Pros: Great controlled sub bass; Instrument realism
Cons: none the second time around
I bought these on a whim, due to a deal too good to pass up, and with the interest to hear something with more bass presence. (Edit: I purchased these a second time from atrio.me and received them in Jan 2012) Here is my review.
Fit and Isolation: The Atrios are pretty light weight and when properly seated do not touch the ear. They are very comfortable and provide very good isolation with the right tips. Isolation is above average and they most you can get from a vented dynamic driver.
Build Quality: The Atrios are built from a lightweight but heavy duty plastic housing and provide good strain relief on where the cables exit the housing. I think these could take some abuse and keep providing years of use. Cables are of medium density and do a fair job of staying untangled and are fairly supple. Worn over the ear, I haven’t noticed any microphonics issues. For iPhone users, the right angle plug will fit in bumper style cases with ease.
Accessories: My Atrios came with a rectangular case that is pretty flimsy and unnecessarily large. I use it carry a small cmoy and put the M5’s in something else. The latest version of the MG7 come with a very nice case made from recycled material. It has extra cushioning and both sides have netted pockets. The supplied tip selection is the weakest attribute to an otherwise fine product. Three sizes of bi-flanges and 2 sizes of barrel foam type tips are supplied. I find bi-flanges uncomfortable and either go in too deep or too shallow for quality sound. The barrel foam type are pretty useless and they do not fit in normal sized ears. (I found the best tips to be the Shure PA749M, now called EASFX2-10M, which had to be modified to fit by taking out the tube from one of the stock foam tips). Enough with the negative and on to the sound. The latest version comes with black barrel style foam. These provide excellent isolation and comfort, as well as providing the best sound the Atrios can offer. If you want to try something different, the Klipsch gels are a close second in sound and comfort.
Sound: The new M5’s have an new proprietary driver called the MG7. The driver is a reported improvement over previous models by having better and more prominent treble. The result is a fairly balanced presentation for what are considered bassy phones.
Most dynamic driver phones need a period of burn in. The Atrios require a fairly long burn in time of about 100 hrs to sound their best. I noticed significant changes to bass over that period. The second time around with the Atrios, I experienced no changes or sibilance like I did the first time. This is due to previous experience with fit. Most changes during burn in are psychoacoustic in nature and also due to fit. Not having the fit issues of the first time around, I benefited from top notch sound for the moment I first plugged them in.
Bass: A bass lovers delight. The M5’s have bass in spades, however it is not all about quantity. The bass is of superb quality as well. Most phones achieve their bass signature by boosting mid bass. Not so with the Atrios. The M5 has a great deal of sub bass that effortlessly reaches very deep; deeper than any other phone I’ve ever heard. The quality of the bass adds a dimension of realism (timbre) to bass guitar and drums not exhibited in other phones. Best of all you get all this bass without it stepping all over the midrange.
Mids: Mids are placed just right. I find them neither recessed nor forward. They are clean, detailed and natural, if a bit dry. Vocals and guitars are placed in the mix just where you’d expect them to be when heard live. Once again, realism with strings is something really special here.
Treble: The new Atrios treble is clear and non-fatiguing with plenty of detail; however for my ears, I would prefer even more treble presence. For instance, the perfect treble for me is found in the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10’s. I suppose this is due to the M5 design as studio monitors and the need to listen for extremely long periods of time. The Atrios cannot match the effortlessness and airiness of the TF10’s but they are no slouches; the fact that you can easily pick out small details like cymbal splashes in bass heavy songs is a testament to their improved presentation.
Soundstage: Just average or maybe slightly below average in width (this is dependent upon fit and I have experienced a slightly larger soundstage the second time around). Depth, however , is very good. The M5’s often make me feel I’m in the recording studio with them. In contrast the TF10’s make me feel I’m at a concert and maybe 15 rows back, presenting a wide soundstage for an IEM.
Overall the new Atrio M5’s are a very fun and enjoyable phone and does very well with good and poor quality mastered songs. While being a bass oriented phone, they still offer up a fairly balanced sound. If you’ve felt that your IEM’s have always been missing something in the bass department, whether quality or quantity, then give the Atrios M5 with mg7 driver a try.
(updated with a few additional thoughts from my second time around in Jan 2012.)