Pros: Incredible, well-controlled dynamic-driver bass with great sub-bass, superb timbre and balance in the mids and non-fatiguing, yet extended treble
Cons: Needs some burn-in like other dynamics, neutral mids and non-boosted treble are great for stage monitor sound--it's a con if you wanted a colored sig
The Future Sonics Atrios line of earphone monitors have undergone a revision, moving from the MG5 to the new MG7 dynamic drivers, improving the build quality and changing to new eco-friendly packaging.
I've had a chance to hear these for two weeks now. I'm happy to give a complete overview so you can decide whether Atrios are right for you.
The packaging: Future Sonics has moved to using much more eco-friendly materials. They have a new case for the earphones which is made from recycled tire rubber (and looks great). They've done a good job and I hope other companies follow their lead.
On to appearance. It's easy to judge a picture, but often what looks good on a computer screen looks horrible sticking out of your ears. In the ears, the Atrios look good--not too attention grabbing, but their curved design adds a touch of style. They come in several colors, the red is most eye-catching, if you want that.
Fit: Atrios are made from a high-strength, low weight plastic. They are light and easily stay in the ear, even seeming to disappear. There are small, medium and large bi-flange silicon eartips and two sizes of foam tips as well. Getting a good seal is essential to getting good sound. Future Sonics gives a reasonable selection of eartips, but some other companies give more and better eartip options.
One nice thing about the Atrios' design is that they can easily be worn cable down, or over-the-ear.
Cable: On earphones, the cable is the most-likely part to fail. How do the Atrios do? Pretty well, I'd say. The cable has a sturdy right-angle plug with good strain-relief and good integrated strain relief at the housing of the earphone. The cable itself is light. It's a bit microphonic (you can hear sounds when the cable brushes against something), but this can be pretty much entirely eliminated by wearing them with the cable over the ears, which is easy and comfortable to do.
Build Quality: These should last if you take good care of them. Again, the cable is always the weakest part of an earphone, so don't just wrap the wire around your ipod and throw the mess into your briefcase... Future Sonics also has an excellent customer service reputation and I can say from personal experience they are really top-notch on that.
Isolation: These earphones are vented for better bass, but they still do a good job of blocking external noise. There are other earphones that can block even more, if that's primary concern (The Monster turbine pro, for example. Etymotic's earphones are the kings of this). Atrios do well, most people will be satisfied.
Sound: The most important part, of course. Future Sonics Atrios are engineered to have a particular sound signature. In fact, Future Sonics is one of the very few companies to design and manufacture their own transducers. I'll try to describe that sound, as I hear it in the new Atrios, so you can decide if it is what you want. Keep in mind that this is just my take on it, but I think I have a pretty good feel for it.
One important note before I begin: These earphones have dynamic (moving coil) drivers. It's like a miniaturized version of your home stereo speakers. Many audiophiles find that this kind of driver needs playing time to "break-in". Whether it has to do with the diaphragm which produces sound breaking-in a bit or whatever, I found that to be the case with Atrios. The bass settled down and tightened up a bit after 50 hours of playing. Speaking of which:
Bass: This is something special. Thanks to the dynamic driver, the bass has excellent energy and a living feel that most earphones with an armature transducer (Shure earphones, for example) don't. The bass reaches down deep to the sub-bass region easily, where many other earphones can't go. Even earphones costing much more don't do this as well as the Atrios. The Atrios' bass is fairly detailed and well-controlled. Some other earphones have an artificial sounding bass, but the Atrios do an excellent job. It's there when you need it, as much as you need. Hip-hop and bassy genres sound great. However, when I played string quartets (e.g. non-bassy music), the Atrios handled it very well, too. The only thing I want to note is that the sound is bass-forward. The drummer will sound a bit ahead of the singer if you close your eyes. Speaking to people in the music industry, it seems that this feature comes from Atrios' heritage as a stage monitor where a forward bass is helpful for a musician during a loud concert performance. You may or may not like it.
Mid-range: It's important to note that the mid-range is clear and accurate. It doesn't sound boosted or thickened. It's fairly detailed and has an excellent reproduction of the timbre of strings and vocal music. You may be used to artificially-boosted mid-range sounds on other earphones, so an accurate mid-range may not be for you. I like it. Again, it's a bit recessed behind the bass, but always clear. I enjoyed pop and classical music equally. It occasionally has a bit of trouble with pop songs that have a bloated lower mid, such as a not-so-clearly recorded electric bass, but the Atrios generally does a good job. It's accurate like you'd expect an in-ear stage monitor to be.
Treble: This is where the new Atrios should show an improvement over older versions, with enhanced treble extension. The treble is indeed well-extended. Violins and soprano voices can sound great. One key thing to note is that the treble is slightly dark. That means that it is non-fatiguing without spitty, sharp, piercing, nails-on-blackboard sounds. These sound toned-down a bit so you can listen a long time, while keeping the treble accurate. The down side is that a dark treble doesn't shimmer and sparkle as much as a bright treble for things like cymbals crashing, etc. Many earphones have a bright treble and stronger treble energy, if you love that, then the Atrios aren't for you. However, if you're sensitive to glaringly bright treble and want something that you could listen to for as long as you like without fatigue, then you'll like the Atrios.
I like the Atrios and I think they are competitive with more expensive earphones. As I listen, their sound only grows on me. It's musical and enjoyable. If you like how I've described their sound signature, the Atrios might be perfect for you.