iKKO’s latest budget class IEM the High-Ear C comes with a 1DD+4BA hybrid configuration. iKKO says that the Golden Tone monitors are tuned to provide an accurate and balanced sound signature.
A common question is what the benefit is of having that many drivers in an IEM. That varies between models but in the case of the High-Ear C, those five drivers are paired with an electronic component called a crossover. The crossover splits the frequency band into three sections and directs those drivers to produce sound only for their specific part.
The single 10mm dynamic driver handles the low-frequency range, delivering powerful bass response and dynamic performance. The 4 balanced armature drivers are dedicated to improving the high-frequency extension and accuracy. The precise design and tuning of the crossover ensure smooth transitions between different driver units, ensuring coherency and balance in the sound.
The benefit is that each driver is able to be tuned just for the frequencies it’s covering. It gives the sound engineers tighter control over the final tuning and gives you much more of an assurance that none of the drivers are being pushed beyond their limits. Constraining the frequencies for each driver means that the sound produced by each should be high quality and free of any distortion.
The sleek black panel and the transparent housing of the High-Ear C create an exquisite visual statement. Beholds the golden-toned driver units, shimmering with elegance and showcasing the perfect harmony between artistry and technology. The lightweight yet durable PC + CNC aluminum alloy construction ensures long-lasting durability and a comfortable fit.
iKKO gets it right with the design of the IEM. The High-Ear C uses an ergonomic universal IEM shape. It’s medium-sized to accommodate its five drivers per side. The nozzles are fairly long, allowing them to secure in the ear canal and be balanced on the outer ear. It’s a traditional design, but High-Ear C earns points for a pretty striking design. And having a lightweight construction, High-Ear C ensures a comfortable fit that you can enjoy throughout the day.
The stock cable comes with the 0.78 2-pin interface, allowing for easy cable replacement and customization. The copper-plated silver wire cable ensures optimal signal transmission and minimizes signal loss. But this is the cheapest-looking cable that I have ever seen in iKKO IEMs so far and it’s a really bad match for the handsome-looking shells. Definitely not suitable for a $79 IEM.
The High-Ear C has a warm-neutral signature with an emphasis on the sub-bass region. It sounds coherent and tonally balanced across the spectrum. Just like the previous IEMs that I took a look at from iKKO, the High-Ear C also has a solid technical foundation.
The High-Ear C is a great all-rounder as it is capable of powerful bass reproduction whilst maintaining a balanced sound. Before going into detail, let me say that this IEM is the new flagbearer of the sub $100 price bracket.
Firstly, the IEMs still showcase elevated sub-bass to mid-bass regions. The hump decreases nearing the mid-bass. Thanks to the new Golden Tone dynamic driver, the bass response never bleeds and never overpowers the midrange. The DD driver does a great job of controlling the bass reproduction, managing to reproduce a clean, distortion-free, and agile bass.
As for quality, the High-Ear C reproduces one of the cleanest basses I’ve heard in this price bracket. It is fast, snappy, and powerful at the same time. You can throw natural percussions or synth bass lines at it, without fearing how it’ll handle them. Good job.
The midrange is clean, articulate, and airy. The midbass have good weight and stringed instruments, male vocals have realistic body. The midrange is neither forward, nor recessed. The instrument and the vocal texture feel accurate, and the midrange timbre feels natural. The upper midrange of the High-Ear C is balanced. It feels spacious, articulate, and expansive, whilst staying well below the hot areas.
The High-Ear C handles splashy and shouty instruments with ease, thanks to its polite but detailed upper midrange tuning. That being said, the High-Ear C does feel airy and also feels organic. I honestly don’t remember when was the last time I found an IEM organic in this price bracket.
The High-Ear C’s highs can be described as balanced and polite. There is a good amount of top-end extension and detail. I like the tuning of this part, there is just the right amount of treble density, neither too much nor too little. The resolution of the highs is also quite good. This is a tuning that will satisfy both treble lovers and audiophiles with treble sensitivity, so I found this region particularly well done.
The High-Ear C is a technical marvel in its price range. It has impressive resolution combined with a great tonal balance which is hard to come by nowadays. Manufacturers usually go for the old V or full Harman, which renders us, lovers of the neutral warm, unsatisfied.
iKKO successfully crafted a monitor that can stay polite and detailed at the same time. It has great imaging, precise instrument separation, and a wide stage with adequate depth. Its separation is one of the bests in its price range and I can easily say that it surpassed my expectations.
To conclude, the High-Ear C Golden Tone Hybrid In-Ear Monitors demonstrate iKKO’s commitment to delivering excellent audio performance at a competitive price. With its warm-neutral signature, the High-Ear C excels in bass reproduction, offers a balanced and articulate midrange, and presents highs that cater to treble enthusiasts. Its technical prowess, instrument separation, and imaging, sets it apart from its rivals in its price bracket. For those seeking a harmonious blend of detail and warmth in the sub $100 range, the High-Ear C is undoubtedly a hidden gem that needs to be discovered.