Pros: Great value for the money. Engaging sound signature. Natural and engrossing soundstage with great depth and height. Detachable and upgradeable cable.
Cons: Comfort could be an issue for those with smaller ears. Stock tips veil sound somewhat.
I've always heard great things about the Audio Technica brand, and had often seen fans of the brand lauding their products. When I had a chance to get my hands on their IM series in a trade with a fellow Head-fier, I jumped at it and got the IM50. I was impressed with the way it presented vocals and how fun it was to listen to, so I wanted to see if I could find the same type of signature with a more refined sound. Enter the IM70. Several head-fi veterans sang the praises of the IM70, even over the VSonic GR07, my daily driver. With such a claim, I certainly had to test it out so I immediately ordered the IM70. I wasn't disappointed.
Opening the nicely packaged box, the usual IEM fanfare is waiting inside. Small, medium, and large replacement tips, as well as a pair of Comply™ foam tips and a vinyl carrying pouch. Nothing too fancy, but then, accessories don't make the headphone.
The IM70 have a modern design, but also evoke memories of 1980s electronics for some reason. I personally find it rather appealing in its aesthetics. The dual symphonic drivers are housed in a hard hybrid plastic that looks quite sturdy and feels hard as a rock. The fire engine/Ferrari red color is very slick and stylish. The detachable cable starts with a thick 2-pin connector attached to a flexible memory wire. While I've heard quite a few complaints over the memory wire, it hasn't been a problem for me once I got it initially set into a comfortable position. The cable comes with an adjustable chin slider and terminates in a well relieved and sturdy 90° L plug. Overall, the cable isn't anything to write home about, and a bit on the bulky side, but seems very well made and strong.
As far as comfort is concerned, the IM70s have a negative profile design, which is slightly larger than average. I've read a few complaints about fit, but to me they're just fine and I can wear them for hours on end. If one has smaller ears, however, do take note of the size. There's no problem with driver flex or any such thing.
Overall, the IM70 has a very warm, natural, and engaging sound. It features strong bass (though not a basshead earphone by any means), natural mids that take center stage, and a smooth, yet quite detailed treble. One thing to note is that the stock tips can muddy up the sound a bit. If you like things smooth and darker, this is fine, but to bring out the details and energy, I'd highly recommend finding a thinner, wider bore tip. For this review, my IM70s are fitted with the Auvio hybrid tips, available at RadioShack in the US. Also, these IEMs are quite sensitive and require no amping. They should be easily driven from just about anything.
The lower register of the IM70 is quite prominent, but gets out of the way when it needs to. It has some boom to it, but never feels like it bleeds into the midrange, and remains in control despite a softer impact. It's not as regimented and precise as a GR07 or a balance armature, but whether it's rapid fire double bass drums in Metal tunes, steady beats in rock and pop, or deep beats in EDM and Hip-hop tracks, the lower range will bring a smile to the face of anyone who likes a nice, warm, and controlled low end. Drums have a realistic weight and texture and bass guitars sing from the upper bass register. Basses can be a bit forward but balance well with the midrange, thus only rarely and on poorly mixed tracks do they become an issue.
This is where the IM70 truly shines. The midrange is somewhat recessed in the lower mids, but comes right back up to meet the listener when it reaches vocal territory. Male voices sound powerful and balanced with the low end, and female vocals sound wonderfully ethereal and well placed. Guitars are full and have that chunk when they need it, and heavenly plucks when they don't. Instruments sing as well as the vocalists do. Everything sounds sweet and pure, in a way that really has to be heard to be believed.
Treble is very detailed and extends well while remaining smooth and inoffensive. Like the rest of the signature, it never comes across as artificial and snare drums and cymbals sound uncannily realistic. Even in low bitrate recordings, sibilance rarely comes through and there is no treble fatigue. Coming from VSonic IEMs, the treble seemed overly smooth to me, but after the initial ear and brain adjustment period, I fell in love with it. Small details like pick scrapes, piano hammers, and cottonmouth come through clearly and bring a smile.
Soundstage and Image
The soundstage of the IM70 is quite realistic in its 3D presentation. It’s by no means the widest, but has excellent depth and height for an IEM (not to mention a sub $100 one). It’s not at the level of an amped Havi B3 Pro 1, but provides a wonderful stage with splendid separation and imaging for the listener.
(Admittedly, YouTube isn't the highest fidelity audio, but these sound just fine for frame of reference purposes)
This track shows off the naturalness of the IM70. Close your eyes and you can imagine sitting in a room Tom Waits’ growling voice in front of you. The bass thumping and clicking on one side while the mids and treble response of the acoustic guitar on the other. Behind you, the pop of a snare drum in the depths of the stage.
This song starts with a synth echoing throughout the soundstage and Sting’s voice trailing off into the depths. When the drums come in, each drum moves from once channel to the other and Mark Knopfler’s finger plucks pop and crackle into your left ear. The snare drum can sound overbearing in a few places with certain headphones. The IM70 with its smooth treble has no such issue. One of my favorite tunes to listen to on these headphones. The full bassline is also wonderfully replicated.
The bass drum at the beginning should echo into forever and feel like someone pounding into your chest. The guitars are back in the stage until they need to fill in phrases, then come forward. The dynamic female vocals showcase the IM70s mids. Everything is almost too much, yet, somehow, all this chaos stays well balanced and nothing takes over anything else.
Just a guitar and mandolin. Words won’t do it much justice, but this tune is all about texture and depth. It’s a great display of these characteristics in the IM70.
A great piece and a great test of the dynamics and soundstage of the IM70. You should be able to hear reverberation coming off from all around, as well as the room’s ceiling. When you can hear the height of the room, an IEM is doing something right. Also listen for the dynamics of the pianos.
As if to prove it doesn’t have a dual symphonic driver for nothing, the IM70 can also hold its own in symphonic music. Though not the widest stage, the depth and 3D presentation do a very nice job recreating the size of the hall and the dynamics of the instruments. Not too bad at Classical music for a fun and warm IEM.
The IM70 is a real winner. A natural (have I said that word enough in this review?), engaging IEM that can do just about anything you need it to. It competes with the likes of the GR07, a head-fi classic. It can handle anything you throw at it from Rock to EDM to Jazz, and even serviceably handle Classical. Its sweet mids, impactful bass, and 3D soundstage make it a great option for film and video games as well. At $85 this Audio Technica offering is a no brainer.