Bling for the basshead, fit for the gym
Sensitivity 110 db
Impedance 16 Ohms
With many thanks from my sponsors Better Audio US, this is the Opera Factory OM1, retailing at $39.99 on Amazon
When you see as many earphones as I do, you’ll realise how 99% of them are alike in their approach to the design. It’s not surprising that designers are loath to alienate any of their potential customers. The solution to this often results in fairly bland designs, difficult to love yet difficult to hate. I am pleased to say that I’ve been sent an IEM from Better Audio US that chooses the lesser travelled road. The main talking point on these earphones, according to yours truly, has to be on their distinctive look. Praise be for that!
For once, my main focus will be on the cosmetics. Like it or not, we shop with our eyes. The outlets for the budget earphone enthusiast are predominantly online. Therefore, presentation is king. The look of the webpage is arguably as important as any review, when it comes to the big sell. Of course, the earphones are shown in the most appealing of ways. At the right angle, with the correct background, a magical beauty can be conjured up. Only when the package arrives does the truth finally emerge. The stark reality of a design that you have seen many times before is what the audio enthusiast is confronted with. The OM1 is one of those rare moments where the unboxing experience delivered on a promise. From the cylindrical box, to the shells and finally the cable, the on the road earphones did not disappoint. It makes a big difference getting all these things right. From a reviewer’s perspective, it puts us in the right frame of mind to think positive. I’m sure the same can be said for the purchaser. The shells have been sculpted to a subtly rounded multi faceted shape. The transparent lustre needs only a shaft of light to reveal the splendour. Simple yet bold, the earphone branding is embellished across both left and right shells in a refreshingly excessive large type gold font, much the same as is seen on comic books. A touch of gold here and there, some snazzy terminations and a colour coded red cable complete the setup. Love it or loath it; these things are seriously different.
Opera Factory is not a company I have heard of. On the Road is not an earphone I have come across before. I am perplexed. There has been precious little written about the OM1s, especially considering they have been around since 2018; a long time in the ever changing world of portable audio. What can I tell you about them? Opera Factory are from China, and they are clearly doing things a little different from the competition. The earphones are pretty much standard in their spec; 110 dB sensitivity, 16 Ohms impedance, 20-40 KHz response and driven by a 10 mm single dynamic driver. Smartphones and small digital players are good matches for the On the Road; they need very little volume before they start getting very loud indeed.
The title has given the game away somewhat here. Yes, we have an earphone that is showy in sound aswell as looks. A big bass presence overshadows some of the mid frequency range. Expect vocals or main instrument to be slightly further back in the mix than a thinner more neutral sounding earphone. Look to match these with a bass light source if possible. I took one look at these and knew instinctively they would be all about the low stuff. My first listen therefore, had to be on the most bass light source I won; none other than my Rega Planar 2 turntable. Extensively customised throughout a 30 year lifespan, the Rega still retains a characteristic shyness when it comes to the bass. It is also widely known that the bass is intentionally dialled down on vinyl; too much and the needle would physically jump out of the grooves. The vast majority of my listening is done in the digital domain, thus I am used to a much more forceful presentation of the lower end. Anything that can help produce a little more bass when I am listening to records is a must. The OM1 was a good match. A pleasant warmth lent itself to vinyl, whether 60 year old classical recordings or 30 year old rock albums. Where dance and synthetic bass tracks are too much, my AK380 and the OM1s, me and my vinyl found a comfortable spot to lie in. Not a vinyl lover? I would also recommend the Colorfly range of digital audio players. These shy creatures, the C5 & C10, both come good with the OM1. Other than that, may I recommend you take a breath of fresh air with these earphones? Exercise is good for the body; music is good for the soul. Low frequency vibrations, from footsteps, breathing heavily, noise of the streets; all can offset some of the excesses of the OM1s bass signature. This will help to bring those all important mids to the fore and make for a decent listening experience while on the move, an added bonus.
The OM1 has a cosmetic appeal that differentiates itself from the rest of the crowd. It is blingy and not at all subtle in looks or sound signature. Whilst I needed to find ways to tame the lower end of this wild beast of an earphone, others may find themselves perfectly comfortable with the more consumer like presentation; the hallmark of the OM1. I’d have liked the On the Road earphones to have had a carry case of some sort and my left ear keeps rejecting the driver whilst I’m running hard. Work is in progress with this niggling problem and I’m confident I’ll overcome the issue. I suspect the memory wire is not quite as effective as some cables. If you like the look of the OM1s, and you like bass and plenty of it, for $40 you may have just found a dance partner to share a tango with.