Little Dot Rad: What? Little Dot goes non-tubey!

Little Dot: What? Little Dot goes non-tubey!

Little Dot website

Rad: $70

From the website:

By coincidence, we acquired 6300 precious composite diaphragms. After pairing and screening, we made 2800 headphones out of them. Rad has outstanding performance and we want to share them with our valuable customers, and we believe this might be the best budget IEMs.

Rad (ᚱ) is the fifth rune in Elder Futhark, and it means journey. Little Dot thanks all the customer that have been with us, it’s been a true journey for us over these years! This is why we made this IEM, not for the profit, but simply praise those who have been with us during this journey. Meanwhile, we would like to invite more people to come along on this wonderful journey.

Specs:

Technical Spec:

Driver: 10mm composite diaphragm

Distortion: <0.01 @ 1000Hz

Impedance: 16 ohm

Plug: 3.5mm

Frequency Range: 15-20kHz

Sensitivity: 103+/-3 db

In The Box:

IEM

4x silicon tips

Shirt clip

Plastic round case

Pelican-like case

Gear Used/Compared:

TRN VX ($75)

Simgot EN700 Pro ($132)

Cayin N6 mk2

Shanling M6 Pro

HiBy R3 Pro

Songlist:

Joey Alexander-Warna album and others

Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes

Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

twenty one pilots album, Trench

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World

Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever

Unboxing:

The Little Dot IEM’s come in a very tasteful slender slick-black package, which clamshell opens from the right. Laden with the logo, and name on the front, there is a fairy not unlike Tinkerbell “anointing” the IEM name. I like it so far.

Opening the box reveals semi-soft foam holding both the round plastic case, and the pelican-like case on the right. The choice of two cases is nice but opting for the larger Pelican-like case won out for me every time. The left side shows the specs as well as an exploded view of the IEM itself, highlighting each model inside. Again, tastefully simple and elegant. This is most definitely a situation that I appreciate where less is more and done well.

From the Little Dot Cu Cen review: The Little Dot IEM’s come in a very tasteful slender slick-black package, which clamshell opens from the right. Laden with the logo, and name on the front, there is a fairy not unlike Tinkerbell “anointing” the IEM name. I like it so far.

Opening the box reveals semi-soft foam holding both the round plastic case, and the pelican-like case on the right. The choice of two cases is nice but opting for the larger Pelican-like case won out for me every time. The left side shows the specs as well as an exploded view of the IEM itself, highlighting each model inside. Again, tastefully simple and elegant. This is most definitely a situation that I appreciate where less is more and done well.

You are also met with a plethora of tip options. The copper cable attached is the only one I used. Manufacturers seems to either include more tips than you would need or not enough. Thankfully, this is the former and you should easily be able to find your right “fix.” That said, many will still tip roll. The unboxing experience is about what I expected here, not too much, not too little with a good choice of tips.

Fit-n-finish/build:

With a 10mm composite diaphragm, the Rad starts the show with a rather large dynamic driver. That’s OK in my book. Laden with a permanently attached 6N OFC cable, there is a more microphonic effect than I would like, and it got to the point where I had to pretty much sit still to listen. The cable is thin as well, and I took care not to snag it on anything even though that probably was not needed. This would not be the best choice for running or an active-based lifestyle unless you did something to the cable. The sound might be worth looking into that. That said, a nicely snug cinch strap is had above the y-splitter, which should help quell (and did) any microphonics.

The shell has a burnished aluminum look and could be mistaken for being sculpted from a single piece. Except that it has three. Not that bad a look either. Fit for the price. There are two vent holes, with one place inboard below the nozzle and one outboard on the same vertical plane (bottom side). Working in concert to aid the bass output, this is the bassiest of the four Little Dots, and could be used as “the draw” into audiophiledom. I did note a small bit of wear on that polished look, especially where the seams of the two “halves” come together. Something to think about as well.

Since we are talking about a $70 earbud, this is not of anything remotely poor in quality and on par with the many of the others in class. Plus, I had no problem with fit as it is an earbud-style IEM, lending itself to tip rolling and hence fit. It does stick out a bit with foam tips, though. Less so with silicon tips.

Sound:

Since the Cu Rad is tuned as the “entry point to audiophile listening” by Little Dot, it makes sense that the tuning of choice would mirror popular music. And it does. Bass-heavy of tune, and with pushed vocals, this is meant for hip-hop, pop, and popular tracks of the flavor. And in that regard, it does remarkably well. While the tuning might not favore Will’s favored, I appreciate this as I listen to a lot of twenty one pilots and other semi-pop along with my favored Dave Matthews as well as Santana, SRV and the like. And for those types of genres, the bass-oriented signature seems meant as the complimentary earbud. It is quite good, and bass reaches pretty deep. Deeper than any other offering from Little Dot. I like bass and I appreciate the way this is treated here. It does bleed more into the mids than the Cu Cen as one might expect from a single DD, even a composite one. To me that simply means the vocals, which by definition are higher in the mids come out on a more prevalent manner.

