If you have been gazing at audio trade shows pics for the last two years you might have noticed a company called oBravo pop up quite a lot with their rather unique headphone driver designs combining dynamic drivers and planar tweeters as well as their Air Motion Transformer(AMT) Tweeter technology which they claim delivers a superior sound. I have yet to test them but looking like a cross between an Abyss planar headphone design and a Hifiman planar can they do look very interesting.
But that is not all. Not content with creating these hybrid headphones, oBravo have decided to implement this technology into a new range of IEMs ranging from $500 all the way up to around $2000. That is not a cheap earphone by any stretch of the imagination but by golly a planar in an IEM? This I had to try in the form of their entry-level ERIB-5A. I figure this will be the sweet spot for most fellow audiophiles to enter the oBravo world unless you are loaded and game enough to go for their current $2k flagship which I believe is the EAMT-3A. The 3A is the IEM sporting the Air Motion Transformer(AMT) Tweeter and the ERIB range including the 5A have the planar tweeter.
oBravo have been around since 2006 by the way and based in Taiwan. This is not fly-by-night start-up on headphones instead they have been working on audio systems since inception with a focus initially on traditional speaker technology they since moved more into mylar ribbon and air motion transformer technology the result of which today is their range of headphones and now IEMs utilizing that very same tech.
What Is The Pitch?
The irony of the ERIB-5A is that it doesn’t actually have any pitch on their own website. The other versions are there but not the entry level 5A. I certainly hope in due course that will be corrected so big thanks to Phils and the team from Custom Cable for supply the necessary technical low down on this IEM. In short, this is hybrid IEM with a Neodymium dynamic driver and a planar tweeter in what is described as a coaxial design all encased in a large semi-open bullet type shell.
Both the planar and dynamic drivers are 8mm so nothing micro here. Bass is delivered by the dynamic driver and everything else is picked up by the planar tweeter, i.e. the mids and highs. It comes in a single ended format as stock but oBravo have built a balanced version of their cable also as an optional extra and believe me you should seriously consider that option because although impedance is a spritely 16 ohms the sensitivity is way down there at 102dB making the ERIB-5A a bit of power hungry beast unlike any other IEM I have tried before. This IEM was built for quality amping be it dedicated or from a DAP.
Combining an aluminum tube and wood plate the ERIB-5A is a tough but reasonably elegant looking S.O.B. It is also slightly on the larger side weighing in at a hefty 35g, which is about 3g more than the solid aluminum RHA T20 and a whole 23g more than the featherweight Westone w4. They are more in the JVC FX850 league of big than the q-jays size bracket so to speak.
No less than 8 port holes adorn a wooden rear end making this a porous semi-open IEM more suited to quiet time listening than your typical passive isolating IEM. The higher end models come encased in ceramic and wood, the entry level 5a is aluminum with oBravo stating that each will offer their own sound signatures given the different housing materials.
The ERIB-5A have an incredibly long but detachable cable stem relief with gold plated connectors more reminiscent of the Shure and Sennheiser HD700/800 series connector types than the typical 2-pin and MMCX connectors. The length and rigidity of the erib-5a cable connectors mean that this is pretty much a straight down insertion rather than an over the ear type cable IEM.
The cable is a cloth covered 1.2m copper type cable with a 2-pole gold plated 3.5mm jack for unbalanced and you can also shop and get the option of the 3-pole 2.5mm TRSS version is you want to go balanced. It is a reasonably soft cable with low levels of memory retention but also it’s missing a chin strap and contains a small amount of microphonics if worn straight down; substantially less so if you can get them worn over your ear.
Fit & Seal
These are not fully open but they are porous, to say the least, so they will not suit your daily commute as the passive isolation is only just above minimal. Better isolation is achievable with the Comply Foam tips that come with the package because the (also supplied) stock silicone tips offer virtually none and pretty much just keep the ERIB-5As from falling out of your ear. The port hole design at the back for the drivers to breathe means the ERIB-5A it’s not really designed for noisy environments. That being said, once you crank up the volume it does get better but silent passages of play will get drowned out by any substantial background noise. With the Comply tips, they do fit in very nicely in your ear but should be worn straight down for maximum comfort given that long strain relief on the cable.
The ERIB-5A is the entry level IEM from oBravo and as such you get a slightly slimmed down pack of accessories but I say only slightly because it’s still a very healthy spread of bits and pieces. The higher end models get a zipped case with a foam cut-out inside to hold everything together. Looks a bit big but safe and secure. On the ERIB-5A, you get the bits and pieces but without the case. Instead, you get a smartish looking fold up pouch with an elasticated string to keep it all compact and together.
It has more than a touch of Asian influence in its design but it looks appealing and svelte though offering little in the way of protection against the elements or knocks. One for your pocket shall we say. Beyond that, you get a supply of T-500 Comply tips in small, medium and large, the same sizes in silicone tips, a manual and a gold plated quarter jack.