IKKO may have channeled the mystical healing powers of Obsidian with the OH10 IEMs.
Obsidian refers to the glassy texture of natural volcanic glass formed by quickly solidifying lava. Technically, Obsidian can have any chemical composition. This is likely for the best because the IKKO OH10 Obsidian IEMs have a whole lot of metal in their composition, but no actual Obsidian. Copper? Check. Titanium? Yup. Platinum? Of course! Obsidian? Errr…
But what about the famed healing properties of Obsidian?
“The Aztects [sic] fashioned flat sheets of Obsidian into scrying mirrors, and ancient peoples created arrowheads and axes with magical properties. A strongly protective stone, Obsidian forms a shield against negativity, providing a grounding cord from the base chakra to the center of the earth.
It absorbs negative energy from the environments [sic] and blocks psychic attack and negative spiritual influences. Obsidian brings clarity to the mind and clears confusion. Providing deep soul healing, Obsidian goes back to past lives to heal festering emotions or trauma carried forward into the present, bringing depth and clarity to emotions.” – Myku.com
All the mystic stuff aside, there may be something in there that pertains to the OH10. Perhaps these IEMs do have the ability to ‘heal the soul’ or bring ‘depth and clarity to emotions.’ I certainly feel that way when I get lost in the music I love, played on gear that excels.
Ok, so it’s much more likely the Obsidian are named for their glassy exterior finish than for any mystical powers.
The OH10 aren’t entirely new on the scene, and lots of praise has been directed their way regarding their fit, build, and sound quality. Can these sub-$200 BA + dynamic driver hybrid IEMs deliver the sonic goods to repair a damaged soul?
Assume the lotus position, hum your personal mantra, and prepare to join me on a spiritual journey to find out together.
IKKO (also listed as IKKO Audio, or Ikko Technology Co Limited) is a fairly new manufacturer of IEMs and related accessories. Located in Guangdong, China, their IEMs range from the sub USD $100 OH1 to around $200 for the OH1S and OH10, and close to $1000 for the single dynamic driver OH7. A Bluetooth adapter, a couple of portable DAC/amps, and a replacement upgrade cable round out the current offerings.
According to their website, “IKKO aims to promote the new concept of “freedom” and high fidelity for music lovers” and to “touch music’s soul experience with higher quality and simplicity.”
IKKO claims its focus is on both excellent ergonomic design and tuning techniques.
“Based on a wide range of ergonomic design principles and simulation of wear test data, IKKO designs a high-quality product appearance and experience. IKKO’s ultimate pursuit of products is reflected in its requirements for all details…
Ikko has rich experience in audio tuning to ensure that the sound performance of each product is impressive enough. Ikko makes full use of sound technology and carefully polishes every detail in order to meet your high-quality requirements for sound quality.”
- Form: IEMs
- Drivers: 1 10mm polymer composite titanium-plated diaphragm dynamic driver + 1 Knowles 33518 balanced armature driver
- Impedance (Ohm): 18 Ohms
- Sensitivity (dB): 106 dB
- Frequency Response (Hz): 20 Hz – 40 kHz
- Removable Cable: Y
- Cable: 1.2m, 4 strands of high-purity, silver-plated, 5N oxygen-free copper
- Source Plug: 3.5mm
- Cup/Shell Plug: 2-pin, 0.78 mm
- Mic: N
- Weight (g): 16.2g per earpiece
- Housing: Pure copper with titanium coating on the exterior and platinum coating on interior chamber
Do you like foxes and anime girls? Because IKKO sure does. How about if they are all floating around on space rocks? Sure, throw a few of those on the box too. Should there be golden music notes coming off of everyone? But of course.
Honestly, interesting art aside, it’s a fine box, with lots of technical specs on the sides and back. The cardboard cover slides up to reveal a classy black interior box with magnetic closure and gold embossed logos. Open that up, and the IEMs and accessories are safely nestled in black foam.
In the box
- IKKO OH10 Obsidian IEMs
- 6 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L) – 3 clear (narrow bore – “balanced”) and 3 black (wide bore – “vocal”) pairs
- Removable cable
- Leather storage pouch
- Round IKKO fox pin
The silicone tips are a fairly standard assortment included with IEMs these days, with the black wider bore tips intended to provide slightly more bass response. The clear are considered more “neutral” sounding. No memory foam tips are provided.
The leather cable tie and storage pouch are definitely unusual in design. They are both constructed from soft brown leather. The storage case does its job, but its soft design doesn’t offer any form of protection beyond scratch resistance. The folding wallet style technically will hold the IEMs and cable, but the long leather tie is pretty useless for holding it closed. If nothing else, it is certainly unique.
