Hello, this is my full written review of Celest Audio‘s latest Hybrid iem, the Celest Phoenixcall. Celest is actually a sub-brand of the popular audio company “Kinera” and please trust me; the quality is evident from the moment you pick this set up. Basically, you can spot the lineage right away. There is a certain distinction of virtue, or class in a Kinera set. Almost like a foregone conclusion that the product as a whole carries a level of prestige, without being unaffordable I should add. That’s Kinera to me and thus, this is also what Celest represents to the more affordable branch of Kinera’s lineups. At least this is how I see it. It goes without saying that I was more than happy to receive the Phoenixcall and will do my best to explain this set to the reader today.
The great audio company “Kinera Audio” was established in 2011 and entered the audio world first as a manufacturer of Drivers for Military Hearing Aids. Kinera holds many patents for different drivers such as Balanced Armatures, Bone Conduction etc. It wasn’t until 2016 that this storied company actually created their first iem, the Kinera BD005. Since then, it has been a constant churning of well-crafted iems. Slowly but surely, Kinera worked their way up to better and better gear to be sold to the audio community. Quickly Kinera gained respect within the field of audio, and I’d say that we are still seeing the same respect throughout the community even today.
That quick rise began with the BD005 and then eventually we saw the likes of the Kinera Seeds, Idun, Odin and since that time…the rest is history. In fact, I reviewed the Kinera Hodur recently (Hodur Review) and absolutely enjoyed that set. There have been countless iterations of each set as well as many new iems that topped charts in the audio community since those early days. Within time Kinera became a name synonymous with quality and price to performance. Kinera will always craft a product with a story and a definitive purpose, and every product will be released when it’s ready. Truly I am confident to say that Kinera is one of the better brands of personal audio.
During this time of expansion Kinera split off into some very successful sub-brands like Queen of Audio (QOA) & Celest. QOA has had a number of successful sets over the years as well. Now, Celest. (new to the game) has already done very well to make its mark within the hobby, by starting out with the wildly popular Celest Gumiho and one of my absolute favorite iems under $100 the Celest Pandamon (Pandamon Review HERE) which I reviewed last year and gave it very high marks for its beautifully neutral and wholly clean sound. That leads us to the set I am reviewing today.
The Phoenixcall came along with some nice buzz in the community, and I have to say that I was more than thrilled to receive this set from the good people of HiFiGo. So, let me quickly say thank you to Lvy as well as HiFiGo for providing the Phoenixcall in exchange for a feature at Mobileaudiophile.com. Thank you.
The Phoenixcall is actually more than just a hybrid set, as it’s actually a “tribrid” iem consisting of one Dynamic Driver, two Balanced Armatures and two Micro-Planar Drivers. I have been taken aback by many factors regarding this gorgeous iem. The look, sound, packaging, the whole nine yards to be honest. However, one of my most favorite aspects of a Kinera/QOA/Celeste
iem is in their naming schemes…
One aspect of a Kinera, QOA, or “Celest” product is that they actually take the time to give their products a certain “theme” if you will. I remember a Facebook message throughout some audio groups in which representatives from Kinera were asking about a name to give this beautiful tribrid. They asked for a name that is associated with hundreds of birds coming home. “Phoenixcall” was obviously the name they chose but it was the sentiment which was refreshing to see. Not only does Kinera give their iems a “personality” or “theme” to align to, but they also tune their iems to this “personality” or “theme”. I absolutely love this. Kinera puts a ton of expertise, knowledge and artistry into their products, to where they aren’t simply audio devices… but functional works of art.
Phoenixcall is actually derived from an ancient Chinese myth “The Legends of the Mountain and Seas” aka “Shanhai Jing”. Hopefully I don’t butcher this too badly. This myth is actually a sort-of “encyclopedia” of geographical knowledge as well as a book of short myths, strange creatures, and of medicine etc. It is an ancient book that doesn’t seem to have a reason for its existence. A strange book no doubt.
One story within this strange book is actually a scene which Celest describes as a “destined force lurking in the dark” of the forest which called home the families of divine birds. These birds filled the skies all at once as they made their way back to the forest. Quite a grand scene if you use your imagination a bit. Picture a harmonious meeting in the sky. Hear the sounds, the songs, the foreboding grandeur of a momentous convergence such as this. What are the colors? What is the mood? Think of all the variables. Now, bottle that all up and create an iem in the likeness of this mythical occasion. PHEW!! After you are done doing that, tip your hat to the people behind this set…Truly a job well done!
Maybe I’m romanticizing but…
I would hope that other companies would put the same level of care and thought into their audio devices. I would hope that the days of simply assigning some random numbers and letters and then slapping that on a cardboard box and then calling it a name are behind us, but of course that’s unlikely. With that said, I think the consumer should cheer on a company which strives to be more than a quick cash grab. With Kinera, there seems to be a sense of real thought, purpose and care put into not just the name but also the unifying idea and concepts behind the art that they create.
