Monday, May 16, 2016

Alpha & Delta D2: Running Wild

Intro



TL;DR: The Alpha & Delta D2 provides an aggressive, basshead-friendly twist to the budget sport IEM format that may or may not be a good thing.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Teo at Lend Me Ur Ears for providing a review sample of the Alpha & Delta D2/m in exchange for my honest opinion. I am neither affiliated with LMUE, Alpha & Delta, or any of its staff, nor was I paid to write this review. All opinions and photos shown in this review are my own unless otherwise specified. Finally, please take the opinions expressed here with a grain of salt. Thanks!

Lend Me Ur Ears’ in-house brand, Alpha & Delta made headlines on audiophile forums last year with the release of their debut dual-driver dynamic IEM, the AD01. From then on, it was clear that A&D has cemented itself as one of the must-watch up-and-coming brands on the market. About three months ago, Teo sent me a prototype of an IEM that A&D was developing at the time. That IEM turned out to be the D2 you see today.

So, to coincide with the D2’s release date (which also happens to be today), we are giving you an in-depth look at Alpha & Delta’s latest ~$30 sports IEM. How will it fare? Read on and find out!



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories


The D2 arrives in a rather nondescript grey box with all the basic info on the IEM. You’ve got a flat image of the earphones on the front, an accessories list on the side, and a basic description and specifications list on the back (see the Specs section for the full list).

Opening up the box, you are greeted by plastic pouches containing 8 pairs of ear tips, a shirt clip, and a round carrying case, inside which are the earphones themselves. Also included is a one year limited warranty card. To be honest, the included eartips – 6 pairs of silicone ear tips and 2 pairs of foamies – are actually rather generous for a package at this price. However, since we’ve also seen this with their $100 AD01, it seems A&D may be trying to follow Brainwavz’ habit of including a ton of eartips with all of their earphones. So far, so good.


Design, Build, Microphonics



Having received the beta prototype of the D2 three months back, I was able to see the differences made between that and the final production version. However, overall I found few changes were actually made between them, so I will be able to point them out as I continue.

Their rather rotund housings are built from a solid plastic, although I can’t actually tell what it is because it’s coated with a smooth matte finish. Even the nozzles have a matte coating which makes the whole assembly feel like it is one piece although it’s actually made out of three. (In the beta prototype the nozzles were wider, had a gloss finish, and also tended to come off the housings; the narrower matte finish nozzles found in the production version seems to be their fix for that. Otherwise, no other changes were made to design.)

Being a sports earphone, the D2 is designed to be worn around the ear; as such they have a sort of tube that runs from the housings to a point on the cable that serves as a built-in ear hook to keep the cable tied down during physical activities. What’s notable about these ear hooks is that they do not have memory wire like the Sport-Fi M6; instead, their lack of memory wire therefore makes them similar to also-recently-released Brainwavz XF200 (which I also reviewed not too long ago). The rest of the cable is built incredibly well – the cable is supple, durable, and generates little to no cable noise at all.

Their remote (available on the D2m) remains unchanged from its beta version, and features a singular button and a universal volume slider similar to that of the MEE M6 Pro (basically it's a slider that controls an analogue limiter that works separately from your source device, so make sure you keep the slider all the way up before you start complaining on the forums about “low volume” or “high impedance”). And all that is on top of their IPX4 sweat-resistance rating which is a huge plus if you sweat a lot during your workout (because seriously, who doesn’t sweat a lot during their workout?).

Having dealt with the problem with the nozzles in the prototype last year, A&D placed the final piece of the heavy-duty budget build that is the D2. From looks and feel alone they're already worth the asking price.

Fit, Comfort, Isolation


The rounded housings provide a very secure and easy fit, with its matte finish giving an extra grip to the seal. The housings are also specially moulded to fit the inner part of the ear. Overall, this makes for a smooth, stable, and excellently comfortable fit. Their isolation is about identical to that of the prototype version, which is to say it isn't that good. But there is some benefit to this, as the lessened isolation gives you better awareness on the road.

So with that, we've covered just about everything concerning the D2 on the surface. In the next section, let’s dive deeper towards the stuff that really matters.


== Sound ==

Specs


Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor
Driver Type
Single, 10mm dynamic driver
Frequency Response
10-20,000 HZ
Rated Input Power
1 mW
Sensitivity
95 ± 3 dB / mW (@1 kHz)
Impedance
16 Ω
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.2m cable
Connector
(D2) 3.5mm (1/8”) angled gold-plated TRS connector
(D2m) 3.5mm (1/8”) straight gold-plated TRRS connector
Accessories
3x sets red silicone eartips (S/M/L)
3x sets black silicone eartips (S/M/L)
2x sets black foam eartips (M/L)
Shirt clip
Carrying case
Warranty card (1 year)


Equipment, Burn-in


The source equipment used in this review is primarily a 5th-generation iPod Touch directly running the D2. For the amp test, I use a Schiit Fulla hooked up to my PC running iTunes 12 and foobar2k. For the EQ test, I will be using TuneShell for iOS and Viper4Windows on PC. Most of the tracks on the playlist I normally use to test the earphones can be found here, although I will include links to specific songs in the review for quick, easy reference.

As is standard procedure, the D2 was burned in for at least 50 hours prior to writing this review. Most of that time was spent on actual ears-on time instead of leaving it to play white noise for that length of time. I also have the beta prototype version, which I've used for close to 100 hours of ear-time. I noticed no changes in both units after burn-in, but I did notice some changes between units, which I will point out below.


Sound Quality


Bass:
Just like the AD01 before it, bass is the name of the game here (being a sports IEM, that's no surprise). Their heavy, tone really brings out the dark, deep basslines of WRLD’s “Drowning.” Their rather dark tonality sounds quite reminiscent of the AD01, although its single-driver configuration can't completely reproduce the prodigious Super-Saiyan awesomeness of its dual-driver relative. However, the D2 still is quite basshead-friendly by itself, reproducing Haywyre's “Dichotomy with a level of power and authority ranking high amongst the other IEMs I've reviewed at this price range.

However, despite their power, I found them to exhibit a good level of control over their low-end, retaining their speed in fast, bass-heavy passages like Fox Stevenson’s “Give Them Hell.” Of course, this control may or may not be apparent depending on the recording being listened to. Whereas the bass kicks are light and subdued in Nigel Good’s “Nova,” the orchestral bass drums in Gareth Coker’s “The Crumbling Path rumble and resonate excessively through the soundstage. Whether this is a good thing or not is really down to the user’s preference.


Midrange:
What's common with a lot of basshead-friendly IEMs is their difficulty (if not outright inability) to keep the midrange clear and not overwhelmed by the bass. What's not common are IEMs like the Alpha & Delta D2, which presents the middle frequencies with a smooth forwardness that reminds me a lot of the Brainwavz XF200, but sounds just different enough that they gain a personality of their own.


The bass contributes to the D2’s midrange a bit by adding some much-needed heft, which otherwise would’ve left it sounding rather thin. Vocals and instruments are presented a bit more in-your-face compared to other IEMs, which is apparent in tracks like Ariana Grande’s “Honeymoon Avenue” and Daft Punk’s “Fragments of Time”. But for some reason, I found the D2’s reproduction of these tracks to be quite pleasing. Nothing really sounds necessarily wrong or out of place. It just sounds right…


Treble:
…except for the treble, that is. Just like the AD01 before it, I have expressed some concerns regarding Alpha & Delta’s treble tuning of their earphones – in those IEMs, I found them to lack treble energy and extension. I thought things have been “fixed” by A&D with the arrival of their new IEM, but no, I guess the treble will stay the same for the sake of creating some sort of “house sound.”

In all honesty, though, I guess you can call me out for disliking the D2’s treble – it’s quite okay for a sport-oriented IEM like this, and on that note, you would be right and I would agree. But when the D2’s treble consists of peaks at 5 and 7 kHz and roll-off beyond 10 kHz, then yes, I think there’s some room in there for me to voice my concerns.


Soundstage/Presentation:
The overall soundstage of the D2 is a little bit congested in my opinion – this is probably due in part to the snappy, forward midrange and just overall small sound. Imaging, however, is quite solid, with positional cues being clearly-defined. Beyond that there’s not much to talk about. Let’s move on.


Genre Proficiency:
The D2 is a prodigiously bassy IEM, so it naturally excels at EDM and its bass-heavy subgenres. However, in my opinion EDM is probably the only genre that the D2 specifically excels at. Their clear midrange allows for a wider range of listenable genres, but all are to a varying degree of outright proficiency.


Summary:
The Alpha & Delta D2’s goal is supposedly to fuse audiophile-approved sound with lots of bass and package it in a sport IEM shell. If that was what they were going for, I guess they're straying away from the whole “audiophile” label a bit because of their incredibly powerful bass. Despite being a sport IEM, they sound a little more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than Usain Bolt – there's just an incredible amount of muscular brawn that in my opinion bogs you down instead of helping you go the extra mile.