Here’s where I part ways with the cable snobs. Undoubtedly, there will be some that bemoan the OH10’s thin black cable as not visually impressive. “Bah,” I say! Unlike some of the unwieldy garden hoses masquerading as IEM cables that I’ve dealt with lately (I’m looking at you HarmonicDyne P.D.1), I’ll take an inert and flexible cable any day.
The metal, 90-degree 3.5mm plug, 0.78mm 2-pin plugs, and y-split are all fine matches to the OH10 exterior, and the entire experience is pretty classy, if not overly awe-inspiring. The cable is a proper 1.2m length and constructed of 4 strands of silver-plated 5N OFC. Of note, the right 0.78mm 2-pin jack has a red ring for easy identification.
The OH10 have a unique look and feel, which is very different from the current sea of resin-bodied IEMs. Their shells are constructed from solid copper, and this imparts an impression of solidity, most noticeable in their weight (more than 16g per IEM!). The outside is electroplated, then coated in titanium, and finally covered in a hypoallergenic clear resin. The end result is a black anodized finish very similar to Hematite.
The exterior sports an interesting hammered and almost organic appearing surface, while the body is flatter and more elongated than many other IEMs. The nozzles are fairly short, and there is a prominent lip around the edge for good tip retention. There is one small vent hole on the inside surface near the nozzle.
The OH10’s distinct looks may be divisive, but they certainly aren’t dull.
The shape and design of the IEMs are the same as the previous OH1, with the notable exception of material choice. Each OH10 IEM is almost three times as heavy as the OH1 version! Besides being constructed of solid copper, the internal chamber is coated in platinum, which according to IKKO, is intended to improve sound quality.
Ok. You’ve likely picked up on the fact that the OH10 are really flippin’ heavy for a pair of IEMs. Prodigious weight paired with a poor fit would result in an unwearable mess of immediate deal-breakers.
Yet, somehow IKKO pulls off the near-impossible and has created shells that are so ergonomic and comfortable as to all but entirely counteract their mass. The included tips fit great and provide good isolation and seal. I expected to FEEL the OH10 in my ears after a short time, but they remain comfortable for extended listening sessions.
Within the unusual chambers of the OH10 are a fairly standard (that is to say, proven and tried-and-true) hybrid combination of a 10mm dynamic driver and a Knowles 33518 balanced armature driver. The dynamic driver is a titanium-coated polymer design.
With an impedance of 18 Ohms and a sensitivity of 106 dB/mW, the OH10 can be fairly easily driven by almost any portable device, but the driver’s fidelity and resolution do seem to benefit from a high-quality source.
IKKO OH10 Sound
The natural tendency for reviewers who test a lot of different gear is to assign tiers or categories to products based on price ranges. I’m no different. I tend to look at IEMs as sub-$100, $100-$250, $250-$500, $500-$1000, and $1000+. I find myself judging the sonic performance more critically as the price tier increases, but bad sound is not acceptable at any level.
There are a few outstanding performers within the first couple of price tiers and very many average ones. Like A WHOLE LOT of them, with new mediocre options appearing weekly in an unending flow. Frankly, it’s hard to get too excited anymore about cheap but flawed models, although some folks seem to have inexhaustible enthusiasm for them.
The OH10 are smack dab in the middle of the second price tier, where expectations start to be raised and we are getting very close to some of my bang-for-the-buck favorites, such as the Mangird Tea and Thieaudio Legacy 5. Candidly, it’s been a while since something in this range has really captured my attention.
Should I get to the point? Yes, the OH10 do sound good. Surprisingly so. These actually may be a high-water mark at their price point and absolute killers if you find them on sale (like right now at the time of writing).
Are they critical listening darlings? Nope. Their v-shaped (or “u” if you prefer) sound signature is fun—pure, simple, unadulterated fun.
The OH10 have a big, weighty low-end balanced by an energetic upper midrange and a reasonably extended high-end. They have a surprisingly spacious sound, perhaps a bit at the expense of pin-point imaging or precision, but it’s a trade-off well made. They have a big, smooth, engaging sound that is enjoyable and non-fatiguing.
The OH10 should fit the bill for most genres and certainly do with my current tendencies towards rock, pop, and folk. Their overall sound is natural and somewhat warm, with a predisposition towards bass presence and impact. There is a corresponding treble boost that yields their energetic but reasonably balanced nature. The midrange is somewhat recessed but maintains clarity and presence without being the star of the show.
