Today we are looking at the Open Audio Alkaid In-Ear Monitors, selling for $935 USD.
Disclaimer: Linsoul sent us the Open Audio Alkaid for this review, free of charge. As always, the article reflects my uninfluenced experience with the product.
Open Audio Studio
Open Audio Studio is a Guangzhou-based company specializing in the production of in-ear monitors. The company aims to combine art and music through its unique and bespoke creations. Open Audio’s product range currently consists of four in-ear monitors available worldwide. These are Witch, Witch Pro, Mercury, and Alkaid, with prices ranging from a hundred dollars to up to nine hundred. Alkaid and Mercury are the company’s flagship products. The Alkaid utilizes balanced armature drivers exclusively, while the other earphones feature hybrid configurations. The company’s warranty and support services are provided through distributors.
Open Audio Alkaid
Alkaid is Open Audio’s flagship in-ear monitor. It is named after Eta Ursae Majoris (formally known as Alkaid), one of the brightest stars of the Big Dipper constellation. The Alkaid utilizes eight pieces of iron from the two biggest balanced armature manufacturers, Knowles & Sonion. Each shell is individually hand painted and comes with a unique pattern that Open Audio named “Quicksand design.” The engineers behind Alkaid explain that they spent more than two years working on the Alkaid to achieve a clean yet effortless, non-fatiguing sound optimized for long listening sessions.
Without further ado, here are the specs and info!
Driver Configuration: 8 Balanced Armatures + 3-way Crossover
Socket: 0.78 2-Pin
Housing: Bespoke Resin Body, Metal Nozzle, ‘Quicksand’ Artwork Faceplate
Cable: 1.2m, 8-braid Single Crystal Copper Cable with 2.5/3.5/4.4mm
Packaging & Accessories
The Open Audio Alkaid comes in a metal box featuring a flip lock mechanism. The box looks a lot like stage monitor enclosures and feels very secure. The inside of the box is lined with soft fabric and divided into two compartments. The right compartment contains the ear tips and cleaning cloth in a small hard plastic box, and the left includes a faux leather carrying case with a tightly woven texture bearing the Open Audio brand name. The textured carrying case has a rigid structure and looks durable.
You can easily fit an 8-braid cable and IEMs inside. Since the inner surface of the case is soft, it won’t scratch your IEMs during rough transport conditions. The Alkaid comes with a total of 5 pairs of silicone tips. Tips seem to be of good quality with medium-sized stems, usually expected to be good for sound.
Apart from those, the IEMs do come with a handsome 8-braid brown-colored cable with carbon details. It features single crystal copper cores and the braiding of the cable is quite well-done. The cable jacket is not too thick and offers a good degree of flexibility and this provides superior ergonomy. The Y-splitter, the 3.5mm plug, and the 2 pins have carbon fiber details, which add a nice aesthetic touch. You can also opt-in for balanced plugs before buying through your distributor. I also like the matte black shrink on the ear hooks, which feels good on the skin.
At the $900 price point, I would have liked to see a more comprehensive set of accessories, such as more ear tips, a cleaning tool, and perhaps a few interchangeable plugs would have been a nice addition. Nevertheless, I appreciate the attention paid to the outer packaging.
Design, Build & Fit
It is the design that sets the Alkaid apart from many other monitors out there. Since the advent of 3D resin printing, there has been a decline in attention to IEM shells. Open Audio has paid the same attention to the entire shell as many companies do to just the faceplate, resulting in some truly incredible-looking IEMs.
Open Audio is calling this design “Quicksand”. When you look closely, you can see the shimmery, grainy pattern of the dye. There is a pleasant depth effect that is also visible on faceplates, with layers and layers of colors. The inner part of the shell has a similar depth effect and a wonderful textured look. The tone of blue they have picked and the color transitions are really elegant. Kudos to the meticulous craftspeople behind this shell.
The Alkaid’s acrylic shell is very similar to a custom in-ear monitor in terms of structure. Just like an in-ear monitor, it has elevations to support the cymba and cavum regions of the ear. The nozzle part is also long, so if you have average-sized ears, I think you will find it quite comfortable.
During my time with the Alkaid, I did not encounter any problems with the fit, but I observed that the ear tips used are much more important than usual due to the longer nozzle length and affect the sound much more than I expect. I will talk about my findings on this subject in the “sound” section. Apart from that, I have to say that the Alkaid offers a very comfortable experience and passive isolation is quite impressive. When I first saw it, I was a bit intimidated by the aggressive curvature of the shell, but the Alkaid is almost as comfortable as my custom-in-ear monitors and I can wear them for a long period without any irritation.
In addition to the design, the build quality is also excellent. During a close inspection of the IEMs, I did not find any craft defects. The joint connecting the nozzle to the body and the transition from the faceplate to the body seems all well. Overall, the Alkaid gets brownie points from us, in this chapter.
The review continues on the next page. Click here or use the jump below.
Page 1: Open Audio Studio, Open Audio Alkaid, Packaging & Accessories , Build Quality & Design
Page 2: Sound, Technical Capability, Comparisons, Last Words