Simphonio Dragon2+ – The Balanced Dragon
Simphonio Dragon 2+ is an expensive earbud, no silicone tips, but more of a classical earbud shape. This is the most expensive earbud we’ve heard, and most probably the most interesting one as well, but we won’t be easy on it, just because of its 300 USD asking price, which means we have quite some expectations from it.
Simphonio is a super friendly and super reliable company from China, which after you get to know, you’ll be really happy to work with. They stand firmly behind their products, and they created and designed some awesome IEMs, like the Xctied/2 IEM we recently reviewed. They sure have a taste for slightly strange names for their products, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and Xcited/2 surely impressed us with its sonic quality, so we can do nothing but be ready for Dragon2+, although, we’ll name it Dragon during the review, and we will be very strict when reviewing it as it is priced a bit higher than Xctied/2 and needs to convince us of its quality for the money.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Simphonio, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Simphonio or anyone else. I’d like to thank Simphonio for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Simphonio’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Simphonio Dragon2+. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Simphonio Dragon2+ find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
Dragon 2+ actually comes in what we can call an even better package than the already well-packaged Xcited/2. The overall package is larger, and the presentation is more luxurious, although the colors of the packaging are probably something more common in some specific cultures rather than in Romania and the things we’re used to seeing.
Since this is not an in-ear monitor, the package is quite a bit different. There are no silicone tips, but there are sponge ones, although they all seem to be of the same size.
There is a leather carrying case included with Dragon 2+, and it looks pretty nice, being a bright and lively orange color.
There is a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, as Dragon2+ comes with balanced original cables and needs this adapter to work with single ended cables.
The package is quite large, and offers a nice presentation, and while we can’t say that the contents are the most expansive for the price, they surely include everything needed to enjoy Dragon2+.
What to look in when purchasing an entry-level Earbud
Starting with the build quality, it is slightly different than what we’re used to seeing when reviewing an in-ear. Dragon has a very lightweight earbud part, that is almost lighter than the cable it is attached to, but they feel incredibly sturdy, being made from what looks like a really well-reinforced plastic.
The cables seem to be of incredibly good quality, they are braided, cooper, and they are balanced. Dragon2 is probably the only IEM we know of which comes with a Balanced cable from the factory. The cable feels really nice, isn’t very springy, but it doesn’t feel cheap or too flexible.
Aesthetically speaking, Dragon feels as good as we’d expect an earbud to feel and to look like. They have a finely printed font written on it, the whole earbud combines really well together and simply feels and looks top notch, for an earbud. The color is a galaxy-black with a black plastic all-around, but with a starry and glimerry texture all over it.
Other than that, they will surely not look very expensive while being worn, so if that’s a concern to you while you travel, or while out and about, Dragon2 will surely not attract any unwanted attention, like something like a large headphone or flashy IEM would do.
And now, the comfort. The comfort is earbud-y. This means that if your ear works well with earbuds, it will work well with Dragon2, but if it doesn’t then it won’t. We know people whose ears simply work much better with earbuds than with IEMs, there are people who simply prefer the earbud shape and feeling, even without using any of the sponge attached, and they are usually incredibly happy with how an earbud feels like, but there are also ears that do not work well with earbuds and people who can’t stand those. We recommend you to purchase any 1$ earbud and test how well your ear can fit one if you’re not sure. For the record, from the people who tested it during the review, we had both a few users who loved the fit, and users who didn’t get such a good fit.
Dragon2+ comes fitted with Balanced cables, thing which is quite unique, even in the world of already unique high-end earbuds. They can be connected straight to a 2.5mm balanced output from DAPs like FiiO X5-3, or Cayin N5ii, or they can be connected to any 3.5mm Single Ended (Normal) outputs from any Music Player, by using the included adapter.
All in all, the build quality is quite good and it has the golden level for it, but the comfort will vary widely with users, due to the earbud typical shape, so we can’t commend neither say it is bad, just that it will be personal.
The sound quality of a high-end Earbud. Now, when you think of earbuds, if you’re about the same age as us, or older, you probably remember that first 1$-3$ earbud that came with your 256MB MP3 Player, or the earbud that came with your CD Player. You might remember some things about its sound, like a sweet midrange, or not knowing what sub-bass was, or not having any treble.