Maybe I’m romanticizing this a bit much as that has always been my biggest problem in some people’s eyes. Who knows, maybe it’s one of my best strengths. At any rate, let’s at least recognize the respect and regard that the team behind a set like the Phoenixcall gives to their craft. If it’s me, I’d much rather purchase something that means something to not only the buyer, but to the person who made it as well. So, without further ado…the Celest Phoenixcall…
-Price per performance, just silly what you get for $129
-Packaging / Accessories
-Build is exceptional
-One of the best looking iems I’ve ever seen
-The cable is great
-Overall sound is very musical, fun, yet still technically proficient
-Punchy, tight, & robust low-end
-Clean, precise and completely harmonious midrange
-Treble has nice bite, details and extension
-A detailed sound while maintaining it’s musicality
-Soundstage is perfect for the tuning
-Not exactly for bassheads
-Fans of dry, analytical, or bright may want to keep looking
-Bass is a tad soft on attack edge (this is me being extremely picky)
-Lower-mids are fairly recessed (again, very picky)
-There’s some slight upper mid/lower treble shout in shouty tracks (rare but it happens)
-Treble could use a bit more structure and punch (now I’m really reaching)
Gear used for testing
Packaging / Accessories
Upon receiving the Phoenixcall I have to say that I was not expecting so much effort and intricate details placed upon the packaging of this set. I suppose I forgot how well the Gumiho or the Pandamon were meticulously and artistically boxed up. Come to think of it, I should probably involve any other Kinera set that I’ve purchased over the years too. It’s hard not to be at least marginally impressed.
First off, the box is gorgeous. Colored in a beautiful purple color with the scene of the birds gathering in the skies on the front cover. A white silhouette outlines the birds in flight with depictions of swirling wind gusts and clouds above. A very serene looking and whimsical type scene which is a giant departure from what us hobbyists are used to. Not that it matters at all as far as the sound (the real reason we purchase) is concerned, but I have to at least respect the effort.
The box opens up with an elegant magnetic flap. As you Peek into the box, on the left side you’ll find a small rectangular leaflet which describes the story behind the Phoenixcall. Also, right next to that is a sort of a metal charm which Celest calls a “Bookmark” which you can see in the pictures. The bookmark has a scene which embodies the entire theme of the Phoenixcall with a metal cut and hand painted top view of birds flying in a circle pattern.
Friends… what level of care and thought does it take to include such additions (beautiful bookmark, gorgeous packaging, leaflet, artistic design etc.), which, are totally impertinent to the actual sound, yet are delicately and skillfully applied to the packaging? Celest didn’t have to add anything. They could’ve simply done what so many audio companies do… Simple box, tips, cable and maybe a carrying case. Celest put care and great thought into something that is completely irrelevant to the audio capabilities of the Phoenixcall. However, I would argue that these touches aren’t irrelevant at all and in my opinion serve the overall aesthetic. In fact, I’d say that these small artistic decorative & ornamental additions are an integral part of the overall theme, and by the way… Celest does a masterful job of presenting that theme.
Moving on, as you look into the contents of the box, you’ll see the gorgeous Phoenixcall earphones presented in all their glory already attached to the cable which wraps underneath and is tucked away in a small black box. Next to that you’ll find a box containing the carrying case as well as the eartips. Really a beautiful packaging and for what it’s worth, great job to the designers and artisans who took part in the whole motif and end result.
Celest provides a total of six pairs of quality eartips inside of the packaging, neatly wrapped in those ridiculously annoying plastic bags that we see so often. They include one set (S, M, L) of “Celest C-07 Balanced Tips” which are white silicone tips with a medium-wide bore which are slightly longer for a deeper fit. I think these are comparable in bore size & feel to the KBear 07 tips, not exact but comparable. The other tips (S, M, L) are a gray pair of “Celest 221 Vocal Tips” which are silicone with a wide-bore and a firm flange and have a shallower fit.
Both sets are very usable for the Phoenixcall and both sets actually make sense and aren’t just random tips thrown into the package for the sake of adding tips. Nice work Celest. Both sets of tips slightly alter the sound. I chose the wide-bore pair as I feel the sound opens up, the treble feels snappier too. This is one of the first times I didn’t have to spend an hour tip rolling. So for me personally, I do enjoy the Phoenixcall with wide bore tips so not to block any of the nozzle holes at the tip. Obviously, this is just my preference and I don’t think a smaller bore tip reduces the sound quality but they do shift the tonality to a degree.
Celest includes a lovely little blue carrying case with the package. It’s rather small. The case is a round case which opens and closes by way of an easy-to-use zipper. Probably just large enough to snuggly fit your precious earphones and cable. That said, it is a very classy case with what feels like faux leather and nice stitching.
I actually think the size is quite nice if you are one to carry your earphones with you in your pocket. I never do this but I’m sure many of you do. The truth is, it’s a nice case that Celest didn’t have to include. I would have been just as wowed without it, but they did the right thing and included one. It is a very nice little addition that fits the overall motif and aesthetic of the package and the utter class of the earphones.
Oh, the cable! Friends, please trust me when I say that I would never in a million years want any cable with “pink” in it. That is… Until now! The cable is so freaking dope! Just sick! That blue and pink braid fits the earphones to the tee! I really mean every word when I say, “Fantastic job Celest!”. The included cable is pliable, easy to use, not stiff, not microphonic and completely durable feeling. The cable itself is a 2-Pin, 8-Core, 5N Silver Plated Copper cable which terminates with a 3.5 single ended jack and adorned with stainless steel fittings. Folks, the braiding is so nice as the pink and blue are starkly distinct from each other which to me is very appealing and a perfect addition to the pink and blue earphones. The whole design language has a very trendy yet very ornamental feel to it.
I did have to use a balanced cable for my balanced sources and so I went through many different cables looking for the best pairing. What I landed on was the KBear Chord 4.4. To me it fits the silver lettering of the earphones as it matches the accent colors decently. However, all I really needed was to do its job and that it did. Also, the Phoenixcall does seem to scale to the source as well as additional source power (I’ll cover that later).
