Editor’s note (Lieven): This is Nathan’s first review for Headfonia. He has his own style and we want to keep it that way. Enjoy the article and Welcome Nathan!
Disclaimer: The Answer (both editions) were sent to me by Dita Audio for review. Dita Audio are not a sponsor of Headfonia.
Update: Clarification about sensitivity and amping was added in The Sound section.
I met the double Ds on a warm day brimming with headphone debauchery and drinking. Yes, it was Fujiya Avic’s Autumn Headphone Festival. And yes, I was boozing.
More interesting to me than the blonde cosplay cuties was what Desmond and Danny (double Ds) brought along with them. The double Ds brought in pair of pre-production 10mm single-dynamic driver earphones, that like the disruptive Sennheiser IE800, were aimed at the luxury end of the market. One D had glasses. The other did not. Even in their pubescent state (the earphones, not the Ds), they gleamed beautifully in the ugly convention hall.
I was game. What were they called? While tilting the contrastier, less shiny of the two earphones like a Tiffany’s clerk, one of the Ds, gave me the answer.
“The Answer,” said he.
“Get on with it,” said I.
“No, this is called ‘The Answer’.”
The shinier, (and in my opinion, less sexy-looking) of the two, is called ‘Answer (Truth Edition)’. Hmmm. It’s funny really; both look great, but the one in matte, that goes for 600$ bones, is, in my humble-pie opinion, sexier.
Right. The Ds gave me the run-down. Both phones were made with no compromises; made to look and sound better than anything out there. And pretty they are. Neither looked very unlike something that was bound to cost less than 600$. And neither do. Answer (Truth Edition) sells in Japan for about 900$ (US bones) while The Answer sells for about 600$ (US bones). They are sold at Fujiya Avic and other Asian vendors, in addition to Dita’s online shop (though the latter outlet is less than obvious).
Even at 900$ and $600 respectively, I am told that both models are selling quite well. Part of that could be that early-adopter Japanese mentality- a curse that entices myriad unscrupulous companies to release flawed products to well-healed, silly enthusiasts. Usually those early adopters end up selling their mistakes back to Fujiya.
Not in this case. It’s now more than three months in and I have yet to see any Dita earphones on the used market; and that despite the fact that Fujiya’s buy-back prices remain high. I think it is fair to say that Dita owners love their earphones.
Both models have a lot to offer if you’re in it for the long run. But neither really grab you from the first listen. They are like a Phillip K. Dick novel: slow going at first, but given time, intractably addictive. Be prepared to invest time, and a little effort. Sit down and relax. Stay awhile. Turn pages. No satori worth its salt ever comes
From the airline adapter to the 3,5mm to 6,5mm step-up adapter, and all carrying cases, Dita’s logo is proudly emblazoned in conspicuous and memorable areas. Truth Edition even comes with like fifteen Apple-esque stickers to affix to your furniture. I put mine on my iPod 5G. Both Danny and Desmond’s signatures are printed onto either model’s authenticity cards.
A product photographer appreciates these attentions to detail. She knows where to point the lens, and to which side to apply the wax and light. The Answer is machined to look fine. As I hinted at above, the less expensive The Answer reflects a more expensive sheen than does the glinty Truth Edition, whose reflective kitsch sort of sticks out. This reviewer vastly prefers the cheaper, less pricy matte version
But its cable makes up for it. It truly does. The Van Den Hul window commands a nice view of the jack-side carbon-fibre sheath; which, considering that your source is destined to be shoved into a pair of jeans or an audiophile bum bag, is not so nice for Van Den Hul. It looks good though, and in no way weakens the design. Both cables are robust. The cheaper one is more rubbery. It is also fatter. Truth is clad in a stronger, less ductile sheathe. Wear it for a while and it will conform to your ears. Unlike earphones with aggressive memory wire, that sheath is gentle, and easy even for the bespectacled enthusiast. Neither cable is weak. Nor does either betray any audible fault. But it would be remiss of me to not express my Jonesing for a replaceable option. My mother didn’t raise a cable breaker.
But I can’t speak for your mother.
