oBravo Cupid Basic REVIEW:
- Sharp, detailed and excitingly unique sound
- Impressive Soundstage and Imaging
- Fast weighty and punchy bass
- Fast transient response
- Vivid crisp highs
- Tonally strange and unbalanced
- Thin and dry timbre (can be considered as transparent too)
- Vocal lack lushness and naturalness
- Treble can be harsh or too forwarded sometime
- Proprietary mmcx cable suck
If David, Obravo founder, has to describe is company in one sentence it would be in this very words: ‘’It is a Taiwanese high-end earphone brand founded by a middle-aged boy who is brave enough to pursue his dream. ‘’ But it’s sure more complicated than this and needs indeed lot of boldness and perseverance to achieve it’s unique sound vision.
Since 2006 Obravo struggle to produce a unique sound experience that is more similar to high-end speakers than closed headphones or earphones. This vision is more about how the sound will be perceived in it’s soundscape and how it shouldn’t sound stocked in your head, but out of it as if you were in a listening room fulfill with high-end tower speakers.
For this, David test multiple of drivers technology, but find its holy grail only by developing its own. This explains in part why most of its long earphones and headphones line up use either patented planar magnetic driver or special Air motion transformer (AMT) tweeters as well as diverse type of dynamic drivers.
Mostly active in high-end audio, Obravo wasn’t really appropriate for more budget-oriented audiophile aiming for high sound value. This all change in 2019 with the launch of oBravo Cupid, a dual planar magnetic and dynamic drivers earphones selling for 350$. But today, I will review the Basic version, which is the very same Cupid earphones without the fancy balanced silver-plated copper Litz cable and adapters.
But how much cost the Basic version then? Well, as little as 200$, wich sure represent the insanely accessible price for such high-end technology and housing construction.
Like the standard version, the Cupid Basic use an 8mm planar magnetic tweeter alongside of a 6mm neodymium dynamic driver. In fact, they are the very same earphones apart from cable and accessories that are included. To say my expectation was utterly high for this promising earphones would be lying, and this is due to conflictual reviews that I read about them. We can be certain of only one thing about the Cupid: they let nobody indifferent.
Indeed, my listening story with them was a roller coaster, and rolling into Cupid sound is one hell of a fun ride!
Let’s see in this very critical review if the Obravo Cupid Basic worth more than a fast listen.
DISCLAIMER: I wanna thanks Phil from Audioconcierge for sending me this review sample free of charge. I contact him after having read conflictual reviews about the Cupid that makes me curious about its sound profile. I’m in no way affiliated to oBravo and fully independent in my reviewing work.
As expected, the unboxing experience is well…..Basic! Just a small box with minimal accessories. While I expected to have this Basic cable, I didn’t expect to as so few eartips. We know eartips is cheap, but we know too that it can have a drastic impact on proper sound rendering, just including a more diversify eartips choice could improve the Cupid Basic experience.
CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN:
Yes, the Cupid is gorgeous looking, the black gold coating of its housing is as much eye appealing than durable, the shape is oval and organic and promises a secure fit. Sure, the nozzle is long and thick but has an angled shape that helps a good fit too. The whole construction is simple yet elegant, housing is 2 pieces of thick high-quality metal put together. Level of sturdiness look very high, you can drop this multiple time and it will never get broken, just perhaps scratched but even that looks not that easy to achieve. When it comes to mmcx connector, you are happy to see their high quality too, they are made of gold plated metal and connect tightly to the included OFC mmcx cable….but this is when you discover it uses Obravo proprietary mmcx connector too, which is a bummer for mmcx cable collector like me. Is it really for better connectivity or to make consumer dependant of Obravo cables, which are quite costly to say the least? I think it’s both of this answer, but still, it’s not good news. I wish all audio companies stick with either mmcx or 2pin connector, to not make things more complicated or pricier for their consumers. If every audio company follows oBravo example, our audiophile life will be doomed by cables monopoly. Sorry for being a drama queen here, but yeah, it really frustrated me to be stock with basic cable of Basic edition.
