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Review of DITA Audio The Answer HiFi premium in-ear headphones w/lots of pics!!!

21st November 2014, 08:33 PM |#1  
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This is a review of DITA Audio The Answer HiFi audiophile in-ear headphones, http://www.ditaaudio.com/index.php/p...he-answer.html , available from http://penonaudio.com/DitaAudio-Dita-Answer

I reviewed and shared with you about a lot of different headphones, everything from a budget $15 to a premium $1500. Regardless of the price, every review raises a Question if my journey in search of that ONE special headphone pair is finally over. This time I can tell you with certainty, I found The Answer! I was fortunate to have a unique opportunity to review DITA Answer and to discover a new world of sound which has been encapsulated inside of a round tablet shaped headphone shell with a single transducer (driver). You have to believe me when I say that at $650 this is a bargain because I heard plenty of $350-$500 headphones that don't even sound half as good as DITA Answer. Here is what I found.

Since this review unit was loaned to me, I didn't receive the full retail packaging but have seen plenty of unboxing pictures to realize how much attention went into presentation of this masterpiece from DITA. Everything from a custom crafted flight adapter to a selection of fine eartips, and unique premium leather case and zippered hard shell case, including a signed card by two co-creators of these headphones Danny and Desmond - speaks very highly how much pride they take in their product. My review sample had only zippered hard shell case with two mesh pockets, and that alone showed a high level of details down to a stamped DITA logo and the quality of a metal zipper.

When it comes to headphones itself, every element of the design has been approached like a science project, and you can read more about the technology behind it: http://www.ditaaudio.com/index.php/technology.html . Starting with 3.5mm plug, this is professional quality gold plated connector with a carbon fiber body finish and a decent strain relief. It handles very well with a comfortable grip, and I found its universal fitment to work with any DAP or amp or smartphone even with a thick case. The cable from the plug to y-splitter is rather thick, but still has enough flexibility for easy management and durability to give you a piece of mind. Y-splitter shape matches a common design of the Answer's round tablet shape and features an etching of DITA name on each side. In addition to a short strain relief, you will also find a sliding cable cinch (chin slider) which integrates perfectly with a round edge of the splitter. The portion of the cable from the splitter to earpieces is thinner and equally flexible and durable.

I know a lot of the people expect headphones in this price range to have a removable cable, but there are other details to take into consideration. Cable attachment to the shell of the earpiece is usually the weakest point of in-ear headphone design where constant bending can break the wire. Here it looks like a special attention was paid to a strain relief design of the permanently attached "the fat" cable, including lead-free silver solder. The strain relief shape flows smoothly with the Answer over-the-ear cable fitment so there is no worries about stress of wire bending. The shell housing of the Answer is milled from a solid piece of aluminum, and assembled together forming a round tablet shape. The nozzle of earpiece is angled for a more natural fitment in your ear-canal, and there is a pinhole air port opening on the side. Back of the earpieces have a laser etched DITA logo. Though made out of a solid metal material which contributes to additional weight, once you put these into your ears - the weight disappears. The fitment did feel a bit shallow, but with a longer stem eartips or using double/triple flange tips you can achieve a good seal. Eartip selection plays a very important role in DITA Answer sound shaping where the bore opening can significantly alternate a perception of low and high frequencies.

Out of the box I found a set of eartips with a wider bore opening to be more appropriate to brighten a sound, but after 20+ hrs of burn in I had to do the opposite by going back to a narrow bore tips which helped me in shifting a focus on more bass as well as taming down treble since I'm a bit sensitive to a bright sound. Once I was happy with a seal, I actually started to appreciate how well these headphones can isolate outside noise. Not on a level of train and subway full noise isolation, but noticeably enough in a regular indoor environment. Another thing worth special mentioning is the whole round "tablet" design which fits comfortably inside of your inner ear to the point where you can lie down on the pillow and won't feel they are in your ears! As I mentioned before, the cable fitment is over-ear where you can use a chin slider for an additional adjustment to keep wires together. Also, I hardly noticed any microphonics.