Build / Design / Internals / Fit / Drivability
I have to say, I’m normally not taken aback or surprised too often. Much of the time we get run-‘o-the-mill builds and I’m usually perfectly happy with most any earphone. However, Celest went and totally knocked this build out of the park! Truly! What a nice form, body, and architecture. I haven’t even gotten to the design yet. We are talking about “build quality”. What we have is a completely transparent shell which easily shows the working contents of the Phoenixcall. The build is a beautiful all resin makeup with a durable and solid feel to the. The faceplate is oval shaped and the shell cavity is a very ergonomically printed structure with deep fitting nozzles. You can easily spot the tube exits at the nozzle as well with four separate holes. Truly a remarkable build and one of my favorites at any price.
This brings me to the actual look of the Phoenixcall. Celest made two different colorways for the Phoenixcall as they decided upon a “Clear” version and a “Reddish/Pink & Blue” version. What a beauty of an iem with a wispy yet resplendent, almost delicately ornate charm. I don’t mean delicate in the build either, more like in the way Celest conveyed the art depicted on the faceplates. As you can easily see in my pictures, the Phoenixcall is a true piece of art. Meaning, a human or humans, designed this set in an attempt to evoke some sort of emotional response. This set was obviously designed to leave an impression or to wow the consumer. Also, nobody goes to these lengths to create something as lavish in intricate details as the Phoenixcall without taking serious pride in the end result and to how people will react.
I think you have to start with the shining star of the design and that’s the faceplates. They are stunning friends. Underneath a coat of crystal-clear resin, you can see the scene of the divine birds making their way back. There’s a handful of silver silhouette birds appearing in “mid-flight” with miniscule specks of bunched up bluish & purple colored glitter paint which serves as the backdrop. At the top corner of the faceplate is a seemingly deep black void (I’m assuming it is supposed to represent the dark forest) which seems to be where these birds are traveling to.
As I twirl the Phoenixcall in my hands the faceplates will catch the light and with every movement the faceplates light up with different hues of refracted shades of blue. This may not be for everyone; it isn’t the most masculine looking set in the world but for the work and imagination that went into the appearance… I can’t help but think “Job well done”.
Again, the Phoenixcall actually comes in two different colorways. One is the “clear version” and the other is the “reddish pink & blue” set you can see in my pictures. Much to my chagrin, I actually thought I was receiving the clear model, but the pink and blue model showed up at my house. I have to admit I was immediately a bit sour about it until I actually took the earpeices out of the box and looked at them with fresh eyes.
Not only is the faceplate awesome looking but the shells are just as great. You can see the neatly laid out drivers inside and clearly see the tubes and the entire inside cavity which is a very cool touch. The design is very creative and different from any set I’ve ever seen, which makes this design kind of bold in a sense. Not everyone will be a fan, for that I’m sure. But for those who can appreciate the creativity I think I can speak for those people and say to Celeste… Again, job well done!
Celest decided to go with a tribrid setup for the Phoenixcall which is not something we often see under $200, let alone under $130. In total the Phoenixcall actually has five drivers per earphone. Celest went with a 7mm strong magnetic coil Dynamic Driver for the low-end, one customized Balanced Armature Driver (10012) for the mid frequencies, one customized Balanced Armature Driver (10021) for the mid-highs and two 6mm flat panel Micro-Planars Drivers to take on the ultra-high areas of the treble. To say that this was an ambitious effort is an understatement. Folks, look at what you are getting for the price, it’s getting ridiculous. The problem with ambitious driver configurations such as this is trying to gather and maintain some sort of coherence between the drivers. As you can plainly see each driver is set with its own sound tube and by all accounts, these are good drivers.
Fit / Isolation
The fit of any earphone is always a very personal & subjective matter. I have zero idea how well the Phoenixcall is going to sit in your ears, but I can tell you how they fit in mine. Perhaps I’m not the best person to relay this info as most earphones fit me, but the Phoenixcall fits me like a glove. In all honesty I don’t know how they wouldn’t fit nicely for the majority of hobbyists either. Celest created a very ergonomic shell design with no rough spots, sharp edges and the Phoenixcall are also very light on the ear so to help with extended listening sessions without any crazy ear fatigue due to weight. One of the benefits of a design such as this is getting very nice isolation as well without much sound leakage too.
From what I can see the Phoenixcall are pretty easy to drive. Now, I don’t have a smartphone with a 3.5 single ended jack so I can’t tell you how the Phoenixcall will sound with a lower powered device. I can tell you that the Phoenixcall are rated at 32 ohms with a sensitivity of 103 db’s and a supposed frequency response ranging from 20hz-40khz. Using a Bluetooth Dac/Amp such as the IFi Go Blu (CS43131 dac chip) with its very dynamic and slightly warmer tonality worked nicely with the Phoenixcall. Especially when I switched to 4.4 balanced and gave it more juice.
Using my Hidizs S9 Pro (ES9038Q2M dac chip), I found it to have plenty of power for the Phoenixcall as they really aren’t difficult to drive to good volume. The pairing was pretty nice between these two as well. The S9 Pro is a warm/neutral sounding dac which is snappy enough to play well attached to the Phoenixcall. However, switching to one of my all-time favorite Dongle Dacs, the Moondrop Dawn 4.4 (also uses a CS43131 dac chip) I truly found an awesome sound and synergy with the Phoenixcall attached. The neutral sounding Dawn, the big power, the dynamic sound was dancing with the Phoenixcall.
