Oriolus Isabellae & general product discussion thread

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by Rockwell, Jul 31, 2021.

  1. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    I'm starting this thread primarily so people receiving my Isbellae tour unit will have a place to post impressions. It may as well serve as a general thread for this brand whose products, until fairly recently, have gotten very little exposure over here in North America.

    Oriolus is a brand that if I understand it correctly is rooted in Shenzhen, China but is presently based out of Japan. Here is the best summary of the background of the company I'm aware of in English.

    Their products & brand remind me a little of CFA-- Oriolus is overseen by one main engineer, Rao You Liang, — a.k.a. the “Old Man”-- who got his start making amps and other things before moving on to IEMs. Like Campfire, Oriolus' products are all distinct and go for different tuning profiles and often eschew market norms. Also like Campfire their products are often based on a central theme-- in the case of Oriolus it's Orioles, or little birds. While their IEMs are all very individual (I have heard 3 so far-- the Traillii, Reborn & Isabella and I will be receiving the Percivali on Monday for demo) Oriolus has a definite house sound, which to my ears so far is characterized by a balanced sound with an open mid-range and a focus on drawing emotion and nuance out of vocals. Oriolus are known for very high quality bass, though none of their IEMs as far as I know tread anywhere close to basshead territory.

    Oriolus have IEMs starting at ~$100 and going all the way up to their $6K Traillii, an IEM that gained as much notoriety for its sound as for the number of people who said it was worth the money, but that is a whole other discussion.

    The Isabellae is a single DD and, retailing at $600, one of their comparatively reasonably priced and accessible models.

    Vitals:

    • Driver: Single DD
    • Impedance: 30 Ohm
    • Sensitivity: 113dB
    • Frequency response: 10Hz~40kHz
    • Weight: 13g
    229724142_10165741640505654_6198391970723606307_n.jpg
     
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  2. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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  3. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Oriolus Isabellae
    MSRP $659
    Disclaimer: All photos stolen from Google

    If you haven’t heard of them, Oriolus is a Japanese in-ear manufacturer. Their about us page says they’ve been around since 2015; sure seems like it’s been longer. And it’s been a long time since I’ve heard an Oriolus IEM. My last memory was of the Forsteni, which I’d just as soon forget. Oh god, the piercing treble. Cue Mr. Bill-

    upload_2021-8-21_15-30-44.png upload_2021-8-21_15-30-53.png

    Prior to that was the Oriolus MK2, which was one of the good early hybrids, and, if memory serves, was quite pleasing and somewhat reminiscent of the FitEar TG334. Warm and smooth. Of recent times, Oriolus is the mastermind behind the SIX THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED DOLLAR Traillii. Clearly designed for people with more money than sense.

    This new Oriolus, Isabellae, is 9.8 mm single dynamic IEM. I couldn’t find any info on the driver material make-up. Even Oriolus Japan doesn’t have it currently listed under products but seems readily available from various dealers.

    Aesthetically the Oriolus is pretty great. It definitely has a retro 70’s feel with the orange acrylic shells and aged brass looking faceplate. This is a look I can get behind. Since stock tips weren’t provided for the tour, I can’t comment on them, but I can say the nozzles are really, really wide. It took me a while to find some tips that fit (many kept popping off), while also complementing the signature. In my case, the old Radio Shack Auvios fit and provided the wide bore exit I think the signature benefits from.

    upload_2021-8-21_15-29-45.png
    Image stolen from Google

    The Isabellae carries on my fond memories of the warm and smooth signature of the old MK2, although I would hazard to guess the Isabellae is better balanced overall. While not exactly a bassy signature in the conventional sense, the moderate bass rise starts a bit early lending to an enveloping and pleasing sense of warmth. Mid bass is dense with strong impact, slightly masking deeper bass rumble, however the Isabellae can rumble when called for.

    The midrange sits in the pocket and sounds fairly neutral, if lacking some clarity due to the creeping upper bass. Both male and female vocals are forward, engaging and intimate. Rock guitars are big and forward, as well as on the thicker and richer side. There is no harshness in upper midrange for me; 4k is pretty tame. Treble is on the smoother side but does have one minor but manageable peak in the lower middle treble between 8 and 9k for sparkle. While it does take a dive after that, I do hear a rebound peak somewhere between 11 and 12k. So while not exactly airy, it is non-fatiguing and has solid timbre and weight up top.

