BUS RIDE IMPRESSION: Pai Audio DR2

We are now on the concluding review of the 3-part Pai Audio series, and today we are tackling the DR2. I think Pai Audio was onto something when they decided to send these three items, wherein each seems to sport a different signature. Perhaps to extol on their versatility to work on different sound variance, of which I am not entirely sure of.

Of the three, the DR2 seems to be the IEM that can cater to a lot of enthusiasts with such price point. Point being is the signature it carries, wherein generally it carries quite a robust bass particularly to the sub-bass area. That being said, I think the DR2 will greatly appeal to a lot of new enthusiasts considering the current crack of music in the mainstream.

Having said that, I will try to see how much it will expound on tracks that carries such excellent bass frequencies. I will also try to play around the DR2 and see how well it will respond in balanced termination, in the hopes that the details can be drawn towards emphasizing the upper frequencies a bit.

Let’s start!

Build

Fair enough, Pai Audio has been pretty consistent with its build, particular to the earpieces. I was pleased with the acrylic shells of the DR2, and considering the price, I think it did pretty well. The polished finish on the earpieces, combined with the color theme (the obvious red for the right earpiece and blue for the left earpiece) shouts fancy to anyone who will hold it on their hands. On top of this, the shape of the earpieces kind of works really well; I have had the DR2 tried on by a few folks and none has complained of it carrying an awkward fit or it being quite painful to wear, so I will have to hand it to Pai Audio for ensuring that the irregular shape works with a lot of consumers.

If there’s any that I am not exactly happy with, it has to be the cable. Sure, it is not exactly bad, I just am not a fan of how it looked. I would have preferred a very simple black shielding for the wire, even without the fancy cable braiding as I would have preferred a simpler approach. However, the cable does sound fairly good with the earpieces, and I think Pai Audio settled with such material as it works quite fine with the DM1 as well. I did humor myself though and tried an SPC cable to go with the DR2, of which I will be talking about shortly.

Eartips included in the packaging works fine, although I did try to use whirlwinds with the DR2 and found it to work a lot better, with the fitting and sound being considered.

Packaging seems to be pretty standard for Pai Audio, with the DR2 having a similar packaging with the DM1. Not sure though with their more premium models, but judging how the packaging is, it won’t be a surprised if it is the same across all Pai Audio’s models.

Quite good packaging for DR2. Price is pretty similar with a lot of entry-level models and brands in the market, but Pai Audio somehow decided not to compromise good build and sound with the packaging. You just might need to get yourself a more compact case though as the packaging isn’t exactly something you will want to stow in your bag.

Sound

If anything ever stands out about the DR2, it has to be how aggression. If you want something that sounds a bit relaxed or laid back, DR2 is quite far from it. While it may not be as aggressive as other IEMs which has the same characteristics, DR2 compliments the aggression with the right amount of details from frequencies across the spectrum. It is highly engaging, and works pretty well with tracks that carry quick tempo. A bit heavy on the low end, DR2 still manages very little spill over the lower mids. I might be nitpicking, but to be honest, much as I can feel a bit of spill, I still it as something negligible. I tried a few tracks that seems to have a bit of blur across the 200-300Hz frequencies, but nothing too bothersome.

Snares seems to be pretty resounding across upper mids, splashy and quite enjoyable. I tried to play around and test a track that carries a pitch across 3-4kHz range, still clean yet decently discernible.

Mid ranges sounds pretty good for me, something quite sufficient to allow mid range lovers to enjoy it. Not overbearing, but I would say it is sufficient enough for a good casual listening experience. I just found a few chesty sound off some Andrea Bocelli tracks, but given that it isn’t exactly my usual repertoire, I was not bothered at all. Perhaps it was just a hint, something that might be distinct for critical listeners.

Imaging is pretty decent too, and as DR2 is indeed best used for casual listening, you will enjoy the fact on how each instruments are layered using it.

Soundstage is pretty good for an IEM. It is not as if it will match an open back setup from a headphone, but the DR2 did some justice out of it.

Tried a few tracks, and here’s what I got out of those:

Parallel UniverseRed Hot Chili Peppers (Californication)

Used the Soundaware M2Pro on this one, I was fortunate to snag a DSD copy for this track, and much as it is pretty fast, it was not difficult to actually dissect the track as you listen to them. Then again, the DR2 is best enjoyed while doing casual listening, so I will have to say that in that matter, DR2 did a pretty good job. Flea’s bass line was nothing short of spectacular, and was emphasized even more using the DR2. Anthony Kiedis’ vocal prowess was presented really well using this IEM.

Army Of MeSkunk Anansie (Music From The Motion Picture – Sucker Punch)

While not as fast as the previous track, DR2 did a pretty good job with the imaging for this track. Amidst what seemingly is chaotic mix of instruments, each was pretty discernible while keeping the vocals carefully clean and pronounced. I think the track is pretty heavy, yet musically fun with the use of DR2. Playing the track with the Hifiman HM-901S, I think the DR2 synergized pretty well with the source.

OrpheusSara Bareilles (Amidst The Chaos)

Pairing of DR2 with the Fiio M6 brought about heavier bass frequencies, with the thump sounding weightier (compared it while playing the same track with the HM-901S and got an entirely different result). Vocals however remained clear, although I would have preferred a more relaxed punch from the sub and mid bass. Guitars had excellent clarity, not overbearing but is distinct. I am not sure, I just got a bit confused on the positioning of the drums and Bareilles’ vocals at the beginning, perhaps given the weighty thump.

I did try to play these tracks using a balanced cable (SPC terminated with 2.5mm TRRS plug) and I must say, it refined the sound a lot further. I would highly recommend it if you got a source with a balanced output, I think with such setup, you get a heck lot more value out of the DR2.

Gripes

While I did enjoy listening to the DR2, I will probably have to stick to a balanced setup as I still find the bass a bit too strong for me, particularly sub bass region. The packaging could also use a bit better cable, as I found a lot of difference when using an SPC cable over the stock copper cable. The stock cable isn’t bad, but could definitely be better. Using the stock cable can take you from point A to point B though. Lastly, I might be griping too far, but the acrylic box used in the packaging isn’t exactly the best case when it comes to portability, so it would have been a lot better had it came with at least an earphone pouch. Not an entirely downside, but could have made it a heck lot better.

Wrap-Up

Would I buy one for myself? I would, but only if I have no other IEM with the same signature. DR2 has an excellent comfort given the shell form factor and shape, so that definitely is a factor for getting one, but the fact how it sounds is definitely a significantly good reason to get one. I think, for the entry level market and those who are not really going to do a critical listening, the DR2 is an absolutely great IEM. Given the price, I would get one in a heartbeat.

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