On the last review, I’ve dealt with the youngster from Aroma Audio’s Music Box series – let’s now take a look at the big brother, Yao. Yao is the flagship model from the Music Box series and used to be the linchpin of Aroma until Ace got released, but the king always stays a king. Let’s now take a look and see how it performs and sounds.
The Music Box series already got their theme clear from their packaging. Early comes in with a wooden box with cushions inside of it, protecting the metal case and the earphones. Other than the earphones, the included accessories are 3 sets of Acoustune AET07 eartips, soft pouch, metal case, a stock cable, and some small paper works. I would have preferred to see more eartips option, but I suppose Acoustune eartips supplement that. The packaging is identical throughout all Music Box series, except the cable. I’ll talk more about the cable a little later on.
All music box IEMs have transparent resin shells with beautifully crafted metal faceplates finished with vertical hairlines. It has the steampunk looks like Campfire / Acoustune IEMs but more in a feminine style. Yao incorporates 12 balanced armatures per side – 4 lows, 4 mids, 2 highs, 2 ultra-highs. The earpieces are detachable with terminations of non-recessed 0.78mm 2pins. The nozzles are divided into three for a cleaner sound flow and have an outer diameter of approximately T400.
Crafting an ergonomic earpiece usually gets harder when the numbers of drivers go over 7-8 per side. And even if the manufacturers make the shape comfortable enough, then the size often gets bulky and big. Though despite the driver counts, Yao is slim, small, and surprisingly comfortable to wear. The insertion depth is also deep enough with average nozzle diameters and doesn’t fatigue my ear canals at all. Probably one of the most compactly-sized 12BA IEM I’ve experienced so far. The right faceplate is engraved with Aroma’s logo and the left one with 尧 (Yao) which means emperor.
Yao’s stock eartips are the Acoutune AET08 which matches very well with these. I’ve been trying multiple eartips and sorted out to the best selection to be either AET08 or stock eartips from Moondrop. The one from Moondrop has a similar look and sound as the AET08, so I would rather prefer to stick with the provided AET08 eartips.
Yao comes with a 4 braid custom-grade copper cable. The end connector is terminated with a 3.5mm straight jack and has a leather strap attached at the lower end for better convenience.
The quality is nice, but Yao definitely deserves something better. A balanced sounding copper cable, Null Audio Tiburon, for example, would maintain the originally intended tonality but brighten up the upper frequencies even more. Silver/copper hybrid cables like Effect Audio Eros II would be a good option too. I wouldn’t much recommend if you’re looking to pair with either gold or copper cables as they might make the lows and mids overwhelming.
Sound impression: Lows
Yao presents a sound that lives up to its name and position, having a thick W-shaped sound signature with a manly characteristic. First off, the bass. The bass is very rich in details, quantity, and depth. I haven’t seen much full-BA IEMs equipped with such high quality on the lows. The bass textures are presented in a way that normal BA IEMs would do, however with a good amount of moisture and dives deep. The dynamics are vivid and up-close. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call Yao’s bass quality to match up with a flagship-level dynamic driver.
The bass here reminds me of a medium-rare, thick steak. The bass here feels chewy and natural, unlike the way that many BA IEMs do with their bass – fast, hard, small imaging, or less in reverbs. Yao won’t hold back when it comes to expressing the bass large and plentiful in reverbs, extensively spreading out towards the entire headroom but in a clean, controlled manner.
Yao’s powerful bass feels to be highly controlled which proves me with its speedy strike and decay. Multiple low-frequency BA drivers act as a one makes it possible to produce a coherent, natural expression and I especially enjoy the way how Yao presents the drum kick. I’m a guy who mostly prefers DD bass more, but with Yao’s dark, plentiful yet controlled amount of bass pinned down to the bottom, it’s definitely a type of bass I enjoy.
Sound impressions: Mids
Having a seamless connection with the bass, mids are slightly pulled forward and could feel the dense core inside it. Mids are vocalized in a thick, smooth manner but start to gain a colorful tonality on the upper mids, giving a mild amount of air and refreshment. This makes the lower mids to produce powerful male vocals while the upper mids are shiny and suitable for female vocals. Vocals are displayed up-close with much liveliness, so it sounds even more attractive.
The lows and mids are imaged in a large and thick scale, but I won’t call it overwhelming since they’re well controlled and the airy upper mids resolves all that. Though of course, this probably won’t be suitable for those who are looking for a thin or flat sound. Mids overall show a very steady flow without any bothering dips or spikes, pretty much a fatigue-free sound signature.
Sound impressions: Highs, etc.
Highs are slightly recessed from the mids but with very prominent in expression. It has an organic, crispy texture and calmly plays along with the overall sound rather than jumping out and breaking the harmony. I’d say the sound feels to be quietly flowing pass like a stream of water. With a slightly dimmed brightness, Yao keeps the treble with a lively, clear ringing tone.
Staging is wide to all directions, creating a wide and round headroom. Separation is moderately highlighted but only to the point where all sound stays intact and flow naturally. It’s clearly a different approach compared to Noble Audio IEMs where they much highlight these kinds of stuff. Of course, Yao still does pay attention to the separation and won’t spit it out in a big lump.
It’s no easy task for creating a grand-sounding IEM without getting the sound dull. Not only Yao handles well with both male and female vocals, but its entire sound fills the entire ears full and rich with details, eventually comes down to a harmonic, coherent sound. I think that would be a good way to summarize the sound. I previously reviewed Early, the entry model of the Music Box series and now I could see that these two IEMs are heading for the same sound signature – Yao being the completed form for that. If you’re for an IEM with large staging and coherent dynamics, Yao is definitely worth to check it out.