Building further on their former RTi1 single dynamic driver, the Galaxy’s driver is an evolution of the UltraMag technology. The Galaxy is the product of Sammy’s quest for ultimate resolution, and his take on an uncolored sound. The result is a hyper-detailed presentation – with excellent bass.
Rhapsodio Galaxy V2
-Driver: Single dynamic driver
-Impedance: 17.5 Ohm
-Sensitivity: 102 dB
-Fit: Universal (Spiral Dot tips)
At the time, the Galaxy was bundled with the Rhapsodio OCC mk. 2. The OCC mk. 2 is a slightly warm copper cable, due to an enhanced mid-bass. The mid-bass is moderate in control, and creates a mildly warm stage structure. But it has a natural tone, while the warmth isn’t overdone. In addition, its extension is better than a stock OFC cable, although the difference isn’t overly large. The same can be said for its resolution and transparency.
Even though the pairing adds a smoother touch to the brighter Galaxy, I was more of a fan of the original cable that the Galaxy was paired with, the 2.98 silver/gold due to its warmer, more midforward sound. Overall, the OCC mk. 2 might have the better tone, the 2.98 and Galaxy was a case of opposites attract: it 2.98 added a bit more body to the midrange, and provided a smoother tone. As is, the pairing with the OCC mk. 2 is quite good, and it’s nice to see a quality cable being included.
The Galaxy is Sammy’s translation of a perfect sound, with its foundation on two pillars: an uncolored signature, and high resolution. The Galaxy’s treble extension is quite good, and its signature is indeed almost completely flat throughout the frequency range – save for a significant 5 KHz peak. The result is an extraordinary amount of detail, with a decisive emphasis on the articulation of notes. The upper midrange peak can be a popular tuning choice for different reasons. It strips midrange notes from thickness and veil, which reduces their purity so to speak. We’ll see it return for similar reasons later on. We’ve also seen the 5 KHz peak being tuned for its ability to create a more natural form of clarity, as with Aether and Deca. In both cases, Emil and Mike manipulated the quantity of the bass and treble to balance the tone. The Galaxy in turn pairs its upper midrange peak with a linear bass and treble. The result: a brighter and somewhat leaner sound.
In line with its prominent upper midrange, the Galaxy brings string instruments and cymbals are to the foreground, with a clear and sparkly resonance. However, the relative prominence of the upper midrange results in a leaner note structure – especially male vocals might miss a bit of body. But we haven’t yet mentioned one of the Galaxy’s strongest features – its bass. This is a bass that possesses all of the virtues of a dynamic driver, while throwing in a few of BA’s as well. It has great texture and impact, but is equally controlled and relatively quick; a wonderful hybrid of both technical as well as engaging qualities.
The Galaxy creates a fairly classic stage. While the stage is wide with an average depth, it isn’t particularly tall. Most importantly, the vocal stage positioning is laidback, with a relatively forward instrument placement. Due to the distant vocal position, its layering ability could be better; there’s not much space behind the vocal, so it relies mostly on its width or the space in front. But it does have one advantage to parry; as notes are on the leaner side, they create more space on the stage. In addition, the stage is quite airy due to the upper midrange emphasis and controlled bass. So overall, its separation is quite good. In addition, the high resolution and precise imaging further contribute to the clarity of the image.
The Galaxy’s bass is a highlight. It isn’t as impactful as that of Vega or the Dream, so bassheads shouldn’t expect brain-shattering power. But it has more than sufficient quantity to get the rest of us going. And most importantly, it’s a complete package. It reaches low, hits hard, and the balance between sub- and mid-bass is exceptional. Plus it has all those qualities we love from a good dynamic driver: the natural decay, and a beautiful tone.
