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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[REVIEW] Signature Acoustics Element O-16 Live

It might be a bit odd to name an IEM the O-16, as in ‘oxygen’. But given their first IEM is the carbon (C-12), I guess the India based Signature Acoustics does meant to create a real ‘Element’ series based on the periodic table. As their second product, the O-16 continues to target the budget IEM market and one can be found for just US$30 or so (*MSRP is double that).


Driver: 8 mm (CCAW) Open Back Dynamic
Impedance: 17 Ohms @ 1Khz
Frequency Response: 12 to 22 Khz
Sensitivity: 102 dB
Total length: 1.2 m
Channel Balance: Less than 2.5% dB @ 1 Khz
Connector: 3.5mm Gold Plated Stereo


Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
The new IEM comes in the case paper box as its elder sibling, so there really isn’t much to say about. Accessories wise, it is the same story – there are three pair of eartips, shirt clip, two pair of replacement filters and the really good looking leather case. Build quality is decent as well, nothing to complain about. The two tone color scheme is quite shape, in a good way no less. The only thing to mention is the cable - while good quality, it is a bit on the stiff side with minor memory effect. Same as the one found on C-12.

Last but not least: since this is an open back IEM, isolation is, as expected, not great. So it is not going to be a good choice on noisy places, but more for in-da-house kind of situation.


Sound Quality
The sound signature of O-16 is warm and sweet with a slight emphasis on the midrange. Good extension on both ends, but does get a bit rounded off. Bass has good quality and decent quantity, polite in a way but not shy by any mean, though not stand out on their own either. Same can be said to the treble – clean, clear, polite and not exactly bright or exciting. There are some sparkle and micro-detail, but often they don’t stand out enough. Mid is just slightly sweet, well textured with a good thickness to accentuate the vocal. It is further helped by a good soundstage that is aided by the open back design to give it a musical and fluid presentation.

All and all, the O-16 has a well-rounded sound – mature, polite, not boring by any mean but also lacks just a touch of excitement that could have excelled it to the next level. It could very well being said to be a gentleman’s IEM – a rather safe choice, so to speak. It has the same easy-goingness of its elder sibling, the C-12, but a little conservative in tuning. If C-12 is that one you want to listen outdoor, then O-16 is definitely the one that you want to listen indoor, in a nice quiet place with some smooth music. The safer tuning does however make O-16 more adaptive than C-12 when it comes to different genres of music.


Overall, O-16 maintains about the same level of performance of C-12, but tuned in quite a different way with their own pros and cons. The openness of its presentation does in fact gives O-16 kind of a ‘live’ feeling, though it is more of a small venue with Jazz music rather than a big stadium with Rock music. For the price of US$30 however, it won’t be fair to ask for perfection anyway. All being said, the O-16 is still well ahead of most of its competition in the same price bucket. Once again, Signature Acoustics might be a new comer in the IEM world, they certain know their game.

A thanks to Signature Acoustics for the sample

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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