Since we are dealing with Dynamic and Planar Magnetic drivers, without even an ounce of hesitation these IEMs went straight for 200hr burn in, while I was periodically checking it throughout that time. Based on my previous experience of dealing with either dynamic or hybrids IEMs, burn in is always effective to tame down or to tighten the low end impact. With ERIB1C it was a different story. The first thing you hear is a flawless mid-centric performance with a very natural neutral tonality and a mid-forward sound signature which has an infinite extension in both ends of the spectrum. I hate using cliché terms, but listening to these IEMs felt like the flow of a pure water: coherent, effortless, very transparent, and highly resolving without any shrill or harshness and absolutely zero coloration. So, why a different story with ERIB1C burn in? Because the bass remained neutral, regardless of burn in hours.
Starting with a low end, it’s all about quality rather than quantity. Bass is neutral, and I mean NEUTRAL. I don’t think I ever heard a neutral quantity of rumble, until now. I hear the rumble, but I don’t feel it. With mid-bass, I hear a fast punchy bass which has every characteristics of BA drivers, from a fast attack to a shorter decay, and yet we are talking about 12mm Neodymium dynamic driver with a tight and fast bass response. Since my review unit had a ceramic front shell enclosure, the bass is more neutral while the aluminum version should have a different low end response, giving more body and stronger punch to the bass, based on what I have been told. I actually found the bass to respond quite well to EQ, especially when dealing with Parametric EQ adjustment where I tuned it to perfection when boosting 30Hz by +3dB and 60Hz by +6dB. Of course, everyone’s taste will differ. If you like warm body musical sound and prefer more bass slam, ERIB1C might not be for you, probably better look into A models. C models are more for purist who want to focus on bass quality, rather than quantity.
Moving on to mids, lower mids are very neutral, as expected, but also super transparent which makes you forget that you are dealing with a hybrid where you have a dynamic driver with planar magnetic tweeter. Besides the fact that DD driver performs like BA, it’s nearly impossible to spot the crossover point of this hybrid. Maybe that was a reason why oBravo choose to implement Neodymium driver which sounds leaner and will blend in better with PMD tweeter. Either way, they accomplished their goal because I don’t hear that transition, I don’t hear 2 separate drivers which have a different technology behind them. Instead, I hear a one smooth single driver coherency. Upper mids are pushed forward, relative to the low end, and have a lot of clarity and details. They are layered and very revealing, but not harsh or analytical. And I can’t say either that they are smooth or natural. Perhaps “realistic” and “effortless” would be a better way to describe it. I would be lying if I say that I don’t miss extra body in the sound, the “body” part in here is lean, but once you start listening, your ears adjust to that and you just get sucked into the sound.
Treble is also full of clarity and airiness, with a nice crisp details, yet never sibilant or harsh. Just like I felt with sub-bass extension going deep (yet, staying neutral), that’s exactly how treble feels at the top end of the spectrum, having this infinite well controlled extension with a great definition. The mids effortlessly transition into treble and continue their sound flow.
Due to an impressive transparency of the sound, the layering and separation of instruments and vocals is very good. You can easily distinguish every piece of instrument, and never have to worry about sound being congested.
The same goes for soundstage expansion with nearly holographic 3D quality, very wide and open soundstage that feels like an open back performance. In theory, ERIB1C have a semi-open design but feels like a performance of fully open full size headphones. The staging was super wide, yet didn’t feel artificial, and the depth was not very deep and still not too intimate, somewhere in between like you are a few rows in front of the stage rather than too close or too far away.
Along with soundstage and sound separation, ERIB1C imaging has a good placement of instruments and vocals with a rather accurate positioning where you can pin-point each one. The positioning itself was very convincing and natural.
Usually, I don’t have to think twice when it comes to comparison since I have a rather extensive review collection of different IEMs and some full size. The unique nature of ERIB mid-forward, neutral bass, and holographic staging semi-open design puts it in a position where it would make no sense to compare it to warm or bassy monitors. Instead, I picked a list for comparison with both IEMs and full size that will help me paint a better picture of ERIB1C sound. In every comparison I tried to volume match and used LPG, DX200, and Opus#2 as my sources.
