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Golden Ears: ThieAudio Oracle MKII IEM Review

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
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Hardware Reviews 0

ThieAudio has been on fire this year, releasing the excellent Monarch MKII and Elixir IEMs, as well as its first over-ear headphone in some time with the Wraith. It could have soared into 2023 riding high but instead it decided to end the year with a bang by releasing the successor to one of its most popular IEMs ever with the Oracle MKII. It’s an improvement in many ways and one of our favorite releases of the entire year. At $589, it doesn’t come cheap, but it’s an outstanding option to take your listening to the next level and provide you with high-res audio anywhere you go — including your gaming PC.   

We would like to thank Linsoul for providing the sample for this review. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $589 USD (Linsoul
  • Key Features: 
    • Three-way Crossover with three different types of drivers (1 Dynamic Driver + 2 Balanced Armatures + 2 Electrostatic)
    • Modular 4 strand 26AWG 5N OCC Silver Plated Litz with easy plug swapping between 3.5mm, 4.4mm, and 2.5mm jacks.
    • Studio-style tuning with Dedicated Sub-Bass Woofer, Monitor-Neutral Mids, and increased treble extension.
    • Better Ergonomics for longer, more comfortable use.
  • Drivers: New 10mm liquid crystal polymer (LCP) dynamic driver, 2 Knowles balanced armature drivers, 2 Sonion electrostatic (EST) ultra-treble tweeters.
  • Cable: 4 strand 26AWG 5N OCC Silver Plated Litz Cable With Modular System.
  • Cable Plug: 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm

ThieAudio Oracle MKII - First Impressions and Key Features 

The Oracle MKII is the successor to the popular ThieAudio Oracle. Like that set, it uses a tribrid design composed of a single dynamic driver (DD), two balanced armatures (BA), and two electrostatic (EST) drivers. These drivers are specialized, custom-tuned, and dedicated to the areas of the frequency range they excel at.

In terms of composition, each driver has a particular slice of the frequency spectrum. The dynamic driver covers the lows and some mids, the balanced armatures cover the mids and highs, and electrostatics handle the ultra-highs. This splitting is handled by an electronic crossover that splits the frequency range and directs each segment to its respective driver. 

Having three different driver types all within one shell in no small feat (hence the high price), but it’s also a proven design. Allowing the drivers to specialize reduces distortion, increases clarity, and, in my experience, works to deliver a unique, pleasant listening experience. When tuned well, anyway, which the Oracle MKII certainly is. 

The original Oracle was lauded for its balanced sound signature. It was detail-rich but no one element overplayed its hand, which made them a good fit for audio engineering and listening sessions where you really wanted to hear what the mix engineer had in mind. Frankly, the Oracle is one of the more beloved sets I’ve encountered and has stood the test of time better than most of its competition. I love the XENNS UP, but is anyone still talking about it today? Not really, and the same can’t be said for the original Oracle. 

If it lacked anything, it was bass presence — a side effect of its neutral tuning — and that’s exactly what ThieAudio set out to rectify here. The MKII uses a brand new 10mm dynamic driver with a liquid crystal polymer diaphragm. The original used a polycarbonate diaphragm, and this shift to a new material has allowed the MKII to deliver better, strong bass while also remaining controlled and not swelling into the mids. It’s a big improvement, in my opinion, and helps to deliver a more fun listening experience. 

The original Oracle was pretty, but ThieAudio has really broken the mold with its successor. It’s available in Black Scarlet or Tiger colorways, both of which are absolutely beautiful. You can see for yourself in the picture above, but the reflective patterning and sense of depth to the faceplates is indisuptably eye-catching. The shells themselves are also smaller than last generation, so they’re easier to fit and more comfortable overall. 

Also included in the box is a hardback, fabric, zippered travel case and a selection of silicone and memory foam tips in XS, S, M, and L sizes. ThieAudio also includes a very nice cable. It’s clearly high quality and uses an interchangeable end system so can swap from 3.5mm single-ended to 2.5mm or 4.4mm balanced. The cable itself has a bit more memory than I like, however, and I wish it were a bit softer. It’s certainly pretty and feels very premium with its 4-stand, silver-plated, Litz braided design. 

ThieAudio Oracle MKII - Fit and Comfort

Fit and comfort is one of the biggest areas of improvement for the Oracle MKII. The original Oracle was fairly large and could be difficult for some users to find a comfortable fit with. ThieAudio has shrunk the Mk.Ii down, making it easier to position and secure without needing to make adjustments because you happened to move around too much. 

I’m an average-sized person with average-sized ears and found the Oracle MKII to be much more comfortable to wear over long listening sessions. I didn’t experience any undue ear fatigue even after several hours with them seated snugly. The nozzles are long enough to find a proper seal and an extra bit of security via the ear canal. I found them to be a better fit for wearing out and about; however, with such an expensive set, you may be better leaving them at home where they will be safe from the elements and rough daily use. 

