The newcomer Warbler Audio enters the market with a unique single driver CIEM
Trump vs Clinton. The Spiral Ears SE5 Ultimate ($1800 USD) is the king of airiness, serving up a wistful aftertaste to every note that lingers forever. In contrast the Prelude deliberately focuses on the primary colours, painting a beautiful weighty tone that pairs well with Frank Sinatra. The SE5U came in tops in two key categories in my first shootout: let’s look at each in turn. The SE5U treble places a strong emphasis on naturalness, smoothness and clarity. But while the Spiral Ears is a Bishop, the Prelude is a Knight- when one zigs the other zags. The Prelude is better on treble detail, ability to resolve complex treble passages and top-note speed. In soundstage the Prelude acquits itself relatively well, but still the SE5U edges ahead in imaging, staging size, and spatial microdetail.
For many owners, one of the key defining traits of the SE5U is its uncanny ability to present each note as an island, entire of itself. Every sound from the SE5U sounds like a raindrop, with well-articulated boundaries between wet and dry. Well, the Prelude comes close. It too is shaped like a water droplet- a slightly fuzzier one, but you can certainly hear what it’s going for.
The two have other similarities. Neither IEM is sinful. Both have refined, aged bass meant to be savoured and not chugged; and neither will give you a front row seat at your favourite metallic or rock concert (not that a true fan will need it, since I expect you on your feet). Both will instead appeal to a rather intellectual sort of audiophile. Classy.
In the end it may come down to this: what do you listen to? I’d pick the Ultimate for airy orchestral music, and the Prelude for Yo-Yo Ma. The Ultimate for live music, and the Prelude for Michael Buble. If you want to feel the venue, every nook, every cranny, few IEMs do it better than the SE5U. But if you want to soak in a bubble bath of emotions, sipping champagne and reveling in a dream of technicolour, then Warbler Audio’s Prelude is a fine choice indeed.
The Prelude is an outstanding freshman effort from the new company, Warbler Audio. They’ve spent a long time honing their sound, and it shows. With an emphasis on beautiful emotions and tonality, this is no IEM for the adrenaline junkie. If you’re the pensive, soulful, dare I say it- connoisseur type of music lover, the type who enjoys his Miles Davis and Anne Sophie Mutter in equal measure- then you’ll probably find a lot to like in this Turkish IEM.
Overall Score: 85-90 (Almost Perfect)