Amidst the constant release of single dynamic driver IEMs – new ones seem to come out every other week or so – Tripowin decides to up the ante with its latest product, the Tripowin Rhombus. In a bid to combine the best qualities of different driver types, this IEM’s dynamic driver is paired with a balanced armature driver.
Dynamic drivers are known for their low-end presence and more organic tonality, while balanced armatures are renowned for their detail retrieval at the cost of fidelity. Due to their differences, there isn’t necessarily a clear cut “better” driver. In fact, it’s because of these differences that manufacturers often pair the two together in an attempt to get the best of both worlds.
The Tripowin Rhombus is one such attempt, but it is…well, an example of a less successful effort.
What It Is
As mentioned, the Tripowin Rhombus is a hybrid IEM with a single dynamic driver and one balanced armature driver. The earphones are listed for $79 (about RM375) on Linsoul, which might seem a little pricier than most dynamic driver IEMs these days, though the inclusion of a balanced armature might have warranted this price. It’s either that, or the manufacturing cost of the Rhombus’ unique shell.
The shell of the Rhombus is apparently constructed from aerospace-grade aluminium through a five-axis CNC machining process. This “edgy” design makes the Rhombus seem more premium than it actually is. Although it’s made of metal, the Rhombus still feels relatively lightweight and isn’t too fatiguing in the ears.
Packaging of the Rhombus is as simple as it gets. There are three pairs of black tips (one already installed), another three pairs of transparent tips, and a small drawstring pouch. It can be argued that the lacklustre packaging is to be expected for a sub-$100 IEM, but the similarly-priced Moondrop Aria Snow Edition comes with a hard-shell carrying case. It also has a waifu on the box, if that matters to you.
How Does It Sound?
The “balance” in balanced armature is simply moot here as it simply doesn’t pair well with the Rhombus’ dynamic driver; to my ears at least. There’s a certain incoherence in the frequency range that just sounds…wrong.
However, it’s entirely possible that my ears are more accustomed to dynamic and planar drivers as of late. The “hybrid sound” is definitely an acquired taste, and it is something that you will either love or hate. You really have to try one for yourself to be sure.
Anyway, the note weight of the Rhombus is thin, and there’s even sibilance present on brighter, instrumentally-rich tracks. There is some semblance of sub-bass presence, but the mid-bass (and just the low-end in general) sounds a bit anaemic and unsatisfactory – more on this later.
Thankfully, the upper mids and treble of the Rhombus are quite good, and the overall tonality is relatively bright. You can definitely tell that the balanced armature driver is doing most of the heavy lifting in this frequency range.
There is a notable sub-bass bump with the Rhombus, but it doesn’t extend and reach down particularly deep. The bass is also loose, grainy, and not well-defined, but it does help balance the otherwise overly bright sound signature of the Rhombus.
In the mid-bass, the Rhombus is rather lacking, and this is especially evident when listening to pop songs. You’ll immediately feel like there is something missing in the low-end section, causing these tracks to be devoid of fun and energy.
The aforementioned lack of mid-bass and lower mids of the Rhombus make male vocals sound thin and lacking in body. In fact, the mids also sound a bit recessed, and they’re almost lost behind the boomy sub-bass and crispy treble.
Upper mids of the Rhombus sound (very) artificially boosted, causing female vocals to sound overly clear; it’s like dragging a metaphorical clarity slider to 11. Sure, you do get more perceived detail this way, but it’s at the cost of fidelity; reverb from vocals and instruments are front and centre in an almost obnoxious manner. That’s precisely why brighter, instrument-heavy tracks can sound sibilant on the Rhombus.
The only moment this IEM actually sounds decent is during slower tracks with female vocalists. The emphasised upper mids and clarity give those songs an almost ethereal quality, but that also means it isn’t exactly organic-sounding.
The highs are where the Rhombus’ main focus lie, though it’s not perfect. While instruments are clear and resolving, snares and cymbals tend to sound overly forward and borderline sibilant. There’s definitely more detail and clarity than your typical single dynamic driver IEM, but it’s an inorganic, almost clinical kind of enhancement.
On that note, treble-sensitive listeners, or folks who just prefer a more natural timbre, should stay clear of the Rhombus.
Is It Worth It?
In short, the Tripowin Rhombus sounds like a 1BA IEM despite the fact that it has a 1DD + 1BA hybrid configuration. Bass isn’t the IEM’s strong point – as is typically the case with balanced armature driver – though there is some semblance of the “hybrid sound” here, which can be a favourable quality to some folks.
While the aesthetics of its shell is quite unique, the Rhombus is just not worth it for sound quality alone. There are just a plethora of other options at the same price range – and many more below – that blow the Rhombus out of the water in this aspect. There are the Aria Snow Edition, 7Hz Salnotes Zero, and the ultra-budget CCA CRA+, just to name a few.
With so many great budget options and new IEM brands coming out at such a rapid pace, Tripowin has to really step up its game if the company wants to remain relevant. The Tripowin Leá was good, but the Rhombus doesn’t bring the same level of refinement or value to the table.
Li Jin Soh contributed to this review.
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