(Thanks to Pristine Note for loaning me the C-12 IEM for this review.)

The Signature Acoustics C-12 Elements in-ear monitors are probably the first Indian-made earphones aimed at the discerning buyer. Oh sure, there are lots of other Indian-made ‘phones, but a majority of them are tacky, cheaply made and sound like crap.

The C-12, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty put together with a lot of care. These IEMs have a wooden housing with plenty of visible grain, and the firm’s initials carved into the rear add a nice touch. The braided cable comprises 10 strands of wide copper wire under a protective sheath and splits towards the earphones from a piece of wood also embossed with the firm’s initials. pn2

The strain relief at the base of the housings and on the L-shaped 3.5 mm gold-plated stereo pin are of superior quality and, unlike a lot of ‘phones, these conveyed virtually no sounds when the cable brushed against clothes.

Did I say these ‘phones were an object of beauty? Add to that the accessories that come with it – a heavy carrying case hand-carved from brass blocks with an antique look (a touch impractical as I can’t see anyone lugging this around in their pant pocket but hey, it looks great sitting on a shelf) and a zippered leather pouch (which looks like it’ll stand up to a lot of abuse in the real world).

The C-12 (which retails for between Rs 2,550 and Rs 2,700 with the leather pouch and for between Rs 2,850 and Rs 3,100 with the metal case) comes with the usual three sets of ear-tips, a shirt clip and something I’ve never come across with other ‘phones – two filters of 180 microns and 250 microns that can be used on the nozzles to change the sound signature. I didn’t try to experiment with the filters as I didn’t want to go fiddle with metal pincers and used the default ones for most of my listening.

The sound? Well, when used with portable players or smartphones, the C-12 will be loved by people who like their bass. The makers of the C-12 describe its sound as “warm, bassy and fun when used with a neutral source player” and that’s more than accurate.

This isn’t flabby or loose bass and 320kbps MP3s of tracks like Moby’s “Lift Me Up” or Chicane and Bryan Adam’s “Don’t Give Up” sounded terrific with these ‘phones – there’s plenty to like about the slam and authority of the bass. pn3

Vocals come across nicely though the mids are a tad recessed. There’s a steep roll off of the highs from about 2 kHz and if, like me, you want a little more treble, you’ll have to play around with the equaliser on your player to coax the highs out of the C-12.

Isolation is good and the C-12’s sound isn’t fatiguing even with prolonged use.

Paired with my Denon PMA-717 amp playing CD-quality and high-res FLACs from my laptop via the Micromega MyDAC, the C-12 offered up a warm, robust and more balanced sound. These babies love power and handle it very well. The rolloff of the highs was still there but somehow, it was less noticeable.

I have a few minor quibbles about the C-12 though – the “L” and “R” markings on the housing aren’t easy to spot and the ear-tips weren’t the best I’ve come across. But as I said, these are minor quibbles. pn4

Signature Acoustics have got a lot of things right with the C-12 and I can’t wait to hear more products from this firm. They have shown they are capable of delivering and maybe their next ‘phones will hit the ball out of the park.

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