ERIB1C vs ES60 – ER has a wider staging, while the depth is similar. ER bass extends a little deeper, but at the same time sub-bass is very flat, while ES has more rumble. With mid-bass, they have a similar fast punch (surprisingly for DD of ER), while ES impact is a touch stronger. Lower mids are neutral in both, while ES has just a little more body while ER is leaner. Upper mids in ER are super transparent and layered, while ES is a little smoother and a bit warmer in comparison. With treble, ER extends further, has more airiness, while both have the same level of sparkle. Overall, ER sounds more mid-forward/neutral while ES is more neutral-balanced with a slightly smoother/warmer signature.
ERIB1C vs Zeus XRA – ER has a little wider/deeper soundstage in comparison to Zeus, both have a rather open sound. ER has a touch deeper sub-bass extension while Zeus has a touch more rumble with a slightly more impact in mid-bass. Both have a neutral bass, but with Zeus and 1960 cable I’m able to improve bass impact while ER is judged based on its default cable. Lower mids are neutral in both, very similar, while upper mids are a little more forward in ER while Zeus is more balanced. I feel ER mids are a little more transparent. Both have an excellent treble extension, airy and crisp, but not harsh or sibilant. These two have a lot of similarities despite the fact one is DD/PMD hybrid while the other one is 14xBA.
ERIB1C vs UERR – ER is a little wider, while depth is similar. Even so ER bass extends a little deeper, I feel sub-bass here is similar while UERR has a little stronger mid-bass punch. Lower mids are nearly the same, while upper mids are a little more forward in ER. Also, I hear UERR mids being a little smoother while ER still have an upper hands in transparency. I also hear ER to have a little better treble extension, though both have a similar level of airiness. Overall, UERR feels just a little smoother while ERIB has a little better extension at both ends and more transparency.
ERIB1C vs T5p2 – ER has a little wider soundstage, similar depth. T5p2 has more rumble and weight in low end punch while ER is more neutral and extended. T5p2 lower mids have a little more body, while ER is more neutral. While ER upper mids are a little more forward, these two strike me as having a similar level of transparency, especially when it comes to vocals. And the same goes for treble extension, feels like both have plenty of airiness and a great extension without any sibilance or harshness. I’m using T5p2 with Alpha Dog earpads which add more warmth to the low end and more body to the sound. With original earpads, T5p2 bass gets closer to neutral level of ER, just with a little more punch.
ERIB1C vs A2000z – ER has a wider soundstage, similar depth. A2kz has a similar sub-bass while mid-bass punch is a little stronger in comparison. Also, A2kz has a little more body in lower mids. ER upper mids sound more natural, though a little more forward in comparison to A2kz which is slightly harsher. But still, both have a nice level of transparency. ER treble also has a better extension, while both have the same level of airiness. Again, the level of transparency in A2kz reminded me a little bit of ERIB but still, ERIB is smoother and more extended at both frequency ends.
ERIB1C vs EL8C – ER has a wider soundstage, while EL8C has a little more depth. EL8C has more mid-bass punch, and ER bass still has an excellent quality and extension, but lacking some quantity in comparison. Lower mids are very similar, neutral, while upper mids have a very similar level of transparency and layering. Just that ER mids are a little more forward, while EL8C is just a little harsher with some metallic sheen, depending on DAP pair up. Treble is very similar in both, crisp, airy, extended. It was interesting to compare a full size planar magnetic EL8C to a scaled down PMD where there are similarities in mids and treble, and still ERIB manages to never cross a threshold of harshness, staying neutral and transparent.
I’m sure many will ask, where is iSine20 comparison? After all, that new PMD (not hybrid, but only planar magnetic driver) IEM release got a lot of attention. I spent a little bit of time with iSine20 during the latest CanJam NYC, so I only have a few impressions where going by memory I found iSine20 to sound quite different from ERIB1C, being a lot warmer, with more bass and less resolving mids. Also, I found soundstage to be spread even wider left/right with less depth. Comparing ERIB1C to iSine20 is like comparing EL8C to PM3, similar technologies with a different sound signature to target different audience.
