Review - Kiwi Ears Allegro

Interview - Rikudou_Goku

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Back once again with another interview of a reviewer and this time it is Rikudou_Goku who has kindly agreed to take part in this series.

Ridukou_Goku is someone who is very active in the IEM and earbud community, posting regular content and taking part in online discussions on a daily basis.

You can find him mostly active on Head-Fi and HiFiGuides, with over 7000 posts on the former and his own thread on the latter, which is one of the most active threads by a reviewer I have seen.

Here is a link to his thread on HiFiGuides:

Why Rikudou_Goku?

The name comes from 2 of my favorite anime (which happens to be the ones I grew up with), Dragon Ball and Naruto. Rikudou translates to “Six paths” (originates from Buddhism) and is basically a name for power in the Naruto series. Goku on the other hand is the name of the main character from the Dragon Ball series. I just thought that if Goku had the power of the six paths from Naruto, it would be pretty badass. That’s the origin of my name. 

When did you start taking interest in the audio hobby and what was it that brought you to it?

I started playing the violin at the age of 7 until 12, then moved on to the piano which I played until I was 19. So, I have been in the audio hobby for a very long time and I have been using iems ever since I was around 10 (although back then I only had 1 iem until it died). 

It was only in 2018 (when I was 18) that I started to look more at the gear I was using, my Xiaomi Hybrid iem had died and I was looking for something else other than Xiaomi iems (which always ended up dying on me…). I stumbled across a few reddit posts praising KZ iems and how good chi-fi iems were (had no idea what Chi-fi was, even though I had been using Chi-fi iems for pretty much my whole life) and ended up getting the KZ ZS6. I ended up liking it and found Head-fi and that’s when my addiction started, it was one iem after the other in rapid succession. 

How long have you been testing and reviewing and what was the factor that made you start?

I have been posting impressions on head-fi ever since I created my account there in May 2019 but the first review I posted was back in November 2019, with the Shuoer Tape. That was the iem that wowed me and I wanted to share my thoughts. It was nothing about making a “good” review, just me feeling like a little kid and wanting to share my joy with the world. 

The other reason for reviewing (which Is still true to this day) was that I thought there was too many bad reviews out there, with very obvious agendas behind the scenes (putting it mildly). Which made me feel like I wanted to contribute some actual good into the hobby.  Of course, I myself learned a lot after each review and kept improving (still do) so my earlier are pretty much completely different from how they are today. And well, one iem after the other and here I am today. 

You have a large selection of ranking lists on your database, such as IEMs, earbuds, cables etc. Which came first?

Iems. That was (and is still) my main focus, everything else appeared as I got sucked into another rabbit hole. Got interested in buds, created the list. Got interested in cables, created the list and so on.

What made you decide to start creating the lists?

It was a good way to complement my reviews, where I instead rank things based on how it sounds to me and my library. Rather than my reviews where I want the scores to be a bit more “objective”.  It is also a much faster way for people to know what I like, instead of reading dozens of time-consuming reviews. A minor reason is that it is a lot easier for me to know what I actually have when my collection is so big (and not sorted well) by looking at the list instead. 

What are your procedures and tests to create the rankings?

I go through my library and see how the transducer performs. If it is a versatile transducer, I usually go through the majority of my library, spanning as many genres as I listen to as possible. Or if it is a specialist (specializing a specific/few genres) then I go through the genres that it is specialized for. Which will give me an idea on how it performs, and to narrow it down to a specific rank, I compare it to the iems in that rank range. 

How do you measure cables and what are you looking for in the measurements?

I use the ANENG AN8008 multimeter and I am measuring the resistance of the cables. Basically, a lower resistance is a better, higher quality cable. 

I wrote a little guide on how I do it here:

Regarding cables, do you feel that they have an influence on sound?

In my opinion, cables do NOT have any influence on the sound IF and ONLY IF the cables have a similar resistance. If the cables have differing resistances, that CAN have some effect on the tonality (FR) on the iem if it is a sensitive iem (usually a multi-BA iem). 

This can be seen in my measurement of the Tansio Mirai TSMR – 4 Pro.

But no changes with the Fiio FH5S (measured by Super Reviews).

Do you have a specific procedure for creating reviews?

I usually unbox and take pictures on the transducer first, post them on the forums then listen to them for about an hour to get my first impressions on them. After that I usually don’t talk about them until I am done with my review, which is usually done in 3-7 days. 

When I write my reviews I either start with the non-sound first or leave it for last (the most boring part), go through my testing tracks with the transducer I am reviewing first. I go through the tonality first and leave the technicalities and timbre for last since they are the harder aspect to get a good grasp on. Then when the base review is done, I usually let my ears/brain rest for a day so I can do the comparisons with fresh ears/brain (this is the longest part and can take days to finish if I have a lot of comparisons, since I prefer to not go through too many iems in a single day when I have to analyze them for a review) and finish up with my conclusion.

Tell us about your measuring rig and how you perform the measurements...

 I use the IEC711 clone through my Asus Xonar U7 soundcard on my PC. The iem is going through the Topping E30 + Jds labs ol Switch + Jds Atom. I measure with Room EQ (REW).

Do you take the measurements before or after listening to the item?

I form my first impressions first (around 1 hour) before I measure it, so I don’t get affected by bias based on preconceptions. Although sometimes when I have been spoiled by the graph by other people, I might measure it first because I have already seen it.

If before: Do you think it conditions your opinion?

