The 7Hz x Crinacle: Salnotes Dioko have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. The only request that I received was that these IEMs were placed at the top of the queue of the other items they have sent me. Other than that, no specific requests have been made and I will do my best to be as impartial as I always try to be, always remind you that these IEMs have not cost me anything.
The link to the Dioko via Linsoul has already been posted by @Resolve in the first post of this thread and as I don’t use affiliate links anyway, just scroll up and click on that one
When Crinacle announced the 7Hz x Crinacle: Salnotes Dioko, which I am just going to call Dioko or 7Hz Dioko from now on, I was interested in giving them a listen. This is one of the few cases where I actually reached out to Linsoul asking about them (usually they send me whatever they feel like sending) and was happy to hear that they would send them to me.
I have reviewed a few of the Crinacle collaborations in the past, although they were mainly mini-reviews, and I also did the same with the 7Hz Timeless, a set of IEMs that I really enjoyed, even though I ended up preferring the S12. So, when I heard that the Dioko were a budget set of planar IEMs, I was certainly interested.
I have put the Dioko through my usual review procedure, giving them around 120 hours on the burn in rig, 5 days of daily use and 4 or 5 hours of detailed listening (using my usual test tracks) and comparisons. I have used the Gryphon, as usual, for the detailed listening but I did use the Modi 3+ & Atom for a lot of my listening time at my desk this week.
The presentation is different to what I was expecting for a budget set of planar IEMs, with a price that is below 100€ at the time of publishing this review. They may not hit the extreme budget category but I do believe that they are the cheapest set of planar IEMs available at the moment, so I was expecting a watered down version of the Timeless presentation.
The first thing I found upon opening the box was that the storage case is the size of the actual box, with all the contents inside it. I was actually expecting a simple leather or plastic version of the Timeless case but what is included is actually a very nice storage case, with a moulded interior and a soft finish, covered in faux leather with a red and black theme. I can’t say I am overly ecstatic about the aesthetics of the case but it is not horrible and the build is the same as similar cases that I have seen available for anywhere between 18€ and 35€ online, so definitely not a cheap tacky case.
We obviously also get the IEMs and the cable, sitting in the moulded case interior, along with 7 sets of coloured silicone tips and a basic user manual.
Except for the case, there is nothing really out of the norm included, however, the case certainly does leave a good impression.
Build and aesthetics…
I already mentioned the case, so let’s focus on the IEMs and the cable.
Starting off with the cable, it is actually quite nice, in my opinion of course. A nicely braided cable in a two tone brown finish, it is fairly nice to the touch and does not seem to tangle or misbehave in general. I don’t feel that the aesthetics of the cable really match the IEMs but I actually like the cable aesthetics.
With regards to the IEMs, they have a similar fit to the Timeless or Eternal, where the main part of the shell sits outside the ear, although they have opted for a slightly smaller size that is oval rather than round, something that I find more comfortable.
The build is plastic but I don’t see any specific faults that should cause issues, although only time will tell, as always.
So that leaves the aesthetics which, I’m afraid, are not really my thing. The faceplate is made of what resembles a magnifying glass with a purple tint to it. This does give the sensation of it changing colour depending on the way the light hits it but I am just not a fan. The positive thing is that I can’t see them when they are in my ears, so listening to them takes away from looking at them . I will also say that I was surprised that the finish doesn’t show fingerprints, which I expected the glass type finish to do, so that is a positive.
Note: All tracks mentioned in this review are clickable links that will open the track in your preferred streaming service, in order to reference the song.
As usual, here is a graph of the frequency response in comparison to my personal preference target:
(all my IEM measurements can be found and compared here: achoreviews.squig.link)
I really like what 7Hz and Crinacle have done in the subbass (and mid bass) realm. I know I am someone who looks for slightly less bass than the majority, so keep that in mind, but I find that the tuning of the Dioko makes for a very clean low end, something that Crinacle seems to focus on and something that I like.
There is enough subbass for when rumble is needed but that stays out of the way of the rest of the frequencies. The subbass is clean and articulate and while I would say that it is not the most detailed of bass in general (there isn’t usually a lot of subbass detail anyway, more just a rumbling effect) it does present things nicely and keeps up with fast paced subbass hits.
The midbass keeps the same kind of presentation. It is less present than on many other sets (including 7Hz’s own Timeless) and this may not be to the favour of many bass lovers, but I do like it. There are some genres, such as classic rock (things like “Whole Lotta Love” being an example), where a little more midbass would work in favour of the music but for many other genres I find that it works very well, again, keeping it clean and articulate with a decent speed. Personally I am a fan of the whole low end of the Dioko, at least as far as tuning goes, but I can see others wanting a little more warmth in these lower ranges. It really is quite a polite low end.