About this cable, it’s a beautifully named ‘’Ohno Continuous Casting (OCC) braided cable terminated with a gold plated 3.5mm jack’’, but it does not say the number of copper cores we have in there and looking at how thin it is, it sure hasn’t a lot. Connectors and jacks are of nice quality, but I’m still a little afraid about the durability of such a delicate looking cable. Well, i guess it’s your punishment for the 150$ discount you got over other Cupid version.
Comfort is very nice, but must not be confused with the right fitting. As the Cupid has a long thick nozzle, using long ear tips isn’t suggested as it will perhaps make your ears canal sure du to the inner pressure. Like with the TinHIFI P1, I use similar wide-bore eartips with a not long nozzle. The seal should be not too deep, this will offer higher comfort as well as a more open and balanced sound.
I consider the Obravo Cupid as very capricious about eartips pairing, so it should be in your top priority to find the perfect one. With wrong eartips, sound can be either boomy, trebly or lacking in soundstage.
Driveability of planar earphones are infamous for being hard to drive, though it’s not the case with the Cupid compared to harder to drive TinHIFI P1, the Cupid are still capricious about audio source pairing. Both Impedance output and signal to noise ratio is extremely important. You will want lower Impedance output and higher SNR possible otherwise it can hiss or sound unbalanced. I got a very good result with my Tempotec HD PRO, wich isn’t more high-end source but has a very high SNR of 128db, with this dac-amp, treble was less forwards and overall sound was smoother.
Gear used: Ibasso DX90, Xduoo X20, Xduoo XD-05plus, FIIO BTR5, Tempotec HD PRO
My first out-of-the-box impressions of the Cupid were a mixed one, while I was impressed by overall resolution, clarity, and details retrieval of its vivid sound presentation, I feel there was something wrong about the tonality. Depending on music genre, the bass too was a little too boomy to my taste. So, I begin by giving the Cupid proper burnin of 30H as well as playing with eartips. This do improve both bass response and treble, wich became more balanced with rest of the spectrum. Still, the tonal balance was a little strange as well as the timbre of some instruments and voice. The planar driver used in the Cupid act as if he was used for the whole treble response and the dynamic for low to mid or lower mids. Coming from TinHIFI P1, the Cupid sound less natural and transparent, more like if it was an hybrid BA+DD than DD+ Planar. On the other hand, level of clarity and the vivid imaging it offers at such a price is nothing less than breathtaking, we can’t have everything but I sure consider the Cupid to deliver in spectacular wow effect.
TONALITY is a hint dry and bright, but smooth in the definition. It has a slight metallic taste too it in the high range that can tend to make sound artificial some instruments. Male vocal can sound a little boxy while female one can sound a little shouty. The piano can sound thin while the violin can sound slightly strident.
TIMBRE is on the thin transparent side except for bass which is very thick and opaque. Texture can sound dulled, lacking in natural grain.
CLARITY is very high, especially in the treble region. In lower and mid-mid-range it feels tamed and darker compared to the higher range, so the woodwind instrument will be affected tonally as well as lower range piano and male vocals. Still, we are in near analytical clarity level here, and it makes the listen very exciting and revealing.
SOUNDSTAGE is quite wide but has good tallness and deepness too, If I can compare it to something, it would be a hall like but with a sense of being in the middle of it. It’s both airy and out of your head with a good holographic feel to it. It’s the Cupid highlight with imaging and clarity.
IMAGING is sharply presented with the Cupid, while it does have a revealing bright sound, the macro resolution is better than micro-definition of instrumentation which tends to feel slightly unbalanced, so you have no difficulty to pinpoint the singer, bass, snare or percussions which have more presence than some other more nuanced (or complex) sound layers added together in a more recessed way. It’s vivid, yet intensely layered and alive. Cupid extracts all it can at an impressive speed, sometimes it’s near too much.