    TLDR: The Oriolus is a pleasantly warm and invitingly natural signature. It doesn’t wow at anything but also doesn’t do anything really wrong. It’s easy. Like a Sunday morning.
     
  4. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    No measurements this time around. I'm having problems with AudioTools on iOS rolling of the bass significantly. It never use to do this; I've let the developer know but not sure what will come of it. I'll need to look into REW for Mac I suppose.
     
  5. YMO

    YMO Scatologically ribald obsessive

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    Sources: PI2AES Output Coax > Bifrost 2 > IEMagni & Shanling M3X

    IEMs used along with loaner: Campfire Audio Nair, Gaudio Nair, JVC x Drop HA-FDX1, Moondrop Starfield

    Tips used: JVC Spiral Dots


    @Rockwell said nice things about this DD IEM, and I like DD IEMs myself. I was like sign me up for this loaner…...


    Build and Design:

    The IEM shells have this higher end molded plastic stuff that is very similar on other IEMs like the Moondrop Blessing 2. Feels great in the hands and in my ears. The Oriolus logo is nicely done on both IEMs, and it doesn’t draw any attention to itself. The orangeish color of the IEMs look cooler upfront than in the pictures. These uses the two-pin IEM connectors if you want to swap the cables out. These don’t feel cheap and should survive for a long time.

    The fit with the larger Spiral Dot size fits great with my ears. The seal is fantastic, and I wore them for hours with no complaints. However, I can tell that with some ears the fit of the Isabellae might hurt with some users due to the angel the nozzles are aiming in the ears. These aren’t “perfect” like the Gaudio Nair, but they are mostly there fit size. No complaints other wise.


    Sound:

    Being a DD IEM has it benefits. DD IEMs just for the most part do bass right with actual air movement in this region. I don’t find the Isabellae having a sub-bass boost, but rumble and sub-bass will be called out if the song actually has it. I call this a good thing since a boosted sub-bass tired me out. However, I don’t find the bass region to be flat. I did detect a rise in the middle/upper bass which gives the songs a nice amount of warmth. I like warmth that isn’t overblown, and this delivers. If I want overblown bass that is also enjoyable, I still have the Moondrop Starfield.

    Midrange is super solid, I’m not detecting anything sticking out in this area. I do have to admit that the staging is closer to my ears, and also at times the staging was also too claustrophobic (I thought it was my desk setup, but I was getting similar results on the Shanling M3X). Being a DD IEM I found the midrange to be very enjoyable that doesn’t sound too sharp in anything that I thrown at it. It does come with a cost: Resolution takes a major hit when comparing to other IEMs in its price brackets. Don’t get me wrong, the Isabellae has more resolution than the JVC x Drop HA-FDX1, but is isn’t that much better IMO. I prefer the Isabellae much more than the Dunu Zen which has too much 1k-4k when raising the volume, the “flatness” of the Isabellae is appreciated.

    Treble is rolled out like other DD IEMSs, but the smoothness makes it great for those sharp 80s/90s recording that I threw at it (Donald Fagen – Kamakiriad is a great example of one of those recordings). At first I didn’t detect the sparkle that @shotgunshane was referencing in his impressions post, but after I while I was able to hear it. On my setups the sparkle rebound is more like a minor upward bump than anything else. With that being said the Isabellae reminds me of the Moondrop Starfield: Doesn’t matter what I threw at it, everything sounds good with warmth. If you are a treble freak, this isn’t the IEM for you.

