This piece was originally written by audiophile Eddie Hsueh, find more of his work at: eddie0817.wordpress.com
See the original article here
Translated by Asher Yeo
DITA’s new flagship Dynamic Driver IEM, the Dream XLS, was released in the second half of 2019 and serves as an evolution of the former flagship, the DITA Dream. The IEM’s chassis is made of titanium and CNC integrated molding with an external shell made of scratchproof sapphire glass. This Tanium construct has a definite impact on the earphone’s resonance characteristics.
You would be hard pressed to find many other earphones produced with such skill, it’s almost like jewelry. With every chassis being hand-polished, there’s only a limited amount being produced each day as well as limited units on the market. If you’re like me and you’ve stumbled on their production process online, you’d probably also admire their manufacturing techniques.
All of DITA Audio’s products are powered by a dynamic driver, making them a manufacturer that specializes in the DD. This sets them apart from other industry players who have jostled to release IEMs featuring multiple BA drivers and custom faceplates. At the time of its founding, one of DITA’s guiding principles was to not follow trends and to release products different from typical offerings in the market. DITA’s drivers are designed in Singapore, the Dream XLS, featuring the DD Gen XX dynamic driver, being no exception to this rule, the DITA team also made use of FEA (finite element analysis) to simulate airflow and chassis design (students of mechanical engineering should be familiar with this, I currently use it in my line of work as well.)
This driver seems to be a combination of the Twin’s composite diaphragm and the Dream’s driver.
Dream XLS's CM Pin connector has also been redesigned to be more durable than the original Dream. Previously, Project 71 also adopted a similar design, except in an MMCX implementation.
Regarding the Awesome Plug
In recent years, both on Taobao and on the other corners of the internet, I’ve often seen this convenient interchangeable plug design. It’s earliest appearance was in DITA’s interchangeable “Awesome” plug. This design lets the user switch between 2.4mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm connectors, with its 4-pin adapter allowing for the switch between single-ended and balanced.
Here's the concept, as described at the 2015 Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival:
Having been manufactured in japan, the XLS is a finely made item both inside and out, down to its packaging. According to a DITA employee, each and every detail has been discussed and confirmed through countless meetings, arrived at without compromise.
The Dream XLS also received Gold in Fujiya Avic’s Hpfes Grand Prix. A decision made through the votes of Japanese audiophiles, making the XLS a credible product even in Japan. See the interview here: http://bit.ly/XLSFujiya
Having written up to this point, regardless of whether the earphone sounds good or not, I admire the company for its commitment to innovation. Something you can pretty much tell from their set up at Canjam SG every year.
The Stock Cable and The Upgrade Cable: One and The Same
The Dream XLS’ stock cable. The OSLO XLS, was designed specifically to suit the Dream XLS.
It has a cable colour different from the original, it’s in black, and, as far as I know, should also contain conductors made of OFC. Enhancing the Dream XLS’ imaging abilities. This means that users no longer have to ponder too extensively about cable rolling, the XLS already comes with the cable best optimized for it. The OSLO XLS cable also comes with DITA’s proprietary awesome plug, allowing users to switch freely between, 4.4mm, 2.5mm and 3.5mm configurations. It also looks lovely paired with the XLS.
When I first heard the Dream XLS at last years Canjam SG in March, it was still a prototype with two different kinds of tuning. The XLS’ completed tuning was achieved only through close to half-a-year of feedback from audiophiles and fans. DITA’s past releases, The Answer, The Truth, The Dream all had a tuning akin to that of pure water. However, since the DITA Twins introduced 2 tuning styles to the market, and the collaborative OSLO and Project 71, the markets impression towards DITA has changed. Some audio lovers have even told me that this might be the best flagship dynamic driver to date.
Sensitivity：113 dB @ 1KHz
Driver Type: Dynamic Driver
Other Reviews and Resources
Sound characteristics and First Impressions
With its 113dB sensitivity and 23 ohms of impedance, it’s relatively friendly to most DAP types. Trying to drive the XLS with a smartphone probably won’t cause any issues as well. This is different from most dynamic driver earphones, which can typically be harder to drive.
