Aroma Audio Thunder

My New #1

Pros: One of the best IEMs I’ve ever heard
Great mids
Top-tier soundstage
Excellent instrument separation
Good bass quantity
Beautiful shells
Good quality build

Cons: Some bass bloat – mostly noticeable on EDM
Terrible cable – use aftermarket
Mediocre Ear Tips – use aftermarket
Puzzle Boxes

Thunder Leyding.jpg


The Thunder Rolls! Up for review today is Aroma Audio’s Thunder. With a name like that, you really expect these to have a ton of bass, but instead, we get a well-balanced and insightful IEM (that still has lots of bass.) Aroma has put together a 10x Balanced Armature and 1x Dynamic Driver (developed in-house by Aroma) IEM – that’s a lot of nuts drivers! The DD, of course, covers the lows, where DD does best; then, you have 4x BAs covering the low and medium frequencies; another 4x covering medium and high; and 2x more covering the ultra-highs. Dang. That’s basically a driver dedicated to every 500 Hz of the main listenable frequencies. If you don’t feel like reading the review below, know that the Thunder sounds really freaking good.

Thunder Front.jpg

Build Quality / Comfort:

The build quality on these is great – photos don’t seem to do the shells justice – they’re far more beautiful in person than you would think (very hard to photograph.) They have an almost lava-like style to them. They are also a smaller width than the Thieaudio Monarch Mk2, though quite a bit thicker. They will stick out of your ears quite a bit, so if that bothers you, don’t get them. Aroma sealed the Thunder so that it looks like it’s all one piece, which I like a lot. The Thunder also sits in my ears more comfortably than the Thieaudio Monarch Mk2 (MMk2.) If you’ve read any other reviews of these, people complain about driver pop – this is the first time I’ve experienced this. It’s a thing alright – and it’s pretty annoying. Every time you put these in your ears, they will make a weird popping noise. It’s not pleasant, but only happens when putting them in – so, whatever.

Now For The BOX…ok, the BOXES – there are two and they are a pain. The first is a wooden box (yayyy), but in order to access the treasures within you must solve the FIRST of your challenges (should you choose to accept it.) It literally feels like a puzzle box since there are NO directions included. Not even like…a sticker with an arrow. The trick is to slide the lid towards the right while the Aroma is facing you (there are small cuts in the corners also.) Then, YOU MUST PASS THE SECOND CHALLENGE! Which just so happens to be another box. So, if you smashed the first box with a hammer in frustration, you’ll be happy to know that the second box inside is made of really good quality shiny metal. And yes, once again, there are no indications on how to open the dang thing. Apply your previously learned lesson and you should be able to open the box to reveal the IEMs, a few OK ear tips (I’m using the Spinfit W1 here:, and a crappy cable. Oh, and the Spinfit W1 DO fit on these nozzles – barely, the nozzles are the biggest I’ve ever seen (bigger than Monarch) so keep that in mind if you have small ear canals – these WILL NOT FIT your ear…probably, I don’t know – I haven’t measured your ear.

Thunder Accessories.jpg

The Cable Rant – Seriously? What is with $2k+ IEMs coming with the world’s crappiest cables? Spend less on the stupid puzzle boxes and more on the cable. I don’t need a tank/hammer-proof metal case that is impossible to open – I need something like the Monarch or Campfire Audio include – tough, easy to open (zipper), not nuclear proof. I do however need a cable that feels higher quality than the TRUTHER HOLA ($19.) Seriously, just make a deal with Kinnera and get the Leyding for all of your headphones – it’s GREAT (here if you want one: and it’s modular – they’d even probably color match it for you (black cables are really boring on the $2500 IEM.) Take a page out of FAudio’s book and include a NICE cable for frick’s sake! Stop making me take away points from otherwise good IEMs for a bad cable of all things. When the TRUTHEAR HOLA ($19) has a nicer cable than you, you have a problem. At least it’s 4-braid 4.4mm and lightweight – but it’s also tangly and the thinnest wire I’ve ever seen from a cable.

Oh yeah, and there’s a switch. This is becoming another pet peeve. Just stick with the tuning you want the IEM to sound like, don’t make it adjustable – it’s barely noticeable. The two modes are Focus Mode and Harmony Mode – Another TEST! I still don’t know which is which…because who labels stuff like that – also, I haven’t found anywhere that tells you which direction is which. They can be broken down into bassier mode (barely – Focus) and Harmony (uh…less bassier and less treble-ey also? What?) I gave up after switching them back and forth 3 times. Hardly a difference, I couldn’t tell which mode was which, I’m guessing Focus is up – got sick of the popping noise every time I put them back in. Feel free to play with it if you get a pair.

Thunder Box.jpg

Sound / Source / Comparisons:

Looking at the frequency response graph from tgx78, the MMk2 is way off where it should be from a better source, but this is the only Thunder graph I could find. The MMk2 has higher mid-bass and low-mids than that Ah well. It appears that the MMk2 and Thunder have similar sub-bass, but I would say the Thunder has more bass without a doubt. The mids look all pretty different, but I would also say that these have somewhat similar mids with the upper-mids being more pronounced on the Thunder. The highs are actually pretty similar between both, so not much to mention there on the freq chart. Quick Note: The MMk2 and Thunder tuning sounds really similar to me while doing back-to-back comparisons, the differences noted below are the main notes to be aware of.

Monarch Thunder.png

I will be running the Thunder and MMk2 from my Shangling M3 Ultra (M3U) from Tidal Hi-Fi using 4.4mm balanced. The Thunder is much easier to drive (24/100) than the MMk2 (35/100) using a balanced connection. 3.5mm would obviously be harder to drive. The Thunder will use less battery than the MMk2 over time. Now, on to the MUSIC, which is the only reason anyone cares about the Thunder at all – because they sound really good.

As usual, I don’t like breaking down headphones solely by frequency range since every song has bass, mids, and highs (and I can’t tell the difference between vocals at 1900 Hz and 2100 Hz.) So, I will start with bass-heavy songs, then move to mids-focused and lastly highs-focused songs, then break down each song by how all the pieces are presented. You can find my Tidal test tracks playlist in my signature if you want to compare them to your headphones. Our first test song is of course David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue.)” The intro bass drums come in hard with a lot of impact and a little more reverb than I like here – it’s not a fast decay, and the bass isn’t as tight as I’d like (personal preference.) The mid-synths come in very clearly and the sense of a massive soundstage can be felt. Surprisingly, the mids are not recessed here despite the soundstage. They feel very forward and at the front with the rest of the sound surrounding you and the sub-bass kicks you in the face. Speaking of the sub-bass, it’s really strong and at the level I like it to be at without overwhelming the mids – it still sounds a bit dirty like the mid-bass, but the overall impression is really good. Hi-hats can be heard clearly so the highs are good as well. The MMk2 has better-controlled bass (tighter), but less of it. The mids are more forward but of similar quality. The sub-bass on the MMk2 is actually more annoying, and kind of overwhelms the mids more than on the Thunder. The hi-hats can still be heard just as clearly on the MMk2. Overall, these two are very close, but the Thunder wins with soundstage and better mids.

OK, I can’t review the THUNDER without using “Thunder Rolls” as my mids-test song. But, since I’m not a Country fan, I’ll be using Overscene’s version. Oh man, does this sound good on the Thunder – almost as if this song was made for it. The intro thunder rolls across both earbuds and the rain makes you feel like you’re really there. The clean guitars come in beautifully along with the singer’s voice. You can hear him taking breaths like he’s singing in your ear – it’s sick. There is so much detail and such a wide soundstage here on the Thunder – I absolutely love it. So, how do the distorted guitars sound at 1:49? Also good, but further back this time – the vocals still take the front (as they should.) 2:30 shows how good those distorted guitars can sound. The drums come in cleanly with good impact without overwhelming any part of the song. Seriously, this is great. So how does the Monarch compare? The thunder in the intro doesn’t sound as close or as good. The rain still sounds solid and the guitars come in nicely. The vocals are good, but the soundstage is smaller and the little details the Thunder displayed are missing. Separation isn’t as good either (in all fairness, the Thunder cost 1.5x more.) The distorted guitars at 2:30 still sound really good, and overall the song still sounds great, but the Thunder is better.

Moving on to Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” the intro horns come in nicely. The snare drums come in clearly in the background and the 0:35 shift comes through cleanly. There is no significant “S” sibilance to speak of, which is great (there’s a tiny bit, which is common.) The drums come in nicely, though a little muddy, and there are little details I hear in this song I haven’t heard before – the horns are just great. In case you’re wondering, that soundstage is still huge. The Monarch has equally good horns in the intro, though the vocals feel further away and flatter than the Thunder (a surprise.) There is the same amount of “S” sibilance on the MMk2 vs the Thunder, but it is so close that it hardly matters. The drums are definitely subdued on the MMk2, with faster decay and less thump. It’s still good though.

Nightwish’s “Nemo” is the last song I’m going to test with and it’s sort of a grab bag of lows, highs, mids, etc. The highs of the piano come in beautifully and the bass is really well represented. The vocals are clearly heard in the mids and high-mids. The distorted guitars can be a bit much a 0:46, but they never once overwhelm the vocals on the Thunder. The bass guitars also come in nicely, with just a touch of that over-reverb I’ve noticed on the Thunder. The 1:48 vocals sound great, and the soundstage once more is fantastic. Nightwish has vocals that are about as high as you can get, and the Thunder has no issues displaying them perfectly. The 2:36 guitars also sound awesome – the Thunder can do metal AND classical really well (yes, The Piano Guys’ “Code Name Vivaldi” sound great on them as well, though the low-end has too much bloat to beat the Mezzo here.)

Thunder Corvette.jpg


If you like your bass tight, but less of it, and don’t mind the smaller soundstage and worse instrument separation, get the Monarch (it’s cheaper and comes with better accessories.) If you’re OK with a little bass bloat with your increased bass presence and want a massive soundstage, good instrument separation, tons of detail, great mids, and great highs, then get the Thunder. It’s the best all-rounder I’ve heard and it’s nice to finally have something that can beat the Monarch almost entirely across the board. These are great. Ignore the crappy packaging and accessories: Buy a Kinnera Leyding and some Spinfit W1s and just enjoy never having to put the Thunder back in the boxes again. This is my current #1 IEM for sound quality.

Headphone Scoring – Each category can be split into quarter points:
Build Quality1​
Ear Pads / Tips1​

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