    The Isabellae has this problem for me: It isn’t an evolution of DD IEMs. It is a fine DD IEM in its own right that does a lot of things right. For me the issue is it doesn’t have a “special sauce” that takes it to the next level. Yeah the Isabelleae as I stated earlier is better on resolution than the HA-FDX1, but the differences isn’t huge. The more I listen to the HA-FDX1, the more I’m like I don’t see the point of anyone trying to upgrade from the HA-FDX1 to the Isabellae. I do admit that the HA-FDX1 on some setups (and depending on your filter) does have some shouting, which the Isabellae doesn’t have. On the value end of things, the HA-FDX1 blows the Isabellae away. If you hope the Isabellae is something that improves on the value king that is the HA-FDX1, the answer is no. If you have no DD IEMs + you are looking for a very solid one DD IEM with good enough warmth and you can swing it for the price, then consider the Isabellae.


    Conclusion
    :

    The Isabellae is a fine DD IEM that does a lot of things good with anything you throw at it. I love the warmth that comes from the bass, the non-screwy mid-range, and mostly smooth like whiskey highs. However, it doesn’t have something that takes it to 11. In the very ultra-competitive world of IEMs, it is a hard sell for the $600.00 Oriolus Isabellae when you have the Dunu SA6 being the much better buy at $50.00 less. However, the SA6 is a pure BA IEM and some people just say ewww on anything BA in general. If you want better value, the HA-FDX1 has closer performance to the Isabellae on a much cheaper cost. On the plus side, the Isabellae is preferred to me over the Dunu Zen.

    Thanks again @Rockwell for the loaner!
     
  6. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    Great impressions both. Vocals & midrange in general are the "special sauce" for me on the Isabellae. YMMV etc. (I haven't heard the FDX1 as looking at it I don't think I'd jive with the fit). I'd be curious to hear any comparisons with the IE900 for anyone whose heard that as it's another single DD IEM that's been on my radar lately.
     
  7. Kunlun

    Kunlun cat-alyzes cat-aclysmic cat-erwauling - Friend

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    Okie dokie, I'll give some super brief impressions.

    First, the Isabellae is like a lot of DD iems in that it does better with a non-wimpy source. It sounded better driven out of my apex glacier amp than my old ipod video 5.5 with wolfson chip.

    To my (deaf?) ears, it's got a lot of warmth in the mid bass and low mids, with upper mids and treble present but not quite as prominent. I listened at a mid-level volume, so whatever's in the treble served to help spotlight and brighten the range without any fatigue, but if you headbang with these it might be different experience.

    Overall, these are a nice DD iem with a warm tuning.

    Compared directly to the Senn ie800S and by memory to the slightly better ie900, the Senn iems are a solid step forward in clarity and detail, particularly in the lower mid and midbass, but all along the range as well. The Senns have their bass shifted to the subbass, which I'm all about. The Isabellae avoid the slightly metallic timbre in the treble which the Senns' driver is known for.

    Finally, the ie900 has a more ergonomic form than the previous senns or the Isabellae, and jt's easier to drive than either.
     
  8. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    Cheers! Your analysis here is consistent with what I've heard from others RE the differences between the two.
     
  9. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    A few notes of preamble. First, the Isabellae simply wouldn't work for me long term because my main use of IEMs is listening to music in public places and they have very poor sound isolation. I have to crank the volume up too high to compensate. It's unfortunate, because as you will see I like them. Also, this PW #5 cable is awesomely ergonomic. I remember some first gen Andromeda users here recommending the cable and now I see why.

    All my listening was done out of the Dethonray Honey H1, a warm, punchy and pretty detailed source.

    Overall I would describe the Isabellae as mid focused but still fairly balanced. Their sound is neither thin nor thick, but I imagine with a more neutral source I might find them a little thin. They are smooth sounding and not especially dynamic for a DD. Timbre is average for a DD IEM, which is to say awesome for an IEM.

    The Isabellae are excellent for vocals, especially female vocals which sound ethereal and lovely. Sometimes for male vocals or instruments in that frequency range I wish for a little more body and grit. The bass is not as tight, deep or punchy or controlled as the 3DT to my ears. I would not recommend these for electronic music, though they do get by.

    Unlike many DDs, the don't have any crazy spikes in the upper mids or treble. The closest is the modest spike around 8k which makes cymbals stand out in a mix. This gives a little bit more of a live sound to some recordings, but sometimes can get a little tiring depending on the recording. This tendency is accentuated because that part of the frequency is a little dry sounding to me.