During most critical listening I chose to use the Daps in my possession. That is the more neutral-ish and spirited sound of the iBasso DX240 (ES9038PRO Dac chip, basically eight ES9038Q2M chips) and the warmer, more colored and very resolving Shanling M6 Ultra (AK4493SEQ Flagship). To be honest, the Phoenixcall didn’t exactly sound better with either dap in particular but really does sound great on both. One thing is clear, the Phoenixcall does seem to tighten up with more power and a better skilled source. I think it’s a little more of the latter actually. The Phoenixcall is right at that point where you can either go with a warm source or an analytical source and it won’t hurt you either way. The “Bird” adapts. However, the higher fidelity of your source and the Phoenixcall will reciprocate.
The least you need…
At the end of the day, to operate the Phoenixcall it doesn’t take much at all to drive. All you probably need is a decently powered dongle dac at the least. Now, I’m quite positive you’d be able to drive this set off of most smartphones as well. However, you may not get the best sound quality. I would assume if you can afford the Phoenixcall than a cheap and decently powered dongle dac isn’t out of the question.
Note: I want to quickly note that I did give the Phoenixcall about 50 hours of burn in and it actually didn’t do much for the sound except some peaks in the upper treble. They don’t come across nearly as sharp or tinsley as they did prior to burn-in. I went back and forth between devices, single ended and balanced and all my thoughts are my own which were taken from actual hours of listening.
Let me begin by saying that the Phoenixcall has impressed me quite a bit. I don’t want to keep my joy over the sound to myself. I was thoroughly curious as to how well Celest/Kinera was going to implement these five drivers. This can go only one of two ways folks and by the language of my first sentence, I think you can imagine my thoughts. I was able to check out both the Gumiho as well as the Pandamon and was truly impressed by both. However, to all of a sudden skip to a five driver tribrid was pretty ambitious. Of course, Kinera has been at this audio game for quite some time.
Musical…the Celest Phoenixcall is simply musical. There it is, nuff said, everyone can go home now. In all seriousness, this is what the Phoenixcall is to me, if I were to break this set down into one word. “Musical” covers quite a lot and is a very broad word. This must mean that the Phoenixcall has a nice low-end, an energetic and cohesive midrange with some decent note weight and shimmer. This should also mean that the Phoenixcall has a nice treble region which uplifts the spectrum. Musical can mean a lot of things but what it means to me is this… The Phoenixcall sounds very nice to my ears.
This set is definitely a V-shaped set with a warm tonality and organic type timbre. It’s a rich sound, it’s lush, yet the Phoenixcall also has an almost milky transparency. This is a wholly unique tuning from what we hear in most times today with a larger mid-bass hump among other things I’ll explain later. The sound is anything but laid back yet it’s not ultra energetic either. A happy middle ground that has a very nice tonality and timbre with enough vibrance and musicality to keep things interesting. The sound does have some low-end coloration, recessed low-mids, as well as some upper-midrange color. Is it completely natural? Eh, not perfect. Is it really nice to listen to music with? You betcha!
The Phoenixcall is both dynamic and technically sound with some good macro-dynamics as well as nice details for the type of tuning it has. Of course, the Phoenixcall is right smack-dab in the middle of an ocean of good to great iems within the $100 to $150 price point. Like usual, this is the biggest hurdle the Phoenixcall has from being considered a very successful iem, as far as sales goes. There are subjective quarks and supposed issues but that goes without saying. Despite that and probably in spite of that fact, the Phoenixcall is one helluva set with a wonderfully emotionally charged and auditorily expressive sound.
Between the 20’s
The bass is beefed up with nice density that can really slam when it needs to. The Phoenixcall is not for bassheads though, not completely anyways. Not fast like BA bass but pretty compact for its size. The midrange has nice note weight and good presence even though there is a scoop in the mids which dials back male vocals. The mids are actually quite clean and songfully harmonious with a nice spritz of sheen in the upper mids. Listening to the treble I find it has good energy but isn’t the most elevated or forward. It’s nicely detailed but also pretty safe apart from some upper treble energy that can get a bit spicy. The sound in general is easy to digest with rich tones, nice vibrancy and technically the sound doesn’t disappoint. In my opinion of course
The bass region has a very respectable and perfectly cohesive emphasis that doesn’t help in the Phoenixcall’s quest to sound “Gentle & relaxed” like they promoted. Actually, this set BANGS! The Phoenixcall is tuned with a larger emphasis, primarily in the mid-bass, but there’s still plenty of sub-rumble. Now, it isn’t that ultra punchy or snappy type bass, and it isn’t the hardest edged, but it is transient tight for the tuning and the amount of emphasis. I really enjoy how the bass melts into the rest of the mix.
Nice for the tuning
It certainly won’t be perfect for everyone as it isn’t the most concrete at note edges, but I’d think most people would love that the bass is very nicely defined and clean with good texture. What I really enjoy is that the bass is really just a nice part of a great whole on this set and not the focal point, apart from bass heavy tracks of course. There is nice note definition and the Phoenixcall hits HARD when the right track comes on. Another thing, it isn’t at all a one noted low end. There is a distinction between sub and mid bass. So, no it isn’t perfect but, it’s kinda perfect for the tuning.
The sub-bass has a nicely deep and resonant growl on a track like “What Happened to Virgil” by Lil Durk. The sub-bass has good mass and is quite solid with a satisfying haptic feel. Like I mentioned earlier, the bass isn’t the type which carries a hard edge or a wet edge, but it is certainly robust and sonorous. I liken it more to a hammer wrapped in cotton. Transient attack-to-release is rapid enough, keeping good control with plenty of tactile energy that adds some nice dimension and structure to the sound.
