Disclaimer: Rhines Customs sent me a free sample of the Stage 5 monitor specifically for this review.
Rhines Custom Audio is a pretty well-known German based company, specialized in inear monitors. They have over 15 years of experience and company owner Felix Reinsch is rated as a pioneer of the German in-ear-scene. He and his team are musicians and acousticians and therefore proficient counterparts who can meet the expectations and needs of musicians, sound engineers and discerning music lovers. You’re correct? I copied that last part from their website.
I actually met Felix and crew a couple of years ago already at Canjam Europe but I never got to review his gear up till now. The Rhines guys are really fun to hang around with and some of them are even in my Facebook friend’s list.
What are we looking at in this review?
When I listened to the universal demo version of the Stage 5 at this year’s show I was happily surprised. I had listened to the full Rhines’ line-up before and while their monitors are always clear and precise sounding, I somehow felt they lacked a bit of bass/body for my personal taste. After 15 seconds of auditioning their latest creation, I immediately asked Klaus, their marketing guy, if I could review it. Luckily for us Felix accepted. Impressions were made at the show and here we are.
The Stage 5 is a custom 5 driver inear monitor with a 3-way system in 2-2-1 configuration (24Ohm impedance). According to Rhines, the Stage 5 offers a silky smooth presentation in the highs without peaks. Airiness and separation within a big sound stage like you never experienced before. The low end is bottomless and accurate and transitions smoothly into breathtakingly precise mids. The neutral tuning of the Stage 5 offers incredible details whilst staying true to the source.
1. Build Quality & Comfort
My impressions were made at the show by Rhines themselves. I didn’t have to worry about the quality of my impressions or sending them all the way to Germany and I was pretty confident I would be getting a good fitting monitor. And that’s exactly what happened. The Rhines Stage 5 is my best fitting custom I have. Period.
The Stage 5, just like the 1964Ears V6S, is small and the S5 perfectly fits my small ears. Sure all my other monitors fit too but this is the one that seems to follow the curves of my ears the best. As you can see in the pictures, the acrylic monitor also has a short canal. It’s the shortest I think of all my monitors but the fit is sublime. The Stage 5 is also the only monitor where the ear canals are hollow. The sound tubes don’t go all the way to the tip of the monitor’s ear canal, and you can see them sitting back like 5mm inside the ear canal. You can even see the little green and white filters they integrated at the end. It’s quite unique.
Build quality of all their monitors I have seen at the show is superb. The attention to detail is absolutely there and I know it’s a cliché but it do is Deutsche Gründlichkeit. I do have to admit I discovered a tiny little mini crack inside my right shell, but that turned out to be the new guy’s fault as he was still learning how to make them. It’s a free review sample after all.
The last few years the possibilities to personalize monitors have skyrocketed. Like all other CIEM companies, Rhines offers a multitude of colors. The most chosen color in 2014 was Deepest Purple but what Rhines really is famous for is their use of wood and gold.
When Rhines asked me how I wanted my monitors to look like, I told them they could choose. “Make something you can be proud of”, I said, and you can see the result in the pictures. It do is something to be proud of. The shell is solid black, the left faceplate is a curved split and shows the Rhines logo (burnt in to the wood). The right faceplate is a triple split where both pieces have been branded with different depths. Rhines can do a lot with wood and if you have a special request, just mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will get back to you asap.
The Stage 5 comes with a standard black cable with short around ear memory pieces. Up till now I have replaced the stock cables of all my monitors with after market cables because the sound quality of the supplied stock cable usually wasn’t stellar. Unfortunately the same goes for the Rhines Cable and I really don’t get why custom inear companies don’t offer better standard cables. Cosmic Ears has recently started using Linum cables and I hope the others will follow that example.
All the aftermarket cables I tried (Linum Music, EffectAudio Ares/Eros and Forza Hybrid) elevated the midrange clarity by quite a bit and in the end my preferred cable for the Stage 5 is the Effect Audio Ares (OCC Pure Copper). The Stage 5 to me really likes this extra clarity but more about that in the sound part.
It continues on Page 2!