The comparison was done using Advar with stock cable and LPGT source; volume matched in every comparison.
Advar vs Meze Rai Penta – This was a very interesting comparison because of similarities and differences between these two Meze Audio IEMs. First of all, the soundstage expansion is quite similar between these two. Then, from the sub-bass and throughout mid-bass and lower mids they sound very similar. Going into upper mids is where Rai Penta pushes the sound level higher and more forward, scaling up between 1k-3k, giving vocals more forward presentation relative to Advar. But then, Rai Penta scales down and starts to roll off the treble earlier, which makes its treble sound smoother and reduces airiness and layering between the sound. In comparison, Advar brings more energy to lower treble which gives the sound higher resolution and more open airiness. If you want to extract more microdetails from the sound, Advar will be a better choice, while Rai Penta gives you a more natural and smoother tuning at the top.
Advar vs FAudio Dark Sky – Both of these single DD iems have a shallow insertion and require a thorough eartips rolling to find the right pair in order to keep lower treble under control. To start off with soundstage/imaging comparison, it is very similar with both offering a very wide/deep soundstage with 3D holographic imaging. Bass is more elevated in Dark Sky, scaling up the impact and the rumble. But what I found interesting, while the bass is stronger in DS, I don’t feel like it has more weight. This is due to Dark Sky mids and lower treble being more forward, and its treble being brighter and a bit more piercing, thus tilting the scale of balance which takes away from Dark Sky bass impact. While there are many similarities, Advar mids and treble do sound more natural, still clear and revealing, but a bit less analytical. That last change is the biggest difference between their tunings.
Advar vs Final Audio A8000 – In this comparison the difference will be more noticeable, though both are following a similar tuning with a vivid presentation of the sound. Starting off with a soundstage, I do hear Advar spreading a little wider left/right, while both have the same depth expansion. Both have a bass with a deep sub-bass rumble, but Advar sub-bass is more elevated. The biggest difference in bass comes from mid-bass where A8k is a lot more neutral and not as elevated in comparison to a stronger punch of Advar. Also, lower mids of A8000 are leaner, below neutral level of Advar. Going into upper mids, tuning is reversed where A8000 has more pinna gain, pushing mids more forward in 2k-3k region which also makes them more analytical while Advar mids/vocals sound more natural in comparison. Lower treble also peaks earlier in A8k which can bring some sibilance to poorly recorded tracks. But in general, both have more energy and presence in lower treble, though Advar keeps it under a tighter control.
Advar vs Sennheiser IE800s – I know many are probably going to ask about the comparison with the latest IE900, but I don’t have it, only IE800s, which apparently is still quite popular with many audiophiles (based on the comments and questions I receive). When it comes to a soundstage, both have a similar depth, while Advar has more width, spreading wider left/right. Mids tuning is quite different, with IE800s being more pulled back in comparison to a more forward Advar mids. As a matter of fact, IE800s peaks at around 1.5k and then rolls down, missing the pinna gain of Advar boost around 3k. As a result, Advar vocals have better clarity and higher resolution, while IE800s vocals sound a lot smoother and with a thicker body. Furthermore, IE800s lower treble is also scaled down, just having more emphasis in mid-treble. As a result, Advar sound has more presence and clarity. Coincidentally, when I looked at the FR of IE900, that lower treble area was lifted to give the sound more clarity, which could actually bring it closer to Advar level in treble tuning.
Source pair up.
Advar is easy to drive considering its 111dB sensitivity and 31ohm impedance. No hissing was detected which is typical for single DD iems. For your reference, here are my brief pair up notes. And by brief, I just focus on any changes related to a sound sig and general tonality, without going into too many details of technical performance difference.
Lotoo LPGT – I usually start off with it as my baseline neutral pair up where I found Advar to have a balanced sound, deeper bass, clear detailed mids, and energetic well controlled treble.
Cayin N8ii – I started with my usual P+/Tubes/Class AB setting and got hit with a dose of lower treble energy, was a bit too much for my ears, so I played with settings and found a sweet spot with P/Tubes/Class A. With this new setting, I was able to reach a tuning perfection with a punchy deep bass, natural detailed mids, and natural-revealing treble.
Sony WM1ZM2 (dsp effects on) – I hear a mildly U-shaped signature with a natural detailed tonality. Deep punchy bass, natural detailed mids that are pulled back just a bit, and crisp energetic non-fatigue treble.
Shanling M9 – The sound signature is balanced, but upper mids and lower treble are quite bright in this pair up. Not a good synergy to my ears.
Hiby RS6 (w/Erlkonig preset) – A perfectly balanced sound sig with a natural detailed tonality. Mids/vocals have fuller body with a perfect tonal balance across the entire frequency range. Bass is punchy, and treble sounds quite natural. Liked this pair up a lot.
iBasso DX240 w/amp8ii card – Here the sound is a little more v-shaped due to more lift in sub-bass and extra energy in lower treble. Btw, treble is not harsh, just has a bit of a lift together with more forward upper mids.
Cayin RU6 + Galaxy S22 – I probably saved the best for last. Tonality is similar to LPGT with just a little more body in the lower mids which gives the sound a more natural tonality and makes the treble sound smoother. Great pair up synergy.
It probably feels like I turned the Intro of this review into the Conclusion with my discussion about eartips. I addressed it in the Intro because some people already made up their mind after auditioning Advar at CanJam SGP, missing out on full potential of what these hi-res audio nuggets can deliver. While having a unique shape, Advar has a shorter nozzle and shallower fit, making the eartips selection crucial not just for comfort and isolation, but also to make sure lower treble is non-fatigue and overall tuning is more balanced.
The included Type-E eartips are high quality, but it might not work for everybody, like it didn’t work for me. But once you invest some time into tip rolling to find that sweet spot, you will be rewarded with a balanced sound signature and clear revealing non-fatigue tonality. The high level of clarity and detail retrieval was impressive, and sound sig was nicely balanced with a deep textured bass extension and natural revealing mids/vocals. If this is a type of tuning you are looking for, you should give Meze Audio Advar a serious consideration!