BASS is fast, thick and weighty, but lack transparency and long natural extension. Sub tend to swallow mid-high bass definition and give a heavy thumping presentation that lack refinement but sure not impact. Timbre is rather dry and opaque. Though the bass is beefy, it’s far from sounding juicy or liquid, due to an aggressive presentation that is too much in a hurry to jump at you. Acoustic bass will sound wrong due to lack of natural extension, synth sub-bass will sound thick and well articulate, slap bass will sound very clear but a little too bright as well. For electronic, rock, pop, rap and R&B, the Cupid offers a very talented bass presentation with good separation from mid-range, keeping overall clarity intact while adding extra punchy liveliness to the music.
MID RANGE is very clear and offers plenty of details even if most of its energy come from the upper mids-lower treble. It’s not very warm or thick, and tonality is a hint unbalanced. The attack is impressively fast even if not super weighty, piano note attack is very fast but the impact feels little tamed, especially in lower and mid mids range. Instrument like saxophone suffer from this recessed mids area and have a thin presentation that lacks natural timbre. Male vocal is hit or miss, while female vocal tends to jump more at you in a bright way. We aren’t in lush, full and well rounded mid-range presentation, more in a rough high resolution one, that feel sometimes too rushed in its desire to impress you. Anyway, this particular rendering has the advantage of keeping clarity very high, so the vocal sound always well centered and separated from another instrument. As I get use to its unique tonality, I tend to like more and more the audacious mid range technicalities.
TREBLE is the more emphasized region after bass, and to me, it’s the best part too. Lower treble from around 3khz to 7khz is very forwards, sometimes a little too aggressive, and after it relaxes until 9khz to 12khz rounded peak that adds brilliance and a sense of airiness to the overall sound. The level of details that Cupid digs is near overwhelming in upper highs, but due to the use of planar driver it never mixes together or distorts with unwanted resonance. As well, it isn’t intensely harsh or trebly even if yes, I would not suggest the Cupid to treble sensitive people. Let’s say it: the Cupid are vivid analytical earphones that boost micro details for the better or the worst. Percussions are insanely resolved and delivered at supreme speed, sometimes it can distract from another instrument, especially with jazz, but with electronics it can offer intense satisfaction. I tend to like this type of sharp energic treble especially when it got a high level of agility like this.
LOWER BASS: 8.5/10—– 7.5/10
MID-HIGH BASS: 8/10—–8/10
MID RANGE: 7/10———– 7/10
LOW TREBLE: 8.5/10——-7.5/10
MID TREBLE: 7.5/10——–8/10
HIGH TREBLE: 9/10———8/10
VS TINHIFI P1 (160$):
The P1 being a single Planar driver, it cannot compete in term of bass impact against the dynamic driver of hybrid planar Cupid. Though it lacks impact and weight for proper dynamic presentation, the P1 has a more natural and balanced sound nonetheless. The Cupid has a more V shape aggressive presentation and struggles to balance bass thump by over pushing upper mids region, while the P1 offers a more natural and emphasized midrange and treble that feel cohesive and laid back. In the end, bass sound perhaps more recessed, but more articulate too. Mid-range is more hollow with the oBravo and have more peaky upper mids which tend to make vocal sometimes shouty or boxy. With the P1 it’s flat and balanced, it’s smooth, transparent and tonally right. The vocal does not sound at you like the oBravo, but offer richer timbre and more natural tonality. Treble is more forwarded with the oBravo, as well as more sharply detailed and snappy, the P1 is delicate and relaxed with smoother and fuller thighs.
All in all, the Obravo is more V shape and vivid sounding while the P1 is more mid centric, lush, laid back and natural sounding.
VS AKOUSTX R-220 (200$):
Now, let’s see how a dual balanced armature can compare to a hybrid planar.
The first thing that is evident, it the faster transient response of R-220, which can deal better with fast percussion without losing its accurate definition and attack edge. With the Cupid, highs feel less controlled and snappy.