I tried both the ‘vocal’ and ‘balanced’ ear tips, and the differences are quite subtle. I make no promises of passing a blind test distinguishing one from the other. In the end, I settled on the clear ‘balanced’ tips, and my impressions are based upon them.
Oh, hello! Bass. And plenty of it.
The good news is that all that low-end is (mostly) only overtly present when called for and remains under control. The sub-bass is mildly boosted and slowly falls off as frequencies increase into the midrange. Depending on your source amplification, song choice, and listening volume, the bass can tend towards being a bit excessive, but at reasonable listening levels and with a high-quality source, it is never a concern.
The mid-bass is less emphasized than the lowest frequencies and feels fast and punchy. The overall impression is of power and warmth. The OH10 low-end is more emphasized than what I would consider truly neutral, but that’s the fun of a v-shaped sound signature. Do you like the loudness control on speaker amps? Then you know what I’m talking about.
The IKKO OH10 bring the rumble down under!
No surprise for a v-shaped sound signature, the midrange is somewhat recessed in the mix, but thankfully with the OH10, it remains reasonably detailed and natural sounding. Voices and instruments have good timbre and clarity, even if they don’t jump out of the music. The upper midrange shows a bit more energy and adds a touch of liveliness to the sound.
The OH10 avoid the upper midrange nasal tonality that seems to plague some IEMs and are very pleasant to listen to. The mids are a touch on the thin side when judged with a critical ear, but overall tonality is decent. These IEMs aren’t mid-focused tuned, but what’s there is acceptable.
The OH10 treble perks up again and adds a clear and energetic quality to the music reproduction. Thankfully it doesn’t stray into sibilance or excessive brightness but adds a good counterbalance to the weighty low end. Things sound articulate, with decent resolution and impression of space and air.
Seriously, these IEMs are very well-tuned for their price point. IKKO stuck with a winning combination of a known hybrid driver arrangement, and either through luck, trial-and-error, or excellent scientific method, they produced a terrific sounding pair of IEMs.
The tuning can likely be characterized as ‘safe.’ It’s a popular (for good reason) sort of sound signature that makes most music sound great. What’s remarkable is how well it’s done in this case. Sure, there may be trade-offs in ultimate imaging, high-end extension, or midrange presence. But the resulting pleasing, energetic, and clear sound signature makes it evident that IKKO crafted these IEMs with eyes (and ears) fully open.
Unfortunately, the obvious comparison to the OH1 Meteor can’t be made, as I haven’t had the pleasure of trying that model. The OH10 is my introduction to IKKO. I would expect similar things from a sibling IEM sharing the same driver combination and shells (albeit in different construction materials). If so, that sub-$100 price point is impressive indeed.
Vs. Mangird Tea
Since I brought them up (and have them on hand), I’ll compare the OH10 to a long-time favorite, the Mangird Tea. Perhaps an unfair comparison, as the OH10 on sale are nearly half of the regular price of the Tea. Certainly, they are different beasts, with the Tea being resin shelled and containing a combination of 6 Knowles and Scion BAs + 1 dynamic driver per side.
The Tea also sport far longer nozzles that just happen to fit my ears near perfectly, but may not be your, err… cup of tea (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Cable quality is quite similar between the two, with the Tea cable in a silver/white motif as compared to the OH10 black/obsidian colorway.
The bass response is far bigger in the OH10, and the entire sound seems shifted down in register. The Tea are brighter and more forward sounding, with a more prominent midrange, while the OH10 have a far less in-your-face, smoother, and deeper sound profile.
What’s better is certainly a matter of taste, and they both sound very good, if very different. The Tea command your attention, while the OH10 suit a more easy-listening groove. Their low-end is somewhat intoxicating.
Why not both?!?
Where to Buy
Sometimes the new guy just gets things right. It’s nice to have a strong recommendation in this price tier, and the OH10 have the chops to fulfill this role. The material choices are not only unusual, but the OH10 are also staggeringly well made. Copper, titanium, and platinum? Who does that?
Sure, the weight might scare some folks off, and it would be an issue if they weren’t so gosh darn comfortable. The included case is an odd one, and the thin cable may trigger some buyers. But all that stuff is of far lesser importance compared to sound quality, and that’s where the OH10 excel.
The IKKO OH10 are a high-quality, great-sounding pair of IEMs. Full stop. The fact that they can be had for sub $200 is remarkable. IKKO genuinely and pleasantly surprised me with the OH10.
Are the OH10 Obsidian healing my soul, grounding negative energy, and blocking psychic attacks? All I know is that I do feel better after listening to my favorite albums on them. And if push comes to shove, I could definitely use the OH10 as a personal protection device.