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ikko OH1s Review – Master of None

Comparisons –

Fiio FH3 ($149): The FH3 is a personal favourite around this price and assumes a similar hybrid driver setup. The FH3 is a bit more balanced, it has more bass and less treble. Its bass emphasis is tonally cleaner and more dynamic, more focused in the sub-bass. In turn, it has a thicker, weightier note presentation with thicker rumble and more powerful slam. The OH1s is slightly more articulate and textured in the mid-bass, it also has slightly higher note definition. But it lacks dynamics by comparison, preferring a smoother textured, warmer presentation. The midrange is more neutral on the FH3, sligthly lean but mostly innocuous. It’s a clean, natural tuning that leaves little to be desired.

The OH1s is more vocal-forward, equally lean but more articulate so it is slightly more vibrant and defined but also less coherent. Otherwise, it sounds similar in terms of voicing and both resolve similarly, the OH1s perhaps a little better. The OH1s has a brighter treble tuning, but the FH3 has a more focused detail presentation with sharper foreground note attack. It has better fine detail retrieval and also isn’t as peaky, delivering better note body and texture. The FH3 has a darker, cleaner background while the OH1s is crisper and more energetic with greater air and headroom. The FH3 has a slightly larger soundstage, neither excel here. The FH3 does have better layering while the OH1s has slightly better separation.

Final Audio A4000 ($160): The A4000 takes the bright tuning approach one step further but with greater sub-bass presence balancing it out. The OH1s has slightly better sub-bass extension but less slam and weight here. The OH1s has slightly better driver control and a slightly more textured mid-bass. The A4000 is more dynamics and punchier, it has a cleaner mid-bass tuning. The A4000 has a thinner, cooler midrange with greater upper-mid bias. The OH1s is slightly more balanced here and more structured due to its lower emphasis and greater density.

I find the OH1s to be more naturally voiced, it doesn’t have as much intensity and glare, and better coherence overall. The OH1s is also more resolving here of layers and small details. The A4000 has a brighter, crisper tuning in the foreground. It has a sharper attack and produces similar detail retrieval to the OH1s at a lower price. Its dynamics driver gives it a bit more texture too. The OH1s is more refined sounding, it isn’t as bright and has a better resolved background with more air and openness, the A4000 sounding more aggressive. The A4000 has a wider soundstage while the OH1s has better imaging and layering.

Campfire Audio Satsuma ($199): The Satuma is a single-BA earphone with a vocal-focus making it direct competition to the OH1s. It has a fuller bass with greater sub-bass weight but also far less extension compared to the hybrid OH1s. It lacks pressure and power at the very bottom despite being more forward here in tuning. The OH1s has a more textured, powerful bass response despite having a bit less sub-bass presence. The Satsuma is faster decaying and a bit more articulate but doesn’t have the same natural timbre to my ears. The midrange is slightly more forward on the OH1s, the Satsuma has a smaller vocal size and isn’t quite as intimate. It has a warmer voicing and a smoother articulation giving it higher coherence.

The OH1s is more vivid and immedaite. It is more textured and resolving, with greater vocal size, it sounds more powerful and structured. The Satsuma has a smoother lower-treble but some crispness and air in the middle-treble. While it does have a sharper note attack than the OH1s, its smoother tuning means it is slightly less detailed in practice. The OH1s has a bit more background detail, the Satsuma is similar in its airy approach but less resolving here. The Satsuma has a wider stage despite this, and a darker, cleaner background. It has sharper imaging too while the OH1s has better separation.   

Moondrop Blessing 2 ($319): Moondrop doesn’t really have a direct competitor in this price range, I suppose the new KATO is closest but that model wasn’t available to me at the time of writing this review. The question then becomes whether buyers should consider saving another $100 and I think a reasonable case can be made.

The Blessing 2 is equally well extended but has a heftier sub-bass presence. It has more slam and weight. The OH1s is slightly more laid-back and has a less prominent rumble. It is slightly fuller and warmer and also showcases slightly better driver control and note definition, the B2 being more dynamic and linear in return. The OH1s has a slightly more vocal-forward midrange but not by much. The voicing is also not too dissimilar, the OH1s is a touch leaner and has a sharper articulation, but it’s also a little more separated. The B2 is more coherent with more accurate note body. It is more resolving, it has better extension and layering and also a more consistent voicing on tracks of different mastering styles due to its more linear tuning.

The treble plays into this mostly, the B2 is more even throughout, the OH1s has a bumpier tuning. The B2 has a sharper note attack in the lower-treble. Its notes have more bite and it has much better fine detail retrieval, a more focused detail presentation and a cleaner background. The OH1s is brighter, it has a thinner note body but also higher clarity. Chiefly, it is airier in the middle-treble, albeit the B2 is noticeably more resolving of detail here and less polarising in terms of brightness. The B2 has a larger stage in all dimensions but most will appreciate its much sharper imaging. the OH1s has slightly better separation.

Verdict –

The OH1s is a beautifully designed earphone with excellent build quality and a super svelte form factor. The sound has a unique character that will no doubt appeal to some but cannot be universally praised and recommended. I was impressed by its controlled and textured bass and airy treble. Similarly, it has a large, well-resolved yet low-intensity midrange vocal lovers will enjoy. Conversely, this is a somewhat unfocused sound altogether; pressure and power in the sub-bass leaves wanting as does note attack, imaging lacks stability and assertive directional cues in turn. Furthermore, its especially fit dependent middle-treble and lean note body mean it isn’t the most forgiving listen either.

Accordingly, while the OH1s attempts to be an all-rounder and perhaps abstractly address fallibilities of a bright/revealing signature, it ultimately lacks clear direction and falls short on genre versatility too. It isn’t an earphone with many huge flaws to criticise but certainly idiosyncrasies one should consider before purchase. If my comments don’t sound like deal breakers to you, then there is much to enjoy beyond this. Expect industry-leading comfort and compactness, a resolving midrange and airy top-end that surely carve its own clear niche in-class.

The OH1s can be purchased from ikko for $199 USD and a promotional price of $139 USD during September 2021. I am not affiliated with ikko and receive no earnings from purchases through these links.

Track List –

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jasen – BYE

John Mayer – Continuum

Kanye West – Ye

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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