Ikko OH10: airy, bassy & amazing!
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Hi all, welcome back to the Neighborhood. It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer coming at you with a very special review. A review of the Ikko OH10. Like the Elex, this IEM has been a bit of a great white buffalo for me; meaning that it has been hard for me to track it down and listen to it. I was excited to get the opportunity to listen to this set at RMAF 2019 at the HIFIGuides Room. And while it was nice to meet Z and DMS, by the time I got there, someone had stolen the set from the room. I think I was actually the one to discover that it was missing, so I was “this close” to getting to hear them, but alas they eluded me that day. And, it’s evaded me until now… so without further wait… Let’s get InToit!
So, let’s start things out with the build and some misconceptions. Pretty much every review out there states that the OH10 weighs “a lot.” But honestly, it’s not really that heavy when worn. I’m not sure what these other reviewers are really complaining about, because they must have some pretty weak neck muscles or ear canals to complain about the weight here. One you get them in your ear, there are supremely comfortable, and I don’t even notice the weight. And, I’m just going to say it, if you do, then you’re a bit of a wuss. They’re probably a bit heavy to exercise heavily in, but these are so nice, I wouldn’t recommend really using them out and about on repetitive basis anyhow. For comparisons sake, I would say that, in-the-ear, the OH10 feels like it weighs less than the original Shuoer Tape 09.
The shell here also has an interesting contoured shape. It is significantly thinner and less chunky than I would have expected. Compared to a KZ ZSX or KBEAR Lark, I actually think these have a slimmer profile, and fit flusher within my ear. They do have a few millimeters on these sets top to bottom, but I had no problem with fit, and the shell to be somewhat ergonomic depending upon tip selection. Regarding its material, the shell is made out of copper, and coated with titanium on the outside and platinum on the inside.
Connection at the IEM is initiated via 0.78mm 2-pin, and the provided cable is OFC silver-plated and terminates in a right-angled 3.5mm TRS connection. The cable itself was ostensibly fine, but I found it a bit thin and I wanted for a cable replacement. Luckily, the cable for the Reecho & Peacock Spring Day was laying around because it was a bit too bright for that set, but on the OH10 it was a match made in heaven.
Regarding tips, the OH10 comes with two sets of somewhat wider-bored silicones, a clear set and a solid black set. Between the two I preferred the fit and sound of the black set. But in listening with the stock tips, I could not hear the famous wide stage that these have become known for. So, I decided to give Z’s tried and true Dekoni Mercury Foam Tips a shot, and there it was; the large stage. Needless to say, as I am sucker for stage, I preferred foam tips with this set, but I actually found LUDOS Comfortable Memory Foam Ear Tips to even better than the Dekoni tips with the OH10. These are some of my new, favorite tips, and, at $7.99 for 6 sets, you might want to give these a try for yourself.
And, now might be as good of a time as any, to discuss a pet peeve of mine. Certain reviewers have been putting forth the idea that tips don’t really matter aside for fit and comfort. They’ve been espousing that one should find their preferred tip, and then find IEMs to go with it. And, in my view, this is asinine advice. Tips are like pads people. They do change the sound, for better or for worse, and what fits poorly on one set might fit fine on another. Furthermore, if you are a reviewer, and you’re only using one tip to review a product, then you are doing your audience, yourself, that product, and your review a disservice. In my eyes, it’s just plain lazy. Moreover, audiophile community: if you’re taking the advice of someone who is only using one tip, then you should question that advice too! But I’ll go ahead, and get off of my soapbox for now.
The OH10 is a dual titanium driver, hybrid design, consisting of a 33518 Knowles Balanced Armature and a 10mm polymer diaphragm, titanium-coated dynamic. The interplay between the copper shell, platinum-coated chamber, and titanium-coated drivers is pure genius, and unique both within the market place and in its sound. Driving the OH10 is not difficult, nor did I find its BA remarkably too sensitive compared to other BA driven sets. Having said that, you might need to use an iFi IEMatch on devices with high output impedances, such as I did with the Gold Note DS-10 Plus. The Gold Note DS-10 Plus and the BTR 3K were some of my favorite sources for this set, but I had no difficulty driving it off my phone as well, if needed.
So, what does the OH10 sound like? If I had to sum it up in three words: airy, bassy, and amazing! This is one of my favorite sets to have graced the review space here at the channel to date. Prior to getting one in for review, I the idea in my head that this set was likely a wee bit over-priced, but having now heard it, I actually think it’s quite the value. The lowest that I have seen this set for sale was on Amazon for $150 over the holidays, and hopefully you were lucky enough to snag one up then, but if you weren’t, then don’t feel bad, because even at $199 you’re getting your money’s worth. And, as those who follow the channel, I rarely say that.
