1x DD, 1x BA
Ikko is a young company, that started in 2019. They had only three IEMs before, and Gems OH1S is the fourth model made by them, as before there were OH1, OH7 and OH10. Don’t forget that Ikko is also making a very good small DAC, the Zerda ITM03, and lately, they released the new ITM01.
I’ve listened to the OH10, and it didn’t match my taste at all. OH1s is sounding absolutely different, and I like it a lot. Especially its design, and accessories, which are lovely. I’ve read a few reviews before and after I got OH1s, and they’re from 2,5/5 to 5/5, but I hope that this review will help you with your choice.
Packaging & Build Quality
The box is pretty huge and it contains a pretty standard painting on the top these days, which is an anime girl. When you’ll open that, you’ll find an elegant double box with all stuff inside. So, what’s in there? At first, there’s cardboard with IEMs and a sweet pin badge.
Under the first layer, you’ll see all the eartips which are pretty specific and unusual, as the bigger ones are oval, so they fit differently compared to standard round ones. They’re of pretty good quality, but they could be a bit thicker, as they are a little too soft for me. But the foam tips, oh my. They’re perfect for me. I really love their smooth finish and how dense they are. Right now, those are my favorite ear tips, so they beat the Dekoni and CFA Foam tips, which are still on the podium for me.
So, moving forward, the cable. I love its design, it doesn’t look like many other cables that are made of copper and have transparent insulation, or just black insulation. That’s not much, but it’s looking pretty good for me.
The jack connector is solid but I can’t say the same thing about the MMCX connectors. OH1s are both too easy to spin. You know, it’s not a carousel, but they are easily rotating when I’m trying to put them in my ear, so that’s irritating for sure.
The last thing in the box is the leather pouch, which looks cool, but it’s not really useful. The strap used to tie it doesn’t hold for long, and the pouch opens by itself. In my case, that’s great only when I’m wearing a coat, and I don’t want to have any big case in my inner pocket, so the thin one from Ikko is the best option. Another problem is the fact that it’s hard to put earphones with a cable in some controlled way, like in the case from Dunu, Campfire, or even small and soft ones from RHA. So, for me, it’s cool in some specific moments, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a daily thing for keeping safe your IEMs.
Earphones themselves are well-made as for the budget. They’re made of three main elements, where the middle one is made of resin. The inner part with nozzle and the beautiful faceplate are both made of aluminum. That makes the OH1s look lovely and lets me feel safe if I’d drop them. They have one thing that might be problematic. The OH1S has oval nozzles, so some eartips might not fit well.
Comfort and isolation
Comfort is a very personal thing, but OH1S are small, so they lay pretty deep in the ear. They’re also very light, so in total, I’m not feeling that they’re placed in my ears.
I am also not feeling they’re in my ears because of the isolation, which is really poor. I can easily hear the keyboard of my laptop, which is rather quiet when I’m writing that down. That’s great when you want to be careful on the street, or when you are at the home, but it’s irritating when you’d like to be cut off from the surroundings.
The sound signature is absolutely different from what I expected at the beginning, as I’ve listened before to OH10, which were really bassy. This time, it’s a lightweight, little colored sound, with recessed bass, and a very delicate subbass. If you’re thinking of OH1S as a successor of OH10, then you’re mistaken, it’s totally different. So for sure, that’s not the IEM for everyone.
The bass is light and delicate. It lacks the body and power in songs like “NDA” by Billie Eilish. That’s the part where it reminds me of Bqeyz Spring 2, which has a similar bass line. Midbass is way more visible than the subbass, which is just, well, not here. But even if there’s a little bass, it has a great texture. It doesn’t feel dry, and it can be delicately sweetened with some sound sources. Kickbass is decent at this price range, it starts pretty fast, yet the roll-off could be a little better. It sounds great with pop music, but I wouldn’t recommend that IEM for older jazz, where it gets boring for me, I almost fell asleep when I was listening to Ray Charles, where I’m usually just singing. So, if you do prefer a light bass, a reference style, and you’re not a fan of subbass (as I was some time ago), that might be a great option for you.
The midrange is totally different. It’s sweet, yet not full-bodied. Guitars are smoothed and delicately warmed, and they have a great quantity of details. It’s not like Spring 2 there, but it has a better timbre for me. Female vocals are awesome, they’re mellowed a little and very airy. They’re also pushed to the front, especially like the voice of Billie Eilish in “Happier than ever”, which is a dark recorded album. Higher male vocals aren’t like that, especially Kendrick Lamar in “Humble”. He’s singing like he’s behind a thin blanket, and it’s pushed delicately further. A similar thing applies to low, male voices, which are way less energetic than full-of-life female vocals.
So, there’s that thing which bothers me, the distance. Sometimes it gets really pushed further, like when I’m listening to Kendrick or Polish rappers, and after a second it gets on my face with Dua Lipa. There’s nothing between that.
The treble can get a little harsh and hissing. It’s great when it comes to the details, and it’s really airy, which I love in the treble. With a little warmer sound sources, the problem with hissing is minimalized, yet it still is here. For me, listening to “Pristine” by Snail Mail isn’t really pleasing, even with the Cayin N6ii R01, which has a sweet treble. It should be great if you’re listening to songs with a calmer treble that are well-recorded, as OH1s won’t forgive any mistakes at this point. I’ve seen some were suggesting that might be caused by the fit, but I’ve tried smaller tips, bigger, and foam tips, and it remains similar if I get a proper seal.
The soundstage is decent for $200, but it is mainly moving up and down standing in front of me. I’m missing the sides of the soundstage, as it’s right, left, or in the middle, and the rest is playing in front of me. Separation and air are pretty good, there’s no feeling of one wave of the sound, even if all comes from the same direction. Unfortunately, the layering isn’t the best, as there are two possible distances. The first one is on my face, and the second one is further away.
At first, I have to mention that OH1S are very easy to drive. They’re playing great straight from the phone (Realme 7 Pro), laptop (Huawei Matebook 14 2020), but they don’t get way better using high-end sound sources. Cheap USB dongles should be fine, as the only thing you need is a little more power for the bass. So, if you’re looking for some combo under 200 bucks, you can buy the earphones with some $20, warm dongle, and everything should be fine.
Ikko OH1S vs. Bqeyz Spring 2
Those two share many things, starting from their style, and ending at not the best soundstage. Even if OH1S are bass-light, it has a little more midbass. The kickbass on the other hand has a better roll-off with Spring 2. The midrange is the part where Ikko IEM has more warmth when Bqyez’s product has a little more details. Treble is similar with both, yet it’s more hissing with OH1S.
Ikko OH1S vs. Campfire Audio Honeydew
This time, we’re comparing absolutely different IEMs. Honeydew is a bass-heavy IEM, with a lot more subbass, and a warmer sound signature. Overall, the details are similar, as Honeydew is a little better at lower frequencies, and OH1S is better at higher ones. If you’re tired of the bass amount with the Honeydew, the OH1S is worth trying.
I’m feeling like Ikko went for a little experiment with the OH1s, as that’s something absolutely different from their previous models. I don’t find that IEM the worst nor the best, as it’s specific and made for some people that prefer its airy, lightweight style. Let’s not forget those fantastic female vocals, which can be game-changers at some point, and about the very good setup inside the box.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Campfire Audio Holocene, Vega 2020, Craft Ears Four, Dunu EST112, Final A8000, Fir Audio VxV, Craft Ears Six, CFA Mammoth, Dunu Falcon Pro, Bqeyz Spring 2
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, Cayin N6ii R01, xDuoo XD-05 Plus, Earmen TR-Amp, Earmen Eagle, iFi Go Blue