Oriolus Traillii Review - The Caged Bird
Do I even need to introduce the Oriolus Traillii? Well, just in case you’ve been living under a rock, this is the most hyped IEM in recent memory on Head-Fi. To date, there has not been a negative review or impression that I could find about the Traillii on Head-Fi. I repeat: not a single, negative impression. That’s truly uncanny, and suffice it to say that the Traillii’s reputation precedes it. Of course, that reputation might also have to do with the staggering $6000 - oops, scratch that - $6600 price tag, following a recent price increase from the manufacturer due to inability to keep up with demand! I think it's clear that the hype train for this IEM is real, and I've even had many readers predicting this would be the "end-all-be-all" IEM for me. Boy, does that put some serious expectations on my shoulders. But of course, I'm a reviewer. My job is to isolate and to assess an IEM's sonic quality devoid of the hype, thereby affording a more accurate, objective assessment of the IEM in question.
So before you read any further, I need to spell it out plainly: This will be a critical review. It is important to remember that there is a distinction between being critical and being plain unfair. Thus, I will do my best to explain and back-up why I hear what I’m hearing. As always though, I’m just one guy, so I encourage readers not to live through my reviews too vicariously. This also means that if you own a Traillii or enjoy it, there's neither need to justify it to me, nor let me detract from your enjoyment.
This IEM was sent to me for review by a very generous reader and was purchased directly from Musicteck (the only distributor for the Oriolus Traillii at this time). Thank you! At the end of the review period, it will be returned. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.
Source & Drivability
These days most critical listening gets done off of my iBasso DX300 and iPhone X with lossless files. I used the stock cable (eventually opting to swap it for a more pliable DUNU DUW-02) and the stock tips with the Traillii. The Traillii’s a wee bit more difficult to drive, but I had no trouble running it off of any sources. All comparisons made in this review were done with direct A/B between the IEMs in question.
Freq. Response: 20Hz-40kHz
Driver configuration: 8BA/4EST
So, what accessories do you get with your very, very expensive $6000 IEM? It turns out not very much. The Traillii arrives in a nondescript, cardboard box. Inside you’ll find a large, custom VanNuys case. The VanNuys case contains the IEMs wrapped around a cable reel and, underneath, what looks like an OEM assortment of silicon tips, foam tips, a cleaning tool, and a shirt clip. Yeah, weak sauce. Or at least certainly not “holy cow, you just dropped enough money to buy a car” sauce, if you’re asking me.
But maybe, just maybe the cable can salvage this. Hmm, I wonder about that. The included stock cable is modeled after the PW Audio 1960’s cable, a cable that is supposedly valued to the tune of more than a kilobuck. Why? Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you. The heat shrink wrap at the 4.4mm termination hasn’t been cut consistently. The plastic wraps for the respective ear guides have been cut at different lengths. The wooden Y-splitter has stray splintering - evidence of less than stellar workmanship - and the text hasn’t even been stamped centered. And the cable is bulky and microphonic to top it off. Lest you think this is an isolated case, no, I had similar sentiments about the other cables I’ve handled from this brand in the past. Without even going down the avenue of sonic quality, I sincerely don’t get it. This cable does seem to be SN:768 though, so hey, maybe I’m the crazy one.
The Traillii itself is constructed of acrylic resin and sports a muted, red faceplate with gold lines and default brand text on top. I know what you’re thinking: Does it look better in real life? Maybe it’s just difficult to capture how good it actually looks in a photo? If you’re asking me, the answer is no. And if it comes off underwhelming to you, like it does to myself, then I would encourage you to take advantage of the variety of custom faceplates Oriolus also has available. As for what I actually like about this design, it would probably be the use of recessed, 2-pin connectors. This’ll prevent undue strain on the IEM’s connector joints from the more heavy stock cable. The shell is also completely clear, so you’re afforded a unique view of the components being utilized inside. For fit and comfort, the Traillii strays toward the larger side, but nothing I wasn’t able to get accustomed to after a couple days.
Full disclosure, these images have been edited because I'd prefer to keep my review from looking too drab.
That’s a lot of roasting and we haven’t even gotten to the actual sound! Thankfully, if there’s one aspect with which the Trailli (sort of) delivers, it’s in this department. But let me remind you that this should be nothing less than expected given that the Trailli is $6000.
The Trailli’s tuning is somewhat difficult to pinpoint, as it seems to mesh elements from popular tunings here and there. Overall, I would consider it to be along the lines of a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” tuning. It’s a more laidback presentation that isn’t out to wow listeners on first listen, but that is well-balanced and tries to emphasize coherency.
The above measurement was taken off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at ~8kHz; as such, measurements after that point should not be considered necessarily accurate.
Bass: The bass of the Trailli is characterized by a generous, controlled sub-bass curve, followed by a slight push past 200hZ to lend some more warmth to the lower-midrange. Not bad on the tuning front; of course, intangibles are another matter entirely. And hey, it’s pretty decent actually: Notes are rendered cleanly and even with a little more “oomph” than your average BA monitor. Is the Trailli better than the likes of the 64 Audio U12t or the Hidition Violet at bass, though? I certainly don’t think so. The dynamic range of the Trailli’s bass skews middle-to-upwards compressed, and it doesn’t sound nearly as sweet and fluid as the aforementioned, BA bass benchmarks. Anything with a heavy, successive bassline like Dreamcatcher’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” starts sounding monotonous to me, and I’d imagine this holds even more true with tracks tokening natural instruments. As a result, the Trailli’s bass takes a back seat for me; it’s not the star of the show.