Resolution and detail of this kind is rare in dynamic earphones. It’s almost like the multi-driver Empire Ears Zeus, except that the XLS’ high extensions are a lot more stable and comfortable, they’re solid and controlled. Unlike some earphones with insistently bright highs that grate on me, these highs are clean. The XLS’ highs are also unlike the highs found in my 64 Audio Sound writer (A modified A18t), the 64’s highs can be overly concentrated, while the XLS’ highs are layered. Its presentation of instrumentals are natural and the transient response is excellent. A dynamic driver does have its merits, and these are immediately noticeable without even conducting any comparison tests.
Vocal mids are appropriate. It’s not full and forward like the RE2000, or like B1’s multi-layered mids, it’s also not like the JVC FW10000, with its stylized mids from the word chassis. It’s more moderate than that, even though the mids aren’t as immediately attractive as other single-driver flagships, but they’re detailed and informative. There’s nothing much to nitpick here.
The original OSLO is known for its full mids with a smaller soundstage. The Dream XLS however, is completely different. The breadth and width of the sound stage is mood, while the mids are simply appropriate. Whether is this thanks to the cable remains to be seen. We’ll be able to tell better after we get to cable rolling.
Comparisons and Basic Information
For this review, I decided to pit the XLS against DITA’s very own Twins, FAudio Major, DUNU 17th, Hifiman RE2000 (Gold), SONY IER-Z1R and Final B1.
My DAP choices are mainly the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, the Lotoo PAW 6000 and Sony’s new ZX507
For the eartips, besides the stock Final E type tips, I also used the JV Spiral Dot++, E-Pro Horn shaped tips and the Symbio W MandrinES mainly to judge the effect they have on the lows.
For cable comparisons and for the sake of testing various conductor materials, as well as to see the impact the actual OSLO-XLS has on the Dream XLS, the cable’s I’ve opted to test is the Toxic XW22 V2, the GW24, the DUNU Hulk, Hansheng’s Torfa 4 wire and the Luminox Tri-light.
(I've added LiSA's Gurenge this time, so hyped!)
1. Olivia Ong, Fly Me to the Moon
2. Adele 25, Send My Love
3. LiSA, Gurenge
4. The Beauty of the Steinway Piano
On the Subject of Burn-In
It’s common knowledge that dynamic driver earphones take a little while to mature. I’ve began burning in this pair of XLS since I got them at the end of October last year. It’s been close to a thousand hours so far. Sufficient for judging this earphone accurately.
DAP: LOTOO PAW GOLD TOUCH
Earphones: Dream XLS, Twins Fealty, FAudio Major, DUNU 17th, Hifiman RE2000 (Gold), SONY IER-Z1R, final B1
Dream XLS vs Twins Fealty
Both of these earphones come with a different cable. I listened to the Fealty first, the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch on High Gain at 4.4mm with the volume turned to 46/100 was sufficient to drive the fealty well. Compared to the Fidelity, the Fealty has thicker bass. When paired with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, the Fealty’s Low mids were liquid and detailed, the imaging for Olivia Ong’s song was good too, owing to the immense driving power of the PAW 6000. In the past I’ve paired this with the WM1Z before, pairing the Fealty with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch gives me a different experience.
Switching to the Dream XLS, I immediately notice more detail, the resolution of the instrumentals and the overtone improved, so did the contours of the vocals. Underneath all that, however, you can still tell that DITA’s house tuning still focuses on the mids and lows, without too much colouration. Fealty falls on the warmer end of this spectrum.
Next, switching to Adele’s explosive vocals. This genre of music capitalizes on the dynamic driver’s abilities, both performed well. Except that the Fealty’s lows were slightly looser and muddier. The XLS on the other hand, was great, with cleaner instruments. A flagship is indeed a flagship, its quality is noticeably better. LiSA’s track, when played through the XLS, was intensely enjoyable, with bass that’s not too sunken, but clear and suited for the Jpop Genre.
Dream XLS vs FA Major
I’ve changed the conductors on my FAudio Major to be the Nordost Odin 2, it sounds quite different from the original, the mids now sit further forward and the sound is cleaner and brighter, let’s see how it compares to the Dream XLS.
First, testing the Major’s vocals using Olivia’s track. I used the Lotoo Paw gold touch 4.4mm high gain with the volume set at 40/100, almost like the settings on the XLS. The recabled Major has bright vocals, with ideal resolution and the contours of the instrumentals. All while maintaining its wide soundstage. I’m liking this combination more and more.
Upon switching to the Dream XLS, at the same volumeI immediately noticed that the soundstage seemed smaller, but that the mids were more forward and more meticulously presented, with better imaging and more resolved instrumentals.
I concluded that despite switching the conductors to Nordost Odin 2, greatly improving the Major’s mids, the Major and XLS still differ in terms of their driver and acoustic chamber. Their signature is built on the same base.
The Major’s strength lies in its wide soundstage. Even though the Dream XLS doesn’t have a soundstage as wide as the Major’s, it’s comparatively balanced. For those who like pop and vocals, it might be better to use the FAMinor instead.
Next, I listened to some piano: The Beauty of the Steinway Piano
This is a piano performance album I’m very fond of. It’s been used in testing various equipment ever since I obtained it in 2009.
One of its characteristics is that the entire album is played only with a Steinway Grand Piano, it’s also recorded in a church, making the atmosphere and spatial imaging of the album and unique one.
The moment you put on Steinway you realize the both earphones have a clean sound, but like my previous findings, the sound of the keys is shallower and more scattered on the Major, with a wider soundstage. The XLS, on the other hand has a smaller soundstage and clearer overtones.
Dream XLS vs IER-ZIR (Hybrid Driver)
We’ll first listen to the vocal performance of the SONG IER-Z1R using Olivia’s track using the 4.4mm high gain on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch. I had to set the volume to sufficiently loud, making the Z1R a little bit hard to drive, but an easy drive for the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch nonetheless.
Changing the stock eartips of the Z1R to the JVC Spiral DOT++ eartips cleans up both its sound and bass.
The two earphones are vastly different, with the XLS outperforming the Z1R in terms of resolution, it’s vocals are meticulously present, with plenty of resolution and detail on the instrumentals.
By now I’m surprised, it’s the kind of sound that grabs you even before you go into making any comparisons, I’ve never heard a single dynamic driver perform like that before. But when it comes to musical pieces with big changes, the biggest difference between the two earphones is their bass, the Z1R has strong, all encompassing bass, the XLS, has a comparatively accurate bass, but it comes across as shallower than the Z1R’s.
It's something the listener needs to judge based on their preference.
Both these earphones perform in their own way. The XLS is more resolved and more balanced, but with a smaller soundstage and shallower bass, while the Z1R has a strong bass, warm, full mids, but with resolution that’s a bit worse than the XLS.
The Dream XLS vs. final Audio B1
The final Audio B1 is a hybrid BA+DD setup, it’s also my favourite in the B Series lineup, mainly because I find the vocals very charming, this tuning is also a lesser seen one in the world of IEMs. On the Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, 3.5mm, high gain, the B1 needs the volume to be at about 50/100 to be driven sufficiently. It has somewhat lower sensitivity, which makes driving the B1 well something of a challenge. Quite different from the XLS.
The XLS has more detail and better resolution, while the B1 sounds almost as if you’re listening through a piece of gauze. It’s warmer, with better bass. On a whole, the XLS performs better, but if we’re talking about which earphone is nicer, it’s up to personal preference.
Dream XLS vs DUNU 17th
DUNU 17th, is a 17th anniversary commemorative earphone by DUNU and is, like the Dream XLS a Single Dynamic Driver.
