Open Audio Alkaid Review

Open Audio Alkaid – Sound

 

The Alkaid is a pretty interesting piece of equipment. You know how there are some IEMs that require a little time from you? You have to get to know them slowly, so the Alkaid is part of that club. First of all, every anatomy is different, this is true, but there is no rule that you will experience what I experienced. When I first listened to the Alkaid with the included ear tips, I was not impressed, especially with a price tag of $900 USD, which meant that it had at least five fierce competitors in the current market conditions. I mean, for an extra 75 bucks, you can get a Monarch MKII and be done with it, right?

Well, I didn’t want to admit defeat and started investigating. I swapped a few cables, the result was similar. The treble extension of the Alkaid was absurdly rolled off, and I had a feeling that something strange was afoot. After an hour-long tip rolling session, I discovered the issue. I decided that the tips that came in the package, the nozzle length, and my ear anatomy were not a good combination. Interestingly, all the narrow tube ear tips I tried with the Alkaid resulted in a roll-off of the treble. I tried a larger size than I normally use for ear tips with wider inner tubes, such as the Nuarl’s Block Ear+ or JVC’s Spiral Dots, and voila, treble roll-off was greatly reduced. I know well that acoustics matter but it was still an eye-opening experience.

The reason I told you about my experience was that I thought you might experience something similar with the Alkaid. Now that you’re up to speed, let’s check out its performance. The Alkaid sounds fairly balanced, with a slight emphasis on the bass to the mid-bass range. It reminded me of HD650, only with slightly more upper midrange and top extension. It offers a musical, effortless and pleasant experience with several genres. I especially liked its vocal presentation. Both male and female vocals sound clean and articulate. The Alkaid maintains excellent balance throughout the entire spectrum. Nothing sounds peaky, or rolled-off. However, the bass to midbass elevation increases the perceived ‘warmth’, resulting in a more engaging, musical experience. 

The Alkaid is fairly detailed, however, thanks to its smooth tuning, the details are not as pronounced as some of its rivals, like the Monarch MKII. I recommend listening to the Alkaid at 3-4 clicks above the volume level at which you normally listen to your other IEMs. Although it’s an efficient set of earphones with a low impedance value, it’s quite picky about the source selection. So synergy is more important than ever if you aim to get the best performance out of these. With the Alkaid, I found that I got much better results when paired with sources that feature detailed and linear signatures. For example, the Topping E70 & L70 duo is more revealing than the Chord Mojo 2 and slightly more linear, therefore offering better synergy with the Alkaid. 

As for sound particularities, let’s talk about individual ranges. The Alkaid has a slightly emphasized bass region, it can deliver a good amount of bass but it’s on the softer side rather than being punchy. Thanks to the nature of balanced armatures, the bass is fast and recovers quite quickly when needed. In addition, the mid-bass region adds a slight warmth to the overall sound signature and contributes to the articulation of the body of the instruments. 

The midrange is where the Alkaid shines the brightest. This range is no doubt the star of the show with a great body, great tonality, and overall excellent articulation. The male vocals sound authoritative, bold, and realistic whilst female vocals have a delicate tone, clean and precise. It is a real pleasure to listen to Steve Strauss, Allan Taylor, or Anne Bison vocals with the Alkaid. Alkaid offers a much more successful performance in this genre than in genres such as metal or rock. His skills such as reproduction, staging, and imaging are much clearer in these genres. For example, in the Steve Straus track Mr.Bones, it is quite easy to determine the position of all instruments on the stage. The vocal is right in the center, presented in detail with all its authority. The upper mids follow slightly behind the vocals. They have a clean and sweet presentation, never overpowering the vocals. The extension is realistic, not laid-back, or forward. 

I describe the Alkaid’s treble as a shapeshifter. The high-frequency reproduction is adapting very well according to the track, and in this respect, they remind me of bookshelf speakers. Let me paint you an example here. In the passage at the beginning of Radiohead’s famous track, Weird Fishes, the Alkaid realistically reproduces the reflection and dampening of the cymbals on the stage and steps aside with the inclusion of the vocal. Many earphones simply fail to de-focus the cymbals, due to their sub-optimal tunings. Overall, Alkaid’s treble is controlled yet expansive. 

Technical Capability

The Alkaid can successfully draw a realistic stage in your mind and place the instruments where they should be on this frame. There is enough space between the instruments and it feels adequately spacious. The Open Audio Alkaid can successfully draw a stage in your mind and place the instruments where they should be on this frame. There is enough space between the instruments and it feels adequately spacious. Since many elements of Alkaid’s technical capability such as resolution and PRaT depend on the source you pair it with, I cannot easily recommend the Alkaid to every audiophile out there, but if you have a linear and detailed DAC-AMP as I mentioned above, or if you think you can achieve optimal synergy, I believe it can surprise you in terms of PRaT and resolution. 

Comparison

vs. Monarch MKII ($999 USD)

Monarch MKII is one of my go-to IEMs and is also seen as one of the most popular options by audiophiles in current market conditions. It features 1DD+6BA+2EST tribrid configuration and features bespoke faceplates. It comes with a cable that has interchangeable plug system, which I’d have liked to see on the Alkaid.

In terms of sound, both in-ear monitors are quite different. The Monarch MKII has a more emphasised, more dynamic presentation. We can say that they have quite different sound signatures as the types of drivers used affect the timbre and tonality. The DD of Monarch MKII delivers impactful bass, whereas the Alkaid is more linear and rounded in comparison. The Monarch MKII’s midrange is more energetic and that necessarily is not a good thing, especially in genres like Jazz. The Alkaid feels more musical and smoother with more articulation in the midrange. It feels more liquid, with less detail but better delivery. The Alkaid handles the layering of the elements quite well, as I mentioned in the review whilst Monarch MKII is trying to do everything right. If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick on my favorite genres. For metal, rock, and edm, I’d choose Monarch MKII. Everything else, the Alkaid. I would like to mention here that both earphones were tested in situations where optimal synergy was achieved.

Last Words

If you are considering the Open Audio Alkaid, it is very important to get a good synergy with your choice of source. In addition, finding the right tips for you is quite important so that you don’t experience what I’ve described above. Don’t worry though, when you get it right will the Alkaid impress you with its impressive, unique signature.

I would highly recommend the Alkaid if you listen to genres such as jazz, blues, classical, soul or country. Especially if you are an HD650 user looking for a portable alternative, I strongly believe you will love the Alkaid. 

 

Page 1: Open Audio Studio, Open Audio Alkaid, Packaging & Accessories , Build Quality & Design

Page 2: Sound, Technical Capability, Comparisons, Last Words

4.5/5 - (254 votes)
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Long time Tech Enthusiast, an ambitious petrol-head, Yagiz likes his gadgets and always finds new ways into the tinkerer's world. He tries to improve anything and everything he gets his hands onto. Loves an occasional shine on the rocks.

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