This brings me to a sound test. Before I start with my usual analysis of different frequency bands, let me first talk about the driver itself. After reviewing a number of multi-driver IEMs, everything from dual dynamic or triple/quad balanced armature and even hybrids with combination of both, I was convinced that it's impossible to have a single dynamic driver design to cover entire frequency range while still providing a high level of details. That is a reason for multi-driver design where frequency range is partitioned with separate drivers fine tuned to tackle a specific range separated by a cross-over. It wasn't even a question in my mind, and I was just a bit skeptical how DITA will be able to "answer" to this challenge. Well, the Answer was loud and clear, and their ultra-wide bandwidth dynamic driver pulled it off! What makes it even more amazing, you can use ANY source to drive these headphones to their full potential. Sure, they sound nice with my E12A and C5 amps, but it wasn't really a night'n'day difference when for comparison I was driving them from HO of my X5 or even Note 4. Anything I was throwing at this pair of headphones, flac, mp3, streaming - I was getting the same positive Answer with a high quality sound.

I always try to compare my impression before and after the burn in. I do strongly believe in burn in, especially with dynamic drivers, but my philosophy is also not to go crazy with 100-200hrs of "cooking". Out of the box headphones usually at 80-90% of their final conditioning, and burn in typically helps to finalize that. As I mentioned before, at first I found I needed to use wide bore opening eartips to achieve the best sound quality which included a healthy amount of bass and treble. After completing 20+ hrs of burn in, bass settled down and upper mids/treble opened up more. As a result, I switched to a narrow bore opening eartips that helped me shape a sound back to my preferred sound signature.

The first impression when you start listening to DITA Answer is the amazing positioning and imaging with literally 3D placement of instruments and vocals, complimented with a rather big staging in both width and depth. And I was able to achieve this even without amping! The sound is full of airiness; very impressive considering these only have a small pinhole opening in each shell rather than some fancy semi-open design. The overall sound characteristics is neutrally balanced with a borderline reference quality, but it's not your boring "neutral" sound. The sound is full of life, energy, and micro-details with a very engaging quality that draws you right into the music. The layering and separation of frequencies felt like a multi-driver IEM. Bass was shining with quality where quantity wasn't exaggerated and somewhat controlled by tip rolling. Also, it was present only when called upon and had an extension going down to sub-bass level with a pleasant rumble and a fast mid-bass punch. I think the fast nature of these drivers becomes even more evident when you analyze retrieval of bass details. Next, mids are well controlled with lower mids separated from the bass and adding a nice level of full body details, and upper mids providing an equal amount of details and clarity while still sounding organic and not too bright. I found vocal delivery to be smooth but not a typical warm dynamic driver smooth, but rather more toward BA driver bright-smooth. Treble has a nice extension, sparkly and airy, very revealing, and yet not harsh or peaking. I found it to be great for non-fatigue extended listening.

Overall, just saying that I was impressed with DITA Answer would be an understatement. I used to be a strong believer that over $400-$500 price range you are dealing with diminishing returns on your headphone investment, meaning the price goes up exponentially but the level of improvement is not on the same level. Here, DITA Answer proved me wrong. When I look at the other multi-driver and hybrid IEMs in the $300-$500 range I have tested, I can honestly tell you that sound quality, design, and flexibility of DITA Answer justifies its price. I haven't dived into a world of CIEMs yet, so it's hard to tell if DITA Answer would be an absolute end-game headphone for me. But in comparison to my quad BA driver UE900 and W40 or my beloved triple BA driver ATH-IM03 (with silver-plated cable) - I can guarantee that Answer's sound quality, level of detail retrieval, separation and layering, amazing imaging/spacing, and super comfortable fitment makes their value to be worth double of the others. I'm not quite sure about The Truth edition of the Answer since I'm afraid their $350 cable upgrade will brighten the sound to a level beyond my tolerance, but The Answer is definitely an amazing value!

