Origem Dual Driver Review – The $15 Earphones you should be buying?

 

Introduction –

It`s always interesting to look at hyper budget orientated products. At this price point, earphones become basic throw aways, they cease to be luxury products and lose the element of prestige offered by more exotic models. One of the perks of being a reviewer is that I`m often contacted by companies that I wouldn`t otherwise consider buying from. Origem fits this description perfectly; a company whose products I haven`t even seen reviewed before but also a company that offers some genuinely intriguing products.

What I`m reviewing today is quite peculiar, a dual dynamic driver earphone with an RRP of just $15 USD. My interest was immediately piqued by such a setup, leaving me wondering whether such a cheap product could pull of the complexity of crossovers, multi-driver tuning and ergonomics. Usually, these features just aren`t worth the effort, and there are numerous quality options available at this price that offer fantastic price/performance without any unorthodox technologies. The Xiaomi Pistons lineup comes to mind as does Venture`s acclaimed Monk+, of course if you`re willing to sacrifice isolation and go with an earbud. Whilst I don`t think it`s fair to compare an earbud with an earphone, expect plenty of comparison to the Pistons 3 during this review.

As an extra note, the Origem dual drivers don`t really have a model name, I would recommend that Origem assign their products with proper names or atleast model numbers to make them easier to find (and refer to). For now I`ll just put the Amazon link below to the earphones and manufacturer

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Origem very much for sending me a review unit of their dual driver earphones in exchange for my honest opinion. I am not affiliated with Origem nor is there any monetary incentive for a positive review. I will be as objective as possible and provide an honest evaluation of the product.

 

About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

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Accessories – 

The earphones come packaged in a small box with a vector of the earphones on the front and specs on the rear, simple but well presenting.

The box flips open to reveal the earphones and accessories within a triangular hard case with a carbon fiber texture similar to vinyl phone skins.

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Inside the hard case are the earphones themselves, two pairs of silicone ear tips (small and large, medium is pre-equipped) and a soft pouch. The pouch is nice, it`s perhaps a little on the larger side, but is quite spongy for some added padding during transit.

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The included silicone tips are also of good quality, they`re a generic design similar to those included with the Shozy Zero and other larger bore earphones.

Considering the price of the earphones, the included accessories and packaging are completely adequate. The similarly priced Xiaomi Pistons 3 may present better with their flash display case, but the Origem`s have an arguably more usable set of carry cases and the included tips are less flimsy.

 

Design – 

The dual drivers are certainly a more visually unorthodox when compared to a typical cable down earphone, some will like the looks but others not so much. This is because each housing, as their name would suggest, hosts two 6mm micro drivers, a pretty unique feature at this price point. They have a similar but not identical design to the JVC dual driver line and, despite looking a little awkward, are actually very comfortable.

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Tall housings with small locking fin

With quite elongated housings, the earphones are designed to sit at a natural angle within the ear and, like the JVC FX-800`s, the large but ergonomic housings actually benefit stability, working in conjunction with a small fin at the rear that lock into the ear. It looks as if this fin would cause a hotspot, but I couldn`t feel it at all during use.

Taking the earphones on my usual 6km run, the Origem dual drivers provided a stable fitment that didn`t require any adjustment during the entire duration. Unfortunately, their shallow fitment lacked adequate isolation to maintain decent low end presence. The right earpiece on my unit had a moderate amount of driver flex but not the left despite achieving a similar level of seal. At no point during my testing did this alter the sound or damage the earphones.

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The housings themselves feel well finished and the pieces are well matched. They are completely plastic, unlike the aluminium plated Xiaomi pistons, but this contributes to a very light weight that prevents the earphones from losing seal during motion (at the cost of in hand feel). The renders on Origem`s Amazon page have a richer colour scheme than the actual product. The back is actually a chromed silver and the driver enclosures are gold rather than copper. The earphones actually look pretty neat in person, the translucent sound chambers effectively showcase the dual drivers housed within their gold mounts and the chromed rear looks pretty intriguing too. Unfortunately the gloss silver frame picks up oil marks like nothing else. It`s easily cleaned but almost impossible to keep that way.

