Review: Trinity Audio Engineering Delta in-ear monitors

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Gizmag reivews the Trinity Audio Delta IEMs(Credit: Stanley Goodner/Gizmag.com)

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When it comes to high-end audio, many options out there tend to bring along a high-end cost. While price may not be much of an issue for audiophiles or audio enthusiasts, the average consumer probably doesn’t want to shell out hundreds upon hundreds for some headphones or earbuds. But Trinity Audio Engineering is aiming to provide quality sound without the steep premium. We get some ears-in with the Trinity Audio Delta in-ear monitors (IEMs) to see if the company delivers on its vision.

Design & Connectivity

The Trinity Audio Engineering Delta IEMs stand out in the crowded marketplace for earbud-style headphones. While many companies reach for plastic moulds for their products, Trinity Audio has gone the way of precision machining. The casing and 3.5 mm audio connectors are crafted from aluminum for its lightweight yet durable properties. And they look pretty darn good for it, too. Combined with Trinity Audio’s braided cable design, these IEMs have a modern appeal with style and substance.

Inside each of the aluminum casings are balanced armature and dynamic drivers. While the former excels with treble and detailed sound, the latter delivers natural warmth and better bass response. There is no crossover (in case you were wondering), which eliminates any potential frequency complications. The result is that the Delta IEMs deliver the best of both worlds for full and rich sound.

Although the aluminum is quite tough, some may feel concerned that the cables leading into the casings have only meager stress protection. The reinforcements, which are color coded and labeled for right and left, are minimal compared to many other IEMs. Trinity Audio has assured longevity, having explained that the actual connection is housed inside the aluminum. But those who are rough with their gear or have active listening lifestyles would do well to handle these gingerly just in case. The plug end does have a steel spring to prevent breakage from normal wear and tear.

Trinity Audio’s braided cable is nice to handle with it’s textured, durable design. Not only does this cable move naturally and resist tangling, it does so without aggressive springiness or memory for coiling. If you’ve ever opened up a case only to have cables lash out in attempt to self-straighten, then you know the aggressive type. If you’ve ever wound audio cables around a few fingers before storing, and then find that the cables strongly prefer a curling, corkscrew shape when you’re using them later on, then you understand cable memory. This braided cable does neither, striking an ideal balance between strong and supple, like a well-worn strip of leather. Tangle-free? Very few cables are completely "tangle-free", but this one from Trinity Audio is certainly one of the more tangle-resistant offerings.

The Delta IEMs come with four sets of silicone tips, two sets of foam tips, and one set of flanged-silicone. This kind of selection should be able to accommodate a broad variety of ear shapes and fit preferences. The other included accessories are: a cable clip, an L-shaped audio extender plug, a zippered case, and a screw-top aluminum tube containing two additional sets of filters. All of these extras can fit inside of the case along with the Delta IEMs. The case’s mesh pocket makes it easy to keep things separated.

The extra filters are one of the Delta’s highlights, providing users a selection of sound profiles. The gunmetal-colored filter, which comes equipped right out of the box, delivers a smooth and balanced sound signature. The silver filters provide that fun-sounding, bass- and treble-boosting v-shaped curve, while the purple filters downplay the bass and focus on the treble and upper-mids. If you’re ever confused or happen to forget, the company has a page on their website that explains it all.

The filters themselves unscrew smoothly and easily. But the part that may irk many is the switching of the tips. It takes some serious focus and finger dexterity to pluck these silicone and foam tips off and then push them on a different filter. The hold is pretty tight, requiring a good pinch and tug in order to remove any single tip. But given the choice of extremes, this is likely better than loose tips that can fall off and/or get stuck in ears. Unless you’re swapping things around constantly to match your music, the process is only a minor inconvenience for the benefit.

Comfort

There is nothing fancy or unique about the shape of the Delta IEMs with respect to comfort. It’s just a straight barrel that pokes directly into the ear canal, so there is no real wrong way to insert and wear them. The only aspect one might have to think about (aside from tip type and size) is the orientation of the cable connection itself. But since the design is plain, it’s simple enough to let the cables hang down or have wrapped behind the ears.

