oBravo ERIB-2a Review

This is a new earphone from a new company (new to me anyway) and it does something a little bit different.  You see its a hybrid set up, that’s been all the rage now for a while but this is different.  The drivers inside are one dynamic driver and one planar magnetic.  Yes it has a planar driver in them.  So how does this new configuration get on?  Read on and find out.

Thanks to the UK Loaner Tour for the loan.

First Impressions

Erm what the, so there come with a case it seems, yet that’s gigantic.  Hmm I suppose if you’re to fit your dap in there too it might be of use but really???  I mean I know it’s no great bother to buy a case of eBay but for a premium product it’s a silly omission.  Okay and what is with the metal spike things????  I’m thinking maybe its little stands for the silicon tips to sit?  I realise I have a loaner set so I presume someone though to put them in little baggies instead but even so, if that’s what they are for what a stupid waste.  Maybe I’m missing something that really can’t be what they are for is it??? Maybe they are tools for aiding in the extraction of the buds?  Bugger me they aren’t wanting to come out are they?  Okay this case thing, I’m really not loving it at all, oh Jesus Christ you can’t even remove the foam insert, are you serious???  If this was mine I’d be cutting the elastic strap that’s fastening it to the case but as it’s a loaner, well I cant.  Seriously though who thought this was a good idea and then who approved it???

So I’d say were off to a bad start aren’t we?  In the ears and oh god, the attached cables means the cable strain relief is huge.  So I can wear down, which I hate, or wear them up and look utterly ridiculous.  Again I’m thinking who decided this and then who okayed it?  Get those strain reliefs sorted ASAP.

Okay so eventually in the ears.  Sound wise, hmm.  They are alright.  I’m running off the little 1G Shuffle so while powerful for an itty bitty portable it’s not mains powered.  It’s pretty nice, reminding me of the RE-0 but with soundstage.  It’s pleasant, a little subdued and unaggressive.  Hmm I’d expected uber amazeballs treble and a bit in your face.  Hmm rather mellow actually, flavourless.  Most curious indeed.

Source

FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows

With their relatively highly open nature for an IEM you expect certain things.  Like an open headphone the eternal struggle between open verses closed and that battle continues here somewhat.  You get the lows, clean, articulate but they only go so far down before falling off a cliff.  I don’t mind that, I’m on the whole somewhat who sides with the open camp.  Here though, I was expecting planar super agility, lightning responsiveness and it just isn’t.  it’s not that it sucks but I look at the price tag and think, hey you had better be awesome and it just is not.  I can’t help constantly feeling that it’s as though I’m not quite supplying it enough power, that’s what it sounds like.  However I don’t think that is the issue, you see when playing out the Studio, a relatively cool, dry course its better.  It then feels more nimble and has a bit of an impact to it yet that price tag…….. sure it’s pretty reasonable but no matter how much I think diminishing returns this thing is £550. That’s US$765 and that’s even with the current absolutely terrible £/US$ exchange rate.

It is nice, it’s really rather good in absolute terms but all the things i reach for as comparable are mostly sitting around the £100 mark.  Sure its good but that price tag just sticks in my craw.

Mids

Nice.  Once more there is a certain expectation of lithe nimble agility that just isn’t there.  The mids are very nice, sweeping and mellow.  So much gentility it’s really very pleasant to listen to but it ever feels like there is a soft focus filter on.  Its rather odd as if you listen out you can detect lots and lots of detail but there is absolutely no immediacy to it.  I feel constantly there is something missing.  If your job is to listen to music all day every day and you need something that will be plainly accurate but very mild on the ear, these would work well.  However they are just so casually bland, so laidback they have no life to them.  Even with the Studio though they improve they still just sound so blandly mildly agreeable.  Pleasant and inoffensive.  I just cannot find any emotiveness in them.

Quantitatively they are over all rather flat, perhaps the most gentle of upside down U’s where the mids are a tiny touch ahead of the treble.  They are also somewhat more focused on the lower vocal ranges than the upper.  They can sound a little smooth and mellow.

Highs

Bland.  If you listen hard there is actually a ton of detail but its sooooo mildly gentle about its display.  So laidback, so lacksidasicle it’s boring.  God damn it I want to slap them in face to wake them up a bit.  It’s all just so mildly pleasant and inoffensive.  They really remind me of Spendor speakers.  Technically good but so unexciting they manage to suck the life out of everything.  I’m no treble head but these are so mildly bland.  Hmm I should really go fish out the SE420’s as compare.  I should but I’m not sure I can bring myself to.  Okay I did, and the 420 is much more middy.  Lol, it actually all sounds rather more excitable and active too.  Okay so the 2a has much more refinement in the treble, similar in quantity but lots more finesse.