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Moving further down, the earphones and jack both have decent strain relief but there is none on the remote and y-split. The cable is pretty much identical to that on the MRZ Tomahawk with a grey sheath that reveals a subtle internal braid. It`s just as tacky feeling and also similarly springy. This quality combats tangles well but the firmer cable also transmits more microphonic noise than average. A shirt clip will alleviate more of the cable noise but the earphones will not fit over the ear due to their design. The jack and y-split are both sleek with a metal construction, the finish is well matched to the chromed earpieces which is nice. The cable is terminated by a gold plated straight plug rather than a right angle one, making them a little more prone to stress during portable use but they do work better with an amplifier.

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Origem integrate a remote with mic and multi-function button that operates with both Android and IOS. The mic quality was good, a little more compressed sounding than my HTC M8`s internal mic, but also louder given its better placement.

 

Sound – 

As aforementioned, the Origem dual drivers utilize two 6mm micro drivers to produce a frequency response stretching from 20Hz to 20KHz. Ironically, from my subjective testing, the earphones don`t have a particularly extended sound in either direction. Listening to a song such as Nirvana`s Lithium, a song with a lot of sub-bass kick and treble shimmer, reveals that the Origem dual drivers have a softer sub-bass tone (as is usual from micro driver earphones) and also a rolled off treble response. This is not to be taken as a negative because what lies in between is quite impressive with a relatively linear bass and lower midrange response combined with a clear, detailed high end that can border on over brightness at times.

Despite possessing both dual drivers and a very low price, crossovers are well done and the sound is impressively smooth on a whole. They produce a nice soundstage with good width and modest depth. Imaging is accurate though instruments are pushed more to the sides due to the increased soundstage width over depth. Separation is good, not great but they still separate instruments more than the darker, thicker Xiaomi Pistons 3. The generally balanced sound doesn`t sound congested and the clear treble response attributes to a relatively open sound.

With a very low impedance of 8ohms, the Origem dual drivers are very sensitive to hiss, picking up a large amount on my HTC M8 and still a decent amount on my e17k which is silent with most sensitive iems. This is especially strange as the dual drivers aren`t awfully sensitive at 91dB. Being a multi-driver with a low impedance, the Origem dual drivers are more affected than most by output impedance. From my e17k, the sound is generally balanced but from my phone, the sound becomes a lot thinner with a congested upper midrange and a large loss of bass definition. The earphones sounded fine from my laptop and iPod Nano 3G but a bit thin with my brighter sounding Nano 7G. Most users shouldn`t encounter this issue to such a large degree, but it`s something to consider if you have a poorly matched source.

Bass –

 

Bass is well tuned on a whole, boosted, but not overly so and smooth with a pleasing tone that flatters mostly every genre. Sub-bass has the biggest emphasis and I would classify mid-bass as full but not tubby or bloated. Upper bass is slightly elevated granting the midrange a slight boost in body but not too much warmth. The Xiaomi Pistons 3 for instance, possess more mid-bass, sounding considerably more bloated and warm the midrange more with an increased upper-bass emphasis; the Origem`s sound a lot cleaner if less detailed on a whole.

The sub-bass boost is quite large, the low end in hip-hop can sound overly prominent but the limited extension actually prevents the sub-bass from overly muddying the sound. This grants the dual drivers with a prominent but soft sub-bass tone and a bass response that, on a whole, sounds full without much definition loss. Bass isn`t super tight with generally slower decay that emphasizes the texture of each note but still doesn`t retrieve a lot of detail. In terms of tonality, the bass response is nice but the quality won`t best more expensive earphones. They`re mostly comparable to the Xiaomi Pistons 3 however and impress even more with a more linear tone.

Mids – 

The midrange has a nice presence that doesn`t get lost behind the boosted bass. The lower midrange is clear with a relatively neutral body. Male vocals lack any muffled and acoustic similarly doesn`t sound muddy at all. Despite the bass emphasis, lower mids actually aren`t that warm and sound very clean with plenty of intelligibility and definition. Vocals and other instruments sound accurate, blending smoothly from the upper bass response.

