ThieAudio Prestige: Do It Again
A new ThieAudio release is big news these days. The brand that redefined price to performance ratio are not done disrupting the market. They are also not afraid of challenging themselves.
Oracle2 was a demonstration of that. It had the best dynamic driver bass by ThieAudio to date. It also debuted a new EST treble sound. When I heard it, I fully expected both technologies to feature on to the (then teased) new tri-brid flagship.
Enter Prestige. A graph was teased, and that seemed to confirm my speculation about treble. The extension looked unlike anything we had seen before from ThieAudio. I was also pleased to see on that graph that Prestige bass shelf looked similar to V16. Not only is V16 bass excellent, it also seemed to support ThieAudio’s claim that Prestige is a true reference monitor.
After what seemed like an endless few weeks, Prestige arrived. It was finally time to put the speculations and claims to test.
So how does Prestige sound?
Prestige bass shelf follows V16 almost perfectly but it's done by a DD rather than BAs. The result is an impactful, deep and textured bass. And while the graphs look similar, the two iems don’t sound the same. Prestige sub-bass extends deeper and gives more of a woofer effect. V16 bass on the other hand is faster with a punchier mid bass. This said, Prestige does not lack mid bass. Kick drums and bass guitars sound punchy and lively.
Prestige bass hits deep and hard when it needs to. And it does so without a hint of bloat. It’s clean and leaves space for the rest of the sound to shine. In one word: exquisite.
Mids were the biggest surprise. Vocals were a standout feature of Monarch2. The (slightly) boosted upper mids are one of V16's distinctive features. Not here.
Prestige mids are not thin but they are somewhat slim. Vocals and string instruments sound slightly recessed compared to its older siblings. This has a few implications, some of which are positive. One implication is that Prestige sounds slightly V-shaped rather than reference. I will touch more upon this later on. But before that, let's talk about the star of the show.
My biggest question when I first saw Prestige graph was whether treble would be too much for some people. This worry was alleviated when I first heard it. There’s lots of energy in the treble but it’s never harsh, sibilant or offensive.
Prestige treble extension is its standout feature. This is not just ThieAudio’s best EST implementation to date. It is one of the best EST implementations out there. Prestige treble punches well above its price point and puts it in some exclusive company. This includes iems such as the Elysian X, LimeEars Anima and Subtonic STORM. Upper treble is boosted, more so than X or Storm for example. Cymbals can sometimes splash a touch more than I would ideally want but it’s not offensive. People who are highly treble sensitive might want to take note here. The vast majority of people won’t have any issues though. The handful of people who tried Prestige so far found the treble excellent.
The treble extension combined with the slightly recessed upper mids has some positive consequences. First of them is stage. Prestige stage is expansive and deep. This creates a very immersive experience. And while width and depth are excellent, stage height is more on the average side. V16 for example gives vocals more height.
This is not to say that the space Prestige creates is low, quite the opposite. With Prestige, I sometimes feel like I am sitting quite high in a big arena. This feeling is generally wonderful, but it also sometimes feels slightly overdone. This happens for example with some acoustic recordings that are supposed to be more intimate.
Resolution and detail retrieval are generally excellent. Layering and instrument separation are superb. The one technical area where I wish for some improvement from ThieAudio in the future is dynamics. I find myself sometimes wanting a touch more energy and “grunt” from the sound. Overall, Prestige remains a very strong technical performer.
In conclusion, ThieAudio have created yet another stunning, competitively priced product. Prestige is a worthy addition to the tri-brid family and deserves its spot as the flagship in that line-up. For those who use EQ, a slight boost at 2khz works wonders and will make Prestige an even more complete iem.