REVIEW: AROMA AUDIO EARLY & TWINS IN-EAR MONITORS
Aroma Audio is a relatively new player in the audiophile headphone market from Japan. A subsidiary of TopWing Cybersound group, we take a closer look at its Early and Twins In-Ear Monitor headphones.
Early and Twins
Early ($540 USD), Twins ($1520 USD)
I consider myself fortunate to review all the latest and greatest headphone releases from all the well-established brands such as Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Bowers & Wilkins, to name a few.
What I do enjoy though is when a new brand pops up on my radar. You never know what to expect, and the products being tested could well go on to become benchmarks.
One such newcomer from Japan, Aroma Audio, recently sent us a few of its fascinating new In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) for a closer look and listen.
Aroma Audio is a subsidiary of TopWing Cybersound group, who are also responsible for more well-known brands including iFi Audio and M2Tech. Aroma is a very young company, first bursting onto the scene in 2015 with their Witch Girl S and Pro IEMs.
Details are sparse on the brand's Japanese website, but they have assured us that an English version of the website is coming soon.
The audiophile IEM market is now well established and can be tough to break into. Does Aroma have what it takes to play with the big boys?
If there is one thing that Japanese audio brands do better than anyone else, it’s luxury.
Each of these IEMs comes in a curious, lightly coloured wooden box, with a matching paper sleeve emblazing the logo on the front.
Like opening an expensive piece of jewellery, lifting the lid of these boxes reveals a gentle bed of padding which contains a solid metal carrying case. Bathed in an anodised silver finish, the case not only looks and feels premium but also gives me complete confidence that I could actually toss it off my roof without damage.
Unscrewing the firm lid reveals the IEMs themselves, which feature a transparent shell, a brushed metal faceplate, and a cable made entirely of braided black wiring. The immediate difference between the Twins and Early models are that the Twins have a neat little switch on each faceplate, for adjusting the audio signature.
Each of the IEMs come with built-in right angled plugs and moulded ear-hooks, as well as three different choices for tips with a soft cloth carrying case. The connector is the standard two-prong IEM connector used by JH IEMs, so replacing the cable is a cheap and easy experience.
The 'Twins' model is packed with 7 Knowles/Sonion balanced armature drivers, in the following configuration:
- Ultra-high range: 2 balanced armature drivers
- High range: 2 balanced armature drivers
- Mid-range: 2 balanced armature drivers
- Low range: 1 balanced armature driver
This model also contains a switch with two positions which makes several changes: The sensitivity increases, the impedance lowers, and the bass rolls off more sharply. It’s a drastic change but having the ability to choose between the two signatures is neat!
The 'Early' model is a hybrid, which contains an 8mm dynamic driver for lows, and a balanced armature driver for highs. The casing is like the higher-priced Twins model but also carries a distinctive blue driver enclosure inside the shell.
The Early IEM features a twin-bore nozzle, while the Twins features a triple bore.
Despite being slightly larger in size than a traditional single driver IEM (such as the Sennheiser IE 80 S), the contoured shape of the enclosure fits surprisingly well inside my ears. And while there is a noticeable heft to the Twins IEM, they still don’t feel heavy or uncomfortable while being worn.
Upon firing up the music via my Chord Electronics Mojo, the sheer sensitivity of the Twins was evident. Even very old smartphones or less powerful amplifiers will power these to huge levels with only a few touches of volume.
Having such a large enclosure means a thick wall of acrylic between the listener and the outside world. As a result, they isolate better than most standard IEMs.
The Twins IEM are not fussy with placement at all while the Early IEM just requires a little movement after insertion to get the sound just right.
While these two IEMs may look similar from the outside, the internal differences and sound signatures between these IEMs are worlds apart.
The Twins IEM comes across with a lively, energetic and technical sound, which can be incredibly engaging.
Staring at the spec sheet and technical details of the driver configuration, it’s very easy to start trying to listen carefully to the technical aspects of the IEM, and trying to pick apart where each crossover sits on the frequency spectrum. But after listening to these for only a few minutes, all the technical jargon will melt away, and you can’t help but just enjoy the music for what it is.
The crossovers are basically impossible to detect with the naked ear. There are no obvious peaks, troughs or awkward wonky ranges in the frequency response; just a linear, smooth and well executed balanced armature array that blends the entire spectrum together seamlessly.
With the switch flipped into the “up” position, the Twins IEM becomes a refined, relaxed and smooth listen. The 4kHz to 6Khz frequency range becomes the star of the show, allowing the high-mid range to take centre stage. Piano keys, vocals and strings all effortlessly float through the mix, without causing nasty ringing or carrying any painful sharp edges with it.
Flicking the switch downward opens the floodgates. Frequencies below 250Hz are unleashed through the triple-bore design, and overall sensitivity increases, leading to a volume increase. Light bass plucks become heavy slams, gentle kicks become strong thumps, and dance music is made great again. Despite the high-mids taking more of a backseat with the switch down, things are much livelier. The latter switch position certainly became my preferred way of listening.
The Early IEMs sport a hybrid driver design and with a whopping 8mm driver dedicated solely to bass frequencies, they don’t have the same midbass thump as the Twins model. Instead, Early has more sub-bass rumble and resonance. This leads to the bass being more “felt” than it is “heard”, which is a common characteristic of a dynamic driver.
With only one balanced armature driver for mids and highs, you would be forgiven for thinking that these might be complete and total bass monsters. You would certainly be wrong. For what this model lacks in technical firepower, they certainly make up for in tuning. The dual-bore configuration allows for each of the drivers to have their own passage directly into the ear canal, leading to a full-range listening experience, with no area of the spectrum missing out.
There is plenty of high reaching extension and detail, with very little congestion. The mix between the dynamic and balanced armature drivers is very balanced and inoffensive, with a crossover which is difficult to detect.
Both these IEM releases from Aroma Audio have strengths in different areas. However, both are very enjoyable and offer an engaging listening experience. With excellent accessories, great comfort, strong isolation and impressive technical prowess under the hood, I can safely suggest that Aroma is a company to watch out for in the future.
At the time of writing Aroma Audio has not yet appointed an Australian distributor, you can contact them directly to purchase.
For more information visit Aroma Audio.
Further Reading: Portable Audio & Headphones Discussion Forum
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.