Again a privately owned IEM which I’m having the opportunity to audition for a few days to build my own impression upon.
I tested them with my usual local-stored 16 / 24 bit – 44.1 / 96 / 192K music collection.
- Lotoo PAW 5000
- Questyle QP1R
- Laptop -> ifi nano iUSB3.0 (w/ iPower PS) -> Uptone USPCB -> Chord Mojo
- Laptop -> ifi nano iUSB3.0 (w/ iPower PS) -> Uptone USPCB -> Apogee Groove -> iBasso T3
Key specs, and structural feedback
- Single BA
- 2 pin .78mm connectors
- Very low impedance: 6 Ohm
- High sensitivity: 118dB
Extremely well designed and sized, reasonably lightweight, they are no doubt amongst those that most “dematerialise” into my ears once put on. They also offer very good passive isolation.
6 Ohm is no joke in theory, and it is not in practice either.
LP5000’s almost 2 Ohm output impedance are a no-no here. Same for my portable amp of choice the Auglamour GR1 (2.4 Ohm Zout). In both cases a definite veil on the bass can be perceived, no stories about that – and I’m particularly sensible to that.
But that goes entirely away when powering is entrusted to the Mojo (Zout 0,075 Ω!) , the QP1R (0.15 Ω) or my little kid the iBasso T3 (0.5 Ω): all, although with quite some difference on sound coloration, do bias the Spheres appropriately and make their nature come up as it really is – like it or not.
In my experience BA drivers are a short blanket, so to say. Their inherent issue is a relatively limited range extension. You can either “pull” them towards the bass or towards the trebles, not both. On Sphere, Penon really did the maximum possible. The result is a bass-preferential extension, with “just some” sacrifice on the opposite end, sign of a very good extension work done.
Bilateral extension is good, but the single most outstanding Sphere quality is – without the shadow of a doubt – its warm-balanced elegant “satin” timbre. Bass, mids and trebles are each on their own given personality and verve, while the ensemble is very well calibrated to avoid any segment to overstep others at any time. Paired to the right source (which is not so easy as mentioned above) Sphere becomes a difficult to beat companion when someone’s up for hours of relaxed and engaging listening. A really, really well done job.
Looking a bit more in detail, sub-bass is just a tad rolled off but is there, quite fast and most of all smoothed.
Midbass is modestly elevated, keeps the typical BA speed but is given an almost-DD-level body, this being the second best part of the product in my score table, after the timbre.
Vocals are slightly forward, bodied, supremely natural, male and female alike.
Highmids and trebles are well calibrated, with enough air and sparkle to play their role when called for but stay FAR away from sharpness, sibilance and all that.
Indeed, as I mentioned above, high trebles and the last octave is where the blanket shows its limited length on Sphere – and this, in addition to pesky pairing due to dramatically low impedance, is the sole other “limitation” I would note on the Sphere.
Stage though not the most holographic I heard is quite sizeable nonetheless, especially deeper than wider, and imaging is executed very well on it also thanks to separation and layering which is above average in general, which becomes very good if we remember we’re talking about a single BA driver.
A few words about pairing are in order to conclude: a musical+warm source like QP1R maximises Sphere’s smoothness, if that’s what you like; choosing an edgier and more analythical source like Mojo on the other hand impacts on Sphere’s balance, letting trebles “breathe” more, which might be preferrable on some genres; finally, Groove’s pair is the most effective for my taste, due to its unrivalled bass control paired with a musicality similar to QP1R, which two things make Sphere keep its original balance point, but lose a little bit of warmth that results in a globally more sparkly presentation especially when playing genres like jazz.
- Masterful warm-balanced refined timbre
- Fit, comfort and inoffensive though engaging presentation offers hours of zero-fatigue listen
- Greatly executed midbass for a 1-BA
- Good bilateral extension (with preference to the bass) for a 1-BA
- Above avg technicalities
- 6 Ohm impedance making it very difficult to pair appropriately
- A warm source might be overkill