We most certainly remember a lot of sweet memories of those old MP3 Players and how those ascended by doubling in storage capacity at 2-3 years intervals until we had an MP3 Player of 512 MB of storage, full of Linkin Park, Eminem and other music that we probably don’t listen to quite as much these days, but still find well-recorded and interesting.
Now, you need to let go of those definitions for an earbud before you read about Dragon2+. We need to do that as well, this is a 300 USD Product that needs rigorous criticizing and reviewing.
Starting with the sub-bass, depending on your fit, you’ll have a good to a moderate sub-bass, but it still is there and it is quite good. The rest of the bass is quite quick, and has a fairly good extension, especially for an earbud, but in quantity, it will always be below the midrange and the upper midrange / lower treble.
The midrange is extremely clear, well detailed, and most of all, really really wide sounding. Both male and female vocals sound natural, have really good timbre and texture to them, and pretty much all instruments sound really vivid and energetic. The overall midrange sounds engaging and keeps one in the music. The highest amount of impact comes from the midrange / upper midrange, where most of the energy is in Dragon2+. Music like Jazz all the way to pop sounds live and interesting, music comes off as lively on an overall level.
The treble is less in amount than the midrange, but not by much, Dragon2+ being bright enough to be interesting and to keep music exciting. The treble has a smoother texture, without grain, so it is ever so slightly soft in presentation, but has a good amount to stay interesting even for rock and metal music.
The resolving abilities of Dragon2+ are fairly within what we’d expect from a 300 USD earphone, along with the detail, while the sub-bass is a little fit dependent, and even with the best fit the sub-bass is a little shy for something like metal, where the pedals feel a little soft, but it should be noted that the midbass is warm enough to work well for rock, even for Pink Floyd and for older rock. Metal tends to sound a little happy on Dragon2+, but this isn’t bad, it just means that something that’s supposed to be harsh might be handed to the listener in a slightly happier mood.
This kind of signature works really well with anything really, the main reason for that being the soundstage. If there’s anything that would be a weaker point of Dragon2+’s signature, that would most probably be Rap and Hip-Hop, where more bass would be welcome, but otherwise, we’d probably say that Dragon2+ is as impressive as a Grado headphone, especially in the sweet midrange, but with a slightly softer treble that is more inviting for long hours of listening.
This is a point that needs to be taken seriously into account. We feel that their soundstage is partially given by their earbud shape, which allows in general for wider soundstage, like we’ve noted when we reviewed FiiO EM3 a few years ago. Even so, some earbuds don’t manage to portray the same width and depth to the soundstage, like Apple earbuds, and no 1$ will manage to portray the soundstage in such a convincing way.
The main thing you need to note is the width, as Dragon2+ has a really really wide soundstage. It is as wide as some open-back headphones, and even more. Of course, HD800S from Sennheiser will be wider in their soundstage, but we’re comparing a 300 USD Earbud with one of the most expensive TOTL Headphones that is well above 2K USD.
The depth of the soundstage is also quite impressive and they expand well on all axis, thing quite surprising for an Earbud.
The imaging is also quite good, along with the instrument separation, which leaves enough air between the instruments to breathe and to present the music in a clear and well-layered way.
ADSR / PRaT
The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) is natural in general, but it changes, the bass being on the slower side, the midrange being on the fast side, and the treble being on the natural side of things. This means that bass notes last a little longer, the midrange is quick and well textured, while the treble is a little softer and lasts a little longer than the treble. In translation, this means that most textures will feel natural to pretty textured in practice, except for cymbals, which don’t have much grain and feel a bit soft, especially in comparison with the more textured guitars and other midrange-based instruments. Bass notes tend to be even slower, feeling impactful and natural in their decay, bass generally being better a little slower to sound natural.
The portable usage is quite good.
The first thing most may be concerned about is the adapter that goes from 2.5mm to 3.5mm, in case you’re going to plug them in something that is not balanced. Well, the happy part is that the adapter is quite well-made, seems to be made out of metal, and it works well. It has a good resistance and we trust it will last quite a bit of time without an issue.
The other aspect that one needs to take into account, is how easy they are to drive, and on this note, Dragon2+ is very easy to drive, most smartphones should do a great job, but their more revealing nature, along with their potential for a wider soundstage mean that you should probably connect them with something stronger and more detailed.
