think. The upper-treble extends very well, adding air and integrity to its image. It’s definitely not overdone, which, again, trebleheads may not enjoy. But, I feel those after a more relaxed, uncoloured, unexaggerated tone will prefer this timbre. In terms of tone, I’m not the hugest fan of how the highs’ been integrated with the rest of the frequency response. The 3-4kHz dip means the mid-to-treble transition isn’t the smoothest; not as seamless as some of the more reference IEMs I’ve heard in the past. But, it’s a tiny nitpick that, in some ways, is an inherent compromise of the sig, so I won’t rail on it a lot.
In definition, these highs do well to pop against this monitor’s backdrop. Ride cymbals and chimes come through cleanly with good ring. Cymbal shimmers slide from soft to loud nicely too. So, while it’s not the sharpest treble in the world, you surely won’t be losing out on much nuance at all. The only sounds you might miss are those strong sibilants from vocals, or string plucks and half-open hi-hats; the tizzy-er, slightly more abrasive sounds. Whether or not that’s a good thing will, as always, come down to taste. In imaging and depth, the Gáe Bolg continues to impress up top with wide stereo spread and deep layering. Ride cymbals sound genuinely further away on softer jazz tunes. And, on drum duets like Dave Weckl and Jay Oliver’s rendition of Higher Ground, each drummer’s hi-hats and cymbals are precisely placed too. Lastly, in terms of texture, MMR have tuned these BAs nicely. Different ride bells sound distinct, and you can pick out different bows and violins in a string section fairly well. So, the Gáe Bolg caps the sig with highs as unselfish as they are melodic and refined.
Pairing with Eletech’s Prudence
Eletech kindly agreed to loan me this Prudence for the purposes of this review, and I’m extremely glad they did, because the difference I’m hearing between is much larger than I expected. The Prudence adds changes that counteract a few of the Gáe Bolg’s distinct flavour; the bold, intimate, meaty sound I’d been describing throughout the review. Much of it has to do with the cable’s upper-bass and lower-midrange dips. It tightens what was once a very loose, rich region and made instruments like toms and trombones a lot more controlled. There’s more bite to its mid-treble too, which adds clarity to snares and cymbals. I’d classify it more as a neutral tone now, so which variant to go for will depend heavily on taste too.
However, the objective improvement I think the Prudence adds to the mix is space. The image completely opens up with the cable swap, and introduces quite a bit of holography to this IEM as well. Some hard-panned elements, say, on Dimas Pradipta’s 9 Range Road now sit out-of-head. And, there’s a lot more clean air between its notes too. If you can afford it, I personally believe the Complete package is worth that price hike. At the very least, if you already have aftermarket cables in your collection, swap the Gáe Bolg’s stock cable for one immediately. But, if you do prefer the meatier, bolder, warmer sig I’ve been describing throughout the piece and you don’t mind the stage, then you can save some cash on the Lite too.
MMR’s Gáe Bolg lives somewhere between neutral and warm, making it a versatile universal that isn’t short on flavour or character. Below are what I feel to be its greatest strengths, and why it may potentially stand to be your next daily driver:
An intimate, meaty-sounding, yet versatile everyday-in-ear: The Gáe Bolg reminds me of in-ears like Stealth Sonics’ C9 Pro or Vision Ears’ EVE 20; not in tone, but in how versatile they are despite their colourations. It complements those rich, gutsy instruments with superb layering and precision, allowing that voicing to work with more genres than one would typically expect. It resembles Campfire’s Andromeda too in this sense, but on the opposite – warmer – end of the tonal spectrum.
A low-end that digs, but without excess rumble: This Gáe Bolg’s BA-driven low-end showcases a surprising amount of depth and tactility. It digs, but it never distracts like the stereotypical dynamic driver sound would. And, the mid-bass provides a musical melody to it at the same time. That is perfect if you want your kick drums to thud without thumping your skull in every half-measure, or if you like your acoustic basses nicely balanced throughout the entirety of their frequency ranges.
Richness and euphony with no compromise in articulation: Despite the Gáe Bolg’s fullness and warmth, it’s not an IEM that’s dark or rolled-off either. The high-end’s got plenty of snap for percussion or keys, and vocalists, though elevated in terms of chestiness and heft, still have a fair amount of balance between their fundamentals and their sibilants. So, if you need your rich, bold-sounding instruments to have bite to them as well, the Gáe Bolg should have enough of it to satisfy most.
This Gáe Bolg’s colourations, however, don’t come without compromise. Those bold, intimate, full-sounding instruments need accommodation too. So, if these following three are aspects you very much need, MMR’s latest is likely to fall short:
An expansive, three-rows-back soundstage: The Gáe Bolg’s boldness and intimacy naturally errs it away from those relaxed, laidback and distant-sounding profiles, where instruments line the outer rim of the space. It’s not a UIEM for audiophiles searching for a more holographic or out-of-head experience. So, do keep that in mind if you’re considering this Gáe Bolg.
Hard-hitting, chest-thumping, skull-rattling lows: Though the Gáe Bolg is capable of impressive low-end tactility and depth, they aren’t so much scene-stealers or show-stoppers either. They’re definitely above neutral in quantity, but, at the same time, they’re closer to neutral than basshead, for example. So, if you fall into the latter camp, the IEM may not be for you.
A generous helping of upper-treble presence and air: This Gáe Bolg, though nicely-extended and airy up high, doesn’t really push it in terms of quantity either. It has a tad of a taper, and I’d wager most audiophiles would sit it on the warmer side of the spectrum. So, if you are a treblehead, MMR’s Gáe Bolg – at least, quantity-wise – isn’t entirely guaranteed to please
Custom Art FIBAE 7 (1100 EUR)
Both the FIBAE 7 and Gáe Bolg err on the warmer side of neutral; showcasing balance throughout much of the frequency range, and ending with a more reserved high-treble. They’re also similar in that they add size and presence to their mids, but with two entirely different approaches. The FIBAE 7 tops its 1-2kHz rise with a 3kHz peak, which gives it its saturation and roundedness. Instruments like horns sound like they’re projecting close to you; upfront and direct. The Gáe Bolg, on the other hand, employs an upper-midrange dip, which, again, takes away this forcefulness and results in vocals that are full and chesty, but laid-back at the same time. Where they gain their energy, then, is in the lower- and mid-treble, where the FIBAE 7 opts to dip instead. With percussion, you get a bit more crackle and snap out of the Gáe Bolg, while the FIBAE 7’s delivery is a bit more diffuse. Keys and guitars sound brighter too. In terms of extension, though, I find both monitors fare well. Both introduce sufficient amounts of air into their respective stages, and lend headroom for clean layering too.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the FIBAE 7 and Gáe Bolg aren’t dissimilar in presence and positioning. Both sport lows that straddle neutral, but have the capacity to elevate beyond it when called for. This Gáe Bolg has a hair more sub-bass, which gives it bottom a more solid, slightly more physical foundation. The FIBAE 7’s is smoother, warmer and more expansive by comparison. It introduces a hair more warmth into its image. But, it could also be because it’s a CIEM, while the Gáe Bolg’s a universal. I’ve noticed UIEMs tend to choke and shrink the lows a bit compared to their custom versions. But, this won’t matter until MMR decides to release a custom Gáe Bolg. Spatially, I find the FIBAE 7’s image larger overall. And, its more linear tonality allows for a more even spread of instruments as well. Still, the Gáe Bolg’s tighter notes hand it an edge in accuracy and precision. Finally, in terms of detailing, this Gáe Bolg sharper, more prominent transients lend it stronger clarity or cut. But, lower down, this FIBAE 7 has better presence and texture. So, it’ll depend on your priorities.
Lime Ears Aether R (1200 EUR)
Compared to the Aether R, MMR’s Gáe Bolg isn’t as vibrant or bright of an in-ear. The former’s peaks along the high-mids and mid-treble give higher-pitched instruments expressiveness and punch, while the Gáe Bolg, again, is tuned a bit more relaxed in these regions. Horns will have a more brass-y sound to them, and hi-hats sport a more metallic tick to them as well. On the Jacob Mann Big Band’s Baby Carrots, for example, the Aether R puts the trumpets front and centre, while the Gáe Bolg highlights the saxophones more. Similarly, on Tori Kelly’s Masterpiece, this Aether R reproduces her voice with a brighter, throatier profile, while the Gáe Bolg’s delivery is chestier, warmer, more intimate and more enveloping. This too is courtesy of the Gáe Bolg’s fuller, larger-sounding upper-bass and lower-midrange. It provides size and meatiness to its instruments, while the Aether R’s are a tad more distant and less substantial by comparison. This also has spatial effects, where the Gáe Bolg’s stage feels a tad more crowded, though organised all the same, and the Aether R’s is a touch airier.
As far as their extremes go, up top, both in-ears exhibit similar degrees of bite with snare hits and string plucks. Though, because of where their respective peaks are positioned, they’ve got very different textures. Again, the Aether R has crisp, bright, more metallic transients with an 8kHz peak, while the Gáe Bolg has smoother, more bodied highs, courtesy of the 5-6kHz and 10kHz peaks. The latter may get as energetic with some material, but it won’t ever cut as much as this Aether R’s will. On John Mayer’s Edge of Desire, for example, both monitors get pretty shrill on his sibilants, but the R’s delivery is brighter, while the Gáe Bolg’s has a warmer tone to it. I find this helps the latter perform particularly well with music that includes trashier hi-hats, or more organic-sounding drums in general. Whereas, the Aether R is capable of more cut for a genre like pop. Then, down low, the Gáe Bolg’s got the far meatier, longer-decaying bottom-end to my ears. It’s got more personality and texture to it, while the Aether R’s is tighter and more functional; a tad more clinical-sounding, if anything.
FiR Audio M3 (USD 1199)
The differences between the Gáe Bolg and the M3 are pretty clear at first listen. The latter is tighter and crisper-sounding with more contrast between extremes, while the former has more meat to its bones. That first stems from the M3’s sub-bass bias, which slopes down into its fairly dipped low-mids. This means its bass notes are tighter, further removed from its midrange. And, they’re darker as well, which, again, provides a stronger contrast against its bright, crisp high-end. The Gáe Bolg lets its low-end a bit looser by comparison, melding it to the midrange for a more organic tone and introducing a tad more warmth to its image as well. Speaking of the treble, the M3 has more of it, and it’s been exaggerated for extra fun too. It has a 5-7kHz rise to sharpen transients, particularly noticeable with how crisply cymbals and hi-hats bite. And, a lifted high-treble gives it an airier stage as well. Though, because of that, the Gáe Bolg does have the more linear, more natural-sounding highs with a more realistic timbre to rides and keys. It’s all just delivered in a smoother, muter manner.
In technique, though, I feel this Gáe Bolg edges out the M3 in most respects. Though neither IEM has the most expansive of stages, the Gáe Bolg is the stronger organiser of the two by a fair margin. It positions notes with greater accuracy, and its stereo spread is wider too. Despite this Gáe Bolg’s fatter, more intimate notes, it also renders depth more realistically. Whereas, all this M3’s instruments stand more-or-less in single file. When it comes to detailing, you’ll hear crisper, tighter notes from the M3. But, to me, this Gáe Bolg has the more prominent texture, especially in its low-mids. Instruments are more fleshed-out, more three-dimensional, and they’ve got more weight to them too. The one exception would probably be the bass, where the M3’s diaphragm lends a lot of genuine rumble, while the Gáe Bolg’s isn’t necessarily as tactile. So, tonal differences aside, I feel resolution, texturing and stage expansion are all traits the Gáe Bolg ultimately has more of.
With this 2020 Gáe Bolg, MMR have crafted a daily carry that doesn’t compromise character or personality for versatility. It’s unapologetically bold, intimate and meaty. Yet, through its linearity and technique, it works comfortably with a sea of genres nevertheless. The bass, while not skull-rattling, soars through depth, musicality and decay. The mids are steeped in gutsiness, warmth and size, yet airy and resolving all the same. And, its highs, while tapered, has both articulation and naturalness in tone too. That’s not to mention its exquisitely-made, thoughtfully-designed and pristinely-finished chassis that encases it all. So, while colour isn’t usually the most ideal catalyst for universal appreciation, I feel the Gáe Bolg – like Campfire’s Andromeda before it – could be one that errs that line just right. To my eyes, MMR have fully redeemed their Gáe Bolg with its 2020 redux, and they’ve successfully ended their year with what I think could be a classic in the making.