And certain things have changed. I think for the better.
Well-loved as it was, KAEDE’s Achilles Heal was its sometimes-tweaky high-end. Its worst detractors called it sibilant. Most people found it either energetic or piercing. Makes sense. Not that it peaked like the ER4s, but given the wrong material, it could get hot up top, especially if highs were not your thing – and most especially if your music was chalk-full of spacious, high-frequency material.
KAEDE II fixes most of that while preserving what made KAEDE special. That of course was its speed, its organic resonance, and its lovely sense of space. No earphone out there renders stringed and reeded instruments nearly as organically. And when I say ‘strings’, I mean piano. And violin. And upright bass. To a lesser extent, I mean guitar and ukulele. But I really mean piano. Sax, oboe, reed-piped organs, are so damn smooth.
Whilst editing the final draft of this essay, an Ω image reader suggested I check out Nils Frahm’s Solo. Bugger. Well, the 1,8GB download was worth it. Not only because it really _does_ play to all of KAEDE II’s strengths, but because it really is a great space album.
KAEDE I’s highs are more chalkily detailed than KAEDE II’s, but KAEDE II is sweeter. Cymbals crash without extra splash. Positionally, highs still push outward, sometimes as far as a couple of hand-lengths beyond the ears. Bass details float below, mouth-level, and spread from the centre of the head out to just below the ears. Mids bubble up between. This sort of positioning is perfect. And KAEDE II effortlessly retrieves even the smallest detail from the most complicated passage.
Mids and bass are neutral. Mids are, dry, and very slightly compressed between highs and lows. Caloric soundtracks are better through an Earsonics SM3, or Velvet. That doesn’t apply as much to jazz, which really relies on friendly upper bass and mids. Careful listeners will consider KAEDE II’s contrast-based sound stage smaller than KAEDE I. Percussion feels more boxed-in. But carefuller-eared listeners should find that stage more coherent, and less chaotic.
KAEDE II prefers clean extension to absolute sound pressure. Highs are wetter than the original, better controlled, and bass is just as textured.
That may be the result of lessened contrast between highs and lows. Which, to the treble-head, may sound like bad news. It isn’t. Its fractional decreases in contrast, and peaky sound pressure yield an earphone better suited to the long listen. Don’t worry: it doesn’t pussy-foot anything. Cymbals are are clear, even shimmery, but decay time is faster, or the fade gradient sharper, than in the previous version.
And Type II’s bass is largely unchanged. It is multi-layered, detailed, wide, open, and clean. Both impact and sound pressure are neutral at the ear. You really can feel the shape and make of a bass guitar’s strings. It is as fast as ever, and when spinning organic instruments, textured unlike anything you’ll hear in an earphone.
Which really sums up what KAEDE is all about: musical texture beyond the norm. Speed up with the very best. Balance close to perfection.
It is more textured than the Grado GR10, more contrasty than the Campfire Audio Lyra, and better balanced than the Dita Audio The Answer. Next to the Ocharaku Donguri, it is contrastier, and more neutral. It has no real weaknesses, but if you’re really into emotion in your music, more suitable earphones exist.
Unless you’re into the different sound a certain amp gives you, or your DAP is shyte, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about amping KAEDE II. It is a pretty easy-to-drive earphone.
KAEDE isn’t good on the train, the plane, or at the gym. It leaks too much to use at the library. In truth, it is a pain to use anywhere but in the quietest, calmest environment. And why is there still no neck cinch? Ho hum say I.
KAEDE (either version) is meant to be enjoyed at home. And there, it is supreme. For apologetic treble heads, bettering it may be impossible. While I prefer Type II, I’m sure that many will prefer the original. But I reckon that most will find more to enjoy in II. It is slightly more laid back, and sweeter, than KAEDE I. And if that is your thing, you won’t find a more balanced-sounding, better-detailed earphone out there.