Maybe Not Reference
For some and certainly me it is time to burst the bubble. If you was looking for what perhaps could be your new reference, its is probably time to look away. From my first listen I knew what these earphones seem to be about and never once and the word neutral or balanced floated into my mind. They just aren’t that. It doesn’t make them bad, it just was not what I expected and does seem to contradict the signature I was told and the website seems to preach.
“Perhaps the most precise monitoring tool ever, the rhines Stage 7 uncovers the complete truth of any recording with the highest transparency possible… have materialised into a new reference monitor.”
While brief that is the sort of description you expect to come with a product like the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor or Hidition Viento-R and while as I said it does by no means make this a bad earphone, it does worry me about the company. Have they done measurements? Have they tested the market? Have they compared to other so called references? Obviously neutral and reference are quite ambiguous terms and I know a lot of us will have a different understanding of what that means but I have never seen anyone moan about Ultimate Ears claims with their UERM so if that is a universal reference for the people and one that me and Josh user here at Inearspace, that still concludes happily that the Stage 7 is not.
While by now I have certainly made by point clear that these are not something that are reference and will also add that I don’t think they meet the claims of the highest transparency possible, they aren’t the most coloured earphone in existence. They do have a warm tilt to them but they aren’t heavily bassy and certainly aren’t super bright. I can only imagine it would be like a curry having a zero spicy rating but does have a little bit of kick to it, no its not a habanero chilli hot but does have more bite that in it should. The warmth comes from a mild boost in the mid bass and then continues into a smooth and effortless midrange and top end. It is an easy and relaxed listen, from no where I get a hint of fatigue. They also aren’t one to shred a recording apart, that can be a great trait but is not something I look for when I read reference in the description.
The slightly boosted bass seems to be really well presented and the pulled off with extra meat in all the right places. There seems to be extra grunt on the edge of mid bass and sub bass and this allows a great impact and movement of air in a way that seems to not really distract from the rest of the sound. It can step up its game when needed and while it does have a bit extra decay, it is not syrupy or dominating.
The midrange as I have said is smooth and while at first it transits from the bass fairly well, stealing just an element of warmth, it is when it gets higher that I am a little unsure. You see the midrange is by no means out of the mix, it is only a touch behind the bass and sound pretty full in the lower mids but does seem to lose its presence into the higher midrange and makes for a woolier midrange that just doesn’t sound hugely focussed. It is a bit disorientating to me actually. After the upper mid dip we do seem to get a little jump up for some extra treble but it seems to be a more polite boost with a faster decay and strong body for great coherence with the rest of the sound.
Finally the soundstage is by no means small, it just doesn’t have a element of precision or clarity to it. Its almost a bit smudged, individual comments of a track don’t emit in their own aura, the music is held together well but does not let you clearly identify the finer details or imaging.
German Craft Doesn’t Come Cheap
I think I have already made clear that my biggest problem with this product is that it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. If I was to buy lemonade I want lemonade and like lemonade, CIEMs aren’t that easy to try before you buy, maybe in Asia where there is a lot of distributors but certainly not in the UK. Other than that though we have a big and powerful sounding monitor that is smooth and non fatiguing, at least they got that bit right in the description. For me though the fuzziness in the midrange, especially the vocals is something that seems to much to bare at the price, these are really good earphones but I feel like that is going a little far at well over £1000. Funnily enough as I write this I am listening to an instrumental by Foals and without the vocals the sound is very engaging and coherent, maybe it still lacks a touch of finesse but the timbre is real and width exceptional. While not my most expensive CIEM this is certainly nearer the top end but I don’t think this quite sits in my top percentage of CIEMs, its just a tier below and I hate to end like this but if you want a reference model, save some cash and get a UERM, its cheaper, and more linear. Well the old one was, they now have a new one so will have to watch that space.
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Page 3 for Measurements