DDHiFi Janus ($199): From these beginnings, what cometh?

DDHiFi Janus: From these beginnings, what cometh?

Pros: Svelte shape
Excellent build
Sound fits many genre (esp with the ability to use different cables)
The ability to use either MMCX or 2-pin
Sound that does not offend in any of the three areas (which could be good for those who like a nicely balanced signatures)

Cons: Tough market
Better seal when wearing over-ear
Sound that does not offend in any of the three areas (which could be bland to some)
Not much else.

DDHiFi Janus ($199): From these beginnings, what cometh?

Janus

Roman God Janus

Since my last installment from DDHiFi, the company has changed the packaging a bit. Known for the bamboo boxes, complete with a small amount of stripped fiber-like paper to hold the unit in place inside the box, they have worked to reduce their impact. The boxes were a unique trick, and much appreciated, but I would also imagine that the change in packaging is better for the environment as it is made from recycled paperboard and good for the company cost-wise. I do not fault them at all.

The company has their stuff together. Period. As such, they seem to be innovating items at a rapid pace, often giving us audiophiles a solution to a problem we did not know yet existed. Or did in small numbers. One need only look at their website to see the diverse nature of their products and ingenuity. As a result, it was only a matter of time before they jumped into the IEM market. Several early review samples were sent to associates, and I opted for a finished product, as my help would be none with regard to tuning. Those more versed in ear discerning would be the mules. I received the finished product. The company also has some visions on the horizon as well and I look forward to those with as much anticipation as the products in hand. A small part of this review will be devoted to the Cayin N6ii mk2 case, which was also sent. Look for a deeper review for that along with other accessories forthcoming.


Specs:

  • Driver: 10mm Dynamic Driver
  • Diaphragm: Composite
  • Impedance: 32ohms
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 97dB

In the box:

  • Janus IEM (E2020A)
  • Forest cable (BC120A)
  • 10 MMCX plastic dust covers
  • 2 sets silicon tips bass and treble type (3 each, s, m, l)
  • Earphone storage case (C80B)
  • Magnetic cable clip (C10B)

*Optional: Air cable (BC120B)-included for me

Gear used/compared:

BQEYZ Spring 2 ($169)
IKKO OH-1 ($150)
Oriolus Finschi ($190)
Simgot EN700 Pro ($150)

MacBook Pro/iFi Zen CAN
MacBook Pro/Earmen TR-Amp/Sparrow
Questyle QPM
Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6ii mk2 (w/ DDHiFi case, C-N6II retail $20usd)



Songs used:

Tidal MQA
Whatever pops up including but not limited to:
Twenty one pilots
Santana
Big Head Todd & The Monsters
Van Morrison
Mark Knopfler
Jethro Tull

Unboxing:

DDHiFi has somewhat refined or redone their box effort, to include more recycled material. I do love the wood box, but completely understand. Sliding the lid off the box, you are met with the blue unique monitor case, and another, which houses the accessories listed above. Nothing fancy, and quite tasteful in their restraint.

Opening the magnetic flaps on the blue case yields a fairly cavernous opening where you can hold the monitors and cable with wrapping of the cable. I did try and fit my Shanling M0 in as well just for fun. It did not work. The case is a solid square, which is quite protective of the items inside. Almost the right size to fit into your pocket. Almost.

Fit-n-finish/build:

Following the shape of their adapters, DD made the Janus look like an adapter on steroids. But in a well-build way, not just bulk for bulks sake. Proportionally, it works. I find the size small enough to be not only light, but on par with the excellent Dunu Luna with regard to handling. Unfortunately, both suffer from the same fit issue. I was hard put to find a proper seal with the Janus unless I utilized a one-size-too-big-for-me Comply. A silicon of similar proportions also worked, but the Comply brought the Janus closer to my preferred signature.

I do like that you can see the innards of the Janus (I used to loathe that aspect, but thankfully manufacturers took note and actually made them of an industrial-artistic quality, enhancing the experience. One might think that an earbud made of so many parts was asking for trouble in the finish department, but I have learned from the beginning that DDHiFi takes their build quality very seriously and the work is almost flawless. Thje piecing together is in fact nie on perfect. The gold finish of the inner shell seems a bit off, but with all of the curved surfaces, I can forgive a minor unevenness of color, especially when the gold is not garish gold, but subdued.