The DUNU 17th, however, uses a double-sided beryllium coated diaphragm. They also had a great deal for loyal customers during the pre-order stage. It’s my favourite pair of earphones right now, along with the 3001 Pro. I like it even better than the 4001.
Listening first to the 17th at a volume of 35/100, I find that their earphones are highly sensitive and relatively easy to drive, but it’s the kind of earphone that needs a fair bit of burn in. Paired with the Hansheng’s Zentoo, the beryllium driver’s characteristic is that it’s exceptionally detailed. With the vocals being fuller and closer. The instrumentals however, are a fair bit rawer than those on the Dream. This might be due to the nature of its diaphragm, but it’s also a bit more impactful as a result.
Compared to the 17th, it’s easy to see that the XLS is the better quality earphone with less colouration and more neutrality.
Dream XLS vs Hifiman RE2000
My RE2000 has been in use for three to four years, making it completely burned in. It’s a Single Dynamic Driver flagship earphone. I remember it cost 60,000 Taiwan dollars. It’s impedance of 60 ohms and 103dB of sensitivity, it’s quite hard to drive. Its tuning is relaxed but detailed with a firm bass. I’ve been driving it well with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch but its full potential can only be achieved with the use of an amp. You’re not going to be able to come back from this.
The RE2000’s stock cable is less than ideal, I’ve gotten rid of it in favour of the DUNU.
Listening to the RE2000 first, with a 4.4mm line out on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch, on a volume of 60 (only then can it be driven well enough). The differences between the two are actually extremely obvious, the RE2000 is warmer and fuzzier, but with a bigger soundstage and further vocals. The Dream XLS is a lot more resolved, it’s also more detailed but with a smaller soundstage.
When you go back to listen to the RE2000 or the final Audio B1 after listening to the XLS. It feels as if you’re listening through a piece of gauze or cloth. It really does have resolution on par with that of a Balanced armature earphone. The RE2000 however, has a larger soundstage, but with detail and resolution that’s a far cry from the XLS’.
This matches up with my first impression, the Dream XLS has an obvious advantage.
DAP: Lotoo PAW gold Touch, Lotoo PAW 6000, SONY ZX507
I’d like to find out how the Dream XLS affects the tuning of each individual DAP, I’ll be testing this out with 3 DAPs on the same song, all with 4.4mm high-gain. The volume on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch is 38/100, The Lotoo PAW 6000 is 45/100 and the SONY ZX507 is set at 60/120 in order to drive the XLS well. The ZX507 has slightly lesser power, the PAW 6000 is comparatively harsher, making it’s pairing with the Dream XLS take on the same harshness. The Lotoo PAW Gold Touch is warmer, more fluid and resolved at the same time. It smooths over some harshness but maintains a good sense of detail, making it extremely suitable.
The ZX507 is significantly more coloured, making the mids sit fuller and more forward, but it’s obvious that it’s not as powerful as the previous two DAPs, making the sound less solid.
I like the LPGT the most out of these 3, I suggest pairing the XLS with a DAP that’s somewhat warmer. I fele like the Cayin N8 or N6II might be good choices.
DAP: Lotoo PAW Gold Touch
Earphone: Dream XLS
Cable: OSLO-XLS/Toxic SW22 V2/GW24/DUNU Hulk/HanSound Torfa 4 wire/Luminox Tri-light
Although the XLS’ stock cable is already a very good oil-soaked OFC model, audiophiles will nevertheless want to roll their cables. I’ve paired the XLS up with a few cables with different tunings in order to find out what sort of impact the XLS has on its tuning.
Dream XLS + DUNU Hulk
The Hulk is a 22 AWG Litz Type 2 copper upgrade cable. It is also very convenient with its own replaceable connectors. Its tuning is warmer than that of the the Toxic BW22 V2 and is a bit more coloured. It should also be suitable for Dream XLS. The soundstage shrinks upon making the switch but the mid-range vocals are warmer and more concentrated, softening some contours and creating a comfortable atmosphere. Its lows are fuller and more elastic, except that it seems to have sacrificed its soundstage and fluidity.
