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Astrotec AX35

Posted

Pros: Sounds Wonderful Overall, Nice Finish

Cons: Isolation, Packaging & Accessories

Astrotec has been mostly into budget IEMs until recently, when they introduced their AX60, AX7 and now their AX30/35. The version I have here today is the AX35. I’m not sure of the prices yet, but from what I hear, the AX30 will be around $65 while the AX35 will be $80 (USD). The AX30 is supposed to be the bassier model of the two while the AX35 was tuned to be more neutral. Me generally preferring a more neutral presentation, picked the AX35 over the AX30.

 

 

Hybrid IEMs really are the FOTM here on Head-Fi, with the DN-1000, AX60, H-200, 1plus2 etc. However, these are all 1 dynamic driver + 2 BA IEMs; the AX35 has one BA driver as opposed to two. This makes it more or less a competitor with the DN-900, H-100 and the MA750 (1 dynamic driver) BUT all of those are more expensive than the AX35. However, upon the first listen I could tell that Astrotec had created something special here which could not only compete, but maybe even better more expensive IEMs.

 

To be honest, last time I listened to the AX60, I was rather disappointed with it and found that the DN-1000 was actually superior at a cheaper price. Therefore, I was rather uncertain as to what to expect from Astrotec’s new IEMs. Luckily, I actually really like the AX35’s tuning unlike the AX60s. Edit: I just got en email saying that mine were a review sample and that the final model will have all the tips. There are available at the Noisy Motel right now. 
**Disclaimer** I got these at a discounted price in return for an unbiased review.

 

 

Unboxing & Accessories
The box wasn’t much at all, rather disappointing actually. However, I suspect this was to cut down on the cost price. Upon opening the box you will find a manual, and then the IEMs greet you. Taking that layer off, there is a round rugged metal case and inside it, the accessories. Overall, it isn’t bad, but it doesn’t make it feel like a high quality product – kind of like the AX7’s box actually.

 

 

It doesn’t come with an array of accessories like the Dunu and RHA offerings. Instead, it comes with a case, 3 sets of silicone tips, 1 foam tip and ear hooks. What was weird was it came with just 1 small silicone tip and 1 foam tip (no, I didn’t lose it). The silicone tips are the same ones that come with the AX60 and I really like them. The foams are just regular foams, not sure if they are comply because I don’t use foam tips. The ear hooks are a nice touch and made out of rubber. They are very flexible, but you can’t really adjust them to fit your ear. Not a big issue as I don’t think many people use them anyway.

 

 

Design & Isolation
The design of the housing really reminds me of the Dunu DN-1000 and 900. You can tell that the finish is of very high quality. The IEM housing is constructed from metal and everything is very smooth; the build is easily on par with the DN-900 and MA750, but not quite up to the DN-1000 level. It has 2 vents, one on the face and the other on the top of the IEM nozzle. One thing I wished Astrotec had done is put a logo on the face – it would have made them look much more professional IMO, but no big deal.

 


The cable is very nice – I believe it’s the same one that the AX60 uses. It is a bit springy though, which I don’t really like. It is very tough and feels like it can withstand quite a bit of punishment though. Another thing to mention is I’m not a fan of the colour; it looks somewhat pink from a distance (it’s actually red, orange and green). I would have preferred something more low profile like black or grey. The plug and y-split all seem very nicely crafted, though the AX35 on the y-split is facing the wrong direction.

The isolation is rather bad, worse than the DN-900, MA750 and even the 1plus2! It is along the lines of an EX1000 (horrible). I took them on a bus once and they were worse than my $20 IEMs. These are strictly for home listening only.

 

 

Testing Gear
 

 

I tested these on quite a few sources and what I am quite surprised about is that they actually scale up to better sources quite well. On the Clip+ made these a little too warm, but I really liked them with my Nano.
Charles, the person who sent these to me told me that these responded quite well to amping and they certainly do. On the DX50 which has a decent on board amp, the sound opened up quite a bit. Adding on a Palaios made the sound a little better and the mids came out a little. On the Leckerton UHA760 the soundstage increased a bit more and that’s about it. However, I highly doubt people will be using a $700 rig with an $80 IEM lol. Anyway, I did the review with the UHA760 and DX50 with SPC cable.