It does, because if something measures with a lot of treble peaks, I will expect that and maybe I will be relieved when it isn’t as peaky as it looks or if it is then I proceed to facepalm. 

If after: Do you think your opinion changes at all after seeing measurements?

If it sounds good to my ears when I first hear it, I usually don’t pay too much attention to the graph to be honest. But if it sounds bad, then the graph usually shows it as well (like massive treble peaks) and I end up being even more disappointed because it means the tuner thought it was ok to sell a product that measures and sounds like that. Generally, my experience correlates to the graph though.

What is your most memorable review which is not necessarily the thing you liked the most?

Pretty hard to pick, but I say it’s the LZ A6. Since that was the iem that was my sole and uncontested flagship for an entire year. 

Is there anything you would really like to review but can't get a hold of?

That would be the Sony IER-Z1R. It is an iem that I sometimes think could be my endgame, for me to only realize that the fit is impossible for me. 

Does being located in Europe make it more difficult to have access to products to test and review?

In terms of being able to demo products before you purchase them, that option is pretty much non-existent here. As for getting products (whether it is a review unit or a self-bought one) to review, that is usually not an issue. 

Is there anything you have reviewed and now feel that you would review it differently if you could?

I would definitely like to re-review my older reviews and make them follow my current template to make it more consistent (in both sound judgment and writing skills) with my newer reviews. Lots of things have changed since my earlier reviews (like getting to know what it is I really like/dislike and also have a better review structure).

How did you come to create your own preference curve/target?

My target got created from me looking at the iems I liked the most in terms of their tonalities and then using EQ to try to improve it into a target. Then taking other iems and EQ it into that target. Slowly but surely, my target was born this way. 

The reason why I created a target (and why I think they are important), is that you will be able to get an idea on what my tonality preferences are like. So, for example, when I say iem X has too little bass, it might mean it has the perfect amount for you, that prefers a flatter bass shelf. And vice versa, if I say the bass has the perfect amount for me, then it might be too much for you. Having my own target means you will be able to interpret my impressions more correctly to your own tonal preference. 

Is your target the same for IEMs and earbuds? How about for headphones?

My target is specifically made for iems, it’s not the same for earbuds/headphones. I currently do not have a target for headphones nor for earbuds. Especially since earbud graphs aren’t really reliable, I don’t think I will ever have an earbud specific target. 

What IEMs, headphones and earbuds have you tried that matched your target the closest out of the box?

For iems, that would be the Sony XBA-N3AP and the LZ A7 (with pop-red config), especially since they are the 2 iems I looked at the most when I created my target.

For earbuds, that would be the Yincrow X6 (matches the closest to my iem target). Don’t actually have one for headphones, but the Hifiman Sundara with (bass) EQ is pretty close. 

Do you have a preference for one kind of driver over another? If so, why?

Dynamic drivers, because of their bass texture performance compared to other drivers and also because they have the most natural timbre to my ears. 

What are your favourite IEMs, earbuds and headphones at the moment?

The Hifiman Sundara with PEQ and the K´s LBBS with PEQ are my favorite headphones/earbuds at the moment. Iems, is a bit trickier, but I am enjoying the Sony MDR-EX1000 with PEQ a lot lately. 

What would you like to improve on them?

If their stock tuning is like the way I EQ them, that would be great.  As for the EX1000, I would like it to have more upper-treble, because that roll-off isn’t fully fixable with EQ. 

Your thread on Hifiguides is one of the most active threads by a reviewer I have seen, how do you manage to keep up?

It is possible if you no-life this hobby like I do lol.

You are also very active on Head-Fi with (most of?) your reviews being posted there. Are you very active anywhere else?

All of my reviews are posted there since it is easier to find my reviews and I think they have a good user interface for their review page. I am only active on Head-fi, Hifiguides and a few Discord servers (including my own).

Do you normally read, or watch, other reviews?

I do consume (read and watch) other people´s reviews when I am interested in something, of course I also try to find some consumer reviews/impressions as well. 

What reviewers do you feel align with your own tastes?

To be honest, I don’t think there is any reviewer out there with a similar taste to mine. 

What is your opinion on the "objective vs subjective" debate?

I believe that this is an inherently subjective hobby, but with some objective aspects as well. The subjectivity comes from the fact that we all like different things, whether it is different genres, different albums (same artist) or just different tonality preferences. We also just simply don’t hear the exact same thing, different ear canals, age, setups, hearing capabilities/health all make this a personal experience in the end. This is why It is hard to declare transducer X as objectively better than transducer Y, since it is subjective in the end. The objective aspect is more about measurements, whether it is transducers or cables (although interpreting the FR graphs is subjective, “one man’s trash, is another one’s gem”). 

What direction do you think the headphones world will take and where do you see it in 5 years from now?

Wireless, it is quite likely that more and more people will switch over to wireless products when they keep getting more and more refined. Of course, I do believe that for the people that heavily prioritizes sound over convenience, wired transducers will still be the primary choice. 

What is the thing that you most dislike about this hobby?

People forcing their Subjective opinion on others. As well as the ones that just follow a single reviewers’ words like gospel. 

Anything you would like to add or mention?

I don’t have anything else to add, but thank you very much for featuring me in this interview. 

So, that is all for this interview, I am very grateful to Rikudou_Goku for taking the time to participate in this series of interviews and I hope that you found his input interesting, helping you to get to know the person behind the reviews a little better.

I certainly suggest that you check out his reviews on Head-Fi and his thread on HiFiGuides, there is a lot of content!

I hope to be back with another interview soon, until then, thanks for reading!

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