Welcome to our Journey to STORM series, where we share everything that went into creating STORM. In Part 2, we write about the process of STORM's major breakthrough in the rehaul of its philosophy, aesthetics and accessories.
A Fresh Start
As we rehauled TRKR, I was truly inspired by our team's unwavering perseverance, even in the face of countless setbacks. We all agreed that we couldn't compromise on any aspect of the product - it had to be truly special. After all, we were dedicating all of our attention and focus to this one product. Our goal has always been to create the ultimate reference for years to come. We aimed to make the sound so good that it would remain unsurpassed even ten years down the line - something truly timeless.
A New Name: STORM
During one of our many TRKR overhauls, one of Symphonium’s staff joked that we should rename the product STORM, which stood for Subtonic Opus Reference Monitor. While there was a quick laugh around the office, I personally loved the name. I felt that the TRKR name was too selfish - this IEM was truly a team effort! I didn't want to make it all about myself by calling it TRKR.
We discussed the name change as a team, and ultimately decided that STORM was the perfect fit. The challenges we faced along the way were like navigating rough waters and strong winds, and the name STORM embodied not just the final product, but also the journey we took to get there. It was time for a fresh start!
STORM's concept art
To truly capture the essence of its name, we focused on the theme of stormy clouds when designing STORM. We carefully crafted the flowing lines of the clouds and asymmetry between the faceplates to evoke a feeling of unpredictability, while using varying line widths to create a sense of dynamism. The result is a design that in many ways represents the sonics of the STORM.
Layered textures and dimensional look of the enamel and titanium mirroring the nuanced nature and multifaceted nature of the STORM’s sound. Flowing lines showing the ever changing character of a storm, encapsulating the malleability of the STORM and its capacity to progress alongside improvements in sources, tips and cables for years to come.
STORM's hand-enameled faceplates
Additionally, the team designed the faceplate to accommodate hand-enamelling, which provides a bespoke feel to STORM. The enamel is a fine art in itself and is similar to how enamel is used in high-end watches. You can read more about our hand-enamelling process here.
Black on Gold...
To add depth and texture to the faceplates, we chose to use two primary colours that would create a striking contrast. After experimenting with various colour combinations, we ultimately decided on gold faceplates with black enamel paint. The combination of gold and black exudes an air of elegance, never loud yet sharp - a perfect match for the STORM. The contrast between the bold colours and the swirling cloud design creates a unique and unforgettable look that is both distinctive and eye-catching. The STORM’s design should be just as unforgettable as its sound is!
A New Shell
STORM is inherently larger than most IEMs due to its complex acoustic and crossover design. A small fun fact: STORM’s crossover features many large high-quality components that take up as much physical space as a few drivers! This was particularly challenging from a design perspective, as we wanted to ensure that the IEM was not only comfortable to wear but also secure and easy to insert and remove. Our team's expertise was in designing deep-fit IEMs for extra security in the ear, but community testing revealed that most listeners preferred a shallower fit for comfort and ease of use.
To address this challenge, we worked closely with Symphonium to design a new shell that could accommodate all of STORM's components while still providing a secure and shallower fit. We completely overhauled the shell design, incorporating rounded edges and a more ergonomic shape that fits comfortably in the concha of most ears. By optimising the distance between every driver and component within the shell, we were able to reduce the overall volume needed. Additionally, after analysing dozens of 3D ear scans, we adjusted the nozzle angle to ensure a comfortable fit for as many people as possible.
The result is an IEM that is not only comfortable to wear but also surprisingly secure, despite its larger size. Many listeners have commented on how comfortable the shell feels, and how easy it is to insert and remove. Our goal was to create an IEM that not only sounds incredible but is also comfortable and easy to use, and we are proud to say that we have achieved that with STORM.
Shell Material Selection
We then ordered a prototype shell made with Aluminium to verify the size and feel of metal in our ears. It was a hit with the local community as well as the UK community that attended CanJam London. Many listeners remarked how light the shell was despite its larger size. However, using metal in its regular finish would often highlight scratches and marks. We knew that we needed some sort of protective coating to enhance durability and longevity of the shells. Gold plating was not going to be durable enough for more than 5+ years of daily use. PVD coating was the clear answer to achieve long-term durability!
The various materials and shapes we used to prototype the ideal shell!