What makes the Delta IEMs so comfortable to wear over extended periods is the lightweight casing and cord. While you can feel that the buds are in the ears, the machined aluminum makes it easier to forget they’re even there. Not only that, but the audio cable doesn’t pull down on the buds with its own weight. The result is a very force-neutral experience in the ear canal, which helps to minimize fatigue over time. How soon one would need to take a break mostly depends on each individual’s sensitivity and fit with the available tips. The silicone tips are soft and thin, yet maintain a gentle seal for sound. It’s been easy to binge-listen for hours with only brief breaks in between.

Audio Performance

For this review, we used the gunmetal "smooth" filter for the out-of-box testing and experience. The silver "fun" and vivid "purple" filters are discussed in the next section.

Despite the overall cable quality of the Delta IEMs, they do transmit noise from touching or rubbing. It’s mostly from the smaller cables, right after the fork, but adjusting the silicone cork helps to minimize such noise-inducing movement. While these cables are neither the most nor the least noisy out there, it’s enough to make the Delta IEMs less ideal for use during physical activity. Those who like to jog, run, or bike should opt for something wireless and/or sweat-proof. But the same can be said about most any cabled headphone/earphone product.

Isolation from one’s surroundings while wearing the Delta IEMs is pretty good, and a little better than expected for sticking silicone or foam tips into the ear. And once music starts playing, it takes peaks of noise to cut through and get your attention. With the right volume level, one can find the balance that drowns out enough environmental noise while permitting enough sound for general awareness. As for leaking audio, if anyone is able to sit near you and notice your music, you’re probably well on your way toward damaging your hearing.

Volume adjustment for the Trinity Audio Delta is only through the connected device. Although these IEMs would benefit from amplification, it’s not a requirement as most devices are sufficiently powerful enough to drive them. With moderate/comfortable volume levels, distortion (if any) is practically nonexistent. While it’s likely that extreme volume to the Delta IEMs may bring about harsh, brittle highs and grainy mids/lows, the decibel-induced pain prohibits long-term exposure. The ears start to hurt well before being able to identify distortion. So with safe listening levels, you can expect to have pure and clean music.

The Delta IEMs present a soundstage that is open enough to provide vocals and instruments with room to flex, even during songs with multiple layers of sound. The stage gets a little cozier and more intimate as track complexity increases, but not quite to the point of being cramped or claustrophobic. While the soundstage may not be the biggest, it maintains exceptional proportion of width versus depth. Even more important is the incredibly active and dynamic imaging of sound as it moves between the right and left sides.

Instruments and vocals can be heard from distinct positions all over the soundstage. This precise imaging goes hand-in-hand with creating layers and depth. Towards the end of The Book of Mormon song, Hello!, you can distinctly hear voices sounding off across the entire soundstage, individually pinging the inside of your head. Some tracks, such as those by A Tribe Called Red, choose to fill the entire space, flowing sound back and forth across the stage. The resulting presentation is animated and detailed, as if you’re standing within the first few rows at a live event.

The Trinity Audio Delta IEMs deliver music that is clear, seemingly with minimal effort to create such rich soundscapes. Very little, if anything, sounds distant, veiled, or haloed. The dynamic range is quite good, so you can hear softer elements alongside louder, bigger parts within a track. The Delta IEMs keep these smaller details from being lost in the background while deftly maintaining balance of the highs, mids, and lows. True to its intent, the gunmetal filter progresses sound from the upper lows to the mids, and the upper mids to the highs, smoothly for instruments and vocals alike.

Realism and clarity underscore vocal reproduction from the Delta IEMs. The level of detail skillfully captures the sultry passion or raw anguish of emotions behind the words. Unique singing characteristics, such as Michael Buble’s crooning or Amy Winehouse’s contralto voice, are present and easily distinguished. Vocals predominantly remain in front of the instruments, which also adds to the depth perception of the soundstage. Although the consistency is pretty good, there are times when vocals end up on the same layer as instruments when they should be a bit ahead.

