Review: IKKO OH10 Obsidian – Full-Metal Protection Against Audiophile Negativity

The strangely organic shape of the OH10.
The strangely organic shape of the OH10.

IKKO may have channeled the mystical healing powers of Obsidian with the OH10 IEMs.

Thank you to Rebecca and IKKO for providing the OH10 Obsidian IEMs for review purposes.

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…

The strangely organic shape of the OH10.
Bottom Line

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.

What We Like
  • Full and pleasing sound signature
  • Remarkable build quality and material choice
  • Great bass response well balanced with a clear high-end
  • Safe and fun tuning likely to appeal to many listeners
  • Great fit in the ears
What We Don't Like
  • The thin cable may not be to everyone’s tastes
  • Odd leather folding storage pouch
  • Prodigious weight
  • Somewhat recessed midrange
  • Shallow insertion depth (short nozzle length) may not work for all ears

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.

The OH10 shine like finely polished hematite.
The OH10 shine like finely polished hematite.

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?

Really?

Assume the lotus position, hum your personal mantra, and prepare to join me on a spiritual journey to find out together.

Company Overview

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.

The OH1 were IKKO’s first IEMs, and the OH10 are a revised version of this design.

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.”

Technical Specifications

  • 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
Waifu? Check. Wolf? Check. Music notes? Check. Meteorites? Check. Nailed it.
Waifu? Check. Wolf? Check. Music notes? Check. Meteorites? Check. Nailed it.

Packaging

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.

I like the wolf motif. And the decorative pin is an unexpectedly nice touch.
I like the wolf motif. And the decorative pin is an unexpectedly nice touch.

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.

On the other hand, the storage pouch is pretty odd.
On the other hand, the storage pouch is pretty odd.

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.

Cable

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.

Sure, the cable is pretty thin and can get tangled pretty easily. But it's nicely constructed, matches well, and doesn't put up a fight when using the IEMs.
Sure, the cable is pretty thin and can get tangled pretty easily. But it’s nicely constructed, matches well, and doesn’t put up a fight when using the IEMs.
Sure, the cable may require some untangling when removing it from a case, but after a few moments, that’s sorted, and you can forget that it’s there (as it should be).

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 3.5mm TRS jack and 2-pin 0.78mm connectors are pretty standard these days.
The 3.5mm TRS jack and 2-pin 0.78mm connectors are pretty standard these days.

Design

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 OH10 are certainly eye-catching.
The OH10 are certainly eye-catching.

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 vent hole and lipped nozzle are clearly visible.
The vent hole and lipped nozzle are clearly visible.

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.

“A titanium coating is used on the outside of the chamber to prevent scratching and to inhibit bacterial growth. The inside of the chamber is coated with platinum to enhance the sound quality through the special sound resonance of platinum.” – IKKO

Comfort

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.

IKKO nailed it with the ergonomics. The comfortable shape more than makes up for the weight of these IEMs.
IKKO nailed it with the ergonomics. The comfortable shape more than makes up for the weight of these IEMs.
Everyone’s ears are different, so I can’t promise that the OH10 will fit and feel as good in your particular head holes. So there is some risk associated with blindly buying IEMs with this unusually high weight.

Internals

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.

I've never run into IEM shells constructed like these ones.
I’ve never run into IEM shells constructed like these ones.

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.

The OH10 have a pleasant and fun sound signature!
The OH10 have a pleasant and fun sound signature!

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.

As always, I listened to a random assortment of whatever caught my interest and primarily paired the OH10 with my main portable rig of a Chord Mojo mated to a Hidizs AP80 Pro DAP.
The IKKO OH10 frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).
The IKKO OH10 frequency response graph as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).

Bass

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.

While flailing about for proper alliterative text, I typed “the rumble down under.” This led me to Google it to see if this is an actual saying. It turns out that this turn of phrase was the name of a great video game level that I haven’t played for a decade or so. I hereby commit to adding this saying to the current common vernacular.

The IKKO OH10 bring the rumble down under!

Do the OH10 bring the rumble down under? Yes, yes they do. Thank you for asking.
Do the OH10 bring the rumble down under? Yes, yes they do. Thank you for asking.

Midrange

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.

Treble

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.

Comparisons

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.

Frequency response graph of the Mangird Tea as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).
Frequency response graph of the Mangird Tea as measured on a IEC 603118-4 compliant occluded ear simulator (OES).

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

Conclusion

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.

Spinning rapidly, at full extension of the cable (and much like the speeding meteorites they resemble) you definitely do not want to get hit in the face with the OH10 Obsidian.
Spinning rapidly, at full extension of the cable (and much like the speeding meteorites they resemble) you definitely do not want to get hit in the face with the OH10 Obsidian.

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.

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