The world of planar magnetic earphones is officially hot. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen the release of multiple great options - the 7Hz Timeless, Letshuoer S12, Raptgo Hook-X, Tin HiFi P1 Max — and that’s not even all. And while each of those IEMs has been exciting in their own right, today, we have the most anticipated release yet: the 7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko.
Courtesy of Linsoul, this new planar magnetic IEM is a collaboration between esteemed earphone reviewer and YouTuber Crinacle and 7Hz, the brand that brought us the Timeless and really kicked this new generation of earphones into high gear. These new headphones have incredible promise as a successor to the Timeless, and tuned by such a respected community member. And did we mention they’re also $99? That also makes them the most affordable planar magnetic earphones you can buy today.
The hype is real.
- Current Price: $99 (Amazon, Linsoul)
- Brand: Salnotes
- Model: Dioko
- Driver: 14.6mm planar
- Impedance: 16 ohm
- SPL: 106dB/[email protected]
- THD: ≤0.2%/1khz
- Frequency response: 5-40000hz
- Cable: OCC copper and silver-plated OCC copper
- Connector: 0.78mm 2pin
- Weight: 275g
- Size: 15.2cmx 11cmx5.5cm
7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko - Who is Crinacle, What is 7Hz, Why Should You Care?
If this is the first time you’re hearing about 7Hz or Crinacle, or even planar magnetic earphones, some explanation is in order. Let’s tackle those in order, shall we?
7Hz is a relatively new brand, but it’s made quite a splash in its short time producing products. This is how the company describes itself at Linsoul:
7Hz was founded in 2018 as a team of engineers and audio enthusiasts who came together to test their skills in the realm of audio. By focusing on quality drivers and using precise circuitry design, 7Hz aims to deliver the most efficient setups that best shine the drivers’ natural abilities. 7Hz stands for the Theta Wave, a frequency that is often associated with meditation and harmony. All of 7Hz products reflect this ideal by taking you into a pure musical trance.
The big takeaway here is that the company was founded in 2018 and puts an emphasis on drivers, design, and putting you into a “pure musical trance” with its tuning. That certainly proved true with the Timeless. It was one of the first planar magnetic IEMs that was tuned for mainstream appeal and, well, tuned well. It quickly became a hit and is still one of the go-to recommendations for a safe, fun planar IEM. It is currently selling for $199. Salnotes is a new sub-brand of 7Hz, but both brand names are printed on the box itself.
Crinacle, on the other hand, is something of a community treasure. He has spent years testing and graphing IEMs to create the largest database of publicly available earphone measurements online today. He has a no-nonsense approach to reviews and cuts through the fluff, often in a take-no-prisoners style. Because of this, he has developed a reputation as someone the community can trust and that knows what a great IEM should sound like. He has had several other great collaborations with brands before the Dioko, including the Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk, an IEM that’s still held up as the pinnacle of its price class, nearly two years since its release. That may not seem like much, but in an industry that releases new “must buy” products multiple times a month, it’s more than a little impressive.
7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko - What Is It?
Moving onto the Dioko itself. This new project from Crin is a planar magnetic IEM in the vein of the Timeless. It has a lot of hope and even more hype built up around it based on how good the Timeless was, Crinacle’s reputation, and the $99 price point. It’s positioned to be a kind of grail planar, doing for affordable planar magnetics what the Dusk did for mid-range hybrid IEMs.
Planar magnetic drivers are beloved in the audiophile community due to their exceptional clarity, detail, and vanishingly low levels of distortion. Compared to traditional dynamic earphones, they use entirely different technology to create sound. When you think of a speaker, you probably envision a conical dynamic driver with a dome in the center. Planars drivers drop this and instead use a thin, flat sheet traced with conductive wires, held between magnets. When electricity is added to these traces, the diaphragm moves to create sound. Because of their impeccable resolution and unique tonality, they’re used all throughout the audiophile industry for exactly this reason, but the technology is usually expensive and requires additional power to drive. That’s not the case with the Dioko: it’s affordable and easy to drive, even from a dongle DAC or plugged into your PC (I’ve been running mine from a GoXLR).
The driver housed inside the gorgeous shells of the Dioko is a big, 14.6mm planar. It uses a double magnet array — which, while some people swear by this design, doesn’t speak to the level of sound quality you can expect by itself. That comes down to implementation and tuning, both of which have been done well here.
But let’s zoom out because the shells definitely deserve attention. The Dioko looks unlike any other IEM I’ve seen. They use the classic, oversize exteriors 7Hz is known for, dropping the circular design of the Timeless for ovals here. The face is trimmed in tempered, sapphire glass. This makes it resilient to cracks and breakage and gives the glass a purple color when viewed from an angle. Purple has become one of my favorite colors and I find the design to be beautiful.
If the comments I’ve seen in different audio circles are any indication, that ovular design can be worrying. Flip the earbuds over and you’ll find that the exteriors are just for looks; the inner portion is curved like a traditional IEM. I’ll remark on this more in the fit and comfort section. Everything on the shell except for the class is sturdy aluminum. There are vents along the rear edge to relieve pressure when placed in the ear and enhance comfort.
The earphones also drop the MMCX connectors found on the Timeless and Eternal. Instead, we have a standard 0.78mm 2-pin connection. While I like the ability to rotate the ear pieces with MMCX connections, 2-pin is just much easier to plug and unplug, so I think this is a solid move. The included cable is also surprisingly nice. It’s reasonably flexible, doesn’t have much packaging memory, so hangs flat, and terminates in a standard 3.5mm connection. You won’t find alternate terminations for balanced connections, but since it’s detachable, it is easy to upgrade down the line.