The soundstage is notably wider, taller and deeper with the Obravo, making the R-220 sounding very forward and overly intimate. Imaging is better too, taking advantage of the vast spaciality to offer instrument separation with wider space between them, the R-220 imaging isn’t particularly bad but the instrument feels too near one of each other. Bass is more weighty and punchy with the Obravo, here the R-220 is even less bassy than P1 and struggle to offer any kind of slam, making whole low range thin and tamed in impact. Mid-range is more recessed with the Obravo until the upper mids bump, this makes the vocal sound less full and tonally right than R-220 wich offer as good performance for male or female singer but can sound too breathy and opaque sometimes. Obravo vocal sound more recessed and thinner, though the separation is better than R-220, the mid-range is less versatile and balanced but overall clearer and more immersive. TREBLE is more foward with the oBravo, but a dip in lower-mid treble stole texture to the instrument that tend to make R-220 highs sound fuller and less metallic, but less sparkly and generous in micro details too.
All in all, the R-220 is intimate, neutral and tonally correct while Obravo is perhaps less technical but way more entertaining and immersive to listen too.
VS AUDIOSENSE T800 (300$):
The T800 uses 8 Knowles balanced armature per side, let’s see how one of my favorite earphones compare against the Cupid.
The biggest difference that hit me is in terms of timbre, the T800 is way thicker and warmer which is very evident in mid-range and lower treble where the cupid sound bright and thinner.
The soundstage is slightly wider and more holographic with T800, while it’s more airy and deeper with the Cupid. Imaging is presented in a more layered way with the T800, which tends to extract instrument from all frequencies range equally while the Cupid is more about treble and bass imaging, keeping the mids hide behind, still, it gives the illusion Cupid have better imaging due to more space between instrument.
Bass is weightier, warmer and thicker with the T800, making it even more bassy than the Cupid which has less good separation between bass and mids as well as dryer timbre. Tough bass is more boosted, it feels more balanced with the rest of the spectrum while the Cupid has a less natural bass transition. Mid-range is where the T800 really outclass the Cupid, everything sound fuller and more natural in this range, should it be wind instrument that sounds overly thin with Cupid or vocal that sound too bright and tonally unpredictable. Vocal has more presence and wideness, while Cupid delivers a more intimate presentation that tends to separate vocal from instruments with more space. Now, the treble of T800 sound fuller and more balanced than Cupid which concentrates most of its energy in upper highs, this makes the T800 less trebly but less sparkly too, it gives us the impressions the Cupid is more analytical and percussions are crisper with more resonance.
While the T800 is better both technically and tonally, it’s warmer and less vivid and airy sounding than the Cupid.
oBravo unique approach to sound tuning sure is a demonstration of musical vision bravado. It does not make a compromise by trying to tune it too safe or laid back, which can lead to boring sound too. No, it boldly offers a muscular yet vivid sound presentation that isn’t faint of heart about the lively treble response.
The Cupid is both fascinating and spectacular to listen too, and while I wouldn’t suggest it for classical music that need pristine tonality and timbre, it do extremely well for anything else even if vocal is not the best in class for it’s price range.
With its razor-sharp imaging, fast thumping bass, vivid treble, and grand soundstage, the Obravo Cupid offers an unforgettable sound experience that sounds like nothing else on the overcrowded earphones market. The founder of Obravo achieve its sound experience dream with the Cupid, which is to give high-end speakers in big room sound impressions deliver trough planar hybrid earphones, and he makes it available to the mass with an extremely competitive price tag.
If you like single planar earphones but feel it lack bass, the Cupid is for you, if you like V shape sound with a high level of clarity and details, the Cupid is for you, if your a treble head, this is for you. Only people I would not suggest the Cupid is those that are either very sensible about instruments timbre or higher range treble. Nonetheless, it’s slight imperfection, I learn to really love the Obravo Cupid for what it offers: a vivid holographic sound experience that wakes you up and keeps your curiosity alive.