The other aspect, the comfort while walking, will be very subjective. If your ears generally work with earbuds, then those should be as good as they get, otherwise not.
We generally don’t split the comfort part into something so subjective, but this time we consider it is fair to mention that earbuds really work better than headphones for IEMs for some people, while they don’t work well for others, it is too subjective to have a position.
The isolation is not very good regardless of the fit, unless you listen quite loud, but on the brighter side this means that you won’t get into issues because you can’t hear the world around you.
The IEMs themselves are very lightweight and stay well in ears once fit is achieved, the cables are not microphonic, there are no issues we can mention on the portability of Dragon2+.
Simphonio Dragon2+ vs Meze 99 Classics – We start by comparing Dragon2+ with a full over-the-ear headphone which we hold in high regards. The reason for this is that we don’t really have many expensive earbuds to compare them with, and we feel that we need to stack them up to other products one can get for around 300 USD. Starting with the package, Meze 99 Classics comes in a larger package, come with a larger carrying case, and well, they are over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds. The comfort is better on Meze 99C for most people. The sonic performance is quite different. Meze 99C is bass-centric, with a thick and meaty, satisfying and fun colored sound. Dragon2+ is much more balanced, with more midrange quantity, with a more clear midrange, a larger soundstage, more instrument separation and more treble by default. This makes 99C the thicker, more satisfying, warmer, leaner, more laid back and more relaxing experience by default. By default comes because 99C can be Equalized to sound pretty close to Dragon2+ and even better, but it takes some patience and it takes some effort, plus understanding how EQ works and such. Still, it is good to know it works. Now, if you live in a very hot place, Dragon2+ might seem like a compelling choice since 99C, like virtually any other headphone, will get hot in those conditions. On the other hand, 99C is also a great choice. Honestly, we’d just get both, each for a different usage scenario, but if you need to pick between them, try to make the choice according to your needs and to your preferences, as well as to whether you feel ready to use some EQ for 99C or not.
Simphonio Dragon2+ vs Etymotic ER3XR – Etymotic ER3XR is quite different from Dragon2+, in that ER3XR is a deep-fit IEM from Etymotic, it has a lot of revealing power, and generally, it is part of what we consider the most analytical IEMs in existence, which basically are all of Etymotic IEMs. Etymotic IEMs are in-ear monitors that fit very deep and that have excellent revealing abilities, very quick BA drivers, and which come in good packages, and feature good build qualities. Dragon2+ in comparison feels slower, more natural, less mid-centric, and smoother, with a more musical approach. This isn’t to say that Etymotic IEMs aren’t musical, but Dragon2+ is one step further more musical. The soundstage is much larger on Dragon2+, the instrument separation is quite similar, and slightly better on Dragon2+. The comfort gets similar grading, as both Dragon2+ and ER3XR are very subjective IEMs that some users will find comfortable, and some users won’t. When it comes to their price, ER3XR is slightly cheaper, but not by a considerable margin. In the end, if you prefer a sound that is pretty mid-forward and which searches the music for details, and brings everything forward to you, ER3XR is the better performer there, but if you’re looking for a more relaxed, more natural sound, then Dragon2+ is going to offer that performance, and if soundstage is important to you, then Dragon2+ surely performs well in that area.
Simphonio Dragon2+ vs Simphonio Xcited/2 – Simphonio vs Simphonio, for a little more fair comparison. Although Xctied/2 is half the price of Dragon2+, the comparison is still relevant to some. We’d like to start by saying that Simphonio also existed by the name of Sunrise Audio before, but we never knew them as such directly. When it comes to their IEM vs their earbud, the thing that’s most important is the sound, where Dragon2+ actually sounds better, has more detail and better soundstage, along with instrument layering, but this doesn’t mean that Xctied/2 isn’t quite amazing already. In fact, both IEMs perform amazingly well in soundstage, imaging and in their instrument separation / layering. The biggest difference is in the tonal balance, as Xctied/2 has a recessed midrange and a forward bass / treble, where Dragon2+ is slightly forward in the midrange, but has a recessed bass and treble. Each IEM is great for its price range, one can tell that Dragon2+ is more detailed, but Xcited/2 is not far behind, and if you’re looking for an experience that’s as open as possible Simphonio seems to have a great deal of experience in this.