    They sound reasonably wide and open for IEMs to me, maybe because of their open design. Resolution is solid -- about what I would expect at their price.

    Besides the non-starter open design, my complaints about the Isabellae are more nit picky than fatal. If they isolated better, I'd be tempted to buy them.

    Thanks to @Rockwell for making these available to us.
     
  10. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Oriolus Isabellae Impressions

    Thank you very, very much @Rockwell for kindly lending us your Isabellae, this is most generous of you. I’m especially grateful because I’d read many highly laudatory impressions of these IEMs and you’d spoken so highly of them that I was keen to give them a whirl. I can see why you like them so much.


    Gear and a Caveat
    • Sony NW-ZX2 -> Isabellae with Final E tips
    • I’ve had some slight hearing loss beyond what would be normal for someone in his mid-40s, which means I can’t say much about the upper treble region (above, say 14-15kHz)

    Tuning
    I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Isabellae. These IEMs are easy to like - or, to put it another way, there’s next to nothing to dislike. The Isabellae’s treble doesn’t reach especially high (as far as I can tell). Nor is it overly forward. Instead, it’s smooth and free of peaks and grain. The bass is similar insofar as it doesn’t plunge particularly deeply; the sub-bass is a bit lacking. But the Isabellae’s bass is tight, though not fast, and it has plenty of texture and fullness, given the slight emphasis is in the mid-bass region. And the midrange is nice and rich and even and free from odd recessions. All this is to say two things: first, that the tuning is nicely balanced and coherent and, second, there’s nothing to latch onto as being problematic or annoying.

    If this sounds like faint praise it’s actually meant to be highly complimentary: I found the Isabellae to be a very engaging pair of IEMs. I realize “engaging” is a controversial term: what I mean is that these IEMs did nothing to distract me from or take me out of the music. I frequently found myself forgetting to listen critically and often ended up just letting myself enjoy listening to entire albums, which I suppose speaks highly, in and of itself, of the Isabellae’s qualities. I can’t emphasize this engaging quality enough: when I had the loaner I was still pretty burnt out from a long, hard stint at work; my attention span hadn’t been the best, and I’d had a hard time getting sucked into music and being immersed in it. Two experiences pulled me out of this: one was the Isabellae; the other was the arrival of my SW51+ amp, which I paired with the Bifrost 2 and the HD 600. These setups have made for some of the best personal audio experiences I’ve had.

    The more I think about it, the more I suspect the mid-range presentation of the Isabellae is superb. From my very limited experience, I’ve found that some DD IEMs suffer from too much emphasis in the upper mids and lower treble. That’s not an issue here. There’s a slight emphasis for vocals; male vocals are fine, but female vocals come across as bit more forward. I actually liked this; the emphasis worked well for sopranos in operas.

    As impressive as the mid-range is the timbre of acoustic and even electric/electronic instruments. Pianos, for instance, sound very good. Brass instruments have plenty of bite and crackle and blare to them. String instruments are lovely. They’re not the most resonant. But they have plenty of texture. I could easily distinguish between violas and violins (or I could easily convince myself that I did). I very much enjoyed string quartets with the Isabellae. Woodwind instruments sounded excellent apart from the lack of treble extension. Bass instruments also have an appealingly rich texture to them, and while there isn’t much sub-bass, I heard a decent amount of rumble with movie soundtracks.

    The tuning and the excellent timbre are what appeal most to me about the Isabellae. The tuning has a pleasant amount of warmth to it; I tend to avoid warm transducers, preferring the HD 600 over the HD 650, for instance, but the warmth here was mild enough not to trouble me. What makes the warmth surprisingly appealing, I suspect, is that the Isabellae is quite responsive and doesn’t have the weighty or thick sound to it that the Dunu SA6, for instance, does. It doesn’t have an ethereal quality to it, either, like the Andromeda or the Holocene. But it has a slight lightness to it even as it also renders timbre beautifully. There’s a good balance, in other words, between having a substantial sound and being nimble enough to make music pleasingly lively.