 

 

Sound Quality
Ok, so I’ve listened to the AX35 for a while now and I am still quite surprised as to how good these sound. The sound quality is absolutely stunning for its $80 price tag, a good bit under $100. These hands down beat the BA-100 and are right up there with the MA750 and DN-900, both of which cost one and a half times the AX35’s price. So let’s get on with the review.

 

 

 

Bass
For me this is the best part of the AX35 here. I was told that the bass on these would be neutral and no… it’s not. For me at least the AX35s bass is definitely not neutral at all; rather it is quite emphasized, but certainly not to the levels of the Dunu DN-1000. I kinda reminds me of the MA750’s bass except it is much faster and it does not have as much sub-bass. Anyway, I am usually a guy who enjoys a neutral sound sig more, but sometimes I just love a heavy, detailed bass which is exactly what the AX35 provides. The detail of the bass is very good, I would say even better than the MA750 and it stays very fast, no bloat whatsoever. This actually makes the DN-900 feel a little bit slow. Overall the bass is just about on par with something like the MA750. Overall, the bass is simply amazing for just $80. Seriously, this is the best bass I’ve heard in anything within twice of the AX35’s price.

 

Midrange
Ah, the midrange… Few IEMs seem to get it right for me over here. I must admit though, I am extremely picky with the midrange tonality that I like. One that that I just can’t stand is veiled vocals and an overly recessed midrange. Well, the question you might be asking me is whether I think the AX35 is just right. I’m happy to say that yes, it definitely gets it right for me. The midrange is very neutral and maybe even a little on the colder side of things. These are not nearly as warm as the MA750 and these never gave me an impression of a midrange veil. The mids are recessed as well, but not so much it become annoying. Vocals sound pretty damn good on the AX35, being detailed yet not fatiguing and I really love playing Maroon 5 on these. It just sound so natural sounding. The mids’ tonality are exactly as I like it and man, do I love these.

 

Treble
I think that the treble is rather neutral but it is a bit emphasized and is definitely on the bright side of things that I have heard. Personally, I prefer a brighter presentation and I absolutely love the AX35’s treble response. It is just around what I like and honestly, it is better than the MA750 and marginally, the DN-900. The reason why I like BA’s for treble is very evident here. It is very detailed and clear. I think that quantity wise, it is somewhere near my UM Miracle and DN-1000. So far I have not experienced sibilance even at higher volumes with any tracks I have tested this with. The DN-900 uses the identical BA driver but it is tuned differently and I feel like the AX35 has better detailing and overall I just feel like the AX35’s treble is more for me. Anyway, the treble on these is simply like nothing I have heard in the sub $100 range.

 

 

Presentation
As some may know, I have always preferred the way that hybrids and dynamics present music as opposed to BA IEMs. Part of this is because of the more expansive soundstage. With the AX35 I really like the front row seat presentation. At times the music can sound intimate but at other times it is a little further away. Also, I didn’t feel like the presentation was in your head at all.

 

 

Accuracy
I know accuracy is perceived differently for different people. For example, a lot of people use the ER4S as a golden standard of accuracy while other people feel differently. I think the AX35 leans to the funner side of things and has more of a slight V sound signature rather than being neutral. However, it does sound very natural and has a realistic timbre to it. Usually I feel like neutral IEMs just don’t feel quite right with the drum beats so I prefer a somewhat boosted low end and the AX35 is just that. Also for instrumental music these do well as well.

 

 

Detail
I must admit, I am a little bit of a detail freak and I have never really been impressed at the $100 range other than the R50. However, I am truly blown away at how detailed these $80 gems are. I mean seriously, these are like nothing I have ever heard under $100. Yes, it does lose out slightly to the R50 and all other TWFKs for that matter, but it is priced a good $40 lower than the R50, is not as harsh and has a very solid bottom end unlike the TWFKs. Obviously it is not as detailed as the DN-1000, but nobody really should expect it to since it costs nearly 3 times as much. I don’t see anyone being disappointed here.