But it’s also compact, so it nevertheless has good speed for a dynamic driver. Importantly, the mid-bass delivers its hits without warming the stage – it’s a rather controlled bass. It’s articulate in its attack, and highly resolved. Tones of the bass player sound exactly like that – individual, articulate notes that determine the pace, without slowing it down. This is a bass that comes scarily close to perfection; in fact, I think it might be the best in this shootout. It combines the texture and decay of a dynamic driver, with the control and speed of a balanced armature, seemingly bringing the best of both worlds – without compromising.
The Galaxy has an almost linear midrange up until the 5 Khz peak. While this ordinarily should amount in a neutral sound, the peak plays such a detrimental role due its sheer size; it’s a good 10 dB higher than the lower and center midrange. The peak has its pros, as well as its cons. It provides a more realistic version of brightness, a clear and articulated sound, different from the more common 7 KHz peaks we see in multi BA setups. But that doesn’t mean the sound is natural altogether – it’s an additional amount of brightness, nevertheless. Notes and vocals might be highly articulated, there’s also a trace of edginess.
In addition, the lower midrange is rather laidback. This effectively attenuates the subsection of a note, resulting in a leaner note structure, as well as more laidback vocals in terms of stage positioning. The general body of vocals is on the leaner side, with their emphasis towards articulation. As a result, they lack a bit of solidity and central focus, although the effect is most pronounced for warmer, male vocals. There’s still a certain sweetness and crispness in female vocals. Even so, it’s a highly detailed vocal presentation.
The upper midrange is very clear, and highly transparent. The stroke of a violin, the chord of an acoustic guitar – it resonates with a certain beauty, resulting from the purity of the note. It’s a tuning that works wonderfully for higher pitched string instruments, and especially piano’s sound quite true. But a deeper-sounding cello or electric guitar on the other hand might miss a bit of warmth and body, and in general instruments are brighter in tone.
While the treble response is very linear, the enhanced upper midrange results in a brighter treble tone. After all, the 5 KHz region borders on the lower treble. When done right it results in more of a ‘natural’ form of clarity, but it’s also an area that is often toned down, as it’s sensitive to listen to. Boosting the upper midrange results in a highly articulated sound – it’s a region that jumps out to catch your attention. But it isn’t the most smooth in its note release.
Still, it’s not a harsh or piercing treble altogether, although the sound might become fatuiging for sensitive listeners. It’s highly detailed, and well defined. And while its decay isn’t as quick as some of the up-tempo BA designs, it doesn’t feel sluggish altogether. For trebleheads, the Galaxy is a delight. There’s everything one might desire. The high resolution and clarity brings out an abundance of finer detail. There’s a good sense of airiness on the stage, with sufficient space between the tones. It’s a treble that will reach out as far as you want it to go, that can shine and sparkle.
Ultimate Ears UE 18+ Pro ($1500)
The UE 18 and Galaxy are a clash of philosophies, with very different signatures as a result. The UE 18 is designed as the ultimate stage monitor, but is much more than that; it’s a very smooth and natural sounding iem. The Galaxy on the other hand seeks to maximize its detail, and doesn’t mind taking a little risk; where the UE 18 will always remain smooth, Galaxy can sound a bit edgy. While both iems have excellent resolution, Galaxy betters the UE 18 in transparency. The Galaxy’s presentation is a bit more technical, where the UE 18 sounds more lifelike.
Both iems construct a similar stage, with average dimensions in width, depth and height. They differ in the forwardness of their vocal presentation, where the UE 18 is more neutral relative to the laidback vocals of the Galaxy. Accordingly, the UE18’s creates a more realistic stage in terms of its instrument positioning. The Galaxy’s imaging however is more precise. In addition, the UE 18’s instruments have more body. Overall, there isn’t much difference when it comes to separation.
The differences in their signature are fairly large, starting with the bass. The UE 18’s bass is neutral in quantity, and slightly laidback in the presentation. It’s a natural bass in tone, it just doesn’t mind taking a back seat. The Galaxy’s bass has a good deal more impact, and that beautiful natural decay. It’s slightly darker in tone, but still sounds very natural. Overall, the UE 18’s bass is technically good with proper low-end extension, but it isn’t as engaging as that of the Galaxy.
