California Audio Technology Apollo IEM

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by purr1n, Oct 1, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    This is a new IEM about to be released. Stay tuned for details. @netforce: feel free to chime in on details.

    DSC00272.JPG

    The Apollo is a hybrid DD + 2 BA IEM. I don't know if the world has changed much, but typically hybrid IEMs that use two or more different types of drivers have always had integration issues. Note even Sony with their flagship IEM could pull this off, and I quote @Kunlun:

    That said, play a cello concerto (one instrument, full range) and listen to the emperor have no clothes as Yo-Yo Ma ends up sounding like he is playing a trio of slightly different instruments in a test that a much cheaper single driver iem passes easily. I think I'll leave it at that.
    Where I will start is that I do expect the band members, or the drivers in this case, to play as a band and not as individuals. I don't expect the timbres of the different drivers to sound the same, as this is impossible, even with multi-way speakers. However, I do expect that the frequency ranges where the drivers overlap and hand the signal off, to sound cohesive and as seamless as possible. This is just one of my pet peeves, whether it comes to multi-driver speakers or IEMs (sometimes I wonder if folks outside of SBAF notice such things concerning overall cohesiveness.) The good news is that California Audio Technology or CAT, manages to pull this off with their Apollo hybrid IEM. The driver integration is on-par with another hybrid IEM that pulls it off decently, the Campfire Audio Solaris. That's two IEMs in my book (there may very well be more today, but I have not gotten my ears on them yet).

    One thing I wanted to get out of the way is that unlike most other IEMs, the wires hang down. These IEMs are not intended to be used like most other IEMs were the wire exits up top, and around the back of the ear, with a shaped tube or guide. I did try it the other way, but the design of the shell prevents this from fitting to the concha properly. For this market, more upscale IEMs I would assume, the consumer fitment with the wirings dangling down, feels a bit off.

    DSC00271.JPG

    As we can see above, CAT has taken an conservative approach with the Apollo to fitment by having the nozzle exit from a smaller cylindrical structure on top of the body instead of directly from the body. This will probably guarantee fit for more people, but it also leads to a somewhat of a Lt. Uhura earpiece effect where the body sticks quite a bit from the ears. As such, and with the nozzle not being particularly long, a deep insertion is not possible. (As an aside, I don't think a deep insertion is optimal for this IEM).

    The best way I got these to fit is with larger size tips and a shallow insertion. I opted for the fancy Acoustune Azla Sedna Earfit tips (in Acoustune case) which @rhythmdevils sent me. The silicone is a bit stiffer and less prone to deformation than most other tips. This allows the use of a larger tip that fills the outside of my concha that is secure and without leaks. I keep the fit somewhat loose with these and they are good helping the IEM stay put.

    DSC00784.JPG
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    With the above insertion, tonally the Apollo reminds me of a Ara with deep insertion and DD bass. The mid and high treble are just a bit pulled back more, at the expense of some shimmer. However, this also makes pairing with amplification easier. I dislike BA timbre in general and have gone to some lengths to mitigate this with appropriate sources (Sony ZX2, xDuo with OPA627, etc.). If the Ara can be splashy with some sources, then the Apollo can have some edge which I don't mind (maybe this can be attributed to small 5kHz peak in the FR below).

    The physicality of the DD for the lows is immense, greater than that of the DD in the CFA Solaris (OG or 2020) hybrid. The CFA approach has always been different though, opting for a "faster" sounding DD. CAT stays with the traditional DD sound, slower than BA, but with a lot more physicality. Somehow, they've still managed to pull off the lows to highs transition well.

    The frequency response measurements below downplay the physicality and the presence of the bass. It could be that since I'm using a simple tube instead of an IEC coupler, the bass measurement is lower than it should be.

