Sound Impressions

Tonality

This was not the easiest tonal profile to get a grip on initially. Apart from requiring 50-60 hours of burn in you also had the issue of which tips to use and what kind of source (i.e. power) you should use. In short, the tonality of the ERIB-5A kept on changing and, to some extent, it still is even as I write. I am not a huge believer in burn-in for all things, I think it is a case by case basis to be honest, with some things developing over time and other things changing not a jot. The ERIB-5A is one such IEM that definitely does change with burn in. At heart, this is an open sounding midrange performer with a very natural sound, polite but full sounding bass performance and a neutral if slightly laid back treble. To get to that sound though you have to set it up just right.

Silicone Tips

It is also one IEM that definitely changes with the use of the tips and in a big way.  That core sound I described? Well, it is not with the silicone tips I can assure you. At the outset with silicone tips this was awful and I know quite a few who will happily agree with me. It is grainy with a hard midrange and an edgy and bright top end with a bass signature that basically had gone walkies. Tonally it was just all nasally, compressed, edgy and wrong. Yes, it has space, a fairly large soundstage by all accounts but the imaging was very center focused and not terribly accurate.

Comply Tips

Throw on the foams and wow total re-invention. It’s still relatively big sounding but this time there is some meat on the bones with a thicker note, far more natural timbre and a nice focus on the mid-range. Bass is polite but warm, treble is restrained but never lacking in detail. Yes, this is a mid-range performer of sorts with a great presentation of vocals, particularly female vocals but it’s not one-dimensional sounding. Instrumental timbre is excellent also with foam tips and far more realistic sounding than the silicones. Burn the silicone tips, use only if you like thin, bright and hard. Stick with the foams, they will give you a far smoother and more natural sounding presentation.

Power

The third major problem is power. This is a hungry IEM and given that planar tech is inside I guess I should not be surprised but I was still expecting something a little more akin to say a high ohm earphone but nope, this is more like a mini-planar headphone. Whilst you will get volume on weaker amps it does need decent power to sound at it’s best.

If you are old school and if I told you the ERIB-5A needs a stack you might be grinning and thinking of a comeback for source and portable amp stacking. The truth though is there is the odd DAP with enough juice to get this IEM to shine but it is just as happy singing out of a full desktop I kid you not. Hiss? Not a chance? This an IEM that loves rigs, the bigger the rig and quite often the better it sounds. Not only that oBravo have thrown in the option to buy a balanced version of its stock cable giving it even more potential on balanced 2.5mm out rigs such as ALO’s CDM, DAPs such as the Opus#1, AK240 and 380 as well as the Cayin N5.

Matchability

So getting a match with the oBravo could well be a case of trial and error given the wide variety of different performances you get with changing your source or amp or both. If you have a balanced setup that chances are good you will get a better level of performance but this is not a blanket statement and should not apply to all balanced sources.

AK240

Amping out of the AK240 in balanced mode the ERIB-5A sounds crystal clear, controlled and very natural. This is not a match for bass heavy genres, both the source and the IEM’s are too polite in that respect to illicit earth-shattering low-end responses. Instead, you get a neutral snappy bass performance and a spacious mid-range where vocals are the star of the show. Special mention to the AK240/ERIb-5A staging, which has the superior width and more accurate imaging than some other match-ups such as the ALO CDM and the Cayin N5 which sounded narrower in comparison.

ALO Audio Continental Dual Mono

The ALO Audio CDM balanced via DAC out from the PC didn’t sound as spacious and detailed as the AK240 match up but added an element of richness to the midrange that the AK240 lacked. The mid-range is still the focal point with this pairing but now you get a more intimate analog tonal quality.  Some might opt for this tonal match, particularly tube fans and normally myself included. For once, I have to defer to the AK240 which I felt made more use of the ERIB-5A staging properties and yielded a clearer vocal presentation.

Opus#1

Another balanced but slightly cheaper option is the Opus#1 DAP from The Bit. I reviewed this one quite recently and frankly was not expecting this to be a good match with the ERIB-5A. How wrong was I! Paired with the ERIB-5A volume requirements are almost on par with the Oppo PM-3 and Hifiman HE400s even in balanced mode. That’s a huge 40 steps above the quad BA Campfire Audio Jupiter but the Opus#1 can drive it pretty well.

It doesn’t have the same level of clarity or detail of the AK240, nor possess that tubish analog quality of the CDM. Instead, the Opus#1/ERIb-5A offers you plenty of space with a decent turn of pace. Bass is polite but full sounding when needed. Swirling synths and arena type ambient house sounded “big”, vocals sounded smooth with zero sibilance but not quite as defined as the AK240 or as forward as the CDM.

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Cayin N5

A mid-fi DAP with a balanced output this pairing with the ERIB-5A sounded a bit sharper than the Opus#1 and even though its known for a full sounding and musical low end it didn’t quite translate that across to the ERIB-5A, instead remaining relatively full but polite in the low end. Vocals were a little thinner sounding also and didn’t sound as natural as the Alien or as smooth as the Opus#1. Staging also felt a bit closed in compared to the Opus#1 and the Alien gold which is one area I think the ERIB-5A can really perform. Power wise the N5 was pushing 35-40 steps which is double the volume of the Campfire Audio Orion and Shure SE846 and once again in Oppo PM territory in balanced mode.

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Sony ZX1

Going single ended with the Sony ZX1 I was half expecting this match to lag behind the others given the Sony amp is not the most powerful around. This was simply not the case with zero clipping or distortion and sitting sweetly around 70% volume. More good news with this pairing is the lack of hiss which is something that the ZX1 can be prone to with more efficient IEMs.

