OLA comes in a small white box with a cute waifu image on the front. On the back of the box are a frequency response graph and some specifications. Here’s what you’ll find in the box:
Tanchjim OLA IEM
Detachable 2-pin cable
3x pairs of bass enhancing silicone eartips
3x pairs of treble enhancing silicone eartips
Fabric carrying pouch
OLA’s shells are made from aerospace-grade aluminium and transparent acrylic. The shells are smaller than they look in photos and are very lightweight. You can clearly see the 10mm driver within the transparent housing.
OLA’s front cavity is equipped with a SATTI filter which has a nano-coating that makes it dust and water-resistant. The 2-pin socket is slightly recessed for improved durability.
In terms of comfort (this part will always be subjective), I find the OLA to fall short of the current standard. This is the first IEM in a long time that causes actual pain to my ears after 30-60 minutes of use; the sharp rear edges of the aluminium faceplate section dig into my ears and become uncomfortable after a short period of time. I also found a lot of tip rolling necessary to find eartips that would hold the IEM firmly in place.
OLA has a neutral tuning, fairly balanced in its presentation with a clear character. As soon as you start listening to this IEM, its clarity and uncoloured nature become apparent. The overall tonality is what I would call neutral-bright. Driving the OLA is relatively easy and it does not require a powerful source or extra amplification.
The bass is fairly light, boosted just north of neutral in the mid-bass with a sub-bass roll-off. Elevating the bass is necessary here to prevent the overall tonality from becoming too bright. By doing this, the bass adds just enough warmth to create a natural tone while simultaneously steering clear of any bloat or smearing.
A fast attack ensures tight control of the bass and it’s then rounded out by a natural decay. The result is an agile, textured bass that never interferes with or sullies the midrange. It is likely to leave bassheads wanting more, particularly in the sub-bass. However, for the rest of us, OLA’s bass is a sterling example of what can be achieved with a single dynamic driver.
If I was to describe OLA’s midrange in one word it would be “clean”. A combination of the reserved bass in conjunction with an upper-mids/lower-treble lift creates an open midrange with excellent clarity.
OLA is a vocal powerhouse, rendering both male and female vocals with nuance, expression and transparency. Female vocals really shine with vibrance and beauty. Male vocals have more clarity than richness but are still warm enough to sound natural if not truly powerful.
Instruments sound great too, although they could use a touch more saturation for a truly accurate sound. The upside of this leaner note size, however, is a spacious midrange with crisp transients and good instrument separation.
The treble is crisp and energetic. It is, for the most part, non-fatiguing although it can get splashy at a higher volume. The detail retrieval is slightly above average and picks up small nuances that some warmer IEMs gloss over.
On some tracks, the treble voicing sounds a tad thin, most notably with cymbal crashes but I don’t hear any sibilance or sizzle.
Soundstage and Technicalities
The soundstage is an area where OLA excels. It’s not especially large or wide but it feels very natural. Furthermore, OLA has some of the best stereo imaging you’ll find in this price range. Positional cues are precise, making these earphones great for a budget gaming set (assuming they’re comfortable enough for long gaming sessions).
Moondrop SSR ($39)
The Moondrop SSR (review here) has a single dynamic driver. This is another budget IEM that aims for a neutral tuning. It is a more demanding IEM and thus requires more driving power.
SSR’s bass isn’t as forward or have as much impact as the OLA. Its midrange is drier and leaner, giving it more of an analytical flavour in comparison. Some people will be sensitive to the SSR’s 3kHz peak which brings the upper mids forward and in your face.
The combination of its drier mids and boosted lower treble makes SSR brighter. It has better detail retrieval but doesn’t sound as natural as the Tanchjim. OLA has better soundstage depth and much stronger placement and imaging.
HZSound Heart Mirror ($41)
The HZSound Heart Mirror (review here) has a single dynamic driver. It has a somewhat similar tuning to the OLA i.e. fairly neutral. Heart Mirror has a slightly better sub-bass extension and gives you a little extra rumble down low.
It has a touch more body in the lower midrange plus extra upper midrange lift. Heart Mirror has a more upfront presentation and slightly denser midrange notes. In comparison, OLA’s midrange has a blacker background, increased separation and better spacing.
HM’s treble is more forward, resulting in a brighter tone and more detail (OLA is more resolving). The Heart Mirror’s treble is more splashy and tiring to my ears. HM has a wider soundstage but OLA’s stereo imaging is superior.
The Tanchjim OLA is a great performing budget IEM. It has a safe tuning and pleasing sound with some of the best imaging you’ll find for under $50. It has a good cable and build quality too but could use some improvements in ergonomics. Fit issues aside, the OLA sounds fantastic.