Disclaimer: I was sent the IKKO OH1 as a review sample by Patrick Lin after having a conversation about IKKO products on facebook. If you have an interest in IKKO products, please visit their website, or facebook. IKKO products can be purchased from Amazon here or purchased from Penon Audio here.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The box has a white slip-cover with the ikko logo and earpiece adorning the front and specs on the rear. inside is a black pressboard lift-top box again sporting the Ikko Logo. Immediately under the lid, we find an envelope that contains the warranty card and instructions. Beneath that, the earpieces are revealed in a foam tray at the upper end and the two sets of tips also housed in foam in the lower portion. Beneath the tips hides the soft case with the cable inside it.
The kit included with the OH1 is fairly thorough, with 6 sets of tips (3 each vocal and balanced in SML), a soft carry case, the instructions and warranty card, and the cable. Overall, for an IEM at this price level, the kit is equal to or better most brands and falls behind only ibasso (hard case) and Fiio (kitchen sink in kit). I would have liked to see the pouch offer a pocket to keep the two earpieces from touching when in transit to prevent scratches.
Shells are cast aluminum anodized uniformly in a deep royal blue in a teardrop style. Size is medium-large but depth of the shell is thinner than most which helps with getting good insertion and seal from a relatively short nozzle. Unlike most models at this price point, nozzles are part of the inner shell and not a separate piece. I commend Ikko on doing this the harder way as that means more internal and external polishing of some pretty tight spaces to get the anodizing right and the sound channel correct. Nozzles are at the lead edge of the shell with a forward and upward rake and have a pronouned lip. Venting is a single port behind the nozzles on the interior of the shell and one on the upper surface of the shell between the two pin connector and the L/R designation. Both earpieces have the Ikko logo and name along the rear of the shell and are very tastefully done.
Bass details are handled by a 10mm titanium plated dynamic driver while higher frequencies are handled by the Knowles 33518 balanced armature driver. The 33518 is a newer Knowles driver that is targeted at hearing aids and audio above 1kHz per Knowles. Some will recognize this pairing as being similar to the Fiio FH1 that also uses a 10 mm dynamic coupled to the 33518. The Magaosi also uses the 33518 in a more limited role as the mid driver between 22955 (CI) Bass armature and the 29689 (ED) treble armature. Nominal impedance is listed as 18Ω with a sensitivity of 106dB/mW which makes the OH1 easy to drive using low powered sources like phones and tablets. I did find the OH1 scales well but was more than adequate when used directly from an android phone or iPad.
The cable is well done with all metal accents anodized to match the color of the earpieces and color matching is spot on. the Jack is a 90º style that I prefer with a metal barrel and a black plastic strain relief above it. The cabling itself is a 4 strand silver plated 5n oxygen free copper in a double helix (two wires twisted, then pairs twisted) from jack to splitter. The splitter is also a blue metal barrel with each pair of the helix exiting to the earpieces. Terminations have a pre-formed earhook without memory wire and end with metal cased .78 mm bi-pin connectors. Right is duly marked with a red ring. If there is a complaint here, the bi-pin connector on the iem is raised and the connector on the cable does not have a matching recess which makes the connection look a bit different than most other models. Overall, a well done cable with nice accents to match the earpieces. Now about that matching chin slider? (wish it had one).
Two sets of tips are provided, one marked vocal and the other marked balanced. Perhaps oddly, I found the vocal tips to be a bit more balanced and used those for the bulk of my listening notes.
Bass is the star of the show on the OH1 to me. The OH1 has better than average extension at the low end and sub-bass is not only good in quantity, it is also good in quality. Not boomy or loose, but tight, clean, and with better detail than expected. Attack and decay are both better than expected with decay being only slightly slower than attack and still faster than expected for a dynamic driver. In that respect the OH1 combines the best features of dynamic driver bass with the control of BA bass. Sub-bass is foward of mid-bass (a preference for me) but detail and character remain consistent as you climb through the range. Mid-bass shows no bleed into the mids and no bloom at all making this one of the cleanest two driver hybrids I have heard as the point between mid-bass and mids is usually where the hand-off between dynamic and BA takes place and more often than not the point at which coherency falls apart or a perceptible bass bleed is present.
As we move from the bass into the mid-range, the transition is fluid with no major drop-off or large spikes. Mids are slightly behind the bass but not enough to even call it a recess. Tonality is quite good which proves that Ikko has done more to tune the BA driver than the previously mentioned FH1. Vocals show good clarity for both lower registers and upper with a mild push forward of upper-mids that gives female vocals just a touch more presence than lower voiced counterparts. Details are quite good and timbre on vocals is as well. Timbre on upper strings is a bit on the hot side and can come across as slightly brassy at times. Guitar is particularly well rendered with both acoustic and electric sounding lifelike and energetic.