Here are the pictures.



























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25th November 2014, 10:03 AM |#2  
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Is it good for EDM? How much mid bass is enhanced? Comparing to ATH-IM03 or ATH-IM50 for example.
Last edited by Shezoid; 25th November 2014 at 10:11 AM. Reason: grammer
26th November 2014, 12:31 AM |#3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

Is it good for EDM? How much mid bass is enhanced? Comparing to ATH-IM03 or ATH-IM50 for example.

Zabud' pro EDM I mean, every music genre will sound awesome, but this is a high quality reference IEM (we are talking comparable to quality of $1k IE800 or SE846 or $1.3k K3003 but at half the price). You can EQ it, for sure. But if you are looking for that mid-bass slam and sub-bass rumble out of the box - this will not deliver. Btw, I will be getting Westone UM Pro 30 for review, and it supposed to be similar to IM03 (some even say better).
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26th November 2014, 11:18 AM |#4  
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Thanks for the advice. What kind of music genre with Dita is most enjoyable listen to in your opinion?
Man, you should try Sony XBA-H3 or A3. The best earphone for EDM I have ever listen to in the 290-330$ price point (at accessoryjack.com). Wanted to buy Z5 in the future but after some research, looks like I will go for SE846
26th November 2014, 06:48 PM |#5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

Thanks for the advice. What kind of music genre with Dita is most enjoyable listen to in your opinion?
Man, you should try Sony XBA-H3 or A3. The best earphone for EDM I have ever listen to in the 290-330$ price point (at accessoryjack.com). Wanted to buy Z5 in the future but after some research, looks like I will go for SE846

They are great for any style. The main difference between these and Sony is DITA doesn't exaggerate anything, it reveals every single detail regardless of music style you are listening to. In comparison, XBA-H3 (from what I read) has a heavy bass enhancement which spills into lower mids. These 3-way hybrids (H3) are tuned in a "fun" way, while something like Fidue A83 (I will be reviewing it soon) will have a more accurate tuning where they use dynamic drive for the bass and dual BA for bright mids and treble. H3 has the same config, but not the same tuning. DITA has a very unique super wide single dynamic driver where they were able to tune the whole entire frequency range to have high level of details. Then, you can play around with eartips to squeeze more bass out of them (using narrow bore vs wide bore eartips). DITA will be on a level of something like reference HD800, etc. where you want accurate sound rather than "fun" bass enhanced sound.
27th November 2014, 05:48 AM |#6  
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1. In not High-End HI-FI systems EQ will reduce SNR and THD quality up to 40%.

2. E800, K3003, SE846 they all have good bass impact. E800 and K3003 is V-shaped and SE846 is L-shaped, while K3003 and SE846 also can be tuned by filters.

3. Golden Rules for Low Frequency: Bigger Driver + Better Layered Driver = Better Low Frequency. One of the best driver for low frequency is LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) that mostly used by Sony. There is no any armature or any other dynamic driver that could beat LCP driver, except maybe SE846 which I will find out this later.