The upper midrange is a little less natural, sounding slightly truncated and also a tad veil at its highest extremities. Despite this dip at the very top, upper mids still have a tilt towards brightness, but as they sit slightly behind the lower mids in quantity, they avoid being overly harsh. The upper mids do have a thinner body, not to the extent of the Syllable D900s, but vocals and effects do have a tendency to sound tizzy. Piano can get a bit crunchy but acoustic guitar is actually complimented by the boost in clarity. This increase in clarity is generally benign, but songs which are already mastered to have a tilt towards clarity can sound overly thin. Otherwise, the upper midrange is perfectly listenable and this tuning can pose a few benefits; for one, the midrange does retrieve a lot of detail for an earphone of this price, more than the Xiaomi Piston 3`s for example (but more expensive models such as the Shozy Zero will retrieve more detail with more refinement). The Origem dual drivers do tend to sound slightly metallic in the upper midrange, slightly more so than the MRZ Tomahawks but it does contribute to the sense of detail permeated by the earphones.

So the midrange is good on a whole, the lower midrange is very well tuned and great for music and movies alike. The upper midrange isn`t so flawless, sounding slightly thin and sibilant, but for $14 USD, this can be easily forgiven. The Origem dual drivers still sound a lot better than other earphones I`ve tested in this price range but the Pistons 3 do have a more even, smoother midrange if at the cost of lower midrange clarity and higher end detail.

Highs – 

Treble is rolled off, the very top sounds quite recessed but the rest of the treble response is otherwise pretty accurate. Like the upper midrange, the treble response has a slightly thinner body, not as thin as the mids, but thinner than neutral. Cymbals are textured and pretty detailed but also somewhat raspy. Luckily the treble isn`t too accentuated and the sound avoids fatigue on a whole, I would say the treble is roughly neutral in quantity. It`s more laid back overall, never overshadowed by the midrange or low end, but high notes don`t jump out as they do with some earphones. As a result of the roll off, the treble also doesn`t sound airy or particularly sparkly. It has a pretty similar character to the Xiaomi Pistons 3, but the pistons on account of their more even high end have more body and thus produce a more pleasing representation of treble notes.

 

Verdict – 

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The Origem dual drivers have proven to be a very impressive model for the price, but I`m still not going to crown them as the budget slayer, nor will they touch anything remotely more expensive. Still, for $15 I doubt you`ll find much better sound quality; the dual drivers offer a more clarity orientated, generally more balanced sound than the acclaimed Xiaomi Pistons 3`s (though those preferring a warmer, smoother sound will likely still prefer the pistons). The design is a little quirky, but once they`re in the ear ergonomics and stability are great. If you`re looking into a set of cheap earphone that retain the tonality (but not necessarily quality) of higher end models, Origem`s budget dual driver earphones are well worth a look; It`s hard to deny the charm of a dual micro driver earphone for under $20 shipped.

Accessories –  9.5/10, Great selection of accessories and interesting box design are great for the price. Would have liked a shirt to combat relatively high levels or microphonics.

Design – 8/10, Not the most attractive earphone, nor does it feel as solid in the hand as something like the Pistons 3`s, but still feels worlds better than stock plastic earbuds and other cheap models. Extremely comfortable and ergonomic, very stable fitment due in part to their light weight build. Average noise isolation due to shallow fitment. Tacky cable is not ideal but combats tangles well, remote and mic are well placed and work as intended. Metal plugs and y-split augment the design.

Bass – 5.5/10, Pretty linear with a punchy sub-bass emphasis, lacking a bit of extension and sub-bass emphasis can be too great at times. Nice definition and texture to each note but bass is a little slow, losing detail.

Mids – 5/10, Nice lower mids with spot on body. Upper mids are too thin and at times, too bright. Despite this, midrange notes never come across as harsh. Plenty of clarity and detail for the price.

Treble – 5/10, Again nice detailing but extension is lacking. High hats are very recessed and other treble notes sound slightly thin and raspy.

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 6/10, Soundstage has impressive space at this price point. Clear sound grants instruments above average separation, nice sense of width and good depth augment relatively precise imaging.

Value – 10/10, The dual drivers are ridiculously cheap and offer above average performance in every category. In fact the tonality of the low end is genuinely compelling and the fitment is impressive in every regard.

Overall – 9/10, Origem blends premium dual driver technologies with a more Hi-Fi sound signature whilst retaining competitive pricing for the more budget minded audiophile. Their intriguing but ergonomic design and remote functionality make them an extremely versatile buy, just watch out for output impedance issues with some sources.

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