And as well-behaved as I am, I also can’t speak for my trousers, in which the Dita plug gets buried for great lengths of time. And the rather severe angle at which the cable juts from the earphone’s rubber grommet, puts extra stress on bare rubber. Again, the truth is that I expect The Truth’s cable to weather daily use far better than The Answer’s cable.
Does it sound richer, more Van Den Hul? I can’t really say. By the time I change earphones, re-apply my favorite ortofon tips, and get back to the music, I’m in a different frame of mind. The standard cable is excellent. But Van Den Hul undoubtedly will give peace of mind. That alone may be worth the extra bones.
Both earphones’ housings are well machined, boasting fewer blemishes than is typical for products made by non-Japanese companies headquartered in Asia. It is true that I would prefer both earphones to wear a more robust L-shaped plug, but I can see why Dita outfitted them with a thick, eye-catching carbon fibre plug. Branding is as important as anything in an industry inundated by cheap products that literally anyone can order bespoke. Want to become an earphone manufacturer? There are hundreds, if not thousands of factories waiting for your order. Put your name on a plastic piece of shyte. It will be yours forever. You can put CEO after your name on a business card. Yay.
Dita totally three-ups your best intentions. Their hands-on approach is delightfully well done.
For the most part, the parts Dita use are unique to them. They do the machining. They design the cables. The driver is spec’d to their desires. Rarely do you see the like in the earphone world. Final Audio‘s upper stuff maybe? Ocharaku? The competition is as few as it is sexy.
But sexy is a game Dita play well. At geek fests like Fujiya-Avic’s biannual Headphone Show, I foresee Dita being behind a new slew of headphone-geek innuendo.
“Is that a Dita in your pocket or are just happy to see my freshly-epilated blonde-topped cosplay?”
In reply, I’d wink and silently nudging back into the sweaty, back-pack encumbered crowd. New ditallation would come. (Yes, I just combined the words, Dita, and titillation.)
With very few provisos, I can honestly say that I impressed with what I see and what I feel. Very.
The same rings true in what I hear. Both versions of The Answer are excellent. But realizing that may take time. As I said earlier, it is a sound so even-tempered, that at first, it is easy to pass by.
Hitherto reviews mention a slightly elevated bass. That is true. Sound pressure in the low bass band is the muscliest bit. The speed of its response rise and fall is fast. Pressure increases slightly as frequencies rise from there until it hits the roots of the mid-bass, after which it evens out. There is absolutely no tub tub in the bottom rung.
Balance is exquisite throughout the mid range and into the highs. Unlike the indelicately flat sonics of some neutral-sounding earphones, the Dita sound is sedulously open and dynamic. Highs, especially, are spacious and clean. They are maybe too clean for a single large-diameter dynamic driver. They blow through my expectations. I expected to hear a tizz here or there. None. Highs are fast. They keep up with complex and cacophonous live thrash metal percussion as well as with fast bpm trance.
Does that not excite you?
The truth is that it may not. What you hear is so well engineered that it may take a week, or two, to get into your head. There is so much to discover. ‘Getting’ the Dita sound is part of the journey.
Weeks in, you will trash your dressers and moulding chesterfield.
Where did my Dita get off to, you’ll frantically ask.
It’s not that you’d hate to be stuck with with your FitEar Parterre- no. Parterre is a great earphone. But its richer, more milky midrange, is too catchy. It’s love at first site. Sure, the lovey feeling stays, but it isn’t quite as satisfying in the long run. Its highs are closer, its mid-bass more prominent. It’s closer to that sound you grew up thinking you wanted eventually to afford.
Dita’s sound is what you hear from a well-tuned two channel system; something that you won’t realize you totally dig until you can name the birthdays of all the jazz greats from the 1950s. First you have to know what you like in music. Then you have to know the music your like.
That sound is one into which you invest time. And music. No, it isn’t the best match for modern American hip hop. Dita’s earphones lack some of the mid-bass duff necessary to flatten out hip-hop dynamics. The sound is too clean, too fast. The Answer’s low frequencies may also be a touch too resolving. But dear me, after the necessary adjustment period, that sound is addictive. And, when I have to play Classified or MC Solaar, or Macklemore, Dita’s earphones do a damn fine job- just with less weight.
Did I just spend seven hours listening to U2’s Boy until my iBasso DX50‘s batteries died? Yes, I did. Despite boasting only one driver, clarity is a major Dita selling point. I’d call it the first ‘get’ that will hook you. Dynamics are the second. The sporadic chimes in U2’s An Cat Dubh ring very unlike they are being funneled through a maze of electronics and the awkward slip from the post-punk 70s to 2014. They ring with the sweetness which I adored in the Final Audio 1601SS and SC models.
Clear reverberation is all-important in both acoustic and electronic percussion. If you are a Depeche Mode fan, you owe it to yourself to check Dita out. You will not get this sound from a balanced armature, nor from most dynamic earphones out there. I think that Dita’s earphones do the ring thing better than do the Final Audio earphones of any price. They may in fact, do the ring thing better than any earphone out there.
I could go on and on about bass guitar and slide bass. Even electric guitars, which Dita’s reproduction blessedly blesses with enough chaos to truly rock, sound truly part of their element. Yet, they remain aloof from the noise around them. Details never, ever, blur together. But it’s bass guitars, percussion, bells, chimes, and vocals, that, once you’ve given Dita time, really really stand out. At very worst, instrument separation is good; at best, it is great.
There are times when certain male vocals and the upper edge of electric guitar riffs can lose the attacking edge, but they are few. Female vocals, and any sort of acoustic instrument, and of course, percussion, are realistic, and beautiful at all times.
Again, the sense of space is huge. The single driver inside is quite the performer. It is wide and tall, and relatively 3D. Positioning and delineating are excellent, but not quite as pert as some razor-sharp balanced armature drivers out there. Rather, the sound is wider, deeper, and more speaker-like. It is excellent.
But what hooks Nathan is the dichotomy between realistic, gritty detail, and the pleasure of listening. It is real. I’ve enjoyed many earphones and headphones in my life. But rarely have I sought that one earphone over another. Like Captain Kirk, I’m not that picky as long as the earphones are really good. A good earphone is a good earphone, right? Yes, it is. But Dita’s sound is special. The more I listen to it, the more I think that I have found the one. Of course, there are times when I would prefer a more razor edges in the soundstage. But rapidly, those instances are becoming less and less frequent.
Let’s come back to this in a year.
Update: Dita’s single-dynamic driver earphones have another advantage: they are easier to drive than most multiple-driver setups. Their impedance curves are not as whack. In order to hit suitable volume levels, all they really need is stable voltage. They are not current-hungry monsters, though they do stymie personal favourites like the iPod 5G. But by and large, you can get by with lesser sources and amps. The Answer loads headphone outputs much less than many of its competitors. The truth is that really high-end amps are a bit of overkill for use with the Answer. Since The Answer costs a pretty penny, that is great news.
But great sound is nothing if fit is poor, right? Right. These earphones are exceptionally comfortable for the music lover with mid to large sized conchas. And they come with enough ear pieces to fit almost any ear.
The first problem The Answer has is the angle at which it enters the ear. It is too obtuse. The flat body wants to remain parallel to the skull but certain ear canals sit at a starker angle. No matter how hard I try to jam the phones deeper into my head bone, I can’t get the phones to really seal. The sound tube is too short; no matter the tip, I constantly loose acoustic seal and the earphones wiggle out of my ear canals. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that I adjust fit at least once every five minutes. Also, my sensitive ears have found that the pack-in pads, as decent as they are, are no match for a nice, soft set of ortofon pads.
The second problem is that the earphones themselves are large. My wife could not wear them without discomfort. She lasted about a minute before she handed them back to me. But she has mouse ears.
If The Answer’s insertion angle was better, and the body shape more comfortable for small-concha’d folk, it would be one of the most comfortable earphones on the planet. As it is, it should agree with most ears out there. But tighter, better fit is possible.
The neck cinch does a good job of reducing harmonic noise (which both cables are somewhat prone to exhibit). It grips onto the cable by two very small apertures. I can’t comment on how long those apertures will remain grippy. My guess is that it won’t be forever. A neck cinch best dodges the effects of cable erosion when its body is more form-fitting.
The Answer is stunning. It is not perfect, but it could be. And that may be its most annoying feature. But as first products go, it is an A in a class of Bs and Cs. And if anyone can figure out the winning formula, it is Danny and Desmond. I’ll drink to that.