ThieAudio Oracle MKII - Listening Impressions 

Compared to the original Oracle, the Oracle MKII has a warmer overall sound. While the product page talks about these being designed for use by audiophiles and audio engineers, it’s important to note that the neutrality lies in the mid-range. There is substantially more bass here than on the original and it reaches low. 

Some may feel that this makes the MKII’s more of a new set than a true successor, but in my opinion, they maintain much of what was great about the original, while adding more body and presence to the overall sound. One thing is for sure, though, they’re a set I’m reaching for much more often and, for my tastes, are one of the best sets I’ve heard all year. 

Bass: Let’s get right into the biggest area of change. One of the things the original Oracle lacked was excellent sub-bass extension. The new 10mm LCP driver makes a big improvement to this department, deliver a sound that is much more full-bodied. The driver reaches low and delivers plenty of rumble but is also capable of delivering the punch and slam required for pop and hip-hop. Genesis by Polyphia is a good example of the scalability of the bass, rumbling like a genuine subwoofer and still punching with its kick drum hits. The low end doesn’t bleed into the mids, leaving them clean and untouched. The driver is fast and delivers lots of texture, making this register sound very detailed even in frequency ranges that would typically be a bit muddy.

Mids: There’s a scoop in the mids that gives the Oracle MKII a U-shaped sound signature, but if you’re worried about mid-range instruments and audio cues, don’t be. Vocals aren’t quiet but instead sound very balanced with everything else that’s going on in the soundstage. Pearl of the Stars by Coheed and Cambria sounds very ethereal on this set and the synth and acoustic guitar hover around the main vocal line. Claudio’s vocals are raspy in a way I didn’t appreciate as much until hearing the song played through this set. (The improved low-end also makes this song sound much fuller than the original Oracle). 

Female vocals are also very good on this set. If I Were a Boy by Beyonce sounds very sweet and the vocals step forward compared to male singers. This also proved true in Umbrella by Rihanna and My House by PVRIS. The MKII sound amazing with female vocalists. 

The mids are important for more than just vocals: this is also the range that many four-piece bands’ instruments live. Guitars in particular sound great, but the piano and strings in Wandering II by Eydis Evenson were particularly moving. I’m not one to find that any recording really emulates the feeling of being live with music you love, but this is close. You can close your eyes and be swept away.

Treble: The treble range on the Oracle MKII is well extended, airy, and crisp. I find it to be close to the original but slightly better here. The extra extension and push in this area adds an extra touch of clarity and shine. Percussion has an extra snappiness to it here and the air provided by the ESTs widens up the the listening experience slightly. There aren’t major shifts here but treble feels like a range that’s experience some refinement.

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The technical performance on the MKII is excellent. If you liked the original Oracle, you will find a lot to love here. Detail retrieval and resolution, it goes without saying, are fantastic. You will hear every tiny detail in every layer of your track. The downside to this is that the MKII are very revealing of poorly mastered — so long My Curse by Atreyu. We had many good years together. 

The soundstage isn’t exceptionally wide, but I enjoy how it seems to wrap around and have some height to it. There were several times it impressed me, though. More than once, I had to take the earphones out and make sure the beginning effects of the track weren’t coming from the speaker on my desk, which should have been turned off. And it was, the effects (quiet in the beginning of a new track) just sounded that far out. For the most part, though, the soundstage exists just outside of the head. The imaging is very good. You can pick out exactly where sounds are coming from (a boon for gaming), and there’s a sense of verticality and scale that can at times be impressive.

Gaming: At the current price, this is not a set to choose unless you’re a dedicated audiophile that also happens to be a gamer. If you are, I think the Oracle MKII works pretty well for gaming. The soundstage is wide enough to deliver an immersive gaming experience and the imaging is tight enough that picking out enemy footsteps is never a challenge. This set also isn’t that hard to drive, so you could plug them into a simple dongle and have volume to spare. They won’t compete with a great pair of over-ear headphones in soundstage, but if you’re looking for a one-stop all-in-one audio solution, this is a safe buy.

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

And that’s really the thing with the Oracle MKII: it’s such a well-rounded set that it managed to shine across any genre or type of content I threw at it. Hip-hop? With that bass, no problem. Classical? Better prep your feels for those sad cellos. Tearing it up in Elder Scrolls Online? Not only will the game sound fine, but you’ll hear the soundtrack with a brand new set of ears. They really are that good. 

I suspect that some fans of the original Oracle will scoff at the heightened bass the MKII provides. They’re not wrong that it’s a surprising departure. But in doing so, the whole set feels more well rounded and fun to listen to. Add in its much better fit and you have one of the best releases of the year. At this point, if you can’t afford the Monarch MKII, the Oracle MKII feels like the next best thing. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Stunning design
  • Decently priced for the driver array and sound quality being deliver
  • Excellent technical performance (soundstage and layering)
  • Detail retrieval is great, so anything you’re listening to is clear and high-resolution
  • Fun tuning with great bass
Cons
  • Less of an evolution from the Oracle as just a new (great) IEM
  • Sparse tip collection


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight