I analyzed Dark Sky sound performance paired up with a neutral LPGT source while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. I let it burn in for at least 100hrs before I started taking my notes. Also, was using white stock eartips.
I hear Dark Sky to have a W-shaped signature with a clear and transparent tonality. The tonality
is not exactly bright where it becomes harsh or fatigue, but rather vivid and relatively accurate with a hint of musicality accompanied by a powerful bass impact which prevents it from being dry and lifeless. In a way, it allows you to analyze details of instruments and vocals in non-analytical way.
There is definitely a healthy presence of deep extended bass with a clean sub-bass rumble and a bouncy mid-bass slam. The bass is elevated, but it sounds very lean and articulate, with a fast attack and shorter decay. It doesn’t have a typical analog warm texture associated with DD drivers. Instead, it has a driving power of analog driver and technical performance of BAs.
Lower mids are neutral, not too lean, well separated from the bass and even contributing to some body in sound. But they don’t contribute to the coloring of the tonality, and instead have a clean and transparent sound. Upper mids have a more forward presentation, very clear and detailed, and surprisingly not too dry considering their level of detail retrieval. It was refreshing to be able to analyze every sound detail without dealing with a fatigue of analytical harshness.
Treble continues with the same clean and clear tuning, providing a decent level of clarity and sparkle without being harsh or grainy (I know, I keep repeating myself). It sounds extended, with plenty of airiness and moderate level of crunch. Treble has a well-defined and vivid presentation, which, again, I never found fatigue during extended listening sessions, but you have to choose the right pair of eartips which can make or break the sound.
The soundstage is approaching 3D holographic level with an excellent imaging and relatively accurate placement of instruments and vocals. This 3D expansion in width, depth, and height felt natural, not exaggerated, with layers of sounds being well separated.
Some wide-bandwidth single DD iems could sound completely incoherent, almost like a hybrid with a detached bass and mids/treble, while I found Dark Sky tuning to be balanced and more coherent. The bass still stands out on its own as a separate layer on top of clear and vivid sound presentation, but it also finds its way to blend in better with the rest of the spectrum. I found the tuning to work well with any genre of music I threw at it, though have to say, if you prefer a more organic warmer tonality and smoother treble, or more emotional musical mids, the tuning of Dark Sky might be too “clean” for you. And the same goes for if you want a neutral bass, Dark Sky is not for you.
The selection of eartips is crucial to any universal in-ear monitors and will affect the sound, especially the bass impact/quantity which depends on the seal. Due to a large opening of my earcanals, I usually go for the largest size eartips to get a better seal. Also, please keep in mind, eartips impressions are subjective and will be based on anatomy of my ears.
stock grey – v-shaped sound sig with deep extended bass and bright crisp treble, mids a slightly recessed, creating a perfect v-shaped response. In pair up with Dark Sky, I found wider cap size eartips to tighten the seal while enhancing the bass, and wider bore opening to brighten the treble.
stock white – w-shaped sound sig where the smaller cap size eartips relax the seal and give the bass a more balanced response. Also, brings up mids a little more forward, and shifts and attenuates down the lower treble peak. Narrower bore of these eartips makes upper frequencies more natural.
AZLA Crystal/Xelastec – shifts more toward v-shaped sound, even more bass impact and crisper treble than stock grey eartips.
Final Type-E – performance is between stock grey and white, deeper bass though not as elevated, and brighter treble, though a little less harsh.
SpinFit CP145 – w-shaped sound with deep sub-bass and more mid-bass impact and crisp lower treble. Imaging takes vocals slightly out of your head, putting them more forward.
Symbio F – w-shaped sound sig with a more balanced frequency response across the entire spectrum. Bass goes deep but not as elevated, mids sound natural and more forward, and treble has great natural definition without being crisp or harsh, definitely more natural balanced sound.
For my personal taste, I preferred Symbio F and stock white eartips with Dark Sky.
Cable pair up.
I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinion about it. It’s not my intent to change those minds. Instead, I’m just sharing what I hear during my testing. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, and unique geometry, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. If the talk about cables upsets you, please skip this section. Otherwise, enjoy these short impressions.
PWA 1960 4wire – more weight in bass (sub-bass rumble) and more body in mids. Good pair up.
PWA Monile ft 60 – very similar to stock cable.
Eletech Socrates – very similar to stock cable.
Eletech Aeneid – made upper mids and lower treble brighter.
Eletech Iliad – a deeper sub-bass rumble and smoother and more natural mids and treble. Liked this one a lot!
EA Code 51 – very interesting pair up since it didn’t alter the sound too much, but it added a layer of analog texture, taking a “digital” edge off the sound while still keeping its vivid presentation. A good one too!
EA Centurion – very similar to C51, but with a little crisper treble and airier extension.
PlusSound PPH8 – very similar to stock cable.
I think Dark Sky stock cable is great to begin with, but if you want to scale up the sound, Iliad was my favorite pair up here.