With vent holes all around the curved part of that inner shell, the Janus is allowed to breath and breath freely when it comes to venting for sub bass purposes. Of tubeless design (a nice feature coming along at a good time for many manufacturers), you can see the sheet filament not unlike an incandescent bulb or tube. But this one does not light up…that would be really cool, but raise its own problems… Ending in either mmcx or 2-pin, the Janus is of a very good build to me, except I would wish for a bit longer nozzle as this may help address fit issues. No matter, fit was good, it was isolation that is average at best to my average sized ears.

A single 10mm dynamic driver rules the roost, with a nominal impedance of 32 ohms, and a sensitivity of 97 db/mW. Somewhat harder to drive than some, easier than others. The shape of the shell definitely helps to tailor the most out of the sound emanating from within. I am in agreement with @Wiljen and @B9Scrambler in that a quality amp helps get the most out of the unit. A word here…on some forums of late there has been a push of MEGA-watts to get the most out of an IEM/earbud. While properly driving the headphone is of paramount importance, matching the unit with a quality amp is what matters more to me. And whether that be the $50 FiiO A5 or the $300 EarMen TR-Amp, it does not matter. It comes down to what you feel sounds the best. Properly driving a headphone counts, but less so than how it is driven. 600bhp through a Miata is ludicrous. 250bhp is more than adequate and can make the Miata sing on pretty much any twisty road out there. Enough on that.

Sound:

Since the after-market Air cable was included, I ordered that in 4.4bal 2-pin knowing I have devices, which have that jack. The Forest cable came with 32.5bal mmcx, so I could garner both aspects of use. The Shanling M6P has all three types of jacks, and the Zen CAN has 6.35se and 4.4bal. the EarMen Sparrow has 3.5se and 2.5bal, so I was able to utilize all three types of jacks, especially when using the DDHiFi (DJ44B-4.4bal female to 2.5bal male and DJ35AG 2.5bal female to 3.5se male) adapters as well. I will also admit here that the majority of my time was spent using the excellent Air cable but will treat each cable separately below. The Air works better as an over ear while the Forest works better as an earbud-type of cable. But since both are balanced cables, the sound seemed fairly close

Forest:

Pastel colors are in vogue, and that is all right. From cars to rooms and headphones, colorful pastels are coming back into style. Made of two-wire OCC copper, and as per usual with DDHiFi, overbuilt. Not monstrously heavy, but not svelte like some. It fits and lays well, while not tangling. Coming with the MMCX connectivity, the connection is easy and does not stick like some. I have actually pulled the wire out of a sample from another manufacturer whose MMCX connection was that of a vice grip. Connecting is one thing, holding on to it like the Hulk is unnecessary… Two wires come out of the straight jack wrapped fairly loosely and split at a flat y-splitter. The cinch strap is also flat but works easily while staying put to protect the single cables, after they split. A thick poly coating keeps the cable protected, plus it looks good as well.

Playing the Janus (the beginning) through the iFi Zen CAN and my MBP Music, Alex Fox’s guitar work sound subtle and full. With both XBass and 3D on, the Forest is provided a robust holography of opportunity. Subtle still comes through, but with an added bass that may be missing. Switching both off to get the “real” story, the Janus provided a laid-back competent sound. Wearing the Forest down (as opposed to overear with the Air), the bass comes across as clean and fairly fast to me. There is not the deep reaching rumble of some, but the support provided by that lower third does play nicely, with only a hint of bleed into the lower mids to me. With adequately fast decay, the bass neither shouts “look at me!” to you, nor does it hide; providing just the right amount on this occasion.

Guitar work such from Guitar On Fire is present and almost dead center. No lifting above the centerline here, it is almost like the mids were meant to tie both ends together. Detail retrieval remains high here, with male vocals coming through but without taking front stage. Maybe center stage, but again in support of the whole. Vocals such as on Chuco’s Cumbia come across as rich and semi-vibrant, giving a smooth transition across the spectrum. One could almost call it too laid-back, but again those male vocals support the whole of the sound. Bass saxophone provides the right depth off in the wings, as does the bass guitar the other way. Percussives sit slightly behind center, like they would on stage, giving a nice realism to the performance.