    Technicalities
    The Isabellae aren't the most accomplished IEMs when it comes to technicalities. They're no slouch, though, especially given the modest price. These aren’t the fastest IEMs, nor do they have a particularly strong attack to them. The leading edges of notes are slightly rounded; even so, they’re still snappy and clean enough, and they don’t sound in the least bit dull or flat-sounding. If the attack is slightly soft, the decay trails off nicely; I wonder if this contributes to the nice, rich sound.

    Resolution is really very good for the price. It’s not up there with the Andromeda 2020. But the resolution is much closer to that of the Andromeda’s than the Isabellae’s price tag might lead you to believe. From memory I’d guess it’s not far off the SA6, even if the Dunu offers a bit more detail retrieval, perhaps (from distant memory).

    Macrodynamics are also pretty good. These don’t have the greatest impact or even bass slam, but they’re not so lacking as to make the music sound lifeless and dull - quite the contrary. I’m not good at appreciating microdynamics but I could imagine them being seen as one of the Isabellae’s many qualities. I’ll defer to those with better ears than mine here.

    The headstage is also very good without being exceptional. Imaging and instrument separation are excellent. There isn’t much space or air around instruments, but there’s enough distance between them for the Isabellae to avoid sounding congested, which is for the best given their slightly warm tuning, which, for me, can make transducers sound a bit veiled or muffled or closed in. The Isabellae is vastly superior here to the IE 900, from memory. Layering is decent without being outstanding, and the same can be said for the width and depth of the staging. I’m overly fussy about headstage and found the Isabellae to be perfectly acceptable even if it’s a significant step behind the spacious, open, and airy headstage of the Holocene, Andromeda, Solaris, or Soranik Bastille Audiophile or Signature.


    Some minor criticisms
    These are nitpicks. Very rarely there’s a bit of a sheen to the treble, by which I mean a lack of clarity and cleanliness. This isn’t a big deal, it’s barely noticeable, and it’s not a particular issue because of the rolled-off treble. The lack of extension can occasionally be a bit of a problem; cymbals, acoustic guitars, and trumpets don’t sound especially convincing.

    The slightly laid-back tuning makes for a relaxing listen, one that is good for avoiding the fatigue and brightness I’ve heard with other DD IEMs. The Isabellae errs on the side of caution, then.


    Conclusion
    These are great IEMs. I very much like the tuning and the timbre of acoustic instruments through the Isabellae. There’s something very appealing about the overall sound. I was reading old threads on another forum recently and saw people describing tube amps as romantic. I wonder if that adjective also works for the Isabellae. In the end, I keep coming back to the idea that these are very well balanced IEMs. This balance takes several forms:
    • the frequency response is fairly even, with only a slight mid-bass emphasis and a lovely mid-range
      • there’s a balance in the lack of extension at both ends of the frequency range
    • there’s enough tonal weight to instruments for them to come across as rich and substantial without the sound being too thick or sluggish
    • the Isabellae isn’t fast but it’s nimble and responsive enough
    • the leading edges of notes aren’t the most incisive but they’re sufficiently snappy
    • the tuning and technicalities are commensurate with one another
    • the staging is neither too small nor stretched out in an exaggerated way (which might be said of the Holocene)
    • these IEMs’ overall sound isn’t bombastic or overdone; it’s more subtle but engaging and highly enjoyable
    Since I have the Massdrop Plus, Andromeda 2020, and Solaris, I’m not sure I need the Isabellae in my collection. But its timbre is very appealing, and this and the pleasure afforded by listening to these IEMs have me wondering if I should get a pair sometime. Thank you again Rockwell, I very much appreciate the opportunity to hear your lovely Isabellae.
     
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  11. Steve Hecht

    Steve Hecht Rando

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    Thanks so much for this very informative and well-written review. I'm currently in the market for an IEM in the $500-1000 bracket. Right now I'm considering the Oriolus Isabellae and the Penon Volt. Does anyone have experience with both who is willing to share their opinions! I am particularly interested in sound quality comparisons, but all information is appreciated. I'm also interested in the JVC HA-FDX1, although that's in a different price category. I most particularly listen to (non-orchestral) classical, mostly baroque. Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Didn't take measurements, but I found the Isaballae to be like the IEM version of the Verite Closed (the Closed is more neutral than the Open). At least it was voiced that way. Slightly strong bass, slightly laid-back, seductive, even that hint of lower treble sharpness that most people won't notice. The only thing missing was the intentional woody coloration and dialed in reverb if the Verite Closed. FR from lows to upper mids was smooth and timbre didn't have any disjointedness - the result of which is good mids.

