Ikko OH1S ($199): Does the ‘S’ stand for Super?

Ikko: Does the ‘S’ stand for Super?

Pros:

Solid Ikko build
Solid Ikko sound
Good bass
Good vocals
Good looking

Cons:

Case
Oblong nozzle (to me)
Fit of tips (make SURE they are connected…)
Tough price point? See below comparisons

Ikko OH1S ($199): Does the ‘S’ stand for Super?

Ikko OH1S

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Intro: Ikko contacted me after finding my OH-1 review. Through conversation, a review unit was to be send my way. Rebecca stated that I would probably like the updated version based upon my previous liking of the OH1. I have no financial obligation in the OH1S, nor should it be sold for profit (still uncool). It is understood that the unit may be asked back for at any time. Until then, the unit is mine to keep and use. I added many comparisons below, since the price point seems to be the hot bed at the moment.

Rebecca asked that the unit be burned in for a minimum of 50 hours. The new carbon nano driver needed that time to fully break in. You can make of that what you want, but I have always felt the user appreciates what the unit sounds like six months to a year down the road, not directly out of the box. Hence, I burn in all units, regardless.


Specs:


1DD+1BA Hybrid Driver—32Ω 10mm Deposited Carbon Nano Dynamic Coil + Knowles 33518-unit hybrid driver makes the three-frequency balanced, the in-ear headphones use resin and aviation-grade aluminum alloy as the sound cavity to achieve the physical frequency division effect.


In The Box:

  • OH1S-2 driver unit
  • Detachable MMCX Cable—-OH1S upgrade cable is composed of 127um high-purity single crystal copper silver-plated magnetic core
  • 6 sizes of silicone eartips
  • 3 sizes of sponge (I-planet)
  • storage box
  • LOGO brooch
  • Instruction manual
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Gear Used/Compared:

CFA Honeydew ($249)
CFA Satsuma ($199)
Thieaudio Legacy 4 ($195)
BQEYZ Spring 2 ($165)
DDHiFi Janus-E2020A ($199)
DDHiFi Janus-E2020B ($199)

Cayin N6ii (E01 motherboard)
MacBook Pro
Shanling M6 Pro
HiBy R3 Pro Saber



Songs:

Alex Fox
Pink Floyd
Buena Vista Social Club
Elton John
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Shane Hennessy
Jeff Beck
Dave Matthews



Technicals:

Adopting SVAS Technology—IKKO in-ear monitor uses Separating Vector Acoustics System technology, the precisely designed cavity structure makes the sound volume, reflection and diffusion angles, and the unit performance is displayed to the greatest extent in a limited space. This seems to be the de rigor of the day, making the cavity acoustically similar to a listening room. Many manufacturers do this, and I approve of this methodology.

Utilizing 1DD+1BA Hybrid Driver, the 32Ω 10mm Deposited Carbon Nano Dynamic Coil plus the Knowles 33518-unit hybrid driver makes balance the three frequencies (low, mid, high) according to Ikko. Made using resin and aviation-grade aluminum alloy in the sound cavity to achieve the physical frequency dividing effect. The shape can minimize mutual interference between the sound generating units and make the sound purer and more transparent.

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Unboxing:

Coming in a sleeved outer paperboard box decorated with colorful images based around a cityscape, it is reminiscent of the recent Anime images of some manufacturers, but better to me. Labeled as part of their “Gem” series, the back has an exploded view of the unit, and some of the specs in a few different languages. Tastefully done.

Sliding the sleeve off you are met with another paperboard box, laden with more pictures on the front and the same nomenclature on the back. The difference here is that a thicker box slides out of one long side, while the other opens like a normal box. That inner thicker cardboard box (well done by the way) has a side lid, so you can pull on that the “extricate” the inner box from that secondary paperboard box. That inner box has a nice gold sticker stating, “Ikko Design,” and it clasps magnetically with a satisfying click.