Cowbell and cymbal clashes highlight the treble on the above-mentioned song, and when that audience member shouts from the far left, I do get some tingles. She times it perfectly, and it was like she was part of the show. She will be immortalized as such and the song remains one of my all-time favorite live versions. Good gawd, Los Lobos are phenomenal. With a slight rolling off up top, I appreciate the tuning as it is neither too bright nor too sparkly. This can be a fault as well, as the cymbal clashes of twenty one pilots Guns For Hands lack that energy the song provides and deserves. Tyler’s voice seems a bit too hushed as well to me. For once I would have liked a bit more energy up top, even if I appreciate the rolling off for my tender ears.

Still on the Zen CAN, without additions, the soundstage is broadly wide with very good height. Tyler’s voice seems to float higher and higher throughout the song, playing like Peter Pan flying about the stage. The piano accompaniment comes along for the ride, and you get a broad brushstroke of stage, which belies the lack of depth when compared to height and width. Not the best stage, and certainly not the worst as defined by Holding On To You.

As is often the case with a single DD, layering and instrumentation can be difficult to fully represent (think of a fine 2-way speaker, there’s a reason the bass driver has an accompanying tweeter), but I have a soft spot for well-defined single dynamic drivers. Not the best at presenting the overall picture, but a valiant try and the Janus represents the realm well.

As a result of the above-mentioned fares, the Janus provides the user with a fairly laid-back signature highlighted by good speed across the spectrum, but not lightning fast. For to me if it was faster, that might destroy the rich, warm tonality provided. This is a fine IEM, which can play across genre.

Air (BC120B):

Made of four-wire OCC, the Air is a premium cable, which can also be had as part of a combo purchase. One I would highly recommend, which only adds roughly $50usd to the price. With stabilizing buckles every 40cm, the cable does not tangle, while keeping the wrap tight. Both the Air and Forest lie nicely and are supple of character. Just like DD gets their adapters right, the cables are as well.

Immediately noticeable to me is an increase in bass quantity. Subtle, but noticeable, the reach is deeper with a bit more punch. Soundstage also opens as the reach up top pulls you a bit higher as well. Wearing this overear, this is my preferred cable for the Janus. Since it came as ac 4.4bal, I can use it across many platforms, and that balanced sound does aid in the width and holography of sound. Nuevos Aires sound rich and vibrant, competing with the Simgot compared below nicely. I find myself turning this combination up in volume noticeably more so than with the Forest. This is a pump me up combo, which can help you get ready for the day or help with chores/housework/working out. The sound comes across as richer and with a fullness that is more than the Forest can provide to me. A nice combination, which gives the Janus multiple opportunities to shine. I like this set up very much.

Treble has a bit more reach as well, giving that bit of sparkle up top that enhances the overall signature. I find this opens up the sound providing a bit more air (no pun) between notes as well. Succinct clarity would be an apt descriptor. Mids come forth a bit as well, or maybe it is the clarity of which I speak. Either way, the Air cable is my clear choice of the two. The Forest is good, but the Air is better.

Comparisons:

DDHiFi Janus ($199) v BQEYZ Spring 2 ($169):

The Spring 2 is right up there as one of my 2-3 2020 products of the year (along with the excellent XDuoo TA-30). I thoroughly enjoy the deep reaching bass and vibrancy wrought from the quick decaying sound. Staccato with impact on Alex Fox’s To The Gypsies, the guitarwork is phenomenal and presented here with a rich tonality belying the sub-$200 price. I loathe saying “it punches above its weight,” so instead I will say that the Spring 2 makes others look overpriced, for it really does.

What separates the two here is that the DDHiFi product promotes a more mid-forward part of its signature. A bit less depth, but nonetheless, the Janus pushes that fine guitarwork a bit closer to you, much like you would edge closer to the stage to see the finger frets working their magic. Mind you the Spring 2’s version allows you to sit back in comfort, and both provide a rich warmness of texture to the song. But the Janus is a bit more vibrant. A bit.


