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Audio Technica ATH-IM02 balanced amature inner earphone

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #209 in In-Ear

Posted

Pros: Clarity, All-Round Good Performance

Cons: Little Too Forward, Bulky, Seal May Be Hard To Achieve For Some

Thanks guys for helping to get this review featured!  The support I've gotten so far is amazing and I look forward to bringing more reviews to the Head-Fi community. 

 

AUDIO TECHNICA'S ATH-IM02


Quick Link To Review Thread Here.

 

INTRODUCTION


After recently purchasing a pair of Sony MDR-XB70AP's (see next review), I was greatly disappointed by the terrible overall sound quality on the "Extra Bass" earbuds.  I guess it should have occurred to me that earbuds named and marketed as "Extra Bass" would be pretty bad, but I fell into a beginner's trap and was suckered into the earbud's aesthetics.  Undeterred, I sought to find a pair of better earbuds, a search which quickly introduced me to the world of the audiophile.  I don't want to turn this into a tl;dr post, so if you want to know more about how I actually got to the ATH-IM02, see the Miscellaneous Things section.  Before moving on, a quick shoutout to Stereo Singapore for letting me audition 5 IEMs for over 2 hours.   

 

SPECIFICATIONS


TYPE: Dual Balanced Armature Driver

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20-16,000 Hz

MAXIMUM INPUT POWER: 3mW

SENSITIVITY: 113 db/mW

IMPEDANCE: 36 ohms

WEIGHT: 5 grams

PRICE: 211-250 USD

 
 

PACKAGING/INCLUDED ITEMS


 

 

Overall, the packaging on the ATH-IM02 is what you would (and should) expect on a pair of IEMs in the 200-300 dollar range. A smooth black box with precision cut foam inspires confidence, and helps to boost the overall packaging quality past some competitors.  In particular, I like that the earbuds are not placed in a simple clear-plastic holder and prominently displayed in a cut-out on the front of the box.  However, I am a bit of a stickler for details, so I'm not sure how applicable my comments are in this regard.

 

With regards to the included "value-added" items, you get a solid hard-case in which to carry your IEMs.  Audio Technica's included box is a good compromise between the soft top Shure carrying case and the ABS orange plastic Westone "vault".  It adds good protection without looking over the top in terms of demonstrating its ruggedness.  3 sets of silicone tips and a single set of Comply T500 tips are included.  This is an area that could honestly have been improved.  The inclusion of a few more tips and a triple-flange would have made for a much nicer fitting package.  However, it's also good to know that most of the money I paid went into actual hardware.  So, reader gets to decide on this issue.

 

BUILD/SOUND QUALITY


 

 

The IM02 has a solid build quality.  With a clear plastic housing, relatively comfortable memory wire, and decent "heft", it doesn't cause much doubt in terms of durability.  In addition, the use of a new proprietary 2 pin cable will help to lessen the impact of cable failure.  The jack is well built and features good stress relief.  However, the one gripe that one could have is the relatively large size of the IEMs.  With larger ears, the IM02 should be no problem.  However, with smaller ears, the IM02 might go from leaning towards a negative profile to sticking out of the ear slightly.  In comparison, the fit isn't as good as the Shure Tru-Fit design used by Shure IEMs.  Both fits still lose solidly to Westone's truly negative-profile IEM design.  That said, with a bit of tuning, most users should be able to achieve a good seal.  

 

Sound quality is excellent.  As has been said in many past reviews, the ATH-IM02 sounds well beyond its price point.  To start, the bass is solid.  It is tight and punchy, and is capped at a very good level. In Espoir by Darius, the IM02's demonstrate their ability to start the song with clear, controlled "punches" of upper bass, before gradually transitioning to a slow decay sub bass. For bass-heads though, the IM02 might spell disaster, as the quantity of bass is not particularly generous.  For me, it's great that there's a tight leash on the bass.  But for others, this might be a deal-breaker.

 

To test the mids, I utilized one of my all-time favorites, Africa by Toto.  For me, the ability for a pair of IEMs to play this song can be a deal breaker/maker.  Testing revealed forward mids that were rich and full.  While definitely not the smoothest nor warmest sound out there, the IM02 makes its stamp on the mids through a very analytical interpretation of the pieces it is tasked with playing.  I really appreciate the ability to hear one of the band members laugh softly at the 2-3 seconds into the song.  That to me is simply worthy of commendation.

 

The trebles are sparkly/bright, but can be somewhat harsh.  This is one of the things that the IM02 is not forgiving about.  Poor file quality will spell certain doom, and imperfections will be handled with the same clarity that otherwise makes the IM02 sound so great.   

 

FINAL THOUGHTS


This is a truly great pair of IEMs.  At the current price, you can enjoy amazing clarity and rich sounding music through dual balanced armature drivers. I have to commend Audio Technica on being brave enough to not dumb down the clarity in hopes of creating a more forgiving sound that would appeal to a wider audience at this price range.  As stated before though, if you are a bass head or are looking for a more relaxed sound, this might be the wrong pair of IEMs for you.