    CAT Apollo IEM
    Frequency Response
    Tube+UMM6 (compensated)
    upload_2020-10-1_11-24-12.png
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    CAT Apollo IEM
    Distortion L channel
    upload_2020-10-1_11-33-7.png

    CAT Apollo IEM
    Distortion R channel
    upload_2020-10-1_11-33-46.png
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    CAT Apollo IEM
    Impedance Curve
    upload_2020-10-1_11-38-27.png

    As far as IEMs are concerned, the impedance curve is even, smooth, and within a narrow range. We shouldn't have to worry too much from higher impedance sources of up to several ohms. The impedance is at its highest in the lows around 33-ohms. It dips at 5kHz at 17-ohms. Generally, a higher Z out source will result is a more laid-back sound, but we'd really have to go very high output impedance.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As far as technicalities such as clarity and layering and detail, the something like the TOTL Ara does these things a bit better with its microscopic approach where we can hear into the separate mixes of a pop recording. It's a difficult ask in terms of clarity because the Ara with its xoverless design is quite revolutionary in that it's head and shoulders above almost anything else. However, the Apollo isn't far behind. It could be that the difference is tonal - the Apollo is more muted in the top octave. The Apollo DD lows are not as congested as the FD01, another well respected DD IEM on SBAF. The mids are not as veiled as UERM (darn I wish UE didn't get rid of this for the yucky UERR).

    The Apollo's soundstage is merely "good", but nothing to get excited about in terms of layering of the UERM, Ara, etc. Finally, Apollo doesn't quite have the bling (it's obvious from the photos). I could care less about bling, but I know some of you IEMs guys do. I think the "problem" is that we are kind of use to some level of bling these days. Hey, at least it's more attractive than the Drop Plus IEM with that raised plate on the faceplate! And the CAT logo is engraved on the Apollo faceplate.

    Without knowing the price, all this is difficult to gauge and put into perspective. However, it's my understanding that the Apollo will be priced appropriately. From a sonics point of view, the Apollo certainly delivers. I'd put these in my travel bag.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
  7. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    So what about the MSRP? I'll be curious to hear the loaner when the smart folks hear it first. I'm not the biggest fan of wired-down IEMs, so we'll see....
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yeah, I'm not either. This is CAT's first entry ever into IEMs? I am not sure. They could still be learning the market. The sound is high-end, no doubt about that at all. But the wires down thing (instead of over and around the ear) has typically been the domain of lower-end under $300 IEMs.

    I have to pause and do a double-take before I put them on.
     
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  9. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Do you happen to have any theories as to what is going on around 200hz? I'd be curious if you think it is just driver / "ear" interaction or something physical in the ear monitors "system" (enclosure, driver, crossover, etc.)

    This thing looks quite unique and my interest is piqued. The worn down thing really makes a statement. In my head... I think "what we wanted to achieve needed this"

    Look forward to getting my ears penetrated.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Measurement rig deal wrt to IEMs. Rarely 4th order. Usually 3rd, sometimes 2nd. Kind of like how Tyll had two spikes all the time in this distortion measurements. Just ignore it.
     
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  11. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Interesting! Looking forward to hearing them. Not so excited about them falling out of my head all the time though.
     
  12. Rockwell

    Rockwell Almost "Made"

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    It might not be so bad. I worried about that when i got a CFA Atlas a couple years ago but it wasn't a problem. If the IEMs aren't that heavy and you can get a good seal they should stay in just fine.
     
  13. netforce

    netforce MOT: TSAV

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    Hey guys, thanks Marv for the measurements and info. CAT reached out to us for some help in spreading out their new IEM since we planned to do CanJam SoCal with them in June to show it off. And with no events on the docket anytime soon we decided to get the ball rolling.

    Price is going to be $699 for them. Let me know if there are any question I can help answer or ask them. Don't know if they want me to share this too much, but they have China exclusive Lamborghini edition which had some fun packaging details. I will try to grab some of those pics after work.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2020
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  14. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    These and Focal Radiance ftw!
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I expected a bit higher. $700 is a great price. These are sort of a meaner and meatier Solaris lite, not far behind. Not as laid-back as OG Solaris and not as bright as Solaris 2020.
     
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  16. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    @What about the wires @purr1n?
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As someone else pointed out, the CFA Atlas have downward hanging wires too - and I have used them. I was able to get a good fit with the tips without fear of stuff falling off. Not ideal, but I could live with them. The biggest issue is getting use to putting them on from the front since I'm so used to the other way around.

    The cables do feel nice. They are similar to the HFM rubber cables (I don't know if HFM still uses these), but x10 better because they don't feel icky like the HFMs have more form to them - they don't feel like handling jellyfish if you know what I mean.
     
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  18. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    interesting. I don’t find the og Solaris laid back except for the midrange. Treble has nice presence. But there’s a million factors here- fit tips etc.

    can’t wait to hear the Apollo they sound intriguing.
     

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