Based on other reviews, I had expected the OH10’s timbre to be warm, or even dark, but honestly these are pretty neutral sounding, and even bright leaning in the upper registries. There is some mild artificialness from its balanced armature, but I wouldn’t stress it too much, as I would class its general character as enhanced, natural overall. To me, these sound like a beryllium tweeter in a speaker, with a certain defined crispiness to an otherwise smooth articulation.
But, getting back to others’ false reports that these are warm in their tonality, I think many reviewers simply confuse bass presence with warmth. And let me tell you, these are some bassy boys. These keep up with something like a TFZ No.3 in the low-end department, and they have good bass detail, definition, articulation, sub-bass extension, which will appeal to both bassheads and audiophiles alike. Macrodynamics border on intense, but are never fatiguing to my ears. Impact is felt, and the bass is punchy, even with foam tips; but it isn’t overly quick and there is a mild diffuseness as a result, which does come across on particular tracks, and can bleed into the lower mid-range, even if it is without too much offense and mostly controlled. Z referenced the Juggernaut in his review of this set, and I kind of have to agree. When I listen to these, I have a mental picture of the Juggernaut stomping around, and rumbling things in my head.
The presentation here, is most assuredly a V-shaped one, but I never really felt the mid-range to be lacking in detail or definition, even in the lower-midrange. Instead, the sound profile of the lower mid-range is perceived simply as less forward, rather than as it is lacking in representation as in other V-shaped sets. In other words, the V-shape here comes across as rather natural sounding in its representation of instruments, including guitars, pianos, and other instruments, which span this region of the frequency response spectrum. And, although there is a mid-range shelf between 2.5 and 4.5K, I never found the mids to be shouty, overly aggressive, sibilant, or shrill, even from this region. Instead, the mids seemed to always present themselves plenty forward enough to impart detail, while remaining smooth and relaxing to listen to in their overall presentation.
The treble also followed a similar pattern. Like the mid-range, it was also well represented, extended just enough, and seemed to impart more information to the listener than its graph would indicate. Again, sonics are perfectly elevated in their tuning to impart detail to the listener without ever been too intense or assaultive in any way. I would describe the treble as articulate, yet smooth; clear, but delicate- and almost feathery in its character. The treble also adds a decent amount of air to the OH10’s presentation as well, and one can see on the extension, which is well represented on its graph. This airy characteristic one of the most significant traits of this set, which separates the OH10 from other others in its price-range.
The OH10’s soundstage is also a strength of this set, especially when heard with foam tips. In comparison to something like the Shozy Rouge, the soundstage may not be as expansive as the rouge, but it is almost as wide, and I would argue that there is some additional height and depth to its presentation- resulting in a slightly more 3D image in comparison. Both stages are great, and which one prefers will be up to that individual. For me, I like them both; and these are more similar than they are different. When I’m in the mood for more bass, dynamics, and air, I choose the OH10; while I choose the Rouge for its more mid-forward, balanced presentation, additional treble extension, dimensionality, and added scalability.
Things layer reasonably well within the OH10’s stage, but separation is only slightly above average. Transients and decay are fabulous, macrodynamics stellar, and peripheral detailing excellent. Imaging placement is on point, and sonics are accurately placed within the stage, but instrumentation could run slightly together on busier tracks.
Vocals are well centered, but male vocals are significantly smaller in their presentation and more in-the-mix in comparison to female vocals which were larger and more forward in their character. For example Layne Staley’s vocals on Alice in Chains’ “Dirt,” were more limited in their performance on the OH10 in comparison other sets. While Lana Del Rey’s vocals on “Money Power Glory” were large, looming, accented, and elevated on this track. The song, “Let It Go” by Colin & Caroline also displayed this vocal difference, as their harmonization was somehow more disparate on the OH10 than on other sets that I have tested, as the effect of this set’s V-shaped tuning was notable in this vocal arrangement.
In summary, the OH10 may not be a perfect set, but it definitely perfectly enjoyable to me. It is a unique combination of bassy, airy, and articulate with a smooth delivery overall. It is V-shaped, but executed mostly well, and surprisingly so. In fact, this is one of favorite sets within the price-range, and easy recommendation to make for bassheads and audiophiles alike. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for, and I’ll be holding onto my set, I presume, for a long time. Its as comfortable to wear, as it is pretty to look at and easy to listen too. So, if you’ve been considering the OH10, and have liked what I’ve had to say about it; fear not and take the plunge! I can pretty much promise you; you won’t regret it. And with that, I’m out… for now!
*Gold Note DS-10 Plus available from Gestalt Audio Design: https://gestalt.audio/
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