 

MISCELLANEOUS THINGS


I started out my search with the W10s, UM Pro10s, SE 215s, and SE 315s in mind.  However, after 2+ hours of auditioning, I was thoroughly convinced that the IM02 was the winner at the pricepoint given.  To start, the W10s are just too mild.  Westone didn't want to alienate casual listeners, so the earbuds were tuned to be a little more forgiving.  However, they are in many ways, far too forgiving and a little soft too.  The UM Pro 10s just sounded wrong.  An odd emphasis on mid-high notes and a lack of bass make for a floaty sound that just didn't feel right.  The SE215s were bassy and warm.  However, they had even less clarity than the W10s and were quite soft.  In comparison, the SE 315s were much louder, but lacked a clarity that would warrant the 315 dollar price tag.  After trying out the IM02, I believe I had found a clear winner out of these few "entry level" earbuds. 

Posted

Pros: Detailed treble, mid and bass. Great build quality. Replaceable cable. Very high isolating. Comes with hard carry case.

Cons: Fit a bit awkward until you get used to it. Not enough bass for a basshead.

 

Comfort & Fit

 

First thing to note, these earphones use balanced armature drivers rather than dynamic. Because of this getting a good seal is critical for the sound. Without a proper seal they sound tinny with no bass.

 

Straight out of the box the fit is awkward as you have to sit there fiddling with the memory wire that sits around the ear so that it sits firmly. Once the memory wire is shaped for your ear the fit becomes much easier and just a matter of sitting the cable over your ear and getting a good seal. I used the medium size silicone tips. The comply tips that come with it suck and ruin the sound. (Just my experience).

 

Build Quality

 

The build quality is excellent. The cable is strong, with a really good strain relief on the end where the jack is. The cables are detachable from the ear pieces and sit very securely in the socket. So secure that quite a bit of effort is required to take them out. You can be assured that the plugs will not wiggle around at all when you are wearing the earphones. The ear pieces themselves are very solid too. The cables are reasonably thick and finally the little tie-up thingie that comes up from the Y split doesn't press down on the cables it sits perfectly between them so it won't damage the cables like Hifiman RE-400.

 

 

When attaching the cables to the ear pieces you get a very tactile click to let you know it's locked into place.

 

 

The included hard carry case is extremely solid and feels like it could protect the earphones from a high amount of force.

 

 

 

Sound Quality

 

The overall sound signature of the IM02 is quite balanced with a hint of warmth and light bass. 

 

Highs are detailed and apparent, but never sibilant. I wouldn't call them overly smooth or rolled-off either, they are just a strike in between. Compared to the RE-400, the highs of the IM02 sound clearer and less veiled to me, which is to be expected as the RE-400 is warmer than the IM02. The treble extension did catch me by surprise. I tested the IM02 side by side with the Apple EarPods and the highs of the IM02 go so much further. Listening to Jetpacks Was Yes! by Periphery with the IM02 and the EarPods it became very apparent that the high vocals sound much "lower" on the EarPods, as if the person is singing with a deeper voice. Listening to a vocal heavy song will be very satisfying with IM02 as you will be able to hear the full extension of vocals that soar high.

 

Mids of the IM02 are clear. Listening to some Dream Theater to test the vocal strength of the IM02, I decided that the mids are definitely less warm than those on the RE-400, and clearer. Keep in mind that the IM02 are fairly neutral, but leaning on the side of warmth. The vocals of James LaBrie sounded very clear and definitely have some of the "intimate" sound of a smooth mid-centric earphone/headphone. 

 

Bass sounds tight and punchy to me. Personally, I can't comment too much on bass, as I usually don't care about bass and I don't go out of my way to hear how the bass sounds. But overall it sounds tight and punchy to me, and definitely not boomy. Without a proper seal the bass is nonexistent. 

 

Separation of these is quite great, and definitely better separating than the RE-400, which is no surprise as these are more neutral and less smooth than RE-400. The vocals are usually quite easily discernible from other mid-region elements of a song with the IM02. With the EarPods I find that vocals often sound like they are "combined" with the other mid-region sound in a song and this causes the vocals to sound pretty noisy. With the RE-400 this was still the case to a much lesser extent due to their warmer sound, but the separation on those was quite good. With the IM02 however the separation is definitely better than the RE-400 and now most vocals sound detached from the others instruments and never sound like they are "fused" to the other instruments.

 

Value

 

For an average price of $200, these are definitely an excellent value. Sound quality is a noticeable step up from the RE-400, and build quality of these earphones is probably the best in the price range. (SE series from Shure use more impressive build materials but are renowned for point failures).

Audio Technica ATH-IM02 balanced amature inner earphone
Description:

From low frequency to Medium and high range, this play the whole sound vividly BA headphones you can listen to firm monitor sound.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandAudio-Technica
EAN4961310125301
FeatureLength:1.2m(Y type) Weight: 5g Type:balanced amature type Output level: 113dB/mW frequency band:20~16,000Hz Maximum Input: 3mW Impedanse: 36Ω Plug: φ3.5mm Gold plate stereo mini (L type)
LabelAudio Technica
ManufacturerAudio Technica
ModelATH-IM02
MPNATH-IM02
PublisherAudio Technica
StudioAudio Technica
TitleAudio Technica ATH-IM02 balanced amature inner earphone
CatalogNumberList - CatalogNumberListElement4961310125301
Package Height2.87 inches
Package Length7.17 inches
Package Weight0.55 pounds
Package Width4.33 inches
PackageQuantity1
PartNumberATH-IM02
ProductGroupCE
ProductTypeNameHEADPHONES
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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