4. Every earphones/headphones have they own purposes to use, and every music genre have its own leader instrument or sound that dominate making that genre be as it calls. Except maybe Classical or Jazz genres where sound represents as good team work. For example, all Industrial genres firstly orientated to low frequency rhythms. For Rock should be a emphasize on mid-bass and mid frequency for guitar and vocal. Thats why is Mid-Centric headphone is the best for Rock music (Fidue A83, UE900 or Grado, for example). You don’t listen to Rock right? For Metal needs a good PRaT for guitar and drummer represantation, again UE900 beats all other earphones here at his price point. Take a Beats for example. Try to listen to on them Hip-Hop.
Saying that one headphone could be best for all music is wrong.
Here is another Golder Rules (read about rule#2 and #3):
http://www.headfonia.com/a-guide-to-headphones/
Last edited by Shezoid; 27th November 2014 at 05:59 AM.
27th November 2014, 02:13 PM |#7  
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1. I never EQ a sound for review or general listening. Got too many headphones, constantly switch them around, and don't want to be bothered playing with EQ setting between different sources and headphones. I analyze sound as is. With EQ, boosting introduces artifacts and distortion because mastered recording often is already maximized to "red" level where sound engineer trying to squeeze every possible ounce of loudness. That's why on high quality DAPs, when you enter EQ mode the volume is reduced by 6dB down to give you headroom for boosting, but I would recommend reducing frequencies rather than boosting. (I also do music production, that's my #1 hobby, while reviews are #2 lol!!! I'm actually one of the remixers/producers for Bad Boys Blue, among others).

2. For these $1k IEMs, I read plenty of reviews/opinions on Head-fi where even experienced audiophile members describe their sound sig in a different way. Perception of sound will be relevant to your own taste, your source, your amp, types of files you use, etc. Perhaps if everyone would review it using $2.5k AK240 with hi-res DSD files - we might be able to get a true a/b comparison. SE846 is probably the most highly regarded out of that group, and I hope to be able to audition it one day.

3. Rules are only a theory. Poorly designed IEM with the best drivers and removable cables will still ruin the sound. This becomes especially apparent with some of the hybrid designs and tuning where manufacturer thinks they can combine dynamic driver for bass and single or double BA for mids/highs and everything will be intact. That a theory, but in practice designs like AX35 or DGS100 or Altone200 failed to create a good balance between lows and highs, with a sound skewed more toward lows or toward highs without balance. I also read a lot of impressions about XBA-H3 from people praising them highly when those were released, but in the last year slamming them hard with criticism where some $50-$60 Chinese IEMs beat them in sound quality and performance, or come very close at a fraction of the price. That's why there is so much talk about "giant killer" IEMs on Head-fi, people are amazed that you can have a sound quality from unknown manufacturers for a faction of the price that comes close to big brand names. Coincidentally, most of these small Chinese manufactures has been OEM manufacturers for many years making drivers for big brand names And now they are deciding to make their own IEMs in parallel. In my opinion DITA is also in this category because their tuning has been compared to a lot of $1k+ IEMs and full size headphones. Not sure about SE846, everybody is raving about it. Hopefully I will get a chance to receive a review sample (though Shure usually wants to sign loaner agreements in "blood" lol!!!)

4. Don't listen to rock, true. UE900 are good when you listen for awhile to get your brain settle in. Once you start comparing them to other IEMs, they loose their shine, especially in upper mids where timbre of high frequencies starting to sound unnatural to my ears. Again, this is just a matter of a personal taste. We all have different ear anatomy and our ear-canal is also a filter I used to think UE900 and W40 were at the top of their game. They are great, but I highly prefer IM03 over them because of AT's natural delivery of vocals and balance with a low end. I'm also very curious since Westone is sending me UM Pro 30 for review which should be tuned similar to IM03.

Will be a very busy next month with review samples of UM Pro 30, ATH-CKR9 and CRK10, Fidue A83 and A71, Astrotec LYRA 6, DUNU Alpha 1, and some budget IEMs I'm waiting to receive.. Also, will have an opportunity to spend more time with DITA Answer to run more comparison. So, stay tuned for a lot more reviews!!!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

1. In not High-End HI-FI systems EQ will reduce SNR and THD quality up to 40%.

2. E800, K3003, SE846 they all have good bass impact. E800 and K3003 is V-shaped and SE846 is L-shaped, while K3003 and SE846 also can be tuned by filters.

3. Golden Rules for Low Frequency: Bigger Driver + Better Layered Driver = Better Low Frequency. One of the best driver for low frequency is LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) that mostly used by Sony. There is no any armature or any other dynamic driver that could beat LCP driver, except maybe SE846 which I will find out this later.

4. Every earphones/headphones have they own purposes to use, and every music genre have its own leader instrument or sound that dominate making that genre be as it calls. Except maybe Classical or Jazz genres where sound represents as good team work. For example, all Industrial genres firstly orientated to low frequency rhythms. For Rock should be a emphasize on mid-bass and mid frequency for guitar and vocal. Thats why is Mid-Centric headphone is the best for Rock music (Fidue A83, UE900 or Grado, for example). You donít listen to Rock right? For Metal needs a good PRaT for guitar and drummer represantation, again UE900 beats all other earphones here at his price point. Take a Beats for example. Try to listen to on them Hip-Hop.
Saying that one headphone could be best for all music is wrong.
Here is another Golder Rules (read about rule#2 and #3):
http://www.headfonia.com/a-guide-to-headphones/

28th November 2014, 06:02 AM |#8  
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Unfortunately, I didn't see any good Chinese earphones with higher than 100$ price point, except universal CIEMs and Vsonic GR07(BE) that use LCP driver. However, Audio-Technica ATH-IM70 and Philips Fidelio S1/S2 (with Layered Motion Control (LMC) or multi-layered polymer diaphragm drivers) nowadays at the same price as GR07 have better performance.
DITA The Answer is good earphone, I don't argue. But it's not Chinese, DITA Audio is Singapore company and The Answer is not made for modern music genres, IMHO.
28th November 2014, 02:04 PM |#9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

Unfortunately, I didn't see any good Chinese earphones with higher than 100$ price point, except universal CIEMs and Vsonic GR07(BE) that use LCP driver. However, Audio-Technica ATH-IM70 and Philips Fidelio S1/S2 (with Layered Motion Control (LMC) or multi-layered polymer diaphragm drivers) nowadays at the same price as GR07 have better performance.
DITA The Answer is good earphone, I don't argue. But it's not Chinese, DITA Audio is Singapore company and The Answer is not made for modern music genres, IMHO.

I think "the answer" to what you are looking for is SE846 because you need more bass

Once I have DITA Answer back for more testing, I will put it through more pases with Hardwell, Ummet Ozcan, Guetta, Avicii, Harris, Showtek, and others!
1st December 2014, 06:05 PM |#10  
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Since the opportunity to test DITA The Answer was extended for me, now I received a full retail package for review and would like to share with your updated pictures of this beauty.

This is still the most impressive piece of audio equipment I had a chance to listen to and it continuous to impress me every day. This is not a bass enhanced or super analytical bright IEM. DITA is about bringing you the sound in it's most natural way without any coloration or fun enhancements. It is still amazing how you can tune a single dynamic driver to extend that wide in both directions and to be able to deliver high level of details in every band of frequency range, all thanks to its ultra-wide band driver with a very fast response and impressive dynamic range. Just to reiterate what I already mentioned in my original review, unlike other highly regarded hi-fi IEMs where you need to invest another $3k-$4k in additional amps, cables, daps to bring it up to their full potential, here with DITA The Answer you can drive it straight from your smartphone and still get to a decent level of its potential. Of course, going up to a dedicated quality DAP and external amp will make an improvement from great sound quality to audiophile sound quality, but it gives you a choice to build you setup later while start enjoying these headphones now. And as a matter of fact, my current reference setup is not that expensive to begin with using FiiO X5 DAP ($350), FiiO E12A amp ($159), and FiiO L16 line out cable ($13). You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on headphone amps and don't need to spend thousands of dollars on A&K DAPs to enjoy DITA the Answer. Plus, if you want more bass, you can switch to narrow bore eartips and use bass boost from your amp. That's my current FiiO/DITA setup to enjoy EDM or any other genre of modern music!

Here are the updated pictures:







































Last edited by vectron; 1st December 2014 at 06:25 PM.
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