Thieaudio has been on a roll the last few years, but the Oracle might just be its most highly acclaimed in-ear monitor. Coming in at $539, it doesn’t come cheap but with its tribrid design, it’s certainly cheaper than many of the earphones it stacks up against and could be the best value earbud for the money today. Featuring a total of five drivers in each earbud, including two balanced armatures, two electrostatics, and a single dynamic, they promise a crystal clear sound and a balanced sound signature. Read on to see how they perform.
- Current Price: $539 (Linsoul)
- Model: Oracle
- Frequency response: 20–80kHz
- Sensitivity: 106dB/[email protected]?
- Drivers Config
- Low: 1x 10mm Dynamic Driver
- Mid: 2x Knowles DFK Balanced Armatures
- High: 2x Sonion Dual electrostatic drivers
- Cable: Litz 5N OCC 100 wire x 4 core Silver Plated Wire
- Cable Length: 1.2m
- Connector: 2-Pin 0.78mm
- Plug: 2.5mm TRRS, with 2 adapters Others: 3.5mm and 4.4mm do not come with adapters
- Silicone Eartips x1 Pair
- Foam Eartips x3 Pairs(S/M/L)
- Carrying Case x1
Thieaudio Oracle - Overview
The Oracle is a headphone I’ve been excited for since its release earlier this year. The hype was real and unlike many earphones, it hasn’t died down over in the nearly six months it’s been on the market, which is the sign of a lasting, great piece of kit. This review has actually been several months in coming as Linsoul, the main retailer for Thieaudio products has worked to catch up with demand. We’re finally here and, interestingly enough, only shortly after my experience with my first-ever tribrid earphone, the Mangird XENNS Up.
Like the XENNS, the Oracle uses a triple driver-type array that includes balanced armatures, electrostatic drivers, and a dynamic driver to handle the bass. The Oracle uses two each for the BAs and ESTs, bringing the driver total up to five in each ear. The sound they produce is broken across these drivers with a crossover that tells each driver when to fire, split into set frequency bands to ensure each is as pristine, clear, and pleasant to listen to as possible. That’s the idea anyway.
Here, the bands break up so that each driver type can specialize in what it does best. The dynamic driver holds down the low end. It’s fast and provides solid body to the listening experience without becoming overwhelming. The mids and middle-highs are covered by the balanced armatures. The highs and ultra-highs are covered by the electrostatic drivers.
While we’re familiar with BAs and dynamic drivers by now, electrostatic drivers are still somewhat new to the earphone world (and are also a big part of why the Oracle and other tribrid headphones are so expensive). Here’s what Linsoul has to say about them:
The Excalibur and Oracle utilize the latest driver technology from the Danish manufacturer, Sonion - the Electrostatic (EST) tweeter. The EST driver features an ultralight membrane in a small tweeter chamber that is powered by an independent transformer to extend the in-ear monitor’s treble range up to 80kHz. In reality, the utilization of these drivers effectively enhances the extreme-treble response and thereby provides a protracted treble decay, a more airy atmosphere, and enhanced sound resolution. The correct implementation of EST drivers can make normal balanced armature driver earphones seem dull and lackluster in comparison.
My experience with these drivers is limited, so I cannot unfortunately claim to be an authority on ultra-high detail. At the same time, these drivers are firing at frequency ranges high enough that they’re more supportive to the overall sound and are heard around the edges. That, you can hear. Elements like the realistic decay of cymbal splashes or the air in the room the music, movie, or game is recorded in. Past a certain frequency response, treble is perceived as air, which enhances the sense of space and atmosphere. Taken as a whole, the ESTs in enhance the airiness of imaging of the Oracle while also extending the dynamic range and realism of what you’re listening to.
The guiding principle behind these earphones is balance. Thieaudio claims to have designed them with a flat response fitting to professional in-ear monitors used by musicians. As a musician myself, I have that perspective and can say that I would have no issues using these on stage. I’ll go into more detail in the listening impressions section, but after spending time with the delightfully bass-heavy XENNS Up, the Oracles absolutely feel flatter (but objectively speaking do have a slight U to them).
The earphones themselves are beautiful. The faceplates are split with a handcrafted design that blends chips of opalescent with what almost appears to be water. Looking at them over the last few weeks of testing, I can’t shake the image of a rocky beach and water — which is a pretty cool takeaway from the face of an earphone! The rest of the shell is glossy black with silver metal nozzles. There are small ports on the back of each to reduce pressure and enhance comfort.
The Oracle has a detachable 2-pin cable that’s very good for the price. It’s silver-plated, 4-core (100 wire), and Litz braided. It terminates in a 2.5mm balanced connection but also includes two adapters for 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced, so you’re well suited to most sources. It also uses metal jackets, that are polished to match the silver of the cable itself. The entire look is gorgeous, but I’m not a fan of Thieaudio’s style of adapted ends. Using any of the adapters leaves a long, rigid prong coming out of the side of your equipment that is more difficult to manage. Fiio still has the one-up here with its cables and ends that simply unplug from the wire itself, no secondary adapting required.