Moving into the mids, there is no need to mention that the transition is very clean, as is to be expected from the tuning. This can leave some of the lower guitar notes seeming a little hollow (not due to the clean transition but due to the lower midbass presence which often rolls over into the lower mids) but the midrange is very well balanced, maintaining a very clean presence until it starts to climb just before the 1kHz mark.
This does gives the Dioko a sensation of being very neutral all the way up to where the upper mids start. The lower end of vocals are present, as are instruments, all coming across as clean and as articulate as the lower frequencies do. This can make certain male vocals seem a little lacking in warmth, such as Leonard Cohen in “What Happens To The Heart”, especially when used to so many other sets that do have more going on in the lower mids (and midbass) frequencies.
However, in the case of female vocals, I don’t find this to be the case, seeming to come across as very neutral. The lower notes of Nellie McKay’s “I concentrate on You” are as clean as I would expect them to be from studio monitors.
As we reach the higher end of the mids, the presence region seems to not quite make it far enough, peaking around 2kHz and staying flat until around 4kHz. Now, this is not actually a negative, due to the neutrality of the frequencies up to this point. As there is no low end bump, nor central mids recess, to compensated for, the fact that the upper mids are not pushed forwards as much as we usually find on other sets works in favour of the Dioko. It helps not push the vocals too far forwards, while avoiding becoming too harsh at the same time. Trying just a quick touch of EQ to bring the 3kHz up to my usual preference target quickly made things more shouty and harsh.
The negative to this is that the higher ranges of instruments do not sound as natural as they should. I find pianos and the higher end of acoustic instruments to be well balanced but not quite correct as far as their tonality.
The higher ranges are well extended, with a nice sensation of air and space. There is a slight hint of sibilance on songs that are very borderline in this regard (such as “Code Cool”) but for the majority of tracks, this is not an issue.
As the Dioko are a very neutral tuned set of IEMs, this works in favour of space between instruments and layers, even if the soundstage is not huge. In fact, I would say that the soundstage is around average for a set of IEMs, however, due to the clarity, it works in their favour and does make things seem a little more spacious.
The biggest negative, which is really not a negative but more of a “not quite good enough”, is the subject of details. I mentioned in my review of the S12 that I don’t find them to be the most detailed of IEMs, however, the Dioko comes across as even less detailed in this regard. The intro of “All Your Love Turned To Passion” is something that I like to hear when assessing how a set of IEMs deals with those small background details and decays, and the Dioko just doesn’t quite do it. The initial strike of the guitar and the notes themselves are fine, but thre is no real decay or detail as the sound fades into the room.
Vs Letshuoer S12…
Before you say it, yes I know that the Dioko is a much cheaper alternative and this doesn’t make it a very fair comparison but… as both are planar IEMs and I find the S12 to be very similar to the Timeless, I feel that a (brief) comparison is in order. It would probably have more sense to compare the Timeless, which is the Dioko’s bigger brother, but I don’t own that IEM and I personally preferred the S12 anyway.
So, as far as tuning goes, they are different. Mainly in the bass regions, where the S12 has that warmer midbass presence while the Dioko focuses on the cleanliness and neutrality of the low end moving into the mids.
As a general preference, I actually prefer the tuning of the Dioko in this regard. However, when a set of IEMs has a slightly more present midbass which is still clean and articulate, I find it very pleasant, and that is the case with the S12.
The mids on the Dioko are also more neutral, approaching the presence of vocals in a different way. Listening to some of my favourite vocal focused tracks, I must say that I prefer vocals with the S12 approach (especially male vocals) but I have no issue with the Dioko either, it is just different.
As far as details, I have to say that I find the S12 to be superior in this regard, even if I have said that I don’t find the S12 extremely detailed.
I really feel that the Dioko and S12 (also the Timeless) have some similarities but are very different IEMs, approaching the presentation of music in different ways.
I could probably spend a lot of time comparing the Dioko to many other sets around and below the 100€ mark, but honestly I think it has created it’s own space and while it may be competing for sales in this bracket, it is not actually competing at the same game.
Many sets around this price are focused on getting a general flavour that is pleasant for as many people as possible and there is nothing wrong with that, however, the Dioko seems to bring its own flavour to the table, which is something different yet well done at the same time.
I don’t think that the Dioko is ground breaking in terms of planar IEMs, in other words, I don’t think it is trying to compete with some of the more expensive planar IEMs, rather it is offering a planar variant at a very affordable price range. Let’s face it, planars are in fashion at the moment and 7Hz, along with Crinacle, have proved that you can (finally) get good planar performance for less than 100€.
(As with all my reviews, this is also available in Spanish both on www.achoreviews.com and on www.youtube.com/achoreviews)