This was a smoother more resolving pairing than the N5 with a blacker background and a more spacious sound but not quite as spacious as the Opus#1 or as detailed as the AK240. Vocal presence was excellent with a very natural tonality and an accurate timbre on the ERIB-5A. This pairing worked very well for 80’s hard rock and AOR.

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FiiO X7 (AM2)

Another single ended DAP but this time with their mid-powered amp module, the AM2. The more powerful AM2 was the more suitable of the 2 amps on offer (not including the AM5 just yet) with the IEM module just not really giving the ERIB-5A enough dynamics and power for my liking. The AM2’s more aggressive musical tonality paired well with the ERIB-5A offering a full-bodied sound with excellent detail and yielding plenty of room for the midrange to shine, in particular, guitar work.

However, rock vocal performances on the ERIb-5A/X7 pairing didn’t quite have the same focus as the ZX1, CDM or the AK240. They are clear, accurate and resolving but slightly more neutral in their presentation with the AM2 module. The usual standards such as Diana Krall shone brighter; sparse acoustical vocal performances such as Shelby Lynn sounded fantastic with this pairing.

Shozy Alien Gold Edition

Unbalanced hiss free experience that took advantage of every ounce of space the ERRIB-5A could offer though at 10-13 steps higher than the default starting point for volume. It not where I want to be gain wise for the Alien, any higher and distortion can and would start to creep in.

It lacks a little bit of bass punch which to be honest most of the DAPs tested did, but slightly less so on the Alien and treble is never going to be the most detailed given the ERIB-5A Comply Tips combined with the Alien’s laid-back treble presence. It is also not as resolving as any of the aforementioned DAPs but it does play to the strengths of the ERIB-5A with strong staging (particularly width), an accurate vocal presence and a mid-range focus with a smooth analog tonality.

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Chord Mojo

The Mojo has no issues with power running on double orange comfortable (single ended). What I found most interesting through with the Mojo was it was probably the first one to manage to tweak a little bit more low-end performance over the DAP pairings reviews, balanced or otherwise. Sub-Bass presence has more rumble than most and the curve just felt slightly less linear than before. Yes, the Mojo has a predisposition to sounding more weighted in the low end, but so also is the FiiO X7 with the AM2, the N5, and the ZX1 but they didn’t succeed to the same level as the Mojo. All other aspects of this pairing sounded very natural and smooth with a wonderfully accurate and holographic soundstage. Check out

All other aspects of this pairing sounded very natural and smooth with a wonderfully accurate and holographic soundstage. Check out “Journey” by Tranzspotter, a spacey ethereal trance track with a nice driving beat for an excellent example of the Mojo/ERIB-5A pairing’s excellent imaging potential – very accurate and involving. The Alien gold can match it in width and to some extent depth but the Mojo/ERIB-5A was the best portable setup for imaging and depth out of all the DAP match-ups including the AK240.

Cypher Labs Sustain84

Saving the best for last – the desktop tube Sustain84 which is a flexible performer for both IEMs and headphones. No noise floor to speak off, not a peak with the ERIB-5A on low gain and the only thing I picked up on high gain was a touch of oxidization on the pot (reminder to self its service time).

Using the impressive Lotoo Paw Gold line out I got the best of everything – the detail of the AK240 with the smoother tonality of the CDM tubes and a wonderfully accurate and detailed midrange and that vocal performance. Oh my, the vocals on this pairing are so natural, strong and sibilant free. It doesn’t matter if its jazz, rock, folk, Knopfler or Mercury it sounds pitch perfect, full of texture and very organic. The ERIB-5A can really scale with the right setup and it is a huge step on up from DAPs and edges ahead of the competitive but less open sounding Mojo. This is where the ERIB-5A will sit for the foreseeable future.

Final Thoughts

If I had of rushed this review I could so easily have given you a rather one dimensional possibly even negative review regarding the ERIB-5A IEM from oBravo. It is not cheap, changes tonality quite a lot, the silicone tips should be thrown away and it needs a bit of juice to maximize its potential. These are barriers to ownership for a relatively unknown brand and side by side say an Orion from Campfire there is much more to consider to get the setup for the ERIB-5A just right.

It is not an immediate IEM in that respect, it is for someone who knows what they are doing and what kind of sound they may be after and they are prepared to chop and change and develop a setup to maximize what it can offer. Countless matchups yielded different results with the ERIB-5A and I could well understand if some liked it and some did not because it simply comes down to what you want to pair it with and how you will wear it and what tips you stick on it. It can do desktop though and it does scale but only after about 50 hours burn-in. Patience is a virtue with the ERIB-5A.

When you do get the right setup it does have a very headphone like quality to it. It’s open sounding, spacious with a big soundstage. The planar tech does mean imaging is perhaps not as razor sharp as a BA design but the combination of that dynamic driver and planar sensibilities means you do get a very natural life-like presentation and so very little hiss to boot. It has won me over in the long run but I am thankful I had enough options on my desk to find out exactly what combination would win me over.

Technical Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 28Hz~35KHz
  • Tweeter: 8mm Planar Magnetic Tweeter
  • Dynamic Driver: 8mm Neodymium Driver
  • Impedance: 16 ohm
  • Sensitivity: 102dB
  • Cable length: 1.2m
  • Weight: 35 g
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2 Responses

  1. Guy Lamaar

    Do you have an opinion on how these would pair with a Bakoon HPA-01M?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      That’s an interesting matchup. The planar aspect is more tweeter than anything else in the 5a but worth a listen to over the weekend and see how it goes.

      Reply

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