The Mrz Tomahawk`s are an earbud from Chinese audio company Music Maker. They have received quite a bit of attention lately and represent the next step up from the likes of the Baldoor E100, Fiio EM3 and VE Monk, all budget champs with their own unique tonalities. The Tomahawk deviates from these buds through it`s bespoke metal build and a sound promising “Dual BA” like quality, though it is a dynamic driver earbud. Music Maker present the Tomahawk as a neutral, audiophile orientated earbud, claims worthy of the attention it`s garnered of late, but does the Tomahawk impress? Let`s find out.
*I ordered the Tomahawks from Easyearphones, a popular seller on Aliexpress. They arrived in Australia a month after my order, pretty typical for a parcel from China. The suspense was immense.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
The Tomahawks came in a non-descript cardboard shipping box containing a triangular red hard case that was at least well bubble wrapped and protected. The case unzips to reveal the Tomahawks and an array of foams. They also come with a small shirt clip for activity and reduced microphonics.
Music maker provides numerous foams with the Tomahawk, 8 black and 8 red and 4 of each are donuts. This is a thoughtful consideration since the earpieces are identical, and you can use different colored foams to differentiate between them. The Tomahawks are also quite neutral so regular foams can be used for a fuller sound.
I`m not a huge fan of the stock carry case, so I ordered two red and black carbon fiber textured cases and a larger black carbon fiber case as well. They only cost me a few dollars and are decent on their own, I`ll use them for my Fiio EM3`s and Baldoor E100`s.
I did notice that the foams were especially firm and fit around the earbuds very tightly. Perhaps they were custom cut because they perfectly seated around the rear of the bud. They are not dense, the donuts didn`t make a big difference to midrange clarity but the bass response was improved and the regular foams didn`t add a lot of warmth either. Perhaps the only suggestion I have is that Musicmaker could have included different density foam covers like the Monk+ to provide even more flexibility.
The packaging leaves a lot to be desired, but they are Chinese and retail for $50 AUD or around $35 USD. This non-frills approach that most Chinese newcomers take is befitting of value products and hopefully conducive of a focus on audio quality and the product itself.
From the smooth metal housings to internally braided cable to the plated, low profile y-split and plug, the Tomahawks are a thing of beauty. They combine impeccable materials with a retro inspired design that really strikes the eye. Pictures don`t do the Tomahawks justice, they look even better in person. I have the silver version but the black model looks just as nice, they remind me of an earbud Grado in a way.
The Tomahawks are actually very shallow fitting, even for an earbud and I had some discomfort from the ribbed strain reliefs rubbing on my ear. It takes some adjusting, but once you find the right position, they are can be work for hours, they`re just a little more finicky than plastic buds. The housings are smooth with rounded edges, the face is plastic and a little less imposing on the ear. The housings are also quite small for an earbud, much smaller than the Baldoor E100 and even smaller than the Fiio EM3`s, an earbud considered compact itself.
The metal feels great, you get that cool sensation when you first insert them but after a while they warm up to your skin temperature and you barely feel them, I`m a big fan. The sound changes a bit with the angle in your ear, but not nearly as much as the Baldoor E100`s, they are generally quite stable and consistent.
When looking online, I initially thought that they had a sandblasted matte finish, but the Tomahawks are glossy. For better or for worse, they are definitely more catching than I thought they would be and they still have a slight texture to them for grip/comfort. On account of their light weight, I assume they are aluminum and they are impeccably well machined. They have just enough weight to feel premium but not enough to be even remotely cumbersome in the ear. The housings are very smooth and comfortable, more so with foams, whilst the stems have a concentric machined texture like the Klipsch x10`s, providing some added grip when inserting and removing the earphones.
The cable is interesting, I`m not so sure about Music Maker`s choice here. The texture is terrible, it`s very tacky and springy, more than the E100 for sure. The cables don`t coil well and transmit a lot of noise, their only virtue is that the light seal prevents microphonics. At least the springiness negates the tacky texture and as a result, they don`t tangle easily. The cable is too thin above the y-split however, but it is very thick beneath it, Music Maker should`ve had full width all the way, but it seems to be a re-purposed generic Aliexpress cable. All ends are well relieved. Part of the reason why I chose the silver model over the black one was because the cable on the silver model is better relieved. The jack is gold plated for no crackling, the plug has a metal housing with a nice molded texture that is easy to use. There is a flexible strain relief that works well. The Y-split is similarly well-relieved with a smooth metal housing and neck slider. The neck slider is barely functional on account of the grippy cable, it`s a big disappointment.
