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Rank #4: Warbler Prelude

After 5 years of R&D resulting in countless prototypes, Warbler makes their entrance with the Prelude: an iem created by audiophiles, for audiophiles. Sporting a single BA driver, the Prelude sets a high bar for tone, smoothness, and naturalness.

Warbler Prelude
-Drivers:                    1 BA driver
-Design:                     Single sound bore
-Impedance:              –
-Sensitivity:                –
-Fit:                             Custom

-PRICE:                       $1099


The Prelude comes with the choice of 2 cables: the trusty Plastics One, or a Linum Bax. I used the Plastics One for this review since I’m most familiar with it. As we know by now, the OFC cable provides a warm and smooth tone, although its upper-end is rather rolled off. The Prelude is a source dependent iem, with both aspects of its signature as well as transparency varying over sources. But it’s also a cable sensitive iem. For starters, because its tone and note thickness can shift between warm and neutral; but most importantly, because it relies on the cable for its top-end extension. With the Plastics One, the pairing is warm and smooth, as both the cable and iem share a similar signature; but the lack of air can tend to make it feel confined, and isn’t doing the Prelude justice. An affordable quality cable can already provide a cleaner sound by adding air, and by doing so, effectively open up its stage dimensions.

Sound impressions

The Prelude is a little gem, predestined to be misunderstood. For extraordinary strengths, come with equal weaknesses. Tuned for tone, its timbre is spot on – a sense of beauty flows from its accuracy. And there’s a rare smoothness in its note release, with each note a touch of velvet gently caressing the ear. And then there are its deep, powerful, and emotional vocals; presenting themselves as strong contenders for title of ‘the best’. As does its treble: articulate, quick, but most all, boasting a beautiful timbre. Not just a very coherent signature; but one that drips with naturalness.

Even so, the Prelude is tuned for a specific type of audiophile, rather than a crowd-pleaser. For the Prelude has some inner conflicts of its own, and there are concessions to be made. For starters, its extension on both ends is not particularly impressive, having several consequences throughout its signature. The stage seems to lack air, especially considering its warmer tuning. As a result, it tends to create a more intimate feel; or cozy perhaps, depending on how you’d like to frame it. And down below, the sub-bass impact might leave one wanting, especially the more bass-enthused. The mid-bass is there, providing warmth and a little kick; but it’s just a shadow of what a sub-bass can be.

The Prelude constructs a box-sized stage, in almost even proportions. The stage isn’t overly wide by any means, but it nevertheless creates a relatively average size, based on its depth. But as mentioned, it’s primarily the lack of air that can convey an intimate feel, when paired with its stock cable. But despite its dimensions and thicker note size, its separation is well above average. Due to the depth of the stage, its layering is good. And its instruments are not only positioned precisely, but set against a stable black background. For the priorities of the Prelude’s tuning weren’t just with tone – separation was up there as well. Despite the warmer tuning, there is a high level of organisation within its stage; a relatively small, but precise image.



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Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.


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