In this review section, instead of going through individual pair up analysis, I decided to have a more general overview.
I found a sound of ERIB1C to scale up with high res sources, such as DX200, LPG, and Opus#2 which bring up a better layering, separation, and more transparency. Going with a more analytical source like X7 thins out the sound, and warmer sources like L5Pro, AK120ii, i5, X5iii, and PM2 added more body to the sound while taking away some of the transparency. Also, it responds very well to EQ and digital effects, but need a more precise EQ tuning. For example, a typical paragraphic EQ can lift the bass but it wasn’t as transparent because mids were also affected. LPG Parametric EQ was more precise in the adjustment with a cleaner mid-bass lift and upper mids reduction. Or in another example, L5Pro doesn’t have adjustable EQ, only a few genre specific presets where “Classic” one slightly lifted the bass while reducing upper mids which turned the sound into a perfection with a more neutral-balanced signature. I was also pleasantly surprised while using my Note 4 smartphone. Though the sound became smoother and lost some of the transparency, I was able to boost the low end while still keeping a clear, detailed, and neutrally balanced signature.
The best fine-tuning adjustment probably goes to Plenue M2 with its JetEffects. BBE+ brought back the transparency, while MachBass did a very clean low end boost, and I was able to use its semi-parametric EQ with a little boost around mid-bass to tailor the sound to my exact liking. LPG also gave me a precise fine tuning with its Parametric EQ where I boosted 30Hz +3dB, 60Hz +6dB, and reduced 6kHz -3dB to make the sound more balanced with a little more body and a noticeable improvement in mid-bass punch.
Overall, I have no complains about any of the pair ups. ERIB1C semi-open design gives you a wide expanded soundstage with majority of sources, and the bass remained neutral even with warmer sources. Also, 16 ohm impedance with 102 dB sensitivity yielded a hiss-free performance with most of the sources. I didn’t have a choice between C and A models, so the question still remains how aluminum shell would affect the bass performance. Personally, I’m not a big fan of using EQ, but had a lot of fun with ERIB1C tweaking the sound. As a result I was able to shape ERIB1C sound to perfection where I didn’t even care about Ceramic vs Aluminum.
When I was waiting to receive ERIB1C, I was looking forward to test the new tech of the first PMD/DD hybrid. Upon receiving it, it took me a little by surprise because I’m coming off a lot of recent reviews of warmer IEMs. It triggered the initial reaction where I felt something was missing. But once I started listening, I became addicted to the sound. I’m well aware of brain burn in where after the extended listening period you can get used to any signature. Thus I intentionally went back and forth between different IEMs, to make sure my “brain” stays alert, and to my surprise that addiction only grew stronger. The sound is so open and expanded, it fools you into thinking you are listening to a full size open back headphones. The transparency of the natural resolving tonality also strikes you with purity of zero coloration. This particular 1C model lacks the warmth and the low end impact, but we are talking about bass quality rather than quantity, and it was the first time where I was eager to start tweaking the EQ.
Overall, I don’t think ERIB/EAMT can be considered as all-rounder IEM to rule them all. Instead, it has a very unique sound signature and hybrid design which can compliment any audiophile collection. Today we have a lot of flagship IEMs where the BA count goes as high as 18, and also a handful of single DD flagships as well as some high end hybrids. I can’t think of another 2way hybrid IEM design with Planar Magnetic and Dynamic drivers, plus the flexibility of choosing DD size and earcup enclosure material. But it’s not only about the unique design and technology behind it, but also the coherency of tuning where it felt like one ultra wide bandwidth driver with a natural, detailed, and very transparent sound. Perhaps, the only way to top it off if oBravo R&D ever going to come up with a way to have a bass boost switch. I hope they can surprise us in a future!