The highs are solid, blending in well with the mids and lows. Notes have a fast attack with an equally nimble decay. The sounds of multiple stringed instruments do well to maintain detail and sharp edges without blurring into each other. Cymbals and hi-hats come off as crisp, though quite often they sound lighter and/or more gentle for the track. It’s a fair trade-off, as sizzling cymbals (when highs are pushed too hard) are virtually non-existent. However, some notes can slip from seemingly "light" to decisively "tinny", especially when played in rapid succession. But aside from that, the tone is spot-on. Tambourines and hi-hats deliver that ringing, metallic texture when shook or struck, and cymbals crash or "shush" appropriately, depending on the hit.

Within the mids, horns, trumpets, and saxophones dazzle with tart, yet warm, golden tones. The Delta IEMs channel this sound of burnished brass while conveying the instruments' natural energy and excitement. In fact, the entire midrange comes out rich and full, yet with a fine sense of boundary. While there seems to be just a touch of coloration to the low-mids, it ends up as an afterthought with the way it pleasantly blends in with everything else. Detail and realism persist, as hand claps and finger snaps sound natural, visceral, even as they’re embedded within the full performance of a song. You can clearly hear the tone and textural differences between the pluck of individual strings versus strummed chords on acoustic guitars.

Even with the gunmetal "smooth" filter, the lows sound tight, punchy, and controlled while delivering an impeccable amount of impact. The lows are bold with a lean muscularity that’s well-balanced with the mids and highs. The Delta IEMs bring a surprising amount of texture while retaining musicality of deep drums, bass, and even synth sounds. You can feel the characteristic mid-bass "thrumming" as you hear the growl or purr of bass guitar chords. Individual elements, such as the separate drums in a drum kit, sound distinct from each other, even during furious solos. Despite the overall quality of the lows, they can, at times, seem to lack a bit of agility for how full they sound. The decay lingers just a touch, although this could be an illusion due to the closed-in nature of the Delta IEMs versus, say, an over-ear headphone.

Fun and Vivid Filters

When switching filters, the difference in audio reproduction is immediate. The silver "fun" filters maintain crisp detail of the highs while enhancing the low end with added emphasis and fullness. If we imagine that the gunmetal "smooth" filters drive sound from the penthouse down to the basement, the silver ones open up a few more subfloors for a deeper, more spacious party. But the trade-off for using the "fun" filters is that the entire midrange sounds recessed. If you listen to a lot of hip-hop or EDM (electronic dance music), the silver filters make a great pairing.

The purple "vivid" filters go the opposite way, downplaying the lows while accentuating the highs. Again, the difference is quite pronounced. The highs come out clearer, more focused, and with sharper edges. Wind and string instruments in the higher octaves sound absolutely incredible with enhanced presence. But the trade-off for using these "vivid" filters is that the lows lose impact and the mids experience a reduction in warmth and fullness. Folk, acoustic, classical, and maybe some symphony music are the better choices to pair with the purple filters.

The Verdict

When it comes to portable high-end audio, it’s seriously tough to beat what the Trinity Audio Delta offers here. And with the US$140 price, they are a more affordable option for the average consumer. These IEMs are built well, look and feel amazing, and deliver music that is clear, detailed, and full of goodness. This is the kind of quality that can rival many under the $400 price point. The hybrid of dynamic and balanced armature drivers come together like peanut butter and chocolate to create a wonderfully rich audio experience.

Although the Trinity Audio Delta has very strong, positive points, there are a few things that keep it from being the "perfect" IEM. The soundstage can, at times, be a little too cozy, especially with fast-playing and/or complex songs. Physically, some may have concerns about long-term fatigue where the cable meets the aluminum casing. Others may find the process of changing filters and tips all too frustrating. On top of that, the Delta IEMs aren’t ideal for exercise, due to the lack of water-resistance and/or in-line remote controls. Walking is ok. Swaying in a hammock is even better. The Delta shines for committing to music in its purest form.

If an in-line remote is a must-have, the good news is that Trinity Audio has just recently made such an option available for the Delta. Those who are interested in a sweat-proof model with detachable cables will be happy to know that the Trinity Audio Helio and Atlas IEMs are in the works. But at the end of the day, the Delta IEMs present fantastic value, proving that high-quality audio doesn’t have to be over-priced or over-hyped.

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