TANCHJIM OLA – Personified Crispness
- This unit was provided by HiFiGo for review purposes
- My TANCHJIM OLA has undergone over 200 hours of playtime
- I don't do measurements, I just describe what I hear, from my own POV
- I don't use EQ
- The entirety of my impressions was done with OLA Silicone tips
- Ultimately, my reviews are purely subjective and biased to my personal preference in sound
- Ovidius B1
- Audirect BEAM 3 Plus
- NotByVE Abigail
- NotByVE Avani
- Shanling UA5
- Earmen Sparrow
- LG V50 ThinQ
- iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can
- Sony Xperia X Compact (USB 2.0 host)
- HiBy Music Player (USB Exclusive Mode)
- FLAC Lossless Files
OLA came in somewhat unique shell design that I have never seen before. It has that old Star Trek tech vibe to it. While I am not particularly a fan of this design, I must admit the construction is well conceived. In fact, the whole package of OLA from the box to the IEMs and cable all themed exquisitely in silver/grey that inspire a sense of simplified elegance.
Offering single 10mm dynamic drivers each side, OLA is rated at 16 Ohm with 126db of sensitivity. Looking at the spec alone, one would assume this could be one very sensitive and easy to drive IEMs, yes? Well, read on and find out how true is this.
Being rather petite and lightweight, I find wearing OLA quite easy. It would stay attached to my ears for long periods of time without any risk of getting fatigue. However, I find that the isolation with the stock silicone tips is not that great in supressing external ambient noises. Changing it to aftermarket foam tips will help improve isolation.
Dynamics, Tone & Timbre
The overall tone and timbre signature of OLA is something I would regard as “almost” neutral. Taking Etymotic ER4 series as the benchmark for Diffused Field Neutral, OLA edge very close in matching the sound curve of the Etys – with an exception that the lower frequencies have mild tilt and elevation on Mid-Bass section. Otherwise, I would say that among many ChiFi IEMs that we see flooding the market nowadays, OLA assuredly fall into one of the most neutral sounding unit available. It is amply mature with dynamics vibrancy to not appear unnaturally euphonic. OLA also has pronounced Mids focus with super crisp presentation, where the entire theme of being neutral starts. Except for the mild elevation of lower frequencies, OLA is gracefully free of any coloration.
Dynamic range appeared well staged. OLA offers great extensions on both end of the spectrum. Perhaps being clinical I would say it does seem to fall short on Sub-Bass region.
My only critique on the overall sound characteristics of OLA, it can appear dry and lean especially when paired with natively bright sounding partners – lacking organic touch and smoothness (a little too much on crispness). But then when paired with an already neutral organic sources, OLA will then sound very well balanced and articulate – devoid of any edginess.
The strength of OLA, Mids being very neutral and uncolored. The staging of Mids properly placed to appear well defined with clean and crisp imaging. Tonally faithful to the intended nature of the recordings. I am hearing good amount of texture and details especially for acoustic, percussions and air instruments. There’s polished maturity in the way attack and decays with how the instruments being played.
On vocals, OLA exhibited similarly neutral presentation. I was actually mesmerized by how realistic Diana Krall and Sinne Eeg vocals are as heard with OLA. Properly chesty and deep, no attempt to add any element of warmth. On the other hand, with something a bit peakier like Alison Krauss, OLA faithfully presented her Soprano singing with piercing tone which may appear borderline sibilant. But then that’s the nature of Alison Krauss, she’s known to be one of the sharpest sounding female vocalist to ever exist. I personally find this to be quite acceptable because I get similar results from my Etymotic ER4SR and ER2XR. For male vocals, OLA sounds the best with Baritone type – being very chesty, deep and commanding, Nick Cave and Morrissey sounded realistically lively and engaging. Again, without any hint of added warmth. A matter of saying, for those preferring the Mids being totally neutral, OLA will not disappoint.
