Background: When I received my ASG’s, the only headphones I had in my possession were the Audeo PFE 232. I had had the 232’s for about two months, and had grown used to the neutral sound signature by the time my ASG-2’s arrived. As with all of my reviews, I let my headphones burn in naturally. I don’t use pink noise or white noise – I just use my headphones and after about a hundred hours (five-six weeks) have elapsed, I know the headphones have settled into a more-or-less permanent state.
Source: Macbook Pro / iPhone 5 (no DAC’s)
Initial Notes and First Impressions:
Bass. Bass. Bass. Surprisingly low and impactful bass. I guess I had forgotten what bass had felt like – the PFE’s definitely don’t reach as low as these headphones. I’m not a basshead, and at first the ASG-2’s felt very overwhelming. I’ve since adjusted the bass dial to its smallest setting.
At its lowest setting, the lower-mids die down a bit and trebles shine. The Cello and the Bass feel alive in The Cello Song, by the Piano Guys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FblHCHOLAcQ&feature=kp) Some have described the ASG-2’s as “mid-colored.” I don’t know whether I necessarily agree with this characterization, but it’s certainly clear that the IEM’s are mid-centric.
At least right now, I feel like the IEM is a little dark. I hope that the mids clear up a little and the treble shines through a little better. We’ll see what a hundred hours of burn-in do to the sound signature.
Isolation: 10/10 – not much to say here, other than that isolation on the ASG-2’s is very good. I’m currently using comply tips.
Build quality: 9/10 – These feel really solid. The cables fit comfortably into the earbuds, and the headphones themselves feel extremely well engineered. The earphones themselves don’t feel as well designed as my Tzar 90’s, but I’m partial to wooden creations.
Fit and Comfort: 7/10 – Some people love the fit of the ASG-2’s. I don’t. The headphones are not distinctly uncomfortable. But in general, I’ve never forgotten about them while plugged in. I do feel the presence of the headphones in my ears – they don’t sit completely flush to the skin, so moving my head around rattles the headphones just a little bit. It’s nothing major, but rather something I notice every once in a while. That said, I’ve worn the ASG-2’s for several hours at a time without any issue – so they do rest fairly comfortable within my ear canals.
Might be placebo, might be that I’m hearing what I want to hear, but after about a few weeks of listening ASG-2’s have in large part filled in the areas I was unhappy with. We’ll go through the Lows, Mids, and Highs separately, and do some comparisons to the Tzar 90 and the PFE 232’s.
Lows: As expected, the bass evolved to be better controller over burn-in. The (very) slight bloatiness I initially experienced has faded. I might be a little weird, but I enjoy testing the bass control by listening to rap music.
In rap, there’s a fair amount of amorphous, deep-reaching bass in the background of vocals and lyrics. I listened to Headlights (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWKNEJ5QNuU&feature=kp) by Eminem and Nate Ruess (from Fun., who is one of my favorite vocalists). The ASG-2’s did a phenomenal job at controlling the bloaty bass which is characteristic of rap songs. There was still plenty of punch and impact, and the bass did feel fairly well controlled. Nevertheless, on certain notes and verses, the lows reached into the mids and colored some of the vocals.
In general, it seems my observations with Headlights doesn’t apply to the ASG-2’s as a whole. I listened to the lows across all of Fun.’s Some Nights and Aim and Ignite albums, and in general the lows are very controlled. Bass is deep and impactful, particularly in We are Young (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQLGhPHzxjc) and Light a Roman Candle With Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKoBTEcq8Ck&feature=kp). I was especially impressed with the latter song, which boasts an impressive vocal range accompanied by deep low notes.
I believe it’s a general consensus that lows is something the ASG-2’s do incredibly well. The headphones really come alive with the Cello/Bass and the drums. But at times the bass bleeds into low-toned vocals. This is a sword that cuts both ways -- with very low-centric songs the vocals might be a little obscured by the bass. On the flip side, singers with deep voices really come alive.
Mids/Highs: Vocals and mids sound clear and resonate. They feel sweet, certainly sweeter than the PFE232’s. I wouldn’t necessarily characterize these headphones as mid-colored. They are certainly mid-centric, but I don’t necessarily agree with the statements made regarding the mids bleeding into the treble and the bass.
Typically I like to test Mids by listening to folk-ey music. In this particular case, I used Beirut’s The Rip Tide album to test the integrity of mids.
I really, really enjoyed this part.
In my opinion, the ASG-2’s have mids and highs that carry significant weight. Because the ASG-2’s are a mid-centric, vocals really have presence. Beirut’s Vagabond (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpN2XAg2bQs) and Santa Fe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN-5XUqe1PQ ) both really come alive. The trumpet shines through like hope. Even accordions sound powerful.
Who still uses the accordion these days?
Next up was Melanie Laurent, otherwise known as Shosanna in Inglorious Bastards. Melanie and Damien Rice authored a few songs together on Laurent’s En t’attendant. These guys sound great together, and they sound phenomenal on the ASG-2’s. Laurent’s voice sounds sweet, particularly against Damien Rice’s deeper voice. There’s quite a bit going on towards the end of their song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBRvDxgkBCM). At the very, very end of the song you can feel the extent of the ASG-2’s soundstage. The violin moves around the audio screen, and eventually fades off.
In general, I’m very much a mids-centric guy; I look for sweet, substantive vocals and instruments, which is something the ASG-2’s do really well. But even after burn-in, I do feel like the mids aren’t as sweet as they could be. This just might be the bass bleeding into the very bottom end of the mids… In general, though, the ASG-2’s do mostly everything incredibly well, particularly with solo instruments like the trumpet, violin, and piano.