With the Orla, Rhapsodio shows off their chesty, meaty and full-blooded rendition of the neutral-natural sound. Although this, along with the single-DD config, may imply a bass-dominant signature, that isn’t necessarily the case. The Orla’s low-end – while clearly present and rich – is never overbearing; once run-in, especially. Its fullness more so arrives through a sumptuous lower-midrange and a relaxed treble, resulting in big, warm, fat-sounding instruments, as well as an alluring, immersive and intimate soundscape. But, what’s impressive about the Orla is how well it avoids ever sounding gloopy or mushy. This DD defines and separates elements rather capably, with streams of clean air running about the soundstage.
Tonally, the Orla certainly lies on the warmer side of neutral. But, again, it isn’t to the point of butteriness or euphony. It’s still an admirably clean-sounding earphone with fair amounts of sparkle and air. Its dynamic profile is also punchier than it is lethargic or euphonic, which gives tracks like Trypnotyx’s Liz & Opie the rhythm and drive it deserves; never sounding wooly or sleepy. Where some listeners may find the Orla coloured is – again – in its gruff, chesty timbre. Instruments can be a bit in-your-face, which goes back to that intimacy I described above. So, it’s not the daintiest, most open-sounding or theatre-like IEM on the planet. But, it compensates through top-notch separation and detail, brought with tonality intact.
Without question, the Orla’s lows are the work of a pure-bred dynamic driver. It has thump and thwack in spades, but it’s never to the detriment of the rest of the ensemble. The Orla maintains a nice balance between bass presence and stage air, never allowing the former to suffocate the latter. That is partly due to a more relaxed sub-bass freeing up headroom for other instruments to use. But, again, because of this diaphragm’s realistic, palpable physicality, it never lacks drive or power either. The dynamic driver also gives this bass a strong sensitivity, for lack of a better word. The Orla is capable of resolving Dave Weckl’s extremely soft kick drum at the start of Sternoids. As much as I despise the phrase in audiophilia, I must admit: I’d never noticed it was there. Then, that oomph of the beater – just grazing against the skin – followed too.
Tonally, as you’d probably expect with the mid-bass emphasis, this Orla’s bass is thick, meaty and wet-sounding. This is a timbre geared more so for presence and musicality than sheer grit or texture. On one hand, it’s not the quickest low-end in the world, especially when fed material like the double pedal work on Animals As Leaders’ Tooth and Claw. Those kicks will have a warmer, more pillowy feel to them. But, on the other hand, bass guitars like the one that kicks off Anika Nilles’ The Age will come off more life-like in tonality. Extension is also there, giving the low-end drive despite the more reserved sub-bass. It isn’t perhaps as dynamic or explosive as some of the DD’s I’ve heard in the past, but it is certainly impressive among its peers. So, down low, the Orla is warm and present, but always equipped with nice control, solidity and timbre.
The Orla tempers that theme of fullness and presence beautifully towards the midrange. Again, much of its body comes from its rich lower-midrange, and it’s where a lot of the beauty in its tone lies as well. Male balladeers like Michael Bublé will sing with weight and gravitas to spare, enhancing the emotionality in tracks like Moondance or Me & Mrs. Jones. Toms – jazz ones, especially – are another instrument that gain from this body. At the same time, they’re never full to the point of congestion or mushiness either. Again, the Orla rides a fine line between cleanliness and warmth. So, while you won’t find the leanest, crispest-sounding monitor on the planet, it’s able to draw a good amount of detail given the sig at hand.
Then, coming up towards the upper-midrange, you’ll hear this steady uptick in presence that peaks at around 4kHz. That allows lead instruments like electric guitars or female vocals to cut through all that fat and shine – as they’re supposed to – in the mix. This is why the Orla still has a punchy, vibrant zing in spite of its richness and warmth. And, as mentioned in Presentation, it’s what gives the in-ear a liveliness, and prevents it from coming off sleepy, heavy or dull. Then, technically, this is complimented by a great tightness to the midrange. Again, the Orla’s separation is strong, with instruments never overstepping their boundaries. All this results in a midrange that hits a sweet spot between tone, presence and restraint.