Dragon2+ is not overly sensitive to pairings, but it also has good revealing abilities, so a more revealing source will give it a more detailed sound. Wider sounding sources seem to sound best with Dragon2+ as it is already a wide-sounding IEM, so having a source that adds to the effect can result in crazy-wide soundstages.
Simphonio Dragon2+ + Cayin N5ii – N5ii is a great DAP to pair with Dragon2+, it has a lot of power, it has a wide and clear sound, it has a pretty neutral nature, so it doesn’t change the signature of Dragon2+, and most important, you can use it in both Single Ended and Balanced modes. Other than that, Cayin N5ii has a very pocket-friendly price, it has support for third-party apps, it has Wifi and Bluetooth, and two microSD slots. In a few words, it is a dream-DAP that is priced very well and which makes a great pairing with Dragon2+.
Simphonio Dragon2+ + FiiO M7 – FiiO M7 is another great option, but it doesn’t feature a Balanced Headphone output. This means that one will need to always use the Single Ended adapter included with Dragon2+. The signature is quite neutral, even more so than Cayin N5ii, which pulls the midrange of Dragon2+ less forward than N5ii does, and gives them a more vibrant treble which surely helps them sparkle more with certain music.
Simphonio Dragon2+ + Hiby R6 – Hiby R6 is already quite an expensive DAP to pair with Dragon2+, and probably won’t make much sense for every single listener, as one would probably want to have a headphone at least as expensive as it before getting R6, but even so, R6 has both a Single Ended and a Balanced Headphone output, it has an excellent build quality, and although it costs almost double the price of N5ii, it also sounds more detailed and has a wider soundstage. With its quick CPU and reliable firmware, R6 feels like a dream DAP that many will come to love, and which pairs really well with Dragon2+.
Value and Conclusion
We’re reaching a conclusion here, for this pretty hefty-priced earbud. At 300 USD, the price isn’t exactly low for an Earbud, but it isn’t quite that high either, considering that there are much more expensive options around, for those looking to get an even higher-end experience from an Earbud.
Starting with the build quality and the overall feel of Dragon2+, they feel quite high-end, their cables look and feel pretty trustworthy, and they provide a great amount of fun for Dragon2+. This is for the better, as the cables for Dragon2+ are not detachable, but Simphonio designed a way to provide a 2.5mm balanced connector as well for their Dragon2+, by giving them a 2.5mm connector, along with a 3.5mm single ended adapter. This means that you can use this IEM with both your balanced sources, and with your typical 3.5mm sources.
The shape of an earbud, and the comfort / fit it brings with it are something that some love and will love, while some won’t be as enthusiastic about, as the comfort in this situation will be extremely subjective. There are certain ear shapes that simply work with earbuds, and ear shapes that don’t. For most In-Ears, the silicone tips come in sizes, and such it is easier to have an objective input on their comfort, but for an earbud, it will have one shape, so its comfort will either work or not.
When the comfort works well for you though, Dragon2+ is quite amazing. They have no microphonic noise (cable noise), they don’t get too hot while being worn, and most important, they don’t fully isolate you from the outside noise. Just like a pair of iSine20 from Audeze, which are an open-back IEM, Dragon2+ is great at providing both comfort and an open sound.
And this is the most important part, their sound is so freaking open. The soundstage expands much more than we thought it would, the instrument separation is crazy good, and the instrument layering as well. We’re talking about almost-open-back-headphone levels of greatness, not just about Dragon2+ as an earbud. Another thing to keep in mind is their great detail retrieval that still feels organic and natural. The midrange is slightly forward, but it is nowhere near as forward as an Etymotic IEM, so if you’re looking for a super-forward midrange, then Etymotic delivers one pretty well. Instead, Dragon2+ feels natural and well balanced across the spectrum, the treble is slightly soft, the bass is slightly warm, but the midrange is pretty colorless, with a good timbre for both male and female vocals.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a really good earbud, for an open experience, and for a Balanced Earbud, Dragon2+ might be just the thing for you. Furthermore, if your ears prefer earbuds over In-Ears and Headphones, then you’re in for a treat, Dragon2+ surely feels like a magical choice. We don’t always recommend Earbuds, but when we do, they are pretty great earbuds, and Dragon2+ should bring lots of fun to you, if you’re into ‘buds.
Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!