The UE 18’s midrange is warmer in tone, and slightly more forward. The vocal presentation isn’t overly full or forward, but it’s masterfully balanced. It sounds very realistic, conveying detail in its articulation; but always remaining very smooth. Due to its laidback lower midrange, the Galaxy’s notes carries less weight. Vocals are very clear, but have less body and are slightly more distant. In general, the UE 18’s instruments are more accurate in tone. However, there’s an exception for string instruments, where the UE 18 might miss a bit of treble emphasis on occasion.
The UE 18’s natural tone results from a dip in its lower treble, with a smooth and warm signature as result. The Galaxy’s treble in turn is brighter and more upfront, demanding your attention. The UE 18’s treble tone is warmer and more accurate by comparison. Listeners that prefer a brighter signature might prefer the Galaxy’s treble tuning, while more sensitive listeners will definitely appreciate the UE 18. Both iems have good upper end extension.
Dita Audio Dream ($1780)
The Galaxy and Dream have more in common besides their single dynamic driver – their tuning and presentation share quite a few similarities, while ultimately also being very different. For instance, they can both be viewed as a variation of ‘reference’ tuning; the result of a similar upper midrange peak, that determines their midrange presentation. On the more fun side, this is a battle for best bass – the Galaxy’s is technically superior, but the Dream’s has more raw power.
The Dream’s stage is larger in both width and depth, creating a more spacious 3D stage. It’s also quite a unique stage, due to its dark atmosphere. In both cases the imaging is precise, but the Dream bests the Galaxy in its layering ability. Due to the Dream’s enhanced mid- and upper-bass, the stage isn’t the most airy – Galaxy’s is cleaner by comparison. But nevertheless, the Dream’s separation is better based on its stage dimensions.
The dynamic bass of both the Dream and Galaxy isn’t just good; they’re probably the best. In both cases, the low-end extension, impact, decay, and tone is excellent. The Dream’s bass is slightly more enhanced, making it more engaging. It’s less controlled though, and produces more warm air. The Galaxy’s has the better speed and control, giving it a technical advantage that benefits the airiness of the stage.
Both iems have an enhanced upper midrange, resulting in a slightly laidback vocal presentation with similar body. However, due to the Dream’s enhanced bass, its overall tone is significantly warmer, while it also creates larger instrument tones. The Galaxy’s midrange is both leaner and brighter by comparison. Its midrange transparency is greater though, due to the enhanced upper bass of the Dream.
Similarly, as a result of the warmer bass the Dream’s treble isn’t as upfront as the Galaxy’s. It’s more linear, and thicker in its definition. It’s relatively neutral in its overall quantity. The Galaxy’s treble in turn is both leaner and brighter. Finally, the Galaxy’s treble extends a bit further.
The Galaxy is represents Sammy’s ideal sound: an uncolored and highly resolving sound. A hyper-detailed presentation. Sammy is a bit of a treblehead though, which returns in its tone. The bigger surprise is that Sammy ordinarily doesn’t care much for bass. Yet, the Galaxy has one of the most allround, and arguably highest quality bass in this shootout. It reaches low, hits hard, and yet remains very well controlled. And of course, its tone and resolution is worth mentioning.
However, the midrange seems to have fallen victim to the quest for an uncolored, clear sound. The prominent upper midrange tuning overshadows the lower midrange, affecting the vocal presentation – the Galaxy’s weak point. Overall, this is a sound that will be highly appealing to Sammy’s similar in kin – trebleheads seeking that air, detail, and definition. Or classical music enthusiasts, that value a purity in their sound; that high level of transparency. Whether it’s the bass, detail, or high resolution – there’s something in here for most people. But it’s package as a whole might be something of an acquired taste, rather than a crowd pleaser.
Rhapsodio Galaxy V2
-Might be fatuiging