 

 

Separation
Vocal separation is rather impressive and I feel like it is on par with the MA750. Another IEM it is close to is the B2/R50/AX7. Despite them using 2 BA drivers to handle the entire spectrum as opposed to the AX35 having 1 dynamic driver for bass and 1 BA driver for the midrange and treble I don’t feel like the TWFKs have an advantage here.
Instrument separation is even better than the vocal separation and sometimes I feel like it even exceeds the MA750. This is quite a feat considering I thought very highly of the MA750’s separation.

 

 

Soundstage & Imaging
The soundstage is large – bigger than the DN-900 anyway. I feel like it is somewhere around the level of the MA750 actually. It is wide, but not as much as something like the DN-1000. It is quite tall and deep too.
Imaging is definitely one of its strong points as well. This is where it clearly beats the MA750 and the DN-900. It doesn’t have the pin point imaging that more expensive models do, but it is extremely impressive.

 

 

Comparisons
I’m going to briefly compare these to a few IEMs that are more or less in its price range.

 

Astrotec AX35 vs Hisound BA-100
 

 

Personally I like the way that the AX35 looks more and the Astrotec is also built better. The bass on the BA-100 is smaller and very nicely textured. However, the AX35’s bass is simply harder hitting and more detailed. It does lose out on speed though. I have to give the bass to the AX35 but not by much. The midrange is pretty similar on both models. They are both somewhat on the cool side. The BA-100 has a very slight artificial tone to it and it is very similar in clarity. This goes to the AX35 as well. The treble on the BA-100 is rolled off while the AX35’s is more prominent. Being a little bit of a treblehead my vote of course goes to the AX35. The AX35 has better separation, imaging and is a little more detailed as well. Now, the BA-100 does looks more low profile and isolates better, but I find that the AX35 does beat it by quite a long way. At its original price of $50 I would still highly recommend it, but at its current $100 price tag it is much harder.

 

Astrotec AX35 vs Shure SE215
 

 

Let’s start off with saying I love the Shure’s design. It isolates very well, it comfortable and has a detachable cable. However, I find the sound of the Shure rather mediocre at best. The bass is bloated, midrange warm and somewhat veiled and treble rolled off. Soundstage and separation wasn’t great and it lacked detail as well. Sorry, I just don’t see a fair comparison here. The Shure really sucks next to the AX35. I wouldn’t get it unless you can get it for cheap ($50-70) used or need the isolation (even then I’d probably go for some lower end Etymotics). For $100 these really disappointed me.

 

Astrotec AX35 vs Dunu DN-900
 

 

The Dunu DN-900 was a great IEM and it still it, but it sound a little shaky next to the AX35. The Dunu comes with a giant yellow case which I don’t like and an array of accessories. In that area they are better than the AX35 no doubt. When it comes to bass, I find both very impressive. They have similar way of presenting bass but the DN-900 has more and hits harder. However, the AX35 is faster and both are equally detailed. This is a draw. I find the midrange on the DN-900 a bit forward and very clear. It is even more textured than the AX35 so I have to give the midrange to the DN-900. The treble is a bit rolled off on the DN-900 and the AX35 is more treble friendly. Personally I prefer the AX35’s treble. The AX35 is more detailed, has better imaging and a bigger soundstage. I know I said that I thought the MA750 had better vocal separation but later I changed my mind and thought the DN-900 is just slightly superior. It beats the Astrotec in this aspect but the AX35 beats it in instrument separation. Here, I don’t feel like there is a winner – just two different sound sigs. If I had to pick one it would probably be the AX35.

 

Astrotec AX35 vs RHA MA750
 

 

The RHA MA750’s packaging really was rather impressive and so was the IEM. It looked stunning, better than the AX35 if you ask me. The bass is a lot fasted on the AX35 buit I did love the sub bass rumble on the MA750. The detail was ever so slightly better on the AX35 though. I have to call this a draw. The MA750’s midrange has a veil and I hate it. Luckily, this isn’t too bad but I liked the AX35’s mids much more. The MA750 is a dark IEM and it takes some getting used to. The treble is rolled off even more than the SE215 and favouring a brighter sound, I have to give this to the AX35. Soundstage and imaging is about even on these 2, but I think the MA750 may be a bit better. This is quite a feat for such a low priced IEM really. Vocal and instrumental separation is better on the AX35 but they are not too far apart. Both of them are exceptional really and it does come down to what sound signature you prefer and for me, the AX35 is the winner here.