    It's not a technical tour-de-force a la IE900 with respect to dynamics and plankton. But then again, the IE900's brash highs, and splashy treble timbre made it unlistenable to me without serious EQ. I get that not everyone will like the Isabellae as many IEM people seem to prefer Sean Olive's "Fuck Me In the Ass IE" target. Yes, the Isaballae does take off some of the edge and aggressive - but this is much preferable.

    All in all, I get the sense that Oriolus had an idea in mind that they set out to achieve - and they achieved it. They listened and tuned, and listened and tuned. It doesn't sound like the rando Chinese IEM slapped whatever TOTL hi-tech SOTA driver which more than not makes me go "bruh".

    $600 ain't bad. Actually rather excellent. However, I'd rather get another high-end snare drum or ride cymbal for the drum kit.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
  13. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    I’ve just had a few days with these courtesy of @Rockwell, who put his personal pair up for a limited Canada loaner along with his 7Hertz Timeless. Thanks!

    Gear
    USB Audio Player Pro from Nokia 4.2, headphone out and via USB to ifi nano iDSD BL
    HiFiBerry Digi2 Pro -> Modi Multibit v2 -> Vali 2
    JVC Spiral Dot tips (stock tips not included with loaner), stock cable with a 4.4 bal to 3.5 SE adapter.

    Sound
    Tonality
    The tonal balance of these is similar to the 7Hertz Timeless, which I really like: not too much bass and not too elevated in the upper mids. @Crinacle ‘s measurements tell much of the story (but not all):

    [​IMG]

    Isabellae indeed has a bit less low bass than Timeless, and is a bit more elevated in the low treble; but in contrast to what the graph suggests, it also comes across as warmer in the low mids. Compared to the Drop JVC HA-FDX1 (with ‘medium stuffed’ nozzles), Isabellae’s bass is fuller, lower mids quite a bit warmer, and treble more elevated; in this case the differences in response look about right, with the upper mid peak being in about the right place, at a lower frequency than the FDX1:

    [​IMG]

    Timbre
    These have a nice dynamic-driver weight and density throughout the range, with the leading edges being not too fast, not too slow, and the tonal thickness reinforcing the lower mid warmth in particular; male vocals and low to mid piano notes are satisfyingly rich without being cloying, while higher up, female vocals, strings and horns have the required bite without ever getting screechy or overemphasizing sibilance. The character across the range feels coherent, notes being delivered smoothly throughout but with perhaps a hint of sharpness in the lower to mid treble (or maybe that’s only by contrast with the Timeless and the FDX1s, which I was listening to as comparisons). I’d be comfortable with these for long sessions.

    Technicalities
    Macrodynamics are satisfyingly impactful but are not sharp. I didn’t think microdynamics and resolution of low-level detail were as good as I was expecting in an IEM of this price, but maybe the overall smoothness of the delivery was just fooling me into thinking they were missing. Separation and layering are an interesting contrast from the Timeless: while the Timeless defines instruments with sharp edges (despite also delivering notes smoothly), Isabellae relies on subtle contrasts in timbral richness to do the same job. The same effect seems to be at work with imaging, Isabellae distributing instruments across the stage with good localization but more overlap, if that makes any sense.

    Final thoughts
    Cheeziness warning: I think the gold colour of these is appropriate, because they’re kind of Goldilocks IEMs – not too fast, not too slow, not too thick, not too light, etc… They do a combination of a lot of things right without being spectacular at any one or two, and the result is that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. I probably should have listened longer and out of a greater variety of sources; but as nice as these are, right now at $600 I don’t find them a compelling upgrade over the HA-FDX1, a single DD with different strengths (dynamics, resolution) for around 1/3 the price, with the change being spent on something complementary or on life.
     
