Jomo Samba ($1725)
The NT6-pro has quite a unique signature; analytical, but also emotional. It’s buttressed on a solid technical foundation, although ‘technical’ isn’t the main way to classify it. The Samba on the other hand isn’t in the business of taking half measures – it’s all in. Samba is one of the most precise monitors, reference runs through its veins. It’s even more resolving, transparent, and generally precise than the NT6-pro. But of course, there’s always a sacrifice to be made – in this case, it’s naturalness.
The Samba’s stage comes close to a cube-sized stage; it’s a bit deeper than the NT6-pro’s, which is in turn a bit wider. But that’s not necessarily their greatest difference when it comes to their stage. The NT6-pro’s is incredibly airy, but its cable isn’t helping. Even thought it can for a great deal be attributed to the Samba’s stock Ares II cable, the Samba’s stage is significantly cleaner, and its background is blacker. Accordingly, its imaging is more precise, and its separation is even better. The NT6pro won’t leave you wanting for detail – until you’ve heard the Samba.
Both of their bass uncompromisingly fulfills the stereotype of ‘classic BA bass’: tight, punchy, and a rather quick decay. However, the NT6-pro surprisingly performs a bit better technically. It’s low-end extension is better, and its speed is quicker. In addition, Samba’s bass has more of a cut in its upper-bass, which makes it even cleaner, but also significantly drier. But this again can be related to the NT6-pro’s stock cable.
Samba’s midrange is also a good bit drier, though more transparent. NT6-pro’s midrange is warmer, and its vocals are more natural in tone. They’re also denser, and generally more pleasing. Samba presents a mostly technical presentation of a vocal, but it still sounds good. It’s remarkably clear, and highly focused. Their instrument size is similar, but Samba’s instruments are relatively more uncolored compared to the brighter NT6-pro’s. Taken together, Samba’s midrange is overall cleaner, but drier. The NT6-pro’s has more flavor as its vocals are warmer, while its instruments have more sparkle.
In both cases, their treble is articulate, while it performs at a technically high level – quick, and detailed. And in both cases, it’s brighter than neutral. The NT6-pro’s however has a good deal more sparkle from its mid-treble peak. The Samba’s is a bit closer to neutral in tone, with a let less flash. Finally, Samba’s extension is even more impressive.
Spiral Ear 5-Way Ultimate (€1699)
The 5-Way is another remnant from a former wave, although the later ‘Ultimate’ retuning is a bit newer. Much like the NT6pro, it mixes technical precision with an emotional touch. But where the NT6pro goes for joy and sparkle, the 5-Way isn’t quite as playful; it’s warmer and darker – melancholic might be better fitting. But it’s oh so natural. Its focus is on timbre; even uncompromisingly so, as it doesn’t mind forgoing a bit of light to get there.
The 5-Way’s stage has similar width and height, but it’s significantly deeper, making for a more 3D stage with almost even dimensions. Despite the NT6-pro being very precise in its imaging and layering ability, the 5-Way’s layering is simply more effortless due to the added space, as is its separation. There’s just more room to breathe, even though the NT6-pro doesn’t feel confined. The NT6-pro on the other hand has greater clarity due to its lifted treble, although their resolution is roughly similar.
Both their bass performs at a technically high level, with good bottom-end extension and speed. Similarly, the mid-bass notes are very well defined. But the 5-Way’s tone is simply more natural as the result of the NT6-pro’s lifted treble, making it the more accurate in terms of tone. When it comes to quantity they both hover around neutral, although the NT6-pro’s is just a bit more engaging in its impact.
The NT6-pro’s midrange might be slightly warm, the 5-Way’s is significantly warmer; especially its upper midrange. As a result, the 5-Way’s instruments have a significantly more accurate timbre, while the midrange as a whole is more coherent. In addition, vocals have slightly more body. As a result of the lifted treble, the NT6-pro on the other hand has greater clarity, making it more upfront in its detail retrieval. The 5-way’s instruments might sound more natural, but those of the NT6-pro really shine.
And of course, the NT6pro has significantly more sparkle. The 5-Way’s treble is relatively warmer, coming close to neutral. While it has a touch of sparkle, its treble presentation is overall significantly more laid-back. In both cases their speed is similar, making them perform well from a technical perspective. The 5-Way’s top-end extension is better though.
The NT6-pro combines different elements from iems as the S-EM9, Samba, and even Katana; a fairly standard stage in overall dimensions, a slightly leaner instrument size, and a generally high level of precision. Yet, there’s nothing quite like the NT6-pro. And it’s not just because of its frivolous sparkle up top. It’s because of its unique blend of warmth and emotion on the one hand, and brightness and precision on the other. This contrast makes for a very special signature, with the truly unique ability to make music shine.
The NT6-pro isn’t ranked 10th because it ‘just isn’t good enough’. I’m not sure how many favourites someone is technically allowed to have, but the NT6-pro is definitely one of mine; it always gets a steady amount of listening time. And because of its unique qualities, I can safely say it’s complimentary to any collection; that is, if you can handle its treble of course. The NT6-pro’s position here is just because we’re entering the top 10, and the comparisons with two higher-ranked ciems reveal a glimpse of what’s to come. And that’s just two of the nine remaining – each with their own unique strengths and selling points.
+’Musical’ signature: beautiful vocals, treble sparkle
-Treble brightness for sensitive listeners