The Darling sounds musical, vivid, and engaging. It has a fairly warm and detailed signature. The bass is rounded, powerful but also tight. The impact and the extension are very good. The textured and layered bass makes you tap your feet but it is also quite controlled and does not bleed into mids. The mid-bass is adequately tuned as well, quantity-wise. It does not shadow the midrange, rather stays in its dedicated range. The bass can get seriously impactful when the track calls for it and it is quite impressive. The midrange has a very sweet tonality. The note-weight is on the thicker side of the scale and that gives a nice body to the instruments. Especially stringed instruments sound authoritative on the stage. The vocals are very sweet with plenty of details and quite engaging to listen to. The resolution and detail-retrieval is really good here, you can hear and track micro-details easily.
The Darling has a lovely way of presenting the tracks to you, it feels romantic and euphoric. The upper midrange shows excellent control, just enough energy to keep things excited but never too much. The monitor feels very coherent across the spectrum and the Darling managed to impress me with its sound as much as it impressed me with its design aesthetics. I think the most impressive side of the Darling is its imaging capability. I’ll talk about that in detail, in the next chapter. Moving on to the treble, the Darling reproduces the treble range with finesse. The extension is really good and the detail-retrieval is excellent. The treble feels accurate, the decay feels natural and precise. The air in the signature comes from this range and it artfully contributes to the perceived clarity. Just like the upper midrange, the treble has excellent energy and can reach the top octave without getting harsh. The treble carries good detail with great definition and presents fundamental harmonics without any loss. I really like how the Darling is tuned, no matter the genre, it can please you with its impactful bass, sweet midrange, and energetic highs. It shows good balance throughout the frequency spectrum and has a quite detailed presentation. It also feels very dynamic. For 419 USD, I think Tanchjim did a great job with this IEM.
Adjustable Nozzle Depth: Shallow vs. Deep
As I mentioned before, the Darling has two ear tip fastening rings on each nozzle and you can insert the ear tips shallow or deep. I’ll be comparing both of the tip insertion depths and describe the sound to you. The first difference I noticed is that when you insert to tip all the way to the second ring, you get more mid-bass quantity and slightly more bass impact. Midrange feels a little closer to you and notes slightly thicker.
Shallow insertion of the tips lets you enjoy more details and slightly less bass dominance. Mid-bass takes a step back, the rest of the bass weight gets a tad lighter and midrange feels slighly more forward compared to the alternative. Depending on the genre, you can switch between both of the variations to get the best out of the Darling, however, the difference margin is small, compared to, say, proper source selection.
This section represents the best attributes of the Darling. It provides a precise sense of image projection. The positioning of the instruments feels very accurate and it has a wide and deep stage for an IEM. Thanks to the spacious presentation, the instrument separation is very good with ample air between the instruments.
The Darling has a dynamic and energetic presentation thanks to a solid technical foundation. It has a fast attack and decay. The transients are sharp and pronounced. This contributes to the overall agility of the earphone and improves the sense of rhythm. The earphone can handle congestion easily, even during complex passages with multiple instruments. The layering is great as well and you can track individual instruments within the stage quite easily. Overall, the Darling provides a great experience from a technical standpoint.
Source & Ear Tips Selection
During the review, the main source was the SMSL SU-8s & the SH-8s stack. It has a balanced signature and neutral tonality and pairing it with the Darling resulted in a very clean and detailed presentation. I’ve also paired the Darling with the Shanling M3X and the result was satisfactory. The M3X has a smooth and balanced signature and together with the Darling, they made a good couple. The M3X polishes the midrange of the Darling and places it slightly closer to you. The imaging is just as sharp and precise. Resolution is great and the presentation feels coherent. Overall, I would prefer detailed sources with balanced signature for the Darling.
As for the tips, T-APB’s come with two variations, 3 pairs of treble enhancing tips and 3 pairs of bass enhancing tips. I’ve tried both and yes they slightly affect the sound quality. The treble enhancing pair slightly widened the soundstage and increased the extension of the treble. The bass felt more or less the same. The bass enhancing pair slightly increased the mid-bass quantity and sub-bass extension, which was pretty good but I prefer the widened soundstage. Although it is always good to have options.
vs. Hiby Crystal 6
The Hiby Crystal 6 is another interesting product. It has a balanced sound signature with emphasis on the upper midrange region. The Darling’s note weight is thicker and meatier compared to the Crystal 6. They both have good resolution and detail-retrieval capability. The Crystal 6 can get a little too hot in the upper midrange area while the Darling shows excellent control. The bass impact of the Darling is bigger and stronger than the the Crystal 6. Also, the Darling feels much more romantic and dynamic while Crystal 6 feels linear compared to the Darling. Treble ranges of both of the IEMs are energetic but Crystal 6 has a crispier treble with sharper extension.
vs. Etymotic EVO
Compared to Ety EVO, the Darling feels more romantic and dynamic. The transients are sharper and more distinct, the note-weight is thicker and general presentation is more vivid. The EVO feels more flat and linear compared to the Darling. Both have very good and agile bass responses but the Darling’s sub-bass extends deeper compared to the Evo’s. The EVO has more upper midrange energy compared to the Darling. The EVO is more neutral throughout the spectrum. They both have good resolution and detail-retrieval but perceived clarity is slightly better with the EVO, thanks to the neutralish signature. Depending on what you love, you can be happy with both of the units as they are quite good in their own way.
I quite like Tanchjim’s flagship and I think they did a great job with it. The accessories are rich and all the materials used are of very good quality. The build quality of the earphone itself is also quite good with the metal construction. The earphone is compact and light with a brilliant fit. Sound-wise, I think it is a serious contender in this price range. It seems that Tanchjim’s R&D efforts have been successful! It sounds quite dynamic and musical with plenty of details. I definitely recommend you to try it if you like warm and musical earphones with good clarity.
Triple-Driver Hybrid Configuration
1x 6mm Dynamic Driver + 2x Sonion BAs
Premium T-APB Ear Tips
Impedance: 9.5Ω +/-10% 1kHz
Sensitivity: 110dB/Vrms 1kHz
Frequency response: 8Hz-50kHz
Rated power: 10mW
Cable 1.25m Magnetic-Free Copper Wire with 3.5mm Plug and Gold-Plated MMCX Connectors
Page 1: Tanchjim Audio, The Darling, Packaging & Accessories, Technology, Design & Fit
Page 2: Sound Quality, Adjustable Nozzle Depth: Shallow vs. Deep, Technical Performance, Comparisons, Last Words, Specifications