Tyler’s voice is such a treat with which to listen anyway, and here it definitely takes center stage. In a good way I might add. Male vocals overcome that potential bleed problem with a bit of aplomb, and I appreciate that. Changing to Erroll Garner’s Mambo Erroll from Campus Concert seems to be a bit out of sorts though. His sublime piano playing seems to get lost in that V-shaped signature, overcome by the big floor standing string bass. I still like the sound, but in the Simgot compared here, there is a much better synergy, which highlights the limitation(s) of the Rad. Moving on the Farewell Courtyard again, that is all but dispelled. Strong and powerful, the sound emanates that chosen genre well.

Thankfully, the lower treble adds to the good side of the mids. Not tedious, the songs, which promote that range sound pretty darn nice. Only when we move past that to the high end of the treble stage does it become tedious to these sensitive ears. This is something, which did not happen in the Cu Cen, so I will simply call it a limitation of price and driver tune. Not bad mind you, but it can become tedious at higher volumes for longer sessions. Some may be able to overcome this on a commute, but with the V-mids, you may need to raise the volume to make up for that. Good tip selection can counter this nicely and the foam tips I used did in fact overcome the pecking on my MBP keyboard (I hate this keyboard…). Only with softer songs such as Dave Matthew’s wonderfully melodic When I’m Weary did the microphonics and keyboard cacophony become bothersome. How did I overcome this? I sat back and listened while drinking a local Octoberfest Lager. Indeed, not a bad way to listen.

Soundstage/layering/instrumentation:

Going back to back with the Cu Cen, I found the Rad to have a wider width of stage, and refreshingly so it was good. Not that the Cu Cen is bad, it isn’t; but to find a comfortable wide soundstage at this price is a real treat. Depth while average does not get in the way of a slightly larger than average height. As a result, all seem to play nicely together, not stepping on any toes. Somewhat tightly packed are the layers, but that width stretches each layer enough to make it viable. Think of stretching dough, making it thin enough to work, but not enough to poke holes in and you get the point. A light airy baking mixture as opposed to the thick layers of a German Chocolate cake (sans coconut, blech…).

As listed above, the result gives decent instrumentation, and most can be discerned with a little effort. Only when complexity comes into play do you realize this is a sub-$75 earbud. But still much, MUCH better than those which come with your smartphone.

Comparison:

Little Dot Cu Rad ($70) vs TRN VX ($75):

I will state up front I am not a fan of the VX. It falls into the “typical” TRN signature too much. Trying to do too much all at once, the sound gets lost in the mixture. Some reviewers have played with filters and taping and tips to “make” the VX worth the listen. At this price, if a tip does not make for an adequate listening performance to me, then away it goes. I do not relish playing that much with a sub-$100 IEM. I just don’t.

And here is where alternatives give you the opportunity to recoup some of what you lost in the price of the other. Yes, you would be out the cost of the VX, but donate it to your local high school library for use. It will get used and enjoyed. Too bright for my tastes, it does have some merit in the mids, but the bass and vocals of the Rad win me over every time. Not the best, but more to my liking than the VX. That’s enough on that.

Little Dot Cu Rad ($70) vs Simgot EN700 Pro ($132):

The EN700 Pro was the second Simgot I reviewed after the superb EM5. I still use the EM5 and find that it is underappreciated greatly. The EN700 Pro follows in that same vein. With bass almost as deep, but of better quality than the Rad, I value that sound more. Vocals of Tyler’s voice come across in support rather than up front. Sparkle up top closes the deal for me. I get that holistic synergy found in few I have inhouse with the EN700 Pro. There is just something about it, that ticks all of the right boxes to me.

Yes, it is almost twice the price, but at this point, you may want to stretch your budget. Unique of look, sound that please me greatly and excellent build quality round out the package. Now if they would only increase the tactility of the cable and this may be the perfect (to me) IEM at this price. This is not necessarily a knock at the Rad, no but rather blushes for the Simgot and what spending a bit more can do. I could easily see someone having and using the Rad for commuting and the EN700 Pro for home use. They complement each other nicely, and all for around two Ben’s USD.

Finale:

Had I listened to the Cu Rad first when the foursome from Little Dot arrived, I would have most likely been thoroughly satisfied. At this price, it is quite competent ticking the boxes of my choice: affordable, bassy, good at vocals, and easy to take with you. Those can be very important to those who want a durable pair for commuting (which I often espouse even though my “commute” lasts all of 10 minutes and 3.75 miles by car) and one that does not break the bank. As Will stated, it is hard to review something, which is out of your comfort zone, and here is where I can fill that hole. I appreciate the tuning enough to warrant a recommendation, especially at the extra sale price of $64 right now. If you like solid bass, which reaches deep, but does not necessarily have the best quality along with vocals (especially male) that come out strong and vibrant; the Cu Rad should be afforded a listen. I like it, even though the rating won’t be that high overall. To me, it is worth a listen, and could very well be a decent commuting pair that may just be used for other purposes as well. Those who like todays pop, Kpop, and EDM might in fact find a new favorite. It works with those and hip hop as mentioned and you may not get the pair back if your significant other borrows them for a listen.

Again, many thanks to Ian and Little Dot USA for the samples. The opportunity to listen to another company’s wares is proving fruitful and fanciful. I appreciate the support.

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