Other Media

Bass is nice to have in an earphone when you're gaming. Take away the bass, and you take away the compelling weight and power behind explosions and depth to deep orchestral scores like in Ori and the Blind Forest (which is an amazing game, by the way). Having some of that bass fills in that facet of the gaming immersion formula, and because of that I am very particular about exactly how much bass I want to have in an earphone. But though not having bass is one thing, having too much of it is another. I guess that’s what they call “too much of a good thing.” With too much bass, you get too much explosion, too much cello, too much timpani, and, well, you’re left with a bit of a mess. When you’ve got too much bass, you have one facet of the immersion nailed down, but the rest is obscured if not outright overwhelmed by it. And that sucks.


Amp & EQ Response

But lucky for us, there is an amazing piece of software that can fix that. This is known as the equalizer. And also lucky for us, the D2 respond to tweaks to the bass and, with it, you can effectively tame the bass down to much more pleasing levels – balancing out the bass and keeping the rest of the frequencies clear and separated from the low registers. With the EQ, we can also fix the treble, but to a lesser degree of success.

The D2 doesn’t respond to amping as well as it does with EQ – I mean, it is made to work with mobile devices.


Value

The D2/D2m can be bought for around $26 and $30, respectively. At this price, they go directly head-to-head with the Brainwavz XF200, which provides a strikingly similar package, but at a cheaper price, and with an entirely different sound signature. Value is a subjective factor, and as such, I will present my view on the subject in the next section, where I will compare the two extensively.


Comparison


Versus Brainwavz XF200 ($26.50):
The Brainwavz XF200 is an excellent sport IEM released quite recently – just around January earlier this year. Now that one was a gem – excellent sound, excellent accessories, and an excellent build to boot. Then the D2 comes along and now we have two new IEMs with a similar marketing pitch, similar build, similar…pretty much everything. Let’s break them down a bit and come up with a verdict.

Their build and isolation are overall quite similar, so you can leave them at a tie. The D2’s more rounded housings and grippy matte finish give them a point in fit and comfort. But the sound? I’m gonna have to issue a 2/3 split-decision win in favour of the XF200. The bass hits harder and digs deeper than the XF200, but the XF200 has more control and sounds more pleasing on more genres. (As a side note, I found certain reviewers who called the XF200 a “basshead” IEM. I don’t know why they would call them that – they either have a very low bass tolerance or haven’t heard a real basshead IEM. Either way, the XF200 really isn’t as bassy as said reviewers would have you believe.) The midrange is clear on both IEMs, but I have to admit, I do like the more aggressive mids of the D2 over the XF200, so the one point goes to it. The treble is an easy win for the XF200 – I don’t think I need to explain why.


== Conclusion ==



So, in conclusion, does this make the Alpha & Delta D2 a bad IEM? Well, not exactly – they do sound quite good on their own. Their only technical weakness truly lies in their wonky treble tuning and not much else. The problem, however, is that the D2 tries to provide a marketing pitch that, despite coming later to the party than the Brainwavz XF200, fails to overshadow the latter in terms of overall performance. The XF200 just does everything so well that I can’t help but feel the D2 falls short here.

However, the D2 has its own merits, namely in its ability to cater to the niche basshead market, who will find their bass pleasing enough for a sport IEM. Overall, however, I just don’t think they do much to bring anything better to the table and, in my opinion, will just stay there as one of my less-recommended IEMs.


Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
8/10
Solid packaging matched with a generous selection of eartips. What’s not to like?
Design, Build, Microphonics
9/10
The D2’s design is very well thought-out, with all the right features designed for a sport-oriented IEM and then some.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
8/10
The D2’s excellent housings provide a secure fit and comfortable feel. Isolation is not as excellent, however.
Bass
8/10
It’s the definition of basshead. Blows you away like it just don’t care.
Midrange
7/10
Forward, aggressive, and surprisingly clear. Not too bad, considering the other factors.
Treble
4/10
The D2’s treble seems to be neglected in terms of tuning – it’s wonky, spiked in the wrong frequencies, and just sounds wrong.
Presentation
6/10
Decent at best. A little congested in terms of spatial width, but has pretty good positional capabilities.
Gaming, Movies
6.5/10
Strong bass = strong no.
EQ & Amp Response
7/10
At least you can tame the bass with some EQ. Amping doesn’t really do much.
Value
7/10
At $26 for the non-mic version and $36.00 for the mic version, it loses out to recent competitors like the Brainwavz XF200.
Total
7.1/10
The Alpha & Delta D2 brings a niche basshead twist to the sport IEM market – excellent if you like it, not so if you’re not.


Shout-Outs, Gallery

I would like to again thank Teo at LMUE for sending out the D2 sample shown in this review. I’ve got a couple more reviews coming over the month, so stay tuned for that. As always, be sure to check out some of my other reviews here!

This has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!


About the Company

Lend Me UR Ears only have one mission: That is, to bring quality audioproducts to the masses and providing good customer service in the process.”


Changelog

1 comment:

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