  14. Brause

    Brause Friend

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    Disclaimer
    The Orlolus Isabellae were borrowed from Rockwell and have been returned in the meantime. Thank you very much. I tested the "Isas" with lots of sources. They truly benefitted from amplification. I try to keep this brief and not to be overly repetitive.

    Build
    I usually don't have much to say about this department, but the Isas' haptic is just great. That's quality resin. The earpieces feel premium between my fingers.


    Brief Sound Impressions
    Warm tonality with a slight V-shape, which results in a cohesive, organic presentation. Extension at both ends is somewhat modest so that the main focus is at the mid-bass to lower midrange.

    Tuning is "safe" and there are no unpleasant surprises across the frequency spectrum...which results in a relaxed, never fatiguing listening experience that is particularly well suited for orchestral/acoustic pieces imo.


    There is a mid-bass boost that is not overbearing (which adds warmth to the image and also richness to vocals in the lower midrange. Mid-bass is of medium speed, well textured, but can come across as a bit fuzzy at times, and it can make vintage recordings sound thick. Although there is some rumble at the bottom, sub-bass extension could be better, which is reflected in decreased soundstage depth.

    The lower midrange gets weight from the mid-bass boost and not much energy from the moderate 2-4 kHz area. This results in rich, slightly warm vocals reproduction and the complete absence of shoutiness, but at the expense of midrange clarity. Note definition could also be improved, that is adding some edge.


    [​IMG]
    I could get my standard measurement tips only over the left nozzle!

    The drop starting at 2.5 kHz but accelerating before 5 kHz excludes sibilance and adds to the overall smoothness, but it also adversely affects stage width. Cymbals and hi-hats are typically recessed, though reasonably well resolving.

    Soundstage is of average width with average depth. I miss a deeper stage. Macrodynamics is a bit polite for my taste, notes are rather rounded and deserve more bite. This contributes to the opposite of fatigue…after two hours or so, I feel I need a harder kick! A power full source such as the Apogee Groove helps to some extent. Microdynamics could also be better at this price tag.

    Spatial cues, layering and separation are good however the usual compromise of a single DD, but the wonderful organic timbre compensates for that. The stage can be crowded when a symphony orchestra plays.

    Isas Compared
    Of the iems I know, the discontinued Dunu Zen come sonically closest to the Isas. The Zen have a better sub-bass extension, which creates a deeper stage and a more immersive and engaging listening experience. And they have incredible microdynamics. But they also have a glare in the upper midrange that can attenuate and sharpen vocals. Both lack notable treble extension.

    The $350 Unique Melody 3DT with their three (!) dynamic drivers have a sharper, edgier, and a leaner, cleaner but more brittle and analytical presentation. Notes are better defined but the experience is less engaging though crisper than with the Oriolus. I had to tape the 3DT’s nozzles off to reduce their upper midrange and the danger of shoutiness. Both models could not be more opposite: warm and fuzzy vs. correct and analytical

    The $200 Moondrop KATO have the narrower stage but a clearer midrange and an overall “harder” sound than the Isas. They are not as warm and rich as the Isas, which probably stems from its comparatively less boosted mid bass. The Oriolus sounds smoother and more mature, the KATO more juvenile and energetic…and borderline shouty.

    The JVC HA-FDX1 have a leaner, more neutral, and less bassy presentation. They offer a narrower stage, are more strident in the upper mids, have a somewhat metallic timbre…and are still less analytical than the UM 3DT.

    In summary, the Isas make for a very pleasant, relaxed t listen but may be too polite for some in the long run. Although, I would not kick them off my doorstep either...


     
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    Last edited: Mar 2, 2022
  15. daniellistens

    daniellistens Acquaintance

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    I just received a pair of the Isabella.

    I had them one time on loan from @Rockwell but I didn’t have enough tips to make it work. Now that I have a much wider variety of tips I was able to achieve a good seal and fit.

    Looking forward to listening to these more.

    First impressions are that these are relaxing and musical. A very pleasant listen. Nothing to offend. I absolutely love how acoustic guitars sound with these.

    The cable is perfect and coming standard with a 4.4mm is a good thing and I hope more companies do this in the future.
     

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