“Hi Sonny, do you like reference neutral monitor sound?
I said… DO YOU LIKE NEUTRAL REFERENCE AUDIO QUALITY??
I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!”
That is Klaus Eulenbach, then marketing and man of many talents from rhines Custom Monitors, now mandarin student in China (and part time reviewer @ Headfonics) giving out to me the first little info of what he had of the then unnamed new product. He knew how we liked things fairly flat here at Inearspace and Felix Reinsch, rhines head designer said this was to be more to that spec. Well a combination of the sound description and Klaus’s caps lock had me intrigued and it seemed like I was going to be rhines choice of reviewer for these, nice!
Now rhines are German and while I have not directly heard any of their other products before, they were originally as one with Vision Ears under the brand Compact Monitors and both companies took their old range under their new image. Technically that means I have heard rhines Stage 2, 3 and 4 models, with the 3 probably being my favourite tonally. Of course they continued to innovate and firstly released the Stage 5, which was apparently a better done V shape and I never really pursued that. I should have tried it at Munich High End Show as Chord were using rhines demos but some awful human being stole the demos. This means that the Stage 7 is the first pure rhines model I would try and it is also their flagship at quite a steep starting price of €1599 before you add customisation options (my mirror option is around €80). That price is apparently relevant only to Germany but we don’t have a UK distributor and being in the EU I don’t see why our price would be any different.
An Odd Number
rhines take on a simple name scheme and the number is quite simply how many balanced armature drivers the model uses so in the case of this, we have seven. That is certainly an odd number, to my knowledge there is no other 7 driver models out there so that makes this unique in its own right. Of course armature count is just a spec that means nothing in the long run. The drivers are spread out into a 4 way crossover.
Along with the monitor you get a a little more than standard haul of accessories. The included Pelican case is as useful as ever and additionally is rather impressively customised with my name, CIEM artwork and website logo. Thats a special extra touch. You also get a pouch for when you don’t want the bulk or need the protection of the Peli, something I feel is needed on an expensive product. For maintenance you get the standard wax loop cleaning tool, some silica pads and also a bottle of cleaning spray, again something a bit more unusual that actually gets some use. You do as well get a 1/4 inch jack should you need one.
Just like with the Vision Ears VE6 we reviewed the build quality of these is really top notch. While a few of my recent CIEMs have had the benefit of being 3D printed for extra accuracy, normally I get a few bubbles or imperfections with the hand made ones but not here. The shell is smooth an the faceplate is flawless. There is just one caveat for me and that is inside their horn shaped bore. Like VE and now Jomo, the bore is a big horn with the smaller bores deep inside. Its these internal bores that are dusty and messy looking to me, luckily they are tucked away.
As for designs we have a huge array of options. The perks of not 3D printing are the multitude of colour options for shells and we have wood, pearl and artwork all available for faceplates. I let Klaus handle the design and knowing my love of swimming, he went for a deep blue shell and then their rather unique blue mirror faceplate that has artwork combined.
Now one of the downsides to being hand made is sadly turn around time. Klaus always said they were so busy and could be quicker on getting monitors to customers and while I very well appreciate that I am not a normal paying customer, my wait was absurd. I directly gave Klaus my impressions at the Munich High End Show on the 5th of May and my 7s finally arrived on the 14th of October, thats just over 5 months. Maybe that is not the norm but I can only talk from experience, I have only experienced as bad a wait with JH Audio and their Roxanne and we all know the shitstorm that caused. Most companies such as recently with 64 Audio put me through as a regular customer so I get a feel for everything one should expect, if the case here them I am hugely disappointed, there even seemed a lot of internal confusion when it came to getting the monitors out to me.
I must say that I find the horn bores to be a little stubbier than normal and don’t fit too deep and the fit of these is perhaps on the looser side, not at all in a bad way. They have no issues with comfort and as with most CIEMs the isolation is great, it doesn’t do anything to show any difference to any of my other acrylic CIEMs.
Page 2 for Sound
Page 3 for Measurements