As we climb from the upper-mids into lower treble, we almost immediately plateau and stay put at the same level for most of the treble range. This is in stark contrast to many iems that are a ball of spikes when looking at frequencies above 2kHz. The OH1 does a good job with giving snare enough edge to be credible but not sounding sharp or harsh. Overall, the treble feels quite laid-back and easy to listen to for extended sessions. Clarity is good with a solid level of detail in the lower treble and then as it climbs into the higher ranges, detail and output begin to taper off pretty steeply above about 10kHz. This makes for some air and sparkle while remaining non-fatiguing and polite. The only drawback is as tracks get more complex with lots of treble-heavy parts, the OH1 can get a bit overwhelmed and sounds a bit thick. This isnt a common issue, but something to know is a possibility so if you listen to a lot of treble-intensive works, you may wish to audition before purchase.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage has good depth (better than expected) and width (as expected) with the balance being slightly in favor of width. While not as 3d as some, there is some sense of height and instrument positioning benefits. I didn’t find any congestion to the stage and with width favored no tendency to place instruments behind each other instead of next to each other. Binaural recordings like the Cowboy Junkies trinity session that I enjoy do a good job of showing off the stage and imaging capabilities of the OH1. Overall imaging is class leading and competes well with models significantly above its price point. Spatial cues are well rendered which makes the OH1 good for movie watching and maybe gaming although I am not a big gamer so cant speak directly to that point. Layering is also quite good and I didn’t find that it bogged down or thickened as tracks got busier and more complex.
With both sharing a 10mm dynamic and the same BA driver this is a natural comparison. With a $75 price difference maybe a bit less so, but lets do it all the same. Both share a similar bass forward tuning with good slam but the OH1 notches the win for better control and depth. Both are good, but OH1 is better. Mids are very similar and again, this is more a matter of degree than difference with a slight edge going to the OH1 for better transition from bass to mids and a bit more energy in the upper mid-range. Treble is again about equal, but here I had trouble picking a clear winner as the two are more similar than not.
Build-wise the OH-1 is the more polished product and both have solid cables. The kit on the FH1 is better due to the addition of the pelican case and 2nd cable for use with a phone.
NiceHCK M6 (DMG Vented filter)
The M6 is a bit brighter and has a sharper edge to its sound than the more relaxed OH1. This makes the OH1 sound more natural while the M6 at times sounds a bit strained and/or clinical and dry. Mids are more forward on the M6 which again is mixed. On some tracks the forward mids helps the M6 feel more engaging with strings in particular, but on others that forward push can result in a more strident tone and some sibilance at times.
Build-wise, both are quite good but quality of anodizing and cable go to the OH1 as the clear winner.
Again, I referenced the X3 earlier as sharing the mid-range driver with the OH1 so this is a natural comparison. Bass slam goes to the OH1 without doubt as does low end extension. Both models exhibit very good control of the bass so on that count we will call it a draw. Mids are good on both and very similar but for me strings are a bit better on the X3 where the timbre is a bit more natural. Highs are similar on both as neither has fantastic top end extension but the OH1 sounds less rolled off where the X3 has a lack of air at the high end.
Build-wise, this is quite a clash, the clear acrylic of the X3 with its sound tubes has a lot of appeal, but so does the polish of the OH1. The kit is better on the X3 with its included hard case and bluetooth cable, but at $45 more, those items could be purchased separately for the OH1.
Moondrop Kanas Pro
The Kanas pro is way closer to neutral than the OH1 which has a much more V shaped (nearly U shaped at times) signature. Bass is far more the star of the show with the OH1 than with the KP while mids are fuller on the KP, Treble is a bit more forward on the OH1 which gives the OH1 a bit more air and sparkle than the KP. The KP has a bit more detail especially in the mids and lower treble. Both share a sort of laid-back effortless delivery, but for me the KP is slightly better at it.
Build-wise both are stellar and both cables are equally good. The OH1 does have the advantage of weighing about 1/2 what the KP does so may be more comfortable for long wear.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
First off, my thanks to Patrick and Ikko for sending me the OH1 to try. I found the OH1 to be a great way to launch a new company into the busy audio landscape and it shows a level of capability well beyond what one would expect from an introductory model. From the polished shell to the mature tuning, the OH1 has all the hallmarks of a seasoned product and competes well at its price point. For those who like sub-bass rumble and a polite treble, the OH1 should be on your list to audition. I’ve been using mine for a solid week as I write this review, and think they will likely retain a spot in my work lineup now that I am done writing. For those times when you just want to relax and listen, they make a great companion.
Pros: build quality, bass performance, solid mids w/ good detail, great clarity and separation, very open
Cons: carrying case doesn’t keep earpieces separated, can be harsh in upper mids, U shape is definitely not a reference tuning.