Stunning design & build quality, High-quality included cable, Immensely fun & powerful bass, Coherent midrange, Multi-dimensional soundstage, Easy to drive
Heavy and large shells, Separation and midrange resolution are a step down from competitors
This is a beautifully formed, truly masterclass basshead-style IEM and while that means it falls behind market leaders in versatility, on tracks where it hits, be ready for a home run.
Metal Magic Research is a high-end Singaporean audio company spearheaded by the same smarts behind the legendary Jomo Audio. Where Jomo focuses on an accurate and technical sound, MMR is more experimental with a priority on gorgeous tonality and artisan metalwork. The Balmung sits at the pinnacle of their BA designs, sharing flagship status with the hybrid Thummim released late last year. This design was first shown off around the same time in custom form but has since been completely redesigned for its universal form factor due to the acoustic differences between the acrylic and metal shells. The uni Balmung houses a revised 12x BA driver setup per shell and targets a warm, coherent sound with exceptional staging. It retains the compact dimensions of the Gae Bolg but implements a stunning new faceplate design.
The Balmung retails for $2799 USD putting it in truly summit-fi territory. You can read more about the Gae Bolg and treat yourself to a set here.
I would like to thank Joseph from MMR very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Balmung for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
- Drivers: 4x BA Tweeter, 4x Vented BA Mid-High, 2x Vented Ba Mid, 2x Vented Lows
- Frequency Response: 18Hz – 48kHz
- Impedance: 13 ohms
- Noise Isolation: -18dB
- Crossover: 4-way Electro Frequency Division
- Balmung Acoustic Chamber
- Asymmetrical TriBore Waveguide
Behind The Design –
Crossover (Balmung 4-Way EFD)
The Balmung implements an advanced 4-way passive electro-frequency division with passive electronic components like the Gae Bolg. This is implemented in conjunction with an RLC filter in band-pass configuration to ensure each driver plays only its intended frequency range and each plays in harmony and phase.
Balmung Exclusive Acoustic Chamber (BMAC)
As implementing electronic components into the crossover also introduces frequency phase shift, MMR developed a custom acoustic chamber to correct phase and optimise the frequency response. All aspects of the chamber were considered from density of materials, pathway length, consonance, angles and bore in order to achieve the end product.
As I received a pre-production unit, unfortunately, no packaging was provided. However, if it’s anything like that on the Gae Bolg, then I’m sure retail buyers are in for an impressive experience. As far as accessories are concerned, the Balmung comes with a similar outfit to past MMR earphones. The buyer receives a blue vinyl zippered case. It has ample room to store both the earphones and a small DAP or dongle. In addition, MMR includes 5 pairs of Acoustune ear tips that come in a handy reusable plastic case.
If you were impressed by MMR’s former designs, the Balmung is Joe’s best work yet. Few earphones match the precision, finish and material choice presented here; all-around these are jewellery-level immaculate. The chrome faceplates with striking sword motifs are precision milled, offering striking juxtaposition to an anodized azure backdrop. These are undoubtedly the showpiece of the earphone and a huge differentiator from the competition. Meanwhile, the inner housings are identical to the GB but lighter in colour with a different pattern laser-etched into their surface. The aluminium shells have great heft and solidity alongside perfect tolerances with superbly even seams. 0.78mm 2-pin connectors make a return for the removable cable system and, as before, they do use a spring-loaded mechanism.
This makes them more resistant to wear and less susceptible to loosening over time compared to traditional 0.78mm connectors and this has been my experience after months of use. The cable itself is also of high quality though is no longer offered in collaboration with Eletech. It has 26AWG wires with UP-OCC SPC conductors and a hand-braided 4-wire geometry. The cable is soft with minimal memory and microphonic noise and high-quality chrome connectors that match the earphones. This is a lovely cable that would pass for a high-quality aftermarket unit if not paired with this earphone. The pre-moulded ear guides are comfortable and stable. It is offered in balanced only with a choice of 2.5mm and 4.4mm terminations.
Fit & Isolation –
As the overall silhouette so closely resembles the Gae Bolg, so too is the fit experience essentially identical – which is a feat given the extensive driver setup. Though I still would have preferred a more angled nozzle, a strong fit and seal is not difficult to attain with the right tips. The fit is comfortable, and the shells are delightfully smooth and rounded in all regards, minimising hotspot formation. Similarly, the tall form factor places less pressure on the features of the outer ear, promoting long-term comfort. They are fully sealed and offer a medium-deep fit depth, permitting strong passive noise isolation ideal for travel and commute, especially with foam tips.
The seal is quite good but as the fit depth isn’t especially deep and the shells are quite heavy and wide, they aren’t especially stable fitting. For my ears, they were perfectly fine during commute and stationary listening, certainly much better than the Thummim. However, I have heard some complaints from friends, so it is best to test fit the Gae Bolg or Balmung if possible before purchase. Overall, however, it’s refreshing to see such a complex, high-end design in such a reasonably sized and convenient form factor. Moreover, it’s impressive how they carry much more room presence than competitors with less real estate.