Today we’re checking out Alpha & Delta’s entry into the budget micro-driver market, the D3.
Alpha & Delta (A&D) is the in-house brand of the popular retailer out of Singapore, Lend Me Ur Ears. The brand was launched with a simple but rugged sports earphone, the D2, which was well-received within the portable audio community. That was followed up by the dual dynamic AD01 which warmed the hearts and ears of many. Since then, the brand has expanded further with a number of new products. The JAAP is a fully wireless Bluetooth earphone with competitive specifications like 6 hours of battery life. The audiophile-targeted D6 that I recently reviewed offers up strong performance with great detail and clarity from a fairly neutral tune. Lastly, we have the D3 that we’re checking out today.
The D3 features ergonomic, solid metal shells within which are competent and shockingly powerful 6mm dynamic drivers. Attached is a high quality, silver-plated cable that helps make the D3 look more expensive than it is. It all combines into an attractive little package, so let’s take a look at it in greater detail.
A big thanks Dennis with Alpha & Delta for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the D3, and for arranging a sample unit. All thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent A&D or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided. At the time of this review the D3 could be picked up for 35. 52 USD over on Lend Me Ur Ears’ site; http://www.lendmeurears.com/alpha-delta-d3/
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy.
For at home use the D3 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, Walnut V2S, or Shanling M1. The D3 sounded fine through a cell phone but I found it most pleasant paired with a neutral to warmer source. And in typical micro-driver fashion, should you choose to amp it, mild benefits could be witnessed in the form of tighter, more controlled bass.
Driver unit: 6mm dynamic driver
- Impedance: 16 ohm
- Rated power: 1mW
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20 Khz
- Speaker Sensitivity: 92 dB/mW
- Cord Length: 1.2m silver plated copper cable
- Plug: 3.5 mm
Packaging and Accessories:
The D3’s packaging is pretty simple with a light to dark grey gradient in effect as you move down and to the left across the package. Laid over top is the usual image of the earphone, branding, and basic feature list that is commonly placed on consumer friendly packages like this. On the rear is another image, this time of the 45 degree angled jack and y-split, and a few additional features outlined via bullet points. There is also mention of the one-year warranty which isn’t bad, but not as impressive as the three years backing the D6. Special mention to the images of the earphone which are quite pixelated and low resolution. But whatever, it’s a box. What’s inside is what matters, and it’s plentiful. Inside you will find;
- D3 earphones
- Leather case
- Leather cable strap
- 1 pair of ear guides
- 1 pair of foam tips
- 1 pair of dual-flange tips (pre-installed)
- 1 pair of triple-flange tips
- 3 pairs of single-flange tips
- 1 shirt clip
The inclusion of the leather case (same one included with the D6) was extremely nice to see with an earphone in this price range. It is of excellent quality and much nicer than the generic clam shell cases you get with most earphones, including the 800 USD HiFiMan RE800. The included tips are nothing unique to the D3 and in my experiences over the years are durable and should work well enough to avoid the need to replace them anytime soon.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The D3’s die cast metal shells are durable with good fit and finish. Seams between the two halves of the shells are clearly visible but still fairly tight. The nozzle lips take on a very odd shape being that they are angled; not something I’ve seen before. It does make installing some tips a bit of a challenge, but once on they are very secure. Strain relief leading out of the housing is reduced to a little rubber nub, too stiff to provide any real support for the cable. Not a huge issue given the quality of the attached cable.
It is a silver-plated and tightly braided cable that is a touch on the stiff side with some memory. Strain relief is fantastic at the 45 degree angled jack and y-split, and you even get a handy little chin cinch to tighten up fitment for exercise or more general use. Cable noise is present but pleasantly restrained. Despite the tough sheath and slight stiffness, this cable has no issues staying securely behind the ear if you choose to wear the D3 cable up. Overall thickness is good below the y-split, slimming significantly above. I found that after a couple weeks the thinnest sections developed a waviness to them that prevents the cable from fully straightening. Annoying, but hardly a deal breaker.
Comfort is fantastic given the D3’s highly ergonomic shape. The light curves allow them to fit equally well cable up or down since they always seem to conform to the shape of your outer ear. It’s a very subtle design queue that not only looks attractive, but is functional too. Given the curves and lack of defined edges, the D3 does not cause any hot spots or discomfort.
Passive noise attenuation is pretty great too, despite these being a vented dynamic driver earphone. The dense metal shells and ear hugging fit do a great job of preventing external noise from bleeding in. If you’re someone that likes to wear earphones at the gym or while studying in noisy areas, the D3 would do the trick.
Tips: I didn’t find the D3 particularly sensitive to tip style, yet found the stock bi-flange tips the most pleasant pairing. With the single flange and foams, treble was coming through a bit grainy and unnatural. Same with third party tips. The included bi-flange seemed to mitigate this for the most part and smooth the D3 out. Your experiences may vary of course.
The D3 has a stereotypically fun *gasp, the word fun in an earphone review, unsubbed* signature with highly elevated bass, treble, and a crisp yet coherent midrange that isn’t overshadowed by all that low end grunt. This is a pretty common tune for earphones in the ~35 USD price range they play in, but few do it with quite the level of control.
Treble on the D3 is elevated with a strong, well-spaced and airy presence. It has a somewhat dry presentation which gives them a mildly dull and unnatural feel. Cymbals and other effects sounds off, lacking the shimmer you would expect, pretty easy to hear while listening through Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century” album front ot back. Overall detail and clarity is good though with lots of information on tap. Decay is quick enough. It’s a decent presentation that you get used to after a while.
The D3’s mid-range fares much better. Despite being a very bassy earphone. I found there was very little bleed into the lower mids. The well placed mid-bass hump and enthusiastic lower treble really help lift up the vocals and overall mid-range clarity keeping it crisp and intelligible. Some of the dryness present in the upper ranges is found here too but instead gives the D3 some extra character. On Aesop Rock’s “Shere Khan” both him and the female guest vocalist are equally engaging and charismatic.
Bass on the D3 is its sweet spot, even if it doesn’t extend as far as it’s brashness would imply. This is very evident when listening to Kavinsky’s “Solli” where the comparatively bass light Kinera SEED clearly hits the opening notes with greater depth and sub-bass presence. Still, the mid-bass is punchy and quick with tons of slam and shines on drum and bass tracks like Calyx and TeeBee’s “Scaramanga”. Texture is also fantastic with the D3 able to pull off some seriously grungy and layered bass lines.
The D3’s airy upper ranges give it a spacious presentation free of congestion. It’s staging is fairly even and rounded off with well-defined edges. It lacks the width of some other similarly priced micro-dynamics like JVC’s HA-FXH30 of the Final Audio E2000, but at least against the JVC does a better job with depth. Layering and separation are also quite good, easily handling King crimson’s erratic jazz improv fairly easily.
Brainwavz Jive (28.00 USD): The Jive is a very traditional earphone with a straightforward barrel-style metal shell, a familiar rubber sheathed cable, a handy 3-button remote. It looks very simple beside the D3 and lacks the flash of their chrome housings and braided silver-plated cable. Overall build quality and fit and finish is comparable, though the D3’s cable feels more durable. While the D3’s curves hug my ear perfectly, regardless of whether I’m wearing them cable up or down, the Jive’s simple shape is just as comfortable, though not as stable since they stick out further.
Whereas the D3’s signature places emphasis on the low end, the Jive’s bass is much more reserved lacking the impact, depth, texture, and focused control of the D3. It is much more neutral leaning than Alpha & Delta’s budget earphone and engages the listener in other ways. Such as the mid-range which is slightly more forward, thicker, and more natural sounding without the dryness present in the D3’s vocals. Treble of the Jive is similarly elevated but tighter and with more shimmer and sparkle giving cymbals and instruments a more realistic tonality. Overall detail and clarity is quite good across both. Sound stage across the two was nigh identical with the D3 showing more varied nuance in channel to channel panning. Despite it’s bassier signature, I found it equally as impressive in terms of layering and separation.
DZAT DT-05 (~30.00 USD): The DT-05 is a dual-dynamic earphone with a very unique and eye catching design that tops the D3’s which is still unique and interesting in it’s own right. In terms of build quality the metal shells and braided cable of the D3 take the cake. The DT-05 looks and feels nice, but lacks the solidity of the D3. Comfort is pretty much a wash for me with both being exceptionally comfortable. The D3’s smaller profile and ease of wear cable up or done should make it the more universal of the two since the DT-05 goes cable up only thanks to the shape and preformed ear guides.
Sound profiles are in the same vein with both having a somewhat dry, bass heavy sound. The D3 has a thinner presentation which really helps take it’s clarity to another level especially through the mid-range. Neither offer much in the treble regions with the D3’s lower lift once again helping with coherence and clarity. Heading into the low end the DT-05 hits the low notes with more authority but lacks the texture and control of the D3. Sound stage is similar in size with the D3’s leaner presentation giving it a clear edge in imaging accuracy, layering, and separation.
TFZ Series 2 (45.00 USD): The Series 2 uses the same large, over ear only shells found on numerous other TFZ products and is more than twice the size of the compact D3. It’s all-plastic shells certainly lack the panache and visual appeal of the D3’s chromed metal shells, at least to me. They definitely feel like the cheap product, but they’re not. In the Series 2’s favor is the removable 2-pin, silver-plated cable which is more plush, flexible, and free of memory than the D3’s. The D3’s cable over time has developed a wavy pattern above the y-split that prevents the cable from ever fully straightening, something TFZ’s cable does not do.,
In terms of sound the Series 2 certainly doesn’t lack bass but it’s toned down compared to the D3, putting more focus on the mid-range and treble. In terms of clarity, detail, and overall control, you really see where the TFZ earns the extra dollars. It has a much larger and more spacious sound stage with improved layering, separation, and more accurate imaging. Tonality, especially in the treble, is more realistic too, though the brighter presentation is not without fault making the TFZ the more fatiguing of the two. Cymbals hit with significantly more vibrancy which will be too much for some.
Alpha & Delta are doing a good job of bringing to the market high value products, evident through earphones like the D3. While it’s treble could be improved upon, the rest of the package more than makes up for it. Punchy bass and crisp mids packed within a very ergonomically sound and visually attractive metal shell makes them a pleasure to use. Extras such as the leather case and cable strap are not only useful, but of higher quality than what you get with competing brands and add to the premium air the D3 gives off.
If you’re in the market for an affordable, tiny, attractive, durable, and bassy in-ear, give the D3 a shot. You might be surprised at what a well-tuned micro-dynamic can do.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)