Ikko OH-1: Entry into a different realm

An entry into a different realm
Written by ngoshawk
Published 3 minutes ago

Pros – Affordable.
Build quality.
Good looking unit.
Fit.
Overall pleasant tonality.
Just a nice affordable sound.

Cons – Cable tangles.
“Case” is a flappy-thingy
Not much else except maybe tough competition at this price?

Ikko OH1($139): An entry into a different realm.

Thanks to Steve from Xtenik Audio for the use of the Ikko. All that was asked was to provide an open honest review. I would have it no other way. And as such, the unit may be returned at any time at the request of Xtenik. And as usual, I am late…apologies.

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Xtenik link : https://www.xtenik.com/product/ikko-oh1/

I recently read Pinky’s excellent prose regarding reviewers and the heat generated from those who are, I will put it subtly, jealous. You know, I value his opinion and warrant an agreement with that verbiage processed in his writings. In my humble reviewer opinion, he is second to none with regard to verbiage. One would be wise to listen to his words. I am but a small fry in the ever-increasing world of “reviewers” but what I profess is a true opinion of the unit at hand. I will agree that when one finds a unit, which does not necessarily fit your listening operandi you must work extra hard. There is a certain manufacturer of which I feel this pain. As such, I must try extra hard to discern the likes, lest I make it into a b*tch-fest of disdain. Thankfully that is not the case with the Ikko.

Another acquaintance, @wiljen had the OH1 well before me and espoused its virtues of trying to break the ChiFi mold of bright signatures and multiple drivers. Here, the OH1 uses a “simple” single Knowles BA and a single dynamic driver of 10mm variety. I for one appreciate that simplicity. To me, a company, which goes this direction can focus more on the tuning since there are fewer drivers involved. Think of it as a guitar/piano duet as opposed to an orchestra. I must immediately state that this works. This is a really good unit, with a fairly. Unique look and feel. I like it.

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Specs:

Balanced Armature: Knowles 33518
Dynamic driver: 10mm polymer composite titanium-plated diaphragm dynamic driver
Sensitivity: 106dB
Frequency range: 20-40kHZ
Impedance: 18ohm
Cable length: 1.2m
Connector: 2-pin 0.78mm
Cable type: 4 strands of 8 high-purity oxygen-free copper-plated 5n silver-plated



Gear Used/compared:

BGVP DM6 ($199)
BGVP DMS ($159)
Shanling ME100 ($89)

Shanling M5s
XDuoo x10t ii/iFi xDSD
Dethonray DTR1
Shanling M2x


Songs used:

Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

The new twenty one pilots album, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever


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Unboxing:

Coming in a typical white-sleeved box, the Ikko has a thicker than normal cover. Replete with the specs on the back, a simple picture adorns the front. I like it. Pulling the sleeve reveals a black box completed with sublimated Ikko label and logo. A stiff thicker-than-need-be envelope houses the warranty card and quick guide. Not bad. Underneath the envelope lies the IEM well protected on top, and six sets of silicon tips, “vocal” and “balanced.” Under that is a cutout housing the cable and the folding/snapped “case.” Soft but a bit small, the case is kind of refreshing to see, since it easily fits into pockets or the extra pocket of your DAP carrying case.

Overall pretty straight forward, but they at least included a case!


Fit-n-finish:

With a right-angled 3.5mm jack the protection is ample for bending and movement. Machine-wound, the cable is square and does not tangle. Nice to have this. An anodized metal splitter, with no cinch strap moves up the cable, leading eventually to the 2-pin cable complete with long over-ear guides. I typically do not like over-ear guides this long due to pinching, but this is a very nice mix of length and suppleness. I found no problem fitting the OH1 to my ear. I also like the blue ano color with the multi-shaped shell. Different, yet tasteful. Another appreciative applause from the crowd.

Using the medium balanced tips, the fit is very good, going deep into the canal, while providing a good seal. I like this. I have a couple of other IEM’s in-house currently and their fit is almost painful. Different shells, and different feel. This is good. I think what helps is that the rear part of the shell, on the inside is thinner, like looking down the hood of an old Triumph TR-8. Clean and shapely. No pressure was felt even with long. Listening sessions.


Initial:

As per my standard, I listen to check everything out, then place the critter on my Shanling M0 (ooppss…not this time as the Li-Ion battery seems to have quite the “full tummy” so M3s it was) for a minimum of 75hrs. Checking occasionally I found the sound as pleasant as first listen.

Currently listening to Lindsey Stirling through the Shanling M5s and Tidal Premium, I get excellent bass retrieval and depth of sound. Mids are a bit behind the scene, but not lacking on thickness. With rumble on Crystalize the violin sounds simply sumptuous, as the electric bass support gives the bass excellent depth and not overly rotund thickness. I prefer sound on the warmer side of life, so this is turning into a treat.



