In the last couple years, ThieAudio has churned out a lot of IEMs, the majority of which I’d be hard-pressed to remember off the top of my head. Nonetheless, an IEM that unmistakably carved its mark was the Clairvoyance. The Clairvoyance alongside its twin, the Monarch, were the IEMs that most will associate with being at the front of the "tri-hybrid" (three types of drivers in an IEM) wave in late 2020. Sure, the Clairvoyance had its issues - namely being too blunted and forgiving for its own good - but it was a pleasant enough IEM that I at least found myself mostly indifferent to. The release of the Clairvoyance's baby brother, the Oracle, a 1DD/2BA/2EST setup, more or less maintained this trend. And now we have the Oracle MKII, a successor that clocks in at $589 with the same driver configuration. Let's see how it fares on the chopping block given the positive reception that another successor in the ThieAudio lineup, the Monarch MKII, has recently found.
This unit was provided for review by Linsoul. You can purchase the Oracle MKII here. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.
What we like
- Possibly will appeal to those who felt Oracle was too relaxed
- Good sense of clarity and imaging
What we don’t like
- Sounds compressed for dynamics
- Strident upper-midrange and potentially harsh mid-treble
- Bass could use more control
Source & Drivability
All critical listening was done off of an iBasso DX300 and iPhone 13 Mini. The stock cable and silicone tips were used. The Oracle MKII takes a moderate amount of power to drive; however, I had no trouble getting it to my usual listening volumes of ~70dB. If you'd like to learn more about my listening methodology and beliefs in audio, then I would encourage you to check out this page.
Not much has changed about the presentation of the Oracle MKII from its predecessor, and the following accessories are included:
- Silicone ear tips s/m/l
- Foam ear tips s/m/l
- 2-pin 0.78mm cable w/ 3.5mm termination
- 2.5/4.4mm swappable terminations
- Carrying case
- Microfiber cloth
The included cable has a slightly thick diameter with a hint of rubber-y texture to the sheath. Cable hardware is anodized black aluminum. Overall, this cable does feel a bit cheap to me, but I appreciate the inclusion of an interchangeable 4-pin connector for every major termination.
Instead of the hard plastic, Pelican-esque case that was paired with the original Oracle, we’ve seen a return to the lightweight, zippered-case that is included with the ThieAudio Monarch MKII and V16 Divinity IEMs. On the inside of the case is a mesh pocket for storing accessories. It’s a case that’s on the larger side - you probably won’t be pocketing it - and somewhat cheap feeling, but it gets the job done.
The Oracle itself has an attractive black faceplate with red-orange flakes and silver foil interspersed throughout. It is a small-ish IEM that I had no issues wearing for a couple of hours. As usual, fit and comfort are subjective to the end user.
Frequency response shown below was measured off of a clone IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz. As such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate. If you’d like to compare the Oracle MKII to other IEMs that I have measured, please see here.
Let’s take a step back to the Clairvoyance and the original Oracle. Both were IEMs that leaned into a “warm and pleasant” ethos by virtue of a well-balanced midrange and generally more downwards-sloping treble response. While pleasing tonally, a common criticism of these IEMs were that they lacked a sense of clarity and excitement to them. Generally speaking, the Oracle MKII aims to address this deficiency. As for whether it does so ideally, however, is much more open to debate. Let’s dig deeper.
The bass of the Oracle MKII is slightly more sub-bass focused than its predecessors. The curvature of the shelf itself sounds fairly reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Buds, and truthfully, it doesn't fare much better from an intangible standpoint. Sure, the Oracle MKII’s bass is a smidge better in A/B, but not enough to change my impression that bass lines generally come across somewhat puckered, blurred around the edges, and subsequently lacking in slam. I think the most positive thing I can say about this bass response is that it’s at least inoffensive: it sounds like an average DD with good frequency response.
Moving upwards, unfortunately, this is where things do take a turn for being offensive. Let me emphasize that the Clairvoyance and Oracle were IEMs that were largely praised for their pleasant midrange tonality. By contrast, the Oracle MKII eschews this formula for something out of the Harman target playbook. And not in a good way either. It generally triggers - to me - the disturbing mental image of an anemic runway model. This seems to stem from two prime aberrations: 1) a depression at 1-3kHz, and 2) an excess of 3-5kHz. The excess of 3-5kHz is most noticeable on first listen with a thin and what I can only describe as icy quality to female vocals. The scoop from 1-3kHz is more subtle, as it’s a tuning decision often employed to enhance a sense of spaciousness between instruments. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of charisma that seems robbed from mixes like Brett Young's "Catch" (he almost sounds...sleazy?) and The Rose's "She's in the Rain". The issues with the latter track are compounded thanks to its abundance of real guitars and cymbals. There's a more raw quality to the mastering of this track, and the plucks on the acoustic guitar are well-delineated but sound plasticky on the Oracle MKII.
Speaking of cymbals, the Sonion ESTATs on the Oracle MKII clearly have a new implementation to them. Whereas previous implementations of these drivers on the Oracle and Clairvoyance were relatively laidback and somewhat blurry in attack, the Oracle MKII's treble puts more emphasis on the mid-treble regions from 10-15kHz. In fact, too much if you’re asking me. Cymbals sound overly splashy to the way they clash. There's a quality to them when they fade out, and to a lot of shaker-like sounds in general, that reminds me of tin foil rubbing tin foil. Sure, the Oracle MKII's pure extension is great and its treble looks good on paper, but subjectively, it comes across as cheap sounding and artificially strained. I think the takeaway is that the frequencies past 10kHz are difficult to nail down; this strays too far into left field for me.
Despite what the adjustments to its tuning might suggest, I don’t find the Oracle MKII to be a particularly remarkable IEM for a sense of technical performance. Like its predecessor, the Oracle MKII sounds dampened in a bad way. It's genuinely difficult to put my finger on why this is the case. The Oracle MKII takes a lot of power to drive, almost as much as the Symphonium Helios (one of the most difficult IEMs to drive I have in my arsenal). But even with volume matching, the Oracle MKII sounds surprisingly flat and boring. Detail screams surface level, possibly because of the double whammy of the overly zealous upper-midrange and mid-treble. Even as a lower volume listener, I constantly find myself forced to turn down the volume more because of how strident the Oracle MKII comes across. Sure, as with most IEMs that have these characteristics, the Oracle MKII’s imaging is above average…but at what cost?
The Bottom Line
Per usual, I need to disclaim the Oracle MKII is not a bad IEM in its own right, as few IEMs really are. But I genuinely struggle to see why I would choose the Oracle MKII over the original Oracle. And that's not to mention IEMs like the DUNU SA6 or the Moondrop Variations which, while of somewhat different flavors, I think are superior IEMs overall. I'd prefer not to get too nebulous, but I find it difficult to grasp the artistic vision behind the Oracle MKII. It sounds like it was made because someone said they wanted a successor to the Oracle, not because it was actually needed. And now look at how they massacred my boy.