Opening the lid, you are met with an MMR-type presentation, complete with exploded view of the OH1S, attachment of the cables and how to insert the MMCX cable. Each unit has a label, the left states “Gem Texture” and the right “Transparent Twin.” Also inset between the OH1S IEM’s is a lapel pin, which is a nice addition. Remove that insert, and after removing the instruction manual envelope, you are met with a pleather case, not unlike the wallets you used to purchase as a kid on vacation out west (USofA). Tucked between the tips and the woven case is the slim box for the cable. Next to that is thin plastic tip holder, with all on display. In total there are 18 tips, including three sets of Ikko’s own proprietary foam tips. All of the silicon tips are oblong in shape to match the oblong nozzle, a first for me.

A word of warning regarding the tips: MAKE SURE they click onto the nozzle area to seat them fully. Otherwise they may come off in your ear. I found out the hard way with the smaller foam tips…we shall simply leave it at that.

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Build/Fit/Function:

The OH1S comes with 1DD+1BA Hybrid Driver, a 32Ω 10mm Deposited Carbon Nano Dynamic Coil plus a Knowles 33518-unit hybrid driver. Using resin and aviation-grade aluminum alloy as the sound cavity in the shell to achieve the physical frequency division effect, Ikko calls this Separating Vector Acoustics System technology, designing the cavity structure precisely, much like you would orient your speakers in the listening room. More manufacturers are taking the shell cavity seriously as a means to either tailor sound or ensure proper acoustics. I appreciate the time spent in R&D with this regard and can see it expanding in the future.

Made of three pieces, which is unusual other than the nozzle, the OH1S shell combines the inner part and nozzle (with a vent hole in the inside); a middle acrylic section in purple (for mine) and the faceplate in black, and “textured” like ripples or scales on the back of a Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The nozzle is oblong in shape as well, which is a unique one to me. The screen comes off as well, so be careful when using different tips. Extra screens are included in case you lose one. As mentioned above, you will want to ensure the tips are properly placed, especially the foam ones, with an audible “click.”

Fit in my average sized ears is nie-on flush, without pressure in my canal. Using a tip too large can cause a bit of discomfort, and the seal of the foam tips is among the worst I have had but do aid in deepening the bass response. For a proper seal and excellent fit, the large oblong silicon tips work. The cable lies over the ear, with a stiffness I am not used to of late, but it does not bother me like older Unique Melody cables used to. With really long ear guide sleeves, and a permanent soft bend you get good fit, even with glasses. The shape can be tailored a bit. The four-wire-in-two-strands is also amongst the stiffer cables I have used of late. Above the Y-splitter, the OCC silver plated wire looks to be of two strands, but three colors. A blue tint fades to copper along with the silver strand. The blue reminds me of heated copper, so I do believe it is for the visual aspect. Some microphonics is promoted due to the stiffness, but not much. Quality metal cinch strap, Y-splitter and jack in a dark copper color makes for a good-looking cable, by not drawing attention to itself. A reinforced sheath surrounds the MMCX connection, making for a solid fit.

Other than isolation, which I am blaming on the oblong nozzle, the fit, finish and build are excellent, if a bit economical.

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Sound:

Summary:

From the previous iteration of the OH1, I liked the tight bass control, but wished for a bit more. Taut bass would be apt. The OH1S indeed gave me my wishes. While still tight in control, there is no bleed into the mids, but this does not mean a separation. All is tied together well, and there is very good separation of note. The thinness of sound, which came from the OH1 (not a bad thin sound) carries over, but with a bit more weight of each note. Distinct sounds emanate from within and placement of each instrument gives the illusion of spacing. Not the best, but not the worst. Switching to my Cayin N6ii E01, the sound jumped up quite a bit in quality. Source dependent, I would feed a good source into the OH1S to get the best out of it. Vocals come across as slightly lifted, especially male. Van Morrison’s strong vocal presence can be a bit biting on some IEM’s, but on the OH1S, the sound is succinct and detailed. Mids carry a bit less weight than the vocal presence does, making for a slight V-shape to me, what with the good but not painful treble extension. Nicely tuned, but not a “wow moment” of transformation. Sometimes (and in this case) that is a good thing.

