These well-built IEMs have a smooth and organic midrange that will keep you coming back for more.
So many IEMs, so little time.
I have a stack of IEMs on my desk waiting for review that is about to touch the ceiling, but I can’t lie; seeing Crinacle’s name on the 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko box made me push them to the front of the line.
After the commotion caused by the KZ X Crinacle CRN (which I liked, by the way), the popular IEM reviewer (and founder of In-Ear Fidelity) is back with another collab. Once again, he aims to prove that affordable IEMs (in this case, the cheapest Planar IEM on the market) can provide extraordinary performance based on quality tuning or tonal balance.
To that end, Crinacle works with manufacturers to apply his “signature” tuning, which I describe as neutral with a slight bump in the mid and sub-bass, to their IEMs.
As previously stated, I enjoyed what he did with the $36 KZ earphones, so I was very interested in hearing what he could do with a pair of $99 IEMs. That leads me to today’s review of the 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko, a collaboration between Crinacle, 7Hz (of Timeless and Eternal fame), and Linsoul, the audio distributor/dealer.
$99 is a fantastic price for a quality Planar earphone, so if this thing sounds decent, it can change the game!
So, as usual, I’m going to look at the build quality, features, and sound quality of these IEMs, and let you know if they’re worth the cash. Has Crinacle worked his magic again? Read on, and I’ll let you the scoop!
Disclaimer: The 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko was sent to us by Linsoul in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
The 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko is a large-format Planar IEM with a new dual-cavity 14.6mm driver and double magnet array. All of this is packed into a lightweight yet solid aluminum shell. That shell is capped with a purple opal color glass insert which may or may not be too gaudy based on your preference.
I prefer the more subdued design of its sibling, the Timeless, but at this price point, the shiny exterior wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Like Timeless, the earpieces are on the large side to support the relatively large drivers. Also, like Timeless, the Dioko has a well-contoured rear panel that settles into the ear while keeping the oversized driver portion outside the ear canal.
That produces a pretty comfortable fit, even though the feel of the cold metal housing against the top of my ear was a nuisance at first. That said, once the earpieces warmed up, that awkward feeling disappeared.
The Salnotes Dioko also comes with a detachable braided OCC Copper Cable, which uses a standard two-pin connection. It’s a good quality cable with nice terminations on both sides and is relatively tangle resistant.
However, I wish the cable had a better slider at the Y-termination. I also would’ve preferred a QDC connection on the earpiece instead of the unprotected two-pin setup, but I’m probably nitpicking. Nevertheless, it’s better than the cable included with the Timeless.
As far as the rest of the accessories go, you get six pairs of silicone ear tips in various shapes and sizes, along with a zippered protein leather storage box. The soft fleece-lined box is large enough to carry the IEMs and everything that comes with them.
In addition, you get a pre-installed set of silicone ear tips on the earphones. They worked well for me in terms of fit, but if they don’t do the trick for your ears, one of the other six sets should work.
For my sound tests, I hooked up the 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko to my FiiO M11Plus music player and played a bunch of my headphone testing tracks from TIDAL.
At first listen, I heard an overall neutral IEM with a gentle lift in the treble and bass, a signature some may call “u-shaped.”
The Dioko’s sound reminded me a lot of the Timeless (which I constantly compared during my evaluation), albeit with a slightly smoother lower treble and a cleaner midrange. That said, while the former has excellent detail and resolution for the price point, the latter is better in both departments.
On the other hand, while the Timeless is more transparent than the Dioko, I appreciated that the Dioko didn’t have the lower treble “sizzle” of the more expensive 7hz IEM, something that constantly distracted me when listening to the Timeless.
Conversely, the elevated treble on the Timeless does provide a little more air up top, which the Dioko lacks to some extent.
However, I felt the Dioko sounded a little more natural overall than the Timeless, probably because there was less going on in the presence region. I think that let me appreciate the breathiness of the upper mids, along with the lack of bloat in the lower mids, which plagued the Timeless.
This, in turn, allowed me to better hear notes’ speedy decay and attack, which provided some realism to the performance.
Listening to Macy Gray’s “Anabelle,” the Dioko had outstanding technical performance, especially for a sub-$99 IEM. The guitar sounded sweet, as did the cymbals and Macy’s vocals. Nothing sounded overemphasized or too forward, which is part of Crinacle’s philosophy (and mine) regarding good sound.
This song also let me hear Dioko’s quality image placement and stage width. While it didn’t have the separation, openness, or focus of more expensive planar earphones like the Timeless ($219) or the Raptgo Hook-X ($239), it was still open enough to provide an engaging reproduction of the source material.
On the bottom end, the Dioko didn’t have a whole lot of punch which didn’t surprise me since this is a planar IEM, but there was enough punch and depth to keep from sounding thin, and in actuality, it was probably right where it should be to add the excellent weight to most genres of music.
The Timeless bested the Dioko when it came to overall low-end articulation. Still, since the Timeless had a fair amount of bloom in the lower mids, I feel the Dioko’s bass was better overall. I have to give Crinacle’s tuning credit since the bass is emphasized tastefully outside the area where it would affect the midrange.
If I had any issues with the Dioko’s sound, it would be with low-level detail and dynamics. Compared with other Planar IEMs, it seems like it lacks some of the depth and dimensionality it would gain from better performance in those areas.
Dioko’s presentation comes across as just a little two-dimensional or flattened, which isn’t the end of the world, but it provides some understanding of what you may be missing when you come down to the $99 price point.
Nevertheless, when returning to Dioko’s sibling Timeless, I have to say that while that IEM has the enhanced dimensionality and low-level detail I described above, the Dioko tuning gives it a smoothness and cohesiveness the more expensive 7hz lacks.
The Dioko does some great things at its price point, like decent transient response that makes music sound live and realistic, a clean midrange for natural instrument timbre, and deep, controlled bass, which provides nice weight to the performance.
The Wrap Up
Overall, the 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko is a nice set of earbuds with a decent fit, good build quality, and an excellently balanced tuning. While they could use just a little more air, separation, and depth, the sound has a speed, crispness, and articulation I haven’t heard in dynamic driver earphones for around $100. That alone makes them stand out amongst the sea of IEMs out there.
I also believe the smoothness and natural quality of the midrange give the Dioko above-average performance at the price point. If you’re looking to hear what a planar IEM is all about, don’t have a ton of cash to spend, or want to dip your toe in the water, check these earphones out.
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.