Sound beyond initial:

Moving on to a more in-depth look, I find the treble to be toned nicely, without too much up top. I fail to hear much sparkle, and do wish for a bit more, but the overall depth of sound more than makes up for it. This is almost luscious, but not syrupy. Thick with strength. I find myself turning the volume up with each song. Song Of The Caged Bird almost throws the lack of treble sparkle to the wind. The electric accompaniment aids in providing a forward sound, which tends to lead the way on this song. Her violin play moving. To the back slightly, like well…a bird in the cage sitting peacefully while you read your paper.

When one considers that the OH1 is the first iteration from Ikko, you begin to wonder why ALL ChiFi companies did not do this to start…


While I find the treble to be a bit polite, I find the mids to be pleasantly semi-robust. Not rich, not polite, but pretty straightforward and a good connection between the treble and rumbly bass. The Knowles is doing its job well by providing good sound stage and the treble/mid combo aid that. Separating of instruments is more fore/aft, than left/right. Not a bad thing, but instruments, which clearly need to be left/right for the music tend to get a bit lost. I do like the separation, so this isn’t a big deal. Transcendence comes through with vibrant color all the way portraying an eagerness of sound, that makes you feel like you are indeed changing with the music. This is a great video, and together the feel of the song is darn near perfect. The OH1 provides the inspiration for your ears in this regard. Follow that with Elements and you come full circle, revived and watching the show with renewed spirit.


The bass is the highlight of this show, though. That 10mm dynamic driver does its job exceedingly well. Rumble not felt. In many more expensive pairings, but without the overwhelming sound one can easily get from lesser tunings. That depth aids in providing a width of overall sound, which counters the separation aspect. There is most definitely some height with the sound stage, at times cathedral-like. But not so overwhelmingly high that one might fear the height. It is enough to provide the basis for instrumentation. I know earlier I mentioned the left/right separation but combine the sound stage and instrumentation and you can feel good about the overall signature. The more I listen, the more I appreciate the tuning. I would call it “energetic.” A lush lilt comes through with Shadows and you get the feeling of watching Stirling dance lightly on her toes throughout the song. Vibrant would be another good term, even with that “polite” tuning up top. A very good tuning of a single BA and single DD.

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Comparisons:

Ikko OH1 ($139) vs BGVP DM6 ($199):

Not really a fair comparison, as the BGVP is now on its 7th iteration, with much more experience in IEM’s. I have liked all BGVP’s I have tried, and quickly they became one of my favorite ChiFi manufacturers. Just good solid tuning and pleasant sound combined with good to excellent ergonomics.

The difference here is that compared to the OH1, the mids seem pinched and a bit bright. Bass has better control but does not go as deep. There is sparkle up top as well. The mids caused me to turn the sound down compared to the OH1. I will also grant separation is better on the DM6. There is a clarity that the OH1 lacks. That could come down to having more drivers, and different tuning, but the DM6 comes across brighter with a more analytical sound. I like it but prefer the bass leaning OH1 overall. The DM6 just seems a bit bright in comparison.



Ikko OH1 ($139) Simgot EN700 Pro ($145):

An older favorite of mine, the EN700 Pro surprised me with a good overall signature, even if it was tuned more to neutral ears. I found the mids to be good, with vocals supple and supportive of the sound. Bass while not as present but better under control gives the Pro an overall appeal for those who want a more neutral sound, which does not offend. This is a good commuting pair, with good isolation and a design, which does not draw much attention to itself in the all-black variant. It does have a unique “grill” pattern, but I even got used to that. Offering excellent fit, and a very good cable, the EN700 Pro still warms my cockles today. Almost rumbly it is.

I still prefer the OH1 due to that superb bass and a warmer tuning signature. But I would (and will) not kick the Pro out of the house due to the strength’s mentioned above.


Ikko OH1 ($139) vs Moondrop Kanas Pro ($189):

It may seem odd to include something, which costs half again what the OH1 does, but it is worth a look. At the sub-$200 price, I am hard pressed to find a better representation of an excellent all-arounder than the Kanas Pro. Excellent ergonomics, excellent fit, a superb supple cable, which takes on the look of an albino Corn Snake, and there isn’t much to dislike here. With an ergonomic fit, which is very good, it is on the bigger side for average-sized ears. I can listen, but not for the extended sessions that I can with the OH1.

Treble is almost too polite, and lacks the sparkle of say the DM6, but due to my lack of hearing up top, I do not mind. The KP is quite good, and another fine choice for a good middle of the road sound.

Mids are a bit behind the sound, but there is a certain clarity, which brings the unit up to speed. Less bass quantity than the OH1, but better control, the KP is the clear winner with regard to sound quality. But for my tastes, I still prefer the warmer signature of the OH1. Sorry, but it fits my tastes better than the three listed here. It just does.

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Sources:

The Shanling M5s is a favorite source of mine. My open unabashed love for Shanling gives me the ability to critically pick apart any discrepancies. I liken this to a love affair. Once you really love someone, you know their strengths, weaknesses, annoyances, & approvals. The same to me holds in DAP’s or almost anything. Thankfully, the Shanling/OH1 combination is one in which I like very much. That bass coming from the slightly north of neutral sound of the M5s works flawlessly with the OH1, and I get a very good sense of placement. Sound stage is above average, and clarity of the Shanling is quite good. While not on par with my Opus #2, or DTR1; it is still very decent and to me underappreciated. I could (and do) happily live with this combination for everyday listening. Using the combo on my walks and runs became a staple of my use; seamlessly letting me focus on the task at hand. The fit of the OH1 made for a quite enjoyable walk/run. And the Shanling fit into my armband without protest.

The Dethonray DTR1 on the other hand would be one I would most likely not take out on the runs/walks very often (I have since picked up a Shanling M2x for that purpose) but would because the sound is exemplary. The DTR1 still amazes me for pure sound quality. I find it hard to beat at the price (comparable to the M5s), and for pure sound an amazing value. If one can live without the frills, then this very well could be the one. Combined with the OH1, the pair is archetypal of a pair costing several hundred more. This is most definitely due to the DTR1, but many times the IEM cannot scale up with the increase in sound quality. Here it does and does so without fuss. I find myself reaching for the OH1 and another more often as a result. I still savor my TOTL IEM’s, but for everyday use, this is the most prosperous pairing I currently use.

I spent the least amount of time with the XDuoo/iFi combination because the DTR1 was so good. But knowing that for a little bit more the above pairing could be a competent replacement forced the issue. The ability to add bass and go 3D with the xDSD gives one the ability to receive a sound, which is almost the same as balanced, adding that holography, which balanced does. Here it does the same, but is a bit more subtle. I’m not sure if that was a limitation of the OH1 or not, but it did not hinder a sound, which to me was second to the DTR1. To me, the x10t ii is on par (very close) to the DTR, when run singularly through. A competent amp such as the iFi’s I use. Taken in that vein the combination would be an extraordinary example of a portable go-to triumvirate. With the ability to tailor sound more than the others, this would be a commuter’s dream. Excellent battery life, excellent sound, and affordable IEM’s to boot. The sound, which would hover in my ears during that commute would be rich, full of bass and have that added layer of holography, which would fill the volume of commuting choice. Need more mid-presence? Dial in the 3D. Less bass? Turn the xBass off. I found the stack combined very well, and as per my statement above regarding the DTR1 have made the OH1 a regular in that listening cycle.

Coming late to the party was a recently purchased Shanling M2x. Even though I have the M5s, which can stream Tidal and use it for my walk/runs; I am wary of using something so dear to me in case of some “happening.” As a result, the M2x is now my most regular when walking/running due to having what I will call 75% of the M5s sound, at 50% of the price. A very fair trade-off in my book. With less richness, the sound of the M2x is not as “thick” or detailed as the M5s, but that is to be expected. Using one less chip, there is less electronic magicry going on. I did not find myself suffering too much as a result. I found the sound of decently presented vocals, combined with an unobtrusive treble to be quite acceptable and this has quickly moved up my food chain of listening. Plus, to note that the combination can be had for less than the price of either the M5s or DTR1 is astounding. An excellent and affordable pairing for all-around use. I applaud both.



Conclusion:

Many have moved on to the OH10 and almost forgotten the OH1. This is a place where, as a slacker-reviewer I can reinvigorate the presence of a very good IEM or other piece of gear. Knowing the quality of sound presented here makes me wonder indeed what the OH10 sounds like (very, very good according to numerous outlets), while still reveling in the OH1. The fit is among the best I have tried. The cable is quite acceptable as well. I love the off-centered look of a shell from the ocean. Interesting stuff. But it is the sound, which keeps me coming back. The bass is taut, present and not overwhelming at all. There is no muddiness or congestion. The mids ring true, with female vocals sounding especially impressive and the treble hits at the right spot for me. Not much sparkle, but no over-exuberance either. It does not hit peakiness. There is the right amount of lift and one, which I can listen to for long sessions without fatigue.

Overall, the OH1 is a very impressive package. One I can highly recommend and not feel bad about doing so. This is a keeper and an entry into the Ikko brand for which I am thankful. There is another brand of which I have heard their “entry” model, and I hold both in the same regard, tops at this point and a bit upward. If these are the entry level models now, I can only. Imagine what the higher models sound like. I will have to find a pair of the OH10 and find out.


Thanks to Steve and Xtenik for the sample Ikko OH1. It is understood that the unit may be asked for at any time but is mine to keep otherwise. This is a really fine unit, and I recommend a listen.

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