Thieaudio Oracle - Fit and Comfort
With five drivers in each ear, the earpieces are understandably a bit large. That said, I didn’t find them uncomfortable to wear over extended listening sessions. I am a medium-sized person with medium-sized ears, but if you’re on the small side, it’s possible that they could feel a bit bulky.
As is always the case, it’s important to find the proper ear tip to enhance fit. Given the price, I was surprised to find that there was only one pair of silicone tips in the box. Thieaudio does include three pairs of foam ear tips, however, almost as if they’re trying to tell you that they really want you to use the memory foam tips. I would recommend doing so for the enhanced bass, but also tend to prefer silicone for long-wear comfort. Thankfully, the tips fit me, but if you’re a silicone person like I am, you may have to source your own.
Thieaudio Oracle - Listening Impressions
I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time listening to the Oracles across multiple devices, genres, and content types. Most of my listening has been through the Khadas Tone 2 Pro in balanced and single-ended modes, but I’ve also connected to the THX Onyx and other dongle DACs. The Oracles don’t take much power to run, so you don’t need to feel pressure to find a balanced connection just because the stock cable comes with that by default.
Starting with a graph, courtesy of Crinacle of In-Ear Fidelity (the largest database of earphone measurements available), we can see that we definitely have a moderate bass boost. The mids are completely flat, which is where we get the sense of neutrality these offer. Interestingly, we see a bit of a mountain range in the middle-highs and treble, likely to emphasize the level of detail and air these earphones produce.
Subjectively, they certainly sounded more flat to my ear. You can hear a slight bass emphasis but it’s anything but overpowering. On the contrary, it’s enough to provide body but I didn’t perceive nearly as much thump as bass-centric sets like the XENNS Up. That said, the presentation of the bass (right down sub-bass) is sweet and rose to fill out any song I threw at it, from slamming post-hardcore to ambient electronica.
The bass isn’t overplayed, but it’s tuned incredibly well, and performs incredibly well, for the sound profile these earphones aim to deliver. The dynamic driver Thie uses here is fast, detailed, and presents a realistic sound. This works to its benefit as a stage monitor and allowed me to hear my guitar over the too-loud bass guitar and slamming kick drum. At the same time, it works very well for music and gaming because it doesn’t expound over the other frequencies. It’s realistic, detailed, and not overdone.
The flat mids really lend themselves to accuracy. There isn’t any big push occurring here. Thieaudio didn’t tweak the frequencies to make guitars or male/female vocalists stand out more than they would in a live setting. This lends them a realistic presentation that sounds more relaxed to my ear. Remember, most instruments sound within this range, so if you’re looking for realism in your music, this is a good fit for you.
For gaming, this is a double-edged sword. The flat presentation means that sounds like footsteps aren’t going to ring above the rest of the mix. For competitive gaming, I would still recommend an open-back headset or to use an EQ to boost the footstep range slightly and give yourself an advantage.
The Oracle shines in the treble thanks to the electrostatic drivers. The level of realism and air is phenomenal and it’s even more audible thanks to the upper-frequency bump being applied. I don’t blame the company for doing this. The greater volume in the boosted frequencies increases the perception of detail, one, but also increases the actual perceived detail in bands that would otherwise be harder to hear. The airiness of these is great and lends the set a sense of space and soundstage stage you wouldn’t expect from a bulkier closed-back earphone.
The biggest comparison I can make with this set is against the XENNS Up and it’s a bit of an unfair one. The XENNS feature two more balanced armatures and are close to $200 more expensive. For my personal music taste, I lean toward the XENNS and their more bass-heavy, fun tuning. For neutrality and playing live, the Oracles win hands-down. Different approaches to a similar tribrid design, and the results are starkly different too.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Oracle exists alongside the Excaliber, which said to have a more “fun” tuning. Both of these earphones accompany Thieaudio’s flagship Monarch and Clairvoyance earphones ($729 and $699, respectively). While I haven’t heard these sets for myself, it’s widely stated that the Oracle is, in essence, a more affordable Clairvoyance. This is something I hope to hear for myself someday, but given the Clair’s own incredible hype and long-standing acclaim in the audio world, it further enhances the value the Oracle bring to the table.
The real defining factor here is whether or not you’re looking for a balanced tuning such as the one at offer in this earphone set. It not exactly flat, but the perception is one of finely-crafted balance. It’s hard to argue against most other qualities it offers: excellent detail and resolution, superb bass, mid, and treble performance, balanced and single-ended connectors included with every set. If your pursuit is one of accuracy and “hearing what the artist intended,” the Oracle may well be your next favorite piece of audio gear. Find out more at Linsoul.The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.