Also included in the box is a large, zippered case that is shockingly great for this price. It’s trimmed in black with a big red “7” and “Salnotes” written in gold. The inside is lined with soft fabric and has separate areas for each earpiece, the cable, and an inner pocket for accessories. It’s big enough that you’ll need to carry it in a bag, but, wow. It puts other travel cases to shame and is kind of amazing to see included for $99.
Inside the inner pocket is a box of replacement ear tips. This is where things get weird. These tips are completely different from the black and red set pre-installed on the Dioko. The material is different and the colors red, blue, and several pastels. They don’t fit the look of the earphones and don’t fit as easily either. That was a problem for me because the stock tips weren’t a match for my ears, so I had to turn to these alternates and leave the earphones looking a bit silly as a result. The fit is easier than the Timeless, however, so this isn’t all negative.
7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko - Fit and Comfort
Despite its unusual look, the Dioko is surprisingly comfortable. This is because the outer shell is an aesthetic design, not a functional one. On first appearance, you might think the ovals would dig into your ears, but turn them around and you’ll find a very traditional universal IEM shape. There’s enough depth to the design where the ovals didn’t make contact with my outer ears, but I’m average in ear size. Users with especially small ears may have a different experience.
Odd tips aside, there are enough options here where most users should be able to find a comfortable fit. I didn’t have any trouble with my usual combination of medium on the right and small on the left but take the time to find what works for you. A proper seal is important for not only comfort but also sound quality.
7Hz x Crinacle Salnotes Dioko - Listening Impressions (Compared to the Timeless)
The biggest thing I, like many listeners, wanted to know was how this set compared to the Timeless. At half the price (or less, depending on the retailer), it’s really not fair to expect the same level of performance. But, this is also a hobby with deceiving pricing. Just because something is expensive, doesn’t make it good. Ahead of this review, I did extensive A/B testing to get a good impression of the differences, as well as the unique sound of the Dioko.
The first thing to know is that the Dioko has a very enjoyable sound that delivers on the promise of an affordable in-ear planar. It offers plentiful detail and great layering, so you can pick out every instrument and sound source. This is a well-tuned set and will be my go-to recommendation for a planar magnetic earphone under $100. I listen to a lot of rock, pop, and chillstep, and the Dioko is a great choice for those genres.
Image Credit: Crinacle Graph Comparison Tool
The second thing to know is that it’s not as good as the Timeless — at least for my particular tastes. In my A/B testing, the Timeless is the more technically capable IEM. Just about everything the Dioko does well is stepped up on the Timeless. Layering and detail are both better, and the added sub-bass and mid-bass (visible on the left side of the graph above, green line), make for a bigger, more powerful sound overall.
That shouldn’t be construed as a big knock against the Dioko. News at 10: earphone that costs twice as much has better technical performance. But, it should bring expectations back down to earth a bit. With that said, I still really like these earphones. Here’s the breakdown.
Bass: Bass isn’t the star of the show on the Dioko. It is clearly stepped back from the Timeless. The overall sound is smaller. The bass still has good extension, so you can feel that low sub-bass rumble. There isn’t any muddiness here, making the low end both clean and full. Texture is present, but diminished from the Timeless.
Mids: Vocals are slightly quieter than the Timeless and aren’t as intimate. Unless you’re A/Bing the earphones, you may not even notice the difference — case and point, just in writing this review, I stopped noticing that few decibels of difference over only a handful of songs. Lots of planar detail lives in the mid-range, and I love the tonality the Dioko brings to voices and instruments in this range. Guitars have less “chunk” than the Timeless, but still sound great.
Treble: Treble is stepped forward compared to the Timeless. This is especially audible in cymbals. The peak at 8kHz allows cymbal strikes to come through cleanly with realistic decay. At higher volumes, it can sound a bit sharp, so you may want to EQ this down slightly. I didn’t find it to be an issue and enjoyed the added sparkle the Dioko’s treble response offered on Coheed and Cambria’s Love Murder One.
Soundstage/Imaging: The Dioko is very close to the Timeless here, but I could give it the edge in soundstage. The Timeless was only average in this department, but where it made pretty much everything sound like it was coming from right outside your ears, the Dioko gives you an extra few inches of distance for the key instruments and sometimes even more, such as with the background shouts in Coheed’s Unholy Creatures.
Gaming: The Dioko is a mixed bag for gaming. Details and layering make for an immersive gaming experience, but even though it’s better than the Timeless, there are still better options for space and imaging. Enabling Dolby Atmos helps but isn’t a silver bullet compared to an open-back option. But, with price factored in, these can still get the job done while also providing a great listening experience for music. I wouldn’t choose them just for gaming, but if I only had $99, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab them for a quick round of Battlefield.
Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts
What all of this adds up to is that, yes, the Dioko isn’t quite as good as the Timeless, but at half the price, it’s still a great earphone for the price. If you like the planar sound or are curious why everyone keeps raving about it, this is one of the best ways to dip your toe in the water and walk away with an earphone you can be proud of. Its looks won’t be for everyone, but I, for one, love them. If you’re looking for an excellent pair of earphones that will impress you with their sound quality on a budget, give the 7Hz Dioko a try. It receives our full recommendation for music listening at this price point.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Articles may include affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission to help support the site. Authors do not earn affiliate revenue or commissions.