Another track is “Home Sweet Highway” by Ashley Mcbryde. The Phoenixcall provides a ton of authority as the bassline drops yet stays completely distinct from the rest of the melody surrounding it. Like I said, control is good, and the sub-bass stays in its own lane without overtaking anything else in the spectrum.
The greatest emphasis down low most definitely sounds like it resides in the mid-bass. This is without question. The Phoenixcall offers a good amount of slam yet does so in a very clean manner and never seems to disrupt the integrity of the midrange, but instead impacts it in a positive way. For instance, if you put on the right track like “Andromeda” by The Gorillaz which is a melting pot of other frequencies taking part in the song, I found the bass didn’t muddy up the sound at all. All I heard was clean and heavy bass rhythms that I could feel as well as gear and clean instruments and vocals surrounding that bass.
“Mammamia” by Måneskin has some heavy mid bass kick drum activity surrounded by hard metal with very swift and precise conjunctions of different instrumentation and the bass hits fast. I noticed the deftness and dexterity that the 7mm DD was able to attack and release with, all the while there is this sense of solid and bulbous immediacy to the sound. The thing is, it isn’t at all overdone and I don’t hear any distortion or anything flabby or soft. Bass guitar has a deep and meaty drone as seen in “Groove” by Ray Wylie Hubbard. This song rattles with a tight haptic buzz but also has some meat to the sound which is obviously helped by the mid-bass rise.
Downsides to the bass region
As far as issues pertaining to the low-end. There are surely going to be plenty of people who do not enjoy the hefty low-end that the Phoenixcall has. I likened the bass to a hammer wrapped in cotton as it isn’t the most solid at the note outline (at times) and actually is slightly flattened out and not as forward as you’d think. I suppose this has to do with the 7mm driver. One thing I will say is that with more power and at louder volumes I find the 7mm driver comes alive and almost tighten up a bit. Also, bassheads will likely want even more oomph down low.
The midrange is a harmonious effort by Celest to create a fun V-shaped set that doesn’t lose out in the midrange. What I don’t hear is some ultra recessed and dull midrange either, even though there is certainly a recession in the low-mids to mid-mids. Due to the mid-bass shelf, we do see a very slight warming of the lower midrange which in my opinion only benefitted male vocals as well as instrumentation, but I’ll get further into that next. The mids are very well separated with very good placement or imaging. The mids have nice coherency between all the different drivers without any glaring tonal shifts. Celest actually provided nice coherency as there is a fairly natural Blanding of the frequency.
I think that Celest took a V-shaped sound that has a colored type of approach and made it relatively organic and clean in its timbre. Some areas in the upper-mids come across slightly less natural but I’m not complaining. Transients are swift enough to not feel congested and the sound as a whole is very lush and somehow also pretty transparent. The midrange is also better detailed than most, but I’ll explain that more in a bit. Males sing with authority and gravitas while females are captured very well replaying the breathy nature of some or the powerful ballad of another. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t. There are some sets born and bred for the midrange. Is it very good for a V-shaped set? Yes, it is.
Males have the benefit of some added warmth from the low end, yet without the veil which sometimes can be associated with extra warmth. I believe they needed this extra body as there is a recession which pulls back this area of the mix. However, I don’t find the recession here to be much of an issue. In fact, males come across very well bodied with great note definition and actually sound pretty natural to life, in my opinion. Perhaps a hint held back but not attenuated or dull and not misrepresented.
“Where I Find God” by Larry Fleet found a home with the Phoenixcall. His voice is naturally edgy with his sharp southern drawl yet stentorian sound. Concurrently, this is exactly how the Phoenixcall renders the sound of his voice. There’s a certain measure of ductile solidity and control as Larry hits those higher chords and his voice doesn’t come across metallic or coarse as with most iems. The extra body and cleanliness helps to distinguish the low-mids to where any recession isn’t really a problem at all. Still, if possible it would be nice if Larry’s voice was a hair more forward.
Dermot Kennedy in the song “Rome” is emotionally gripping and it’s a requirement of an earphone to be able to capture this. You need some weight, you need some warmth, you need a crisp note edge, you need some good presence in the mix, some shimmer for the instrumentation and it’d also be nice to have good separation. The Phoenixcall does a decent enough job of nailing all of those prerequisites, but adds some extra depth to the sound as well. It’s very easy to see that the Phoenixcall does pretty nice with male vocalists, whether bass, baritone, tenor and every type in between they really aren’t bad for a V-shaped set.
I also love the Phoenixcall on the track “On My Way to You (Live)” by Cody Johnson. His vocal inflections are highlighted with a certain gravity that you can somehow feel. Perhaps in the bass of his undertones. Yet the intonations and cadence in his voice sound naturally structured to me.
Females sound more forward and more vibrant than males. They are uplifted and carry some good energy. Not perfectly natural but very captivating. The Phoenixcall has this cultivated ability to take a breathy singer like Gabrielle Aplin in “Half In Half Out” and replicate it well. She comes across very cleanly and vividly. The Phoenixcall is able to highlight the sensuality or sweetness of a female voice very well.
The track “Sensitive” by Megan Trainor can be a hint sharp during the chorus but there is some great and illuminated shimmer, almost a luster to this track. Certainly, there are sets in the price point that specialize in vocals which in my opinion nail down a female voice a bit better, but the Phoenixcall has this all-around ability to represent each area of the mix well while doing a damn fine job of replaying most any female voice.
One thing the Phoenixcall also adds is some spice in the upper midrange that some may be turned off by. For me personally, I don’t find it a problem, but it can sound a bit abrasive on some instruments and voices that hit those ear gain peaks. There is a give and take with any set and this is one area that some may be more susceptible to wincing. Again, I honestly don’t find it too sharp, I feel the Phoenixcall goes right to the ceiling of what is tolerable and stops short of breaking through that floor.
As far as instrumentation, these thoughts are greatly generalized. Keep that in mind. A lot of how a set sounds has to do with the actual recording or track, and also what source one is using makes a large difference too. That said, Instruments come across with nice note weight. This helps for piano to sound tuneful and bodied. Strings, for the most part, are actually nicely detailed with good harmonics. Percussion, like snares have a nicely sharp “pang” while the fundamental body of cymbal strikes are nicely rounded on most tracks. Again, these can change track to track, I am generalizing. Anyways, there are some instruments which partake in the upper areas of the midrange which can begin to sound less natural but for the most part I have nothing bad to say.
Downsides to the Midrange
In my mind, I think the biggest drawback of the mids would be the upper mid glare. Now, this will not be a problem for many hobbyists, and I only bring it up because it can occur in certain situations and some folks are very sensitive to it. Certainly not the norm. If you fancy a more neutrally tuned midrange than you may have issues with the Phoenixcall. Also, there is a recession in the midrange which effects the low-mids the most but honestly I didn’t find issue with it. Still, some may think this is a bigger issue. I can tell you that with my library of test tracks it was almost a benefit.
Truthfully, I think Celest did a fantastic job with the Phoenixcall midrange. I hear no sibilance at all, nothing at all metallic, without any BA timbre showing up. The sound is lush, weighted and smooth yet decently detailed, resolute and very musical.
The treble region is well executed, and one thing is for sure, Celest did great in blending the customized Balanced Armature with the two Micro-Planars Drivers. Another thing is for sure…those Planars are putting in work! Now, before I go further, I just want to say that the treble is not boosted to the max. There isn’t any forced resolution from any arbitrary lift in this region. The treble actually sounds pretty true to life. For the most part. There is almost a laid-back quality to the treble that I find non-offensive to my ears, all the while representing this region with enough of a lift to bring up the entire spectrum to a degree. Not too boosted and not too boring and dull. Celest did a nice job here folks.
The treble has a nice crispness to the leading edge at attack when needed and is very well detailed for not being overly boosted. Listening to Billy Strings “Ice Bridges” I am impressed at how speedy the Planar treble can be and how well they keep up. However, they don’t just keep up, they sound good in the process. Billy plays his banjo at breakneck speeds at times and not every set can complete every note and separate those notes, the Phoenixcall can. There is a roundness and punch that the Phoenixcall has up top which really ties a whole track together.
In the track “Don’t Say it’s Over” by Gaz Coombes the treble notes have a nicely bodied sound that doesn’t come across unnatural or tizzy at all. I don’t hear any sibilance either. There is a nice sparkle in this track which didn’t require an unnecessary boost. Also, I found the sound to be very melodic to my ears rather than processed sounding. More smooth than crisp but still very well defined on each and every treble note.
Another quality trait up top is the Phoenixcall’s ability to render details and all the micro-minutiae that really can take a track over the top. The resolution up top is very nice mixed with the speed of the drivers definitely helps to boost the macro and micro-details within the treble. Not class leading but very nice, nonetheless.
Downsides of the Treble Region
The treble is, in my humble opinion one of the better aspects of the Celest Phoenixcall. However, nothing in this audio game reaches perfection and thus…there are some subtle subjective issues. First off, there are some timbral issues on some instrumentation in this area. Granted it would take a keen ear to really hear such a thing, especially when casually listening. Also, the Treble could actually use a bit more roundness and structure. Again, these are things that most won’t even think to look for and it is a very picky thing on my part.
The soundstage is well laid out and pretty vast. It certainly isn’t congested or small at all. I found that width is above average as well as height, and the depth of field that the Phoenixcall has is actually quite nice too. There is definitely depth there. Obviously, depth isn’t the easiest thing to figure out all the time. I listen for layering and try to imagine where instruments and elements of a stage are positioned. Going through my tracks I’d say that the Phoenixcall is tuned to have a nice sized stage that won’t disappoint. This is evidenced in the song “Hook” by Blues Traveler. The song fills my entire mindscape from ear to ear with just as good volume at the outstretch of the field of sound as I hear in the center of it.
Separation / Imaging
As far as the ability of the Phoenixcall to separate elements of the stage, such as instrumentation and vocals; the Phoenixcall is very well done within the price point. At least from the sets that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. I find it very easy to discern every distinct instrument providing the recording I’m listening to is halfway decent. Imaging is the same, very well laid out. Right to left and front to back seems spot-on with nice layering of sounds. There are multiple likely reasons for the Phoenixcall to excel in these areas and part of those reasons is the highly resolving sound, the nice transients and the drivers working so well in tandem to create a well laid out imaginary scene. The only time things begin to blend even slightly is in bass heavy tracks, but even then, it’s rare.
Detail retrieval is fantastic in the upper portions of the mix and quite nice in the rest. The sound is clean, separated, open, and pretty quick for having such a warm and smooth V-shaped tuning. Truthfully, so long as you aren’t listening to some bass heavy track then I think you’ll really be impressed with the Phoenixcall and its ability to draw the small stuff to the surface. I pick up tiny details that get missed on other sets. Thumbs up here for sure.
Letshuoer X-Gizaudio Galileo ($109)
Oh, the Galileo! How I have enjoyed you. Truly a wonderful iem at an awesome price which is so very competitive on the market. The Galileo comes equipped with a hybrid setup of 1DD & 1BA. Built decently yet absolutely gorgeous the faceplates on the Galileo are very striking. Yet the build may leave a bit to be desired. Not bad though and good for the price. The Galileo is actually the lovechild of a collaboration effort between Letshuoer and Timmy Vangtan of Gizaudio (YouTube channel). It’s a great set with a more neutral and smoother take on tuning which is very nice to hear.
Let’s begin with build quality. This is a pretty easy thing to spot, the Phoenixcall is surely the better and more premium built iem of the two. I also happen to think the Phoenixcall is the better-looking set, but it could go either way. Certainly, the Phoenixcall is the more artistically inspired iem. Both sets offer great comfort, and both can be worn for hours with no issue. Now, the Phoenixcall has the warmer yet more resolving sound while the Galileo is less dynamic and closer to neutral.
As we look at the bass region it is pretty evident that the Phoenixcall has much more of a haptic rumble and bass slam. The Phoenixcall simply was tuned with a greater emphasis. The Galileo has a softer note edge and a smoother low end to the Phoenixcall’s robust and decisive low end. The Phoenixcall flat-out hits harder and has a lot better authority to its sound next to the Galileo. Better textured and cleaner.
The Galileo begins to show it’s worth in this area where the midrange sits more forward as the Galileo almost specializes in vocal delivery. One thing is for sure the Phoenixcall can’t pull off the natural sounding and smooth vocals like Galileo. Galileo is certainly more forward in the low-mids yet with a thinner note body to a degree. The Phoenixcall on the other hand is warmer, thicker and certainly has better note definition. The upper mids have a relaxed sound on the Galileo whereas there is a touch more energy with a more vivacious sound for the Phoenixcall. The Phoenixcall also has a more technical sound in this area. Though, I would say the Galileo has a more tonally accurate upper-midrange.
The treble region of both sets is nicely done. Both are more laid back but out of the two the Phoenixcall has the better detailed experience. The Galileo has a smooth treble which glides over the intricate details in my music. This doesn’t make it worse either. It’s just tuned for ease of listening over everything else. The Phoenixcall is snappy, has a bite to it up top and has better definition to notes.
As far as stage size I’d give the nod to the Phoenixcall. Slightly wider (but that’s up for debate) about the same in height but the Phoenixcall has the upper hand in depth of field. Separation is better in the Phoenixcall as well with superior imaging. Of course, details also go to the Phoenixcall.
In the end
looking at these two iems I find they are very different from each other. I find the Phoenixcall a bit more musical and dynamically charged with larger macro-dynamics, bigger bass, snappier treble. The Galileo is the carefree Sunday morning type listen with vocals that will melt in your mind and nothing overdone. Both are tuned very well but both are also tuned very much different which should attract a different style listener. For me personally,
Hidizs MS3 ($169)
The Hidizs MS3 is surely one of the best iems in its price point so long as the tuning fits your preferences. I for one adore this set. I actually reviewed it a couple months ago HERE. However, it is certainly an iem that anyone who is thinking of picking up the Phoenixcall should probably also take a look at. The MS3 is a three driver Hybrid with 1DD & 2BA’s and is an absolute overachiever. The MS3 comes equipped with three different tuning nozzles to change up the sound to your liking. Truly an awesome set.
As far as build quality is concerned, both sets are built quite differently, and both are equally as impressive. The MS3 has an all-metal design and is built like a tank while the Phoenixcall is all-resin and absolutely solid. Both are fantastic. It all comes down to preferences really. Obviously the Phoenixcall is a bit lighter and the MS3 is a bit heftier. Both sets offer a premium design, premium accessories and both are contenders for anyone’s interest in the price point. Now, the MS3 is about $40 more but close, nonetheless. The MS3 is more Harman tuned while the Phoenixcall is more V-shaped. MS3 is not as warm in tonal color as the Phoenixcall.
Beginning with the bass region I find the Phoenixcall to have more sub-bass rumble & slightly more mid-bass impact and slam. Both sets offer a nicely dense rumble for different genres. Honestly neither are better than the other as both sets offer a clean and dynamic bass. Probably the Phoenixcall has a slight bit less clarity, but it is marginal at best. Phoenixcall certainly is closer to basshead than the MS3. However, both sets can bang, both are rather detailed, and both are not simply “one-noted” affairs.
The lower mids of the MS3 are more forward compared to the Phoenixcall yet for whatever reason both flavors the sound nicely. I truly don’t know which I like better. The MS3 may be more forward but also, they are thinner here. This flips when speaking of the upper-mids and female vocals which come across a hint more forward on the Phoenixcall. What we have is two different approaches and coincidentally both are truly wonderful tuning options. I’d say the MS3 is a bit more linear across the midrange while the Phoenixcall has a bit more dynamism as well as a thicker note weight. Both are rather well detailed in the mids.
The treble of both sets is nicely accentuated and, but the Phoenixcall has the snappier treble with a bit better treble bite. I think the difference between the Planars of the Phoenixcall, and the BAs of the MS3 begins to show its face when a/b comparing them. The Planars are simply faster it seems with a tighter transient attack. The MS3 is smoother up top and a hint less fatiguing. Both have their ways of depicting the upper regions and again, I like em both. I will say that the Phoenixcall has better detail retrieval and is a bit more technically sound. However, the MS3 probably has the more natural timbre.
As far as detail retrieval I would hand that to the Celeste Phoenixcall. It simply resolves some of the subtle little things better. Not by some monumental amount though. The Phoenixcall separates elements within the stage better and imaging in my opinion is a bit better on the Phoenixcall. However, I feel both sets offer a more holographic stage that is above average in size.
In the end
These are two dope sets friends. If you asked me, I couldn’t tell you which I like better. The Phoenixcall is a bit more auditorily expressive with bigger dynamism and the MS3 is a bit better balanced across the mix. Both sets are very musical. Honestly if you told me that you liked the MS3 better I would understand why. In the same breath, if you told me that you enjoyed the Phoenixcall more… I’d get it. Both are fantastic.
Is it worth the asking price?
This is probably one of the easier questions to answer for me because I believe the Phoenixcall is very much worth the asking price. I’m not saying it’s a kilo-buck buster, but the Phoenixcall is easily worth the $129 that Celest is asking for it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it should compete much higher price points either as it is priced fairly as far as sound is concerned. Still, even with all the competition in the price point… the Phoenixcall seems to excel.
Folks, think of all the tribrid iems that sit pretty under $150…I’m waiting. “Surely there are loads of DD/BA/Planar sets that will rival the Phoenixcall”? The truth is, the Phoenixcall is a unique iem that is very good for the price. Yet there are certainly issues with the tuning as it isn’t exactly balanced across the mix and will likely be at least somewhat polarizing to the community. Despite that, it sounds great in my opinion.
The Phoenixcall is an ultra-unique iem that looks like nothing else in the Audioverse. The theme is genius, along with a design language that is completely fresh, unbelievably dope, and totally clean looking. You get a nice set of accessories with nice tips, a case that is pocketable and one of the better-looking cables in the price range. Really though, my friends…it’s the sound which I feel truly puts this $129 iem within the top heap of its class of competitors. Of course, this is a wholly subjective opinion and statement. Like I said earlier in the review, the Phoenixcall is simply musical, and every other benefit of the tuning is simply icing on the cake. I truly don’t think that you can go wrong with this set for the asking price.
Note: all ratings are based upon my subjective judgment. These ratings are garnered against either similarly priced sets or with similar driver implementations or styles with the unique parameters of my choosing. In the case of the Celest Phoenixcall ratings below, that would be $100-$150 iems in any driver configuration. Please remember that “ratings” don’t tell the whole story. This leaves out nuance and a number of other qualities which make an iem what it is. A “5” is exactly average and please take into consideration the “lot” of iems these ratings are gathered against. $100 – $150 US is a HUGE scope of iems. My ratings are never the same and each set of ratings tells a different story. Each time you read one of my ratings it will be unique to that review. Basically, I create a Rating that makes sense to me.
-Build Quality: 9.0
To receive a 9.1 overall in sound quality in this loaded price bracket of $100 – $150 US is a pretty big deal. If you read my little note before this section than you know that these ratings are garnered against any iem type or any driver configuration. Obviously, I feel that the Phoenixcall is at the top of the heap as far as iems go in this range. However, there are some questionable judgments on my part. That just goes with the territory though. However, I stand by my ratings as I deliberate for way too long on them. If any of you have read any of my reviews, then you know I hate ratings. They tell nothing of nuance and simply judge portions of a “thing”. But you all seem to like them, I certainly hope you read my “Notes”.
So, the questionable calls on my part begin with “Timbre”. There are some subtle timbre issues in the upper midrange and parts of the treble. Perhaps they will get worked out with further tips changes or more play time (burn-in/listen-in)? Still, I say that timbre is an 8.5 but in reality, I like the timbre as it is. I would give it a 9.7 for me personally! I like the color; I like the added emphasis. Still, it isn’t completely natural so…8.5.
Also “Midrange” gets a lower rating than what I would personally give the Phoenixcall. If this was ‘to me‘ and ‘for me‘, I would give the Phoenixcall a score of over 9.5. I like the middrange and feel that Celest did a remarkable job, but if I’m judging in an audiophile and bland way, I have to give it a lower rating for the recession in the lower Mids. There are sets that specialize in this region that do definitely do it better, so I dropped the midrange score down to 8.9. Folks, I sit for way too long thinking about this mindless stuff and it’s all for you. I hope you feel special! There are other very debatable scores, so I don’t have an issue with anyone who disagrees. In fact, it’d be odd if everyone did agree.
To conclude my full written review of the Celest Phoenixcall I want to thank the store HiFiGo who are so great to work with. They have awesome people, and their catalogue of products is freaking huge! Anyways, thank you to them and thank you to Lvy as well. Also, thank you to anyone who chooses to read any word that I write. You put your trust in me to tell you exactly what I think, and you put your faith in me that I am being honest with my thoughts. This mean a lot to me, and I take pride in keeping my integrity in-tact. So, thanks.
However, if you’ve read my words than please get right back on the web and read other thoughts as well. Don’t just stop at me. We are all so very much different friends. We all have different likes and dislikes, different music libraries, different gear (important), different hearing, and we all haven’t been down the same audio journey (most important). What one person thinks and feels is only correct to them, please remember this!! We are individual and human and not even one of us are correct across the board. Even those that you’ve placed on an audio pedestal, they are only correct as far as their own ears and how it’s perceived into their own unique temporal lobe. Thats just the truth.
Take care, stay safe, God Bless
I love to write; it is a fantastic escape for me to spill my thoughts out to you people and with all my heart I simply want to help you out in a purchasing decision. Besides a review unit (sometimes), I get nothing for these reviews’ friends, I am paid nothing as well and wouldn’t accept if I was offered. I do have a good day job and a couple measly dollars isn’t worth my integrity…ever! Well, that’s all that I have to say, please take care, stay safe and always…God Bless!