DDHiFi Janus ($199) v IKKO OH-1 ($150):

When my posted review of the OH-1 came up, pretty much everyone said, “if you like the OH-1, you should try the OH-10.” Well to me it was a “why? I like the OH-1 just fine,” response. Deeper reaching bass than the two above, with to me near-perfectly placed mids provide the foundation for a really good sound. With slightly brighter treble than the Janus as well, the IKKO can give the needed vibrancy where needed, and provide that spark of energy, which can be lacking in the Janus on some songs.

That said, the same energy, which can provide the vibrant response to Flamenco guitars can become a bit tedious on twenty one pilots Guns For Hands. This is where the Janus bests the OH-1: across multiple genre, the Janus works. The IKKO is a more specialized unit, which you could tolerate across genre to me.


DDHiFi Janus ($199) v Oriolus Finschi ($190):

An absolute favorite of mine, which I mention every time I write about it, the Finschi hits my perfect sweet spot. Rich deep reaching bass, slightly rolled off treble, and mids, which sing to me especially on female vocals such as Adele. This is one I can turn up without fear of offending any part of my senses. Where the Janus might best the Oriolus is in its vibrancy. Even though they are both a bit laidback, the Janus provides more energy, especially with the Air cable (a worthy combo to me). Superb detail from the Air bests the Finschi. But as of now, pretty much nothing can replace the Finschi for me at this price point. While I relish that rich warm sound, I could always do with a bit more up top for those instances where females vocals are a bit lacking.



DDHiFi Janus ($199) v Simgot EN700 Pro ($150):

A manufacturer, which has fallen by the wayside sadly, Simgot produces some really fine products and the manufacturer ranks amongst my favorite from the Fareast. An odd-looking beast, the EN700 Pro went for the “headphone look” with their presentation.

Good presentation of the sound up top highlight the EN700 Pro to me, and with decent reach of bass, the sound provided is an exciting rendition of a conglomeration. Of the five mentioned here, the Simgot provides the most vibrant sound to me. And that open sound is quite strong, giving excellent detail as well as placement to the note. Even with a bleed of the sub-bass into the mids, the separation of instruments is the best of those here (to me). Fit is good, and isolation the best as well. With a good cable, there really is not much to dislike here. For some there may be a bit too much energy up top, as witnessed on pretty much any twenty one pilots song; but even to me it is a tolerable offense showing in the overall excellent character of the unit. This is a really fine unit, which should have received more positive attention.

Finale:

I have been privy to numerous DDHiFi products over the last year and a half. Pretty much since the start. A common theme running through their adapters and cases from the off was one of quality. Solidly built to over-built would be apt. Not tank-like overbuilt, just built for the repeated use in which they were made. I use the C2019 daily as my carry-all to and from school. It is also my traveling case, providing all I need save whichever higher end IEM I take. I have yet to find fault in any of their wares with regard to quality construction and use. Some have mentioned that the larger size of the adapters might cause issues should one bump their DAP into anything. I would agree, but the care in which we use our gear should negate this concern.

With regard to the Janus, the familiarity of build carries over without worry. Throw in the familiar shape, and you understand the care and commitment that goes into everything DDHiFi produces. They approach the market right. Build what we did not know we needed, and when arrival happens, we go, “why didn’t we think of that?” Some have mentioned the “change of sound” wrought from the adapters. I scoff in their general direction and say that I cannot tell a difference (not that I could); and one need not worry.

The same quality holds with the Janus. Build is top notch, and the ability to run either MMCX or 2-pin makes for a capable changeable IEM. Throw in that the IEM/bud can be worn both ways and that is yet another plus. Finally, the sound is worthy of consideration in this market, especially for a first-time effort. From what I read, DDHiFi took the beta testers advice and changed the signature to meet their concerns, thus making a very good sounding IEM/bud. To me, the Janus can match those at or near the top in this segment, especially when you throw in the abilities it has as well.

What with its neutral (near neutral?) character, you can purchase two distinctly different cables in the included Forest and option-purchasable Air, providing you with different enough sound to satisfy most. Instead of carrying around two IEM’s (I carry more…), you can scale back to the Janus and the Forest/Air and to be honest; be satisfied. And as I have said before, isn’t that really the point?

I thank Lily & DDHiFi for the continued good fortunes they have wrought my way and with the company. This company has their stuff together, and it shows.

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