More detail:

I mentioned how the OH1 was good with details, but a bit thin. I rate this due to the lack of a thumping quality of bass. While the OH1S does not have a thumping quality to its bass, it does have more than the previous iteration. The carbon nano technology makes for very fast decay as well, which could help to explain its lack of pure oomph. A slower decay would allow the low end to linger, and hence at least give the illusion of more depth. Tight control is also helped by the carbon technology, and spatial presence of the acoustic chamber. I do not mind the low-end treatment, for it does not bleed into the mids, which is a good thing in this case.

Electric guitar work such as Peter Frampton on Reckoner affords good depth to the mids as an example. The support guitar gives that depth needed to aid in placing the instruments properly. This in turn leads to good depth of soundstage. Allowing the instruments to flow through the soundstage, the mids are clear and fairly crisp. Not the detail monster such as the Cayin Fantasy or Moondrop Blessing2, but good, nonetheless. I go back to what I said in the summary, the OH1S does not offend in sound, but neither does it thrill. By that, I mean the mids promote a smoothness to them, which can come across as boring, but it isn’t. Wish You Were Here from the Pink Floyd tribute album shows that there is nothing boring here. Joe Satriani’s solo is divine in nature, and worth a listen regardless of listening pleasure. Rik Emmett’s vocals sound like a Guns-N-Roses version, but better without the edge. I like this version and think it does justice to Pink Floyd nicely.

Satriani’s solo can move into the treble range when he gets going, as can cymbal clashes. Not offending me at all, there is a sufficient push to make up a bit of the smooth texture laid down by the mids. Not in a disconnected way but tied together well. Sometimes an over-compensation is had leading to a disconnect. Here, the tie leads to smooth transitions, without stepping on those lower notes. Cymbal clashes sound slightly robotic and dissonant, but not like some I have had of late. Th whole is greater than the sum with the OH1S.

A good judge of soundstage that I used to use is closing my eyes and placing my hands at what I would consider an estimate of reach in all three dimensions. I used this on the OH1S and found a nicely shaped cube extending a bit past my ears, but not quite as high. Almost cubic to me, and of good shape. Placing of instruments was easy, especially with the black background without hiss between notes. Shane Hennessy’s Rain Dance is an extraordinary song for the listening but works extremely well for gauging placement and stage as well. His incredible talents of strumming and using the guitar as a percussive instrument allow you to gauge very well placement and layering besides stage. A very complex guitar song with which to start, that complexity lends itself to excellent spatial representation. If an IEM (or headphone for that matter) lacks in any direction, it is heard in a squishing of the sound. On the OH1S there is none. I find the song wonderful on most listening devices, and here as well.

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Comparisons:

Ikko OH1S ($199) v CFA Honeydew ($249):

The CFA Honeydew came my way by private audition, and it was good. Many lamented it as a “rehash” of something else. So what. Most manufacturers fine tune their wares, and CFA is allowed that as well. Capitalizing on their excellent bass heritage, the Honeydew trounces the Ikko in that department. Moving towards the middle spectrum, the Honeydew presents very good details, and it is easy to hear the heritage of the Andromeda in it. I would rate the Honeydew as distinct and detailed, where the OH1S is smooth and detailed. There is also more push up top, but not as much as the Satsuma. If I had to choose one of these two new CFA models, it would be the Honeydew. As for the two listed here? If you prefer a bit better defining sound, melded together, the Ikko would fit the bill. If you prefer better bass, with more distinct details, the Honeydew would fit.


Ikko OH1S ($199) v CFA Satsuma ($199):

Same price. The toughest segment to me as well. The $200usd price is a cage match of excellent to very good offerings. But This gives the user many, many good options. Both listed here are good but for different reasons. While the Satsuma adds more detail than the Honeydew (closer to the Andromeda), it provides less bass. The Satsuma is an excellent detail monitor to me, and clearly (cleanly?) wins in that department. If you want a smoother signature, then the OH1S would be your choice. Bass is about the same, with the mid-bass push of the OH1S versus the deeper reach of sub-bass on the Satsuma (but not like the Honeydew). If you want excellent technical skills, the Satsuma is the choice. A smoother character (to me), then the OH1S is the choice.


Ikko OH1S ($199) v Thieaudio Legacy 4 ($195):

When Thieaudio first came about, it meant business. Drawing some of the best engineers out there, the Legacy line comes across as business. The L4 is an excellent monitor with gorgeous looks. Much more mid-forward in signature as well, the L4 provides the listener with deeper reach of bass as well as wonderfully toned mids and treble. More push up top as well, these two actually complement each other quite nicely. If you like smooth, the Ikko wins hands down. If you like a richness of tone and excellent details, the Thieaudio would be the choice. I often go back to the L4 to remember how good it really is. Smooth versus vibrant. Take your choice.


Ikko OH1S ($199) v BQEYZ Spring 2 ($165):

I really liked the Spring2 when it came out and will compare it to the Summer in an upcoming review. I called the Spring2 one of my recommendations at the price, and that still holds true. The rich tonality emanating from within aid in a very smooth, laid-back, but not boring signature. Think of comfort food, and that would be the Spring2. Just an excellent all-arounder to me. Better bass push, but with a bit of bleed into the mids, and enough up top to give that “fresh day” feeling. That bleed of bass into the mids aids in presenting the rich tone of which I speak. Warmth and grace, the Spring2 is still one of my favorites. V-shaped? Maybe, but I do not care. The Spring2 would be even more laid back than the OH1S, going further into that comfort zone. Want a bit liltier sound? The OH1S would be the choice. Richness that is of goodness? The Spring2.


Ikko OH1S ($199) v DDHiFi Janus-E2020A ($199):


The original Janus was and is an interesting tune. A bit smaller of sound stage, but offering good detail, it dovetails nicely into this segment. Good bass extension adds to its flavor of semi-tightly controlled mids, and a rolled treble that while not as smooth or rich as the Spring2 is nonetheless, a good listening experience. Take note, though. DDHiFi has retuned the Janus based upon our listening experience and offerings. Two very different critters. Of all the offerings here, the Janus E2020A is most like the Ikko, but with better bass, and a bit more veiled mids. Not bad mind you, but quite close.


Ikko OH1S ($199) v DDHiFi Janus-E2020B ($199):

Completely redesigned to make it a bit more premium, the Janus E2020B comes across as more V-shaped than the A-version. Deeper reach of bass, with a smidgen of bleed makes for a pleasant, crisp tone when combined with the better reach up top in the treble region. This is a breath of fresh air when compared to the A-version, and with the OH1S. If you want smooth laid back, then the OH1S is still the choice, but the E2020B has hit the sweet spot to me with their tuning, even if it is oriented towards “consumer version.” Smaller soundstage may put you off, but like the A-version and smoother OH1S is to comfort food, the B-version may be to an energy drink after a good workout, or before. I really like the E2020B if you cannot tell, and a review is forthcoming. Mind you, the OH1S is still quite good as well and it is nice to have choices.

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Finale:

When I first heard the OH1, everyone said, “you need to listen to the OH10 if you like the OH1!!!” Well, no I didn’t, even if I really liked the OH1. That was enough for me for I liked what I heard in the OH1, even if it was a bit bass shy. The OH1S is a “redesigned” model with new innards, making for essentially a new model. But I would call it an evolution rather than a revolution. Taking the good parts of the OH1 such as the clarity of detail and smoothing the edges to make it a bit well…less edgy…makes for a smooth transition to the OH1S. Smooth and rich, but not muddy. Warm, but not warmth overall. A nice laid-back texture emits from within the designed cavity of the shells, and it comes across as pretty good. Going back and forth I can note the differences and similarities, but I’m not sure which one I prefer. I do think I prefer the open expansive nature of the OH1S more than the OH1, but I can clearly appreciate the heritage of the OH1 coming through. It is still one of my favorites.

The OH1S is good. Quite good, but its signature will surely turn some off. I mentioned how it doesn’t have that “wow effect,” like some. And this will hurt it when comparing to others. Some may find this boring, or lacking, but I would kindly ask them to audition it under the right circumstances, such as the end of a long day with a single malt in hand. It is then you hopefully enjoy Jeff Beck’s Brush With The Blues as I did.

I thank Ikko for providing the OH1S to me and hope that you all enjoyed this journey through my word salad verbiage. The OH1S is good enough to take a look, and be in consideration at this price point, which as mentioned is wrought full of choices.

Cheers.

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