 

 

Summary
 

 

So you may be thinking: wait, an $80 IEM can even beat the ones that cost significantly more (at this price point $40-$50 is a large factor)? And my answer would be yes, in this case definitely. I absolutely love my AX35 and they aren’t going anywhere for a while. They are slightly V/U shaped while still being neutral. This earns my highest recommendation. 

Posted

Pros: Quality sound, excellent build, hybrid design, great price

Cons: reduction in upper midrange clarity, needs a better L/R indicator

When it comes to headphones, I'm often in pursuit of the best sound or the best value. With in-ear headphones, typically the choice is either a dynamic driver (bigger size, warmer sound, harder to cover the whole dynamic range, cheaper) or balanced armature driver (smaller size, brighter sound, allowing multiple drivers in the same headphone housing, more expensive). This pretty much defines the trade off between better sound control and better value. Lately, there has been a new trend with in-ear headphones, a hybrid design using a single dynamic driver tuned for low frequencies and a single or multiple BA drivers for mids and highs. Today I'm going to take a look into one of these unique hybrid in-ear headphones manufactured by Astrotec with a single dynamic and a single BA driver. Here is what I found.

 

My review unit came directly from Astrotec, and I assume all the included accessories is exactly how it's being sold new from retailers. I always start with a look at the packaging, and these arrived in a small compact box with English/Chinese text, including a note about legal disclaimers and a list of specifications including a taped-over correction for headphone impedance which is listed as 12 ohm (in original on-line listing it was 8 ohm). After opening the box, you are greeted with AX35 which has a very professional (audiophile quality) solid metal body polished look with a multi-color twisted cable inside of the clear silicone soft shielding (flexible and relativity tangle free) with a metal y-splitter followed by a metal sliding cable cinch. 3.5mm connector is gold plated with a same metal body, very slim so it can be used with any smartphone in a case even with a smallest headphone opening. Looking further in the box, you find a round tin can storage box, very different from typical draw-string bags or hard shell cases with a zipper. This really makes a statement of being unique, although I would recommend using a regular hard shell case down the road because you don't want metal earpieces to be banging against metal walls of this storage can, but it does make a great storage for accessories. And speaking of accessories, included are a total of 3 pairs of S/M/L silicon eartips (a better quality than a typical generic stuff), a pair of medium foam tips with a resemblance to Comply, and a pair of soft silicone earhoops to assist you in wearing headphones with a wire over your ear.

 

Beside a solid build, headphone body has a unique shape with elongated nozzle design to use different eartips and allowing a deeper insertion in your ear. I personally use the biggest eartip size with all of my in-ear headphones, and due to a soft nature of the included tips, for my testing I was using hybrid tips (very appropriate for hybrid headphones ) I borrowed from my v-moda faders. Looking closer at the design, you will find an opening pinhole port on the back (typically to widen the soundstage) and the opening pinhole port at the base of the nozzle (typically for bass control). The strain relief is minimal and should work, though I really wish they would color code it like in E10 with red on the Right side. Unfortunately, the only way to distinguish the R/L is by looking up a small white letter marking on the body of the headphones next to strain relief - if that is a paint and if it will wear off after a while, there is no other way to separate left and right. I hope this is taken into consideration with any future revisions.

 

Now, we come to the most exciting part - the sound test. Knowing a typical sound characteristics of dynamic driver and single and multi driver BA headphones I reviewed in the past, I was very curious to find out how AX35 is going to sound. From the spec listing of 12Hz-23kHz frequency response (in comparison to a typical 20-20k), I was already expecting a greater bass and some extension in highs. My sound analysis was done driving AX35 from X5 DAP, Galaxy Note 2 (directly and connected to E18 DAC), as well as my laptop using variety of FLAC and 320kbps mp3s. In general I found the sound to be consistent, and these are easy to drive from any source. So how would I describe it? I would definitely file it under fun v-shaped sound signature with an enhanced bass, slightly recessed mids, overall sound being warm and detailed, and also a wide dip somewhere around 5k-6k (guessing based on reduction of vocal clarity and some Innerfidely charts of similar sounding headphones). The bass in AX35 is truly amazing thanks to the dedicated tuning of 10mm dynamic driver. With other single dynamic driver in-ear headphones, it seems that you have to "stretch" your sound tuning across the entire dynamic range. Here the driver tuning is isolated, and the bass goes deep down to sub-bass textured layer with a fast punching mid-bass, very full and detailed without feeling bloated. Treble has plenty of details as well, and has a pleasant sparkle without high frequency fatigue, definitely appreciated for an extended listening period.