Another strength of OLA. Crisp and clean Treble being the highlight of the upper frequency characteristics. OLA exhibited admirable prowess with Treble micro details. Well controlled to not appear overly bright. Crisp and well-defined edges that manage to avoid peaky spikes. There’s ample sparkle and shimmer to keep things vibrant, nothing overly done. What I do wish OLA could have done better, a bit more of air and smoothness. The focus on crispness seemed to take away some velvety element that I normally prefer for Treble presentation. But it must be noted, that how competent Treble is, largely depends on how good the recording/mastering are with the sources. OLA will reflect on these transparently.
Now, what I do know, OLA is not an IEM for Bassheads. Being relatively neutral it also means OLA will appear subdued to those preferring their Bass big. What OLA does offer is richly textured Bass performances especially with Mid-Bass. Generally, the theme is, Mid-Bass being solid and fast, very tidy. Admirable details and texture while at it. There was never a moment the Mid-Bass will attempt to overshadow lower Mids. But I will say that it is still not neutral enough to call it flat. Perhaps the caveat of OLA, Sub-Bass appeared meek and reserved. Very rarely I would be able to feel the presence of Sub-Bass seismic responses. Otherwise, I have nothing else to complain about OLA overall Bass performances.
Undoubtedly, OLA scores big on technicalities. For a start, the soundstage is wider than most IEMs that I have tried so far – offering good sense of space and depth – maybe the height not as tall. Precise and very holographic spatial imaging evident no matter what song I threw at it.
Macro and Micro details handling of OLA also being very commendable. Especially when paired with natively technical sources, OLA exhibited very deft articulation of details retrieval.
Speed and resolution being great as well. No matter how complex and fast the tracks are, OLA handled them all gracefully without any hint of congestion or compression. Each layers remained separated, no mucking up of multiple complex composition of instruments. Making it easy to track individual instruments.
Scalability & Synergy
I noted earlier that OLA is a 16 Ohm IEM with 126db of sensitivity. Surprisingly, OLA does not appear to be that sensitive on actual usage. On my LG V50 ThinQ Quad DAC (low gain mode), OLA needed the volume to be cranked at 56/75 to attain proper listening loudness. It must be noted that I am a low volume listener and most of my IEMs needed only 40-50/75 on my LG V50. Despite that, I have observed that OLA does need the volume to be adjusted just about right. Subjecting OLA to higher loudness will result in the output being peaky and shouty. So, it does seem that OLA can be very finicky with loudness adjustment – perhaps due to being 16 Ohm.
Now, this is crucial. The sound impressions that I stated above, reflects what I am heard when OLA was paired with Ovidius B1, Audirect BEAM 3 Plus, iFi ZEN Stack and Avani. OLA seems to shine the best with natively organic neutral DAC/Amps – or should I say “warmer” sources. Pairing OLA with bright sounding partners will result in output that can be lean, dry and metallic. For example, with ESS Sabre based LG V50 ThinQ (ES9218P), Shanling UA5 (ES9038Q2M) and Earmen Sparrow (ES9281PRO) – the output sounded digital and lacking organic timbre balance. Yes, they will be super clean and pristine, but they are also borderline sterile. Matching OLA with warmer sources is the key to getting the best of it. So, it does seem that OLA being choosy as to the nature of the pairing partners.
With so many ChiFi IEMs out there withing this price bracket being tuned towards Harman-ish, and V curved sound, TANCHJIM OLA offers something refreshing. Something that is very close to being Diffused Field Neutral. What I like about OLA, is how transparent and technically competent it is at sound presentation. I will not hesitate to say that the sort of technical performances normally expected of IEMs double the asking price.
The weakness of OLA, it is a bit finicky with pairing selection. Perhaps because OLA has that source transparency traits that will reveal the true nature of the sources. Pairing it with bright sounding DAC/Amp is not something I would do for OLA. It needed something more neutrally and naturally organic partners to sound the best. Or in what most people would say it, warm sounding sources.
Comparatively, I would say that OLA definitely scored better on technicalities than most other competition in this price segment. Undoubtedly more technically competent than the likes of HZSOUND Heart Mirror, TIN HiFi T3 Plus, Moondrop Aria etc.
Ultimately the appeal of OLA, being very close to being neutral and uncolored. But it does have some minor cons that otherwise negligible – just a matter of pairing it right.
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