Up high is definitely where the Orla is least enthusiastic. The monitor’s treble is noticeably relaxed – to a number of you, withdrawn – and it’s what ultimately gives the in-ear its smooth and organic response. That is especially true at its lower-treble, because of a 6kHz dip. Transients are polished and feathered. So, although they’re quick and clean, they more so glide into the stage, rather than pop into it. Snare drums and hi-hats, for example, will sound more diffuse; not as crackle-y or bite-y as the trebleheads among you may be accustomed to. The same goes for guitar plucks, the crispness of vocals, and more. So, it’s definitely worth keeping this tonality in mind if you tend to prefer your instruments sharp and snappy.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean the Orla is technically short either. Thanks to its admirable extension, the monitor still packs a punch in terms of background blackness, stage definition and nuance. While you won’t hear the airiest stage in the world, due to the in-ear’s relaxed upper-treble, you’ll still get a clean backdrop for instruments to stand against. Its achievements in separation and layering despite the thicker tonality are impressive. The subtlest of cymbals, shakers and chimes on Pat Metheny’s Pathmaker will still come through with an openness, definition and clarity. And, again, you’ll get none of that mud, wetness or congestion either. Truly, this isn’t warmth or smoothness coming from roll-off of any kind. Instead, it is a deliberate tuning choice with beautiful naturalness in mind, with the required technical chops to pull it off.
Sammy has certainly tuned to Orla towards a certain tonality. But, the technical feats he was able to achieve at the same time make it impressively versatile in spite of this colouration. The following three traits are among the Orla’s standouts:
An organic, gruff-sounding, full-bodied rendition of neutral: The Orla’s no. 1 appeal is its solid rendition of instruments, each infused with a great deal of integrity – never sounding wispy, insubstantial or thin. Vocals, whether male or female, come off wholesome and full; true for drums too, among others. If you’re for chestiness and meat, Orla is this entry-tier’s ideal.
Meatiness without excessive warmth: Impressively, the Orla manages its solid-sounding signature alongside a well-defined background and relatively clean transients. Instruments have clean edges to them, despite the relaxed treble, and there isn’t any of that rich musk permeating the stage either. This is an admirable technical feat; at the price range, especially.
A smooth, relaxed presentation with imaging and bite: Despite the IEM’s smoother top-end, the Orla achieves an impressive amount of clarity and bite by virtue of extension. Sounds like cymbal decays still come through. And, just as laud-worthy is the in-ear’s imaging precision. Stereo spread is wide and positioning is tight, allowing for great detail without the glare.
But, given the Orla’s clear tilt towards body, there’ll be those who won’t agree with its specific presentation, whether it be the reserved treble, fuller lower-mids or others. If the following are big priorities to you, the Orla might not be your ideal:
Tons of top-end clarity and sparkle: The trebleheads among you need not apply. Quantity-wise, the Orla is rather modest in crispness and sparkle. Although it is very much balanced against the mids and lows – and never lacking in articulation or extension either – it definitely won’t please those wanting lots of attack, lots of air, or a brighter, more energetic delivery.
A lean, crisp-sounding timbre: The Orla’s unabridged lower-midrange will lend instruments a distinct chestiness. So, snare drums, acoustic guitars and the like won’t seem as snappy as you’d find on brighter or more clarity-oriented monitors. If you tend to prefer your instruments having lots of crispness or cut, the Orla won’t have the perfect presentation for you.
An exaggeratedly large stage: Although the Orla images impressively well, its space still is on the more intimate side. You’ll hear great width, as well as a defined black background. But, it’s not gonna be this theatrical, out-of-head experience that pricier in-ears will tend to offer. So, again, expect high imaging precision, but not a super-large, concert-like soundscape.