We experimented with different materials for the shells before settling on Grade 5 Titanium with PVD coating. The use of titanium makes the shells lightweight while still durable, and the PVD coating enhances outward durability while having the ability to hide fingerprint marks.
Accessories and Packaging
With STORM’s sound designed as an experience, we also wanted the accessories to tell a story of its own. Our accessories must not be an afterthought, with each accessory an intentional design choice that adds to the STORM experience.
As a company, we prefer working with fellow local Singaporean companies as we would enjoy easier communication and also be able to control quality at the same time.
The Cable: Mira
Many cable options were considered for STORM and pairings were tested with most of the top cables available in the market. Ultimately Mira was selected as the most optimal pairing. Mira utilises the highest purity copper and silver-plated copper sourced from several top Taiwan based foundries in a compact shielded design with a shielding coverage of more than 98%.
The STORM edition Mira features an OE Studios interchangeable connector (2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm, USB-C and Lightning available) for ultimate flexibility to the end user, and the tuning of the cable was carefully tweaked to match the change in sound from switching from the default Furutech connector to the OE Multi connector.
OE's interchangeable connectors!
STORM paired with the Mira cable, equipped with OE's interchangeable connector.
Mira’s extremely low resistance and highly shielded design is coherent with the spacious, neutral and highly resolving presentation of the STORM. The result of this pairing is a compact and ergonomic cable that synergises extremely well with the reference design goals of STORM.
A close-up view of the Mira wire
Leather Pouch: TODAH
As an avid leathercraft enthusiast, what struck me immediately was the lack of attention given to pouches in the audiophile hobby. These pouches are often generic OEM factory rebrands that simply detract from the overall experience. They just wouldn't suffice.
Being Singaporean, I've had the privilege of witnessing the incredible craftsmanship of local artisans. It was my goal to bring that same level of quality and artistry into STORM's packaging. After all, if the STORM itself is meticulously handcrafted, all its accessories should be too.
We partnered with TODAH to brainstorm ideas for an exceptional earphone pouch. Together, we established the following specifications:
- 100% handstitched with piped construction, ensuring utmost durability
- Crafted from the exquisite Pueblo leather sourced from the renowned Badalassi Carlo tannery in Italy
- Equipped with YKK Excella zippers, which are YKK's highest grade metal zippers for unparalleled reliability
- Handstitched with waxed linen thread, far more durable than your average cotton thread
- Lined with luxurious suede leather on the inside, delivering a velvety smooth feel
- Fortified with a thick foam backing, providing superior shock resistance
By collaborating with TODAH and implementing these top-tier materials and construction techniques, we've created an earphone pouch that not only complements the STORM's elegance but also ensures the ultimate protection for your audio gear.
Perfecting the STORM's pouch was no easy task, requiring us to go through four prototypes before achieving perfection. The semi-circular shape presented a unique challenge, but we persisted until we got it just right. To ensure both structural strength and enhanced durability, we incorporated meticulous details like piping.
When it came to selecting the zippers, there was no doubt that we had to go with the best in the market: YKK Excella. These zippers not only offer a smooth and robust feel but also outperform every other zipper we encountered. Their exceptional quality was a natural choice for us.
In my opinion, the most crucial aspect of the pouch is the leather. As we aimed to create a timeless design with the STORM, we knew the leather needed to age gracefully, like a fine wine. Instead of the usual chrome-tanned leather, we opted for vegetable-tanned leather. Veg-tanned leather develops a beautiful "patina" over time, gradually softening and darkening, aging alongside the user's lifestyle habits. Badalassi Carlo's Pueblo leather, with its unique "stone finish," adds a textured feel that sets it apart from other tannages.
Aged (left) vs New (right)
Please take a moment to appreciate the transformation of our pouch in these before-and-after photos, showing its aging process over 1.5 years. Not only does the patina undergo a drastic change, but the hand-feel of the leather also becomes even more supple and smooth. There's no denying that nothing ages better than veg-tanned leather!
Every element and accessory of the STORM has been carefully selected and designed with intention. We don't believe in simply following the crowd; instead, we strive to carve out our own unique path.
Stay tuned for the final installment of our Journey to STORM series, where we delve into the exciting sonic rehaul of the STORM. We can't wait to share it with you - see you soon!