 

Ok, so what about mids (intentionally leaving it to describe last)? They are detailed, no question about it, and also they do feel slightly recessed which could be also as part of a perception next to the enhanced bass quantity. I have a number of BA in-ears, and quite familiar with a bright sound signature of these, especially when it comes to upper mids and vocals. With AX35, it seems to have an attenuation down in a region of frequencies somewhere around 5k-6k which is easy to hear with vocals due to a slight loss in clarity. Don't get me wrong, vocals are present and detailed and have a very smooth warm signature, but clarity is not well defined. I put over 20hr of burn-in, hoping it will change, but it was still the same. As a matter of fact, I just read Joker's (THL) first impression of AX35, and he also mentioned a sound being v-shaped and being slightly veiled in midrange. I don't want people to take it in a negative way, since these are great v-shaped headphones with a fun signature, and anybody who's listening to EDM, pop/rock, and rap/hip-hop will absolutely love it!!! But those who are into classical or jazz or just like more emphasis on vocal details - these will not be for you. Furthermore, I also want to add these have an amazing soundstage, way beyond a lot of other in-ear headphones in this price category or anything even double the price. Also, with a right selection of eartips, you will get a decent passive noise isolation. In addition, I was very pleased there was hardly any microphonics effect with wires worn down or over the ears.

 

Overall, though I probably spend a little too much time focusing on sound shortcoming - these are probably among some of the best v-shaped fun headphones I heard in a long time!!! As a matter of fact, during my sound test in addition to switching between other in-ear dynamic and BA pairs, I was also comparing them to my V-Moda M-100 and I found AX35 bass presentation to be much better, as well as better definition of midrange. Astrotec went for a specific sound signature, trying to accomplish it with a single dynamic driver and a single BA driver - and they nailed it with flying colors!!! What makes it truly amazing, these sell for about $75 which is a fantastic value!!! Considering a solid build and top quality of materials, excellent sound presentation with an amazing bass quality/quantity while not necessary being a basshead headphones, and a very affordable price for a hybrid design without cutting any corners (headphones specific, accessories aside) - these make a great addition to anybody headphone collection, no matter if you are a casual listener or a seasoned audiophile!

 

Here are the detailed pictures of AX35.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Astrotec AX35
Description:

The Astrotec AX35 is based on a hybrid dual-driver technology consisting of one balanced armature for clarity and details and one dynamic driver dedicated for bass in each earpiece. The AX35 is tuned for a balanced presentation with precise imaging for audiophiles. The AX35 offers exceptional performance never before seen in this price bracket. Product Highlights Powerful bass from the dynamic driver and well controlled mids and highs from the BA driver. A flat tuning is employed for more details on the whole frequency range. Clean and well layered vocal experience. Good imaging and extensions on both ends, also ultra-low distortion. Highly purified and specially selected cable to match with the tuned drivers, enabling efficient transfer of signal. Very soft, yet pliable. Low impedance to match with daps and phones, hassle-free replaying high quality tracks, driving the IEM to its full potential. Specs: Drivers: 10mm Dynamic Driver + Single x Balanced Armature Frequency response: 12Hz - 23000 Hz Sensitivity: 104 dB/1mw (S.P.Lat 1KHz) Impedance: 8 OHM Cable: 1.2m ± 0.3m TPE Connector: Ф3.5mm stereo gold-plated plug Max input: 10 mW Included: Headset X 1 Warranty card X 1 Metal storage box X 1 Red sponge X 2 Large X 2 Silicone Case Silicone sleeve X 2 Small X 2 Silicone Case

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