DDHiFi Janus (E2020A): Innovation

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out a unique product from the ‘Masters of Audio Accessories’ over at DDHiFi, the Janus.

DDHiFi has been making a name for themselves thanks to a wide variety of high quality portable audio accessories, be they compact DACS, cases for various FiiO products, cables, adapters, and whatever else the audio enthusiast needs. With the Janus, ambitiously named after the Roman ‘God of Beginnings’, they finally step into the extremely competitive world of in ear monitors.

Unlike most brands that are comfortable releasing a by-the-numbers product as their first, DDHiFi has gone a different route and created something unique. The implementation of both MMCX and 0.78mm 2-pin connection options for the removable cable is a first, as far as I’m aware. Another first among products I’ve tested is the use of a flexible PCB to connect the sockets and driver, forgoing the more traditional circuit board/wire setup found in competing products. The idea behind this is optimizing the circuitry to improve sound quality and reduce weight.

So how is DDHiFi’s maiden earphone voyage? Let’s find out.

What I Hear The Janus is a warm, well-balanced, somewhat mid-centric offering to my ears. Nothing in particular is overly emphasized leaving the listening experience quite stable and coherent from top to bottom. I found it sounded best at moderate volumes, run balanced with the stock Forest cable out of the Earmen Sparrow, so that is the setup used for the following impressions.

Oddly enough, with a lot of tracks the Janus felt like the low end rolled of severely and as a result early impressions left me underwhelmed with the bass performance. After spending more time with it and upon more extensive testing with various ear tips, I found extension into sub-bass regions to actually be quite good with Kavinsky’s “Solli” having an appropriate rumble in the opening moments. Throwing on a frequency test track, I got a good sense of rumble down to around 32Hz before all sense of physical feedback was gone. Improving emphasis in these lower regions would really help with long notes that deepen, as they fall off more quickly than is ideal. Texturing is quite smooth but not to the point of eliminating detail, leaving tracks like The Prodigy’s “Thunder” sounding appropriately grungy and raw. This driver doesn’t feel particularly quick and on the rapid double bass notes inherent to speed metal, definition was lost. It also leaves the mid-bass feeling punchy but somewhat soft in the initial attack.

Heading into the mids you find plenty of warmth backed by silky smooth vocals and accurate timbre. Both male and female vocals are equally well represented and nicely weighted. Neither thin nor thick. Just right. I especially like how it presents Paul Williams’ vocals on Daft Punk’s “Touch”, easily replicating the emotion present in his performance. Despite sounding extremely refined, I never found the Janus lacking detail (unless directly comparing to like-priced, multi-driver earphones). This is not an analytic presentation by any means, instead going for a natural realism that I expect will appease those who are sticklers for an accurate sound. Unsurprisingly, I found myself picking up the Janus as my preferred earphones for listening to podcasts and similarly commentary focused content.

Treble on the Janus is quite mellow with little emphasis in the brilliance region. Once it reaches just past 4k, emphasis drops off. This is definitely not a fatiguing earphone and should be quite suitable for those of you who are treble sensitive. This tuning leaves the Janus with good detail and clarity, but lacking sparkle and shimmer. Notes are very well controlled with little splash. It’s also reasonably quick, able to deal with messy tracks fairly well. I find the presentation a bit dull, but then I also prefer a brighter sound so this is pretty much the opposite of my preferences. Given this, that I enjoy the Janus as much as I do speaks volumes for how capable it is.

When it comes to sound stage the Janus is pleasantly capable. It handles both depth and width quite well with a fairly well-rounded presentation. Instruments and effects flow from the mid-range which has a default positioning just outside the head, spreading convincingly off into the distance. Imaging is fairly accurate with a decently nuanced feel, but it can’t quite keep up with some of the better multi-driver offerings like Brainwavz’s B400. Laying and instrument separation are also good, but again fall short of the best in the category. Overall a great sound stage with competent technical capabilities.

Tips: The Janus comes with two different types of tips; a wide bore ‘treble’ set and small bore ‘bass’ set. The bass set I was not a fan of. While yes, they did increase bass, the quantity was minor and they hinder midrange clarity. The wide bore set sounded much more well-rounded to me, and they were more comfortable to boot.

Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)

Shozy Form 1.4 (199 USD): The 1.4 is a five driver hybrid featuring four armatures and a single dynamic per side. Quite the contrast from the single dynamic Janus. The Form 1.4 is notably more bassy. Sub-bass is more pronounced and gives a deeper, more physical feel to notes, while the mid-bass presentation is also thicker and more forward. The bass on the Form 1.4 has a much stronger presence overall leaving the midrange sitting back in comparison to how it is presented on the Janus. The low end out of the Janus feels faster and better controlled, though it also falls behind in terms of texture and detail. The low end of the Form 1.4 is all-round more boisterous and in your face. Heading into the mids, I find they are more prominent on the Janus. Vocals out of the Form 1.4 are somehow thinner and warmer with similar clarity and detail. Neither has sibilance issues to my ear. Timbre on both is quite accurate with the Janus coming across a hint more natural. Upon a/bing the two back-to-back, treble out of the Form 1.4 is quite a bit more lively and energetic than it is on the Janus, especially in the brilliance. The Janus offers similar levels of detail and clarity, it just lacks the upper range emphasis. This result in a much more tame, less airy presenation and redirects attention back to the prominent midrange. While notes from the Janus are better controlled, the Form 1.4 is more nimble and does a better job with busy tracks. Despite the lack of upper treble air which can hinder sound stage, the Janus still takes the lead here with a wider and deeper presentation. Default vocal positioning on the Janus is further back giving the Form 1.4 the more intimate presentation. Where the Form 1.4 takes a step ahead is imaging, layering, and separation, all of which the Janus can’t keep up on.

Overall I find the Janus the more natural sounding earphone, but the vast difference in tuning leaves them as complimentary products that compete in different spaces. If you want something less bassy and more mid-focused with mellow treble, the Janus is easy to recommend over the Form 1.4. If you prefer a warmer, much bassier sounding earphone, the Form 1.4 is a no-brainer.

ADV Model 3 BA2 (199 USD): The dual-armature Model 3 BA2 is a much more likely competitor for the Janus. While cooler sounding overall, it has a similar tune with restrained emphasis at the extremities and a more mid-range focused presentation. The BA2 provides a more linear transition from sub- to mid- and upper-bass regions but doesn’t move air quite as effectively giving the Janus a more visceral presentation on the deepest notes. That said, the BA2 is notably faster. It handles complicated basslines more effectively and it’s midbass provides more punch and texture. Heading into the mids the Janus’ timbre shows itself to be very much superior, lacking the slightly dull, plasticky tone that plagues the BA2. Again though, ADV’s earphone gets the nod when dealing with raw detail. It’s presentation is quite a bit thicker though, hindering clarity slightly compared to the Janus. Where the Janus’ treble peaks at a mere ~4k and trails off from there, the BA2’s snappier treble remains fairly linear until a mild 7k peak, then drops off. This gives it a bit more sparkle on cymbals and chimes, along with more detail, but oddly does little to provide more air to the presentation. The Janus has a considerably wider and deeper sound stage compared to the BA2 which has a very intimate presentation. While I find the BA2’s imaging to be a bit more precise, the Janus does a better job of layering and separating individual track elements.

Overall I prefer the Janus. While it’s not a detailed and cannot match the BA2 in how it recreates drums, it is more natural sounding and feels better suited to a wider variety of genres. If you listen to a lot of drum heavy tracks and don’t require the most accurate sounding mids, or need excellent passive sound isolation, the BA2 might be a better choice. Otherwise, Janus all the way.

In The Ear The Janus has a dual material construction with the rear half of the housing using a clear plastic, and the front using stainless steel, all in a familiar bullet shape. Well, familiar except for the dual MMCX + 0.78mm 2-pin ports cleverly wrapped into the design. Fit and finish is good with the component parts fitting together fairly snug. A prominent lip is present on the nozzle that does a great job holding tips in place. The stainless steel rings that surround and protect the ports have a gap wide just enough to hook a fingernail into. It’s not particularly noticeable thanks to the visible inner workings, nor do I think it will cause issues with durability, though the gaps might collect dirt and grime over time. A nice touch is not only are L and R markings engraved into the steel rings surrounding each port, but positive and negative terminals indicators too. This helps ensure you don’t plug in your cables out of phase. L and R markings are also duplicated within the earpieces themselves, printed on the unique, flexible PCB DDHiFi used to connect the drivers to each of the connection options. It’s all very clever and innovative.

DDHiFi’s ‘Forest’ cable, part of their ‘Air’ series, included with the Janus is to put it simply, pretty darn fantastic. The simple dual-core design divides into a single strand each beyond the y-split leading up to the plugs. The blue-grey sheath used has a slick, dense feel, yet remains very flexible. Few cables in my experience resist tangling quite as well. The metal hardware used is also impressive. The MMCX plugs mine came equipped with are quite compact with small Ls and Rs surrounding the base making channel identification fairly easy in good light. In poor lighting, they are tough to see and not particularly useful. The y-split and chin cinch are the same size and very compact. The cinch slides easily up and down the cable, but not so easily as to slip out of place when in use. If I were to levy any complaints at the cable, it would be with the weight. Wearing the Janus cable down, I found the weight would tug noticeably with each step, though not enough to pull it out of place. Wrapping the cable up and over the ear negates this, so those that prefer that orientation will be right at home.

Shifting to fit and comfort, DDHiFi did a good job on the Janus here too. The mix of steel and plastic remains light, and when combined with a fairly standard bullet-shape means this is one of those iems you just pop into your ear and for the most part, can forget about. There are no hot spots to worry about, or any sharp edges or awkward angles to cause discomfort. It fits very well and is something that can be worn for extended period pretty easily. Isolation is pretty much non-existent though. The six tuning ports found at the base of the nozzle let in tons of noise, an amount that cannot be countered with foam tips. These would not be up for consideration for use in noisy areas for me.

In The Box The Janus arrives in a long cardboard box covered with the same attractive, banded sleeve used for their other products, though here the band is a pale green with DDHiFi in reflective silver. On the front of the package is the usual brand and model info, as well as a partial list of contents. On the rear you can find DDHiFi’s website along with some other administrative details.

Slipping off the sleeve reveals a smaller cardboard box with Janus printed on the front in which you find most of the accessories. Set beside this is a carrying case wrapped in protective plastic. Inside the case is a specially cut foam inset in which the earpieces and some other extras reside. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to continue using this insert following the unboxing as it’s not designed to accommodate the cable. In all you get:

  • Janus earphones
  • ‘Forest’ cable
  • Bass type silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • Treble type silicone tips (s/m/l)
  • 10x MMCX port covers
  • Magnetic cable organizer

Overall a pretty straightforward but clean presentation with little unnecessary waste, as I have come to expect from the brand. The included tips are a slight step above similar tips included with other earphones, but not up to the quality of those from RHA, Final Audio, JVC, and Sony. However, a nice touch that other brands could get behind is the use of black and red cores on the bass set so you can colour coordinate the left and right channels using the tips themselves. Would have been nice on the treble set too, but alas, c’est la vie. The included case is pretty neat thanks to the use of a dual magnetic flap design instead of zippers, buttons, or friction to remain closed. In addition, the build quality as fantastic thanks to clean stitching and high quality, padded faux-leather. It might be a little bulky for some pockets though. Since I commonly wear jeans or cargo shorts, I find it slips perfectly into back and thigh pockets.

Final Thoughts For their first earphone, one with unique features like a flexible PCB and dual-socket design, it would have been easy for DDHiFi to make something that was a success from the perspective of build and design, but with sub-par audio qualities. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The Janus is a competent earphone whichever way you look at it. The somewhat unique tuning comes together to provide a much better experience than the graphs would suggest and is a product I have thoroughly enjoyed testing over the last few months. It is a wonderful all-rounder.

Not only does it sound good, but the rest of the package is solid too. The well-built carrying case features a unique clasp mechanism that works well, the included tips provide unique experiences (though I’m not a fan of the bass tips), and the Forest cable is positively wonderful. Flexible, durable, and it refuses to tangle.

If you want a reasonably well-balanced sounding earphone with great mids and a unique feature set, the Janus is a one-of-a-kind product that is unlike anything else on the market (yet). Highly recommended.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Lily with DDHiFi for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Janus, and for a arranging a sample. The thoughts within this review are my subjective impressions and do not represent DDHiFi or any other entity. At the time of writing the Janus was retailing for 261.80 CAD / 199.99 USD: www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001780883724.html / https://www.ddhifi.com/productinfo/84173.html


Specifications

  • Connector: 0.78mm 2-pin and MMCX
  • Plug: 2.5mm
  • Impedance: 32ohms
  • Sensitivity: 97dB/mW
  • Frequency range: 20-20000Hz
  • Cable length: 1.2m

Some Test Tunes

BT – This Binary Universe

Gramatik – The Age of Reason

Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That?

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Skindred – Roots Rock Riot

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The Crystal Method – Tweekend

Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Grand Funk Railroad – Inside Looking Out

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