TGXear Desolation Sound https://www.tgxear.com/ MSRP $599 Desolation Sound (DS) is the new, reference tuned TOTL flagship from TGXear. TGXear is conducting a small North American tour of it and I was lucky enough to catch the announcement and sign-up. DS contains a 130Ω custom N55 driver. It’s housed in a standard MX500 shell and has a similar cable to the great Sunniva cable, but with white and black resin y-split and 4.4mm plug. Production units appear to come with a wood storage box, while the tour unit came in a more standard laser engraved EVA zipper case. The DS signature is fairly neutral albeit with a slight analytical tilt. Transparency and clarity are top class. Bass is dense with a natural but not exaggerated decay. There is more impact than rumble and lots of texture. This might be my favorite bass in a flathead to date, as it reminds me of the aspects I enjoyed of the Dunu Luna bass. This sense of density carries over to the midrange. It feels denser, more solid than previous TGXear models I’ve heard. There is a middle midrange bump around 1.4k that reminds me of the similar bump on my Etymotic ER4XR. It can add a little honkiness at times but also provides a microscope-like attention on small, low level details, revealing the nuance and grit of the performance. Treble has excellent timbre and resolution but is also spot-lit in the lower treble. I was unable to use the donut foams provided on the tour unit for very long; the lower treble peak was just too pronounced for my ears. Next step was the lower density Serratus full foams. These presented everything very similarly to the donuts, while just slightly taming the treble peak, which was still a bit too much on some songs. I finally settled on some higher density full foams, though not as dense as Hiegi or Fiio bass foams. While the overall bass presence is elevated a notch, treble was now good for me across all my music. Transparency and clarity remained unaffected, despite the slight tilt to become just a hair more bassy. This slightly bassier response immediately made me think of my bass reduction filtered Sunniva, but taken to the next level. After some back and forth, this thought took more form- First and foremost, DS ups the transparency and clarity; gone is the slight veil of warmth of Sunniva. Decays are tightened and transients are faster. Bass is more precise and imaging takes a significant step up. DS is much more forward and close up in presentation. Sunniva is a little further back and feels a little wider, perhaps due to the perceived distance. However, DS imaging is significantly improved over Sunniva, so while overall stage feels more intimate, the relative scale is different. There is more space around instruments due this more pinpoint imaging. DS micro dynamics are truly excellent; reverbs and impact from toms and snares are very distinct, impactful and realistic sounding. Where Sunniva can be somewhat relaxed, the DS demands your attention. On the other hand, Serratus is leaner and cleaner with a blacker background, but less dynamic and nuanced. Rock guitars soar and the presentation is airy but lacks some realistic heft in comparison. DS notable increase in bass solidity and midrange density is not only more realistic, but more revealing and resolving micro-dynamically. Where DS really pulls the low level grit from the background, Serratus has a smoother, yet crisp blackness. Imaging is competitive between the two with regards to their spacial source locations left to right, but DS ups the ante with noticeably more spacial information front to back, albeit on a more intimate/forward scale overall compared to Serratus’ wider and further back grand presentation. The best analogy for these differences is this: Serratus is like seeing the band at an outdoor venue, whereas DS is like being up front in the club. If you want a TOTL flathead and you crave the best resolution, dynamics and transparency you can get, and price is no object, Desolation Sound should be at the top of your list.