Disclaimer: CypherLabs sent me the very first C6IEM sample free for review. I will be sending it to Nathan in Japan later this week for a second review and then it will come back to me. This is a WORLD PREMIERE.
The First IEM
It wasn’t news to us when word got out that CypherLabs (CL) was launching an inear monitor. Lots of people were surprised as they never expected a reputed DAC & AMP company to come up with something completely new but that wasn’t the case for us. We were approached months ago already as CypherLabs asked us to give our opinion when it was just a prototype only.
Ever since the ALO Audio & CypherLabs cooperation stopped, CL has been making their own portable amps, like the Duet and Picollo, and even their own cables. Looking at it like that, the launch of a new pair of in-ear monitors shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Who knows what they will come up with next…
The Cypherlabs C6IEM is a triple driver universal fit earphone that uses balanced armatures. BA’s are as popular as ever and it was logic to see CypherLabs going this route. You get one driver for the low, one for the mids and one for the highs: pretty much the only possible combo for a 3-way configuration. All was developed and made in the US of A.
As you can see in the pictures, the C6IEM is a universal fit earphone. Unlike in example the German Inear, these aren’t really based on the shape of your ear. They don’t follow any contours inside your ear and people with small ears like me will have the monitor sticking out quite a bit. The 3D- printed C6IEM is fairly big for us little eared people, certainly for only 3 drivers on each side and it kind of makes you look like an ass when you have small ears like me. With the smallest tips, I admit, they fit quite well. Yet I wish they would have been a bit smaller as I’m sure I’m not the only one with small ears. You can get a good idea of their size looking at the pictures. The monitor’s look is ultra cool chrome on carbon fiber. They’re pretty and I’m convinced most of you will agree to that. I like the CL house style and they designed this one just right again.
Each C6IEM comes with a bunch of accessories like a carrying case, a soft carrying pouch, a cleaning tool, a cable management system, a 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter and lots of tips: 3 pairs each (S/M/L) of silicone, soft foam and dense foam. I’m not a fan of foam tips and I found the smallest silicone ones to fit me perfectly.
The 10gr monitor has an Impedance of 36.2ohm@1kHz and the cable used is a standard over the ear cable with memory wire. It uses the stock two pin connectors and the connectors on the monitor are recessed. That means you can use a lot of after market cables if you would want to. Impressions in this review however are based on the stock cable, as the monitor sounded just fine with it.
Is it all about the bass?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Cypherlabs’s products. The Duet was my product of the year 2014 and I’m an avid user of the Theorem 720 at home and the full CL stack when on the go. “Desktop quality sound”, that’s how I would describe CypherLabs’s sound in general.
I’m a big fan of balanced armatures as well and I think Cypherlabs has gotten the tuning just right from the first time. A lot of people, based on the bass statement in the C6IEM advertisement, feared it would be a bass heads earphone but that really isn’t the case. It is, sorry for giving it away already, superb.
The C6IEM has very good balance and stereo imaging. It is dynamic sounding, fast and remains musical. Tuning is very linear and maybe there is just a slight focus on bass but certainly not a lot. In general it even is more forward sounding but not too much. I call it “the typical American reference tuning”: linear, very clear, a lot of detail, good instrument separation and a slightly more forward sound signature. Don’t mistake slightly forward for bright because it is absolutely not bright. The C6IEM’s sound stage is good. It’s wider than some of the 5 of 6 drivers I have listened to and what positively surprised me most is its depth. At the same time, sound is fairly inside your head but it isn’t the usual inside your head centered sound either. It’s somewhere in between centered and outside of your head. Tuning simply is very good.
Bass has good body and presence but it doesn’t overpower anything. It’s tight and fast and when needed it will be there. Depending on your source or amp, bass might get a little more focus but in general it is very in line with the mids and treble. Bass goes fairly deep and is reasonably layered. Actually, for a 3-driver, it is more than reasonably layered in my opinion. Bass detail is pretty good and for a reference tuning has just the right amount of body and presence. I don’t really get why Cypherlabs is using advertising terms like “It’s all about the bass” while the C6IEM clearly is not. It’s a lot better than that: bass has good quality and good body when called upon but it isn’t all about the bass. So bass heads, this one isn’t for you.
It continues on the next page!