Dream XLS + Toxic SW22 V2
SW22 V2 needs no introduction, it’s long been considered one of the classics in the Toxic lineup. It’s a 22AWG Type 4 OCC Cryo Silver Litz wire with 1 +% Gold Content The higher the number, the more complicated the structure.
It was surprisingly good with Dream XLS. It offers detail and better dynamics compared to the DUNU hulk without sacrificing the original soundstage of the OSLO-XLS. It’s strengths are made extremely apparent in its high frequency extension which becomes obvious when Olivia Ong sings higher, I unknowingly listened to a few more songs. It’s great, just that the colour combination is a little off.
Dream XLS + Hansound Torfa 4
My first impression is that the Torfa 4 has a dark, deep background. Compared to the original OSLO, the Torfa 4's mid vocals are slightly thicker and more forward, and the gold and silver alloy wires are relatively stable, it's quite clear that the Torfa 4 favours the high mids.
There's a clean extension into the upper highs, transparent and soft, compared to the same gold and silver alloy SW22, is obviously biased towards the upper plate, brighter and clearer line, compared to the silver-like hearing, down The frequency extension is better, but it is not as full in the mids. I consider it to fit the Dream XLS quite well.
Dream XLS vs Luminox Tri Light
Luminox’s previous flagship, it uses a mixture of pure copper, sliver plated copper and pure silver conductors. It has a light, fast sound and it’s mix of conductors gives it a well-rounded nature, It is not as hard and unnatural as the silver plated copper generally can be, it’s somewhat more rounded and sweeter, its highs are also more tempered compared to the typical silver-plated copper cable.
Compared with the original OSLO, the vocal mids seem closer, the soundstage seems smaller and the resolution on the music instruments seem to be even better.
After trying these upgrade cables, I came to the conclusion that, despite its nature as a Single Dynamic Driver, the XLS is a great earphone. Its low mids are highly susceptible to cable rolling, generally taking on the nature of whichever cable they are paired with.
An interesting similarity I find in all the cables is that a smaller soundstage mean mids that are more forward
But, to be honest, cable rolling did not have the sort of impact I expected it to have on the XLS. All of these cables seemed fairly suitable to me. Because the XLS is already a great earphone, going toe-to-toe with the resolution of BA earphones and with already good instrument separation, imaging and speed, cables are not qquite able to do a lot of the XLS. These cables are considered a little more impactful than the average cable, but only seem to make slight tweaks to the tuning when paired with the XLS, leading me to conclude that all these cables are suitable
Honestly, I’d say the OSLO’s already great, and it comes with the added benefit of bringing out the XLS’ intended tuning.
Thoughts on Tip Rolling
The Dream XLs comes with Final Type E tips.
These tests are conducted on JVC Spiral DOT++, Symbio MandrinES, E-Pro Horn-Shaped Tips.
Hobbyists have remarked that the stock eartips seem to stifle the bass. So I’ll go straight into this test with Adele’s dynamic vocal changes. The original final Type E has less bass in Send My Love’s intro, with appropriate bass extension and normal diffusion. But upon switching to the JVCs, the bass was taken down another notch, to the point where there was almost no bass. Eartips like JVCs are more suitable for earphones like the Z1R
Switching to the Symbio MandrinES improved the bass slightly, more bass, with better spread.
Switching to the E-Pro horn shaped tips, made the sound leaner, after all these tips are known to enhance the highs, the lows seemed right on par with that of the stock tips.
I personally liked the MandrinES the most. But to be absolutely honest, hobbyists looking for earphones with their bass as strong as the Z1Rs are unilikely to be satisfied with the XLS. This is likely due to the way the chassis is designed. Still, listen to it for yourself. Each individual reacts to tip rolling in different ways.
Here are just some reflections for your consideration. Thank you