Curious about this locally designed and built product, we decided to pay a visit to the headquarters of HUM, the Hong Kong based company responsible for creating the 2 BA driver HUM Pristine as well as the Pervasion music player to see what the fuss was all about.Located in Mong Kok, one of the busiest areas of Hong Kong (which also happens to have the most audio shops), HUM resides inside a very small office space in an old office building. They apologized for the messy state of the office since they had just moved and are just a very new and small IEM operation under the parent company Oridio.
The HUM Pristine is a $10,890 HKD, dual balanced armature, Custom-only IEM. The internals of the Pristine looks markedly different to most other IEMs – you may have noticed a big (as big as an entire balanced armature driver) cylindrical tube inside, and thick copper wires going willy-nilly. According to their website, every capacitor, copper wiring, and even the type of solder they used was essential to fine-tuning the sound of the Pristine.
Their 2 driver design is supposed to reflect their “less is more” attitude to IEM design, as they claimed that the size of our ear cavities are not actually not big enough to create a “phase favourable design” if driver count went past 2 drivers.
Lastly, when ordering a HUM Pristine CIEM, they also provide a special hand painted faceplate service for an even more custom product experience.
Regardless of the truth in the technicalities, here are our impressions of the performance of the Pristine.
The HUM Pristine – Impressions
We spent around half an hour listening and comparing the HUM Pristine with our own IEMs; the qdc 3SH and mini-audio Oriolus. Here are some photos and our honest opinions and impressions of the HUM Pristine.
I got the impression that the Pristine was trying to focus on elevating the upper mids and treble, but somehow the extensions failed to reach very far at all. Bass also suffered from this tuning, being on the lean side and hitting with frail impact. A representative from HUM said that because of the MMCX connector on the demo Pristine it was not paired with the default cable with a 2-pin connector, which would bring back more bass into the tonal balance.
Regardless of the sound signature, I could not shake the feeling that everything was hazy and lacking in resolution. Vocals in particular had loose body and textures and timbres in general were not very refined. Mediocre detail retrieval also meant I was straining hard just to hear elements of a song that I naturally expected. As a result it never gripped me and I thought it no more than a perfunctory effort at HKD10,000. For this price, one has many better choices than this.
My own impressions largely mirror Oliver’s, although I will try to describe it with a more neutral voice. The Pristine largely sounds quite reference and flat with a slight bump in midhighs and a just as minor one in the highs. It reminded me somewhat of the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered but with a bass impact that is even flatter. Bass frequencies are present, but bass impact is a little lethargic and does not reach deep inside the head like other IEMs – it feels like it barely goes past my ear drums. Its highs are also presented without conviction; they come slightly forward and are smooth and inoffensive, but never have a shimmer or sparkle to them.
I also got the impression of a somewhat hazy reproduction of the sounds reminiscent of dynamic drivers which pervades through out all the frequencies like some of the latest 64Audio offerings I have tried (the U5 and U12).
Compared to my Oriolus, the Pristine with its lacklustre bass impact and rather flat sounding mids and highs did not appeal to my own personal taste or sound very engaging with my music, but I suppose they will very much suit someone looking for a flat and more neutral, reference presentation with a recessed bass sound.
The HUM Pervasion
We only briefly tried the $3000 HKD Pervasion – from his quick test Oliver felt that it was a very coloured, warmer mid-forward sound compared to his Astell&Kern 380 which has a more detail oriented sound. In terms of build quality, it basically resembles a bulky Android phone with an analogue volume dial on the bottom face, power on the top face, and digital volume control on the side. It runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and comes with the Google Play Music app by default, but users are free to install their own preferred Android music playing app.
The HUM Pristine, with its very neutral and uncontrasty presentation was definitely not suited for our tastes. We both concluded that there were many other IEMs with more musical and engaging sound signatures that could be had for $10000 HKD, and personally would recommend the UERR for a reference sound signature which comes at a lower price point.