The earpieces have large metal strain-reliefs, they have no give at all so I`m not sure how effective they are at absorbing stress. They unscrew from the housings for easy cable replacements however (the cable is non-removable). I did find them a little hard on the ear, producing a bit of a hot spot after about half an hour of listening. Unscrewing them produces a deeper, more comfortable fit, but the sound is drastically altered, sounding very veiled and losing a lot of top end clarity, not great. I might replace the cable with the Cygnus cable down the road (KINDEN silver plated cable from Aliexpress). There is no remote option for the Tomahawk.
Light markings run the perimeter of the rear faces, portraying the branding, Music Maker and the Model Tomahawk, though I`m not sure what the Z signifies. The housings are identical with only very minute L and R markings on the bottom of the rear faces denoting orientation. Using the multi-coloured foams that come in the box alleviates this issue, but the red makes them look a bit more juvenile than I would have liked. Still, the Music Maker Tomahawks truly belong in your ears where you can`t see them and this is where they excel to an even greater degree.
These are perhaps the only earbud where I felt the need to use full foams. I usually use donuts or none at all. For the sound segment of this review, I`ll be judging them in reference to the sound with full foams.
The Tomahawks are very lean and balanced on a whole, with only a mild boost to the upper mids. The sound is thinner than my Oppo PM3`s and I would like a hair more lower mids, but they do have an extremely clean and clear sound similar to the Sennheiser ie800`s (tonality wise). They are far more balanced than the majority of earbuds. For example they have more midrange presence than the Baldoor E100 but less treble and far less upper bass/lower mids than the EM3. They are more appealing tonality wise than both. The Tomahawks to my ears were slightly mid forward even, but I prefer a more v-shaped sound.
There is amazing separation to the sound, helped by the broad soundstage that has great width but excels especially in depth. The sound is very 3D and reverb effects sound thoroughly immersive. Instruments are very well separated and imaging is solid. The soundstage is better than the E100`s and similar to the EM3`s, there is more depth than either, but the EM3 has more width.
They are quite sensitive, not as sensitive as the Baldoor E100`s, but a good deal more so than the Apple Earpods and Fiio EM3`s. They work well from a smartphone and even my iPod Nano. They don`t require amping but are resolving enough to benefit from a good DAC.
The bass is just about neutral or perhaps slightly less. With full foams, there is plenty of quantity however and luckily, the bass is extremely textured, fast and resolving. The Tomahawk has good extension for an earbud, about the same as the EM3 if not more. There is a solid amount deep bass and some sub-bass. It is less boosted than the EM3 and E100 so it can come off as less impressive, but listen a little longer and you`ll realize it is far more so. The bass has that quality where it`s there and also not, depending on the source song, it can take a back seat to the superb midrange but also impose with authority, the Tomahawks never even encroach upon boominess or congestion however.
The entire bass response is of fantastic quality and sounds full enough for almost any type of music, though I would call them more audiophile orientated. Quantity wise, the mid-bass is similar to the EM3, sounding nice and full but still very punchy whilst upper bass is a far more neutral. As such, the Tomahawk has no spill into the mids and the bass is much more defined, less thick and boomy. Lower mids are much cleaner too. The bass quality is brilliant and extremely tight but the quantity can be too anemic. For instance, even my Oppo PM3`s sound richer and they`re pretty much reference flat apart from some extra midrange body. I find it pretty spot on with foams but I wouldn`t listen to the Tomahawks without them, and they did take a day of adjustment, sounding a bit mid-forward and harsh at first. The Tomahawk`s sound is more textured than the E100 which was my previous earbud bass champ, I prefer the more linear sound of the Tomahawks, but for those looking for more slam, you can do no wrong with the E100`s.
Great vocal performance combined with an abundance of details produces a very enjoyable listen. The mids are almost spot on, very smooth but a little bright at times. That being said, they are reasonably flat overall and definitely not peaky. They are amazingly refined for an earbud and quite spacious. The mids have the most clarity of any earbud I`ve tested so far, even more than the Baldoor E100`s, all the while managing to retrieve more detail and sound much more refined. They retrieve more detail than the EM3 despite being more recessed but some will miss the body and warmth that the EM3 provide. The E100`s are similarly bright but more recessed by comparison and nowhere near as smooth.
The midrange performance is a big step up from $10-20 budget earbuds including the Monk+ (review coming soon). They are very transparent and synergize spectacularly with the slight warmth of my Fiio gear. Piano comes through clean, acoustic sound brilliant without excessive brightness and vocals sound superlatively smooth. Vocals can sound a bit metallic but foams increase midrange body to slightly above neutral levels, they are just about neutral with donut foams.
Vocals and effects are very impressive through the Tomahawks, I enjoy them a lot. The lack of bass spill creates such a clean sound rarely heard at this price. They don`t have that hollowness that most earbuds have and neither do they over correct like the EM3`s, they sit happily in the Goldilocks zone.
Treble has a roll-off at the very top, but still sounds airy. It is missing that last bit of sparkle but has great body and texture. Like the mids, the treble response of the Tomahawks is the most detailed and refined of all the earbuds I have tested but not the most extended. The treble response prevents the bright mids from becoming overbearing and fatiguing, the Tomahawks aren`t hard to listen to. The treble is crisp in general and not overdone, it is neutral to my ears but rolls off quickly after that, the sound cuts off right at the top compared to my ie800`s and high-hats can get lost in the mix. Overall it is more textured than even the EM3, but both the EM3 and E100 extend more, the Tomahawks have a lot more treble body though, which prevents fatigue in rock songs and the like.
The Tomahawks are superior to the best budget earbuds you can buy, both in sound and build. They look amazing and provide a very refined and balanced sound with an emphasis on clarity. The unique metal housings are far more inspired than the usual generic designs employed by Chinese manufacturers and it`s genuinely charming.
Music Maker have produced a strong offering for under $35 shipped, in fact they are one of the best earbuds money can buy and I personally prefer them to the Yuin PK1`s. The Tomahawks could have a remote model and they could also have nicer packaging, but the focus on pristine build and sound produces a great experience and I commend Music Maker for their achievement.
Design – 9/10, I love the housings and abundant strain-relief, but the cable is rubbish. The metal strain-reliefs also dig into my ears after some time, producing a hot spot, it`s a shame that this design affects the sound so much otherwise I would gladly remove them and re-cable. I wish Music Maker had employed a smoother cable and perhaps one that is less springy. Ironically the EM3 had a much better cable at a much cheaper price. Apart from that, the earphones are very ergonomic, the fit is very reliable for an earbud due to the thick strain reliefs and the sound is consistent with angle of fit, unlike the E100`s. That`s a big accolade for a piece of audio gear utilizing a form factor almost universally detested for poor fit.
Bass – 7/10, Very tight and extremely textured, the bass has good extension but could do with a little more sub-bass to combat the loose seal. The bass is punchy and agile, and with regular foams there is plenty of quantity. They work well even for pop.
Mids – 7.75/10, The mids are smooth with copious clarity and detail. They have are an evolution over the Monk+, E100 and EM3 in terms of refinement, they sound great. Bright signature might not be for everyone and they can sound metallic or artificial without the appropriate foam cover.
Highs – 6.5/10, Treble performance is good, but overshadowed by the dreamy mids. The highs have only decent extension with some roll-off. The treble has very good detail retrieval and texture however, I would still call it superior to my previous favourite the Fiio EM3.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 10/10, Not as wide as the Fiio EM3 which also received a 10, but there is more depth. It is more rounded than the EM3 and instrument separation is better on account of the less mid forward signature. The Tomahawks have a superb soundstage.
Value – 9.5/10, The Tomahawk is that much better than the earbuds in the price class below and well worth the premium. Not only is the build far superior, the sound is much improved too, even purely based upon tonality. A great buy if you`re looking for a audiophile earbud under $50.
Verdict – 8.5/10, The Tomahawks are brilliant, they are very well balanced between build, sound and ergonomics, there`s no denying that the Tomahawks have something for everyone. Music Maker is a relative new comer in the audio game, but give them a chance and you`ll find perhaps the best sounding piece of audio equipment under $35 shipped, I`ll look forward to the Ting and other higher models in the future.