Midrange: The midrange of the Traillii is interesting. It seems to fall somewhere between a reference tuning and what some might call a more relaxed, “Western” tuning. To this end, you have slightly more warmth in the lower-midrange and less pinna compensation than would qualify a reference tuning, but it’s followed by a small bump at 4kHz so that the presence region with female vocals is actually slightly forward. I couldn’t detect any issues with shout or sibilance, and I think this has been nicely done. Listening to IU's "Blueming," the Traillii neither sounds overly gritty nor totally smoothed over in decay, which is a pleasant surprise for my preferences. The Trailli has aptly danced the knife’s edge here too, although it has some intangible issues I'll explore later.
Treble: Not so pleasant surprises? Well, the Traillii’s treble is nothing special; particularly, in a manner not dissimilar to the plethora of mediocre, Sonion EST implementations that I’ve heard in the past. Not only is the Trailli’s treble response questionable from a raw tuning perspective (given how much it scoops out), but it’s also a couple steps further behind in the intangible department. Take for example Girls Generation’s “Into the New World” and the percussive hits in the front channel, ever-so-slightly left, from 0:10 to 0:25 seconds in: they sound soft and lack attack incisiveness. That’s probably not helped by the Traillii’s lower-treble recession, but along the lines of incisiveness, it’s a matter of speed too. There’s a lot of quick, playful background shimmer and sparkle to the track that the Traillii just seems to blur over. Sheer extension on the Traillii is also not impressive, only matching a $700 benchmark like the Thieaudio Clairvoyance at best (and decidedly falling short of, say, the Moondrop S8).
Something else I noticed about the Traillii's treble response is that it's pretty coherent; it doesn't sound disjoint from the rest of the IEM. Why? That's because, according to select sources, there's actually six drivers being used for the treble in the Traillii. Much of the treble is being tokened by its two Sonion E50DT0005/T tweeters; the Sonion ESTs themselves aren't really doing much. You can see why for such a costly IEM with 4 ESTs, in my opinion only, the overall treble response here is disappointing. It demonstrates a decided lack of understanding of what a true EST implementation - heck, of what proper treble production altogether - should sound like. The tonality issues are compounded by the fact that the Traillii’s bass is nothing special against the other heavy-hitters in the IEM world, even within the context of maligned BA bass.
For technicalities, the Traillii is pretty refined. I don’t find it a particularly aggressive transducer; however, there is a good sense of macro-dynamic contrast with which I found myself jacking the volume up-and-down to compensate initially. It’s overall resolving ability is also near the top. Notes are articulated very crisply in the midrange, and there is a strong sense of detail being present that I don’t otherwise think about on lesser transducers. Again, it’s just that lackluster treble response which makes me hesitant to say the Traillii’s at the top for this technical metric.
Overall imaging is decent. The good part? The Trailli has top-tier layering and excels at positional cues. Especially with instruments panned directly to the left and right, the Traillii sounds pretty darn wide. The problem, then, lies in a lack of soundstage height and depth. The poor depth should come as no surprise (most all IEMs lack depth in my opinion), but height is another matter. When the vocalist Nanami enters on Sawano Hiroyuki’s “N0VA” at 0:10 from the side channels, her voice just sounds small. Perhaps that partly explains why everything has a well-defined position on the Traillii’s stage; nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that the Traillii fails to capture stage ambiance as well as it should. This perception isn’t aided by the Traillii’s lack of note density. Not to be confused with note weight, the tonal thickness or thinness of notes, note density has more to do with the intangible “BA timbre” that you’ll often see complained about. The Traillii isn’t the worst offender I’ve heard in this department, but I think it could do better.
I also don’t complain about micro-dynamics often - the nuance of individual instrument lines - but they leave desiring on the Traillii. There's a lot of tasteful textural nuance and vividness that's missing. Scotty McCreery sounds leaner and slightly etched with melancholy on “Five More Minutes” and the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” loses that breathy, analog quality. But I think this really gnawed at me most on Taeyeon’s “I,” a track I’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Taeyeon doesn’t radiate her usual lustre, and Verbal Jint’s rap verses lack intensity and confidence. It ends up sounding less an expression of identification and self-love than it does a wallowing of self-pity and detachment. To lend context, this is from direct A/B with not only my Genelec G2s, but also with the 64 Audio U12t which I wouldn't even consider a particularly strong performer in this department.
If I’ve lost you, then let’s just say that music doesn't move me on the Traillii like I know it should. Maybe if one enjoys a slightly more “ethereal,” laidback presentation this will have its appeal, but it’s pushing it for me. Likewise, the Traillii is a coherent and smooth listen to be sure. Again, I will commend it for that. But I cannot help but feel that it’s sacrificed something - something essential to my enjoyment - as a result.
Am I being too critical? Or worse, am I bullying the Traillii? I certainly don’t think so. A multi-kilobuck price tag comes with expectations, and I have simply assessed the Traillii to them accordingly. For most listeners, the Traillii will be an IEM with which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It has to be, because there’s nothing about it in isolation that is better than my current IEM benchmarks. And yet, I struggle to say the Trailli is truly a decided upgrade over some of the other jack-of-all-trades IEMs on the market. Sure, the Traillii does sound pretty darn good; good enough, in fact, to compete with a lot of the IEM big boys. But it’s also overpriced. Severely. For the paltry sum of six grand, you’d think the bare minimum would be blowing a listener away on the front of sound quality. This doesn’t. At least not for me. Blame me for being a cold-hearted critic, or blame Oriolus for setting unrealistic expectations with their prices. Either way, the Bird has flown high for far too long and I think it’s about time it came back down to earth where it belongs.
- Aimer - Hakuchuumu
- David Nail - Let It Rain
- Everglow - DUN DUN
- Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
- Illenium - Broken Ones
- Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
- Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
- Keiichi Okabe - Weight of the World (NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack)
- Sabai - Million Days
- Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
- Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
- Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance