Alambic Ears Mundaka – Thunder!

If you're looking for an IEM with outstanding bass authority and power, a natural transparent midrange with excellent bite and a lively treble with excellent extension then Mundaka should be at the top of your list! 

The Mundaka has a strong personality with its incredibly powerful bass. Yet if it can be a basshead dream come true, it's not at the expense of the "audiophile" criterias thanks to its transparent midrange and excellent treble performance. Think of Mundaka as a good excuse to satisfy your inner basshead without compromising your audiophile backbone 😉

Pros

  • Highly engaging, fun and distinctive tuning
  • Outstanding subwoofer like sub bass
  • Toe tapping authoritative mid bass with excellent slam
  • Smooth, natural and transparent midrange with excellent bite
  • Energetic treble with smooth delivery and excellent extension
  • Outstanding stage height and excellent depth
  • Excellent price to performance ratio
  • Scales well with better sources
  • Custom at the price of universal

Cons

  • Only if you don’t like powerful bass 😉

Product Page : https://en.alambic-ears.com/produits-et-services
Price : 850€ (universal and custom)

Fit, Build & Isolation

The universal Mundaka features beautifully made shells with a piano black finish along with a colored nacre decorum. The shells are small except for a significant depth. They should fit smaller ears pretty well but will protrude a bit from your ears. The socket is a flush 2pin and I had no issues with cable rolling (worth mentioning).

Note that Alambic Ears can build a custom Mundaka for the same price as the universal. Also, my Mundaka although it’s the finalized product, it is a pre-production sample as I had the chance to preview it before its release.

Introduction

Alambic Ears has been gaining traction in the french community, first with excellent reshell services but now with a growing lineup. Some of you at headfi might have read some of @Aldo40 post in the DIY section.

Frédéric has a very interesting background that all caters to craftsmanship over 25 years : he has been building music instruments professionally and also… surfboards with quite a reputation over the years. If you’re a surf fan you won’t be surprised to notice Frédéric’s IEMs are named after surf spots.

As a DIYer speakers, amps, DACs and 4 years ago started building IEMs. He did quite a bit of re-shells in the french community and one thing leading to the other a year ago, people started asking him to build IEMs and that’s how the Jaws (3 way 5 BA) model was born (an upgraded Jaws II is now available).

Since then, he has started a full lineup from the Bali (350€) a 3 way 3 BA which was my first listen and I was mightily impressed at how coherent and fun the Bali was. I then had the chance to preview the Mavericks, a 4 way 7 BA : a fun IEM that features visceral, toe tapping, bass head level bass presence combined with a balanced midrange with excellent bite and an understated but refined treble. I haven’t heard the top of the BA range yet, but I have heard great things about he 4 way 11 BA Noosa and I’ll very probably review it soon.

The Mundaka is Frédéric first hybrid (and tribrid) featuring a 10mm DD, a full range BA and a dual EST. Alambic Ears website states : “Deep and clean bass. Intra-balanced to well-timed and lively mids with a natural extension of highs, crisp and impacting bass, a coherent scene and depth.”

Let’s check this out!

Sound

There is no mistaking the Mundaka upon the very first minute it’s clear it has a very strong personality seated in deep and very powerful bass, a smooth and natural midrange and a lively and well extended treble. The Mundaka is a visceral and fun IEM but with strong technicalities as we’ll see. The soundstage is not the widest but it’s very tall and deep it’s more spherical than elliptical and its height is really outstanding making for a very immersive listening experience.

Bass

The Mundaka’s bass is simply put something to behold. Upon first listen you’ll probably get a aha aha moment and go “wow”. That was my initial reaction : I haven’t heard bass like this in quite a while (and my second reaction : I wonder how it would sound as a custom).

Last time I was wowed like this was with Campfire Solaris. The Mundaka provides visceral bass that will provoke an emotional response and unless you’re averse to bass you’ll love them and it’s a big part of the Mundaka’s engaging nature although it’s far from its only attribute.

The Mundaka sub bass feels like you have a subwoofer driver in there, very few IEM can deliver this type of sub bass, period. It might be too much for some, but the good news is it’s also a transparent bass and that’s one interesting trait of the Mundaka. It will provide a powerful, visceral sub bass only on tracks that do feature it. My usual Aphex Twin “Ageispolis” sub bass test track was thunderous and I think the best I have heard it and Phanee de Pool “Amstram” was just as good. I found myself going over more sub bass tracks than any of my previous reviews : Booka Shade “Paper Moon” and Darkside “Paper Trails” as well as Marian Hill “Differently” or Klangkuenstler “Man on the Moon” were so enjoyable it was clearly apparent that something was missing before. Color me impressed.

The mid bass is highly engaging and fun with a strong bass line, but not at the expense of realism : I was so impressed by the drums in Lucy Dixon “Stormy weather” I felt like being right there as I was toe tapping along the quick burst of Stomp’s drums rendered with good speed and outstanding authority. Very few IEMs manage to do this and in fact not every headphone will. The same was true of the Drums in Ted Poor “To Rome”, Fink’s “Resurgam” and Nenad Vasilic “Lupafte” or Yom “Une épopée” : the Mundaka clearly excels with drums. This being said, stringed bass also work wonders and Rubén González “La Lluvia” double bass is deep and powerful with a very natural decay.

Source wise, the Mundaka loves power and I recommend a good source. You don’t need an amp per say but authority and control rely on good power as usual and it applies here. You won’t get the full experience otherwise. Hiby R6 2020 was a good fit to the Mundaka if you love your sub bass it has excellent sub bass power and the linear response is a great fit to the Mundaka signature. DX300 is a bit on the relaxed side and although it did pretty well my prefered source was Shanling M8 giving me the full Mundaka experience with a bit less subs than R6 2020 but the best mid bass experience. Cable wise, the Mundaka responded quite well to upgrade cables but the best two were Penon OSG that provide the best control among my collection although it trims down the bass quantity a bit and Penon Totem is the most energetic pairing across the range if it’s your thing. I would stay clear of bass boosting cables as the Mundaka doesn’t need it IMHO.

Mids

The Mundaka midrange is my favorite kind : it’s smooth, natural sounding and fairly transparent which honestly was unexpected given its fun low end. This is quite an interesting combination. Instrument timbre sounds spot on to my ears and contribute to the naturalness of the Mundaka’s midrange.

The lower mids is not dipped but it’s not boosted either and the transition with the bass is seamless and progressive. Warmth and body is infused by the Mundaka’s bass presence. In Carlos Henriquez “Cuchifrito” the double bass deeply seated bass grants the track body while the balanced lower mids keeps the stage quite open and transparent, reinforced by the lively upper mids on brass instruments in that track.

About brass instruments, the Mundaka does a pretty good job there and Joe Lovano tenor saxophone in “I waited for you” features the right amount of bite with a soulful portraying. In Blue Mitchell “Na Ta Ka”, Bill Green alto saxophone is quite energetic especially with DX300 and it was quite fun especially along with Paul Humphrey’s drums which contrast nicely on the low end. This contrast between the low end and upper mids is something that I like a lot about the lively Mundaka.

The Mundaka has a bit of vocal emphasis and vocals are clear. I found both male and female vocals to be engaging with excellent timbre, although I would say female vocals fare better given the upper mids tilt. Male vocals are accurate but don’t have the grit that lower mids focused IEMs can provide. Note that depending on tips, source and cable pairing I had a little sibilance on the most demanding tracks.

I liked the DX300 better than the Shanling M8 pairing there for instruments, it has more forward mids with more bite and it’s a good synergy for a more lively midrange but it won’t be for everyone and the downside is some hints of sibilance on vocals. M8 on the flipside had no sibilance and little less vocal emphasis. The Hiby R6 2020 sits somewhere in between. For the same reason, I liked the Totem the best out of the 3 cables I have rotated during the review as it’s a bit more energetic but the OSG is the more balanced.


Treble

The Mundaka’s treble is a nice counterpoint to its bass, bringing both balance in terms of energy and refinement and technical icing on the cake if you will.

The lower treble has excellent energy (although less than its bass :P) and like Tansio Mirai Land I recently reviewed shows that EST driver can catch up to balanced armature in terms of energy although I do feel it’s still a bit short in terms of weight compared to the best BA and that shows on piano notes. But it’s more a statement regarding the technology than the Mundaka EST that do an excellent job here. The Hot Sardines “Comes love (l’amour s’en fout)” intro piano notes features spot on energy and nice weight. The electric guitars in The Pixies “Where is my mind?” are as energetic as they should be while remaining safe and this track is a good test.

The Mundaka upper treble is characteristic of EST done right : it might be Alambic Ears first tribrid but it doesn’t show! The extension and resolution is excellent and the fast transients provide a sense of air that was previously the mark of multi thousands of euros TOTL. I have said it numerous times, I have become a huge fan of EST tuned right and the Mundaka is in that category. In my opinion it’s a big part of why mid and upper mid tiers IEMs are much closer if not equal to upper tier offerings in this department and this is true of the Mundaka.


Verdict

I love an IEM that shows a real “parti pris” as we say in french, one that has a clear tuning intent that is not meant to please all. The Mundaka has a strong personality with its incredibly powerful bass. Yet if it can be a basshead dream come true, it’s not at the expense of the “audiophile” criterias thanks to its transparent midrange and excellent treble performance. Think of Mundaka as a good excuse to satisfy your inner basshead without compromising your audiophile backbone 😉

If you’re looking for an IEM with outstanding bass authority and power, a natural transparent midrange with excellent bite and a lively treble with excellent extension then Mundaka should be at the top of your list! I haven’t heard the Project 4+2 but it should be a very interesting comparison when I get my hands on it…

Listening notes
I spent approximately 80hours with the Mundaka, listening on Shanling M8 using Penon OSG, ISN Solar and Penon Totem upgrade cable balanced. 

Special Thanks
Thanks to Frédéric for providing a loan review unit of the Mundaka which needs to be returned at the end of the review processAs usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: