Ikko OH1 review - Star amongst the Meteors
The Ikko OH1 is a sample that was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion in this review, as part of a review tour. I thank the team at Ikko & Hifinage for giving me this opportunity.
Ikko has been around for a short while now and yet, it has managed to establish itself as a major player amongst reputed audio brands from across the globe. Infact, in 2021, Ikko is not just a manufacturer of earphones but also happens to make good value for money dongle dac's like the Zerda which I had reviewed previously as well. Considering that both the Ikko OH1 and the more expensive OH10 both compete in the sub 200$ price range which has the toughest competition for audiophile and consumer-grade transducers alike, with established products from Fiio, See Audio, Moondrop, and so on.
Marantz SR5014, LG G8X ThinQ and VE Odessey HD Dongle DAC
The OH1 is a very 'Asian tuned' signature, and I mean that in a good way because there is a good amount of upper-mid focus but not of the broken and awful kind. Overall tuning of the OH1 is a V shape and this might one of the few V shape iems that continues to impress with its vocal ability and midrange prowess. The way the OH1 goes about its delivery is quite astonishing for its asking price of under $140 and be classified as 'mature' and a breath of fresh air.
The tonality of the OH1 is mildly warm with slight brightness brought about by the upper mid focus and extension. The OH1 guns for coherency and transparency and the airy presentation only add to its atmosphere and imaging capabilities. There is a clear sub-bass focus with a leaner / cleaner mid-bass transition which lends the midrange its ability to stand-out and shine in spite of the lower mid recession. Mids are quite lush and the bass prominence adds a god tint of warmth making the presentation very euphonic but not overly smooth. Mids come off as very well textured, detailed, and very natural. Well mastered tracks will be rewarded by the OH1 as it does do justice to the minute intricacies and nuances without breaking a sweat. Treble extension is nothing to brag about, but it's good enough to lend the OH1 enough airiness in the entire presentation without having to draw unwanted attention to itself. Not the most extended or energetic, but still very tastefully in sync with the bigger picture,
On the technical front, the OH1 can compete with midrange iems at even say twice, or may I say thrice its price point too, and that's partially aided by the driver tuning and overall coherency. Transients are quick, instrument separation is handled very well even on complex tracks and the bass response is fairly quick and decently resolving and layered at the same time. Once again, the sense of space and air on the OH1 does help the other technical factors shine even further and that's what makes the OH1 stand out as a revelation from its fellow competitors in particular.
'Shaping a Meteor to look like a Star':
And that be EQ'ing the OH1 if it wasn't clear from the analogy.
Yes, all audiophiles still keeping up and reading this bit can bring out their pitchforks and torches but, like it or not, the OH1 may not be the most suitable tuning for a lot of genres out there especially if one listens to a lot of old Bollywood classics which in all honesty sound literally like a broken record in their best quality. The OH1's upper-mid focus exaggerates and magnifies all vocal flaws to the extent where it could sound unlistenable at times and a bit as if it's pitch sensitive even if it's not really the case. On the other hand, trance, dub-step and EDM listeners alike would enjoy the presentation a wee bit more with a slightly more emphasized bass and treble response and a bit subdued upper midrange progression.
I personally prefer a balanced to mild-v presentation with a boost in the sub-bass frequencies with ample rumbling ability to keep things fun and interesting and hence, the following EQ curve is what I feel brings the best out of the Ikko OH1 for those who prefer a more linear response. Again, these are my preferences and in typical audiophile fashion, YMMV, but hey, you can give it a try!
1. Moondrop Starfield ($110) :
Straight off the bat, the Moondrop starfield is a different tuning compared to the OH1. The Starfield is a harman-neutral tuning whereas the OH1 is a V-shaped presentation. Hence, keeping subjective preference aside based on tuning, it's easy to spot that the Starfield is superior in its technical chops and its ability to highlight textures a tab bit better than the OH1. The difference is not day and night but it sure is perceivable on back-to-back A/Bing. The Starfield is the more midrange focussed of the duo as well with a mild lift in the bass frequencies to keep things interesting and fun and an airy overall performance. However, the OH1 does bass better both in terms of layering, detail, and quantity with an authoritative sub-bass focus. The OH1 also has a slightly heftier note weight, aided by the meatier sub-bass and mid-bass performance. In addition, the timbre is slightly more natural on the Starfield and in-check irrespective of the genre at play and stays true to the source and the recording. The OH1 is more colored, has slightly better depth, and a far better staging width and imaging ability on offer. The OH1 simply sounds 'bigger' and 'wider' than the Starfield and most other sub-150$ iems in general. Lastly, the OH1 is driven very easily, is not as source sensitive, and can be driven off a simple iPod or smartphone to its potential without having to turn up the volume considerably atall. On the other hand, the Starfield benefits from clean amplification, and scales better with a dedicated power source, and is less efficient in general. However, from a scalability point of view, its a draw between the Starfield and OH1, where both scale to an extent, but both cant compete with the upper tier of iem's in terms of absolute technical ability.
2. Ikko OH10 ($200) :
Could be perceived as sibling rivalry, especially considering there is not much in terms of a cost difference between the two here. However, Ikko has managed to separate its audience from having confusion in picking one over the other as each one has its own set of strengths and is tuned quite differently inspite of having a similar V signature from the onset. The OH10 is a massive V signature in the traditional sense of what was called a V signature a few years ago; which was boosted bass and boosted treble frequencies, rather than the newer tendency of boosted bass and upper mid frequencies. If the OH1 sounded big and wide, the OH10 is an even bigger step up. Owing to the massive V-shaped tuning, the OH10 has a lot of depth and yet the staging is wide and quite surprisingly very holographic. Sub-bass is clearly emphasized and there is enough low-end depth and rumble to satisfy any basshead out there. Where the OH1 is gunning for coherency, the OH10 is simply wanted to make an impact on the listener as there is nothing subtle about its presentation. YES, the OH1 has a better tonal balance, but on the technical front, the OH10 marginally edges out the OH1, thanks to the far superior treble tuning. Treble portrayed on the OH10 has energy, extension, and balance which is just short of / on par with the likes of the IE800's and the Andromeda, in my humble opinion, and YMMV. This treble performance makes the OH10 sound airy and performs like the staging champs in this price range. That said, male vocals are a bit too recessed sounding at times and the mid-bass boost doesn't help in any way, which in contrast makes the OH1 sound almost like a mid-centric iem.
In India, one can purchase the Ikko OH1 though Hifinage here : Ikko OH1 - Hifinage