Soundstage

Okay here they begin to do better.  Their openness really makes them sound expansive.  There is a relative acoustic vista before you and then I spoil it by pulling out the IE8’s.  Yeah that price tag, ouchy.

Fit

They are an annoyance.  They pretty much are designed so you have to wear them down, which I hate, or up with giant antenna sticking up.  Seriously did no one try wearing a pair of there over at oBravo?

Comfort

They were fine so long as I didn’t move.  They like to sit shallow which is unusual but I’m fine with that, it’s their wearing down that means they are constantly pulled on by the cable and that makes you constantly aware of them in your ears.  Not painful or anything but it was rather irritating.

Aesthetics

Erm well usually I love bare metal but these, I mean they aren’t “ugly” but they really aren’t lookers.  The likes of the Finder X1 or T20 next to these and well, these are not in the same league.  Then there is the cable attachments to them, yeah these are not my favourites.

Microphonics

Despite their shape I wore them up and it was fine.  Even wearing down there essentially none, probably due to the massive strain relief but wherever it is it works.

Amped/Unamped

Weird.  Out of the big amps, they felt like there weren’t being driven properly, like there was some acoustic veil over them.  Then the Studio injected a tiny hint of life to them but then moving down to the phones they moved back to the veiled.   It would appear that actual power output just doesn’t matter a jot but what does is the relative warmth or coolness of the source.  Frankly I find that rather odd and I really expected that given their planar nature they would be power hungry beasts but that does not seem to be the case.  I mean the bass got a bit fuller with a big amp but that was really about it.  Very curious indeed.

Isolation

So so.  They are very upfront in letting you know they are open IEM’s and naturally isolation suffers.  That isn’t a bad thing per say, it’s a choice.  It’s really not something I would choose to use out and about, I mean you could but with music playing you might be “that guy” on the bus blasting out tsch tsch tsch tsch to all those nearby.  Of course for you with music going you won’t hear stuff, like traffic, so you’ll still need to use your eyes when walking.  Just this maybe isn’t one for using in the Library unless you want everyone near you to hate you.

Cable

It is removable so I hope that means someone will make a cable with loss ridiculously long strain reliefs.  Otherwise it’s a nice, woven cloth covered cable.  Oddly no neck synch but otherwise it’s a perfectly nice cable.

Accessories

Well you get the box / case whatever thing.  That’s essentially useless, it is massive and has a gigantic foam insert (that you do appear to be able to cut out but as this is loaner, I’m not finding out.  You get a bunch of tips, a couple of ear guide things, and a 6.25mm to 3.5mm adapter that actually looks fantastic.  Then there is the weird metal things.  I think they are just so the tips can sit on in the case/box but with this being a loaner, the tips were all bagged and separate.  If they have some other purpose I’ll be buggered as to what it might be.  If however I’m right then seriously??????  What a ridiculous and pointless thing to include.  However I cannot for the life of me think what else they might be fore.

Value

Erm, yeah but well, no.

Conclusion

So I think it’s pretty clear that the ERIB-2a and I have not gotten along super well.  I get the impression there is so much potential in them, or maybe that’s my wishful thinking?  They have a planar driver in them for god sake!!!  These should be able to sing and dance on the head of a pin, they should move like lightning and be spectacular.  They however at present are none of those things.  It’s like oBravo have gone out of their way not to do the V shaped drama and have so mellowed them that they are so listless as to be practically comatose.  Could it be that its due to my having the middle one, the aluminium one rather than the “warm” wood version or the “cold” ceramic version?  I’d love to hear them both and see if they have mare sparkle and life to them because they should.

It’s a sad thing really, I know that the driver in here is able to pull out top teir detail levels but it’s tuned to be so meek and bland.  Then that price tag, just no, I’m sorry but no.  I feel like a school teacher writing a report card, I know they can do so much better but they just aren’t trying.

So would I buy one?  Nope.  With their present price tag they need to be something special and they aren’t.  They may have great potential but as is, the 2a version I have is competent and capable for sure, it’s also in absolute terms got VERY high audio quality.  However so do others and they are a damn sight cheaper.  A nice effort for sure from oBravo but next time, must do better.

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