A new contender – ikko Audio from Guangdong, China with a small bowtie logo comes to us with its first model OH1 in anodized aluminum alloy housing.
It is a fresh brand started in 2018 but the designs look pretty seasoned, with a very eye-catching faceplate and a hammered copper finish, officially explained as a Meteorite theme. The color and design stand out from the crowd and its aesthetics, as well as performance, will be covered in this review!
When you visit ikkoaudio.com you will see the brand putting some cool original character design and ”music planets” illustrations as their main theme, as well as white foxes that symbolize divinity in myths. It seems to be a young and energetic team behind to have these created and we will see if the sound tuning aligns with the impression.
Design & Fit
The ikko OH1 is a unique blue-themed hybrid universal monitor using a single Knowles 33518 balanced armature driver handling the upper mids and treble, combined with a 10mm polymer composite titanium-plated dynamic driver for the lows.
From the moment I saw internet pictures of the OH1 I liked the faceplate design which resembles hammered copperware. The shape of the OH1 is said to be derived from simulating scientific data. I am not sure if that is legitimate but from what I see the build quality is solid with a nice machining quality and a seamless seal between the faceplate and the alloy housing.
Originally I am worried about the fit as the lower side of the faceplate seems to stick out quite a bit. Luckily it fits just right and the earphones sit cozily in my ears for long sessions without any discomfort.
The design is quite low-profile and thin so the earpieces don’t really stick out of the ear. You can feel the weight from the metallic build but the isolation is good enough for outdoors and there is a better seal using the Final E tips.
The supplied stock cable is a 1.2m OFC silver-plated cable terminated with a 2-pin 0.78mm connector wand finished in matching metallic parts barrels of the same color theme as the main drivers.
The sockets have a fair amount of friction for inserting the cable pins. Some IEMs have very tight sockets and may potentially damage the pins if you force them out or in the wrong way.
I like the color scheme on this cable. The slight grey tone to the looks and the handling feel fairly pliant. There is a cable binder that also comes with the cables to prevent any tangling. There is no slider on the cable, although it still hangs on my ears nicely a slider may be preferred for me.
Packaging & Accessories
The OH1 comes in a neat white-themed retail box and you can find 8 languages at the back for specs. This is a good attempt to look professional but it would be nicer to have some actual introduction on sound and design. The stock cable is an OFC (oxygen-free copper) silver-plated. You also receive an envelope with user guides fitted in.
Opening the sleeve you will find a black inner box and in 3 compartments it fits 2 kinds of tips with different bore sizes, the earphones, and the detachable cable wrapped in a portable pouch. The tips are separated, for vocal & balance tuning
The small soft pouch fits the OH1 nicely, however, the earpieces scratch against each other in the bag when you move around. The paint or anodized finish is done right so the color doesn’t wear off but you may still consider getting better storage options for them.
When the OH1 is queued for review I paired it with the M11 to let the drivers run in so it has at least 100+ hours of play time with different music.
The OH1 is quite sensitive to power and it is recommended to use stronger outputs for more balanced and controlled bass performance. If you put it on very weak outputs it may sound hollow and lacking in bass.
Tips do play a big role here so I am breaking down my impressions using the various tips supplied with the OH1.
The OH1 shows its hybrid character with a fairly V-shaped response. On mid-tier DAPs like the M11/ R6 you will hear good depth in the tuning quite like the Final B1 we reviewed earlier this year. Guitars/ strings can sound on the narrow side so staging width is on the average side but never sound flat or lacking in dynamics.
There is a comfortable but slow bass decay with a slight dip in the mid-lows so some vocals will image a little further back. The OH1 with the vocal tips sounds great with instrumentals or relaxing jazz music but may be slightly hollow in its performance for vocal-focused tracks.
You can also hear the upper mids being pronounced and lifted for more clarity and there is quite a tweak in the treble so that nothing sounds harsh and no sibilance is heard while the snares are still clearly heard.
Guitar and bass-intensive instruments sound lively but strings and woodwinds may require more sparkle to sound realistic. The tuning works great outdoors and sounds energetic however it may get a bit boomy indoors if your output doesn’t have enough control.
Switching to the balanced ear tips the ikko OH1 sounds cleaner and lighter voices more natural. The smaller bore on the clear tips helps tame down the fat bass revealing more details in the mids and enhancing the overall balance and resolution.
On both sets of tips, the upper vocal part is tuned to be more forward which enhances the clarity perceived.
With good energy in the lows, OH1 sounds engaging and upfront for drums-intensive instrumentals, the treble never gets hot and it works well re-creating the vibes for club music.
There are some lifted frequencies around 2-3kHz which boost nasal tones and give a unique signature to some voices, simple instrumentals also sound enjoyable on the OH1 when powered well.
The ikko OH1 is rated at 106dB SPL and 18ohm in impedance which on paper suggests that this IEM is relatively inefficient for current but not overly demanding to drive.
I’m pushing it to 60% volume on my phones and surprisingly it sounds quite resolving and engaging. You can easily tell it is a hybrid with that slower bass and different texture in the treble. There are some obvious lifts in the upper mids that bring out more vocal details for light-sounding singers.
When you switch to DAPs i.e. Hiby R6 and the FiiO M11, you will definitely sense more coherence and bass texture with that additional power pushing the dynamic driver harder.
The overall tuning will sound more balanced compared to the more muffled-up sound in the bass when underpowered by weaker sources. On the FiiO K3 high gain setting you will hear a decent sub-bass presence and a faster attack without the lower mids bleeding over the lower and higher frequency performance.
On the QP2R using higher gain, the bass gets tighter and more controlled and you will hear a lot more separation and better treble extension. In any case, I prefer more powerful outputs to prevent the bass from being too fat and loose sounding but the output on phones and laptops won’t collapse like a deck of cards.
Final Audio E4000
Both E4000 and OH1 have an emphasized bass response. With an additional tweeter, the ikko OH1 is less treble-shy than the E4000, showing off more mid-high frequency texture while keeping a lot of energy in the bass.
With only a single DD inside the E4000 has a smoother articulation and sounds more natural throughout the whole spectrum. The OH1, on the other hand, boosts clarity and delivers a soundstage with a careful V-shaped tuning.
The E4000 has a flatter response and more potential to scale up with better sources. The ikko OH1 sounds quite opened up and engaging with phones and laptop outputs making it a good match for entry-level users.
FA1 is a DLP technology printed IEM with a single BA on each side, at a similar price point to the ikko OH1. Despite being limited by a single driver, the FA1 is skillfully tuned to sound clean and balanced.
Comparing the FA1 and OH1 head to head you will hear a more extended treble on FA1 that makes string instruments more lively and resolving. The OH1 will shift your attention to its rich bass and an emphasis on the mid-highs.
This is a more relaxed tuning, however, the tighter bass and faster attack on the FA1 may handle more textured songs like game BGMs better. The FA1 also sounds less colored in the mids.
The ikko OH1 is a broadly v-shaped response but with some cleverly tuned bumps for a clean vocal and comfortable bass response.
This is a complete package at a competitive price along with an above-average build quality with those anodized metal housings. The tuning is very relaxing to listen to while at work, quite like the vibes in a busy coffee shop where the background music doesn’t steal your focus.
The ikko OH1 is a fun-sounding item to kick off the brand and I am looking forward to seeing what ikko can bring to us next!